I recently watched (and enjoyed) The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. On the surface, it didn’t have anything to do with food or weight, but it had a lot to do with letting go control – and that’s a lot of what mindful eating is about.
In the movie, one of the characters comments that you have to let you go any sense of control, partly because it’s an illusion, but also, on a more positive note, because that’s when the fun starts.
This caught my attention because in all the times I tried to follow someone else’s rules to lose weight, “fun” never even entered my vocabulary. Enjoying myself might be part of the end goal but certainly not part of the process. How could I have fun when I was supposed to be so rigid and controlling about food and exercise, and constantly shaming myself and feeling guilty if I strayed from that straight and narrow path?
Even when I wasn’t dieting, having fun didn’t happen often, preoccupied as I often was with how I should be on a diet, and still feeling ashamed of my body. Even the most innocuous of events could be fraught with tension and fill me with guilt. Going to the movies, I noticed how I had to squeeze myself between the arm rests. Playing cards, I focused on the bulk and awkwardness of my body as I leaned forward. Going for a walk, my pant legs would ride up, or if wearing a skirt, my thighs chafed. The simple act of breathing could overwhelm me, knowing how easily I could out of breath.
I shudder now when I think about how much time I wasted on all that, instead of letting it go. But my concern was that if I stopped trying to be in control, I’d automatically run amok. I imagined it meant giving control to something else, some base aspect of my self that would cause even more damage.
And yet that isn’t at all what it means, at least not for me.
Giving up control meant letting go of the expectations I’d forced on myself from the outside world. It meant acknowledging how I felt and what I considered the right thing for me. But most especially, it meant allowing myself to loosen up and realize that I could enjoy myself as I was, without getting bogged down by all the negativity I’d experienced.
And in reality, what’s more important? Trying to control every second of our lives and what we eat for the hope of some nebulous future, or relaxing and enjoying the time we have? Especially when you consider that relaxing doesn’t mean giving up on changing anything in our lives. It only means approaching change with a greater degree of acceptance, compassion, and flexibility. After all, as someone else asked in the movie, how much do we really have? Very few of us can answer that question, and by the time we can, it’s usually not enough time.
So here’s to letting go and letting the fun begin. Enjoy!