to love you more (hint: quit treating your body like a garbage disposal)

Sometimes things can get muddled in the world of self love, self acceptance, self appreciation and any other rah-rah self proclamation. I have had countless discussions with people about their quest to love, hell or even like, themselves.

It usually follows the same basic outline, I sit there listening to how they are not being as hard on themselves, accepting their bodies, choices and most importantly not beating themselves up for what they consider screw-ups. If you have read my blog up to this point or are a returning follower of the former blog, you know I am a cheerleader. I will support the shit out of this type of behaviour…. within reason.

Yeah, I have limits. In our quest for a much deserved positive and happy relationship with ourselves we tend to put on the blinders and in our process of accepting ourselves, fail to hold ourselves accountable or address areas which we can improve. This my friends is essential in the process of genuine and truly self appreciation.

To love ourselves does not mean we cannot see room for growth or change – even if that change means admitting or pointing out ways that we are not providing ourselves the optimum amount of healthy food/activity/mental health support and emotional love that we not only need, but deserve.

Sometimes real self love comes in the form of a reality check, tough love and a little push in the right direction. Self acceptance does not mean accepting that you love fast food and are a couch potato and don’t want to change and because you’ve accepted it, you love yourself. That is self denial, not self love.

We have no problem giving the best to everyone and everything that demands it, or we feel deserves it, yet when it comes to ourselves we treat our bodies, minds and often sheer existence like a garbage disposal – continuously pouring junk in the forms of food, news, toxic relationships, stress, ignoring our better judgement….the list goes on and on. And we do these things under the pretence of a healthy relationship with ourselves.

If any of this sounds familiar to you I highly suggest taking some time to get reconnected with your real thoughts and feelings about yourself, your life and the choices you make and where you’d like to be. This can be incredibly uncomfortable. That’s good. I recently read something that said, ‘ change does not come from a place of comfort’. Hard truth to that statement.

Sometimes the path to self respect and true love for ourselves is a winding and bumping road. Sometimes it means making a lot of changes, back tracking, starting over and making only 1 or 2 at a time. It doesn’t matter. Just trust that every positive change you make is one more in the right direction.

If you’re not at a place where you want to take on all that shit, then don’t..that’s right. Forcing something you’re not ready for serves no positive purpose in our lives. But I will offer this advice: add in.

Don’t worry about all the things you know you should want to change, and maybe even do want to change, but instead of focusing on the negative, focus on adding in. Add in some fruit with your breakfast. Add in more water. Add in vegetables to your supper and a salad at lunch. Add in even a quick 15-20 minutes of movement into your day – even if its a quick jaunt around the office at coffee break time. Focus on adding in.

The positive things you add in will do wonders in serving your body, far more than focusing on all the stuff you need to remove from your life. The benefits of healthy food and fuel are still there without the bullshit of nagging yourself for the less than ideal things you are doing.

Focus on the positive and healthy. The unhealthy and negative will naturally begin to weed itself out. And this..this will lead to self love and acceptance.

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trust the process

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.

we’re all just the hungry, hungry caterpillar

Have you read the children’s book, the hungry, hungry caterpillar? It goes like this: the little caterpillar is born, and days 1-5 he eats all his fruits and veggies.  Day 6 he binges. The little caterpillar eats all the cake, all the sausage (who wrote this book?), pie, ice cream…you name it. But then day 7 rolls around and he eats a nice, big, green leaf.

And this, my friends, is us all. Well, until the end of day 6 anyways. What happens on day 7 is where the story changes from person to person; do you proceed in your ice cream and pie eating, or do you pick up and continue with your nice, big, green leaf?

We live in a constant state of cycles, our bodies are continuously detoxing and retoxing, the earth spins, the seasons change. Many people, myself included, find so do their eating habits. While this might appear to be ‘wrong’ or make us uncomfortable to admit, I want to throw it out there and just say nope! It’s healthy, it’s normal, you’re perfectly okay.

Food is meant to nourish us, support our bodies so we can achieve all our kickass, world domination goals. But we are also emotional eaters. We eat to celebrate, we eat when we are happy or when we are feeling down. Sometimes our emotional eating is a big old’ salad after a kickass workout, and sometimes it’s a bowl bucket of lime sorbet after a terrible day.  We’ve been taught that this is somehow wrong, that we have no willpower or self-control; that all it takes is some internal strength.

But when we look at our choices and our decisions as a temporary thing, with temporary consequences when the following choice or decision can change the course… it no longer becomes anything other than day 6. Creating a healthy relationship with food means allowing for those day sixes; and allowing for the unhealthy food that serves no purpose but to emotionally make us feel better in that moment.

Moving on past day 6, to the nice, big, green leaf is the kicker though, and not letting ourselves toss in the towel. When we see our unhealthy choice as one of many and not as the choice that ended all choices we let go of that little nagging voice telling us we need to get it together; that we need to regain control. It simple becomes another day in our food cycle.

A quick google search will pull up literally thousands of suggestions and ‘best’ diets to achieve your health or physical appearance goals, but what I have learned through trial and error and the many conversations I’ve had with people is that it’s not that simple. We have been taught we are eating good or eating bad, that this food is ‘good’ and that food is ‘bad’. To make matters worse the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods are continuously changing!

In comes my hungry, hungry caterpillar food philosophy. It’s not new, and it’s not even original, but any way you look at it, it makes the most sense. I believe it was Michael Pollan that originally said something similar, but I follow the simple rule to eat whole foods, mostly plants. 

After scouring through literally hundreds of books and websites reading about different diets and food philosophies out there, one day I thought “holy bananas. No wonder everyone is confused.” So, then I switched gears to read about the healthiest people in the world and the diets they consume. I realized in all my reading one thing remained consistent, plants.  No one could argue the benefits of plant based foods. Every diet, every group of people, every health advocate across the world emphasized the same thing: plants.

Then it dawned on me, I don’t have to have a list of foods I can eat, or not eat. Or a list of foods I tell people they can eat or not eat (unless allergies come in to play!). Let’s just act like the not so little caterpillar and focus on all the earth grown, plants the world has to offer and concern ourselves less with all the other foods. When we do that, we naturally eat less of the unhealthy stuff and in the process, can keep our sanity.