Our Nutritional Guru: The Body

The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body.   –George Sheehan

Recently, while at a writers seminar, one woman wrote about how she used to get in fights w/ another girl every day after lunch, before she knew it was caused by her body’s severe mental and physical  reaction to sugar and wheat.  Are you kidding me, I thought. I actually asked her to repeat herself. I’d heard her correctly.  These foods took over her mind and body, as she described it.  She reacted with rage, pummeling the other girl to the ground, causing her opponent to call her “crazy eyes”.

As extreme as this sounded to me, it was a reminder of what I already knew. What we eat affects the way we feel, and this truly is a gift.  When the information of what is good for us and what is not is overwhelming, all we have to do is tune in to our bodies. As a yoga instructor and student, I am very familiar with the mantra, listen to your body.  It’s our key to knowing when we are pushing too hard or not hard enough.  Even more importantly, it’s where we feel our intuition,  hence the terms,  “gut feeling” and “heart wrenching”.  Our body is our instrument for feeling everything.

So when it comes to diet, it really can be that simple.  Listen to the body. It never lies. Though just some of us have food allergies, all of us have foods that fuel us and food that makes us sluggish, cranky or bloated.  Sugar makes me tired, as does anything made from flour- bread, pasta, baked goods.  I don’t even get the surge in energy I hear others talk about. I go right to the crash. A bowl of spaghetti leaves me wanting a nap.  Likewise, a plate of cookies can send me to bed.  I am fine with dairy, meat, nuts, rice, and of course fruits and vegetables, especially when raw.  Water is my magic elixir.  I feel icky when I eat anything packaged.

Though people react differently to different foods, it is generally accepted that hydrogenated oils, excess sugar, or basically any processed food versus whole foods, should not be consumed in excess. Some prefer to eliminate them altogether.  Some studies suggest raw foods are far superior to cooked.  And now there is also a lot of hype around gluten, and to quote from the article below, “There is an ever-growing body of research to support the fact that gluten sensitivity is not just an in-fashion health fad, but a real, pressing phenomenon that deserves our attention in a large-scale way.”  Anyone who is curious or interested in this suggestion can read from the following link: http://fixyourdigestion.com/the-trouble-with-gluten/

Chances are, if your body is not tolerating gluten or any other food very well, you won’t feel great after eating it. Foods should be healing, energizing, and we should actually feel vibrant after eating them. Live foods make us feel alive. The information is out there in excess. Whatever we want to research- raw food diets, sugar addiction, gluten intolerance, foods that cause obesity and foods that help us maintain a healthy weight- there is no shortage of information, and often some of this information changes over time:  The importance of dairy. The detriment of dairy.  The merits of a vegetarian or vegan diet. The pitfalls of such diets.   But where do we turn when all this information is just too much? Turn inward. Tune in. The body’s wisdom is always available, silently telling us what to do. We just have to pay attention.

For the love of writing

I first discovered I loved to write when I was about seven years old.  My sister and I were housebound and arguing on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  Our father called the two of us into his office where he was correcting high school English papers. He handed us each a pad of paper and a pen and said “Write a story”.

This ignited something in me, something not yet accessed as a young child.  I always had a vivid imagination and was content to let my mind wander for hours.   But on this rainy day so many years ago, I would make up a story-any story I wanted- and write it down.  And someone would read it. This was exciting to me. This was fun.  I remember the feel of the large pad in my hands, the sight of the blue ink in my second grade penmanship, the poignant moment of learning I love to write.

About two years later, I was thrilled to sit in front of my fourth grade classroom reading my own made up addition to the Bobbsey Twins series.   Then as pre- teen, I kept a journal that I addressed to my deceased grandfather. Not Dear Diary or Dear God, but Dear Grandfather. In a moment of sibling torment, my sister had grabbed the diary out of my hands and was confused by what she read. How could I explain? He was the only dead person I knew, and I thought he could be my connection to the divine. I believed that I could somehow write my way above my young girl angst, and in some way I did.

Still it never occurred to me to study writing in college. It seemed an elusive dream, something I hadn’t even named.  So I became a teacher and did that for a few years with some enjoyment.  But I was more interested in who the children were than in what they could do.  How did they see this sensory world that was still so new to them?   What were the stories they told themselves?

My daughters were born and I could hardly believe I had helped create these interesting, beautiful creatures.  Never before had something held my attention so fully and fill my heart to overflowing as motherhood.    And over the course of this long adventure, I studied health, and meditation and yoga and world religions and gained a master’s degree in Holistic Ministries.  I devoured others’ words, which reignited some more writing, this time with some publication, but it was all very tentative.   When I held my file box of notebooks, where I used to keep my writing drafts, my heart would catch with anticipation of the stories in progress.  It was as if the box held my longing, a gift. More years passed and I have so much to say now, and still so much to learn, that writing helps me discover.

There is an ancient Japanese verse: “One inch in front of you is total darkness”.   Don’t worry about the future. Focus on what you have to do today. Take that step. Then the next.  For me, the steps have brought me back home to my writing.

When it comes to remembering what you love, I think the question, “what did you love to do when you were eight or ten?” is a good one.  Before you were knee deep in homework and others’ expectations, before life took hold and dictated your trajectory,  spewed its opinions, shook some common sense into you, made you  obedient and practical, what did you love?  What makes your heart catch?  One inch in front of you is total darkness.  Each step lights the way.

Happiest New Year

Image

Happy 2014! I love New Year’s Day. It’s the perfect time for setting intentions for the year ahead. No matter what people’s resolutions are, the purpose of them is always the same. To be happier. To live better, feel better, be better.  An old friend texted me a couple of days ago out of the blue:  Have you read the Happiness Project? It reminds me of you so much!  And the thought of that book, which my sister had given me a couple years ago as a gift, came back to mind.  The author, Gretchen Rubin, spent a year journaling her process of doing all things that she thought would make her happier.  Based on studies and theories about how to be happier, plus her own intuition, she spent the year trying  out her happiness project.  When I first read the book, my thought was what a great idea.  I love stunt journalism and this has such a purpose.   Everyone wants to be happy!

But what I really like about her book, which became an instant New York Times bestseller, is that Rubin jumped in to her happiness project wholeheartedly. She awakened to the fact that she had midlife malaise, and she made a firm decision to change that.  There are no half measures when you are determined and passionate about a change.  Rubin tackled all areas of her life, not just one or two. She didn’t just eat better, get more exercise, spend time in quiet, clean out her closets and get organized. She did all of those plus played more, slept more, loved more and pursued a passion. Any one of these things has been shown to boost happiness, but each area compliments the others.

I’m all for moderation in a lot of things, but when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I say go all out. Harness your passion for happiness, your conviction that you are willing to make some changes, and do it with resolve. I happen to think that the reason so many resolutions fail is because they are made only with the head. I’m a believer in wholehearted commitments.  Life is too short for tentative steps. No dipping your toe in the water.  Become a runner if that’s what you know you need.  If you want to organize, never mind cleaning out one little shelf at a time.  At that pace, you’ll still be drowning in your clutter in 2015. Refuse to stop until you’ve eliminated everything that is in your way.   Obsess over a project that makes you happy.  Let the momentum carry you into more and more happiness, better-ness, healthier-ness, authentically-you-ness until you can hardly believe how great 2014 feels.

Most of us already know what we need to be happier.  If we just talk about it, think about it, analyze it, and pick one thing that we “will start tomorrow”, it’s difficult. The failure rate is high.  But if we commit on a bigger scale, with heart, with passion and conviction, that this is our life after all, then it’s simple.  So jump in with both feet, head and heart, and decide it’s going to be your best year yet!  Make happy happen.