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Posts Tagged ‘fat’

Our inner dialogue or self-talk can sabotage our goals and health.  Whether negative or positive, it will influence our mood and emotions.  Statements such as “I should be” or “I could have” mire us in the past or future, rather than the here and now.  This particularly holds true when it comes to eating.  The best place to be with regard to food, is to take pleasure in whatever it is we are eating in the present moment.

When we make conscious food choices and eat mindfully we are less likely to overeat or beat ourselves up for whatever it was we consumed.

It’s important to pay attention to the words we use to describe our food choices.  Do any of the following sound familiar?

“I was so good today.  All I ate was salad.”

“I was so bad today—I ate ice cream and cake at the party.”

“I cheated on my diet with a whole bag of chips.”

 “I’m a total failure—I can’t stop eating carbs.”

The words we choose to describe what we eat have a powerful impact on our psyche.  Linking food choices with our self-worth is damaging and destructive.  Berating ourselves for our choices—any choice—is perhaps the most damaging and destructive behavior of all. We aren’t a mess, a disaster, a train wreck. We are simply a person, struggling with a difficult issue.

We are worth more than the food we put on our plate. Our value has nothing to do with ice cream or broccoli.  Thinking of ourselves as a good or a bad person based on our food choice can be a repetitive cycle we are doomed to repeat. Imagine, for a moment, that your food is just food, and that your choices are just choices—good, bad, those words describe your decisions, not you. Imagine how freeing that would be?

We don’t tell our children that they are bad or good based on their choices.  We tell them that they made a not-so-good choice, and then we talk to them about the consequences of that choice and how to make a different one in the future.  We can do the same for ourselves.

To change our relationship with food, we need to develop a new language around our food and to eat mindfully.  Which simple means that we consciously choose what we want to eat and we enjoy our choice.  Making simple statements devoid of judgement is the first step.

“All I ate was salad today.”

“I ate ice cream and cake at the party.”

“I ate a whole bag of chips.”

 “I ate carbs.”

Boiled down to a simple statement we can, if we want, figure out why we made that choice.  Once we know, we can begin the process of making a different choice based on our own values and goals.  Allow ourselves to become aware of our feelings around that choice. For example, feelings like worry, fear, stress, frustration, resentment and anxiety, can profoundly impact our food choice or result in us eating unconsciously.  Mindfulness opens the mind to see opportunity and choice.  When we eat more mindfully, we are bringing our full attention to food and eating. Some ways to do that are:

Give your full attention to the food that is in front of you by taking three deep breaths.

For the first breath, inhale the smells. Exhale any tension or stress.

For the second breath, inhale, knowing that the feeling of hunger will pass. Exhale your  worries.

For the third breath, inhale the present moment. Exhale thoughts of tasks, projects and  deadlines.

Tell yourself, “I can choose to relax and enjoy eating.”

Pause. Let your eyes feast on the food before you and celebrate what you will be eating.

Now, taste the bite directly. Notice everything and anything you can about the food in your mouth. Pause and let yourself fully take in the experience.

We want our food choices to provide variety, moderation and balanced nutrition.  We want our thoughts of food, hunger and weight to occupy only a small part of the day.  And we want to eat for health, pleasure and energy.  And afterward – simply feel satiated.

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My Calves Are Big

Recently a dear friend suggested that I delete the word “big” to describe my calves from an essay I’d written.    She said that I didn’t need to self-deprecate.  I deleted it, but that got me to thinking, “Wait a minute.  I was not intending to be self-deprecating.  I just wanted to describe my calves.”   They are bigger than some and smaller than others.  I will not need to ask Lloyd’s of London to insure them.  In addition to their size, they are scarred, laced with varicose veins and speckled with brown spots.

I was not using the word big in a good or bad sense.  I was simply using it to describe my calves, as compared to others’.  My granddaughter even commented that I have hefty calves and asked if I’d been working out.  She said that with a sense of amazement, not derogatively.

When I was a younger woman, I was embarrassed by my legs.  My calves were clearly larger than most of my friends.  After childbirth, the varicose veins surfaced.  I seldom went out in public in shorts, regardless of how hot it was.  If I wore a skirt or dress, I always wore stockings to camouflage my legs.  I’ve worked at getting to a place of loving, kindness and acceptance for my body.    Particularly at my age, I celebrate how my body serves me.  Those calves allow me to hike and swim.  They allow me to shop for hours with my daughters.  The support me when I pick up my great-grandchild.

Words like fat or big are only shaming when you believe that fat or big is shameful.   My boobs are large, my ass is flat, my skin is flabby and my calves are big.  Why not love all of me?  I do

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Walking down the hallway to the pool at the YMCA, I realize I locked the key for my lock in the locker. This isn’t the first time I’ve created a lock problem for myself. Another time, I forgot the lock combination, which is why I now use a lock that opens with a key.

I’ve locked myself out of my car a few times (once, it was still running), out of my apartment (the landlord had to break in), and numerous accounts that need a password.

And while all of those situations caused me stress, what’s been most debilitating is locking myself out of fully enjoying food. It’s a self-imposed lock created as a result of our culture, the type of food I eat and not eating mindfully. I have and still do sometimes – overeat.

Growing up we didn’t have a lot of sweets. My parents didn’t allow us to eat much candy or drink soda. My mother cooked all our meals from scratch. It wasn’t until adulthood when processed foods, with that wonderful combination of sugar, fat and salt were mainstreamed, that I started to gain weight. I still remember the excitement of TV dinners! What I didn’t know, was that the processed food I ate and served to my family, was training my body and mind to want to eat more. I started mindlessly overeating.

By overeating, I mean eating all the time whether or not I am hungry and eating large quantities of food no matter how bad it might be for me. I’ve joked about how ice cream seems to call to me from the freezer. If I resist the temptation to eat it, I would think about it and think about it, until I finally give in and “to be good,” take a large spoonful of it and eat it standing in the kitchen. And then another and another. And tell myself, at least I didn’t eat a whole bowl!! This wasn’t because I am weak or lack will-power.

It’s because that ice cream triggers the reward system of my brain, stimulating it to want more and more. Eating foods that are a combination of sugar and fat, make food so powerful that it is hard to resist. Our brains become hardwired and tell us to eat as much of this stuff as we can get. Does that mean I am doomed to a life of overeating and feeling like food is the enemy? No, no, no.

Stayed tuned for part two. I will tell you how I began and am still working on reprogramming my brain so that food is now something I can enjoy without guilt or remorse. And the ice cream no longer beckons.

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