On Centering

Do you have something for me?The picture to the left is of my dog. She is now 11 months old. We don’t know exactly when she was born — she was picked up as a stray and we adopted her from the shelter. We also don’t know “what” she is — we think that she is part beagle, part pug, and part something else. Yes, I know it’s possible to get a DNA test done that will give us some idea. But we’ve enjoyed (or not, depending on your perspective) not knowing what she is, or discovering what she is, or not caring what she is. Because, she is. She’s exuberant, loves to chew things, especially my daughter’s toys, and occasionally her own toys, and she loves to steal socks from the laundry basket and be chased around the living room until she is forced to surrender them, reluctantly.

She is about 4 months old in this picture. She is a bigger dog now, not so puppy-looking (although she always looks puppy-ish to me). She is affectionate, stubborn, noisy, and even bites us sometimes — not hard enough to break the skin but she loves to mouth our hands, and we haven’t yet figured out how to break her of that habit (if we wore squirt bottles or squirt guns in holsters 24/7 we probably could do it). But we love her. And we take care of her, and she rewards us with being, for the most part, a good enough dog.

I start with this photo of our adorable dog to say that for me, at the center of raising her, was the dog. And our family. And what we needed her to be, and what she needed us to be. (She is probably not getting everything she needs in terms of this, but we’ve done the best we could). If my focus was on raising the “perfect dog” I probably should have started out with a dog not from a shelter but from a breeder. But I insisted that if we were going to get a dog, it had to be one from an animal shelter.

In an email this morning, I wrote this (blockquoting myself, yes):

I guess that’s why I moved to the name “Quantum Acceptance” for my blog, as I’m truly less interested in weight loss or not weight loss than I am in overall health.

I truly struggle with how to talk about it, but I think it comes down to the Buddhist concept of “detachment from outcomes.” It’s tough for me, raised Jewish (and still Jewish) and from a family that believes more in the scientific method than any concept of God, to be detached from outcomes. But if weight is the outcome we are attached to (whether it’s a firm “no weight loss” or “yes weight loss” — healthy or not) — there is this energy that surrounds that focus that attracts bias, dysfunction, stigma, and a host of other negative stuff that has a real impact on our health, not only mental health but the broad definition of the health of an organism living in an ecosystem.

This isn’t medicine I’m talking about, but it is central to human health. When we put a person’s weight at the center, we lose the person themselves…

The middle ground I would like to represent is this one:

I don’t care about weight. You might care about weight, and that is your business. What I care about is health. Of course, weight and health are related. So are health and mental health, social health, economics, social status, and a list of things too long to mention here. I am not here on this earth to tell people that they need to make more money, or have more friends, or move up the class ladder. I’m here to encourage healthy behaviors as we have been able to observe them scientifically. Some of these behaviors have to do with eating/drinking, some with physical activity, some with how we interact with others. If people find their behaviors are not in line with what we have evidence leads to healthier lives (say, for example, drinking to excess on a regular basis, rather than being able to have one drink a day), then I support engaging in behavior change, if a person feels motivated to do so. Losing weight may be a result of changing numerous behaviors, mostly having to do with eating and drinking, and to a lesser extent, exercising. People seeking to make those changes are certainly deserving of support. And if weight loss results from making changes — I am in no way opposed to that.

What I didn’t say is that praising weight loss isn’t something I’m apt to do, any more than I’m apt to praise someone for making more money, or becoming more “acceptable” — even though those things might make them feel better in one way or another. Just not my thing. But, if someone makes a decision to be more physically active, and they find ways to do so that help them feel better, the following their own motivation in that direction is something I want to support. If they want my support, that is.

Your thoughts?

 

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One response to “On Centering

  1. KellyK

    I don’t have any useful thoughts on the higher-level issues, but for the dog biting, one thing I’ve heard of that seems to work is that as soon as her teeth touch your skin, say “Time Out” (or “Too Bad” or “Oops” or whatever word you want her to learn to mean that she went too far and will now be ignored) and instantly stop playing with her, turn away, and ignore her for a few seconds to a minute.

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