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.
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.
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.
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 spiritso 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
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…inlife.
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?
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?
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.
Recently, the mom of a former teen client reached out to me. Her daughter (who I will call Gwen, because that is not her real name) is approaching her 15th birthday. For her birthday, Mom is putting together a book that is full of words of advice and courage from women Gwen admires.
I immediately loved the idea, and felt honored when she asked if I would be willing to contribute. Of course my answer was a wholehearted YES!
A few weeks later, I sat down with the prompt Mom had sent. It asked for “words of courage, strength, wisdom that you have from your life and maybe wished a strong woman had shared with you at age 15. Another way to think of it – who were you at 15 and what have you learned? What’s one piece of wisdom you can pass along?”
Here is what I wrote.
When I think back to 15-year-old Annette, the first thing I want to do is give her a big bear hug. At that age, I was a straight-A student. A girl who laughed with my friends over white hot chocolates at our favorite coffee spot. A mediocre sibling to my sister, because I was obviously way cooler than her and her 8th-gradeness. A daughter who took her parents for granted, not realizing that the opportunities and love they gave me were incredible blessings.
But none of that is why I want to give her a hug. I want to give her a hug because 15-year-old Annette was also incredibly insecure.
Not the obvious type of insecure you could see on the surface. The under-the-radar (or so I thought) type of insecure that had me evaluating my every move, trying to decide if this or that comment or action would make people like me.
I wanted boys to like me.
I wanted girls to like me.
I wanted my teachers to like me.
I wanted colleges to like me.
I wanted the approval of the entire world, served to me on a platter, so that I could be assured of my worth.
Gwen, since I’m lucky enough to have spent time in heart-to-heart conversation with you, I know that you are far more comfortable with yourself than I was at your age.
But I also know that the desire to be liked – the subconscious tendency to give others the power to tell us if we’re good enough – is more or less universal.
So I want to tell you what I wish someone had told me when I was 15:
You are worthy, exactly as you are. There is nothing you need to do, have, or be to earn your worth. And when you know this, deep in your bones, you open a glittery door that leads to a beautiful place within you that is free and at peace, always and forever, no matter what.
Happy birthday Gwen! May you trust in the magic that is YOU.
Why do I share this?
Because as I was writing it, I felt like I was also reminding my current, 33-year-old self of these truths – and I thought you might like a reminder as well.
As the poet Galway Kinnell says, “Sometimes it’s necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.
Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about your Weight
By Linda Bacon, PhD
Did you know that no study has ever shown that weight loss prolongs life?
As Dr. Linda Bacon’s book Health at Every Size explains, “Extensive evidence documents that attempts at dieting typically result in weight cycling, not maintained weight loss. Weight fluctuation is strongly associated with increased risk for diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases, independent of body weight. The recommendation to diet may be causing the very diseases it is purported to prevent!”
Dr. Bacon continues:
“In contrast, whether the concern is type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertension, cancer, or a host of other conditions, the evidence is clear: An abundance of studies indicate improvement through nutrition or activity habits, independent of weight loss.”
In other words: Dieting makes your body less healthy. Healthy habits are what create a healthy body – regardless of weight.
If you’re surprised, you’re not alone. We live in a society that is constantly perpetuating the myth that a bigger body is a less healthy body – but that’s just. not. true.
It’s time we reeducate ourselves, don’t you think?
Actually, let me be more specific. Want to dive into it with me AND a tribe of women who, just like you, are ready to WAKE UP to the fact that our culture’s tightly-held beliefs about healthy living are largely untrue and are messing with our psyches (and physical well-being) in insidious ways?
If you answered a wholehearted YES, keep reading to learn about my newest creation: Food Freedom Book Club!!
Food Freedom Book Club is for you if you are:
A yo-yo dieter who wants to trade dieting for an enjoyable (& sustainable!) healthy lifestyle
A woman who feels uncomfortable every time you hear a colleague, friend, or family member make a comment about someone’s weight (even if it’s of the “Hey, you’ve lost weight” variety) – but you haven’t been able to put your finger on exactly WHY these comments make your insides feel like you just ate bad Mexican food.
A mom who is wondering how you can possibly raise a confident, body-positive daughter who has a healthy relationship with food in our diet- and appearance-obsessed culture.
An activist or feminist who wants to scream loud enough to shatter glass every time you hear someone allude to the (still rampant) cultural expectation that a women’s job is to look pretty and stay small, sweet, and quiet.
A college student who is ashamed of how much time you secretly waste comparing your butt to your roommate’s.
A health professional who struggles to talk to clients about healthy eating and weight without making both of you wish you were somewhere (anywhere) else.
In short, this book club is for anyone who wants to find freedom in their relationship with food and body and be part of a movement towards a more inclusive, respectful, and empowering conversation around health and weight.
Here’s how it works:
Every week, you’ll read 1-2 chapters, according to a set syllabus I’ll provide.
As you digest the content, you’ll have moments of “I must tell someone about this, stat!”
In case it’s not a good time to call your bestie with the news that it’s scientifically proven that diets actually harm your metabolism, you’ll be part of a private Facebook community in which you can share your ahas and enjoy the sense of comradery that naturally arises as a group learns new truths together.
When we’ve had a lifetime of lies hammered into our heads, it takes a while for new beliefs to sink in. Often, we must hear the new information several times before it starts to take hold. To help you integrate what you’re learning, I will release weekly audio recordings with my commentary on that week’s content.
As a former teacher, I know that the absolute best thing I can do to help new information travel from head to heart is to make you live it. Therefore, I will issue a weeklycall to action (CTA) based on the key lessons from that week’s content. Each CTA will be a step towards creating a new life for yourself – a life that reflects a newfound sense of FREEDOM around food and weight.
The magic will continue for nine weeks. Eight weeks to read the book at a clip of 30ish pages per week, and then a bonus week to process the work as a whole. We’ll start the first week in April, and end the first week in June.
As I write up all of these details, my heart is buzzing in excitement. And I haven’t even told you about the final ingredient, the crème fraîche on the book club soufflé:
100% of the proceeds from Food Freedom Book Club will go directly towards a non-profit or social enterprise that is working to create a world where ‘healthy’ and ‘empowered’ go hand in hand.
I’ve hand-picked three organizations that we’ll be supporting, each of which aligns with (w)holehearted’s work in its own way. They are:
Parillume: Parillume is a social enterprise committed to transforming the conversation about sexual violation from shame and silence to heroism and fierce hope. In addition to their services designed to empower survivors to reclaim the treasure of their true selves, they offer monthly SHINE Soirées℠: free community events where they celebrate the triumph of the human spirit in the aftermath of sexual violation.
Why it’s on the list: Unfortunately, it’s common for women to develop a distorted relationship with food and body in the aftermath of sexual violation. But as we work together to help survivors realize that they are beautiful, they are free, and they can shine again (without shame), we go a long way towards helping women to feel confident, healthy, and empowered.
Slow Food Denver: Slow Food is a global, grassroots movement that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Through its two main programs, Seed-to-Table and Community Table, Slow Food Denver provides opportunities for people to interact with local food producers, learn about food production and support other organizations with similar missions.
Why it’s on the list: A BIG reason that we are collectively suffering from an unhealthy relationship with food is because we’ve forgotten how to slow down, think about where our food came from, and take pleasure in eating. Slow Food Denver’s programs empower people to do just that.
Realize Your Beauty: Realize Your Beauty promotes positive body image to youth through theatre arts. They bring plays, workshops and camps to children and adolescents to promote self-esteem, confidence and kindness towards self and others.
Why it’s on the list: Empowering youth to develop confidence, positive body image, and kindness towards self and others is essential if we ever want to create a new cultural paradigm that elevates mental and spiritual health to their rightful places, equally as important as physical health.
When you sign up for Food Freedom Book Club, you’ll get to choose which organization you want your $20 enrollment fee to support.
$20, you say? That’s it? For all of this?
Yes! (Plus the cost of the book).
When the idea for FFBC came to me, I knew three things from the start:
1) It had to be extremely accessible, so that anyone who wanted to participate could do so (thus the low price)
2) It had to make as great an impact as possible (thus the non-profit/social enterprise piece), and
3) It had to light me up like a firefly on a hot summer night (thus the glittery energy my business accountability partner said she could feel when I first shared the idea with her!)
Basically, FFBC is my way of activating the change that I want to see in the world, in in order to create ripples far beyond what I can do with 1:1 or small-group coaching.
Actually, more accurately, the lack of correlation between weight and health.
Despite the widespread belief that a bigger body equals a less healthy body, research shows that it isn’t that simple. A new study published in the International Journey of Obesity analyzed the link between body mass index (BMI) and several health markers, including blood pressure and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. What did they find?
47% of Americans who are labeled ‘overweight’ by virtue of their BMIs are cardiometabolically healthy (a fancy way to say that their blood work indicates a healthy person), and
29% of those labeled ‘obese’ are also perfectly healthy, but
30% of those with BMIs in the ‘normal’ range are actually unhealthy, according to their blood work
Surprised? A younger Annette would be right there with you. Back when I was a full-fledged believer in mainstream health messaging, I definitely toted the “bigger body = less healthy” line. After all, we hear it over and over again – from the media, from health experts, even from doctors. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients tell me that since they are overweight, they are unhealthy, despite the fact that their blood work looks great. Even with hard numbers in front of us, it’s difficult to overcome societal conditioning that tells us that a higher weight must equal an unhealthy body.
This breaks my heart, as it points to bias against fat people. When we are already predisposed to believe that fat = bad, we accept without question that fat also equals unhealthy.
Let’s start to retrain our brains, shall we?
Here’s the truth: A bigger body is just that – a bigger body. A smaller body is just that – a smaller body. Neither one means that you are more or less healthy. More importantly, neither one means that you are good or bad, or better or worse than any other human being.
We are all worthy, exactly as we are. We don’t have to earn our worth by eating salad or fitting into a size 4. We’re enough when we work out and enough when we hit snooze. The infinite value of our human spirit doesn’t increase when we stick to our diet, nor does it decrease when we eat six cupcakes in one sitting.
I’ve shared this quote from Geneen Roth before, and I’ll share it again:
“It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, or a human spirit, is dependent on the number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels.”
Mmmm…..how ’bout we breathe into that?
I’m smiling as I read over this post. It’s just like me to start with science, touch on societal bias, and end on a spiritual note!
To kicking BMI to the curb (and reclaiming our worth while we’re at it!),
I’m super excited about today’s post; it’s an extra-special one.
Why? Because today, Rachel Sizemore, a good friend of mine, is putting something AMAZING into the world.
It’s called Ripen, and it’s the juiciest new podcast out there. I LOVE Rachel’s ‘why’ in creating it. In her words:
I am on a journey to shift the foundation of my life from one of obligation to one of desire. I hope to connect to myself, to discover my desire, and to move from trust rather than fear.
I hope to ripen into my true power as a woman, a healer and a leader.
I hope to inspire you to discover what ripening is for you.
Since Rachel and I talk weekly, I’ve had an insider’s view into her process of birthing this podcast. And let me tell you: this girl is COMMITTED to showing up for her listeners as her true self. This isn’t one of those “I’m an expert telling you what you do” podcasts. It’s more like, “I’m an explorer, trying to find my way in the world. Want to join me on the journey?”
Rachel was kind enough to let me listen to her first few episodes in advance, so I’m confident in telling you that they rock.
Here’s a taste:
Episode 1: A vulnerable (and very relatable) introduction of Rachel’s intention with Ripen.
Episode 2: An interview with yours truly. I’ve been on a few podcasts, but this is my favorite to date. I think it has to do with the fact that Rachel knows me well, so the conversation just….flowed. Full disclosure: when I listened to it later, I found myself amazed by some of the things I said. “Really, that wisdom came out of my mouth?” Love it when that happens 🙂
Episode 3: Rachel dives into desire. A topic that seems simple, but is often anything but!
Episode 4: Ooh-la-la – this one is super sexy. Rachel interviews Kit Murray Maloney, founder of O’Actually, about why pleasure matters, why we shouldn’t feel guilty about it, and how to start adding more pleasure into your life right now.
Intrigued? How could you not be, right? Give it a listen, using the links above or by searching ‘Rachel Sizemore’ or ‘Ripen’ on iTunes or Stitcher…and let me know what you think.
One of my favorite things to do is talk to people one-on-one about the topics about which I’m most passionate. Recently, I heard myself tell a friend how much I love diving deep into juicy subjects like what’s missing in the nutrition world, learning to love yourself, vulnerability and shame, spiritual growth, and so on. I then concluded, “I would spend all my time having these conversations if I could!”
As soon as I heard myself say it, an aha moment crystallized in front of me.
Because I do spend pretty much all of my time talking, thinking, or writing about concepts that endlessly fascinate me. Between client sessions, conversations with colleagues, my newsletter/blog, and all of the personal growth and reading I’m constantly doing…this stuff has become the essence and connecting thread of my life.
The best part is: I didn’t make any of it happen. I have simply been flowing along the river of Life, and the more I let go, the more Life creates opportunities for me to share my gifts with the world.
As Richard Rohr wrote so eloquently:
“We are never “there” yet. We are always just in the river. Don’t try to push the river or make the river happen; it is already happening, and you cannot stop it. All you can do is recognize it, enjoy it, and ever more fully allow it to carry you.”
Recently, the river brought me a beautiful invitation – the opportunity to be interviewed by another amazing soul in the field, the lovely Robin Massey. Check out how fun and creative her bio is:
Robin Massey did gymnastics for a long time (or so it seems to her); sometimes she stills dreams about it (and does cartwheels every morning). These days, she can be found musing on showing up to the hot mess of health and life, recently publishing Nope, You’re Not Crazy: Rising from the Swamp of Disordered Eating and posting regularly on skipthebox.com, Facebook, and Twitter. She’s learning that none of us are broken — rather messy and interesting human beings rocking it out the best we can.
Makes you want to be friends with her, doesn’t it?
During our 20-minute conversation, Robin and I chatted about weight loss, feeling our feelings, how to help teens who are struggling with body image, what we’d tell our younger selves if we could, and (my favorite) how shame and love can’t coexist.