3 Simple Steps to Keep Your Sanity With Food During the Holidays

I understand this is also a completely non-magical time for many that can be filled with painful memories, reminders of what is lost, financial stress, and complete overwhelm. However, the tips included in here will hopefully serve as a reframe of what this time can bring to you! Which can always be a time of giving to yourself, first and foremost.

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The winter holiday season has special air of magic.

Children are over the moon about the festive decorations and the thought of Santa arriving, the streets are filled with magical lights and decorations, parties are in full swing, people are putting on their holiday best, and there are more indoor social gatherings than any other time of the year.

As someone who just adores quality time with the people I care about, this time of the year is incredibly special to me! Plus, I’m a sucker for the festive decorations and seasonal foods & treats. 

While there are so many special things about this time of the year, it can also be a trigger for:

  • Emotional eating

  • Stress about losing control around food

  • Bingeing as we anticipate starting a new diet come January 1st

These completely remove us from the present moment and any potential magic.

What a shame, right?

Rather than spending all of our precious time and energy on tightly controlling our bodies and food consumption or stressing about how all hell is breaking loose, we can vow to commit to just a few practices throughout the holiday season.

These aren’t rules—they’re the building blocks to a relationship with food that is based on FREEDOM. A sense of freedom that transcends the holidays and empowers us to turn inward for the answers.

1.     Get Present

This is a non-negotiable, truly, and it’s the difference between success and struggle with my clients. This can be especially difficult during this hectic time of the year, which is why it’s even more important to give this gift to yourself!

Meditation is my preference (as you likely guessed if you follow me), but even a few minutes of deep breathing alone, journaling, or a walk outside can bring you back to yourself. Connect to your inner landscape, and you’ll instantly find yourself back in your power.

2. Ask yourself this simple question: Does this choice 1) empower me physically or 2) up-level my soul experience?

Don’t get caught up in the nuances of what “soul” means—it’s simply a term that defines the deep, meaningful desires of our mental and emotional selves.

If you’re clearly not hungry and/or don’t anticipate needing additional food energy (empowering yourself physically) and/or it’s not really lighting you up from the inside out (up-leveling your soul experience), then pause and sit with the desire for a moment.

If the desire to reach for food isn’t prompted by one of the two driving factors above, then it’s likely caused by an emotional trigger:  

  • Stress

  • To numb or distract

  • Boredom

  • Loneliness, etc.

While food is appealing in the moment, it’s a band-aid solution that will only lead to us feeling worse in most cases.

Our intentions behind our choices are the focus here.

3.     Mind Your Business

It can certainly be frustrating to find ourselves justifying our decisions to family and friends if we’re not going overboard on food, booze, and treats—or if we are. Oftentimes, we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t, so it’s important to keep your focus on you!

While it’s important to draw boundaries from the judgment and opinions of others, we also need to ensure we’re not allowing the choices of others—especially if we deem them to be “healthier” or “better” than our own—to derail us from our own intuition and responses to Number 2 above. 

Someone will always be eating more vegetables, drinking less booze, eating less dessert, or eating smaller portion sizes. Those choices have absolutely nothing to do with your own, so keep your focus inward when making your food choices—mind & body.

These are similar to my recent thoughts on traveling, as the holidays are also fleeting with so much potential for magic.

However, this time of the year shouldn’t be used as an opportunity to harm ourselves with the guise of celebration.

Gorging ourselves with processed foods and booze in an effort to numb or circumvent discomfort isn’t serving us in any way.  

It’s certainly not up-leveling our physical or soul experiences—it’s detracting from both of them!

Get yourself grounded in the present moment, assess the motivations and intentions behind your impulses—physically and mentally—and maintain this inward focus in the face of external influences.

We only get to experience this amazing season once per year, so don’t let the opportunity to make the most of it while feeling your best pass you by!

How I Navigate My States of Anxiety & Take My Power Back

Disclaimer: I do not have clinical anxiety, nor am I formally educated in this realm, so please don’t take this advice in lieu of that of a medical professional.

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I was struck with intense sensations of anxiety a few weeks ago, and this was due to a multitude of factors. 

  • A few weeks of continuous travel with very little alone time (which is essential for my well-being)

  • Sleep deprivation

  • More alcohol than usual

  • Too little nutrient-dense food

  • Work stress

  • The energy of those around me

Several of these things are within my direct control.

I can make better food choices. 

I can consume less booze.

I can enforce stronger boundaries around my sleep habits and travel plans.

I can ensure my energetic boundaries are stronger when in the company of certain people.

However, work stress is an example of a type of stress that is seemingly unavoidable for many people.

For you, work might be a breeze, but the real stress comes from personal relationships, finances, or health concerns, just to name a few.

While we may not be able control situations like this (at least immediately), we can control our responses to our thoughts and physiological reactions.

The physical, anxiety-ridden reaction might be:

  • Knots in the stomach

  • Tightness in the chest

  • Sweating, everywhere

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Shakiness

  • Or any other manifestations specific to you

Our bodies believe we’re in a state of distress, so our “fight or flight” mode kicks in.

Logically, we may be able to tell ourselves that there is no reason to be fearful if we believe this to be true, but this doesn’t mean the physical sensations will subside. 

Therefore, our only option at this point is to witness these physical sensations. That’s it. Notice and observe them. The minute we try to fight them, they intensify and persist. 

Does this mean the feelings of discomfort immediately dissipate with this observation?

No, but it changes our relationship to them, and this is everything.

(**Does this sound similar to our relationships to our thoughts we aim to achieve during meditation? It should, because it’s the exact same concept!)

Our bodies and minds are strange entities, and they’re often doing their own things without any input from “us”. Yet, we identify with their ebbs and flows so deeply and without hesitation.

Feeling anxious usually involves both our minds and bodies—the incessant thoughts that send us down a spiral of fear and the physical sensations noted above.

All of this forms a seamless narrative that leads us to believe we’re not safe.

In reality, these physical sensations and the accompanying thoughts are transient. They’ll leave, and they’ll return again—as they do for all of us—and they’ll drift away once more.

Rather than jump on this bandwagon and allow these thoughts and physical sensations to control us, we can identify, witness, and accept them.

We can acknowledge that we are not them.

They’re simply part of the human experience.

Where to start

I have experienced great relief by implementing the concepts of my meditation practice regarding my thoughts and applying them to the physical sensations my body experiences during stressful situations. This includes:

1.     Identify the Sensations with Neutrality

Approach the thoughts and physical sensations with a sense of curiosity, and try to simply identify them without labeling them as good or bad.

They’re only negative because we perceive them through that lens, but many of the physical sensations experienced with nervousness or anxiety are the same as excitement. A neutral lens is best.

Whatever you do, do not to label yourself as “anxious”. This indicates a permanent state, which will lead you to believe you’ll never experience reprieve.

2.     Accept the Sensations

The phrase “what we resist, persists” can’t be truer in these situations. I find that the more I fight these feelings, the more they intensify and the longer they last. Rather, I have learned to simply notice and accept them.

3.     Get Curious – Are They Teaching You Something?

This one can be tricky, because our minds and bodies are often sending fearful signals simultaneously during these states. However, if we follow the first two steps, we can then approach them with a sense of curiosity.

Ask yourself—what are these feelings trying to tell me? Have I been burning the candle at both ends? Am I in a job I hate? Am I surrounding myself with negative or dramatic people? Have I been neglecting my nutrition and movement? Journal your ass off and see what comes up!

4.     Control What You Can

Based on the answers you obtain from your curiosity, start implementing measures that will help you course correct onto a path of increased well-being. Personal relationships and financial woes may seem too daunting to change immediately, so start by making a plan if all else fails.

Some ideas include:

  • Time in nature or outdoors

  • Quality time with uplifting and growth-minded individuals

  • Solitude and self-reflection

  • Removing negative or “toxic” people/energy

  • Meditation

  • Journaling for introspection

  • Creative pursuits

  • The quality of your diet

  • Sleep patterns

  • Movement – dialing it back or increasing as needed

Remaining stagnant will only serve to make you feel more powerless.

As I continue to learn and grow, the more I’m accepting that nothing in this life will remain the same.

Our lives will ebb and flow as we move through seasons in life, and the same is true with our states of well-being—physical, emotional, mental.

Meditation continues to reinforce the notion that there is so much power in simply paying attention, observing, and accepting that we have a choice in how we perceive these experiences.

Our feelings and emotions—especially the seemingly unpleasant ones—may just be our best teachers yet if we’re willing to perceive them this way.

Stop Acting Like This Is a Dress Rehearsal & Heal Your Relationship with Food Now!

Do you find yourself saying you want to change something in your life, but when push comes to shove, you find that you don’t really want it badly enough?

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This is true of everyone, and it benefits us to be completely honest with ourselves about our priorities and what we’re willing to sacrifice. Self-awareness is key, here.

Many of us have also experienced being more invested in someone else making a change for themselves than they are!  It has been through these experiences—rather than my own bullshit (which is still alive and well)—that I’ve come to accept:

None of us are going to make a change until we really want to.

We’re averse to change, as our misery often becomes our standard mode of operation—our comfort zone.

We’d rather dance with the devil we know than the one we don’t.

These are all normal human responses to making changes—all born out of our monkey minds/egos, I’d argue.

Said another way, our brains will default to the “easy” road automatically, so we have to make a concerted effort to act from a higher place. To act from a place of consciousness, not fear.

When we make this shift from living in our monkey minds—where our brains are swirling with excuses and projecting fear onto the future—to a more conscious state of awareness, we’re able to understand that our fear-based thinking is keeping us small and comfortable.  

We begin to make choices based on deeply rooted values, growth, and the possibility of our future selves, and we become keenly aware that this isn’t a dress rehearsal. And we can’t afford to live our lives as such.

If you’re deep in the cycle of yo-yo dieting, neurotic food behaviors, lacking self-trust around food, or excessive exercise, you may or may not realize that life is passing you by.

While it’s tempting to stay rooted in these behaviors due to fear of the unknown, I recommend asking yourself if the costs outweigh the benefits (if there still are any).

Is it worth it to continue playing out the same patterns and miss out on experiencing everything life has to offer in this limited time we’ve been given?

Obsession with food and our bodies isn’t something to take lightly, as it can consume our entire being and fill every crevice of our brains.

The stakes are HIGH here.

The patterns you’ve become accustomed to will always be waiting for you if you decide that a new way isn’t worth it.

If you decide that the discomfort of growth and expansion outweighs the misery of your comfort zone.

I know the feeling of wanting to stay wrapped up in my comfort zone all too well, and the reality is that we can’t prioritize everything. We aren’t going to change the things we don’t really want to change.

My only ask is that you consider the gravity of the situation when it comes to giving up so much of your life to controlling food and your body.

This isn’t a matter of learning a new hobby or saving for new pair of boots—priorities that can understandably fall to the wayside for more pressing matters, I’d argue.

Our relationship with food is a major part of the foundation on which we live our lives, so we really can’t afford to wait.

We can’t afford to say “one day” and hope for things to magically feel comfortable enough to finally make a change.

Today is all we have, and I hope this serves as a reminder that we need to act like it (myself included).

Afraid of Freedom? You're Lacking Self-Trust

The look I give when I’m feeling skeptical AF. Can I really trust myself?

The look I give when I’m feeling skeptical AF. Can I really trust myself?

Freedom can be a really scary concept for people, and not just when it comes to food.

As I’ve mentioned before, the rest of our lives are VERY intertwined with our relationships to both food and our bodies. 

A recent theme with clients, myself, and my social circle is the concept of self-trust when it comes to freedom.  

Oftentimes, we have either convinced ourselves or have been convinced by others that we don’t have the capacity or ability to self-regulate.

That we aren’t to be trusted.

That we need rigid rules and guidelines to dictate our behavior.

That we’ll go off the deep end and find ourselves in a dark hole of destructive behavior if we’re not ruled by an iron fist (or list of dietary rules).

But will we?

The short answer is no.

We have the capacity to tune into our own intuition, to reflect on our behavior and motivations, to be honest with ourselves, and to adjust our actions and decisions based on the outcomes of previous ones.

In order to accomplish this, we first have to be open to the idea that we can, in fact, trust ourselves.

Note that this doesn’t mean we immediately trust ourselves, but we start by accepting the idea that we can trust ourselves.

You know, that whole “open mind” thing.

Sure, the beginning is rocky, and self-awareness is absolutely essential, but the end result is a solid understanding of:

  • our own motivations

  • our own hierarchy of values

  • what we’re willing to sacrifice (or not)

  • what we’re willing to accept for ourselves

  • if the goals we believe to be ours are truly our goals

  • and much more

In order to be open to the idea of regulating our own behavior and trusting ourselves, despite our primal instincts and ego-driven thoughts, we have to reject the notion that we should fear ourselves.

Many of us have been told from every angle that we must defer to others to make important decisions for ourselves, so it’s no great surprise that our faith in our own decision-making has eroded.

As you read this, you may not be thinking of rigid diet and food rules—at least not in isolation.

Perhaps you’re thinking of how you’ve outsourced your decision-making related to:

  • The path and timing of major life events (marriage, children, buying a house, etc.)

  • Your religious or political values

  • Your sexual preferences

  • Where you live

  • Your career path

  • How you choose to spend your free time

  • What your relationship looks like to others

This is all valuable information!

As I stated above, our relationships to food are often a reflection of other areas of our lives.

In order to develop greater trust with food, we need to develop greater trust with ourselves everywhere in life.

It all works in tandem.

So—let’s say this this hits home for you, you realize that you have a pattern of deferring to others when it comes to making decisions in your life, and you realize that you’ve subscribed to the false notion that you can’t trust yourself to make the best decision for yourself.

How do you start unraveling this narrative? 

By purposefully and intentionally granting yourself more freedom.  

The only way to develop self-trust is to throw ourselves into the arena, gather feedback and data, self-reflect, come up with another strategy, and go back in with another attempt.

We just need one small win to get the ball rolling—we need inertia to begin the process of believing that we’re capable.

Examples of Turning into Your Own Intuition

If you typically read articles, magazines, Instagram, or ask others what foods are best to eat, commit to answering this question for yourself.

What feels best to YOU in this moment? How much of this food does my body truly want?

 If you typically ask your family what you should do when it comes to your career, tune into what your own intuition is telling you.

Which decision feels the most light and peaceful in your own body?

If you don’t believe you’re capable of choosing the right relationships in your life, ask yourself how you feel when you’re around this person/people.

Are you having to convince yourself they’re right for you, despite feeling uneasy or insecure? Or do they feel aligned with who you are and where you’re going on a deeper level?

If everyone in your social circle is drinking alcohol at an upcoming event, you don’t want to partake (or at least not heavily), and you doubt your ability to practice moderation or abstain—challenge yourself to make the best choice for your own well-being.

Am I making this choice to please myself or to please others? Will this cause myself harm in order to mitigate some brief discomfort? Which decision puts my well-being at the forefront?

These may seem small, or they may seem like monumental challenges.

Either way, they’re proof that you can trust yourself to make decisions about your own life and your own body.

And if you “fail” your first few attempts, commit to stepping up to the plate again and again.

Every single one of us is capable of developing trust within ourselves, and the importance of this can’t be overstated.

There is absolutely a time and place for expert and external advice, but this should be coupled with a strong sense of self and personal intuition as our foundation.

Trust that you know so much more about what’s best for you than you think you do.

The Dreaded Boomerang Effect

One of the primary concerns when considering the concept of giving up control around food is the boomerang effect—eating everything in sight and in massive quantities.

The truth is that yes, it’s common to feel the urge to eat a lot of these foods, and it’s also very common to act on this impulse. This can be a necessary part of the process for many people.

Going to town on these brownies

Going to town on these brownies

However, it doesn’t last forever, because with a newly formed sense of awareness and connection to our bodies, the desire to eat in a way that isn’t uplifting—emotionally or physically—isn’t enticing.  

The allure of these foods quickly diminishes when we realize and accept how they make us feel, and we also become aware of why we’re making the choices we do. This includes overeating in general, too.

These foods are typically processed foods that have been on our “bad” list for years, but I often see clients fearing fruit, rice, and other natural carb sources too (as I once did) or foods that are higher in fat if they’re coming from a low-fat background. Everyone’s food rules are different, so the roads to unlearning vary accordingly.

 It can be incredibly helpful to be aware of the boomerang effect prior to embarking on a more intuitive way of eating in an effort to reduce the fear of it occurring, as it’s nothing to be afraid of!

It can propel us towards healing much more quickly than “dipping our toes in while still holding on to our controlling ways” ever will.

The caveat here is the necessity of presence, awareness, and connection.

Without these elements, we’re simply acting on the opposite side of the same coin: treating our bodies disrespectfully and allowing our egos to run the show while not learning anything about ourselves in the process.

However, it can take time to develop these skills after years of neglect.

The goal is to learn how to effectively and consistently implement the practices of presence, awareness, and connection while simultaneously unlearning the rules we’ve been told about our own bodies.  

Sound complicated?  It really isn’t once you have an idea of how and where to start! 

Meditation: This is the simplest, fastest, and most widely available way to develop a sense of presence and awareness of both our physical bodies and our internal landscapes.

When we sit in silent meditation, we’re forced to bear witness to our thoughts and any discomfort that arises. As a result, we become aware of our thoughts, emotions, and urges related to food and our bodies. This is absolutely essential to the process.

Pause before, during, and after eating: meditation will naturally lead to greater awareness during daily activities, but making a concerted effort to check in with our physical bodies and our emotions to understand what we really want and need in that moment is extremely important.

It takes time for this to become a habit, so be patient with yourself! Start by checking in before eating, especially snacking, and once you’re consistently implementing this at least 80% of the time, you can then add “during” and “after” to your practice.

Journal: We can evaluate the choices we’re making and their short-term and long-term effects much more effectively and quickly when we write them down and put our thoughts on paper. This enables us to connect the dots and really get clear on how our choices are affecting our bodies (energy levels, digestion, menstrual cycles, workout performance, skin, etc.).

Additionally, and often more importantly, we need to write about how our emotional and internal states are contributing to the choices we’re making. Does stress lead to overeating and eating foods that don’t make you feel well? Are you using food to cope when you feel lonely? Do you tend to eat highly processed foods during the work week because you’re miserable at your job? These are a few of the REALLY important things to understand about ourselves, and even bringing awareness to them is often enough to change our behavior.

Keep an open mind: this may seem obvious, but it’s impossible to “unlearn” rules if we’re convinced that we already know everything there is to learn. I certainly fell into this trap when I first began my journey, as I was all-in on eating according to hunger and satiety signals, but I wasn’t willing to let go of my dogmatic low-carb and paleo approach.

It wasn’t until I accepted that I may have more to learn that I was finally able to fully connect with my body and listen to what it was telling (read: screaming at) me.

The process isn’t black-and-white

The outcomes of these steps aren’t necessarily prescriptive, rigid, or black-and-white, and this can cause a sense of unease with many former dieters due to the freedom involved. And I get it! I’ve been there.

However, while it’s human nature to crave certainty, most things in life don’t fall into this category, and our relationships with food are no exception. This stuff is layered and nuanced—cultural ties, personal memories and emotions, forms of celebration, fuel for performance, personal preferences, suitability to lifestyles, effects on cognitive abilities, type and duration of activity, and many more. 

It will take time to discover how all of these layers stack up and align for YOU, but the beauty of this tailored approach is that it’s created by you, for you—with your own body and intuition as your guide.

The boomerang effect might be part of your journey, but it certainly isn’t the last stop. It’s merely a byproduct of unlearning everything you’ve assumed over the years, and freedom is surely on the other side.

Lacking a Strong Sense of Self? It F*cks with Our Relationship with Food

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A strong sense of self can be a bitch to create in today’s society, particularly for women. We’re taught from a young age that our most valuable currency is our appearance—that playing the part of what it means to be a woman will ensure our worth and safety in this world.

With so much emphasis placed on our shells, we often neglect the effort of discovering who we are beneath the surface and acting accordingly.

Quite honestly, the notion that I needed to do such a thing was foreign to me until my early to mid 20s. There’s a multi-dimensional, complex human enveloped by this body of mine?  Who knew?

I focused so much of my energy on molding my physical body to societal standards that I failed to realize I had unconsciously done the same with my personality. A once confident and carefree child became a young woman afraid to establish boundaries and fearful of speaking her mind.

Lest I be labeled a bitch.

You see, growing up as a female in today’s world, we’re taught that our personalities must become small and that we exist to appease others.

No one wants to be “that girl”—the one with a bold and boisterous personality who takes no shit, who shines light on her intelligence, who asks for help, who freely shares her thoughts and opinions, who says “no” when she needs to take care of herself or when she simply doesn’t want to.

As a result of showcasing these remarkable traits, we risk being labeled as “too much”, too outspoken, cocky, needy, selfish, or having too much masculine energy.

We’re often expected to be docile, quiet, sweet, and to exist for the benefit of others. People pleasing, anyone?

***For the record, there is nothing wrong with these qualities—I regularly inhabit these, but this is an authentic expression to me. Similarly, inhabiting the less stereotypical female qualities may be inauthentic to some, and that's a-ok!

The more we quell our true selves, our authentic personalities, our needs, and our desires, the more we internalize the notion that our value and worth is based on our appearance.  Essentially, we’re led to believe that the world doesn’t care about who we are—only what we are.

As a result of this conditioning, all of our energy is put into molding our bodies, our minds, and our expressions of ourselves into that which will provide us safety, value, and love.

In reality, we’re left with anything but. Rather, we’re often met with depression, anxiety, confusion, low self-esteem, competition with other women, and a severely deflated version of ourselves.

Making the Shift

If we shift the focus of our value and worth to who we are beneath the surface, we begin to understand that we are SO much more than our bodies.

We learn about our own personal values, our interests and dreams, our strengths and weaknesses, our unique quirks and qualities, our conditioning, how to enforce boundaries with others, how to express ourselves openly and freely, the people we do and don’t want in our lives, etc.

There may just be a salty, funny, loud, opinionated, quirky, or commandeering woman waiting to reveal herself.

By uncovering these qualities as they ring true to you and slowly expressing them (baby steps usually work best here), we begin to place less importance on our appearance.

The more we hone in on who we are, who we want to be, and take ownership of this development, we eventually begin shift our own sense of worthiness from our appearance to our internal landscape.

Thus, food carries less emotional weight, and we begin to view it as our ally in nourishment, enjoyment, and connection.

We place less emphasis on food, as it’s no longer viewed as the gateway to our self-worth.

Is It OK to Have Aesthetic Goals?

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The short answer is yes, but as per usual, there is a heavy dose of nuance when it comes to determining whether one is ready to pursue aesthetic goals. I fully acknowledge and believe that every woman has the right to choose what she wants to do with her own body, but I do think we need to be really honest with ourselves when embarking on this endeavor.

If you’re like the majority if Western women, chances are you’ve been trying to manipulate and mold your body for years, or it was a significant pursuit at some point in your life.

Many of the women in my life and those I work with can’t remember a time when they weren’t actively trying to change their bodies via diet and exercise, and I was in the same boat up until a few years ago.

At that time, I decided that my mental and emotional well-being trumped my physical appearance, and I accepted that I had to fully give up aesthetic goals. I wasn’t sure if this would be a permanent or temporary separation, but I did know that a sufficient amount of space was required to heal.

This space meant:

  • Eating according to body signals, not rules set by someone else.
  • Eating for enjoyment while remaining present in the moment.
  • Sitting with my urges to revert back to controlling my food intake and getting curious about them.
  • Accepting the notion that I may gain a few pounds and asking myself how this would really affect my life. Spoiler: I did, and it didn’t.
  • Surrounding myself with a supportive social circle and spending time alone in an effort to sift through the layers of my disordered eating, body obsession, and inner turmoil.
  • Consciously choosing to not weigh myself or spend too much time in the mirror.
  • Exercising out of enjoyment or in pursuit of performance-based goals, not out of a desire to change the appearance of my body.
  • Spending my now-free-time learning about and doing things that interested me. In all honesty, the list was really short in the beginning, and this tends to happen when our lives are completely wrapped up in our diets and fitness.

It can be extremely difficult to normalize our thoughts and behaviors around food and to view our bodies through a different lens when we’re in pursuit of the same goal we’ve had for years: manipulating our bodies. 

Our brains are going to have a difficult time separating the pursuit for aesthetic changes from our previous habits.

As such, I typically recommend the complete removal of aesthetic goals from the equation for a period of time (which varies for each person). This makes most clients extremely uncomfortable in the beginning, as changes often do.

But if you stop and think about it, the way you’ve been doing it for the last several months, years, or decades likely hasn’t been working for you. So why not try a different approach?

While this concept may provide a great deal of angst initially, the emotional and mental freedom experienced shortly after diving into this approach is often life-changing. Time, energy, and precious resources are now able to be utilized elsewhere, and it can seem like a second lease on life.

This initial high typically wears off after the first few days or weeks, as the diet rules we’ve previously relied on so heavily are gone, and we haven’t learned to trust ourselves or our bodies. The fear of weight gain and the need for control creep back in.

I can’t reiterate this enough: the process of unlearning diet rules, connecting with our bodies, and establishing a trusting and stress-free relationship with food and our bodies takes time. This often means several months, if not years. Still worth it? Absolutely.

I bring up the emotional rollercoaster and the time commitment required for the healing process to illustrate why aesthetic goals are usually not appropriate during those stages. Ups and downs are plentiful, and superficial goals only muddy the waters.

We often think that we can accomplish both at the same time, but the length of time it takes to achieve food freedom is much shorter if we release the aesthetics from the equation.

The ebbs and flows will eventually even out after a sufficient amount of introspection, dedication, patience, self-compassion, and time.

Am I Ready?

Once healed from the tumultuous relationship with food and body, many find the pursuit of aesthetic goals completely unappealing, while others decide to dip their toe back in to the pond of aesthetic goals. At this time, I recommend asking oneself the following questions and being really honest with the answers.

What is the reason I want to change my body?

If pursuing the goal to garner the attention, validation, or approval of others, I’d caution against it.

What do I expect to gain from the physical change?

If you’re expecting to gain newfound happiness from a smaller or leaner body, I’d caution against it.

How will I respond if my body doesn’t change in the way I would like?

If you’re anticipating a reaction of self-loathing and disappointment if your body doesn’t change in the way you expect, I’d caution against it.

Is this desire rooted in how others perceive me? Or others’ definitions of beauty or attractiveness (i.e. if other humans weren’t around me, would I still want to pursue this goal)?

If your goal is rooted in the definitions of beauty/attractiveness of others rather than your own, then I’d caution against it. **This is difficult to unpack, as most of our perceptions of beauty are deeply rooted in society’s ideals. Asking yourself if you would still want X appearance (such as more muscle or a bigger bum) if trends moved away from this ideal is a good place to start.

Do I spend any time or energy feeling guilty about my food choices?

If you’re still attaching negative emotions to food choices, then I’d caution against it.

Do I eat to cope with emotions?

If you’re eating to cope with emotions often, especially unconsciously, then I’d caution against it.

Do I honor my hunger and satiety signals most of the time?

If you’re frequently overriding hunger and satiety cues, I’d caution against it.

Do I feel energetic, both physically and mentally, as a result of the foods I eat? (i.e. am I adequately fueling myself)?

If you’re feeling like shit due to insufficient quality or quantity of food, then there may be a health concern at play, you may still be undereating in calories, or your diet primarily consists of processed foods. In any of these scenarios, I’d caution against it.

Am I able to step on the scale or use another objective measurement with emotional detachment to the numbers?

If you’re feeling emotional responses to the number on the scale or still very fearful of the number, I’d caution against it.

What are the sacrifices this goal will require? Am I willing to accept these trade-offs?

If you’re not willing to accept the sacrifices required to make these changes, that’s completely fair and understandable. The freedom feels so goodJ I’d caution against it.

If my mind starts to revert back to old patterns, do I have an exit strategy?

If you don’t have an exit strategy, safety net, or support system if you start to revert back to old patterns, I’d caution against it. **We can’t predict the future, and old thought patterns can resurface when embarking on goals based on appearance. Acknowledging this possibility is important, as is having a plan in place to manage this potential outcome.

Am I planning to pursue this goal thoughtfully? Am I planning to leverage a coach to guide me through the process?

If you don’t know how to make changes in a slow, balanced, and controlled manner and/or don’t want to hire someone to help? I’d caution against it.

Do I judge the bodies of other women? Or feel badly about myself if another woman is leaner, thinner, more muscular, etc. than me?

If the answer is yes, there is still more to unpack in regards to how you define your worth, in addition to that of other women. I’d caution against it.

Do I exercise in an effort to “undo” my food or drink choices from the previous day(s)? Am I exercising to control the appearance of my body?

If the answer is yes to either of these questions, then I’d caution against it.

The preferred answers to some of these questions are obvious, while others are more nuanced. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer to many of them either, but it’s clear when intentions are rooted in negative emotions or external validation. That’s what we want to avoid.

You can see that there are several facets of a solid relationship with food and our body, and the list above could certainly be extended. But these questions serve as a solid starting point for honest introspection about your desire to change your body.

In the end, if you feel comfortable with your responses to these questions and decide to embark on aesthetic changes, then that’s great! Each woman is entitled to making that decision for herself.

My hope is that you allow yourself the time and space to truly heal before jumping into this endeavor. You may begin and quickly discover that it’s actually not what you’re seeking, or you may find that you’re able to keep your aesthetics in perspective.

Please remember that they still don’t define you. They’re just superficial play.