For the last several years, my therapist has been working with me to practice radical acceptance. Sometimes life is hard or unfair. When it is, I can either accept the good, or I can try to fight it. Resisting reality--what is—is a fool’s errand. Yet, most of my life, I have had a hard time embracing my reality. I’m pretty good at denial and repression. I’ve also mastered the skill of stewing in my juices, making myself more and more miserable. Radical acceptance is the opposite. It is about accepting life on its terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life, just as it is. *
When I stepped on the scale on the morning of February 16, it read: 148.8. I was shocked--and thrilled! I couldn’t remember the last time I weighed less than 150 pounds. As I considered it more, I decided the last time was probably February 2010—when I had my last, big lupus flare and wound up in the hospital for 10 days. That weight loss was one of the clues for the doctors about what was going on. But I wasn’t sick this time.
I loved the new, thinner, fitter body I had back in February. I bought new smaller-sized clothes for work—both my daytime consulting gig and my moonlighting as a yoga instructor. I proudly wore my bikinis when I went to Miami in April with one of my best friends. My weight didn’t remain under 150 for very long, but that was okay. For most of March and April, it vacillated between 150 and 155. I could live with those numbers, especially since I could still wear my new, smaller clothes.
As May approached, the numbers on the scale kept going up—159.4, 159.6, 163, 162. I have weighed 160 pounds or more since May 8. I became distraught. By mid-June, I could no longer fit into my new, smaller clothes. I also had back fat and a big belly—things that had not been there before. I couldn’t understand what was going on. Yes, I was grieving my godmother’s death, and perhaps was eating a bit more and exercising a bit less than my normal. But it didn’t seem enough to cause a gain of 20+ pounds in two months.
No matter the cause, I was determined to shed that extra weight. First, I upped my exercise regimen. I committed to doing 30 minutes of rigorous cardio five days a week. I biked, ran, and worked out on the elliptical machine. By summer’s end, I was in the pool doing laps, hoping to shed some of the unwelcome weight. I also lifted weights twice a week and did a strength training workout once or twice a week.
In August, I downloaded a fitness app to help me track every part of my regimen—water, calories, exercise, sleep, etc. Its colorful, clear charts helped me to monitor my progress (just like I encourage my coaching and consulting clients). I upped my water intake, while cutting back my calories. According to the app, if I restricted myself to a 1500-calorie diet, I would be back to 155 by the end of October. I weighed 172 on August 13 when I began using the Argus app. On October 1, I weighed 170.8 pounds. In two months of grueling exercise, restricted eating, and colossal water intake, I had lost a little more than a pound. I wasn’t making any progress.
There are three parts to radical acceptance.
That’s when I knew I had to practice radical acceptance. I had to embrace my big belly, back fat, and thick thighs. I had to accept that my body wants to weigh 170 pounds right now, and won’t go more than a pound or two above or below that number--no matter what I did. I also realized (finally) that my weight gain coincided with the increased dosage of one of my medicines. This particular drug is known for causing weight gain.
So, I had a choice with how to handle the reality of my unwelcome weight gain: 1) cut back on my medicine and risk getting sick, 2) remain miserable as I continued dieting and exercising, or 3) accept my weight and change how I feel about my body. I chose the last of those three. I am working to embrace my current, fuller and more voluptuous body. I have pulled out the larger-sized clothes that I had buried in my closet, and I’ll go buy a few new pieces to complement my fall wardrobe.
In general, I consider myself as someone with a healthy self-esteem. Yet like most women, I am absolutely obsessed with how I look and how much I weigh. I am trying to change my mindset one day at a time as I practice radical acceptance. This is how much I weigh right now, because I am taking a particular dosage of a certain medicine. I can't stop taking the medicine, so I have to accept the weight gain that comes with it. As long as I am exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, and taking several yoga classes a week, I won't worry about the numbers on the scale. Radical acceptance is a daily decision, but one to which I am wholly committed.
* Quote from Psychology Today article by Karyn Hall, Ph.D., “Radical Acceptance,” July 8, 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pieces-mind/201207/radical-acceptance.
Image from DBT Self Help website
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.