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Intuitive Eating

Recently, I touted an article on Facebook from a hot young author named Jessica Knoll (author of the best selling book “Luckiest Girl Alive“) who wrote about smart women falling for the pseudoscientific claims of the “wellness” industry. She wrapped up everything I’ve been feeling and saying for the past couple years in a wonderful op-ed piece in the New York Times. That all these trends – keto, Paleo, the Whole 30, you name it – are eating disorders in prettier boxes. All of them espouse a comparative model of eating, claiming certain foods are ‘bad’ for you while others are ‘good’. And while we could all use a kick start plan to eat healthier every once and a while as bad habits can be difficult to break without a good strong dose of discipline, the diet as lifestyle has been the norm since the 80s.

I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything Ms. Knoll wrote, but something keeps nagging at me: the idea that we still label what is women’s inherent nature (because, as Ms. Knoll points out, not many guys are sitting around the table talking about their thighs as they scarf down their burgers) as yet another methodology called “Intuitive Eating.”

Intuitive eating implies we need to learn a specific way to eat. We don’t need to learn anything else about food. We need to forget about everything that society has told us is right or wrong with our bodies. We need to un-learn all the ways we’ve dishonored, shamed and hurt our bodies whether that be through diets or abusive language or comparing ourselves to other women. We simply need to return to the inherent wisdom that was granted us at conception. The wisdom of our Divine Feminine. She knows why she eats. She knows what her body likes. She knows how to nurture and nourish herself whether that is with a kale salad or a chocolate chip cookie.

Women, we’ve been brainwashed. By advertising, magazines, celebrity culture and heaven help us, social media. And while it’s all around us, it’s been a covert operation, as Ms. Knoll points out, hiding under the alias of ‘wellness’ and ‘balance’. Slowly but surely, our patriarchal society has turned us against ourselves. Convinced us that we need products and expensive tonics and potions to live a fulfilling life and convinced men that we’re not worthy of praise, attention or love unless we look a certain way. Our capitalistic and consumer driven culture has made us question and distrust ourselves.

As I’ve written before, I’ve struggled with being in the ‘wellness’ industry, as I promote and write about workouts and food and nutritional supplements. I’ve done the best I can to strike a chord of balance between what’s absolutely necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle and what could be considered indulgent luxuries. Before I put anything out to the public I try to assess why I am doing so and will it help someone more than it will harm them?

I’ll be the first to tell you I got into this industry because I didn’t feel ‘enough’. Pretty enough. Thin enough. Successful enough. I was able to hide my insecurities in the name of health. I learned a lot on this journey, but my biggest lessons have come from unlearning everything I thought I knew about who I was. It has come from tearing down the facade I built to make myself okay. It came from questioning and continuing to question everything I know to be ‘true’ or ‘good’ or ‘right’.

While the wellness industry has done an amazing job convincing us we can never eat gluten again and be happy, we must not abdicate personal responsibility. As women, we need to take back our power and stop being so willing to buy whatever anyone is selling us. We must do whatever we need to return to that inexhaustible well of confidence, grace, trust, compassion, tenderness and yes, strength, that we were endowed with when we were conceived as females. And we must continue to fill it over and over and over and over again. With food. With friendships. With intimacy. With laughter. With joy. With vulnerability. With whatever fills up not only our bellies but our hearts as well. We must feed our souls.

We can begin this process by asking ourselves one simple question not only with food, but with all of our decisions. Why? Why am I eating this donut or this piece of fish or this broccoli? Why am I buying this potion or supplement? Why am I getting botox? (A question, yes, I recently asked myself.) And then, be brutally honest in our answers. Sometimes we may like what we hear, sometimes not. Decide accordingly.

Your answers may lead you down a rabbit hole that may uncover a root unresolved issue for you. While not always pleasant, these moments can be transformative and healing. If you have the resources and feel you need to, seek outside help like a therapist. Counseling can be helpful, but so can writing, reading, talking with trusted friends and committing to our own happiness and well being.

I don’t need L’Oreal to tell me I’m worth it. And neither do you.

And Jessica Knoll, if you read this – I’d love to lunch with you and discuss how to take up more space.

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Fitness, Food, Faith.

For years, I tried to change the outside. I believed my happiness and my joy was contingent upon what my body looked liked. I worked out like a fiend. I starved myself. When the starvation thing became unsustainable, I turned to raw food only. When raw food had my digestive system in complete distress I decide to go to holistic nutrition school in NYC.

It was one of the happiest years of my life, not because I learned exactly what to eat, but because I was living in a new city with new friends, surrounded by a community of like-minded people I loved. I was thriving. But when school was over, my friends gone, I once again found myself sad, lonely, wishing life was different. I was still working out – and working – like a fiend.

When all of the coping mechanisms I had employed in the past broke down, I turned to yoga. But unlike the yoga I had been practicing to this point, I sensed there was something beneath the down dogs and chattarungas. While many people prefer to skip the spiritual nature of the yoga tradition altogether, I was starving for it. I had exhausted all other resources to heal myself. Faith was my new fix and something that continues to grow and blossom every day.

Eventually however, I realized the answer isn’t in any of these things and it’s in all of them at the same time. Sometimes a good sweat is the answer. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes a crazy cleanse is just what you need – sometimes it’s the last thing you need. Sometimes more meditation or 200 rounds of mala beads saves you. Other times not so much. Sometimes all you need is a cocktail. Other times, it’s poison.

However, I’ve never found a situation that a good hug and belly laugh can’t cure.

It’s not that I’ve stopped practicing everything I’ve learned along the way regarding self- care – body, mind and spirit. It’s just that I’ve stopped relying on these tools to make things different. All of the trainings and teachings are leading me (notice the use of the continuous tense) to a place of radical acceptance. Can I accept myself in this moment, just as I am? Can I accept my pain, hurt, failure, flab, sadness, grief, anxiety, uncertainty, and insecurity knowing everything is temporal and, at some point, it will shift? To be replaced by joy, laughter, freedom, ease, liberation, success, confidence, and a stunning ass and abs you can count. (Maybe not six, but at least one or two.)

Life is flux. Life is change. Accepting it all – not trying to heal or change anything – has been the greatest lesson of all.

I have not stopped learning altogether, either. I’m still a sucker for a good self-help book and a weekend workshop or two. But I no longer take what I learn as gospel or a fix to heal whatever is broken within me. I now take it for what it is: learning. Expanding my mind and my toolbox.

All of this is why I have never been able to create a ‘system’ or program for anything – fitness, dance, yoga, etc. As soon as an idea would come and I’d get it down on paper, I’d change my mind. I’d think of a million and one reasons people shouldn’t be doing barre or  yoga or doing a cleanse or cutting carbs completely. I’d be on to lifting weights or self-massage or nothing at all. And I’d eat whatever the hell I wanted to. I never wanted to pigeon hole myself as the ‘barre gal’ or ‘dance gal’. Like many women, I am ‘all gals’ – and how I choose to express any one gal in particular changes from day to day.

I am attempting to embrace the fact that there are no answers. So I can stop looking. I can stop trying to figure out the un-figurable. My brain, which has been in overdrive for forty some years, can take a break. Quite frankly, the way mine runs, I was sure it would have quit by now. Wishful thinking.

This is a new practice for me, this radical acceptance. I’ve been conditioned to resist relaxation because you never know what catastrophe is lurking around the corner. Doing is easy for me. Being is harder. I’m now on high alert to bring awareness to those moments when I project into the future. When I find myself resisting the letting go, I breathe. I exhale. I dip into the wellspring of wisdom I’ve accumulated over my twenty years of study in the wellness space. After all what good is the thousands of dollars I threw into my studies if they couldn’t help me when I needed them most?

I confirm that there is nothing else but this moment and, in fact, I. AM. OKAY. I turn whatever tricks I need to change the tide of the momentum of my mind. And I do it over, and over, and over, and over again. Until it becomes my new normal.

I Didn’t Love the Food In Paris.

This may come to a shock to most people, but I did not love the food in Paris. I know it would seem appalling to not indulge in the copious amounts of cheese and bread that have made French fare so famous. To the extent that I could, I did. But damn, I missed vegetables. I tried to eat at all the places recommended to me by friends and those who have wisely tread the Parisian path before me in search of the best falafel, gelato, and avocado toast – but the amount of carbs were overwhelming. Even the healthy recommendations (Fragments and Wild and the Moon) while lovely, were laden with carbs. Croissants, banana bread and baguettes made their way into most every meal. Most of Paris’s health options involved a lot of grains and beans, which do me no favors either. I thought I found salvation at a restaurant in the Gare duNord on my way back to London where I saw ‘seasonal roasted vegetables’ on the menu. I had high hopes for some artichokes (these seem to be a popular vegetable in Paris), maybe some carrots and onions and green beans or broccoli. Imagine my disappointment when I received white potatoes, a few carrots, of course, artichokes, and white beans steamed hidden beneath a rich butter sauce. My heart sank. My belly ached. I desperately craved a big ass salad.

I did have my very first macron (salted caramel for the record) and while it was pretty divine, my life would be complete without having another. The croissants I had for breakfast each day, 3 in total, and an additional piece of bread at dinner each day was enough to put me in a coma. I slept more than I have in weeks in Paris. At least eight hours a night – maybe nine.

Maybe this is because, for the most part, I’ve been off sugar and carbs since six weeks prior to my trip and I’ve felt quite amazing. My energy didn’t slump late afternoon as it used to and the consistent belly bloat I used to experience disappeared. After my week in Europe, the bloat was back. With a vengeance. It’s weird but for once, I didn’t care so much about food. I just cared about feeling good.

I gave myself ‘permission’ to eat whatever I wanted in Paris. By the second day all I wanted was some steamed broccoli and avocado and olive oil. I met a lovely man – an Italian jewelry designer – who was in town for fashion week and from whom I bought the most beautiful ring. We agreed Italian food would be much more agreeable for me. We very well may be the only two in the city or in the world who don’t love to eat in Paris.

What I do love in Paris is everything else. I love the lights. The sounds. The smells. The sights. The architecture. The Seine. The people. The sky. The beauty. Everywhere. Beauty. I love walking in Paris. I love the pace of Paris. I love the energy. I love the way Paris seems to enjoy life. The food was last on my list when it came to the most delectable gifts of this city. It is hard to encapsulate in words what Paris is. She is there in Her most resplendent way. Shiny. Bright. Joyful.

I don’t know why people say Parisians are rude. Maybe it is because the people with those opinions are assholes who expect everyone else to speak their language. I try to visit other cultures with as much reverence as possible, understanding I am the visitor. I don’t expect people to speak English and feel humbled and grateful they do and are willing to assist. And the Parisians were always willing to help when I lost my way or didn’t know North from South from East from West – which was often.

Traveling solo, per usual, I met the most interesting people I may not have otherwise, namely a couple of Americans. One, a best selling novelist who has written a book based on her love affair with Paris and Peter Jenning’s ex-wife, a truly fascinating woman. Another, a man from Brentwood, twenty minutes from my home in Los Angeles. It was nice to connect with people who understood my language implicitly. Mostly we discussed what a mess America seems to be in right now and how pleased we were not to be there.

As liberating as it may be to travel solo, I’ve been there done that. By day two in Paris, I was wishing I had someone to share those croissants and rose in the middle of the day with. As I wandered the cobblestone streets of the Marais grateful for my latest adventure, I felt the familiar tinge of loneliness. I walked it away, traveling 11 miles by foot to take in all the sights and sounds of the city of light, convincing myself it was better to have the freedom to go where I pleased without the consult of another. But I couldn’t walk away the thoughts of what it would be like to take in the gifts of this city with someone special.

While I was glad to be distanced from the political debacles of the States, I missed home. I missed Zeus and his early morning kisses and snuggles. I missed routine. I missed sweet potatoes and soft boiled eggs and avocado for breakfast. I missed spinach and broccoli. For the first time in the longest time – maybe ever – I feel content and settled where I am. I love my life. Not anymore for the many exciting adventures I am fortunate enough to take – but for the beauty in its daily messy and mundane.

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