Archive for July 1st, 2010

What Fills Your Void?

July 1st, 2010 by Steve

I had a friend recently ask me for advice on ‘being strong’ to lose weight. Most of us who struggle with our weight and self image know that it is a constant process to stay with the plan and new lifestyle. Many do not make it. That is why so many billions of dollars are made by fast food, diet and fitness companies. Such a large portion of our economy is designed to feed us cheap, poor quality food rather than to help us to be lean and fit. It is quite an interesting cycle when you think about it.

It has been over 5 years since I lost my 100 pounds and I have managed to keep it off. My friend who asked the advice struggles in a vicious lose-weight-then-gain cycle  just as I used to. She wanted to know what my secret was and it got me thinking… there was no secret, I had just found something new to fill my void.

The void in our lives is a powerful force. We eat, drink, party, argue or shop to excess to fill the void of what is missing in our lives. If you do not figure out what that void is, then you will struggle with any change you try to make. Our bad habits are there because they provide some type of joy that fills this emptiness we feel.

My void was my lacking self confidence. I have never been comfortable with myself for a variety of reasons. To fill that void, I  used  sarcasm and humor to deal with social anxiety. I controlled conversations by dominating them with my ability to argue. It kept me in control and, in my mind at the time, showed others that I was worthy because I was smart. I also kept finding joy in food because I could not find joy in anything else. My lack of self-confidence prevented me from enjoying just ‘being’ without the worry of what everyone thought of me.

My void is smaller today but it is still there. I still struggle with self image but not like I used to.  I have a tendency to still want to dominate a conversation. I still engage people to help them feel comfortable and to ensure they will accept me.  Slowly I am working to find healthier and healthier habits to fill the void.

My initial change, like any major change in life, began with a belief that I deserved better. I cover my motivations in several previous articles but the belief was that I wanted a longer, better quality life for my family. The reason I succeeded and stayed successful is because I found something to bring me joy that was greater than the joy I got from food.

Food or, more specifically the overuse of food was my source of happiness. Today, as a substitute I manage to find happiness in my family, martial arts, running and reading or writing. I fill the void that food used to occupy with friendships, physical activity and thought. Losing my food addiction became easy when it no longer was my chief source of happiness. As a matter of fact, food worked against my new source of happiness. Running, sparring and lifting weights requires a lean, fit and flexible body. My abuse of food worked against that. Food became a fuel for my body to burn in order to achieve faster mile times, stronger kicks or lift more weight. I started to build a healthier relationship with food because it no longer filled my void.

As I think back to my friend and her request about how I managed to ‘be strong’ and lose the weight, I realize I was not that strong. I just shifted my love from food to fitness and family. My large gaping void became a much smaller one, or at the very least my void was now filled with a habit that was better for me and brought real joy. With the changes in my weight came changes in my attitude, perception and spirituality. It all changed as I filled my void with something better.

What fills your void? What do you use as a source of happiness to fill what you are missing? What is the source of the void in your life and do you want to fill it with something better? Are you using food, alcohol, drugs or combative behavior to bring joy because something deeper is missing from your life?

If there are habits or behaviors you want to change, then you first must find out what void you are trying to fill. There are thousands of possibilities, as varied as our life experience and personalities. Generally, a void is something missing, a sadness that supersedes everything and prevents you from your enjoying life.

Take some time right now and think what you want to change in your life. Pick just one habit you want to break and analyze it. Do you use this habit to fill in for something else? Are you filling a void in your life with a ‘happiness substitute?’ If you need help figuring it out, ask yourself when you are most likely to engage in this habit. Is it when you’re bored, or upset, anxious or nervous? Use that information to figure out what your void is. Is it boredom, social anxiety, depression, bad self image? Once you figure out what your void is, you will be able to find something that fills it the right way. If you are bored, find some fun hobbies. If you have bad self image, use affirmations and exercise to feel better. If you are depressed, get help from a therapist or friends. You will soon find your void filled with something positive and it will shrink and eventually disappear.

Don’t let your void continue to cause emptiness in your life. Fill it with something fun and divine and complete your being.

Steve