Intuitive Eating: My Latest Journey

intuitive eating_geneva
I have never had a stellar digestion. It was never awful and it was never super smooth either. I would often have cramps or bloating, usually in the evening.

In 2014, I spent six wonderful weeks in Dubai and this undercurrent of discomfort turned into a more constant companion. After six solid weeks eating away from home, everything seemed to cause me pain. And my skin, which has never been great either, suddenly felt like a battle field.

I knew I had to do something. My gut was clearly unhappy and my body was reacting to certain foods I was eating.

So I worked with a specialist who did a blood test which showed I was sensitive to gluten, dairy, soy and olives.

The solution? Take all these out and help my body to detox and heal itself through supplements.

So I did this. For nine months.

For nine months I was able to stick to this super strict diet and my digestion improved – with the help of probiotic food or supplements, I would even, very tentatively say it is now normal.

I’m not saying elimination diets are the solution for everyone. What I wanted to share was the effect this elimination diet had on my relationship to food.

Before studying nutrition, I didn’t have a very healthy relationship to food. I would swing from Boot Camp to Club Med mentality – severe restriction to out of control eating.

I then discovered Intuitive Eating and learned to listen to my body and give it what it wants to eat, to make nothing off limit, to eat mindfully. This greatly improved my relationship to food. And yet now, on this elimination diet, it felt like everything was off limit.

And guess what happens as soon as something is off limit? We become obsessed with it. And when it comes to food, in order to avoid eating something, we have to constantly be looking out for it. This is one of the reasons that diets don’t work.

Of course, I knew to expect this and from the beginning, I tried making sure I was in the right mindset. That I was doing this elimination diet for the right reason – out of love for myself, because I wanted to feel good in my body. I brought compassion to myself because it isn’t easy to exist in society on such a restricted diet.

And for the most part, during the 9 months of elimination diet, I was OK. I even created my simple meal planning online program, Healthy in a Hurry during this time because this was how I was eating most of the time.

I became ultra organized by always having something with me that I could eat, by bringing my own food when I was invited somewhere, by researching menus ahead of time and finding restaurants I could eat at. Instead of staying in hotels when we travelled, my husband and I staying at airbnb’s so I could make my own food. When we went to visit his family in Italy, I was armed with gluten-free pasta.

I became knowledgable about all the places in Geneva I could eat at – I shared my
favorite addresses in these articles. I even came up with my own, easy version of a latte because without dairy or soy, it’s virtually impossible to find one out of home.

And most importantly, I was really feeling the difference!

All this didn’t prepare me for the backlash I experienced when I started re-introducing all the foods that had been taken out after 9 months.

I felt out of control. There were foods I just couldn’t stop eating.

Mostly cheese. And butter. And bread. And a combination of both like fondue and pizza.

It was as if I had been holding a pendulum on one end – using a lot of control and deprivation – and when I let go, it swung to the other extreme.

I was surprised at how much my body felt out of control. And at the same time, I realized that this was also normal. I had been holding the pendulum so firmly and so long that this was my body’s normal reaction. After all, I could explain as much as possible how ‘we’ were doing this for the ‘right’ reasons, yet my body, like all bodies, has a will of its own. And the language it understands best is the language of wanting and not having.

And not having something -> scarcity -> it becomes more attractive -> we feel out of control when we can have it again.

My initial instinct was to grab the pendulum and try to take back control.

Yet I knew this would just lead to a struggle with food and my body.

So I let the pendulum simply be.

Again, I kept being kind to myself. Reminding myself that this was totally understandable. That it was OK. That my body could really have whatever it wanted. That nothing was off limit.

It was almost like I was telling my body: I know the last 9 months were really tough on us, and that you need to make up for lost time. I trust you’ll find more moderate ground in your own time.

Eventually, the pendulum started losing momentum. It started moving towards the middle. Cheese no longer felt like the holy grail. I could eat bread maybe once a week and not want more.

And now I feel my relationship with food has shifted.

Whereas before the elimination diet I would tell myself I could eat whatever I wanted, in my mind, I was still restricting certain foods. It was subtle though – almost as if I was convincing myself that I didn’t really want to eat bread because it wasn’t ‘healthy’. There wasn’t a complete allowance of everything, which is one of the principles behind Intuitive Eating, and in my opinion, the only way it can really work.

After the initial frenzy and my approach of total allowance, I noticed that all these previously ‘exciting’ foods no longer held the same appeal to me because I had fully allowed myself to eat them, while staying connected to my body, and how the food tasted and felt physically.

In fact, I would say that food in general now feels less exciting for me.

Not in the sense that I don’t care about what I eat (I do) – I just obsess about it less. My body trusts that there will always be more of the previously (even subtly) forbidden foods, so I can stop when I am satisfied. I no longer force myself to eat something ‘healthy’ that doesn’t light me up or stop myself from eating something less healthy that does.

I eat a little less ‘healthy’ than before, yet I feel my relationship to food is more healthy.

I wanted to share this experience because the only way not to be controlled by food or allow it to control us is to let go of the control / restriction pendulum. And I know this isn’t easy. That we must learn…

♥ To trust.

♥ To keep listening to the body even when it feels out of control.

♥ To truly allow all foods.

♥ To let go of the labels of ‘healthy’ ‘unhealthy’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and to really get curious instead about the actual experience of food. How does it feel in your body?

This is the only way the pendulum can find its way to the middle – meaning a healthy relationship to food, where we don’t feel we need to control or be controlled by food.

This afternoon, I found myself choosing a carrot while my husband ate an ice-cream. Not because it was the healthy choice. Not because ice-cream was forbidden (in fact, I had ice-cream yesterday). Simply because in that moment, my body preferred the crunch and freshness of the carrot. I’m not saying full allowance and Intuitive Eating means you will always choose a carrot over ice-cream.

It simply means giving yourself the freedom to choose what works best for you in that moment and being OK with whatever you choose.

Because really, it’s just food.

We don’t need to control it and it doesn’t need to control us. It doesn’t define our worth. And we can let go and allow our bodies to take over instead.

Why Boundaries Matter

“Boundaries is simply what’s OK and not OK.” – Brené Brown

Imagine that your internal world – your emotions, thoughts, desires, needs – is a village. This village makes you who you are. And in order for your village to thrive, it needs to feel safe and protected.

And it can only do that when it has a clear protection around it, one that defines what’s OK and not OK to enter your village.

Without a clear boundary, your village is always being invaded.

And this isn’t much fun.

Because it means we end up doing things we don’t want to do.

We feel that people are taking advantage of us.

We try to please everyone.

We have a hard time knowing who we are or what we want because we don’t know where our village ends and other people’s village starts. 

We end up in relationships that are enmeshed, where, as Harriet Lerner writes

We put our energy into taking responsibility for other people’s feelings, thoughts and behavior and hand over responsibility for our own.

And this often leads to resentment towards ourselves and others because we can’t say no or clearly state our needs. Or as Brené Brown explains:

We let people get away with things that are not okay. Then we just become more resentful and hateful.

And also, we can’t take care of our own village when we are too busy taking care of other people’s villages.

Learning to set a boundary does not mean you have a walled off village that isn’t able to interact with other villages.

It simply means creating a safe container from which to create, thrive and love without losing ourselves in what others want or expect from us.

According to boundaries expert Chad Buck, a clinical psychologist at Vanderbilt University, boundaries lead to:

♥ More self-awareness and self-care

♥ More assertiveness / confidence

♥ More trust in self and others

♥ More compassion towards self and others

♥ Healthier relationships

♥ Less likely to burn out / less stress

♥ Less anger / resentment

If you would like to find out how to start setting boundaries in your own life so you can have healthier relationships with yourself and others, join me for a workshop on Boundaries: The Key to Healthier Relationships with Yourself + Others.

This workshop is based mostly on Acceptance on Commitment Therapy (ACT), a mindfulness-based behavioral approach, as well as the work of Brené Brown, Harriet Lerner and Karla McLaren.

boundaries_final

 

Freedom Through the Body: Interview with Rita Rütsche

We tend to forget this, but the body is key when it comes to eating, and the way we listen and relate to our bodies can make all the difference when it comes to changing our eating habits.

This is an interview I did with Rita Rütsche, a practitioner with a unique approach to the body. I met Rita through her MLC group class (more on this below) and individual Grinberg sessions and found them both so helpful in allowing me to increase awareness of my body that I wanted to find out more about the way she approaches the body.

What exactly do you do? 

IMG_2223-225x300I teach people to become more aware of their bodies so they can change disturbing behaviour patterns in their lives. I help them become conscious of how they walk through life, and what made them into the person they are today.

Through this process, they become aware of conditioning and influences. They are then able to find the freedom to make choices that are more fitting to their qualities and potential, that come from their heart, rather than being driven by common beliefs and other people’s expectations.

This is important because we are constantly influenced by the beliefs of our parents, our surroundings, our teachers at school etc from the moment we are born. Even though their aim is to provide a frame to grow and evolve in, they also transmit their fears, pains and limiting beliefs about life and about ourselves.

So even though these sources of influence give us a sense of security because of their familiarity, they also create dissatisfaction, physical discomfort and erroneous choices in our lives.

To be more precise: We are less afraid when we know what is right and wrong. When we know what is expected. When we can simply do what is expected. One of the basic biological human needs to grow and evolve is the need to be loved and get attention. Children will do anything to get love and attention from their parents.

For example, if it is very important to my parents that I become a doctor or a banker, there is a good chance that I will try to satisfy their ideology and do my best to become what they approve of, despite the fact that I might feel that there is always something missing in my life or that I lose strength and joy. The same is true with parents who would like to have an actor or a musician in the family when we would actually prefer to work in an office or become an architect for example.

When people first come for an individual session I do an assessment through their feet called foot analysis, since behaviour patterns, all kinds of blockages and physical discomfort are visible on the feet.

What is the role of the body in all this?

The body is reality. It cannot lie.

It has specific requirements to be able to function like sleeping, eating, rest etc. If we do not respect the basic needs of the body, we become sick or unhappy.

So in this way, the body doesn’t care about belief systems. It doesn’t care if we are driving it to exhaustion because of a belief about the need to be successful. All it knows is that it is exhausted.

For example, on an emotional level, the body doesn’t care that I believe it isn’t safe to get angry because this is the message I got from my family. When anger shows up, it shows up in the body. We can try to suppress it or not feel it, but the effect will still be there, the body experiences it and will create tension. Chronic tension leads to a dysfunction in the body and becomes a breeding ground for sickness or conditions like backache, headaches, hernias, heartburn etc.

The shape of the body can be a reflection of something that is going on for us. For example, extra weight can be a shield when it is not safe to feel attractive or we want to avoid being hurt again in a relationship.

Is it easier to live according to our hearts rather than our conditioning? 

I don’t think it’s easier. It needs more courage, it takes more attention. A good dose of humor is helpful also since we take ourselves way too seriously when driven by our beliefs. Yet living according to our hearts leads to a more fulfilling, meaningful, happier life. We end up doing what’s most dear to us rather than what we’re supposed to do.

Could you share an example?

I had a client who came from a very close-knit family – to the point where it was seen as a betrayal for her to do things on her own. She felt guilty and anxious each time she had to leave for a business trip.

In the learning process through the body, she learned to manage her fears and guilt differently and gradually became free to choose who she wanted to spend time with, to do what she enjoyed on her own and also choose the times when she wanted to be with her family. Today, she knows how to tackle anxiety, has much more energy and joy in her life and has a real social life and friends.

She discovered through her body how much she had been ‘twisting’ herself into trying to fit the family rules and the cost on her life and sense of freedom.

Another example is a girl of 14 that had strong period pains and missed school 2 days every months. Through our bodywork she learned to work with physical pain and the fear of it and now gets her period without pain.

What is your biggest dream?

My biggest dream is to make people free and aware of their automatic behaviour patterns, their conditionings which act like computer programs they don’t even realise are running in the background and controlling their lives.

I wish to make people aware that they have the keys to their freedom and happiness inside them. The body is a precious tool in unfolding our potential and leading a fulfilled and happy life using all our qualities on a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual level.

Who would you be without this conditioning? Who are you really?

What methods do you use?

Various methods have shaped my path; Yoga, The Grinberg Method, MLC (Méthode de Libération des Cuirasses), Hsin Tao, EFT etc. All these tools appear in my individual learning processes and workshops. There are many tools to awareness nowadays, the idea is to find a discipline and practical way to apply them in every day life since it takes practice.

Mark Twain said: “A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.”

It takes courage to choose listening to your heart instead of “secure” patterns because this requires us to be attentive and alive. And life then is intense and wonderful.

Upcoming events:

Saturday 23 April Du mensonge à la réalité from 9:00 – 13:00, a workshop in French with various exercises to become aware of behaviour patterns that are limiting me in my life.

MLC (Méthode de Libération des Cuirasses) Class in English: Practical exercises to learn to relax and pay attention to the body and it’s limits.

Every Monday 18h45 regular MLC classes in French from 18h45 to 20h15

All courses take place at Place des Augustins, 1205 Geneva. Individual sessions, foot analysis in French or English or German take place at 15, rue des Voisins, 1205 Geneva every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

http://www.ritarutsche.net

7 Things We Don’t Learn About Emotions

Even though I have a Masters degree in Psychology, I never really studied emotions until recently, nor knew how to work with them in a way that worked FOR me rather than AGAINST me.Through both Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Karla McLaren’s work, I discovered a whole world inside of me, where turning towards emotions rather than trying to numb them or allow them to take over and explode all over the place, was possible.
The most exciting part of this different way of relating to emotions is how much more alive I feel, because emotions are meant to be felt (but not dwelled on endlessly), and also how much better I understand what I want and need. Emotions are like messengers, each with something specific to tell us, and learning to understand their language is truly life-changing.Here is a summary of seven things we don’t learn about emotions:

1. EMOTIONS SHOW UP IN THE BODY FIRST

Every emotion first shows up in the body as a physical change which is then interpreted as a ‘feeling’. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio calls emotions “mental experiences of body states”.

If you don’t have a body, you can’t have emotions (sorry, robots!).

If you have a body, you can’t not have emotions.

2. THE WORD ‘EMOTION’ COMES FROM THE LATIN ‘MOVERE’ – TO MOVE

Emotions are like signposts with a message about an action they want us to take. They are essential to survival, making decisions, learning – and pretty much everything in life.

Every emotion has a purpose, they don’t just show up randomly. For example, anger tells us our boundaries have been crossed and need to be repaired. Sadness tells us something is not working and needs to be released.

3. WE CAN TRY NOT FEELING CERTAIN ‘DIFFICULT’ EMOTIONS…

…but the cost of doing this is high because we cannot selectively numb emotions. When we try to numb uncomfortable emotions like anger or sadness, we end up numbing all emotions, including joy and happiness.

And we end up in a life that feels flat.

(and often seek stimulation through things like adrenaline activities or drugs or alcohol or sugar in an effort to feel alive)

4. SUPPRESSING EMOTIONS ALWAYS BACKFIRES…

…and then we go from numb to explosive. Which isn’t much fun. And has a high cost on our social relationships. And also takes a lot of energy out of us.

5. EMOTIONS ARE NOT OUR ENEMY

They are a part of us. And how can we ever win when we fight a part of ourselves?

Learning to listen to and feel emotions allows them to pass through more easily, instead of getting stuck and festering.

6. EMOTIONS ARE NOT OUR BOSS, EITHER

Yet just because we listening to them and allowing them to flow through instead of trying to numb or suppress them doesn’t mean they are our boss.

Learning to live with emotions means creating a pause between emotions showing up and choosing whether or not to take action.

7. THERE ARE NO ‘GOOD’ OR ‘BAD’ EMOTIONS

As humans, we are meant to experience the full spectrum of emotions – they all serve a purpose and can help us navigate life.

We are not meant to live in a constant state of happiness or bliss – to never feel anger or sadness. Not only is this not possible, our attempts at chasing happiness tend to make us more miserable than allowing ourselves to be human and experience ‘emodiversity’ or emotional diversity which has been linked to greater psychological health.

To be alive means to experience the full range of human emotions. Living with emotions in a way that is healthy means using them as valuable information for navigating life.

If you would like to find out more, join me on Tuesday 30 August in Geneva!

Emotions

Lots of Taste Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad_5 tastes

This is one of my favorite ways to create quick meals that also taste great: By combining the five tastes that are naturally present on our taste buds: Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.  I go into more detail on this in my online program Healthy in a Hurry but I wanted to share this Quinoa Salad because it is so simple and tasty at the same time!

Taking pleasure in what we eat is not a luxury – it is a necessity in order to feel satisfied by a meal. If a meal is bland, we will often eat more of it or need something sweet after a meal. I call this biological need for pleasure allowing our taste buds to have a party. And what better way for them to party than by combining a food from all five tastes in one dish?

This is what I have done in this dish, combining something sweet (chestnuts + raisins), salty (salt + capers), sour (apple cider vinegar), umami (olive oil, onion, dried tomatoes) and bitter (endives + ground cumin). You can always substitute any of these food with something else from the same taste profile. For example, if you don’t like chestnuts, you can leave them out and add more raisins. If you don’t like endives, you can use kale or arugula instead which are also bitter. And you can always adjust the proportions and seasonings to suit your taste, adding more or less sour for example, as taste is always individual.

This quantity makes about 6 servings, and you can leave it in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you are adding a leafy green, add it when serving rather than storing it with the other ingredients as it will wilt.

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked quinoa or millet or buckwheat

200g chestnuts (I buy them frozen)

2 leeks

1 endive

8 dried tomatoes (buy them without oil)

6 teaspoons capers

1 red onion

4 tablespoons raisins

2 tablespoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

salt + pepper

Method

Cook the quinoa, ideally soaking it for about 12 hours beforehand. – find out how to cook quinoa here.

Chop the leeks all the ingredients and combine in a bowl – find out how to clean and chop leeks here.

Steam or boil the leeks and chestnuts for a few minutes so they are cooked but not mushy.

Chop the rest of the ingredients so that everything is about the same size. This will prevent any one taste from dominating and will allow all the tastes to harmoniously come together.

Prepare the dressing and mix with all the ingredients in a bowl.

Adjust taste and seasoning until you find the perfect combination for you.

Enjoy!

 

 

3 Ingredient Raw Chocolate

make your own raw chocolate

Making your own chocolate is a healthier and more delicious alternative to store-bought chocolate.

By using minimal heat to make the chocolate, you preserve all the nutrients found in raw cacao powder.  

Raw cacao has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any food and is also a good source of magnesium, iron, zinc and more. Cacao may also have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health and depression.

Oh, and in addition to being a much healthier option, this raw chocolate tastes AMAZING. Seriously, you won’t want to go back to store-bought chocolate after being able to make your own so quickly and easily!

And just to show you how easy it is, I made this short video of a basic chocolate recipe. Once you have created this base, you can customize it with any taste you want – or just eat it plain to get all the taste of the cacao.

Ingredients

120g cacao butter

70g raw cacao

6 tbsp coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup

a pinch of unrefined salt

Method

Melt the cacao butter in a double boiler until it melts. Water should be hot but not boiling. Cacao butter melts at about 32 degrees Celsius and nutrients are preserved up until 48 degrees Celsius. Chop the cacao butter into smaller pieces if you want it to melt faster.

Pour into a bowl and sift the cacao powder into the mixture.

Add the sweetener and stir until everything is incorporated.

Add the salt and any extra taste you are using and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the mix into silicone moulds or anything made of paper – you can use cupcake papers as well. If you have a silicone cake pan, you can use that to create a chocolate bar.

Place the chocolate in the fridge for at least 10 minutes until it is set. The chocolates can then be removed from the forms and stored in a sealed container in the fridge.

Variations

You can add anything you want to your chocolate such as essential oils  like mint or lavender, lemon, lime or orange zest, rose water, nuts, coconut, grilled sesame seeds, goji berries or anything else you fancy.

Where to buy the ingredients

You can find cacao butter, raw cacao powder and coconut sugar in most organic stores.

I usually buy them online on www.iherb.com. You can use code WIV403 to get up to $10 off your first order.

I buy coconut sugar from Sagana, a Swiss-based company that works directly with farmers in the Philippines to provide a fair livelihood.

First Bite Experience + Sweet Potato Stir-Fry

sweet potato stir-fry

I want to share something really simple that just might transform your experience of your next meal.

I call it The First Bite Experience.

It’s that burst of taste and pleasure that comes across most strongly from the first bite of food but that we are often too distracted to truly notice.

And when we don’t really notice that first bite or any bite after it, our body doesn’t actually register that it has been fed, and starts asking for MORE food, or craves something sweet after the meal.

So one way to avoid overeating or cravings is to simply start by really being present for that first bite of food.

To really take the time to savour that first bite.

Here’s how:

Make sure you are sitting down. Close your eyes if you want. Put a mouthful of food in your mouth. Fully taste it. Do you like the taste? Do you enjoy the crunch or smoothness of the food? Can you taste all the ingredients in it? Try to give this first bite your full, undivided attention as if you were tasting this food for the first time. There is no right or wrong way to do this – simply pay attention.

You do not need to eat the whole meal like this – simply try to remember to bring your full attention to that crucial first bite. Even if you are eating with other people, you can still be attentive to the first bite you take – although you might not want to close your eyes for it!

I would love to hear your experience if you try it – please comment below!

And if you would like more simple, actionable steps to more mindful eating like this one, check out my online Mindful Eating Experiment!

Mindful Eating flyer

Sweet Potato Stir-Fry

This is the perfect recipe to try the First Bite Experience with because sweet potatoes, when you really taste them, have a very satisfying sweet taste. The combination of tastes and textures in this recipe is also incredibly interesting to the tastebuds, particularly due to the umami combo of garlic / onion / Feta / olives. If you lightly toast the pumpkin seeds, this also makes them more umami and lends a more enticing texture.

4 sweet potatoes – medium sized (about 500g)

1 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 cloves minced garlic

2 onions or scallions, chopped

200g Feta cheese, diced AND/OR olives

About 2 tablespoons parsley or coriander, chopped

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Green vegetable of your choice – here I added some steamed broccoli as a side to make a more complete meal but you can also add a handful of spinach leaves or chopped kale at the end and simply stir through to wilt the leaves slightly.

Method

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place on a baking sheet in the oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the potato. You will know it’s done when a knife or fork can easily pierce the skin and the center is soft.

You can make more in quantity and leave them to cool, then wrap them in the baking sheet and put them in the fridge to use over up to 3 days.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut them into small cubes.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the turmeric, garlic and onion.

Add the sweet potato and heat through for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to coat the potatoes with the onion, garlic and turmeric. Add the Feta or olives and green leafy vegetable if you are using and stir until the mixture is heated through.

Turn off the heat and season with freshly ground pepper and a little salt. Add the parsley or coriander and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

You can serve this dish immediately with the sweet potato still warm or you can serve it cold.  It works well for picnics in summer.

sweet potatoes round

An Intuitive Way of Moving: Interview with Alex Menin

A few weeks ago I participated in a class where I found myself doing movements that felt completely bizarre…and completely natural at the same time.

I loved that the 3 hour session was done barefoot and without machines. It was intense and challenging without feeling like I was pushing my body beyond its natural capacities. In fact, I discovered that my body was capable of movements I didn’t even know were possible! Hello crawling animal-like on hands and tip toes (apparently this is a more effective way of climbing up hills) or lifting 20 kilo bags (I, who have never lifted a weight in my life).

Like Intuitive Eating, MovNat or Natural Movement taps into the body’s natural wisdom and takes us back to a time when humans were moving in a way that was natural to the way our bodies were designed. We didn’t need fancy equipment or gyms – life itself was fitness. Isn’t the idea of replicating this in our modern life appealing?

Curious to know more and wanting to spread the word about this wonderful new form of exercise that just seems to make sense, I asked Alex Menin, Certified MovNat Trainer and Nutritional Therapy Consultant in Geneva, for more information.

image11. What exactly is MovNat?

It is a fitness and physical education system based on the full range of natural human movement skills. It was created by Erwan Le Corre and is based on the Methode Naturelle of Georges Hebert (beginning of the 20th century).

The movements are categorized in three domains and thirteen attitudes:

Locomotive skills: swimming, crawling, balancing, walking, running, jumping, climbing

Manipulative skills: lifting, carrying, throwing, catching

Combative skills: striking, grappling

The apparent simplicity of this categorization may be confusing – it was for me in the beginning. In reality, when these exercises are properly executed, and personalized progressions are followed, it is possible to allow an entry-level person to train in total security (read: injury free) and have fun in the process. And it can also be challenged for more experienced athletes.

2. How did you discover MovNat? What lights you up about it?

This is an interesting story, I’ll start from the beginning. Five years ago I was following the rules of the so called common wisdom, both in terms of nutrition and exercise: a calorie is a calorie, fats will make you fat, cholesterol is the enemy, you need to eat 6 times per day to keep the metabolic flame burning. And similarly: you must train with machines because they are designed to provide the optimal angle, you need to do plenty of cardio because it is good for you and you will eventually out burn dietary excesses. Despite the efforts to adhere to the program, the results were not there. So I started looking for valid alternatives with both nutrition and exercise.

I explored bodyweight training just to notice how out of shape I was. It made me realize: What is the point of lifting a quintal of iron if I can’t move myself unweighted with proper control? In short, I had been doing it wrong all this time. I did calisthenics for one year and that helped me step out of my comfort zone.

One day a friend with whom I talk a lot about fitness showed me some MovNat videos and said “Look at what these guys are doing, THAT is cool”. I had to agree – it was definitely cool although in the beginning I thought they were just a collection of gimmicks which do not really provide serious conditioning. I tried to replicate some of the exercises which looked extremely simple, and discovered they were not so easy to perform. I said to myself: I found it! And decided to get certified. It just happened overnight, like this. I fell in love with the discipline.

What lights me up about MovNat? I think it’s the most characteristic element of first and foremost honouring the foundations of movement in order to create a larger base onto which one can then build true physical competence. People lift impressive weights with poor technique – this cannot be right. The quasi-maniacal observance of proper form in MovNat is what assures constant progression – heavy weights eventually follow.

3. Who is it for? Who is it NOT for?

One of the principles is Universality. As long as one owns a human body, no matter how fit or unfit they are, they can do it.

MovNat is a great entry point for people who haven’t done any sport for years. By working on the foundations, it is possible to effectively undo the damage of a sedentary lifestyle and quickly progress by augmenting the volume, intensity and complexity of the exercises.

Very fit people or elite athletes can also greatly benefit from adding MovNat to their routine: it could be the missing stimulus to break a plateau and perform better.

4. How is it different from other forms of movement?

Well, to answer to this question I’d like to borrow a quote from a fellow coach: we all get excited when we go to the cinema to watch a movie in 3D, yet when we move we force ourselves into 2D movements. Exercise like the stationary bike, the rowing machine and even machines that are apparently more complex like the elliptical trainer may burn calories but is the movement genuine? Are they really challenging every possible shade of physical abilities that our wonderful bodies can express?

In MovNat,  we avoid isolation and we don’t allow machines to drive our movements. In the beginning it may be quite frustrating and feel like we were exercising harder before, but that isn’t true: Just because machines allow us to reach higher levels of volume or intensity, doesn’t mean we are exercising more or better. From this point of view, Movement Proficiency shares a lot with other disciplines that put the accent on complex and multi-articular movements and which fall into the category of Functional Training.

Another important element is Mindfulness. Movements are complex and although with constant practice we can automate them, a certain degree of awareness is always required. Another characteristic of MovNat, which is also another of its principles, is the concept of Environmentality: we value training outdoor whenever possible.

duckWalkOnRails

5. Can it only be done in the wild?

Thanks for asking – this is a common misconception and it is important to speak about it.

Moving naturally doesn’t mean that we can bring a bike to the forest and cycle while listening to music: this would still be a 2D movement. The key element of moving naturally is the human body, it is with us every moment and that is what we want to focus on.

Sure, we can train in the woods which definitely poses more challenges and that’s the reason why it should be done only once a certain level of movement proficiency had been acquired. Other nice and safer outdoor settings are a city park, a stadium, a playground, an urban environment, but one can also practice MovNat  in a gym, a yoga studio or why not in one’s living room: every morning I do a short session of mobility drills in my pyjama which helps me to wake-up.

In short, there is no need to run barefoot and shirtless under improbable weather conditions – you can do MovNat with a nice pair of shoes and a white t-shirt.

6. What does a typical session look like?

There are four phases that can be followed:

        1. Warm-up
        2. Emphases (practicing and refining techniques)
        3. Energy systems development
        4. Cool-down

Following these phases is not a strict rule. For example, on rest days I do 30 minutes of pure balancing drills and that don’t require warm-up or cool-down. This doesn’t employ much energy either, however the work done on the techniques is real and the benefits are felt the following day when I lift heavy things.

7. What results can be expected?

I can speak of my personal experience. At the risk of not being believed, I feel my joints are younger today at 42 than they were at 22. My greatest surprise was to see how the dynamic stretching drills improved my mobility. I am referring to true conditioning, not just Range of Motion.

Speaking about conditioning, strength, of course, is another benefit. When a trainee progresses in intensity and volume, more resources are requested from the body which will naturally respond by becoming stronger. However, the conditioning obtained is well balanced: since we are not working in isolation, every time we move we are adapting to the pace of our weakest link.

Agility, dexterity, stability, proprioception are also forms of conditioning and I like mentioning them together with strength. The weakest link is not necessarily a muscle, it may be a skill such as stability: It is important to exercise according to its progression and avoid poor movement patterns for the sake of lifting heavier weights.

MovNat trains real, practical movements that we find in life: lifting uneven and unwieldy objects with efficiency, balancing in non-optimal situations, climbing trees, etc. So an interesting side effect is that we start finding life physically easier!

MovNat also builds self-confidence. Some exercises are challenging from a mental point of view – for example long jumps over a moat, depth jumps from reasonable heights, etc. Another example is vaulting an obstacle – a lot of people are afraid of getting “hooked” by the obstacle with one foot and falling to the ground disgracefully.

We are brainwashed to expect the worst by signs telling us to hold the rail when climbing stairs and in the long run this makes us unaware of what we can achieve with our bodies and we feel insecure and weak. In reality, when the proper progression is respected and we train mindfully, incidents are very rare.

And since many readers might be waiting for this: What about weight loss? For sure! A physically proficient body is a harmonious and beautiful one.

8. How / where can people try it?

MovNat organises official 2-day workshops around the world which are held by Master Instructors.

Otherwise, there is a directory with the list of all MovNat Certified Trainers, you can easily locate one near to you. And the list is growing quickly.

As for me, I give one-on-one movement lessons and occasionally organise half-day workshops in the Geneva area. You can stay in touch through my Facebook page.

split jump

Waiting for Life to Begin

waiting for life
Sometimes, we wait to look or feel a certain way before allowing life to really begin.

I see this a lot with my weight loss clients.

When I lose weight I’ll put myself out there and finally live my dream.

When I lose weight, my life will be perfect.

If you are trying to lose weight, you might have a very precise idea of what your life will look like once you lose weight.

And what if you could already take steps towards the life you want to live once you lose weight – right now?

What if you already acted as if you were worthy of love and belonging – because you ARE – regardless of your size?

What if you worked on developing friendship and love today instead of waiting to look or feel a certain way?

What if instead of waiting for your life to begin once you’ve lost weight, you start making it happen, here and now?

Because acting as if you already were the person you want to be might just be the most effective way of getting there. 

PS – I share my own experience around this in this article.

This is my life, not a fairytale. I must go into the woods and I must meet the wolf or else my life will never begin. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My Top 5 Tips for Healthy Eating

5 tips for healthy eatingIt’s been almost 7 years now that I transformed my M&M’s-for-dinner ways into a much healthier way of living and eating.

The catalyst for this change was discovering I had a genetic kidney disease.

I found out about this completely by chance. I had been travelling for 6 months with my husband on a dream trip around the world when I started feeling really, really tired. Tired in a way where doing even the smallest thing seemed to take superhuman effort.

We were in China at the time and as soon as we reached Shanghai, I went to a clinic.

It turned out to be nothing more exotic than Mononucleosis but it was affecting my liver and spleen and I wasn’t having much fun anymore anyway so we cut our trip short by 2 weeks and went home to Geneva.

In Geneva, the doctors decided to re-do all the ultrasounds, and that is how, completely by chance, I was told I had hundreds of cysts on my kidneys. I barely knew what kidneys did in the body and had never heard of Polycystic Kidney Disease even though it usually runs in families.

The doctors told me to just relax and live a normal life because there wasn’t anything I could really do to prevent this disease from potentially turning into full-blown kidney failure anyway.

This didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t grasp how doctors could tell me there was nothing I could do. Because when I was honest with myself and took a long, hard look at my life, I could see plenty of things I could be doing better.

Starting by not having M&M’s for dinner. By drinking more water instead of mostly sodas and coffees. By eating more vegetables. By educating myself on nutrition and actually discovering that I wasn’t eating enough HEALTHY fats. By experimenting with adding more protein to my diet as a way of curbing my sugar addiction.

And that is how I started making changes to my diet, and even ended up studying nutrition which had never interested me before (my initial degree is in Psychology).

In this blog post, I wanted to share what I have found to be the 5 most important steps to a healthier way of eating.

1. Find your motivating force

This is the first step to making any change. Our natural human tendency is to resist change because it implies the unknown so your motivating force is what will help pull you towards the outcome you want.

What matters to you about eating more healthy? If you were already eating healthy, what would you be DOING differently in your life? What impact would this have on your life?

Acroyoga In a strange way, I now consider myself lucky to have had such a strong motivation to change. Instead of just focusing on ‘not getting sick’ as a motivation, however, I now focus on wanting to fully enjoy my body and take care of it in the best way possible. This motivating force links to vitality and being able to get the most out of life. It goes beyond food and includes movement (like Acroyoga in this photo), self-care and emotional health – all of which are just as important as what we eat.

Linking your motivating force to an overarching goal or value for your life like self-care or vitality or living more fully can be a powerful motivation when change is hard – which it will be in the beginning – guaranteed.

Oh, and make sure your motivating force does not have a “SHOULD” in it. Because, really, there is no obligation to eat healthy. There is no food police. You are the only person here whose opinion matters and if this doesn’t matter enough to you right now, that’s OK. Be honest with yourself. Maybe it means being a lot less ambitious about what you are willing to do. Or maybe it’s about linking healthy eating to something that DOES matter to you like having the energy to play with your children.

2. Be realistic and start with really tiny steps

Which brings me to the next point. The biggest obstacle I see to making healthy change is actually being waaaay too ambitious. Like, expecting to overhaul your entire diet overnight or going from a pretty unhealthy way of eating to a 100% healthy way of eating.

Guess what? This never works in the long-term. Because guess what the only thing we hate more than other people telling us what to do? Telling ourselves what to do. When we use deprivation and excessive willpower, we simply end up rebelling against ourselves in the long-term.

So a better way to go about this is to start with really tiny steps. Decide to make one new healthy recipe per week. Try adding a vegetable-based smoothie to breakfast. Drink one more glass of water every day for a week and build up over the month. Make a batch of quinoa and try using it in different recipes across the week. Just decide on one small step that feels do-able and start there. Then, once this becomes a habit, add the next most do-able step and keep building on this.

When I first started out, I decided to simply add a vegetable juice every day for the 40 days of Lent. That was it: Nothing more! Yet what happened from there was that I naturally started craving more healthy food, and began experimenting with healthier options.

And even if you start with just tiny steps, could you do yourself a favor and let go of the idea that change is linear? Change looks more like this chart – so start to embrace the up’s and down’s as simply a part of the process!

Source: BuzzFeed Life

Source: BuzzFeed Life

3. Experiment!

You know what I find fascinating about nutrition? How unscientific it is. One minute fats are bad, the next they are good. One minute coconut oil is the devil, now it is a panacea.

This used to drive me crazy. Until I realized I had a very powerful tool on hand: Curiosity and the ability to experiment and listen to my body.

Because one of the reasons nutrition is so inconclusive is that no one diet works for everyone.

So instead of only listening to external experts, experiment! Call on your curiosity and try out different ways of eating to find what works best for your body.

Experiment with times of day where it feels better to have bigger or smaller meals. With whether you need a snack or not. With different types of foods and proportions of macronutrients (fat/protein/carbs). The Breakfast Experiment

You could also start by experimenting with different breakfasts – my free online Breakfast Experiment can help you do that.

When you take on this approach you realize that you are never actually eating badly – it’s all part of the experiment called life. Now when I eat something that didn’t work for my body, I don’t beat myself up about it. I simply notice with curiosity that actually, I am better off not eating chocolate so late at night or that having too many fries doesn’t work for my body.

4. Forget perfection

When I first started making healthy changes, I got a little carried away and tried to eat ‘perfectly’. I actually became borderline orthorexic at some point – and this didn’t really work because I would then end up completely losing control and swinging to the other extreme. I call this Boot Camp vs Club Med mentality and I wrote about it here.Bootcamp-or-Club-Med

I also realized that eating healthy food does not necessarily mean having a healthy RELATIONSHIP around food. In fact, I would often eat too much in quantity of healthy food because I was feeling frustrated and deprived. So when I eased up on this and started allowing myself to eat a little less healthy, I was actually able to develop a healthier relationship to food – one that includes the occasional fries or fondue or dessert which I fully enjoy.

Remember that this is not a crash diet. It is your life. And you need to be able to keep eating healthy, which you will only be able to do if you enjoy it. So allow yourself to eat healthy food AND less healthy food. It’s all about balance. And you might notice that when the unhealthy stuff is no longer forbidden and you start really listening to your body, the less healthy stuff loses some of its allure.

5. Rely on habits and organization rather than willpower

This is probably the most important thing I wish I had known starting out.

Healthy eating is more about being organized than a matter of willpower.

When you have a headstart ingredient like a batch of quinoa or pre-chopped vegetables or cooked lentils in your fridge that you can quickly transform into a meal, eating healthy becomes the obvious choice.

This was something I learned after some trial and error and thinking that I was simply lacking in willpower. I was working at a fast-paced job and would come home quite late and didn’t have the courage to start cooking from scratch despite my best intentions. So I started putting aside an hour on Sundays to prepare some headstart ingredients for the week. I would listen to TED talks or good music and turn it into an enjoyable moment.

I have to point out that I am not a naturally organized person, but I knew that this was the only way that I would end up not just making pasta or having a ‘picnic’ dinner instead of an actual meal.

This is still the way I cook now, where I try to have at least one headstart ingredient on hand, to always have the basics in my kitchen and meals that I have frozen in my freezer. This approach truly makes it possible to eat healthy, even during busier periods.

This is the reason I created my step-by-step approach for creative meal planning as a 7 week online course, Healthy in a Hurry: I wanted to make healthy meal preparation accessible and fun by building simple habits, step by step.

Every week for 7 weeks, a new lesson will be released where you will have access to 2-3 short videos + PDFs you can download with guidelines, tips and recipes that will help you make healthy meal planning a reality. Each week’s module also has a simple worksheet you can fill out to help you plan for the week. You will also have access to all the material even after the course is finished so you can come back to it anytime. 

And there’s a free 45 minute Skype call with me plus unlimited access for any questions because accountability is key and I am committed to your success. Find out more here!

I would love to hear from you – what have you found most helpful in eating more healthy?