creating your own self-care toolbox
Last week I shared a bit about my experience stepping away from a plant-based diet and how I was experiencing lots of positive effects from bring more protein and less carbohydrates into my daily routine. And although this is true, it's only part of the story
Shifting my macronutrient ratios is just one small piece of why I feel good. The truth is, there was a lot ( A LOT) of groundwork I did in reshaping my relationship with my body and food so that I could be at peace with both.
I wanted to write about it, not to get other people to also eat the exact same way as me, but to open up a very important conversation about nutrition and wellness and how they relate to mental and emotional health.
I write a lot about this on Instagram, but I wanted to write a post here about the foundations of a positive relationship with food and body before I continue to share more about specifics of what I like to eat.
Because if nothing else I’ve learned that:
HOW you eat and How you think about what you eat is much more important than WHAT you eat.
So here’s the back story:
Ever since I was in middle school, I had a disordered relationship with food and my body. Like many people, I tried to control what I ate in an attempt to control what my body looked like. This strategy, which is the foundation strategy of all diets and eating disorders, did not serve me AT ALL in the long run and created way more stress, anxiety and fear around food and my body than I ever initially had. The last ten years for me have been about shifting away from this illusion of control and working to find a way to make peace with my body and the food I put into it so that I could participate in my life fully and happily.
Fast forward to today and through a number of different practices; wellness books, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, intuitive eating + self-care practices I truly have been able to change my relationship with food and my body. Which is something at times I never thought I would actually, honestly be able to say.
its been these practices that have gotten me to the place I am, not any specific type of diet, meal plan or macro-nutrient combination.
Did you read that correctly?
Healing my relationship with food and my body has zero to do with what I do or do not eat.
K, good. Glad we are on the same page.
Because, the truth is, you could be eating the healthiest food out there, but if you continue to fuel yourself with toxic thoughts and experience guilt + shame about everything you eat and what you look like, then you’re still going to feel bad after eating that glowing green smoothie.
Let me explain this in a little more detail:
What we think about our bodies directly relates how we feel in our bodies and the level of energy we have.
The thoughts we think stimulate different types neurotransmitters (electric messengers in our brains) which then stimulate release of hormones (chemical messengers in our bodies) that both create and contribute to our stress levels, emotions moods and energy levels.
So all those high anxiety thoughts regarding guilt, shame and fear about what you ate or what you’re going to eat?
Yeah, those stimulate our nervous system to shift into its high stress “fight-or-flight” reaction state called the Sympathetic Nervous System. When our Sympathetic Nervous System is active, we have decreased ability to digest and metabolize our food AND increase levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone) running through our veins. Cortisol causes us to store fat because it thinks our body is in danger. Fat storage is one of our most basic, evolutionary survival instincts.
So moral of the story: when we berate ourselves for eating that brownie that we said we weren’t going to? Our body hears us and reacts in an equally stressed out way.
So what can you do?
Work to shift your thoughts first and trust that the food piece will fall into place after (because it will).
It takes time, patience and practice to change your relationship with your body and food. It also takes a lot of courage to confront and address the fear behind those thoughts and behaviors. But its totally possible and completely worth it if you want to create lasting change and sustainable practices around your health and wellness.
Here are some strategies that have transformed my relationship with my body and food:
1. Intuitive Eating:
Intuitive Eating is a non-diet strategy for healing your relationship with food. Rather than looking for external cues on what you should eat and how much (diets, calories, weight) you tune into your own internal cues of hunger, satiety and fullness. You use gentle nutrition to guide your choices, but ultimately it’s your Intuition that guides you. Because, the simple fact is, our bodies are very good at telling us what to eat, how much and when is enough. The problem is, we have gotten so far away from our Intuition around food, that we have totally lost touch with how to eat. Once I was able to tune back into my own wisdom around food, I was able to use nutrition principles as a tool for honing in on the details of energy levels. Get the difference? Trust yourself FIRST, use the benefits of science second. Here’s more details on the Ten Guiding Principles of Intuitive Eating.
2. Legalize ALL Food:
I learned this life-changing concept from a Master Class I took with Isabel Foxen Duke. I highly recommend checking out her website and blog if you’re struggling with a disordered relationship with food.
The idea with allowance is that you take the “charge” away from food. So instead of classifying certain foods as good and some as bad and some as horrible, you actually make them all neutral. In this way you “Legalize” your food so that no one type of food as an unnecessary power over you- the kind that creates: just one more bight, can’t put it down- gotta throw it away so I don’t eat the whole thing- type of relationship with food. When your foods are all emotionally neutral, these situations naturally fall-away overtime.
3. Address your Body Image issues:
So here's the question:
Has hating your body gotten you any closer to loving it?
Without even thinking about it personally, we can notice from basic logic that hating something is not going to result in loving it. But it’s weird, because this is a strategy many people unconsciously engage in. Many people never address their body image issues because they think they don’t have to: We have been brain-washed by the media and pop-science to think that if we just stick to our healthy eating a little longer, we won’t have any body image issues, because our perfect, dream body is at the end of XYZ nutrition or exercise plan. Well, this simply isn’t true. If we want to make peace with our bodies in the future we have to live and practice that peace NOW. We’ve got to drop the comparison to all the glossy, photo-shopped ideals and start connecting with real images of real bodies that are similar to our own.
I know it’s really hard to go from hating or disliking your body/ parts of your body right into loving them. And that’s where ACCEPTANCE comes in. Maybe we can’t go directly from dissatisfaction to body-love, but we can shift from dissatisfaction to acceptance.
So think of acceptance like your bridge. If you can practice accepting fully where you are, even if it’s not exactly where you want to be. And practice allowing yourself to be as you are, you are so much closer to one day loving your body than you ever will be continuing to hate it. And this is where my next tip comes in.
4. Establish a self-care routine:
For along time my definition of health was limited to diet and exercise. One of the most profound things I did in my healing journey was to expand my definition of wellness to include mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. Within this holistic view, our well-being is a multilayered state of existence that depends on a wide variety of factors from the thoughts we think, to the food we eat, to the way we move, sleep, rest and play. I have come to depend on a variety of different practices: long walks outside, DIY organic facials, meditations, aromatherapy, Angel Cards, journaling, audio-books, restorative yoga. Because my fear was directly around body image, it was super important for me to create a long list of practices to make me feel better that had nothing to do with food or exercise.
Start your own LIST and begin to diversify your toolbox for healing and self- care... <3
Additionally, if you’re reading this and struggling with disordered eating or extreme anxiety around your body and food (or know someone who is) please please email or Direct message for more resources.
Thank you so much for reading <3