(Hint: It’s Not What You Think)
The saying throughout life, heard time and again by well-meaning folk, “just be yourself.”
Is this easier said than done? I think so. From birth we are being conditioned, in every millisecond of relationship with our caregivers, our siblings, our peers and larger community, to behave in a way that works for the relationship. This is survival for a social being. We need others to survive, not just for food and shelter, but for love. Love is the most essential nutrient that we need. And love has many branches: security, belonging, acceptance, kindness, patience, confidence, support and companionship.
We are wired to turn towards these qualities, because our very survival depends on them. But for the most part, in our human reality, love comes with conditions. I daresay, we have all experienced an obstacle when it comes to being ourselves, or belonging to a peer or family group. This is deep stuff and of course we will most often sacrifice ourselves, and our own authenticity in order to belong. That pull to survive, to be part of the tribe, it runs deep and unconscious for most of us.
In fact, we need to conform to survive for the first part of our lives, and not conform to survive for the last part of our lives.
This suggests that we eventually reach a point in our trajectory, when we awaken to the knowledge that our conformity to the tribe is too small for us anymore, that we must grow beyond it. We feel a desire to explore new territory of ourselves and who we think we are, or could be. We become aware of how challenging the tribe, or confronting the status quo as we’ve known it, becomes the new necessity to our survival.
Perhaps it was a significant life event that caused us to look at things with fresh eyes.
Perhaps we encountered a person who, just by their presence, challenged core beliefs we had long held to be true.
Perhaps an illness humbled us.
Or perhaps it was the arts, a film, a song, or a poem, that knocked on the doorway of our hearts, awakening us to deeper truths about what love is, that in fact it might be grander than we ever realized.
This is exciting territory.And as thrilling as it is, it does come with anxiety, and awkwardness, and even shame. Those are the things of the conditional love of the past. The big question then is, will you continue to allow shame and fear to dominate your very being? Or will you, in the midst of that discomfort, choose into a larger you? A you, that can encompass your present challenges, be they relational, political, or physiological, and transcend them with acceptance and transformation.
The shame and the fear is not you.I recognize that within us, the voice of shame and fear sounds like your voice, but it is not you. We’ve all grown accustomed to believing these negative things about ourselves. The solution is not to fight those thoughts, or to argue them or debate them until you win. You will never win the argument with your negative thoughts. The solution is about remembering who you really are, and the shame and the fear, is not it.
The good news is that I cannot tell you who you really are.
That gets to be yours to discover and share with the world as you are ready. But each step you make, to listening beyond the shame and the fear to your real voice, and responding to that voice, the easier it does become to discern the truth. It may seem trite, but diet changes can be a way into this rich territory. Letting go of foods that really do not serve us, and choosing more nourishing options is a concrete way of choosing back into our vibrant self, which often is not the self that is highly managed by fear and shame and doubt. We make changes because we choose life. We choose our life. What works for another likely will not work for you. It can be a place to begin, to start where someone else has gained success, but then continue on from there. Keep going with fine tuning your daily practices (which includes eating!) so that your life feels ever more like your very own. Small changes lead to big changes, so take it one step at a time. And remember, you just have to be yourself. 😉
Inner approval: One Simple Strategy to Make Fear Irrelevant and Give You the Freedom To Be Your True Self
If you gave yourself the message that you wanted to hear from others, what would that message be?
Inner approval, as opposed to getting external approval or permission from others, can be one of the most radically empowering strategies one can make. Instead of wishing for them to understand you, love you, appreciate you, see how good you are, or see your value, why not do this for yourself? This, in a way, is the world of affirmations and positive thinking. What is the message that you long to hear from another? Is there someone in your life, or was there someone in your life, that you wished had said, “I love you,” or “I’m so proud of you,” or “You can be whatever you want to be. I believe in you” ? What if you started saying this to yourself? On a daily basis. Whenever you felt you needed to hear it. As often as you like.
Being willing to do this requires that we let go of controlling another person and needing somebody else to show up a certain way in order for us to be okay. We take back our power this way. And the good news is that we can realize, through doing this simple activity, that we really are in charge of how we feel. One of the biggest obstacles that people face when they make changes in their lives is the worry about what others might think or that they might be judged or rejected in some way. And this does and can happen. But if we are no longer tied to another’s approval, because we are consistently giving that to ourselves, then we are more free to move towards our own dreams regardless of what others think.
Sometimes making diet changes can feel this overwhelming. Especially if you live with a family that is used to a certain way of eating and your changes will automatically affect them and be seen by others. Privacy is a luxury, and rarely the case with food. Eating is a social experience and when we say “no” to certain foods that are prevalent in our culture and community it can feel like we are saying “no” to the person who made that food, or bought that food, or isn’t ready themselves to think about their own health changes they could make.
We don’t have to broadcast our decisions to the world, but we don’t have to ignore our own needs because some parts of the world will be uncomfortable with our decisions. As human beings we are hard-wired to maintain the status quo, and as evolutionary beings, we are hard-wired to change and grow and learn. Sustainable changes are based in compassion and love for ourselves. And when we give ourselves the inner approval we need to make our changes, then it becomes easier to allow others their reactions. Becoming more conscious and awake to our own patterns and choices does disturb the community. This can be why it feels so challenging to make changes, even though we know those changes would benefit us.
That disturbance to the system we are in (whether a family, a relationship, a work environment, a peer group, or otherwise) is uncomfortable. It just is. Altering the status quo disrupts things and that disruption is always an invitation for all involved to let go wherever they need to let go. Wherever we are gripping onto a person or a way of life, or what we have decided brings us security, we have the opportunity to let go of this internal gripping when we feel disturbed or discontent. This is a state of mind. We are always getting opportunities to move from a state of mind of control, to a state of mind of allowing. Giving ourselves the messages we long for about who we are and what we are capable of, is the road to allowing. Allowing ourselves to grow and change as we already know we need to, and allowing others to be exactly where they are on their own journey is freedom.
Change is exciting and new and it is also about letting go and moving onward. We don’t have to have this all figured out. We only need to listen to ourselves and be our own best friend, give ourselves the encouragement and support we truly want and need. As we do this, we gain momentum and clarity and purpose. These are the cornerstones of empowerment. And the beginning of leadership. So, lead the way. You know where to go, I know you do.
Now, more than ever, we have an understanding about sugar and its effects on our health.
For example, check out this Ted talk on how sugar affects the brain. We understand how too much sugar causes addictive patterns in our brain because we receive a dopamine release (a feel good neurotransmitter) after consuming it, and when we consume high amounts of sugar regularly, we start to lose our tolerance for it, causing us to crave more to get the same effect. In this way, sugar, in high amounts, acts like a drug to our system.
This is important to understand because sugar is added to so many foods. In fact, it is hidden in foods you wouldn’t necessarily think would contain sugar. Cakes, cookies, and treats are obviously sugary foods, but did you know sugar is also added to things we might eat on a daily basis, and even think of as healthy? Sugar is found in breads, crackers, salad dressings, condiments like ketchup, pasta, flavored waters and juices, and yogurts. Reading labels and identifying things like cane sugar, raw sugar, honey, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, starch, lactose, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, all of which are forms of sugar, can help empower us to make different choices that are healthier.
We naturally get sugars from fruits and vegetables. Sugar is another term to describe a simple carbohydrate, or simple sugar. Other carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, also contain sugar but also have fiber and other nutrients which makes a huge difference in how we process and digest that food. Essentially simple sugars immediately require us to produce insulin in order to shuttle the glucose into our cells for energy. Complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, squashes and other starchy vegetables, contain fiber and have a longer digestive process, essentially creating a more gradual increase in energy. Think about a sugar spike of energy after eating a sweet treat, followed by a crash, versus a more sustained and gradual energy.
Now, here is something interesting about how sugar is stored in the body.
Sugar is changed to glucose and brought to our cells to use immediately for energy. Any cell in our body can use glucose for energy. However, our cells have a maximum amount they can use at a time, so any leftover glucose that cannot be used gets converted to glycogen and stored in our muscle tissue and the liver. The liver and our muscle tissue also have a maximum amount of glycogen that can be stored, SO, any excess glycogen beyond that can be used immediately or stored gets converted into triglycerides, which are fat molecules, and stored in adipose tissue, or fatty tissues in the body for longer term storage. In other words, if your diet consists of high and consistent amounts of sugar (including all those hidden sources) then likely you are consuming more than can be used or stored as glycogen and thus that excess fuel gets stored as fat. This is exactly why “diet” and “low-fat” products do not work for weight loss goals. In fact, they often create more stress on the body in terms of processing high amounts of sugars and preservatives and can lead to unwanted weight gain!
In addition to weight loss, less sugar consumption is healthier for us because we are not stressing our endocrine system with a high need for insulin.
Balancing insulin in the blood has direct effect on the brain where we remain sensitive to sugar and thus do not fall into addictive patterns as mentioned above. Furthermore, high triglyceride count in the blood is strongly linked to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Limiting sugars to their natural sources like whole fruits and vegetables and avoiding added sugars and excessive refined sugar consumption can not only help you achieve healthy weight goals but also decrease your risk for serious conditions like metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
High Anxiety: How to Stay Strong in the Storm
Francie was recently quoted in this article by Deborah Busemeyer that appeared in the Healthy Living Magazine of the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Feeling like you have more control in today’s overwhelming world can bring more ease according to Francie Healey, a health and wellness expert and clinical counselor in Santa Fe. In her Conscious Wellness practice, she helps clients develop a deeper awareness of how their lifestyle and nutrition choices make their bodies feel. The next step is regaining a sense of control over those choices. “We want to do it in a way that doesn’t involve diets or deprivations but in a way that empowers someone to stay curious about how they feel,” Healey said. “It’s important to allow the desire to feel good to be the driver, rather than from the place of using willpower. It’s really about tapping into that place that feels worthy of feeling good. It’s a kind approach.”
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