When I was deep in my body-shaming days, I was obsessed with women’s mags and online articles, touting the latest cellulite-busting, waist-whittling, six-pack designing diets. And celeb rags talking about their weight loss and hot-bod secrets? I ate them up, like thick butter-drenched slices of French bread … just like a carb-craving (hungry) woman … after swearing off bread for a week.
My dysfunctionally functional relationship with food and my body was – well – one of the reasons I got into the nutrition field. I wanted to learn what (in the world) was really the answer. Because I knew in my soul that there simply couldn’t be a different new diet, super food, or detox program every week, like the media (or friends) constantly claimed. It just didn’t make sense.
Now, after years of practicing and coaching, a totally healed relationship with food, my body, and myself (thanks to much personal development work), and a deep understanding of what the kind, caring, compassionate women I work with really need to heal in body, mind, spirit, and soul, I can share with you what I’ve seen, experienced, and learned – that really works.
Here are 10 reminders all women on a wellness journey need to remember about food.
1. It’s not about willpower
Giving into the ice cream, chips, or extra slice of pizza (when you truly don’t want it) isn’t about lack of willpower – it’s lack of being present and having enough self-love to observe that eating in this numbed-out space isn’t serving you … and then choosing to choose otherwise.
There’s a huge difference between being present for our meals – tasting the food, enjoying the food, paying attention to the food – and eating out of habit, mindlessly, or while standing up, or to avoid a deeper issue…
2. What void are you filling?
Often, we use food to numb, to take the edge off, or to fill a void. What is it that you’re really missing? Dig deep. Ask yourself again and again and again and keep asking until it comes to you … eventually you’ll know. And if you’re being really honest with yourself, you may already know.
There are so many reasons we eat, but when we’re not hungry (and we know it) and we still eat, it’s usually because something is missing. People use sex, alcohol, and money, all in the same way, to make them feel whole. But these things never do because they don’t get down to the soul stuff, like love, compassion, and a feeling of belonging that we all need to feel heard, understood, and important.
Let your mind go and see what’s missing for you – a feeling of community? A feeling of security? Joy? Relief? Find what it is you really need and make a list of all the ways you can bring more of that into your life and then the key part – do it.
3. Hunger is a good thing
A lot of women fear hunger. I get it – I used to too. You have to decide what to eat + we’re generally brought up to believe that when it comes to food less is more.
But in reality, hunger is your body’s way of communicating with you that you need to nourish yourself – it’s that simple. It also means your body is functioning properly. And that you have the beautiful chance to actually decide what you get to eat (not everyone in the world does) and most likely, you’re fortunate enough to have access to fresh whole foods.
Appreciate your hunger, honor your hunger, tune into your hunger and get inspired to nourish your body with love. Remember, the issue is never eating when we’re hungry – it’s eating when we’re not.
4. Eat in the morning
We tend to think that skipping calories in the am will have us closer to our ideal bods. However – I speak from experience – it just makes you crabby, irritable, and leaves you with the feeling of “I just can’t get enough” come evening. Not to mention, you’re teaching your body to be super efficient with food (not the goal). Meaning, your body doesn’t know when food is coming next, so it holds on to what it’s got and what it will get.
Nourishing your body within an hour of waking up and then checking-in with your hunger (and honoring your fullness) every 3-4 hours after that is what you want to shoot for.
Just keep what you eat in the am simple (so you do it) – a hardboiled egg + a banana; avocado toast; oatmeal + berries; natural peanut butter on whole grain bread, topped with sliced apples or bananas. Lastly, if you notice you’re getting hungrier earlier in the day when you eat in the am – that is awesome – it means you’re getting your metabolism back on track.
5. Enjoy food
Somewhere along the way, we forgot that food is meant to be enjoyed. It’s a way of celebrating, of bringing family and friends together, and of nourishing our souls on a deeper level. If you want the chocolate, the chips, the bread, eat it. But enjoy it. There’s a significant difference of showing up empowered, conscious, and with an intention to a meal versus deflated, numb, and checked-out.
And know that there will be times you eat when you’re not hungry, or you’re no longer enjoying the food, but credit yourself (hugely) for being that tuned-in to recognize that. Observation is power for change. Then forgive yourself and move on – that’s the trick. I can tell you that deprivation gets you no where but to binge status.
6. Listen to your body
Kids eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. It’s pretty amazing. And then somehow, somewhere, we forget about that – and guilt, shame, and unworthiness come in to really mess with the whole honoring our hunger and fullness thing. But, you can bring it back. You just need to listen.
And don’t just listen about your hunger and fullness. Listen to what foods make you FEEL good. For some, dairy, gluten, caffeine, and coffee will truly throw their body out of sorts. For others, not so much. Just like you want to choose more thoughts, actions, and people in your life that make you feel good – you want to choose what foods make you feel healthy and vibrant – but to do that – you gotta listen.
7. Eat mostly what feels good long term (not just during)
What meals and foods leave you feeling awesome (and proud) an hour or more after you eat them? If you’re anything like me or the women I work with, it’s generally real, whole, natural foods and of course, lots of produce.
In those moments where you rather have the bowl of ice cream than dinner; where you rather just eat half your kid’s homemade brownie tray and forgo all foods the rest of the day; or you rather say a big ol’ honking, “F*** you,” to your healthy eating ways because you see no difference … pull yourself back, b-r-e-a-t-h-e, and simply ask yourself, “If I do this, how will I feel in an hour?”
Envision the action being done, put yourself there, and let it sink in. The hardest part here is pulling yourself back from doing it, but I promise that once you drop, stop and breathe – and really ask yourself how you’ll feel in an hour, if you did it, you’ll do what serves you. Just remember – it’s a practice.
This one is simple yet important – drink lots of water. Staying hydrated allows your body to differentiate between thirst and hunger and keeps your metabolism running strong.
Aim for 2 liters a day. And keep it real. Meaning, water, seltzer, or hot or iced-tea is fine, but skip the sugar and for sure skip the diet sweeteners, you’ll just end up craving more sweet.
I like to start every day off by drinking 2 huge glasses of water – try it.
9. No cut off times
When I was little, I read about cut-off times and made one for myself – 8 pm. You know what happened? From 8 pm until I went to sleep, I obsessed about food. And sometimes I couldn’t take it anymore, so late-night kitchen raid here I came!
Honestly, if you’re truly physiologically hungry – eat something! Just make it something good for you that will leave you feeling proud. A tablespoon of natural nut butter, a piece of fruit and/or cheese, a hardboiled egg, a serving of oatmeal.
Going back to point 4 (where we talk about eating every 3-4 hours), if you ate dinner at 6 pm, and you’re up until 11 pm or midnight, you’re probably going to be a little hungry, so have something a little good for you and call it a night.
10. It’s not necessarily what you’re eating, it’s the why
There’s a beautiful passage from Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, I’m going to share with you below that explains why the why we eat is soooo important.
People often ask, “Where is the line between pleasure or comfort and numbing?” In response, author and personal growth teacher, Jennifer Louden has named our numbing devices “shadow comforts.” When we’re anxious, disconnected, vulnerable, alone, and feeling helpless, the booze and food and work and endless hours online feel like comfort, but in reality they’re only casting their long shadows over our lives.
In her book The Life Organizer, Louden writes, “Shadow comforts can take any form. It’s not what you do; it’s why you do it that makes the difference. You can eat a piece of chocolate as a holy wafer of sweetness – a real comfort – or you can cram an entire bar into your mouth without even tasting it in a frantic attempt to soothe yourself – a shadow comfort. You can chat on message boards for half an hour and be energized by community and ready to go back to work, or you can chat on message boards because you’re avoiding talking to your partner about how angry he or she made you last night.”
I found what emerged from the data was exactly what Louden points out, “It’s not what you do; it’s why you do it that makes the difference.” The invitation is to think about the intention behind our choices and, if helpful, to discuss these issues with family, close friends, or a helping professional. There aren’t any checklists or norms to help you identify shadow comforts or other destructive numbing behavior. This requires self-examination and reflection.
Ultimately, these are questions that transcend what we know and how we feel – they’re about our spirit. Are my choices comforting and nourishing my spirit, or are they temporary reprieves from vulnerability and difficult emotions ultimately diminishing my spirit? Are my choices leading to my wholeheartedness, or do they leave me feeling empty and searching?
As you become more awake and conscious of your actions, know that when you find your WHY for why changing your relationship with food is important to you, and you honor (and accept) that living a healthier, happier, more vibrant life is a lifelong thing that you decide in each and every moment, you my sweet friend, will continue your path and grow in beautiful momentous ways.
Just keep going, and remember you’re not alone.
You’ve got this.
With so much love XXO