This month where Black History is observed, learned, taught, and made (Erin Johnson!) is also a time where the cultural markers are fondly discussed. For me, there are so many things that add so much to this month (and all year) but none so near and dear to me and my business as soul food.
In my holistic coaching practice, relationships with food are often a center focus. And no wonder: food provides more than just fuel and nourishment for the body. Food is wonderfully delicious; it is a focal point for gatherings and memory-making events. It soothes our minds, bodies, and, of course, souls.
Which brings me to soul food–that comforting, rich, food of my culture and upbringing. These cultural foods have brought laughter, joy, and healing to me and my kin for as long as I can remember. I am aware that most think of southern soul food as unhealthy “slave food”. This is in no small part to the effects of diet culture; it’s demonization of certain foods and practices that do not uphold white body supremacy (more on this later). It has purported that soul food is unhealthy and sadly, quite a lot of people have believed the hype! But to those of us who know, soul food is so much more than fried foods and sugared-up side dishes. It is a food that sustains, fortifies, and nourishes.
Foods of the African diaspora have influenced cuisine the world over. Africans brought grains like sorghum and millet, cooking styles like stews and simmered greens, and an affinity for plant-based diets that used animals as sides and not the features of meals. What has happened, however, is partly the loss of dietary diversity and partly the negative, colonized thoughts about soul food that have resulted in loss of recipes, families wanting to ditch the foods that remind of enslavement, poverty, and wrongly blamed for the bad health of Black people.
The foods of my childhood, family, and culture included so much more. My mother and father often told stories of dishes of fresh veggies from family gardens, seasoned with herbs and love. Both of my parents were from large families and one thing that was common was the small amounts of meat they ate, due to price or availability. As I grew up with my sister, my father maintained a substantial garden and we had some pigs and chickens. I daresay we grew up more on a modified SAD diet but thanks to my parents we had veggies year-round. Both of my parents enjoyed growing food, raising animals, and other self-sufficiency practices. Today, these skills and passions have served me well once I returned to them!
Soul foods, as I feel about any cultural foods, should be a part of a balanced diet. Those cultural practices that have served our predecessors should be honored, preserved, and if possible, practiced. I garden, can veggies, and enjoy my cultural foods like greens, cornbread, succotash, and yams. While preparation of these foods can vary widely and affect the nutrition, they cannot receive the blame for the diseases that affect Black people at a disproportionate rate. Other factors including but not limited to the environment, systemic effects of racism (stress, subpar care, physiological effects), and behavioral patterns all affect one’s health and well-being.
There is a current movement of activists and advocates to decolonize spaces and concepts that have prohibited the free and sovereign of peoples; where colonial views and practices have settlers have occupied land, dictate social, political, and economic systems, and exploit people and their resources in the support of the colonists’ viewpoint and benefit. So this February, I challenge you to decolonize your plate–enjoy yours or the cultural foods of others. Become aware of your thoughts and opinions of the foods you have demonized and consider why and where the influence for those thoughts have originated.
As for me and my house, we will enjoy chicken and gravy, simmered greens (with hot sauce), beans and rice, and drink red luscious brews like sorrel or jamaica (depending on where you are from!) Embracing our cultural foods is one way that we eat free and live free every day. For truly, soul food is good for the mind, body, and soul.
Do Your Beliefs and Actions Align?
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks taught the world a valuable lesson: we can fight for our beliefs by not tolerating everyday acts of injustice and oppression. If you look into her life, like those of other Civil Rights Leaders then and now, then you may understand the motivations and frustrations that prompted her civil disobedience. To summarize, but please research for yourself if you need to, she believed that the segregation policies, Jim Crow Laws, and dehumanization of Blacks was unjust so she put that belief into action by peacefully protesting the laws that supported that treatment.
Today, February 4, is Rosa Parks Day, an observance to honor her integrity, assertiveness, and activism throughout her lifetime. It is a good time to check in with yourself and commit to practicing the courage to stand up for what you believe in.
What Do Your Actions Say About You?
The world is unjust. This is a plain fact. Somewhere, there is some kind of marginalization, exploitation, or blatant denial of rights. And everyone is taking action. You are either actively trying to make a difference through your thoughts and actions or you are choosing to uphold the injustice through silent approval. That is the hard truth. And, the thing is, that we all have this opportunity multiple times daily to decide how to act in accordance with our own beliefs.
Being an activist is not easy at times. It can be tiring, disappointing, and open you up to criticism and insult from those who oppose your perspective. Moving past the fear of these worries will be necessary at some point to help bring about the change you desire.
This day also falls within the greater observation of Black History Month. During this month, I am committing to sharing the justice issues where I exert my professional and personal beliefs and act most frequently! I hope that you take some time to align your actions with your beliefs for the greater good of all!
4 Tips for Standing Up for Your Beliefs
Here are my top four tips for ramping your activism and standing up for what you believe in:
- Align your values and your causes. We all believe in something. Alignment with your values will keep you motivated to keep acting in tough times and also help bolster your courage to act and speak out. This will serve as the foundation for your platform as well. You know the adage: if you don’t believe in something, you will fall for anything!
- Do your research. Do it. For yourself. You should not allow others to tell what about the issues. For me, I always research policy and practices, as well as the stance of the opposing viewpoint. Old habits from debate have served me well! Things can change quickly, and honestly, I do not want to look or sound unknowledgeable.
- Engage in conversations and share info about the issues. Be careful when sharing online or in public forums, even those who are “invisible” on the net can have trolls (and they can be mean so be prepared). Also, keep an open mind and an attitude of learning!
- Step up and find ways to act. There are organizations, affinity groups, and non-profits that you can join with like-minded individuals. Often, it is easier (and safer) to act in groups and there is strength in numbers!
I hope that this day and the spirit of Rosa Parks can bolster your resolve to act and stand up for yourself or others!
Today, I would like to share my thoughts about being a weight-neutral wellness coach in a thin-obsessed culture.
Without taking us through a historical review of culturally acceptable body image trends over the last couple centuries, suffice it to say that at one time a more voluptuous figure was en vogue. The rounded bellies and ample curves of the models of the Renaissance artists were the thing, dare I say, typical bodies of folks. Fast forward to about the 1920’s (the Cigarette Diet–look it up!) when things like appetite suppressants and smaller frames of the urbanized upper class (think Zelda Fitzgerald and the flapper look) became fashionable and an entire industry based on losing weight started to become popular. Health was not the reason–no one could say smoking instead of eating was healthy–it was purely for aesthetics. Read that again: the desire for smaller bodies was not based on health.
Several diet trends later, in the 1950s, some doctors and insurance companies started using the BMI as a standard to help with insurance underwriting. And just like that health was now tied to a (very arbitrary and inaccurate) size. And like all things in the Western World, the standards were based on and set by white men so there is a decidedly Eurocentric/colonial influence here. More on that another time…
Now in the past 60 years or so, dieting and health have been inextricably linked and learned about simultaneously, both implicitly and explicitly. Only in about the last 25 years have reputable, sound studies been conducted enough to determine one thing: size is not an accurate determinant for health status. This is hard to swallow for a lot. We are so conditioned to fight this “war on obesity”; we are taught that being in a larger body is quite literally a death sentence of sorts- (hello, fat shaming and weight stigma!)-with preventable diseases like diabetes (type 2), hypertension, and heart disease looming to attack at any time. But alas, science has not borne this out–not even a little bit.
What science has learned is that weight, exercise, willpower, and diet is about 1/4 of the health equation. The other 3/4 is comprised of things like environment, genetics, stress, trauma, income, access to nutrition and healthcare, education, stress, sleep and job status to name a few factors. Diet culture, however, places a moral judgement on bodies based on size and then equates that body size to the moral turpitude of the person. The current healthcare system is set up to support this culture because they are two sides of the same coin. Instead of addressing the systemic issues like income disparities, access to food, access to healthcare, or education, a person is simply made to feel bad for not being able to bootstrap their way out of bad health.
So, why be a health coach? I am a holistic wellness coach and in my biz I address many dimensions of wellness that are traditionally ignored for the number on the scale. I work a whole-person across all areas that are out of balance. I do it without taking weight or measuring waist circumference or calculating BMI. I do measure heart rates, blood pressure as well as any lab work (like A1C) to determine progress and improved health. These are numbers that matter.
At this point in history, there is tremendous momentum being gained for professionals like me. As people become weary of the yo-yo dieting, weight gain, and the increasing evidence that diets (restricting what or when you eat) do not work in the long-run, AND are seeing larger bodies as capable, beautiful, and worthy of respect, the tides are a-changing. Right now, in the diet industry’s banner month (January), people are reaching out to ask questions and learn more. Most of the people I talk to have been on at least 3 different diets. If they worked, they would only need one.
Top 3 FAQs
Let’s take a quick look at the top three questions (misconceptions or myths) about being a HAES-aligned/weight-neutral wellness coach. Please comment with any other questions you may have!
- Does HAES (Health at Every Size) or weight-neutral mean you never want to lose weight or shouldn’t lose weight? (Sometimes phrased as how can I focus on eating and exercising without focusing on weight loss?) This by far is the most common question I get. NOT AT ALL. HAES is not anti-weight loss. It just means that I am not going to promote weight loss for the sake of weight loss as a health-promoting strategy, which only perpetuates weight stigma. To put it another way, I coach on behavior changes and there are other acceptable outcomes that are not about weight loss. If a person wanted to lose 20 lbs., I would dig a little deeper as to why and then we would work on the behaviors that improve health. For example, a client states they have low energy and feels like losing 20 lbs. would boost their energy. After reviewing their eating habits, a pattern of low consumption of nutrient-dense foods emerges and they eat only once a day. I would suggest eating more nutrient-dense foods and definitely more often. This may result in the weight-loss (a neutral occurrence), but it is not focus or strategy because for some this may result in weight gain (a neutral occurrence).
- Does HAES-aligned mean you believe that you can be healthy at every size? Health At Every Size is not the same as being healthy at every size. There are large healthy bodies and there are thin unhealthy bodies. Health is not a SIZE. What it means for me and my approach is that I believe that anyone, regardless of size, can practice or develop behaviors that will improve their health. I believe that wellness is a journey and while no one “owes” health to anyone else, you can improve it with behaviors that have a positive effect on health. I believe that regardless, all people are deserving of respect and that includes autonomy to live how they wish (without harming others).
- How does the HAES Framework help with body image? This is a process. There is no switch that I, or any other coach can flip to impart a positive body image. What I feel, and have seen, is that when working within a framework that validates the worthiness of all bodies, it decreases the influence of thin-obsessed voices and shifts you to a place of acceptance of your body and of others. It is usually the value/beauty/acceptance of others first, and then yourself. HAES-aligned professionals include more than just wellness/health coaches. When people are no longer stigmatized for weight, then the worldview changes.
As a wellness professional in a culture that stigmatizes larger bodies and equates thinness with health, it is tough to hear the push for weight loss or witness diet culture co-opting terms like “intuitive” (intuitive fasting? Come on, Gwenyth Paltrow) or fat liberation and changing it to body positivity (so thin folks were no longer excluded but left the hard work to fat liberators). It is tough because as a $90 billion a year industry the pockets are deep and influence is widespread. And it is a little sad to see how damaging the diet culture is to self-esteem, mental health, and to health overall. I know from experience of battling binge eating as a way to control my body–to force my body to conform in one way I thought it could. I could not change being Black, so I struggled with weight for years. After getting help and reconnecting with my body and unlearning diet culture, I am at a lower weight that I had been before (although still thick). I am much happier and I live unafraid of foods, or a number on a scale. That is the kind of radical living I want to help other women find!
It’s a New Year and a New You – How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
Do you struggle to keep your New Year’s resolutions? More than likely, the excitement of starting a new year wanes and you find yourself back into your old routines. This is exactly how the brain is supposed to work; it inevitably takes the easiest route (the old habit).
If you are truly motivated to change, you can be the exception to this rule. The trick is to turn your optimism for the New Year into ritualized actions. Once you start a routine, it becomes easier to follow through. You have to keep up the routine until it becomes the pattern that your brain will make with little effort.
Whether you’re making multiple resolutions or wanting to work towards one bigger goal, be sure to pick something that’s achievable within the years’ time frame.
Set Achievable and Clear Goals
Strive for making your goals achievable so you don’t set yourself up for future failure. For example, let’s say your goal is to lose weight. Determine where you stand currently, and then give yourself a goal that can be achieved following the 1-2 pounds per week guideline.
You’ll also benefit from making clear goals. Rather than saying that you want to be thinner, say how many pounds you’d like to lose. Then define the “how” as well. Are you going to follow a specific diet? How are you going to cut calories? Are you going to start a moderate exercise routine? How often?
With a clear, achievable goal and a set plan of tasks you know you can complete, you virtually guarantee your success! You know exactly what you want and how you’re going to get there. All you need to do now is take action.
Taking action is usually where people tend to run into some trouble. It’s easy to get pumped up about an idea, but when it comes down to executing your plan, you might be tempted to fall short.
In this situation, you only need to muster up the energy to start. Tell yourself that you’re going to stick to your new plan for one week and then evaluate how it went. On the other hand, if you take everything in all at once, you’ll be less likely to begin in the first place. If it looks overwhelming, just focus on the short term.
Pro Tip: Try to break down the new habit into behaviors. Identify any building blocks and master each one at a time. For example, if you want to walk 30 minutes in the evening, start to dress for the walk (shoes, etc.) as soon as you get home. That way, you are always ready. Then, set an alarm for the time to go for the walk. You are dressed to go! Then, head out the door! Even if you are ready to jump in from day one, creating a ritual around the other behaviors increases your likelihood of success and can improve the speed at which it becomes a thing you do!
Form a Routine
The reason you want to take baby steps at first is because once you form a new routine, it’s actually easy to hold yourself to it. Some say that it takes as little as two weeks to get a new routine engrained in your brain, while other experts say it takes longer.
In my experience, it depends on the complexity of the habit and how successfully you build the behavior into your daily rituals. Think about something you without fail, like brush your teeth in the morning. This has been ingrained into your mind as an integral part of your day from early on. When you were learning, there were lots of rewards such as new toothbrushes, parental praise, and maybe even kudos from the dentist with a trip to the treasure box (those were coveted when I was a kid!) Soon, it was something you just did–without much thought. Even when you are running late, you will get in a few swipes with the toothbrush!
Reward yourself often for your excellent efforts because you deserve it for working hard to change yourself for the better. You don’t need to wait until the end of the year to treat yourself.
Break up your goals into smaller pieces and every time you achieve a milestone, give yourself something that you enjoy. It could be an item you’ve been wanting or maybe a night out on the town.
Rewarding yourself for a job well done motivates you to keep going!
Do It Again!
After your first successful year of bettering yourself through New Year’s resolutions, you can then repeat the process and work on another aspect of your life. Before you know it, you’ll be a perfectly happy and healthy person because of your awareness, perseverance, and hard work!
Take Stock to Start Your Year on The Right Foot
“Slow down!” “Wait a minute!” These are phrases I use with my nine-year-old often. Today, I want to use them with you, too. Too often we charge in when it would be better to assess where we are first. It can be painful to look back to see our mistakes and shortcomings. And yet, it’s the best way to determine what we need to do to make significant changes in our lives. Before you prepare to start the new year with loads of new resolutions and goals, take some time to reassess your life in these different areas.
For this reason, I have found that I prefer to set my annual goals, or resolutions (it is not a dirty word), a couple of weeks into the new year. After the little one is back in school and our schedule is back on track and I have had time to clean and declutter after rounds of visitors, late night gatherings, and holiday laziness!
The following are some things I like to consider alone and then again with my husband before setting any goals:
Obligations—Ever wish you had more time for what was genuinely important to you? Now’s the time to make that change. And the first step is by looking at all the things you’ve taken on that no longer feel important. Consider each committee, sponsorship, extended family and friend obligations that no longer feel fun. If they feel like a burden, it’s time to unload them. That may feel challenging. After all, no one wants to let others down. But this is your life, and it’s time to choose you instead of others’ wants.
Finances—If you wish you had more money but can’t or don’t want to work more to get it, take a careful look at your finances. Quite often, little wants turn into needs. Scan through last year’s bank statements and make a note of any recurring payments. You may wince when you see how much you’ve spent on unnecessary things throughout the year. Having occasional treats for you and your family is okay. But if “shopping therapy” has become a burden, now’s the time to fix it. Make a list of all the ways you could cut back without feeling deprived. For example, could you eat out two nights a week instead of four? Is it essential that you shop for clothes every month? How much could you save if you took your lunch to work three days a week instead of getting take-out? Do you find it fun to have four bazillion TV channels? These are just a few ways you can trim expenses, so you can save for things that matter to you instead.
Dreams and Goals—Many people site not enough time or not enough money as the reason why they stay in dead-end jobs, don’t pursue their passions, or make real changes in their lives. If that was you and you’ve taken our advice and reevaluated your obligations and finances, those excuses should no longer be holding you back. So, what do you want really? To go back to school and start a new career? Turn your side-hustle or hobby into a business? Purchase and cook homemade, whole foods that support your health and wellness? By choosing to make those two changes in your life, you’ve now opened up a whole new world for yourself. Grab it, and don’t look back!
Clarify, Prioritize, and Focus
Visualizing what you really want in life can be one of the most powerful ways to manifest your dreams. A vision board can be a simple and yet truly powerful tool in visualization.
Vision boards are also known as goal maps, goal boards and treasure maps, and the concepts behind them have been used for generations. Still, they’re gathering renewed interest as people realize how powerful they can be in bringing dreams to life. My life and goal accomplishment has really differed from times I used boards and times I did. I need the physical board for focus and reining in my wanderlust tendencies!
Use these basic guidelines to create this tool for yourself:
- A vision board begins with a foundation. This may be a poster board, foam board, tri-fold board, or cork board. Use what works best for you. Choose a foundation that speaks to you, one that you feel you can easily and effectively build upon.
- A vision board includes imagery. You can clip pictures out of books, magazines, or the newspaper. If you prefer, you can draw the images yourself. What matters here is that images are present, because your vision board needs to be visual in nature. Seeing pictures of your priorities, dreams, and goals will help you focus on them.
- Allow yourself to experiment with different mediums while creating the images for your vision board. Find photographs, sketches, clip art and other images; then draw any subjects for which you couldn’t find an appropriate piece of art.
- A vision board includes writing. Writing isn’t mandatory, but it can play a role in identifying the key pieces of information. You want to make sure that you can look at your vision board at any point in the future and know exactly what you intended by each picture, word or thought included on it.
Your goal map is limited only by the extent of your personal creativity. It may be simple and strategic or it may be a highly detailed work of art. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what best suits your needs.
The general elements in an effective and motivating vision board are:
- Visual. Your subconscious tends to work in terms of images and pictures, and so your vision board should be as visual as you can possibly make it. Supplement the images with phrases and words as needed.
- Emotional. Every image on your goal map should evoke some type of positive emotional response out of you. Seeing it should fuel your motivation to achieve your dreams.
- Strategic. This tool should be placed strategically in a location where you receive maximum exposure to it. Seeing your vision board as often as possible will help you stay focused on your goals and dreams.
- Personal. Your vision board needs to emit positive energy. If you think that you’ll be criticized or forced to justify yourself for your vision board, then keep it in a private location so nobody else can bother it or you.
Beyond these basic guidelines, let this tool be whatever you want to make of it. Ultimately, it’s yours to design, develop and utilize as you see fit. You can add to it and change it over time as your goals and focuses change.
If you are interested in joining in my virtual vision board workshop on Thursday, January 13 at 1pm CST, email me here and I will get you ready to roll!
Here’s to your best year yet!
January is here and there is no better time to start building in better habits! There are only a couple of areas that are more impactful on your overall wellness than sleep!
We’ve all suffered through days of headache, fatigue and irritability after a bad night’s sleep for whatever reason. Sure, you can make up for it with a power nap or by sleeping it off the following night. But when insufficient sleep becomes the norm and you’re not getting anywhere from 7 – 9 hours of quality sleep each night, doctors warn that only a few weeks can pass before physical, emotional, and mental long-term, chronic illnesses start to take hold because of your unhealthy sleeping patterns.
The science behind this is that during sleep, our bodies secrete several hormones associated with body functions including, but not limited to, appetite control, metabolism and glucose conversion. When our bodies don’t get enough sleep, an imbalance of these hormones – and others – occurs.
When you wake up, do you immediately look forward to going back to bed? When the alarm goes off does it seem as though you just closed your eyes? It’s time to get a good night sleep! After all, it’s amazing what a restful night’s sleep can do for your body.
Battling chronic exhaustion will either force you to find ways to get more rest or it’ll bring on ill health. Naturally, you’ll want to develop an effective sleep routine before your body forces you to rest!
Try some of these sleep tips so you can get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling energized:
- Make your bedroom your sanctuary. Keep your bedroom neat and quiet so you feel calm upon entering. Your bedroom needs to be a getaway from the stress of the day. When a TV is on, even if you aren’t watching it, the light output feels almost as great as the sun. This confuses your body and makes it hard to “shut down” even after you’ve turned off the screen.
- If you have a TV or a home office in your bedroom, it will interfere with your ability to go to sleep. Move the television out of the bedroom or at the very least, try placing a sheet over it so you’re not tempted to watch it before bed.
- Keep your room dark. Your body is designed to sleep when it’s dark. If you’re not used to this, try it for a while anyway. Children are used to sleeping with a light on but you’ll soon realize that it’s a huge distraction in getting to sleep. Pull the curtains closed, turn off all the lights, shut your door, then sleep like you’re hibernating!
- Many stores sell “blackout” curtains that block out the sunlight so the room remains dark. Consider using these curtains to fully darken the room. I swear by mine as I have noticed a huge difference in how long I stay asleep and the sleep is much deeper!
- Exercise during the day. Exercising during the day releases stress hormones to help you feel more relaxed. Most forms of exercise will pep you up and give you more energy immediately afterwards so make sure you exercise well ahead of bedtime.
- The energy you receive from daytime exercise will give you more restful nights because your body will be less stressed and more relaxed. You’ll be giving your body a total makeover!
- Even though yoga is considered relaxing, it may keep you awake if done in the evening hours. Plan your exercise routine either in the morning or late afternoon.
- Make yourself a bedtime routine. This doesn’t only work with kids. If you get in the habit of going to bed at a certain time, your body will expect to be sleeping. Some recommend milk right before bed, as it contains the sleep-inducing chemical tryptophan.
- Create a bedtime routine that involves things that make you tired, such as soft music, a warm shower, light reading material, or journaling.
- Television stimulates the mind too much, which can cause difficulty sleeping. Try recording your favorite nighttime TV shows to watch the next day, rather than staying up late.
- Leave daytime stress outside. In order to rest, you’ll want to put aside things that keep your mind whirling. By keeping a calendar of things to do the next day, you can put your mind to rest.
- Make sure you’ve dealt with all the questions that keep you awake – what bills need to be paid, what time the doctor appointment is, and so on, before you lay down. This frees you up for sleep.
Once you’ve learned to rest well at night, you’ll experience a huge improvement in your quality of life. No more yawning through the mornings and the groggy, grumpy you will be replaced with an energetic person ready to take on life.
So, what are you waiting for? The new year is here, the weather is made for snuggling, and the nights are longer. It is a perfect time to start a relaxing bedtime routine tonight and wake up feeling refreshed tomorrow!
You can also listen to this as a podcast on Spotify here or check out a video on YouTube here!
*When you are in recovery or trying to eat for wellness
This time of year, advertisements of snowy streets and families coming together laughing eating, and making merry abound. Presents being handed back and forth, faces of pure delight, and picture-perfect families and friends greeting each other with joy and true happiness. There are also just as many campaigns with thin, fit, people dashing around in search of perfect last-minute gifts with cups of ABC brand coffee, a piece of XYZ candy, or catered treats or fast meals from THIS or THAT restaurant–ads that imply by eating this or buying these everything will be okay and they can just sit back and enjoy the season.
While this may be true for some of us or parts of it may true for most of us and none of it may be true for a few of us, the holidays can bring a variety of stressors that can really knock a recovering disordered eater for a loop.
As a food relationship coach and recovered binge eater, I know both from experience and from clients, how difficult it is to navigate the holiday season with your wellness goals and dignity intact. Food and emotional triggers are at all time high and then it is followed up by the onslaught of “healthy and fit” imagery that undermines any determination to break free from diet culture and eviscerates the last shreds of self-esteem.
Top Five Survival Strategies
Here are a few proven strategies that can help you keep your wellness goals at the center of your decisions, decrease stress, and maintain your sanity!
- HAVE A PLAN. I cannot stress this enough. If you have goals–regardless of what they are–you must have a plan to stay on track. You have to know where you are going to be for social or special engagements, who will be there, and anticipate the environment (treats, attitudes, etc.) and most importantly your reaction to all it. I coach my clients to have a dress rehearsal in their heads and a backup plan too!
- MAKE SELF-CARE AND SELF-COMPASSION A HABIT. For me, this goes hand-in-hand with having a plan. Taking the needed and deserved time to look after yourself will get you calm, balanced, and in touch with your needs so that you are in a mindset to make the decisions that will support your goals. Treating yourself to edible goodies may well be (and should be!) one of your goals this holiday season so prioritize them or enjoy them all but let it be a conscious decision and not a binge session by circumstance or pressure.
- DON’T BANK CALORIES. This was really hard for me and continues to be one for my clients, largely in part to the influence that the concept of “cheat” or “treat” meals has had on dieters. Celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson post pics of their huge meals that they use as a reward for restricting certain foods or for “earning” them with workouts. The concept of earning or refraining from eating in order to earn treats can actually trigger the binge response so instead of saving a few hundred calories to enjoy an extra or special treat, you end up eating a lot more because you have set yourself firmly in a scarcity mindset. Any you go a bit crazy with the food. For me, it was years before I realized that I ate less when I know I could enjoy foods any time I wanted them. They were abundant and I did not need to eat 8 croissants at a time just because I was going to restrict them later. Instead, when I wanted one, I enjoyed it. I love them. I consume less than 8 a year now though. Mindset is everything.
- KEEP TO YOUR REGULAR SCHEDULE. Hold to your regular routines and schedules as much as possible. The three key ones are your eating schedule or pattern, your movement routine, and your sleep schedule! Keeping these (and any that contribute to your self-care) are key to keeping your energy and mood elevated and balanced and go a long way in the mindset necessary to continue working your goals and the ability to enjoy the holiday season with as little stress (or guilt later on)!
- ENLIST A HOLIDAY HELPER. This can be a therapist or coach, a friend (who knows your journey and will not be a saboteur) or a support group. sharing your worries as well as your goals can be a helpful tool when it comes to accountability or a supportive voice when you need it!
Remember it is a Holiday
Be mindful of the fact that this is Holiday Season. That means the hectic social schedules and abundance of fun foods will pass and you get just get back to your normal. There is no need to internalize guilt or shame as your path to wellness is unique and most are not linear. There is no “wagon to fall off or get back on” so if you indulge more than you had wanted to, tell yourself it is ok. Because it is. Focusing on enjoyment should be a part of life to which we look forward.
Consider the next round of your holidays and starting a new tradition or making over a favorite dish with wellness in mind! You can survive the season without chucking your wellness progress or goals away! I believe in you!
If you or someone you know could use the guidance and expertise of a holistic food relationship coach, contact me here.
Here’s to the Season’s Best to you!
Eating That Doesn’t Satisfy
Many suffer from what is known as emotional or binge eating. They differ in specific triggers or how they became habit, but the commonalities in them make it possible to take them together here in this post. In these conditions food is eaten for soothing, pleasure, or as a distraction from uncomfortable feelings or situations instead of for sustenance as food is intended. It is used as a coping mechanism to alleviate distressful feelings, such as, sadness, pain, depression, anger, boredom and even happy feelings. In an eating event, a lot of calories can be consumed–above and beyond what is considered to be healthful–in a short amount of time.
For me, my binge eating was triggered by restrictive eating (READ: DIETING) and that need to diet was due to self-esteem and body image beliefs. I would “successfully” restrict foods and lose weight for various lengths of time, only to binge eat, also for various amounts of time, only to regain all lost weight and then some. This yo-yo diet cycle last for YEARS.
Emotional or binge eating is much different than eating to satisfy real hunger, and either can be a culprit in undesired weight gain, other health complications, and emotional and psychological distress due to the guilt and shame that it can induce in those who engage in it.
Typically, the emotional or binge eater will choose unhealthy foods, like, ice cream, cookies and other sweets because it is the fat and sugar in them that brings a feeling of contentment and euphoria as they induce reward centers in the brain to release “feel good” chemicals, such as, the body’s natural pain killers, opioids.
Emotional or binge eating can be severe or an occasional occurrence, but for most it becomes a habit, and something that unfortunately they are not even aware exists in their own lives. Old habits die hard as the saying goes, and those who are unaware automatically reach for chips and ice cream when they are distressed or bored.
I experienced this blindness to my own patterns and behaviors until I worked with a coach. It is amazing how easy and completely we can sometimes be unaware of our habits. The brain is really efficient at executing patterns on auto-pilot and I always recommend journaling or tracking as a tool or practice to help you spot patterns yourself.
In order to break free from the cycle of emotional or binge eating, it is crucial to understand how it differs from real physical hunger. This can be trickier than it sounds, because dysfunctional eaters have spent months or years perfecting the craft of using food to deal with feelings, and are typically completely out of touch with their body’s actual need for food or what that feels like.
Since emotional hunger is a powerful thing, it is important to assess the signs and take a deep look at your own behavior should you be looking to stop the cycle of emotional eating and binge eating. Not to be cliche, but knowing really is half the battle in developing health habits, and no other habit has the impact that eating does on your overall wellness!
Emotional Versus Physical Hunger
The biggest area of concern is eating when your body is not really hungry. A shift in my mindset was considering the follwoing analogy: do you fill your gas tank up when it is empty (or even a little low) or when it is full? When you do, do pump until the gas is spilling out o987Our bodies are vessels and food is fuel. Eating when you need to is a key practice in getting a handle on your relationship with food and your body.
Emotional Hunger Is Sudden
Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, like an unexpected rain storm on a warm summer day. It is typically an urgent need for food, and it feels overwhelming. Conversely, physical hunger is not that urgent, it is more gradual and also expected, as it comes in anticipated intervals, such as, meal times.
As opposed to physical hunger where a sensible meal will satisfy, including healthy selections like fruits and vegetables, in emotional hunger one has out of control cravings for foods that are high in fat and sugar. The craving is an urgent need, and sometimes feels like it’s something one can’t live without, and only that specific food which is being craved will satisfy.
Guilt And Shame
No one ever feels guilty about eating lunch or breakfast, its sustenance, it’s what humans are supposed to do. But emotional hunger is often marked by feelings of guilt, shame and regret after binge eating because deep down the eater knows that this food was eaten dysfunctional reasons.
Unlike with physical hunger where one sits down to enjoy a meal and savors every bite, emotional hunger is often characterized by mindless eating. Without awareness one can finish a tub of ice cream or a box of cookies without truly realizing how much they have eaten.
Unlike physical hunger, where one stops eating once they are full, emotional hunger is never satisfied. The emotional eater will keep eating and wanting more and more food until they are so stuffed that they feel sick.
Emotional Hunger Is in the Heart
As opposed to physical hunger that is felt in the stomach when there is an absence of food or it is meal time, emotional hunger is in in the mind, and includes imagining the smell, taste and texture of certain foods being craved.
As you can see there is a profound difference between these two types of hunger.
Can you identify any of these in your own eating habits?
For many emotional or binge eating is a habit that encompasses a large part of their life. It is not healthy, not for the body, or the emotional state of one who has fallen victim to this type of dysfunctional behavior.
Help is available.
The key is to identify and become aware of the problem and your own patterns in this regard, and then learn proper coping mechanisms that will eliminate the need to use food for emotional satisfaction.
Stay tuned as I next explore additional types of hunger and how to build new habits that resolve and soothe the hungers in a healthful way.
Do you wait until you feel an aching in your stomach before firing up the grill and cooking dinner and then eat until you are ready to burst? Do you turn to food as a coping mechanism when you feel emotionally overwhelmed? Does chocolate cake or a pizza slice make you feel happy and like you’re on top of the world?
Self-awareness is crucial to a healthy diet and lifestyle, particularly when it comes to what you’re eating and why you’re eating it. In this post, we’ll be discussing three different types of eating (pleasure, emotional, and dysfunctional) and how to overcome each.
Eating For Pleasure
According to Harvard Health, eating for pleasure is sometimes called “hedonic eating.” This type of eating occurs when you crave a particular food because it makes you “feel good,” both physically and emotionally. Pleasure eating is more psychological than physical.
Pleasure eating will come from food triggers, and often, your “guilty pleasures” are unhealthy foods like ice cream or pizza. As you’re eating what you crave, your body will release the hunger hormone called ghrelin. The ghrelin release tells your body that you’re still hungry, even though your stomach is filling up quickly.
Your favorite foods will also activate your brain’s reward system, just like drugs do, forcing the release of feel-good hormones that boost your mood. You learn to love this “high” feeling and turn to the food whenever you want to feel great. This trigger-reward system was created by habit, which luckily means it can be re-wired!
The clear indicators that you’re eating for pleasure are: You eat unhealthy foods, you eat in excess, you feel good afterward, and you have strong cravings that you feel you cannot control or ignore.
We all face strong emotions in life, whether they’re positive or negative. Many people cope with extreme emotions through healthy coping mechanisms like exercise, reading, art, or music. But, according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s not unusual to turn to food for these same benefits.
Here’s how it works.
Something stressful or emotional happens, such as stress on the job, a looming divorce, unemployment, or even your upcoming wedding. Food has always been there for you when people weren’t, so you order your favorite food (pizza, ice cream, burgers, etc.). You begin eating to fill the void, and you continue eating well-after you’re satiated.
To figure out if you’re eating for emotional reasons, think about what happens right before you eat to excess. Are you feeling bored, sad, lonely, or angry? If so, you may be using food to cope with your emotions.
Dysfunctional eating will take the most significant toll on both your physical and emotional health. Rather than eating when you’re hungry, your eating pattern becomes a bit more erratic. Sometimes you go 12 to 48 hours without any type of sustenance (fasting). Other times, you’re consuming meals that contain thousands of calories in a single sitting.
There’s no consistency in your diet or eating patterns.
Most instances of dysfunctional eating will arise in those who have underlying eating disorders. For example, you might be on a 24-hour fast because you believe it’ll help you lose weight quickly and attain your “ideal” figure. Though, binge-eating isn’t uncommon if you’re a dysfunctional eater, as you may still be fighting cravings and food triggers.
The vital sign that your eating is dysfunctional is if you’re always at one extreme or another, whether you’re fasting for days or eating huge meals.
Now that you know why you’re eating what you’re eating, it’s time to do something about these unhealthy dietary patterns. Employing some non-food soothing strategies is a good place to start! These soothers, or coping skills, can help immediately by distracting you from the urge to eat, delaying the eating until you are physiologically hungry, and they disrupt the current pattern so that you can start to replace it with one that works for you.
Most importantly, give your body and mind time to adjust to your new eating patterns —and treat yourself with massive compassion when you give into your urges. Progress is not linear and change doesn’t happen overnight–and it is OKAY!
Self-compassion encourages mindfulness, or noticing your feelings without judgment; self-kindness, or talking to yourself in a soothing way; and common humanity, or thinking about how others might be suffering similarly.Rachel Simmons
To grab a helpful toolkit to help you plan out your soothers and try ones until something works, just click on the image below.
Mindful Eating is Mindfulness
As a Food Relationship expert, I use mindful eating as a tool or skill to help break through beliefs and blocks surrounding our relationships with food and our bodies. But as mindful eating is just an extension of mindfulness, flexing in that area primes you for all mindfulness practices–especially gratitude practices.
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is scientifically supported with benefits for the mind, body, and spirit. In particular it has been found to be a extremely useful in stress reduction and in increasing overall positivity, happiness, and an attitude of gratitude.
So, it stands to reason that mindful eating is way to boost your health. It most certainly can! It is a very effective tool to get in touch with your body’s hunger and fullness cues, learn what food make you feel great (and not so great), cultivates gratitude for food, and can result in increased consumption of quality food–to name a few!
Mindful eating can be tough to practice during the holidays, as we rush between holiday parties and recitals and family gatherings. More on that later. I wanted to take a moment to talk about how gratitude can have some of the same benefits; after all, it is the season of giving, and there is no better giving than thanksgiving!
As we get into the groove of the holidays, we can endeavor to be ever-mindful of the best of the season, and the best of people.
“Thankfulness creates gratitude, which generates contentment that causes peace.”— Todd Stocker
Emotions, Feelings, and Thoughts-Oh, My!
Emotions can bottle up inside you, but you don’t have to let them. You can master your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and learn to let them out in positive ways, so they don’t cause you stress and harm.
I work with some pretty awesome folks who somewhere along the way let their emotions rule their heads and then bellies and then lives. It doesn’t take much for that to happen. It happened to me and developing a mindfulness based practice was instrumental in helping me get back in control
Mindfulness begets thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness begets reflection. Reflection begets possibilities. Belief in the possibilities is where the change in action and growth happen. It is really quite remarkable how the world looks to you when your perspective changes. It is all in your mind!
One of the best ways to improve your health and handle your emotions is by expressing your gratitude. Yes, really!
- help relieve stress
- treat heart disease
- lower blood pressure
- reduce chronic pain
- improve sleep
- alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties. This is also a benefit of mindful eating!
Let’s look at some intentional gratitude practices that can help you get your Zen on and be healthier!
Season of Gratitude
Ask yourself: What are you thankful for? Who matters in your life? Even when life may not be going as planned, there are still many things to be grateful for.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”–Eckhart Tolle
Give Your Gratitude Away
No matter how much you appreciate someone in your life, that person may not have any idea about how you feel. Rather than just assume they know your thoughts and feelings, go ahead and speak up. Tell them how you really feel and what’s in your heart.
See the smile? It feels good, doesn’t it? When you smile back, laugh, and even share tears of joy and love, it helps your heart, mind, and body thrive. It releases a flood of chemicals that your body just loves. It’s a “feel-good” thing to do. That’s true for both you and the receiver of your gratitude.
Maybe you’re grateful for something you have, as opposed to a person. Did you ever think about sending a thankful message to the company that makes the products you love? They probably hear all about customer complaints, but how much gratitude do they get for the work they’ve done to make lives better or more convenient? Give them some of your gratitude and you’ll spread joy all around!
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”-William Arthur Ward
Ways to Show Your Gratitude
Showing gratitude is something you can do quite easily and all it costs you is a little bit of time and effort.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Tell your loved ones you care for them.
- Hug a friend who’s hurting.
- Smile at a stranger.
- Write to a company whose product or service you really love.
- Make time to listen to someone who needs to talk.
- Spend some time out in nature, appreciating the beauty of creation.
- Volunteer your services or help someone in need.
You can also show your gratitude just for being alive by treating others well and being kind to yourself. Relaxing and taking time to unwind from the stress of everyday life is very important, and you’ll be happier and healthier because of it.
Focus on What Really Matters
Many people are unhappy with their circumstances, and it’s often because they feel they don’t have enough money, a big house, or the ultimate car. These things are nice, but in the grand scheme of things, they don’t really matter. After all, when you’re on your deathbed, will you wish you had that red Ferrari? Or will you wish that you had more time with your loved ones?
“Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices.”-Robert Braathe
Connect with what really matters by being grateful for all you’ve been given.
There will be obstacles and stumbling blocks in life, but there is joy all around you as well. When you tap into that joy, keep a positive attitude, and show how grateful you are, you’ll prove that you’re able to let go of unnecessary baggage. It’s a great feeling, and one that you can give yourself, today, right now. What a wonderful thing to be grateful for!
Hopefully, you have been inspired to not only explore mindfulness, but also to freely express your gratitude this season and all year!
If you are interested in learning more about Mindful Eating as way to cultivate mindfulness and to develop a better relationship with food and yourself, grab a freebie about how to get started here!
In the Beginning
I was working in non-profit management and asked for a raise. They said no. I gave my notice. I had a month to figure out how I was going to take my side hustle to a full time business. The next few weeks I spent convincing myself I was not crazy so I got a business coach and promised my husband if I could not get it going in a few months I would find a new job. Outwardly, I smiled and laughed and spoke to this overwhelming sense of relief. Man, I had to get up and do the damn thang!
I was scrambling. Imposter syndrome was an understatement. I was fortunate to have found some clients for some personal training that was bringing in some income (not enough!) and I had stayed on with the non-profit teaching some fitness classes. I had some other random writing gigs that carried me but the looming threat of having to work outside of my passion was the match I needed to light a fire under this arse. Two months out from a full-time check, I decided it was time to get out there in a big way. FAST.
It is not over by any means. I am looking to change the lives of women like me–or like I was once. Lying awake at night worried about if I could eat the last piece of lasagna without waking folks up. Or scared that if I did not get my eating under control I would develop all the diseases and die too early to see my daughter grow up.
My why is simple, as you may have guessed. I am a recovered binge eater. I had the help and support of a phenomenal coach and I honor her memory every time I give a tip or help another women live free from food rules and move throughout this glorious life with more joy. When women are balanced and well, we lift other up. There is a power in helping other women!
Ladies, if you need some skilled, empathetic, non-judgmental support, reach out to me right here.
I believe that you have the inner strength to be your own hero!
Meal Prep Saves Lives
Or so it does, IMHO. I got started for the same reason a lot of folks do–to manage (or perhaps lose weight). But that was years ago, and I escaped the hold of diet culture, meal planning and prepping stayed with me. One reason is I enjoy it. My husband enjoys cooking, and the girls both love cooking programs and often have ideas about what to try (the big one) and what not to try (the little one)!
As you get savvier with meal prepping, you’ll often learn tips and tricks that help you to get things done quicker. As a newbie meal prepper, it can feel like you spend forever in the kitchen – usually because you’re not aware of the hacks that can cut your prep time! This was certainly the case for me! Now with tools like social media and groups (mine is here), a rookie can benefit from others and deeply cut the learning curve and get right to a sustainable–and hopefully enjoyable–routine!
These tried and tested meal prep hacks should help you to cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen and prep super healthy meals in less time.
Two Planning Non-Negotiables
Gather the Recipes! I am too embarrassed to mention how many times I started prepping without a roadmap or recipes! When you start out, this is necessary. When you’re meal prepping for the week ahead, you don’t want to be hunting high and low for your go-to recipes. Save yourself tons of time by collecting together your tried-and-tested or still-to-come recipes in a swipe file that you can go to whenever you need.
Use the wisdom of theme nights (they need to make sense for your family and schedule!) Theme nights abound–Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, etc. If your family likes certain types of food create or search for a theme for each night of the week so that you can easily ‘rinse and repeat’ each week. It will make pulling the plan together so much easier and faster so that you can prep things that will use some overlapping ingredients or leftovers! Honorable Mention: having adequate food storage containers and space in the refrigerator!
Pre prepared foods can be a game changer
While it’s great to do as much as you can from scratch when you’re meal prepping, some pre prepared foods can be a huge help for cutting time spent in the kitchen. Spiralized zucchini or squash noodles can be super healthy and convenient, for example. And frozen fruits and veggies are usually just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts and have the added bonus of being super handy.
Don’t be afraid to use some pre prepared options to save you time, especially where fruits and veggies are concerned. Just be a little warier of the more processed options. Pre prepared sauces can be pretty processed, for example.
Prep veggies early on
When you come back from the grocery store, start prepping your veggies for meals to come. Stash them in the refrigerator or freezer until you need them and they’ll be good to go for cooking stir fries, pasta dishes and anything else that uses veggies. This can save tons of time later in the week, not to mention less stress!
Bulk buy meat when it’s on offer
Buying meat when it’s on offer and stashing it in the freezer for when you need it is super useful for your budget, as well as helping you to get more organized. It also means less time in the grocery store.
Batch cook as much as possible
Planning to have soups or curries as part of your meal plans one week? Cook up a big batch in one go, either in a slow cooker or in a big pot on the stove. From there, it’s super easy to portion it up and freeze it for later in the week.
Grains are another one that can easily be cooked ahead of time too. Prepping and cooking them in one batch means you can repurpose them for lunches and dinners throughout the week, with minimal effort. They just need to be heated up later in the week for hot meals, or they can be left cold for salads.
One pan dinners are your friend
One easy way to spend less time in the kitchen when you’re meal prepping? Cut down on the amount of pans you use! One pan dinners are perfect for this. When you’re pushed for time or just want to have less mess, look for one pan dinner inspiration!
Repurpose your leftovers
If you usually find that you have leftovers after you’ve prepped meals, making good use of them can free up more time. With some creativity and forward planning, you can repurpose leftovers for another day and spend less time on meal prepping. Sounds awesome, right? It’s all about mindset and always asking yourself how you can use leftovers to create another lunch, dinner or snack.
You can also create “planned” leftovers by intentionally cooking more than you need so that you know you’ll have food left to use on future days. You definitely don’t have to use the extra food you cook in the same way (not unless you genuinely intend to have the same meal again for lunch the next day) and there’s plenty of scope for getting creative. Just cook a bit more rice or prep a bit more veg than you actually need and have some ideas in mind for what you’ll do with it.
An easy way to make any leftovers look instantly more appealing? Add a fried or poached egg on top.
Meal Plan and Prep Tips
This week in the FB group, we are looking at Meal Prep and will be discussing the ways to to use it for convenience and to support health and wellness goals (bonus: Meal planning saves MONEY, HONEY!) If you would like to take bite-sized steps, join us here!