Monthly Archives: October 2010

Intuitive Eating: The Answer to all Your Food Worries

Who else is sick of “experts” pushing their nutritional persuasion as the perfect way of eating for everyone? Is anyone else’s head spinning while science tries to make up its mind? Animal proteins are essential! Wait, no, they’re actually the devil. Fat is evil, stay away! No, no it’s not, sugar’s the real villain! Dietary cholesterol obviously clogs your arteries. Actually…scratch that, no it doesn’t.

It’s enough to make you motion sick.

The thing that makes intuitive eating amazing is that it requires you to turn your inquiries inward rather than rely on an outside source to tell you what your body needs. You don’t need a guy in a white lab coat for that, your body already knows. Instead of buying into the notion that dairy is bad for you, why not pay special attention to how dairy makes you look and feel before you decide? Instead of eating something because you’ve heard it’s good for you, listen to your body to make sure it agrees. Don’t buy into any one school of nutrition thinking, but pay attention to what foods do to you and make choices based on what your body tells you. If something makes you feel awesome, you’ll probably develop a liking for it. If something else gives you stomach aches and makes you feel like you swallowed a rock, you’ll probably stop wanting it, or at least you’ll know to consciously avoid it.

As for me, I’ve read dozens of books pushing one way of eating or another, each proclaiming to be gastronomic gospel. I learn from each one, take it with a pound of salt, and remember that the author’s body isn’t mine. What works for them may not work for me. Also, science isn’t perfect. Many studies are full of holes and many more never get published because the media is so heavily controlled by the food industry.

Listen to your body and use your brain. Processed food probably isn’t the best foundation for nourishment, but will eating the occasional Oreo destroy the world? No. Ethical eating aside, real foods– things that come out of the ground or from healthy animals- are obviously a better choice than Easy Mac. Within that realm, finds out what works for you and eventually, you’ll hit a beautiful rhythm of eating that nourishes your body and your soul. I admit, I’m not quite there yet, but I’m well on my way.

Be mindful. Listen to your body. Keep a food/mood journal so you won’t forget any of it. Eating intuitively is harder than tuning out and following someone else’s rules, but it’s infinitely more rewarding. It may take you years, but it will be worth it.


Embracing Winter

I usually dread the first snow because I know I can’t fight the inevitable: Winter is coming.

I usually hate the cold, snow and that awful gray gloom that winter brings, but the reason I cling to the last moments of fall is because winter makes me sad. Yeah, I know all about Seasonal Affective Disorders and vitamin d and all that jazz and I believe a lot of that applies to me, but today I started to wonder whether my usual winter depression isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy. Do I get sad in the winter because I expect to?

This morning we awoke to a light dusting of snow. I was outraged of course, and proceeded to rant about how nature is going commercial, bringing Christmas in October right along with the department stores, but after I drove the kids to their charter school and walked them into the hollow, I stopped. Yes, I was freezing. Yes, it was cloudy and the hills all around me were white when they should’ve been blazing orange, but instead of cussing out the snow and feeling miserable, I tried to enjoy the cold. A few years ago, Sam and I went for a winter walk and I froze in my woolen pea coat and he only had on a tee shirt. I told him he needed to get his head checked and he told me “Sometimes feeling cold is part of feeling alive.” He does wax poetic on occasion and I’ve never forgotten that. I decided to embrace the nippy cold, my ears and nose going numb, the biting chill through my clothes. I did feel alive.
Without thinking, I pulled my new camera out, which is unusual because I’m not a shutterbug (obviously I want to be, because I carry that camera everywhere.) Could I find beauty in this landscape of winter taking over my beloved autumn?
Normally, this would’ve been a super grumpy day for me. Winter is coming anyway, so why not embrace it? The seasons will chance again, so why not enjoy them while they’re here instead of wishing for something else? Embrace winter, embrace change. Hopefully I’ll still sound like PollyAnna in February, but there you have it. I, McKella, bona fide hater of winter, am going to embrace the cold, the snow and the season, and maybe that’ll make it a little more pleasant.


Breakthrough moment

Well this weekend just whizzed by, didn’t it?

Something amazing happened last night and I thought I’d share it with you.

Two of my cousins/nanny kids attend a nearby charter school and last night I attended their fall fundraiser gala which included a silent and live auction and some amazing hor’devoures (Had to look that up for the spelling. Pew.) Had an awesome time, but here’s the amazing part.

I ate all I wanted, but I didn’t overeat and I didn’t feel guilty.

I bid on (and won!) a carriage ride for 6 and I didn’t freak out about money.

I didn’t feel awkward even though we were kind of under dressed.

You have to understand, this is a huge deal for me. A month ago, I would’ve had a miserable time because I’d be so focused on the food and stressing about money and I wouldn’t have bid on anything. Such an amazing feeling to feel normal and happy. I don’t know if it’s because I got my devil stick out or if I just got lucky, but there it is. I couldn’t believe it.

I also got to help harvest honey from my uncle’s bee boxes.
I hope everyone’s weekend was as awesome as mine, and have a great week!


What a freaking week

I’m relishing the first time I’ve gotten to be be lazy on my couch all week.

I know I’m still getting the hang of blogging and being completely authentic to my readers. (All eight of you reading this…:) so get ready for all the authenticity you can handle.

Some days, I hate my life. Nearly every day this week, I’ve thought about telling my aunt I’m done nannying, and how writing just isn’t happening lately, how my sense of purpose is in the toilet and how I’m sick of being 15 or so pounds above my happy weight. I’m also sick of pretending I’ve got it all together.

To make a really long story short, I’ve actually made progress this week both on the intuitive eating front and in learning to take life as it comes. I’ve started keeping a food/mood journal according to the guidelines on Christie’s blog and I’ve probably been more mindful of my food and my body than I have during the past two years of trying to practice intuitive eating. I’ve also decided that this is where I need to be, taking care of my six cousins and helping my aunt even though it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. I’ve also felt more like myself than I have  in years because I got my no-kid-stick removed (aka, hormonal birth control)

I’ve  barely had time to shower this week, let alone write, but I have journaled, and I think that’s what got me through. Good ol’ journal, I could never live without you. Seeing how this is an authenticity blog and all, I’ve decided to kill two flies with one swatter and overlap my blogging and journaling a bit, not only because that’s the only way I’ll get ’em both done, but because my journal is the real me. Handprint Soul is the real me. This is the real me.

Being a sponge

Any creators out there know that sometimes, you just get stuck and nothing flows. The words don’t come, inspiration is at a standstill and producing anything decent is about as easy as performing a self-root canal through your ear. About as pleasant too.

Everyone deals with dry spells differently, but for a long time I fought the idea that they even existed. I should be able to write at any time. I should be writing ten pages a day, painting at least weekly, composing music like I used to, taking voice lessons again, auditioning for shows, writing poetry. Creativity should be flowing from me like water and it should always be easy. Right?

Part of the perfectionist tendency is to think in terms of “should” instead of “could” and to completely disregard our limits. Creativity requires rest, time to think, and exposure. Sometimes you need to unplug the laptop, put down the paintbrush and pick up a book, listen to some music or go for a walk.

Plenty of writers say the best way to write is to practically glue your butt to the chair every day until you reach your quota, no matter what. Sometimes this work, usually when I’m feeling scattered because it helps me focused.

I’ve come to think of myself as a sponge: I need to absorb and soak before I can release anything. While I’m absorbing, I spend a lot of time reading, thinking, walking, listening to music and watching movies. This is a lot like deschooling. Sometimes I journal to organize my thoughts. After a few weeks of this, writing is easy. Learning to accept this process wasn’t easy, but it was important because I learned my limits and that I need rest. A dry sponge releases no water.

If you find yourself stuck or burned out, do yourself a favor and rest. Get good sleep, take care of your body, surround yourself with interesting things to look at, read and do. You’ll come back to life



High Expectations

I expect a lot of myself. If you don’t believe me, read my handprint list. I’ve always had big dreams, big ambitions and lofty goals that haven’t faded with maturity. Writing, traveling, making art, having a family, doing great things, being great things.

The problem is, having high expectations for myself means I tend to bite off more than I can chew. Sometimes I actually chew it and end up stressed and frazzled into oblivion, but the times that I can’t chew it I feel like a loser, a failure and that I don’t measure up to that ideal I’ve created for myself. I spend a lot of time writing down goals, planning my steps to get there, falling short and rebuking myself. I used to do this a lot with dieting, but now it’s money, my writing career, my fitness goals.

Have I set the bar too high? I have to remind myself, I’m only human and I’ve done a lot with my 22 years and I have another (hopefully) fifty at least ahead of me. No point in burning myself out now. I made the handprint list not as a list of dreams, but of goals. I look at it sometimes and think “How will I do it all?” but I forget that it’s a list to last my whole life, not the next five years. Even if I don’t complete them all, it doesn’t mean my life is wasted. Even if I don’t get to travel or if I never make it as a writer, I’m still McKella and that’s ok. If I never publish a book, get the hang of intuitive eating, sell a piece of art, or if I use the word “I” in a paragraph over twenty times (sorry) I’m still ok. The value of life isn’t measured by stamps on a passport or titles on a shelf, but by the way you lived and what you stood for. The best you can do is the best you can do. Come to terms with it so you don’t spend half your time stressing out about it.

Do you have high expectations for yourself or do you cut yourself some slack?

Autumn Pumpkin-Pecan Bread and Attitude

I don’t feel like dedicating an entire post to my attitude today, so I’ll give you a quick summary of what I’ve worked on this week, plus a treat 🙂

For the past two weeks, I’ve been working on improving my attitude toward my job, my body, my limits, and my life by following these guidelines:

Dress nicely. And shower every day. It’s amazing what not feeling like a sweaty mess can do for your confidence and energy.

-Don’t let myself off the hook. Exercise anyway. Write every day. “I don’t feel like it” isn’t an excuse, and I’ll be glad I did later.

-Decide to have fun- Don’t be a party pooper, and don’t assume something is going to be lame just because it doesn’t sound amazing. Try it anyway.

Act the way I want to feel

The first week of this was inexplicably rough for some reason, but the past week was amazing. I had energy to do my job and I didn’t feel like I was going to faint by noon on Friday. I’ve been smiling more, laughing more, and worrying less. Attitude really is everything, more than anything I’ve done so far with my Happiness Project.

Ok, time for the goodies. Behold, the year’s first pumpkin delicacy:

To read my thoughts on real food, click here.

Autumn Pumpkin-Pecan Bread

1-3/4 C whole wheat or spelt flour

3/4 C sweetener of your choice. I used honey, but you could use maple syrup, rapadura, sugar, brown sugar, whatever floats your boat.

1-1/2 t cinnamon

1 t nutmeg

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 baking powder

1/2 t salt

sprinkle of cloves and ginger

2 eggs

1 C pumpkin

1/2 C oil (I used extra-virgin coconut oil, but you can use whatever you want.)

1/3 C milk or water

1/2 C chopped pecans, more or less to your liking

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and mix together, then add the pecans. Pour into a loaf pan and sprinkle more pecans on top for pretties. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.



The Dieting Mindset

I’ve come to put dieting in the same category as smoking: an unhealthy habit that can ruin your health and screw up your life, drain your wallet and poison your soul.

Dieting keeps you from moving forward with self-acceptance, mindful eating, and  loving yourself. Dieting perpetuates the idea that you are not good enough the way you are and that you need to change to be acceptable to yourself or anyone else, and that an outside force is the answer, and that food is the enemy. Hatred, sadness, fear, hopelessness, all stem from dieting.

Letting go of this mindset is like removing a tick. Difficult, often painful, and hard to get it all out on the first try. It may be gone on the surface, but look a little deeper because the head might have popped off and is trying to stick around to keep you infected. Ok, kind of a weird analogy, but the first thing I could think of.

How do we stop? First things first, get all the outward reminders out of your environment:

  • Get rid of the scale, the measuring tape, the diet books and any “thinspiration” you have laying around.
  • Go on a media fast if you need to, away from movies and magazines that make you feel inadequate.
  • Get rid of any clothing that doesn’t fit or flatter. No more “goal” pants or next summer’s pink bikini. It’s a poisonous awful demon.
  • Clean out the cupboard and get rid of any diet foods. Dump the slim fast down the drain. Flush the diet pills, teas, meal replacement crap, etc.
  • Next, wash your brain out with soap. Refuse to engage in any conversational body bashing or diet talk. Change the subject or leave.

Listen to your thoughts and train yourself to catch the fat talk. Every time you have a bad thought about yourself, change it to a positive one. Practice. Instead of “I look like Humpty Dumpty” try “My curves are rocking this little black dress today.” At least find something you like, like “My eyes are so blue” or “I’m having a good hair day.” It takes practice, but if I can do it, I promise you can too. If I can learn to love my thighs, so can you.

Don’t let yourself plan any more diets! No more calorie counting! Stop looking at nutrition labels for awhile if you can’t stay away from the calorie counts (ingredients may be a good idea though) . Eventually, the automatic calculator in your brain that looks at an apple and says “80 calories” will shut up it you tell it to. I promise.

Good luck!

Joy in moments

I hate ads that portray someone who’s insanely happy because they finally own product X, and now their life is perfect. Some of us spend our lives pursuing that state of ecstatic happiness, the one where we’re so happy we feel like we’re going to explode. We’ll reach that peak someday and it’ll be smooth sailing from there, right?

As awful as it sounds, I don’t think this kind of happiness exists. Sure we have moments of excitement. Sometimes we laugh so hard we might pee our pants, but these are moments. We can’t sustain that level of intensity for long periods of time. For one thing, our bodily functions would probably give out, but the biggest reason is that true happiness isn’t possible without moments of sadness, frustration, or pain. Without something to oppose it, to compare it to, happiness doesn’t happen.

What we can have is a state of contentment, a generally happy existence with lousy times in between. Letting go of the makeup-ad portrayal of happiness is important in reaching contentment. Bliss comes in moments.

I have a homework assignment for you. Make a list of what truly brings you joy, and leave it in  the comments, and be specific. What are the moments that make you think “I’m happy.” I’ll go first:

  • One of the kitties curling up on my lap
  • That perfect harmony I find with Sam when we’re both in weird moods and nothing we do makes any sense to anyone but us 

    That's chocolate cake, I promise

  • Listening to a great some that fits the moment perfectly
  • Craving  something delicious, then getting it and loving every bite
  • A beautiful sky while I’m out walking. It’s like nature saying “Hi McKella!”
  • Going for a really long walk or bike ride just because I don’t have anywhere else to be
  • Hitting my sweet spot when I’m writing
  • An afternoon with an awesome book. 

    My current reading. Awesome.

Now it’s your turn.  Ready, set, go!

Addicted to dieting and starting over

Ok, I know I’ve written a bunch of posts about food and body image lately, but that’s what’s been on my mind.

For many years, when life wasn’t going the way I wanted, whenever I was sad or stressed, my first impulse was to grab a pen and paper and maybe whatever diet book I was reading at the time and plot my next attack plan. This many calories with this much exercise should result in this many pounds lost in this much time. A simple math equation that made everything in my life seem so much better, because look how close I was to being rid of my problems! It was all on paper, and math doesn’t lie, right?

I was addicted to starting over, and addicted to the quick fix dieting promise, and I was haunted by the illusion of the perfect life that comes with thinness.

I’ve been fighting this very strong urge lately. My brain has been working like a calculator again and I find myself longing for my skinny days when life was so much simpler. I only had me to take care of; school, friends, fun, a job and a couple of bills. Yes, life was simpler then, but I have to live in the present instead of wishing for the past. Life will probably never be simple again, and I have to learn to thrive with what I have now. I’m not a single college sophomore living at home anymore; I’m a married, graduated live-in nanny trying to figure out her life, no  padding of next semester or my parent’s house. Just me and what I can do now.

This is harder than it sounds. I have to ban myself from calorie counting at any time, but sometimes when my hair is about to turn gray, I whip out my calculator and start crunching numbers, then I stop myself and think, “how will losing fifteen pounds solve all my problems? All this crap will still be here, I’ll just be a little smaller. Big whoop. Also, I think I’ve become completely incapable of dieting. I no longer have the “willpower” to eat 700 calories a day or resist a cookie when I really want one. This is a good thing. It’s progress. Even though I’d love to lose 15  pounds because I felt much better at that way, I love myself the way I am and I know weight loss won’t make life go back to the way it was. That math equation isn’t magic. All I can do is press forward with my intuitive eating, move with joy, and nurture myself so I can be stronger.

And that’s ok.