The Gap: Where You Are vs Where You Want to Be

the-gap

There’s a gap. A gap between where you are right now and where you want to be.

This gap, you don’t want it there. You want to be on the other side. Or to not even notice it is there – to pretend that actually, things are fine! Just fine, over on this side of the gap.

Only they are not. Things might not be awful but they aren’t all fine, either. Because you want more. You want to be able to live more fully, to love more deeply, to really connect with people. You used to be someone with dreams. With interests. With ambitions. There was a time when everything felt possible.

Because if you are really honest with yourself, you know that this is not the life you want for yourself.

But this gap. This gap, it is painful.

This gap holds longing and helplessness and fear and thoughts of

Who do you think you are to even want this?

You don’t deserve this

You should just be grateful for what you already have

You can’t do this

You’re not good enough

And questions like:

What if it works?

and

What if it doesn’t?

You can’t seem to win with the gap.

And getting close to the gap is uncomfortable. It’s painful.

And so you live your life avoiding this gap. Numbing the pain of longing. Finding a little happiness in the every day.

Which is fine. 

Until it is not.

Until one day you realize: That gap, it’s crossable. 

That this pain that you’ve been avoiding for so long is not your enemy. And that you might even be able to use it as fuel to help you move towards what matters to you.

That you hurt because you care, and that if you didn’t care about doing this, it wouldn’t be so painful.

And all those horrible thoughts, you realize that they are just thoughts your mind comes up with to keep you in your comfort zone. That the mind’s primary job description is to keep you alive and safe, and any form of uncertainty or change is seen as dangerous.

And you realize that you can allow those thoughts and emotions to be there – that you can let them be and realize that:

Yes they are painful.

AND YET

They don’t have the power to stop you from moving towards what matters.

So the day arrives when you finally cross the gap. You reach the other side. And on this other side, you discover that life is different, yes. 

That you are different.

That there is still discomfort and pain. That life is less easy. It isn’t as comfortable.

And that this discomfort is different from the one of longing and regret and absence you felt on the other side. It is different from the pain of numbness, of nothingness.

This pain, it’s a pain of newness, of no guarantees, of badassery. It’s a pain that comes with excitement, with exhilaration, with meaning.

It’s a pain of being fully alive. Of vitality.

And you realize that it boiled down to this all along –

Not whether or not you were going to feel any pain.

Because that is never an option in this life.

No. The choice was always this:

Of choosing between:

The pain of longing, of absence, of trying to convince yourself that this gap doesn’t exist.

OR

The pain and risk that comes with doing what really matters to you and being fully alive.

The Secret to Letting Go

letting-go

“I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep…. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.” – May Sarton

I went through a very difficult period a few years ago.

Well intentioned people around me would just tell me – you just need to let it go. Let it go!

This advice was useless to me.

I couldn’t let it go because letting go felt like giving up. It felt like telling myself it didn’t matter to me when it was all I could think of. The mere thought of letting go filled me with dread.

So I kept soldering on. I tried convincing myself that everything was OK. I tried positive thinking. I tried positive affirmations.

None of it worked. It only made me feel like a failure because there was a disconnect between what I felt and what I kept telling myself.
It was only when I allowed myself to feel sadness that I was able to let go of a situation that wasn’t working anyway and to start living in a much healthier way.

Sounds strange, right? Why would connecting to sadness actually help in letting go?

Because that is the role of sadness.

All emotions have a message they want to convey, a role they play in our internal village. 

The word emotions comes from the latin ‘movere’ or to move and that is what emotions want us to do – they want to move us to do something.

Sadness wants us to let go.

I see sadness is the street sweeper of our internal village. 

When sadness shows up, it helps us:

♥ To recognize that something is no longer needed or working for us

♥ It helps us release it

♥ And in doing so, it helps us make room for the new – to rejuvenate

Like the autumn trees letting go of dead leaves in order to rest in the winter and rejuvenate in the spring, we too are cyclical.

And when sadness shows up, it asks the question:

What no longer works for me and needs to be let go of? What needs to be rejuvenated? 

As Karla McLaren writes, “Sadness helps you slow down, feel your losses, and release that which needs to be released – to soften into the flow of life instead of holding yourself rigidly and pushing ever onward.” 

Every emotion shows up first as a physical sensation in our body.

We don’t just feel emotions as mental states but as body states first. And with sadness, when we allow it to be without resisting or fighting or numbing it – it helps us let go. Healthy sadness is a physical release, a relaxation, – and tears are also a way of letting go, of physically eliminating toxins and restoring flow.

Like the leaves of a tree, everything in life has its own time or cycle. 

What might have served at one point, worked well even, now no longer does. Sadness signals to us that it is time to let go.

Let go of things that aren’t working for us…

♥ like tension

♥ muscle tightness

But also 

♥ anxiety

♥ soldiering on behaviors

♥ thoughts, behaviors or beliefs that we are no longer working for us but that we are still holding on to

♥ a relationship or certain dynamics in a relationship

♥ a situation

Letting go restores flow. It allows us to make space for new ideas and needs and desires that are more connected to who we are right now – rather than holding on to outdated ideas or needs or beliefs or relationships.

So what happens in our village if we don’t feel sadness – if we try to not feel it or never allow ourselves to physically relax? Our village gets overrun with garbage. And who wants to live in a cluttered village that is overflowing with garbage? This can even lead to burn out or depression.

When you allow yourself to welcome your sadness instead of fighting it, trying to suppress it or distracting yourself from it, you allow it to sweep away what no longer works for you.

We think sadness wants to steal something from us or to hurt us and that we have to fight it or protect ourselves from it. Yet the willingness to feel sadness is the secret to being able to let go. And it is only when we let go that we can rejuvenate, that we can make room for new, vibrant, beautiful leaves – leaves that reflect who we are today.

So as much as possible, can you stay open to your sadness and simply notice:

What must be released?

+

What must be rejuvenated?

And next time you feel sadness instead of resisting it or trying not to feel it, see if you can breathe in deeply and let go of tension as you exhale. Let your body help you work with your sadness and notice how much more flowing and vital life becomes.

Allow your street sweeper to do their job.

In the hero stories, the call to go on a journey takes the form of a loss, an error, a wound, an unexplainable longing, or a sense of a mission. When any of these happens to us, we are being summoned to make a transition. It will always mean leaving something behind…The paradox here is that loss is a path to gain. – David Richo

Inspired by The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren + Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Below are some photos of the recent yoga + psychology event in the park with Marisa of Wild.Happy.Heart.

yoga-letting-go

Why ‘Just Say No’ is Useless Advice for Boundary Setting

boundaries

I am sure you’ve heard this.

That boundaries are about ‘just saying no’. Sounds so simply, right? So what makes them so hard to put in place?

Why do we say yes when we don’t want to?

Why do we end up feeling taken advantage of or misunderstood?

Why is it so hard to actually communicate our needs?

Why does trying to please others often come at the expense of doing what’s best for us?

In a nutshell, here’s why:

Because we are human.

And as humans, we are hardwired for connection and attachment. We evolved in tribes and being part of the tribe – belonging – is still one of the most primordial needs for us.

For our brains, not being part of the tribe is dangerous. In the past, rejection meant certain death as we couldn’t survive alone in the savanna.

So we are very sensitive to potential rejection. It even lights up the same area in the brain as physical pain.

It makes sense, then, that setting boundaries, from our old-school brain’s perspective is risky business.

So we stay in enmeshed relationships. We allow people to park out in our internal village, even when this comes at a high cost.

Because it can seem less scary to have other people in our village, even if they are not doing us good, even if we end up resenting or hating them – than to risk being alone.

Unboundaried living makes sense from an evolutionary perspective.

It is understandable that we let people walk all over us. That we end up snarky and resentful or trying to be nice and people please.

Knowing this, when people tell you to ‘just say no’ to set a boundary, it doesn’t actually help.

BECAUSE WE KNOW THIS IS WHAT WE NEED TO DO.

And yet, even though it doesn’t feel natural, boundary setting is essential to modern life.

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

Boundaries are key for authenticity and healthy relationships.

So instead of ‘just saying no’ as boundary advice, this is what I think we need to consider: 

♥ First, we need to understand what we are responsible for / can control in a situation and what we can’t (hint: we can’t control other people’s actions or reactions).

♥ We need to know what we want to stand for in the situation, what our values are. And this can take time and thought to figure out and that’s OK.

♥ Then we need to know how to communicate this to others in an effective way.

♥ And we need to know how to make room for the discomfort that inevitably shows up because we are doing something that is counter-intuitive to how our brains evolved.

Boundary setting is not necessarily hard, but it does take practise and it is normal that it doesn’t come naturally for most of us.

We will explore all this in my upcoming boundaries workshop, so you will leave knowing how to set effective boundaries and can start moving from:

Being reactive + resentful

TO

Being proactive + assertive

Because it is only when we have a beautiful gate around our internal village that we can create the kind of village that we actually want to live in.

boundaries_Sept. 2016

 

A good friend of mine has a good friend, who I would not normally choose to be with.  Recently, during an evening at my friend’s house, her friend who I knew was going to be there so I was probably ‘ready’ for the usual inappropriate remarks, said something intrusive to me.  Instead of being surprised, I took a deep breath and very calmly told her that it was none of her business and please don’t ask me again.  Silence reigned!  Then all went back to normal.

 

Huge step for me out of my comfort zone to do something like so publicly (I had no problems with Boundaries in my work life yet have had difficulty in my private life).

 

Your workshop on Boundaries earlier this year has helped me to understand that Boundaries are necessary for being authentic. – Email from a participant in the April Boundaries workshop

How Perfectionism Makes Sense

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. – Brené Brown

Imagine your internal world is like a village. This village is made up of ‘villagers': Your emotions, thoughts, desires, needs. This village makes you who you are.

Often these ‘villagers’ are born as a result of our upbringing, our experiences. Their job description is to keep the village safe, to protect it in whatever way they can – even when this ends up seeming like self-sabotage.

Perfectionist Villager often shows up as a way of helping us out when we are young.

Here are two possible scenarios:

Scenario 1
As a child, the better we were at something, the more praise we got from those around us. We were pushed to be high achievers and this is how worthiness was measured.

Perfectionist Villager showed up and tried to push us to be ‘perfect’, to always be striving and achieving – because in this scenario, achievement (perfection) = love.

This type of perfectionism is about achievement, constant striving, type A personalities.

Scenario 2
Another scenario might be having had a judging, harsh, critical, even abusive environment. In this scenario, Perfectionist Villager tried getting us to be perfect as a way of avoiding criticism as much as possible. In this scenario being perfect = avoiding pain.

This type of perfectionism is more about procrastination, paralysis, avoiding making decisions. It actually looks a lot less like what we would typically associate with perfectionism and more with ‘laziness’ – but as you can see, there is a good reason for this (as there is with everything we do).

In both cases, Perfectionist Villager is trying to do what they think is best for us in their own clumsy way. And at one point in our lives, it made sense.

Yet today, as an adult, Perfectionist Villager – despite his or her clumsy good intentions to motivate or protect us – is no longer serving us.

When we let Perfectionist Villager run the village, we don’t start projects or do things that matter to us because we might fail – leading to procrastination and paralysis.

When we let Perfectionist Villager run the village, we doubt ourselves, we play it safe rather than risk not being good enough at something.

Above all, when we let Perfectionist Villager run the village, the village is not a very cool place to be.

Because Perfectionist Villager operates from a place of fear and shame, telling us we can only be worthy once we are perfect. Yet how can we measure ourselves up against standards nobody can ever reach? Have you noticed that the flip side of striving for perfection is ‘never being enough’?

What would happen if we allowed our wise village chief to run our internal village instead? To make choices that would allow us to still achieve and strive for excellence – without the harshness and suffering that comes with Perfectionist Villager? What if we learned how to work with Perfectionistic Villager, so that he or she was no longer running the village?

If this topic speaks to you and you would like to get to know your Perfectionist Villager better + learn ways of taking back control of your village, join me on August 8 for a workshop in Geneva – find out more here!

perfectionism

Crafted with Love

I spent a week in June at the annual conference for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which took place in Seattle, Washington (USA) this year. It was an incredible opportunity to deepen my knowledge of ACT while meeting many super inspiring people.

My husband joined me after the conference and we travelled around the region, visiting Portland (Oregon), Olympic National Park, Vancouver Island and Vancouver in Canada, and stopping in a few places in between.

The landscapes were breathtaking – the vast wilderness of nature looked like something off an indie music album cover.

fir trees

And I loved the dynamic, creative energy of the Pacific West Coast as this region is called, especially the pride taken in making food and drinks that are ‘hand-crafted’ with love and a lot of attention to detail. Portland is even called ‘Beervana’ because of all the microbreweries there are! My husband took it as his mission to taste as many different beers as possible!

beer

We even did a coffee tour of Seattle independent coffee shops with a very coffee-passionate guide, learning about the various techniques for making coffee such as this drip coffee.

Ghost alley coffee

Inspired and moved by this, I started thinking: My work through Healthwise is also ‘hand-crafted’. This work truly matters to me and I put in a lot of love, care and attention to detail. Perhaps I could even say it is crafted with love?crafted with love

So I started thinking exactly what this looks like – and what matters to me most when ‘crafting’ individual sessions.

Here’s what I came up with:

♥ Providing a safe space in which my clients can step back and see things differently.

♥ Creating a judgement-free zone where my clients feel heard and supported, regardless of what they are going through.

♥ Helping my clients learn new ways of relating to their internal village of thoughts, feeling and sensations so they can drop the struggle with themselves. Much of the pain in life doesn’t have a ‘solution’ yet we can learn to relate to the pain differently.

♥ Creating a compassionate space where my clients also learn to bring themselves kindness, to better listen to their needs, to have their own back – whether or not they think they ‘deserve’ this.

♥ Helping my clients get unstuck and moving towards what matters to them. Because living with a genetic kidney disease myself, I realize that life is not unlimited, that we all have precious little time on this earth to do what matters to us, to be in the kind of relationships we truly desire, to live the life we really want to be living.

 I want to treat each session as if it were the last, to provide value in each session so that my clients leave with a small step to work towards or a new skill to practice.

Crafting with love is definitely something I want to keep being inspired by – isn’t it a beautiful way of approaching life and what we put out into the world?

Here are a few more photos:

IMG_5965stumpskayak

Hiba cafe

PS – If this inspires and you are interested in getting unstuck and moving towards what matters to you, please get in touch.

No-Label Diet

no label diet_bigI’ve been thinking a lot about the language we use when it comes to food and eating.

Words that describe food like:

Healthy, clean, guilty pleasure, good, bad, unhealthy.

I’ve used these words myself. A lot.

But here’s something I have been asking myself lately: How useful are these labels? 

Imagine a piece of paper. If healthy is written on one side, then unhealthy is on the other. If good is written on one side, then bad is on the other.

And inevitably, because this is LIFE and not some game where we can be perfect all the time, at some point, the paper flips.

So what happens when we tell ourselves ‘I’ve been good – I’ve eaten healthy all week’ ?

When the paper is on good and healthy, chances are, we tap ourselves on the back and proclaim that we are a good person…but then next time, we don’t eat as well, we become a bad person and the what-the-hell effect kicks in and instead of just one cookie, we eat 10.

And then there’s the license to sin effect:

When we have a rigid self-concept of I am good if I do this, our thinking becomes very black and white.

So even actions we think are good can actually end up backfiring. For example, thinking I was good – I had a salad for lunch – so I can eat whatever I want this afternoon.

So what if we go rid of the paper completely? What if we removed all the labels?

What if food was no longer…

Healthy, clean, guilty pleasure, good, bad, unhealthy

What if food was just food and we became just a person eating that food?

Not mindlessly eating whatever we want, of course.

Instead of labels that come from our very judge-y mind or from external experts, what if we trusted the part of us who is actually eating instead?

Because obvious as this may sound, our body, not our mind is the one eating.

So instead of judging food, can we look at it in terms of: How does eating this work for me?

By focusing on this question instead of the label we give food, we can then simply notice:


Did this food give me energy?

Does this food enable me to feel good in my body?

Does this food bring me pleasure?

I am calling this the No-Label Diet.

Are you up for the challenge?

For the next week, let go of all labels and notice instead what your body tells you.

Put on your curious scientist lab coat and simply notice as if you were eating this food for the first time, how it works for you.

You might notice that the food your mind was telling you was bad and off limit is OK in small quantities and that when you eat too much of it you feel sluggish. And because you want to feel energized, you decide to have it occasionally and to fully enjoy it instead of approaching it in a black & white way which doesn’t work anyway.

Of course, because our minds evolved to be very judge-y, they will keep labelling food – and that’s OK. Simply notice the judgement, allow it to hang out – and then focus your attention on your actual experience of the food – what your body tells you.

For me, making this simple distinction between judgements about food and how my body experiences it has been the most significant shift I have made in my eating. 

This is the way we step out of willpower and the constant struggle we are in with ourselves over food and start trusting something much more intuitive, much wiser – that is always there for us to access.

Don’t just trust what my mind is telling you. Try it out yourself and see what your experience says!

If you try this or have already experimented with this, I would love to hear from you!

No label diet give it a try

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

What’s Your Word for 2016?

Word-of-the-Year 2016

I love the feeling of freshness and possibility that comes with ending a year and beginning a new one. Even though this is often the busiest time of the year, I find it is the ideal time to pause and reflect. To think about what you want your life to be about in the coming year.

I got very reflective in this lengthy post looking back on 2015, a year full of both shifts and stuckness for me.

And because I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions, for the past three years, I have been coming up with a Word of the Year.

Word of the Year can inspire and guide choices + actions throughout the year.

Here’s how it works: Take a moment to think about this coming year. 366 days laid out before you, waiting to be lived (it’s a leap year so we even get one extra day!).

If you could fill these 366 days in any way you want, what would your heart’s deepest desires for the way we want to interact with the world, other people and yourself be?

In other words…

What do you want to stand for across these 366 days?

How do you want to behave?

What sort of person do you want to be? 

And what word best summarizes this image of you? 

When it comes to thoughts, feelings and actions, can you guess what we have most control over? Our actions. We can spend a lot of energy trying to suppress thoughts or feelings or even trying to change them…yet the reality is we can already take the action we want, even with thoughts telling us the exact opposite and even when we don’t feel ready or are scared. So for example, it is possible to give a great speech DESPITE your mind telling you You’re not good enough and You’re not ready and despite not feeling confident at all.

In fact, taking action towards what matters to you despite having ‘negative’ thoughts and feelings is at the heart of becoming the person you want to be. Even if it might feel forced in the beginning. Even if you have to fake it until you become it. Willingness to feel discomfort or becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable in the service of what matters to you is one of the best kept secrets to change and growth.

So this year I would like to suggest finding an ACTION word of the year.

A word that inspires you to take action and not just dream about the person you would like to be. A word that pushes you out of your comfort zone and into the world, even if this means taking only a teeny tiny step at a time. Once you have your action word, try to think of how you plan on taking small steps every day towards this word.

My action word this year is VITALITY.

The way I plan on acting on acting on VITALITY is:

♥ By turning towards my emotions, both the pleasant and not so pleasant ones, so that I am fully open to life. According to Steve Hayes, the founder of ACT, “There’s as much life in a moment of pain as a moment of joy” and I want to be open to the full spectrum of living.

♥ By moving beyond my comfort zone both professionally and personally and choosing to greet fear as a sign of growth.

♥ By making choices that lead to a sense of VITALITY, such as nourishing foods, movement, meditation and activities that inspire me.

♥ By following my curiosity and seeing where this leads instead of overanalysing or being too cautious or trying to plan things out too much.

I would love to hear from you: What is YOUR action word of the year? And what are some actions you can take in the next 366 days to live in line with this word?

2015: A Year of Subtle Shifts + Stuckness

thank you 2015

As we wind down on 2015 I want to say: Wow. What a year.

This was a year of big yet subtle shifts. A year where I launched new endeavours, finished others…and also spent a good part of the year feeling stuck.

Hello, Online World!

This was the year I entered the online world through eCourses. The Mindful Eating Experiment was the first – a simple email program with one action step every week designed to help create more mindful eating habits. At the end of the summer, I launched Healthy in a Hurry – a 7 week course on creative meal planning. I got such fantastic feedback from participants that I am launching a second round on 14 January  2016. I also created the free Breakfast Experiment that can be done anytime.

online programsI was even interviewed (in French) by a Geneva web agency and revealed my secrets to an online-ish business.

More food experimenting + writing

I experimented with an elimination diet that cut out gluten, dairy and soy. Based on my experience, I wrote an article on surviving gluten-free in Geneva for knowitall.ch.

I also published an intensely personal article on the Huffington post and one of my favorite articles so far on 6 words to transform healthy eating – a mind shift that has made all the difference when it comes to eliminating certain foods for health reasons as I did this year.

My most popular recipes this year include:

Food 2015

Recipes: Legend(non)-dairy Raspberry YoghurtBetter Than Bircher Muesli Fruity Chia BowlSweet Potato Hummus and Quinoa or Millet Crust Pizza.

Sharing the love

Last year, I held workshops or group sessions every 2-3 weeks. This year, I wanted to focus more on online programs and individual sessions.

So the few events I did were collaborations with Sagana Coconut Sweetener, a women’s group on Internations, a UN agency, several events with Katia of Nia Dance and was honored to be part of my first retreat with Samiel.

workshops 2015

During these events, I covered topics as diverse as sugar cravings, sensuous eating, hummus-making, smoothie demo, raw chocolate demo and intuitive cooking.

Although workshops are always a little stressful for me, I really enjoy interacting with you guys there.

I love you, ACT…and you also freak me out

photo-20This year, I finished my intense supervision in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or Training (ACT), a mindfulness-based behavioral therapy. I also went to the annual ACT conference in Berlin in July and fell even more in love with ACT and the community of people behind it. I even snuck in a mirror selfie when nobody was around because I was so excited about being there.

After all this was over and I could, well actually get out there and start using ACT, I froze.

I knew I wanted to use ACT, I knew I wanted to continue to a certain extent with what I was doing with food coaching yet I was confused about how exactly to combine everything and what to do next.

I was also freaking out because ACT is so.close.to.my.heart that I wanted to do it perfectly.

It made me realize that when you are doing your own thing, you’re never done with the whole vulnerability and courage thing. Yes, there’s the initial launch. And there’s also another jumping point every time you do something new. Every next step is all about willing vulnerability all over again. Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.

I wasn’t honest with myself though. I didn’t admit that I was simply scared about taking this next step.

Instead, I went into full existential crisis mode.

So I took some time off, alone. For the first time. I discovered this part of me I had kept hidden away called my emotions. I connected with my values, what truly matters to me and what I want to stand for. I used ACT on myself, especially through a tool called The Matrix. I spoke to people. I took time to do non-work related things that inspire like yoga and reading and going to art exhibitions.

I finally got unstuck.

And it suddenly seemed so obvious: I wanted to do the food stuff mostly online and in group sessions. I wanted my individual sessions to be more emotions/Psychology-focused: Emotional eating, binge eating, emotions around weight loss and other non-food areas of life where people feel stuck. And I wanted to continue freelancing in market research because I also enjoy it and it takes some of the financial pressure off my other activities. It was almost as if I needed to give myself permission to work in Nutrition and Psychology and Communication all at once and be credible in each field.

After this experience, it felt natural to do a workshop around getting unstuck using the ACT Matrix – my first ACT workshop. When I told my mother that it had gone well but that I could already think of plenty of ways I could have done better, she told me: The first piece of cake is always hardest to cut. I had never heard that before and thought it was brilliant (who doesn’t love an aptly timed food/life metaphor?).

I also launched this 4 session pack (still valid) using a photo of my husband and I by the lake:

Get unstuck Geneva

The quote that spoke to me this year

This year, I really learned to live the questions, inspired by this quote by the poet, Rilke:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Books, books, books

I read lots of great books this year, my four favorites being:

fave books 2015_1fave books 2015_2

Almost done!

I wanted to share a photo that I think sums up this year well for me. I posted this photo on Facebook in March and I mentioned that this was the less glamorous side of recipe making. Instead of agreeing with me, people commented on the beauty of the mess and how it showed that something delicious was in preparation.

And it made me realize that change and growth is like this photo. Not very glamorous, sure. The transition is messy and often involves experimenting, throwing things out and trying again. Yet that messiness is real life. In that chaos lies vitality. And that’s what it means to be truly alive, whether or not we feel we have everything figured out or not. And maybe, just maybe, while we do figure things out, we can also live the questions.

photo-21

Thank you for being a part of my 2015. Here’s to a 2016 full of more of the beautiful chaos that eventually leads to this:

Raw Carrot Cake

Recipe: Raw Carrot Cake.

Mindful Eating: A Simple Step You Can Take

In this 8 minute video, I share a simple tip about how to eat more mindfully – along with my passion for mindful eating!

Find out more about my online Mindful Eating Experiment here.

A Good Reason Why We Do What We Do

always a good reasonAre you afraid there’s something wrong with you because you constantly crave something sweet or salty or because you binge eat?

What if there was a perfectly good reason?

What if that craving was your body’s way of seeking to balance itself? What if gaining back the weight you worked so hard to lose was not a lack of willpower but a way of keeping you safe, clumsy as it may seem?

We do what we do because on a deeper level the body is seeking balance and/or safety – even if this means sabotaging health goals.

So what if we approached things differently? What if we let go of the struggle with our bodies, with the thought that there is something wrong with us, and tried something different? What if we stepped away from self-judgement and started:

♥ To intimately listening to what’s really going on.

♥ To be brutally honest with ourselves.

♥ To face the underlying cause instead of cursing the symptoms.

For example, if we listen closely to those pesky sweet cravings, we notice that the body might be trying to tell us:

You’re not eating enough protein, healthy fat and fiber to keep blood sugar levels stable.

You need more pleasure or ‘sweetness’ in your life.

Or those binges when we come home from work might be the body trying to tell us: 



I need you to stop and enjoy food during the day – otherwise I start to panic about not getting enough fuel and eat as much as I can when I can. 

Or: I am trying to protect you from the loneliness you feel when you’re alone and food is the best way I know how.  

Going on the rampage for anything salty might be the body’s way of saying:
I need salt, and since you don’t add any to your cooking, I am trying to get it the only way I can.

And if you listen to the message your body is trying to give you behind losing weight only to gain it back, it might be:

You don’t feel comfortable with the attention you get when you’re thin so I am trying to keep you safe by putting the weight back on.

So there is always a good reason or reasons why we do what we do that has nothing to do with being defective or weak or lacking willpower.

When we stop struggling against our bodies and start listening instead, we uncover the underlying causes behind cravings, weight gain or binges.

And by understanding how the body is trying to find balance or keep us safe instead of cursing it, making change no longer feels like an uphill battle.

If this resonates with you and you would like to explore your body’s message behind the cravings, binges or weight gain, I am currently offering free 30 minute sessions. Book yours by Skype or in person here.

Find Your Word for 2015

Word of the Year

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I now come up with a Word of the Year.

This is a simple way of focusing on something you want more of this year, based on the idea that what you focus on, grows.

Your Word of the Year can help inspire and guide your choices and actions throughout the year.

In 2013, my Word of the Year was PASSION. I used PASSION to guide the way I lived my life and the choices I made in both my work (starting this blog, leaving an 8 year career in advertising to share my passion for healthy living) and my private life (from going to Australia to everyday activities like cooking, yoga or reading).

For 2014, I decided my Word of the Year  would be LIGHTNESS. I started the year thinking of lightness as more about fun, laughter, not taking things so seriously. However, what life taught me this year was more around acceptance and letting go, which have proven to be an ultimate form of lightness. I also discovered another form of lightness in taking my pleasure more seriously, especially during the 6 weeks I spent in Dubai.

I also explored feeling physically lighter in my body not just through food as I had originally thought, but also through a greater focus on movement. During my 6 weeks in Dubai, I experimented with many different styles of yoga, pilates and even a combination of both, yogalates. I also reconnected with a love for dance through Nia dance and 5rhythmn dance. What I learned through these experiences is that I not only want to feel lightness in my body, but also strength – and that the two are very complimentary.

Finally, this year, I fell in love with ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which I am currently specializing in. Applying ACT concepts, which are very much based on mindfulness, helps me lighten my thinking. I now realize that self-doubt is just part of the journey, and that I can allow these thoughts to be there without getting weighed down by them. I wrote more about how I no longer take my fears so seriously in this article.

For 2015, my Word of the Year is PRESENCE. I would like to be more present in everything I do, from taking a shower, to talking with people to cooking. I notice that the more fully present I am to my experiences and my life, the more magical they feel. I want to be able to touch this magic more often, and to give more of my attention to myself and the people I am with by being in the here and now, instead of thinking about something in the past or future. By being present with whatever shows up, I wish to fully experience life, both the pleasant and the not so pleasant, to be more fully alive and vital.

So how do you go about finding your word of the year?

1. Connect to your desires. 

Take some time to yourself, and really think about what you WANT out of life in this moment.

You might want to try listing everything you can think of even if it seems frivolous. This can include anything from the new iPad to getting married to going to Thailand on holiday.

2. Identify the feelings behind what you want

Once you have your desire list, identify how getting what you have listed will make you feel. What is the feeling you are chasing? As Danielle LaPorte writes “You’re not chasing the goal itself, you’re actually chasing a feeling.”

For example, maybe you want an iPad because it will allow you to feel connected. Or going to Thailand will help you feel adventurous. And perhaps you want to get married because what you are really looking for is stability.

3. Choose the word that attracts you most

Now go back to your list and look at the feelings you have written. What comes across most clearly or really makes your heart sing? What word makes you feel expansive, inspired, turned on?

Play with the idea that this might be your word of the year for a few days before deciding on this. You can try writing several words out on post-its around your home to see which you feel most drawn to.

Once you have your word of the year, you can really own it by creating a collage of images that remind you of this, creating an affirmation around it (I desire to be more present) or simply having it written out somewhere you can see it. You can even use it for email or social media passwords as a daily reminder (for example:beherenow2015).

I would love to hear from you – what’s your Word of the Year?

If you want to start the year off with the support you need to lose weight, make peace with food or simply make healthier life choices, why not book a free Health Chat to find out whether my approach is right for you?

Intuitive Eating: The One ‘Diet’ to Rule Them All

Forget label, eat intuitively

If you are like me, you might have tried several diets in an effort to find the One Diet to Rule Them All.

When I first switched from my muffin vegetarian ways to a healthier way of eating, I tried on many ‘labels’ – vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, raw food…

I quickly realized a simple truth.

No philosophy or external expert can tell you how to nourish your body.

The only true authority on what nourishes you best is…you.

To truly honour your unique needs, start to distinguish between what your mind wants – what it thinks you SHOULD or SHOULDN’T be eating – and what your body wants.

Let go of the diet labels and start to listen to the messages your body is giving you instead.

Experiment with different foods and feel their effects on a body level. Notice how you feel bloated or heavy after eating certain foods while other foods make you feel satisfied and energized. Notice what times of day you feel better eating a heavy or lighter meal.

Realize that what works for you at one stage of life does not necessarily work at other stages. Or that what works for you in summer might not work in winter.

View your eating as an on-going experiment and become curious about making shifts that really make your body sing.

In doing this, you will find that perhaps you need to eat some good quality animal products to feel more grounded. Or perhaps a mostly vegan or raw food diet actually is what really makes you feel amazing, and not only what your mind thinks you should eat. Or maybe you find yourself eating completely differently from one month or season to another, depending on what your body needs in the moment.

So the best diet there is, in my opinion? Starting a life-long dialogue with your body to truly listen to your unique needs.

Since I used a reference from Lord of the Rings with “One ring to rule them all”, I am including a photo of my husband and me in New Zealand visiting what is left of the movie set – we are both big Tolkien fans!

img_8321

Not So Great Expectations: The Nocebo Effect

Not so great expectations

We hear a lot about what we should or shouldn’t be eating.

About how healthy something is. Or how we should absolutely avoid ‘evil’ foods of the moment like gluten or dairy or sugar.

But what if these expectations actually cause more harm than good?

Research illustrates how a group of people who were given meals without gluten but were told that it contained gluten complained of digestive issues after eating this meal – even though they had felt fine eating the exact same food when they knew the food was gluten-free.

We hear a lot about the placebo effect and what this research shows is just as powerful: The nocebo effect: The expectation that something will harm us becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And we all do this.

We eat that ice-cream…and a serving of guilt.

We eat something with gluten…and also our fear of the harm it will do us.

Because we don’t only eat physical food – we also eat the ideas we have about those foods.

So does this mean we can just eat junk food while chanting mantras about how healthy it is? That there’s no point in even trying to eat healthy?

Of course not. And I am not denying that gluten intolerance is a real problem either.

I simply want to suggest that healthy eating and living starts with your mindset.

Instead of eating ideas of doom and gloom about food or guilt, try this.

Replace judgement about food with open-minded curiosity. Turn “I’m sure I will feel like crap after eating this because it contains ________” into “I wonder how my body will feel after eating this? ”

Food is neither good nor evil and it very much depends on when you are eating, the quality of what you are eating and even how much of it you are eating. It depends on the season and even what stage of your life you are in – so the same food’s effect on us is constantly shifting. No external expert or diet will ever tell you what works best for your unique bio-individuality. Only starting a dialogue with your body to find what works for YOU will.

Most importantly, fully enjoy EVERYTHING you eat, regardless of how ‘unhealthy’ it is. There is no point in eating something healthy you really don’t enjoy or in eating something unhealthy without truly enjoying it. The pleasure we get from food has even been shown to affect the amount of nutrients we get from food.

Finally, don’t bother trying to be a perfect eater. Aim to eat ‘healthy’ food about 80% of the time. Remember that 80% is perfection.

The ultimate mindset for healthy eating? Eating with a serving of curiosity, mindfulness and intuition instead of fear, obligation and guilt.

Sources: Here and here

A Surprising Link: Meditation and Weight Loss

Meditation and weight loss

Guest Post by Will Williams, founder of Quiet Minds Meditation in Geneva

Ever since summer arrived there seems to be a good number of runners on the streets. Some perhaps are in training for a marathon, and others no doubt love the rush of wind and air in their faces, but many, I strongly suspect, are looking to lose weight so that the summer’s swimwear look is hot, or at least more respectable.

Imbued with our western ethic of ‘no pain, no gain’, we are generally keen to run until we drop, ambitious in our distances to run and inches to loose.  Now, as strange as it may seem, the best way to move towards your ideal weight is not necessarily to go running or rowing, spinning or skiing, it is actually to sit still.

How so? Surely we either need to burn calories or reduce them in order to lessen our cuddly bits?

That does indeed make intuitive sense, but it neglects the biological and psychological dynamics at play with weight gain.

Better to ask ourselves the question of why we find ourselves gravitating towards too much of the wrong foods or why we seem to be putting on weight regardless of consumption levels?

The biggest single culprit is stress. When we are subject to intermittent stress, or Chronic Background Stress as our friends at the WHO call it, a number of physiological changes take place which will cause us to start cultivating kilos. The first is that stress causes two thirds of us to overeat. The second is that stress causes us to start hungering for fatty, sugary foods.

So why does this happen?

Initially, when we experience stress, we break down all of the fats stored in our body ready for a suitably strong ‘fight or flight’ response. Energy is quickly created for a fast sprint or a gladiatorial showdown.  But as soon as the emergency is declared over, the process goes into reverse and the body wants to regain everything it just burned, and it wants to add some extra as insurance against another episode. This is usually stored up in the abdominal area, giving us an unmistakably round shape. And the more times we break down and rebuild our energy stores, the more insurance the body requires and the weightier we become.

So if we are subject to intermittent stress, whether it be time pressures, work pressures, or even little stresses like running for the bus or getting stuck in traffic, our innate survival programmes will kick in and we will begin hoarding glucose and proteins in our fat cells.

This is the reason why, when we lose weight through the stress of excessive exercise or excessive dieting, we cannot help but feel the urge to binge afterwards, particularly if there are lots of other demands and stresses in our lives!

Unfortunately, our busy modern lives mean that many of us have a tendency to engorge. Our biology, which hasn’t evolved to cope with the industrial and post-industrial life, finds it all quite stressful and so starts triggering the urge to accumulate.  And so here we are with a bulging body-mass index despite our many attempts to stay svelte.

So clearly, if we’re going to be smart in our bid to slim, what we really need is to sort out our stress levels.

Meditation can help in a number of ways. Firstly, if we have an effective technique, it will help calm our stress response down so that not only do we feel more serene in our lives, we also don’t subject ourselves to bingeing on foodstuffs in order to offset the resource depletion of stress. So if we are less stressed, we will feel less compelled to eat lots of food, and we won’t find ourselves hungering for the fatty, sugary foods our body calls out for when we experience stress.

Vedic meditation also helps regulate our insulin resistance so that our fat cells are less prone to hoarding every single morsel of fat. Instead, we have a healthy and balanced regulation of insulin which allows us to have more energy to burn in our day, instead of accumulating it around our middle.

In fact it regulates all of our hormones so that we feel much more stable in our lives and the emotional comfort seeking, which often drives the food consumption process, also begins to fall away.

The individually customised sounds that we use in Vedic meditation have such a powerfully soothing and cleansing effect on the nervous system, it means that all of our stored up negative programming begins to wash away out of the system. In its place is a rapidly developing nervous system which is complimented beautifully by the enhanced neurological development that follows from this practice. It allows us to build far superior inter-neuronal connections and response patterns to all aspects of life and living including our food. So instead of having to ‘try’ to eat healthily, or ‘try’ to avoid unhealthy junk, or ‘try’ to do exercise, we find ourselves happily gravitating towards all healthy pursuits without feeling like we’re swimming against the tides of our own sub-conscious programming.

So whilst a combination of exercise and good diet is certainly key, if we don’t combine them with an effective stress reduction programme, then we’re always going to be fighting an uphill battle and it may prove somewhat exhausting and self-defeating.

And if we are pounding the treadmill, this meditation practice helps process the lactic acid in our muscles, provides greater levels of oxygenation within our blood, ensures our hormonal balance is not affected by the intensive exercise and helps keep our nervous system in balance when it would usually become overexcited by the workout.

It also helps us tune into our digestion and harmonises our digestive rhythms, which increases our ability to absorb the nutrients and feel more energised, no matter what we have in our diet.

So there we are, who would have initially thought it?!  Meditation can help us on all levels, not just being the most relaxed cat in the office!

The wonderful thing is that we can meditate anywhere we like as well. We can stay in shape and meditate even while we’re on the sun lounger wearing our most revealing swimwear, and what better way to tune out than with the sound of the morning waves or sunset surf lapping near our feet…

1397234605_f9ddaaf5643f38eaf8e003a9cade9cf8

About the Author: 

Will Williams is the founder of Quiet Minds Meditation in Geneva. Follow him on Google+.

Find out more about attending a free introduction talk on Vedic Meditation in Geneva here.

Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes: Boot Camp vs Club Med

Bootcamp or Club MedDo you find yourself oscillating between two extremes when it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes? Being super hard on yourself in order to eat perfectly, then completely letting yourself go and eating whatever is there? Or exercising obsessively for a few days…and unable to get off the sofa the next few days?

I call these two extremes Boot Camp vs. Club Med.

When we’re in Boot Camp mode, we expect everything to be hard

Boot Camp mode sounds like:

If it isn’t hard, I’m not doing it right

I have to deprive myself

I am never good enough

I have to eat/exercise perfectly otherwise I am flawed

No pain, no gain

Only by criticising myself can I move forward

The problem with Boot Camp is that it isn’t very pleasant to be there. So when we can’t take it any longer, we swing over to the other extreme and go into Club Med mode.

Club Med mode sounds like:

It shouldn’t be so hard

I don’t feel like making an effort

I deserve a treat

Who cares if I don’t achieve my health goal – I just want to feel good right now

I don’t want to make any decisions – someone else should decide for me

It feels comfortable right here even if I’m not moving forward

Do you recognize yourself in these extremes – perhaps more in one than the other?

Boot Camp mode helps us step out of our comfort zone and move towards our health goals…but it is often motivated by fear and is tough to keep up in the long-term.

Club Med mode feels good in the short term and keeps us safely ensconced in our comfort zone…but doesn’t move us any closer to our health goals.

So is there a third mode that is more effective to making change?

I call the in-between mode Yoga Retreat mode. In Yoga Retreat mode, you push yourself past your comfort zone and you do it from a place of love and wanting what is best for you.

You realize that a certain amount of discomfort is necessary for moving forward in life…but that this doesn’t have to be extreme and painful (Boot Camp) or something to avoid altogether (Club Med). You start becoming a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable. You realize that the discomfort of a craving or a workout won’t kill you and can actually move you towards the person you want to be.

You notice that you don’t need to live in extreme control and willpower – you can actually trust your body to make the best decisions for you. You don’t have to throw away the chocolate because you think you lack willpower (Boot Camp) or let yourself go and eat the whole bar (Club Med). In Yoga Retreat mode, when you eat chocolate, you do so mindfully, savouring every bite and taking true pleasure in the experience.

Yoga Retreat mode is motivated by self-compassion even when there are set-backs – even when you forget to eat mindfully 10 times and remember once. Instead of an attitude of “I already ate two cookies – what the hell, I’ll just finish the packet”, Yoga Retreat mode is about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, reminding yourself why you are doing this and taking action towards your goal.

Yoga Retreat mode is about loving yourself into change.

It is motivated by a desire to live more fully instead of a fear of never being good enough (Boot Camp) or a fear of stepping out of your comfort zone (Club Med).

I know that for a long time, I swung between the two extremes (spending more time in Club Med mode) and that it is only by applying the principles of Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating that I was able to create a much healthier relationship with food and find exercise I actually enjoy instead of having it feel like punishment.

Can you relate to this? Which camp do you find yourself in most of the time?

Fear: A Personal Confession

Healthy Arabic Cooking Class Geneva

“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.” – Steven Pressfield

I had been wanting to give a cooking class for almost a year now.

But something kept holding me back.

You’re not a chef.

This wasn’t something someone said to me. This was something my own mind kept reminding me of.

It also told me that nobody would come. That I suck at organization and logistics. That I would probably forget some vital ingredient. And it even came up with lovely, and really inventive images of me forgetting to put on the blender top…before turning on the blender.

Ah, minds. Such creative, imaginative – and sometimes unhelpful instruments.

I used to waste a lot of time trying to change fearful thoughts and images.

And then I discovered ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and it changed everything.

ACT helped me realize that our minds evolved to constantly broadcast negative thoughts.

One of the reasons is because when we lived in a world rife with physical danger like wild animals prowling around, we needed to be constantly on alert, to notice any danger in our environment to avoid being eaten.

Minds also evolved to compare and judge us as a way of protecting us from being rejected by the group. Humans can’t really survive alone in the wild in the same way children can’t survive without their parents. So we have a strong aversion to being rejected because for our minds…

Being rejected = I might die

Russ Harris, one of the thinkers behind ACT calls the mind a ‘Don’t Get Killed Machine’ and that is basically the starring role of our minds. To keep us safe. To keep us cozily ensconced in our comfort zone so we don’t have to face the possibility of rejection.

Realizing this changed everything for me.

It made me realize…

That there’s no point in waiting for my thoughts to turn positive and supportive or to feel fully ready before taking action. This very rarely happens.

That it is normal and completely on equity for my mind to come up with thoughts like Nobody will come and if they do, they’ll want their money back. It is simply what minds evolved to do. Instead of reacting to these thoughts by not holding the cooking class, I could simply realize that my mind was doing its thing, and trying to keep me safe…and still take action towards organizing the cooking class anyway.

Because as soon as there is change in the horizon, there is always fear.

But that fear doesn’t need to push you around. In the end, it doesn’t matter if thoughts are true or not. They are only thoughts and they don’t need to dictate action if you don’t want them to. How often have you thought I want to go to that yoga class without going? Or had uncharitable thoughts about someone without acting on them?

We tend to take our thoughts so seriously but they do not necessarily dictate action.

My mind telling me You suck at logistics and will never be able to plan a cooking class for 15 people has a grain of truth. I am not a natural organizer and it is not something I enjoy. But just because it is true didn’t mean I had to allow it to stop me from moving towards something important to me.

Which brings me to the most important part:

Focusing on what it important is a much better strategy for moving forward in life than buying into fearful thoughts and images.

Negative thoughts and fears will always be there. The question is, can I have these thoughts and feelings AND STILL move towards what is important to me? In this case, what was important to me was sharing my passion for simple, healthy food that I love creating. ACT talks about being ‘willing’ to have these uncomfortable thoughts and fears in service of what’s important for you. After all, fear wouldn’t show up if I was in my comfort zone rather than trying to do something that mattered to me.

We tend to believe that people who are ‘out there’ and doing things are different to us. That they don’t have fear. Yet if there is one certitude in life, it is that where there is change, there is fear. The question is, will you allow this to keep you in your comfort zone or will you Feel the fear and do it anyway in the words of Susan Jeffers?

I would love to hear from you – what helps you deal with fear? Are there any quotes you find inspiring?