Finding Peace & Freedom From Food

Grant me the Serenity to
Accept the Things I Cannot Change,
The Courage to Change the Things I Can,
And the Wisdom to Know the Difference.

This little gem, written by Reinhold Niebuhr, is known as the Serenity Prayer. And while Happy Calories Don’t Count® is in no way a 12-Step Program, a recent coaching session with a client revealed that the Happy Calories methodology is the embodiment of the Serenity Prayer!

Accepting the Things I Cannot Change:

First there was “diet and exercise.” Diet and Exercise is the conventional cultural model for health and well-being. I’ve written extensively on the limitations of this model as well as its dangers. Basically, the “diet and exercise” approach to weight loss and well-being suggests that we can control our body and our weight by controlling what we eat and what we do for exercise. In this model we must “pay a price” to eat. The price? Exercise – or weight gain. As a consequence, the “diet and exercise” model creates dysfunctional relationships with food, exercise, our bodies and our selves. Moreover, in this model, there is no room for acceptance. We “know” what we need to do to lose weight, get in shape, whatever the goal is. We must eat less and move more. It takes work. It takes discipline. It takes willpower. (It takes overriding your body’s natural impulses to be “successful.”) In the “diet and exercise” model, acceptance of your body is the equivalent to giving up – giving up the on the goals of weight loss, fitness and well-being – giving up on changing your body – and this “failure” is not tolerated.

The Courage to Change the Things I Can:

Next came the Body Image and Body Positivity Movements. These movements reject the body bashing and self-loathing that are a natural result of the “diet and exercise” culture. These movements espouse “loving your body” regardless of its shape or size. And while I do applaud that idea, I’ve seen it twisted around into a dis-empowering lack of courage to change. The Body Image and Body Positivity movements reject the pain and dysfunction that the “diet and exercise” model creates, but they do not reject the fundamental premise of that model (that you can control your body and your weight by controlling what you eat and what you do for exercise). And because of this, the idea of acceptance can be a bit “forced.” And in some movements, any desire to change your body is viewed as a display of a lack of self-love and a lack of self-acceptance. (Which is, of course, ridiculous.) In some cases, the “courage to change the things you can” is in direct conflict with the principles of the movement.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference:

And then came Happy Calories Don’t Count®. Happy Calories Don’t Count rejects the fundamental premise of the “diet and exercise” model. Happy Calories rejects the idea that you can control your body by controlling what you eat and what you do for exercise. And by rejecting that core premise, there is room to accept your body just as it is right now. But contrary to the unspoken rhetoric of the diet and exercise model – and the repressed fears of some of the Body Image movements – acceptance of your body as it is right now, does NOT mean that you will “stay stuck” in your current size and weight. Acceptance of your body means releasing the pain and shame you suffer surrounding your body. Acceptance of your body creates the space and grace for you to be able to connect with your body and hear its wisdom and guidance.

The Happy Calories Don’t Count approach also requires a great deal of courage. It takes courage to tune out all of the cultural messages and (sometimes not-so-) friendly advice thrown at you regarding your body and your weight. It takes courage to cultivate a relationship with your body (that thing you want to change!). It takes courage to evolve personally and spiritually. It takes courage to release the outcome of your weight and your shape. It takes courage to trust that your body knows how to create an optimized state of health, vitality, well-being and joy. It takes courage to trust that your body’s interests and your interests are aligned.

The Happy Calories Don’t Count method is a path of wisdom. By allowing ourselves to accept our bodies just the way they are, we create a sense of peace and freedom – with our selves and with food. In that stillness we can hear the messages coming from our body and muster our courage to follow its guidance. By partnering with our body and letting it lead the way, we don’t need to worry about discerning what we can and cannot change. Our body does that for us. We simply relax into a state of serenity and well-being.