Do you constantly feel like something is missing in your life? Do you feel a deep sense of emptiness, loneliness, sadness, or discontent even though your life looks wonderful from the outside? Do you long for something from the past or wish for something more in the future? This sense of incompleteness can be so painful and yet invisible or mystifying to other people who do not struggle with it. I have often struggled with this sense of emptiness in my life. This nagging feeling of something-is-missing is really confusing because I have all the trimmings of a privileged life. I used to think that this emptiness can be filled by accomplishments, friends, family, money, hobbies, career, or pets. But the more "stuff" I accumulated to fill this hole, the more empty and incomplete I felt. I came to realize that the hole cannot be paved over by anything from the outside.
Recently I listened to a podcast episode called Trust Your Body on one of my favorite podcasts, Dear Sugars. In the episode, the hosts, Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed, and guests, Hilary Kinavey, M.S., L.P.C., and Dana Sturtevant, M.S., R.D., discussed the never-ending cycles of dieting that affect so many women. One of the women who wrote to the Sugars talked about how tired she feels about "being on the roller coaster" of weight loss and self-esteem. I can relate to her struggles as I have been on the roller coaster myself for most of my adolescent and adult life.
The struggle with our bodies is so pervasive, oppressive, and multi-generational, as Cheryl Strayed asked, is it possible to ever be free of it? How can we dismantle the connection between morality, worthiness, and femininity with women's body image? The hosts discuss how women's appetite and desire are controlled by a male-dominated society. They talk about Naomi Wolf's book The Beauty Myth that links women's appetite for love, sex, money, food, care, etc. to women's rights and equality in the home, in bed, in the work place, and in the world. Women are hungry for so much more.
Yet, we starve ourselves. We starve ourselves of our needs and wants, our power, our potential, our worth, our rightful place in this world. This starvation is manifested in physical form by the way we starve our bodies. When we are chronically starving and unsatisfied, it is no wonder that we struggle with other mental health and physical health concerns as well. Dana Sturtevant is a dietitian and talked about how the healthcare system promotes the diet culture by focusing on women's weight rather than healthy behaviors or social determinants of health and weight (e.g., socioeconomic status, access to healthy foods, access to spaces to exercise, stigma against larger bodies, etc.). Despite what the advertisement for weight loss products and programs say, losing weight is never the answer to unhappiness and low self-worth. Plus, 95% of people who lose weight on a diet will gain it all back if not more. The good news is, there is a different way.
What if we honored women's appetite and desire as what they are, as a hunger that deserves to be satisfied? What if we allowed ourselves to challenges society's control of women and dictation of what women can be, should be, and want? What if we freed ourselves from the concepts of what is "good" vs. "bad," what is "healthy" vs. "unhealthy?" What if we freed ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to free us? What if we trusted ourselves, our bodies, our intuition, our power? What kind of world would that be? A world that I want to live in.
Are you tired of the roller coaster of dieting and hating your body? Tell me more in the comment section below.
This week, I am excited to share with you a brief interview that I had with psychologist and blogger Dr. Christy Barongan. She is the writer of Normal in Training: A Psychologist’s Blog About the Practice of Self-Acceptance. When I first had the idea to start a blog that blends my personal story and my professional interests, I looked to Christy’s blog as an inspiration. I admire how she courageously shares her own battle with mental health in a way that is poetic, relatable, and inspiring. Her authenticity and her human-ness comes through in these blog posts. When I read her stories, I see myself reflected in her experiences. I feel validated by her as a psychologist and an Asian and Pacific Islander (API) woman. It is rare, as I mentioned in a previous post, for psychologists to admit that we struggle with mental health. It is even more rare for me to find an API psychologist who speaks about her own struggles with mental health because the silence around mental health is so pervasive in our API community. I asked Christy the following questions over email for my own benefit. Her responses were so thoughtful and enlightening that I thought others will find this helpful as well. Christy has graciously given me permission to publish our conversation online.
Recently, I noticed some small but significant changes in my body since I turned 30. Looking into the mirror one day, I discovered a few moles that were not there before. My partner found a baby grey hair that was starting grow on my head. I I noticed that my clothes don't fit the way that they used to; I am gaining weight around my belly and my thighs. These cellulite, stretch marks, and wrinkles are here to stay. Given my past struggles in my relationship with my body, I was surprised to find that I did not react to these changes with criticism, disappointment, or panic. Instead, I found myself observing these changes with a sense of calm curiosity. I realized that I liked what I saw.
We created this blog to share information about living a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life. We are constantly learning new things and making mistakes along the way. This blog is our way of chronicling our discoveries, musing, and lessons learned as people and professionals. We invite you to come along on our journey of self reflection, discovery, and thriving with challenges. We also hope to exchange wisdom and enlightenment from you, our readers.
The information provided in this blog is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment.