The importance of giving yourself full permission to eat (ALL foods)

The importance of giving yourself full permission to eat (ALL foods)

Without moral judgment…

I’ve been grappling with the headline for this particular blog post because part of what I also want to touch on is this; “To give yourself full permission to eat (all) foods is not the same as eating with abandonment.”

 

There are some challenging concepts when it comes to Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating that I feel are both radical as well as counter cultural. And they can be very challenging to put into practice, yet I believe they are vital if we want to reach a place of peace with food and eating.

mindful eating

Many people seem to think that their main problem with “staying on the diet band wagon” is their lack of willpower, and if they just tried harder they could do it. Or if they weren’t such emotional eaters they wouldn’t have such an issue with food and (over) eating.

Here’s thing though.

When you are restricting you are fighting biology.

 

If your body is not getting what it needs, it will make sure that your brain become preoccupied with thoughts of food, your senses heighten so that you will ultimately feed yourself. Because this is fundamental for our survival.

Someone recently shared this famous study with me which was done back in the late 1940s called The Great Starvation Experiment. And when you think of it, it very much mimics the conventional dieting of today…

 

So the first focus of mindful eating is always to get to a place of tuning in, become aware of our hunger cues, as well as our fullness cues, so we can honour the need to eat.

This is where the permission to eat starts. When you notice you are hungry – EAT.

This is a kind act of self care. It sounds so simple, and it is. But not if we are used to eat according to plans, set by someone who does not live in your body, it may be a little challenging to start. Each time you honour your hunger, you are re enforcing your inherent self worth. Luckily most of us have access to food, so there is truly no need to fight hunger.

With this permission to eat, you open the door to explore how different foods affect your hunger and fullness, you may notice that it is useful to bring snacks in certain circumstances when you know that getting access to food can be tricky, and when you don’t want to end up in a ravenous state with limited choices. I can’t tell you how often I end up like this myself, even though I am so well aware of how it makes me feel, both to eat sugary foods to lift my blood sugar (though they may taste great for the first few bites), and how miserable I feel when I’m venturing into “ravenous” territory.

However, if I was supposed to be adhering to someone else’s plan with set amount of foods I most likely would have to be using precious energy and willpower to NOT eat, even though my body is telling me “feed me!” And truly, what message is this sending to myself? That I am not worthy of being fed?

Deprivation and restriction feed the binge cycle, so no 1. is to give yourself full permission to eat when you are hungry.

 

how to give yourself full permission to eat

 

Great, now here’s the next permission slip; “Give yourself permission to eat ALL foods”.

 

Peace and freedom with foods comes from neutralising foods. Yep, you heard that right, that means letting go of the moral compass, and the labels of “good” and”bad”. Does it mean we throw nutrition out the window too? No.

It simply means we drop the moral judgment of ourselves (and others), according  to what we eat.

 

It means I’m no different as a person, whether I eat a doughnut for breakfast, or have a green kale smoothie.

 

It means we can drop guilt from our diets, and any shame we hold about ourselves that stems from our food choices.

 

It means we have the freedom to choose, whatever will bring us most pleasure and satisfaction in that moment.

 

It means we are free to be with our direct experience of eating.

 

It means we can begin to embrace OUR OWN specific needs with kindness.

 

It mean we can eat with pleasure and satisfaction, for nourishment and self care.

 

And however and with whatever foods that brings us pleasure, satisfaction and nourishment, we have the flexibility to change this up as needed, because we are no longer tied to rigid dietary rules.

 

“But if I let myself have whatever I want I will never stop eating”.

“If I let myself eat whatever I want I will end up living on coffee and chocolate.”

 

Maybe…? Or maybe not.

This is what I mean with my statement above, that giving ourselves full permission to eat all foods, is not the same as eating with abandonment. Which all too often happens after dieting. This way of eating is actually a natural response to deprivation.

When you’ve given yourself full permission to eat all foods, and you bring kindness and curiosity to your eating experience, you are free to explore how different foods affect your body, as well as perhaps even your mind and spirit.

You have opened the door for choice. You don’t have to eat everything today, as there will always be another day to have that food again.

Most of all you have given yourself permission to eat and nourish yourself in a way that makes YOU and your body FEEL good.

And to re-enforce the message to yourself and your body, that you are worthy and worth it.

That may just be the taste of freedom that you are looking for.

importance of giving yourself full permission to eat

Do you long to let go of obsession around food, eating and weight? Would you like to feel freedom and peace around meals and beyond, but need some help and support to get there?

It would be an honour to walk with you on this path. Please email me HERE to set up a free 30 min consultation to explore how this may be possible for you too.

Is it all about getting to those goals?

Is it all about getting to those goals?

Goals. Ambitions. Achievements.

Intentions. Actions. Merits.

A couple of different conversations and observations over the past few weeks or so sparked my inspiration for writing this blog post.

A friend shared on her FB page the other day about how she’s arrived at the point in her life that she’s going to let go of the strong focus on go-goal-getting and instead be more open to receive what comes.

To savour the journey itself more, rather than just looking at it as a means to get to the destination.

 

straightforward nutrition mindful eating

Then there was the conversation between two of my colleagues who work in the mindfulness/ Intuitive Eating / non-diet approach space, which sparked a self reflection on how I know do my own work, and (try) to live my own life.

One colleague put the question out to the community of “How do I help my client know that she has arrived at being an intuitive eater? How will she know that she is finished with our work together?”.

Another colleagues chipped in with the deep wisdom of that when we work in this space of mindfulness and mindful eating, there is really no “arriving”, in the same way we have when we are measuring against a specific outcome, like x number of lb lost, of being able to run a certain distance in a certain amount of time, of being strong enough to lift a certain amount of weights in the gym.

What we are doing in this space is perhaps more about cultivating resilience and courage to meet life as it unfolds.  I think we are creating skills for being able to better bounce back from our life experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think it is important to have goals or maybe more like strong intentions and most of all a sense of purpose, to keep us moving forward. Personally I like how Danielle Laporte puts it; “How do you want to feel?” And then let this be our guiding intention that will frame and inform our actions and behaviours.

goal getting

I have reflected a lot recently on how I now often work in my clinical practice in this less ‘goal oriented’ and more self care and skills driven way. I really love when people share with me their breakthroughs of how they have made choices that are reflected in putting themselves first in a self loving caring way.

But it is also so challenging at the same time, because it takes so much trust in the process, from both parties. It is extremely rewarding though!

Myself and my friend and collaborator Jen, have discussed these ideas of goals, outcomes and intentions and how it relates to mindfulness, many times. That mindfulness meditation it isn’t really a practice that you use as a means to achieve a particular outcome. It is a way of learning to meet life as it is, from where you are.  Pick up any good quality book on the subject by any of the teachers who have practiced this tradition for a long time, and you will see that this is very much at the core of the teachings.

 

From the practice we develop skills to be more resilient to do just that (meeting life as it is), and as a side effect we tend to experience many positive benefits.

 

Time and time again, my clients voice how hard they are on themselves. And I’ve discovered how often people feel it’s either all or nothing, and if they are not all in, they are not doing it right, which often has the side effect that then “I may not do it at all”.

The truth is, changed IS hard. But it does ALL count, every single bit that we are working on, trying to do different, in order not so much to change who we are but to care for ourselves better, more kindly.

I’m not sure that most of us needs more drive, more focus or to be harder on ourselves to create change. Maybe what we do need is a strong intention, as sense of purpose but most of all a sense of worthiness. Alongside a hefty dose of self compassion and some self kindness.

What do YOU think?

 

straightforward nutrition

Marrying Nutrition with Intuition

Marrying Nutrition with Intuition

 

We live in an era where so many people cook less, eat in a hurry and yet often are more preoccupied with the effect the food they eat have on their health than ever.

My mother became a health conscious vegetarian in the late 70s, not too long after my grandparents had given up their Aga for an electric cooker and the novelty of powder that could turn into mash, rather than cooking the potatoes that they were growing in the fields…

In the ten years since I began my path to study and immersing myself in nutrition and nutritional science, the field have just exploded!

Online summits, upon online summits. Webinars, books and online courses.

Whether you are looking for a professional career in the field of health and wellness or simply want to educate yourself further to be able to take your own health into your own hands, the opportunities these days are endless. And so is the amount of  information available. Endless. With lots of conflicting information at times…

Yes I find nutritional science really interesting and exciting, but like one of my colleagues in the HAES (Health At Every Size) community pointed out, when it comes to it (food and eating and nutrition), “there’s always a human involved”.

 

The relationship between food and eating and its many layers of complexity is becoming increasingly fascinating to me. There’s so much to it!

 

putting nutrition together with intuition

 

Society.

Cultural messages.

Personal knowledge.

Personal preference.

Socioeconomic status.

Food availability.

Health goals.

Religion.

Cooking skills.

Family history.

Body image.

 

I feel like over the past few years my work has gradually evolved and I’ve become more clear on in what way I want to go. How I want to work, what message I am sending out and how I serve in this world.

 

Less about black and white thinking.

More about colour and creativity,

 

Less about guilt and shame.

More about joy and happiness.

 

Less about rules and shoulds.

More about embracing and trusting intuition and inner wisdom.

 

Less about eating from a place of head-knowledge.

More about eating from embodied needs and heart.

 

Less about the goals, more about the process.

Less fear, more care.

Less head “thinking”, more heart “feeling”.

 

It often feels counter cultural to move in this direction, yet it feels like TRUTH to me, so I’m heeding my calling.

And I am really hope that you will join me!

 

eating mindfully

This is a journey about marrying nutrition with intuition.

 

To eat in a way that honour our bodies physical needs, from a place of care.

Without moral judgment attached to neither the food nor the eating.

Where we can learn to use the nutrition knowledge we have to look at food as supportive vs. non supportive and realised with mindful awareness that this may change depending on context and circumstances.

 

Breaking up with diet mentality and taking the path to freedom with mindful eating is one of courage and care, of kindness and compassion, of trust and discernment.

It is a way of looking after ourselves in the best way we can, because we are worthy and worth it.

 

Let’s do it together!

mindful eating

 

My Sugar Story

My Sugar Story

“Don’t be ashamed of telling your story. It may inspire others” – Unknown

With that in mind, I will tell you mine…

 

healing your relationship with food and eating

Once upon a time there was a little girl with thick blond hair, living in the countryside of Sweden, together with her loving mum, dad and baby brother.

This little girl was raised by very health conscious mum and sweets / candy never really featured in the house. In fact it wasn’t until this little girl was about three years old that she had candy for the very first time, much to her mother’s dismay(!) Simply because her childminder felt sorry for the little girl, that had yet to experience the sweetness of candy…

The spell of innocence was broken.

The little girl discovered that she really loved the sweet taste so much! Sometimes she would even trick her brother (who seemed to be totally ambivalent about sweets) to have some of his too. (Or even sneakily steal some… Not very proud moments)

As this little girl grew up to become a teenager, she continued to enjoy the pleasure and sweetness of all kinds sweet. Jellies, chocolates, biscuits. To be honest, eating them brought a lot of pleasure, yet she never thought of using them to sooth feelings, nor had she any trouble with her weight.

Then one day things changed for this (reasonably easy going) teenager.

She was told that she was fat. Too heavy to continue to ride her favourite horse at the racing stables.

 

So she decided to do what every sensible person do who have issues with their weight… She decided to go on a diet.

 

Over the following decade she read ALL the diet books, she tried to; stop eating, eating in secret, overriding her physical signals of hunger and satiety. She tried diet pills, exercise, and replacement products to keep her weight to a number that she felt represented her happiness.

Through all of this, still loved the taste of sweet, so staying off sweets and chocolate was really challenging.

Each time she couldn’t stick to the plan she had set for herself, she would throw her hands in the air and go ”F*ck it, I’ve blown it now so I may just keep eating”.

What perhaps this (now) young woman didn’t realise was that the sweet foods were soothing the lack of other sweetness in her life.

She didn’t see the connection between her eating and her living. She didn’t see that she was working long hours in a very physically demanding job, where she often didn’t feel appreciated or valued.

 

She didn’t make the connection how the sweetness of food was filling the void and the lack of sweetness in her life.

Because she was too busy weighing herself every day, berating herself for the fact that she couldn’t be “good” with food and that she was still ‘feeling’ fat.

She felt sad, lonely and unworthy. And on top of this she was also tired and suffered with digestive issues.

 

Then one day, when as she was racing towards the black hole of depression, she woke up and decided “I need to change my life.”

 

She saved some money, organised a job on the other side of the world.

She changed her environment.

She got a fresh perspective.

Though she stilled weighed herself daily at this point in time, she also started to explore and gather some awareness of how, what and why she was eating.

 

Then all of a sudden, a moment of awakening and insight struck! “Wait a minute, my happiness cannot be determined by a number on the scales. It has to come from within”.

(Hello INSIGHT!)

 

This ONE realisation, changed this young woman’s life forever.

She simply got off the scales, gave herself full permission to eat whatever foods she wanted (candy and all). She placed her focus on eating when she was physically hungry, and she began the tedious work of paying attention to and stop eating when comfortably full.

She began to honour her body instead of fighting it.

 

In this moment, this young woman began her healing process of creating a healthy relationship with food, eating and her body.

 

She began walking the path to freedom, peace and wholeness.

my eating story

 

To be honest, this hasn’t always been an easy process, and there are still times that body image issues and negative thoughts around my body appear. They never truly went away regardless of what size my body is /was. But today I have much more awareness, I can hear them more clearly which mean I can recognise them for what they are, thoughts not facts.

 

So why am I sharing the story of this little girl who liked the taste of sweet so much, who eventually grew up to become a nutritionist, food blogger and mindful eater?

 

It is because I learnt so much from unravelling my story and perhaps someone else may recognise themselves in it.

It is also because I see so much suffering around food and eating, in today’s “sugar phobic and fat fobic” world. And this is impacting on people’s quality of life.

The sense of restriction that is created around trying to avoid something that is so abundantly prevalent in our western society, can all too easily back-fire.

 

More than anything, I believe, when it comes to navigate the challenge of consuming sugary foods (or fatty foods, or any food for that matter!), is that it is fundamental that we are making our choices from a place of care rather than fear.

 

Because when we do, we can approach it with an open and curious mind.

To hear and recognise the subtle messages it give us, if we pay attention.

Rather than getting stuck in a cycle of blame and shame, we can with care and kindness recognise that perhaps this particular food and craving is doing something for us?

Maybe it is filling a void?

Maybe it is a symbol for how we are living our life?

Once we get curious about this, we can create space for choice and be discerning of what it is we truly need and want.

 

To truly heal my own relationship with food & eating I also had to toss a couple of limiting beliefs into the FIRE.

Like;

  • When I have a perfect body I will be happy
  • Eating “perfectly” will make my body perfect
  • I am “good” when I eat “good” foods
  • I am “bad” when I eat “bad” food

Giving myself full permission to eat ALL kinds of foods (no rules), and letting go of the “good” and “bad” labels have paved a way out of restriction (precipitating bingeing) , a letting go of any labels also helped me let go of any associated guilt and shame (very liberating!)

This has helped me to arrive at a place where I can listen and pay attention to my body’s needs and eat from a place of pleasure AND care. It tastes like freedom and feels like nourishment.

 

So I invite you to get curious. What is your Sugar Story trying to tell you?

And if you want some more tips and tools on this journey then sign up to my FREE three parts video series below.


 

Do you long to let go of obsession around food, eating and weight? Would you like to feel freedom and peace around meals and beyond, but need some help and support to get there?

It would be an honour to walk with you on this path. Please email me HERE to set up a free 30 min consultation to explore how this may be possible for you too.

Cultivating Body Awareness

Cultivating Body Awareness

For the Senses

“May the touch of your skin

Register the beauty

Of the otherness

That surrounds you.

 

May your listening be attuned

To the deeper silence

Where sound is honed

To bring distance home.

 

May the fragrance

Of a breathing meadow

Refresh your heart

And remind you, you are

A child of the earth.

 

And when you partake

Of food and drink,

May your taste quicken

To the gift and sweetness

That flows from the earth.

 

May your inner eye

See through the surfaces

And glean the real presence

Of everything that meets you.

 

May your soul beautify

The desire of your eyes

That you might glimpse

The infinity that hides

In the simple sights

That seem worn

To your usual eyes.

– John O’Donohue, Benedictus – A book of blessings

mindful eating

How do we cultivate body awareness?

The more I learn about health and healing, the more I am becoming aware of the mind-body connection. And the importance the we recognise and honour this connection.

Some of the understanding of how this connection works, seems to be emerging in new research, whereas in more ancient traditions this have long been recognised, even though the exact workings of the physiological mechanisms weren’t yet discovered.

 

We are all connection between our mind and body. A living Whole Person, even if it doesn’t always feel that way… Yet sometime we either feel like we are “living in our head”, or it is looked upon in medicine that any of the physical symptoms we are experiencing that doesn’t seem to have a clear cause is “just in our head.”

 

I think most of us have had the experience of driving somewhere, and yet when we arrive, having no recollection of how we got there.

So how do we bring our wandering mind back home to our body?

mindful body awareness

This week I had a gentle reminder of how to do this. When listening to a really interesting conversation over on my favourite podcast On Being about how trauma lodges in the body with Bessel van der Kolk, one sentence in particular stood out for me; “The core experience of ourselves is a somatic experience”.

So just like John O’Donohue so poetically shared it, opening our senses to experience the world, is how we orientate our human experience in the present moment. When we open up to our sensory experience we are in fact bringing our mind home to our body.

Bringing our attention to and cultivating this mindful awareness of our outer experience (sight, hearing, smell, touch) can indeed help us become better listeners to our own body’s faint whispers. To hear the more innate sensations such as feelings of hunger, fullness and satiety.

 

The better listeners we become, the better caretakers of our bodies and ourselves, we become.

 

In meditation, the breath is usually the focus of attention. Even though I have a little bit more experience with sitting meditation practice now then when I started out a few years ago, I still feel like I often struggle to catch when my wandering mind has drifted off, doing its own thing. However, this past week I was attending a virtual retreat (yes exactly as it sounds) and one of the practices we were doing was walking meditation. I have practiced walking meditation before, but it had been awhile and I had forgotten how grounding I find it.

In walking meditation the focus is on your feet rather than on your breath. You start off, standing still, placing your attention on your feet, noticing how they feel against the ground. If you can do it without shoes, or even barefoot (outdoors if weather allows) it is even better. To me it really feels like a home coming. When I place my attention and focus on the sensations of my feet, I know that I am HERE. And nowhere else.

Once you’ve taken a few moments of standing, you move slowly, moving one foot and then the other, paying attention to the movement of each foot as it lifts, moves through the space and then being placed back down again.

Funnily for me, when my focus is on something like my feet, then it becomes much easier to “see” what kind of thoughts my mind is engaging in. Like planning, projecting and remembering.

Maybe it is because when your attention is on your feet, it is kind of obvious that where they are is also where you are.

straightforward nutrition

So now, perhaps this week, tune in and see where your feet really are? And let them softly kiss the earth with each step, with appreciation that you are in fact here.

 

 

How to develop an attitude of gratitude

How to develop an attitude of gratitude

The definition of attitude is “a way of thinking”,a frame of mind” or “a view point”. All too often “having an attitude” is said implying that it is something negative. That if we have an attitude, or a particular view point, we are stubborn, difficult or challenging… Or contrary is another word one could use. Or maybe just different for simply seeing something from a different, but less appreciated angle than someone else.

 

But what about developing an attitude of gratitude?

 

We hear about the potential benefits of adopting such a frame of mind, that perhaps it may just be worth pursuing?

When I went to look for some research on the subject of the benefits of gratitude, a friend of mine kindly pointed me in the direction of this article, which let’s say saved me an enormous amount of hours! In this lengthy article the author have compiled the findings of 40 research studies on the benefits of adopting an attitude of gratitude.

He lists out 31 (!) but I have taken my top 10 favourites and listed them here:

  1. It makes us happier
  2. It makes others like us more
  3. It makes us healthier
  4. It strengthens our emotions, making us more resilient against stress
  5. It makes us more optimistic
  6. It makes us less self-centred
  7. It makes us feel good
  8. It strengthens relationships
  9. It improves our decision making process
  10. Basically we become nicer people over all and much more fun to be around!

 

So since all the reasons for WHY we should develop an attitude of gratitude is listed out in the article mentioned above, I thought it may  be better if I instead focused this blog on HOW we can put this into practice in our everyday life.

I think developing a gratitude practice is a little like developing any other new practice / habit we want to bring in to our lives, because we feel it could be of benefit to our health / wellbeing / happiness. The key is: we simply have to remember to do it often enough till one day it become part of our everyday routine, just like brushing our teeth! Consistency is going to be key. And even if we miss a day or two, or three… as soon as we remember, we just begin again.

To be honest, even though I feel that developing an attitude of gratitude is important and perhaps one of the most powerful tools we can use to make inroads towards self-love and self-appreciation, along with the practice of self-compassion, I do not have a daily practice of it established myself (yet). I’m kind of still in the “remember-to-do-it” stage…  This is why I will share with you three of the ways I’ve been using over the past few years to keep gratitude at the forefront of my life.

attitude of gratitude

About two years ago I stumble across The Five Minute Journal, though not the cheapest of investments, this cleverly laid out journal is a great place to start if you want to commit yourself to cement a gratitude practice in your life.

It is a lovely hardback “book”, with no dates so you can pick it up at any time and start where ever you are. The journal is split in two halves, a five minute practice for the morning that consists of writing down three things that you are grateful for, three things that would make it a great day and one affirmation for the day. And then there’s a quick prompt to spend another five minutes at the end of the day to recap what was amazing that day, as well as what could have been done better.

This way of having a “script” or a structured outline makes it really easy to get into the practice of gratitude with a reflective angle. Reading these questions everyday, and then thoughtfully writing down the answers does make for good practice of developing our awareness for what is good in our lives already. Especially for those times when we may be preoccupied with all the things we want, but don’t have. Or when life is handing you lemons…

I was doing quite well at filling out my Five Minute Journal for about 2 months or so… Until what usually happens, my unstructured self got the upper hand. So last year I decided to try a different approach to my gratitude practice.

Enter the Gratitude Jar.

I got this idea from a friend who shared it on FB, and I think, she in turn had gotten it from someone else. This jar concept has been around awhile. It’s as simple as it sounds, and a little less structured so it does require that we remember to do it!

Take a large glass jar and then each and every time that you are grateful for something, then write it down on a piece of paper and then put it into your jar. At the end of the year, open your jar and go through all the blessings that you received. It does make for some inspiring reading.

This approach seems to suit me a little better, well as far as I remember to do it that is!

straightforward nutrition

The third tool / approach that I’ve found as a path to develop gratitude and open the door to happiness, is to take some intentional moments, or breaths, to take in the beauty that is (always) all around us. This simple practice is very much on the lines of cultivating mindfulness, through basic awareness of just noticing things. To shift our attention to something in our physical reality, is such a simple yet effective way of anchoring the mind and the body in the present moment.

I’ve been doing this for some time now, especially if I catch myself feeling overwhelmed by the business of life and all that is on my to-do-list. Just to literally stay still for a tiny moment of time and allow my senses to open up to what surrounds me, can refresh and calm me no end. It is also much easier to do than it often is to find some time “sit down to meditate”.

What I didn’t know though is that there’s a practice that is called “The Ten Breath Practice”, which deepens this experience. My dear friend Jen Ardis (who’s not only a friend but also my collaborator for our Nutrition & Mindfulness Retreats that we are holding here in Fermoy) gifted me with the book that explains this simple yet powerful practice. The book is called Ten Breaths to Happiness, touching life in its fullness, by Glen Schneider.

The book explains the simple technique of  how to with intent and purpose allow ourselves to fully take in the experience of something that we find beautiful. And how by doing this, can open up new neuronal pathways in the brain, paving way for more feelings of contentment and happiness. Sounds good to me! I particularly like the simplicity of this practice as well as it being such a practical and sensory experience.

I also had the pleasure of witnessing how this practice can enhance people’s lives when I sat in on one of Jen’s Mindful Selfcare classes the other week!

This practice works for even the busiest person. Even for those who like one of my client’s once when I suggested starting a gratitude practice replied immediately with the words “I’m too busy”. To be honest, her reply threw me a bit…

Though come to thinks of it… I have found myself thinking along the same lines too, like “Do I have time to stop and spend 10 breaths on enjoying this moment?”.

I remind myself that yes I do have 30 seconds or perhaps even a full minute to enjoy what is here and now.

Because what else is there?

mindful living