December 26, 2014

How our Feelings Weigh Down our Bodies.

feelings artwork

Lighten your load: express yourself.

It isn’t easy being a human being these days.

We are told how to look, how to be, how to act and how to feel as a prescription to being loved and accepted by others, and, quite frankly, it blows.

We live in a culture obsessed with emotional, mental, physical and spiritual perfection, and in the pursuit of that picture-perfect, even-keeled, inside the box ideal, we start to suppress and shut down who we truly are, because if we’re not tapped into the paradigm social acceptability, then we believe we are sh*t out of luck for a date to the dance—so to speak.

What does it feel like to smother your anger under layers of false smiles and stifled words? What does it feel like to perpetually swallow a powerful truth that is begging to be spoken? How does it feel in your body what you let others take advantage of you or not honor your personal boundaries?

It probably feels like a 20 pound dead weight pressing down on your chest, or maybe a bowling ball permanently lodged in your stomach—to be carried around with you everywhere you go—as a constant reminder of the emotional weight that you carry.

The burden of not fully living, breathing or speaking who you are. What most people don’t know, however, is that this burden not only affects our emotional well-being, it can actually largely determine the shape of our bodies.

As mentioned above, we live in a culture obsessed with idealized, airbrushed, artificial “beauty.”

In a culture where 90 percent of women are dissatisfied with their bodies, and over 40 percent of girls between the ages of nine and 10 have already tried to lose weight for fear of being fat—I think it’s fair to say that we’ve got ourselves a serious problem. To further add the toxicity of the situation, the practices our culture advocates to achieving this “healthy body” is counter-intuitive to true body health. “Eat less, exercise more” is preached as the end-all-be-all approach to weight loss, but the fact of the matter is, this is only a small and limited piece of the puzzle.

What many don’t realize is that what we eat and how much we exercise is only half of the equation when it comes to our body’s physical expression.

Our body weight and shape is directly impacted by our emotional, mental and energetic well-being. Meaning, who you are, and how you express yourself (or don’t), can significantly impact your physical form just as much as what you eat and how you exercise.

How can this be true? Well, on a scientific level, the simple answer is that it all comes down to stress (sympathetic arousal) and relaxation (parasympathetic arousal). The ideal bodily state for full metabolic power is the relaxation response. (i) Conversely, when our bodies are in a state of chronic stress, also known as “fight or flight,” our nutritional metabolism can shut down anywhere between 20 percent and 80 percent.

That means, regardless of how healthy you are eating, or how much you exercise, if your body is chronically stressed, you will burn calories, assimilate nutrients and digest food at an extremely reduced rate.

So now you might be saying to yourself, “Okay Arielle, I see the different pieces to the puzzle, but I’m still confused about how they all fit together…” Well my friend, let me extrapolate on this multi-layered subject. Our external body is a reflection of the balance of our internal states. When we don’t express our internal emotional states—we are not honoring who we truly are, and that sends a message to the body that it is unsafe, that it is wrong, or that it does not have permission to enter its most fully expressed and actualized form.

In every moment of interaction with another person, we are either standing in our personal power or we are giving our power away.

We stand in our personal power when we say what is true for us, even if it might rock the boat. We stand in our personal power when we set our personal boundaries with those who tend to walk all over them. We stand in our personal power when we do what we feel to be right for both our self and those around us, even if others don’t agree.

And that is one of the most powerful metabolism boosters you can have, because here’s the real truth:

Personal Power = Metabolic Power

As you remember from earlier on in this article, we learned that the ideal state for a highly effective metabolism is the relaxation response. And one of the best ways to create sustained relaxation in the body is to be in constant full expression of your personal truth.

Conversely, if you are not expressing and honoring your true feelings in your external world, or if you are living your life based upon someone else’s desires or specifications, then you are not living from a place of alignment with your Authentic Self, and that creates a state of chronic stress within the body. And by the way, just to titilate your health-fact fervor, side effects of chronic stress include difficulty losing weight, weight gain, and extremely diminished immune system strength, and calcium deficiency–to name a few.

So, what can you take away from this article?

Honor yourself. Trust your feelings. Express your needs and desires to those that surround you, and state your personal boundaries.

Know that every decision you make is either affirming your personal power and supporting your metabolic health, or it is disempowering you and sending the message to your body that it’s not okay to be in its most authentic expression. Oh, and stop being so hard on yourself.

This work of personal growth and transformation is not easy, and getting down on ourselves only makes matters worse…and it creates stress (kind of counter-intuitive, eh?) So be kind to yourself, and start becoming aware of where you are holding back from being honest, both with yourself, and with those in your life. Your body will thank you for it.


* Reference: 

(i) A New Definition of Metabolism, by The Institute for the Psychology of Eating

Teen Futures Media Network, College of Education, University of Washington


Relephant Read: 

Emotional Health is the New Sexy 



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Author: Arielle Brown

Editor: Catherine Monkman/Travis May

Photo: Estelle F./Flickr

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