Summertime. Not only is it a catchy Will Smith song, but also a time to enjoy long walks, lakeside chats, family barbeques, and friendly picnics.
Unfortunately, anticipation of these joyous occasions are quickly squashed with
"I can't wear shorts with these cottage cheese thighs." Or are justified with "It's a special occasion, and I don't want to insult anyone. Plus work has been so busy. I deserve a brownie sundae-oh monster cookies! Just one... or two won't hurt." And are inevitably followed by "My stomach is upset... I ate too much. I'm disgusting."
Any of those statements sound familiar? Yeah, me too. What do you say we ditch the toxic self-loathing with self-nurture, and swap the shame with respect.
Transitioning our thoughts and behaviors with these effective tweaks will help us make decisions that nourish our souls and hardworking bodies. Most importantly, know that practicing these tweaks requires patience, not perfection.
1. Practice A Media Fast. It's hard to know what triggers negative body image, and unwholesome eating and fitness habits when we are bombarded daily with fad diets, exercises to "whittle our middle," and photoshopped bodies.
For one week, refrain from all social media, cooking and celebrity gossip TV, magazines, blogs, podcasts, and that photo on your fridge that's either supposed to inspire you (insert photo of desired weight) or shame you into "good" choices (insert most unflattering photo). Use that extra free time to tune into your intuition and learn what feels good for YOU.
You may realize how much you enjoy evening walks after dinner with your family, morning yoga by yourself, or meeting friends for dance class or weight training. Our bodies are made to move, and we all enjoy moving in our own unique way. The best form of exercise is the one you do AND have fun doing. As for eating, you may notice that you have less dessert desires because you aren't looking at food pictures on Instagram or feeling inadequate observing everyone's perfectly curated lives on Facebook. All of these outlets can amplify our visual hunger cues and feelings of inadequacy, which increase cravings.
2. Get Curious About Your Cravings. Now that you've created an awareness foundation around your fitness, food, and body image triggers, you can start to get curious about your food cravings and choices. For one week, practice recording what you eat, and what emotions/feelings/people are occurring before, during, and after you eat. For example, you're anxious regarding a project at work and it's food day in the office (because it's always food day in the office), so you find yourself grabbing a donut and two pieces of pizza that you are eating while en route back to your office and have finished within minutes at your computer.
- Food: 1 glazed donut, 2 slices of cheese pizza
- Situation/Feelings Before Eating: Stressed and busy with project; Food in break room
- Situation/Feelings During Eating: Rushed; Didn't even taste what I ate
- Situation/Feelings After Eating: Tired, gassy, want more food; Frustrated with project
This will continue to increase your self-awareness, and hone in on using your energy to make wholesome, rather than unwholesome decisions. You may even want to ask yourself, "Does this nourish me in the moment or do I feel good about my decision all day? How does this choice help my body and mind?"
3. Play With Your Food. Your awareness muscle has been working for at least two weeks and is ready to help you eat and move in a way that feels healthy and fun.
When the 2pm candy train rolls into town, you can ask yourself, "What would satisfy my sweet tooth and feel nourishing?" If the crunch of a Twix sings to you, try carrots or celery with almond butter and chocolate chips. Or you may realize that fresh air is the sweetness you're truly craving, and take a 10-minute walk break.
This is also time to get creative and bring beauty to your meals. Rather than ice cream on a hot summer day, try avocado chocolate pudding that you've chilled in the fridge for dessert, or serve a beautiful and tasty meal full of various colors, textures, and shapes, such as seared salmon with lemon, sautéed asparagus and red bell peppers, and cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes.
4. Invite Others To Play. If you have little ones around the table, let them be dinosaurs eating trees (broccoli), or talk about how blue/purple foods increase brainpower (these tips are especially useful when introducing new foods).
For adults or older kids, make the meal beautiful with colorful vegetables, pretty plates, soothing music, or a lit candle (little kids enjoy these too). You can also help incorporate mindfulness by inviting everyone to say one thing they are grateful for, talking about the history of a new (or common) food item, or by encouraging everyone to savor the smell, sight, and taste of their first bite as a way of giving thanks.