A Little Give and Take

You all know me as a Life Coach, but I actually dabble in some other very fun “jobs” as well. I make jewellery and I’m also a manager at a Gift Boutique. Hey, what can I say. I am a multi-passionate (and dare I say talented) young woman who just can’t settle for one thing!!

At the Gift Boutique I spend a lot of time helping my clients pick out the perfect gift for their recipient. Some of the many things we sell at the boutique are spa products like lotions, soaps, bath bombs, and bubble bath. When my clients inform me they are buying for their friend who is a mother (which means not a whole lot of time for herself) I like to recommend some delicious spa products so she can do some much needed pampering. This will give her an excuse to take some time for her own self-care regimen. I will point out our frothy bath bombs and bubblicious bubble baths and suggest pairing it with a nice bottle of wine. I even offer to wrap it up into a beautiful gift basket for her!

And this is the response I get 99% of the time:

“Oh, heavens no! She doesn’t have time to pamper herself! She’s not into that kind of thing. She’ll never use it. She’s a MOTHER – were you even listening to me?”

And I will say:

“Exactly! That is exactly WHY you need to give her this…”

But the client is no longer listening at this point.

Ok, people, listen up. Just because you are a mother does not mean you can no longer take care of yourself! In fact, that is exactly the reason WHY you should be taking care of yourself! You spend the majority of your day taking care of others. You DESERVE to bugger off for 30 minutes to indulge in some bubbles and vino.

But mothers tend to think it’s selfish if they are doing something that is solely for themselves. So they give and give and give, until they get to roll in to bed, sleep, and do it all again the next day.

The risky thing about this is humans aren’t designed to give and give and give. They are designed to give, and then to take, and then give again, and then take again.

It’s the same as healthy eating. Everyone knows that a healthy diet includes a good balance of all of the food groups. We know that too much of anything is not good for us. So why do we think that this should be any different? Giving too much is no good for our soul. In fact, giving too much is what IS selfish.

Are you a mom who wants to smack me across the face yet? 🙂

Good.

Giving and giving and giving is selfish because when you don’t take the time to take care of yourself you will never ever be able to fully be there for your family. When you are running on empty (ahem, not giving yourself time for self-care) you are more likely to over-react, argue, overeat, and not fully appreciate your family. You have so much more to give when you are taking the time to gas up by doing things that help you reenergize, refocus, and reconnect to yourself.

Self-care doesn’t have to look a certain way, either. It can look like burying your head in a good book for 20 minutes, taking yourself for a walk around the block, grabbing sushi with your closest friends, or even just retreating to your favourite space in your house to write in your journal.

So, all you mothers out there, it’s time to be selfless! Take time for yourself starting today. Let your family experience the real you who is rested, energized, and glowing on the inside and out!

And, for all you friends of mothers out there, just buy the bubble bath, will you?

Feel Your Weight Off!

One quiet evening I was puttering around my apartment thinking of what to do. Did I want to do one of the bazillion things on my to-do list? Absolutely not. Did I want to do something fun? Not really. Did I want to relax? Maybe later. Did I want to do nothing? Nope. Are you as confused as I was? Well, I knew this much: when in doubt, ask yourself what you are feeling. So I asked myself what I was feeling. Lonely. Then like the push of a button, I automatically had a craving to go to the kitchen and pop myself a bag of salty corn and tear open a bag of chips. *Curiosity entered stage right* Ooh, how interesting, my inner life coach squealed! My mind wanted to save me from feeling lonely by convincing me to shovel fat and carbs into my body. Well, mind, thank you for trying to protect me, but luckily I have learned new tricks that don’t involve me being mistaken for a hippopotamus.

When I became aware of what was going on, my craving to go to the kitchen vanished. And that’s the power of awareness, folks. What I did, instead, was pick up the phone and call my sister. That was exactly what I needed. I didn’t need a plate of greasy nachos. How did I know this? I hung up the phone feeling energized and fulfilled. I’m pretty sure a plate of greasy nachos at 9pm would have left me feeling regretful and round. You do the math.

Does any part of this story resonate with you? Are you sick of failing at another diet because you just can’t control your cravings?! Well, I’m here to tell you that the only “diet plan” you’ll ever need is already within yourself. Yep, that’s right! Your body knows exactly what it wants and when it wants it. Now all you have to do is learn how to listen to it. If you aren’t connected to your body and you are not feeling your emotions, then you lose control of so much of your life.

The funny thing about this inner “diet plan” is that it doesn’t even really focus on what you eat. It’s all about what you aren’t feeling. Weight loss is actually a result of living more consciously and more in your body. When we are living unconsciously and in constant stress, we tend to overeat and eat unhealthily to suppress those uncomfortable feelings. It happens pretty sub-consciously; we have gotten so good at nipping those emotions in the bud before they even show a finger. My most popular times to overeat were while I was studying for an exam or writing a paper, after a long day at a job I didn’t like, and when I was home alone at night. When do you tend to overeat or chose unhealthy options? Can you find a common thread in these circumstances? For me, it was when I was trying to avoid uncomfortable emotions like sadness, anger, and frustration. But let me ask you an important question. What if you simply just felt your uncomfortable emotions, and dropped the finger food and a few pounds?

I’m going to make a bold statement and say that the majority of North Americans are not connected to their body and not feeling their emotions. It makes complete sense why so many people are overweight and struggle to succeed at a diet. Being on a fad diet is like putting a bandaid over a gun-shot wound. It’s not fixing the real problem! The lesion won’t heal if the wound isn’t cleaned and cared for. It’s no different with emotions. The real problem is why the tug-of-war between you and food even started. It all comes down to not feeling emotions. Many people live stressful lives that involve over-working and under-sleeping. We have learned not to feel our emotions. Do these phrases sound familiar to you? Stop crying, suck it up, be a big girl/boy, put on a happy face, just forget about it, you’re fine, etc.  We learned to suck it up and put on a happy face when all we really wanted to do was stick out our tongue, cross our arms, and bawl our eyes out. Now, fast-forward 20+ years. I bet there is a part of you that wants to cross your arms and stick your tongue out at something in your life. But you don’t. Because you are good at pretending that everything is fine and dandy. We push our real emotions away, and food is one of the things that helps us get through.

To be quit honest, feeling emotions is freeing. This is what I’ve learned. If I simply allow uncomfortable emotions to arise and pass, I feel freer and lighter after the fact, and usually learn a thing or two in the process. The happier I am, the less I overeat and crave bad foods. Distinguishing between when I am physiologically hungry and when I am emotionally hungry can actually be quite fun and liberating, and might just be the best “diet plan” you ever adopt. The more curious you get with your eating habits, the more you learn and the faster you will be freer from them. The stress that you create within yourself when you look in the mirror and tell yourself how fat you are is only going to add more pounds to your buttocks. The more you shower yourself in self-love, the more fat that will melt away in the shower (not literally, sorry). 🙂

Some Food for Thought

Making delicious sushi from scratch!

Before I started on my own life coaching journey I was completely disconnected from my body. I was always in my mind worrying, planning, counting, and rationalizing, and hardly ever in my body feeling and noticing. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, don’t worry, I will use my previous relationship (or lack thereof) with food to explain what I mean.

Back when I was a college student and living on my own I had two things in mind: achieving straight-A’s and being thin. I didn’t care about much else. I spent all my time and attention on studying and counting calories. The fewer calories I ate, the more pleased with myself I was. Some days I ate only 700 calories. I covered up my hunger pangs by throwing back cups of black coffee (no sugar or cream allowed in this body!) and drinking copious amounts of water and tea. I also ignored the taste of food. I devoured my meals so fast that I probably couldn’t even tell you what was in them. This resulted in horrific, knife-stabbing stomach pains. In short, I didn’t eat when I was hungry and I didn’t stop when I was full. I wasn’t listening to my body and what it wanted. I was up in my head obsessed with calories and staying thin and completely ignoring my body.

This obsession resulted in diarrhea almost daily. Every bus trip to school consisted of me, sweaty and uncomfortable, sitting on the bus crossing my fingers that I could make it to the bathroom in time. My hair also became thinner and more fragile. I was starving my body of the nutrients it needed and it was showing up in more ways than one. My body was functioning below par and it was completely off-track, unbalanced, and unhealthy.

I thought if I stopped counting calories then I would lose all control and end up overeating and be overweight. The funny thing is, I was already out of control; I was just on the other end of the spectrum. My weight obsession and strict calorie counting had taken over my life. I actually remember thinking that I would never be able to stop counting calories and eat normally again. My mind’s idea of being thin was running and ruining my life at the same time. My body was yelling at me by giving me irritable bowel syndrome and hair loss, but I wasn’t ready to listen.

When I moved back home counting calories became too difficult. There were people around and too much good food available to me now. Potato chips, nuts, cheese, cookies, mayonnaise…I didn’t expose myself to any of this fatty fare when I was living on my own. Now that it was available to me, I couldn’t help myself. Over time, I ended up eating whatever I wanted. My strict diet fell apart, but I was still completely disconnected from my body. I still over-ate. I still under-ate. I still obsessed over food. I now beat myself up over eating too many chips and ice cream. Food wasn’t purely there to satiate me, it was there to provide me with comfort when I needed it. We had a love-hate relationship.

Now, after a few years of life coaching with Abigail Steidley, self-coaching, and completion of Martha Beck’s Life Coaching program, I realize that I have come a long way with my relationship with food. Although I didn’t start my life coaching journey to alleviate my eating problems, the increased mind-body awareness that I now have has allowed me to be more conscious of many things in life, one of which being eating. I am now aware of how my body reacts when it feels happy, joyful, content, angry, sad, frustrated, etc. which aids in a healthy consumption of food. I am constantly asking myself how I feel in the present moment, and how I want to feel. I spend time noticing and evaluating my thoughts. Understanding this is crucial if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight by eating consciously, NOT by weighing your food.

So what is eating consciously? It is asking yourself questions and understanding why you want to eat. Are you actually hungry, or is it just thirst? Do you know how you want to feel after you’ve finished a meal? For me, I want to feel healthy, content, light, and nourished. I am now conscious of what foods can elicit this feeling in me. Will that McDonalds McChicken Meal with a side of French Fries make me feel that way? Hmm, probably not. But a delicious and nutritious green smoothie in the morning sure makes me feel nourished, content, healthy, light, and ready to start my day! And I don’t have to spend fifteen minutes weighing my ingredients because I aim for a certain feeling and not a certain caloric count!

How do you feel after you’ve stuffed yourself like a bloated turkey? I usually feel regretful and sick to my stomach. Sometimes we ask ourselves why we ate so much but don’t actually answer the question. Well, it’s time to answer the question! Grab a pen and paper and go wild. Why did you eat so much? Were you not paying attention to your body while you were eating so you didn’t even know you were full fifteen minutes ago? Was it that you were eating too fast and not properly chewing and enjoying your food? Were you avoiding an uncomfortable emotion by occupying yourself with handfuls of Halloween candy? Is this the way you really want to feel?

Looking inward by asking yourself questions and answering them truthfully is one of the most helpful things you can do to increase your self-awareness and adopt healthy eating behaviors.

Trust me when I say I am far from perfect; I still can cave-in and reach for a bag of chips when I feel tired and frustrated, but the difference now is that I am completely conscious that I am emotionally eating. I will tell myself, “Yup, I am eating because I’m frustrated right now, and that’s ok!” The pure act of noticing why you are doing something can often nip it in the bud earlier so you don’t eat as much.  It can take its power away. But I have come a long way when I look back to my pre-life coaching days. If I’m going to splurge and eat a bunch of grease, I’m going to do it whole-heartedly and enjoy every bite of it! If I feel like making a healthier meal, I do that instead! I try to listen to my body and feed it what it wants instead of following outrageous rules I set for myself. When you stop and listen to your body, your body will crave what it needs. It may surprise you, but it will probably crave alot healthier foods than you think if you just listen to it! Your body doesn’t lie to you. If it tells you it’s hungry, it needs food, so feed it. If it tells you it’s full, it doesn’t need any more food, so stop eating. If it tells you it wants a big salad, it wants nutrients, so give it a big salad! If it tells you it wants a box of Oreos, or any sort of request that seems a bit off kilter, try looking inward before darting for those Oreos. You may realize that it’s not Oreos your body wants, it might be something completely different, and it’s probably not even food-related. But if you would still fight ‘til the death to get that Oreo, just go for it! But make sure you enjoy it fully and with no regrets!