The Snack Solution

 
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Do you spend time wondering or worrying about snacking? Snacking is something that is necessary if you are indeed hungry and can be tricky if you struggle with emotional eating, stress eating or strong food cravings. Your body wants to be in balance. When you have a craving, it is a message from your body. (I have written about food cravings a good bit so I won’t go into the specifics here, but you can check out one on identifying food cravings here, emotional food cravings here and creating a three-step protocol to manage them effectively here.) The information here today is all about honoring your body, your cravings and allowing your relationship with food to find a healthy balance. 

Snacking can get a bad rep and can feel confusing as to what to snack on when you are truly hungry. Snacks are a great place to identify what your body is craving and why it is craving it. If you are able to identify that it is not an emotionally driven craving, then you will want to indeed have a snack. Once you have identified that you are hungry and in need of something to satiate and satisfy you, you can think about what you really want. What would be enjoyable and create health and wellbeing in both your mind and your body?

One important nutritional point—when it comes to snacking—is that in order to feel satiated for a longer period of time your snack needs to contain protein and fiber. The second important point is that your snack actually tastes good to you so feel truly satisfied. How often have you forced yourself to eat something dry, boring or unsatisfying in the name of dieting? Food is supposed to provide pleasure. You just don’t want it to be your only form of pleasure in your life! Try not to overthink snacking, just ensure that you are practicing mindful eating and remain aware of the impact of your food choices on your mind and body. 

As you find what foods allow your body to feel nourished, satisfied and healthy and at the same time allow your mind to feel at ease, you will embrace snacking in a way that feels good to you.

If you’re still not sure about what to eat, let’s break it down a little by taste and texture. You may prefer or crave something sweet, salty, creamy or crunchy. You might be craving something cold or warm or spicy.

Sweet and Nourishing Snacks

-fruit with granola and/or yogurt
-yogurt (just be sure to read the labels—sometimes yogurts contain a ton of excess added sugar) topped with diced fruit, granola, chia seeds, nuts…-granola (read the labels!)
-homemade power balls (delicious recipe below!)
-dates and nuts (stuff a date with a walnut or pecan and yum!)
-nut butters with fruit (apple or pear slices with almond, peanut or cashew butter…)
-chia pudding with nuts, seeds and/or topped with fruit

Salty, Crunchy and Nourishing

-veggies (cucumber, peppers, carrots, celery, broccoli, squash, zucchini…) and hummus or a salad dressing you enjoy
-nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds…)
-rice crackers and cheese
-kale chips (recipe below!)
-olives
-hard-boiled egg with diced red peppers, tomatoes and avocado with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt

No matter what you choose, allow yourself to eat it mindfully, enjoying the flavors, textures, aromas and derive the pleasure from eating that you deserve. When you are eating, allow yourself to remain in a nonjudgmental state. Do not label your food as good or bad based on calories, perception or otherwise, it is just food. You can always ask your food what is has to offer you, and so long as the decision is not emotionally based, eat and enjoy it!

Here are a couple of super healthy and delicious snack recipes to try, enjoy and make your own.

Happy snacking!

Recipes: 

Homemade Power Balls

 
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These power balls are super tasty, filling and contain both protein and fiber as well as many other energy providing nutrients. They appeal to a craving for something sweet and chocolatey with the tasty dates and cacao powder. You can also roll them in chia seeds, dried coconut or crushed nuts for a little crunch too! Try them and see what you think. I have been experimenting with a few combinations and this one is a delicious, nutritious and satisfying one for sure!

Ingredients: 

2 cups walnuts
1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
¼ cup cashews
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 ½ cups medjool dates, pitted
¼ cup or so raw cacao powder

Optional: crushed nuts, chia seeds and shredded coconut to roll exterior for garnish and crunch

Directions:

1.    Using a high-powered blender or food processor, place walnuts, cashews and coconut together and blend for about 30 seconds or until well combined.
2.    Add in remaining ingredients EXCEPT the cacao and optional ingredients and blend until smooth, about 45 seconds.
3.    Be sure not to let the mixture get too warm--it can get a little drippy, if it does just let it cool for a bit before preparing.
4.    Scoop out a heaping teaspoon of the mixture and roll into balls.
5.    Once formed, roll into the cacao until covered. Roll into optional ingredients at this time as well.
6.    Line a container with parchment paper, adding rows on top with parchment paper between as needed.
7.    Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before eating. Can be stored in the freezer as well! Usually they last for up to 5 days in a sealed container in the fridge or longer if in the freezer.

Makes about 20-24 power balls. Enjoy 2-3 balls as a healthy, satisfying snack.

Lime and Sea Salt Kale Chips

 
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Kale chips are a great, healthy option when you are wanting something crunchy and salty. This recipe has a hint of lime, making them extra delicious!

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, stems removed and torn into bite size pieces
Drizzle of olive oil
Juice of ½ lime
Coarse sea salt, to taste
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 275F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Toss kale in just enough olive oil for a light coating.
3. Sprinkle lime, sea salt and sesame seeds onto the Kale, lightly massaging them into kale.
4. Lay kale in a single layer on the lined cookie sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes or unit crisp. (Check regularly in the last ten minutes, as kale chips can go from not-quite-done to overdone super quickly).
5. Eat immediately once cooled. Store any leftovers in an airtight container to keep them crisp for about 1-3 days.

If you give these recipes a try I’d love to hear what you think!

5 Ways A Mindful Approach Helps You Heal Emotional Eating

 
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When you integrate mindfulness into your process of making peace with food, you approach healing your relationship with food in a whole different way. If you have been struggling with emotional eating, stress eating or are frustrated by the weight loss and regain that happens with the dieting roller coaster, this approach may be just what you are needing.

What would making peace with food look like within your life? For many of us, a peaceful relationship with food would offer the experience of releasing all the mental and emotional anguish surrounding food. If your relationship with food is anything but peaceful, it may feel as though your mind is constantly pulled towards distress, fear and frustration surrounding what to eat, what not to eat, calories, guilt and on and on…

Mindfulness offers a different way to approach shifting your relationship with food so that, well—food can be just food. How much mental and emotional space would open up for you if you no longer had food on the brain what feels like 24/7? Most likely A LOT! Mindfulness offers five super useful ways to begin to integrate as you approach making peace with food.

1.    Mindfulness Allows You to Live in the Present Moment—The Only Moment

Mindfulness is paying attention from moment to moment with a non-judgmental awareness. When you are fully engaged with the present moment, the worries about future stress related to food, such as what to eat, how many calories are in this or that food, fantasies about restricted foods all but slip away.

When you are fully engaged in the present moment, the worries about past stress related to food, such as, “I shouldn’t have eaten that, I overate on that, I already messed up my day” and so on, slip away. When you are truly engaged in the present moment, that is ALL that can exist, the here and the NOW. What are you doing right now? Can you focus on and just do that? Try allowing your thoughts/fears/reactive responses related to food no longer control your mind, your emotions and your inner world. Engaging fully and completely with the present moment may seem simple, but it is definitely not easy. This is a practice and requires time, effort and dedication to build as a practice. When you do, you will find your ability to create a sense of inner peace grow, which will transform your life for the positive in so many ways.

2.    Mindfulness Creates Emotional Awareness

When you are emotionally eating you are eating out of an unconscious—or maybe conscious—desire to escape emotions. While most often this escape happens subconsciously, before your conscious mind is even aware of it, mindfulness helps you become more consciously aware of your emotions, thoughts, feelings and actions. When you are being mindful, you are able to witness, explore and understand your emotions in a whole new way on a whole new level.

When you give yourself space to witness your emotions, you reduce your fears surrounding feeling uncomfortable. Giving yourself an opportunity to explore and understand your emotions allows you to know why your emotion has shown up in the first place—whether it is a comfortable or uncomfortable emotion. Emotions are valuable information about your experience of the present moment and are necessary to assess how to respond to the variety of circumstances you experience on a daily basis. When you are mindfully present with your emotions you are more likely to become aware of the why behind your emotions and no longer feel the unconscious pull towards food on such a deep level.

3.    Mindfulness Offers Less Emotional Over-Reaction

When you are experiencing an emotion over and over and it builds and builds and you do not directly attend to the needs of the emotion, at some point it will blow. You may find yourself unnecessarily irritable with loved ones or unnecessarily hard on yourself. When you eat your feelings without acknowledging and understanding them, they don’t just go away! When you eat to numb your emotions, you create a domino effect of uncomfortable emotions. Eating emotions is stuffing them. They will come up and come out at some point, no matter what. However, the more mindfully aware you become of your emotions, the more able you are to respond to them in a healthy and effective manner. When you are less reactive out of your emotions, you have a choice on how to respond to your emotions. This creates empowerment and reduces the need to soothe with food.

4.    Mindfulness Removes Judgement

When you are non-judgmental, you are not assigning any emotional response to your emotion, your food choices or yourself. When you create an experience of non-judgment you create true freedom. Think about being able to look at food and not assigning it as good or bad based on whether or not it is a “health” food. Think about food just being food.

What would it be like for you to no longer internalize the feelings of eating something you label as “bad” and that causing an uncomfortable feeling of guilt, of feeling as though you are a bad person? This is a powerful shift in perspective and in your ability to experience food, eating and yourself without added tension resulting from judgmental thoughts. Non-judgment opens you to being able to reduce stress surrounding your food choices, which ironically leads to less overeating and often more preference for nutrient dense foods.

When you no longer assign food labels such as “good” or “bad” you can concentrate on just how the food makes you feel. You can focus on what this food has to offer you and whether or not that is in alignment with your own personal wellness goals. You can make a choice surrounding food without judging yourself or feeling as though there is something you have to do to make up for or justify your decision. You don’t have to feel morally superior or deprived if you choose a salad over pizza. Try viewing your food as simply food. Ask your food what it has to offer you. Try not to assign emotions to your choices and notice the powerful impact.

5.    Mindfulness Deepens the Mind-Body Connection

Lastly, the fifth way that mindfulness helps you to make peace with food, as well as with yourself, is that you create a deeper mind-body connection and awareness. When you are frustrated with your body, your weight, and your choices this can create an internal experience of disconnecting with your body. When you are not aware of your body you lose touch with your intuition.

When you have been stuffing emotions for along time, they can become unbearable to experience internally. This causes the disconnection between mind and body to grow and grow and you then struggle to assess your food-mood connection. You may no longer be able to accurately notice how different foods make you feel. Most importantly, when you disconnect from your body you disconnect from your hunger and full cues, you disconnect from the pleasure of eating as well and never feel truly satisfied.

When you are being mindful with the process of eating and when you are mindfully aware of your body, you can assess your feelings accurately on all levels. Ideally, we want to be hungry when we eat, we want to stop eating when we are full. We want to eat for nourishment and pleasure, not for self-soothing and avoidance or simply to become full. The mind-body connection is quite powerful and the more you practice mindfulness the more you will strengthen this powerful connection.

Has mindfulness made a big impact on your life for the better? I’d love to hear your story!

Heal Emotional Eating to Heal Your Body and Yourself

 
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Emotional eating is a struggle for so many of us. It can dampen and diminish life in so many ways. Emotional eating causes you to not experience the full range of your emotions. Emotional eating often creates feelings of frustration and defeat related to unwanted weight gain. Overall, emotional eating causes a sense of disconnection from both your mind and your body. For so many that struggle with emotional eating, healing your relationship with your body can be the biggest challenge to overcome.

Body image issues run deep. A disturbing number of girls put themselves on a diet as early as the third grade. Many teenagers say that they want to lose weight to look more like images they see in fashion magazines or on social media. Most men and women say they feel insecure when they see celebrity images and other ads. This is not cool. Not only does the struggle with body image, insecurity and not feeling good enough begin quite young, many say that these stereotypes and feelings are often perpetuated within their peer groups and families.

Emotional eating can be driven by a negative body image and feeling less than, not good enough, or inadequate. These feelings create further uncomfortable internal experiences which will inevitably trigger more emotional eating. The first place to begin is to develop emotional awareness, which if you are unfamiliar with how to do this you can read more on several of my past blogs, one of them you can find here. When you are actively working towards emotional awareness and feeling more present and connected to your emotions and your life, it will be helpful to address the emotions that surface related to how you feel about your body.

How often do you complain about your body out loud? How often do you complain to yourself about or wish your body was different? How often do you judge other people’s bodies, either to yourself or to others? This is where you can begin to create the change you desire related to body image. First of all, if you are judging other’s bodies, practice thinking kinder or more neutral thoughts rather the negative biased thoughts. If you are talking about other people’s bodies, practice pointing out what you might compliment versus judge. When you treat others with kindness and respect and end the judgement thoughts and statements you can begin to heal yourself.

Working to heal your relationship with your perception of your own body may be more of a challenge than changing your perception of others. It starts with healing your relationship with food and feeling as though you are not intentionally harming your body or sabotaging your body with negative thoughts, beliefs and actions.

Even though you desire to heal the root cause of your struggles with emotional eating and body image issues, weight loss may be a goal for you. This can bring up additional uncomfortable emotions such as fear. You may be fearful of the attention that weight loss attracts. You may fear the line of questioning around your weight loss such as, “how did you lose so much weight?” or “what diet did you use?” and so on. You may also fear only being noticed for weight loss. You may fear being judged or even being more attractive to others and what that might mean. You may fear being considered “good” if you lose weight and “bad” if you gain weight. This is super complicated stuff. So to think a diet, a workout plan or even a few compliments will heal these deep-rooted thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions, think again. It starts with healing yourself. Food and even weight have only become metaphors for the challenges, fears and insecurities you experience.

Many of those I work with initially say that they want to lose weight. But really, as we dig deeper, they want to feel more confident about their body. They want to make choices that create a sense of control and empowerment within their lives. This is where the real work begins. You see, there is no diet that will offer anything more than a temporary feeling of accomplishment. There is no workout plan that will help you address and explore your emotions. There is no compliment that will change your mind about yourself or your body if you don’t believe it in your heart. 

When you set out to begin healing your relationship with food, your body and yourself, here are some important elements to consider. I recommend getting out a journal and spend time reflecting and writing down your answers to the following questions.

-What do you like about yourself?

-How do you want to feel?

-How has your past impacted your body image and your choices? (You can read more about your food story here.)

-How have comments from others impacted how you feel about yourself?

-How have certain food choices from this past week caused you to feel about yourself now, why?

-When in your life did you feel your best about yourself and/or your body, why?

When you take time to deeply reflect on yourself, your body, your thoughts, beliefs, actions and choices you can begin to know yourself more deeply. The more deeply you know and understand yourself, the more you can practice self-acceptance. When you reflect on your answers to the questions above, what stands out to you?

Now begin to determine your strengths. Take time to acknowledge what you like about yourself. Become very clear about how you want to feel—both about yourself and in general. Begin to work with these elements first. How can you use your strengths to empower yourself to take ownership over your choices. How can you use the positive attributes you can recognize about yourself right now to heal your life? Now move into awareness of your emotions (if you’d like to learn more about this process you can read more here). Practice noticing, accepting and understanding them. Move into a space of applying this same practice with food. Ask yourself with each food choice you make if that choice supports feeling a sense of self-respect and self-love.

As you grow in your ability to make healthy, intuitive and mindful choices relating to food, the next phase of healing is to move your focus into your body. While this may feel awkward in the beginning, integrate a time to practice being grateful for individual elements of your body. Practice looking at a specific body part, such as your feet, and express gratitude to them for walking you where you need to go. Focus on your heart and thank it for never missing a beat. Gaze into your eyes in the mirror and express gratitude to them for allowing you see all of the beauty of nature and those you care about. These practices of appreciation for all that your body can do will allow an internal shift of how you experience and care for your body.

When you offer your body gratitude, you are offering yourself a place to feel more accepting, loving and kind towards yourself. Allot time daily to engage in the practice of healing your relationship with your body and with yourself. I recommend keeping a journal through this process as you will begin to experience a powerful shift as you practice over time.

Another step to heal your relationship with yourself is to compliment yourself. Acknowledge when you working hard, and tell yourself that you appreciate this hard work. Acknowledge when you practice elements that are challenging and thank yourself for remaining dedicated even when it is hard. Acknowledge when you make a specific choice that you feel proud of allow yourself to really feel this pride within. Practice stating to yourself what you do like about yourself, what you are good at, what physical attributes you appreciate about yourself. Validate your feelings to yourself and be grateful to yourself for choosing the difficult path of healing as opposed to remaining stuck in a space of struggle and fear.

You see, you are not your body, but you do live in your body. You have to determine what kind of home for yourself that your body will be. Will it be one that you fight with, detest, complain about and harm? Or will it be one that you respect, treat with kindness, love, and deeply care for? As you treat yourself with care and make choices that support how you want to feel, you create an opportunity to transfer that care to your physical body. Conversely, when you are kind to your body, you are creating a deeper kindness for who you are at the core of your being.

As you heal, your relationship with food will transform. Over time, you will not judge, restrict, binge or complain about food. Over time you will treat your body and mind with the respect and care that they deserve because you will feel your worth and have a longing for this deeper well-being.

When you work with these practices I would love to hear about your experience. If you find these concepts to be overwhelming, you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out for support either from me or from someone you trust. Know that there is hope for healing.