How to create sustainable change
Your blocks aren’t in the way, they ARE the way – Alyssa Nobriga
Back in March, with Be the Earth Foundation, we initiated this blogpost series “From inner to outer sustainability - a transformative journey with food” where I write about my food story and what has helped my clients and me to move from gripping, unconscious eating behaviours to feeling at ease with food and naturally eating what and how is good for us and the world - yup, no forcing, no restricting.
In the past, I used restriction, pushing and punishment to make myself move toward eating healthier, better and what I considered back then the “right way”. Similarly, I guilt-tripped myself into creating a more sustainable lifestyle:
“you shouldn’t eat “bad” foods”
“you shouldn’t eat past a certain time of the day”
“you are a terrible human if you buy things wrapped in plastic”
“you should only buy organic and local produce”
And you can use all these sentences in the past tense as well “you shouldn’t have done this”
I don’t know how you feel when you read these words. My entire body cringes just typing them. It provokes shame, guilt, unworthiness, heaviness and demotivation within me. It makes me not like myself as I am now.
Back then, I was convinced that these judgements would make me work harder so that I could become a better version of myself. For a while, that strategy kind of worked. I dieted, I went to the gym, and I ran. I lost weight and received compliments on how good I looked for a while. Then I dropped it all again because I started resenting all these things I had to do. And then I started again. And I stopped. And started. And stopped. Sounds familiar?
So the only long-lasting effect that the guilt-tripping (whether you use it on yourself or others) has is to make us NOT want to do the things we know are good for us. Not effective at all. Not sustainable at all.
Now, the two questions are A) how can we do things that we know are good for us in a more sustainable way, without resenting them? And B) how can we stop doing things we know are bad for us?
Step 1: Understanding
Somehow we human beings are framed in a way that it’s easier for us to be compassionate when we understand what’s going on. I remember being annoyed at my former roommate because she was constantly picking on me that I hadn’t cleaned the kitchen properly although to me it looked good. Then one day, she mentioned that when she grew up, her mother once yelled at her, when she perfectly cleaned the kitchen but had left scraps in the sink. My roommate was shocked and ever since then anytime I left the sink anything else but spotlessly clean, she was reminded of her mother yelling at her and felt anxious. You can imagine how this piece of information suddenly transformed my irritation. Because I now understood what it was really about, my heart opened and I felt compassionate towards my roommate.
Through my experience as a Stress Release, Body-Awareness and Empowerment Coach and as someone who has been coached continuously, I know that everything we think, feel and do is serving us. Even our perceived worst enemies like binging, procrastinating, or stress, show up not to bother us but because they are trying to help us, there is a purpose underneath it all.
Let’s explore this with my case: How is the part that wants to force me to eat differently serving me? Well on the surface level it’s obvious: it wants me to be thinner. Let’s dig a bit deeper though. What would it give me to be thinner? How would I feel then?
When I was a child, I often looked in the mirror thinking “I want to be somebody else”. I learned to feel ugly and as a consequence undeserving of love. However, the only thing that I wanted was to feel accepted, loved and admired. I wanted to feel great for who I was and for how I looked. The restrictions were all I knew to protect me from feeling that sensation of unworthiness AND they were all I knew to make me move towards feeling beautiful and amazing.
Example #2: How is the part that keeps eating the “bad” things” and resists exercising trying to serve me? The first thing that comes up: it doesn’t want life to be so hard again. Inquiring further I can see that when life gets hard, I easily feel hopeless and depressed. I’ve experienced time and time again that crushing disappointment when I still didn’t look thin, fit or good enough even though I had worked so hard. I never felt that I reached what I thought was my goal. So the part that repels exercising and eating healthily desires for me to feel at ease, full of joy and hope. It wants me to have fun and believe in and like myself no matter the outcome I create.
Let’s pause here for a moment, and get you on board. Grab your pen and paper and answer the following questions:
✏️ What’s blocking you from where you want to be? Which behaviour do you want to shift?
✏️ What are your judgments around that?
✏️ How is this block trying to serve you? Maybe ineffectively, but what do you imagine is the deeper desire? What does it want for you?
Step 2: Acceptance
You see now, our blocks are there for a reason. Oftentimes they aim to protect us in one way or another: from boredom, helplessness, self-doubt, abandonment, and pain. Nearly as often as they appear, we judge these blocks because we haven’t understood what they want for us deep down.
When we gain this awareness we suddenly can change our relationship with the blocking behaviour from one that was judgmental and critical to one that is appreciative and accepting. We empathise with that part and we feel that for all this time it had our back. We befriend what used to be our enemy.
Now think about these two scenarios: a child is doing everything to receive your attention and 1) you ignore them or even tell them to stop 2) you turn yourself towards them, looking into their eyes and ask “what’s going on?”. In which of the two scenarios is the child more likely to actually drop the attention-seeking strategies? Now imagine your blocks are children. If you keep on ignoring or judging them, they probably will become louder and louder or find different ways to get your attention until you finally embrace them.
Once we accept our blocks for being here, once we turn our presence towards them, we have found the key to our transformation. So nowadays, my magic weapon is self-compassion. I know that whenever I use the expression “I should” or whenever I have an urge to binge it’s a sign for me to connect to that part within me. And I get to find out what it is desiring.
✏️ Are you willing to change your relationship with the blocking behaviour? Are you willing to be compassionate with it, now that you can see it was just trying to support you? If the answer to this question here is “no”. I invite you to inquire deeper in step one. When you have found the true desire, your natural answer will be a “yes”.
Step 3: Nourishment
You might have realised by now that your blocks, enemies and shadows are in fact the biggest gift to you. They are the pathway to your growth. They are your key to freedom.
Let’s take my example again: I now have understood that what I am seeking is to feel on one hand beautiful, attractive and ultimately loved and on the other hand to enjoy the process. I can now find ways A) how to feel that love within me and for myself and B) how to make eating healthy and exercising more joyful, fun and easy.
I can for instance look for self-love practices like placing my hand on the heart and saying “I love you so much, you’re beautiful and I adore you”. I can do mirror meditations, focus on the parts where I do see beauty, or hug myself. Or as was the case for me I understand that this runs deeper and I choose to receive the support of a coach in accessing self-love. And secondly, I can choose workouts that are fun for me. So instead of going for a for me boring run, I can go dance however I want to dance, or like myself I can go a bit crazy and start learning skateboarding at the age of 32 🛹
✏️ What is a new strategy to attain your deeper desire, without using the block as the ineffective approach to get there?
✏️ Experiment with your new approach and test it out for the next 24 hours to see if you not only feel better but also do better as a result.
As last time, please share your insights in the comments or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, for the 2 lucky people to send me an email first I will gift each a transformative one-hour coaching session with me to explore any block they might experience. So go get typing 📧
Hello, beautiful one, I am Marlene and I am a human being! I am passionate about the body, health, work, growth, dreaming, dancing, singing, eating and so much more. What fills my heart most of all is helping people reconnect with their bodies. The outcome? They feel healthy, empowered, self-loving and alive as they follow their dreams in work & life.
I am a Stress Release, Body Awareness and Self-Worth Coach. Trained in TRE® and the Coaching Mastery Method, I integrate these two modalities to evoke transformation naturally from the inside to the outside.
Get ready for some goosebumps when you realise with body, mind & heart how epically amazing & powerful you are!
If you have questions or a troublesome relationship with food, your body image or insecurity, know that you are not alone, that I hear you and that I’d love to talk with you! Just reach out to email@example.com or find me on Instagram @work_with_wisdom. You can also join my monthly “Free your mind & body from self-doubt” workshop. Send me an email if you’re interested!