The Power of Snacking

Snack.  One simple word… when you read it, what do you think of?  Here’s a thought, snacking can be your passport to increased energy and better nutrition.

Food is fuel.  It’s what gives you energy.  We are at our best when we have a consistent source of high quality fuel throughout the day.  Ever use a re-chargeable battery?  When the battery juice gets low, whatever it’s powering runs a little slower, if at all.  Think of your body the same way.   Consistent fueling keeps you energized.

That doesn’t mean loading up on Twinkies or chocolate frosted cupcakes (no offense Hostess™)  Here’s the deal, you are what you eat.  Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you have heard that we need to eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains and fiber.  These are your quality foods… if you put the good stuff in, you get good stuff out.  Think of snacking as your way to eat more of the good stuff.

But I’m trying to lose weight…  I need to eat less, not more!  One of the main reasons people overeat is because they let themselves get too hungry.  Your biological need for food is strong.  Becoming overly hungry makes it difficult to stop eating when you finally do eat.  As a general rule, try not to go more than 4-5 hours without eating.  Keeping your body fed consistently curtails overindulging.

But I don’t know what to eat.  Good nutrition is a balancing act.  Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are macronutrients that provide specialized health benefits.  Eating a variety of these foods ups the ante on your overall nutrition score.  Picture your snack as a mini meal with a purpose.  Think of ‘real’ food instead of traditional ‘snacks’ like chips and pretzels.  (Not that these are bad, but there’s a time and a place for everything)  Snacks are an opportunity to give your body more ‘good stuff’; fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

One easy way to a nutritious snack; start with a fruit or vegetable and combine it with a lean protein, whole grain or healthy fat.   For example, an apple and a small handful of raw nuts;  cucumber slices and feta cheese; baby carrots and hummus.  Pairing up your foods in this way not only gives you a variety of  nutrients but because proteins and fats take longer to digest, you to feel full longer.

Stick to whole foods by staying close to nature.  By avoiding processed foods you will reduces excess sugars, salts, chemicals and preservatives in your body.  Learn to shop the perimeter of your supermarket.  You may also want to reconsider your choices of ‘diet’ or ‘low-calorie’ products.  In order to make these products taste better, food manufacturers add sugars and salt.  For example, compare the labels of low-fat peanut butter and a natural one (ingredients: peanuts).  The low-fat version has added sugar (high-fructose corn syrup).  The healthy peanut oils have been replaced with hydrogenated oils and other additives to prevent separation.  My advice (not that you asked for it, but since you are still reading this, you may be curious) … go natural!!   Keep it simple, read your labels, aim for 5 ingredients or less and remember you shouldn’t need a dictionary to pronounce the ingredients in the list!

OK enough with the lecture, let’s get down to some examples:

  • Hummus with Pita and Peas:  3 tablespoons hummus; 1/2 whole-grain pita, cut into pieces; and 1/2 cup pea pods or shelled edamame.
  • Oatmeal and Berries:  1/2 cup of oatmeal topped with a handful of berries (make it with skim milk for added protein).
  • Spiced Maple Yogurt:  6 ounces plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon
  • Tomato Juice and Cheese:  8-ounce V8 juice with 1 piece of string cheese
  • Cheese and Crunch:  A Laughing Cow® cheese wedge spread on Wasa™ crackers or celery sticks.  For a Mexican flavor, top with salsa.  Add black beans for even more fiber and protein.
  • Waffle and Fruit:  Toast a whole grain waffle and top with low-fat yogurt and sliced fruit.
  • Inside-Out-Sandwich: top a slice of turkey or ham with mustard or salsa, cheese of your choice and wrap it around a sesame bread stick.
  • Mini Pizza:  top a whole grain English muffin with pizza sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese…bake and enjoy!
  • Fruit and a nuts:  Apple slices and some peanut or almond butter or a handful of nuts OR try a 4-ounce mandarin-orange cup topped with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • Fruit Kebabs:  Alternate a fruit of your choice (grapes work well), with cubed cheese and roasted turkey or chicken on a kebab stick.  By the way… don’t ever run with a stick in your mouth!   🙂
  • Fruit Burrito:  Top a small whole grain wrap with either a cheese spread or your favorite nut butter and sliced fruit.  (Bananas and strawberries are our favorites)
  • Sweet Potato Bake:  Sprinkle 1/2 of a baked sweet potato with some grated cheese.  Add some steamed broccoli or spinach for even more vitamins.  Now that’s a snack with a punch.
Bottom line:  Snacks are opportunities to add nutrients, minerals and protective anti-oxidants to your diet, increasing your overall health.  Nutritious snacking curbs your appetite and helps you avoid overeating.  Consistent fueling keeps you energized and ready to take on your day.  Sounds like a no-brainer to me!

If you have a favorite snack that you would like to share I would love to hear from you!

For more ideas, please visit the following websites and resources:

www.eatright.org

www.webmd.com

Sticking With The Gray

I come from a place of extremes.  Before discovering Intuitive Eating, my world was black and white, right or wrong.  There was no middle ground, only perfection.   Thankfully, I am in a much different place; one that has balance and peace.  Even though I love where I am, the allure of pushing limits does still tempt me.

Housed in the back room of one of the gyms where I work is the super elite.  The extreme athletes.  They work hard.  They are strong.  They are long and they lean.  I watch them come and go as they practice.  I marvel at how they push their body to limits they may have never thought possible.  Yes, I watch them and admire them, but I don’t want to be them.

Oh the thought crosses my mind… more often than I care to admit.  I could follow the ‘cave-man’ diet, as it is referred to… eating only the foods that were available to our ancient ancestors.  I could strive to get to a place where I can see the striations in my muscles as they work towards the fitness challenge of the day.  I could apply my time and efforts there, but I realize that this temptation can bring me down and bring me down hard.

For me, the back room is the gateway to extremism.  I lived there for awhile and it was scary.  I always had to do more, weigh less, lift heavier weights… all in the name of perfection.  ‘Try harder’ was my motto.  Before long, my hour long gym sessions became several hours each day.  My diet was militant… no variance from the straight path I was on.  My self worth was dictated by the weight I could lift and the number on the scale.  It lasted for a bit, but then my body and my psyche broke down.

Professional athletes train to peak their performance for their event.  But my event was my life.  I had no particular goal, no race, no contest that I was working towards.  All I knew was that I had to keep working.  In order to maintain the weight that I was at, I had to keep working.  It didn’t matter if my body was telling me I’d had enough,  I had to keep going.  I couldn’t stop because then I would think I was ‘giving in’.  I couldn’t stop because I was afraid of getting fat.

Ironically, the things I feared most, gaining weight and not being fit, were beginning to happen to me.  I had chronic injuries.  In my efforts to stay strong, I was making my body weaker.  I started started binge eating.   I was, as I know now, rebelling against the very strict standards I had set for myself.  I was stuck and I was scared.

That was then, this is now.   My eyes have been opened to the gray.  That place somewhere in between black and white.   I realized I could not continue on in this obsessive manner.  My life was very focused and I felt accomplished but at what cost?   When I was good,  I was good.  (going to the gym every day, not eating any bad foods)  But when I was bad, I was bad!  I felt out of control.  I needed a middle ground, a balance.

It started with the exercise.  I began to give myself permission to take a day off if I needed it.  When I did, I noticed my subsequent workouts were much better.  I focused on doing the things at the gym that I truly enjoyed.  I paid more attention to how my body felt and how it responded.  I began to question how my time at the gym was going to benefit me.  As a 48 year old working mom, was a plyometric jump onto a high step going to help me or hurt me?  I began doing the things I wanted to do, not what I felt I should or needed to do.

Building on the confidence I was experiencing at the gym, my new philosophy shifted towards food.  Learning to become an Intuitive Eater made me more sensitive to my body’s needs and internal cues.  I had to pay attention.  I had to listen and trust that my body knew what was best for me.  I relaxed my food rules and the binging stopped!  I was excited!  I began to eat the foods that brought me enjoyment, satisfaction and health.  Moderation was beginning to feel good, very good.

I found that the balance was within me.  I needed to do things according to how they made me feel; working from my heart and not my head.   Thinking I needed to go to the gym for several hours/day in order to maintain a weight that was not “natural” for my body left me tired, chronically injured and frustrated.  I was listening to external values.   I was judging myself by trying to fit into a mold that was being dictated to me.  The ideals of perfection.

I like my world now.   I eat and exercise according to how it feels and how my body responds.  I am fit and I am strong.  I ask the questions, What will this food do for me?  How will I feel after I eat it?  Will this exercise help me stay healthy?  How will I feel when I am done?  What do I need to do for me today?   I ask, but more importantly, now I listen.

Yes, I will continue to admire my colleagues in the back room.  It can be thrilling taking fitness and nutrition to that level, as for me, I’m sticking with the gray 🙂

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Always looking for new inspiration and motivatation, I subscribe to several different sources.  This morning I read an article that caught my attention.  In “12 Lies To Stop Telling Yourself”*  I found one point of particular interest to me:

I am stuck with people who hurt me. – Life is too short.  Look out for yourself.  If someone continuously mistreats you, have enough respect for yourself to leave them.  It may hurt for a while, but it’ll be OK.  You’ll be OK.  Oftentimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength.  We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth, but because we finally realize our own worth.

Reading and absorbing those words made me think of dieting.  In her book, Life Without Ed, best selling author Jenni Schaefer associates a persona to her eating disorder.  She called him ED.  In doing so, she was able to separate and free herself from this destructive relationship.  Breaking free from the dieting world can be like that too.

What is a dieter to do?  I am stuck.  I want to lose weight.  I need to lose weight.  I decide to diet.  I am good for awhile, but then I start wanting the foods I can’t have.  I give into my cravings and eat way too much!  I am out of control.  Now I feel guilty.  I broke the rules, again.   What is wrong with me? … I have NO willpower.  I will be better this time.  My diet begins again.

STOP.  Ask yourself, “What exactly is different this time?”  What is going to make your diet work this time?  Being stuck in the world of dieting is like being in a bad relationship.  Re-read the words above… Life is too short.  Look out for yourself.  It is in your best interest to think about your health, emotionally as well as physically.  Consistently putting yourself in a place that causes you stress, feelings of guilt and shame doesn’t feel good.  Thinking that you aren’t good enough as you are is mistreating yourself.

Breaking up is hard to do.  It’s scary at first because this is the world you have always  known.  Sometimes we remain in bad relationships because we know what to expect.  Been there, done that.  But for me, I decided enough was enough.  I owed it to myself to break away.  Why consistently expose myself to a place that was not helping?  If dieting worked, I should have been a model by now!  I have spent the better part of 30 years stuck in that relationship.  It wasn’t working and only left me feeling miserable about myself.

I had a choice.  I decided to walk away.  Intuitive Eating gave me the skills and confidence to divorce myself from my unhealthy relationship with dieting and poor body image.  I now feel empowered because I have choices.  I no longer have to “follow” the diet rules.  I can choose, according to what my body tells me I need.  I have trust and faith in myself to know what is best for me.  Ultimately, I am my own best advocate.  I am the expert of my body.  Learning to trust myself, and break away has given me the peace and freedom I have longed for.

Oftentimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength.  We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth, but because we finally realize our own worth.  I have learned to respect myself.  I broke up and I am happy.  I am worth it… and you know what?  So are you!

* Source:  Marc and Angel Hack Life, Practical Tips for Productive Living, http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/03/12/12-lies-to-stop-telling-yourself/

Special thanks to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch for giving me my life back.  For more information on Intuitive Eating:  www.intuitiveeating.org

You Matter

Last night, I had a great time with some friends from college.  Oddly enough, there was a time in my life when I may not have even gone.  Last night would have been an “event” for me; something that I had to prepare for.  I’m not talking about a new outfit, I mean a whole new me… because back then, the old me was never “good enough”.

Let’s make this simple… an event called for the “diet-down” and the weeks leading up to it typically went like this:

  • You need to lose weight!
  • Diet more, eat less!  … time is running short!!!
  • Work harder, exercise more!
  • If you don’t lose weight, you don’t deserve to go.
Possible scenarios?  Oh yeah, these were great:
  • If I “allowed” myself to go I wasn’t fully present.  I felt self-conscious and preoccupied.  I played the body-check game and compared myself to my friends.  Someone thinner or more fit than me meant I didn’t try hard enough.  And, of course, dieting down usually meant I’d gain the weight back (or even more) when the event was over.
  • If I didn’t lose “enough”, or even worse I gained weight (typical when I pressured myself to lose)… I couldn’t go at all.  Missing good times in my life because of the scale, oh yes this makes sense.

Is it all worth it?  Life goes by quickly.  Watching my children grow from helpless infants to independent young adults in what seems to be a blink of an eye helped me realize this.  I began to notice what I was missing.  I started questioning what all this worrying and obsessing over my weight was gaining me.   My thoughts began to shift.  I learned to appreciate myself for who I am, from the inside out first.  There is much more to me than my jean size.  Focusing on the positive things I have to offer took the focus away from my appearance.  I felt happier and freer.  I realized I need to respect who I am right now, in this very moment… not the person I thought I needed to be.  It finally dawned on my how much of my life was passing me by!  I had a choice.  I could continue on this self-destructive path that never left me feeling good about myself or I could begin to accept me for who I am and enjoy what my life had to offer me.

I have a challenge for you.   Think of 3  influential people in your life; individuals whom you admire and look up to.  Why are they important you?  What characteristics make them special?  Do these qualities have anything to do with their weight?  No matter what your size, you matter.  You have things that only you can offer.  There are people in your life who depend on you and look up to you.  By putting your life on hold or not being fully present in it, you cheat yourself and those around you from getting the very best of you!  You can’t enjoy life if you don’t allow yourself to experience it!

I did buy a new outfit for dinner last night but that was the extent of my “preparation”.  Instead of stressing, I found myself looking forward to being able to share a night with some special people.  We remembered (or at least tried to remember LOL) the fun times we had, shared stories about our families and our lives.   We had many laughs and a lot of fun.  And the best part, I was there, enjoying every bit of it 🙂

Give Yourself the Gift of ‘The Experience’

Recently, through the magic of computer networking, I was reconnected with a close friend from high school.  It has been nearly 30 years since we last spoke so it was fun to reminisce and discuss the different paths our lives have taken.

Taking the time to catch up turned out to be a good lesson for me.  It was enlightening to reflect upon my life experiences.  We learn and accomplish many things along the way, but sometimes we forget or don’t acknowledge our achievements. Looking back can heighten your awareness of how much you actually have done and in turn make you more confident in your abilities to take on new challenges.

From the perspective of a practicing Intuitive Eater, remembering my high school days with my friend was eye opening.  It was during this time that many of my struggles with eating formalized.  I was a chubby teen trying to fit it.  I was an emotional eater (although I didn’t realize it then) stuffing down uncomfortable feelings with large amounts of food and following it with punitive exercise.  As I reflected upon this, it became very obvious to me how easily these patterns developed.  At a time in your life, when you are willing to do “whatever it takes to fit it”, even abnormal behaviors seem normal.

Looking back I was amazed at how long the “food police”, food rules and restrictive eating were a part of me.  In my mind, I was never good enough, and never would be, until I weighed that magical weight.  Now, sadly, I think about all the wasted time… all the worry, all the missed opportunities that didn’t happen because I was unhappy with my appearance.  But I also realized something else… by re-examining my life’s journey I was able to think about how far I have come, how much I was actually able to overcome and how, because of this experience, I can now view my world in a much healthier way.

Like the lessons of life, learning to become an Intuitive Eater is a process.  There are many roads you can travel; may ways to get to the same destination.  When we stop and think about how we got here and what we have learned along the way, even the “wrong” turns are right.   These moments are the valuable ones.  Reflecting upon the choices we made and why we felt they were or weren’t the right ones for us is when true learning takes place.  It has been my experience that these “wrong way adventures” are always the pre-cursors to personal growth.

We learn a lot from books but while the knowledge you obtain is valuable and necessary, it is really your experiences that are the best teachers.  Giving yourself the chance to try new things builds confidence and gains trust.  One of the fundamental pieces to Intuitive Eating is learning to trust yourself… trusting your internal cues for hunger and satiety.  Trusting that your body knows what is good for you to eat.  Trusting yourself to believe you can change your behavior.  But there is fear in that.  I understand this fear because I lived it.  It is scary to have to “break a food rule”.  But how will you know that you can stop at one piece of chocolate if you never allow yourself to eat any of it?  Experience teaches you that you can.

Think of the new mother who wonders if she will ever figure out how to sooth her crying infant.   She has no choice but to keep trying.  With patience and nurturing, mom and dad learn what is best for their child. Learning Intuitive Eating can be like that too.  You have to be patient and kind.  It is not always going to be perfect; there is no “right way”.  Your journey to becoming an Intuitive Eater is as individual and unique as you are.  It is a process that takes time.  Be gentle with yourself as you learn what works best for you. Enjoy your journey!

Feelings of trepidation and insecurity are normal when learning something new.  But think about all the things you may have missed out on if you let fear stand in your way!  Giving yourself the experience enables you grow as an individual.  Have faith in your abilities.  Reflect upon your past and remind yourself that you have conquered many new challenges before.  Think about some of your life’s proudest accomplishments.  More than likely you are proud of them because there was a time that you weren’t sure you could achieve your goal.  Acknowledge the fact that you did then and by believing in yourself, you will again.

What’s Your Motivation?

“Where there is a will, there is a way.”  Those words were spoken to me a long time ago by a wise lady and have carried me through many of  life’s changes.  Thoughts of giving up on something always made me think of my grandmother and the way she encouraged me to continue on…

Oftentimes when we are looking to implement a change in our lives we wind up saying things like ‘I should’, or ‘I ought to’.  Working as a personal trainer, I hear this a lot.  People know that they should exercise or ought to eat better but often complain that their motivation diminishes and they just don’t do it.

What is missing?  Actions based on what we should do don’t usually keep us going for too long.  We may start out fired up for our new exercise program, but when we aren’t doing it for our own right reason, enthusiasm waivers and old habits reemerge.

The pathway to successful change lies in knowing yourself.  Ask the questions, “What do I want?  What is this going to give me?”  If you believe that exercising regularly will create a stronger, more confident you, set a good example for your kids, or give you more control over your life, you will be realizing your unique inspiration.  Being clear on what you really want is going to help you persevere and and rise above the the challenges you will inevitably encounter.

Take eating healthier for example, “What is important to me?”  Determining your answer to that question is a first step towards change.  Once you identify what you really want you can enhance your vision.  “What does healthy eating look and feel like to me?”  Why this step?  Each of us is unique.  We all live in a world full of ever changing variables and circumstances.  What is right for one person may not be right for another.  You are the only one who knows what feels right and will work for you.  You are your own best expert.  Put your knowledge to work in determining your answers.

Once you have explored what you really want, what it looks and feels like; you have the makings of your goal.  A clearly defined goal or vision is your road-map to success, for without one you don’t know where you are going and without a destination, you won’t know how to get there!

Clarity about what your goals are and why they are important to you is what is going to replace the “I should” with “I want to” and “I will”.  A thorough understanding of your goal will create your unique action steps.  You will know what to do next because it will be the only thing that makes sense to you.  A clear definition of your goal will enable you to determine the approach that’s right for you.

There are many good ideas about ways to eat better, exercise more, or stress less, but unless you are willing to do them, then that’s all they are, good ideas that have worked for other people.  Staying motivated for change involves finding the methods that make sense to you.  You may have a very healthy friend who is a vegetarian.  You may in turn think this is the way to go but does this make sense for you?  If your favorite meal includes a big, thick, juicy steak this dietary approach probably won’t last too long 🙂

What happens when you find yourself losing motivation?  Revisit the question “What do I really want?”.  Take for example the woman who begins an exercise program because she wants to lose weight.  At the beginning, she may be VERY motivated, but then as the days go on, she begins to dread the gym.  She is sore, tired and probably not eating enough in an attempt to diet.  If the weight loss doesn’t happen or stops, usually her desire to exercise stops with it.

By continually asking the question, “What do I want?”  She may be able to find new motivation.  I want to exercise, because I want to lose weight.  I want to lose weight to be healthier and be more self-confident.  I want health and confidence!!  Going to the gym regularly is something I have never been able to do.  I know when I go I feel good about myself; I am doing something good for me that makes me feel strong, healthy and alive.  

What if you lose your motivation and keep losing it?  Maybe you’re trying to do something that you are not truly inspired to do.  I need to lose weight because my husband thinks I look fat.  Doing something to please someone else almost never works.  This is the ‘will’ in ‘Where there is a will, there’s a way’.  Only when you know what you want will you have the fortitude to make it happen.   Reflecting upon what is important to you will help you stay focused and motivated to make things happen.

Finally, keep in mind that you are not perfect, none of us are.  Slip-ups will occur.  View these not as failures but opportunities for you to learn and grow. These experiences are vital steps towards change, and any step, big or small, is key to your success.  Unless you are Superman, you won’t be climbing a flight of stairs by jumping from the floor to the top.  One step at a time will get you where you need to be.  Believe in yourself and know that you have the power to make it happen!

One of my biggest ‘aha’ moments

I heard a song today and it made me smile.  It brought me back to one of my biggest ‘aha’ moments since I started re-learning how to eat intuitively.  ‘With Arms Wide Open’ by Creed was the song and my aha moment came as I was sweeping the kitchen floor and crying…

My story begins 2 years ago.  I was relatively new to intuitive eating.  I had just learned how to ‘make peace with food’ …well at least I thought I had.  The day was a beautiful spring day.  I decided I wanted to spruce up my living room by buying new curtains.  Up until this point, I have always made my curtains and buying them different for me.  As I shopped, I found myself getting more and more frustrated because I had an idea in my head as to what I wanted and couldn’t quite find it …hence the reason I have always made my own.

I found my mood seemed to really darken as I left the store (empty handed) which I thought was rather unusual, given the circumstances I mean really?  I couldn’t find curtains?  Big whoop… if that’s the worst thing that happens in my life I guess I’m not doing too badly.  

I picked up my son from school and he asked for a DQ.  I figured spending that time together would be fun!  When we got there, I thought about getting a cone too.  I had just learned to ‘make peace with food’.  I decided that yes, I was going to get one.  I wanted one and wanted to give myself the chance to really enjoy it, without guilt or shame.  I have plenty of friends who eat soft-serve and they don’t have ‘problems’ with their weight.  I owed it to myself to have this experience.  Today was going to be my day!

I was proud.  I enjoyed my cone without any guilt or remorse.  I felt satisfied and happy.  My mood seemed to change, however, when I came home to my naked windows.  Before I knew what hit me, the binge fest began… cereal, crackers, bread.  I honestly don’t remember what I got my hands into, but then again binges were usually like that.  I numbed myself with food.  It didn’t take too long before I felt sick to my stomach.  Not only did I feel physical pain, but I felt deflated.  An hour before I felt happy and satisfied, and now this…  and for what?  Curtains??? Really?  I did this to myself for curtains???  I thought I had been making such progress with Intuitive Eating… now, again, I felt like a total failure.

To make matters worse, that night was a big night for our family.  My son, who was graduating, was in a talent show at his High School.  They had been practicing daily for weeks and the show was something we were all looking forward to.  Waiting for the program to begin, my husband seemed to sense I was upset and asked if I was o.k.  He was unaware of my binge eating habits and therefore had no idea what was going on in my head …of course, I realize now, neither did I.  I was was angry and embarrassed with myself for my behavior earlier in the day.  Lost in my thoughts, I felt angrier and angrier.  I was missing things in my life that would never happen again.  I was not going to be able to enjoy my son’s performance as I should have because I felt so awful.  I knew this behavior had to stop.

 The next day I was sweeping the floor and ‘With Arms Wide Open’ came on the radio.  Before I knew what was happening I was openly  sobbing.  This was the song my son performed in the talent show the night before.  At this moment I was finally awakened to what had been really bothering me all along.  My first born was about to graduate High School and was heading off to college!  My life, his life, our lives as a family;  it was all changing so rapidly.  I knew, even though I will always be his mother, it is never going to be the same.  He was heading into adulthood.  As happy as I was happy for him, I also felt very sad and empty… my baby was growing up and moving on.

This was a defining moment for me.  Until then, I didn’t really understood why I was so troubled the day before.  It had nothing to do with the curtains.  I was experiencing the significant feelings of loss, uncertainty and worry that every parent faces when their children grow up and move on.  Up to this point in my life, uncomfortable feelings led me to unconsciously reach for food as a way to comfort and numb.

My reaction today would be very different than it was back then.  I know now to stop, before I reach for food.  I ask myself if I am hungry?  If the answer is no, then I become curious.  What else may be going on to make me reach for food? Sometimes there isn’t an immediate answer, and for me, I find that it is o.k. to say I feel ‘uncomfortable’.  When in this situation, I will turn to friends or other activities that make me feel better.  Had I taken the time, two years ago, to really sit with my feelings I would have realized that it was natural to feel sad.  Food didn’t make my problems go away, it only made me feel worse.   At that time in my life, that was the only coping mechanism I knew.  Now I try harder to experience my feelings so that I can deal with them in a healthier way… for my heart, head and my stomach 🙂

Yet another lesson Self-Acceptance (5/2/11)

We got a new front door.  That means paint.  For those of you who know me and my type A personality, it comes without question that the painting will not limited to the new door but will include the adjoining rooms and while we are at it, why not do all the rooms?   If you are going to make a mess, then make a mess! And so it begins.  I was ready.

I dug out my old paint pants, knowing full well they were going to be a little snug.  But to my dismay, they were more than that, they were tight!  I was disappointed, but continued wearing them as they are the only ones I have.

I went about my day, thinking all morning about my jeans.  I could feel myself getting more anxious.  I began to think about our discussion in our Intuitive Eating support group last night… and losing weight.  I began questioning my beliefs.  I started wondering what I was “doing wrong”.  I thought about the scale.  I thought about how many calories I had eaten already… I began thinking all these things and felt bad, real bad.  My painting, instead of the refreshing facelift I wanted for my house, became a tedious chore.

My thoughts shifted to my dieting days.  Contemplating new diets was always exciting!  Whenever I felt like I did today, dieting was my answer!  There was something wrong with me and was going to be proactive and fix it!  At least that’s how it used to be.  As I began to really remember, I got beyond the “exciting” part.  I thought about restricting calories, keeping food logs, being hungry, feeling deprived, being upset and the food police…. I remembered how I would be “very good” for 3-4 days, and then I would binge and feel out of control.  The feelings of shame, guilt and ultimate failure all came flooding back to me.

My mental breaks came on!   No more!!!  My psychological health and wellbeing is too important.  I began to reflect on where I am now.  I don’t binge anymore.  I do not get anxious when I am at a party, as I was yesterday, wondering what I “can” or “can’t” eat.  I had one piece of cake and was happy and done.  I don’t beat myself up mentally anymore.  I don’t play the body check game either.  I can eat pasta and pizza and be o.k. with it.  I didn’t raid the kids Easter Baskets and feel nauseous and guilt ridden.  Yes, I like where I am much better than where I used to be.

I know it is normal to still have the desire to lose weight.  But I also know that should I drop a few pounds, it will be a nice side-effect of normalizing my relationship with food.  I am taking care of my body; the best way I know how.  I am learning a new process and it’s going to take time.

Today was a big day for me… I felt a little rocked to the core.  But I feel much more solid now.  I have re-affirmed my beliefs.  And do you want to know the irony of all this?  When I got dressed this morning to teach my class, I thought I looked good.  Amazing! I am a work in progress, and I am ready again to enjoy the journey!

The Story Behind the Peace Lily

When choosing an image to represent my face book page, I knew I wanted something that could visually express what Intuitive Eating means to me.  It realized pretty quickly that it was the Peace Lily.

This was my choice for several reasons.  First, perhaps obviously, it was because of the name.  Intuitive Eating has given me a sense of inner peace that I never thought could be possible.  The Peace Lily’s name embodies that for me.

Secondly, as a living thing, the lily requires proper nourishment and care.  If given those elements, it will continue to grow and flourish.  As practicing Intuitive Eaters, we will continue to grow and expand in our learning; if we are able meet our bodies’ basic needs and learn to be gentle and kind to ourselves.

Finally, I chose this image for a more personal reason.  Several years ago a car accident took the lives of two of my family members.  As a gift of condolence my husband and I received a rock garden from some friends.  Unfortunately, the plants in that pot have all since died… all except for one; the Peace Lily.  That plant is now nearly 3 feet tall and stands proudly in my living room.  To me, this symbolizes strength and perseverance.  In order to discover the Intuitive Eater inside of you … you will also need to be strong and to persevere.  Remember, this journey is not a road of perfection.  It will take many detours along the way.  Sometimes you may feel as though you are not moving in the right direction.  Stay steady.  Be strong and continue on.  If you do, you will find what you seek.  Believe in yourself and you will achieve.

As one final note, I would like to share something special.  At the conclusion of my last support group, I shared the story of the peace lily.  About two weeks later, my plant bloomed for the first time in nearly four years.  To all of my ladies with whom I have shared tears, stories of joy, frustration and accomplishment… this is for you.  This is your message and my wish for each of you as you continue on your journey; internal peace, happiness and freedom.

Yours always,

Janine

It’s all finally starting to click!! (6/8/11)

14 months ago I began a personal journey.  I read Intuitive Eating for the first time.  I was connected from page one!  I felt like this book was written using a window into my soul.  Everything made so much sense!  I was happy.  This was going to be my salvation… of course, for those of us who have spent years dieting; we have known many “salvations”.  But somehow, this one was going to be different.

At first, I was amazed how letting go of rules and judgments around food and eating gave me so much freedom.  Don’t misunderstand me; making peace with chocolate was terrifying!  And then there was the white bagel.  I mean really, a “white” bagel… who does that?  (Yes I know, very snobbish of me) … but I ate it, all of it, for 3 days, that was my afternoon snack, with a banana and peanut butter (sans salt of course… lighten up here people, I am poking fun of myself).  Anyway, this was something I would never “allow” myself to eat.  Well I did it, I enjoyed it, and I am now done with it.

This is how it started… I made some big realizations at the beginning, but things began to level off.  I felt as though I wasn’t progressing any further towards my goal of becoming an Intuitive Eater.  I was having periods of binging… not anywhere near what they used to be like, and if they happened, I did not beat myself up emotionally over it.  So it wasn’t all bad, but still I was frustrated.  I had read the book several times by now.  Conceptually, everything made sense… so why wasn’t I able to implement the principles?

I realized, although I understood what I needed to do, I wasn’t really allowing myself the experience.  I was still unsure and afraid, but until I lived the principles, these were just words on a page and had no real meaning for me.  I was afraid many things: of gaining weight, of accepting my ‘here and now’ body and I was afraid of being hungry.  I kept telling myself, this all makes sense, just take the leap of faith and go with it.  But it was hard.   Slowly, one at a time, I was able to overcome my fears.  And with each of these victories, I became more confident that I could overcome the rest.

I didn’t want to have anything to do with the scale.  I knew that mentally and physically I felt better, and for now that was enough.  Then came the day at the doctors; being the dutiful patient, I stepped on.  Before I could say don’t tell me, he uttered the number.  And do you know what?  At that moment, I realized the number didn’t matter!!  My doctor wasn’t concerned (it was 10lbs. heavier than a year ago).  He said he could tell by looking at me it was muscle.  I knew I had been training hard.  I felt good and the number didn’t matter!  Woo hoo!  Win #1

Then there was the first hot day of spring.  I knew that last year’s clothes would not be comfortable.  I needed to shop, but it was o.k.  This was the beginning of a new me.  I was tired of being uncomfortable and self-conscious in clothes that didn’t fit right.  I went to the store.  I ignored sizes and looked for things that I liked and made me feel good.  I found some great stuff and left the store feeling happy.  I know when I have an outfit that feels good I feel good.  I realized that day, like the scale, clothing sizes were just numbers.  They vary greatly from manufactures, styles and cuts.  I remembered a day I borrowed some clothing from a very “skinny” friend of mine.  The items she lent me were ‘larges’.  She told me as she handed them to me, these run small, I really don’t pay attention to sizes, I just but what fits and feels right.  I guess I should have paid more attention to her.  Win #2.

As a leftover from my dieting days, I was terrified of being hungry.   I began to realize, however, when I took the time to really figure out what I wanted to eat I was truly satisfied and ate less.  While I knew this to be true, I was also aware of my fear of becoming “too hungry”.   As a result, I would eat whatever was available when I became hungry.  One day, I really tried to figure out what I wanted to eat.  Nothing immediately came to mind… so I decided to wait a few minutes.  I thought, if I can get what I “really want”, I will be happier and more satisfied.  My deal with myself was 15 minutes.  If after that time, I still didn’t know what I wanted, I’d eat something.  Well sure enough, after about 10 minutes I knew what I wanted… pasta with stir-fried vegetables.  I knew it; I felt it and I cooked it.  It was awesome!!  I savored every bit of it and realized… I wasn’t going to overeat if I didn’t eat right away because I am more in tune to my body and I am more aware of my fullness cues.  I know I have unconditional permission to eat so I don’t have to be hungry and I don’t have to be afraid anymore.  Yeah win #3.

So bottom line… persevere, be patient and nurturing.  This is truly a journey that takes time.  Notice your discoveries along the way… for each of these are the building blocks of trust that you will need to take your next steps.  It can be done… you can do it.  Believe and you will.

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