healing

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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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Six of Six

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

 

The keys to healing.

 

Put absolute faith in the intuitive eating principles. The beauty of this approach is that it is both psychological and physical. It is most effective when you engage on both fronts. You may start with some understanding of why you eat. But that begins to look very theoretical compared to the insights that emerge when you align your eating with your hunger. I have seen people brought to tears during mindful eating meditations that I lead. Your normal eating is like a lid on a pot. You use it to keep things down. You can guess what lies underneath. But taking the lid off, if you have the courage to, is when you really see what is going on.

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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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How mindful eating changed my body, mind and life

I had always been a slender and active kid, never giving a second thought to my weight until puberty, when I suddenly realized I became fat. At age 14, I tried various diets. One high fibre and low fat diet worked well for me—so long as I stayed on it.

 

At age 17, I found a life-changing book called Thin Within. It was my first exposure to what I term intuitive hunger eating principles: eat when you’re hungry, eat exactly what you want, do so with presence and intent, and stop as soon as the hunger goes away. The book also explained that if you eat outside of intuitive hunger signals, you are likely eating for emotional reasons. It was as though a light had been switched on for me. (It had already occurred to me that if diets were so great, why did people gain weight back? I wondered why some people manage a “good” weight their whole lives yet eat whatever they want? It occurred to me that if people eat a lot but get hungry again, haven’t they burned off all the calories?) The intuitive eating philosophy ultimately led me to ask myself why I was turning to food, which sparked a healing journey in me that continues to this day.

 

A few months later, I had some bad experiences with my mum’s boyfriend. I felt unsafe around him, and unheard and unsupported at home. Anxiety and confusion overwhelmed me. My body, unprotected by fat, felt too unsafe. I literally could not stop eating, and over the following weeks my weight climbed from 120 to 180 pounds. I remember not recognizing my reflection once, in a mall mirror . Thick red stretch marks stared back at me unapologetically from all over my body. My family judged me and made verbal swipes. Intuitive hunger eating seemed beyond my control. I felt humiliated and unworthy. I see now that I was trying to protect and care for myself through the weight.

 

When I left home things got easier. With the help of therapy, I gained significant insight into my personal and family history, and what the weight was voicing for me. I lost much of the weight. But my size would still fluctuate a bit based on the love and security I was feeling at any point in my life. Food was my “go-to” for warmth and stability.

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