Show your Life some Love: Part 3
Let’s talk about how to Show your Diet some Love.
In Show your Life some Love: Part 1 we talked about how to show up and love your mornings better. You can read about that here. In Part 2, we talked about showing your budget some love. You can read about that here.
This week we are going to dive into a discussion about what we eat and why it matters…put on your seatbelt!
Talking about our diet and our size feels frivolous at best, misogynistic at worst.
Aren’t there so many more things going on in the world that are more important?
Not only that, but shouldn’t we love ourselves just the way we are? I mean, aren’t we so much more than the sum total of our diet & our weight?
The answer to these questions is Yes. Absolutely YES.
Let me start by agreeing with what Shonda Rhimes says in her book, Year of Yes, when she starts talking about her journey to be more healthy:
I will not be told what size to be. I do not care about anyone else’s judgment about my body. I am not interested in anyone else’s ideas of what I’m supposed to look like.
I believe everyone’s body is theirs and everyone has a right to love their body in whatever size and shape and package it comes in. I will fight for anyone’s right to do so…Your body is yours. My body is mine. No one’s body is up for comment. No matter how small, how large, how curvy how flat. If you love you, then I love you.
If you are truly confident and comfortable with your current diet and health, then feel free to stop reading right now.
But the truth is most of us aren’t completely confident OR comfortable: with our diet, our weight, with our level of fitness, our state of health, or all of the above.
We live in a culture that does make it hard to get comfortable in our own skin. There are a lot of factors involved in that equation, from the industry standard of beauty to the ideal level of fitness. But let’s look at the one that can make or break many of the others.
Let’s talk about why it is so hard to eat right.
Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
The Problem: We have a complicated relationship with food.
Our feelings about food are tricky. Food can be fuel; food can be magic; food can be companionship. Food is almost NEVER just food.
Bottom line: most of our perceptions of food are directly connected to our emotions.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But we (especially as women) have a few bad habits about how we look at food.
We use food as a DRUG.
We use food as a coping mechanism for covering up emotions and situations we don’t want to or don’t know how to deal with.
Shonda Rhimes’ ah-ha moment was when she realized that she was at the highest weight of her life. She hurt. Her knees hurt, her joints hurt and she was constantly tired. But more significantly, she realized that food had become the drug she used to numb the uncomfortable feelings about everything that she didn’t want to deal with in her life.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that food doesn’t work. Anyone who tells you that food doesn’t work is either stupid or a liar or has never had food before…Putting food on top of it works.
Food feels so good when you put it on top of all the stuff you don’t want to deal with or know how to deal with…Putting food on top of it casts a spell to make the feelings go away… Beautiful magical food deadens your soul…”
But the question is: do you want to spend your life walking around with a deadened soul? Isn’t that living a halfway sort of life?
Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.
We treat food like the ENEMY.
Michael Pollen, in his book In Defense of Food, defines”Nutritionism” as the premise that ‘foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts… and since nutrients, as compared with foods, are invisible and therefore slightly mysterious, it falls to scientists to explain the hidden reality of foods to us’.
This primarily Western idea of “nutritionism” (which is different than nutrition) automatically promotes the idea that there must be ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods
Our Western culture spends a lot of time, money and science trying to dissect what foods are good for us and what foods are bad. Or even more particularly, which parts of our food are good and which parts are bad.
The confusing and frustrating part of all this is how much it changes. Eggs are bad, then eggs are good. Carbs are bad, then carbs are good. And it also depends on who you ask or which diet you subscribe to.
So we are basically being directed toward which foods to eat and which to avoid, all on the premise that the primary value food has is a scientific one: as an optimized fuel.
To my mind, this view of food is problematic.
It perpetuates the mindset that the value of my broccoli is not in the broccoli itself but somehow in its particular makeup of nutrients. That it is the nutrients alone that I need; the vehicle by which I receive them is secondary.
This predisposes me to think of my food as industry instead of nature.
It also predisposes me to view certain foods & nutrients as ‘villianous’ or ‘virtuous’.
We don’t need to make peace with our food. We need to make peace with ourselves.
We see food as an INCONVENIENCE.
How many of our meals are eaten in the car? Stuffed in as we run out the door? Food preparation and dining are seen as something we do only when we have time: it is a luxury.
Pollen says that ‘a hallmark of the Western diet is that it is fast, cheap and easy’. He goes on to point out that historically, people spent much more of their time and money around food than we do in our culture today.
In many of the countries with lower rates of heart disease and cancer than ours, more time and energy is spent around food. Often around foods that our science would classify as ‘bad’. The French have their cheese and wine, Italians their olive oil and pasta.
In these countries food is viewed as more than just ‘fuel’. The purchase and preparation of food is more than luxury or obligation.
Food is about pleasure, about community, about family and about cultural identity.
Food is not just eating energy. It’s an experience.
So if our view of food is flawed, how do we show it some love??
Showing the Love to our Diets
1. Start with gratitude.
We often begin trying to shift our mindset around food with the end goal of losing weight or getting healthier. This is fine and important, but our focus is usually on what we are missing and what we think is wrong with ourselves.
If all you are focusing on is the weight you need to lose and all the foods you aren’t going to be allowed to eat, you aren’t remembering to be thankful for what is right with your body or the foods you have to be grateful for.
Our habit is always to start from a place of lack rather than a place of gratitude. So how do we flip that around?
In her book The Gratitude Diaries, Janice Kaplan suggests that we start by being grateful for our stocked pantry and fridge. We remember that we live in a country where lots of good food is right down the street at the grocery store. We appreciate the variety and bounty that is available to us, where so much of the world is in want.
She even put a notecard on her fridge that said Thank You to remind herself of this.
We continue by saying thank you to our bodies for being the vehicle through which we are living our lives. We say thank you for all the ways our bodies serve us well.
We remember that when we appreciate something, we should be keeping it in good repair.
So we promise our bodies that we will pay more attention to the caliber of the care we are providing and the quality of the nourishment that we are giving them.
2. Say YES to healthy.
In the end, we all have two choices. We can choose to say Yes to unhealthy, in which case (according to Shonda Rhimes), then ‘Game over. Shut up. No more whining about not being able to touch my toes.’
If I say Yes to unhealthy then I need to own the size, shape and state of healh that I am in with no complaints.
Or we can choose to say Yes to healthy.
Saying Yes to healthy looks like doing the work and accepting the challenge. Owning the responsibility for what we put in our bodies and why.
Mindful eating is very pleasant. We sit beautifully. We are aware of the people surrounding us. We are aware of the food on our plates. This is a deep practice.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Saying Yes to healthy means we are officially leaving the Wishing Zone.
We spend a lot of time in the Wishing Zone. We wish things were different but we don’t want to do the work to make them different. If this is you, I feel you. Me, too.
In other areas of our lives, (our work, our child rearing) we know that we never want to look in the mirror later and say we gave less than 100% effort. But when it comes to changing our mindset about food and our diet, we want to ‘wish’ ourselves through the work.
But wishers are not doers.
Shonda Rhimes says “Everything sounds like crap until you are in the right mindset.”
Saying Yes to healthy looks like owning the fact that you get to choose your mindset.
Saying Yes to healthy means we stop expecting it to be easy or to come naturally. Maybe one day it will. If you are still reading this-then today is not that day.
So go get in front of a mirror and tell yourself: Today I am saying Yes to healthy.
And then begin the hard work of casting the votes and choosing the mindset of a person who says Yes to healthy over and over.
3. Choose to see food differently.
When Kaplan was experimenting with how to create a Gratitude Diet, her first rule was to Take a Minute to Appreciate Any Meal Before She Started.
Before you take your first bite, challenge yourself to actually spend 60 seconds (it will seem like forever) actually looking at your food and being grateful for it.
Consider how it smells and looks. Think about where it came from.
Pollen says, ‘Food is a web of relationships among a great many living beings-each of them dependent on the other’. Say a silent thank you to the farmer, fisherman, or rancher that was the catalyst to provide you with this meal. Consider for a minute the journey that this food took to end up on your plate.
When your minute of appreciation is up, savor your food as you eat it.
Multi-tasking while we are eating means we don’t actually register what we eat. Just as with many thing in our Western life, we aren’t really paying attention. Which leads to a complete disconnect.
Re-connect with your meal. Enjoy the process of eating. This requires you to slow down, which might feel uncomfortable. But can’t we all carve out at least 15 minutes to stop and eat? (If not, perhaps we could use some lessons in time managment?)
There is connection that happens when you take time to savor the dining experience. Connectedness with the experience of eating, connectedness with your body and connectedness with the company you eat with. Win, win, win.
Eat only what you really want.
Making the rule to eat exactly and only what you are really craving (both Shonda and Janice did this) forces you to stop and think. You have to see your food as meeting a very specific need: and first you have to figure out what that is.
It means you have to pay attention to your body and learn to listen more closely to what it is trying to tell you.
The benefits here are twofold. First, if you take the time to figure out what you are actually craving in the moment and eat only that, there is a greater liklihood you will eat less. (There is science to back this up.)
Secondly, this habit forces you to pay more attention to your body. The more you are in the habit of paying attention to your body, the better you will get at being able to tell when you are actually full. And the better you will get at determining how foods actually make you feel.
It wasn’t until I slowed down and really paid attention when I was eating a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich that I realized it was giving me a stomachache (sad face). So now that I know that I may still have one, but less often, because as a rule I really don’t like it when my stomach hurts.
Enjoy eating food. Not too much – not too little. Mostly what satisfies you.
-Tribole & Resch
Changing our relationship with food can have a dominio effect in our lives. When we are more grateful and intentional about how and what we are eating, we may start to see a lot of other things differently as well. We may become more grateful for the bodies we have, more generous with our ideal of what is beautiful, more positive and accepting about ourselves in general.
Maybe I’m giving this mindset shift around food too much credit…but maybe not!
Food itself isn’t the enemy–our attitudes and habits around it are.
And just like money, a lot of our attitudes and habits around food are unconcious.
So let’s bring the unconcious forward and show our diets some love in a new and intentional way. Why not try to be more mindful about how you think of and experience your food?
You might find it to be a delicious recipe for success! (Wink.)