Why Guilty Pleasure is Good for You

My neighbour and I had been trying for weeks to get together. With opposite work schedules and kids’ stuff, it was getting ridiculous. Last week, she noticed that the movie we’d been attempting to see in the theatre was available on demand, so she suggested a daytime date.

Perfect. We found an afternoon that suited us both. “Any guilty pleasures foodwise?” she texted. “We should treat ourselves to a fun lunch while we watch!” Which translates as junk food: anything greasy, salty or sweet.

I loved the idea – a yummy lunch AND a movie while our kids are at school! So as not to fall completely into eating junk, I picked up some local cheddar and fresh sourdough, made upscale grilled cheeses with a fennel salad, sweet potato fries and a delectable ginger cake. It was a fantastic meal that fit the junk food bill without going so far overboard that I’d regret it later.

We indeed had a fun lunch.

The movie wasn’t as fabulous as we’d hoped, given the weeks of anticipation, but it fuelled our conversation through tea and dessert before the kids got home. Though we were in the kitchen by that point, her son walked in, took one look at the placemats we’d left of the coffee table and asked accusingly, “Did you eat in front of the TV?!?”

Up until then, the day had been pleasurable. I was gob-smacked to notice that those words from a 9-year-old brought on the guilt. For the briefest of moments, I was frozen with my hand in the cookie jar.

 

Guilt comes from doing something we feel we shouldn’t do. It’s about stuff we’re afraid to admit we do, like, want.

For me, guilt doesn’t show up with eating chocolate cake or ice cream or a bag of chips – I have no qualms in satisfying those yens from time to time. That said, I’ve recently woken up to the fact that eating what I ought not eat, especially too frequently or in too large quantities, is actually a punishment – the part that flies right past the guilt and hits hard. (You can read that particular story here.)

The guilt that day came from the feeling that I’d been breaking the rules.

As a mother I work damn hard to uphold the rules. In terms of eating, that might mean ensuring that meals happen at the table and with a good dose of vegetables. I’m also known to harp on to anyone who’s not present to their food, by reading or checking email during breakfast.

There’s an assumption – a self-induced theory to the structure of my days – that while others are busy at the office or school, I too am working. Whether it’s paid work or volunteer or getting Christmas planned doesn’t matter, so long as it’s work. Something useful and productive. As a result, I seem to have created compartments in my mind for when one is expected to be serious and when one is allowed to have fun.

Choosing to watch a movie over lunch in the middle of a random Wednesday afternoon broke that rule…even if the naughtiness of it was a part of the pleasure.

The guilt – the shame – came in the being found out, like a teenager who sees the only thing wrong with her behaviour is getting caught.

Was it in the 90s when people started spouting that “guilt is a useless emotion”? I remember my mother-ex-in-law explaining it to me; how, like worry, it doesn’t have any function other than to tie you in internal knots. Perhaps, like worry, guilt’s function is to point us in the direction of that which needs to change, where we need to set something in motion outside of ourselves.

This particular afternoon of hookie brought my awareness to how much I strive to, if not always follow the rules, at least give the impression that I am. This is my inner teenager, who learned how to rebel without getting caught…and perhaps, without willing to go too far out of her comfort zone.

My predilection for rules got me labeled as the goody-goody more often than I care to admit. This week’s taste of guilty pleasure reminded me that I can follow the rules and be productive and useful, but I don’t need to take it all so seriously. I’m not going to be struck from above for having a bit of fun.

Yes, it’s important that I stick to a certain structure for the sake of my business and my family. It’s important that I take proper care of myself, to feed myself nourishing food and avoid the things that cause me harm, but it doesn’t need to be serious. Those 2 attitudes don’t need to walk constantly hand-in-hand. In this case, it means that a “fun” meal can also have elements of healthy – that a healthy lunch can be fun.

The pleasure of food comes from the delicious combination of colours, textures, flavours,… without going overboard into the realm of punishment. Within that pleasure, letting loose into “cheating” or being “naughty” means making choices that veer from my daily regime, and for the most part, they happen consciously. While this may sound like the goody-goody version of letting loose, I’ve been having a lot of fun with how I nourish myself lately.


Playful smoothie combinations or topping my bowl with (sweetened, but beautifully jewel-coloured) dry cranberries

Opting for frozen sweet potato fries and melted cheese

Eating lunch in front of the TV…by myself!

Cooking a meal just for me, that I will adore.

The nourishment of pleasure goes beyond food choices:

  •       Waking a half-hour early to have the whole house to myself while I journal and pull a card or two
  •       Working in the hot sun at the dining table (the deck in summer) rather than my desk
  •       “Abandoning” my family to walk home from the hockey arena on a warm day.

 

By taking delight in these small moments through my day, I’m rejuvenating body and soul at a whole other level. I’m raising oxytocin levels, boosting motivation and charging creative energy in one fell swoop.

By putting the focus on enjoyment, it lightens the guilt, takes the shame out of the closet for air. (As I’ve said before, air and light are kryptonite to shame.)

Have I been so steeped in the model that that “useful” is the only acceptable daytime activity, that I’ve come to fear judgment from on high if I choose otherwise?

In taking my need for pleasure out to play, letting a crack open in the veneer of perfection I think I need to maintain, I’m opening myself to the momentary freedom of not having to care what others think.

Where the guilt I noticed the other day felt like hiding, instead I’ve created the space for my needs to step forward, step out, be seen – regardless of whether others find them acceptable. In opening up those needs, I take away the struggle and give them permission to be met.

If that’s not healthy, I don’t know what is.

 

So, tell me, which guilty pleasure is calling to you today? Tell us here – when you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others – then go and fulfull it! …Then come back to let us know it felt!

If you’d rather rather whisper this stuff quietly, join the WH community and share your secrets with us in the comfort of the closed Whole Health Dinner Party group. I’ll be in there later in the week to mull over more thoughts about guilt, pleasure and creating better habits.

How to Find Hope & Motivation after Divorce

 

There’s something about life after moving that has reminded me so much about how things were after I got divorced, 17 years ago.

There came a point when I knew what I had to do, when I couldn’t live as I had been. When I understood I’d be better off on my own than in a marriage where I was expected to bow to all his needs with no expectation of return. A marriage where I spent an awful lot of time alone, feeling like a single parent, and furious with him for landing me in that situation.

Then came the flurry of activity that is divorce – thankfully it was a relatively amicable split, but there were still legalities to work out, stuff to sort and the kids to consider and nurture in a new way.

I lay awake at night worried I’d never be able to support myself and 2 kids (albeit part-time) on my own, until life eventually settled into something I could handle. As sad and as difficult as it was, I took a certain pleasure in being able to stretch my wings more than I ever had with my parenting and the house, without judgment or accusations of being inconsiderate.

That’s when it reality hit.

There I was, 34 years old: I’d been through school and had a steady job. I’d travelled a bit, been married, had kids. All the boxes I’d wanted to tick as a girl had been ticked, or at least the ones I believed should have been ticked.

Was that it?

Will this be my life from now on?

With a few health issues no longer content to stay in the background, it started to feel like it would even start heading downhill from there.

This happens after a move or a big career shift as well as with divorce, that once the stress calms into a routine, there’s a lull.

A wise woman will recognize that lull for what it is: a well-needed break, the calm after the storm. Time to rest, rejuvenate and gather your resources for what comes next in this life on the other side.

Sometimes, we’re not so wise.

There were days when I came face to face with the same issues as before. I was alone, having to do it all on my own. Some days I wondered why I’d even bothered.

Am I really better off than before?

Did I really need to upend the kids to still be in the same place?

And I was still blaming him for it.

It was my garden that spring that taught me the lesson I needed to learn: it’s possible, even inevitable, to start over.

Every year, the flowers wither and die. Fields go fallow and leaves rot. After the snow melts, the world’s all muddy and smelly. There’s a moment when you almost doubt anything will ever actually grow. And then it does.

Look out the window and it’s all dank and colourless. The sun warms up that much more and poof! It’s orange and yellow and violet. Robins chirp. Crab apple blossoms and lilacs fill the air with their perfume. Pea shoots herald crisp green sweetness.

Something had died in my life; come to an end. That didn’t mean I needed to stagnate in the fallout.

It was time to let the seeds of what I wanted for myself to take root. It was time to notice the colours in me, and ask myself: What form of sunshine would help them to bloom?

I started to focus the warmth of my attention on just that: people and activities and food that lit me up, that excited me and nourished me to my very core.

I started to trim away the branches that were holding me down – the blame, the regret, the self-flagellation.

I had done all this, kept putting one foot in front of the other through the previous year because I needed to make me a priority. I chose this life so that my needs, my values would have space to grow in a nurturing environment. How else could I expect to be truly healthy, effectively raise my sons and be of any service in my community?

When you’ve lost motivation for what you want most, when you can’t find the hope of a better day, I beg of you to try this:

Open your senses to the world around you.

Notice:

what flavours make you swoon

which aromas make you sigh

which colours energize your mind

which music makes you dance

Remember: The most beautiful bounty grows from the humus and rot.

Don’t give up on yourself!

 

If you need more help putting self-care at the top of the list, let me know, I’d be glad to help. Click here and we’ll set up a time to talk.

 

If you know someone who’s stagnating in the fallout of the life they’ve left behind, help them to blossom using any of the share buttons below.

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The Health Benefits of Sisterhood

 

People laugh at me sometimes, with how obsessed I am with book club. More than guiding my current reading habits and being an outlet for intellectual curiosity, it takes up priority space in my calendar. Some would say I’m almost religious about it. Could be.

One thing I know for sure: that one night each month feeds my soul.

I used to have a similar take on a choir I’d joined for a time. About the art school office I worked in for 10 years. About natural health school. About hanging with my friends – girls’ night dinner parties being the cherry on the cake.

The common denominator in all these enriching scenarios? Female community.

(Maybe my need for such circles is a bit religious. Being part of a value-based collective certainly adds appeal to any religion. Having stepped away from the Catholic Church I was raised in, my need might be greater than someone who’s stayed more fully connected to a specific faith.)

My girlfriends, and the other clutches of women I mention above, were key to my survival post-divorce. Over 5 tumultuous years, I first learned how a non-judgmental circle of women (& a few special men) grants me

  • the courage to surrender the masks/labels and be myself;
  • the safe space in which to pour my hopes and fears;
  • shoulders to cry on, buddies to dance with;
  • the permission to put myself first (not that we women need it, but we think we do).

I learned that a strong group makes each individual woman stronger.

Being immersed in a community of like-minded, supportive women is the most direct route to knowing and loving yourself.

This solid container works for anything you want to improve really, however, in terms of health, the support of a group is proven to speed recovery and reduce risks of recurrence.

As part of a community, you have a built-in buddy system – someone to hold you accountable, to cheer you on, to hold your hand when things get rough, and to celebrate with you when they go well.

Knowing someone has your back in that way makes it easier to step out of your comfort zone.

On my own, I doubt I’d have had the energy to find another man, let alone explore the world of online dating. Without the love of friends and colleagues, jumping full-tilt into a new line of study might not have been so effortless, and I may never have discovered a new career – one that continues to stretch and fulfill me 14 years later.

A healthy relationship and enriching work serve to nourish you in mind and soul – essential pieces of your health picture.

More than just having a body free of disease, health literally means to be whole. To have balance in the lifestyle choices you make, so you can enjoy balance in your life.

That “being healthy” umbrella covers every part of your life – relationships, heart & soul, mind, work, money, society. It’s not just about the perfect body or a body free of disease. In fact (this is a discussion to explore further another day), it’s possible to be healthy even with a disease.

Every part of your life stands to improve with the health-giving support of a collective.

Community also means a place to ask questions and learn from the experience of others.

In recent years, I’ve discovered pockets of loving circles online. Some of the small Facebook groups I belong to hold the same magic as I’ve experienced in person. They might be a network of colleagues and other alternative health practitioners; financial advice; business support for solopreneurs; accountability and cheerleading through a challenge or a course. I’m also a part of deep spiritual circles through the internet.

I have connected with like-minded women all over the globe who I now consider good friends.

No matter the area of life, my book club, my friends, these online groups all prove to me yet again that it takes a village to raise a healthy woman.

Which is precisely why I have opened a community of my own. The Whole Health Dinner Party is a closed Facebook group for members of my community. It’s a place to talk about food and body and soul and life. For asking niggling questions and sharing thoughts. A place for conversation about health in all its shapes and forms.

Won’t you join us? Enter your email in the box below and I will send your invitation.

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Get your Daily Dose of Delicious

I used to have a list of “25 Rules to Live By” on my fridge. Don’t remember where it came from or who wrote them. It’s long since gone, but one of the rules has stuck with me:

What could be simpler?

Beyond food plans and reset diets. Beyond reading labels or trying to balance your meals.

What happens when you choose your food by how much pleasure you derive from it?

With one of my clients, we refer to it as the “yummy factor”. One day, while sorting through healthy variations to balance her blood sugar, she declared, “I want my food to be yummy.” And so it should be!

Delicious involves all 5 of your senses as you eat your meal.

Soak in the flavours, colours, aromas, textures and sounds as you eat.

Used effectively, though, you need to remember to stop when the pleasure subsides.

Marc David, director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, tells the story of a client he had who loved McDonald’s and ate it every day for lunch, in the car as he drove from job to job. Since he refused to give it up in his quest to settle his digestive pain and find a healthier weight, Marc made one suggestion: take the time to slow down and really savour his lunch.

So the man made the effort to pull over after getting out of the drive-through, and he took a full 10 minutes to eat his Big Mac. At the end of the week, he called Marc to say he hated McD’s. It’s salty and fatty and its only benefit was the convenience of grabbing it on the run.

Maybe you can’t relate to that guy, so consider instead what happened to me the other night.

We were out celebrating my son’s birthday and I let myself be tempted by one of the decadent desserts: salted caramel & roasted apple cheesecake, served in a waffle cone. It looked like an artfully spilled ice cream.

The first bite was heavenly. The second still yummy. By the 3rd, I was getting overwhelmed with the amount of sugar. With the next one, I started to think how that much dairy would wreak havoc on me the next day. I was no longer enraptured with the experience, yet kept shoveling it down unconsciously.

Rather than stay engaged with my sense of fun, relish the novelty of the presentation and savour just one or two bites, I let my inner glutton take over. Sure enough, I was painfully full all evening and congested the entire next day.

 

Delicious involves your sense of appreciation.

Appreciation for the art & skill that goes into good food – visual as well as taste.

Such sites as Yum and thousands of Pinterest boards owe their popularity to our hunger for their gorgeous food “porn”.

Even words can fill that need for delicious. When my husband reads out the recipe names from his latest copy of Fine Cooking, it’s like sweet nothings being whispered in my ear. Roasted Beet Muhammara, Poached Egg & Asparagus Toasts with Lemon-Chive Beurre Blanc, Crispy Potatoes with Lemon and lots of Oregano.

Appreciation for the company and the setting surrounding you during a meal.

Even when eating something you cooked yourself, alone in your own kitchen, you can revel in what you’ve created. Be grateful for the care you took to nourish your body.

Can you feel the difference in your body when you bite into something delicious?

Your whole body relaxes. (If you know anything about digestion, you know that’s the ideal state for it to work at its best.)

Your entire focus pauses, if only for the briefest of moments, to fully embrace the essence. Like those first soulful kisses with a new lover.

 

And that’s the thing.

Delicious isn’t all about food any more than nourishment is.

I know we sometimes have a hard time getting past conventions. (My mother still thinks all I do is tell people what to eat.) I remember finding it somewhat odd – yet oh so fitting – the first time I heard someone refer to an adorable toddler as “delicious”.

Infuse your entire day with delicious from morning until night and fall in love with your life in a whole new way. All it takes is a hint of conscious awareness of what’s already there.

The delicious stretch while still under the covers.
The delectable heat of the shower hitting your skin and waking your brain.
The luscious flow of your dress sliding down your body.
The gratifying tang of the fermented carrots on your scrambled eggs.
The scrumptious smile on your son’s freckled face as he waves goodbye for the day.
The exquisite pause of being quietly alone before heading to the car.

Need I go on?

Life’s too short to drink bad wine, read crappy novels or sit through a boring movie.

 

“If it’s not delicious, don’t eat it.”

I spent 4+ years studying holistic nutrition. I keep up with the latest superfoods and hormone balancing tricks. I teach my clients to adjust their lifestyles for better digestion. In the end, it all revolves around that one simple rule that was right in front of my face all that time.

 

What were the 3 most delicious parts of your day so far? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Share this dose of delicious with your friends. Use any (or all!) of the green buttons to spread the goodness.

The Value of Chocolate {+ a Valentine Ritual}

Inspired by Judy Chicago, I’ve created a virtual dinner party: One category of my blog will be dedicated to honouring women who I want to be a part of my soul community. Each woman at my virtual table has a lesson to teach, even if it’s simply to inspire us with her ability to hold greater aspirations for ourselves than we’d ever thought possible. Each one will be a manifestation of the Goddess, a Wise Woman, a pilgrim on the road of the Sacred Feminine. I want to share the wisdom of these women as part of my community of support.

chocolate ritualI have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t like, crave, need and/or have a daily dose of chocolate. It seems to have become a part of the shared female-experience, along with cramps and birth stories.

Our love of this dark delicacy has sparked any number of studies and investigations into its benefits: the antioxidant load, the blood pressure- and cortisol-lowering properties, the magnesium.

Fortunately, the availability of good chocolate has started to shift along with the interest. Like all of us, my early experience of chocolate was limited to the candy – lots of sugar, milk-infused – brought to us by Hershey and Cadbury and Nestlé. As an adult I graduated to Godiva, then truffles, then gourmet combinations with salty or tangy or pungent flavours.

But there’s so much more to chocolate than meets the eye:

  • Were Theobroma cacao grown and harvested as it was meant to be, it would be worth more than gold.
  • The Aztecs used it as currency.
  • The word theobroma means “food of the gods”.

Yet, like so many things in our lives, we’ve taken the unique qualities of a commodity and industrialized them to a point where they become commonplace. Think salt or sugar. Think a fresh tomato in the middle of winter, or the rows of candy bars in every grocery and convenience store in the world.

In these quantities (and lower quality), chocolate isn’t good for us.

But what IS chocolate? Why are we so fascinated by it?

Is there a way that we can honour the value of chocolate and enjoy it in a way that’s more nourishing?

To answer these questions, I brought in chocolate aficionada, Sue Ann Gleason. What fun it was to chat with her about chocolate for an hour! Yes, it ended up being quite a long conversation, but like a good piece of chocolate, perhaps it’s best savoured in small bites.

To quote Sue Ann from her website, Chocolate for Breakfast, my intention with this post is to take us one more step towards “enjoying the sensuous, sumptuous, voluptuous nature of the food we eat”.

Listen to our conversation to find out

  • The health benefits of chocolate: we riff about the good, the potential for bad and the difference between a treat and a treatment;
  • Why you might want to eat chocolate for breakfast;
  • How chocolate is like a good bottle of wine;
  • And, as part of spiritual self-care: How to create a chocolate ritual as a means of treating yourself exquisitely.

Sue Ann shares details on how to choose good chocolate – the most important step of all! – as well as many online resources for purchasing the best kinds.

want a version you can download to enjoy on your commute in the morning? Grab it here.

Though I only had commercial chocolate during the recording, I just bought some Marou from Vietnam. I’ll be tasting it on Friday with my girlfriends, along with other types I found while out exploring bean to bar chocolate in Montreal.

I found them at

La tablette de Miss Choco
Les chocolats de Chloé

Now it’s your turn to get in on the conversation:

What is it about chocolate that appeals to you? We’d also love to hear what you learned when you take the time to honour this “food of the gods” and taste it with the ceremony and reverence it deserves. When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Sue Ann GleasonTo learn more about Sue Ann, you can connect with her in a few different places. (Delicious freebies await you!)
Chocolate Lovers’ Guide: www.chocolateforbreakfast.com <http://www.chocolateforbreakfast.com>  <http://www.chocolateforbreakfast.com>
No Longer Asleep at the Meal ebook: http://consciousbitesnutrition.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chocolateforbreakfast

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