So, warning. Full permission to skip this one, this week.
This is a much longer post than usual, but is one that is also so close to my heart. It’s something that for so long, I felt funny and slightly embarrassed to share or talk about (you’ll see why, below). So, I know it won’t resonate or make sense to every single one of you, but that’s ok.
Because, behind it all, behind Simply Real Health and my mission on this Earth, is this story. My story. The WHY all of this real food stuff matters in the bigger picture of our lives.
And why I think it needs to be talked about more. To normalize some things that so many of us– women especially– experience internally at some capacity, or in some season of our lives, but never really talk about.
So, get yourself a little cup of tea and let me tell you a little story.
I’m pretty sure it all started in 4th grade.
With my (baggy, duh) Orcas Island T-shirt and black stretchy pants. You know, the ones with the stirrups.
My glasses, which I LOATHED but literally had wear if I wanted to see past my own elbow, pushed up on my face, their pink-ish rainbow color fogging up in the rain.
My mini little unibrow, slightly peeking through the frames (fine, those glasses did have one saving grace).
Me, in all my pre-teen, awkward stage glory.
5 ‘ 3″, in the very back of the class line.
Not only the tallest girl, but the tallest person in my class. Which was slightly cool, for like 2 seconds. Until I realized that all my friends were lined up in the middle or front, giggling together.
But what I do remember so distinctly was this: that not only was I taller, but also, I looked just different.
While the rest of the girls sprinted around in their tiny little stick legs, mine were always more athletic. Like with little muscles… you know, not big or overweight, just “stronger”. More athletic.
With little curves, even back then. A butt, tiny lil hips and boobs.
As I write this, I’m smiling because I literally cannot even remember a time when I didn’t have those things. Truly, it was the way I was made and was meant to be part of my path. Easy to see now, of course.
This was the stage that I remember becoming aware of it. And with it, another big realization:
That I definately had a much slower metabolism than my other friends. Those naturally bean-pole girls –(aka, every other 4th grade girl), who could eat all the pizza, cupcakes, otis spunkmeyer cookies and chicken nuggets they wanted, and then magically burn it all off just by breathing.
I could feel it. See it.
And it didn’t feel good.
I know, you know where this story is probably going, right?
Not so fast.
Mainly, because of one big thing: my parents, bless their sweet hearts. They both had great and healthy relationships to food themselves, and talked often about how important being healthy was.
Especially my mom.
She was (and still is) literally the epitome of balance, never believed in diets or extremes, and loved food and eating. For most of my childhood, I remember thinking that she was the coolest about food, and how I wanted to be, too. Food was a normal and healthy part of her life, no guilt, no shame, and no deprivation.
Thank god for her (seriously, thank you Mom. I know you are reading this now :). She is most likely the reason that later on, things never got worse than they did.
I can so clearly see this piece now, because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen first hand what happens when moms (and dads) don’t have a grounded, calm or good relationship to food: they unintentionally pass all of that baggage/food chaos onto their kids:
In how they eat, in their routines and behaviors around food, how they speak about it, and how they talk about themselves in relation to it.
Especially, daughters. But sons too. Kids absorb all of these things, even without a single word spoken.
The same thing happened to me:
I always just felt different. I was just naturally a slow burner, and my mom was a fast one. A little bit different of a body type. I could eat the same as her it would show up differently. I knew that, even in 4th grade.
So, with all of these things, food was always something to me. Food was something to be cautious of, careful of, to pay attention to, and to be interested in, so that it didn’t sneak up on me.
So, most of you, if you’ve been around here for a while, have heard my story from this point on, about how in middle and high school, this cautious awareness of mine with food led me to be hyper-fascinated/overly obsessed with all things healthy, and being the healthiest I could be.
I’d spend hours reading every book, magazine, nutrition textbook, was in the gym working out by age of 11, and was busy becoming my own experiment and test case. To stay “on top” on this mystical thing of being healthy.
I can see it clearly now: and of course it all makes sense why.
Because we, as Americans, sadly never get taught the basics about real, natural, normal food in a unbiased way. That eating vegetables is a normal part of life. That cooking and sharing a meal with the people you love, is too. And that taking a pause in your day to do so, is something that’s totally socially acceptable and encouraged.
It seemed like a win-win. Still get to eat, but without the thought or effort or time. We had better things to do.
It seems so small, but what it ultimately created, culturally, was something entirely different:
That we, in modern day, only learn about food and what’s “healthy” through either diets or marketing, alone.
I mean, unless you count the weird 5 minute food pyramid lesson in school that taught us to eat 9-11 servings of bread/grains everyday and only 2-4 of vegetables (?!), because the grain industry had funding in the USDA regulations at the time.
So, it’s no wonder we’re all (still) a little lost. Because unless you do something actively to teach yourself about true and REAL FOOD (not what’s marketed as real/healthy), it’s not going to happen on it’s own.
Which was 100% the case for me, back then. “Healthy living” was like a panicky roller coaster that looked something like this:
The whole wheat, 100 calorie bread sandwiches! The fat-free milk! The scrambled eggs whites! The Kashi Go Lean Cereal & Balance Bars!
I had a phase of only eating fruit and cereal for a while (plant based, duh). I gave up dairy and drank sooo much soy milk and ate tofu instead. Then, went through a phase of ordering a venti non-fat vanilla latte and a blueberry scone everyday at Starbucks (because, it was lower in calories than oatmeal and had less cholesterol than eggs, duh).
And then, vegetarian. Then vegan. Then high fiber only. No, no, no. It’s all about high protein now…. etc, etc, etc. Every 2 weeks, something different, based on whatever I was reading at the time.
But no matter how much I worked out or ate healthily, or how many strategies I tried, nothing really changed much. A lot of effort, but not a lot of results.
And with each successive attempt or experiment, I was like a lint roller, sucking up everything: so many random bits of information and food facts, and rules, lingering around and getting stuck in the crevices of my brain.
Things got more and more clouded, confusing, and conflicting, the more I learned. And the further I got in my food knowledge, the more doubtful and hardened I’d start to feel, that I could ever keep up. Or that all this effort was doing anything.
I’d tell myself that I must not be trying hard enough. Or, I’d get down on myself for messing up, when life got in the way of my perfectly laid food plans:
And was that too much to ask for?
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Clearly, this is going to lead right to a eating disorder, right?
Well, no. It never quite got that far. And honestly? Part of me hesitates to even tell you this story, because it didn’t get that far, and I know it does for so many people.
But I’m telling it anyways, because what happened instead, I think, is just as much worth talking about.
But what it was, was this: disordered eating.
That I actually had terrible relationship to food, but didn’t know it. I didn’t even think that was a thing, I just thought it was normal, and a part of trying to be healthy.
That you had to “sacrifice” and “work hard” and “fight” and “stay on top of your game”. Like it was a daily mental battle.
And all the while, I literally had no joy or enjoyment of food, it was just purely a calculation. A robotic move with rigid routines that I hated to break. Or, when I did, hours if not days of feeling guilty and trying to get myself back to “normal”.
Food, as one more thing on my daily to-do list.
Which can happen no matter what age you are, or size you are, or what background you have, how much you’ve researched the topic, or what your parents were like. But I guess, that’s exactly my point.
That everyone has a relationship to food, even though no one wants to talks about it.
So, um, can we just stop that? It’s so weird and not helpful to actually being a healthy human.
So let’s start right here, and right now.
We all have ONE. It’s a fact.
And being truly healthy is not just about what food you are eating or avoiding or how much you workout.
It’s how about how FOOD is so fiercely interwoven into our thoughts, actions, reactions, daily life, situations, and, oh, for the r e s t o f y o u r l i f e t o o.
Food is a undeniable part of our human experience.
It’s built in. We can’t ignore or run away from it. Or, if we do, we miss out on so much.
Of celebrations and being with, and connecting to the people we love. Of little moments of pause and BREATH in our days, to recharge and come back to good and back to the stuff that really matters, like the people we love, and being filled up enough ourselves that we can sprinkle it back out on the world for others to take in.
Nourished. More fully.
Our bodies, and also our souls.
But yo. We never learn about food in this capacity. Of how to balance and be calm with all of it, in the bigger picture. The good and healthy, and the juicy and joy-giving.
But I think it’s about time that we do.
It’s why I’ve been on a hot-no-shame mission lately, to bring this conversation up, and bring it to the light.
To make it not so shameful and weird to admit to yourself that a) you have a relationship to food, and b) that it’s ok if it’s not maybe the best. Maybe it could use a little makeover and refresh. And that’s ok. It’s normal actually, given how we’ve all grown up. But that you don’t have to stay stuck that way.
So, for whatever reason. And whatever season of life you’re in, consider this:
When you’re stuck and stagnant with food, or wildly swinging all the time from bad to good to back again, it reflects back and permeates everything else in your life the exact same way.
Speaking from personal experience on this one, of course.
That whatever goes on inside your head around food, matters. Because it actually takes up so much headspace and time and effort, and therefore so much of your life.
And maybe it’s been sooo many years, and that self/food talk in your head just feels normal. You know, the one that tells you to just eat the cookies, it’s been a bad day. Or to finish the bag of chips, because you already “messed up” today, and what’s the point?
It’s also the voice that fills your brain with guilt and shame the next day: Why did you do that? You have no self control. No willpower. You failed. Messed up again.
For me, I actually had no idea that this voice or these thoughts weren’t normal. They were my normal, and part of my daily life. But what they created over time, became something so much more scary, because I started to actually believe them.
So, your assignment this week, my beautiful ones?
Check in for a hot second with yourself: what’s it like in there, in that little sweet head of yours? If you had to rate yourself (honestly). Scale of 1 to 10.
If you didn’t have to tell a soul, what is your relationship to food like?
Do you feel free and happy, most of the time, or is food a panicky, angst ridden thing?
Does it change everyday, or stay pretty smooth and even and consistent?
What (and who else) would that affect in your life, directly or not?
What would that mean you are able to do more of, or less of, if this was the case?
Literally, imagine it. Sitting at that table. In the coffee shop line. Out to dinner. On date night. In the cozy living room of your best friend.
Also, hi, I see you, if your eyes starting to glaze over.
You have that I’m-too- busy-distracting myself with other things and sweeping it under the rug, thing going on right now. I know, I know. Life is busy. Which is exactly why you don’t have time NOT TO DO THIS. It’s huge and you can’t ignore it forever.
So, what are those thoughts actually saying?
Because, instead of struggling around it (and always fixating on the FOOD, the DIET, the WORKOUTS), there is so much relief in finding the center point of it all instead. The place where everything connects and begins. So that you can start re-designing and re-building it, in a much better and more intentional way.
And in a much shorter amount of time, than all those other short term solutions that never actually work for the long haul.
Because for me, this was the piece that changed everything: learning about food in a way that never changes, so that I could get off-load all the other STUFF taking up space in my brain and life. To get rid of the guilt and confusion and the never-ending-rat-race.
And just find more clarity. And peace.
And with it, more room and ability to start to read what my body was saying, better. So that I could listen. And nourish myself better- mentally, emotionally and physically. Slowly, and over time.
So, I tell you all of this, because we all have to start somewhere.
And relying on society to teach you these things, just ain’t gonna happen on it’s own.
But we are all in a lot more control than we think, if we can bring this stuff up into the light. It’s powerful and moving, and so much easier to make actual lifestyle changes that LAST when you include this piece first, and not as a afterthought.
So, for you, my love.
And for those that you love, too.
Let’s start a different way to think about our lives, and our health, and our food. One that’s more beautiful, and resilient and truly nourishing on every single level.
This, is the new healthy.
Oh, won’t you join me?
Photos by Carina Skrobecki
Curious to learn more about this bigger healthy philosophy and way of life? The Simply Real Life Program closes for enrollment this Wednesday 9/27 at 9pm PT. So you can take back your headspace, get a better relationship to food, and live a more joyful and vibrant life.
It’s everything you need to know about food itself (real food 101) in real, busy life. Plus daily habits, rituals, and learning how to create your best life, no matter the season of life you are in. All in a encouraging and fun group format (that you can interact as much or as little as you want to), LIVE in the 6 weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. This program is everything.
A blueprint, a flexible and fluid way to live a happier and healthier life, and with it, a lifetime membership and access to the program for FREE every year it runs.
All the specific weekly topics and details are listed here. Curious if this is the right fit for you? Send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat.
Doors close Wednesday 9/27 at 9pm PT.
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