Learn 5 simple strategies to end emotional eating, feel free around food & find healthier ways to relieve your stress.

On hurricanes, earthquakes, and mass shootings

It’s been a tough month. Between a triple whammy of hurricanes, multiple earthquakes in Mexico, and the mass shooting in Las Vegas (not to mention ongoing issues with racism, an escalating situation with North Korea, and, you know, the usual issues of hunger, poverty, abuse, disease, etc.), it’s not exactly an easy time to be alive on Planet Earth. Especially for those of us who are sensitive.

The never-ending tragedies have me wondering about lots of things.

I wonder if the world as we know it will soon be a thing of the past.

I wonder if I have a role to play in healing all of the hurt out there.

And also: I wonder how many people are eating to numb right now.

There are certainly good reasons to do so. For many of us, feeling all of this is just too much. We suspect that if we allowed ourselves to connect with so much pain, we’d slip into a black hole of despair, a hole that we just might end up stuck in forever.

So naturally, we protect ourselves from the black hole by eating. (Or dieting. Or drinking. Or shopping. Or watching mindless TV. Or staying super-busy. Or obsessing over the cellulite on our thighs).

The coping mechanism is largely irrelevant. No matter what it looks like, our motivation is the same:

To. Not. Feel.

In Geneen Roth’s brilliant book Women, Food, and Godshe writes:

“If compulsive eating is anything, it’s a way we leave ourselves when life gets hard. When we don’t want to notice what is going on. Compulsive eating is a way we distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be.”

Does this ring a chord for you? It certainly does for me. It describes exactly what I did for years, although I didn’t know it at the time. I thought my binge-eating happened because I lacked willpower – but the truth is, it happened because I didn’t know how to feel my feelings.

Geneen continues:

“Obsession [with food] gives you something to do besides having your heart shattered by heart-shattering events…Obsession gives you a plane ticket out of a particular kind of heartbreak…It creates a parallel world, a hologram of emotions, passions, breathtaking reversals. It gives you the illusion of feeling everything without having to be vulnerable to anything…There is madness in obsession, yes, but its value is that it drowns out the madness of life.”

If you’ve been eating to numb as a response to world events this past month, I don’t blame you.

And at the same time, I suspect that it’s not something you’re happy about.

Because somewhere deep down inside, you know that life – even its pain – is meant to be lived. Not numbed.

As I slowly realized this in my own journey, and started practicing being present with my feelings, a whole new world opened up.

I learned that I’m capable of holding space for pain – both my own and the world’s. I learned that yes, it’s difficult to BE with tough feelings – but the reward is that it opens up a new kind of aliveness.

As Geneen writes:

When you don’t leave yourself, a different life is lived. One that includes vulnerability and tenderness and fragility and changes the landscape – makes it verdant, wider, breathtaking – of life as you know it.”

Here’s what I want you to know: there is life beyond numbing with food. And it starts with your willingness to stay with yourselfeven when you’re feeling the pain of natural disasters and mass shootings and you fear it will break you into a million pieces.

There is life beyond numbing pain with food.

It won’t. Stick with it all the way through, and eventually you’ll realize that feeling the pain doesn’t mean breaking down – it means breaking through.

A few things to keep in mind:

1) Feeling is not the same thing as getting caught up in your mind’s crazy stories. How can you tell the difference between the two?

You feel here and now – you can only feel your feelings in the present moment. It largely happens without thought; instead it’s something you, well, FEEL. Once thoughts enter the picture, you’re thinking, not feeling, and you’re in the past or future, not the present.

So as you sit with your feelings, notice if thoughts try to hijack your experience (they will), and practice coming back, again and again, to your breath or your heartbeat or the sensation of clothes on your skin.

Your mind is full of crazy, fear-based stories (so is mine, so is everyone’s) – but we can create space between us and the stories by recognizing that the stories are like clouds floating in the sky – and we are the sky itself. We are so much more than our stories. When we recognize that we don’t HAVE to buy into them, we allow in a new level of freedom.

2) Feeling is not the same as wallowing. As above, wallowing comes from the mind’s stories.

3) Be very, very kind, gentle, and compassionate with yourself as you feel your feelings.  Don’t judge or shame yourself for anything that comes up. Practice extreme self-care – i.e. – do LOTS of things that nourish you. One of my clients shared that for her, nourishing herself through this week has looked like extra sleep, quiet baths, gentle movement, and even giving extra care to daily activities like making her bed. It may look different for you; do what feels right.

4) This is not easy. It takes courage. And you can do it. In fact, it is what you were born to do, because our pain is a doorway to our awakening.

Sending you unconditional love and holding space for your breakthrough,

P.S. – Are you intrigued by these quotes from Women, Food, and God? I’m happy to report that it’s the book we’ll be reading in the next round of Food Freedom Book Club! Stay tuned for details.

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When Food is Poison

As I was rolling up my mat after yoga class yesterday, I overheard a woman call food “poison” and then refer to herself as a food Nazi. It really got me thinking, because she reminded me of me, back in the day. Watch the video to hear the whole story.

The Best Way to Eat {A Radical Take}

I believe that food freedom (which I define as a relationship with food that nourishes the body, mind, and soul, thereby allowing our food to fuel us to fully live a life that we love) is our natural state.

However, due to all of the noise out there, we’ve collectively picked up a bunch of untrue beliefs that have left us confused and therefore seeking to “achieve” healthy eating in ways that, frankly, make us crazy.

If we want to change our lives, we need to release the beliefs that are keeping us stuck. And if food freedom is a goal, one of the most important beliefs to let go of is the idea that there is an ideal way to eat.

“But wait!” I can hear you thinking. “There’s tons of research about nutrition out there. Surely we’ve learned something about the best way to eat!”

[Alternatively, if you have a nutrition regimen that you’ve read a lot about and believe deeply in, like paleo or keto or plant-based, you’re likely thinking, “You’re wrong here, Annette. Research clearly shows that _____________ (insert your preferred nutrition ideology) is the best way to eat.”]

If that’s the case, I honor your response – and I invite you to take a deep breath and stay with me.

Nutrition experts across the board would like us to believe that there is a best way to eat. Of course, each expert defines “the best way” according to their own bias.

The paleo experts are adamant about the “fact” that grains are harmful.

The vegan experts are SURE that a plant-based diet is the royal road to a long, healthy life.

The keto experts are singing the praises of a high-fat diet. (“Blessed be coconut oil!)

The Mediterranean-diet experts are like, “Hey, look at the Greeks! They’re doing well!”

And ALL of them have research to back up their claims. Every. single. one.

At the same time, these experts aren’t stupid. They recognize that all of the nutrition noise out there has resulted in a confused American public. So, in 2015, the world’s top nutrition experts decided to meet. Their goal was simple: craft a single, clear message on healthy eating.

Guess what happened?

They argued.

According to Dr. David Katz, “Ninety minutes into the meeting, we were still trying to agree what a hell a vegetable was.”

In the end, they managed to come up with a vague consensus statement. To be fair, it does contain some great points about the importance of sustainability, food literacy, and the best way for nutrition studies to be reported to the public – but it’s certainly not a document that makes you think “Now I know exactly what a healthy diet looks like!”

So if even the most well-educated, well-known, well-respected nutrition experts can’t come to an agreement about what constitutes a healthy diet, where does that leave us?

In my view: with an invitation to accept that there is no one best way to eat.

Instead, the “best” way to eat is the way that works for each of our individual bodies.

And how do we figure out what works best for our bodies? Simple: we listen to our bodies.

Our bodies know more about what foods work for us than any nutrition expert does. If we are willing to tune in, listen, and then act according to the information we receive – with curiosity, not rigidity – eventually we’ll figure out what kind of diet works best for us.

This doesn’t mean that we need to throw out everything we know about nutrition. All of the research out there, despite its conflicting messages, still has value – as long as we see each claim for what it is: a suggestion.

For example: lately there’s a lot of buzz about bulletproof coffee. What if, instead of taking the “expert” claims as definitely, undoubtedly true for everyone, we took them as a suggestion of something to try (if we’d like to)?

Instead of “Bulletproof coffee is amazing and everyone should drink it,” try “It seems that bulletproof coffee makes some people feel great.”

If you’re curious to find out if you’re one of those people, then try it and see how your body responds. If your body seems to like it, awesome, and if not, awesome. Either way you’ve gathered valuable information.

The great news is that your body is downright EAGER to tell you what works, because it wants to be fueled in a way that makes it feel energized, vibrant, and alive.

Do you see how this approach feels so much freer? How it allows us to engage with nutrition with open-minded curiosity instead of tight control? How it invites us into a loving, accepting, and trusting relationship with our bodies?

To wrap up: the belief that there is an ideal way to eat is a myth that blocks our alignment with food freedom. I invite you to consider trading this belief for: “My body knows the best way to eat for ME.

Yes, it’s radical. And it may feel scary.

But I encourage you to try it anyway, because we must change our beliefs to change our lives, and food freedom awaits…

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Food Freedom 101 {Free live event in Denver!}

One of the things I love about my life is that I get to work from home. I’m grateful every day that I don’t have a commute, and that Annie (my sweet bulldog) – and now Zak! – are never far away. (Plus, I get to wear sweatpants pretty much all the time).

{Confession: if you’ve ever been a client, there’s a very good chance that below the head-and-shoulders part of me you could see, my bottom half was clad in my favorite pair of DU sweatpants}.

It’s quite the shift compared to life when I was a teacher, when I was surrounded by students all day long. And the truth is: I often miss being around the collective energy of groups of people. Even for an introvert, there’s nothing quite like the magic of gathering in person to talk and learn and play.

Which is why I’m thrilled to announce that next Saturday, Sept 9, I’ll be teaching a FREE in-person workshop on food freedom!

Here’s the spiel on what the 90-minute workshop will cover:

We all have a personal relationship with food that goes deeper than grass-fed meat and MCT oil. To stick to healthy eating long-term, we must remember that it’s not about what we eat. It’s about WHY we’re eating it. During this interactive presentation for teen girls and women of all ages, I’ll give participants new perspectives and practical strategies to ditch the battle mentality and approach food from a relaxed and pleasurable place so that you can eat healthy because you WANT to, not because you “should.”

In my mind, there are two reasons you should join me if you live in Denver:

1) The chance to create shifts in your relationship with food – because it doesn’t have to be so hard! Eating healthy from a place of ease and joy is not only possible; it’s our natural state.

2) To check out Just Be Kitchen – a super-unique restaurant whose mission is to “serve mindful mouthfuls from a conscious kitchen with kindness on a plate.” (Don’t you just love that?) Rumor has it that they will be providing free samples for workshop attendees…

If you think you can make it, please email me (email hidden; JavaScript is required) and let me know so that I can give them an idea of how many to expect.

If you’re a Denverite, I hope to see you there!

To the magic of meeting in person!

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What My Blog Looks Like When I Have Writer’s Block

I’ll be real with you: I’m having one of those ‘writer’s block’ days. No matter how long I sit in front of my computer, the words just aren’t flowing.

So, instead of trying to force myself to write when it’s clearly not happening, I decided to turn today’s post into a way to share some of the best online content I’ve read recently.

The articles below span the gamut and are all well worth the read.

Why We Fell for Clean Eating

Not a Fan of Fat-Shaming? Stop Thin-Praising

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Actress Stephanie Beatriz on Battling Disordered Eating

9 Common Mistakes Parents Make About Their Kid’s Weight

Why You Gain Belly Fat After Menopause (And Why It’s Ok)

Childhood Trauma Leads to Lifelong Chronic Illness – So Why Isn’t the Medical Community Helping Patients?


Also: if you like this content and are on Facebook, feel free to follow my Facebook page to see this kind of stuff on the regular.

To flowing with writer’s block,

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A Personal Announcement (+ Meet My Husband!)

Today, I’m keeping my (written) words brief, because everything I’d like to convey is in the video below.

If you’d like to learn more about Zak’s work, check out http://www.zaksloan.com. And if you enjoyed “Beat of My Heart,” you can listen to and download it here.

Finally, if you want to share what the beat of your heart is calling you to do right now, fill me in via email (email hidden; JavaScript is required). I’m holding unconditional positive regard for you and your deepest desires, always.

To following your north star,

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3 Practices that will Immediately Change your Life for the Better

Today, I want to share with you 3 (HUGE!) takeaways from the best part of my summer so far – volunteering at Higher Ground Youth Challenge, a camp that allows teens to expand their ideas of who they are and what they’re capable of.

Although on the surface, it might seem like this camp has nothing to do with my work, the truth is that it has everything to do with the journey towards food freedom, because as we know, struggles with food actually have very little to do with food and a whole lot to do with learning how to love, trust, and accept ourselves.

The three practices I describe in the video below were essential to the creation of a camp environment that allowed the girls to break free from their limiting beliefs and do more than they thought they were capable of.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that if you do these practices, they will immediately change your life for the better.

I know that’s a bold statement – but it’s true.

If you’re ready to greatly reduce your mental drama around food and learn how to move past the stories that are holding you back, this is a must-watch.

After you watch, let me know what you think! Your questions and comments are welcome, always.

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What a market in Mexico can teach us about food freedom

My post a couple of weeks ago was about presence, and how important it is to practice being HERE, now, if we want to experience mind-body-soul alignment (which leads to freedom with food and, well, just about everything).

In a culture that prioritizes logic, analysis, and getting stuff done, presence can be hard to come by. We’re rarely still, and even when we’re physically resting, our minds continue to go on about what happened today and what might happen tomorrow and why things are the way they are and what we can do to change them.

But a busy mind is not a present mind.

A busy mind keeps us from checking in with ourselves. This is true even when our mind is busy asking us ‘how am I feeling right now?’

As long as we’re thinking, even if it’s just having a conversation with ourselves in our head, we’re not really present.

Imagine that you are standing outside, in a place of your choosing. Perhaps a market in Mexico. A downtown street during lunch hour. Or a mountaintop 14,000 feet up in the air.

Food Freedom

Imagine that you spend a few minutes just taking it all in. The sights. The smells. The sounds. The feel of the air.

Now, pretend that you are holding a phone to your ear, and I’m on the other line, asking you to put it all into words, and to be so descriptive that I almost feel like that I’m there with you.

Did you feel that shift?

When you were just taking it all in, you were able to observe and enjoy. You weren’t thinking; you were simply there, soaking it up.

But as soon as I asked you to start describing it, something changed in your brain. Now that you have to put it into words, you can only focus on one small aspect at a time.

Instead of seeing the whole plaza, you only see the vendor selling cocos frios.

Instead of taking in the overall essence of the downtown street, you only see one guy, walking briskly with a coffee in his hand.

Instead of absorbing the immense peace and beauty of the mountaintop, you are trying to find words to explain the blue of the sky and the green of the trees.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to use language to navigate and experience our world. We have minds for a reason, and I’m surely grateful for mine.

But when we go about our lives caught up in our thoughts 100% of the time, we end up out of alignment, because we’re never present.

Learning how to be lovingly present with our bodies, our emotions, our selves – without trying to analyze or put words to it all! – is perhaps THE most important practice we can cultivate in our journey towards food freedom.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with clients where it all comes down to this. Simply put, presence = freedom.

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My Huff Post Article + How to Align Mind, Body, and Spirit

Isn’t it fascinating how the experiences that challenge us so reliably turn into our greatest gifts? Although I deeply believe that this is actually always the case (if we let it be!), I still find myself pleasantly surprised each time it happens.

Two weeks ago, I sent you guys an email about my (failed) attempt at a conference to explain the idea that if we need motivation to eat healthy, we are out of alignment.

I then gave my explanation of this concept another go, since I didn’t do such a great job the first time around.

Apparently my second attempt did the trick, because I received more responses to that email than anything I’ve sent out, ever.

Since I seemed to have hit on a message that resonated with people, I decided to submit the piece to the Huffington Post. And last week, it went live!

Kind of cool, huh?

Today, I’d like to continue to unpack the idea that our task is not to figure out the motivation piece. Instead, our task is to realign ourselves in body, mind, and spirit so that we can access the food freedom that is our natural state.

How do we do this?

By: 1) living in the present, and 2) allowing our souls and bodies to take the lead.

Our souls intuitively understand that life doesn’t happen in the past or the future. Life always has and always will ONLY take place right now in the present moment.

We knew this once, as babies. Bring to mind a baby you know. Do you think he spends time worrying about what might happen tomorrow? Or reminiscing on how cozy and warm life was back in the womb? Or regretting that yesterday, he caused his momma pain when he clamped his newly-sprouted teeth down on her boob?

And if you’ve ever spent time with a young child, you’ve seen how they don’t really have the concept of time figured out. You can tell a 4-year-old that she gets to see Grandma and Grandpa next Friday, but she doesn’t get what that actually means. She just knows that right now, she feels excited about seeing her grandparents at some arbitrary point in the future. And then she goes back to running around or finger painting or whatever she’s doing at the moment.

Infants and toddlers live in the present and therefore are able to naturally follow their bodies’ cues. When they feel hungry, they cry until they are fed. When their bellies are satisfied, they refuse to take another bite. When they feel tired, they conk out, anywhere.

Little ones are also great examples of what it looks like to follow your soul’s desires. They’re naturally attracted to activities that are fun and that bring them pleasure. Yesterday, I was walking my dog when I passed a kiddo in the park. He was three or so, and was having an absolute blast playing in the mud. Part of me wanted to sit down and join him – because, really, what’s more fun than playing in the mud? – but the boring adult in me decided to pass.

We spend the first few years of our lives living in the present, in alignment with our bodies and souls. Not because we try to, but because it’s our natural state.

But then, we get messed up.


We let the mind take charge.

There is an Asian proverb that says, “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” Meaning: all is well when the mind’s job is to follow cues from the soul (Jump in that mud puddle! Act on that idea!) or cues from the body (Eat some sushi! Take a nap! Shake that booty!).

But when we make the mind the boss, it starts doing things like:

  • buying into cultural rules of how we “should” live our lives.
  • obsessing over our diet so that we can figure out the “perfect” way to eat.
  • robbing us of the present moment by keeping us focused on the past or the future.
  • convincing us that under no circumstances are we to trust our bodies.
  • Making such a ruckus that it drowns out the whispers of our intuition (which is the voice of our soul)

See why the mind is a terrible master?

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh shit – that totally describes me,” don’t panic. It describes 98% of us.

So how do we return to our natural state of alignment, where our souls and bodies are running the show, and our minds are simply following instructions from the two wiser parts of ourselves?

It starts with coming back (again and again and again and again) to the present moment.

Some practices that I’ve found helpful for this are:

  • focusing on my breath
  • meditating
  • mindful eating
  • bringing awareness to a certain part of my body (how is my right pinky toe doing right now?)
  • journaling (I love asking questions of my body or soul in my journal, and then writing answers based on what I imagine my body or soul would say)
  • looking around and really observing the world around me, using all my five senses
  • tuning into pleasurable sensations (the sun on my face or how good a yoga pose feels)
  • spending time with animals

The more we engage in these types of practices, the easier and more natural they become. After a while, we start to realize that we’re moving through life a little differently. Our pace slows down. Everything starts to feel yummier and more satisfying. We’re savoring more and worrying less. We’re spending less time in our heads and more time following our instincts. We’re having more fun.

And perhaps most importantly, we feel more free.

With food, with body…in life.

I can’t say I’m there 100% of the time. But these days, I feel free more often than not. And learning how to be present has been a essential part of the journey.

It’s sweet over here in the land of presence. Join me?

with love + gratitude,

P.S. – Want to see what presence actually looks like? Over Mother’s Day weekend, I had the immense pleasure of co-hosting a mother-daughter retreat for moms and teen girls. The pictures turned out beautifully and are a great visual example of presence in action!

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Why I Gave Up on Trying to Motivate Myself to Eat Healthy

Last weekend, I gave a talk at a small conference focused on personal growth for moms. My presentation included a few of my usual topics, like busting the myths that there are “good” and “bad” foods and that willpower is an essential piece of the healthy-eating puzzle.

Then, I added on a concept I’ve been working on with clients but was including in a public talk for the first time: the idea that if we need motivation to eat healthy, we are out of alignment.

Instantly, hands were in the air. I was quickly humbled as it became clear that for many people in the group, this was not the mind-blowing nugget of wisdom I thought it was.

Instead, I had confused everyone.

For the next few minutes, I listened to their questions and did my best to clarify why I believe, despite a widespread narrative to the contrary, that motivation is not what we need to move us forward.

However, I’m not at all confident that my explanation did the trick. So, in today’s post, I’d like to give it another try.

Let’s start by defining our goal. (Because upon reflection, I think that some of the confusion at my talk stemmed from confusion about the goal).

The goal is NOT healthy eating.

Whaaat? But certainly healthy eating is a noble and worthwhile pursuit?

Sure, it can be. But it wasn’t for me. And if you’re reading this, I’d be willing to bet that it’s not a great goal for you either. Because when we prioritize healthy eating above all, we put physical health up on a pedestal, justifying its pursuit even if it comes at the expense of our mental and spiritual well-being.

We need to think bigger than healthy eating.

We need a goal that elevates ALL of who we are. One that brings us into balance instead of out of it.

That goal is food freedom.

I define food freedom as a relationship with food that nourishes our body, mind, and soul, thereby allowing our food to fuel us to fully live a life that we love.

With food freedom, there’s no obsession, shame, or deprivation. No body-bashing. No rules. And no need to motivate yourself to eat in the way you think you “should.”

At its core, food freedom actually has nothing to do with food. Instead, it’s about being in a loving, accepting, and trusting relationship with your body – and with (all parts of) your self.

Think about it. If you truly loved, accepted, and trusted your body, you would listen to her.

You’d honor her cravings.

You’d allow her to enjoy the act of eating.

You wouldn’t cause her pain by eating too little, too much, or foods that don’t make her feel good.

Instead, you’d seek to give her pleasure by choosing foods that make her feel energized, vibrant, and alive.

And here’s the kicker:

If you were in a loving, trusting, and accepting relationship with your body and all parts of your self, you would just DO all of this, because you couldn’t not.

When we’re in alignment in mind, body, and soul, we naturally do what’s best for us. There’s no need to go through a process of motivating ourselves. We don’t have to THINK about making choices that promote our health and well-being – we just DO.

It’s not that trying to motivate ourselves is bad. It’s just that looking at healthy eating through the lens of motivation misses the mark.

It’s like trying to teach a bird to fly by explaining the physics of air pressure and thrust.

If the bird could understand you, your explanation wouldn’t bring him any closer to soaring through the skies. Instead, you would probably make him anxious and cause him to worry that he’ll mess it up. He’d start making pro and con lists (to leave the nest or not to leave the nest?). He’d calculate wind patterns and wonder how many wing flaps he should aim to do per minute. He’d ask every creature that flew by how they maximized their flying experience.

The poor bird would be so caught up in analyzing everything that he’d forget that he has always known how to fly. All he has to do is get out of his head, listen to his instincts, and allow his body to do what it craves to do.

In the same way, we possess the inherent knowledge and desire to eat in a way that nourishes our body, mind, and soul. We’ve just gotten mixed up as a result of all of the noise out there.

Therefore, our task is not to figure out the motivation piece. Our task is to realign ourselves in body, mind, and spirit so that we can access the knowledge that already exists in our DNA – and the food freedom that is our natural state.

How? Stay tuned…

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