Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair. – Khalil Gibran
So, my first few weeks of intuitive eating were tougher than I thought. The first hurdle was having huge difficulties trying to rid myself of my diet watchdog mentality and desperately wanting to run back to the bland safety of my quinoa and grilled chicken. Then when I finally did just eat whatever I wanted, I found myself eating way too much of certain things like chicken wings, macaroni and cheese, bourbon sours (well, that’s not a food but I had way too many of them) and ribs. And I don’t even eat pork. So, let’s just say that I went a little crazy for awhile.
But, after a couple of weeks, the novelty of being able to eat and drink whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted finally started to wear off and I began to really listen to my body’s signals. All of a sudden I want the odd carrot along with my cookies. Or the juicy, fresh crunch of an apple instead of the loud, greasy crunch of sour cream and onion potato chips. The novelty of having chocolate every single day wore a little thin until I was completely chocolated out. And, most importantly, I really started to listen to what my body was telling me. And it had all kinds of things to tell me; when I was actually hungry for, let’s say, spinach and also when I was really full, when I had enough to drink or didn’t really want anything to drink in the first place (I never really listened to that signal before), when I just needed a good cry or a chat with a good friend instead of any kind of food, when I was feeling so uptight that it had to be addressed before I even thought about food. And I found out that my body had a bunch of other stuff to tell me as well. Whenever I eat cheese, my face breaks out in a sweat ( yes, my face actually sweats). It’s been happening for years and, other than commenting half heartedly that I must have a dairy sensitivity to whomever may be around to witness this cheesy, sweaty outbreak, I did my very best to ignore the situation. Well, if I’m truly listening and doing what’s best for my digestive system, I can’t really ignore my cheese situation any longer. So for the next while, I won’t be eating any food that my body reacts badly to. As a friend of mine said when I told him about my reaction, the only beings that should be eating dairy are baby cows. Well, if you put it that way…
Also, I’ve become a big social media addict in the past year or so as I mentioned in this post. Studying digital marketing will do that to you. But I’ve realized that it’s time to take a break from my constant Twitter, Facebook, Instagram checking and spend a lot more time in the real, natural world around me, soaking up the sound of the waves, the smell of the trees, lying in a bed of flowers every so often and just being a little more present in my life. Setting my own pace instead of trying to match the sometimes frantic pace of city life. I’ve never understand the great reward of being frantically busy anyway. Doesn’t it just mean your life and the amazing moments in it pass you by while you’re too busy to notice?
So, this is where my experiment has left me right now. And I’m learning to be aware of physical signals that I’m uncomfortable (physically or emotionally) instead of trying to shut those signals up. And I’m starting to listen to what I’m really feeling instead of trying to medicate any of those feelings with food and alcohol. Sometimes it feels like I’m moving very slowly but, even if it’s slowly, it’s in the right direction. And that means a lot.
And breakfast and lunch.
These are my burning questions lately. What do I really want to eat? And it’s been a rollercoaster ride finding out exactly what will nourish my body and my soul.
Here’s a perfect example. Last night all I wanted was ice cream. Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, my brain was feverishly obsessing about the sweet, fatty deliciousness of ice cream. Vanilla ice cream in particular. So, off I ran to the local ice cream parlour, bought a perfect pint of my longed for vanilla and turned it into a salted caramel sundae. Then I was craving a chicken and cheese sandwich. I went to the kitchen and made two big, thick chicken, cheese, caramelized onion and arugula sandwiches (that I sort of shared with my dog). I tried my best to eat slowly and mindfully but it’s a learned art, let me tell you. And then I passed out on the couch, snoring a little no doubt.
This morning I woke up to puffy eyes, alarmingly red, blotchy skin and a really upset stomach. Oh no, I thought, I’m gluten sensitive after all! Or is it dairy? Or….is it me not being quite able to regulate my appetite and going overboard with too much of a good thing? I’m not sure. My first alarmed and anxious instinct (after many, many years of dieting and weird eating plans) was to hop on the gluten free, dairy free bandwagon yet again. Until I fell off, of course, yet again.
So, I guess this is where the intuitive part comes in. Eventually my body will let me know just what the hell is going on. Either I will keep feeling ill after eating wheat and dairy or I don’t. And, if I don’t, then I know that I was just a glutton last night. Plain and simple. No gluten free eating plan required. And if I am a wee bit gluten or dairy sensitive after all, then I am beginning to trust that I will figure out what to do on my own by listening closely to my body’s messages. That I’ll start eating food I love and that the food I love will love me back. No expensive diet books required.
And, how could I end this post without a photo of last night’s indulgence. Vanilla ice cream, bananas, walnuts and salted caramel sauce. Definite Foodporn.
So my intuitive eating experiment is starting to include other areas of my life.
I’ve been a part time Digital Marketing student for a little over a year now. I work full time, study part time and manage two social media accounts for local businesses in my spare time. It’s a busy schedule and after spending approximately five or six hours a day on my computer at work, I’m hunched over my laptop for another couple of hours in the evenings. On top of this, I’m getting notifications throughout the day and night of likes and comments on the various pages I’m managing. I feel like I’m married to Facebook. And the marriage is in trouble. Even the dopamine hit of a bunch of “likes” on my posts isn’t really working for me anymore. I’m afraid that Facebook and Twitter have become my proverbial ball and chain.
I woke up Saturday morning with burning eyes sporting big, black circles under them, tired looking, blotchy skin and a bad attitude. I started to post content for one of my pages and the photos I had planned to share looked fuzzy and pixelated. I felt my teeth clench and my shoulders tighten and all I could think was that this is supposed to be my weekend. My time to relax and have fun. And I wanted to cry. It was sunny and beautiful out, my dog was staring at me, waiting for his long, Saturday morning walk and I was clenching my teeth, completely burnt out, tapping furiously away at my laptop again. Something had to give.
So, I resigned from one business via email and told the other that I was cutting my work in half. then I put my laptop on the shelf, unplugged my TV, texted a few friends that I was going off the grid for the weekend, threw my two smart phones in a drawer, grabbed my pup and hit the beach.
Nick (my dog) and I ran, strolled, sprinted, sat under a tree and stared at the ocean. We crouched on a rock and watched a heron as he fished for his lunch. The waves crashed against the shore and I felt myself starting to relax. My shoulders weren’t hurting anymore, my teeth weren’t clenched and I realized that too much social media will suck all of the joy right out of your life.
Walking home along the dirt path, Nicky decided that the long, wild grass growing along either side was going to be his all-you-can-eat salad bar. So, instead of standing impatiently waiting for him to finish his meal, I sat in the soft grass and ran the cool, green blades through my hands, breathing in the exquisite scent of fresh, spring green things. Then I thought why not lie down in the middle of this long, cool grass and stare at the leafy green tree above my head for awhile. The branches were shining in the sunlight, with leaves from a soft spring to deep, forest green and they were incredibly beautiful and soothing to look at. Then I glanced across the path and saw a patch of sweet, little bluebells with a few buttercups mixed in. They looked like the prettiest things I had ever seen and, all of a sudden, I realized that I felt incredibly happy.
Occasionally people walked by me on the path. Some smiled and said “hi” or commented on Nick’s grassy feast. Some gave me concerned looks. But I didn’t really care. I was happy.
So, maybe the secret of happiness is that it’s about connecting with yourself, nature and slowing down enough to notice the beauty around us.
And maybe the other secret is that it’s the opposite of what you feel when you spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter or even my beloved Instagram.