I believe that the practice of understanding, accepting, and nurturing oneself leads to healthy and permanent weight loss. I really and truly believe this. I’ve lived it.

Others believe that losing weight is a battle. Yet others believe that concrete goals accompanied by rigid eating plans with inflexible exercise schedules are the only way. And that’s okay…that’s what makes the world go ’round.

One of the things that makes Green Mountain At Fox Run so special is that all of the above are welcomed and accommodated. While the entire staff embraces this ideal, there is one in particular to whom I want to introduce you. Her name is Darla Breckenridge. To call her a psychologist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is accurate but it doesn’t get at the heart of who she is. At GMFR she is part therapist, part den mother, part comedienne, part BFF, part teacher. Her best quality is Darla-ness.

She teaches classes like Changing Your Thinking, Nurturing The Whole Self, Beyond The Binge, Limits & Boundaries, and Messages From The Past…you know, classes where you reflect, dig deep, and have your assumptions about the way things are challenged (gently).

Here are some things I learned (either for the first time or again, but in different words) from Darla:

  • The words you choose create your reality.
  • You only need enough guilt to prevent you from torturing and killing other people.
  • Dieting is a Band-Aid for a deep wound.
  • Change occurs in the moment.
  • Abusing food cuts our heads off from our bodies.
  • Criticism (from others or from oneself) never motivates.
  • It’s not the food that hurts you, it’s the self-loathing.
  • If you keep saying, “I can’t eat ________” or “If I eat ________, I’ll never stop” or “I can’t have ________ in the house or I’ll eat it all” those things will be true.
  • Once you label yourself, you look for experiences that will prove it.
  • In order to protect ourselves from outside criticism, we start doing it to ourselves.

On why the making head-heart connection must be part of any weight loss/healthy eating/fitness endeavor:

“On a most basic level, what everyone wants is love, acknowledgement, and safety. But if you don’t receive it and/or can’t articulate it and give it meaning, you will feel empty and will constantly look outside yourself for it. For many of us, food is the easiest way. It doesn’t talk back, it’s readily available, and it literally fills us up. But it also disconnects our heads from our bodies.

The head-heart work (aka Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) shows us how to satisfy these basic needs for ourselves. It helps reconnect our heads to our bodies so we’re more likely to want to care for them. This is what self-acceptance is…it’s the opposite of complacency.”

Here’s my take, based on my experience: It’s not about what I should do, it’s about what feels good. But if I’m stuck in a cycle of self-loathing (the opposite of love, acknowledgement, and safety), what I should do will ignite my inner-rebel and what feels good will most likely be self-destructive and punishing, not nourishing and healthful.