Food For Thought #4: Self-love, an introduction

Last week I wrote about the four components of holistic health, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. There is one unifying element to help you achieve all these things. It is self-love. Even when I started eating healing food, began to recover from depression, got some semblance of balance over my emotions, and discovered my spiritual purpose: it wasn’t until I discovered how to practice self-love that things started coming together. I decided to focus on my health rather than just losing weight. I decided to start conquering fears that were holding me back and began living an extraordinary life. I decided to open up and share my beliefs and ideas in order to help others.
I realized I needed self-love in my life, but for a while I thought the way to self-love was just the absence of depression. I didn’t know how to implement or actively practice self-love until I discovered Stefani Ruper’s blog Paleo for Women and her podcast Live.Love.Eat. Everything immediately resonated with me, especially the podcast. What is most captivating about Stefani’s work is her desire to share the stories of many women, not just her story, to create an empowering forum for women to take back their health, and to celebrate the beauty of all women, which I think can be extended to all people. Internalizing your concerns and fears turns you into a basket-case of anxiety and negatively weighs on all aspects of your health. There is no weakness in sharing your problems – in fact I believe it only strengthens a community when members seek out each other for support.
In my case, I took my problems and internalized them for many years, not wanting to complain to others or bring them down. I thought that if I told someone about my problems I would burden them with my pain. First of all, that wasn’t giving my friends and family enough credit. The real problem was that I couldn’t voice, and therefore acknowledge, my problems. I was wrapped up in a little ball of anxiety and solitude, even though sharing my problems brought such relief and led me to people who could help me find answers, like my brother or Stefani.

To practice self-love or to find your way back to health, you need a community, people to support you while you learn to love yourself. You need a place to be comforted when you don’t feel well, a trusted space to air your fears and find ways to conquer them. We all need to learn the right way to experience our emotions, even the negative ones like fear and anxiety, rather than burying them and thinking they are something weak or shameful.

Each person is different, but this is what self-love means to me.

1. Trusting myself and getting rid of self-doubt
2. Standing up for my health: being informed about my conditions, having a medical professional who is willing to work with me and listen to my concerns and issues while providing support for holistic solutions.
3. Focusing on health, not weight loss. The number on a scale is not what defines me. I live in tune with my body and spirit, eating in a way that is nourishing, satisfying, and free of negative emotions such as guilt, stress, and anxiety.
4. Being thoughtful, not anxious, in my emotions and reactions, making each moment the best I can. Being happy now, in the present moment.

There are two things I have learned that link the above points.

You are not to blame. This is not your fault. For years I beat myself up when I couldn’t control my cravings. Secretly, subconsciously, when I couldn’t stop eating I would think “Well you must deserve to be fat because you have no self-control, lazy cow.” (Ahem see practicing self-love in number one above. Yikes!!!) Really, I couldn’t fight my cravings and emotions with willpower because of what was going on in my body in response to an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and complications that arose from PCOS. Reading this article by Stefani Ruper helped me to understand what had been happening:
Herein lies the rub: people restrict, and drives toward feeding rise.  In particular because of NPY-type drives, that drive is focused on carbohydrates.  The more successful a person is at restriction and at willpower, the harder and harder it gets to maintain that level of restriction.   Eventually the stamina fails, and the organism caves, often to a sweet food.  Recall that NPY delays satiation and prolongs feeding quantity and duration.  What this means is that this one bite of sweet food the person allows himself is all-of-the-sudden one thousand bites of sweet foods.  This willpowering individual feels awful about what he’s done, so he gets back into his routine of chronic restriction.   This is a hell of a cycle to be caught in.

I cut out gluten, dairy, and soy because I am allergic to them, but I chose to cut out sugar because I noticed, not scientifically but emotionally, what it was doing to me. Reading Stefani’s articles on Paleo for Women clarified that for me and made me realize I had to stop blaming myself for my past eating habits. While I found a physical release in getting rid of the foods that weren’t working for me, getting rid of foods I was intolerant to didn’t automatically eliminate the years of deeply-ingrained mental patterns of self-blame and negative self-talk. It was only through discovering how to heal with self-love that this has started to get better. Stefani’s informative articles helped me to find the way to a healthy mind-body connection, especially this excerpt:

 Without the normal, healthy partnership between self and body, a woman’s brain is lost, floundering, unhappy, and seeking desperately a kind of ease and contentment about food that will not come.   She needs to know what and when to eat, but she cannot listen to her body.   She develops a restricted, disciplined, control-based mentality.The insidiousness of the modern mentality with respect to women and mental health does not stop there.  Yes, the mindset encourages obsession and anxiety.  Yes, it encourages restriction.  Yes, it stresses a woman out about how much she should be eating, and whether she should be listening to her hunger signals.  Yet perhaps worst of all: it fails.  Modern ideas about calorie restriction and weight loss do not work, and for this reason, a woman suffers even more.  She beats herself up.  ”But I’m supposed to be able to do this!  This is how weight loss is done!  If I can’t do it, why even bother trying?!”  This phenomenon is so common I sometimes take it with me to the punching bag.  Women around the world hate themselves for not being able to do something impossible.
I was the poster child for this control-based mentality. And I hated my self for “failing” to have the willpower to change my situation. Yet, as I’ve said, a lot of my depression came from eating the food I was intolerant to. I thought I wasn’t good enough to lose weight, that I didn’t deserve to lose weight because I kept eating all those addicting foods. The day I realized that I was good enough, the day that I realized I deserved to be healthy, was the day everything started to change. It was the day everything got a little bit better, day by day.
Depression is not your fault. It was not my fault. I was not to blame for my lack of willpower. Blaming and focusing on the “fault” within you is counterproductive. Looking for fault is a damaging mindset. On my recent flight back to the States (before the delay and acts of kindness bomb), I met the lady on the plane who was worried that, because she didn’t breastfeed her daughter, she “gave” her daughter celiac. If you have a disease or a condition, it is just part of your genetic makeup. You don’t deserve it; you didn’t cause it. I told that poor woman that all 5 of the children in my family were breastfed, and we are all still gluten intolerant. It’s just the way we are.
 It isn’t about willpower, the mind controlling the body, or some mistake you made that makes you to blame. It’s about knowing what foods work with or against you and having a loving mentality towards yourself. You are not separate from your body. Your mind and emotions are not separate from your body.
Self-love is having a truly healthy mentality between mind and body.
Especially if you are a woman, you need to practice some self-love. If you don’t know how to start, listen to the first podcast of Live.Love. Eat. In it Amanda suggests writing down a list of all the good things you love about your body. Here is a partial list of mine: my stubby ears, the color of my eyes, the muscles in my legs, my hipbones, and my smile. I think my smile is what makes me the most loveable. I also wrote down positive things about features that weren’t stunning but functional: for instance I have very flat feet and broad shoulders, but that gives me a great advantage as a swimmer! Celebrate what is beautiful about you, rather than comparing yourself to others. There is not a finite amount of beauty in this world – it is not a zero-sum game where you should compare yourself to models and think you are less of a person. Everyone is beautiful, and when you connect with yourself rather than making apologies for your flaws, you radiate beauty and become more attractive and loveable simply by loving yourself.
I want to spread the message of this podcast and give support to others, because I know how badly a person can need it. I am here to tell you that YOU DESERVE IT. Whatever it is – overcoming food issues, starting to exercise, getting your health back, putting yourself out there – you are good enough. Whatever you want to achieve – a new career, your own business, a 10k run, going on your first date, learning to cook – you can do it. You have it in you. Why is it that you can be such a great cheerleader for your friends but the hardest job is to cheer yourself on? Why do we think that we aren’t a deserving person? Yes I believe in a certain amount of humility, but you have to balance that with knowing your self-worth and having confidence in what you can do. Don’t apologize for who you are. Don’t apologize because you can’t eat a certain food. Celebrate your mistakes, your vision, your beauty as a person. Nourish yourself with the right food, celebrate those you share it with, be grateful for your road to health, and god, just love life. Love it so much you tear up* writing a blog post in Google documents because you can’t help but be filled to the brim with gratitude for all the beautiful people and experiences you have the opportunity to live with.
Then go hydrate with water, eat a sweet potato, and be happy. That’s what I do.
Food for Thought #3: Trust Yourself
Food for Thought #5: Health vs. Weight Loss
More reading:
*It also might be due to frustration with Google documents, iPhoto, and the fact that your entire technological system and corresponding skills are totally maddening at the moment.

5 thoughts on “Food For Thought #4: Self-love, an introduction

  1. Thank you for sharing Kate. I have learned too over the years to simply embrace the things that make me beautiful as opposed to the things I wish I could change. As I have traveled down a more positive path I realized how superficial and frivolous those things were. Self-love is so key to a life full of happiness and success. It makes my heart sing to know you are in such a wonderful place in your life. I am grateful to count you as a friend. I look forward to hearing more about your journey.

    • And I’m so lucky to have you as a friend! Thanks for your support and kind words. Self-love seems so obvious and natural now, but we really need to address the disconnect that happens to girls in adolescence and get them, in your words, on a more positive path!

  2. Pingback: Food for Thought #5: Health vs. Weight Loss | eatrecyclerepeat

  3. Pingback: Food for Thought #3: Trust Yourself | eat, recycle, repeat

  4. Pingback: Food for Thought: My Food Philosophy | eat, recycle, repeat

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