Have you ever read a book that has truly transformed you? A book that has transformed your world view, your priorities, and your purpose? There have been a few of those books in my life time. Professionally, the first time this happened was when I read the book “Intuitive Eating.” That book profoundly influenced the course of my career and totally altered my perspective. The next book was “Rethinking Thin” by Gina Kolata. And the next book was the seminal feminist writings of Naomi Wolfe in “The Beauty Myth.”
Most recently I have added two more books to the “books that will change your life forever” shelf. I know that sounds dramatic and perhaps cliché. The first of these two is “Two Whole Cakes” by Lesley Kinzel. It’s actually a book that I feel every human being should read because it addresses the very relevant issues of weight bias and weight stigma. An issue that is so pervasive that it is hardly noticed. I’m actually working on writing a book review but am having trouble since I can’t seem to do it justice.
And the second of these two books is “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brene’ Brown. Ya, catchy title, huh?! The GIFTS of imperfection…say what?!? I’m not going to write a book review here. But I am going to share with you a tasty morsel.
In 2008 Brene’ and her husband Steve asked themselves “When things are going really well in our family, what does it look like?” Their answers included things like sleep, exercise, nutritious food, going to church, control over finances, time for vacation and time to hang out, meaningful work that isn’t all consuming. These became their “ingredients for joy and meaning.” (This excerpt can be found on page 102 of her book.)
So rather than share with you a list of ingredients for a recipe like I normally do, I’d like YOU to come up with a list of ingredients that are your recipe for JOY AND MEANING. What are the things in your life that bring you joy and meaning? What will you have to sacrifice in order to get more joy and meaning in your life? Less money? Fewer accomplishments professionally?
I’d love to know what ingredients bring your life joy and meaning. If you feel comfortable, please share!
P.S. If you want more Brene' Brown...check her out on TED. I highly, highly, highly recommend it.
"Aha!" moments strike me at odd times. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that I had a big "AHA!" moment about "mindfulness" during a yoga class (my first in far too long!). My teacher spoke to how hard it was to just move. To just go through the vinyasa flow, because our brain always wants to know what's comkng next. It is constantly processing, analyzing and determine your next move. The act of just being in the moment, whether during a yoga class, a conversation with a friend, reading a book-anything, is remarkably hard!
"Mindfulness is the miracle by which we can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life." Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miricle of Mindfulness
First off, I want to say that tuning out the shoulds and tuning into our body’s needs when it comes to fuel is a process and journey. There will be some ups and downs along the way, but the longer that you tune out what you “should” be doing and view eating in a self-care, nourishing manor, the more freedom you will start to feel in your journey with food and your body. The longer you practice paying attention to your body the more you will connect with yourself and your needs, food and otherwise.
So, what does tuning out the “shoulds” mean when it comes to healthful eating? Here are a few principles that I came up with through my journey of paying attention to my body’s needs and health.
1) Tune out what healthful foods you “should” eat and listen to YOUR body’s palate (aka what healthful foods you ENJOY eating). Healthful eating includes trying new foods but also tuning into your palate. You don’t have to eat lima beans or whatever foods you do not care for to be healthy! There are plenty of other fruits and vegetables out there. Focusing on adding healthful foods you enjoy (like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts) to your eating allows you to connect with your body and keeps healthy eating from being a dirty word. It’s not about perfection- it is about learning YOUR body’s needs.
2) Tune out the “shoulds” of anytime you are feeling deprived when it comes to eating. A lovely RD, Julie Dillion, tweeted this the other day: dieting doesn't = wellness. Nourishing without deprivation is ticket to #health. I could not have said this better if I tried. So often, we hear that we need to “eat better” or discipline ourselves or have more self control around food. We can try to force ourselves into “eating right” or choosing healthful foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, etc.). But, this usually backfires just like dieting does. I tell people all the time that I have learned that the only “diet” I want to be on is one that I can live the rest of my life doing, and this means for me that I don’t feel deprived, focus on health and good fuel, use food to keep my energy up, and focus on nourishing my body (which does include sweets sometimes!). Through tuning into my body and not the “shoulds” or deprivation, I have learned that one of the most healthful and satisfying things is leaving a meal energized and not stuffed. Through the process of intuitive eating and no deprivation, I have gotten to this place because I have learned that I enjoy the feeling of being “satisfied” after a meal best, and my body is ok with this since it knows I will honor my hunger when it comes again.
3) Tune out how much you “should” eat (based upon what other people are eating) and listen to your body’s hunger/fullness. We all have different energy needs. Our energy needs can be very different from other people (this hopefully is not a surprise!) and our own energy needs fluctuate throughout our lives. Tuning out the shoulds means trying not to compare what you eat to what other people eat. There are always going to be people who need more food or less food than you, but ultimately your body knows best and it will tell you through hunger and fullness. For example, I am a tall, active person and my body needs a good amount of fuel throughout the day. I used to feel ashamed of the fact that I would eat more than other girls and went through a period where I was trying to eat what I felt like my body “should” need instead of listening to hunger. This deprivation period was eventually followed by a period of overeating, and I have learned that in the end my body knows best and will tell me how much food it needs.
True health comes from appreciating our bodies and wanting to take care of them and nourish them. Tuning into our bodies is learning our body’s unique signs of hunger and fullness and feeling confident in our body’s ability to tell us what it needs. You see we can be told eat your fruits and vegetables, move more, don’t overeat, etc. But, none of these things will be lasting if they don’t stem from a desire within oneself to care for his/her body. So, are you tuning into the “shoulds” or tuning into your beautiful body and its unique needs? I hope we can all learn to cherish what our bodies allows you to do, care for them in a way that helps us live life fully, and nourish them to give us health and energy!
Note: Connecting to Ourselves is a monthly column written by Janet Zimmerman. Janet will be writing about a wide variety of topics to help you connect with the best ways to take care of YOU! Janet is a dietetic student, positive body image advocate, and intuitive eating promoter. You can find Janet on twitter @JanetZimmerman where she loves tweeting yummy recipes, positive quotes, and mindful tweets.
This past week I had the privilege of attending a conference with the phenomenal speaker Anita Johnston, Ph.D. and author of Eating in the Light of the Moon. Dr. Johnston talked a lot about deciphering our true hunger by using imagery and metaphors.
One thing in particular that really stood out to me was when she talked about our two different kinds of hunger.
1) Our physical hunger for food. Our bodies need food to fuel us through the day, and they will tell us through hunger when they are low on fuel (aka energy).
2) Our hunger for our other needs and desires. These can be spiritual, emotional, or relational needs.
When we learn what our hunger cues are, we can decipher whether or not we are physically hungry.
If we are not physically hungry, yet we want to eat—this is the perfect opportunity to get to know ourselves better.
I love this way of looking at eating. Whether we are restricting foods or emotional eating, both are the result of our bodies wanting to tell us something. There is no guilt in this. We just get to be a detective and try to find out more about ourselves.
We can ask ourselves: What feeling or emotion do I not want to feel? Why do I not want to feel it?
Our answer might be “I don’t know”. But overtime, our detective work might show us a pattern of wanting to eat when we are not hungry (or not wanting to eat when we are hungry) when __________________. We are all different and each one of us would fill in the blank differently. People might try to suppress anger after they get off the phone with a certain person, pain when they have an injury, loneliness when they are home alone, or fear when they are in a new situation that they are unsure about. The list could go on and on.
The bottom line: feelings and emotions are uncontrollable and are part of our everyday lives. We cannot control them anymore than we can control an earthquake or a tornado; we can only control our responses to our feelings. Yet, many times we unconsciously suppress them and do not allow ourselves to truly feel them.
Simply taking time to check in with your hunger, both physical or emotional, is a way to get to know yourself better and find out what your needs really are. Food does not meet all of our needs—it only satisfies physical hunger. So, next time you are craving a food but are not hungry, try exploring what feelings, emotional needs, or relational desires you might be suppressing. There is no judgment in eating or not eating whatever you are craving. There is only a great opportunity to explore what other “hungers” you have.
Note: Connecting to Ourselves is a monthly column written by Janet Zimmerman. We are CONSTANTLY surrounded with distractions and negative messages that take us away from what is really best for us (think about all of the icky dieting messages to get you geared up for bikini season, ugh!). Janet will be writing about a wide variety of topics to help you connect with the best ways to take care of YOU! Janet is a dietetic student, positive body image advocate, and intuitive eating promoter. You can find Janet on twitter @JanetZimmerman where she loves tweeting yummy recipes, positive quotes, and mindful tweets.
I am totally excited to introduce to you a new monthly post "Connecting to Ourselves" by Janet Zimmerman. We are CONSTANTLY surrounded with distractions and negative messages that take us away from what is really best for us (think about all of the icky dieting messages to get you geared up for bikini season, ugh!). Janet will be writing about a wide variety of topics to help you connect with the best ways to take care of YOU! Let me know what you think. :)
Connecting to Ourselves: A New Series Begins
Think of a child you know- maybe your daughter or son, maybe a niece or nephew, or maybe even you when you were little. How do you care for that child? Would you tell the little child to stuff her feelings inside or to use food or isolation to cope with the turbulence of life? Would you tell that child that he or she needed to look a certain way or wear a certain outfit to be loved or accepted?
I hope you are screaming “ABSOLUTELY NOT” right now. Many of us would admit that we want to protect and nurture the children in our lives. We want them to become strong and confident adults one day. We want them to feel loved and accepted just the way that they are.
What I want to know is why many of us stopped nurturing and getting to know ourselves as we grew older? When did we start thinking that trying to be someone else was more important than being ourselves?
Sadly, as we grow older, many of us lose track of paying attention to our individual needs. Through the years of being bombarded with advertisements telling us what clothes we should wear, what foods we should eat, and what our bodies are “supposed” to look like, we get the idea that somehow our bodies are our enemies and they cannot be trusted or listened to. This is far from the truth. In reality our bodies are a custom design, unique with no exact match. They are something to be celebrated and to be thankful for. They are something to be cherished and nourished.
The National Eating Disorder Association says it best: “Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it.” This is exactly right. Our bodies are the vehicles to our dreams. They are something to nurture, honor, and respect. They need and deserve nourishment and fuel physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
With the start of this new series, each month I hope to walk through different aspects of connecting to ourselves: listening to our bodies and relearning our unique needs, taking time to nourish ourselves, and celebrating our differences.
Think about it. When is the last time that you took time out of your day to check in with your emotions, your physical needs, and your soul? I hope with the start of this monthly series we can learn to embrace and connect to ourselves. After all, you are your body’s expert and advocate. If your not connecting to yourself and listening to your needs, who will?
Post by Janet Zimmerman. Janet is a dietetic student, positive body image advocate, and intuitive eating promoter. You can find Janet on twitter @JanetZimmerman where she loves tweeting yummy recipes, positive quotes, and mindful tweets.