Thoughts on Food Freedom (Revisited)

What images pop into your head when you think about living a healthy lifestyle?

Perhaps your mind wanders to fresh-pressed green juices, a plant-based diet, and regular yoga classes.

Maybe images of “skinny” lattes, egg white omelettes, and grueling workout sessions dance around in your head.

Or maybe it’s a leisurely meal enjoyed al fresco in the countryside complete with fresh, and seasonal ingredients and great company to go with it. (Oh wait, I think that’s one of my images ;))

Of course we all have many different ideas when it comes to living healthily, and they by no means fit so tidily into the boxes I mentioned above.

The ultimate question that matters the most though is whether these ideas serve us well in our life, or if they hold us back.

Do they feel restrictive and leave us “on and off again” a diet?

Or do they feel liberating and pleasurable, like we could live this lifestyle forever?

I talked a bit about beliefs in my post last week.

These beliefs can be so deeply ingrained that we never stop to consider whether they even make sense anymore.

But maybe we should. Especially if those beliefs make us feel miserable.

It always saddens me when I see grown women still caught up in this miserable game. Spending too much of her precious life force obsessing over what to put in her mouth, rather than enjoying her life, and her food.

I believe the key to sustainable eating is finding the place where fuel, nourishment, and pleasure ALL intersect.

This is what I get most excited about when working with my clients – helping them to relate to (and experience) food in a whole different way.

I call it food freedom, and I wrote a post about it a few years back.

Some people believe that food freedom means indiscriminately eating up anything and everything whenever they desire, and that to actually let themselves experience it would surely mean throwing in the towel, or giving up on their health and body goals (whatever those may be).

But the kind of food freedom I’m speaking of here, doesn’t come at the expense of feeling great in your body or overcoming health challenges (because that wouldn’t feel very freeing, now would it?).

Please don’t equate food freedom with a lack of self-discipline, because in my opinion, you can’t have true food freedom without it.

Okay, so experiencing this freedom isn’t likely the reason why somebody initially comes to work with me and they may not word it in this exact way, however, I find that it’s often an underlying desire, whether a conscious one or not.

Perhaps they want to figure out their stomach issues, their digestion, lose the weight, or prepare their body for a healthy pregnancy.

And of course, we’ll work on these things.

You see, education is the easy part. Some people really just need the knowledge and the guidance to put all of the pieces together in a way that jives with their body and life best. They take the knowledge and hit the ground running.

If only it could be this simple for everyone.

Implementation is what trips people up the most. And not because they don’t want to make the required changes, but because sometimes those changes can be really uncomfortable.

When the soother is taken away, we’re forced to deal with the negative emotion head-on. No numbing out.

Of course a soother can take on many other forms (i.e. alcohol, shopping, work), but for many of us it’s food.

And while the journey may not always be smooth sailing, I think it’s worthwhile to hang in there for the ride and figure it out.

Because living in a diet prison = no fun.

By the way, just to clarify, it is completely possible to be on a restrictive diet (out of necessity) and not feel like you’re living in a diet prison.

Sometimes not eating “the food” (whatever it may be) is actually MORE liberating if doing so leaves you with debilitating symptoms or feeling lawful.

In other words don’t get sucked into a false sense of freedom and then let restriction slip in the back door (in the form of unpleasant symptoms that restrict your life).

Remember, the freedom I speak of includes feeling good in your body.

At the end of the day, each of us gets to decide what we choose to believe about healthy living and eating as a whole.

That’s the beauty of free will, my dear.

You can choose to live behind the bars, or break on out of them.

Didn’t you know that they were self-imposed, anyways?

All love,

Elaine

p.s. I always love hearing from you. In the comments below, let me know which beliefs about health have been serving you well in your life. Are there any beliefs that you’re ready to give up?

Upgrade Your Eating Habits in 5 Steps

Originally published on www.bell-wellness.com

Want to feel healthier? Lose weight? Improve your digestion?

While upgrading your food choices is naturally a great place to start, in reality, it’s only half of the healthy eating equation.

Have you ever stopped to examine “how” you eat? In other words, playing close attention to your eating habits.

You see, changing your diet and upgrading your food choices is typically the easier part.

Your eating habits on the other hand, now they can run deep.

Implement the following steps below and reap the benefits of better digestion, increased energy, and a flatter stomach!

1. Avoid (Too Much) Liquid with Meals. Drinking liquids with meals dilutes the digestive secretions needed for breaking down our food. Small sips are okay, but definitely avoid gulping large amounts of liquids. It’s actually best to drink most of our liquid (ideally water) on an empty stomach between meals so that you’re already hydrated when you sit down to eat. Speaking of which…

2. Sit Down and Relax. Enjoy your meals distraction-free. Rushing, stress, worry, and anxiousness are all antithetical to good digestion and are a recipe for bloating, gas, heartburn, and stomach aches. When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, aka, “fight or flight” mode, our ability to digest and assimilate our food is greatly reduced. It’s important we get into parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode in order to give our bodies a fighting chance to digest the food we’re feeding it. If necessary take 5-10 minutes to relax before eating, and if the option is to hurriedly eat to make a meeting, you’re better off skipping the meal, eating something light, or waiting until later.

3. Chew Your Food Well. Keep in mind that your stomach doesn’t have teeth! Chewing well breaks down food into smaller more manageable particles, easing the digestive burden on our stomach and intestines. Smaller food particles also allow for easier absorption of nutrients and negates the likelihood of opportunistic bacteria to ferment larger undigested food particles, which can increase symptoms of gas and bloating.

4. Don’t Graze. Many people never experience the feeling of true hunger because they’re constantly nibbling throughout the day. If you’re constantly grazing or snacking consider transitioning back to a 3 meal per day approach to enjoy the benefits of optimized digestion and fat burning, freed up mental space that’s otherwise preoccupied with food, increased energy that’s otherwise thwarted towards digestion, and getting back in touch with true hunger and satiety signals.

5. Avoiding Eating Heavily Within 2-3 Hours of Bedtime. When we go to bed with a stomach full of food not only is it a recipe for disrupted sleep and indigestion, but it also impedes the process of healing, detoxification, and cellular regeneration that would normally occur during this time of nightly slumber (because energy is diverted towards digestion). The idea here is to be done your main meal within 2-3 hours of lying horizontal. You can still eat within this time frame if necessary, but ideally it will be a lighter meal (i.e. soup or salad) or small snack.

While it may not be possible or easy to transform your eating habits overnight, the first step in effecting change is just becoming more aware of your eating habits in the first place, and noting where they could perhaps use a little upgrade!

Sometimes Being “Extreme” is Necessary

Are there certain foods that you over-consume on a regular basis that you know deep down to your core are holding you back from feeling your best?

But regardless of how hard you try to limit or cut them out, you just can’t make any meaningful progress? (By the way, this includes drink too – alcohol, coffee, soda, etc.)

What I’m about to say may sound contradictory to what you’ve heard me say before about the importance of transitioning from where you are to where you want to be, or in other words, the whole “learning to crawl before you can walk and learning to walk before you can run” idea.

For example, when I work with a new client in one of my nutrition programs I always first have them fill out a health and lifestyle assessment, along with a food diary. This allows me to gain a deeper understanding of their diet and eating habits before we even meet. Then once we do hop on the telephone or meet face-face via Skype, I’m able to ask more probing questions that reveal so much more beyond what they’ve put to “paper” previously.

So keeping this in mind, let’s say an individual is consistently making certain choices that are clearly not in alignment with how she wants to feel, or with certain goals she has for herself. (Sidenote: this isn’t always crystal clear in all cases because even foods that are deemed healthy by most standards can exacerbate certain symptoms in some people).

Since I don’t want to pull the rug out from under anyone this is where I’ll zero in on the habits that I believe will make the biggest difference in the short-term and start there first, rather than eliminating a bunch of things all at once and setting her up for failure because she’s unable to stick with it for more than a week or two.

Another example of transitioning would be cutting back and reducing something overtime rather than eliminating it all at once cold turkey.

Going ALL in.

With all that said sometimes you just have to go ALL in.

This comes down to how much pain you’re feeling. And it’s not just about physical pain, this includes emotional pain too.

How much of your life are you dwindling away feeling this way?

Some people believe it’s extreme to give up certain foods and substances. Then again, I’m referring to the mainstream idea of what society believes to be extreme.

Do you believe it’s extreme to not want to be in pain?

I’m guessing not, but it seems that people often associate giving up the action that’s causing the pain to be too extreme in many cases.

This was actually one of the principles I talked about in this post I wrote here titled The 10 Principles for Mastering Your Diet and Toasting Life at the same time – point # 7 was sometimes extremism is necessary.

Sometimes you just have to draw that proverbial line in the sand.

In fact, I consider myself a pretty moderate person when it comes to food and diet, but, going cold turkey and ALL in was the only way I was able to effectively give up coffee for over a year.

I’m just using this merely as an example.

Is coffee inherently bad? No.

Am I suggesting you need to give it up? Nope.

Can it be abused? Of course.

Can a “moderate” amount exacerbate unpleasant symptoms for some people? Absolutely.

In the past I tried cutting down on it, or saving it for a weekend treat. And while that can work for a lot of things that you don’t have a strong attachment to, for me if I drank the coffee on Saturday and Sunday, when Monday rolled around I’d be craving coffee and I’d find myself drinking it again.

The only way for me to eliminate the craving all together was to give it up completely.

Again, this is my personal example, maybe your “poison” is sugar, wheat, or wine.

What I’m getting at here is that sometimes eliminating choice altogether actually makes it easier particularly with those things that you feel a strong attachment to (which I did with coffee).

(By the way, “newsflash” I do drink coffee again but giving it up for over a year allowed me to see what types of effects it actually had on my body, and now my relationship with it is much better. If you’re interested in whether or not coffee is a good drink for you, or you just want to learn how to upgrade your coffee hygiene, check out this post I wrote here. Please note that I actually wrote it before my experimentation in giving up coffee for over a year).

Also, I should clarify that I never committed to giving up coffee for a year. I started with a month. Quite frankly, after about a week I didn’t really even miss it, and once I reached the month’s end it was easy for me to commit to another month. And then another month, and so on. Never underestimate the power of “small wins” to propel you forward!

Another example that comes to mind when I write this…

One of my past clients (let’s call her “Stacey”) had what you would probably consider to be the “perfect” diet. Pretty much everything she ate on a regular basis was healthy except…she over-consumed wine (I know many women who can relate to this which is why I’m sharing this specific example). This wasn’t a secret and she was well aware that this was true, but it wasn’t something she was willing or even interested in giving up.

Now if you know me, you’ll know that I enjoy a glass of wine too and I’m not about to tell anyone that they need to give it up unless…it’s causing them pain.

You see, Stacey couldn’t just have one or even two glasses of wine and then stop there. On most evenings she was drinking more than half a bottle, and sometimes even the whole bottle to herself.

She complained of severe digestive issues, stomach pain, and nightly hot flashes (she was only in her late twenties).

It wasn’t until she committed to giving up wine for two weeks cold turkey that she saw a relief in her digestive problems and stomach pain, and the nightly hot flashes completely disappeared. She just never fully connected these symptoms to her wine consumption.

Now at least she’s aware. And even though Stacey still drinks wine, she doesn’t drink as excessively as before and is careful to always pair it with food if she’s having more than a glass. And for those times when she is more excessive? Well she knows that her digestion might not be great for the next few days, and she’s not surprised if she wakes up with a hot flash in the middle of the night.

So with that said…

Where do you perhaps need to be “extreme” in order to make meaningful progress and get the results that you want?

Keep in mind that sometimes those results are just about gaining information on how you may or may not want to be living your life.

All love,

Elaine

 

Want to eat “healthier” this year? (read this first)

If any of your New Year resolutions include “eat healthier”, or, something along the lines of “give up sugar…FOREVER”, then please read on.

You see, I know (really well) that the New Year can bring with it the pressures to start “fresh” with a new diet on January 1st, or to eat “perfectly” with no slip ups. And while any changes you make to eat healthy and take care of your body are positive steps in the right direction, I know that this rigid way of thinking often stems from the guilt and shame of overindulging through the holidays or even leading up to them.

And I know YOU know this too, because like me, you’ve also been down this path before. You know the drill: fight tooth and nail to stick to an overly restrictive diet for the first few weeks of January then gradually slip back into old eating habits when the New Year excitement has worn off, or you realize that your new way of eating is no longer sustainable.

Believe me when I say, you can have great health and make progress with your body goals without struggling or relying solely on willpower to get you through. It’s entirely possible to eat well and nourish your body while at the same time, also enjoying indulgent foods, because the two aren’t mutually exclusive, regardless of what some people believe.

I’m not saying it doesn’t take discipline to change long-ingrained habits, particularly in the beginning, but if the desire is strong enough it’s more than doable for you, and in fact, only gets easier with time.

See, I can say this with full conviction, because just a few short days ago I was eating up ALL of the holiday goodies. And no, not the “healthified”, gluten-free, sugar-free versions either. I’m talking your traditional flour, sugar, butter laden baked goods. And let me tell you, I enjoyed every last bite without even a shred of guilt (and definitely without throwing in the towel and having the pendulum swing full tilt to the right).

Why? Because I know these are special foods that I look forward to and enjoy once a year in the context of celebrating the holidays with my loved ones. I also know that it’s only temporary and that after a period of enjoying these richer foods, my body naturally gravitates back towards lightness and starts to crave more water-containing vegetables and soups.

Also, I firmly believe that there are times when we may have to be steadfast and stick to a more disciplined way of eating (for whatever reason), and then there’s a time to loosen the reigns and celebrate life.

Many years ago though, it would have been a different story. I would have struggled. I would have been excessive, and there would have been guilt. My thinking would have been, “If I’m going to eat the shortbread cookies in the morning than what’s the point of eating salad for lunch? I’ll resume with the “healthy eating” after the holidays when I don’t have any temptations around me”. I know. Warped, right?

So here we stand, at the start of a New Year that holds so much potential.

If you’re looking to change your eating habits, improve your health, lose weight, or just “eat healthier” here are some simple and straight-forward tips that don’t involve a drastic (or torturous) overhaul in your diet.

#1. Stock up on ALL of the Good Stuff (Avoid Triggers). Fill your fridge with an abundance of fresh produce and stock the pantry with whole-food ingredients that support your health goals and make you feel good after you eat them (read: not bloated or left feeling like you want to curl up and snooze under your desk for the rest of the day). Assume that if it’s in your house you will eat it. Rather than rely on willpower to resist temptation don’t bring these offender foods into your space in the first place. Offender foods might be foods that don’t support your health goals, or, ones that trigger you to binge or overeat. Triggers foods aren’t necessarily “bad foods”, they may even be ones that are generally regarded as healthy by many people (i.e. cereal, energy bars, trail mix, peanut butter). Only you know your triggers.

Looking for a little grocery inspiration? Here’s picture of one of my recent food shopping hauls.

#2. Eat Veggie-Centric. I’m not into diet dogma or subscribing to food labels. I honestly don’t think it matters which type of diet you follow whether it be a Paleo-approach, vegetarian, or something else, as long as it makes you feel good, is sustainable, and supports your health goals. I do suggest, however, eating at least 50% veggies at each meal. Of course it’s not an exact science; at one meal you might eat less, and then at the following meal much more. The point is to make vegetables the star-performers in your diet, with other foods taking on a supporting role.

#3. Give up the Snack! If you’ve been grazing on goodies throughout the holidays or just eating heavier in general, this is a great practice for optimizing digestion and getting back in touch with your true hunger. This step requires a little more discipline at first, but if you’re someone who suffers from any type of food addiction, or is just constantly fixating on your diet, this is one of the best eating habits to free up some mental space that is otherwise preoccupied with food and eating. I wrote a whole post on my case for not snacking here that’s worth checking out. Of course, having a conscious snack if you’re truly hungry is a whole new ballgame than mindlessly snacking out of boredom, or to fill some other void.

#4. Be Realistic, or, 80/20 for the long haul, baby! If you’re wondering where ice cream and chocolate croissants fit into the equation then the 80/20 principle is a great rule of thumb to live by. Aiming to make healthy choices at least 80% of the time can alleviate the pressure to be perfect 100% of the time, and allows room for special occasions (like the holidays). Keep in mind: Progress not perfection. Overtime you may even find that a 90/10 ratio floats your boat more!

Wishing you a healthy and abundant New Year!

Much love,

Elaine

P.S I’m still accepting new clients for January, so if you’re interested in nutrition coaching check out my updated service offering.

I always love hearing from you. In the comments below, share the healthy habits that you plan on committing to this year!