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!

 

Why Worry about Calories? There’s enough to worry about already

 

Rather than count calories, I prefer to follow the kindergarten rules, or what my family calls the cottage rules.

You know, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. The very basics of listening to your body also include sleeping when you’re tired and going to the bathroom when you get the urge.

Yes, there are days when I don’t heed those signals. Some days I eat too much; other times I eat too little or stay up too late.

In the end, it all evens out…more or less, maybe gaining or losing a few pounds here and there.

Being healthy is the key for me, more than the weight. Feeling energized enough to do what I want to do in life, and fitting comfortably into my clothes.

With so many variables in life draining our worry batteries, something as basic as eating ought not be added to that list. Better to stay present to your body and your food while you eat it, and pay attention to when it’s had enough or needs more.

So, let me expand on some of those rules.

Here’s a rough guide to some of the ways your body talks to you at mealtime, what it might be saying, and how you might want to respond.

1. Hunger is your body’s way of saying your blood sugar’s getting low, i.e. your brain needs food.

Choose something nutrient dense (not refined) to ensure that your blood sugar will stay on an even keel for a good while.

 

2. When you start to feel energized during a meal, that’s a sign you’ve had enough and your digestive tract has started to work on it. Yes, this requires you to slow down and draw a certain amount of awareness to your body as you eat.

Stop eating. (Anything left on your plate can be packed away for snack later, or tomorrow’s lunch.)

 

3. If you feel sluggish at the end of a meal, you may have eaten too much, and more energy than necessary has been diverted to its digestion.

Other than just wait it out, and not engage in anything too strenuous, you can take some bitters to speed the emptying of your stomach.

 

4. Getting jittery or sleepy immediately after you eat starchy/sweet food can be a signal that you’ve eaten too little protein or fat or fibre in that meal/snack.

Eat a stalk of celery, to help your body metabolize the excess sugar, and a handful of nuts or seeds to add protein, fat and fibre into the mix.

 

5. A heavy feeling, like the food’s just sitting in your stomach can be the result of a fat-rich meal. For me, it’s always the creamy dessert at the end of a big meal that does it. Alcohol can also slow down or even stop your digestion.

The heavy feeling may also indicate low stomach acid, especially if you just ate a meat meal. Heartburn, belching, constipation and gas are other symptoms of that state.

Drink a shot of water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to stimulate your stomach and get things going.

 

Adolescent rules that also make sense:

When I was 14, my girlfriend and I came up with the rule that if you eat the same number of calories as your best friend, they cancel each other out. We were notorious for making Dagwood-worthy sandwiches and decadently dressed ice cream sundaes, so it was crucial that we find a way to be “allowed” to eat that way and still be true to our Seventeen-inspired world.

There may be no scientific proof, but I still believe in that theory.

Enjoying a meal in the company of people you love, of friends who make you laugh and stimulate your mind – people with whom you can truly be yourself – is just as nourishing to your being as the food on your plate.

Have you ever noticed you can eat some of your no-no food on holiday without issue and you might even lose weight? Or, that you can drink cocktails & wine at a party where you deeply connect with others and get no hangover?

If your heart, your mind and your soul are nourished as well as your body, you raise your vibration, stoke your inner fire, which raises your metabolism. Everything works better, when you’re in your body, in your flow, including your ability to digest, absorb, assimilate and eliminate – you extract the goodness and release anything that doesn’t serve you on all levels.

Which leads me to conclude that the connection to, and expression of, who you are is what matters most to good eating habits. It’s a matter of being your Self.

The bonus? When you’re satiated at a deeper level, you body won’t be looking for the love, connection, attention and fulfillment in a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream.

 

Note: If you’re working hard to lose weight or have just started a running program or intense exercise of some sort, and it’s best that you do count calories for a time, read this first.

 

What do you notice your body doing during a meal? Does it change depending on the day? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Pass this along to your calorie-concerned friends using any (or all!) of these links.

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How Your Body Tells You What It Needs Right Now

 

The other day, I was talking on the phone with a friend who’s being overwhelmed by physical issues since her marriage fell apart – constant nausea and pain from an old wrist injury acting up.

Our conversation had a more personal focus, but she did ask me my professional opinion about what she could do to help remedy one or the other of those symptoms. As always, I suggested she talk to her wrist and stomach – listen to what they have to say, listen to what they need.

At which point, she very kindly asked, “Ok, I get the idea of listening to my body, but how do I do that?”

Of course! Here I am, constantly spouting off about something that’s obvious to me – and to someone who’s already worked with me – but that idea on its own may mean nothing to you, or you might have a notion that’s only somewhat related to what I’m talking about.

 

Let’s clear that up right now. What do I mean when I say “listen to your body”?

Starting with the obvious

Your body speaks to you on a daily basis. When you get hungry or tired or have a pain, your body sends you a bunch of signals to indicate that something needs your attention. Ideally, you eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired, and step away from the computer to rest your wrist when it hurts: that’s you listening to your body.

If you’re well tuned into your body and actually heed its signals, it doesn’t need to speak very loudly.

Sometimes, though, you ignore those signals, or you’re not in touch enough to actually hear them. In which case, your body starts to speak more loudly: you feel faint and irritable from low blood sugar, your mind is foggy from lack of sleep, or your wrist is so badly inflamed, you can’t work for 3 days.

Your body acts like a little kid looking for loving attention. Do you see what she needs after the first gentle “Mom?”, or do you ignore her until she’s escalated through “Mom. Mom? Moom. Mooo-oooom! MOM!”

 

Listening as a way of fixing a problem

More specifically, you need to listen to your body when trying to sort out how best to address a certain ailment and to understand if certain remedies are working. Let’s say we’re talking about my friend’s nausea. I would ask her to take a few days to notice if there’s a time of day it acts up more than others, if certain foods or activities aggravate it or make it better. Then, once I’ve made certain suggestions about her eating habits and herbs, she’s going to check in to see if there’s any change – for better or worse.

One issue that comes up often with clients is women who graze mindlessly or fall into some other aspect of emotional eating. There again, it’s a matter of understanding if there’s any actual hunger involved. Is the hunger for food, or for a deeper need? Maybe the need for food is a way of avoiding something else. (This is a big topic, and I’ll come back to address it more substantially in another post soon.)

 

Listening to your Body is a way of hearing the needs of your soul.

Don’t worry, there’s a how-to audio for this part at the end.

The other concept I throw around a lot is based on that Teilhard de Chardin quote about us being souls having a human experience: the idea that the body is a container which allows the soul to move on the earth. The body is how we interact in this existence. So it stands to reason that if the soul wants to send us a message, it’s going to do so through medium of the body.

The sensations you feel in your body are your soul speaking to you in a language you can understand.

In that regard, listening to your body involves so much more than noticing your symptoms after certain foods. Listening to your body is part of a healing conversation.

 

When you tune in and hear what your soul is saying to you via the body, you are engaging in a conversation with your self. You are deepening the relationship to your self – in the same way that conversations with the women in your life have turned them from acquaintances into friends into besties.

Conversations aren’t one-sided. They are a back and forth exchange – speaking as well as listening, asking as well as answering; giving and receiving.

When you speak your concerns aloud, whether to yourself or a friend, you draw them out of the shadow of fear and into the light for release.

When you share the experience of what you’re feeling in your body with your practitioner, you’re giving her a fuller picture of why your body is reacting the way it does and how to best approach its healing.

 

What I teach women is based on a technique known as Focusing – developed by psychologist Eugene Gendlin. Some people refer to it as hearing your inner voice or your soul voice or your higher self. Basically, you’re talking to YOU.

Learning how to listen to your body – having a conversation to better understand how it works, how you work – what lights you up and what drags you down – is an essential part of the healing journey.

Put your info in the grey box to access the audio guide which walks you through the steps.

In my next post, once you’ve had a bit of time to practice and get to know yourself in a new way, I’m going to offer a key to making this work as a more effective tool for how you heal and grow. (And let you know what happened with my friend and here wrist.)

Know anyone else who wants to understand how to (re)connect with her body? Share this post using any (or all!) of the buttons here.

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Wallowing vs Self-Care or How to Find Hopeful Movement after all the Chaos

 

Don’t you love that time, after you’ve gone through something big – when activity and thinking and decisions and emotional turmoil seem like a never-ending vortex that would pull you along forever – and things become quiet again? It’s so peaceful, just sitting and letting the dust settle on your new life.

You learn to relax again. You get caught up on a season of Broadchurch. You chat on the phone. It’s so comfortable.

Maybe too comfortable, because that was a few months ago; you’re still in that same spot and the dust is piling up.

You’ve gone from allowing yourself a quiet moment of recharging your batteries to full-on hibernation, and you’re starting to feel gross. Sluggish. Your waistline is expanding and your joints complain whenever you try to move.

Did you really just go through everything you did only to end up here?!?

I so get this. Every time I’ve broken up with someone, every time I’ve moved or changed career paths, I get to a point where I just want to curl up in the comfort zone of what’s easiest. But there’s a fine line between taking a moment of self-care and wallowing.

The beauty of change – whether consciously chosen or from the rug getting ripped out from under you – is that it opens the door to opportunity. Lost your job? What a perfect time to open the shop you’ve always dreamed about. Divorced? You can fall in love again…primarily with yourself.

Yes, it’s ripe with potential! Yet, without channeling some of that potential into movement, into action, you will stagnate and go stale.

Look at the trees this time of year. They’ve been standing still and grey, quietly enduring the cold. At a certain point, the sun gets warm enough and their sap starts to flow again. Life literally pours into their branches and they’re awash with colour and communal activity. Without the sap, its limbs will rot and eventually fall off.

Ok, so your arms may not fall off, but your body will feel the lack of vibrant nourishment over time. As poor health, as weight gain, as depression.

Sure wallowing can be part of the process, but when does it start to hold you back from the next necessary steps? And how can you get back into movement when that stillness feels so good?

Recharging makes conscious choices: to watch some TV or eat a cookie or have a glass of wine while you cook dinner.

Destructive wallowing feels like those same activities are a way of avoiding how you feel; they can take over to the point of mindlessness. One cookie becomes a bag. One episode becomes a whole season in one night. The glass of wine replaces dinner.

Recharging sheds tears for all you’re leaving behind – sometimes buckets of them from so deep in your heart, you suddenly understand why you’ve felt so heavy all these months and years. When they’re done, you’re filled with energy and a capacity to now fill that space with creativity and joy.

Destructive wallowing is needy and cries out of self-pity.

Recharging mourns. Wallowing pines.

Deep down inside (sometimes ever so faintly), recharging holds the candle of hope that you will, and do, feel better.

Wallowing feels like nothing will never be good again.

Recharging stays connected to friends and family, if only internally. Wallowing is completely disconnected.

Recharging naturally shifts back into creativity and a need to move. Wallowing can get stuck.

If you’re wallowing and truly feel there’s no way out, please, get help. Call me. Call a friend. Call a therapist.

If you just need a little bit of sunshine to get the sap running again,

  • Put on your favourite music and dance.
  • Go outside and take a walk. Go for a run.
  • Think about that really great day you had a few weeks back, how you felt and what excited you.
  • Get to a yoga class or zumba.
  • Visualize a shower of sparkling white light raining down on you and washing away the grey sludge from your heart and your soul.
  • Turn the dirt and start prepping your garden for planting.

Your mother was right to send you out for fresh air & exercise. Move your body. Get outside. Connect with Nature. Connect with other people…speak about how you’ve been feeling. Breathe.

What gets you back in the game when you’d rather stay curled up in your comfort zone?

If you know anyone who’s stuck in a rut after a big shift, by all means send this along using any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons.

How to Connect your Body & Mind

 

When big things are happening in my life, when I feel the most busy and in danger of the to-do list being in charge, the most effective way I know of getting back in control is to sit in silence for 10 minutes each morning.

It took a certain amount of discipline – ok, let’s be honest, a good deal of conscious effort – to start getting up early for this, but it has been worth it. If nothing else, I love that the house is all mine, that the time is all mine, that the quiet is all mine to enjoy and use as I need & desire.

This is something I do before I get dressed or check my phone/email/Facebook or my to-do list; before I even think about making breakfast or lunches. I spend 15-30 minutes getting clear on who I am in this moment, and rewiring the disconnect between my mind and my body, before any of the outer world starts its inevitable invasion. As soon as I get up, I meditate.

This isn’t something that came to me easily.

Every time I tried, in a yoga class or because I knew I “should”, I would get squirmy and my ever-chattering mind would take me down rabbit holes of whirring thoughts & worry. I figured, “I’m just no good at it,” and gave up on myself far too quickly.

Of course it wasn’t working. Those occasions were so few and far between that I never got any real practice. How many times have I explained to my kids that skating or drawing or swimming or guitar or spelling gets better the more you do it. As with any of those activities, the more often you try, the better you get, the more it evolves with you, hence the word practice for meditation, for yoga, even for professional services. It’s about the repetition, as much as it’s about testing out different techniques, stretching your limits and honing your skills. If one way doesn’t work, try something else.

My homeopath directed me to a website that got me over the hump. It had straightforward explanations and a simple guided audio to follow for 8 days. (headspace.com if you want to give it a shot – I’m not trying to sell anything here, just sharing resource that’s free and effective.) Their analogy of thoughts in relation to self, like the clouds covering the sky, was the lightbulb I needed to understand and be able to follow. The blue sky is there regardless of the size, shape, density or colour of the clouds blocking it from view.

It took quite a few tries – religiously practicing every day for 10 minutes – before I got past all the clouds (thoughts in my head) to the blue sky beneath them. What I discovered there was the most remarkable place of grounded, open, strong and vulnerable beauty.

I was in touch with Me, my soul, my being at its very core; my power.

Sometimes the contact is fleeting, other days I can sink into it fully. Even if I never get there at all on a given day, knowing that it’s perpetually present in me is enough to fuel my day. “I am here!”, no matter how good or how shitty things might get later on.

Now that’s the other remarkable par: days don’t get too bad anymore. This shift was entirely unconscious and so subtle it took a while for me to notice. It seems that knowing my truth is there and constant, the rest of life’s ups & downs don’t hold the same barbs that would get me caught up in drama or anxiety. I am better able to ride those waves of life with more flow.

In the 2 years since I truly started a meditation practice, it’s grown and evolved to include prayers to the natural universe for support (usually while I walk); petitions for concrete help when I need it; pulling Tarot and other cards as inspiration, motivation or a theme for the day’s mantra. I also nourish my soul and enrich what has come out of meditation with affirmations and journal writing.

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time for myself, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention. In the coming weeks I’ll be discussing how to stay focused despite the emotional whirlwind that is your life right now. (Sign up in the box below so you don’t miss the coming instalments of how you might do the same.)

What do you do each day to connect the different parts of your self? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Know someone else who needs permission to focus on herself before the day gets away from her? Send her this post using any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons.