I get it..how can we possibly trust a process when we aren’t even sure what the process is suppose to be, or if we can trust ourselves in the process?
The process, in theory, is reaching our health related goals. Or if we’re honest, goals often disguised as ‘health’ goals. These types of goals are generally related to our weight within a timeline. We want to fit into a size X by summer; we want to be down those 10 pounds before our winter holiday etc. But when we place a timeline to our goal guess what? The health aspect more often than not takes backseat to the timeline.
So how do we switch our mentality to ensure our goals are genuine when we associate them with our health?
My only rule is…. make no rules.
Yup. You read that’s correctly. I can hear it already “but Racheal, how will I….”… “but Racheal, X, Y and Z isn’t healthy…”. These concerns are valid, often true and can leave you with a sense of fear because as a society we are taught to take control of our lives – except when it comes to what we put into our mouths. When it comes to food, there is no lack of diets out there with their list of foods to eat and not eat, rules about when to how, how to eat and how much to eat. We have quite literally become so consumed by the rules surrounding our food we no longer know how to eat.
Years ago I had a friend call me. She had read a book was wanting to know my opinion on this diet she was considering. It was a book based on intuitive eating. Someone had written a book and made money off of a skill we are born with but have lost. I often compare babies or my small children to adults. Babies eat when they are hungry, stop when they are full. They do not care if they ‘should’ eat more or less, they eat based on intuition and their own bodies. Anyways, so my friend calls and asks my opinion – the concept behind this book was to eat what you want, stop when you are full. Naturally I supported this concept.
The thing is, when given the freedom to eat whatever we want, ‘permission’ so to speak, there is this strange cycle that takes places. A healthy cycle from my perspective, but one which can be very daunting. We are told ‘eat what you want’. So we do. This might look like pizza every night for two weeks. Weight is gained. We panic. But at this pivotal point instead of reverting back to old, restrictive ways, trust in the process. When you mentally get used to the concept of being free to eat anything you want to, at any time, in any quantity, you will naturally begin to want it less. Personally I am the type of person when told I can’t do something, regardless of whether I wanted to before, I do now! The same goes for food. Tell me no, and I’m all over it. Tell me I can have it anytime I want? And well, most of the time I’m going to reach for the fruits and veggies over the pizza.
I do not mean to imply that we should just consume garbage in gluttonous quantities without a care for our nutritional needs or health, quite the opposite. We need to take this time to provide our bodies with nourishing foods but trust that we will be okay if we eat that pizza instead. And listen.
Heavy on the listening.
I often say to start a food journal. Not to count calories, points, exchanges or any other method of tracking food, but a feeling food journal. Write down what you are eating, write down how you physically feel after, write down anything emotional happening.
This is also where I get the eye rolls and lose people. But stay with me, eh?
When we write down our physical feelings – stomach ache, bloating, cramping, feeling too full, constipation etc. we can then see a direct relationship between foods our body doesn’t want, like or need and how we feel afterwards. There are plenty of foods I regularly pass on because I do not want to feel any or all of the above, so declining to eat them isn’t a punishment, choosing to eat them is. This took many years to truly embrace, but man am I glad I did.
When we write down our emotional feelings – whether we were feeling stressed out, sad, happy etc. before or after we consumed a meal we are able to then tie our feelings to our food responses. The stomach is often referred to as the second brain because of it’ strong connection our gut has to our mind. This is because when we eat certain foods, it directly and often quickly will impact our we think, feel, or our bodies respond. I know people who get diarrhea when they are stressed, stress eaters, loss of appetite when sad or depressed, or people who eat when they’re excited and happy. When we are able to recognize how emotional and mental connections to different foods we can then learn ways to either manage those wants, OR…this is a big OR.. consume the foods anyways, but in a mindful way. Again, trusting the process. Accepting that yes, I am having a bad day. And yes, I am choosing to eat this cupcake for lunch instead of the veggie wrap I had planned.
This to me is healthy when doing so mindfully. And this is where so many people struggle. We want to be told what to eat, when to eat and how to eat. But before we can focus on the how and what, we need to learn to listen to our bodies physical needs and emotional wants.
The process, if you will, is developing a healthy relationship with food to the point where we trust ourselves to eat when hungry, choose healthy foods, indulge in treats, respect our choices and just truly focus on the health of our bodies over the number on the scale, the size of our pants or what we think we should be eating.
There is no timeline to a healthy lifestyle. There is no magic number to reach. It is an everyday choice to add in fruits and vegetables and hopefully eat a few less French fries that day. The process looks different for everyone. Some people may need a month to truly learn to listen to their bodies and other years. Neither is right or wrong, because we each do it differently. There is no magic formula – if there was, we’d all look the same and there wouldn’t be a million books out there on the subject.
Our health has no limits, no choice is without benefits. Every single healthy choice we make – whether it be a to walk instead of drive to the store, drink the water instead of soda, eat the fruit instead of chocolate bar, is one more positive choice you made.
And this, my friends, is the process.