by Clara Wisner: Do you feel good but not great? Do you eat “right,” exercise regularly, and still feel like you must be missing something, but aren’t sure what it is?
Let me be the first to tell you, I’ve been there.
As a certified nutrition therapy practitioner and lifestyle coach I make it my job to figure out what being healthy and happy really means and how absolutely anyone achieve it.
About a year ago I had been working with clients for 6 months after years of schooling and certification. I was getting great results assisting people to lose weight, feel confident and purpose-driven, and overcome dis-ease and disease.
Personally, I had found a diet that worked wonders for my past problems with anxiety, uncontrolled weight gain, and over-restriction. I was at a point where my exercise routine of gentle, meditative yoga and Crossfit had me feeling confident in my body.
However, I still felt like there something missing. I was still easily ruffled by criticism. I felt like I always had to “defend” my way of life (and even proselytize about it at times). And underneath all this I was still having trouble staying motivated. I felt like my diet and exercise regime was “work” and that if I were to let my true desires to take over I would fall right off the wagon again.
I knew people who seemed to live this healthy lifestyle intuitively, weren’t stressing about a cookie now and then, and seemed healthy AND happy. Do you know what I mean? What was I missing?
That’s where I was at when I really started to explore the world of truly holistic health. Looking not only at physical health (clinical nutrition, exercise) but diving deep into emotional, spiritual, and mental health.
I found that when people only focus on bettering their physical issues they may get to a place where those physical ailments are gone, but they still haven’t addressed the underlying causes that created those physical issues in the first place. In this case eating healthy and working out feels like work.
Think about how many people have lost weight, only to gain it back again, plus some. What about all the people that start out on a new diet with lots of enthusiasm, only to fall back into their old eating habits the second something stressful happens.
I started to realize that to truly transform ourselves for the better we really have to dig deep and get to the ROOT of what’s driving our unhealthy, habitual behaviors.
Here are 4 exercises you can do this week to get in touch with what’s going on in your body/mind/soul and ultimately push past your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual limiting beliefs.
1. Be OK with Stillness (Meditation).
In our society where we have entertainment at our fingertips every single waking moment we have forgotten how to just “be” and be comfortable with silence and stillness.
There are countless benefits of meditation, and all of them have to do with gaining more freedom in your life. However, in this instance I am talking about how meditation gives your body/mind/soul the space to feel the things that may be there but are being ignored or suppressed. Stop ignoring your feelings, start feeling them, it really is as simple as that. Trust the stillness.
2. Be Curious about Your Cravings.
This is building off the meditation piece. When you start to feel feelings you may have been ignoring or suppressing, your first reaction may be to judge them.
Try not to.
Try to bring an energy of curiosity to these feelings and the “bad” food/activity cravings that may arise. When we are craving a donut or craving to just lie on the couch and watch TV all day this may be a message that we need more calories and rest.
If we ignore these cravings completely we are not listening to our body’s wisdom. If we react to these cravings by immediately eating a donut and lying around all day we will not feel good either (see exercise #3).
However, if we allow this craving to be a valid feeling and get curious about what it means we may see that our body needs a balanced meal and some time to relax and recuperate. When we allow ourselves the space and curiosity to actually listen to what our bodies are telling us eventually our body stops needing to send such strong signals (e.g., Donuts and zero activity). Our bodies will start to send us more subtle signals that are closer to what we really need. But we have to be willing to listen, open to acting on what we hear, and be, above all, curious.
3. When you eat something you consider “bad” don’t be harsh with yourself. Take the opportunity to really integrate the experience of how that food makes you feel.
When we do get curious and really listen to what our bodies are telling us, we may find that we will eat a donut and lie around all day. That HAS to be OK. That HAS to be acceptable, because it gives us valuable information and teaches us a lesson.
A lot of times when we eat/act in a way that doesn’t feel good in our body/mind/soul we suppress the feelings of discomfort and pain in the body.
Rightly so! We don’t want to actually feel sick, right?
However, when we wish we didn’t feel that way and don’t allow the experience to be what it is we don’t allow our body to integrate the information that this particular food or activity doesn’t make us feel good. This results in us repeating the offense, over and over again in some cases.
I have a client who got painful digestive unrest when he ate dairy. But he ate cheese all the time. Why would someone do this to himself or herself? “They just LOVE cheese,” some would say.
However, when I asked him to really feel what the digestive upset felt like, to be in stillness with the digestive upset. To not take pepto bismal and try to go on with his day, but to take time to REALLY feel what it felt like. After doing this a few times, there was a surprising shift in his desire to eat cheese because his body had finally had a chance to integrate what the experience of eating cheese really felt like, and didn’t like it. He stopped wanting to eat cheese.
This method has even been used to help people quit smoking. It’s powerful stuff.
4. Practice Mindful Eating At Least One Meal Per Day.
Mindful eating is simply difficult. And here’s why:
It’s eating food with no distractions, no conversation, no looking at your phone or computer, no music, no book.
It’s chewing slowly and imagining how the food you are eating is going to nourish you on a cellular level.
It’s really looking at your food and noticing the textures, the colors, the impression that arises in you when you look at it.
Mindful eating is noticing the subtleties of the smells. The way it tastes.
It’s being present with your food and process of eating.
It’s asking yourself after every bite, “Do I want more?” “Am I full?”
It’s simple, right? It also sounds extremely difficult, correct? And if it doesn’t, then just give it a try.
To really start to connect with how your body/mind/spirit reacts to food you need to start a practice of mindful eating. You don’t have to eat like this all the time, but a good place to start is to commit to eating one meal like this per day. Normally breakfast is the easiest for people, but any meal or even snack works.
Give these exercises a try this week and see how they allow you to address the underlying root causes of your physical limits and give you the freedom you’ve been searching for.