How to END Feeling DEPRIVED and START Feeling EMPOWERED by Your Food Choices

 
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Have you recently set out on a wellness journey where you want to begin eating healthier to feel good, build energy and feel more comfortable in your body? The momentum often begins with feeling strong and empowered and you have determined your WHY! Then, you are inevitably thrown into a situation where you are around others eating the very foods you have chosen not to eat because they do not support your wellness journey to feel healthy. Even though you know those foods may leave you feeling miserable (you know, feeling bloated, have an upset stomach, they zap your energy, give you skin breakouts and experience brain fog or another obvious sign that these particular foods are JUST NO GOOD FOR YOU) and yet you now feel DEPRIVED.

When you have turned the corner from making a choice that certain foods just DO NOT serve you, and you clearly know this (uh, remember the above miserable symptoms?), it does not mean that it is easy to choose not to eat them and that you won’t feel deprived.

It takes time and effort to change our minds about those types of foods and to create the shift from feeling deprived. Just because you have made the decision to no longer eat those particular foods, that does not mean that you are not human. That does not mean that there will not be cravings. That does not mean that you won’t secretly be jealous or resentful of everyone else who seems to be eating these foods with no problem at all (at least, so it seems).

Learning to listen to your body is a journey and it is definitely not a straight-line kind of a journey. Nope, integrating mindful and intuitive eating principles into your life often comes with many twists and turns. I know this personally from my struggles with leaky gut and SIBO that there are some foods that my body really does not like. At. All. One for sure is cows milk—which sadly includes cheese. You know, like the super delicious cheddar cheese, muenster cheese, swiss cheese... I pretty much used to be pretty much a chees-a-tarian. Ahh, I do love cheese, it just does NOT love me back. Do you think I didn’t test this many, many times? Of course I did! But with time and practice I had to come to realize that feeling horrible is just not worth it! It took a long time to not feel deprived when I didn’t eat cheese and I wanted it. And there are still cravings, (which are usually more emotionally based) and I have had to practice awareness and managing those desires for comforting foods when I am stressed, tired and anxious, in other ways. 

So how do you release the feelings of being deprived when you choose NOT to eat something you want despite how it makes you feel? Just like any other feelings, you have to learn to be present with them, to accept them and to ensure yourself that you are NOT ACTUALLY deprived. You are making a choice based on your wellness goals, based on what your body needs to feel vital and healthy!

When you connect with your specific WHY driving your decision to eliminate a certain food from your meals it will help to shift how you feel about your choice. Reminding yourself of your personal WHY and ensuring you are NOT restricting foods, not basing this on actual deprivation (like a diet) in any other areas, will help you refocus. My personal mantra is, “eating that gooey cheese is not worth an upset stomach.” I worked way too hard to heal my gut, I do NOT want to destroy it again.

Deprivation mindset is not healthy. When you deprive yourself and restrict certain foods out of fear of taking in calories, fearing weight gain, or to punish yourself because of your own negative body image it will inevitably lead to either malnutrition or a binge. Restriction and dieting do NOT work long-term and will set you up for bigger struggles with food. Research shows that the majority of diets fail and DO NOT last for the long term!!! That is significant and eye opening. IF you make a choice about the food you eat based on how you want to feel, you can simplify your decision-making process.

When you make your decision based on how you want to feel you create an internal experience of empowerment, confidence and self-respect. When you make choices based on building these feelings, you create a powerful shift internally. You regain a sense of control and mastery over your choices and respect your feelings and choices. Experiencing true health and well-being is a reminder that you are making progress towards your personal wellness goals. It is a process and a practice which will take time, effort, determination and focus.

One way to decrease your feelings of deprivation is to create healthy or adapted version of the foods you love. Another way is to explore any emotional food cravings and explore how to get your emotional needs met in non-food ways. An example would be if you find you crave comfort foods when you are anxious and tend to use food to calm yourself down, try a deep breathing practice, journaling, movement or talking to someone you trust about your feelings. Notice the impact of using this non-food-based tool and continue to practice it.

Having regular self-care practice and becoming more comfortable with feeling your feelings will help you choose a different way to eat, to be and interact with food and will help you begin to shift from feeling deprived to feeling empowered! Start each day with asking yourself how you want to feel (mentally, emotionally, physically and energetically) and notice how that begins to impact your choices.

The next time you notice a sense of feeling deprived in relation to a choice you make related to food, check-in and ask yourself: what’s really going on? Why are you choosing NOT to eat that particular food? Continue to be certain that you are not restricting because of a thought that it is a “bad” or “off limits” food due to calories or fear, but because it is a food that does not serve your health and wellness goals.

Are there any foods that you are working to shift your perspective from feeling deprived to feeling confident, empowered and strong? Remember that healthy eating, intuitive eating and mindful eating are form of self-respect. Let me know how this process works for you!

If you haven’t signed up for my 7-Day Kick Your Food Cravings to Curb Challenge, you can do so here!

3 Strategies to Eat Mindfully Throughout the Holiday Season

 
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The holidays offer a time for fun and fulfillment, yet they can be stressful, tiring and overwhelming at the same time. Maintaining mindful awareness throughout the season will help you remain connected to yourself, remain healthy and well while keeping any stress or emotional eating manageable and at bay.

During times of increased stress you become more likely to be in a rush and tired, which leads to making choices that are often rushed and favor convenience. This may cause an experience of not being fully present which can cause eating to feel like just one more thing on your to-do list. Rushing, not being present with your food and not choosing nourishment can cause the internal experience of stress to only become worse.

Mindful eating is paying attention to what you are eating while deriving pleasure and nourishment from your food. When you are eating mindfully, you enhance the experience of eating while acknowledging the opportunity to nourish your body and your mind. Mindful eating is paying attention to the sensory experience of your food.

Just the sight of the food you are about to eat begins the process of digestion. Mindful eating begins by taking in the visual elements and aromas of your food, before you even take one single bite! This mindful process enhances the experience of eating and pleasure of tasting your food.

The holiday season can trigger emotional and stress eating simply because of the stressed and rushed nature of the season. Additionally, this time of year more “comfort foods” tend to be always available and just about everywhere which can trigger the desire to eat irrespective of hunger. Cravings can be caused by just seeing or smelling food AND because of stress and emotional distress.

The three following strategies are intended to help maintain mindful eating throughout the holiday season in order to manage emotional and stress based cravings effectively. When you use these strategies you create an opportunity to be present with your food, to be engaged with eating in a mindful, calm and relaxed manner. This creates an opportunity to derive true pleasure and nourishment from your food, while at the same time reducing stress and emotional tension in general.

1.    Practice 1 minute of deep breathing before eating.

When you are breathing deeply and in a state of relaxation you are engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the rest and digest mode, which is the mode we want to live in—unless of course there is a true emergency. Often when we are rushed or stressed during the holidays, we eat more quickly to get to the next thing on the to-do list. Try slowing down, and breathing deeply for one minute before you eat in order to calm your nervous system. This will allow your body to assimilate the nutrients from you food more effectively while also creating a sense of inner calm as you release stress and tension with your breath.

2.    Before you eat, set an intention to eat mindfully.

When you set any intention, you set in motion a powerful force that helps you focus. When you set your intention to eat mindfully before you take your first bite, you will be far more likely to do so. Setting an intention helps you create a sense of ritual and care for the process of eating and the nourishment and pleasure you will derive from your food. Try setting an intention to eat mindfully before you eat and notice how this simple practice can shift your awareness and sense of focus from your to-do list to the present moment.

3.    Practice gratitude before you eat.

After a bit of deep breathing and setting your intention to eat mindfully, offer gratitude for the food you are about to eat. When you express gratitude for your food, you create a space for deriving pleasure from your food in a big way. This can be a powerful practice to reduce stress and emotional eating as gratitude helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. When practicing gratitude for your food before you take a bite, recognize the preparation and the life giving nutrients in your food—as well as the pleasure you will experience by eating it. Be grateful and notice the impact of gratitude on your physical body as well as your mood state.

Try these three mindful strategies to remain present, focused and engaged as you make choices about what you eat and how you eat it this holiday season. Taking time to slow down, breathe, set an intention to eat mindfully and practice gratitude will allow for health and fulfillment throughout the entire holiday season.

Creating Your Emotional Cravings Protocol

Creating Your OWN Personalized Emotional Cravings Protocol

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When you are working to heal emotional eating, having a personalized approach is most effective. The three step cravings protocol that I recommend, Pause, Reflect, Release, is helpful for most as a guideline. However, what you do within each phase will help you make it your own. When you have a personalized approach, it feels more authentic and doable and is far more likely to be sustainable.

When you find the tools that work for you, you want to practice them consistently. Awareness builds with effort and consistency. Self-awareness will continue to grow as you become more and more comfortable understanding and accepting your internal emotional world. I emphasize the acceptance process as it is absolutely vital to healing. When you understand the inner workings of your own mind, you create a tremendous capacity to heal, grow and accept yourself and others without judgment.

As you continue to more effectively manage your emotional food cravings, you create a sense of mastery which inevitably increases your experience of internal emotional comfort. When you no longer fear your feelings but instead understand, embrace and deeply accept them, you are essentially understanding, embracing and deeply accepting yourself.

The process of making peace with food is the process of making peace with yourself. With emotional, stress and disordered eating, it is never actually about the food, it is more about a limited acceptance of yourself and a limited ability to connect with yourself in a meaningful way. When you place conditions in order to accept yourself completely, you leave yourself open to creating negative cognitions about yourself such as feeling not good enough, inadequate or as though you have to be perfect.

These negative cognitions are not useful, generally untrue and hold you back from knowing yourself and caring for yourself. When you are not caring for yourself and believing the negative cognitions as if they are true, you will most likely lack motivation. As you become more emotionally aware you build confidence, you are able to believe in yourself and your capability to feel strong and healthy. Releasing the old negative cognitions and subsequent thought patterns is essential.

As you work with your own personal emotional cravings protocol, you will feel empowered in the moment, you get to choose how to manage a specific emotional craving. As you build your determination to use your protocol consistently, you will strengthen your mindset and make the best choice possible in the moment.

When you think about the three specific steps, Pause, Reflect, Release and creating a personalized protocol that works for you, it is helpful to know the specific element of each that you find to be useful.

Within the Pause phase, what helps you Pause? Do you prefer to set a timer for 1-5 minutes in the moment of awareness that you are mindlessly or emotionally eating? What is helpful next? Have a glass of water and wait for the timer to go off? Do a deep breathing exercise? Determining the specifics of your pause that work for you will help you personalize each step into a useful, actionable tool for managing your food cravings. Once you establish the technique that works best for you, use it consistently in order to effectively utilize the Pause phase.

During the Reflection phase, what works most effectively for you to Reflect on your emotional experience? What proactive element can you incorporate to make this Reflection time useful and effective? Is it helpful for you to talk about your emotion? Do you prefer to write in a journal? Does taking a walk and pondering your emotions help? Do you need to take some space away from the emotion first and practice mindfulness or relaxation and then take time to reflect?

Find what reflective process works for you and helps you identify the why behind your emotion. Once you Reflect you can take time to make a choice on how to respond to the specific emotion. If something needs to be done, decide when you will take action on it.

As you move into the Release phase, determine what helps you Release and let go of emotions that are no longer serving you. Does deep breathing help you? You can breathe in and imagine peace and contentment flowing in, and breathe out, imagining all that is not serving you mentally, emotionally and physically releasing. Does journaling support your releasing process? Does mindfulness and/or visualization help?

To visualize the Release, you can imagine your emotions on a cloud—drifting away in the sky—or your emotions releasing with the imagery of leaves floating past you on a river. Whatever helps you internalize the experience of letting go, that is what will be most effective for you to do during this phase of Release.

Take time to write down your process and know it may be different for different emotional experiences. Write down what you will do to create a personalized Pause, Reflect and Release. Have these steps nearby so you can access them in times that it may not initially come naturally for you. The rest is practice and time, time and practice. Practice is the only way to integrate the process and make it work for you within your life.  

Did you come up with a creative Pause Reflect and Release? Let me know! I’d love to hear how you are implementing these tools. How are they working for you? Need support? Know that I am here to help support you along your journey to making peace with food as well as with yourself.