Get Outside this Winter: 3 Ways it Improves your Energy and your Eating Habits

It’s the first week of February and you’ve had enough of winter, yet the forecast calls for more “weather events” in the coming week. You’re run-down and feeling like the next cold to come along could knock you flat. Though we’re 2 weeks past “Blue Monday”, you wonder if those blues might last forever.

Your gung-ho dreams of a plant-based diet have morphed into a pasta-and-chips-based diet.

The end of winter is in sight, but how can you find some of that springtime feeling now?

Get outside!

  • Kick-start your energy.
  • Boost the waning drive in your resolution to eat better.
  • Bring hope to your midwinter slump.

Yes, even when it’s -25C (-13F for those of you south of the border).
Yes, every day, Even when you don’t fee like it.

Here’s why.

1. Get outside for a bit of oxygen therapy.

Think of it as a mini-detox and an energizer.

I know, if you live in the city, the concept of fresh air is somewhat relative. That said, it has a higher oxygen count than the recycled air in your office building, the shopping mall, your car and your house when all the windows are closed.

Out with the bad, in with the good, and all that.

Not only does oxygen improve your heart and lungs, every cell in your body will benefit, allowing them to work at their best. That means better digestion, better immunity, a sharper mind and better moods. More oxygen means that YOU will be at your best.

Oxygen bonus: Spend your outdoor time somewhere with trees.

At the very least, stop to take 3 long, deep breaths as you go from house to car, car to office,…


2. Daylight improves your sleep and resilience.

The bounce of that sunlight off the snow will make its way to your pineal gland, just inside the middle of your brow. This little nugget regulates circadian rhythms, that is, it’s in charge of your sleep and waking cycles.

Get outside in the morning, and you will sleep better at night.

The pineal gland is also at the apex of your endocrine system. By setting your internal pace, it speaks to your hypothalamus and pituitary, who in turn send a cascade of signals to the rest of your hormone system. Your thyroid, adrenals, thymus, pancreas and ovaries/testes take their instructions from those 3 masters.

To put it more plainly, regular exposure to natural daylight improves your metabolism and your ability to withstand stress. Your immune system will also be better prepared to deal with those nasty bugs.

Turn your face to the sun

Daylight bonus: Pull your scarf down, push your shades up and turn your face to the sky. Feel it on your cheeks. Drink in the pleasure of that heat as your skin drinks in the rays it needs to make vitamin D.

At the very least, look up. That particular blue boosts attention, energy levels, memory, reaction time and mood. Think of the blue sky as Nature’s way of telling you it’s time to be up and about.


3. Get outside and move your body.

Honestly, in this kind of cold, there’s no choice but to move. What better way to counter that sluggishness of the indoor lifestyle!

Granted, moving isn’t something that’s limited to the outdoors. Stepping away from your laptop for a good dance break will work wonders for your mood and productivity. Hit your 10,000 steps inside a shopping mall or on a machine at the gym. Any movement will help, obviously.

Outdoor movement bonus: Your muscles, joints and heart will be so much happier if the movement happens in the fresh air & sunshine. (see above)

get outside in winter

Besides, anything you do out in Nature is good for you at a deeper level. It’s grounding, it’s calming. If you pay very close attention, you’ll feel the pulse of the Earth below the frozen soil, the stirring of the trees in the lengthening days.

At the very least, take the dog for a short walk rather than letting him out the back door. Park your car on the far side of the lot or walk to the next bus stop before you get on.


How does time outside help your eating habits?

Get outside regularly in winter,  and you’ll find that your appetite’s improved. I know, you’re already hungry all the time. That’s your body looking for energy to get through the day when what you really need is to hibernate.

I’m talking about a fresh-air-and-exercise-induced appetite. The kind that inspires you to make healthier choices. That’s because your body will crave the nutrients it needs to support the movement. Your body will be hungry for the vitamins and minerals to replace the detritus moving out of your cells and your tissue.

As you eat better, you’ll be filled with a more vibrant, sustainable energy than when you relied on pasta and chips. Which then gives you the energy to get through your day with more spring in your step…and enough leftover to get outside some more!

What’s your favourite way to spend time outside in winter? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Let all your friends who are “done with winter” in on this secret by using any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons on this page.

What’s to Love about Canada Food Guide 2019

You know when you’re expecting something and it’s late and you begin to doubt it’s ever going to happen, and then it does and it’s better than you had hoped?

That’s pretty much how I feel about the Canada Food Guide 2019 which was finally released this week. Here are my thoughts as to why you might want be just as excited.

Health Canada has been sharing food rules since 1942, to help Canadians get adequate nutrients during rationing, as well as stimulating the agricultural economy. They developed it over the years, based on what researchers (and politicians) considered the best nutrition for us as a general population.

As a recent report on Global News so aptly stated, it has always included “dairy, beef and grains with a side of vegetables”. The new guide, however, takes the focus off those particular foods, does away with the 4 food groups we all grew up with, and places the emphasis on the composition of your meals.

canada-food-guide-2019-health-canada
Health Canada – Canada Food Guide 2019

Before even reading the details, this image speaks volumes in a clear and simple way. The big picture of this Canada Food Guide 2019 plate: whole food and the importance of eating habits!

Here’s my take on the key points of Canada Food Guide 2019:

1. Eat vegetables and fruits

Half your plate’s worth!

Again, the picture says it all: eat as many colours and textures and types of produce, cooked and raw, as you can in a given day. If you take this to be your plate at every meal, it tells you to eat fruit or veg every time you eat. Yes!

The benefits:

  • a variety of flavour
  • a mix of fibres – soluble and insolube
  • key vitamins & minerals, such calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamins A&C
  • each colour comes with its own array of phytochemicals – the plant-based antioxidants that provide your cells and immune systems with the wherewithal to prevent and minimize disease

2. Eat protein foods

While we’ve all become aware, to the point of obsession, that we need to eat an adequate amount of protein, this section makes for a more inclusive approach.

In former versions, the Canada Food Guide emphasized meat and dairy as 2 core parts of healthy eating. It all but ignored people with different health concerns, cultures and values whose diets don’t necessarily, or can’t, include those foods.

While critics have worried about the elimination of beef and dairy, they are not gone entirely. You will find these foods among the vast array of proteins you can enjoy, depending on your tastes, etc.

That this category puts a focus on plant-based protein allows for a more balanced intake of that nutrient. The plate as a whole is mostly plants; animal food is there in a healthier proportion.

Other than fibre, vitamins and minerals in plant-based protein, having a variety of sources allows you to stay within the 15% your body is best suited to consume. An animal-based diet tips you over than amount. Too much protein displaces the other macronutrients from your daily intake and makes your liver and kidneys work harder than they need.

3. Eat Whole Grain Food

This one made me jump up and down with joy!

Canada Food Guide 2019 encourages the consumption of whole grains or products made from the “whole grain”, that is, it tells you to cut down on most flour-based products.

These are part of your good carbs, ladies!

While the debate continues as to whether we should be eating grains at all, this is a step in the right direction.

Fibre, vitamins, minerals, a bit of protein and good fat are what they provide nutritionally. Not to mention deliciousness and texture and feeling satisfied longer… the best kind of comfort food!

4. Make water your drink of choice

…rather than sugary alternatives, which, yes, includes fruit juice.

More than simply replenishing losses, staying properly hydrated

  • improves digestion and elimination
  • regulates blood pressure
  • helps clear out the garbage
  • supports all metabolic functions, that is, keeps you energised!

Each of the above sections of Canada Food Guide 2019 offers practical information about how to prepare or incorporate items into your lifestyle. What a pro-active way to get people taking those first baby steps!

The most exciting part about Canada Food Guide 2019: a focus on eating habits as part of your nourishment.

These sections are

Be mindful of your eating habits: the importance of your physical and emotional environment as you eat; AND listening to your body for hunger and satiety signals, as well as using all 5 senses to eat!

Cook more often: even one meal a week to start (for those who don’t yet cook) makes a difference!

Enjoy your food: includes being open to try new things and maybe even grow some of it yourself; cultural and food traditions are an integrative part of that enjoyment. Read: bring your meals back to an experience much greater than your body and the food on your plate

Eat meals with others: shared meals is a part of how you connect to each other and has an impact on appetite, healthy food choices and how well you digest.

eat-meals-with-others-health-canada

The new guide raises a red flag around food marketing. Furthermore, the committee refused to meet with special interest groups in developing Canada Food Guide 2019. The emphasis for these new Canadian Food Rules is about what’s best for our health as individuals.

Canadians are encouraged to steer clear of processed food, read labels and make room for the way Nature offers nutrients. Little or nothing added, little or nothing taken away.

What Health Canada has proposed here feels like we’re moving back towards what we now refer to as “traditional diets”. It takes some of the focus off specific food and elevates the necessity of eating to an essential element within cultural and community health… all part of your physical health.

Not every long anticipated event can be without its small disappointments

The guide is lacking more comprehensive, up-to-date information about fats & oils, and the best choices. The good news here: action has been taken to eradicate trans fats and their production from our food.

My colleagues and I will continue this part of the discussion, teaching Canadians about the benefits of adequate fats and how to best assimilate them as part of your ideal eating pattern.

How to eat better is an on-going conversation about what is optimal foodwise for Canadians, well, for all modern people. I look forward to being a part of the, for the benefit of my family, my clients and my community.

How do you feel about the changes to the Canada Food Guide? Does it bring up questions, confusion, frustration? Are you as excited as I am about the possibilities of where this can lead us? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open those possibilities for others.

The Perfectionist’s Guide to Good Eating

There was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

That old Mother Goose nursery rhyme comes to mind often in my work. Women sitting there telling me of all the beautiful meals they make for themselves “when I’m being good.” There’s a self-righteousness to these parts of their food day, a certain pride in the fact that they’ve learned the rules and show a sense of discipline.

These same women go on to tell me about later in the day – during that afternoon dip or once supper’s over and they’ve settled in front of the TV. That’s “when I’m being bad” and their poor food habits show up. When the office candy bowl and cookies and ice cream and the repeat visits to the fridge take over all sense of reason or strength of will.

One client recently referred to such bad habits as “sins” – insinuating that there is a moral transgression being committed, one punishable by God. Ouch.

Is that tendency a part of the perfectionist’s personality? That when you’re being good, you’re very, very good, and when you’re bad you do so with equal zeal? Which certainly translates to those sins being well worth the self-flagellation and berating you offer yourself in return. Double ouch.

 

That’s the kind of black and white thinking your inner perfectionist no-doubt craves. There ends up being no room for grey zones.

Unfortunately, nutritional advice has evolved into nothing less than one huge grey zone.

The lines get very blurry from one style of eating to the next, and even blurrier between experts on a given style.

Even so, when you decide on a specific set of rules, you will accept nothing less of yourself than following those rules to the letter as outlined by one of said experts. Sometimes to the sacrifice of your likes and dislikes. Or in ignorance of your emotional state or how active you’ve been or the fluctuations through your cycle. Sometimes cutting out any sense of celebration.

Yet, when it comes to “good” and “bad” food choices, there can be no absolutes.

I do the air-quote thing on purpose when using those words with students or clients. I want to emphasize the fact that the goodness or badness of a food or an eating habit is relative.

good and bad food choices

Here’s what I mean:

We all know sugar is “bad” for us, more so for those dealing with such conditions as Type II diabetes or cancer. Even when calming inflammation of any kind (including those 15 lbs that have set up camp on your middle), sugar will feed the issue.

In that sense, sugars from any source need to be taken into consideration, whether it’s from a candy bar or a PB&J or a carrot or a glass of wine. At the end of the day, they all contribute to how much sugar you’ve taken in. That is, the carrot has potentially become one of the “bad” guys.

That said, sugar is our cleanest energy source and getting a certain amount (up to 10% of your daily calories) makes life a heck of a lot more pleasant and your body function more efficiently. When you focus on whole foods and eliminate the added sugars, you can easily stay within those limits. At which point a carrot, full of fibre and antioxidants along with the sugar, is a “good” source.

Make sense?

In In Defense of Foods, Michael Pollan shares another great example from psychologist Paul Rozin.

From a list of foods, study participants were asked to consider which food item from a given list they would choose to have on a desert island (along with water). Participants chose bananas, spinach, corn, alfalfa sprouts or peaches over hot dogs or milk chocolate.

However, on that desert island, that hot dog might be your only source of protein for a few days, the chocolate will keep your blood sugar happy and your mind alert. Of all of the above, they would increase your chance of survival.

 

And then we get into the actual enjoyment of good food.

How well will your body take in and use the nutrients of a healthy bowl of steel-cut oats and ground flax if the texture grosses you out and you can barely swallow, let alone chew it? If you pinch your nose to get through the steamed kale, is it possible your cells will be pinched on the inside?

In Chinese tradition, when the shen (your spirit) tastes the food or herbs in your mouth, that is the first stage of your organism’s ability to take it in.

If you prefer physiological facts, think about your parasympathetic nervous system. You know the relaxation response, that is, the part of you in charge of “rest and digest.”

Call to mind the most delicious thing you’ve eaten this week. (Seriously, do it!)

Remember taking that first bite – how buttery or complex or pungent it was – what happens in your body? As you imagine the flavours expanding in your mouth, don’t your shoulders drop? Do you maybe let out a big sigh and fall back in your chair ever so slightly? You’ve relaxed –  engaged the PNS – improved your digestion by simply savouring your meal.

Now repeat the exercise with the last thing you ate out of righteousness. I’ll bet you feel a little more tense from that one.

Which brings up the question, is food “good” because of its nutrient profile or because it tastes good?

Engaging your taste buds also attunes you to the fact that tasting “bad” may mean that a food has gone bad; mouldy or rancid or rotten. It may be telling you that the food in question is actually bad for you in some other way. Try eating a fast-food burger slowly, savouring every bite. How does it actually taste?

Feeling bad – physically, mentally or emotionally – after eating a particular food is another way your body tells you to steer clear. This is your individual decision, regardless of how nutritious the actual food.

 

Do I have a solution to offer you for maintaining good eating habits?

I prefer to think that you have the solution by listening to your body through practices such as

* Mindful eating – slow, deliberate and seasoned with gratitude. This extends to mindful planning, grocery shopping and cooking. As they say, most of healthy eating is in the prep.

* Engage the relaxation response throughout your day, with breathing exercises, meditation or generally loosening the strictures on your image of what the “perfect” (yes, that one’s relative too) meal, or the “perfect” life, need be.

* Forgive yourself when you’ve been “bad”, knowing you can start again at the next meal. Beating yourself up for your less than “perfect” choices does you more harm in the long run that the junk food.

* Take responsibility for your choices. Stay away from stuff you know is “bad” for you (see above). If, however, you choose to go ahead, know that it may involve consequences on one level or another. YOU have the power of choice over the food you put in your mouth, not the other way around!

* Step back and explore your emotional state before you go back for that second helping of [insert “bad” choice].

Rather than a grey zone, I prefer to think of healthy eating habits as a full-spectrum. Not black & white, but exploding with colour. Just like all the best food.

The word “healthy” comes from the same root as “whole”. By letting your whole self be a part of the action – the “good” bits and the “bad” bits of you – you are feeding yourself from a place of fulfillment. You fill yourself with more than parcels of nutrients (or junk) and will be more satisfied and healthier for it.

 

Which part of your eating habits do you consider “bad” and what do you do to make it better? When you offer your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Share this post with any friends struggling with getting control of their eating habits by using any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons.

The Real Reason you Need Fibre

 

As with many nutrients, people have a general, preconceived idea about their need for dietary fibre. As with many nutrients, those notions come from ad campaigns: orange juice for vitamin C, bananas for potassium and fibre to keep you regular.

True, but only part of the picture (for all those nutrients). Fibre is a key ingredient in the Magic Looking Glass for Eating Right for more reasons than pooping well.

In exploring the beautiful reflection you see in your meals through the Magic Looking Glass for Eating Right, you are also learning to reflect a deeper care of yourself. This is self-love in action. Eating a balance of nourishing food you enjoy is one of the concrete ways you express self-love – it’s a form of radical self-care. Each of the nutrients in the looking glass framework offer you an important angle for eating right AND show you how you can nourish your best self.

FIBRE PLAYS A VITAL ROLE IN THE OVERALL NOURISHMENT OF YOUR BODY AND SPEAKS VOLUMES TO HOW YOU NOURISH YOUR LIFE.

(Be sure to read right to the end to get to this essential point!)

fibre nourishes your life

Let’s start with the fibre basics:

What is dietary fibre?

Fibre is a complex carbohydrate, that is, it’s part of our plant-based nutrition.

It holds the plant upright by holding water within the plant (think flower stem or celery stalk).

It protects and preserves the seed or fruit by preventing water from getting in (a grain’s bran, the coat of a legume, rind).

It holds the water necessary for the fruit/vegetable to grow, flower and reproduce.

Fibre is either soluble – it can dissolve in water, bulking it up and making it gelatinous or even slimy (tapioca, oats, seaweed, pectin) – or it’s insoluble, like the coats & stalks mentioned above.

Because of its structure, the human digestive tract cannot break fibre apart the way it can starch, sugars, protein or fat. Some fibre is so tough we can’t eat it at all (corn husks, shells, avocado or pineapple rind). That indigestibility and its propensity to hold water are exactly how fibre provides its essential functions to the body.

 

Why you need fibre

Each type of fibre plays a specific role in your body, though fibre in general has many advantages.

In your mouth, fibre-rich food require more chewing to break it down. Cooking will also break it down to a certain extent, depending on the method (think steamed, boiled, roasted or raw carrots). The chewing and/or cooking allow you to access the other nutrients bound within the fibre’s strands. As chewing is the first stage of both digestion and immunity in your gut, I’m all for anything that encourages you do it more!

While in your stomach & small intestine, fibre contributes to satiety – that satisfied feeling of having had enough. With fibre in your meal, you feel satisfied sooner and stay that way longer, because it takes a little more work for your digestive juices to access the goods. That is, it allows for a slow, sustainable release of glucose into your blood, as opposed to the burst and peaks & valleys from more refined choices. (Read more about good carb sources here.)

Soluble fibre swells with water. This could be as part of your meal, as in chia pudding or oatmeal, or after you eat, when it soaks up moisture from your digestive juices. Note: this capacity of all fibre to hold water is why it’s always important to hydrate adequately when taking fibre supplements and why Health Canada/ FDA put limits on recommended intake (more about that shortly).

The resulting swollen jelly acts as a sponge as it moves through your intestines. Specifically, soluble fibre mops up bile containing excess cholesterol, hormone bi-products and other fat-soluble toxins released by your liver while cleaning house, and sends them out for disposal. For anyone dealing with estrogen dominance, soluble fibre is an essential part of the nutritional protocols. This is also how soluble fibre (psyllium husks) effectively improves cholesterol and blood sugar levels. (1,2)

Both types will feed your gut flora as they move through. Well-fed beneficial bacteria add to your intestinal immune system and provide you with some vitamins B & K.

Insoluble fibre adds bulk to the bolus (the mass of food moving through your GI tract). Your colon is a large muscle that serves to reabsorb water and move the garbage out. The bulk acts as resistance training for that muscle, giving it something to work against so it can function more effectively. Yes, that’s how fibre helps you poop efficiently.

When working well that efficiency contributes to detoxification and weight management.

 

fibre in foodHow much fibre do you need?

Health Canada/FDA say women need 25 g, men 38 g. As with your caloric intake, that number can vary depending on your size, lifestyle and state of health.

One good way to tell if you’re getting enough? Read your poop.

Of course, this is something to consider in the context of your entire diet, your habits and any health conditions you have, but generally, if your stool is loose or unformed, you may need more fibre; hard & dry, you may need more OR you be getting too much/need more water.

Not enough fibre intake can set you up for diseases such as diverticulitis or colon cancer.

Too much fibre

  • causes constipation and/or dehydration (also caused by lack of water);
  • prevents the absorption of other nutrients, especially if things are moving through too quickly (ideally a meal should take 24-36 hours from plate to toilet – beets help determine that transit time)
  • can interfere with medication
  • can irritate the intestinal tract.

Best to let your holistic nutrition consultant help you find the happy balance.

That’s the physical part. What about…

 

THE SOUL OF FIBRE

Let’s take a moment to look at the qualities you gain from having enough fibre in your diet… in your life. They are the qualities we glean from plants as a whole.

Think about this as you look through the food sources, which ones you eat, and where you lack in your life.

Fibre can be found in its various forms, densities and solubilities in all parts of a plant. Each part nourishes our bodies in its own way; each part teaches us a life lesson in its own way.

Do you remember grade 9 biology, when you learned about photosynthesis? That’s when the leaves make sugar by binding water and carbon dioxide with the sun’s energy. Sugar is literally cosmic energy and the building block for all other parts of the plant. Those sugar molecules link together to make starch, and that most complex polysaccharide: fibre.

lacework of fibre

Lignin molecule

Fibre is a lacework of that energy. The densest expression of heat and light. It gives strength to the plant; sometimes likened to fibreglass in its durability. Yet it can also be flexible. (Remember, too much and you will become hard and dry in your being.

As part of the leaves, it allows that primal reaction to happen by reaching up towards that sunlight. Leaves and their concentration of magnesium nourish your heart, the part of you that reaches for that which you desire, that which lights you up.

The stalk reflects your human need for social order. Have you ever looked at the patterns in the way leaves emerge on a stem? The specific shapes of leaves are part of that order in that the shape denotes its purpose. Think of the large leaves of a rhubarb that shade its heat-sensitive stalks or the spines on a thistle that protect the land from invaders.

The stalk also speaks to your moral fibre. What do you stand for? Are you capable of standing up for yourself?

Fibre holds water, the vital basis of all life. Do your ideas, words and values hold water as well? Are you living in integrity?

Fibre is the stuff of life that requires you to decide what you must absorb and keep, and what you need to release.

Fibre digs deep with the roots that ground you to reality. The formative forces of the earth draw up to nourish that plant and feed your brain.

Much subtler – no fibre, but it completes the picture as the last expressions of a plan – is the vibrational energy you receive from plants. The colours, essences and oils that nourish your subtle bodies – your chakras, your emotions and your aura.

 

YOU WANT TO HAVE MORE INTEGRITY, TO BECOME A BETTER, STRONGER, MORE ENERGIZED, MORE LOVING, CONFIDENT AND FOCUSED VERSION OF YOURSELF WITH EVERY FIBRE OF YOUR BEING.

Could it be that eating plant food more consciously and conscientiously will help enhance those qualities you seek?

 

Now that you know that fibre is so much more than the All-Bran you sprinkle on your morning yogourt, which ways will you incorporate it into your life? Which qualities do you hope to gain from that addition? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Share your insights and get your friends in on the conversation by clicking any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons.

 

1 Anderson, J.W. et al. “Long-term cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium as an adjunct to diet therapy in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. June 2000
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10837282, June 21, 2018

2 Gibb, Roger D. et al. “Psyllium fiber improves glycemic control proportional to loss of glycemic control: a meta-analysis of data in euglycemic subjects, patients at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and patients being treated for type 2 diabetes mellitus” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. November 2015
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/102/6/1604/4555168, June 21, 2018

Should is the New Gluten

“I should eat better.”

“Great suggestion, I should try that.”

“I should be in better tune with my body at this age.”

“The weather is nice, I should get out my bike again.”

“I know what I should do, I just don’t do it.”

If there’s one word that I hear come out of every one of my clients’ mouths it’s the word should.

 

It’s not just about food and health, either. It seems to permeate all aspect of our lives.

“We should book a weekly date night… play with the kids more… ”

“I should get those investments sorted.”

“I should spend more time with friends… update my website… hire an assistant… network more.”

As one of the local business coaches says, “women are constantly shoulding all over themselves.”

 

My inner-perfectionist loves the word should, a word that we somehow imagine will move us forward and finally get us to that door we long to enter. As if it’s the driving force that will help you plan your day and inspire you to be more productive, make better food choices and show up as your best self in all ways.

In reality, all “should” does is elongate the hallway leading to that door, like in some weird dream where you can never reach the place you’re desperate to attain.

Should makes it harder to get through that door

All it really does is set you up for a sense of failure because the bar – that you set too high in the first place – is now completely out of reach, no matter how hard or try… so why bother.

You make it your responsibility to, not only look after everything and everyone, but do it gracefully, with perfectly coiffed hair, rock-hard abs and fuelled with nothing more than kale smoothies and rainbows. As my spiritual psychotherapy teacher often said, “we carry our responsibility on our should-ers”.

“Should” weighs heavily on you, it drags you down, makes it awfully hard to rise up to life’s challenges. No wonder you’re so exhausted all the time!

 

“Should” has become the new source of all that ails you in your life.

It’s the source of all your troubles in the way that gluten was tagged, about a decade ago, when it showed up as the nutrition buzz-word.

Women come to me with questions like, “should I give up gluten, should I give up dairy, should I give up red meat,…?” While it is a matter of personal exploration and reading of symptoms to decide which course of nutritional advice is right for you, the first thing that all women must to give up, across the board, is “should”.

I’ve recently started to catch myself: “should” comes out of my mouth far more than I’d like to admit. Curbing it feels a bit like trying to give up gluten.

It was hard to say goodbye to some of my favourite food – fresh baguette and croissant, pasta, French toast. With gradual shifts and letting new habits take root, my body slowly adjusted and I felt the difference. I noticed where the gluten had been doing the most damage.

 

Here’s what I’ve noticed about the damage “should” does:

“Should” comes out when I recognise that I’ve been “bad” and know it’s time to reign in and be “good” again. Foodwise, it usually that means that the sweets have snuck back into the daily for me and I need to get out of the jag…cut the addictive streak.

“Should” is the voice of the advice I’ve received over the years, when I find myself stuck in the same place for the 47th time. When I kept having gallbladder attacks over and over again, and my acupressurist reminded me at every session to eat less butter and more bitter, I nodded then promptly ignored her advice until it got so painful, I had no choice.

“Should” surfaces when I feel guilty for not being the perfect example of business owner or housekeeper or parent or wife. The perfection, of course, defined by what I see others achieving on social media.

“Should” is a word that comes from the outside.

When you look up your symptoms online or go through the latest book, there may be suggestions that work for you and there may be others that don’t. Not everyone can function as a vegan or Paleo or low-fat or on whatever diet/lifestyle is being sold as the best this month.

“Should” is all the expectations we set for ourselves based on the standards that have been set for us by society and the media. I’m paraphrasing my friend Casey Erin Wood here – that’s basically her definition of “perfection paralysis”.

Paralysis. Should doesn’t move you forward. It stops you in your tracks.

 

 

The best way to give up should? Say Yes!

There is no one-size fits all solution to eating right.

The truth for you may lie somewhere in the middle of several rules. You need to experiment, explore, try out and listen to what works.

In tuning into your body, and noticing its sensations & symptoms, in feeling the emotions that move through it, you learn what feels good at a deeper level. Listen to your body and get to know how it says “No” and how it says “Yes!”

 

Yes is a commitment.

Yes opens the door to possibility.

In the dance of emotion, Yes is linked to desire, the drive to step towards something new.

Yes is an action.

You get to Yes one step at a time.

 

This solution is not a quick and easy fix. Like giving up gluten (or sugar, or dairy, or avoiding your taxes, or…) there will be trial and error. There will be days when you can do it, and days when you want to give it all up and dive into the fresh aroma wafting from the nearest bakery.

Slowly, gradually, with baby steps and support, you move away from the perfection required by “should” and come home to the comfort of being good to your body. Yes!

 

Want help taking that action?

You’ve got 2 choices:

Through the spring, I’ve been going Live to talk about some baby steps – pick one that appeals to you and give it a whirl.

OR,

You can find support for these types of changes in The Eating Better Conversation, a closed Facebook group where we talk about the challenges that hold us back and celebrate the little wins that move us forward in our quest to eating better.

 

Where do you should on yourself? How do you define your “Yes!”? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

 

Oh, and you should really click the pretty green buttons and share this post to all your friends, telling them they should read it too!