I’m Good All Day, then I Lose It after Supper

 

If I had a dime for every time I hear that one… clients and friends who start each day fresh, with new resolve to eat better and take better care of themselves, only to find themselves at the bottom of a cookie bag by bedtime.

I know the drill: you just want a little something sweet. One cookie turns to 3…plus a square of chocolate. Maybe a handful of chips, …may as well get a bowl…

Raise your hand if you’ve caught yourself in front of the fridge looking for something to do.

My mind also likes another type of rationale when I’ve eaten one of my no-nos (dairy & gluten), because that’s what was on offer or because there was a particularly fabulous version I didn’t want to pass up. Since I’ve already “cheated”, I may as well keep going.

I know perfectly well that one croissant or grilled cheese sandwich, once in a blue moon, won’t do me much harm, but, I definitely suffer when I overdo it.

Sure, there’s the 80/20 rule and cutting yourself some slack, and being forgiving rather than beating yourself up. What’s going on when things shift to 20/80 or the premenstrual grazing becomes a daily habit?

When the exception becomes the rule, it’s a sign there’s something more going on.

It may be a physical addiction to sugar or to an allergen. Yes, you can get addicted to things you’re mildly allergic to because it sets you up for a cascade of adrenaline and other stimulating biochemicals which give you a certain satisfaction beyond the taste of the food. Anything that tickles the ol’ brain chemistry is going to have your body calling out for more.

Certain aspects of addiction are about associations, so, we also start looking for the psychological need for a certain food.

Yes, it means digging around in the stories of your past yet again to discover the source of the issue. Once you shed light on it, though, you can more easily dust out the corners and then let its significance fade into the background.

A single woman came to me with headaches and other discomforts. Going through her eating habits, she admitted that she often ate a large bag of chips for supper. As we sifted through that fact, she remembered her alcoholic father, cruel and abusive most of the time, would occasionally come home on a bender, lavishing joyful attention on the kids, and declare it a party, complete with pop and chips. In her childhood mind, chips became indelibly linked with love. What more obvious food choice to make when the adult arrives home, stressed and lonely at the end of the day?

The fact is, under all of your grazing there’s an emotional need for something more.

A divorced man needed my help him with weight loss; a mother of a difficult teenager wanted my support to stick to her anti-inflammatory diet. Both were the epitome of the mindful eater who loses it after supper. One struggled with anger management and feared he’d never have someone in his life again; the other couldn’t get over the way her husband walked out the year before and left her to deal with the child alone. Both were clearly using the snacks as a way of burying the huge and overwhelming feelings that were never far from the surface – rage, grief and self-hatred and a basic desire to be loved. Scary stuff – the kind that you fear will take over and never leave if you let them in.

Without the junk-food as a crutch and a hiding place, they were each forced to come face-to-face with what they were feeling, experience it and move through it.

Maybe you don’t have any overt drama in your past and you’re not suppressing any big emotions, thank you very much. Maybe it’s just a few snacks in front of the TV.

How to get through the evening without snacks

 

Nothing wrong with that on occasion. If, however, that’s the norm; if you can’t face the evening without numbing out with TV & snacks, then it’s time to address what’s going on underneath.

  • Compensating for a lack of love,
  • Hiding from grief or anger or loneliness;
  • Craving something in your life but can’t put your finger on it;
  • Knowing what you want, but can’t sort out how to get it.

Until you sit with those thoughts & feelings, say hello to them, let them expand so you can explore what they need from you, you will stay stuck in that vicious cycle of grazing.

 

Offer yourself the white space for your thoughts and feelings to emerge.

It might will get messy and uncomfortable; let it be so.

Take some flower essences.

Call on your support system when you need them.

 

The peace you find on the other side with be well worth it.

 

What happens to you, inside, when you choose to stay away from the evening snacks? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

 

Send this post to a friend who’s stuck on this wheel, and let her know that you’ve got her back while she works through whatever comes up.

I Know What to Do, I Just Don’t Do It.

 

I get it.

There are only so many hours in a day. You only have so much creative energy and only so much will power. You’re keeping the family happy, you’re effective at work; how can you be expected to be consistent with positive food changes?

You know perfectly well that to lose the weight, heal your digestive woes, calm the allergies, you’ll have to cut out an entire grocery list of foods & additives, squash a lifetime of bad eating habits, and probably eat more vegetables.

The theory’s all mapped out in your head, but you just can’t seem to put those good intentions into action.

Instead, you use what precious little energy you have left at the end of the day to beat yourself up about everything you should be doing while mindlessly inhaling a pint of cherry chocolate with a salt & vinegar chaser.

It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? You start by taking stabs at your poor food choices, until your mind inevitably points out how you haven’t been feeding the kids so well lately, not to mention all the other bad parenting moments you’ve had this week, …how did you think you can be an effective parent with everything else you’re dealing with? What were you thinking? Did you really think you could manage it all?…Is this boat you’re in all your fault because you chose the wrong man in the first place?…And now you’re going to be a fat, lonely slob for the rest of your life!

How stupid are you?!?

STOP THAT!

Right now. Just stop. Take a breath.

We’ll look at the mindless junk food habit next time; for now, let’s talk about the self-flagellation.

Would you talk to anyone else that way? Would you tell a friend what an idiot she is for eating ice cream or getting divorced? I’d wager not.

It’s time to stop being so tough on yourself and try a bit of tough love instead. You know, set yourself straight in the kind way you would with a small child you care about.

Another good theory, but it’s where you get stuck in the follow-through.

It comes down to perfection. That habit you have whereby, if you’re not going to do something to the letter, the way the experts and the health nuts do it, you’re not even going to bother.

Tell me, if the boss handed you a list of what she expects you to accomplish over the next 6 months, and told you to get it all figured out tomorrow, you’d freak out, right? You’d quit your job, or report it to the higher-ups. If, however, she explained the big picture of the goals she wants to reach by the end of the year, then gave you the first pieces to start on, it would be simple, doable.

Same goes with how you nourish yourself.

Consistent, positive food changes require awareness, small steps and a hint of tough love.

 

If you’ve given even half the thought to all the possible solutions you’ve googled, there are likely a few options that stand out, whether you want to admit it or not. Trust that wisdom. Chances are there’s a reason you zoned in on them.

 

Of all the things you know you need to do to get your body back to its happy place, pick one.

Just one. It will likely be complex in and of itself.

For example, giving up dairy is one thing you know might help your digestion.

 

Break it down further:

Become aware of when and how you eat it: notice through the course of a few days and/or write down all the foods you normally eat that contain some form of dairy – milk, cream, ice cream, yogourt, cheese, whey powder, butter,…

Now choose ONE of those, and replace it: instead of the milk/cream you use in a day, put almond milk in your coffee, coconut milk in your porridge or your soup, have tomato/vegetable sauce on your pasta… after a few days, even a week, move onto to replacing the cheese, and so on…

In the same way you would track the metrics and such of how your work project is progressing, you can understand how well these changes are helping (or not) by observing your body, your energy, your moods.

Notice how you feel after a meal without the usual ingredient.

Notice if any of your symptoms calm. Maybe nothing happens after a week of no milk, but eliminating the cheese then makes a difference, …does it improve more when you reduce your dairy sources even further?

What happens to your appetite, your hunger and your satiety?

What happens to your cravings?

Has your sleep improved? Your energy?

Notice where you still get stuck.

Have you run out of ideas? Do you lack motivation? Would you kill for a piece of cheese?

Get help if you need it.

 

Every journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. Same applies to self-care habits.

Pick a habit to change.
Trust yourself to stick with it.
Notice what happens.

 

What do you KNOW you have to change and where do you get stuck? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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Choosing Toxicity

 

Powerful words hit home at just the right time.

Clearing through my desk drawers, I came across “Your Metabolic Journey”, a sublime excerpt from Marc David’s Slow Food. Like any truly wise piece, it strikes a different chord each time I read it.

Going through once again, I paused at this part: “If you invite toxicity into the body then you are asking it into your personal world.” True. Could apply to me. The full impact of how deeply these words were meant for me didn’t show up until a few days later.

A Bad Habit Revealed

I hate to admit this out loud, but I tend to be the shoemaker’s child when it comes to my eating habits. Using the turmoil of a big move as an excuse, that tendency took over and became the beast I’d worked so hard to tame. My food intake was less than exemplary, less than nourishing.

I was eating stuff that I clearly know is bad for me (because of asthma and gallstones and other issues that seem to be cropping up like weeds as I age). I am a much happier girl if I stay away from gluten, dairy, sugar, dark chocolate (I know!), greasy food and alcohol. Yet, I was eating bread and pasta and baked goods constantly. I was adding cheese and creamy sauces to everything.

A Nagging Belief

As part of my inner journey, I recently came face-to-face with a belief I held around punishment necessarily following reward. Call it the Upper Limits Problem (à la Gay & Kathleen Hendricks), or a fear that something bad must follow the good, a loss after a win. I started living in dread that some mysterious shoe would drop because of many positive changes in my life, to the point that I was lying awake, imagining the possibilities in all sorts of permutations from identity theft to brain tumours to multiple forms of destitution.

I’m always on the lookout for when and how certain conditions start in body and mind, so I wracked my brain for the story or memory that would have set that belief in motion. Yet, it didn’t seem to resonate with any of the childhood stuff I’ve rehashed for other juicy info.

How Habits Create Beliefs

A few days later, I woke up to the fact that I was nursing a glass of port while nibbling a bowl of chips into which I’d dumped a pack of Reese’s Pieces.

This wasn’t a party or a special occasion or a rare occurrence. I was having them, the worst foods for my digestive and adrenal health – for the 3rd day in a row – as I supervised homework and got supper started. To be perfectly honest, I’d been eating chips and drinking alcohol more regularly than is good for me these past months, along with my other transgressions.

You see, I’d had a good day, was feeling carefree and I figured, “Why not?” knowing full well I’d likely be suffering in the days to come. This is a pattern with me. Nothing new.

And that’s when Marc David’s words hit me full force. The belief in punishment is not a result of some trauma that happened when I was 3. It’s the result of a current habit I’d let slip into daily routine.

How crazy is that? I’ve been punishing my body as a means of celebration.

How to Turn Awareness into Action

The lesson I’d received went one step deeper the next day when I, yet again, chose a glass of port over herbal tea for my mid-afternoon treat… because it was there.

It seems that becoming aware of the pattern wasn’t enough to get me to stop. It took a much harsher reality to snap me out of it completely.

The 8-year-old daughter of a dear friend has a usually benign condition that, in her case, causes intestinal bleeding. It’s been stable for several years, but has recently come back with a vengeance. The day after my big Aha, she was in surgery for the 2nd time in as many weeks, as 5 doctors performed innovative techniques to stop it once and for all.

This girl was fighting for her life, yet I continued to take my own digestive & healing capacity for granted by clogging them up with the very elements that cause me the most harm.

My good intentions took on a whole other meaning when they weren’t just about me. I needed a cause greater than myself – a Why – to jump-start the humility it took to step fully into the shift.

I’d been praying and sending healing light to my friend, her family, the doctors. It was time I put my prayers into action. …Maybe create a new belief in the process.

The only way I can build trust in the Universe’s inherent goodness, to trust the powers at be to keep me safe when things go well, is to build trust in myself to do the same.

Regardless of how magical the intention behind your thoughts and words, there comes a time when you need to set the wheels in motion with concrete action. If I want to free myself from unnecessary punishment, I need to stop punishing myself unnecessarily.

If I want to enjoy vibrant health, I need to stop the practices which dull that vibration.

A Belief is a Choice

Another thought lands as these realizations swirl through me, mind, body and soul: holding onto a belief or a habit is a choice.

And so I choose to detoxify. Not a full-on diet change, I simply reduce the ways in which I “invite toxicity” into my body.

I choose instead to “invite the sacred into [my] personal world, [so I] will find it inhabiting [my] metabolic world.” (Marc David)

I choose reward over punishment, health over setbacks.

I choose to feed my body, my thoughts, my beliefs according to the person I want to be.

I choose to show myself the Love I want to radiate to the world.

And you know what? Like magic, there’s been no question or struggle about nourishing vs harmful foods ever since.

What about you? Which of your habits perpetuate beliefs you’d rather clear? What awareness have you recently had which now needs action to alter your metabolism and your life?

When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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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.

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The Soul of Bone Broth

 

Have you noticed that you can’t turn around these days without tripping over someone extolling the virtues of bone broth?

Recipes, videos, blogs and expert interviews – guilty as charged. I have been suggesting bone broth to clients with everything from IBD to arthritis to breast cancer. Heck, it even makes a great body booster for my athletic sons.

What’s the deal? Is this truly a revolutionary superfood or just the flavour of the month, and why is it making such a huge comeback?

I’ve known that bone broth is the ideal supplement for nourishing, well, your bones. It’s one of Nature’s calcium supplements, along with the other minerals and protein your bones need. By steeping all the nutrients from one set of bones into liquid, they’re easily assimilated for yours.

Recent studies are proving that this very basic, traditional food is also loaded with glucosamine, condroitin and balanced electrolytes, including highly absorbable potassium. It’s being touted as the cure for leaky gut and dysbiosis. It calms inflammation and detoxifies your digestive tract. It nourishes you when you’re pregnant; it rejuvenates you when you’re ill.

My goodness, it really is a super food!

You might know me enough to realize that my trust in bone broth goes much deeper than those wonderful physical benefits.

Broth is at the basis of some pretty ancient traditions: show me a Jewish grandmother who doesn’t make chicken soup. What about congee, the Chinese equivalent? Soups cross every culture – phó, dal, wonton, Korean hot pot, Mexican avocado soup, minestrone,…

This isn’t coincidence. These practices developed from very basic human practices: ancient traditions that use every last piece of the animal they killed. Not the “yucky” parts we usually throw away, bones and cartilage and fat and organs are the gold! Think about it: your structure and your organs are the core part of you, the most essential, so it stands to reason that they should be storehouses for your most essential nutrients.

Maybe it was because of the fat scare in the 90s that turned us off these good bits. Maybe it was growing awareness of environmental toxicity that compelled us to chuck the skin and the liver. Then, we became overly concerned with building muscle, which somehow translated to a need to eat more muscle (lean meat). Slowly over the last few decades, our focus shifted from enjoying the whole animal, to only wanting boneless breasts and tenderloin.

The return to whole food seems radical, but it’s just a natural return of the pendulum after so many years feeding ourselves partial foods and non-foods. Some things obviously need peeling or gentle cooking, but the goal is to eat it as close to how it grows in Nature. All of it – the seeds, the pith, the leaves, the roots – not just the starch and the sugars.

It’s not just about the plants, either. Eating whole food also means eating an animal whole. Ok, you might not eat an entire cow at one meal, but a family of 4 or 6 through a year…sure!

Eating the whole animal means getting what you can out of the gristle, the gizzards and the bone, not just the “meat”.

There’s also the convenience of cooking lean, boneless meat. Nothing to trim or clean; just pop it on the grill or in the pan and (voila!) healthy fast food at home. We live fast, we eat fast, we want our meals to be ready fast. I can’t tell you how many women in my office tell me they don’t have time to make healthy meals.

At the risk of sounding like an annoying mother, Rome wasn’t built in a day. To have anything of quality – a house, a dress, shoes… or a healthy body, is not something that appears fully-formed overnight. It takes time and effort and persistence.

Your body regenerates completely every 7 years. Which means that it could take that amount of time to shift your health fully. There is no magic bullet – no herb, no superfood, no drug – that will cure you tomorrow.

You are in the driver’s seat of your own healing with the choices you make, the food you eat, the thoughts you think, the feelings you express and words you speak. All that you receive into your body and that you emit from your being form the dynamic creation of your health. It’s a wave, a pulse, an ever-shifting breath. It is eternal. It takes time. Wait…scratch that…it’s timeless.

When you feed your body with such “slow” food as bone broth, you are infusing the water, not only with nutrients, you are accessing the health and energy of the animal, of the plants he ate, of the plants you’ve added to the pot.

Having a crock-pot on the go for a day or two harks back to the kettle on the fire, the hearth of the family home, the core of the community. It’s the women around the fire-pit, tending, caring, nurturing. You’re heating the house and nourishing your family with nothing less than basic nutrition, I dare say, with love.

Nothing fancy or difficult about it, either. Same method your grandmother used (bones and veggies covered with water), with the simple addition of some vinegar to draw out the minerals and break down the protein. Let it simmer ever so gently for a good long time (3-4 hours for fish, 24 for poultry or up to 48 for beef).

If truly time is of concern to you, why not engage some of that community spirit to your benefit? Get a couple of friends to start bone broth sharing: everyone collects their organic bones in the freezer, then each month, one of you tends the fire. You can even make a party of everyone coming by with their jars for their share the wealth.

Perhaps my ideas are bit too far out in left field for you. Then, look at it this way: taking the time to make your own bone broth is a way of slowing down and taking a breath in the middle of your go-getter life. See it as an act of self-care, an act of self-love, to supply yourself and your family with the most exquisite nourishment you can offer.

There are countless recipes out there for how to make and use bone broth – what’s your favourite? When you share in the comments, you open possibilities for others.

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feature image: bouillon by esmée scholte via freeimages.com