Eat Your Troubles Away

Cute diet book cover, but misleading at best.

The truth is, you cannot eat your troubles away.

You can eat. And eat. And eat.

But if you have troubles, and they extend beyond the trouble of physically starving, eating will only cause you to feel physically satisfied, full, or very full, with the latter adding a set of new troubles to your pre-existing list of woes–poor digestion, stomach aches, bloating, night sweats, weight gain, and maybe more.

The hope is that a better diet will solve your problems, that improving the foods you consume will improve your body, and your mind, and then its positive rewards will spill over onto the rest of your life.

Make your job easier to handle, make your relationships better, just make things better.

While it is true that eating good foods will improve your health, maybe improve your body composition, and help you think more clearly, it will not solve all of your problems.

You will still have troubles.

Dieting can serve to distract you from your troubles, whether it is loneliness, insecurity, feeling without purpose, or feeling a loss of control in general, but if these issues are not dealt with, improving your eating only means that you eat better while maintaining troubles.

You will still experience loneliness, and insecurity, still feel confused about what your purpose is, and still feel anxious about not being able to control situations if you only address your diet, and not the actual troubles that are an inevitable part of being a human being.

Some people like to link overeating to their daily troubles. They say they eat because of their troubles. Because they are lonely (or sad, or happy, or bored, or overwhelmed).

I think people overeat because they like overeating. I think they may use it as an escape from their troubles, but only because it is their escape of choice. If they didn’t like overeating, the way they didn’t like drinking too much (assuming they do not abuse alcohol), they wouldn’t keep choosing to overeat.

The idea of eating your troubles away is fantastical. It’s clever, and alot of people keep trying to do it in order to improve the rest of their lives, but it should be kept in perspective.

Improving what you eat only improves what you eat.

If you want to start here, on your quest to tackle your troubles, with a better diet, absolutely go for it. But remember, you will still need to address the other areas of your life that may be going neglected now that you are so focused on food.

Your purpose, your career, your lover, family, friends, spiritual beliefs–they are all waiting for you.

If you work to improve your diet, good, good, good!

Just don’t forget about the rest of your life.

Image from Flickr.

Should You Begin a Healthy Eating Challenge Today?

It’s the first day of the month. And it’s Monday.

A perfect day to start a new diet, wouldn’t you say?

If you are on top of the latest trends in healthy eating and frequent the healthy food websites, you would be privy to the popularity of beginning a diet today. Or another first of the month, or another Monday.

30-day challenges, 21-day detoxes, 3-day reboots.

There seems to be magical dietary hope in a new month. A new week. A new chance to get yourself healthy. Get yourself slim. Get yourself unstuck of the bad habits you picked up the last few weeks, or the last few months, or however long it has been leading up to you finally showing junk food and poor choices who’s boss.

I don’t have anything against doing challenges, or cleanses, or reboots. They can be a very practical way of replacing negative and unhealthy habits with better ones. They can expedite the body’s ability to reduce inflammation, or release excess water weight. They can teach you alot of insightful things, such as what you place dependency on (afternoon treat, anyone?) or help you develop your self-control muscles.

Healthy eating challenges can be positive and enlightening for many people.

But they are optional, and not necessary for improving your health (even dramatically), and they are always your choice to do or not do, no matter how popular or amazing they really are.

I spent many years, many firsts of the months, many Mondays, cleaning up my diet, and starting over as a healthy eater, always with the idea that this reset would reset them all. That this time, my relationship with food would be freshened up for good.

That this time, I would be good.

My experiences with strict dietary challenges have certainly opened me up to new ways to think about food. They have allowed me to improve my sleep, my joints, my skin, and my emotions.

But they have not saved me the way I always wanted them to.

Knowing that I would be starting a strict and clean diet would usually lend me bingeing on everything the diet forbade in the days leading up to the big start day.

When I would finally decide to stick to a respectable food plan, I would feel good about eating so well, but mostly I would feel saved from myself, from my potential to self-sabotage through food, from the vulnerability to go at my health goals alone.

It was inevitable after beginning a strict plan that I would eventually break the diet, or mess up. It was likely that I would be frustrated with how time and thought consuming it was, or irritated at how critical its biggest fans were.

And it was inevitable that the diet would only take me so far. That it would improve my health for as long as I adhered to its guidelines, but guilt me into thinking I was an utter failure when I “fell off the wagon” or “cheated” or “just couldn’t do it”.

I know there are people who would disagree with this, and maybe even think it’s the wrong approach to take, and that is OK. I know challenges and diet plans can be maintained without them adding stress or trauma to a person.  I realize that if I really wanted to keep a food challenge (and by this time, you would be correct to suspect it a Whole30 or 21-Day Sugar Detox or an I Quit Sugar plan), that I could.

I could get through the temporary discomfort of forgoing my beloved tamari, or bananas, or a square (or two) of 85% dark chocolate.

I could call every restaurant I would attend for the time of the challenge, and ensure they only cooked with ghee, olive, or coconut oil, and I could make certain there was no soy or corn fed to any animals I was consuming, or that there was not dried fruit or candied nuts in my salad.

And I could skip every invitation to dine at a friend’s house whose cooking was not “approved” by my newfound redeeming health plan.

By my new, Good News.

By my new Savior.

But I will tell you, I’ve done all those things.

And I don’t do them anymore.

I’ve spent alot of time studying food. Studying its make-up. Studying how nutritious it is. Studying how evil it is.  How it helps us.  How it hurts us.  How it ruins the planet, and how it saves souls (oh wait, I meant, how it helps you improve your body composition).

I’ve learned alot in my studies, but the things that nutrition could never teach me was how to trust myself to eat healthy, everyday, without fear of failing a plan, without the obsession on perfectionism, and without needing anyone else’s approval.

Food challenges are amazing for alot of things, but it takes determination and commitment to decide to treat your body well, with kindness, and with compassion, after they are over.

It takes will to make your own rules, to let in only helpful opinions, and to turn your eyes and your ears from anything that doesn’t empower you.  That doesn’t give you confidence, or energy, that doesn’t root you in self-assuredness, and that doesn’t serve to make you a better version of yourself.

You can follow plans, and challenges, and diets, and enjoy them, and benefit from them, but never forget that you can experience health, and enlightenment, and self-growth all on your own.

If you think you need to learn more about food to make your own choices, study it. Find out how it effects your body. Learn how it can make you feel well.

Experiment with it. See what works for you. See what you like.

And then, know when you’ve studied enough. Know when it’s time to trust yourself, trust your body, and get on and live your life.

Be responsible, but be in charge.  Be yourself, and be proud of it.

So, if you asked me if it was a perfect day to start a new diet, I would say, maybe, but maybe not.

Instead, I say it’s the perfect day to start trusting yourself with food.

And so is tomorrow.  And next week.  And definitely, next month.


Image from What’s on the 6th Floor?

When You Don’t Have Motivation, Try Commitment

There exists a period between inspiration and execution referred to and felt as motivation.

Motivation seems to be what gets us to tackle our goals, to resist resistance, and to succeed at something.

It is often stimulated by reading powerful stories, passionate quotes, or seeing beautiful images. It is propelling, and encouraging, and it is felt.

So, what do you do if you do not feel it?

I think many of us go through seasons of feeling motivated to eat healthy and to be active, and then through seasons where we don’t.  I certainly do.

Often, seasons of motivation are coupled by optimism, and hope, while seasons without motivation may be anxious, negative, or filled with resent.

Or, perhaps most frightening, coupled by feelings of nothing at all.

What motivates you to take care of your body?

Is it feeling well?  Having energy?  Looking pretty?  Maintaining your weight?  Do you ever go through seasons where you don’t care about these things?  If so, what keeps you committed to the cause?

Last year I made a decision to take a brisk walk outside everyday.  It wasn’t an idea that took much meditation.  In fact, it was a very simple decision that has not seemed to have much impact on my schedule or general sense of well-being.

I take a brisk walk, outside, everyday.  That’s it.

Rain or shine, convenient or not, I just do it.

I enjoy being outside, and I like going for walks, but I guesstimate that I have not felt like going for about 75% of my walks.  It has been 10.5 months since I started walking everyday, which means I haven’t felt like taking 220 out of 294 total walks.   Some of the remaining 74 walks have been anticipated, but mostly, they have just been taken because of the commitment I made to just take a daily walk.

What has been interesting to note during this period is that motivation has seemed to have very little to do with my decision to walk, and commitment has had everything to do with it.

It’s the whole, “just do it”, idea, which sometimes feels empty and uninspired, but in the end, it actually facilitates just doing it.

Walking everyday has been a relatively easy experiment  to prove that the feelings of motivation are not required to succeed at a goal.  Had I waited to feel motivated to walk, I would have probably skipped 220 walks so far.  Maybe more.

But, of course, I want to feel motivated to do the things I do, and I want to experience the reward to succeeding at my goals.  Using the experience of walking everyday, no matter what, is opening my mind up, and enlightening me to committing to other decisions, even when I do not feel like it.

Because this seems to be the gap in between motivation and motivation.

What might you achieve by deciding to commit to the desires you keep thinking about?

Image from Pulptastic.

If You Think Being Fat is Bad

You would not say it out loud, but you might think that being fat makes you bad.  Worthy of mockery.  Deserving of shame.  The worst thing in the world.

It’s not.

Being fat is a situation you might find yourself in if you have been in the habit of overeating or bingeing.  It might be a physical revelation of inflammation or hormonal imbalance or lingering weight from past pregnancies.

But being fat, having excess body mass, weighing more than other people, does not make you bad.

If you have ever thought that you are a bad person for being overweight, it is because you believe that fat is wrong.

You might believe this because you think the way to to get fat is to overeat, and overeating is wrong, so fat is wrong.

You might believe this because you think fat is ugly, or requires laziness, or dirtiness, and all of those things are disgusting which makes fat disgusting which makes you disgusting.

While some people do become fatter for eating too much or never moving their bodies, they do not become worse people, and they do not deserve public shaming.

Being fat may complicate your life (as may being thin) for a variety of reasons, but remember that fat is only extra weight your body is holding onto.

It is not your soul, your spirit, your mind.  It isn’t your sense of humor, or your generosity, your intelligence, kindness, love, or wonder for the world.

It is a physical condition, and that is all.

You can lose weight.  You can gain weight.  And in the end, you choose what you believe about it.  You choose what you do about it.

I am not suggesting that it does not matter if you are fat.  Being fat may make you suspect to disease, early death, or a difficult life (physically, at the very least, emotionally, because other people, including yourself, may view your fatness as a problem needing to be shamed).

What I am suggesting is that it matters how you view fat.

If you are fat, how do you view yourself?

Lazy?  Glutton?  Unfortunate?  Ugly?  Victim?  Bad?

You have not become a worse person for weighing more than you did at another point in your life, or more than people around you.

You can believe that or not, but try to keep perspective in the matter.

Hatred is bad.  Injustice is bad.  Bitterness is bad.

But extra weight is just extra weight.  Decide if you want to do anything about it, accept the situation you are in, and move forward how you like.

Reserve disdain for those tragedies that deserves such negative feelings.

Your body isn’t one of them.

Image from Pinterest.

Self Acceptance Is Your Choice Today

A common misconception about accepting yourself is that if you do, you will become lazy and never achieve any of your goals.

This isn’t true.

I read about accepting myself, exactly as I was and where I was at in life, a few years ago.  The idea seemed simple, but it was very threatening.

It seemed simple because all self acceptance required was a decision to stop rejecting myself. It didn’t necessitate anything outside of myself such as a job promotion, approval from others, an improved marriage, or reputation, or a better house, or car, or bigger bank account, or fill in the blank.

It didn’t require working up to anything before it could be practiced, except the decision to practice it.

Because of this, it was also very threatening.

If self acceptance didn’t have anything to do with outside affirmation and influences, and only had to do with my decision to practice it, then it was entirely my own choice to be comfortable and happy with who I was.

And I wasn’t comfortable or happy with who I was.

So, I didn’t accept myself.

Sometimes it seems easier, or even appropriate, to decide to hold off accepting yourself until “x”, “y”, or “z” happens.

Examples as they relate to diet and fitness:

  • Losing the last 5 pounds (or 10, or 15, or 20).
  • Getting a flatter stomach (or more toned arms, or thinner thighs).
  • Fitting into your ideal size jeans.
  • Eating what you think is the perfect diet (and never blowing it).

All of these goals are fine to have (though not always worthwhile), but when they necessitate your own self acceptance, your comfort and happiness relies on their presence, and typically remains in the past or in the future.  You might remember a few years ago as a happier time because you were thinner, or you might wait to be happy next month, when you finally (you hope), lose weight.

But what about right now?

What about being comfortable and happy with who you are today?

The belief is that achieving your goals will make you happy.  That they will erase, or at least soothe, life’s difficulties, that things will make more sense, that you will finally be comfortable with who you are and where you’re at.

And that others will be comfortable and happy with who you are and where you’re at.

But this is only an illusion.

The reality is that you will continuously be growing and evolving with the seasons of life.  You will experience hardship, and loss, and pain, and devastation, but you will be relieved by grace, and mercy, and kindness, friendship, love, and laughter.  And hope.

Your body will change.  Your face will change.  Your hair will change.  For the better, and for the worse.

You will get promotions, and offers, and approvals, and rejections.

You’ll make friends, and then take different paths.

You will meet a lover and grow together, and you might lose them, and you might never.

And you can choose to accept yourself the entire time.

You can choose to be comfortable and happy about who you are and where you are at.  You can certainly try to improve yourself and situations, but the process can be enjoyed and expressed lovingly, like you would to someone you cared about, simply because it’s better than negativity, judgment, anxiety, and worry.

Because it’s better than letting anything outside of yourself determine your success.  Because it’s better to be happy right now, than to wait until tomorrow or reserve it for the past.

Because accepting yourself breaks down the walls that you’ve built all around you, so that you can finally be liberated to go out and do what you need to do in this life without the burden of hating yourself or feeling stuck.

The truth is, accepting yourself will not turn you into a lazy and unlikeable slob.  It will relieve you, allow you to get over what is keeping you from moving forward, and free you to enjoy the short time you have to breath and love and wonder.

If you’re in the habit of waiting for something or someone to liberate your self rejection, why not try choosing to do it yourself?

Why not choose to accept yourself, and see how it goes?

Why not see if you can enjoy who you are and where you’re at today?

And then try it tomorrow, and the next day, and then the next.

Keep goals, and keep learning, and keep exploring, because it keeps things interesting, and challenging, and rewarding, but keep it in mind that those things are only life’s varieties, and that you are exactly where you need to be right now to choose self acceptance.

Image from Paris Hotel Boutique.

Do You Accept Yourself?

I have been interested in eating healthy for most of my life, but it wasn’t to treat my body well or to feel good.  It was to lose weight.

I can remember being in elementary school, portioning out crackers to pack in my school lunch, wanting to know how many calories I was eating, hoping that I would become a slimmer version of myself by restricting my food.

Just one size smaller, just a few pounds thinner.  Then I would be comfortable and my life would be better.

Then I could focus on others things like hobbies and a career.

Then I would accept myself.

As I got older, I educated myself on nutrition, and was convicted to eat the purest and healthiest foods possible.  I counted calories for a few years, was a vegetarian for a few, got rid of all processed foods, and later adapted a diet of real foods.

I wish I could say that my goal was for health, but it wasn’t.  It was always to lose weight.

I finally did lose weight after college through very restricting dieting (too much which had very negative effects on my body and mind), and when I couldn’t afford to lose any more and I still wasn’t happy or accepting of myself, I became confused about why I tried to eat healthy at all.

It is not surprising that I cycled through periods of binge eating during my years of very restrictive dieting,  It was very difficult to maintain a weight that was too low for me, and very uncomfortable to starve my body of the nutrients it needed.

It often bewildered me that I would cycle through periods of very healthy eating, then periods of self-sabotaging eating that left me feeling sick and gross.  This opposing pattern proved to me that I wasn’t interested in health for actual health.  I was interested in it to get thin.  When getting thin was too hard, I wasn’t interested in it at all.

During this season, I had done quite a bit of reading on accepting myself, and eating to treat my body well, and quitting the diet/binge habit.  It sounded really nice–accepting myself, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t believe I was acceptable unless I was losing weight.

It was only a few years ago that I really gave some serious thought to accepting myself no matter what I weighed or looked like, and eating healthy to be kind to my body.

What if I only ate healthy because I cared about how nutritious foods made me feel?  What if I chose to be happy and comfortable with myself no matter what I looked like or what I weighed?

I attempted to take this approach, but it did not come very easily.  I did not decide to accept myself, and then became a natural at it overnight.

It required daily determination to stop letting my weight determine my value.  When a thought entered my mind that tied my personal success with my weight, it had to be replaced with truth immediately.  When disappointment surfaced after looking in the mirror, I had to remind myself that the self-hatred I was cultivating had gotten me nowhere, it felt unfortunate, was distracting me from more important issues, and was not helping me in any way.

It dawned on me one day that I might look the way I look today for the rest of my life.  Sure, I will look older, get wrinkles, and age spots, and gray hair, but I might weigh what I do now until the day I die.

Would this be OK?

Would I choose to stress about something that may never change for the rest of my life?  Would I let this obsession determine my happiness, comfortability, and confidence until I die?  Would I fret about this more than important issues that are happening all around me?  More than caring about other people?  More than connecting with family and friends?  More than making a positive contribution in the world?

We all have one life.  We get to choose what we value and how we spend our time, and what we believe.  We get to think what we want to think.  We get to feel what we want to feel.

I chose self acceptance because the path of self-hatred was exhausting.  It robbed me of happiness.  It kept me from being present.  It made my life small, and it didn’t even allow me to do what I wanted it to in the very beginning–eat healthy to lose weight.

Self acceptance is about so much more than being OK with what you weigh or what you look like, but for those who can’t even claim these things, it’s certainly a start in a positive direction.

What about you?

Do you consider yourself someone who accepts yourself?  Who accepts your body how it is right now?  If not, when will your body be good enough for you to accept it?  When will you choose to be happy, comfortable, and confident?  Do you really believe that a number on the scale or a size of clothing can provide you with the feeling you are looking for?

Image from Johanna Ost.

What Do You Read to Learn about Health?

Do you read books, or blogs, or magazines to learn about health?

There are thousands (make that millions) of books and articles that discuss health.  From nutrition, to fitness, to diets, to personal care, mental care, home care–you can find anything you are looking for if you just search.

It can be a little overwhelming sifting though all of the information available to us today, but it is also liberating to think that we can learn anything we want about anything so quickly and independently.

A few of my favorite sources of information on health are:

Each of the above websites have encouraged and challenged me to take a look at health from more than a food angle, only.  They discuss the wide range of the whole health spectrum, such as stress management, sleep, connecting with others, and mental growth.

A few of my favorite recipe blogs are:

Every recipe that these bloggers share look incredible.  I admire their patience to create such complete meals, their creative eye as they photograph all of the details, and their generosity to share their work with the whole world.

And a few of my favorite books are:

Each of these books has inspired and challenged me in life-changing ways.  I rarely read a book that tells me what to eat (despite being very interested in the paleo diet and lifestyle), but I do love a book that explores why and how we eat.  These books are all very different from each other and helpful in many ways.  If you read them yourself, apply what you like and don’t stress about the rest.

I have many other healthy references that I read and get inspiration from, these are only a few.

What are some of your favorite sources for all things health?



Image from Vintage et cancrelats.

Does Eating Differently Than Others Bother You?

If you have modified your diet (for improved health or religion or self-discipline) for any length of time, you might feel like the woman in this illustration–sad and lonely, and left out of the lunch time fun that the other ladies seem to be sharing.

The above illustration exaggerates this idea, but it does bring up the interesting subject of feeling like your life will not be any fun if you eat differently than (or in the woman’s case, less than) other people.

If you have ever felt anxiety, or sadness, or tension prior to or while you are changing what you eat, it is worth exploring what you believe about the foods you are excluding.

It’s possible that you believe specific foods bring you happiness, comfort, joy, or peace, and that by not eating them, you risk being miserable.  It’s possible that you believe they provide you friendship and community, and without them you will be lonely.

It might sound silly, but it is a common approach if you are in the habit of relying on food to provide you happiness and a sense of belonging.

I would like to explore this idea further.

What causes us to rely on food for happiness or social connection?  Why might we feel the odd one out if we choose to eat differently than other people?  Is eating like other people necessary to genuinely connect with others?  Does any of this even matter?

I suspect that most people do not actually believe that a food makes them happy or one of the gang.  That is rather silly to suggest, as food is simply calories the body uses for immediate energy and long-term survival.

So what about not eating a food would cause a sense of lack?

Typically, changing what you eat (excluding specific foods) for health reasons is positive (as is for religious or self-disciplinary reasons).  If for health reasons, removing foods that leave you feeling blah, sick, or depressed will help you feel better physically and mentally.

So, what if you still have a sense of dread about not having them?

It is a good idea to ask yourself what you believe about a specific food that you exclude and how removing it impacts your sense of happiness and social connection.  Once you know what you believe about this, you can then decide if it’s a worthwhile pursuit to keep at your dietary changes.

This brings up another issue, which is when you decide to eat less of a specific food.  If you believe that you need to eat alot of something to enjoy it or to have a good time, you will likely experience negative feelings when you come to the moment of being done with your portion of it.  You might feel sadness to stop eating before others or before you are used to.

I’ve had to ask myself about these issues when it comes to foods high in sugar.  While they are tasty and fun to eat, they generally leave me feeling rather blah and down in the dumps.  When I am with people I enjoy and dessert is being passed out or ordered, I nearly always want to partake to share the experience with who I am with, but I also do not want to risk feeling blah after such a lovely time, so I usually pass (but not always).  I’ve had to get honest about what I think dessert will add to my overall experience and then decide if I will have it or not.

I have also had to get honest about thinking I need alot of dessert to have a good time.  This belief is not based on truth so when I start to feel sad that dessert time is over (and I have), I remind myself that I feel better with less (or none at all) and that I enjoy life, myself and other people  far greater when I don’t have more than a few bites of very sugary treats.

What do you think?  Does eating differently than other people have any impact on your experiences with them?  Do you feel more or less included in a group based on what you eat together?

What about eating less of a certain food?  Does the idea bother you or encourage you to keep at your goals?

Share your experiences by leaving a comment!


Image from Tumblr.