Awareness of daily stress effects was not always my strong suit. In fact, until about two years ago, I would say that I was quite oblivious to the fact that stress was taking a damaging toll on my life in terms of how I interacted with others, how I got work done, and how I planned for future endeavors. It was only when I learned to implement skill to manage my stress that I began to understand how the body can be loyal in sending clear signals when it is in need of better care.
Using food to manage stress has been my Achilles heel for the better part of the last twenty years, and although I have experienced success in the last two years with decreasing the severity of binge-eating, I still have moments where I feel as if I'm going to lose control. But, the good news is that feelings are fickle, and just because I feel a certain way doesn't mean that I have to accept those feelings as valid and indicative of a problem that can't be resolved.
I've learned to recognize the capriciousness of my feelings and counter those experiences by actively putting myself in a position to be in control of food and not the other way around. Below are 3 ways I have learned to manage stress without using food:
To your health,
So, over the last few weeks I've been talking a lot about eating well, exercising, and finding that deep down satisfaction in embracing body positivity. Well, that's all fine and great, but here comes another piece of that reality: failure. Not failure in the sense that the pursuit of holistic healing is over, but failure in the manner of falling way short of the goal, but paying attention to the lessons afforded by that shortcoming.
Today, I'm here to confess that I have not been successful with a consistent exercise and nutrition regimen over the last 2 weeks. Something has changed, and it's all my fault... I'm not depressed about it, but I am examining myself in terms of my commitment to my health over the long haul. This is critical, because my goal is to be the best I can be so I can help others live authentically. But, if I am not transparent about my struggles, then I am leading a dishonest cause, and I refuse to allow dishonesty to be a part of my legacy.
So, what have I done to rectify that? First, I have recognized that the problem of mindless eating has crept back in. Now that I am aware of that and have confronted the issue, I have reached out to accountability partners to share my struggle and allow them to offer encouragement and support. I have also re-committed to my daily consumption of 50-64 oz of water a day, and most importantly, I am back to moving my body.
This morning, I have already drank (2) - 8 oz glasses of water with my breakfast, and I have my treadmill set up and ready to go for after I finish this blog post.
I will not revert back to and become trapped in old dysfunctional habits. I am free, I am joyous, I am strong, and I have faith that each day that I can achieve my health goals. I can, and I will.
pour ta santé
When I was a young girl, I used to dance on the schoolyard playground with my friends, mastering all the latest hip hop dances such as the snake, roger rabbit, reebok, robocop, tootsie roll, the smurf, running man, etc., while others beat boxed and sang lyrics to popular songs like "Mama said knock you out." Being a kid at school was the best feeling in the world, because it was when I was most authentic. It was taboo to dance and beat box in my household, but at school, I was the preacher's daughter who could dance with the best of them. I felt untamed, free, and empowered - like I could do anything Janet Jackson or Paula Abdul could do. I also liked to play school yard sports such as kickball, racing, and football, and I enjoyed making hop-scotch squares on the sidewalk and mastering the different levels of double-dutch.
I felt like I was born to dance, to feel the rhythm and interpret it with my body. Every chance I got to master a move with my body, whether it was an actual dance move, a jump rope combination, or making sharp turns and cuts while running full speed, I embrace it with 100% commitment. But, somewhere along the journey, I lost the desire to move my body with every break of a new day. Something interfered - got in the way of my joy of expressing life with my body. It could have been negative messages from peers, my parents, or other important figures that finally made me believe that dancing was not necessary to live out my dreams. Being too naive to understand that dancing was possibly my dream, I allowed those voices to separate me from a passion that I have been trying to re-connect with every since.
Getting older and lacking a consistent exercise routine has helped me realize that life will only become more physically difficult if I don't find a way to get my body moving in a meaningful way every day. Instead of making excuses such as, "Every time I walk fast, run, or do lunges, I feel like my legs are going to break," I just set the timer and walk everyday at a steady but challenging pace for 30 minutes. I have found walking to be something I can do despite my disinterest or inability to perform other types of exercises. I may not be the dancer I used to be, but I still find time to look up some dances on YouTube and try them out. Dancing is in my blood, and I just feel like I have to move in an expressive way to make my exercise regimen complete.
There is a song by George Michael that I really love called, "Careless whisper" that used to make me feel so sad, but then I began using it as motivation to prove its main hook wrong. I could dance, and I would dance again once I finally learned to let go of guilty feet. Michael crooned, "guilty feet have got no rhythm." My feet had lost their rhythm and therefore ceased to move. I had to reclaim my rhythm by dancing everyday as if my life depended on it. Once that happened, I started to feel all the sensations and feelings of freedom return as if they'd just been waiting for me all along. I had turned my back on my love, but dancing welcomed me back like a prodigal daughter.
The recipe for re-connecting with movement:
I am proud to call myself a healing artist as I aim to promote health and wellness in not just my life, but also in the lives of others. When I decided to create a space to share relatable stories and experiences with other moms of children on the autism spectrum, the goal was simple: Make it a happy meeting place for moms to connect, refresh, and develop relationships where each person would want to revisit again and again.
As I continue to post each week, I hope you will begin to see how connecting important life pieces using creative practices can promote healthy living and positive personal change. It is not so much about "putting your life back together" but more about connecting those life pieces that have not yet coalesced, or re-connecting those pieces that have broken apart due to hardship.
Over the last month, I have been working through Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross' Emotional Eating Workbook to tweak some areas of my life, as well as to work on some issues for the first time to heal myself in the physical, psycho-emotional, social, and spiritual domains. The work has been fruitful as I have learned to stop surface behaviors by connecting emotional responses to trigger foods and by understanding the price I've paid in deferred dreams due to my inability to see how my emotional connection to food was ruining my life.
However, making my way to the other side as an enlightened newcomer required that I continue to work through the emotional soup to disconnect my disordered eating behaviors from the emotions that perpetuated them. Only after I was able to untangle my emotions from the problem behavior was I free to embrace my body's wisdom to incite healing, wholeness, and happiness.
Now I know what I truly value in life (i.e., faith, family, relationships), and that has helped me to put my emotions and related behaviors into perspective while digging deeper into my soul to become the empowered advocate and self-healer I am today. However, the journey has not been a linear one as I've been quickly reminded by the occasional slippage of mindlessly consuming empty calorie foods, or depending too much on willpower. It is something that I always have to be prepared for. A process I call MADLiPS to ENDS (more about this in a later post) facilitates that reality by helping me relax, to prepare my mind for problem-solving, and to engage in health practices that keep me on the path of the healing artist.
One of the biggest health engagements, of course, is practicing the art of eating well. Using Dr. Ross' SIMPLE eating plan, I eat breakfast, lunch, snack (brussels sprouts chips, vegan spinach dip), and dinner, with each meal and snack including protein, veggies, and healthy fats. I use fresh herbs and spices to season my food, and I avoid the heavy gravies and sauces that often contain added salts, sugars, and preservatives. Most importantly, however, I don't count calories or use a scale. I just listen to my body, exercise for 30-minutes each day, and move on about my day as seamlessly as possible.
That is what's in my control and that is what receives my focus and effort. I say YES to the best and NO to the rest. I hope that you will join me in committing to the SIMPLE plan as we move together toward more health, happiness, and wholeness. Please post your comments below to let me know about your health journey and how you believe good health aids in your ability to be the best advocate for your child and family.
To your health (pour ta santé)
I am a healing artist, and I believe it is my mission to help other moms like me become masterful life synthesizers and empowered agents through the healing arts.