“And I said to my body, softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ it took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’”
Through her studies, Shae has come to realise how interrelated our self- care is to the environment and the planet. She says; “It was this love that I had for myself, even in the very beginning of my journey, that allowed and influenced my transformation.”
Here Shae shares her transformation journey from a negative self- image to allowing herself to devote valuable time to her needs, desires, pleasures, and inspiration…
When I was 8, my first memory of feeling negatively self-conscious of my body, was when my mom saw me touching the skin on my belly and she asked me if I was playing with my rolls. I am not sure why she referred to my belly as “rolls” because I was a slim, healthy young girl. However, I do not recall having a specific body image prior to that comment and it planted a seed that followed me throughout childhood and well into adulthood. I began to gain weight and binge-eat occasionally during my teens. My weight fluctuated and I gained and lost around 30 pounds through my early 20s. When I moved into a cottage alone and was working at a law firm I hated, I gained a lot of weight in a couple of years. I was on my own and completely uninspired.
I ended up deciding to break free from city life and move up to a quaint, small town in the mountains to attend a community college that had a horse program (I trained and bred horses throughout my teens and 20s). During college, I met the man who would become my husband and the love of my life. We married and had our daughter. After our daughter was born in 2003, my husband and I experienced extraordinary difficulties and challenges from external circumstances that forced us to live apart for years. The stress of missing my love and raising our daughter alone caused me to become obese. I spent most of those years in survival mode. There was a period of time I was alone and homeless with my one-year-old. We camped for a whole summer until school resumed and we moved into a homeless shelter before finally being able to find an affordable home.
Life for my toddler and I smoothed out as the rhythmic school routine set in. It was during this phase that I tried extreme measures to loose weight and regain health and self-love. I tried teas and diets and read everything I could get a hold of to try and solve my “problem.” I would do well for a while and then slip back into self-sabotaging habits. I graduated and transferred to a four-year university. We stayed there for a year and I transferred again to Mills College in Oakland. My daughter and I lived there for two years on campus in Family Housing until I graduated and moved again. At this point we were living with my husband again and moving a lot.
I continued on in school and was accepted into a doctoral program. The financial, emotional, and academic stress was overwhelming. I never stopped trying to get control of my weight and I also never stopped loving myself. I was disappointed with myself but practiced self-love and was generally gentle with my process. I remember feeling more desperate and depressed than angry and hating myself. The doctoral program began to require my cohort to focus on our research interests and mine was mindfulness. I loved that it encompassed so many aspects of life and had such a positive impact on people who use mindfulness techniques. Eventually, I narrowed my focus to mindful eating and my dissertation design unfolded to include human and planetary health and our food system politics, which was all framed within mindful eating. The experience of researching and writing my dissertation was extremely rewarding and an amazing journey. I felt and still feel I found my life’s mission. Also, during that time, I became a certified health coach. It was at this point in my journey I finally found my balance.
Nourishing one’s body is a significant aspect of what it is to be human. I believe that finding ways to connect more intimately with the body, food, the eating process, and the ways in which they are all connected to the environment, is purposeful and worthwhile. If these connections are made, I believe the heightened awareness may cultivate improved physical and environmental health. In my research I learned so much about how a plant-based diet improves health and it just resonated with me. I deeply believe in the power of the connection between how food is grown and produced and the ways it is interrelated with the environment and planetary health.
Once I began eating whole food plant-based, my body began to feel so vibrant and alive. My digestion was on point and my sleep patterns fell into a satiating rhythm. All health issues disappeared within a few months. I began walking regularly and enjoying yoga in the mornings. Another piece of my healing was committing to a regular meditation practice first thing in the morning. I made it my first self-care priority. This practice was paramount in my transformation. It has been one of the most powerful aspects of coming back into balance. Another very important facet of my transformation has been spending time with loved ones. When I was overweight and feeling depressed all those years, I did not have a desire to spend a lot of time with my family and friends. This fell away almost immediately when I changed my self-sabotaging habits.
Realizing that it was my habits that held me out of balance with my body-mind, I did a lot of research on the subject of habits. I learned that most of us are three days away from making positive and sustaining habitual changes. In other words, it is especially hard for three days and then as our internal audience becomes more impressed with our new and healthier habits, the transition becomes easier and the momentum begins. I take each day at a time. This is what mindfulness teaches. My goal each morning is to do things that specific day that will make me feel healthy, strong, joyful, and clear-minded. Every morning, after meditation, I read a page of notes I created to remind me of all the inspirational reasons I have to continue my healthy habits this day. I only focus on the present day and try not to ruminate on the past or future unless it is reminiscing on pleasant memories or daydreaming of pleasant future thoughts.
Over a couple of years, I have lost more than half my body weight and completely transformed not only my body but the way I show up in the world and my life experience. I am free in my body now and I intentionally practice self-love and self-care everyday. This transformation really is an internal process. I find myself listening carefully to the subtle whisperings of my internal audience and the longer I do, the more love and health emanates from my Being. Self-love, for me, is listening to my authentic self and following through each day with the commitment I made to devote time to my needs, desires, pleasures, and inspiration. It was this love that I had for myself, even in the very beginning of my journey, that allowed and influenced my transformation.
Two mantras I say to myself daily:
~I am happy, healthy, calm, and beautiful.
~How rare and perfect you are.
Today I asked my body what she needed, which is a big deal considering my journey of not really asking that much.
I thought she might need more water.
But as I stood in the shower
Reflecting on her stretch marks,
Her roundness where I would like flatness,
Her softness where I would like firmness,
All those conditioned wishes
That form a bundle of
She whispered very gently:
Could you just love me like this?