My journey with food has been, well, complicated. Many people who meet me today are shocked to hear that growing up I struggled with weight issues, unhealthy habits, including eating disorders, and that as I child I was made fun of relentlessly for being the chub. I was confused about food, particularly in regards to how it did or didn't make me feel. In my teenage years I found a sense of control and false confidence as I restricted my caloric intake to almost nothing and watched the pounds slip away and the attention build. I remember eating a banana. Period. Calling it a day. I was essentially obsessed with my relationship to food in one way or another for much of my life. Like so many are. And like any obsessive, addicting, or unhealthy relationship, I was exhausted. I wanted to find a new way to thrive.
Growing up, not everything was so ominous around food however. I remember one of my most vivid foodie memories from the first time I tried hummus. I was on a field trip for school and someone brought lunch for all the students. We had hummus in whole wheat pita with sprouts and grated carrots. Sprouts?! Those curiously twirling, magical bits of life. And hummus?! Lemony and creamy, nutty tahini notes... Are you kidding? I had never. The next day, we had almond butter and apricot jam sandwiches, on some kind of ridiculously amazing whole grain bread. “Brown bread” I came home to rave about… my body knew.
Over the years I danced with my heart/body/mind influences on food. I travelled abroad at 19 and was entranced with the romantic cuisine of Italy in particular; the simple and clean ingredients, the robust and arousing experience of dining. I loved the connection to life that was imperative to eating and being joyfully satisfied. Eating dairy over there felt different than in the states. My body digested it differently, and eating cheese suddenly felt incredibly nourishing. I studied health and wellness, nutrition and energetic light work daily, and began experimenting with new ingredients and choices. The most exciting thing was discovering how much I really enjoyed food that felt the most nourishing and ideal for my wellbeing. I just began to put things together that I loved with ingredients that looked and smelled beautiful. Choosing the bounty that almost seemed to jump out at me always led to the most unexpected and delicious combinations.
In my mid twenties, I was moving through a massive shift in consciousness, basically waking up to some seriously potent energy and my body just couldn't hang with the way I was eating. I was suddenly extra sensitive to so many things. I wanted clean ingredients, soft food, easy to digest. My soul was craving food with powerful life force energy, nutrient dense superfoods, adaptogens, and plants. Organically, I moved away from animal products. I was listening, and at the time my body made it very clear what it wanted and what it didn’t. Eggs? Nope. Gag. Fish? No way. Apple pie? I still can’t even believe that I felt so turned off. What was happening?
My lifestyle evolved into a very clean, vegan diet. At one point I was only eating fruit as my sugar, no maple, honey or even dried fruit. I eliminated grains, soy, so many things. It just became this massive self experiment. I became a raw vegan, which didn't last too long. My rawpocalypse. I was processing so much energy, that while it was beneficial for some time, I began to feel depleted. I was moving through a spiritual cleansing and awakening, and as I started to come back to my body, I needed more grounding foods, more building foods. More stability and warmth. Like clockwork, I started having dreams about eating lamb. I know you guys, vegan to lamb sounds so… well it sounds so, I know. Luckily for me I lived in a county with the most beautiful food, ethically and consciously raised. I resisted for a bit but eventually let go of my judgement and listened. I didn't know why I needed it but I just did. I already lived with my favorite farmers, and knew where to get the best quality meat around. Alas, I became the vegan, turned monster to so many. An outrage to much of the community I was in. To my surprise, I graciously enjoyed my new taste for animal protein and began to experiment bringing in eggs and fish again. Eggs took some time, but it was salmon season, and my wild, foraging buddies were feeding my soul with the bounty from our homeland.
Cut to several years later, and I am an omnivore again. My relationship with food is colorful, creative, joyful, nourishing, and intuitive. It is mutually respectful. To be an omnivore today doesn't mean I eat everything everyday, it just means that I do my best to always eat with integrity, consciously. That I fuel my body with wholesome, health encouraging foods daily. Honoring that each day is different, my needs physically, emotionally, and spiritually are different. The seasons change, the weather changes, my location and the availability of food ebbs and flows. I’ve found that the flexibility in my approach to my choices with food are essential to my success in health and joy. This means that what worked yesterday may or may not work today. If I wake up and it’s raining, I might not turn my blender on for an epic blueberry and rose smoothie. Maybe I’ll stew my berries with cardamom, add some coconut butter or ghee, top them with warmed hemp milk, lemon zest, chia seeds, toasted walnuts. Maybe some rose still cause sometimes I'm fancy. We can have a foundation and express it many ways. If we think of our relationship with food as an intuitive flow, we will always be guided. This doesn't mean, that chocolate cake cravings should always take precedence, but, maybe the craving can teach us something?
Sugar cravings usually signal a drop in energy, so let's look to mineral rich foods, complex carbohydrates, and/or perhaps hydration, some water is necessary? Or have we eaten much at all, or waited too long since our last meal? Have we had any vegetables, clean fat and protein? Enough fiber to keep us satiated? Perhaps some extra love is needed, as chocolate for many is associated with romance, or a special treat. So how might we give ourselves some extra love? What is behind the craving? Can we honor ourselves with a few extra moments to breathe and feel into that which our heart is communicating? We all have the power and the gift to do this. There is so much conflicting information, so many fad diets, so many options. Food is flown in from all over the world that may be doing more harm to our planet than always necessary. What can we do but listen to what is going to sustain us? How incredible to feel into this process of life and empower ourselves to support optimal wellness. We can start small. We can go inward. We can TRUST OUR GUTS!
I am not saying it's easy though! Or that it happens overnight. I will say however, it's incredibly surprising and inspiring to see how quickly the shifts occur when we consciously step up to flowing with the current of our evolutionary process. Do I believe that what we eat influences our awareness, both internally and externally? Absolutely. Am I proposing that this awareness helps to facilitate an expansion in the evolution of consciousness? Totally. My yoga teacher often inspires the notion of fertile soil, and that we must start with our foundation first if we wish to see things grow. Then we plant the seeds, then we nourish with water and sunshine and the like. So we get down to basics, back to instinct, to our primal roots. Intuition.
At the end of the day, it's really about how we want to feel, yes? So ask yourself that now... write it down even. Energized for life? Connected to your heart? Maybe just more aware that you really matter, and that you are capable of the health you desire. It starts within, and the second that we make that choice the Universe will conspire in our favor because by doing our part, by choosing to love ourselves first, we create the shift that moves outward in ways we can't even begin to fathom. And how can we begin to cultivate this self love?What better way than to trust ourselves, to feel into our hearts, our incredible vessels, our guiding compasses. The world needs us to love more, and it starts here. So, how about we listen first, and balance ourselves first. How about we open our hearts and let go of what our minds tell us we should and shouldn't do. Maybe we are more intelligent than we give ourselves credit for. Maybe we just need help remembering who and what we are. Ready?Let us journey into the wild nature of Intuitive Eating. TO BE CONTINUED...
Read Intuitive Eating Part 2 here.