Recently I saw a client* I hadn’t met with in some time. We first connected years ago; she was single and traveling a lot for work. In fact, our very first session was the day before she was leaving for a 3-week trip. I devised a plan but would be lying if I said I had confidence she would make many of the changes while away. At our next meeting she proved me wrong. She had left my office that first day and picked up the non-perishable items we discussed. While away she found a pool to swim in for exercise and had the hotel prepare food for her long workdays and erratic schedule. She proved to me that when you’re ready you can do “healthy” anywhere.
Our check-ins continued for years. She faced challenges and loss, had professional twists and turns and more recently got married and had a baby. Though every stage even if she was diverted she returned to her wellness, to the habits and systems she created. And yes, though there were fluctuations the weight she lost when she first started stayed off.
So at our last meeting, I tried to get a sense of where she was at. It didn’t take long for me to realize she was overwhelmed with motherhood and trying to “get it together”. I knew any changes I would suggest needed to be subtle. As she half-listened to me she looked up and said, “I’m just wondering maybe this is just how it is” and gestured to her body. This wasn’t about body size or weight; her gusto was gone.She left the office and I checked in yesterday. I read her response as I walked down the street and it stopped me dead in my tracks.
There's a part of me that saying- just be ok with how I am right now. There's a lot going on. It may be time to work on a little self-acceptance at this moment.
It wasn’t that this go getter client was daunted that shook me. No, it was when I thought for a moment that making changes or working on our health or weight implied we didn’t accept ourselves. I resumed my walk and thought about this and what to say to this client. My mind went back to another client I worked with when I was first counseling. He had an ill family member and was balancing work with hospital visits. He wanted to check in and I said something to the effect of “you have a lot going on, focus on your family and we’ll resume nutrition visits in the future.” Sounds a lot like my client’s email, right?
My client with the ill parent lost that parent and he did come back for visits. He taught me a lesson I’ll never forget when he said “I know you didn’t mean to but you let me off the hook. I needed to focus on myself despite the stress and instead I’ve gained weight and feel worse.”
There are times when we’re gung ho to make changes and set goals and other times our expectations need to be lower. But if feeling confident and healthy is the goal we can’t “think about this later”. Self-acceptance is a good thing but that has to include self-care.
Do you think self-acceptance and weight loss can coexist? Do you focus on self-care when you’re going through stressful times or does that suffer? What do you do when you don’t really want to take care of yourself (but know you should)?
*Any client mentions are anonymous and never provide specific details