Category Archives: Intuitive Eating
Beauty is something I think about it a lot, though not nearly as much as I used to, and not in the same way. As a child, preteen, and teenager, I saw beauty as power, currency, and acceptance. I had a hard time fitting in and I got teased a lot, but I noticed that the pretty girls didn’t get made fun of. Boys didn’t laugh at them or gross out when they found out those girls had crushes on them. Nobody called them names.
Summertime was my favorite time of year as long as I was in my own backyard or the canal behind my house, or maybe camping in the woods with my family. Those were my safe zones. I liked swimming, but the pool was a thing to endure. I had fun swimming and playing in the water, but I couldn’t help but notice the other girls with tans and bodies as tight as vacuum seal bags. I wanted their skinny legs and wardrobes so badly because I had hips and thighs in the fifth grade and couldn’t put an outfit together to save my life (still can’t). I’d go swimming with my cousins and wear shorts and a tee shirt over my swimming suit while they ran around in their tankinis and didn’t get sunburned. How come I didn’t turn out like them? Why wasn’t I a cute dancer with skinny legs that turn gold in the sun rather than my own brand of blistering pink?
I felt awkward and unattractive because I thought that’s how others saw me. That assumption stuck with me for a long time, even after I’d found my place in the high school drama club and made friends who loved me for who I was, and even in my freshman year of college when I’d somehow shrunk down to 135 pounds on my 5’8″ bod and had boys asking me out every week. I didn’t even feel beautiful when I started dating Sam and he told me I was beautiful. I hadn’t learned to love myself yet.
Last summer, Sam and I went to a local water park, and though I’d long since given up the shorts and tee shirts over my tankini, for the first time I didn’t feel one bit awkward or self-conscious. I was well above my body’s comfortable weight at the time and it was early June, so my toothpaste-white legs hadn’t seem much daylight yet, but I had my favorite coral toenail polish on and a turquoise tankini that looked a lot like the one my cousin once wore to the same water park almost a decade ago. I’d had a string of emotional breakthroughs that had lifted the depression I’d struggled with for years (and still do on occasion) and I’d reconnected with my creativity after a long dry spell. Though I’d been flailing around with intuitive eating for awhile, I’d finally learned to listen to my body and was starting to lose a little weight.
Because of these things, I had learned that I was beautiful even if I am shaped like a bowling pin and wear cargo shorts and tee shirts all the time. I finally knew who I was recognized my own type of beauty; that quirky, refuses-to-grow-up awkwardness and creativity that makes me who I am.
Oh, this is who I’m supposed to be. This is how life is supposed to be.
The temperature of the poolwater was absolutely perfect that evening, and I remember swimming underwater and coming up to the surface and noticing the gorgeous mountain by the waterpark. It was like seeing a mountain for the first time. I just treaded water for a few minutes and looked at the mountain and realized that the awkwardness and dull ache of not being good enough was completely gone. I felt so whole.
I was almost 23 years old and I finally realized that beauty wasn’t another planet. It wasn’t a party I’d never been invited to. It was just something I’d never recognized because I’d always expected it to be something else that I could feel by cracking the fashion code or whittling down my thighs. I never realized that it had nothing to do with rules or absolutes. I’d been free to feel it all along.
Everyone has a right to feel beautiful.
A lot of us aren’t happy with where we are in our lives at the moment. We aren’t satisfied with what we’re doing or where we happen to be or what we are. We here so often that we need to accept ourselves as we are and where we are. Most of us fight this notion. I sure do.
I reread Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth last week (one big long string of Aha! moments. Read it.) and she mentioned that accepting is not the same as resigning yourself to a situation. It doesn’t mean that you give up and tell yourself that things will never change, or even worse, that you can’t change things. I think most of us think that acceptance involves giving up, so no wonder we resist it!
Accepting is acknowledging where you are and realizing that it’s ok for now. You may still want to change, especially if you don’t like your current situation. By all means, work hard to change if that’s what you really want, just don’t beat yourself up for where you are.
Acceptance is a change of attitude, that’s all. It’s not quitting. It took me awhile to let this sink in, but I realized that it’s something that I’ve always known on some level. I’ve never created significant change in my life until I accepted where I was first.I had to love myself the way I was and realize that I had to be where I was, because that’s where I happened to be. That situation had something to teach me. I accepted that knowledge, but I still wanted to change. Change happened pretty spontaneously after that.
Whenever I my situation and struggled against it, I got even more stuck. It’s like struggling when you’re sinking in quicksand (the movies always say that’s a bad idea) and sinking even faster.
What do you want to change in your life? What do you need to accept?
I’ll go first.
- I accept that I need to have a job right now when I’d rather be a full-time artist and writer. Luckily, I enjoy my job, but I’d still rather do my own thing. It’s ok though. This job takes care of me, and I’m glad to have it. I’ll still work toward my goal, but I’m happy with what I’m doing right now.
- I accept that I don’t have the money to travel the world right now, but obviously, world travel isn’t what I need at the moment or I’d have it. I can love my life anyway. I’d still like to travel and I’ll work toward that goal, but I won’t snub the joys of home.
- I accept that I have about 10 extra pounds of “winter coat” around my hips and thighs. This is a little heavier than what I’m comfortable with, but it’s ok for now. I’ll still love and take care of my body and I’ll trust it to even things out on its own.
- I accept that it’s still winter even though I’d really like it to be spring. We’ve had a lovely springy week and now there’s about six inches of snow on the ground and temperatures have dropped. I’ll take whatever moisture we can get for a nice green summer, and I’ll embrace a few more weeks of layers and hot soup.
I’ll accept these things, but I also expect change. I think the distinction here is simply attitude, because forcing change does not work. One cannot reach their natural weight by hating his or her body now. One can’t create a thriving career by refusing to acknowledge the starting point, where she is now.
How about you? What are you accepting right now? What does acceptance mean to you?
First of all, check out this funny gym picture:
I love how everyone is smiling. I don’t know about you, but my gym looks a whole lot different 🙂
Several months ago, I posted a piece I wrote in college about why I hate the gym. I meant every word. Yesterday though, Sam and I decided to get a gym membership at our local fitness center, which is actually a really nice facility with really reasonable prices.
I usually can’t stand exercise machines because I feel like a hamster on a wheel. I don’t like “artificial” feeling exercise. I’d much rather walk or run outside, do yoga, go for a bike ride, or go hiking.
It’s kinda hard to keep that up in the winter though.
I resisted the idea for awhile. The main reason was that it seemed silly to pay to exercise when I have a few perfectly good workout dvds at home, a yoga mat, and walking shoes. The other reason is that the gym didn’t fit with my idea of living as an intuitive eater/exerciser. It liked it to counting calories and measuring portions rather than listening to what my body needs.
Over the past few months though, I’ve realized that there’s no one way to live intuitively. For some people, this looks like a daily walk and three square meals a day. For others, it’s a gym membership and nibbling all day without set meals. Others may eliminate certain foods from their diet for health reasons. Some might use calories or measuring as a way to gain consciousness of their eating before they’re comfortable to fly on their own. For me, intuitive living is different at different times of year. During the summer, it’s little meals and snacks all day long and lots of walking with a little running and yoga thrown in. During the winter though, I’ve realized that I need something different. I’ve had to change my ideas about my lifestyle, which I was surprised to find were a little rigid despite flexibility being the whole point of intuitive eating.
Here are a few reasons why I no longer hate the gym and why I feel it’s necessary right now:
- My body has been asking for more intense exercise than I’ve been giving it lately, and though I can bundle up and walk in the cold or do one of the exercise DVD’s that I have memorized, but it gets old. The gym has lots of different options like classes, the pool, plenty of machines, a track, free weights, and sports if for some reason I decided to experiment with that.
- My knees have been hurting like they always do when I start sitting at a desk for most of the day. I really don’t have a low to no impact cardio option at home, but at the gym I have the pool, a stationary bike, or an elliptical. Any of those are a great way to build strength without taxing my knees further.
- Sam and I barely see each other with both of us working weird hours and him going to school. He’s been wanting to exercise, so this might be a way to spend some time together in a healthier way than going to Buffalo Wild Wings at 9pm.
- I’ve been wanting to build a little muscle because I have very little upper body strength (I can’t even do one full-on push up. Not even close.) and I’ve noticed that my abs are feeling a little weak as well. I could certainly do this with yoga or just with old school body weight exercises at home, but I hate the body weight exercises, I don’t really push myself with yoga at home, and I’d rather do gentler yoga at home. The gym does have a Saturday yoga class I could go to, but weights offer a lot more variety and they’re faster. I even had fun even though years ago I likened the weight room to a torture chamber.
- This might be a better way to blow off stress after work than munching. I don’t tend to be hungry in the evenings, but I often snack when I get home just because I feel like I should because it’s dinner time or something, and also because I usually feel spun out. Going to the gym after work a few days a week might help me regulate work stress and eating a little better as well as giving me an energy boost, because I tend to come home and crash until bedtime. Sometimes I paint in the evenings, but I’m a morning person and I do most of my artmaking in the morning before I leave. Going to the gym won’t give me more time for my art, but my body needs it. I could use a little more energy to push through these last few weeks of winter.
Flexibility isn’t about rebellion or avoiding things that you think don’t fit in your flexible lifestyle. It’s about adjusting your ideas according to what your body and spirit actually need. Rethink some of your limiting ideas such as “intuitive eaters don’t go to the gym” or “artists don’t worry about what they eat.” Yes, these are kind of silly ideas, but our subconscious can hold a death grip on silly things like these. Pay attention to your limiting thoughts. We all have them. Examine them. Question them. Are they serving you, or do you need something different right now? Do you need rest, or would a short trip to the gym make you feel amazing?
There are no rules, only consciousness, caring, and a little humility.
Are you hanging on to any limiting ideas?
If you’ve been reading Handprint Soul for awhile, you know that I’ve had problems with compulsive eating in the past. I’m not one of those people who wastes away when I’m upset; quite the opposite in fact. While I’ve spent lots of time researching the various genetic, nutritional, hormonal, emotional, and cognitive reasons for this and have taken steps to balance them, this tendency still pops up from time to time.
For most of the past year, I’ve had a good handle on eating intuitively. I lost 30 pounds last summer and felt free from any kind of food obsession. I felt fabulous.
I’ve been pretty munchy for the past couple months, especially the last few weeks, and I have a little bit of a “winter coat,” though I’m pretty confident it will go away in the spring. In the meantime, the couple extra pounds don’t really bother me, but the thoughts do. I don’t like thinking about food all the time. I’d rather think about art, writing, Sam, my friends, or just have a clear head sometimes. I don’t like it when food seems like the most comforting, exciting thing in my life. In the week before a party or planned dinner out, the thoughts of food keep popping in my head and don’t go away. I know this isn’t entirely under my control and that certain parts of my brain tend to be overactive, which is why I get “stuck” on certain thoughts (I’ve put lots of research into this.)
To a certain extent though, I can observe this happening and even talk back to these thoughts. One tactic I’ve been using lately is to think “What is feeding me today?”
If the only enjoyable parts of my day revolved around food, I know one of two things. Either I’m experiencing fear and avoiding thinking about something, or I’m not caring for my spirit.
This is tricky, because it changes every day. I love walks most days, but some days I’d rather paint, or read a book. Sometimes I just need to snuggle with my cat and write in my journal. Once in awhile I want to go out with friends, or be spontaneous. Sometimes, I’m just sad and need some comfort from something other than cookies. The other day, a snap of beautiful weather filled me like nothing I’ve felt in months.
If you struggle with food or any other compulsion, ask yourself what you get out of it and what you’re really missing. Can you give yourself what you really need? Is something off with your mood? Do you need more excitement or challenges in your life? Have you taken time to pursue your own interests? Do you take time for rest?
I’m still getting the hang of this, and I’m learning to eat intuitively during the winter and deal with low moods authentically rather than numbing them. This is a useful tool that I’m learning to use. I feed my body when it needs it, but I also try to feed my spirit just as often, with spiritual “meals” of walking outside, connecting with others, creating, and a little dash of adventure now and again.
Has anyone else had experience with this?
We all get stressed out sometimes. We all get angry, tired, anxious, or plain burnt out. So what do we do when we get there? How do we take care of ourselves? How do we learn from these emotions?
If you can’t think of the answers to these questions, don’t worry. It’s ok if you don’t know how to handle these emotions yet, because most people don’t. Most of us see these emotions as bad things that should always be avoided, and that something is wrong with us if we experience them. This isn’t always the case.
Uncomfortable emotions aren’t there to get us, they’re often our greatest teachers and road signs. If we’re stressed, anxious, or depressed all the time, we know that something in our life or attitude needs to change. If we get angry, we might have stumbled over an emotional block that we get to work through and release so we can live better.
But how do we do this?
We use a toolbox. Everyone has one. This toolbox contains the tools we use to handle emotions.
Sometimes these toolboxes are well-stocked so that we can handle any job life throws at us. Some of our toolboxes are rather sparse. Others are full of hammers when what we really need are screwdrivers.
Let’s take a look at our toolboxes. What kind of tool could we find in there? Let’s take a look at my toolbox first. It may not look like your ideal toolbox, but it sure works for me:
- Yoga, walking and hiking outside
- Uplifting reading like my religious texts, blogs, and books like Healing from the Heart by Dr. Judith Moore (this book was key in my recovery)
- Talking to my husband, Mom, or friend.
- Cleaning my apartment, artmaking, and cooking. Great activities for when my hands need something to do while I think.
- iPod: good music, inspiring podcasts and my SoulArt courses.
- Dangerous behaviors like using drugs, smoking, self-inflicted injury, having unprotected sex or drinking.
- Zoning out in front of the TV or computer
- Blowing up at someone to express anger
- Wearing ourselves out by overworking or overexercising
- Bingeing or restricting food
- Bottling up emotions until they make us sick.
- Supporting rituals like “you-time”
- Supportive friends, family or a counselor you can talk to
- Journaling and creative expression
- Service to others
- Good books and other resources to help you work through emotions
- Activities that help you unwind without tuning out. Yoga, reading, and that old self-care cliche, the hot bubble bath.
- Anxiety-soothing activities that keep your hand or body busy while your mind is free to think like cleaning, knitting, wire-jewelry making, kneading bread dough, whatever.
If you’re a creative person (and you are, you just may not know it yet) you probably know what it’s like to be stuck. You might sit down to create something or face a problem, but something seems to block you, and you can’t put you’re finger on it.
If you have a partner, children, coworkers, or if you interact with other humans at all (most of us do) you know what it’s like to be frustrated, hurt or angry with someone else.
If you’ve ever been on a diet, had nasty thoughts about your body, or stayed on the beach because you wouldn’t take off your sarong to get in the water, you know what it’s like to struggle with some degree of self-loathing.
In my last post, I talked about one of my favorite mantras: I Choose. I’ve really gotten into using mantras lately and I can’t believe the change in my attitude and perception. Here”s another powerful mantra I use when I’m frustrated for any reason.
There is only love.
I tend to use this mantra for three things:
- my own creative work
- the way I relate to others
- the way I treat my body and myself.
If I’m in a creative funk, I sit with that feeling and usually realize that I’m afraid of something. Failure, judgement, limitations, whatever. The only way I can get out of that block is to remember how I love to create, and how I love to share my creations with others. Fear is the opposite of love, and my creativity can only flow when I create from love, not fear.
If I have a disagreement with my husband or a family member, if someone cuts me off in traffic or if a cashier grumps at me, I say to myself “There is only love.” Instead of seeing the other person as a jerk or feeling like someone is out to get me, I try to be compassionate. They probably weren’t trying to hurt me. Maybe they’re having a bad day for whatever reason. It’s ok if Sam doesn’t see everything exactly the way I do, we just haven’t found that common ground yet.
I’ve a proficient intuitive eater, but every once in awhile I still have a ghost of a bad body thought, or I might feel slightly guilty for eating something that isn’t good for me. Or, I might be stressed out and feel like emptying out my chocolate stash, but I know that isn’t in my best interest. I remember, “There is only love.” No need to guilt trip myself for a treat. I love my body, so I try to treat it well.
I use this Every. Day. I write it in my journal every morning when I wake up so I can start my day thinking this way.
Just write it down every morning. Say it whenever you’re frustrated. I can’t believe how powerful it’s been in my life.
Well, the past few months have been crazy awesome busy, and hopefully I’ll be able to unveil my secret project later this week!
Also, with this underway I’m planning on posting regularly again, so stay tuned for regular spouting from McKella’s fountain of wisdom. Ha.
Ok, with housekeeping out of the way, it’s time for me to share with you one of the most important things I’ve learned in this year of tremendous growth. Just two little words, a special mantra I’ve used to keep my head on straight through stress and fear.
This is actually one of many mantras I’ve used over the past few months, but let me tell you why this one is special.
- It’s reminds us that we are the masters of our own lives, and that we are powerful. If something isn’t working out for us, if we’re struggling to overcome a harmful habit or if we feel trapped, we can always choose something else. We live in a free country where we always have options, and you can always make a choice to change.
- Knowing we have a choice changes our mindset. Instead of thinking in terms of “should” and “have to”, we can see our abundance of options. Instead of feeling overpowered to binge or let people walk all over us, we can choose to listen to our bodies, to stand up for ourselves. Having a choice sets us free.
Today I finally checked two MAJOR items off my Handprint List:
Reach my natural ideal weight through intuitive eating and enjoyable movement.
Conquer my depression and anxiety
I’ve been working at these for years, struggling and learning all I could about myself and the causes of these issues so I could somehow solve the mystery of my mind and body.
I knew that these two were connected, that my eating habits and body were a reflection of what was going on in the inside. I put a ton of work into overcoming these obstacles, but eventually I realized that these issues had something to teach me, and they weren’t there to destroy me. They had to teach me about self-love and care, trust, gratitude, and courage. I just had to let go and not try so hard to control everything around me.
Once I learned this, the demon fled.
I stopped eating compulsively. I didn’t feel the dark shadow inside me anymore and I started writing and making art again. I felt grateful for what I had and for the lessons my struggles taught me. I didn’t think about food all the time. I felt like being social. The past few months have been amazing because I feel alive again and I can honestly say that I’m not depressed or anxious anymore even though my life is far from perfect.
The root of my disordered eating dissolved and I reached my natural weight in just a few months. I won’t post a picture of how I look now because A) I don’t have one at the moment, and B) I don’t think it’s necessary. I feel good and I think I look good too. I’ve defined my happy weight before, and my eating and activity level feels perfect to me right now.
Eating and emotional states aren’t static though. This doesn’t mean that I’ll never have the urge to overeat again or that I won’t have days or weeks when I struggle with my emotions. This means that I feel like I have the tools to handle things right now, that I’m comfortable enough to examine my emotions so they don’t harm me. I know that I tend to turn to food when I feel off on a deep level, and I can use that tendency as my personal alarm bell.
I could be jumping up and down excited. I’ve had those moments. I used to get super excited whenever I lost weight, and I know I was the last time I had reached this weight, but I actually feel calm. Peaceful. Grateful. I imagined fireworks and choirs of angels when I reached this point, but it’s more like waking up from a really nice nap and just relishing the delicious feeling of knowing that you have the rest of the day to lay there in the sunny room if you want, or you can meet friends for dinner, or go for a walk if you want. Anything is possible now.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
I got on a scale.
Now in the intuitive eating community, weighing is generally a no-no because it’s reinforces the dieting mindset. It encourages us focus on numbers instead of health and generally just causes us to take a very impersonal approach to our bodies with isn’t helpful to physical or emotional well-being.
I knew I’d gained some weight because some of my pants didn’t fit and well, I felt completely awful and uncomfortable, and I could see it too. My face had filled out, my hips were getting wider and for the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a belly, which makes me think that stress was a huge factor because I’m usually pretty pear-shaped and my stomach is the last place to carry extra weight.
I hadn’t weighed in awhile, but I found that I was avoiding the scale out of fear of that number rather than indifference, so I decided that I’d face it and love myself anyway.
I got on the scale at the doctor’s office. I saw the number. I didn’t panic at all. It was definitely higher than it was the last time I weighed; in fact, I’d gained thirty pounds since I got married three years ago, but I’m wasn’t upset at all. I was sad, not because I’d disappointed myself by having no willpower or for being weak. I knew I was in a rough place emotionally and that my body was suffering. The extra weight confirmed that I’d been using food to get through a hard time.
It’s incredible; a few years ago, gaining that much weight was one of the worst things that could have happened to me, but it was no big deal. I know that the state of my body is a result of the state of my emotions, so if my body isn’t happy, my emotions need work. Once I’m emotionally well, my body will follow.
After that doctor visit, I didn’t start a diet. I didn’t go to my stash of workouts I’d been tearing out of Fitness magazine (which I finally threw away the other day after ten years of collecting them), and I didn’t set down any rules for myself in hopes of losing the weight. Instead, I decided to take care of myself emotionally and trust my body to adjust itself.
So that’s what I’ve been doing, just working on my emotions because I know that’s what works for me. In my life, happy=healthy. I once lost 55 pounds over a couple years before I’d even heard of intuitive eating because I was just happy, so food didn’t seem that important. For the first time in years, I’ve felt that happy again. Just for a few months so far, but I haven’t lost that feeling of peace and love that I did on that dumb little scale at the doctor’s office.
I eat junk food sometimes. I still overeat sometimes, but I don’t beat myself up. Actually, I barely think about it at all and I’ve finally gotten to the point where one episode of overeating, one big dinner doesn’t throw me off listening to my hunger cues. I can actually let myself get hungry now. I feel hungry at least once a day and usually two or three times, which is a miracle because before I might have felt hungry once every couple of weeks. I go for at least one walk every day because I love it.
Though I’m sure to get some comments about how I’m still stuck in the dieting mindset, I weighed again yesterday, once again to acknowledge my unconditional love for myself. That number happened to be17 pounds less that the number I saw at the doctor’s office in March, that didn’t surprise me. My body may choose to release more weight, but I finally feel that I’m at a place that I could call my “happy weight”, because I feel completely comfortable and free in my body. The other day, I went to a water park in my brand new turquoise tankini and coral toenail polish, and I didn’t feel one bit self-conscious. I even felt beautiful and carefree, which is the feeling I always wanted in my dieting days, and I had no idea what I weighed. For the first time in my life, the scale isn’t my enemy, or even my friend. It’s just gives me a trivial number.
Freedom feels amazing.
Note: I’m really sorry if this post is triggering to anyone; I am just being honest about my own experience. Weighing is not the best thing for everyone, and happy weights are completely unique to each individual.
Lots of love!