How to Focus on Nourishment & Leave Your Diet Brain Behind
Diets. They can really mess our noggins up. I remember the first time I ever went on a diet. I was in the seventh grade and my doctor told me I needed to lose a little bit of weight. I thought, “Not a big deal!” I can just cut out candy and soda→ Boom! Good enough for this girl! Until candy and soda became bread, gum, bananas, peanut butter, almost all fats, red meat, most grains, no chocolate, limited sugar even berries were weighed and measured, no cereal, oh yeah, and not enough food, not even close.
My point isn’t that you shouldn’t go on a diet, well, maybe it is!
The diet brain is what led me to developing anorexia, which led me to struggle for over a decade in my body and brain, which led me to leading a life of constant fear and panic around food of any kind, which led me to missing out on moments I’ll never get back all to wear smaller jeans.
So, you can see, I’m pretty anti-diet!
Now, huge disclaimer and this is where people get confused, I think, I am not anti-health! I am fully aware that eating a frozen pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner doesn’t make me feel my best and for sure won’t make you feel amazing either! I’m very aware of nutrition, calories, sugar, salt, all that jazz and how processed doesn’t always mean ‘the best for you!’
So, how do I eat frozen pizza for dinner and not all three meals and not freak out even though I know that on paper, spinach may have more health benefits than frozen cheese?→ this blog is going to show you just that!
The word of 2020 is nourishment, my girls.
Nourishment has more to do than numbers or macro/micro-nutrients. It encompasses all areas and aspects of well-being. Nourishment includes physical health, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, I would argue even, economical! Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my decade of struggle it’s this→ wellness is not black and white.
All areas of your life affect your health in one way or another. And the hardest thing to understand is that our brain tries to rank them.
Our brains are programmed to make things easier on us and in this technology era we live in today, it’s constantly bombarded by information and most of it is conflicting, which means it needs to have some sort of standard or structure→ enter your hierarchy of ED.
The Hierarchy of ED occurs when we decide that one area of ourselves or our well-being trumps the other areas! For example, when I began to diet, I made a conscious decision from a place of fear and insecurity, which most of us do at a younger age when we haven’t fully developed a sense of self or how to filter through all this insane diet information online, that my physical ‘health,’ more so, my physical appearance mattered more than the other areas of my wellness wheel.
I chose to believe that the way that I looked mattered more than the way that I felt, how I moved, how I slept, my social health, my connection to a God, Universe, purpose, Buddha, whatever, I made a choice and I chose to rank my wellness circles and my eating disorder always ruled that my physical appearance was all that I should care about and everything else could and should suffer for the betterment of my body size.
This is where it got messy.
I no longer cared about the other areas of my health! I turned down the opportunity to eat my birthday cake. I canceled plans more times than I can count to grab dinner or drinks with friends. I skipped out on family time because I was ‘sick’ and didn’t want to go, meaning I didn’t want to eat. I had no connection to a Higher Power because I had no connection to myself and spiritual wellness is all about one’s introspective awareness of self-worth and value.
I was solely focused on my physical ‘health.’ And I put health in quotations because what I was doing wasn’t even healthy for my body! I thought that if I could manipulate and control my size, weight, and body frame/image that meant I was doing well, it meant I was healthy, it meant I should be ‘happy.’
The key for me then to stop ranking my areas of wellbeing; the piece that solved the puzzle was first realizing that your health is not a hierarchy, it’s a wheel. You may have heard me type that term above the wellness wheel. I would argue that all areas of your health and wellbeing are nearly equal when it comes to importance. I know there are some outliers and the different components of the wheel can become smaller or larger depending on what’s happening in your life at that moment.
For example, if you’re trying to save up for your wedding *congrats!* your finance health spoke may be taking up more energy and time and focus than it normally does and that’s okay! However, the difference here is we do not rank them, we give attention to where attention is needed without disregarding the other areas of the wheel.
Nourishment comes into play because nourishment unless skinny or thin or even ‘healthy’ because the word healthy is subjective to biases online of ‘good vs. bad’ ‘healthy vs. unhealthy’ ‘cheat or off-track meals.’ Nourishment is completely your own definition.
“Healthy” has become somewhat a new fad diet, whereas nourishment can only be defined by ourselves because remember it encompasses all areas of our lives!
Nourishment means eating dessert at your graduation party because your grandmother helped bake your favorite cake for the occasion and you missed the gym today to spend time with everyone here and celebrate your big day!
Let’s unravel this!
“Healthy” could be used to deny yourself the cake. Cake has sugar, carbs, fat, oil, etc. You don’t need all that ‘bad’ stuff! What if we looked at it another way? The cake is nourishing to my emotional wellbeing, which is JUST as important as my physical well being. Meaning that I need to tend to all areas of my wheel and this cake makes me feel happy and connected to my family!
Boom! You filled up your emotional health spoke with the cake. It was nourishing to your soul or brain and even your body because there is nothing more healing or powerful to our physical bodies either than feeling GOOD!
You missed the gym, okay, how can we see that you missed the gym, but gained social wellbeing? You spent time with family who you rarely see! You got to open gifts and celebrate your big day and feel appreciated for all of your hard work!
You didn’t ‘NOT’ fill your physical fitness spoke of the day, instead, you filled your social wellbeing component. Focus on not what you’re missing, but on what you’re gaining. That’s nourishing!
When we see all areas of our wellness wheel as being equally important, then there is no ‘right way to eat’ or ‘right way to work out’ or ‘right way to start our days’ because there’s no comparison for what is nourishing to you!
There is no blanket answer or expectations around what is or is not ‘healthy.’ Nourishment is all about focusing on your entire wellbeing and leaving the hierarchy that we adopt from diet culture behind!
So, the next time you’re struggling with feelings of guilt for eating a cookie or missing a day at the gym→ focus on nourishment. Maybe you took a rest day and resting is the KEY to realigning, healing, and refocusing on ourselves and self-care! That fills our mental health wheel or even our spiritual one to the brim! Or the cookie, the cookie tasted amazing and you love really chocolate chip cookies→ tada, emotional wheel filled up, baby!
You are worth living in a complete wellness circle and not ranking what matters more about yourself because from my personal experience, the ranking comes from insecurity and insecurity comes from a lack of self-worth. You are not worth more if you solely focus on your looks. You are not more if you solely focus on any of the wellness wheels! You are worthy of just being you, but focusing on nourishment can help you TREAT yourself as the worthy queen that you are and release the hold that your eating disorder, diet brain, exercise obsession, money chasing, etc. may have on you!