Loving ourselves through healthy choicesBy T L Cornish, CNP
Mind your own wisdom
Cravings for unhealthy foods represent a significant challenge to our healthy path when we get together with family and friends who are less aware of, and less sensitive to, the health impacts of our food choices. When our new food habits are offered up (through togetherness) to the scrutiny of others, it can be difficult to know how to respond to questions or criticism. Without trying to change others around you, I encourage you to find your own tactful strength and to focus inwardly on your knowledge about which foods will have the greatest benefit to the quality of your time with loved ones. Is it the two minutes of bliss from indulging in a craving or is it the fun you will have because you feel so good from making self loving food choices.
Redefine "Fun Food"
When faced with the choice of a healthy food or indulgence in a temporary craving (that will only return after you indulge), I encourage you to direct your coping energies mostly inward, to feed your own conviction about choosing to find greater health and happiness through food therapy. And I also encourage you to redefine "Fun food and happy food." Rather than the sugary, salty, fatting foods that leave us feeling lethargic or worse I like to think of fun food as the food that is yummy AND fun to eat that does not disrupt all the fun you can have AFTER you eat it and you feel amazing!
Eating the healthy food is an advantage
It's so crucial to remember to frame our eating changes as an advantage, not deprivation. You are learning ways to not only balance your emotional health, physical health and weight through a health blood sugar balance and healthy nutritious foods, but you are choosing not to pollute your body with the toxic food ingredients that are all around us in both festive and everyday snack foods and fast foods. Your short term and long term health will benefit, especially as you learn to embrace rather than resent the changes.
Cultivating calm, accepting thoughts
The way that we think about food is as important as the food we eat. I call our thoughts (about anything for that matter, "our thought diet.") Some thoughts about food can help us stay on the healthy path and relish it. Some can trigger an emotional rebellion in ourselves. So holding our cravings with compassion and acceptance and envisioning ourselves as healthier and happier eating ideal foods, can help prevent an inner struggle that might lead to binging.
Nothing tastes as good as health feels
To help with making the best choices, try the phrase, "Nothing tastes as good as health feels." Over time, as our taste buds recover from the over-stimulation of fat and sugar and msg-laden foods, we learn that the candy bar doesn't really even truly taste good- it just gives us that sugar buzz that, shortly after, makes us feel yucky. We learn to celebrate true food quality and we realize that nutrient-rich nourishment can taste as good as it feels.Be patient though because it takes a bit of time for our bodies to catch up with our wise thoughts.
Craving or addiction?
Even when we know better, we can have unhealthy cravings. Allergy and addiction often go hand in hand when it comes to eating problems and the chemistry of this problem is not adequately understood by most professionals. I see it as unwise to encourage people to use moderation or to eat "just a little "treat'", because for those who have allergic or addictive responses to some foods, these foods are not a treat, but harmful.
Some food cravings seem to act like an addiction in that food allergies or intolerances can alter our state. They may produce kind of a 'buzz'- either stimulating or sedating.
Then when we eat these foods we set ourselves up for further cravings, creating a cycle of addiction. Sometimes eating just one of the foods you are intolerant to, can trigger overwhelming cravings for all the other foods you are intolerant to, and lead to a kind of a domino effect in which you breaking all your promises to yourself. Because of this, abstinence can be the easiest solution. The longer we abstain, the less we crave the allergic or addictive food.
The same therapist would not encourage an alcoholic to have "just a little sip" of alcohol or a heroin addict, "just a little bit" of heroin.
In an ideal world, we would be surrounded by delicious, healthy, nutritious, hypo-allergic foods- especially at holiday time when everyone wants to feel their best in order to optimize celebrations with loved ones.
What does it really mean to be kind to ourselves?
Although well meaning therapists often encourage us to be 'kind' to ourselves by 'having a little treat' and by not making so many 'eating rules', sometimes this can do more harm than good because in some cases there are more than just emotional issues at play. It is hugely important to adapt a loving relationship with ourselves and our eating habits. I prefer to cultivate calm equanimity in response to the sensations of cravings and learn to allow the sensations to exist without acting on them.
To me when we think that we can love ourselves through eating food that is harmful to us, we are confused. It almost seems as if most of the developed world has some form of 'eating disorder' because of the way we look at unhealthy foods as some sort of reward even if it makes us unwell.
Well being over taste or taste over well being?
The more aware (through self education and working with your food diary and food experiments) that you can become about what foods are allergenic for you, the easier it will be for you to find satisfying ways of eating that will help you keep on the healthy path. If this is too much for you this season you may give in to temptation to choose taste over well-being.
If you do happen to give in to your cravings, it's important to be ok with this and to relax with the reality that we chose to deal with consequences in order to have the short term reward of the food. Then it's important to enjoy it thoroughly and mindfully and without regret and you will less inclined to go overboard and binge out of a sense of frustration. Eating the food with full appreciation will maximize our bodies ability to assimilate it healthfully. Eventually though we will observe negative consequences from certain foods often enough that we'll choose to refrain in future.
It's human to reach for pleasure and indulgence of a particular kind when it is a habit. As we transform our lives we find more and more ways to surround ourselves with foods that are customized for us to provide healthy, wonderfully delicious indulgences of a different kind. The idea of what constitutes indulgence is bound to change for you and may even come to include a sense of just ecological conscience and compassion in your food selections (if you're lucky enough to be in an area where this kind of 'happy' organic and local food is affordably accessible.)
Be kind to yourself, in every way you can this holiday and remember that myself and all your forum friends are with you in spirit.
And check out the newsletter section for the following articles:
Two Steps Healthy, One Craving Back
by Tarilee Cornish, Certified Nutritional Consultant
By Tarliee Cornish, Certified Nutritional Consultant