…or “How I ‘Smoothied’ My Way Back to Good Health”
I’m sure everyone has at some time in his or her life had at least a “strained” relationship with food. After all, our relationship with food is a life-long one and a pretty important one. Food is a basic necessity of life; one that is often taken for granted. So let’s hear it for, food, right? I mean, come on, food is amazing!
Food activates my senses in a way no other thing can. The smell of a favorite childhood food can send me plummeting back through time in a split second. There I am again, taking a huge cheesy mouthful of my Mom’s lasagna and feeling satisfied and loved beyond my wildest dreams. The sight of ice cream beginning to drip off a cone automatically propels me into forward motion as I go in for the lick! It’s irresistible to me. I don’t even care if it’s not mine. I’ve been accused of licking my kid’s cones many times and I freely admit I may have a problem, especially when it comes to ice cream.
Food is an integral part my daily life. I need to eat. I indulge in food choices several times each day. The moment I wake up and feel that first pang of hunger or the caffeine headache starts to kick in, my mind becomes focused on putting food in my body. Which foods I consciously choose to put in my body does matter. I am now very aware of that. It wasn’t always like this, though.
For the greater part of my life I have struggled with body image issues. Part of that I toss up to just being a female. Even when I had nothing to worry about, it seemed I worried anyway, because the girls and women around me were struggling with their own body image issues. As an empathic being, I would take on others’ worries about their weight and food and end up creating my own problems. Self-sabotaging beliefs can spread like a virus, really. As a girl of about 13, I can remember counting calories, binging on sweets, starving myself as long as I could stand it, experimenting with exercises designed to burn fat, trying to make myself vomit after a binge, and spending endless hours in front of the mirror surveying the changes in my body as it grew more womanly. I wasn’t anorexic, I wasn’t bulimic, I wasn’t obese, I was just very average, yet I suffered from self image issues and took it out on my relationship with food. I blamed food when I gained half a pound. “Darn you, ice cream, if you weren’t so delicious, I could wear that bikini this summer! Now I have to stay on the sidelines of life, wrapped in a towel.” When I was feeling disempowered I would run towards food to comfort myself. “Only you really make me feel good again, ice cream, only you understand how to make the bad stuff go away.”
Even after reaching adulthood those insecurities never went away. I never really dealt with it all. When I became pregnant with my first son, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Now, someone else was at risk because of my eating habits. I was put on a strict diet and managed to make it through the pregnancy without having to take insulin. It wasn’t easy, and after I had my baby, I began “rewarding” myself by over-indulging again. The other day I came across a journal entry, by no mistake, I’m sure, because I knew I was going to write this blog. The title of the entry was “20 Pounds.” That’s the amount of weight I was struggling to lose since having been pregnant. Here’s an excerpt:
“I never realized how many carbs and sweets I eat, and still do, did I mention I have a bowl of ice cream next to my keyboard right now? How did that get there? Man, it has a pile of whipped cream on top, too. Hang on… Slurp. Okay, no more whipped cream.”
It goes on and on, as I rant about being a victim of my own health issues. Soon after writing that I became pregnant again. I continued to struggle through my second pregnancy, and afterwards decided not to ever be pregnant again. In some ways, that decision liberated me. I was suddenly giving myself permission to do that “hard work” of redefining my relationship with food without having to worry about how it might affect a fetus. That pretty much sums up how I felt about eating healthy, that it would be hard work to do so. After my second birth (a second C-section) I began to have severe pain in my lower right abdomen. I also had high cholesterol. I went to a doctor who told me I just needed to “lose some weight.” Although he was basically right, I was completely unsatisfied with this short answer and so I went on a quest to heal myself. I started reading about diet and food and how I could minimize this pain I was feeling. How could I heal faster? How could I eat in a way that would improve my digestion? The more I looked, the more I found about nutrition and its effects on just about any health concern you might have.
I started my experimentation with a simple green smoothie composed of a few long leaves of kale, a cucumber, a banana, and some ice water. Without much thought, I could easily toss these ingredients into my shopping cart every week. Without much thought, I could easily toss these things into a blender and make a smoothie. Without much thought, I could easily slug down a large glass of it in the middle of the day when I was feeling tired. It became a routine I could manage. I wasn’t trying to replace a meal with it. It was pure addition. It was easy, it tasted good to me, and what was most astonishing, is that I could feel results happening. My cramps became less frequent. Instead of three or four times a day, they only would come once or twice. Eventually, on some days I wouldn’t have a cramp at all. My energy levels were improving, too.
Okay, so now I believed. I started focusing on putting more healthy foods into my body instead of looking for ways to eliminate food and thus “lose weight.” I started seeing it as a problem to be solved through addition instead of subtraction. This completely revolutionized my thought process. It was like taking a 180 degree turn around in a very short period of time. The more I put nutritious foods (like green vegetables and berries) into my body, the better I started to feel. The first major thing I eliminated was red meat. Now I’m not saying this is the answer for everyone. I believe that you need to discover your own best relationship with food. But for me, it helped tremendously, so much so, that within a year I had become a vegetarian. I found that the less meat I put in my body the more room I had for vegetables and the better I felt. My cholesterol lowered to a normal level. My cramps were almost completely gone. I was literally feeling the energy of my youth again!
I started to really listen to my body as it responded to changes in my diet. When I indulged in too much bread, I would have more cramps. When I ate too much ice cream, I would have more cramps. I never eliminated these things, but I did look for some better alternatives. If it was bread, I looked for really tasty organic breads with lots of seeds and nuts inside. This gave me more satisfaction when I ate it and I wouldn’t feel the need to eat as much of it. When it came to ice cream, I would look for frozen yogurt, or coconut or soy based treats. I still haven’t eliminated ice cream from my diet, but I’m not grabbing the Ben & Jerry’s every time now. I give myself more variety and in that variety are some healthier options. I started juicing, too. I got a nice Vitamix blender so that my smoothies didn’t have the texture of drinking from an aquarium anymore. I started to get really serious about my nutrition and health. This led to running again and yoga classes, and meditation, and turning off the TV and putting away the cell phone and computers. It led to being more present with my loved ones and even myself. I started to see myself again, the real me. The me I was always meant to be. This path I had chosen to explore, led me to my business as a Creativity Coach. It led me to my Reiki practice. I’m by no means saying I’m a finished product. I feel like I still have lots of room to grow, but it doesn’t feel like work any more. I feel more like an explorer. I greet challenges instead of running from them. I believe in myself. I believe in my ability to heal myself more than I ever thought possible. I feel an inner strength and confidence, and because of it I have improved will power and resolve. I can say no to just about anything I really want to say no to. Never underestimate this power!
A friend of mine, and Holistic Health Coach, Melanie Banayat has written a lovely book. It’s called “Stretch Your Brave, Hack Your Story.” That’s why I am telling this story about my relationship with food. In the book, Melanie provides lots of questions to ask yourself while you improve your relationship with food, your health concerns, or an illness you might be suffering from, be it physical, emotional or both. Her questions will help you to uncover what is at the root of your problems. These are the questions I wish my doctor had asked me when I went in for that checkup and all I got back was “You need to lose some weight.” Melanie’s book helps empower you, through telling your own story, hearing it, and understanding it from a new perspective. She does all this from a beautiful space of compassion and sharing. As you read, you’ll feel like you are having a conversation with a friend who cares about you. Before you know it, you’ll realize that the friend you are actually conversing with is you! The real you, the one you were always meant to be. Enjoy the book, enjoy the exploration, and enjoy discovering your story. May the healing begin!