Food and Shame and a little Self-Awareness.

Real Talk.

I met a friend for drinks a couple months back. We were chatting about my “health journey” progress.  While we were sharing our current states and struggles I admitted to her that I don’t adhere perfectly to my diet all the time. She said it would be a worthy post to talk about the struggles of doing what’s best for yourself while managing stress and temptation. Also, she was relieved because based on this blog, she thought I did adhere perfectly. Let's get honest (and a little vulnerable)!

It does take diligence and a strict adherence (in my experience) to an elimination diet or therapeutic diet to see results and really get an idea of what you may be reacting to. However, many times I’ve been in an “in between” spot. A sort of “post elimination phase but still really not sure what is triggering me" spot. Those times (and life in general) can be extremely daunting. I have food weaknesses just like anyone. Over the past three years I’ve spent extended periods of time being super diligent about what I’m eating, when I’m eating and keeping track of the results. I’ve also found myself facing a “what’s the point” ultimatum. You can tell from my story that I spent the greater part of this journey (the majority of my life, less the past 3-5 years) bouncing back and forth between prioritizing my health and coping with stress and emotions. Coping for me usually means choosing comforting over healthy, foods and drinks.

 

One meal isn’t going to undo all the work you’ve done.

If you’re a year in on a journey and you’re between tactics and you’re about ready to throw in the towel or have a bagel. For goodness sake, have the bagel! (or whatever “cheating” would be for you)

This is a one step at a time, paying attention, listening to yourself (physically and mentally), treating yourself with loving kindness, patience and grace, marathon. Have the drink, or the meal and then pick yourself up and get back to what makes you feel best.

Everyone has their own threshold, their own limits. I want to avoid becoming fixated on my health and food in an unhealthy way. In between times of diligence, sometimes out of frustration and sometimes to let off a little steam, I’ve gone “off diet”. Other times, I buckle down.

When I want to see results I need to be strict. When those results, after a period of adherence aren't satisfactory, sometimes I have a “fuck it” meal (or couple of days). Then it’s back on the phone with Dr. Ruscio, and back to the drawing board of what was working as well as what wasn’t. I tweak diet, supplements, discuss habits and get back to what is the best routine for my lifestyle. (Dr. Ruscio interviewed Steve from SCDLifestyle.com and they talked about this notion as well. Don’t drive yourself crazy!)

 

It’s not about you.

For me, talking about health and food options has become a sensitive subject. Its one of the reasons this blog has become a more positive way for me to share my experience.

I feel judged by people around me in the form of sarcasm, eye rolls, “okaaaaaayyyyy” from servers, etc. This may sound arrogant but I don’t mean it to: it’s because my choices are triggering those people. I can’t speak to their journey and what it is that I’m triggering but I do know it is most certainly true that whatever they’re reacting to isn’t about me at all. Nothing anyone ever does is because of you. Everything is an outward projection of that person’s reality. My problem is, I’m sensitive. I’m reacting internally, to their reaction of me. I don’t want to trigger anyone’s own bullshit, I feel bad about it.

Frequently in the past, when I’d be stressed, triggered, lonely, sad or “over it” my instinct would be to go eat fast food (I think I actually have an addiction to Big Macs and french fries), or buy something or have a drink. My brain would search for anything to distract myself from what I was feeling because it was uncomfortable. I remember feeling this sort of discomfort and inability to sit in it during quiet moments alone, or in a yoga class. It often manifests as reaching for my phone every 5 minutes or not wanting to hold a yoga pose. It’s taken the last 5 years to begin to be comfortable staring this discomfort in the face. I’ll probably have to practice it for the rest of my life. I look for tactics to be able to stare it down calmly, and decide to feel it rather than eat it, buy it or numb it away. I have to say that the amount of eating rather than feeling (or fill in your preferred distraction here) has gone down significantly in the past year with this very deliberate decision. Traveling abroad with no phone service has aided in my practice as I have one less thing to use against myself.

A good friend of mine is a meditation coach in LA and she taught me a method of tapping into what’s really going on. I just tried this the other day when surprisingly (because it’s been a while since I’ve had this reaction) ALL I wanted was a Big Mac. I knew after all the success I’ve been experiencing on the Ketogenic diet that I would feel guilty, bloated, tired, moody and probably have a rough couple of days if I indulged. I couldn’t shake the impulse and I knew if I passed a fast food joint I’d stop.

So I did what she taught me:

I was driving but you can do this anywhere, an office bathroom, your office, a quiet room. Just find a place to be alone with yourself, place your hand on your heart and ask yourself “What is it that I need to know?” and let yourself honestly answer. Every time you answer “I’m angry” or “I’m hurt” or “I’m frustrated because this person said this” respond with “OK… What else?” and you just keep answering yourself until you’re finished. Until you’ve fully listened to yourself and all your grievances.

Once I did this, I was able to reflect on the true answer and it totally calmed me down. I honestly didn’t feel the need to stop for fast food anymore. Sometimes the answer is still a bummer, but it’s a stepping stone, a point for you to focus on and work from so you can continue to grow. Like Christina taught me, all your feelings want, are to be felt.

I wanted to figure out why I couldn’t just let some things go and why I was so anxious and hurt and my heart was racing and I wasn’t sleeping. It came down to this:

My fear was that I’m not worth it.

-That I don’t deserve to “act like such a diva” and restrict my food this much while in public, on tour.
-To spend all the money and time and energy and conversation and tears and meditation on myself.
-That self exploration, improvement and love are selfish (there are bigger problems in the world).
-That I’m a burden on my co-workers and my husband.
-To make my friends listen to what I’ve tried eating and what the symptoms and what the results are, over and over and over again.
…and so on.

The energy I was receiving from those around me was triggering that fear. It felt like they were confirming all of it to be true.

So, I sat there in the car and said to myself “Hey, wait a minute. Why do they get to dictate if I’m worth it?” I’ve been spending all this time and money and energy. I obviously think I’m worth it. So fuck that!

I read Big Magic this week by Elizabeth Gilbert and it contained this perfect little message:

“Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you”
Don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding.
Because that moment?
That’s the moment interesting begins.”

I still get hurt feelings but its unrealistic to expect otherwise. I am always going to face people who don't agree with my lifestyle or personality. The good news is that those people don't dictate my life. I do. AND I have an intimate but fierce support system and a doctor who’s on the pulse of new and “natural” treatment options, so I have support where I need it. I need to focus more on leaning on them and brushing off other people's projections.

Instead of giving into the shame and doubt, or rushing through the discomfort with distractions, I face it. It really seems like the more I address the issue directly, the stronger I get. The longer I stay the course with food, the more resilient I get. The better I get at not reacting to someone else, the calmer I am at facing conflict. I am transforming as a person, I can feel that and those close to me can see it. Everyone I interact with will somehow benefit from this work.

Signs are consistently popping up to help me stay on course, more than ever before and I truly think it’s because I’m just pushing through the discomfort day by day. The harder it seems, the more messages I receive: apropos billboards, passages in books, grafitti, music, a scene in a movie, the meditation theme I heard last night. It’s all just SO relevant and coincidental. I find it very encouraging and I love sharing that with like-minded folks because I think it can also be so exciting and affirming for others on similar journeys. Even if the moment doesn’t specifically pertain to them, the process does.

So, don’t worry about being perfect. Focus on what you’re feeling and adjust as you go. If food is your thing then do your best and don't beat yourself up. Stay the course and pay attention, signs are showing up to confirm what you already know, you are worth it.

Oh, and also read Big Magic.