Mindful Eating #3: Self Acceptance is Your Choice Today

You cannot isolate mindful eating from body shame, guilt and self-rejection.

If you have body shame, if you hate yourself, your situations, your life, it is going to be very difficult to cultivate the practice of mindfulness with food, and with everything, for that matter.

If you rely on punishment, judgement, motivation, and fear to do the work of mindfulness for you, it is going to be all of those things.  It is going to be heavy and confusing.  Dark, inconsistent.

If body shame and self-rejection have been a part of your philosophy and you are weary from its webs, self-acceptance, the breath of relief about where you are right now,  is available to remind you of love.  And kindness.  Compassion.  Empathy.  Awareness.  Life.  

A common misconception about accepting yourself is that if you do its work, you will become a less than desired version of yourself and never achieve any of your goals and be stuck in a life you define mediocre, unsatisfying, boring or passive.

As it relates to food, the misconception is that self-acceptance will interfere with self-discipline, trapping you in a body you will never truly be at home in.  That you could never truly be grateful for, or dare love.

But this isn’t true.  And when broken down, you find it is rooted in even more fear, shame and guilt, perpetuating a vicious cycle of self-hatred that has never served you.

I read about accepting myself, exactly as I was and where I was at in life, a few years ago.  The idea seemed simple, but it was very threatening and felt impossible to cultivate.

It seemed simple because all self-acceptance required of me was a decision to stop rejecting myself when I felt inadequate (there is always a que triggering our panicked responses, be curious about what sends you down these chaotic paths). Self-acceptance didn’t necessitate anything outside of myself such as a job promotion, approval from others, better relationship with a lover, or reputation, or a better house, car, bigger bank account, or fill in the blank.

It didn’t require working up to anything before it could be practiced, except the decision to practice it.

Because of this, it was also very threatening.

If self-acceptance didn’t have anything to do with outside affirmation and influences, and only had to do with my decision to practice it, then it was entirely my own choice to be comfortable and happy with who I was.

And I wasn’t comfortable or happy with who I was.  I didn’t meet my own marks.

So, I didn’t accept myself.  Or my body.  Or my life.  And I felt heavy, trapped, and stuck on a path that was dark and lonely and without a future.

Sometimes it seems easier, or even appropriate, to decide to hold off accepting yourself until “x”, “y”, or “z” happens.

Examples as they relate to diet and fitness:

  • Losing the last 5 pounds (or 10, or 15, or 20).
  • Getting a flatter stomach (or more toned arms, or thinner thighs or whatever).
  • Fitting into your ideal size jeans.
  • Eating what you think is the perfect diet (and never blowing it).
  • Eliminating all feelings of inadequacy.

You are entitled to all of these goals (though all are not always worth your time), but when they necessitate your own self-acceptance, your comfort and happiness rely on their existence, and typically remain in the past or in the future.  You might remember a few years ago as a happier time because you were thinner, or you might wait to be happy next month, when you finally (you hope), lose weight or eat perfectly (as you define it).

But what about right now?

What about being comfortable and happy with who you are and with your life today?

The belief is that achieving your goals with food and fitness (and everything else) will make you happy.  That they will erase, or at least soothe, life’s difficulties.  That things will make more sense, you will have more clarity, and you will finally be comfortable with who you are and where you’re at.

And that others will be comfortable and happy with who you are and where you’re at.

But this is only an illusion.

The reality is that you will continuously be growing and evolving with the seasons of life.  You will experience hardship, and loss, and pain, and devastation, and it will hurt. It will hurt so much.  But breathing into these experiences, being mindful of their purpose in your life, mindful of how you treat your body during these challenges, you will be relieved by all that is beautiful–grace, mercy, and kindness, friendship, love, and laughter.  And hope.

Your body will change.  Your face will change.  Your hair will change.  And everything and everyone else will change, too.  For the better, and for the worse.

You will get promotions, and offers, and approvals, and rejections.

You’ll make friends, and then take different paths.

You will meet a lover and grow together, and you might lose them, and you might never.

And you can choose to accept yourself the entire time.

You can choose to be comfortable and happy about who you are and where you are at.  You can certainly try to improve yourself and situations, but the safety that keeps you at home in your body will be in the process of choosing self-acceptance and will be available to be enjoyed and expressed lovingly, like you would with someone you cared about.  It will serve you better than the negativity, judgment, anxiety, and worry that is to be found in the guilt and shame of self-rejection.

Accepting yourself breaks down the walls of guilt and shame that you’ve built all around you, so that you are finally liberated to go out and do what you need to do in this life without the burden of hating yourself or feeling stuck.

The truth is, accepting yourself will not turn you into a lazy and unlikable slob and prevent you from living a life you are proud of.  It will relieve you, allow you to get over what is keeping you from moving forward, and free you to enjoy the short time you have to breath and love and wonder.

If you’re in the habit of waiting for something or someone to liberate your self-rejection, why not try choosing to do it yourself and see how it goes?

Why not see if you can enjoy who you are and where you’re at today?

And then try it tomorrow, and the next day, and then the next.

Keep goals, and keep learning, and keep exploring, because it keeps things interesting, and challenging, and rewarding, but keep in mind that you are exactly where you need to be right now to choose self-acceptance.

This is mindfulness.  This is the work of being alive in your body, with all of your senses, with all of your intentions and energy.  With your choices and your time.  With your life.

This is for you, right now.

Image from Paris Hotel Boutique.

Mindful Eating #2: Mindful Eating Myths

Woman Eating Pie:

I often hear people rate themselves as it relates to mindful eating.  “I’m trying to eat mindfully” or “I am not really good at mindful eating” or “I wasn’t mindful with my eating at all this week“.

I’m always interested to learn how people decide to rate themselves on this matter.  What is the criteria for mindful eating and how well must it be followed to be considered a mindful eater?

Some ideas that mindful eating are contained by are in the following:

  • Eating when you are hungry (and not when you aren’t).
  • Eating sitting down (but not anywhere you are distracted by, such as in a car, in a theater, a classroom, while reading or in front of the television and especially while on the Internet).
  • Eating in a calm environment (never when you are stressed).
  • Eating until you are satisfied (not until you are too full).

These are truly lovely ideas and I am sure they offer numerous benefits to our digestive systems, but I don’t think they have to be our plumb line for viewing ourselves as a mindful eater because I don’t think we need a plumb line at all.

It’s possible that we can, and have, taken these ideas and turned them into a set of rules that define our success or failure with food–with life.  This, by the way, is a myth, a fantasy.  You cannot be a success or a failure with food, you simply eat food or don’t and you eat it in various portions, but the types and amounts of food you ingest have nothing to do with your morality (you can, however, discover many things you believe about yourself and life through food, but food itself does not impact your value as a human being).

That said, mindful eating can certainly be all of the above ideas (and the above ideas do promote mindful eating), but it is your mindset about mindful eating that keeps it a discovery and not a destination that you get to or not.  When mindful eating is contained by a list of ideas, rather rules, it is simply that–ideas, rules, constraints, false temperatures about yourself, basically, just another diet.

When I first learned about mindful eating, it was exciting to aim to be present with food, and not just eat from a list of “yes” and “no” ingredients.  It was empowering to realize that no outside source could decide what was best for my body, and that my body was all I needed to discover what foods I should eat.

But when I determined my own mindful eating experience to be contained in the above ideas, it was really discouraging when I missed the mark.  When I ate not hungry.  Standing up.  Completely distracted.  Overwhelming stressed.  And too much.  My excitement and empowerment quickly morphed into guilt and shame that I took to mean I was bad for not following the rules, and therefore I needed the rules even more.

I think it is possible to eat when you are not hungry, when you are standing up, when you are stressed out of your mind and to even overeat, and still be mindful throughout the entire experience.  You can be mindful about what eating this or that feels like and how it impacts your body, your thinking, your spirit.  And to be aware of the impacts without the need to beat yourself up for going off-track, because there is no track.  There is just your body and food, and you’re capable of using your own experiences with food as your guide (and what guides one eater may not be relevant to the next so be willing to make this a personal endeavor, and give others the space they need to make theirs their own as well).

Since mindful eating can only happen in the present, whatever has already happened with food, so be it, and whatever is going to happen, will certainly happen, and you’ll be there for it, able to decide what it will look like for you in that very moment.  This releases all pressure to obey the above rules or not.

You might be perfectly hungry, sitting at a table with only the distraction of candlelight, and only eat until you are perfectly satisfied.

And you likely won’t.

And since you are still going to eat, why not show up to yourself, present in your body, aware of its sensations, and available to meet your own body’s needs for just that one meal.

And then if you like it you can do it again.  And again.  And again.

And when you don’t, when you find yourself wandering from the entire experience, simply return home, without guilt, without shame, without needing to condemn yourself for being human.  With love, and kindness, acceptance and a willingness to be alive.  Just for right now.

And if you like that, you can practice it again.  And again. And again.

Image from Pinterest.

Paleo, Whole30 Recipe: Curried Chicken-Stuffed Butternut Squash

When the weather cools down I always begin to crave more filling and comforting foods, like butternut (who am I fooling, I love butternut all year long, but especially love it during the Fall and Winter seasons).

There are so many ways to enjoy butternut squash, and I am happy to know I have the rest of the year to cook it so many ways.  Below is a recipe for stuffed butternut squash, which is hearty enough to serve a few for dinner, or as a warming lunch for yourself all week long.

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You can find this recipe for Curried Chicken-Stuffed Butternut Squash and learn how it supports your healthiest self on the Natural Healing Hormone Blog!

Mindful Eating #1: Mindful Eating Intro

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I am just going to jump right in and start sharing about mindful eating.  I know no other way.

Mindful.  Eating.  There is such weight in these two words (especially mindful), but it seems when used together they mean different things to different people.

For the sake of this blog series, mindful eating refers to being present in your body when you consume food.  Pretty simple, but possibly a new and life-changing concept.

Mindfulness (on this blog) is the act of returning to our very own body, everyday and every time we wander from ourselves (again and again and again), so it is difficult to define it as a specific way of behaving or eating (ruling out every diet on the planet).  While it is certainly trending as the superior moral and religious way to live (and eat), and while it does offer numerous mental and physical benefits, it always begins and remains as a very personal act, unique to one’s own experience and may look different for you today, tomorrow and the next.

That being said, I do want to spend a little time writing about what mindful eating is not (on this blog).

Mindful eating is not a set of rules that you can obey or not, submit to or rebel against or earn any right as an eater to boast by. Mindful eating is not religion to save you nor is it another diet to attempt and repent of, but it has surely been contained by these fantasies.

I find incredible relief in the idea that mindful eating is a discovery of one self’s beliefs about life through food and not a moral or religious destination to where we hold ourselves hostage.

So let’s start at the beginning of mindful eating. Our bodies. And food. That’s it. Whatever preconceptions you have about mindful eating, it will be helpful to let go of them in order to rebuild your own practice of it.  And certainly, whatever guilt and shame you carry about how you have eaten food, used food, avoided food, or whatever (about food), letting it go in order to rebuild will prove to serve you in very great ways.

It is curiosity and discovery, as eating is one of life’s most interesting practices, revealing more about ourselves and life than we have possibly dared to declare.

Image from Rebloggy.

Paleo, Whole30 Recipe: Golden Milk Latte

Madeline Mackinnon’s Golden Milk Latte is sure to satisfy as the weather is cooling down and recipes for cozy comforts find their way into our kitchens.

Rich in anti-inflammatory turmeric and ginger and warming from spices like cinnamon and cardamom, you will definitely want to take out a few minutes to prepare this hormone-balancing tea elixir (I certainly enjoyed it!)

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Read more about the benefits of this Golden Milk Latte over at Natural Hormone Healing!

Paleo Recipe: Blueberry Smoothie Bowl with Toasted Toppings

I’ve definitely gotten into the smoothie bowl trend that has taken over the Internet and on cafe menus just about everywhere.

Smoothies have been a great way for me to incorporate energizing adaptogenic herbs into my day, such as cordyceps and astragalus.  I enjoy a smoothie’s cooling effect on my body after an intense workout (though many smoothies actually have a warming effect, it just depends on what you put into them) and it’s really fun designing them.  You can’t mess them up.  Just blend a smoothie and top it with everything you like.

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Blueberry Smoothie Bowl with Toasted Toppings

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

SMOOTHIE:

1 cup purified water (or your favorite nut/seed milk)

1 banana (reserve 1/4 of your banana to use as a garnish)

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

2 Tbs. collagen peptides or hydrolysate gelatin

1 Tbs. chia seeds (black or white seeds are fine)

2 Tbs. dried and unsweetened shredded coconut

1/8 tsp. vanilla powder

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Sea salt to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp.)

Optional: 1 tsp. cordyceps powder

Optional: 1 tsp. astragalus powder

Optional: 1 scoop of protein powder (I recommend a grain-free protein)

TOPPING IDEAS:

Banana slices

Chia seeds

Fresh berries

Toasted dried and unsweetened coconut

Toasted cashews

Sprouted pumpkin seeds

INSTRUCTIONS:

Slice banana and add to a high-speed blender, reserving ¼ of the slices to use as a garnish.

Add the remaining smoothie ingredients to the blender and blend on high until all is completely combined.

Pour into a bowl and top with garnishes.  It may be helpful to allow your smoothie to set in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before topping with garnishes.

I hope you enjoy making your own smoothie bowl!