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Eating is Messy

Eating – it’s something we have to do to survive and yet it often becomes so complicated. I remember when I started teaching yoga in the evenings around dinner time. I struggled with “When do I eat? Before yoga and risk feeling too full and uncomfortable in the poses? After yoga when I’m tired and just want to go to sleep?” My clients often struggle with when to eat as their busy daily schedule doesn’t always permit them to eat when they are hungry. When should I eat if I can’t eat when I’m hungry? 

The complexity of food timing often means that we eat when we are, in fact, NOT hungry.

Or worse – we eat for comfort, support, connection, love, healing…

As mindful & intuitive eating practices become more well-known and accepted, I fear the term “emotional eating” has become villainized. Intuitive eating encourages us to honor our hunger with food and honor our feelings without food. These are fantastic guidelines and, when possible, are quite beneficial in breaking a restrict/binge cycle.  Lately, however, I find myself cringing when I hear or read about the faultiness of emotional eating & and the rewards of mindful & intuitive eating. Often the promise is still steeped in the diet mentality. It reads something like this: If you follow this “wellness program”  you will feel better and “may” lose weight (but of course that’s not the goal because we don’t promote weight loss because we are a wellness program). Ah, sneaky sneaky.

The complexity of knowing when & why to eat only became more apparent for me when I had my baby girl, Kassidy (now 11 months!).  She is a strictly breast-fed baby (refused to take a bottle) and she seemed to nurse 24/7 for the first 3 months. The more I reached out to moms in real life, (not the internet) I discovered I wasn’t alone – most newborns nurse nearly constantly. But she can’t possibly be hungry ALL THE TIME?! As a new mom, I was now responsible for not only figuring out if I was hungry and when to eat, but now I had to figure out if my baby was hungry and when to feed her. I soon realized how completely defenseless this baby was and that I held all the power. If I deemed that she couldn’t possibly be hungry because she just ate, I would fight to find other ways to soothe, comfort, love and connect with her.  Sometimes it worked. Sometimes she kept crying for what felt like hours (but was probably 10 minutes) until I nursed her. She was doing the unthinkable, the forbidden – emotionally eating.

My baby spent nearly the first 8 months of her life emotionally eating. Of course, she was receiving necessary calories for growth, but most of the time she wanted the comfort, love, support and connection that accompanied nursing. (I strongly believe bottle fed babies have the same emotional attachment, but I don’t have personal experience). There are certainly “experts” who would argue that after 3 months (or even younger) that a baby should only eat for nutrients, but I think most would agree that a baby needing food for comfort is “normal” and “acceptable”.

I can’t help but wonder then, why is it okay for food to also provide love, soothing, comfort and connection in addition to nutrition when we are babies, but not as we get older? Why is emotional eating getting such a bad rap? The message we get from an early age is that it’s bad to eat for reasons other than hunger. When we “catch” ourselves emotionally eating, we are ashamed so we numb out and typically eat more than we would have to begin with because the guilt is overwhelming.

What if emotional eating could ALSO be mindful and intuitive? What if we didn’t have to choose between being emotional, mindful or intuitive?

GUIDELINES FOR BEING AN EMOTIONAL, MINDFUL & INTUITIVE EATER WITHOUT SHAME & GUILT
1) HONOR YOUR EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL HUNGER – Sometimes we aren’t physically hungry, but we still want food. Sometimes we are able to recognize that we are bored, so we engage in an activity or we are tired, so we sleep. BUT sometimes even when we aren’t physically hunger, we still really want to eat. If you aren’t physically hungry, but you want to eat, can you stay in the present moment and identify what it is that you are feeling without judgement?
2) ONCE YOU’VE IDENTIFIED WHAT YOU ARE FEELING, STAY HONEST WITH YOURSELF – Perhaps you are able to identify that you feel frustrated and you want to eat pretzels. You know you aren’t physically hungry for pretzels, but you still really want pretzels. Instead of denying yourself pretzels, give yourself full permission to eat the pretzels because you are frustrated. You may even say out loud “I am eating pretzels because I am feeling frustrated” or “I feel frustrated, I want pretzels”. This is so important because you aren’t checking out, numbing out, or using food as a weapon. You are staying present with what you are feeling and being intentional in your choice to eat. Stay connected to the part of you that is needing something. If you are eating brownies because you are sad and need to feel loved – stay connected to the part of you that needs to feel loved and acknowledge it fully.
3) CONTINUE TO OFFER YOURSELF PERMISSION, COMPASSION AND ACCEPTANCE – Remind yourself that eating while NOT hungry is okay. Eating isn’t destructive – denying that you are eating and denying your feelings is destructive.  You deserve love, compassion and acceptance. You have permission to eat whatever you want without fear. Sometimes a bubble bath, a hug, a walk, a call to a friend is exactly what we need when we are experiencing difficult emotions. But the honest truth is sometimes the answer is food. Notice when you give yourself permission to have whatever you want, if it’s easier to stay present with what you are feeling – whatever you are feeling in that moment. Continue to offer yourself compassion and acceptance, and you may find you are free from shame and guilt, thus allowing yourself to avoid a binge/restrict cycle.
Eating is complex. Eating is complicated. Eating is messy. But it is also joyful, pleasurable, fun, soothing, comforting & nourishing for the body and soul. There isn’t a right or a wrong way to eat. Eating isn’t a punishment nor is it punishable. Our relationships to food are emotional – let’s not pretend that they aren’t and then be surprised when we eat for comfort.  You are an emotional being – there will be times when you eat for some reason other than hunger. Practice patience, kindness and acceptance and you will find exactly what you are hungering for physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

PS I am currently offering a free BodyWisdom Coaching Session. Contact me to set up your free session – sessions are done over the phone so you can live anywhere!

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Restoring Vulnerability

Restoring Vulnerability

This month, I continue to find myself repeating, discussing and reviewing two words: Restoration and Vulnerability.

Restorationthe act or process of returning something to its original or improved condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc. 

As we begin to transition from winter to spring, I find that I am in need of restoration before I can March forward.  You, too, may feel expected to March On and Spring Forward without attuning to your needs, without sweeping out the inner cobwebs. Giving yourself permission to restore might feel too luxurious, when in fact, it is necessary for endurance and fortitude.

Restoration might look like:

  • Taking a Restorative Yoga Class at your local studio, or listening to a yoga podcast or DVD at home.
  • Meditating (even just 2 minutes)
  • Mindfulness – paying attention on purpose without judgment.
  • Taking a relaxing shower or bath
  • Receiving a massage or facial.
  • Diffusing Essential Oils

What are ways that you restore your body, mind and spirit?

When I review all the ways that I can restore myself, I notice that these same acts of restoration also help me practice vulnerability. When I am feeling restored, I am better able to be compassionate, empathetic, kind, loving, honest and authentic. When I am restored and vulnerable, I can connect and share with others on a deeper more, intimate level. Over the last few months, I’ve been more honest and forthcoming with others. I tell people how I’m really doing, and guess what? When I am vulnerable, it allows others to become more vulnerable, honest and authentic. When I tell the truth about how I am really doing (not just what I think they want to hear)  they tend to do the same…and I don’t feel so alone.

You may have been taught that vulnerability is weakness, but in recent years, researcher Brene Brown is showing us that vulnerability is courage and that being vulnerable actually brings us more joy.

 “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Brené Brown

Check out her amazing TEDTalks for more insight on vulnerability. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability/transcript?language=en

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Let’s take a risk together this month and March toward Restoring Vulnerability. You might even find you become restored to an improved condition!

P.S. Join me April 2nd for Strength and Grace Yoga Workshop at Downtown Yoga. Register at www.pleasantonyoga.com

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Community of Compassion

This past weekend, I had the immense privilege to attend and present at the 25th Annual Renfrew Center Conference in Philadelphia. I could go on and on about the unbelievable presenters and how much I learned about eating disorders, trauma, feminism, and quantum physics  (pretty awesome conference, huh?), but instead I will say simply that I left on Sunday with a renewed sense of community – a community of compassion, love and belonging.

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I was invited to commune, collaborate and celebrate all weekend long! By Sunday, I felt that I truly belonged. The feeling of belonging is not a feeling I take for granted, nor is it a feeling I know everyone experiences. When we feel we belong, even just for a moment, we feel safe, cared for, protected and like ‘everything’s going to be okay’. This type of belonging isn’t one of ‘fitting in’ and peer pressure, but one of deep contentment and acceptance. When we feel like we belong, our fears, insecurities, faults and flaws seem a little smaller, not so overwhelming. When others love and accept us, it’s easier to practice compassion with ourselves.  When we have a community, our authenticity, vulnerability and imperfections are welcomed with open arms. When we have a community, we have a home.

When do you do you feel safe, loved, and accepted? Who helps you feel safe, loved and accepted? How do you create a community of compassion?