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A Year of Art and Ritual for Weight Loss

Recently, I launched a new Moon Sisters Art and Ceremony Circle.  Sometimes I like to center my women’s circles around a certain theme. This spring the theme I chose for my year-long circle is Weight Loss. As soon as I decided this, my tummy felt nervous. Weight loss? Are you kidding me? If there is anything I have struggled with the last 18 years, it is weight loss. And besides, isn’t everyone tired of thinking women need to be thin to be pretty? I know I am.

I believe women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful. I also believe a woman’s relationship with her body is sacred and if she feels like she wants to lose weight that’s her business and no one else’s. As a woman who used to be active and thin until her late twenties and is now considered obese but who still feels beautiful and worthy, I encourage women who feel shame around their body to consider learning to love themselves before they try to lose weight. Losing weight because you hate yourself is believing you need to be different before you are lovable and I’m sorry but there’s enough of that ridiculous attitude out there in the world for us to be flogging ourselves with it too. Losing weight isn’t going to make you love yourself or your body. I didn’t always believe this. In the past, I was deeply convinced that losing weight is exactly what would solve all my problems but it’s just not true. Being happy and loving myself is a job for my heart and mind, not my calorie counter.

Of course, knowing this took time (and prayer but I’m getting to that). I struggled with terrible self-hate and destructive body shame for years. But today, despite the fact I haven’t lost any weight and am actually the heaviest I’ve ever been, to myself, I am the kindest I’ve ever been. The path that taught me to treat myself with love didn’t come from self-help books or therapy sessions. My path to treating myself with love began with a prayer.

Over 16 years ago, while standing in front of my washer and dryer, I had a fall-to-your-knees in desperation kind of moment. I was so tired of hating myself and trying to lose weight and failing. I was so tired of living in a mind that felt like a war zone where all weapons were pointed right at me. I stared up at the ceiling – it sounds cliché but that’s exactly what I did – and I asked God for help. I said, “Please God. Help me to stop feeling this way. Help me get rid of this struggle with weight and my body and help me heal this problem FOREVER.” I didn’t ever want to struggle with this issue again.  I was mad and desperate. I felt hopeless and spent.

Surprisingly enough, I heard an answer. Much like Elizabeth Gilbert describes in her book Eat, Pray, Love; I heard a strong, confident voice in my mind with clear but random seeming instructions. The voice said, “Buy a swimsuit and go to the beach.” Just like that. I was taken aback. What? You want me to buy a swimsuit? What kind of answer is that?

Then I bawled like a baby. A swimsuit? That was like asking me to be in middle of a circle of people laughing and pointing at me. I hadn’t been in a swimsuit in years. Are you sure you know what you’re doing God? But of course the answer to my prayer was perfect.

When I was a kid, we lived by the lake and I spent as much time in the water as I could. Anytime I was near water, I was the first one in and the last one out. I was so happy in water. I felt alive and free when I was playing in the water. But I hadn’t been swimming in years. My son was one at the time I heard these instructions and my destructive body image issues had prevented me from doing a lot of things with him I would have otherwise enjoyed. The instructions to purchase a swimsuit were perfect because being in water made my heart shine yet I had denied myself that joy because of the shame I felt about my body. The realization I had been denying myself and my son something I loved so much all because of how much I hated myself and my body hit me like a heavy weight to the chest and I walked to my bedroom, plopped myself down on my bed and cried and cried. Then I called my sister in law.

Through my tears, I told her what had happened and I asked her to please come with me to buy a swimsuit.  My sister-in-law agreed to help me and I bought a swimsuit and went to the beach. Nothing earth shattering happened. The sky didn’t open up and send down a light to shine on me and fix all my problems. I didn’t instantly fall in love with myself but I was in a swimsuit and I was on the beach having fun with my one year old baby playing in the water. It wasn’t a miracle but it felt a little like one to me.

Life went on and I forgot about my prayer until months later when I heard another clear command; “Be happy getting your picture taken.” It was a random instruction that came out of the blue but once again, I listened. I stopped avoiding the camera. I looked at myself in pictures and refused to look away or feel bad about what I saw.  Later, I heard another command. I can’t remember exactly what it said but it was something along the lines of “Feel sexy again.” So I worked on letting go and having fun during sex without thinking about my body or how terrible it might look. Instead, I focused on how much fun I was having.

Over time, the commands worked. The shame I felt around my weight and my body eventually disappeared. It still pops up every now and again but never loud enough to disrupt me or make me feel bad about myself. I can be around other people without feeling like a blob. I can have my picture taken and not feel like my presence is ruining an otherwise great shot. I can eat whatever I want in public without feeling judged. I can live my life without a constant barrage of negative thoughts ruining my fun.

But apparently my journey isn’t over because I continue to receive random instructions. Every once in a blue moon, the clear confident voice makes a short but decisive command. “Go see this person in Sedona.” “Feel passion in your marriage now.” “Stop channeling and focus on yourself.” These random instructions seem to have nothing to do with my weight loss journey but as I follow their instructions and time goes on, I see how they actually have everything to do with my weight loss journey.

Recently, I heard another clear command except the voice was different. It was softer and, to me, more feminine feeling. I heard this voice before. It was a voice I had come to describe as Divine Mother and she said very clearly, “Eat mostly smoothies until I tell you to stop and your body will be healed.”

I had been sick for 4 years with a mystery illness that landed me in the emergency room time and time again. Each time no one could explain why I was experiencing the symptoms that were plaguing me. For years I visited doctors and naturopaths and everything in between trying to figure out what was wrong. I couldn’t eat bread or wheat or potatoes or too much sugar without becoming terribly ill physically and mentally. I was eating a very strict diet of vegetables and meat because they were the only things I could tolerate. Everything was organic, made from scratch at home and ultra clean because anything else made me feel sick. Despite my ultra clean eating my body did not lose weight. Although truthfully, I had come to love myself and my body so this fact rarely mattered to me but my chronic illness was disheartening, confusing and sometimes more than I felt like I could handle.

When I heard Divine Mother’s voice, I was in my room waking from a nap. I listened to her instructions and proceeded to eat mostly smoothies. On the third day, I was sitting at my computer working on my taxes when Divine Mother’s voice interrupted me again. This time she said something along the lines of, “It’s done. You are well. You will always be sensitive but you will never be sick like you were.” And that was that. I haven’t been sick since. I still don’t know how to process that. I’ve eaten bread and sugar and take out and I’ve only felt mild symptoms. I feel like I understand what she meant when she said I will always be sensitive but I won’t feel as sick as I was. My body still doesn’t like bread or potatoes but the reaction is so very mild – like a hiccup compared to the wrenching pain and debilitating depression and anxiety I experienced for four years.

Now that my body feels healthy and well, I feel inspired to try and lose weight but I haven’t tried to lose weight in so many years and I definitely don’t want to go about it by counting calories or shaming myself into changing my habits. I want a much softer, more creative and definitely more spiritual approach. And I don’t want to go it alone.

I couldn’t find the kind of weight loss experience I’m looking for so I decided to create it myself and see if there were any women out there who might want to join me.

For many of us, the shame and failure we experienced in the past make approaching the idea of weight loss scary or overwhelming. I’m hoping we can get together once a week and use prayer, art and ritual to support ourselves as we dip our toes in these complicated waters again.

I don’t promise results on the scale because I don’t believe anyone should force their body to change before it’s ready but I can promise deep and meaningful conversations, creative quests that lead to life-changing healing, thoughtful rituals that help you connect with your heart and spirit, laughter with women who understand what it’s like to struggle with weight and a small, intimate sisterhood that is dedicated to supporting you as you try to reach your goals.

This is a private, safe circle for sensitive hearts that want help navigating their relationship with their bodies and food. There won’t be a prescribed weight loss or exercise plan. We’ll start out nice and slow and use the first couple months to get to know each other while I support you in defining your own unique goals and finding the best path to help you reach them. This isn’t a one size fits all weight-loss program. This is a unique custom tailored approach that is limited to 10 women. We’ll meet online (or you can join my local circle that meets in my home studio if you live near Bragg Creek, Alberta). Every week all the details of your journey will be taken care of for you. You just have to show up and enjoy yourself and day by day, week by week, together we’ll get closer to reaching our goals than we could if we were trying to do it on our own.

If you’re interested but would love to learn more about what the year will look like, you can read more about it here or email me at support@danadaponte.com and we can schedule a chat in my private online meeting room. I’d love to answer any questions you may have.

 

with love,

 

Dana da Ponte

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