Wednesday, February 24, 2016

No Inspiration for #fitspiration: True Health Versus The Latest Fad Diet

Body Wraps, Whole 30, Eating Clean, Gluten-Free, Detox, Eat Healthy, Fitspiration, these are the words I see and hear on repeat. Some are very gimmicky. Some are trendy. Some are downright toxic (looking at you #fitspiration) and some are necessary (i.e. those who have Celiac Disease cannot have gluten). As it is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week I thought it might be good to have a little conversation about our culture's current obsession with "healthy eating."

One reason why I have enjoyed working at an eating disorder treatment center the past couple years is because our philosophy is that all food is inherently good. Rather than enabling the rigid black and white thinking that so many struggle with in treatment, we embrace food as a way to heal and a way to recover. Food was never the enemy. It is no wonder that in our culture so many are prone to fall victim to all kinds of dangerous dieting as they are constantly told through the media that “cutting back” is noble and disciplined. 

Dieting* and "healthy eating" trends in our culture are nothing new. They have been around for a long time. One of the first diets that received a lot of publicity dates back to 1863. It was called the Banting’s Diet. It was a low carb diet and bad foods were defined as sugar/starch, butter and milk. The diets have ranged from Graham’s Diet in 1830 where it was believed that exotic spices made one “lustful” to the Cabbage Soup Diet in 1980 where people believed it was best to only have this specific soup.** Then there was the Paleo diet that taught us to exclude all processed grains, oils, legumes and dairy. 

Never mind learning about our hunger cues, mindfulness, and healthy coping skills for emotions that are difficult to tolerate. No, we have always wanted a diet to tell us what we can and can't do. Never mind the fact that sugars and fats are not inherently bad and that sugar fuels the body and gives us energy. Never mind that cutting out fat will decrease brain development and cause severe brain shrinkage. Never mind that cabbage soup sounds really boring to have every day.  Never mind that exotic spices don't lead to sex addiction. Never mind that we are not cavemen and aren't built to be one. 

I hate to be a buzz kill about some of this stuff, but we need to talk about it. I know that when we don't feel good inside our bodies and within our souls, it feels easier to focus on something external. Restricting food helps decrease our anxiety. Big feelings are uncomfortable to hold and so obsessing about diets and eating clean is just easier. Not better, but easier than holding our real live hard feelings about our worth. 

When it comes to our bodies, there is no "one size fits all". Results will always vary. How we feed and nourish our bodies will be different. There isn't a one-way cure to eating healthy. It depends so much on biology, genes, along with other factors such as if we have a chronic illness or a disability, or the type of resources and privilege we have access to.  We may have a disability that causes weight gain or we may be less able bodied, but that does not negate our worth or the fact that we all deserve to eat. Food is essential. This isn't a thing we can argue about or go without. I also know that diets don't work (again, sorry to be a downer). If weight loss industries were actually effective we would soon put them out of business as they depend on repeat costumers. Diet industries need us to feel like we aren't good enough in order to make a profit. (sidenote so many studies are funded by diet companies, so now you understand why the obesity crisis has been inflated***)

Here is what I believe to be not healthy:

  • Obsessing about eating healthy is not healthy.
  • Replacing meals with juice often is not healthy.
  • Avoiding meals because of your cleanse is not healthy.
  • Hiding your eating disorder behind your healthy eating is not healthy.
  • Working out constantly is not healthy (aka if you need to post a picture of yourself whenever you're at the gym or whenever you've done some reps, might be time to re-evaluate what health means to you).
  • Compulsively and obsessively weighing yourself is not healthy.
  • Believing there is only one body type that is healthy and attractive is not healthy.
  • Believing that being thin=healthy is soooooo not true or healthy.
  • Obsessively comparing your body or your nutrition to someone else's is not healthy.

Here is what I believe to be healthy:
  • Eating 3 meals a day with snacks and hydrating is healthy.
  • Getting enough sleep is healthy.
  • Having some kind of movement is healthy.
  • Celebrating food and enjoying food is healthy.
  • Showing your body you love it by feeding and nourishing it is healthy.
  • Eating a wide variety of food, colors and variations is healthy (getting your proteins, carbs, veggies, fruits, fats, dairy, basically the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and YES, calories you need).
  • Feeling your feelings is healthy.
  • Practicing your coping skills when you have hard feelings is healthy.

Our bodies are smarter than any diet or any healthy eating fad out there. Your body knows what you specifically need.  Rather than gluing our ear to all the trendy diets out there with the flashy colors and rainbow unicorn promises, let's listen to what our bodies want. No short cuts. No gimmicks. No toxic thoughts to "motivate" us. There will be more diets to come, they aren't going anywhere. But our bodies aren't going anywhere either and they need us to listen. After all, this is the one and only body we get, let's treat it with care, respect and kindness. Let's trust that food is good and it was never meant to be obsessed about. 

And chocolate is too good to hate. 

* Diet in Heather's terms: a restrictive food plan designed to get down to an "ideal weight", motivated by a sense of the body being incompetent/not enough as it is. I am not referring to a meal plan here or those who have specific food allergies or restriction due to pre-exsisitng health conditions. 

**Megan's Holt's History of Popular Diets 
*** I love Megan's BodyPosiPanda blog and her advocacy for body positivity.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Picture Perfect Project: Gems of Nature

So I have decided to join up with some fabulous bloggers to participate in the monthly The Picture Perfect Project. Thanks to Rosy and her lovely blog for talking me into it :) This is the second post so I missed the first one but am excited to join up now! 

The Project motivates and challenges bloggers to take more photos to help grow their photography skills. There is a link up every month on Thursday! (the second Thursday of the month)

Ever since I was little and received my first real camera for Christmas in third grade I have LOVED taking pictures. My husband wants to just be in the moment and enjoy our date our adventure and If I'm having fun, then I want to capture the memories through pictures of course!!! Thankfully he understands my passion and love for this. 

The only problem with my love of picture taking is I'm not particularly good at it. For some reason, it's always embarrassing to love something but not be good at it. I loved my Psychopharm class but I struggled and received a D on my first test. 

I also LOVE to write but in our culture today if you are passionate about writing, having a blog with pretty pictures is kind of a given. So each month I'm going to showcase my photography to you from my precious little I-Phone 5s. 

As it is Valentine's Day this weekend I figured I would be festive and show off some beautiful pink, purple and red flowers in my neighborhood here in San Diego. I love my neighborhood walks. These are taken at a monastery garden I frequent quite often just a half mile from our place. It my little place of solace and tranquility. 

Excited to see all our photos! And if you haven't joined up, consider linking up! All the sweet hosts are listed in the graphic below! :)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Red Bras and Chocolate: Your Guide to Surviving the Holiday.

What comes to your mind when you think of Valentine’s Day?

I’ll never forget being a 7th grader when our History teacher had the class guess his least favorite holiday.  For the life of us, we couldn’t figure it out. You would think we would have been clued in seeing that he was young, single, and it was near the dreaded month of February. But we were all stuck on Halloween or the 4th of July. Clearly those were the holidays where you received the least amount of presents.

But nope, Valentine’s Day it was. He said it with such humor mixed with mild hostility towards this holiday. Then it all dawned on me. I had never thought before to feel weird about Valentine’s Day. But after that I realized some people might feel weird about it especially if you are in your 20’s or 30’s or 40’s or basically just any adult who is single who has lots of people pressuring them to find true love.

But I’ll be honest, I’ve never had it out for Valentine’s Day. I know that no family is perfect and mine is no exception. But as far as the holidays goes, my family really knew how to score. They were pretty darn close to perfection in the holidays category. They made every single holiday count. Every holiday was special. And Valentine’s Day was not exception.

Truth be told, I loved Valentine’s Day. My family is a gift family and Valentine’s Day was just another great excuse for such things. My dad would come home from work arms full of chocolates, flowers and stuffed animals. 

Being the little letter writer at a young age I would debate which type of valentines to buy and then dissect over which classmate should get what phrases. You’re special! You’re neat! I love you! The “love” ones clearly did not go to boys unless I wanted to give them the wrong idea. The generic ones went to the classmates I didn’t know as well. The funny ones went to boys I was unsure about but the meaningful ones all went to my close friends. Sometimes I would send secret valentines and I loved over-hearing everyone guess who on earth had given them a pink heart. 

My mom always made a special Valentine’s dinner for our family. There might be red napkins and candles lit and fancy wine glasses.  My grandma Moot would without fail, every year send a bright pink and red Valentine’s card bursting with hearts and a wrinkly well loved 5 dollar bill.

When I started high school I started having my girl friends over and we would drink "champagne" (read: sparkling cider) and eat Dove chocolate and write love letters at the kitchen table. I never felt alone at Valentine’s Day. In fact I looked forward to it, dating or single. I know this is not everyone’s experience. I grieve that we live in a culture that has conditioned us to feel entirely depressed if we are single on Valentine’s Day. I feel sad knowing that many kids grew up in families where they did not feel special or cared for on any holiday, let alone Valentine’s Day. It makes complete sense they would grow up to be adults that don’t feel special or cared for on a holiday that makes such a large deal about romantic love.

And while I’m on this topic, can we just talk about how Valentine’s Day is not really about romantic love? Let’s be honest, Valentine’s Day has it’s charm and cuteness when you are young, but when you hit college or your 20’s and even 30’s it suddenly turns into a sex-obsessed holiday. If you aren’t getting any (God forbid) you should clearly be distraught. 

Valentine’s Day has been reduced to a red bra.

Last year, 50 Shades of Gray came out on Valentine’s Day. Not only has Valentine’s Day represented sexual obsession, is it now supporting sexual violence?!

This month we have How To Be Single* to go see in theaters. While I haven’t seen it, I have watched the trailer and I can’t help but wonder why we need to know how to be single. Also, the idea that the way to be single is to get trashed and sleep with everyone you see, is is totally ludicrous. 

I have to believe that we can want more out of Valentine’s Day

This year I’m making Valentine’s Day cards because WASHI TAPE and crafty. And because I love mail. If I was into baking, maybe I would make a chocolate cake. Think of what you like to do naturally and do that for someone on Valentine’s Day. We can celebrate those we love and care about without being sex obsessed and without getting trashed. It doesn’t have to be a huge grand gesture or expensive. Just show that you care.

And since I was single, am now married, and I am presently 30!!! (for some reason being 30 makes me think I am some kind of life guru. LOL), I feel I have a tiny bit of platform to say, married people and single people alike just want to feel loved. 

We all just want to feel connected and special and cared for. 

I think that’s why I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day because it was a time to celebrate and be grateful to those in your life. Married people want to be invited to Gal-entine’s parties too! We don’t stop wanting love because we are married and it’s happily ever after and I live in a constant state of estatic bliss over my fortune and need no one else ever in my life now. And when I was single, I wanted to be included and told that I mattered and that I was important. What I did NOT want was for people to assume I was in complete despair over my singleness and pity me when this wasn’t my reality**. (being set up and having your first date on valentine’s day is probably like the worst thing ever…let me be home with my girls having a reading party pleassseeee.)

So here is your handy guide to surviving this holiday:

1   .    Think of who and what you’re grateful for
2   .    Do something kind for them
3   .    Have a Happy Valentine’s Day
4   .    The end J

*Confession and I’ll be honest, I might watch it because I think Rebel Wilson and Leslie Mann are hilarious. 

** One time it was my reality. I got dumped two days before Valentine’s Day in Las Vegas. It was absolutely the worst. You better believe I was living and breathing despair. I am here to tell you it gets better. And you won’t always feel this way.