Anxious, constantly hungry, always tired, back pain, and a stomach ache. Sound familiar? That was me on a regular basis just about 2 years ago.
There wasn’t a moment that passed that I wasn’t eating or thinking about eating. At first I searched online for tips and tricks to curb appetite. I would find very specific guidelines to follow for interesting and odd (non-scientific) diets that promised to shed pounds. I tried “magic supplements” “body wraps” “diet pills” and excessive cardio. I wasn’t what most might consider to be “overweight”, but I had lost control of my eating habits and had gained about 20 lbs in a couple of years. In addition to the weight-gain, I felt my mental clarity slip, and my mood plummet. I was so anxious and often experienced panic attacks. I was on and off of antidepressants, as I was convinced that something was “wrong” with me. I thought maybe I was a food-addict, or that I had a mental disorder, or that I was broken in some way. Well, what I came to find was that all of those things were true, and in fact, they are true for most Americans in one way or another.
That may sound extreme, and that’s because it is. It is extreme that most Americans are lacking many, if not all of the vital nutrients that they need in order for their brains & organs to work properly. It is extreme and unfortunate that many of us suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of being malnourished. It is also extremely unfortunate that there is a terrifying increase in diet-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
What is NOT unfortunate is that the power lies in our hands. I have seen and felt, firsthand, the incredible power that proper nutrition has on transforming the mind and body. The key to regaining our health is to realize that we first need to become our own doctors and our own healers. The body has the technology to heal itself, we just need to provide it with the proper input to get the job done.
Now I am not here to tell you that you should follow exactly what I eat, or don’t eat, drink or don’t drink, think or don’t think… What I am suggesting is that you begin to take this into your own hands.
I can stress to you for hours about the importance of reading food labels, cutting out gluten, drinking more water, monitoring sugar intake, avoiding harmful chemicals, eating more leafy greens, etc. But taking my word for it is not sustainable. Making the shift from what you’re eating now to what your body truly needs is a process and you need to do this properly so that it is not made more difficult than it needs to be. If you read this and think that you will just use your willpower to get you through, you are mistaken. I tried that, and failed time and time again. All that does is add fuel to your self-loathing fire. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.
1. WANT THE CHANGE.
You’re reading this for a reason. You already want it. Now all you have to do is not talk yourself out of it. Know that you deserve better, and know that better does exist.
2. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.
As difficult as this may be, it is necessary for you to realize and accept that wherever you are in your health and life, it is a direct result of what you have allowed to be. The worse you feel, and the more serious the scenario you are in, the more difficult this step will be for you, yet the more crucial it becomes. If you do not realize that you have gotten yourself here, you have little hope of getting yourself out. This is no time for guilt, shame or regret. This is time for truth, and nothing but the truth. Do whatever it takes to claim full responsibility over your circumstances in every aspect of the word.
3. DETERMINE YOUR WHY (& write it down!)
Why do you want to better your health? More importantly, why do you want to better yourself as a person? It doesn’t have to be for you… Sometimes we find it difficult to say that we even feel worthy of health, happiness, confidence or self-love. If you can’t make that leap, maybe you’re doing this so that you can be a better parent to your children. Or, maybe you want to attract a healthy relationship, and you know that you must first become that person that you want to attract. Maybe you’re just simply fed up with feeling like shit and you need a change (this one was me).
4. IMAGINE THE NEW YOU.
This part can sometimes seem difficult at first. When you’re in a low place, we are often so focused in that energy that we have trouble focusing elsewhere. This is when you must search for inspiration. Of course finding hot bodies on Pinterest or Instagram can be helpful, but that’s only the first part of it. You must more importantly find people that embody the energy that you want to become. What I mean by this is that you are not making this lifestyle shift in order to look good in a swimsuit or to get abs (although its a great side effect of eating clean and showing love to your body), you are doing this to BECOME someone else. So find that person or those people that are living a life that you would like to live and begin to learn about them. Write down traits that they possess that you would like to acquire. Did I mention to write these things down?! Do it.
If you want to get creative and make this step even more powerful, create a vision board. Print out or cut out photos of the people you’d like to model your life after, maybe images of clean recipes, even words that make you feel good and empowered, like “strength”, “grit”, “persistence”, “freedom” , “patience”. Whatever speaks to you, bring it to life in a more tangible form. This may sound silly, but these tools actually work to help your mind get on board with this new transition.
5. BEGIN TO CONNECT WITH THE BODY.
What I’ve found is that as we become less confident in our bodies, we become mentally disconnected to them as well. It’s similar to any other relationship. If you feel less attracted to or less confident in your significant other, you will naturally become less physically connected to them. As you begin this journey, you must begin to meet your body possibly for the first time. It’s as simple as taking a deep breath and truly feeling the breath move through you. I suggest doing this every day as many times as you think about it, do it. Also, just simply stretch. When was the last time you woke up and reached your arms above your head to feel the length of your body? Stand up and slowly reach down toward your toes. Don’t force these things, just simply feel them. Realize that you have a body, and understand that without your attention and intention to progress, it will slowly begin to regress.
Try doing some simple stretches and deep breaths every morning when you first wake up. So simple, yet so powerful. Do this for as long and as often as possible.
6. MINDFUL EATING.
Now this is the first step that even has anything to do with eating, and it has nothing to do with what you’re eating. In this step, all I am suggesting is that you simply become present or mindful as you eat. Yes, that is all. Simply notice yourself as you eat. Don’t run from it, don’t judge it, just observe and take mental note of what you feel as you eat. As you do this a few times, you will begin to realize a pattern. Many of us eat so quickly that we don’t even notice ourselves getting full. In addition to not allowing the time and space to realize that we’re full, we are also often eating in a state of panic or “fight or flight”. Not only does this cause us to eat more out of anxiousness, but it also prevents our body from digesting the food properly- often leading to gas, bloating, constipation, aches, etc. You see, when our body is in a fearful state, it sends blood, energy and focus to the major muscles that may be needed to “fight” and completely shuts off the digestive system as it doesn’t see it as “vital” in this perceived life or death situation. Our bodies are in one of two states at each moment in time- “fight or flight” or “rest and digest”. We cannot be in both simultaneously, and this is why stress management is so crucial. The simplest tool I can give you to begin is to focus on your breath. Specifically, lengthen and deepen your breath as often as possible. Do this before you eat, while you eat, and after you eat. This practice alone will begin to shift things for you.
7. WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?
The most important step of all is NOT what you eat and don’t eat, it’s knowing WHY. I cannot stress this enough. You must have your OWN personal realizations of what these foods are doing to your mind and body, you cannot simply hear them from me. How can you have a personal realization? LEARN. If that sounds difficult, please be assured that it is far from that. Actually, this part of the process is the absolute most exciting part. THIS is where you will begin to get excited about making these seemingly difficult changes. This is where you will find yourself messaging friends and family about new information you have come across. This is where you will begin to take responsibility for your health and realize the true power that you have with each bite of food that you take.
You must take part in this learning process yourself. You must become a seeker of knowledge. You must get curious and ask yourself, “I wonder why this food makes my stomach hurt..” and “I wonder what it is that’s so bad about gluten..” “Why is it that people that eat these ‘clean’ diets seem to be happier?” “I wonder if I’ll start to feel changes in my mood if I eat that…” “Could eating less sugar help me calm down?”, “I wonder if my diet affects my skin…” Instead of waiting to feel the changes and getting impatient or losing hope, listen to a podcast of someone telling their story of what they’ve experienced. Give yourself a boost and realize quicker that ITS POSSIBLE.
*Download the FREE podcast app & search the following-
-Ted Radio Hour
-Fat Burning Man
-Model Health Show
-School of Greatness
(Within these you can search specific topics that interest you such as gluten, healthy fat, dairy, hormones, weight-loss, sleep, digestion, supplements, exercise, parenting, stress, etc.)
8. WATCH THE MAGIC HAPPEN
This is where you slowly begin to implement the things you already know to be true. That’s right, you already KNOW what to do. This blog, these steps, are all just reinforcements to get you to realize the truth that you already know. This isn’t about a strict diet, or fancy recipes or some secret that I have that you don’t. This is about realizing that your body is a high-functioning machine that is in need of repair. Your relationship with yourself is lacking because you have not put in any true effort. You are ignoring that voice inside that says “Stop eating this shit, and you will stop feeling like shit!” and “Slow down! You need to slow down!”. You already know the answers, but you may be so far in that you truly need to take these steps so that you can find your way once again. Many years of damage to the body & brain may take time to heal, but you will feel an incredible difference in such a short period of time. This is a never-ending journey, and a true commitment to not only bettering your physical health, but understanding that by nourishing the body, you will awaken the mind, and illuminate the soul.
Magic is waiting to happen. All you need to do is DECIDE.