Look, we know the majority of us Latinas are overweight. And we know that being overweight and/or obese puts us at higher risk of prediabetes and diabetes. What you may not know is that it also puts us at risk for heart disease and even some cancers. Not to mention self-judgement, self-loathing and yo-yo dieting.
But how much good has it done for us to hate ourselves and go on stupid diets that don’t work? NADA.
¡YA! Enough. At De Las Mías we want you to do something different. It’s time to cambiar el chip. We want you to strive for living a healthier and more joyful life. By making small, healthy changes over time, we are sure you will be happier, healthier and much better off. And rather than beating yourself up and taking extreme measures that don’t work, we encourage you to take this approach and look at your health as a journey.
And believe us, it is a journey. Paso a paso, we will get to our destination:
Una vida más saludable that affirms our authentic selves.
So if you’re just joining us or if you’re already well on your way to a healthier, happier life, we challenge you to incorporate a novel concept into your journey…
This novel concept is called Self-Acceptance.
Self-Acceptance means that you embrace yourself as you are now, without any judgements or criticism. It means you accept the good with the not so good; the good, the bad and the ugly como el Clint Eastwood.
Not so easy, for us criticonas, right? And if you are a perfectionist, may la virgencita have mercy on you, because self-acceptance is a very hard concept for those of us who criticize too much.
La neta, the truth is, that many of us are just not that kind to ourselves. How many times have you called yourself “tonta”? Be honest. How many times have you heard that little voice inside your head call you dumb, mensa, awkward, clumsy or fat? We are used to living in this good girl, bad girl world. Are you being good when you eat a salad and bad when you eat a donut? Can we just stop that please? Can we separate what we do from who we are?
We want to challenge you to accept yourself as you are, without judgement, insults or dirty looks in the mirror. No exceptions.
Here’s an old dicho from Pedro Infante, Mexican film icon and singer, that you may have heard. It was part of a song he sang to impress the ladies: “Soy quien soy y no me parezco a nadie.” It’s a bit like Popeye’s “I yam what I yam.” It means you are you and you aren’t like anyone else. And when you say that, “Soy quien soy,” you claim your uniqueness and your self-acceptance. ¡Eres, única! Embrace it and yourself as you are now, ¡Y ya!
Psychologists and human behavior experts, such as Dr. Pillay from Harvard University Medical School, are discovering the importance of self-acceptance as a foundation to general well-being and good mental health. New research is starting to prove that in order to make healthy changes, it is important that you start with the good foundation of self-acceptance.
There is an important distinction that I want to make here. Practicing self-acceptance does not mean that you don’t want to change something or make improvements in how you live your life. But self-acceptance is a healthy foundation from which you can grow and change.
To embark on your odyssey to self-acceptance, I’m offering some tips from positive psychology that you can take on your journey. Try this:
Learn to separate what you do from what you are. Those of you who are moms know this best. When you’re hijita does something bad, it doesn’t mean she’s bad. Making a mistake doesn’t make her a mistake. You just need to help her do better next time. Channel your own best mom and give yourself a break.
This is an important point for those of us who have a problem with overeating or eating to satisfy emotional hunger. In an earlier blog, I shared with you a trick that I learned to assess if I was emotionally hungry or physically hungry and I want to share it with you again. If I feel hungry and reach for a healthy snack like a handful of almonds, a yogurt or a pepino con chilito, and I feel satisfied, I know that I was physically hungry. If after my healthy snack, I still feel hungry, it’s a good bet that I am eating to feed an emotional hunger. When you make this discovery, just take it in without judgement. This is good information, a data point. Once you accept that you eat for emotional reasons, you can look for ways to change that habit. If you never accept this as something you do, you will keep repeating it. Self-acceptance is fueled by self-awareness. Awareness is always a good place to start.
You hear a lot about mindfulness these days. You can use mindfulness in all areas of your life. Basically, mindfulness is paying attention. It is becoming aware of yourself. It is paying attention to what you eat, how you listen, how you don’t listen, and how present you are in your own life.
One mindfulness practice is to take a few minutes and just be with yourself. Simply observe how you feel and how your body feels, without judgement. Practice this kind of presence of mind and body without self-criticism or put downs. With time, you will start to feel a stronger connection to yourself.
There is mounting evidence that self-acceptance can lead us to self-care, stronger self-esteem and better health. And at De Las Mías we are all about THAT!
Can you commit to self-care and showing yourself some Amor Propio?
It can start with you doing nice things for yourself, like getting a massage, eating healthy food, drinking more water, going for a walk, meditating, asserting yourself, speaking up, saying no when you mean no, and yes when you mean yes.
There are hundreds of ways to show ourselves acceptance and self-love and I want to challenge you to start practicing Amor Propio.
I want to share a personal part of my story with the hope that it may speak to you: I was born fat. I weighed 12 pounds 6 ounces when I was born in El Hospital Del Socorro in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. I grew up fat until I got amoebas. Then, I was skinny for about a month until my mom and tías figured it out. They put on some kind of tratamiento and I got fat again. In school, because I was fat and tall, my friends used to call me Giant. My cousins called me Gorda; the ones who liked me called me Gordis. My mom, who thought being thin was next to godliness, had me on a diet until I was 18. She was an early adopter of the Atkins Diet, and she had an eating disorder. Her favorite piece of advice was, “Ya no comas pan.” (Don’t eat bread, already.)
Whatever was going on there, let’s just say that bread was not my enemy. With the help of a well-intentioned mother, I grew up with a messed up body image and a list of forbidden foods. Even at 17 years old, weighing 140 pounds and a 5’7” frame, I still felt fat. I still thought that chocolate, tortillas, tamales, and bread were out to get me. At one point, I had a sign on the refrigerator that said, “Oreo cookies are the road to hell.”
It wasn’t until I hit my late 30s and found a therapist that I began to understand that what I needed more than Thin Within, Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach, Low Carb, No Carb, Slimfast or even Overeaters Anonymous, was Self-Love. ¡Amor Propio! That is what I needed and that is what I got, but it only took me 40 years.
So I’m hoping that my combination of disordered eating, messed up body image and a first class education in health education will help you avoid all those trampas and come out of it less beat up than I did.
So, as you read this, I just want you to pretend that I am your maestra, your madrina, or your loving tía who loves you just the way you are. And this is your homework:
Make a list of things you can do for yourself that show you some Amor Propio.
¡Andale! Share your list with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a surprise!
Just to get you started here’s my list. The things I do for love – self-love that is!
So what do you do for self-love?
Make a list. Share it with me at email@example.com and I’ll send you a cariñito!
Pillay, Srini, MD. Greater self-acceptance improves emotional well-being. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/greater-self-acceptance-improves-emotional-well-201605169546
University of Hertfordshire. “Self-acceptance could be the key to a happier life, yet it’s the happy habit many people practice the least.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140307111016.htm>.