Conversation on Body Image, Nutrition and Kindness

fall

Hey! Happy Monday! I don’t know about you but I just love Fall. Growing up in Palm Springs, California, then living in Los Angeles for a decade doesn’t leave for much experience in seasons. Although I am not complaining about either of those areas, they definitely have their perks and I do miss them. However, there’s just something about looking out the window, going for a walk or riding your bike in the fall, something about watching the leaves turn color and fall sweetly to the ground. It’s quite magical.

But the color of the leaves is not really what I wanted to talk about today. In summer my business was a little slow, as a lot of nutritionists and those in the health and wellness field seemed to assume me was pretty normal. When September and Fall came things quickly picked up again. And I have to say I love it!

Along with seeing my regular and lots of new clients every week, I saw a theme developing that I hadn’t really noticed before. A general low self-confidence and a immense dissatisfaction with their bodies. (Caveat: a lot of my clients are women, which is where this is/was 100% coming from.) As someone who struggled with this for most, ok that’s a lie, all of my life, I not only related, but felt a deep sadness and affinity for them.

And here’s the kicker – it really wasn’t until a few months ago that I started loving my own body for what it was, what it physically did for me and what it looked like. My feelings of hate and inadequacy for my body didn’t come from my parents (ok, maybe a little bit) but mostly it came from the world we live in.

See, I am an athlete. I always have been. If you’ve read my bio or know me even in the slightest you know that I was a pretty good volleyball player (yeah, I know I am only 5’2”). I played briefly in college before deciding crew was going to be better for me at the time. Then I started running races that turned into marathons and that turned into Olympic triathlons. Here’s the thing with being a competitive athlete: your body is a large part of your identity. It helps you do what you physically need to and you are constantly lifting weights, experimenting with food and diet and generally trying to be better. You can always be better. Especially in volleyball and crew I was surrounded by tall women who always seemed thinner or more beautiful than myself.

Now that I work with athletes that have similar experiences and issue as myself, it’s so clear why they struggle. And it’s not just the athletes that walk into my office and feel this way. It’s nearly all women. The world around us is constantly presenting to us that we aren’t good enough, thin enough, work hard enough, smart enough, and… just aren’t enough.

Enough!

Who and how is this helping? Where has it gotten anyone?

The other common thread of all these women that come into my office with these body hate and low self-confidence issues… they are all beautiful – inside and out! It breaks my heart. Really! I am not just saying that. I just want to shake these amazing women, and say do you know how smart you are? How great you are at your job? How strong you are?

So, what would happen if we stopped treating our bodies like crap and started treating them like a loved one? What’s that saying: “Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is the definition of insanity?” So why, if we don’t change the way we see and think about our bodies do we expect different outcomes?

You can see how helping these women with their food choices is so much more than what they are putting in their mouths? But what they are putting into their minds and souls.

What does this have to do with nutrition? Two things:

  1. Studies have shown that our thoughts directly impact the actions we take. Studies also show that when we change the way we think we change those actions. So, if we start to believe we have that amazing body we desire, then we start treating it so, and we actually choose those foods that will support and nourish that body. Think less processed, refined and fried foods that are inflammatory and devoid of nutrients to those foods that are anti-inflammatory and beneficial to our body, like fresh veggies, good proteins, and fats. (*If you want to see the studies I am quoting please comment below and I will link them. The reason I don’t originally include them is because they are pretty difficult to read through and I find most people don’t care to read them. Also, I am all for evidence-based health, but sometimes we have to trust ourselves and do what feels good whether there is a study out there for it or not. But I digress…)
  2. Those negative feelings towards our body actually create a physiological stress response. It causes cortisol to rise, disrupts our blood sugar (this contributes to those food cravings and not-so-great food choices that further make us feel guilty and bad about our bodies, rinse and repeat). The chronic stress coupled with “bad” (I explain below why this is in quotes) food choices turn into chronic inflammation leading to digestive issues, weight gain, hormone imbalance, infertility, addictions, mood disorders, auto-immunity, heart disease and even cancer.

Can see the negative cycle here? We feel bad about our bodies, throwing off blood sugar, causing cravings and “bad” food choices, leading to feel guilty about those choices that lead us to feel bad about ourselves, further confirming our original thoughts and round and round we go. No Bueno.

So how do we get out of that rut? I am not going to lie here. It’s not easy. It’s not overnight. But what do we have to lose? What is the negativity and cruelty doing for us? Nothing good.

Nothing. Good.

It’s usually already been a lifestyle of feeling and treating our bodies this way. So, in part it’s a habit we know and are comfortable with. Whenever we try to change a habit it’s uncomfortable. And our bodies and minds don’t do well with discomfort.

The good news: being uncomfortable won’t kill us.

Try starting with this writing exercise, I have a lot of my clients do in the beginning sessions. I call it my Self Manifesto (you can always find a handout for it here):

  1. Sit down and write what you would look and feel like in your ideal world. Write it in positive and present tense, as if it already existed. Example: I am strong, toned. My body allows me to do all the things I want to. I love my defined and lean legs. Etc., etc. What you don’t want to write is something like: I am not fat. Even though it sounds like what you want, it’s coming from a negative place and we want to write just positive statements.
  2. Read this every day, whenever you feel down, whenever you feel a craving for something, and anytime you need.
  3. Refine it as you think of other things you would like to manifest and delete those that don’t serve you.

The other thing I tell my clients to do is to sit with their cravings. When you absolutely want that glass of wine or cupcake, simply take a few moments and sit with it for a second before you go grab whatever it is you are craving. Pull out a journal or a piece of paper and ask yourself why you want “x”. What are you feeling? Sad? Lonely? Happy? Etc. And just write. There’s no right or wrong here. Just let it out. It probably wont feel very natural, but just roll with it. Then if you are still feeling like you want “x” after you have taken some time (5-10 minutes, more or less) to explore why and what’s going on. Then, by all means, allow yourself to have it. Here’s the caveat: you have to ENJOY it! You CANNOT beat yourself up for eating or drinking “x”. Just enjoy it.

The reason why here is that there are no “good” or “bad” foods in my mind. All food can nourish and provide value to our bodies and minds. There is no food I don’t eat. But there are foods I eat more than others. They all serve me in some way. Most of them are physically nourishing to my body and cell providing nutrients, energy and more. Then there are other foods and times where they fill my soul, these are things like shared meals with loved ones, a nice glass of wine while enjoyed a good company, etc. The point is I don’t label anything good or bad. For me I notice that when I start labeling things like that and when I get restrictive those are the times when I want/crave those things I might not normally, like sugar.

Keep coming back to this exercise as often as you can and need. The goal is to create awareness around our feelings and emotional eating so we can start to create a habit of asking ourselves what we really want? Maybe we need to go out for a walk because we are stressed. Maybe we need to listen to some music or take a soothing bath. This will help lower our stress, reduce inflammation, start to develop habits that nourish us and eventually allow ourselves to feel love and body positivity. Breaking that negative feedback loop into a positive feedback loop.

Now, I started this journey back in 2012 when I took a class with a wonderful nutritionist Dana James. This was back when I was sitting as a desk working for an automotive start-up in Santa Monica, sitting at a desk everyday as a graphic designer before I became a nutritionist myself. I have worked with a therapist as well through a lot of this stuff. And for me it really just started kicking in the last few months. And I have noticed I think I even lost a few pounds. Now, that wasn’t my primary goal. But I don’t mind. Also, I ditched the scale. Mostly it made me feel worse about myself first thing in the morning, which is no way to start the day.

There is a lot we can do to support this journey and path towards self-love. IF you have more questions or comments, please share below or if you would like to talk one-on-one about this and nutrition, you can always reach me here.

The point is be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. And maybe we can start to think about being kind to the world. What do we have to lose?

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