Monday, January 18, 2010

Radical Woman Q & A with Louisa Latela

One day, not very long after I had started my process of Radical Hateloss, I was reading Weight Loss Lifestyles Magazine. The last article in the magazine, struck me. It was this line that caught my attention, “It wasn’t until I started to embrace the concept of loving and accepting myself, and allowing myself to enjoy my life exactly as I was, independent of the number on the scale, that I was able to begin to make peace with my body.” I remember excitedly showing it to my husband saying, “OMG this is exactly the change that is happening to me!” The Author of the article was none other than today’s Radical Woman, Louisa Latela. Louisa is a licensed social worker who has been working extensively with people struggling with food, body & weight issues. She is RADICAL because she is helping people to realize the only way to truly end the struggle with those issues is to learn to love and accept your self in each moment.



Q:  Prior to my Radical Hateloss I had gained back 60lbs of the 160lbs that I had lost after my Gastric Bypass Surgery. I am not alone in that, many people who have had weight loss surgeries (WLS) gain some or all of the weight they lost back and/or transfer their food addictions into other addictions with things like alcohol or sex. Why do you think that is?

A:  This is such a great question Stephanie! I get calls all the time from people 2 and 3 years post-op that are gaining their weight back and/or struggling with some sort of transfer addiction like you mention. The common thread among these people is that they did not take the time to understand the role that compulsive eating and excess weight has played in their lives, nor did they take the time find other more self-nurturing behaviors to replace that of overeating. For example, they didn’t take the time to understand that they eat when they are bored or stressed or sad or angry, or that they eat as a way to celebrate and connect and create intimacy with friends and family. And they didn’t take the time to find healthier ways of dealing with stress or sadness or boredom or anxiety or find new ways of celebrating and connecting with family and friends. They didn’t take the time to understand that their excess weight may have made them feel safe or grounded, or protected them from the anxieties associated with intimacy, or gave them an excuse to not really “go for it” in their lives. And they didn’t take the time to learn and practice new ways of feeling grounded, setting boundaries, or allowing themselves to realize their dreams. I do a lot of pre-op psychological evaluations for WLS patients. I spend most of the session talking about the importance of understanding why they are overweight, the need to make lifestyle changes that are grounded in the energy of unconditional self love, and move tending to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs to number one on their list of priorities. Most pre-op patients claim to understand and agree with me, however at this point their main focus is on getting all their pre-op testing done and making sure the doctors get their reports faxed over to their surgeon. Once that happens they are focused on doing whatever they need to do to get insurance approval. Once they get insurance approval they are then worried about waking up on the table. Once they realize they have survived the surgery, they often get lulled into a false sense of security. In the first 6-12 months post op even if they want to overeat they won’t be able to; they will lose weight no matter what. They are preoccupied with getting used to their new eating protocol, the excitement of rapid weight loss, buying new clothes, etc., But then after a while; “after the honeymoon”, their weight loss slows down and their ability to eat a greater quantity and variety of food returns… If they have not taken the time to learn more effective ways of dealing with uncomfortable emotions and have not learned to sit with the awkward feeling of not giving into the urge to eat when they are not physically hungry, they leave themselves vulnerable to weight regain and/or symptom substitution. They will either go back to their old ways of eating or engage in some other emotion numbing habit like drinking, smoking, shopping, promiscuity, etc.
 It is important to note here however, that there are many people who do really well with the surgery. They honor and respect it for the tool it is meant to be and seek out any support they may need to assist them in making positive lifestyle changes necessary for maintaining long term healthy weight loss

Q:  I definitely agree with you. Although prior to my surgery I understood my eating was tied to my emotions, I still ultimately went back to food (and some other destructive behaviors) to numb the pain that only intensified after I lost weight. Today I am grateful for my WLS, I have know doubt that it played a big part in getting me to the place I am today. Just getting your self started moving and eating less when you are morbidly obese is very difficult, WLS can be an extremely effective tool in getting someone started. We all know that weight maintenance is not only a problem for those who are WLS patients. Many people who struggle with their weight go on diets only to give up after a few months. The ones who are successful often times gain the weight they lost (plus some extra pounds) in time. How can someone finally get off of the Yo-Yo, and finally be healthy and happy?

A:  Self love and compassion!!! A person must be clear about their intention for their life. They must be committed to living a life that is reflective of self love and respect. They must learn to listen to and trust themselves. Many people who diet think the diet is “the answer”. They believe that something outside of them holds the key to their weight loss. This is a very disempowering place from which to live and leaves one vulnerable to assuming the role of victim. If you make a commitment to stop and listen to You.... to trust the voice of your soul, your higher power, universal consciousness, you inner wisdom, God,… whatever it is that you call ‘That’….and begin to follow its’ promptings you will then be guided to any kind of meal plan, nutritionist, support group or other resource that will support you in having a healthy body. In other words, the support and guidance comes from the inside out!!

Q:  I believe we share a philosophy about how loving and accepting yourself first is key to any successful change. What would you say to those that say accepting myself would make me less motivated to change? Or that accepting means giving in?

A:  When a person truly loves and accepts herself, her actions are kind and loving towards herself and others; before she does anything she will stop to ask herself if what she is about to do will support her Highest Good, and she will act in accordance with the answer she receives . She really starts to show up for herself! So if you really love and accept yourself you will eventually change any behavior that no longer serves your Highest Good.

The other part of this is that “what you resist persists”… The more you focus on how much you do not like a certain behavior or habit the more strongly it becomes embedded in your life. Your life is a physical manifestation of your predominant thoughts and feelings. Every thought you think and feeling you feel carries with it an energetic vibration and will attract experiences that carry with them like vibrations. In terms of “not accepting yourself because of your weight”: If you are focused on needing to lose weight, not liking the weight you are now, and feeling like you are always struggling, you will attract to you more life experiences that will be an energetic match to that feeling. They will show up as excess weight, discontent with your current body state, and struggle.

Permanent healthy weight loss is a consequence of self love and compassion; not the cause of it!

Q:  I have heard people say, “I just like to eat! It doesn’t have to do with my emotions”. What would you say to that?

A:  That may be true. If their weight is causing them distress and they have not been able to lose weight, I would encourage them to make a commitment to themselves to eat only when they are physically hungry, and stop eating when they are comfortable: not stuffed… Barring any medical issues, this should solve their weight issue…

However, if they find they want to eat when they are not physically hungry and feel anxious or annoyed in those moments that they “can’t” eat because they are not hungry, then they may be eating to soothe some uncomfortable emotions. I would encourage them to explore those feelings: why is not eating in this moment causing so much distress when they know they can always eat again later when they are hungry?…I would suggest that they journal any thoughts or feelings that arise in those moments as well as note what they were thinking or doing right before they thought about eating. I would have them ask themselves: “What is this preoccupation with eating stopping me from being present to? What kind of nurturing do I really need in this moment (I believe that overeating is often an attempt to self nurture)?” If a person is “struggling with weight issues” on some level the “struggle” or preoccupation with weight allows them to check out and not feel. Also the mere fact that they are “struggling” in and of itself is evidence that their weight issues are connected with some uncomfortable emotions.

Q:  You say that dealing with issues with weight and eating is an “opportunity to connect with your soul & learn sacred lessons” How so?

I think you are a perfect example of this Stephanie!!! If you are in distress because of your struggle with weight the only way for you to truly make peace with your body and food is to connect with your inner wisdom and guidance. The struggle is a symptom of disconnection from your authentic self. In order to reconnect you must be willing to sit with yourself (grounded in the energy of self love, compassion, and curiosity), during the uncomfortable moments when you want to eat and are not physically hungry. I have learned both personally and professionally that looking inside your heart, being honest about and embracing your feelings, listening to and honoring your inner voice, and being clear about your intention for your life really is the only way to “recover”. If you hang in there long enough with yourself, you will hear the voice of your soul and you will learn … or actually you will remember that you are a beautiful spiritual being whose essence is pure Love. You will always be guided to act in a way that honors your Highest Good. When you commit to living in accordance with the guidance of your Soul you will eventually lose the need for your struggle with weight. (Seems to me that this is exactly what is happening for you Stephanie!!)In that sense dealing with one’s issues with weight and eating really is the pathway Home to their Soul.

Q:  Thanks Lousia, I am in constant awe of what has unfolded in my life, since I have made the present moment my life’s purpose. From a place of presence, the only option is love and acceptance. Now that I have experienced this transformation, I am so much more aware (and saddened by) the fact that negative body image affects most women in our culture, regardless of their size and physical appearance. Why do you think that is? Why is it important to transcend this, even if it hasn’t resulted in weight gain or an eating disorder?

A:  I think most women struggle to some degree with body image because we are constantly bombarded with messages that we should have a perfect body: one that is skinny, healthy, fit, trim, firm, tanned, toned, with perky breasts, a skinny waist, flat stomach, long legs, sculptured arms and skin that is soft, shiny, free from any blemishes or signs of aging like( heaven forbid) wrinkles… oh yes and a perfect facial profile, straight nose, high cheek bones, big eyes, strong jaw line, full lips, bright white perfectly straight teeth, long eyelashes, and perfectly shaped eyebrows… oh yea and no other hair anywhere on our body except on the top of our head; and that hair must be shiny, soft, have a trendy style with dimensional color and no roots, and perfectly manicured fingernails and toenails… and our hands must not show any signs of aging either... they must be smooth soft and wrinkle free (they now have some cosmetic/surgical procedures to reduce the wrinkles on your hands!!). Ok so I just wrote that in less than 2 minutes and it came right off the top of my head. I’m sure I can come up with more... but you get the idea. It is no wonder most women at some point in their lives have some body-image issues. I think it is important to transcend this because when you struggle with body-image issues you lose your power. You allow something outside of you determine how you feel. You are disconnected from your Authentic Self when you are harshly judging or comparing your body to others.

Q:  “The present moment” is the most important aspect in my radical hateloss. What does it mean to “live in the present moment” and why do you think that is essential?

A:  Wow… that is a loaded question... Ok let me try to be brief. The only moment there ever is, is Now. Everything happens in the present moment; therefore the point of power is always in the present moment. When you are not present, when you are thinking about something that has happened in the past or worrying about something that might happen in the future you are not present. When you are truly present you are open and receptive to all the possibilities and potential miracles that are held in each and every moment. And every moment is a new moment and in each moment you can make a new choice. For example if you started eating a bag of chips in this moment, you can always choose to stop eating them in the next moment, or just because you may be angry in this moment doesn’t mean that you must be angry in the next moment… you can always choose to change or refocus your thoughts and feelings in any given moment. What I have observed both in my life and the lives of hundreds of my clients is that when one cultivates the practice of living in the present moment one’s intuition sharpens, anxieties seem to dissipate, and feelings of self confidence, security, and serenity are heightened.
 Q:  You have built a career on helping people to “be their highest selves.” What current projects are you working on professionally that you are the most passionate right now?

I am so excited that my new e-workbook “Live Your Highest Good: Make Peace with Your Body and Weight” is just about ready to be launched. It is a compilation of the basic principles and thought 1provoking exercises that have helped thousands of my clients over the years reconnect with their Authentic Self, their Intuitive Knowing, embrace a lifestyle reflective of Self Love and Respect, and in the midst of it all make peace with their body and their weight. I hope to have the website for it up and running within the next week or two. I’ll send you a link to it as soon as it is ready!

In addition to my regular practice of individual and group counseling, I have started offering telephone support groups. I currently facilitate a women’s support tele-group and will start a “Reclaim Your Power over Food” tele-group in February. In addition to the weekly group meeting each participant will have a one hour individual session with me. This is the first time that I am incorporating an individual session with my group sessions! It is really wonderful to be able to connect with women all over the country!

And I continue to write my column, “Soulful Living” for WLS Lifestyles Magazine (
www.wlslifestyles.com).

If anyone has any questions about my services I can be reached at 856.429.9799 or by email at
Louisa@louisalatela.com or you can visit my website http://www.louisalatela.com/.

Thank you so much Louisa for taking the time to do this Q & A, and most of all, THANK YOU for being a Radical Woman! Because of woman like you….maybe someday, all woman can know the beauty, power and strength they posses inside.

Quotes:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I have found a major key to recovery/coming home to yourself is to relax into the present moment. Here you can connect with yourself and listen to your truth, your inner knowing. In doing this you will experience unconditional love and acceptance for yourself and others. You will let go of the need for the approval of others, and will know what actions you must take to live a healthy, joyful life.
-Louisa Latela



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P.S.
Today is Martin Luther King Day. Believe me; I am thankful he fought for racial equality. My husband has always called us Martin Luther Kings Dream. I am forever grateful that Dr. King had the courage to be RADICAL. I believe all of us have within us the capacity to be RADICAL. The definition of radical: extreme, esp. as regards change from accepted or traditional forms. In today’s society what is accepted is a self-hating culture of women. A culture where is it the norm to define your self worth by your pants size or the number on your scale. A culture in which diets, deprivation, and suffering abound all in the name of being “good enough.” A culture accepts that we pick on the each and every perceived flaw about us. A culture that makes it ok to abuse ourselves (and sometimes each other), emotionally, verbally and sometimes physically. A culture that promotes FEAR as the major motivation to change. Like MLK, I have a dream. My dream is that one day we will live in a culture of woman that are motivated by LOVE. A culture in which it is no longer RADICAL to love and accept oneself.

2 comments:

BookishPenguin said...

Thanks for posting this interview; what wonderful and helpful things she has to say.

Stephanie Vincent said...

Your Welcome BP...she is pretty RADICAL, isn't she :-)?