Truly, genuinely, ravishingly hungry. Starving, even. That’s how I felt for the first two weeks of lockdown in the UK.
As the COVID news rapidly came closer and closer and then hit us with limitations on our freedom and ability to move around without restrictions on March the 23rd most of us knew it was coming but the shock when it did, left most of us reeling, with an imperceptible trembling at the very core of our bodies.
Our bodies understood the message. We are in danger. And what do our bodies do when we are in danger? They operate out of an ancient palaeolithic response to survive, like camels filling their humps for the desert run, prepare to stock up for the times ahead.
I mean, we saw it happen already… thousands of people had their unprocessed trauma reactivated and started hoarding food and toilet paper and who knows what else.
What I’m trying to say is… if you’ve been COVID-crisis over-eating… you’re not alone. So have most of us.
The hunger felt real, genuine. Warm bowls of buckwheat noodles with broccoli and maybe an egg. Thick Indian curries with lots of spices and rice. Bubbling broths of chicken bones and vegetable scraps that turned it soup. I wasn’t unhealthy. I just wanted to eat more. And I did.
At the start of the third week, my body was feeling a little softer and rounder than it had before. It was time to reign things in. While my body was still responding to the crisis in the only way it knows how my intellect also knows that a healthy life comes with some self-discipline. What that means for me, is simply eating less. Letting my body know that all is well by soothing my central nervous system with rest, meditation, nature and creativity, and putting less food on my plate. I eat when I’m hungry. I stop before I’m full. I eat less.
I’ve always been confused by what the media and studies are telling us about our bodies. Mostly because my body doesn’t function in this way. I want to share with you my views on mindful eating, nutrition, exercise and health not to tell you what to do but rather, to encourage you to listen closely to your body so it can guide you.
Movement is just a beautiful expression of our aliveness, of having this physical life experience. And how that expression wants to come through us is unique and individual to each of us. I feel like there’s so much information out there connecting exercise and weight and for me, this is entirely untrue. Exercise has absolutely no impact on my weight or more importantly, my feeling slim and sexy. I’ve weighed the most and felt ‘bigger’ when I weight-trained and weighed the least and liked my body the most when I just walked a lot and lived off cheese, baguettes and red wine. Exercise for me is about nourishing my body with movement. Because it feels really good. I’ve written about the exercise I like to do in detail in my ‘love list’ but essentially, I have a very simple commitment to myself: move every day. I don’t care what it is. Some days it’s 20 minutes on my yoga mat, a mini-dance-party in the kitchen or a walk in the park. Other days it’s a 35-minute run or a power yoga session or bodyweight pilates. What I do doesn’t matter to me. My only intention is to listen to my body and do what feels fun and good. I love movement. It has nothing to do with bodyweight or image and everything to do with being fully expressed.
The way I think and feel about my body has as much impact as to how I feed it. There’s is not enough being said to how impactful our words and thoughts are to the overall health and wellbeing of our bodies. I would say that, for me, my relationship to my body and the words and thoughts I feed it are 50% of nutrition. My ego loves a good Instagram picture of a salad but my body actually thrives best from gentle, warm foods like sauteed vegetables and soups and curries alongside sourdough bread with butter and the occasional croissant. I believe in intuitive eating above all. I live as seasonally as I can and look to nature and listen to what my body is craving. Eating ‘healthy’ isn’t an issue. I know that whole foods are good for me and it’s easy for me to eat them. I also know that the mind loves a good set of rules like ‘no dairy’, ‘gluten is bad’ or ‘sugar is poison’ to create the illusion of being ‘in control’ that is more damaging to me than eating some milk chocolate or chips from time to time. I eat what my body feels drawn to, and I eat only when I am truly hungry and stop before I am truly full.
Mindful Eating
I have always been an emotional eater. Often I catch myself emotional-eating before I realise that there is something wrong. The subtle sensitivity and wisdom of our bodies that our minds lack much of the time continues to astound me. It’s why I am constantly looking to my body for answers and guidance. My body houses so much intelligence that is beyond the reach of my mind. Often, when I reach for food when I’m not hungry, it’s because I’m not willing to feel something. More recently: grief, hopelessness, despair, confusion. All these changes brought up so many feelings for me, for all of us. Feelings we didn’t know how to navigate. When I bring awareness to eating and am mindful with it,  I have a simple practice. I ask two questions:

  1. Am I really hungry right now?
  2. What am I really feeling?

And then I walk away from the kitchen, identify the feeling and give myself permission to feel it. It doesn’t always work. We have to be kind to ourselves. We have to identify our triggers. And we have to navigate our relationships with our bodies with extreme compassion. As women, after being told that there’s something wrong with our bodies for most of our lifetimes, it takes time to repair all that damage. It’s my experience that the best way to restore our trust and connection with our bodies is to listen.

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