I was struggling with a number of physical health challenges when my always buff and yoga teacher-svelte figure suddenly morphed into amoeba proportions. By the time I turned 45, my 5’2” stature was carrying 142 lbs; by the time I arrived in Southeast Asia in Jan 2018 at 50, I weighted 164lbs.
The entire and ongoing process of losing my muscle mass, my thyroid function, and my well-defined form would be devastating to anyone let alone such a highly kinesthetic and embodied person such as myself. To add insult to injury, gravity and time’s nostalgic patina choose to set its sights on me too. It became very difficult to see myself in photos and videos. In fact, it would make me physically cringe. And yes, in the cringing I would speak love and compassion to myself. Still there was a strong reaction of self-disgust.
How this happened was practically beyond my understanding. I grew up with fabulous eating habits. Didn’t have a cavity in my mouth until I turned 30, only have 4 cavities now! I had been a yoga teach who did photoshoots for Acro Yoga. I would fast every spring for 7 or 10 days. I was a veggie head before it was a thing. I never drank liquids cold. I was the epitome of conscious eating and lifestyle and for most of my adult life it showed.
At forty it seemed my metabolism was slowing down so I fasted more, ate less diary, was already sugar and gluten free. At 45, I started eating meat, took a boat load of supplements and began thyroid medication. At 50, my physical self became a former shadow of itself. People all over the world would write to me about how they loved watching the videos of me demonstrating AST Model work with a client. Despite how I could remember enjoying being with the client and the transformational experience of their work, I would feel a visceral disgust just thinking about what I looked like in the videos. I also felt sad about that reaction. I wanted someone like me to give me an AST Model session. I wanted to be rescued.
I checked in with myself. I didn’t think or feel disgusted by looking at other overweight people. I truly wanted to give myself the same loving consideration and compassion I gave everyone else. But living into and from my embodiment felt awful. I felt helplessness in my own skin and at the mercy of my own bio-chemistry. I tried many things. Went to many famous experts around the world, nothing helped. Like an avalanche, the pounds continued to outrun anything I attempted to do.
Last summer I found out I was burning only 500 calories a day! Other tests showed my thyroid had decided to assert its ‘right to die’ and the more exercise I attempted and thyroid meds I took the sicker I felt.
I never liked green juices. I am a masticator. Chewing gives me a feeling of satisfaction. 100% Raw food diet make me hungry. Fatty nut bombs made me sick. I was at the point both eating and not eating made me averse to my stomach.
Each day I did a self-love practice and stood for my worthiness and goodness as a human in the face of physical illness, aging and tremendous weight gain.
I did not feel like a phony. There is nothing phony about how effective or hard-won AST Model work is. I accept that I am not above experiencing shame. But I felt guilty that I could not rise above the shame fray to transform this for myself. I also felt ashamed that this guilt was my secret, one that I wasn’t sharing with folks like you.
One day in Bangkok, a Thai colleague was expressing gratitude for AST Model. Then she went on to comment on how beautiful I was. I left sad because I could not experience my own worth and beauty with her. She had taken a picture of me visiting one of the temples. That night I looked at the picture and felt lonely for myself. I missed myself, my deep love of me. I missed my face: my cheeks bones, side dimples and cleft chin. I wanted my health, my face and form back.
I knew from AST Model work and all my clients’ transformations the answer was right in front of me: I needed a paradigm shift!
My entire life I was married to my veggies: artichokes, fennel, beets, butternut squash, broccoli, carrots, string beans, chard, potatoes, zucchini, you name it. Salad was great in warm weather, but veggie soups and cooked veggies were my safe food-havens and my comfort zones. I gave up sugar, diary, gluten, alcohol, meat but the cooked veggies were not to be messed with.
Then I remembered how fess calories I was burning. I could feel the paradigm shift about to take hold of me. It was reaching for my cooked veggies. That was a scary moment where I put my guard up and it took 3 days before I could let my defenses down and the paradigm shift back in.
When I did let it in, I realized I could go on green juices to detox and then try a compete carb-free ketogenic diet to lose weight and restore my thyroid and health. I knew Thailand had hundreds of these retreats. So that’s what I did. I eliminated all cooked veggies, ate more fat and meat. The opposite of everything I was conditioned to consider healthy, and I lost 20 lbs in 3 weeks, and gained tons of energy.
When I wrote earlier I never stopped loving myself amidst the self-disgust I meant it. I knew that deep down fat was just fat; wrinkles are just wrinkles, aging is natural and I am a good homo sapien in this world no matter how saggy, tired, dilapidated or amoeba-like I look or feel. Deep, very deep inside, I could see I was no different than the stunning sunset I had seen over the bay, or the flock of white egrets that fanned themselves over the slough, or the white and tan speckled black tail deer grazing on the neighbor’s fruit trees. Still this knowing was subject to hijacking. But it wasn’t the hijacking that was creating shame for me.
I teach and truly believe, a shame response is a shame response, no more or less. It is what becomes added to it that makes it tricky. For me, it was the relational part; no one knew I was grappling with this, especially so many of you who are part of this community.
Again, I reached for a paradigm shift. I brought you all, this whole community, my students, clients, colleagues into my practice of self-love and self-appreciation. And as you would imagine the shame shifted. So much so that I am openly writing to you about it now.
I have no idea what the future brings. If the weight will return or not, if my thyroid will continue to respond, if another paradigm shift will be needed to re-calibrate my physical well-being, but I feel connected to a deep appreciation for my humanity, my challenges and my desire to be whole regardless of what is so without and within. I send a wish that each of you feel a deep appreciation for your humanity, your challenges and your desire to be whole regardless of what is so without and within. Thank you for letting me share with you a part of my journey. Namaste!