Part 2: I used to be all green juice and anti-sugar… Now I’m all Intuitive Eating and holistic health… What gives?? Why I changed.

(Post 2 of 3, read the first one here)

2014-2015

What was happening?

We moved to the beach, life was ideal! We traveled, partied HARD, people visited all the time, and we rebuilt our lives. And yet, something was still off. After a year in California neither of us could deny that we both felt that deep longing for something… something more.

I enrolled in nutrition school after discovering my culinary credits didn’t transfer (grrr so frustrating, BUT it ended up being a huge blessing). My education was fantastic. I graduated as a “Certified Health Coach” from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition! That time introduced me to a lot of new AWESOME ideas AND reinforced some of my old (not so awesome) beliefs around food, body size, and health. I became a legit “green juice and gluten free” health coach. I really knew my stuff and was excited to help others get healthy and inspired!

Toby and I did the Whole30 (always the health nut I did it for an extra 15 days, 45 days total) and the one good thing that came from it was the decision to quit drinking all together.  We felt more aligned and better than ever! You probably saw A LOT of posts from me during this time. I genuinely was excited, and bursting with new-found knowledge. I am a passionate person in general and I used my platform to share food, cooking, and health tips with the world.

 

What was really happening?

I loved the freedom of not working full time and FINALLY spending more quiet time with my husband.

The decision to cut out alcohol seemed to come outta nowhere to our friends, but truthfully we had been talking about it for years. We were both SO bored with that “scene” and we knew it made us feel like crap. We also wanted to reel in our finances. We had gone down to one income and lived at the beach in California... so something had to give. I felt some internal pressure to start earning money (and having a meaningful purpose to my days) so I took on clients as soon as I could.

Here’s the thing I can admit when looking back…  

I was highly educated and not yet wise.

I didn’t really have much to offer people that they hadn’t heard before. The same old advice: eat more vegetables, avoid processed food, buy organic, diets don’t work, move your body, reduce stress, yada yada yada.   

The topic of weight loss came up again and again and again. I KNEW I didn’t want to sell weight loss or diet plans, I was clear enough in my own misery and KNEW that there wasn't a magic answer, but what if that’s what most people want??!

After my first few clients I felt a pit in my gut… What was I really doing? Was I doing this for the money? To help the world? To feed my ego? What do people actually need? What does 'health' mean anyway? Are weight loss and health even related? How does mental and emotional health affect the physical body??

I did some INTENSE soul searching and thankfully found a mentor to help guide me through this “crisis”. She introduced me to Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, and the non-diet approach to coaching. She also taught me how to TRULY understand the current research and science and gave me endless resources to continue my education. (Her name is Isabel Foxen Duke and she’s fabulous.)

Through our work together I finally had to face my own fears around food and my shame around my body. Until then I had never really identified as a “dieter” or as someone struggling with “disordered eating”. I knew I couldn’t TRULY help others until I did the intuitive eating and recovery work myself. It was HARD but SO WORTH IT.

 

Meanwhile about my weight:

After the medication/drugs had gotten out of my system, AND because I was finally eating normally, I was gaining weight (which is to be expected). And while I was working on being ok with it, I was also painfully aware of how this could be perceived as a “failure” in the world of health and coaching. After all, if I was so healthy wouldn’t I be able to maintain my lower weight?? Nope, doesn’t work like that. For years I was knee-deep in disordered eating habits and nobody, including myself, seemed to notice or think it was a problem. In fact, it was widely normalized and even applauded! Gaining weight was part of my recovery process and it is often part of my client’s process as well.

 

Next Post: 2016-Present

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Part 1: I used to be all green juice and anti-sugar… Now I’m all Intuitive Eating and holistic health… What gives?? Why I changed.

(Post 1 of 3)

I recently had an honest conversation with a dear friend who lovingly shared some constructive feedback with me. She’s witnessed my progression from a part-time health enthusiast to a full-time health professional and couldn’t help but notice some changes over the years. Some of these changes were to be expected, but some appeared to be a complete and total reversal. “What to believe?” she asked.

 

She had a great point. I had changed. And in some ways, I’d changed A LOT.  I did so much work educating myself and then tailoring my social media, website, and blog posts to my perspective clients, that I had done a crap job of sharing my personal experiences with the ones I loved most.  

 

To add to the confusion, I literally moved across the country during this dramatic period of growth and maturity. All this “changing” was happening from afar... like FAR afar! There is only so much people can keep up via with Facebook, emails, the rare phone conversations, and/or the few times a year we are physically face-to-face.

So, for those of you who may be curious, here is a snapshot of what happened, when, and why.

2012-2013

What was going on?

I started getting really sick. Chronically sick. My migraines were increasing, my digestion was awful, my periods were a nightmare, and my skin was suddenly breaking out in eczema. I was a mess.  I was desperate and wanted solutions.

After years of seeking answers from traditional doctors, and not getting any better, I started exploring alternative/complimentary medicines like acupuncture, herbs, massage, and naturopathic care. These health professionals were amazing, and part of the treatment they suggested was eliminating certain foods to help manage my symptoms. I did some ‘legit’ allergy testing and SO MANY THINGS come up “positive” that it all seemed to makes sense… I was overwhelmed, but hopeful. 

I'd always loved to cook (and eat!) and because my new diet was so limited, I was cooking and experimenting a ton. I sort of became obsessed with food… OK, not sort of, more like totally. SO much so that I eventually quit my job and went to culinary school full-time. It seemed like the “perfect fit”. I was preaching the good word of clean eating, got to be around food all day, and was prioritizing my health!

What was actually going on?

I was miserable. I felt so terrible most of the time, AND I was so busy that I couldn’t see straight. I was a total FOMO junkie.  It was mostly “fun things” so I didn’t recognize the core issue:

I was not living in alignment.

I was doing what I thought I “should” be doing. What was easy, exciting, and new.  I was drinking A LOT, mostly because of all of the social stuff we did, but looking back I think it was largely due to the fact I was so restricted around food, it became an easy way for me to “indulge” and relax from being so tightly wound.

I had been doing hair for 12 years and it was NEVER a good fit for me… the money and social were fabulous, but the stress ripped my body apart. Toby (my husband) was working nonstop and was constantly preoccupied and exhausted. I felt all the weight all of his unhappiness/stress on top of my own. Stress, stress, stress. That is what this time frame was for me: STRESS!

I managed my stress by trying to tightly control my food and health. It wasn’t really working but it felt like I was at least doing something. I couldn’t bear the thought of suffering in silence, so I believed anything that promised answers or solutions. Meanwhile, we actively sought out a company-sponsored move to California. We both knew we needed a fresh start and desperately wanted to rebuild our life from the ground up.

Meanwhile my weight…

I lost a significant amount of weight because of the medication I was on. This was not something I “worked for”, but sadly the world reacted as if it was: with admiration and praise. It was a total mind f%#!. I felt terrible and yet I was being praised left and right?? As I became more restricted around food I actually started to believe I was being “so good” and becoming so much healthier! I wasn’t. I was just restricting my food and using caffeine and medication to get through the day. My weight was a false representation of my “health”. As I weaned off the medicine I feared the inevitable, and became determined NOT to gain the weight back. Who wants to go back to their ‘natural weight’ when they have had a taste of “thin privilege”?? Carbs and sugar were out, veggies and protein were in!

 

Next post: 2014-2016

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Gratitude: The Key to Better Health & Lasting Happiness

What if I told you that one of the easiest, least expensive, and quickest ways to improve your health and overall well-being was as simple as giving thanks?

Yep, turns out it’s not the latest dietary trend, superfood, or exercise routine… it is the simple act of expressing gratitude.

I love when science backs up ideas that have long been viewed as “woo-woo” (aka emotional/spiritual) because it proves that our minds, bodies, and souls are intertwined, and when we harness the power of holistic living we are unstoppable.

The benefits* of cultivating a gratitude practice include, but are not limited to:

Increased duration and quality of sleep

Reduction of depression symptoms and increased feelings of happiness

Improved relationships, which is one of the BIGGEST factors in mortality rates

Less chronic pain and more motivation to seek medical care when needed

A reduction in “compare and despair” and “keeping up with the ….” (Which you are probably doing even if you think you aren’t)

Better body image and self esteem

Less tempted by fad diets and restrictive eating plans

More motivation to move your body in a way that feels good

Less stress and irritability

A powerful tool to help recover from trauma and abuse

 

Pretty great list, right? I know I could certainly use more of those things.

So let’s dig into some tangible and real-world ways you can start your gratitude practice TODAY!

But first, understand that this is MORE than an “attitude of gratitude”. While your attitude is important, it is FAR more important to actually DO things that express that gratitude.  (See Brene Brown explain on this here)

A few examples:

  • Keeping a gratitude journal. Either by the bedside or by your toilet… it doesn’t matter WHEN, it only matters that you regularly write something down.

And yes, writing by hand is key. Not typing or texting. Hand-writing is more closely 'linked' to our brain and body. (Too much science-y stuff to explain here, so just trust me)

  • Start a mealtime routine. Saying a quiet prayer or mantra, to yourself or aloud, before meal times is immensely rewarding and can actually help you digest and absorb your food more fully (see note above)

 

  • Writing or saying words of thanks to those around you. Saying ‘thank you’ more liberally, and to people who least expect it, is SUCH a simple way to bring more joy into your life and the lives of people around you.

My husband and I started a tradition of awarding small prizes and thank you notes to our neighbors who go all out to decorate their houses for holidays. We enjoy their efforts so why not thank them?

  • Send a friend, family member, or coworker an email or note (you can get away with texts or emails here if it means actually doing it, something is always better than nothing!) I recently sent my favorite yoga studio, grocery store, and mail carrier a hand written note of thanks and I am sure it was appreciated.

Beyond those easy and quick ideas, here are a few more personal and profound ways to practice gratitude:

  • Having a daily (or almost daily) meditation practice has been proven time and time again to improve mood, decrease stress, and help with treating pain and illness. Some of my favorite tools are the 10% Happier and Headspace apps. AND there are many free resources for guided meditations online. Don’t worry about doing it for long, even 2-3 minutes a day is powerful!

 

  • Focus on body gratitude. You can use a guided body scan to help give thanks for all the incredible parts of your body and for how they function OR you can do your own version, anytime anyplace. When I am walking the dog or cooking dinner or watching a movie I will silently give thanks for my strong legs, my 2 hands, or my healthy eyes.

Extra credit reading: I wrote a piece about this very idea, “Writing a Letter to Your Body”

  • Donate your time and/or money (but time is really the gold standard!) to a cause that matters to you. Giving back helps to be more grateful for what we have. When we help others our health improves. When we prioritize service, community, and “quality-time” the other things in our life just seem to fall into place. Call it karma, call it blessings, call it good luck… but trust me, it works!

(*More details on the health benefits can be found here, more information on the body image benefits can be found here)

There IS such a thing as too many choices... and it's making you want to diet.

If you aren't familiar with the term "The Paradox of Choice" please allow me to provide a grossly over-simplified definition:

When you have more choices, say with menu items or mutual funds, you will not only be less likely to make a decision at all, but when and if you do, you will be significantly less satisfied with your choice afterwards.

(Barry Schwartz wrote a book of the same name and then gave a very popular Ted Talk)

This ideology is often discussed in marketing meetings and Wall Street circles, but how does it pertain to the health and wellness industry? Or to the idea of food and diet?

Quite honestly, I see the 'paradox of choice' VERY clearly displayed day after day, in my own life, and in the lives of my clients.

Think about it.

 

When you could literally choose to eat anything, at any time, in almost any place, the weight of that choice becomes almost unbearable (whether you realize it consciously or not). 

I assume that those who are reading this right now do indeed have access to nearly anything they could desire to eat:

  • Bananas in January in Minnesota? Yep.
  • Pad Thai on a Thursday night in Salt Lake City? Yep.
  • Grass-fed beef burgers on gluten free buns? Yep.
  • Protein shakes with no chemicals and no sugar and no net carbs??! YEP!

The point is: we actively choose our food, meal after meal, day after day, week after week and therefore what we choose to eat becomes one of the most repetitive (and possibly boring) experiences in our lives. 

Other choices can seem so exciting and special by comparison:

  • Deciding who to marry is HUGE, but you may only do that once (or twice!). 
  • Where to go to college, once (or maybe twice, or maybe not at all).
  • Where to live or what job to take, a handful of times at best.
  • Even smaller things like what to wear, once a day, MAYBE twice for a special occasion. 
  • What movie to see or what haircut to get, happens every month or two.
  • What to eat??? 3-4 times a day... every day... FOREVER.

No wonder we want to make things special, make every choice count in some significant way, spice things up and try the new food fad.

No wonder so many seek the help and guidance of a diet book or a health guru or a fancy & fun meal planning program.

How are we supposed to figure this all out? What if we make the wrong choice? What if what we choose is actually killing us?! What if we could be doing better??!

 

And that last bit is the straw that breaks the camel's back.

 

Because when we fear that we could be "doing better" and we feel the entirety of that responsibility to our health, our bodies, and our environmental footprint... what we choose to put on our plate becomes SUPER intense. 

 

I'LL SAY IT AGAIN: No wonder so many seek the help and guidance of a diet book or health guru or meal planning program.

 

The 'paradox of choice' has left us all feeling a bit out of control around our food and health. We don't know who to trust or what to believe. One day it's gluten-free the next day it's vegan. One day we should fast for 12 hours a day the next day we should eat 6 small meals. 

IT IS ALL TOO MUCH! Our brains cannot handle the choice, and the weight of the precieved or real consequences.

So we freeze, we shut down, we outsource our intuition to the lowest bidder. 

 

If someone was willing to tell you what was 'best' to eat... then plan, shop for, prepare all of your food choices would we do it? 

As we have seen in recent history, with the rise of ready-to-eat shakes and bars and delivery meal prep boxes... yes, yes we would. 

There is nothing wrong with helping ourselves out, by making a hard thing easier. Shortcuts and take-out and canned soup for dinner are all very real and very valid ways of getting through the day.

What I am saying is this: let's take some time to reflect upon the craziness around us. What we are being sold. The idea that there is an Answer (with a capital A) to our food/health stress.

We are seeking the "Answer" because we are overwhelmed with the question.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I explain some of the things that helped me get a clearer head regarding my food choices. AND why I don't take it nearly as seriously as I once did, which resulted in me being happier, healthier, and less stressed out than ever before.