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.

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

6 Food Lessons from 6 Weeks in Dubai

I just spent six weeks in Dubai – a city I never desired to visit nor had any hope of loving. 

Yet when my husband was put on a work project here for 6 weeks, we thought it would be a unique experience to share together and I took time away from my sessions to join him.

Healthy living is a collection of small choices you make every day. Out of my normal home context, these decisions became much harder to make. And yet – sometimes letting go of good habits reminds us of why they are important to us in the first place.

So h
ere are some learnings from six weeks of eating away from home.

1. Sometimes, all you can do is your best

My eating was definitely not at the 80% is perfection I usually aim for – perhaps more 60% healthier options and 40% less healthy options. I ate a lot more dairy, white bread and sugar than I would at home and cooked a lot less than I usually do.

Rather than obsess over my less than stellar way of eating, I tried making more effort where I had more control: Home food preparation and by choosing the healthier option at restaurants – because as I have written before, there is always a healthier option. I also tried upgrading on food quality whenever possible, eating mindfully and listening to my body. These are choices that are almost always within our grasp, regardless of where or what we are eating.

Most importantly, I realized I was doing my best in the circumstances and that it was also important for me to be nourished by other aspects of life than just food – especially when being surrounded by so much newness.

mezze2

2. Sugar is a slippery slope

I have written my story of being addicted to sugar and I realized in Dubai how easy it is to go back down this path. Because our stay in Dubai had a holiday feel to it and sugar is very much linked to celebration and pleasure for me, I found myself ordering a cupcake or ice-cream as a ‘treat’ a few times. After all, it felt like a special occasion every day! And while this was in no way as extreme as when I was really addicted to sugar, it made me realize how quickly bad habits can creep up on healthy ones. It also reminded me of how addictive sugar can be and that the less I eat of it, the less I crave it.

After the second cupcake two days in a row, I realized I needed to find alternative ways of doing something nice for myself so I started becoming a little more creative and found other ways of bringing pleasure to my days – since pleasure is very much linked to sugar (sugar = pleasure for the body). These included discovering a new coffee shop, taking my laptop to the beach and working from there, getting a manicure or pedicure, going to a yoga or pilates class, going swimming, simply noticing the beauty around me, watching the sunset or journaling.

cupcake

3. Vegetables are the greatest losers

I find that the hardest food group to get enough of when eating out a lot is vegetables. My solution to this was to try and eat as many vegetables as possible at home and to have a fresh vegetable juice whenever I could find one or even a fresh coconut juice. I also ate more fruits than I normally would as it was an easy way to get more nutrients and it felt very natural in such a hot climate.

Still, I very much missed my almost-daily smoothie as an easy way of adding more vegetables, especially green ones, to my diet!

10390911_308019646060738_688387124512688703_n

4. Intuitive eating is more important than just eating healthy

I tried viewing my not always so healthy eating experience as an experiment and an opportunity to be in tune with my body through intuitive eating rather than as a failure in healthy eating.

When I paid attention, I noticed that there really is a difference between living food and ‘dead’ food. My body felt more alive and vibrant after eating zucchini noodles at a raw food restaurant than it did after eating regular pasta – even though the regular pasta tasted delicious. Being attentive to how my body felt after eating something as opposed to whether it simply tasted good in the moment helped me make healthier choices, even in the face of temptation.

raw food

5. Food FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is very real

When you are on holiday or somewhere for a limited time and there is a lot of food you want to taste, there is definite FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out.

I found FOMO to be especially strong in a buffet setting where you have unlimited choice. Buffets are quite popular in Dubai and we ended up going to three of them. I ate too much at the first one and ended up feeling bad the rest of the day, so the following times, I made it a point to really listen to my body. Here are some guidelines I found helpful:

♥ Eat only what you REALLY REALLY want – not food that might be interesting but that doesn’t light you up.

♥ Have very small portions – realize you can always have more if you want.

♥ Slow down and eat mindfully – take your time and really taste the food.

♥ Listen to your body and honour your hunger signals over finishing your plate or trying everything out.

♥ Don’t fill up on things like bread or rice (unless they really light you up).

♥ Don’t eat food you can have anytime or somewhere else – eat only what feels unique and special to this buffet.

plate

6. Eating alone can be enjoyable

I had never ordered a meal and eaten out alone and often find it more difficult to eat mindfully when I am alone. I decided to take this on as an experiment, asking myself: I wonder what it will be like to take myself out for lunch and really enjoy my food without distractions?

Even though it was uncomfortable in the beginning and difficult to keep my phone away, eating alone has now become a source of pleasure for me. I started to appreciate it as a way of connecting to myself and my food without distractions – and it also made me appreciate eating with others even more at other occasions.

photo2

 

PS – While I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Dubai, it was also a productive time for Healthwise. I finished the first draft of an Online Mindful Eating program to launch in January and updated the Healthier Christmas Cookies eBook which will be out next week – make sure you are signed-up for my newsletter to receive it. I also started blogging for the Huffington Post – read my articles here.

 

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

Intuitive Eating: Life lessons from 85 year old Lydia

lydia2Lydia is my adopted Swiss-German aunt, someone I have had the pleasure of knowing all of my life.

At 85, she embodies the very notion of living in harmony with her body and spirit. She finds simple pleasures in life in a way few people are able to. When it comes to food, she is naturally attuned to her body in a way that I believe is possible for all of us to learn. I find that she is a wonderful example of intuitive eating.

For this reason, I wanted to share a little of Lydia’s philosophy in an interview I did with her in Bern on how she eats and lives.

How would you describe your relationship to food?

When I eat, I am directed by things I like to eat because they make me feel good and happy. It’s that simple. If something is very healthy but I dislike it, I don’t eat it. And if something is unhealthy but makes me happy on some level, I try to eat it in moderation because I know that if I eat too much of it, I will feel bad.

I also think it is important to eat what is healthy without being a fanatic. If I am invited somewhere, I will mostly eat what is served, except certain meats. It’s important to stay realistic.

What eating guidelines do you live by?

I try to eat a great variety of food and the best quality possible. I eat lots of vegetables, whole grain cereals, fruits and nuts every day – I find that walnuts and almonds are especially good for me!

I try to eat very lightly in the evening, just soup or bouillon or yoghurt as I find that this is what works best for me.

Do you have any weaknesses when it comes to food?

I love sweet things! I try not to exaggerate though. I often have a cup of black or green tea after lunch with good quality dark chocolate. I often buy the best quality chocolate from a confiserie – one for each day of the week.  On the weekend, I take great pleasure in buying a piece of quality cake which I fully enjoy.

Do you enjoy cooking?

I am not a great cook, I must say. I like to cook, but it is done in a very simple way. I don’t like to spend so much time in the kitchen.

How do you eat your meals when you are alone?

I take great pleasure in eating and I make sure I don’t have any distractions like TV when I eat. Sometimes I will call my sister to tell her I ate something fantastic, just to ‘share’ the meal with someone though!

What is the link between what you eat and how you feel?

Body and spirit go together. We need to eat a balanced diet, because otherwise, how can our spirit be balanced? You also don’t love yourself if you are harming yourself with too much food.

Food is a wonderful part of life but it isn’t my priority. Spirituality, work that gives satisfaction, people I love and who love me back, being joyful – these are all very important for me.

So where do you find joy?

Everywhere! You have to walk through life with open eyes and look for little things that bring you joy.

And be grateful. People who give thanks for what they have are more joyful.

lydia1

Things that give me joy:

Having hope for the future. Having a key to my home – a cosy flat I love. Meeting with people at church. Talking to my family and friends. The 93 year old lady I help with her grocery shopping. Going to the market every week and buying fresh fruit and vegetables. Eating good food every day. Reading. Singing. Walking in nature. Feeding the birds in the winter. Playing the piano or guitar every day. Praying as soon as I wake up and being thankful for sleep, life and a new day. My patchwork group which has allowed me to feel productive since retiring. Being able to give to others.

We should also not forget to laugh, even at ourselves. I laugh even when I am by myself and I break something. Nothing is too serious.

Without joy life is too sad to live!

Are you what you eat?

Energetics of foodI just saw Simply Theatre‘s excellent production of Oliver Twist yesterday and couldn’t help but notice the role food plays in the story (yes, I know I am a little obsessed with food!). In the opening scene, the orphans dream about ‘Food, glorious food’ instead of gruel, a thin porridge, they are fed daily. Later on, Oliver is accused of being mad by Mr Bumble because he has eaten meat.

Meat at the time was seen as cultivating soul and spirit which was not fitting of the working class.

Food has never just been fuel for humans and throughout history, we have noticed the effect it can have on us.

Meat and animal products in general tend to be grounding and strengthening, helping us feel relaxed and down to earth as do beans, root vegetables like potatoes and sweet vegetables like beet roots.

Leafy greens, fruits, chocolate and raw foods in general help lift us up, making us feel lighter and more creative.

In this season of Lent, avoiding certain foods like animal products in the Greek Orthodox tradition, is meant to elevate us, making us less of the earth and more spiritual.

And perhaps you have noticed that eating from your own garden or shopping at your local market leaves you feeling more connected to your home or local community?

I am sure you have already experienced this: You feel different when you eat different foods.

Another great illustration of the energetics of food is a scene in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey where the dwarves are invited to eat in Rivendell, the Elven outpost in Middle Earth. The Dwarves reaction to the Elves’ food of leafy greens is very revealing: ‘I don’t eat anything green’ & ‘Where’s the meat?’

The Elves’ leafy greens are linked to being light, creative and flexible while the Dwarves staple of meat is related to being grounded and relaxed.

Doesn’t this fit the characters perfectly?

So next time you are craving something, ask yourself what energy you are seeking from the food. Perhaps your sugar cravings are a message from your body that it needs some lightness? Or maybe your sudden love of beans is actually a search for more stability in your life?

Tapping into the energetics of food might just provide a whole new interpretation to the old adage that you are what you eat.

Where's The Meat

Sources:

The Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein

Food Energetics: The Spiritual, Emotional, and Nutritional Power of What We Eat by Steve Gagné

 

TED Talk on Mindful Eating as an Alternative to Dieting

This TED talk by Sandra Aamodt talks about mindful eating and intuitive eating as the only antidote to breaking free of diet mentality and truly healing your relationship to food.

This way of thinking  has completely changed my relationship to food. Rather than focus one size fits all diet, this is also the approach I bring to my Health Coaching sessions: Helping people start a dialogue with their bodies to start understanding:

♥ Hunger vs. satiety signals

♥ Real hunger vs. emotional hunger

♥ Food your mind wants or thinks you should or shouldn’t be eating vs. Food that feels good to your body

This quote from the video sums it up perfectly:

Learning to understand your body’s signals so that you eat when you’re hungry and you stop when you’re full. Because a lot of weight gain boils down to eating when you are not hungry.

How do you do it? Give yourself permission to eat as much as you want and then work on figuring out what makes your body feels good. Sit down to regular meals without distractions, think about how your body feels when you start to eat and when you stop. Let your hunger decide when you should be done.

It sounds simple, but as she says in the video, it took her a year to really be able to do it and I know that for myself, it is an on-going learning process – but  the only one that can lead to real freedom with food.

Find out more about my approach to Health Coaching grounded in intuition, mindfulness and compassion instead of control, discipline or deprivation.