Making changes in your diet to support your health can be tricky. Often it involves breaking old habits and instating new ones, and most of the time this process pulls up a whole host of emotions and mental resistance. Our egos have dozens of reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t make a change, even when our intuition knows that it is necessary. We are literally blocking our own paths towards better health.
I speak from experience. As I’ve struggled with different issues over the past years, I became obsessed with getting a diagnosis. Last year, when I saw a functional medicine doctor after months of no energy, not being able to get up in the morning, anxiety, and a lost period to name a few, I was actually let down when I didn’t receive a single formal diagnosis.
I was subconsciously looking for a diagnosis to take away my own responsibility and accountability for the situation. I was looking for something to blame, and a clear-cut solution or protocol to then recover from it.
The truth was, I had to be responsible for my own health. Because diagnosis or not, I was the only one responsible for where I had ended up, and I was the only one who could turn things around again.
It was a really disheartening thought at first, until I mentally flipped a switch and allowed it to become empowering.
The problem a lot of people have, myself included, is you start identifying with your health issues. They become a part of your identity, and it can become incredibly hard to distance yourself from it. Whatever your symptoms are, they become the excuse you can use for not fully living your life.
You might not know where to start when making changes and it could all seem very overwhelming. It’s OK to not have the answers, but remember that someone out there does have the knowledge to help you. There is no excuse for not seeking out the resources, whether that’s a book or a practitioner, in order to start taking steps forward.
Don’t let your health define you, define your health yourself. The most difficult, but best thing you can do for yourself is to accept the accountability for your health. And remember, you deserve and you have the ability to live a vibrant, energetic life.
I think many of us are guilty of putting off certain things until something about our circumstances changes. Oftentimes that thing is happiness; “I’ll be happy once I lose these last ten pounds” or “I’ll be happy once I can leave this job”. How often have you thought: “I’ll be/do ‘x’ once ‘y’ happens”?
Why should we wait?
Why should living our best life wait until some arbitrary thing happens, when we could be living that life right now?
We don’t need those arbitrary events to have happened in order to feel those feelings in this moment. What can you do immediately to already tap into that emotion?
For me, that looked like going out and buying some new clothes that fit properly and made me feel good, rather than wearing old things that no longer fit well. Sure, my ego took a hit, but it was a quick band-aid to rip off and it stopped the story that went through my head each morning as I got dressed.
It also looks like trying to incorporate aspects into my routine that I was telling myself I didn’t have time for. I’d allowed obligations like work, commuting, etc. to become reasons why I couldn’t make time for other things I was passionate about. This is a story I struggle with everyday.
Convincing myself that I have an abundance of time is the hardest thing I’ve attempted to do. But if you don’t believe it, then you definitely won’t have it.
Really, it’s just easier sometimes to snooze that alarm, or watch another show on Netflix. And then suddenly your day is gone and all you’ve done is reinforced the story you have been telling yourself.
Trying to change that story is hard. This is definitely not a how-to post, because I am still trying to figure this one out.
All I do know is that I can live my best life now, there is nothing to wait for, and I’m determined not to miss a single second of it.
Things have been pretty quiet from me the last couple weeks. And it has been quiet in a very literal sense – I have been recovering from a dental surgery that actually meant I was not allowed to talk for several days! But during this time of recovery, there was also a lot of opportunity for reflection; especially on the challenges in eating in a way that would support my body’s healing process.
From what I have learned so far, there are two main parts to intuitive eating:
1. Eating when you are hungry, stop when you are full, and
2. Listening and understanding what foods your body wants and what cravings mean
Through mindfulness, I’ve been able to improve greatly on point number one. This is partly by creating meals that are balanced, with a good serving of satiating protein and fat, and by also by paying attention while I am eating and learning to recognize again the signals that I am full. What I still struggle with is the mid-afternoon snack craving, either due to stress/overwhelm that tend to hit me at that time of day, or boredom. In both cases, I find this time of day for me to be highly unproductive and have me reaching into my drawer for a snack more often than not. I’m still trying to figure out what I need to do to get myself back into alignment and focused to continue my day.
However, a couple lessons I’ve learned recently are more about the second point, about making those day-to-day choices when you face certain cravings. During the days following my surgery I could only eat soft, cold foods for several days. I prepared myself beforehand and had several nutritious choices at hand like mashed sweet potato, (cold) scrambled eggs, avocado, pate, and plenty of smoothies.
The best indulgence during this time though was luxurious, cold ice cream. Not only was it a great treat, but the cold temperature soothed my healing mouth like nothing else. I had a bowl everyday for four days during recovery. And then something happened on the fifth day – I really did not want to eat anymore ice cream. The thought literally turned my stomach! By allowing myself this indulgence, at a certain point I just didn’t want it anymore.
The second lesson I learned taught me to understanding my cravings at a deeper level. I was still on my soft, cold food diet, when we were trying to decide what to have for dinner. My plan was to finish my leftover sweet potato with tomato-meat sauce; my boyfriend and mom had decided to pick up pizza. Slowly, my mind changed from having my own dinner, to sharing a pizza with my mom, to looking at the menu and deciding to get my own pizza. And what ended up happening? I didn’t even enjoy the pizza that much. Now that I think back on it, it wasn’t that I was craving pizza, but more that my own food choice was not doing it for me and I suffered from food envy. I would have been better coming up with a different option all together, which would have left me feeling more nourished and happier about my choices.
What I have learned is how important it is to dissect my cravings before making a decision, and at the same time, my body and palette will let me know when I didn’t listen properly. Am I craving a greasy, fried meal, like the infamous Belgian fries and mayonnaise? Probably I need a good serving of healthy fats in my next meal! Am I craving a slice of pizza? Instead, I need to look at how can I get that combination of flavours in a way that would better suit my nutritional needs.
The intuitive eating journey is a continuous one, and there is always something new to learn about yourself. Do you struggle with intuitive eating? What are your challenges?
Back in the last week of December, I spent a lot of time reflecting and working through Danielle LaPorte’s book, Desire Map. Her philosophy is less to do with goal planning and resolution setting, and more to discovering the deep rooted feelings that you are ultimately trying to achieve. Only once these are determined, do you move forward with the planning and goal setting side of things.
I found it such an amazing, challenging, uncomfortable, and joyful experience, all rolled into one. You need to dig deep to truly find the answers and sometimes the questions (and answers) are hard. But you come out the other side feeling positive, motivated, and seeing your life in a new way.
One of my core desired feelings (as they are called) was Abundance. This was reflecting my desire for abundance in many part of my life, but the biggest one was clearly an Abundance of Energy. Over the last years, my energy levels have been on such a roller coaster, and I just want to feeling like I have endless energy again to do all the things I want to do in a day.
When exploring this deeper, I was trying to do things like sleep more (which meant going from 7.5-8 hours a night up to 9), eat as healthy as possible, manage my stress better (keep meditating) and transition back to exercising again. The last one was the hardest, how to exercise for energy when you have no energy to exercise? I was trying all these things, but I just didn’t feel any improvement.
Without this goal of abundance in mind, at the same time I was learning more about the law of attraction through one of my favourite podcasts, The Lively Show. The really basic idea is that like attracts like, and by having the mindset and experiencing the world in the same way that you would if you have already received the things that you desire, you are more likely to attract them to you. It’s totally woo-woo, but I loved it, and it really clicked for me. Definitely go and check out the podcast to dive deeper into all of this!
So I started adding envisioning into my meditations. I imagined situations in the future, maybe just the day ahead, or even future milestones in my life and career, and really let myself feel the emotions of those moments. And in doing so, a wave of peace and contentment would wash over me.
Without expecting it, I started to have more energy! Every step during my day was a step towards those things I was picturing, even though I didn’t yet understand the HOW of it. I was motivated to jump into whatever I was working on, because even if I didn’t recognize it immediately, everything had the potential to teach me something, or to provide that aha moment that might bring the HOW more into focus. I knew what I was moving towards, and every day the path ahead would become a little more clear.
In the end, it wasn’t just about making “healthy” choices in my day to day life (although these things still remain super important!). But for me it was all about mindset. You can do all the healthful things you want, but if you are dragging yourself from one to the other, you won’t get there. It’s still up and down, life throws things at you and sometimes you get pushed back further than you would like. But overall I can’t believe the difference I have felt in just the past few weeks alone. What’s clear to me know – you can’t effort your way there.
Back on January first, I gave a lot of thought to whether or not I wanted to make any New Year’s Resolutions. Last year, I made up quite a list of things I wanted to accomplish or create habits of my life, and to be honest I don’t think I achieved a single thing on that list.
I often struggle with personal goals, as being an Obliger means I generally need external accountability to truly hold me to something. While I have been able to get some healthy habits started in the last months (which are far from perfect, but still going well!), this is more the exception that makes the rule.
That being said, I did make one resolution that in the end has helped me both health-wise as well as financially – to no longer buy food from our company canteen.
When I first mentioned it to my colleagues (to get that external accountability going!) they naturally asked why I didn’t just take the healthier options available, like the salad bar. If only it were that easy… Despite many times trying to moderate myself on the canteen offerings, I’ve just learned when it comes to the willpower to resist the fries at the hot meal station, I just cannot consistently do it! For me and fries, it’s all or nothing. The good thing is, this decision comes with the added bonus of eating less meat from questionable origins and sauces with mysterious additives.
It’s not always been easy – we don’t have any alternate lunch options in the area, so by choosing not to eat in the canteen it means I have to bring my lunch every day. Some lunches have been more inspired than others, but so far I am on track, even if it means throwing together all the loose bits in the fridge first thing in the morning to achieve it!
Other than the external accountability of announcing my decision to my colleagues (because let’s be honest, they probably don’t remember this proclamation anymore anyway), I have one other lever to help ensure my success. At my company we have to load our security badges with money to then pay for the canteen or the vending machines. So by not putting any money on my card, I force myself to stick to my resolution! Or at least, if I were to break it, it would have to be much more intentional than just mentally trying to stay away from the fries 😉
This isn’t to say that I am suddenly eating amazingly healthy, in fact it depends on what our dinner was the night before. But we generally try to cook with high quality ingredients, and at least I know where my food is then coming from. But sometimes lunch is the leftover pizza we decided to pick up from the amazing pizza truck parked nearby on Sunday evenings. Or I’ll still eat fries sometimes if we go out to eat. And I’m OK with all of that!