The Road to Health is Paved with Good Intentions
Okay, friend. Let's talk about health and wellness. Because while having made some delicious deviled eggs for National Deviled Egg Day and beginning The Queen's Gambit to celebrate National Redheads Day were both awesome, the main reason why I write this blog is to help you reaching a space of unshakeable confidence in your body, both mentally and physically. And to do that, it means discussing how you begin to define what your healthiest self looks like.
What makes that difficult is that there are a lot of people out there telling you how you're supposed to reach peak health. There seem to be a million roads to get there and, according to someone, they're all the right road. With all of that noise, it can feel impossible to know what works for you. Even the Body Positivity Movement can be confusing. Are you allowed to lose weight? Are you allowed to change what you eat? Are you allowed to be proud of hitting goals you set for yourself?
It's like the entire idea of "There's No Wrong Way to Have a Body," comes with a ton of rules, that are really hard to follow.
So what do you do if you're trying to find your path to health amidst all of this outside noise?
Well, I believe, that answer lies within Self-Compassion.
The other day, I was listening to this great podcast, Balance365 Life, and the two hosts were discussing the difference between self-compassion and self-indulgence. And this really spoke to me, because it helped solidify a thought I had been having very often: Self-Indulgence and self-compassion are completely different, however, self-indulgence can be very tricky in that it can feel like a form of self-compassion, but actually be the complete opposite.
Long sentence, I know, but bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this!
Self-indulgence is not inherently a bad thing. The definition of indulgence is to allow yourself to enjoy the pleasure of something! Indulging can feel absolutely awesome!
....It can also feel absolutely terrible, but because we think it's supposed to be pleasurable, we're not sure why we feel terrible...and that's all just confusing AF.
Let's get into the time machine and go back, back, WAY BACK, to weeks leading up to Election Day. There was a lot of (necessary) emphasis on self-compassion. We all needed to be consciously gentle with ourselves, so that our heads wouldn't explode from all of the insanity we were taking in. Now, self-compassion in itself is great! But when it's mashed up with self-indulgence as if they're the same thing, that leads us to that, "I feel terrible, but I should be feeling great, what the fuck is going on?" place.
Compassion is something we should strive for at all times, for ourselves and for others. Taking time to be compassionate and caring towards ourselves gives us the space to check in and ask, "is this working for me? Am I okay? How am I doing?" And that's a beautiful thing (It's also a difficult thing, since many people, myself included, can get self-compassion and selfish all jumbled up, but that's a whole other blog post entirely) Self-indulgence, on the other hand, is something we want to monitor, since overindulgence can actually wind up being the total opposite of self-compassion.
For example, imagine you're a little you. You're adorable. You're amazing. You're perfect. You're also stressed. Something has made you anxious and you discover that if you eat a slice of chocolate cake the anxiety goes away. Eating chocolate or other sugary foods becomes connected with stress relief.
Now imagine you're the present-day version of you. Hello, you! You're adorable. You're amazing. You're perfect. But now, you're super stressed. You have been for weeks. The world seems to be in chaos and you are feeling the effects. To help keep the stressful feelings at bay, you've been indulging in sugary foods every night. At first, they really worked, just like in the past! You felt stressed, you wanted to care for yourself, you bought some chocolate cake, you indulged, you felt better! Awesome!
But one week later, the chocolate cake seems to be doing the exact opposite of what you want it to. But that makes no sense, because you're supposed to be practicing self-care and compassion, and this is what you have found works.
Eventually, you realize that while chocolate cake has helped in the past, it actually falls under the category of self-indulgence rather than self-compassion. And that's because self-indulgence can be a form of self-compassion, but they aren't inherently the same thing.
Health, wellness, fitness, diet, body positivity, all of it has been painted in such black and white terms that it makes sense you would begin identifying an indulgence under compassion. It's really hard to hear your inner voice say: "I need some fucking greens!" When you're trying to live a body positive life (amazing!) But are finding yourself trapped by this idea that healthy eating and Body Positivity can't coexist because you've decided that healthy eating and needing to lose weight are synonymous.
See? This shit is HARD. And your mind is having to jump through these hoops every second after you open your eyes in the morning. It's no wonder that by the end of the day, so many people feel like none of this makes sense or matters and just does whatever without even knowing if that's what they really want to do!
This is where presence comes in. Where mindfulness comes in. Because those two things truly are the main tenants of compassion and care. Being present with yourself, being mindful of how you feel. Being able to hear your inner voice state what it wants. Because sometimes? It will want the chocolate cake and the chocolate cake will be exactly what it needs. And sometimes? A self-indulgent moment of chocolate cake will be the antithesis of what it needs. The thing is: both these outcomes are valid, equal, and perfect. Food and modes of care do not come with morality clauses (unless, of course, your mode of self-care is murder and cannibalism) What's important is that no matter what you're doing, you're mindful and present in the moment.
That's actually an enhancer for self-indulgence! I, for example, struggled for a looooooooooong time with binge eating disorder. I would actually "black out," in the same way an alcoholic might, and eat my way through my entire kitchen and not even be conscious of what I'd done until all the food was gone. A huge part of my recovery was building my mindfulness muscle, so that I could be present while I was eating food and really enjoy it. I actually was given a task once to describe a food I was eating, that I would normally binge on, to someone as if they were an alien, who had come down from another planet, and had never tasted it before. By doing that, I wasn't eating mindlessly, I was really tasting my food and enjoying it. It was a pleasurable experience! It was an indulgence.
So I am not telling you to give up foods you love. I am not telling you to only eat kale. But I'm also not telling you that if your inner voice starts creeping up and saying, "I don't know if this pizza/cake/pancakes will make me feel good," to go and ignore it. And believe me, I understand that even getting to that place of listening to your inner voice is hard AF! Diet culture has taught us to question every food desire we have. It's taught us that a bite of cake has ruined everything so we might as well grab another slice even if we don't want it because we'll be perfect tomorrow (what the fuck does perfect mean?) And not only that, it's the root of morality being added to food. This idea that you're somehow less virtuous because you had full-fat ice cream instead of one of those low-calorie abominations. Healing your relationship with food, begins with being able to get quiet and starting listening to yourself. You might surprised at what you have to say.
With all of the craziness in the world right now, I know that even taking the first step or having to sit with your own thoughts can be very daunting. And I've been feeling a calling really deep in my heart to begin coaching again with the express purpose of helping people find that unshakeable confidence in themselves and their inner voice. I'm starting my new group in December and I would love for you to join me. If you're interested, shoot me an email at email@example.com And either way, check the blog next week and help me celebrate National Bundt Day! Seriously. There's a day for that. And we're gonna celebrate it!