I read in a recent blog where the author said she was “feeling like a fraud for struggling to take advice she’d offered in an article.” I can totally relate. People assume that as a vegan author and speaker I must eat perfectly every day – never slipping up on vegan sweets or (gasp!) snarfing down an order of fried onion rings.
But I do. I have a penchant for the vegan coconut chocolate chip cookies at Mana Foods, and the vegan Caesar Salad at Watercourse. I used to buy into the opinion that if I am a vegan author I must eat perfectly. Of course, I didn’t (and still don’t) eat perfectly, so when I did splurge on some vegan carrot cake or a vegan Oklahoma Ba-cun “Cheese”burger at Native Foods, I would feel bad about myself for days. “If I’m going to be a vegan author, I need to set an example!” I’d tell myself. “If I’m going to tell my audiences to avoid salt, sugar and fat so they can really reap the full benefits of a vegan diet, then I have to do the same thing too … at all times, perfectly!”
But do you know what? As I’ve been growing up, I’ve been slowly learning to be kind to myself … and alas, I find that I want to splurge on those things less and less. It used to be that if I was in LA, I had to go to Native Foods at every opportunity and inhale one of those burgers for every possible meal. Who knows when I might get back to LA? But I don’t do that anymore. In fact, I may go once, or not at all. Not because my willpower has changed, but because I want to be kind to myself and my body, and I know that I often feel worse when I eat heavier foods. But sometimes I do eat one, and when I do, I enjoy it, and savor it, and am happy that I ate it when I am done. After all, nobody does a Bac-un “Cheese”burger like Tanya at Native Foods!
Geneen Roth, in her book Women, Food and God, talks about this concept of being kind to yourself in depth, and makes a point that I have found to be very true: IF you can successfully beat your body into skinny jeans through painful workouts and near-starvation diets, you’ll probably live a miserable existence; and if you can’t, you’ll probably beat yourself up about what a loser you are with no willpower. Either way, you lose.
Yet many of us fear that if we don’t continually beat ourselves up about our food and diet choices, we will blow up into balloons – we’ll eat with abandon and become morbidly obese. Yet, the opposite is ironically true. If you come from a place of loving yourself, and allow yourself to feel your feelings instead of numbing them with food, then your body naturally eats when it’s hungry and doesn’t want to eat when it’s not. You slide into this place of bliss where you can trust your instincts to guide you to eat what you want, in the proper amounts, when you’re truly hungry for it. Curiously, you may find that your skinny jeans fit with no battle!
If you’re one of the many people who battle with your diet, where food becomes a source of pain rather than pleasure, it can turn around … and quickly. But it takes one big step … learning to be kind to yourself. So quit criticizing your thighs every time you pass a mirror and focus instead on how grateful you are that those thighs can carry you around. Many do not have thighs that work, and cannot go for a walk through the park or play a game of tennis. Quit noticing every wrinkle that appears, and instead be happy that you’ve had so much to smile about over the years. Take time for yourself, and stop to smell flowers or talk to the neighbor’s doggie. Notice the warmth of the sun on your arms in the summer and the beauty of the snow in winter. Pour a cup of tea and just sit by the window and look out for a while. Be grateful. Most people around the world have such big worries that they cannot afford the luxury of worrying about their thighs.
For more information, look for books and products by Geneen Roth and Louise Hay, among others.