Dr. Christiane Northrup and I receiving our Pleasure Revolutionary of the Year awards
For years upon years, when my struggle with food and weight felt like a heavy burden, and a constant reminder of my deficiency as a person, the idea of truly appreciating my desires was never something that crossed my mind.
As far as I could see, my desires did nothing but get me in trouble.
On some days they were such a distraction that I cursed their existence. I wished they’d leave me alone, to live my life in peace. But as much as I tried to ignore them, they dominated me. The one thing they kept coming back to, again and again, was food.
Food, food, food. Day in and day out, food was in my thoughts, and to my despair, I always craved something I shouldn’t be eating.
Then came the teaching that changed everything, in the form of a pink book called Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts, written by the astonishing Regena Thomashauer, who smiles on from the back cover, encircled by pink feather boas.
“The absence of appetite is the absence of life itself,” the book said. “In order to get what you want, you must be able to recognize and celebrate your appetite.” The words stopped me in my tracks.
Celebrate my appetite? Are you kidding? I was a compulsive over-eater. My appetite was my greatest source of shame, not my cause for celebration. No way!
But I couldn’t help myself. I’d struggled enough. Mama Gena’s argument for desire and pleasure was so persuasive that I could not resist giving this “trusting my appetite” thing a shot.
And there began my investigation of my desires, to depths never previously explored. Where before I’d scratched the surface of my desires, like mosquito bites, now I wanted to plumb the depths. Driven by curiosity, I became a “pleasure researcher.”
And…drum roll…what did I find?
To my surprise and delight, the deeper I explored what my body wanted, the more it revealed to me that what I really wanted was actually healthy food after all! Not the “death by sugar” I’d expected!
For years, I had distrusted my body–complete with fears that if left uncontrolled, my wanton desires would lead to a miserable and lonely demise by cookie or ice cream overdose. After those fears began to crack and fall away, I realized, both in theory and in practice, that the desires of my body were not shameful at all. Far from it, they were wise, and they were sacred.
Through this discovery, and through paying attention in a whole new way, I lost 20 pounds permanently. But that was only the beginning…
Since then, investigating and following my desires has never let me down. One leads to another, and so life goes on. Fast forward this story nine years to last month, when the phone rang at the Jena Wellness Center, the headquarters of PleasurableWeightLoss.com. I learned that none other than Mama Gena herself, was awarding me the “Pleasure Revolutionary of the Year” award! Woohoo!!!
Now what is that, you ask?
According to Mama Gena, a “Pleasure Revolutionary” is someone who goes about doing “pleasure activism.” Meaning taking a stand for the desires of other women, and turning them on to the power of pleasure, so that they may too access their greatest power, for their benefit and the world’s. And I was being awarded, side by side with two other women, this recognition that I had only ever dreamed of one day receiving. (And yes, this was on my desire list!)
And this is where it gets even juicier….:)
One of those women was also a hero of mine–none other than Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, and other books that have informed my relationship with my body, my sexuality, and my mother, to name a few!
My excitement was off the charts. To be receiving an award from the hands of one of the most influential women in my life, Regena Thomashaeur, side by side with to Dr. Christiane, simply blew my mind and my heart, wide open.
Now, as part of my pleasure activism—and so you too can get a taste for what it is to be a pleasure revolutionary yourself, in your own right, in your own life–I’ve broken it down to a simple three step process you can begin today.
Step 1: Trust Your Desires, Starting Now
Desire, something you wish or long for, is deeply misunderstood by our culture. Particularly for women, we’ve been programmed to sublimate our desires, by turning a blind eye to them, or at very least keeping them private, hidden and under wraps, in favor of service to the needs and wants of the “other”– the family, the job, the husband, you name it, fill in the blank.
In our society, desire has had a bad P.R. campaign. It is widely branded as selfish and shallow. Desire is doubted, desire is demonized and desire is even considered a dirty word. And if you’ve fallen prey to this paradigm, then it’s time to put those beliefs to the test.
Now if you’re reading, thinking “right on, yeah, desire rocks!” then keep trusting your longings, you’re right on track. On the other hand you might be someone who is has dedicated themselves to the path of transcending desire rather than embracing it, (as I was for years incidentally,) in which case you may be feeling highly skeptical or even appalled by the idea of trusting your desires all the way. If so, then I have an experiment for you.
As per the advice of Mama Gena, “Let’s be scientific about it. Come towards your desire with as much doubt and apprehension as you like, and then just do a little research. Try it out. See how following your desire feels, and see what the consequences are. Because desire is not casual. It’s not irrelevant, nor is it selfish. Desire is actually a very sacred thing. It’s the interface between you and that which is greater than you. It’s a place where you join your spirit; where you join your divinity, that’s what a desire is.”
Giving this experiment a go is your first step to becoming a pleasure revolutionary in your own right. To do so, begin by clarifying what your desires are, by writing out an exhaustive “desire list,” Regena teaches. Write out a desire list of everything and anything, big or small you long for–and then relaxing into trusting every single desire you possess.
By experimenting with trusting your desires, you’ll simultaneously cultivate the important skills of paying attention to your deepest truth and your deepest longings, skills that incidentally are also at the heart of the work I do in pleasurable weight loss, and which get my clients brilliant results.
Step 2: Approve of Yourself and Your Pleasure
Once you get the ball rolling by investigating and trusting your desires, you’re automatically inviting the confrontation of feelings which (if you’re like most of us,) are common visitors to the inner corridors of your mind: self-doubt, self-deprivation, and self-hatred. Mama Gena describes their near constant presence for many of us, as “an undiagnosed, unspoken epidemic” experienced internationally, in a global male-dominated culture where learning how to hate yourself as a woman is baked into our upbringing.
The danger of this epidemic is not only that all this disapproval sets the scene for life to pass you by in a flash. It also has series health consequences, says Dr. Christiane Nothrup, backing up her statement with decades of experience working on the front lines of women’s health. The side-effects of disapproval are many. If you’re depressed, over-eating, under-eating, or experiencing any disease, affliction or compulsion, then your only chance you have of a full recovery is not a pill, or a diet, or high doses of self-control. It’s to learning to turn the tide of self-disparagement and to approve of yourself, at last.
When you approve of yourself, you have the experience of loving yourself. And with that, you also have an implied permission to love what you love, , to love that which gives you pleasure. And it’s pleasure, you’ll be happy to hear, that holds the antidote for the aforementioned ills.
Pleasure, mighty pleasure, has the opposite effect of self-doubt, self-deprivation, and self-hatred. Self-disapproval creates a subtle, yet chronic physiological state of stress in the body, which systematically deteriorates the health of your mind and your body. By contrast, pleasure, as it arises from approving of yourself and your desires, has the opposite effect–it allows a deep relaxation of your physiology, which boosts your mental faculties, your immune system, your metabolism, and your vitality at large.
Starting to do this is simple. When the self-doubting, self-depriving, self-loathing voice within you takes over the microphone in your head, lovingly yet firmly take it back, and instead sing yourself a song of self-approval, and let yourself dance to its beat.
Step 3: Take a Stand For Others
The third step to being a pleasure revolutionary in your own right, in your own life, is to take a stand for others. Now this might seem premature if you’re just getting the hang of this whole trusting-your-desires-and-approving-of-yourself- thing, to be already leading the way for another, but you’d be surprised. Even if you are a complete novice at this material, taking a stand for others has a powerful effect.
Picture this. A new seed has been planted in a garden bed. It begins to sprout and face the world. Alone it’s vulnerable, to wind, rain and sun, whereas if other sprouts pop up beside it, it has protection, it has a support system, and the elements that be pose less danger to its safety.
By very nature that you’ve read this article, and that this knowledge has come into your possession, you now have the power in your hands to seed this knowledge in another. It’s easy to do. Here’s how.
When you see someone you love, who is scared or unwilling to trust their desires, remind them it’s OK. Give them an example of when you trusted your desire, despite the background fear and doubt, and the results it gave you. And if you’ve noticed when they have in fact honored their desires on another occasion, remind them of that. Encourage them to trust their desires yet again in the present moment.
Or when you see a friend or beloved who is depriving themselves of pleasure, and has abandoned their self-approval, remind them of what’s possible by maintaining the discipline of pleasure. Remind them, as Mama Gena would say, the innumerable benefits of being “on a strict diet of self-approval.”
Taking a stand for them over time, the seeds you’ve laid will begin to sprout, grow and prosper, and soon you won’t be the odd one out, trusting your desires and living a life of self-approval and pleasure. You’ll be in good company, supported by your community. Together your will flourish and bloom.
So there you have it, from the 2011 Pleasure Revolutionary of the Year, to you: my three-step training on how yourself to become a pleasure revolutionary.
The afternoon of the award ceremony, I exited with a heart-shaped glass award in my hands, and a heart dancing for joy. It’s with that dance and that joy that I aspire to inspire you to acts of pleasure activism yourself, and to an ever deeper inquiry into the unequivocal sacredness of your desire.