I went to the doctor and found out I’m just shy of weighing 200 pounds. My highest weight in high school was 169 (HA!), I got married at 137 in 2006, and this is the most I’ve ever weighed, ever.
The thing is, I have very little shame about that 198.6 number. I’m really fucking healthy in the other health categories that count: mentally, spiritually, sexually, energetically, financially, and emotionally.
I didn’t get depressed last winter, which is the first time I felt fine during that season in over a decade. (More about my depression and its lessons here, here, and here.)
Further, I’m on top of my Adulting — my library fines are paid and I’m making art regularly and my house is clean and my car is inspected, which are the things that slide in not-so-healthy-times.
Most importantly: I DON’T WANT TO STOP LIVING LIFE. I am not suicidal. I can read the news without sinking into a ball of despair and losing 3 hours to weeping uncontrollably about things I cannot change. Read: I deserve a slow clap.
Aside from that single measurement — my weight — I’m healthier than I’ve ever been.
Psst! This is an episode of That’s What She Said, listen in below or keep reading if you dig a transcript!
So, why did I have to sit through a shaming lecture about it? Because nowhere in the 9.6 minute doctor’s visit that cost $165 did she ask about My Actual Health.
She checked in with her notes about what I should be doing — Synthroid, you’re on that? No? (Back story of how I healed my own damn thyroid: Tiny, Annoying Progress.)
Well, I need bloodwork. Why didn’t you get bloodwork? Oh, an enormous battery of pointless tests is expensive.
Well, why don’t you have insurance? Oh, because paying $600 a month for insurance costs more than paying cash for when you need to see a doctor.
Well, you can go to a clinic if you don’t make enough money to pay for the tests.
You need to lose weight. You know what to do — fruits, vegetables, whole grains… I literally said, “Yah yah yah” until she moved on.
Let’s break down this emotional gauntlet and then provide alternative questions that would actually benefit both health professionals and patients.
Shaming people about their perceived lack of health merely by weighing them is not only irresponsible, it’s dangerous. I know many skinny people who are dead inside and many overweight people who are healthy as fuck.
In my experience, a doctor dons a white coat and knows what you should do, despite not asking once about what you’ve learned this year, or where you’ve gone internally, or how your relationships are affecting you, or even what your mental health is like on any given day.
“Celexa, 20 milligrams? Still need that?”
Next point of order. That is not an exaggeration of how I got a full year’s prescription for anti-depressants.
Rather than trusting the healthcare system to help us, let’s find ways for you to gauge your health from home with Really Fucking Good Questions. (RFGQ, for short.)
You can ask these of yourself first, then share what’s actually going on within you with the health providers of your choice. (If you’d like to regain your belief that health practitioners can be amazing people, look no further than Aimee Derbes.)
Really Fucking Good Questions that actually help determine your overall health:
How many deeply meaningful relationships are you cultivating at the moment? How often do you feel lonely?
When did you last sing, dance, or otherwise express yourself for no ‘good’ reason? When did you last place your bare feet on the earth and/or sand?
How is your mental outlook on any given day? Do you feel as if you’re growing more or less resilient over time?
How much time do you spend on screens each day? What would you tell me you know you ‘need’ to do in order to correct your relationship with those screens? (Have you seen Space, my email course which helps you reduce your phone usage by 50% or more?)
Do you get more than seven hours of sleep per night? Will that be changing in the foreseeable future, for better or worse?
Do you engage in sexual acts with yourself and/or partner(s) on a regular basis? Do you find those activities enjoyable — and if not, how might you find them more pleasurable?
How does your financial situation feel on a day-to-day basis? Has anything about it changed drastically in the past few months? Is there anything about your finances that you’re avoiding?
Do you have at least one nutritious meal each day? What would adding more nutrition to your diet in a doable way look like?
How much time do you spend in your body each day, whether for work or play? Has this increased or decreased significantly in the past few months, and how has that changed your overall outlook?
Read: YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO THE GYM EVER AGAIN, IN FACT GYMS ARE SOME OF THE LEAST HEALTHY PLACES ON THE PLANET. At my gym, you literally cannot work out without having 24 enormous screens in view. They surround the perimeter of the main workout room, and every single treadmill also has an attached screen. If you are working out to fill some sort of internal well, you have to battle house demolition shows, stock news, the latest headlines, talking heads on Fox News, and assorted music videos for the duration of your workout. The workout brings you no closer to your own interiors, thus divorcing it from the wisdom of moving your body outdoors, in nature, or in yoga.
Do you have any recurring pains, flare-ups, or bodily issues you’d like to investigate further?
How sensitive would you say you are when compared to other humans? How do you cultivate and nurture your sensitivity?
What do you ignore, pretend isn’t a problem, or otherwise glaze over when describing your life to others?
Finally — how do you cultivate a sense of meaning and/or fulfillment in your life?
“Meaning must be sought out; it’s not built into most people’s lives.” — Rebecca Solnit
She goes on to say that no one will diagnose you as suffering from “social alienation, meaninglessness, or other anomalies that arise from something other than familial and erotic life,” even though those afflictions can be far more burdensome and challenging than carrying around a few extra pounds.
This meaning question is big and hard. It can be absolutely brutal if you’ve never considered it before, so let’s go a touch deeper into it. I’ll tell you how I make meaning so that you don’t feel judged or like I’m giving any sort of prescriptive, I-know-what’s-best-for-you advice.
Meaning is something I create through:
Initiating and noticing progress, both in myself and in my coaching clients
Maintaining a regular spiritual practice (in my case, breathwork)
Turning the bullshit, the awful, the challenging, and the frustrating into podcasts, classes, and books
Being vulnerable with myself and with others whenever possible
How do you cultivate a sense of meaning and fulfillment in your life?
It probably involves some combination of setting goals, making progress, connecting with your intuition, processing your toughest challenges, and being vulnerable with other people. It’s finding a way to contribute to the world at large while being a damn good steward of your gifts.
Back to the big questions! None of them judge, but they do probe effectively into the parts of ourselves we are most likely to call ‘fine.’
They point you toward simple solutions — less screen time, a single nutritious meal, some singing for singing’s sake — without making you download an app or commit to a 30-day program.
They are, in other words, soft.
Softness means you can be gentle with yourself as you navigate life, move through changes, and shift your bodily rhythms to reflect your current reality. Punitive talks with ourselves about our finances, our health, our sensitivity, and our emotions don’t work.
We cannot shame ourselves into being better humans; that emotion only shuts us down. (‘No pain, no gain’ is one of our culture’s most ubiquitous lies. Also: your shame is not interesting.)
When we can greet our current reality with open eyes and without harsh criticism, we’re far more likely to find ways to add nourishing practices, healthy relationships, down time, sleep, and nutrient-dense foods into our lives for the long term.
That 30-day plan or 7-day challenge temporarily beats us into submission and creates a false sense of progress.
In most cases, we need to prioritize a single change that moves the needle forward, then spend a long time making sure we build it into our routine. Think 180 days, not 30, with no damaging critiques of our entire being if we screw up and slide back into our old patterns.
…ate an entire cake? Love you.
…slept for 1.5 hours instead of 8 because you were up reading? Love you.
…blew a coupla hundred bucks on shit you don’t need but really, really enjoy? Love you.
…can’t brush your teeth and shower on the daily to save your life? Love you.
…have never managed to make a new habit by punishing yourself? Love you, too.
It’s all love, all the way down — not in the mushy, ‘it’s okay just eat the cupcakes’ way, but in the ‘you’re human and it’s okay to make mistakes’ way. The soulful grandmother barrel laughing at your antics way.
Some days are better than others.
Some years are better than others.
Our job, collectively, is to tend to our own gardens before we tend to the world’s garden.
Otherwise, we run the risk of causing more harm than good, of judging others as harshly as we judge ourselves, or of burning out long before we have a chance to bring our best gifts to the table.
Our job is also to take a look at alllllllll the elements of our health — mental, physical, sexual, spiritual, emotional, and financial — before we prioritize one over the other.
Can you forgive yourself for the work you haven’t yet done, and the weight you haven’t yet lost, and the book you haven’t yet read or written, and the debt you haven’t paid off, and the lurking pain that won’t go away, and the habits you haven’t managed to forge?
Can you, under all the layers of disappointment and fear and doubt and anger with yourself, find some small, steady place within you that is gentle and that loves you, regardless?
Can you love yourself with all the fierce tenderness you use to love puppies and babies and every good thing in the world?
Can you acknowledge what IS, in this moment, without apology or judgement of any kind?
THAT is how you change the whole damn world — by carefully tending the worlds within you with softness, tenderness, and understanding.
First for you, then for everyone else. (Most people start with everyone else, myself included.)
It’s for you to make meaning, for you to decide why you’re on earth, and for you to enjoy as much of it as possible.
“More than anything, she wants to tell him how Purpose, that awful thing that greeting cards tell him he was born with and he just has to find, is actually something he’ll need to create; that it’s not until he feels the monotony of life that he’ll come to decide why he’s living it.” — Honestly, We Meant Well by Grant Ginder
Softness just makes it easier to find the answers and experiment with new ways of being.
If any part of this podcast made you cry, gasp, or giggle with new ideas, let me tell you about The Softness Sessions. Part extremely-personal-podcast, part breathwork, and a book to boot, The Softness Sessions will help you step into the wisest spaces within yourself.
Through extremely dense teachings followed by breathwork, The Softness Sessions will help you defeat asshole brain, ask better-for-your-whole-health questions, make sense of your internal chaos, and feel the feelings you’ve been boxing up and hiding away for a long time now.
The Softness Sessions are the perfect jumping-off point for a kinder-to-you internal life, no matter how much health you’ve currently got.
Find all the details at thesoft.space.
You’ll get a session each week for 6 weeks, as well as a real life book/journal combo in the actual mail. We start March 19th, 2020, and we’ll conclude with a live breathwork session on April 30th, 2020.
Soft humans are gifts to the rest of the world. I’m hellbent on becoming a soft one, and I hope you will be, too.
Again: thesoft.space — grab your seat now.
P.S. A note for my procrastinators: the sooner you purchase, the sooner I can send you the book! Waiting until the last possible second to buy means you won’t have the book for the first week or two of our time together.