Inner Strength Focus: Using Curiosity to Heal Emotional Eating


If you are striving towards greater happiness, inner peace and contentment, developing the inner strength of curiosity will help you approach challenges in life with more ease and awareness. Increasing your knowledge and growing wiser all throughout your lifespan allows you to feel as though you have options and opportunities to shift your perspective to any circumstances.

Here at Wholistic Food Therapy, the primary focus is on supporting and uplifting those who struggle with emotional eating, so the examples given to grow this particular inner strength are directed towards this personal challenge. However, if emotional eating, managing food cravings and body image are not your focus, you can apply the same intention to your own areas of struggle—all challenges we face are usually metaphors for how we approach attempting to manage, control and make sense our internal experiences and our lives.

Applying curiosity to emotional eating is allowing yourself to grow in your knowledge base—and more importantly—becoming wiser surrounding your body, food choices, and judgements. When you struggle with emotional eating, you may feel out of control or powerless to food and therefore need a diet, a plan or something external to create a sense of control and willpower. This is a lie sold to you by the dieting (and now wellness) industry! Being curious about your own body, its specific needs for nutrition, movement and relaxation is all about being mindful and intuitive in how you approach not just what you eat but how you eat it. It is not about what the next best fad exercise program you should try, but about what makes you feel energized, healthy and vital. It is not about finding that perfect diet that is sold to you in a way that makes you believe it will somehow create happiness through weight loss, but really about being curious as to what foods, portions and combinations make you feel your absolute best—physically, emotionally and energetically.

When you are curious about how what you eat makes you feel, you can apply mindful and intuitive eating techniques and grow in your knowledge, awareness and therefore develop body-wisdom. When you are truly guided by your inner wisdom, you no longer question your choices, or live in regret, punishment, deprivation and judgment—nor do you resist what is best for you (aka self-sabotage).

Emotional eating is what happens when food cravings arise from a subconscious attempt to repress emotions. Being curious about what the feeling is about and growing in your knowledge of emotional intelligence can allow you to be truly wise. When you understand why an emotion has arisen, you no longer attempt to avoid it through suppression with food. When you understand why it is there you can make a choice about how to respond to it, rather than eat in an attempt to avoid, soothe or delay the emotional experience. Emotions are valuable information about our experiences, when avoided we avoid our lives.

For this week, if emotional eating is an area that you are working to grow and improve, I recommend following a mindful & intuitive eating practice for at least one meal or snack per day. Allow this to be a moment of being fully present with your food and your body. Make a conscious choice as to a specific meal or snack that you’d like to eat. Approach the opportunity to be curious about your experience with being truly present with your food (and yourself) in the following way:

·      Ask yourself what you want to eat.

·      Ask yourself what you truly are hungry for (emotional suppression or nourishment/something tasty).

·      Ask yourself why you want that particular food.

·      Ask yourself what the food has to offer you.

·      Ask yourself how hungry you are in this moment and allow that to guide your portion.

·      When you are prepared to eat, first notice the aromas and site of the food and notice your reaction internally to this meal or snack. Does it bring you pleasure? Are there feelings coming up for you about the food (not good enough, anxiety about calories, worried about how healthy or unhealthy it is)? If so, try to release these feelings and become mindfully aware in the present moment and let go of any judgmental thoughts.

·      Allow your environment to be as calming as possible without distractions such as TV and cell phones.

·      Tell yourself that you deserve to eat what is nourishing and brings you pleasure.

·      Notice your breath and relax your body.

·      Be grateful for your food.

·      Begin to eat.

·      Chew slowly and thoroughly.

·      Notice the taste.

·      Place the utensils down between bites or food down if eating with your hands.

·      Check in with your full cues.

·      Stop when you are satisfied.

·      Thank yourself for taking this time to be mindful and present with your food.

·      Notice how you are feeling.

·      Take time to journal if it feels as though it would be useful to continue to grow in your knowledge of what is right for you when it comes to food choices, portions, nutrients and mindful eating.

How’d you do? Developing curiosity about your own body’s needs and not what some random dietary theory says is the most valuable way to be truly body-wise and to grow in awareness of your own personal needs for nutrition, movement and relaxation. When you are learning from your own inner wisdom rather from an external source you will have a deeper respect for your body and make choices that serve you—you will choose you rather than choosing a temporary moment of pleasure or restriction.

Grow These Six Inner Strengths to Create Happiness


Seeking comfort is human nature. We can become stuck in the comfort and then struggle to step outside of our comfort zones and embrace change. However, it is also human nature to strive to become better, to grow, and feel as though we are evolving in a positive way throughout our life span. The tricky part is how to step out of our comfort zones where desire remains just that, a desire rather than actually taking any action towards change.

Positive psychology is an area of psychology that focuses on developing individual strengths in order to live a life of deeper meaning, contentment, happiness, inner peace and ease. The power of acceptance is at its core. It offers a series of practices to create opportunities to develop and utilize these inner resources. These practices and the focus on developing inner strengths eases into the process of change. These foundational inner strengths then create an opportunity to embrace change in a way that is both very healthy and often focuses on, well—just like the name suggests—the positive.

Positive psychology definitely does not consider life to be just become a breeze if you possess or develop these strengths and mental perspectives. It also does not claim that the goal or purpose of implementing these practices to grow your inner strengths is to become happy-happy-happy all of the time—we all know that that is simply not realistic.

Within the arena of positive psychology the focus is how to approach circumstance that may be challenging. How to create a mindful perspective and view challenges as opportunities to use and continue to grow your inner strengths in order to build resilience and create the changes that you desire. This mindful and positive approach offers constant perspective shifting—creating the possibility to grow all throughout your life.

There are six personal strengths that studies have shown are consistent with living a life of happiness, contentment and ease.

These strengths are:

1.    Curiosity: Allowing continued growth of knowledge and wisdom

2.    Vitality: Allowing continued growth of courage as well as mind & body wellbeing

3.    Giving and Receiving Love: Allowing continued growth of love, trust, openness and affirmation for yourself and others

4.    Temperance: Allowing continued growth of acceptance, forgiveness & compassion

5.    Gratitude: Allowing for continued growth to release the state of wanting and desire and creating a grateful perspective that what you have is enough. This creates transcendence and deeply releases anxiety.

6.    Hope & Faith: An inner belief that all will be well without having to control your circumstances. This is the experience of surrender, which is deeply personal and spiritual.

While these six areas of strengths are demonstrated by those who seem to be authentically happy, know that there are many other strengths and values that are certainly important that we all can possess and attain. However, these six strengths are a pretty good place to begin to grow and build upon in order to open yourself to greater mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. If you feel that you possess at least one of these strengths, you are off to a good start! You can access your strengths to help grow in other areas that may need some support along your path to creating greater contentment, happiness and ease in life. If you feel you do not possess any of these strengths, don’t fret! There are many ways to build and grow these strengths. In fact, that’s why I’m writing about this in the first place. So many people feel stuck and blocked in their pursuit of change.

Growth, change and personal development is a process and requires effort. So, think about this, how content do you feel with your life at this moment on a 0-10 scale? Now consider one of the strengths listed above that you feel you could benefit from expanding within yourself and improve your happiness.

Over the next six posts I will be talking about ways to increase each of these within your life on a daily basis. I will share practices that are rooted in positive psychology that support the development of these strengths. I will be offering ways to incorporate them into mindful and intuitive eating practices as my primary focus within wholistic food therapy is supporting those who struggle with emotional eating, stress eating and a not-so-healthy body image. If that is not what resonates with you, you can take the same concepts and apply them to any area that you’d like to grow, improve and feel stronger internally.

Throughout this fall you will begin to use these practices and allow your strengths to be reflected back to you both by how you feel internally as well as through how others may experience and respond to you. When you pursue change, growth and personal development, life opens up in such a positive and encouraging way. Really, it is all about your perspective and how much fear rules your current state of mind, actions and choices. When you focus on where you lack, where you feel let down or don’t allow in hope, that will only expand and be reinforced. On the other side, when you focus on growth, expansion and becoming, that will be reinforced.

I know that I always benefit from focusing on growing within one strength at a time as many of these were not my go-to’s for a long time. I will be doing the practices and working to grow throughout this fall and I am looking forward to the challenge. I hope you will join me as we begin to hone these internal strengths together!

The Health Benefits of Taking on New Challenges


Taking on new challenges and remaining open to life-long learning is yet another way to remain healthy and vital throughout your lifespan. While taking on new challenges when you are out of school, such as starting a new job, training, or moving into a promotion may feel exciting, what about taking on a new challenge after your career is well established and you are settled into the routine of your life?

Last week we looked at the health benefits of being curious and open-minded throughout your life, which is also about life-long personal growth and learning. Taking on new challenges may have a similar feel, however, one of the main elements of taking on a new challenge is that it requires that you confront some of your personal fears. Let’s say you take on the challenge of learning a new instrument, a fear might be, “what if I am no good at it” or “what if it’s too hard” and so on. These fear-based thoughts will prevent you from taking action and enriching your life. Taking on a new challenge and continued learning could be so many different things. It could be moving to a new home or city, learning to rock climb, learning a new language, instrument or skill.

Whatever challenge you choose, the most important aspect of allowing yourself to grow is both that you do it at all and how you approach it. Learning to combat the fear-based negative thoughts will be the first challenge you will have to address. So, let’s look at how to approach those thoughts as a part of this vitality and wellbeing creating process.

Negative, fear-based thoughts are a pattern of conditioning that often begin quite young. You may have battled many thoughts that hold you back in life, or you may be a victim to them right this very moment. Either way, the first step is always awareness. When you notice that these thoughts in fact exist and are having an impact on your life, this will help you make a choice on how to respond to them. The second step is recognizing that these thoughts are just thoughts. These thoughts are not you and they do not define you. Know that you do not have to believe everything you think.

Once you have these first two steps underway, the third step is knowing what to do with the thought. In this step you can ask yourself, “is this a true thought?” Let’s use the example of a fear thought based on your desire to learn a new instrument: “what if it’s too hard?” Now, is this a true thought? Well no it’s not because you haven’t even tried yet. Then, ask yourself, “is this a useful thought?” With this same example of learning a new instrument, no it’s not useful. This thought is not helping you move in the direction of taking on a new challenge that can open you up to living a life of vitality and wellbeing. Do you see how this one, maybe even seemingly reasonable, thought is limiting your ability to take action on learning a new instrument (or any other challenge?) I can guarantee you that these thoughts are not true and most certainly are not useful.

Once you’ve been able to determine this, you can take action on creating a reality based thought, something like this, “although I have some fears about not being good at a new instrument, I am going to choose to try, practice and enjoy the process of learning.” This is called reframing. Reframing allows you to live in a space of reality and empowerment rather than in a space of undetermined fear and placing limits on your life because of these fears.

So, what would you like to learn? What’s a new challenge you’d like to take on no matter what stage of life you may be? Today is just the right day to take action. When you challenge yourself, you build up your self-esteem and your self-worth. When you learn and grow, you continue to build a life for yourself that you are excited to live. Allow yourself this opportunity to expand. This keeps your brain active and reduces stress, a perfect combination for longevity and vitality! Take on a new challenge and expand your knowledge and your personal power beginning today.

Not sure what challenge and new learning to take on? Here are some ideas on where to spark your interest:

-       Do challenging word and number puzzles

-       Take or audit a class that interests you at a local community college

-       Write down five areas that interest you that are outside of your area of career/work

-       Research books and/or classes about those topics

-       Read one book on this topic, and then another and another

-       Sign up for a class on this topic

-       Learn a new language

-       Learn to play an instrument

-       Learn to knit

-       Take an art class

-       Take a workshop

-       Join a book club

-       Go to a museum

-       Join a community sports league

- Take a new class at a gym/yoga studio/recreation center

When you begin the process, be sure to check in with and challenge any limiting thoughts and beliefs that hold you back. Notice the impact on your life when you allow yourself this freedom to live a life of progression and growth for years to come.