The Alchemy of Weight Loss
First Published in:
Odyssey Magazine


Once upon a time I made a wish that came true. I said a prayer that was heard. I formed an intention that manifested. At the time I weighed 115kg. My wish was to be a normal weight. My prayer was for help. My intention was to find a way. Along the road from intention to manifestation I formed an opinion as to the cause of my challenge and a recognition of the steps toward my alchemy. I am writing this in gratitude and celebration as an offering of hope and inspiration. 

If society judges you to be overweight but you are comfortable in your body, this is not for you. If you judge yourself to be overweight and if this state torments you, if you seek greater understanding in the hope of triggering a solution in yourself, this is for you.

Just as we are complex beings living a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual life, so too are there physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects to the condition of being overweight.  Overweight is the outward (physical) manifestation of a life orientation of lack and scarcity (emotional, mental and spiritual).

There is a void, a nameless and all pervading empty pain that we try to fill with food. In truth what we yearn for is more of our Self. We subconsciously remember the time as infants when we lived briefly in complete integrity with our Self, when we were authentically "I" without the need for names and labels, with no need to prove our identity or worth.  Intrinsically we long for a return to that innocent truth which is our natural state 

As babies pain (void) was comforted in two ways - through food and loving touch. As adults we separate our Selves from loving touch, being both afraid to give and receive it. We often regard the yearning for a hug, an arm around our shoulder, a gentle touch on the hand, as a sign of weakness. We seldom ask for it. On the few occasions that we allow and receive such gestures it stirs emotion in us, tears well up. We learn to deal with nastiness and harshness much better than we eventually deal with our birthright of kindness.  We even come to the belief that we do not have ready access to demonstrated love because we are not worthy of it, we are not good enough.

Food however, becomes a deceptive comfort that is often more readily available to us and "it" doesn't judge our worthiness or strength. As we create the increasing challenge of overweight we are more and more disgusted with ourselves and the void grows. We see our disgust reflected in the eyes of others and the void grows. We experience more bodily discomfort and the void grows. We find less and less beauty in ourselves, less and less to celebrate and the void grows. It becomes increasingly difficult to function in the world as we struggle to find clothes that fit, as our bottoms squeeze against the sides of chairs, and the void grows. We try to solve the challenge by focussing on the outward manifestation, on food. We fail and the void grows.  Eventually our days are crammed with searing reminders of our physical size, each one prompting a thought of "I'm not good enough" when the message we are sending ourselves in this way is in fact more correctly translated as: "I am good but not enough of Me".

The universe is a place of balance. We have chosen a space to fill in it. As our authentic Self (emotional, mental and spiritual) claims less and less space, the physical body grows in a futile attempt to redress the imbalance thus created.

Clearly we cannot neglect the physical and expect to solve a challenge which has manifested in the physical. Ultimately we need to nourish the heart, mind, soul and the body correctly. However, the physical imbalance manifests as a result of a deeper imbalance and until we address that, until we start living our own Truth in integrity, every diet will fail, every eating plan will eventually result in a bigger physical challenge. Until our more subtle energies start taking up more space, our physical bodies will continue to attempt to fill the void.

Dr Phil McGraw maintains emphatically that what we need "to get" is that we are overweight because we have arranged our lives in a way that supports this state of being. We in turn arrange our lives in this way because there is a pay-off in it for us. There is truth in this. My opinion is that the pay-off is the temporary numbing of a far more deeply seated need, a brief "filling up" of the void. However, because the true hunger is not for food but rather for a more authentic life, the hunger will gnaw persistently, regardless of how much we eat, until we identify and start to satisfy the real need.

And as Dharma said (Dharma And Greg TV Show): "Therein squats the toad". How do we claim back our authentic Selves?

12 Steps to Alchemy:

  1. Release the past.

Nothing that happened in your past matters beyond that it contributed to bring you to this moment. Let it go. Realise that every time you perceived yourself to "fail" you were in fact readying yourself for this moment, right now.

  1. Create "sacred space" for yourself.

You are a spiritual being. Honour your spirit in your daily life. Sacred space is also sacred time. You may want to create a sacred space somewhere in your home where you can go every day to reconnect with your spirit. This needn't be elaborate.  One of my sacred spaces is a coffee table set to one side with a small Zen garden and two candles. Make it something that resonates within you, even if it is enjoying some solitude in your favourite chair. Spend time, care and attention creating it in simplicity. Invite your God to be with you there.

  1. Listen to yourself.

Sit in your sacred space and listen to your thoughts and emotions. Develop an awareness of what goes on in your own mind and heart. Remember that true listening includes compassion. For me it was helpful to use a journal. As you practise listening you will develop an awareness of yourself. You will notice thought patterns, emotional cycles in your life. Resist the temptation to judge. Just observe. And when you become really silent and relax into listening you might just hear the voice of your Holy Spirit, the God and the good within. 

  1. Reclaim your power.

As your self-awareness grows, recognise that you are fully responsible for your well being in every aspect of your life. You are not a victim of others' whims. In every moment you have absolute control over your attitude and attitude determines outcome. Begin the process of exercising choice in your responses instead of blind reactivity. Let go of fear, anger, and all other emotions that don't serve you. Gently recognise your value and honour it. Practise seeing yourself as a whole and worthy human being. Respect your Self and you will begin to reveal to yourself and the world around you someone who cannot be ignored.

  1. Start to identify your true needs, name the void.

What is the true scarcity in your life? Is it love? Is it tenderness? Is it beauty? Is it joy? Is it fulfilment? Is it silence? Is it stimulation? Realise that naming the void is a quest in itself. We have lived so long suppressing our true needs, disguising them, that we often forget what they really are.

  1. Fulfil those needs, move closer to living your purpose.

While no man is an island and others undoubtedly contribute to the fullness of our lives, we all have the capacity to begin to satisfy our true needs. Love yourself. Be tender with yourself. Notice the beauty around you - in the sacred space that you created, in a stranger's smile, in the way the sun reflects off a leaf. Laugh at a joke. Rejoice at the splendour of the night skies. Take time every day to be quiet. Use the resources of your world (books, internet, discussion, TV, radio, your own thoughts) to stimulate new opinions and possibilities in your own mind. Find your way back to your innate gifts. Live your truth and fulfilment will follow naturally and surely.

  1. Attend lovingly to yourself.

Care for your physical body. Spend time pampering it. Have candlelit bubble baths. Groom yourself. Recognise how your physical body has served you, how far your legs have walked in this lifetime, how your eyes kept seeing, your ears kept hearing, your skin registered cold and heat, pain and pleasure, each organ magnificently executing its function. Feel gratitude. Indulge and spoil your body in return.

  1. Decide on a balanced, nutritious plan for your body.

This is the easy part. By now you know what works for you and what doesn't. You know what is healthy and what isn't. Decide on a plan that suits your body, your personality and your lifestyle, e.g. if you enjoy preparing food consider the calorie-counting, food-weighing option. If you generally view spending time in the kitchen as punishment, rather go for balanced and nutritious meal replacement options. Don't panic. Remember that you have released the past. If you need to consult someone about good nutrition and health, do it. Don't make a song and dance out of this step. Put it into perspective. It is only one step. Just decide. 

  1. Feed your mind.

Rediscover the natural curiosity you had as a child and unleash it again. Notice when your interest is piqued by something you read or hear and make a point of finding out more about it. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Think about things. Discuss things. Attend workshops if you can. On a more formal level you may want to embark on a course of study, furthering your education. Remember that very few minds are overweight and as such minds are always allowed "seconds". 

  1. Enlist a coach.

The journey towards transformation that you have embarked on can be successfully completed on your own. Ultimately it is your journey and no one else can travel it for you. However, sometimes it can be a lonely journey and sometimes we may temporarily lose our way. This is where a coach is helpful.

  1. Commitment means "keep starting over".

Transformation is seldomly instant. Change is itself challenging. Sometimes we grow tired or demotivated. Sometimes we become distracted and for a moment we forget our quest. This is allowed. The secret to success is to "keep starting over". Therefore, if you stumble along the way release that stumble as part of your past, go to your sacred space and listen to your Self, reclaim your power, identify the true need that is not being fulfilled and do something about it, attend lovingly to yourself, decide again (and adjust if necessary) on a nutrition plan that works for your body, personality and lifestyle, remember to feed your mind and discuss your renewed commitment with your coach. Most importantly: don't deprive yourself.

  1. Enjoy the trip.

You have chosen alchemy as part of your life destiny. Alchemy is the process by which the mundane is transformed into the miraculous, the beautiful. This is a blessing, not a curse, and you are indeed equal to the challenge. Celebrate your powerful and gentle nature as you reconnect with it more and more. Rejoice in the miracle of your alchemy. Graciously acknowledge others when they pay tribute to your progress. View these steps as a starting point. Develop your own magic as you learn more about yourself. Help someone else to do what you have done. Realise that shedding unnecessary weight is but a part of a much bigger process. The journey doesn't end.

In conclusion, at the risk of stereotyping, people faced with the challenge of unnecessary weight are frequently gentler, more sensitive, more intuitive than many. We hurt easily. In acknowledging our vulnerability we begin to discover our power. I would venture to say that the more overweight you are, the greater the potential for power you have, the larger the bushel you need under which to hide your light. In healing your spirit, in honouring your Self, your body can begin to find healing too. Remember the universal law: what you focus on you will attract. The more you focus on being overweight the more you will be overweight. The more you focus on the beauty of you, the Spirit of you, the more your light will glow. Shine on!