food

Daring to Soar

Two New Years ago, I set an intention to write 100 blog posts that year. In retrospect, I see that the goal was ambitious. I do not want what I write to simply be stream of consciousness or quantity unpolished, unreflected upon. Still, there are ways with writing that I hold back that don’t help me.

 

I wrestle with blogging. There is a perfectionist in me that wants everything to be, well, perfect. That is not simply spelling, grammar, paragraphing. That is the easy part. It is more in striking the right balance between relevant and entertaining, serious and playful, logical and beautiful, pedagogical and vulnerable.

 

I realize in thinking about this that I am seeing blogging as more about appearance than essence. That is philosophy speak in my world for caring more about how it comes across to you than how it is for me. No wonder I was so struck in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic when she entreats us to create for the sake of creating. She decries that we have been socialized to see creativity as instrumental (Am I talented? Will people like it?) instead of expressive (How is it an expression of myself? How does it make me feel?). Gilbert believes we all have a human need to create and part of us atrophies when we shut that down. She laments that we need to stop thinking about the audience (or lack thereof) and start believing in the benefits for ourselves.

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It’s My Body. Period.

It happened yet again. A lovely, bright, charismatic young woman came to see me the other day for counselling about her relationship to food and her body. For someone’s first session I always get her story, of course. This woman started off by recounting that her issues with her weight began at age 12. I made a note of this as a point I wanted to return to. Engrossed, she carried on. When her narrative reached its natural conclusion, I began my active engagement. My first question: “I’m curious. How old were you when you got your first period?” “Twelve,” she answered. I was not surprised.

 

I was 13 when I got my period. It was January of Grade 8. I had started Grade 8 at 98 pounds. By the time I Grade 8 had ended, I was 136 pounds. Quite a change. Wait, wait! I know what you are thinking. With puberty, you gain weight. That is absolutely true. Curves, padding, breasts. All good for pregnancy. But for me it was something more than that. For most of the women who come to see me it is something more than that too. And we hate ourselves for it. Which begs the question: What is so wrong with a woman’s body?

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My Year of Blogging Boldly, Part One: The Dude

 

Nearly two years ago, I came across a man’s picture on a dating profile that stopped me. He was attractive enough. And I liked what he had to say. But there was something about his eyes that caught me. They had depth. They looked like they had seen and understood pain. I think that made me feel safe.

 

I reached out to him at the time, sending a note. Unusual for me as I rarely make the first move with online dating. In fact, I put up barriers to make contact with me a challenge in a bid to weed out insincere people. But something about him captured me. Alas, he did not respond.

 

I hardly ever go on that website now. But did on a lark late one night a while back as stolen moment of distraction while I was getting through a pile of work. He too was online. I would have been prepared to leave it at just noticing his presence there except that I’d seen him a couple days before at a movie. That had got me wondering about him. So when I saw him on at the same time, I said hello and asked him about what he’d thought of the film.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Four of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

Suddenly, my English mind and my French mouth came together effortlessly. I was able to speak to my young interviewer passionately and forcefully (although certainly not perfectly) about my convictions: that we women use fat for protection, dieting for control and distraction; that weighing ourselves on a scale belies our desire for social approval in spite of protests to the contrary; that our physical hunger is trustworthy and our spiritual hungers are important; that the reasons we eat when we’re not hungry (or we don’t eat when we are) are the jewels that can give us insight into the most precious parts of ourselves.

 

Our personal stories of pain are planted as seeds that take root in the fertile soil of a patriarchal, fat-phobic society. And the patriarchal, fat-shaming society creates personal stories of pain. So it goes. This version of patriarchal society limits women by equating our worth with our size, and then shames us when we dare to step out of that equation. Just look at gossip magazine images and their finger-pointing headlines. We get called out both for being too big and too small, too sexy and too plain, wearing clothes that cover too little and wearing clothes that cover too much. It is a contradictory, confusing, confining and crazy-making world in which to have a female body. It creates the situation where we want to run for the cover of fat and the numbing power of food. Sometimes we eat just to get out of the line of fire. We rebel through fat; we conform through dieting. Either way, we sacrifice ourselves by sacrificing the wisdom of our hunger.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part One of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

I was in the middle of getting my hair done at a salon (a luxury I treat myself to every week) when my phone rang. I wasn’t surprised as it was the opening night of the film festival I was mounting in honour of International Women’s Day—a huge event I’d created on my own for a cause I am passionate about. The caller identified herself as being from the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, and asked if she was speaking to the Michelle Brewer who was responsible for the event. I replied that she was. She then asked me if I spoke French. I paused. I have worked hard at my French—including having lived two and a half years in immersion in Québec City. In fact, I can usually even pass as francophone for the first few sentences—that is, until my lack of vocabulary, my English mind moving faster than my French mouth and the letter R betray me. Still, out of love for the film festival and being a proud Canadian, I took a deep breath and responded oui.

 

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The path of courage

What if the simplest thing made the greatest difference?

On what I believe to be a path of revolutionary proportions, I am often asked to explain how the relationship to food and exploring eating can be a transformative spiritual experience of immense insight and empowerment. In what I have seen, it brings you directly into contact with the emotions that are thwarting your thriving. It cuts deeper and faster than any other approach I know. With this in mind, I share a written exchange I recently had with one of my regular participants after the weekly “Daring and Sharing” call that I lead.

 

Hi Michelle,
Even though you said it twice on last night’s call, I still completely missed what I sense was the most important part of the call for me. It was right after your saying that when you fight the bad feelings it solidifies them. It was something about accepting them. Something like “it’s in the moment of acceptance that we………”
If you could please clarify, thanks!
Rebecca

 

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Is eating helping you or hindering you from reaching your potential?

Do you have dreams for yourself? Do you know who you are meant to be but can’t seem to get there? How you eat can be a perfect way to see how you stop yourself from reaching your potential.

 

When facing challenges around mindful eating, an insight that often emerges for people is the spiritual nature of the process of exploring physical hunger and eating. When we mediate our self-worth through the size of our body or through conformity to certain eating expectations that don’t relate to our distinct and unique needs, we are distorting and diminishing ourselves. Adding insult to injury: the truly sad part is that we are doing it to ourselves. The intuitive eating guidelines–eat when you’re physically hungry, eat what your body wants you to eat, and stop as soon as the hunger goes away–call upon us to distinguish physical hunger from all the other hungers we have, and then lovingly, thoughtfully and attentively nourish all of them individually. Many of us use food to feed spiritual hungers, and then cannot figure out why it is hard to stop eating what we don’t really want to eat or when we don’t want to eat. But by feeding our physical hunger and only our physical hunger with food, we show up for ourselves. It gives us grounding that allows us both to weather what is difficult without being overcome and the sustenance to reach out in our aspirations.

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happy girl eating popsicle in sunset

7 steps to harmony with your food

Do you ever eat past the point of enjoyment simply to clean your plate and waste not? Do you eat for pleasure’s sake until the pleasure becomes a pain, causing you to unbutton your jeans and feel gassy for hours? Or perhaps you aren’t eating enough, always feeling hungry?

 

Eating should always be a pleasure, during and after. What would it feel like to eat what your body wants you to eat and feeling great about it, feeling satisfied and energized? Follow these seven steps and then come back to the comments to share the results!

 

1. Determine your hunger number on a scale from zero to 10, with zero being famished and 10 being so stuffed that you cannot eat another bite. Five is the light and delightful feeling of just enough. It is the moment the sensation of hunger goes away. Mindful eating is starting to eat below five and not going past five.

 

2. Eat what draws and excites your body to eat. This is not what your eyes want you to eat. It is physical hunger as opposed to psychological, habitual or “should” hunger (that is: what is “healthy” but doesn’t call to you). It must be delicious.

 

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