Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!


"The Big Fat Lie" would like to wish you...

Happy New Year!

Let's ring in 2010 in style. May this new year bless you with continued growth, healing, abundance and peace. Enjoy tonight to the fullest. Please drink responsibly... don't drink and drive. Encourage your loved ones to do the same and pass over the keys if they imbibe in a bit too much bubbly. We want every one to have a festive and safe celebration.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays from, "The Big Fat Lie"


Happy Holidays from our, "BFL" family, to yours. Wishing you a holiday surrounded by those you love and the making of memories that will warm your heart for years to come. May 2010 bless each and every one of you with many reasons to celebrate life.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Every 'Body' is Sacred


I came across this mandala and it caught my eye. It was not the striking colors or design that drew me in, as beautiful an image as it is. What really struck me was the diversity of body types in the sacred images. I thought it was a potent reminder that every body is sacred. If we could carry this reverence inside our hearts what a different world it would be.

Monday, December 14, 2009

One More Time...


Well... I am really learning how challenging it is to get a schedule set during the holidays with all the family obligations, parties and the myriad other things that pop up unexpectedly at this time of year. I thought this upcoming Saturday would work for our community chat, but I have come up against yet another scheduling snafu. I'm beginning to think that the weekend is not the ideal time for our chat considering how many holiday functions occur during those days that most people are off from work. With all due apologies, we are going to make one final schedule adjustment for our first chat. Please note the new date and time. This one is set and has been marked off on the calendar. Now that all family plans for the holidays are in place, there will not be any further scheduling conflicts.

"The Big Fat Lie" Community Chat will take place:

Tuesday, December 22nd @ 5:00 p.m. PST/8:00 p.m. EST... for real! ;)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shannon's Self-Care Pledge


From this moment forward I am dedicating myself to my personal mission of starting a self-love revolution. I have taken a brazen step in this direction by surrendering all goals of changing the physical appearance of my body. I choose instead to embrace my present figure with all its soft padding, fleshly curves and abundance. By doing so, I am not throwing in the towel but moving into my power by reclaiming the sacredness of my body. My health and well-being are not dependent on my body size. I know that 'Health at Every Size' is a reality and I claim this gift for myself now.

I have taken the, "Live Well Pledge" from, "Health at Every Size", By, Linda Bacon, PhD. By signing this contract of intention I commit to the following practice each and every day of my life...
  • Today, I will try to feed myself when I am hungry.
  • Today, I will try to be attentive to how foods taste and make me feel.
  • Today, I will choose foods that I like and that make me feel good.
  • Today, I will try to honor my body's signals of fullness.
  • Today, I will try to find an enjoyable way to move my body.
  • Today, I will try to look kindly at my body and to treat it with love and respect.
By surrendering the aesthetic goal I move to a deeper level of my healing experience. I sink into the sensation of connecting with the feeling and allow my body to teach me through loving kindness what it needs to thrive. From this space, I choose to eat whole foods, exercise in pleasurable ways and make my self-care a priority, not in the hopes of being a smaller size but because it feels good. I claim physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being in this moment. This state of wellness is my birthright and not dependent on my weight, shape, the size dress I wear, or whether or not I measure up to society's idea of what is beautiful.

I reclaim my beauty in its plentifulness and my value as a woman who has more to offer the world than her physical appearance. I am more than a body. I am a being. Like a cornucopia overflowing with the bounty of the harvest, so is my feminine form. By embracing my present body I awaken my receptivity to the healing energy seeking to find me. My path to wholeness opens before me as I move surely toward this sacred space now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"The Big Fat Lie" Community Chat Schedule Change

Greetings Community!

I wanted to let you know that our first BFL Community Chat is being rescheduled for:

Saturday, December 19th @ 10:00 a.m. PST/1:00 p.m. EST

The change was made due to a schedule conflict with a prior obligation. I appreciate your understanding and look forward to connecting with all of you then.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"The Big Fat Lie" December 2009 Focus - Holiday Edition


Tis the season to be jolly... and frazzled, stressed, spread too thin, over-extended financially and emotionally, with little time to spare. This month's focus is going to take all of this into consideration. Rather than burdening you with more pressure, our focus will be on shoring up support so you can get through the holidays in one piece while having a good time to boot!

This is classically a difficult time for many people. It's important as we head into the holidays to think of what we need to make this busy time flow a little smoother. How can we relieve the tension so we can truly immerse ourselves in the spirit of the season? It is my hope that December's focus will help you navigate the holidays while having a strong foundation of support under your feet. For this reason, our entire focus this month will hinge on self-care and stress-reduction.

The holidays don't have to be stressful. It can be a time to connect with our loved ones, enjoy the festive vibe and relish the season's dishes that only come around once a year. Let's intend to a have a joyous December full of all the good things this celebratory time has to offer. With a little awareness we can ensure our holidays are merry and bright.


  • Support is essential at this time of the year. In order to help the group feel connected to this foundation of support we will be hosting our first BFL community chat. This will be a way for all of us to touch base with each other, share our experiences and gain a helping hand in getting through the challenges we may face during this holiday season. The chat will be hosted here next Saturday, December 12th @ 10:00 a.m. PST/1:00 p.m. EST. Everyone interested in participating is welcome to drop in and connect with the group. This includes those who follow the BFL blog and members of the, "Through Thick and Thin" community. Our chat room can be found at the bottom of the BFL homepage. I look forward to connecting with all of you so we can collectively set our intention of self-care this holiday season.
  • Carve out some time to think of what you can realistically commit to in terms of your self-care throughout this busy month. Put that commitment in writing by drafting a self-care pledge. Make your pledge read as an affirmative statement of how you will ensure your care remains a priority during this challenging time. Post your pledge where you will see it as a visual reminder of the commitment you are making to yourself. Read the pledge to yourself at the start of each day to set your intention. If you feel so inspired, share your pledge with the group by posting it on this site. In this way, we can all support one another in this vision.
  • Keep it simple. How can you free yourself from obligation so you are better able to meet the demands of the holidays? Are there some openings you can create in your schedule so you have more time available? Practice mindfulness when it comes to taking on more than you may be able to comfortably handle. Make friends with the word, "no". It can get very busy during the holidays. Many people feel the pressure of being pressed for time. It doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to attend every party. You don't have to cook a meal for every gathering. You don't have to take on the responsibility of running every errand. Take a look at the areas where you can lighten up on yourself and release obligation. For those big looming tasks, ask for the help you need. The more you can lighten your load by shortening your to-do list, the more you will experience a lightening of spirit and enjoy the fun the holidays have to offer.

  • Over the past couple of months, we have focused on introducing more whole foods into our meals. By now, many of you are beginning to find a rhythm with this. You are learning which foods you enjoy and also finding your comfort zone with approaching these changes. Some of you may be struggling. If you are finding exploring whole foods to be challenging, back off a bit. This should be something approached with curiosity and interest. It shouldn't feel like a chore. This is about discovering what works best for you in your life. In the end, it is not our goal to achieve thinness or meet society's unrealistic standards of beauty. This is not a competition, but a group effort to move toward health and well-being. In January, I will be sharing the template of 'health at every size' with this group. For now, focus on the basics of intuitive eating. For those of you who have enjoyed your exploration of whole foods, continue to do so while bringing an extra dose of consciousness into the mix with a refresher course in intuitive eating 101. Let this month's goal be one of awareness. Honor your hunger and consistently respond to this bodily need. Try turning off the TV and enjoying more meals at the table where you can truly savor the experience and derive pleasure from the food before you. Respect your fullness and stop eating when you feel pleasantly satisfied. Above all, enjoy the holiday fare. Some wonderful dishes are going to be served up and you don't need to miss out on a single bite. Have fun baking cookies with the kids. Dish yourself up a plate of that fabulous holiday dinner. Sample the appetizers that look most appealing to you at the season's parties. Do it all with awareness, staying connected to your body and its communication. In this way you can have the best of both worlds. You can partake of the festive pleasures while respecting your body.
  • Make a list of pleasurable self-care activities. Challenge yourself to list at least 20 different options. Activities can include anything from taking a soak in a hot bath with some mineral salts to going for a walk in nature. View this list as your holiday survival kit. Keep the list prominently posted. Due to the emotionally triggering aspect of the holidays many find issues with binging surfacing. If you feel the urge to fix it with food, turn to your list. Select a self-care activity to indulge in, rather than trying to eat away whatever is bothering you. When encountering stress, if we practice turning to self-care rather than relying on the coping mechanism of over-indulging in food, we begin to reprogram the way we naturally react to challenges. In time, self-care becomes the automatic response to dealing with overwhelming circumstances or difficult emotions. This is where the real healing begins.
  • Each day, treat your body to some TLC. This doesn't need to be a major event. Something as simple as pampering yourself with a luxurious body butter after you shower can make you feel cared for and valued. It's important that we give ourselves a little extra love right now. It is all about creating that foundation of support. The further we get into the holiday season, the more we will hear the food and body talk pick up in our social circles. There will be the buzz of diets to begin in the new year and mentions of being 'good' after a day of debauchery. This kind of influence can be very triggering when someone is in the process of making peace with food and their body. The more that we can stay connected to our bodies in a loving way, the better we will be able to stay centered on our healing paths.
  • Staying connected with our spirits helps us remain centered and grounded when life becomes demanding. This month, create a healing altar in your home. This will become a special place for you to connect with the intention of your healing journey. This doesn't need to be elaborate. You are free to be as extravagant or minimalist in its design as you desire. This project also doesn't require a great deal of space. A book shelf or coffee table top will do. You can even use a bulletin board if you like and tack up images that are spiritually significant to you. Adorn your altar with symbols that represent what your healing means to you. What are you creating? What new reality are you moving toward? Be sure to include some photos of yourself along with pictures of those who support you on your path to wholeness. The idea is to create a visual reminder in your personal space of the important healing work you are doing. It will be a living testament of the commitment you have made to yourself. This will become a touching point for you to tap into the sacred essence of your healing path. Over time, your altar will grow and evolve along with you. Let it symbolize the heartfelt dedication you are making to yourself. Your altar can become a place in your home environment for reflection on where you are heading and how far you have already come. It is a way to honor your self, your journey and your growth.
Feel Your Connection to Nature:
  • With the cold frost nipping at your nose you will probably find yourself spending more time indoors in the comfort of your home. In order to feel your connection to nature, bring a little of the outdoors inside. Build a bone warming fire to cozy up next to with the ones you love. Dress your home in holiday finery with decorations provided by Mother Nature herself. You can even make a day out of gathering nature's adornments. Get a group together to collect pine cones, bejeweling them later with ribbon and glitter. They make sweet ornaments for the tree. Save yourself a pretty penny by gathering greenery to make garlands, swags and wreaths of your own. It's amazing how simple it is to do these crafts. It provides a wonderful way for you to connect with the ones you care about while doing something creative. It's a real opportunity for quality time with the ones you love and this is what the season is all about.
  • If you do purchase a tree, opt for a live one that you can later plant and give back to the earth. If you choose to buy a cut tree, show your support for one of your local family farms. There are some farms that specialize solely in trees for the holiday. This is a great way to get into the spirit of the season by helping families who rely on tree sales for their livelihood throughout the year. You also get the benefit of knowing that your money is directly benefiting your community.
Have a happy holiday. Enjoy the blessings of the season. Give yourself some love and support by appreciating the gift that is you...

Merry Yule...
Merry Christmas...
Happy Hanukkah...
Happy Kwanzaa...
To each and every one.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


I would like to express my gratitude to my compadres at, "The Big Fat Lie". I'm grateful to share this experience with such a special group of women. Thank you for believing in the work we are doing here. May you and your loved ones be blessed with good times, good laughs and good food this Thanksgiving. Hand over the keys if you have too much bubbly and make sure friends and family do the same. Let's make it a safe and happy holiday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"The Big Fat Lie" November 2009 Focus


November's message calls us to secure, to root, to prepare. The harshness of winter will soon be upon us, ushering in a time to turn within and hibernate until new life bursts forth in the spring. Before newness can be breathed into the world, we must prepare for the coming retreat.

November brings us the opportunity to seek balance by expanding the protection of our support network so when the cold months encroach upon us we have everything we need to feel cozy and secure. This is also a wonderful time to pay attention to the areas of life where we may be overindulging. This does not only apply to the way we nourish ourselves with food. In order to get a clear view, we have to look at the bigger picture. Where has the energy of our life run wild? Have we slipped into excess? Are we burning the candle at both ends? Where do we need to pull back to prevent ourselves from uprooting our foundation of support? How can we find an equality of give and take in our energy exchanges so we can enter the coming winter prepared and on solid ground?

Healing overindulgence is an important theme this month. If you think about the pioneers, they had to be very mindful of both appreciating and conserving the bounty of autumn's harvest. The winter months could be unforgiving for the overindulgent who plundered their resources through excess and lack of awareness. These natural rhythms still drive the beat of our life cycles even though modern society has ensured we live in an atmosphere of plenty.

November also features Thanksgiving. It is a time for families to gather together and express gratitude for the gift of connection and the blessings that have been bestowed upon us throughout the year. We connect with our familial roots during this time of celebration. This can be both a joy and supreme challenge. Many find the holidays stressful. A slew of emotional dynamics come into play. This is why it is so vital that we secure and prepare so we can better support ourselves throughout the holiday season that will soon be upon us.

November's Focus:


- Explore different forms of stress-release and find the method that best suits you. Having peace of mind will be a valuable resource as we enter the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. There are many different routes to stress-management. Some find the tools of EFT and hypnosis particularly helpful. Guided imagery is another method that provides a means to decompress. There are also more body-centered forms of stress reduction such as, progressive relaxation or breath work. One form of stress-management and grief release that is growing in popularity is laughter yoga. Sometimes laughter is the best medicine for what ails us.

Open yourself to exploring different ways to release and restore. Approach this with a sense of curiosity throughout the month. When you find a method that resonates with you, make it a daily practice. It is amazing what the gift of even 10 minutes to unplug and tune in can do for your sense of well-being.

Here are some resources to get you started...

Jennifer Polle's Meditation and Hypnosis CD Services:

World Center for Emotional Freedom Techniques:

Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

Breath Work:

Laughter Yoga:


- Continue forward in your exploration of whole foods while inviting mindfulness into the area of overindulgence. Simply observe your present relationship with food. Is there a theme of excess running in your eating experiences? Are you honoring your body's signals of satisfaction and comfortable fullness? Are you finding yourself favoring pleasure foods over more wholesome choices that will nurture both your body's need for enjoyment and nourishment? Gently bring awareness to these areas by taking a moment to turn inward when hunger comes to call. Ask yourself, "What is the most health-honoring choice I can make for my body in this moment?" Allow the answer to emerge from your inner bank of knowing. Don't plot and plan. Simply connect with your body's wisdom in the presence of hunger and ask for its input to assess your true needs. Pleasure is important too, so think of foods that will both delight your taste buds while making your body feel good down to its bones. The more you bring consciousness into your eating decisions, the more you will find yourself moving toward a balance that supports you on all levels.

- Get into the spirit of the season by preparing a whole foods version of one of your family's favorite Thanksgiving dishes to serve up this year. Martha Stewart's Everyday Food always has a wealth of delicious recipes to peruse that are centered around whole simple ingredients. Have a look and see if something tickles your fancy. This Thanksgiving holiday show your appreciation for your loved ones by serving them a dish made with love and the highest quality ingredients.

Everyday Food:

- As the busyness increases be extra mindful of making a commitment to your fitness as outlined in our autumn focus. Bring some attention to the area of how you are going to make movement a priority during the coming holiday season. Prepare yourself and get a support plan in order. This may mean carving out a little time to fit in movement at the start of your day so it doesn't get sidelined when you are wrapped up in errands and holiday festivities later. Perhaps you can incorporate more movement in your day to day life to fit that self-care in as the pace grows more hectic. Even creating mini-fitness sessions of 10 minute stints broken up throughout the day can be a great way to make sure you move that body and show it some love. Many would argue that there is metabolic benefit in adopting this approach. Put on your thinking cap and start to think about these challenges now before your schedule is so full of obligation that you are caught off-guard and unprepared. With the coming holiday season it will be more essential than ever that you have the outlet of exercise to blow off some steam. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


- Give yourself the gift of a retreat this month. You may not be in the position to take off an entire week for reflection and renewal, but you can create a day of self-care. Secure this time for yourself. Let it be the launching point for a regular practice of self-care, reflection, and connection with your deepest self. This retreat will set the tone, allowing you to expand your vision to see new ways you can create islands of calm within each and every day.

Plan this day and set aside the time to receive deeply. No work, to-do lists, errands, responsibilities, or phone calls... just time to turn within and renew. Grant yourself the space to determine what is meaningful in your life. Pamper yourself. Indulge in some healing. Dine on luxurious wholesome foods along with generous servings of whatever makes your heart full and soul happy. Each of us deserves time to ourselves. Give yourself this gift in November so you can be inspired to make self-care a daily practice.

Feel Your Connection to Nature:

- With the dropping temperatures it's nice to welcome nature in to warm our homes. Select an array of gourds, Indian corn, and miniature pumpkins to dress your Thanksgiving table. Fill a cornucopia with this autumn harvest for a seasonal centerpiece. Allow nature to provide the decorations for this year's celebration.

Touching the Source... My Retreat


Dear Partners in Healing...

I am about to do a temporary disappearing act and wanted to let you know what's up so you wouldn't think I have fallen off the face of the earth. I'm wading through a deeply challenging period in my life. I'm currently in the middle of a major health crisis. The past couple of months have been spent in and out of the hospital being pricked with needles and tested for every yin-yang affliction under the sun. I'm in a great deal of physical pain and it has become very difficult to manage with my ever-increasing workload.

It seems that life has only become busier for me and in the process I have begun to feel depleted and overwhelmed. I have completely fallen off of my priority list. This has moved me into a self-reflective state. I have had to own up to some hard to swallow truths about myself. I am shrouded by the cloak of shadow work.

For those of you who are unaware, I am in recovery from eating disorder. I battled anorexia and bulimia from the age of 12 until I was 24. I came dangerously close to losing my life. I released those behaviors and found a certain level of recovery until life intervened with its emotional storms. Having a complete lack of coping skills, I developed binge eating disorder. This is how I became an obese woman. I have found a great deal of healing through the path of intuitive eating. I continue to be in metamorphosis... in the thick of my cocooning stage. I thought I was further along in my recovery until I read some important information about the healing process involved in reclaiming the self from the jaws of eating disorder. I learned full recovery is achieved when there is no longer a focus on food or body size... when these preoccupations do not have residence in your consciousness. Although I have come a long way in this regard, it is clear that I have not been completely liberated from this influence. The realization hit me like an arrow in my heart.

Suddenly, I was able to see the way my latent eating disorder tendencies have been wreaking havoc in other areas of my life. Eating disorder has always been my coping mechanism. It is the only way I knew how to care for myself. Amidst the chaos and upheaval of my life, it provided me a sense of control and odd safety. When I felt overwhelmed and incapable of facing my pain, I had the eating disorder to turn to for refuge. It acted as my life-preserver, enabling me to survive. It helped me cope with a lack of emotional security, making me feel falsely empowered and in-control. It helped me get through deep feelings of rejection and denial of love by providing an all-consuming, though dysfunctional, distraction. In a real sense, I am still here living and breathing because of my eating disorder as F'd up as that may sound... it's what is real.

Since I no longer use my body or food as the outlet for these imbalanced tendencies, I have experienced a transference. The eating disorder now finds expression through my work and I am running myself into the ground. I'm at the pinnacle of my recovery process. I am about to embark on the final leg of my healing journey. The past few months have been intense. I'm releasing a lot of emotions. Buried wounds have been resurfacing that are extremely painful. Even in my sleep I cannot find reprieve because old hurts are haunting my dreams. I have been crying a lot and feel that raw ache in my heart that you get when something is begging for recognition and release. At times, the intensity of what is surfacing has knocked me to my knees. As a result, I have begun to distract myself with my work. The control coping mechanism of my eating disorder has transferred to the area of my career.

I am inundated and everything has fallen to the wayside. The amount of work I have on my plate is impossible for any human being to keep up with. I often hear that I am Wonder Woman, as if this is some badge of pride. I'm here to tell ya, I'm no super hero. One look at the state of my house, ignored scholastic projects, and complete utter lack of self-care will make that abundantly clear. In response, my body has started to scream at me. I know that my physical pain has an emotional/spiritual source. I feel that truth vibrating in my bones. From head to toe
I am pain. It is as if the pain has consumed me and it's all I can feel anymore. This physical pain seems to be reminding me that I am still here in the face of my deepest self being completely ignored. Interestingly, the left side of my body is more activated. I do not think it is coincidence that this is my receiving side. I need to let go and open myself to receive. I need to allow myself to feel all of the emotions that are surfacing so they can be released. I must learn to lovingly care for myself by bringing my life into balance. Equilibrium is sorely lacking.

I have heard my soul's call and I am responding. I have created a retreat for myself. From November 1st-9th, I am unplugging and tuning in. The computer is going to be turned off. The, "Through Thick and Thin" team is covering for me at the forum. Susie, a member of our community who feels more a sister to me, has been a great facilitator in helping me come to this space where I can let go and create an opening to receive. She has generously donated her time and energy to write, "Through Thick and Thin's" November Community Challenge piece. It is amazing to witness how much people show up for you when you clearly express your needs and let go. I'm grateful to each and every one of you, moderators and community members alike, who have stepped up and volunteered your time and care to tend to the community while I am away.

During my retreat there will be no work. I will let the message center take my calls. I need to reconnect with my spiritual source and tap into my true needs. I intend to lavish myself with pampering. I am going to recommit to my yoga and meditation practice. I'm going to nourish my body with nurturing whole foods and move in pleasurable ways. I'm going to get outside and let Mama Nature wrap Her lovin' arms around me. It is time to discern what is meaningful and create a life that supports that vision.

A group of my friends have organized a healing circle for me and this is how my retreat will close. I have never received on this level from others. It is a big step for me to move into this space of openness, trust and vulnerability. I believe it will be cathartic. I wanted to share a glimpse of where I am at in my healing journey so you would understand my absence as I tend to my self-care. It seems self-care has been a running theme lately. Every woman I speak with is feeling this need to receive. I feel that it is important for me to set the tone in living the truth I speak. I must be a mirror of the intention for women to pencil themselves back in. Otherwise, I'm simply paying lip service and not walking the walk.

So dear friends, though I will miss you as I take this time away, I know that I will return a fuller woman with more to share. Know that as I travel inward I also hold a light for each and every one of you. May its glow guide you toward your own self-renewal as I whisper blessings of love to fall upon each of your hearts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Free Yourself from the Feast or Famine Cycle, Step 3: Get Your Motor Runnin' Before You Head Out on the Highway

Tara Donne

We have all heard countless times that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many who come to intuitive eating have an aversion to breakfast. They believe that they are simply not hungry in the morning. It is very common for former dieters to have skewed body signals. This comes from years of turning a deaf ear to hunger in the false hope that eating less will equate to more weight being shed. Skipping breakfast is a common tool used by dieters that usually backfires with less than desirable results. See if this pattern looks familiar to you...

You wake in the morning and you feel groggy. In fact, you believe you can still feel the feast of last night sitting in your stomach like a ton of bricks. Eating is the last thing on your mind, so instead, you grab a quick cup of coffee and head out the door. By the time your lunch break comes around at work you are famished and ready to eat the paint off the walls. At this point, you grab whatever is convenient... snacks from the vending machine, fast food, takeout, leftover donuts in the break room. It doesn't make you feel your best but at least it satisfies your hunger.

The rest of the day you find yourself snacking, often reaching for fatty or sweet foods. Your appetite seems insatiable. You also feel stressed and tense. You can't wait to get home and end the day. Dinner is your largest meal. By the looks of the plate before you the food should satisfy you, but it never does. For the rest of the night, you find yourself constantly returning to the refrigerator. You keep rifling through the cupboards looking for something that will give you that feeling of satisfaction, but nothing seems to do the trick. You continue to eat late into the night deriving little real pleasure from the experience. By the time you head off to bed you feel over-stuffed and uncomfortable. When you wake the next morning you will repeat the cycle all over again.

Once you are in this cycle, it can be a challenge to break. Many health professionals will stress the importance of breakfast, but they don't offer any realistic advice for how you can get off this merry-go-round. There also is not much information provided about how this effects your physical body beyond its impact on metabolism. I think this is why so many people equate eating breakfast with diets. In their minds it becomes all entangled in the pursuit of weight loss... a diet tool to stoke metabolism. When taking a broader view however, it is easy to see that taking time to nourish yourself in the morning is actually an act of self-care.

Why is breakfast so important?

When you rise in the morning your stomach is empty. All the food from the day before has been processed. If you ate late into the night before you went to sleep, you may feel sluggish and a little bloated. This more commonly has to do with the types of foods people nosh on when they are late-night eaters... highly processed fare, sweets, and snacks loaded with sodium will create fluid retention in the body, giving you that bogged-down feeling. Ask any late night eater and they will tell you that they are not diving into a bowl of salad, eating a ripe piece of fruit, or chowing down a wholesome meal. The cuisine of the late night eater resembles the contents of a vending machine... tasty... yes, but not nourishing to the body. It is yum-factor food that provides a quick burst of energy. There is a reason for this and as this picture gets painted you will be able to connect the dots and see how this cycle feeds upon itself.

You may feel a heaviness in your body when you rise, but it is not because you still have food sitting in your stomach waiting to be digested. It is more attributable to the quality of foods you ate late last night and the fact that you hit the sack with a full tummy. It takes no longer than 5 hours for your body to digest a meal. This means that when you wake in the morning, your body is in need of nourishment. This is despite the fact that you have difficulty registering that need because you are bloated and run-down. Sleep is designed for restoration. It is the time when your body must rest and repair. When you go to bed with a full stomach you rob your body of this time for regeneration because all the repair energy gets diverted to the task of digestion. The result is a highly-taxing scenario. This leaves you feeling depleted and lacking proper rest. If this is a habitual pattern, chronic fatigue becomes the norm. Burdening your body in this way keeps your stress switch turned on. For future reference, it will be helpful to remember this point. To the body, stress = danger. Quite inadvertently, you are throwing your body into survival mode. In natural response, the bodily systems shut down to conserve energy.

If you wake and skip breakfast, you fuel this stressed state. It's like throwing kerosene on an already raging fire. Your body lowers metabolism to compensate and shifts into fat storage mode. It is the adaptation response and you cannot outwit it. Mother Nature designed it to be fool-proof. Since your metabolism has been put on lock down you find that your hunger remains numbed out. You will have difficulty registering it. This occurs for two reasons.

First of all, the body is brilliant. It will adapt. If fuel is unavailable, even if it is by your own choosing, the body will sense a threat and decrease its energy demands by slowing everything down. This is why many breakfast skippers drag themselves through the day. They are energy deprived. It is common for those who miss the morning feeding to not register appetite until the afternoon. At this point they find themselves in the downward spiral of a blood sugar crisis. This is why the quick grab and go foods seem so appealing at this stage of the cycle. In a very real sense, your body demands instant energy when it has been deprived in this way. The foods that will be most appealing are the ones that provide a quick burst of energy. Sweets often rank high on the list, as do heavily processed foods that are commonly loaded with fat, sugar, and sodium. Fat is a biggie because the human species has depended on this rich fuel source for survival. If the adaptation response has kicked in, your body will gravitate toward foods with the highest energy density. It is a part of the natural biological process.

This becomes like a dog chasing its own tail because of the physiologic effect these foods have on our system. The more sugar and highly-processed foods we eat, the more our body craves. The rest of the day is spent playing catch up trying to soothe what seems an insatiable appetite. It is interesting to note that scientific research has demonstrated that people eat relatively the same amount of food in weight day in and day out. It is a quantity factor. As a result, those who skip meals will find themselves loading food at the end of the day to reach this consistent quantity their bodies are accustomed to. The eating often continues on late into the night. The next day they rise and start the cycle all over again. Taxing our systems with this undue stress keeps us perpetually trapped in a state of feast or famine.

How do we break the cycle?

We free ourselves from this cycle quite simply by breaking the fast. This creates an atmosphere of food security for our bodies, thereby disengaging the adaptation response. Breakfast is our time to fuel up and provide our bodies with the energy needed to meet the demands of the day. If we do not bring attention to tending to this bodily need we set ourselves up for struggle. It will be next to impossible to override the biological urges that will propel us to overeat and store that fuel for future use in the form of adipose tissue, just in case. It is time we befriend our bodies and stop working against them.

Our bodies have natural rhythms. You may have heard the term circadian rhythm. The definition of circadian rhythm is, "A daily rhythmic activity cycle, based on 24-hour intervals, that is exhibited by many organisms." When we disrupt this natural rhythm by letting our self-care slip and ignoring our bodily needs, imbalance is the inevitable result. There is a simple method that can help us reset our internal clock. This facilitates our cycles striking a balance. The end result is that we feel better supported. It isn't a complicated, convoluted approach, but rather a very gentle means to shifting our bodies back into the flow of their natural rhythm. In response, our body rewards us with renewed health and vitality. Quite effortlessly, we find that night-time eating gradually diminishes, binges decrease, and meal choices begin to favor more wholesome foods. Additionally, sleep improves. We rise and shine, feeling more well-rested. We also benefit from a significant reduction in stress levels.

The approach involves gently easing yourself into becoming a breakfast eater. Initially, the desire to eat in the morning may seem completely unappealing. As mentioned earlier, this is understandable considering the current cycle you are locked in. I'm not going to encourage you to gag down breakfast. The goal is not to make you suffer. What I am proposing is a nudging of the body toward a more supportive direction. You may not be immediately hungry when rising. Give yourself a grace period. Allow the space of half an hour after getting out of bed for your hunger to surface. During this period of time, refrain from taking in caffeine. The caffeine in coffee, soda, and tea will blunt your appetite and silence out your hunger cues. This is not ideal. We want to welcome hunger in, not slam a door on it, figuratively shutting it out. If after half an hour has passed you find that you still don't register hunger, drink your nutrition. Pour yourself a glass of 100% fruit or veggie juice. Make yourself a fruit smoothie. Have one of those drinkable yogurts. Whip up a protein or breakfast shake. You could even warm some broth to heat your belly on a cold morning.

This will provide your body with some energy and instant nutrition. Then enjoy your coffee after the bodily need for fuel has been met. You will find that this will encourage your signals to come forward loud and clear. Within a couple of hours, you are going to be hungry. Guarantee yourself access to some nurturing food. For those of you who go to work or school, this may mean being prepared by packing a snack. Make it a well-rounded one that will tide you over until you have the opportunity to break for lunch. Some ideas of well-balanced snacks are...

- A handful of nuts and an apple
- Whole grain crackers spread with natural peanut butter
- A small bag of trail mix
- String cheese with a piece of fruit

Over time, you will find that your body falls into a natural rhythm. You won't crave sweets or highly-processed foods so intensely. Your hunger patterns will become predictable. You will find that your appetite kicks in at relatively the same times every day. Since your hunger will be addressed and nutritional needs met, late-night eating and binging will start to drop off. You will feel a whole lot better. In a relatively brief amount of time, you will wake up in the morning to the sound of your tummy rumbling. You will be a breakfast eater and will surprise yourself when you actually want something substantial to eat to start your day.

I speak from personal experience. I used to be one of those people who believed I wasn't a breakfast eater. For years, I loaded all my food at the end of the day. My food choices were less than stellar in terms of the nurturing they provided my body with. This created many health imbalances for me and spurred on my binging behavior. I never could understand why I felt such a compulsion to eat such large quantities of sweets and fatty foods night after night. It made me completely miserable on every level. I struggled to release this behavior. Becoming a breakfast eater was an important part of my recovery. I used the same approach I have outlined for you.

I was amazed how quickly my morning hunger returned. After a mere week of drinking my nutrition at the start of the day, I found myself waking, ready for breakfast. I have been a breakfast eater ever since. I have shared this approach with a number of people with much the same result. Some have even reported that their morning hunger kicked in after as little as 3 days! This may not seem so monumental to those who are accustomed to eating breakfast, but for those who have always shunned the morning meal it's darn near revolutionary! The effect in every instance has been one of balance. Eating falls into a more naturally supportive rhythm and health... physically, mentally, and emotionally... improves.

This is a very important key that frees us from the feast or famine cycle. In the rare instances that my eating goes haywire, I often find falling back into the pattern of skipping breakfast the source of disruption. Once I get back to my morning meal, balance is restored. I will boldly state that it will be a constant battle to address binging behavior and overeating until this vital step is dialed in.

If you want a different result, you have to be willing to adopt a fresh, new approach. Change is uncomfortable for everyone. We are creatures of habit. Becoming a breakfast eater is a change that can have a powerful result. The approach that has been outlined here is rooted in sensitivity. It is a gentle way to make this shift without being triggered. Get your motor runnin' before you head out on the highway and feel the difference.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Free Yourself from the Feast or Famine Cycle, Step 2: Make Peace with Wholesome Foods

We live in a food environment that encourages a focus on what I like to call easy access foods... foods that can be eaten on the run. We are so pressured by timelines and jam-packed schedules that nourishing our bodies has become a grab and go affair. The act of eating in and of itself is a potent form of self-care. When we put our nourishment on the back burner, we over-stress our bodily systems and we burn out. No one would expect to hop in their car and go for a spin if the tank was empty and the gas light was on. Yet how often in life do we place this same unrealistic demand on our bodies by expecting them to perform without adequate fuel? The constant over-taxing of our bodies and pushing of its limits activates our survival mechanisms. To the body, stress = danger and this activates the feast or famine cycle and subsequent adaptation response.

Self-care is such an important part of this equation. It is a skill that most of us are lacking. Too often our attention is consumed with caring for others, tending to deadlines, and forever pushing the envelope. Somehow, our self-care always seems to fall through the cracks. We can all intellectually relate to the notion that when we care for ourselves we are then better able to show up in life and be there for others. Intellectual knowing and embodiment of truth are two different matters. We have to live it and this can only happen by moving into the realm of action and taking some practical steps by penciling ourselves back in.

Never ignoring our hunger is one very important way that we can care for ourselves and lessen the impact of stress on our bodies, but what we choose to fuel up with is vital too. A common trap that many people fall into on the intuitive eating path is to be led solely by their taste buds. It's easy to go for the yum factor when considering what you would like to eat, but that is viewing the nurturing of your body in a myopic way. Your body's communication does not stop at your mouth. Taste is a component of that communication, but you can't sever this dialect from the rest of the language of your body. Your digestive system, energy levels, mood, and other bodily reactions to the foods you choose to eat also have something worthwhile to contribute to the conversation. If you are not a participant in the dialogue and are merely hijacking the juicy bits, you are not eating intuitively.

Many will embrace intuitive eating as an opportunity to eat vast amounts of what the authors of, "Intuitive Eating" refer to as play foods. I would like to re-frame how we refer to these foods. I think 'play foods' continues to give the impression that these foods are a source of entertainment. I feel that 'pleasure foods' are a more appropriate label. Is this not why we are drawn to the cakes, candy, soda pop, chips and dip, fast food burgers and fries? We relish in the pleasure. Pleasure is also an important part of honoring health and feeling a high level of satisfaction. Feeling satisfied is essential if we are to find balance in eating experiences. However, there are many wholesome foods that provide our bodies with essential nutrients and are pleasurable both to our taste buds and our long term sense of well-being.

There are two categories of foods:

Nurturing Foods - These are foods that nurture our whole selves. They taste delicious, feel good in our bodies, and provide us with the essential building blocks of health and vitality. Examples of nurturing foods are whole foods such as, whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, rice, fruit and 100% fruit juices, veggies, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, meats, tofu, nuts and nut butter, seeds, oils, butter, natural sugars, spices and foods made with whole ingredients.

Pleasure Foods - These foods are all about the pleasure factor. They offer little nutrition but taste yummy so they tend to keep people coming back for more. Examples of pleasure foods are, cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream, soda pop, fried foods, highly processed foods, fast foods, white flour products, sweet cereals, sweetened drinks and refined sugar.

You can be very conscious of honoring your hunger, but if the majority of your food intake are pleasure foods, you will continue to be in the feast or famine cycle because your body will be starved of the nutrition it needs. Those who eat predominantly highly processed foods are triggering their body's survival response quite unwittingly.

Our bodies have certain nutritional demands that must be met and pleasure foods cannot meet this requirement. It is interesting to note that many obese individuals also have nutrient deficiencies. Many Americans are malnourished, despite our escalating obesity rates. It seems ludicrous that malnourishment could exist when we are surrounded by such plenty, but it's a reality. Taking a multi-vitamin/mineral may help, but truth is, dietary supplements are more of a band aid than a solution. In fact, it may be necessary for those nutrients to come into our bodies through the carrier of food for maximum absorption and benefit. Popping a daily multiple cannot make up the deficiency of an eating style that excludes vital nutrients.

Remember that in order for the feast or famine cycle to be activated the body has to feel its survival is threatened in some way. You can eat to sufficiently address your hunger but if the nutrition is not coming in, your body will remain in a depleted and essentially starved state, despite the fact that your tummy is registering very full. It's a catch 22.

It has become evident to me that there is another necessary step that must be taken on the path of intuitive eating and that is to make peace with nurturing foods. It is important to go through the stage of reintroducing pleasure foods in the beginning. It is a key component of coming off the restriction and limitation of diets, but at some point you have to heal your relationship with nurturing foods and realize they are not the enemy, but an ally to feeling your very best.

If we are truly in touch with our bodies and listening to their guidance we will find that we enjoy a balance of foods. Nurturing foods are cast as the star and pleasure foods play supporting roles. Yet too many people get nurturing foods intertwined with 'diet' foods in their minds. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Nurturing foods are tasty, ripe, succulent, delicious, vivacious, and deeply satisfying. They nourish us from the inside, out. They feel good in our bodies and help us reach a place of optimum health. There is room for all foods to be represented on our tables. This is not about excluding pleasure foods, but finding that balance where nurturing and pleasure go hand in hand in a state of cooperative equilibrium that leads to wholeness.

Take an honest look in your cupboards and fridge. Do you have nurturing food availability? Many of you have already taken the step to ensure that you have pleasure foods on hand. What about nurturing foods? Do you have access to a variety of nurturing foods when your hunger comes to call? Sit and make a list of all the nurturing foods that you enjoy. Think of all the wholesome foods that satisfy you on every level. The next time you go grocery shopping, bring this list with you and introduce more of these quality foods into your home. If you don't have access to nurturing foods, you will always come up short. You will veer toward the quick fix rather than provide your body with what it truly needs.

You can even make your pleasure foods more nurturing by preparing them yourself using whole food ingredients. This is simply an idea to get you thinking outside the box... literally. What tastes better and gives a higher level of pleasure anyway... cookies out of a box or a batch made in your kitchen with your own two hands? It's something to think about.

When hunger comes calling it is your body asking for nurturing, not pleasure. If you want to free yourself from the feast or famine cycle, address hunger by feeding yourself some nourishing food. If you want to cap off the meal with a little pleasure for deep satisfaction, then have that piece of chocolate or relish the salty crunch of a handful of chips. Address the need for nurturing first. Make that your top priority.

I had an experience recently that shed light on the value of this advice. I was hungry and my first inclination was to grab something sweet. My body was depleted and wanted that quick energy, thus, the sugar craving. In the past, it would have been my knee-jerk reaction to grab some candy or have a slice of cake, but I have been focusing on self-care and knew that this would not address my body's needs. I took a moment and invited awareness in. I asked myself if there was something nurturing I could eat that would satisfy my desire for pleasure by including that sweet taste my mouth was wanting. I decided on a peanut butter and honey sandwich on toasted sprouted whole grain bread with a cold glass of milk. I figured I would enjoy my sandwich first and then if I still wanted dessert I would savor a little treat. I ended up feeling deeply satisfied and nourished by the sandwich. My body's needs were met and I had no desire for dessert. The honey gave me all the pleasure I was seeking.

There have also been times since I started using this approach that I did want to end my meal on a sweet note. What I discovered is that a small taste savored goes a long way. I may enjoy a couple squares of chocolate or a scoop of ice cream. It is the highlight of my meal, not the main course. I tend to flow with what feels good. This approach feels far more balanced while retaining every ounce of pleasure.

I have come to believe that pleasure foods are better enjoyed in absence of hunger... experienced for the sheer pleasure in and of itself. Pleasure foods make a pleasant end to a meal or a yummy treat when you have that hankering for that special something. In this way, I don't hit pleasure food overload. Since I enjoy these foods purely for the experience and not to address hunger, it becomes a pure taste sensation. I find satiation with small amounts. I'm not suggesting that everyone approach pleasure foods the way I have. I'm merely sharing my experience to offer a glimpse of a different perspective.

Experiment with this and see how you feel. Engage a higher level of self-care. When honoring your hunger, consider your body's need for nurturing without denying that pleasure has its place. Maybe it is time that we brought back the tradition of dessert. I know that when I was growing up I always looked forward to that sweet spot in my day. Somehow, the years of dieting and restriction wiped out this tradition. You can have your cake and eat it too. You can also have the vibrant health you seek. Why limit yourself when you can have it all? Nurturing and pleasure can co-exist.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"The Big Fat Lie" October 2009 Focus

The energy of October continues to carry forward the autumnal theme of gratitude and celebrating the bounty of the harvest, with the additional focus of moving into a space of willingness to surrender that which has served its purpose. This month features what has rapidly become the most popular holiday in the United States... Halloween. When most think of Halloween, images of kiddies dressed up as goblins and ghouls plundering the neighborhood with pillow cases full of trick-or-treat spoils is what commonly comes to mind. Halloween however, is a celebration rich in tradition. It originally served as occasion to honor those who have passed. It is a time of reflection. A call to remembrance of loved ones no longer with us in body, but ever present in spirit. It is also a time of mindfulness, beckoning us to turn within and bring awareness to what is burdening our souls and is now ready to be let go. We embrace this 'death' graciously knowing that in its release comes the promise of new life and growth. Our October focus is one of celebration and gratitude, tempered by reverence and release. Slip into the spirit of the season and savor the trick-or-treats that await you!


- Research what CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms are in your area. Local Harvest is a wonderful resource that will help you locate a CSA near you. Follow this link:

Here you can find a complete listing of CSA's, farmer's markets, farm stands, and u-pick produce sources. Look into what kind of programs your local CSA has available. Many offer affordable options that allow you to be on the receiving end of quality local produce and other sustainably raised goods being delivered right to your front door. Often the packages make economical sense too. Some farms accommodate different income brackets by providing sliding scale fees. Supporting your local CSA is a wonderful way to get the freshest, highest quality, locally grown foods, while putting money back into your community. It's a way for us to be involved and give our area's farmers a much needed leg up. Research your options and see if this is something that makes sense for your family.

If you are not quite ready to take the leap by joining a CSA, investigate the possibility of purchasing some of your food at your local farmer's market, or patronizing a family farm. When we support the local growers in our area we sow the seeds of community while ensuring that the highest quality foods find their way to our table.


- Continue to introduce whole foods, lessening your reliance on processed goods, as outlined in our autumn seasonal focus. Make sure to enjoy the seasonal fruits and veggies. The delicious fall harvest is not to be missed!

- Move forward with your movement. Look at your fitness over the past month. Are there areas you can improve? How can you increase your fitness in a way that is both fun and rewarding? How can you take steps to carve out this important time for your self-care? Continue to implement the exercise approach that was outlined in our autumn seasonal focus.

- This month, make it your goal to eat one less meal out each week. Stash that cash you would have spent on takeout and instead prepare a home-cooked meal. Once a week for this month of October, make it a priority to connect with your family around the dinner table. If you feel so inspired, make it a communal experience. Get the whole family involved in meal preparation. Experience the way we can bond and find connection through sharing a meal all our loved ones played a part in creating.

- Once this month, prepare a homemade Halloween treat using whole food ingredients. You can prepare anything from popcorn balls and caramel apples, to cupcakes adorned with spooky embellishments and peanut brittle... whatever the kid in you fancies. This would be a great activity to get your children involved in.


- Participate in the, "Lighten Your Load" exercise. Release what you no longer need to carry.

Feel Your Connection to Nature:

- Wake up your latent child-like wonder. Visit a local pumpkin patch and choose a handsome gourd to carve your Jack-o-lantern. While there, enjoy a cup of warm apple cider, take a hayride if you please, bob for apples, or get lost in a corn maze. Bring back those days when nature was your playground. This is a great way for the whole family to get out and spend some quality time together while connecting with the natural world.

- If you feel moved, pay your respects to those who are no longer with us. Volunteer your time at a local cemetery. Pull weeds away from headstones, pick up litter, plant some flowers next to graves that have not had visitors in a while. This is a beautiful way to honor the gift of life by remembering those who have passed.

Lighten Your Load


I designed the following exercise to help us move in harmony with the releasing energy of October. It will awaken our awareness, casting a light on the shadow of what is weighing us down, burdening our paths, and holding us back from moving boldly in the direction of our dreams. Once we understand the source of our limitation, we can let it go. In its surrender, the seeds of the new can find fertile ground to grow and flourish. It may seem a 'death' to relinquish old beliefs, grudges, resentments, and ways of being, but in the letting go, we experience a resurrection of life. In order for the new to enter, we must clear the way. Let's make some room.

Take some time to reflect on the past year. What are you holding onto that is no longer serving a purpose? Are you clinging to the bitterness of an argument with a loved one? Are you bound by the chains of a troubled past? Are you holding yourself back with judgmental thoughts? Is fear preventing you from moving forward in your life? What is weighing heavily on your heart? What burden has become too great to carry? Only you have the power to remove the albatross around your neck that is dragging you down.

We are our prison keepers. Our sense of lack and limitation, fears of inadequacy, and need to blame, bind us under lock and key. We can choose to move through life in this confining way, or we can empower ourselves by surrendering what no longer serves us and find freedom in its release. Which existence will you choose?

Find a shoe box and decorate it with images of the life you want to create for yourself. Open the doorway to your imaginative mind. You can use any medium you like to adorn your box... glitter, stickers, jewels, feathers, images from magazines... whatever speaks to you. Reflect on what is meaningful to you. What vision do you have for your life? What does wholeness look like to you? How would you feel if your dreams became reality? What manifestation are you now birthing into being? Let this be the inspiration for your dream box.

Throughout this month of October, when you are out on your nature walks, gather smooth rocks you come across. On the surface of each rock you find, write in permanent marker one thing that has been weighing you down. The explanation does not need to be elaborate. You can write simple words that convey the burden you are carrying such as, guilt, anger, grief, loss. Or you can be a bit more detailed by writing something such as, resentment toward my lover, fear of success, unhealthy body image. You get the picture.

Every time you list a burden you are carrying, place it in your dream box. Continue to gather together your burdens throughout the month. At the end of October, take your dream box with all the weight of what no longer serves you contained within and head out to a natural space where you can have some privacy. The setting doesn't matter. What is most important is what this natural space represents to you. You could choose the ocean for it's cleansing energy. A mountain top for its majestic vantage point. A wide-open field for its serenity. A stream or creek that can carry your worries away. Select a place that's special to you.

As you carry your dream box, notice its weight. Feel the magnitude of what you have been carrying by holding on to these things that no longer serve you. How could your dreams possibly take flight under the weight of this burden? When you find the right spot, open your box and pick a stone. Read the burden it bears. Allow yourself to connect with the energy of this limitation and the way it has harmed you... one last time... so you can bid it farewell. When you are ready, throw the stone away from you with all your might. Hold the intention that you are casting off this shackle to make room for the new life you are wanting to create. Go through your box until every last stone has been cast. Then turn your back and walk away. You have lightened your load and can now move forward in freedom.

Notice how light your dream box is now that you have let go of what no longer serves you. Keep your box in a place where you will see it often to remind you that the life you dream of is within your reach. It can become a special place to store affirmations, meaningful quotes, the poetry of your heart... all that reinforces the beauty you are breathing into your world.

Beyond the Looking Glass... Reflections on a Year without Reflection


I'm about to have my 37th birthday in just under a couple of weeks. I have spent the past three years healing my body image issues... coming to a place of peace and acceptance with myself. Anyone who has been through an in-depth healing process will tell you that it is a spiral path. As much as you believe your journey is complete, you always discover that there is another loop of growth to travel.

Lately, my social circle has been obsessed with body talk. Everyone around me is trying to lose weight, complaining about how fat they are, making judgmental comments about other women's bodies. The energy is really bringing me down. I wish I could make these women understand that it is not a food issue. It is not a weight issue. It is a self-care issue. I wish they could see what I see... that our worth is not held in the container of our physical appearance. The pursuit of the societal definition of perfection robs us of our joy and sense of belonging. When we are laying on our death bed the last thing we are going to be worried about is that piece of devil's food cake we devoured or the silly size of our jeans. Yet, we squander so much of our life energy fretting over something so trite and irrelevant.

This body talk is toxic. It can really bring a girl down, man. Lately, I've noticed it has made me more aware of my own silhouette... its fleshy curves and soft padding. How could I not be impacted in this way? Women have approached me with unwarranted comments about my body, blurring the boundary lines of my personal space. They wonder how much weight I have lost, what I plan on doing to release some more, how I'm eating... blah, blah, blah! Can you tell I am so over this dribble?! With everything going on in the world today aren't there more important issues at stake? Why are people so closed to meaningful dialogue? Why are we so content to skim the surface instead of scratching the veneer to see the depth of what lies within?

I recently experienced this body fixation at a gathering. It was a healing circle for my friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. We were raising such beautiful energy. We were gathered in numbers and strength in a spirit of love. The power of that intention was palpable. Then it seeped in... like a disease... infecting and consuming every healing thought in its path. Body talk.

I heard one woman greet an old friend with, "Wow... look at you! I remember when you were so fat!" Another woman lamented that she had lost 15 lbs. and was now too skinny as her friend quipped under her breath, "anorexic". Another lady offered up a few meager pieces of chocolate to the group with the disclaimer, "Sorry, that's all I have left. I'm trying to get it out of the house. I'm going to be 'good' come Monday." On and on it went. This woman talking about her cleanse and how she had piously abstained from a laundry list of foods. That woman pinching at the roll cascading over her waistband. It was a ceaseless dietribe drowning out prayers of healing and heartfelt intention. How can healing energy co-exist in such a place of division and rejection? My insides were screaming, "Stop bringing this hateful energy into this sacred space!"

Here I was, amidst a gallery of goddesses. Each one beautiful and complete in their many forms. Every woman present possessed an exquisiteness that runs through their lifeblood, having no connection to that little number on the clothing tag of their dress. Somehow this truth escaped their consciousness in the fog of vanity. These women who felt so woeful about their bodies are lithe forms next to this thick mama who has a solid 100 lbs. on each of them. To hear them reject themselves in this way made me wonder what they see when they look at me. Do they even see me at all? Or does my body size get in the way?

I am the largest woman in the room. I am that white elephant that gives rise to discomfort. People notice my difference, but pretend my plus-size has escaped their attention. Instead, they talk around me as if I am none the wiser. It's almost as if my presence compels women to rebuke all things fat lest my obesity rub off on them. The experience had a powerful effect on me, prompting me to respond in a rather radical, unconventional way.

I have been feeling a great pull to turn within... deflecting my attention from the superficial, to reflect on my pure essence. I long to unmask the woman I am behind the veil of social guises, appearances, and pleasantries. My soul is singing Siren songs beckoning me to dive deep and explore the ocean of my inner being. What mysteries await me in its murky depths? My draw is not to the physical, but the intangible. I have surrendered concern about whether or not I am releasing weight, or if I ever will for that matter. My soul's desire is to feel good, celebrate the gift of life, take loving care of my entire being, and be appreciative of this earth suit I get to experience this wondrous world in. Lately, I have heard the call... "Let go... surrender... release expectation and discover the true meaning of life. It is here you will find the balance once liberated from the shackles of design. Embrace the formless and sink into serendipity."

I am answering the call by spending the next year of my life unencumbered by mirrors. A year without reflection to deepen my reflection. A journey of self-discovery to see what lies beyond the looking glass.

My bathroom mirror has been covered by a sign bearing a sunny smiley face exclaiming, "You are gorgeous!" The mirror in the garage that I used to work out in front of is being dismantled. I want to sense and feel my body instead of defining myself according to labels of beauty seen in a reflection. I have recently caught myself on the way to the shower, scanning my profile in the mirror, noting how far my tummy sticks out. I've witnessed the reemergence of body consciousness. I'm nipping it in the bud... pulling it out of the garden of my soul like so many weeds. I will not let its intrusion over-grow and invasively consume the fresh growth I have nurtured and lovingly tended to.

Maybe I sound a little kooky, a bit eccentric, or a tad extreme. I don't know what it will be like to live life without mirrors. Will my perception of self shift without having my reflection to define me? How will my identity morph as I base my experience of myself on what I feel, rather than what I see? Will I be able to connect more deeply with the true source of my being? Will I find the bounty of my mojo there waiting for me... a treasure chest overflowing with the promise of a juicy life bursting with ripeness? I don't know, but it seems an intriguing experiment. They say that curiosity killed the cat, but this feline knows that satisfaction is what brought it back. This kitten is ready to get her purr on. The wild unbridled woman in me can't help but go there and challenge the confines of normalcy.

And so I pose this question to you dear friends...

What do you think lies beyond the looking glass?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Free Yourself from the Feast or Famine Cycle, Step 1: Never Ignore Hunger


Hunger is a cue from our bodies that should never be ignored. It is an important sign that we are low on fuel and need to fill up with quality nutrition. When we disregard hunger, we activate the onset of the feast or famine cycle and subsequent adaptation response the body relies on for survival. These systems are hardwired into our physiology to ensure the continuing existence of the human species.

Our bodies have brilliant design. Before the industrialization of food, our bodies ability to adapt to limitation by slowing metabolism, switching into fat storage mode, and conserving existing fat stores to later be broken down and used as fuel during lean times, was what ensured our survival. Without this ability to adapt, humans would have perished during the hardship of winter when food was scarce.

The game has changed, but the 'rules' remain the same. We live in an atmosphere of plenty. We have the highest level of food availability than any time in history, yet there are plenty going hungry out of a desire to pursue thinness. There is a distortion that has been perpetuated by the diet industry that you have to eat less in order to release excess weight. This belief shows a complete lack of understanding of how the human body functions. Most who are overweight and obese need to eat more, not less. They need to learn how to consistently respond to their body's need for food when hunger calls. Many who are obese blame their love of food and their overeating for the condition of their bodies. The true culprit is a lack of nourishment.

True... some people do overeat, but even the urge to eat excessively or binge is provoked by not properly responding to hunger cues. Overeating and binging are biological events. It may seem that these behaviors are wrapped up in emotionality, but the truth is far more simple. You may feel emotional when you binge. You may be having a rough day when you overeat, but the basis of this behavior stems from an adaptation response. Your emotions are not provoking this imbalanced reaction. In fact, one of the first places this imbalance develops is in a lack of ability to consistently respond to hunger cues.

This should come as welcome relief because it means that there is a simple solution. For years plus-size people have had this idea embedded in their minds that they are dealing with an emotionally complex issue. Living a super-size existence does have its complexities, but this is far more attributable to social pressure, unrealistic expectations of what constitutes the 'ideal' body type, and in some cases, blatant discrimination. The reality is, diets are at the root of our obesity crisis.

Diet dogma has long preached that we should ignore our hunger if we want to be slim. In fact, you will even hear fame-motivated medical professionals exclaim on glitzy talk shows that it is necessary to experience a certain level of hunger when an individual is trying to lose weight... that this should be anticipated. Then you have that infamous commercial produced by the corporate giant that proclaims, 'Diets don't work, but they do'. Their infamous commercial represents hunger as somewhat of a spoiled child demanding attention. The day-glow orange muppet 'hunger' runs rampant, doing everything in its power to get noticed and fed as a pious dieter turns a deaf ear. We are told that we need to 'conquer hungry' in order to lose weight. This commercial does nothing short of make our natural signal of hunger the enemy. This type of diet propaganda is what is fueling the war people have with their bodies. It is this system of thought that is deepening the division between ourselves and our bodily wisdom. It is the basis of the obesity epidemic... a condition that has grown so prevalent in modern society that it is now deemed, 'globesity' for its worldwide impact.

In a very real way, the body of modern man is reacting as if there is a widespread famine when in reality we live in abundant times, full of plenty. We are inflicting this scarcity consciousness on our bodies and as a result, we are triggering an adaptation response. Our bodies are doing what they are designed to do... survive.

It's not your body's fault. Your body is accurately responding to the stimulus you are providing it. It is also not your fault. You have been subjected to misinformation. There is so much conflicting advice out there that it can be difficult to wade through the BS to arrive at the truth. We were never taught the proper way to care for our bodies. Quite frankly, it isn't in the diet industry's best interest to share this information with you. The truth doesn't make the big wigs the bucks. The truth will set you free but it requires you to step up to the plate and take full responsibility. This is your body. You only get one earth suit. No one else can care for your body, but you. Laying blame will not help you free yourself from the feast or famine merry-go-round. If you want to move forward toward health, you must take full ownership of your body. Your physical welfare is your responsibility.

I believe in keeping things simple. I'm 100% behind the idea of sharing knowledge for the sake of mutual empowerment. What I am going to present to you over the coming weeks is a body owner's manual of sorts. I am going to provide a clear and direct outline of how to care for your body so you can be freed from the feast or famine cycle once and for all. Once you are free, you never have to return to the place of your present imbalance. I can share this information with you, but it will be up to you to apply the knowledge. You are the caretaker of your body, no one else. Likewise, you can choose to take what I share and toss it out the window. All the choices you make about the care of your body are yours alone. The stimulus you provide your body with will determine whether you stay in your present state or move forward toward healing. Own the power of that choice. I think too often people feel helpless and play the victim role when it comes to their health. They falsely believe that they have no power to improve their circumstances. A common question obese individuals ask themselves is, "Why is my body working against me?" I think the more appropriate question is, "Why do we constantly work against our bodies?"

Perhaps we are unwittingly working against the best interests of our bodies. We have been force fed this diet ideology and it is what we have come to know as 'the way things are'. We are going to shake things up a bit and take what you have learned up to this point and turn it upside down. We are instead going to discern, 'the way things are for you'. We are all individuals. Our needs are unique. There is no one size fits all program mapping the road to health. You have a personal health combination that once discovered, will unlock the doorway to vitality for you. The steps I will be outlining will reveal your personal combination. However, it will be up to you to walk through that doorway and claim your new reality. Your future health is entirely in your hands.

Again, many of you are probably thinking, "We already know this stuff. Honoring hunger is one of the primary tenets of intuitive eating. I have no problem eating when I am hungry." Don't be so sure. I mistakenly presumed that I was adept at honoring my hunger. Every time I have been hungry, I have eaten. I should be golden, right? Wrong. I've had this habit of getting distracted by my work. I'll be busily typing away at the computer and I will feel my first hunger call. I tell myself, "You're hungry. Go get something to eat as soon as you finish this writing piece." As I am working away, my hunger continues to build. Up to 20 minutes can pass as I am wrapping up my work. At that point I have set hunger, verging on ravenous. My hunger pangs are in full swing and I need to eat as of yesterday. I quickly prepare myself a meal and voila... hunger addressed... but far from adequately.

If you let your hunger build in this way, it's already too late. You have triggered an entire biochemical reaction in your body that flashes the red light of 'DANGER'. All of those survival adaptation responses go into effect. Once that process starts, it can't be undone. It's like a runaway train. It will have its own momentum that can't be interrupted.

If you frequently let your hunger build like this, you are in a feast or famine cycle. Likewise, if you experience low blood sugar symptoms such as, jitters, wooziness, headache, irritability, cold sweats, or faintness, you are also missing your first hunger cue. Then at the extreme end of the scale you have those who outright disregard hunger. They feel their hunger come on but rationalize that they shouldn't be needing food already. After all, they just ate a couple of hours ago. How could they possibly need more food? In response, they will down some coffee or a soda... something with caffeine to 'take the edge off'. Others go out to puff on a smoke. What they are really doing is blatantly ignoring their hunger.

Here's the deal. Eating is an affair of the body, not the mind. If you are hungry, you need to eat... period. It really doesn't matter what your thought process has to say about it. You can't rationalize to eat or not to eat. If your hunger signal is present, you need to eat, even if you had food a mere hour ago. It makes no difference. Your body does not punch a time-clock. It has needs that must be met. Your body does not speak to you in the language of words. It uses signals such as hunger to communicate its needs. Don't try to rationalize the experience or the communication will be lost in translation. To learn the language of your body you have to feel it out. You can try to think about it until your head explodes and you won't be any closer to understanding the intimate language of your body. Feeling must lead the way.

It's time we understand that what we are dealing with is not a food issue. It is also not a weight issue. What we have on our hands is a self-care issue. Many of us lack this coping skill and in order to heal, we are going to have to refine our ability to provide ourselves with quality care. Take food and the size of your body out of it. It really isn't about any of that. Imagine that you had self-care really dialed in. You would always eat at the first sign of hunger because you would know how important it is to care for your body in this way. You would eat meals that you enjoy but also provide you with vitality and radiant health. You wouldn't be compelled to fill up on play foods that rob you of your energy and sense of well-being. You would want to move your body not because you were trying to squeeze into those smaller jeans, but because it makes you feel good and improves the quality of your life. You would have strong stress-management skills. You would ensure that you get quality sleep every night. In essence, you would create a strong foundation of support for yourself in every area of your life. This is what you do when you care for someone. Don't you try to provide these same things for your loved ones? It's because you care about them. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that we are also worthy of care and this is the area we need to work on. This is what needs healing. The imbalanced relationship with food, the weight... these are just symptoms. The root cause is lack of self-care.

Honoring your hunger is a very simple, but powerful step toward self-care. It is essential. Deepen your listening skills. Pay attention to that first sign of hunger. It will usually begin with your thoughts turning to food. You will start to think about what sounds good to eat. You may notice your mouth watering ever so slightly as your salivary glands gear up for digestion. If you tune in to your stomach you will feel an empty sensation. This is when you should start to prepare your meal. Don't wait until your hunger pangs are growling like a rabid dog. Don't put off your hunger by tying up one more loose end before you address the true need. You deserve this quality care. The work will be there. It's not going anywhere. Whatever is pressing can wait. Take a timeout to fuel your body. The more consistently you properly address the first sign of hunger, the more safety you create for your body. You lessen the stress and release yourself from the feast or famine cycle.

There will be times that your hunger surfaces at inopportune moments. Maybe you can't take your lunch break at that time. Perhaps you are on the road and the nearest eatery is miles away. This is where your responsibility comes into play. Be prepared. Always have a snack on you, wherever you go. Make it something nourishing that has some staying power. Candy bars are a poor salve for hunger. Don't set yourself up so you are relying on the nearest vending machine. A simple zip-lock bag filled with a handful of nuts and some raisins would do nicely, as would trail mix, cheese and whole grain crackers, or peanut butter and grahams. This is a wiser way to 'take the edge off'. Let the snack tide you over, but as soon as possible, make sure you take the time to nourish yourself with a substantial meal. The snack will abate your appetite but the need for proper fuel is still there. Use your common sense.

This is the way some people can get stuck on the guidelines of intuitive eating. They follow the prescription rigidly thinking that they should only eat when their stomach is grumbling. Not so! A healthy dose of common sense comes in handy when making food decisions. If it has been hours since your last meal and your hunger calls at a time when you only can stop for a quick snack, that doesn't mean the need for a substantial meal has vanished simply because you slapped a band aid on your hunger. That bodily need for true nourishment remains present. Break for that meal as soon as possible. Since you already have a little snack in your system, you will likely only have room for a smaller meal. Your body will tell you when you have had enough. Tune in to your fullness.

While on the subject of fullness I would like to mention that there is no 'right' level of fullness to reach. Many advocate eating to satiation, just shy of fullness. I think that is fine, if that is what works for you. Understand however, that if you are someone who routinely eats to satiation you need to be even more prepared with convenient handy snacks, especially when away from home. Quite simply, you are going to be hungry more often and will likely find that your eating falls in a pattern of consuming a little something 5-6 times a day.

Some people need to experience a higher level of fullness than this. That is perfectly fine and natural too. You have to defer to your body. If you only feel satisfied when very full, so be it! Your appetite will be tided over for a longer period of time than those who tend toward a pattern of eating to satiation. Your natural eating style may more closely resemble the typical three squares a day with the occasional snack. There is nothing in error with this. Every body is different. Some people are grazers and others need more hearty meals.

Additionally, don't work yourself up in a tizzy if you happen to overeat at a meal, or even if you binge. The bodily discomfort is enough drama to deal with. You don't need to pile additional guilt and upset on top of what is already a frustrating situation. Is it really such a big deal anyway? Think about it. If your stomach is stretched to maximum capacity and is over-full, your appetite is going to be held over for a long time. Your body will likely be processing that food for quite awhile. Whereas normally you may burn through a meal in 2-3 hours, a meal overeaten, or a full-blown binge, can take 5-6 hours for your body to process. Maybe even longer in some extreme cases! Your body will balance it out. It is designed to do so. Let yourself off the hook. It isn't the end of the world. In fact, if you retrace the steps of your day leading up to the binge episode you will likely find that at some point, you didn't address that first hunger call. You may have found yourself with your pants down so to speak, unprepared, without a handy snack. There is always a biological basis for overeating. It is a physiologic reaction from bodily needs not being met. You can leave the morality and guilt out of it. Put it behind you and simply wait to eat until your hunger comes calling again. As you become more efficient at providing yourself with quality care by addressing that first sign of hunger you will see binging behavior fall away naturally. Additionally, the more that you can adopt a relaxed attitude about your overeating episodes by letting your body balance it out, the more you will find the need to engage in this behavior diminishing.

From this moment forward, up your self-care by eating at your first sign of hunger. Don't wait until your stomach is growling at you or you trigger a blood sugar episode. Don't try to placate your hunger with coffee, soda, or ciggies. Put whatever you are doing aside for a moment and address your bodily need for nourishment. Be prepared for those times when your hunger may catch you off-guard by carrying a nurturing snack with you. Take this first step toward self-care and you will be making powerful progress in freeing yourself from the feast or famine cycle.