Body of Work
Carmel woman’s new 'The Body Love Manual' navigates how to survive self-loathing slimmed down and amped up.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Some who pick up Elizabeth “Lily” Hills new book The Body Love Manual may be struck by a seeming contradiction in its subtitle: How to Love the Body You Have as You Create the Body You Want.
But for Hills, the paradox is the answer: “Our bodies are beautiful and truly a miracle at any weight,” she says. “The more we realize that, the more we can stop self-demeaning inner dialogue and lose weight.”
On the surface, Hills is the beautiful girl-next-door grown up, a sugar-and-spice brunette, wearing this season’s brightest Patagonia gear. But, as they say, don’t judge a book by its cover (or its “About the Author” section). Despite her everything-nice demeanor, life hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows for the Carmel native. The book is a product of a personal journey through obesity and eating disorder.
“For well over a decade,” she writes, “I had a compulsive relationship with food that dominated my thoughts virtually every waking moment.”
Toxic pattens filled her mind: “I look terrible.” “I hate myself.”
Whenever she took time for self-reflection, she would “get deeply depressed” and start binge eating to a point where “I couldn’t take another bite, until my stomach protruded painfully.” Binge eating was most likely to occur in front of the TV or computer with “ice cream, cookies, dessert of any kind – but I’d tire of that after a while and head towards saltier ones, like pizza, pasta and nuts.”
Put simply, it was “the classic, ugly vicious cycle.”
From there Hills did what nearly every woman has done at least once in her life – she dieted. But soon she realized that “the more I thought about my weight, the more it escalated.”
As her efforts failed, she began to ask herself critical questions: “If diets don’t work, what does? Why am I so hard on myself? Why am I eating when I’m not hungry?”
When she finally found answers, Hills set out on a mission: to reach as many women as possible.
“I had struggled and suffered so much with my eating disorder that once I got through it, I only wanted to help other women get through it.”
She started a radio show (currently on hiatus) on KCDU 101.7FM, “The Goddess to Goddess Empower Hour.” In addition to cultivating her radio-smooth voice, the program explores (among other goddessy topics) body love, fun and weight loss. She also offers personal coaching for those trying to lose weight.
Now The Body Manual lays out for others what Hills had to learn on her own: Diets don’t work for both physical and psychological reasons.
The psychological effects of dieting are particularly disabling. “When your body tells you that it is hungry and you ignore the cues because you are attempting to stay on a diet, your mind will fixate on the food you are withholding,” she writes, “like the child who has been told not to touch the presents underneath the Christmas tree.”
Loving yourself does work where diets don’t, according to Hills. “Believe it or not, love… is a crucial key to releasing excess weight,” Hills writes. “You’ve heard the old adage, ‘Love conquers all.’ Well, it’s true.”
For those with their own adages (or Don Henley songs stuck in their heads), sometimes love just ain’t enough, so the book follows self-love with 10 practical keys providing specific steps that allow the reader “to reconnect with your true hunger and achieve your natural weight for good.” Among the suggestions: Giving full attention to meals and eating only when hungry – not when “attempting to escape uncomfortable emotions such as fear, worry, anger, sadness, tension, or boredom.”
The Body Manual supplements these tips with “awareness opportunities” designed to help readers get to the heart-and-soul roots of their weight issues. These humdingers are typical: “Do you feel excess weight keeps you safe from rejection?” “Is intimacy something you embrace or something you avoid?” Such questions are not multiple choice – they have lines underneath them that invite essay responses. A little soul-searching to go with a new weight-loss philosophy.
“‘I haven’t done enough,’” Hills says. “‘I am not enough.’ This was the foundation of my unhealthy eating habits.” Changing that paradigm, that unhealthy thought pattern, is the key.
“Lighten up on myself and I’ll lighten up,” she says with a smile. “It somehow doesn’t seem scientific enough, but I’m a living example of it.”