I wasn’t sure if I would ever become brave enough to share with you this part of my journey. The bravery wasn’t in how people would respond to what I wrote but in being so real and seen that it would scare me back into a place of protection. As a good friend tells me often, time will tell; so here goes the raw truth of my health journey over the past months.
Our brains goal is our survival and it does this through some of the most elaborate predictive systems you could imagine (so elaborate that most of us don’t even have a clue we have them). These predictive systems are all about keeping us from threat. When we have experiences of threat our brain manages this by limiting the involvement of the parts devoted to experiencing ourselves (in neuroscience this is called introspection). In threat our amygdala becomes overactive creating emotional reactions and our hippocampus that is concerned with time, memory and place becomes under-active.
Threat ultimately tells us we are not safe, it isn’t interested in the why, it’s interested in survival and without intentionality of accessing the pre-cortex that focuses on extinguishing fear.
I see now I lived my life under threat and I managed this threat with the use of food. When time pressures were present, differences in relationships, complex situations my go-to response was food. The fattier and more sugary the better. I had this fear that was managed through what I would put in my stomach.
I look back at every time I have tried to lose weight in the past, with the best intentions, diets, calorie counting, gyms, accountability partners I had reached a time in my life where I couldn’t see that I would ever be an average weight designed for my body.
So this journey began after I had lost some weight unintentionally. I had a dream that God told me I was pre-diabetic and I needed to start taking moringa. I was amazed and so happy to see 10 kgs of weight lost without focus from me. But the real journey began when I asked God a question: why didn’t you talk to me about my weight and instead about diabetes? And He simply said because you have no hope in that area. No hope was true and if He had spoken to me about that it would have started another diet/exercise cycle. Those ones that feel like a hamster wheel that goes faster and faster until eventually you fall off. And the failure of that would reinforce all over again that I couldn’t do it.
I had the biggest fear around my body and what I ate. I have had to learn to acknowledge this, I was afraid of what was going to happen in my body and this fear drove me to eat. It was easy to make it about a lack of time or other people but for the first time I saw it about me. I owned it. Acknowledging fear I believe is the first step to freedom. It’s the first step to gaining some control over the fear areas of my brain. I have learnt to feel it and learn in feeling it how to regain feelings of safety. I have created space in my life to see me and to listen to me. No longer does the amygdala have an over-riding role. Now in emotions the hippocampus has a place and it helps me focus on time and place. I have learnt to lean into some deep truths of who I am.
The hippocampus is such a fascinating part of the brain. I love how present situations are processed here when they are attached to emotion and purpose. I have come to see I have had a deep longing to being a healthy weight all my life but this purpose created fear because I always felt I failed in that area. I think this journey has taught me to be one with me: compassionate, connected and collaborating with my body about what love looks like.
I refuse to use the motivation of buying smaller clothes, of loosing weight of people’s compliments to in any way be a driving force because that simply puts me back in a heightened state where the amygdala has too much influence and will mean I am back on the hamster wheel that I will eventually not be able to maintain.
Here’s to learning how God created us and to facing fears. Here’s to becoming compassionate, connected, collaborative people.