Present Perfect Wellness

Holistic Health and Intuitive Eating

Shouldn’t Intuitive Eating Be Easy?

The big idea behind intuitive eating is that we all have inner wisdom about how to eat in a way that is best for us.  So there’s this tendency for people to think, “Ok, so all I need to do is stop listening to diet rules and start listening to my body, and I’ll stop being out of control around food.”  They try it for awhile and it doesn’t work out.  Then, they decide that either their intuition is broken or intuitive eating just doesn’t work, and they give up.

In the past I’ve shared with you some of the reasons why intuitive eating doesn’t work out.  (Here’s that post, in case you missed it.)  In this post I’m going to focus more on what it takes to become a successful intuitive eater:

  1. Immerse yourself in intuitive eating media.  Read books, blogs, and articles.  Watch videos.  There’s so much to learn!  (Follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds for links to the latest.)
  2. Find community.  Whether it’s online or in person, connect with others who are working on intuitive eating.
  3. Practice mindfulness, self-care, and self-compassion.
  4. Do your homework.  There are lots of practices that reconnect you with your inner intuitive eater.  (Here’s an easy one to start with.)  Intuitive eating is a thing you learn by doing.
  5. Get help.  Work with an intuitive eating coach.  Lots of coaches (including myself) offer free consultations to figure out if you’re a good match before getting started.

Does that seem like a lot?  It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but I have come up with a great way to help you get started more quickly.  I’ve created an online course through Udemy that will offer you all five of these things!

The course includes:

  • Short but sweet lessons by me on reconnecting with your intuition
  • Homework activities that have worked best for my successful clients
  • Discussion boards where you can connect with other intuitive eaters
  • Access to a certified intuitive eating coach without the cost of coaching

As a thank you to my loyal blog readers I’m offering a limited time discount of $79- 39% off the original price.  To get the discount you can follow this link or use the code “BlogReader” for my course “Intuitive Eating: Fix Your Relationship with Food” on Udemy.com

*Offer expires Friday 12/19/14

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Don’t “Just”

So there’s this human tendency to want to oversimplify a complicated matter.  I like to think of it as “just-ing.”  For example: “I just need to stop eating so many pastries from the coffee shop and then I’ll like the way I look.” or “I just need to start going to bed earlier and then I’ll stop feeling tired all the time.”

As if your own inner dialogue weren’t helpful enough, you probably have lots of other people just-ing you.  You tell your friend that you can’t stop eating sweets and she answers, “You just need to go on a juice cleanse.”  You read the food blog that promises a solution to your digestive issues and it tells you, “You just need to stop eating grains.”

When you try to “just” do the thing and it doesn’t work, you look for another just.  “I’m just too lazy.”  “I just need to try again.”  “I just didn’t do it right.”  “There’s just no hope for me!”

Why do we fall into this kind of thought pattern?  It seems to start with uncertainty.  Uncertainty is uncomfortable for us.  We don’t like it.  We want things to be simple, clear, and easy.

Now, some things are simple, clear, and easy.  Because that works so well for us, we tend to pay those things no mind, and instead focus on trying to make the complicated, muddy, and challenging things not be what they are.

Then there’s this weird thing that happens:  Telling yourself that you are “just too lazy” or “just not trying hard enough” makes you feel bad about yourself, right?  But at the same time, there’s also a comfort in feeling like you have an explanation for what happened.  You’re not left with the discomfort of “That didn’t work and I don’t know why.”

As a coach I spend a lot of time with clients exploring this space of uncertainty.  What I’ve learned is that you can only figure things out when you’re ready to figure them out.  Insight cannot be forced.  But you can support the process.  Here’s how:

  1. Watch out for “just” and oversimplifying.  Get in the habit of responding, “or maybe there’s more to the situation.”
  2. Practice sitting with uncertainty.  Breathe into it.  It’s ok not to have the answers.
  3. Stay curious and non-judgmental.  “Hmm… I wonder what’s going on here.”
  4. Remember “bigger picture” goals.  When we get caught up in behaviors sometimes we forget our overall goal of wellness.
  5. Experiment.  Try out different ways of moving towards your goals.  Learn from what happens.

When it comes to changing your health and well-being, there is no “just.”  If you make friends with uncertainty, you’ll realize that the state of “not knowing” is an exciting opportunity to try out different ways of being.

You can read more about the change process here.

Looking for help with intuitive eating, joyful movement, and body acceptance?  Sign up to receive your free Intuitive Living Guide.

Sign up for free tips to get you started!

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How to stop wanting foods that are bad for you

We’ve all been there:  The food is calling to you, begging you to eat it.  But you know that if you eat it, it’ll be one moment of heaven followed by heaping piles of guilt.  On the other hand, if you don’t eat it, you’ll feel virtuous… but also deprived and pouty.  There are only two choices, and both of them suck!

Whether you’re dealing with food intolerances, digestive issues, or just compulsive eating, you’ve probably wasted a lot of time wishing you could be the kind of person who only wants to eat foods that are good for them.  You probably think those people were born that way, and you’re right!  What you might not know is that you were born an intuitive eater, too, and you can get back to being one.

So, how can you get started?

  1. Stop lecturing yourself.  We know from studies that kids are less inclined to eat foods when we tell them they are healthy, and more drawn to foods we label “unhealthy.”  Guess what?  Your inner child is alive and kicking and does not want to hear it either.
  2. Stop moralizing.  When you think of foods or eating habits as “good” or “bad,” you see your eating choices as making you into a good or bad person.  Food does not have this power unless you give it this power.  No more shame, blame, or guilt!
  3. Stop stressing.  One snack or meal will not make or break your health.  The chronic stress of worrying about food, however, will certainly damage your health.  

Putting aside all the distracting noise in your head about what/when/how to eat leaves you space to do the important work of tuning into your true cravings.  Developing this skill requires practice and patience initially, but over time it allows you to make satisfying and nourishing eating choices with little thought or effort.

So, what does developing this kind of self-awareness look like, in practice?

  • Acknowledge your desires:  For example:  You’re at a birthday party and the cake looks delicious.  Unfortunately it’s not gluten free and you know that gluten doesn’t treat you well.  You want to be able to enjoy eating the cake.  You also want to avoid the headaches, stomach aches, and general badness that seems to result from eating gluten.  Each of these desires is legitimate.
  • Avoid the noise:  If you find yourself having emotionally charged thoughts about what you should or shouldn’t do, or start getting mad at yourself for having legitimate wants, breathe deep and let it go.  You might picture these thoughts as clouds that dissolve as the sun hits them and the breeze sweeps them away, or dirty water swirling down the drain.  These thoughts are not worth your time.
  • Dig deeper:  The reasons we want to eat can be more complicated than we realize.  For example:  You might want to eat birthday cake just because it tastes good, but there’s probably more to it.  We tend to associate birthday cake with good feelings of celebration, special indulgence, and belonging.  The more you know about what you want out of an eating experience, the more you will be able to figure out how to get what you want in other ways, that don’t include the downsides.
  • Honor your choice:  Whether you choose to eat or not eat, acknowledge that you are doing your best to take care of your wants and needs.  Make room to observe without judgement how you feel emotionally, energetically, and physically after you make your choice.  This neutral observation will help you make better choices in the future.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to observe the effect that food has on you first hand.  Nobody but you knows what it’s like to be in your body.  When you are lost in thinking about how a food might or “should” make you feel, you deny yourself the opportunity to learn first hand how it really does make you feel.  It’s seldom as black and white as the sensationalist nutrition world would have you believe.

How you feel about what you eat is surprisingly important.  Scientists are just beginning to understand how feelings of anxiety and guilt actually affect the way that food is digested and absorbed into the body.  What this means is that our beliefs are powerful and we are in danger of making our fears about eating food come true.

When I was struggling with orthorexia, I made a bold decision to buy myself a bag of Cheetos and see what would happen, trying my best to release judgement.  Imagine my surprise when I ate the whole bag and didn’t implode!  Since then I have done a lot of experimentation with the foods I was previously avoiding (or secretly binging on).  I’ve developed a really strong ability to predict how I will feel after I eat a wide variety of foods.  I find it easy to turn down foods that will make me feel bad because I am more committed to caring for myself than I am to following rules.  When I do make a food choice that leaves me feeling less than awesome, I learn from the experience and feel grateful for the opportunity to learn.

As I always say: If what you’re doing right now isn’t working, what do you have to lose by trying something new?  Try this method out and see what happens.  Post your questions and concerns here or on the Facebook page, and I’ll do my best to get you some answers.

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New Book: Body Respect

“The best nutritionist you know lies within your skin.” -Body Respect

I’m so excited to be on the blog tour for Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor’s newest book, Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Leave Out, Get Wrong and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight and have the opportunity to share an excerpt with you.  Bacon and Aphramor are scientists and HAES experts, and everything in the book is research based, so this is a great book to have on hand when you’re dealing with intuitive eating doubters in your life.  You might want to order an extra copy to send to your mom or your doctor!

“How can someone concerned about health make sense of the debate about whether to eat high-carbohydrate, high-protein, or high-fat? Just how many portions of fruit and veggies do you really need to thrive?”

Their response: “The research regarding the basics of healthy nutrition hasn’t really changed in the past century. The challenge we face now is how to help people unlearn dieting and pursue mindful eating. Paying attention to how your food choices influence your physical well-being and moods will lead you toward choosing a more nutritious diet, and one that works for you. The best nutritionist you know lies within your skin.

If you’re mindful of body signals you’ll find, for example, that you function best with plenty of fiber, so you don’t need to follow some external rule about fiber consumption. You’ll find out how you feel if you regularly have meals low in carbs, or start drinking water more regularly. Your body really does know best when it comes to getting what it needs to sustain itself; your job is to listen carefully and respectfully and trust what you feel.

Feel drawn to foods that aren’t optimal for your health? Like we pointed out with sugary foods, the first step to responding to these drives may surprise you. Let yourself eat them! Like most “forbidden fruits,” eating something that’s allowable isn’t nearly as tempting as eating something deemed off limits. The research shows that both children and adults actually eat less “junk” food when it’s permitted—and that this “off limit” approach to parental restriction of food backfires in the long run.

If you do find yourself caught in the bind of craving foods you think you’d feel better eating less of, rest assured that you’re not destined for a lifetime of fighting the urge. Instead, you can actually change your preferences and tastes over time. For example, your taste buds, and many other sensory cells, constantly regenerate. If you don’t use all your sugar receptors for a few weeks, they don’t regenerate in the same quantity. Then, when you go back to high-sugar foods, they taste sickeningly sweet and less appealing. Foods that are less sweet become more appealing to you. In other words, if you reduce your sugar habit for a bit, you may find it becomes a natural choice in the long run and that high quantities of overly sweet stuff no longer have the same appeal—you don’t have to fight the urge to reach for them, because there isn’t one!

Despite the message of just about every diet plan out there, the path to healthy nutrition is not paved with rigid rules and guilt. They won’t help you make better choices in the long run. Flexibility will serve you well and sustain your long-term pursuit of better health; there is plenty of room for less nutrient-dense choices in a diet that nourishes you. Honoring the pleasure in eating will help you stay satisfied and on track to effortless eating. Also, you can trust that your body is pretty good about making up for those “delicious beyond fullness” decisions when you follow a general pattern of respecting its signals.

So for anyone interested in a “how-to” of getting started with mindful eating, here’s the advice in a nutshell: Honor your body and eat only delicious food. Tune in to hunger and see how it goes when you go to the table hungry but not famished, enjoy your food, and eat until you are satisfied. If emotions arise around your food choices, be gentle with yourself as you acknowledge them. Try to intentionally savor and appreciate what you eat. As you’re attentive to the effect that food has on you, you’ll learn to let this increasingly intuitive knowledge guide your choices. In time, being attentive to the effect food has on you may lead you more toward basing your diet on whole (unprocessed or minimally processed) foods. If you make sure you get plenty of variety, you’ll be getting all the nutrients you need, and you’ll be eating what satisfies you from foods that are less nutrient dense and mainly meet other, non-nutritional roles.”

An excerpt from Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Leave Out, Get Wrong and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor.

What is one way you show your body respect?  Comment below or on our Facebook page for a chance to win a free copy of Body Respect.

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How to Make Real and Lasting Changes

The other day when I was reading the chapter on change in The Rules of “Normal Eating” I had a tragicomic recollection of my first major breakup.  I was 19, struggling with depression, and despite the fact that I had caused this breakup, I was utterly devastated.  I sobbed in the middle of a lecture on the ecology of crops.  I whimpered to my mother over the phone that I didn’t think I could keep living.  But at some point, I became very tired of myself.  I went to a book store and picked up a self-help book.

I was super excited about this book and felt like it contained the keys to being happy in life.  I went from feeling completely miserable to feeling exuberantly joyful in a single day.  Of course, I felt like I needed to tell my ex all about it, to somehow prove to him that I could be a better version of myself than the one that he endured.  He was patient with me at first, but at some point he snapped and told me that he was sick of me being a “living, breathing self-help book.”  It sounds harsh, but I deserved it.  I mistreated him and then lectured him on taking control of his own happiness.  Seriously.

His words knocked me right back on my ass.  I struggled to remember all the empowering words I had read.  My returning misery seemed to prove that I hadn’t changed at all, and thus began a cycle that became very familiar.  First, become unbearably miserable. Then, decide to make a change.  Next, become euphoric about the perceived change.  Inevitably, at some point, the change becomes challenged.  Then, the illusion of change crumbles.  Back to the beginning.

Anyone who’s been on a diet (or twenty) will be familiar with this cycle.  You are so tired of yourself that you become desperate enough to start on a diet.  At first you are full of enthusiasm, following all the rules to a tee and telling everyone how great you feel (or how miserable but at least virtuous).  But of course it falls apart at some point.  You deem yourself lazy and incompetent and give up on your diet.  You feel worse than if you had never attempted the diet in the first place.

It took me a long time to figure out why I kept repeating this cycle, but I eventually realized that I simply did not understand the nature of change.  Over time I’ve come to understand that true, lasting change requires the following:

  • Patience: Like it or not, your behaviors reflect your identity.  When you try to make a major change too quickly, you risk an identity crisis.  Changing at a moderate pace allows you to feel safe and sane.
  • Determination:  When you’re driving somewhere, you generally don’t give up until you reach your destination.  You may need to pause sometimes and reroute, or you may need to change your destination, but you don’t just give up and park in the middle of the street if things aren’t working out they way you hoped.
  • Self-compassion: If beating yourself up made you grow, you’d be a giant by now.  Having self-compassion- being kind and gentle with yourself, is essential to growth and meaningful change.
  • Curiosity:  One way to avoid beating yourself up is to view your behaviors with curiosity rather than judgment.  Under every undesired behavior is a limiting belief.  Every thing we do is for a reason, but often not the reason we immediately suspect.  True change involves uprooting limiting and illogical beliefs and replacing them with rational and helpful beliefs.

What does this look like in action?  Here’s an example:  You notice that you regularly eat past the point of fullness at restaurants.  You decide to figure out why.  Through repeated gentle inquiry you name and notice the limiting beliefs that cause this overeating.  Perhaps there is a part of you that believes that leaving food on your plate is wasteful.  Later you realize that you feel like you should be eating if others at the table are still eating, in order to have a sense of belonging.  You challenge these beliefs and practice reminding yourself that the purpose of eating is for you to feel satisfied.  Sometimes you still overeat at restaurants, and when you do, you take the time to figure out why.  Over time you notice that you overeat less and less.

Another challenge is that we often don’t realize how big and complicated our goal is.  Becoming an intuitive eater, for example, is a huge goal.  It absolutely cannot happen all at once.  As a coach, part of my job is to help you break down your big goal into smaller sub goals.  Then, I help you think realistically about how you can begin working towards those goals.

This isn’t easy for most of us because we’re surrounded by absurd media messages.  “Get a flat belly by doing this one simple thing!”  “Lose a bazillion pounds in one second with no effort!”  “End your insomnia forever in 3 simple steps!”  Before you take on a goal, ask yourself: “When I think about doing this, how do I feel?”  If you feel scared, overwhelmed, anxious, elated, excited, or any other strong emotion, you’re probably biting off more than you can chew.

If thinking about taking on a goal feels a bit different, maybe a bit challenging, but pretty reasonable, you’re likely to complete it successfully, which builds up your sense of self-efficacy (“I can make things happen!”)  If you didn’t meet your goal, it’s an opportunity to learn about your hidden limiting beliefs (we always have a reason).  If you did meet your goals, you give yourself a high five and start forming your next goals (and by goals I mean the subgoals that get your toward your big goals).

The more you practice this effective change process, the easier it gets, and you’ll find yourself able to make major life changes.  Yes, it’s not as glamorous as the empty promises you get from sensationalist media, but it’s real and it works.

Are you ready to become an intuitive eater?  Sign up for free weekly tips.  Each tip covers one of the major subgoals of intuitive eating, and includes some practical and effective ways to achieve that goal. 

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When Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work

I’m always intrigued when I hear people say that intuitive eating didn’t work for them.  I’m intrigued because I’ve never seen it not work for one of my clients, and I want to know exactly where and how it went sideways for this person.  Now that I’ve had enough time to gather some data, I wanted to share with you some typical reasons why intuitive eating doesn’t end up working out for people, and how you can avoid these pitfalls.

  • They treat intuitive eating like a diet with a new set of rules.

If you think that intuitive eating is about only eating when you’re hungry and always stopping when you’re full, you’re going to be disappointed.  Intuitive eating is much more complex than that.  Practicing eating according to hunger and fullness is an opportunity to learn about yourself, not another doomed attempt to make yourself follow someone else’s rules.  When you are an intuitive eater, you’ll naturally eat according to your internal signals, but there is a big difference between choosing to do this because it feels good, and choosing to do this because you want to be “good.”

  • They want a quick fix.

So you’ve been struggling with food your whole life, and you’re tired of it.  Of course you want to end the struggle and make peace with food, but it’s not going to be easy.  I feel frustrated when I see other health coaches promise to fix your food struggles in six weeks, because it encourages unrealistic expectations.  The length of time it takes you to become an intuitive eater strongly depends on what you’ve been through with food and where you’re at now.  (Read more about the change process here.)

  • They don’t deal with root causes.

There are perfectly good reasons why you don’t eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.  Every time you reach for food when you are not hungry, you are trying to meet a need.  Figuring out what exactly that need is and how you can meet that need is your life’s work.  The more you practice, the easier it’ll get, but this process is never ending.  You can’t become an intuitive eater without learning to meet your true needs.    

It’s natural to have some doubts as you switch over from dieting to intuitive eating.  In fact, there is often a crisis moment early in the process, where you feel the temptation to do “one more diet” as all of your deepest fears come bubbling to the surface.  That’s ok, and we can work through that.  But if you’re still looking for a quick and easy fix to your food issues, or you truly just want someone else to tell you what to do, you are not ready to become an intuitive eater.

If you are completely sick of trying diets that don’t work, intuitive eating is for you.  If you’re ready to prioritize your health and well-being over your size and appearance, intuitive eating is for you.  If you are ready to transform yourself and your life, and do the work it takes to become your highest self, intuitive eating is for you.  Once you have reconnected with your inner wisdom, you will trust your intuition when it comes to food.  There is no way for your inner wisdom to “not work.”

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I’m a Body Love Wannabe

I’m an avid supporter of all fat acceptance, body love, size diversity (and any other way you want to combine those words) movements.  I believe that everyone deserves to feel that their body is not only adequate and acceptable, but also worthy of love and appreciation.

I believe this apart from any ideas I have about health and/or eating.  However, I also believe that body acceptance is essential to intuitive eating and health.  How can you properly take care of a body you don’t even like?  How can you learn to tune in to your body’s food needs if you believe that your body isn’t trustworthy?

Nevertheless, I know that “body love” can be a tough sell.  “Body respect” sounds more realistic, and reluctant acceptance more likely.

Even while encouraging my clients to love and appreciate their bodies, I have come to a sort of uncomfortable compromise in my own process of cultivating body love.

Don’t get me wrong.  I regularly take time to marvel at my body, and all the things it is capable of.  It’s awe inspiring to consider the complexity and relentlessness of its detailed functioning.  I am completely dedicated to caring for my body to the best of my ability, and I trust the input I get from my body implicitly.

Yet, when I look in the mirror or put on clothes, I am often less than satisfied.

I think I am a bit of an anomaly within the intuitive eating/HAES community (and developed nations, really) in that I’ve never really struggled with my weight.  I’ve never tried to diet to lose weight.  I’ve only dieted to improve my health and the way I feel (which also doesn’t work, incidentally).

Growing up, my mom frequently told me how lucky I was to be the size and weight I was.  In high school my friends would tell me how lucky I was that I could eat whatever I wanted and not worry about gaining weight (even friends who were skinnier than me).  Truly, I realize that I am beyond privileged to have never worried about my weight.  I can’t say that I’ve never suffered discrimination based on my size, but I’ve never experienced the pervasive oppression experienced by people deemed to be too large.

Even so, I’ve never really loved my body.  As a teenager, I had a sadly typical laundry list of things I didn’t like about my body.  My nose was too big and too crooked.  One of my eyes was a bit lazy.  I had acne.  My eyes and hair were too dark.  I had too many moles and freckles.  My breasts were too small.  My belly stuck out too much, especially after eating.  I was bowlegged.  I wasn’t tall enough.  The bottom of my butt was too saggy.  The list went on and on…

I don’t even want to get into the saga of all the things I tried to do to fix or hide my body over the years, and all the angst and hand wringing I endured.  I’ll just say that it happened.

Gradually, over the course of my teens and twenties, I realized two things:  1) Nobody cared about or judged my body as much as I did.  2) Whether people were drawn to or repelled by me had mostly to do with my mood and attitude, and little to do with my body.  Of course, mood and attitude do affect appearance–everything from your posture and facial expression to general attractiveness.  But nobody was saying, “I don’t want to talk to that lady because her belly sticks out more than her chest.”

So, by the time I slid into my thirties, I had made a sort of peace with my body.  I appreciated the incredible privilege of living in a well-functioning body.  I stopped worrying that others would reject me based on the unchosen aspects of my appearance (hi, privilege!).  Still, I hold beliefs that have me standing in front of a dressing room mirror, deciding not to purchase an outfit only because it emphasizes the “bad” parts of my body.  Still, I look at other bodies with envy.

I’ve been limiting my exposure to popular media for decades.  I’ve been critiquing the media I am inadvertently exposed to and rejecting messages that tell me to judge and/or hate my body, whenever possible.  Still, I am battling these internalized ideals and judgments that tell me my body is not worthy of love.

This is why, contrary to popular marketing advice, I don’t promise instantaneous miraculous transformation to my clients.  Becoming an intuitive eater takes time.  Tuning into your internal signals takes experience.  Loving your body takes unending dedication, in a culture that is inviting you to reject your body at every turn.

This is why we need the support of our community, and organizations like The Body Positive and The Body is Not an Apology.  This is why I’m into fat politics and why I admire body love gurus like Golda Poretsky and Dr. Deah.

I hope that someday I will be able to confidently say that I love my body.  Until then, I’ll keep working to create a world in which it’s easier to do so.

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Resources for Dealing With Stress

When I decided that I wanted to write about stress, I went down to my office and started digging through my files and books.  As I flipped through page after page about how chronic stress destroys your health and well-being, I realized that as interesting as that information is, it’s not very helpful when you’re trying to figure out how to cope.  I also don’t think I need to rehash why stress interferes with intuitive eating and digestion.  

Constant stress is harmful.  Enough said.  

Now, what to do?  

Brian Luke Seaward, holistic stress management guru, breaks down your options into two categories:

  1. Coping techniques
  2. Relaxation techniques

Coping techniques:

  1. Cognitive restructuring/reframing: Changing the way you perceive or think about a stressful situation.  
  2. Assertiveness Training: Learning how to be assertive rather than passive or aggressive lowers stress.  How assertive are you?
  3. Journaling: Free form or guided journaling are both great for reducing stress.
  4. Expressive art therapy: Includes all forms of arts/drama.  Can be done with a therapist, a class, and/or on your own.
  5. Humor therapy:  There are many ways to integrate the healing and stress-lowering benefits of laughter in your life.
  6. Communication skills:  Improving your communication skills can make interactions and relationships less stressful.  
  7. Resource management: Time and money are common stressors.
  8. Support groups: You can join a general group that deals with stress, or a group specific to your biggest stressor.
  9. Pleasurable hobbies:  Sometimes we get so caught up in the things we “have” to do that we forget to take care of ourselves by choosing to engage in activities that make us happy.

Relaxation techniques:

  1. Breathing exercises:  There are many types to choose from!  Diaphragmatic breathing is my go-to.
  2. Meditation:  Again, many types to try.  The internet is full of free guided meditations.  Keep looking until you find one that suits you.
  3. Yoga:  All types of yoga can help reduce stress, but gentle and restorative yoga tend to be more relaxing during actual practice.
  4. Visualization/Guided imagery:  Similar to meditation, but more based on images than body awareness.  Try this one.
  5. Sound therapy:  Music can be powerful in stress reduction.  Choose from your favorites or try music created for relaxation.
  6. Massage therapy: Like the above modalities, it’s worth trying different styles and therapists to figure out what works for you.  If cost is a issue, you may want to find a therapist who offers package deals, or join a spa with member rates.
  7. Qigong/Chi Gung:  Qigong is an ancient practice combining breath and movement that offers many health benefits in addition to stress reduction.  Like above modalities, you can find lots of free videos on the internet, find a local instructor, or purchase dvds.
  8. Progressive muscle relaxation:  A systematic tensing and releasing of muscles to release tension, guided by listening to or reading a script.  
  9. Autogenic training:  Harnessing the power of your mind to influence the state of your body.
  10. Exercise:  As usual, I am talking about joyful movement, not torturing yourself in a gym.  Any kind of movement combats stress.

As you’re looking over these lists, you may feel overwhelmed.  If this is the case, you might begin by noticing one to two strategies that appeal to you the most right now.  Follow the links I’ve provided on these strategies and/or do your own google inquiry on the topic.  Then, make a plan for exactly when and where you will try out these strategies this week.

It may seem silly or unnecessary to make an exact plan, but how many times have to intended to do something and then forgotten about it entirely?  It’s not lack of discipline.  It’s just part of being a human with a complicated life.  So, make a realistic plan and do your best to stick with it.  (If the thought of sticking to your plan makes you anxious, it’s probably not realistic.  Try scaling back your goal: If you said you’d meditate 5 times this week, try for 3 times instead.)

At the end of your week, plan to check in with yourself.  Did you enjoy what you tried?  Did it help your stress levels?  Would you like to do it more or less often?  Do it differently?  Stop doing it and try something else?  

View your experiences with curiosity and compassion.  Whatever you notice about your experience is valuable information, and will help you make informed self-care choices in the future.  

 

*If you’re looking for a really comprehensive text on stress management, I highly recommend this book by Brian Luke Seward:
Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being

 

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Why We Eat When We’re Not Hungry

Eating when you’re not hungry is one of the most common challenges for would-be intuitive eaters.  It’s not surprising because the opportunities are relentless.  Here are the top 10 reasons we eat when we’re not hungry:

  1. Habit:  It’s a time or place where we usually eat, and we forget to check for hunger.
  2. Chronic stress:  Stress interferes with hunger and fullness signals, and leaves us wanting a food mood boost.
  3. Difficult emotions: Sad/lonely/bored/frustrated?  Again, eating offers relief.
  4. Social pressure:  Others encourage us to eat, and/or we want to be part of the crowd.
  5. Reward/punishment:  We use food like a prize or a punishment for being “good” or “bad.”
  6. “The Woo”: We are exposed to enticing foods, pictures of foods, or descriptions of foods.
  7. Rebellion: We get tired of diets and restrictions and binge on forbidden foods.
  8. Celebration:  Holidays and special occasions encourage eating of “special” foods.
  9. It’s free:  It feels like a deal or a steal, and a limited time opportunity.
  10. Plate cleaning:  Not finishing your food seems like a waste (hint: stuffing yourself is not the solution).

As you read this list, I bet you noticed at least a couple items that you struggle with.  Did that leave you feeling bad, or frustrated with yourself?  That’s understandable, but what if you could view yourself with kindness and compassion?  After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with eating when you’re not hungry.  Eating releases happy chemicals in your brain.  It’s part of how our bodies motivate us to nourish ourselves.  No sense in denying that fact!

However, we sometimes forget to consider alternatives to eating that may feel more nourishing and/or sustainable.  Having a pint of ice cream after a stressful day is no big deal every once and awhile, but if stressful days are frequent, you may find yourself wanting for other stress relief options.

If you’re in the habit of frequently eating when not hungry, you may want to set aside sometime to think about which of the 10 reasons listed above apply most frequently to you.  Be real.  You don’t eat in those situations because you’re a bad person or because you have no self-control.  You eat because eating offers you something positive.  It’s important to acknowledge the positives as well as the negatives, if you want to act differently.

Sometimes we eat when we’re not hungry because we’re caught off guard and not armed with an alternate plan.  Once you’ve figured out your triggers, and the positives/negatives of eating in that situation, start brainstorming one to four alternatives to your usual behavior.  Make sure that your ideas are realistic, and reflect what truly feels nourishing to you, not what you think should feel nourishing.

Example: You’re planning to go to a family birthday party in a few days.  You know that your family members tend to push a lot of food on you, and they feel hurt if you don’t take it.  Before the party you stop and think: Taking the food makes your family feel good.  If you’re hungry and you like the food it makes you feel good, too.  But if you’re not hungry and/or it doesn’t taste good, you feel bad, both physically and emotionally.  You think of a few alternatives:  1) Saying, “Oh that looks so delicious, but I am already stuffed from all the other wonderful things I already ate.”  Repeat, “Oh, no thank you” if they persist (firm, but polite).  2) Take the plate that is offered to you, have a few bites, and then toss the rest quietly.  3) Volunteer to help with an activity away from the food.  On the day of the party, try these strategies out and see what works best.

Remember, what works for one person might not for another, or even for you from situation to situation.  This is why self-awareness is key to becoming an intuitive eater.  The better you know yourself, the better you can take care of yourself.  View yourself with curiosity and compassion rather than judgment, and positive change will flow.

Ready to start becoming more intuitive? 

Sign up for free tips to get you started!

 

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9 Reasons to Stop Dieting

Thinking about starting a new diet?  Consider the following:

  1. Dieting won’t help you lose weight.  Sure, in the short term, dieting can help you lose weight, but over time it is almost guaranteed that you will gain it back.[1]
  2. Diets actually cause weight gain.  Diets damage your body in such a way that it becomes easier to gain weight and harder to lose it with every new diet.[2]
  3. Diets don’t improve your health.  Long term studies show that diets don’t actually lead to better health outcomes.[3]
  4. Diets lead to eating disorders.  When diets don’t work, dieters become understandably desperate, often leading to anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.[4]
  5. Dieting shortens your life span.  Yo-yo dieting lowers your chance of living a long, healthy, and joyful life.[5]
  6. Diets weren’t made for you.  Your body is unique, so it’s just not possible for a generic diet to be accurately tailored to your body.
  7. Diets are distracting.  Dieters spend so much time obsessing about what, when, and how to eat- not to mention guilt and regrets- that it’s hard to focus on anything else.[6]
  8. Dieting causes overeating.  When you don’t eat enough, your body thinks you are starving and starts sending out strong signals that urge you to eat as much as possible, as soon as possible.[7]
  9. Diets ruin your ability to enjoy food.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enjoy every bite of a luscious slice of chocolate cake or juicy burger without fear or guilt ruining the experience?

Next time you feel like dieting, think about what you really want.  If you’re like most people, you want to feel loved, accepted, beautiful, healthy, and scale-trashvibrant.  A diet won’t give you any of these precious things, so spend your time and energy on activities that will!

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