Self-Care Series, Episode 4: The Time I was Asked About Diets

Thursdays I teach a small group class at a local St. Louis corporation. Some weeks I share with them interesting things I’ve read about or have been studying. Other weeks I ask if they have questions or want to share something.

Today one of the students said he had been getting into learning about nutrition and asked if there were any diets I follow or recommend.

Such an interesting question.

I understand why he would ask that because yoga is becoming such a part of the fitness industry it is easy to assume yoga teachers would eat certain ways, similar to the idea personal trainers eat certain ways. There’s also the understanding that society is hyper-focused on achieving a particular “body” and the assumption that it can be “done” through diet and exercise. Because of these understandings and assumptions, I wanted to give him an honest answer — an answer that was authentic and truthful for me. However, I didn’t want to come off condescending or righteous because that can happen when topics of food and dieting comes up. I wanted to create a space of sharing and discussion, not confrontation.

Here’s my answer.

I don’t diet. I don’t follow certain food protocols, restrictions, whatever you want to call it. At least not in the traditional sense. When I did do those things, they led to disordered eating. (He was sort of taken aback, which tends to happen when I say I’ve struggled with food.) Now, I try to practice more intuitive eating. I try to listen to the messages and cues my body is sending me as best I can and honor them. I focus more on how the things I consume make me feel, physically, mentally, and emotionally, without restricting and placing rules on myself. The only foods I avoid are the ones in which I have a sensitivity, i.e. soy, avocado, bananas. I try to not judge or punish myself for choices or amounts. Instead of restricting, I am practicing unrestricting. At one time I had a list of foods, while not considered “unhealthy” by most people, that were on a list of foods I couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t eat because of their nutritional value, or lack thereof. Now I have an incredible list of foods that make me feel functional, whole, satisfied, vibrant because that’s more valuable to me. I am not going to judge anyone who practices a particular restrictive diet, like Paleo, Keto, Veganism, etc., but I also won’t promote those practices.

(This might not be the popular answer, but it’s mine.)

Why did I make this part of the Self-Care Series?

I truly believe if we were not meant to enjoy food and drink then our senses wouldn’t attract us to it. Why do smells make our mouths water? Why do the bright colors of produce draw us in? Why are we able to notice the different textures and flavors? Why entice us if we aren’t supposed to experience pleasure and satisfaction? I also believe food can be medicine for physical, mental, and emotional bodies. I believe making empowered choices regarding what each one of us consumes is a big middle finger to an industry that wants us to be complacent. I believe the way we think about what we consume is an indication of how we treat and care for ourselves.

The diet industry is a big business. It makes approximately $60 billion dollars a year, and the focus is not on helping people. The industry’s focus is on shaming people into to believing their bodies make them unworthy and they’ll find happiness if they change their appearance. The diet industry is focused on making people feel guilty when a diet fails, and plays hero by swooping in with another diet for the person to try so the cycle can continue. The diet industry is about sales.

Start to notice and analyze your relationship with food. Do you feel empowered by your consumption choices? Do you find pleasure and satisfaction with food? Are you able to interpret your body’s messages? Can you read them loud and clear? Or do you ignore your body? Do you feel shamed, guilty, beat down? Do you spend more time thinking about food and planning meals that it takes away from the other things in your life? Is your list of “no-no” foods a hell of a lot longer than your list of “yes, please” foods? If you are feeling more negative toward yourself and food, maybe it’s time to practice something different. Maybe it’s time to say, “Fuck you,” to the diets. Maybe it’s time to become friends with your body because contrary to what the diet industry tells us the body is quite intelligent and knows what it is doing.

Dear America,

**Disclaimer: If you want to focus on light and happier topics, raising vibrations, or sending thoughts and prayers, then this post is probably not for you.**

 

Get your shit together. I thought the worst thing I was going to hear yesterday was the attempt to access the National Security Agency campus at Fort Meade, which resulted in an officer being shot and three suspects taken into custody. Instead I turned on the news yesterday afternoon to a special report of, yet another, school shooting. This time in Parkland, Florida.

What will it take for legislators to change gun laws? I’m sure that statement has caused someone reading to think, “She’s a freaking snowflake. She just wants to take guns away from all of us. She has no idea what she’s talking about. She’s probably never even held a gun.” I learned gun safety and how to shoot at about 10 years old. My dad, now a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, took my brother and me out to one of my grandma’s pastures with a handgun and a scoped rifle and taught us not just how to shoot, but how to handle the guns safely, and afterward we saw him store the guns away. It’s a skillset I have, but a skillset I wish I will never have to use. I feel the same way about my CPR/AED training.

I see no problem in someone wanting to hunt, shoot crab apples, or have a firearm as a form of home security, if that’s what speaks to them. However, I see no reason why any civilian needs a military grade weapon. I don’t understand why anyone can purchase a gun (in some cases) without having a background check done. Some people have equated guns to cars. Each is a tool that can be used improperly. People will argue that teenagers get to drive cars, but they forget to mention each state has different requirements for new drivers. In Missouri, teens get an instruction permit at 15, at 16 they receive an intermediate license, and finally at 18 they receive their full driver’s license. Each level of licensing has certain requirements that must be met before going to the next. This means a teenager has three years of training before being left to their own devices behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, whereas you don’t have to have any training to purchase a gun. A person a only required to wait three days for a background check, and in some cases they don’t even need a background check depending on how the gun is being purchased.

Along side a need to change gun laws, the country needs to work on the stigma around mental health. I just heard on this morning’s news coverage that the shooter’s mother had passed away the year before and he was depressed, and that the family who took him in got him a job. Not therapy, not appointments with a counselor, but a job. As if a job could help someone get over the loss of a parent. The access to mental healthcare is deplorable. So much of it is not covered by insurance, and fees are too high for a lot of people to afford. Many interventions focus on relieving a symptom and not actually working on the root of the problem.

People are taught that asking for help is shameful, weak, and that they just need to “let go” or “get over” what is bothering. We especially need to listen to young people when they say something is going on and observe so we notice changes when they aren’t comfortable saying something is going on. I remember being at a physical exam for junior high cheerleading, and the nurse practitioner looked at my fingernails because the governing organization for cheerleading in Missouri has a length limit for nails. The nurse practitioner berated me for chewing my nails and asked why I did it. When I replied that I did it when I was stressed or anxious which was all the time, I was laughed at and was asked what I had to be stressed about. The stress of having to get good grades? The stress of having heavier homework loads all the time? The stress of getting all my school work done and participate in extra curricular activities? The stress of peer pressure around sex and sexuality? The stress of bullying? Maybe instead of blowing off what a child is telling you actively listen to them. If further intervention is needed, try to help provide that.

Oh, what’s going to happen to the students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and community members effected by this? What help will be provided to them? They are going to be dealing with the trauma from this event for a very long time. Long after you forget about it and move on to the next tragedy even though you tweeted “#Neverforget” they’ll still be dealing with the psychological effects of this event.

You say it’s not time to talk about these things. That right now we need to send thoughts and prayers. Your thought and prayers won’t do shit to resolve our country’s problem. Your thoughts and prayers won’t increase the ability to prevent this from happening, AGAIN. Changing gun laws, increasing access to mental healthcare, and bettering interventions are what’s needed, among so many other things.

 

Sincerely,

Appalled citizen

Self-Care Sunday, Episode 1: What is Self-Care

Welcome to Self-Care Sunday!

For quite a while now, I have been wanting to do a series of posts on self-care. However, I have also been hesitant about this idea. My intention with these posts is to provide readers with ideas for different ways to care for themselves. These posts are not meant to say one thing is better than another, and these posts are not meant to be the “be all and end all” of self-care. I think there is a real lack of self-care in people’s lives. For many, they feel self-care is selfish. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Showing oneself love, kindness, and compassion allows that person to show love, kindness, and compassion to others.

What the heck is self-care?

Self-care is the care for oneself, according to Merriam-Webster, but so many of us still don’t know what that means. Self-care is the practices, activities, and routines that support ones physical, mental, and emotional health. It is what refuels, rather than takes away.

Like I mentioned above, many people have come to think self-care is something selfish. As in, “How dare you take time for yourself to fill your figurative cup of well-being, instead of continuing to give all of your energy to beings, even when you no longer have any energy to give!” Self-care is actually quite the opposite of selfishness. By taking care of ones needs and refueling themselves the person is then able to take better care of others. Our world must be quite ill for self-care to be considered a negative thing.

How does someone practice self-care?

Here are some tips for practicing self-care.

  • Actively pursue it. Schedule it. Write it on the calendar. Block out time for yourself.
  • Have a clear intention that this is for your well-being. If you’re just doing something without a clear intention, then the result won’t be very fulfilling.
  • Figure out what you like and dislike. There’s no point in doing something you don’t like, even if the internet says you should do it. Not everyone has the same needs so test out different things to find what works for you.

With all of that being said, self-care is not always a “pretty” thing like bath bombs and coffee dates. Sometimes it’s looking at failures, re-evaluating, and trying again, if necessary. Sometimes it’s disappointing others by saying no to something. But most of all, self-care isn’t about fixing oneself. The focus is on taking care of oneself, and it is a necessary and essential thing for a balanced life.

My goal is to post a different method of self-care each Sunday creating a series of offerings to readers. These offerings will range from taking a bath to movement to stepping away from something negative. I’m quite excited for this series, and I hope you are, too. If you ever have a suggestion or have a self-care practice you love and would like me to share, please leave a comment and I will do my best to add it to my list.

Tune in next Sunday for episode 2!