I’ve been on an amazing spiritual journey for more than two decades. Besides attending a powerful, incredibly enlightening church, I’ve also engaged in affirmative prayer, meditation and deep, introspective reading. I have filled numerous journals with my acquired wisdom and insights and I’ve attended life-changing workshops and retreats.

So why, with that pretty solid foundation, was I feeling so stuck in many aspects of my life, my weight chief among them?

A desire to transform my life led me to consider life coaching, accepting that perhaps a skilled professional could help me to uncover hidden obstacles that were blocking my progress. Similar to the newspaper proofing process, sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to see what you can’t.

It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

My coaching sessions have taken me deeper than I’d anticipated, evoking “ah-ha” moments, laughter, tears, deep “OK, get it together, Renee” breaths and, most exciting, growth.

The weight is dropping off, slowly, surely, but what Coach T, of Charles and Shakira Unlimited, is helping me to discover is that it is merely a symptom of something much bigger: fear.

When he dropped that F-bomb in a recent coaching call, I took a deep breath and pressed my ear closer to the phone to hear where he was going with this. Besides the obvious use of extra bodily padding to “protect” an otherwise attractive body, how has fear kept me fat?

As he is so skilled at doing, Coach T allowed me to figure it out for myself. He simply asked the question, “What is this bringing up for you?” The answer came in an instant. I took another deep breath to muffle a sob because I had to get this out.

I described an episode in my teen life where an adult relative not only violated my privacy but also took it to an entirely humiliating level by forcing me to share some guarded secrets in a group setting before other relatives.  I’m tempted to say that she and the episode took my voice but, because I now take 100 percent responsibility for my life, I admit that I gave it away. Our human tendency is to develop coping mechanisms to help us to deal with difficult issues and quieting my voice was how I dealt with mine.

So where does the fat come into play?

When you’re convinced, for whatever reason, that it is unsafe to share your voice, you develop ways to hide it. And what is your voice except the essence of who you are? It encompasses the whole of you and includes your talents, your opinions, your authenticity. Because the sharing of my voice led to humiliation and, possibly, rejection, I learned to tuck it away, the beginning of my pattern. Some people use alcohol to quiet their voice. Some use cocaine. Some turn to sex. And some, like yours truly, turn to food.

In the past, I’ve done amazing forgiveness work around “the episode,” so it no longer holds any sway over me. The adult relative is someone that I adore. When she knew better, she did better. My recent acknowledgement of the episode’s role in the quieting of my voice only served to free me from it.

In her brilliant poem, Powerful Beyond Measure, often recited by Nelson Mandela, Marianne Williamson says: “There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”  How ironic that the more “shrinking” I did to feel safe in others’ presence, the larger my waist band got.

Coach T assures me that, as I process the role that fear plays in my life, the healing process will continue and the fat will naturally dissolve.

I am feeling more fearless by the minute.

• Charles and Shakira Unlimited is a comprehensive, spirituality based life coaching program that inspires clients to live H.I.P. — Healthy, Inspired and Purposeful – lives. They may be contacted at 954-591-8542 or via Twitter at www.twitter.com/HIPcoaches.

Renee Michelle Harris is associated editor of South Florida Times. She provides periodic updates on her quest to lose weight. She may be reached at rmharris15@bellsouth.net.

Photo: Renee Michelle Harris