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So what does living our truth really mean and how can it enhance our lives? I fought my truth for many years and I can say from experience that you can’t cheat your authenticity. The universe knows. You know. That being said, putting yourself out there and revealing the talents you were put on this planet to express can be hard and scary. Because of this, many people are not willing to put that part of themselves out there to avoid pain and the dreaded “F” word: FAILURE.

I have learned that discovering how to fail without allowing it to destroy the core of your being is crucial. It’s detaching from your accomplishments and maintaining your self worth even if you put something out there that isn’t your best. If you are feeling some anxiety just thinking about putting your true self out there, you are not alone, and I can assure you the reward is invaluable. What is it? Happiness. A happiness, confidence, and calm you’ve never known before. However, there’s a reason the bookstores are loaded with self help and growth books...it’s not easy. It’s not an overnight process and takes a bit of courage and trial and error, but it’s SO worth it!

Geneen Roth was one of the first authors to link compulsive eating and perpetual dieting with much deeper, more personal issues that go way beyond food, weight, and body image. She believes that the way we live and our relationship to food, money, and love are a direct reflection of our beliefs about ourselves. In her book, Women Food and God, she says, “...what we believe about food and eating is an exquisite reflection of all our beliefs. As soon as the food comes out, the feelings come out.” Sound familiar?

As humans, we are designed to survive. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If we are not getting what we need we develop coping mechanisms to allow us to experience the least pain possible. If you don’t believe you are worthy of joy and abundance it can be a very

painful existence. One solution is manipulating and controlling food and the way you eat. There has been an explosion of eating disorders in this country more recently including anorexia, bulimia, and orthorexia (an obsession with eating perfectly healthy). One of the main reasons for these climbing statistics is our lifestyles. Working long hours, rushing to pick up the kids and bring them to a lineup of activities after school, no time to cook, no time to rest, no time to just sit still. Welcome depression, anxiety, extra weight, fatigue, lack of patience, addiction, pain, etc. We are sacrificing our health to fit our lifestyles and it should be the other way around. Just thinking about how to bring yourself back to balance and health can be overwhelming and is surely a process.

Not sure where you are at in this process? Not to worry. I always thought I would come to a point where I felt as if I had “arrived.” Another lesson learned: we are always working through something and never arrive at a place where we are no longer learning or growing. Well shit, what’s the point then? Again, I assure you, it’s still worth it to be true to yourself everyday because while life is one big long process, it is possible to feel an overwhelming sense of happiness and gratitude regardless of where you are in meeting your goals. It starts with awareness and one way to identify your beliefs about yourself is to examine the way you are eating. Begin with these three steps:

1. Gain awareness of where you are at.

You can’t make changes without knowing where you are at to begin with. This can often be the most challenging part because it can cause feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and shame. It is common to want to go back to what makes you feel safe: controlling, restricting, bingeing, hiding, or fixating on eating perfectly. Remember, perfect eating does not exist. Healthy eating requires the ability to listen to your body (which no meal plan out there can teach you how to do). It’s about giving your body what it wants. Take notes in a journal or notebook so that you don’t forget where you started from and have some way to measure progress. Remember, it’s not about judging where you’re at, it’s just about knowing where you are at and accepting it.

2. Do a 3-day food log.

I usually ask clients to do a three-day food log and include feelings that accompany the foods or cravings. It’s important to write down everything you eat including drinks and snacks. A small journal is a great way to record these so you can go back and review them, but there are a couple apps out there that allow you to enter them on your phone or computer. You will be able to identify problem times or locations and it will give you some insight on why you are having challenges. If you are not eating breakfast, downing coffee and sugary snacks to plow through stress all day, and then overeating at the end of the day, there is a reason for this and it doesn’t start with your food. It starts with your lifestyle. Putting this all on paper will give you clues as to what might be triggering your eating habits, and more importantly, the deeper beliefs behind them.

3. Make connections and practice self-compassion.

If you’ve taken the plunge and started this process, you will most likely experience some feelings of defeat. It’s not easy to reveal what is going wrong in your life and this can sting a bit. It’s important to treat yourself as you would treat others going through something difficult. Expect some ups and downs and create a toolkit for surviving these bumps. I like detoxifying salt baths, yoga and other forms of exercise, music, and traveling. Other ideas include a pedicure, massage, dark chocolate, or some aromatherapy. Rest and rejuvenation can come in many forms so identify what these things are for you and schedule them in. If you can make some connections between your eating habits and lifestyle, it will help determine a plan of action and what may need to be changed.

There’s a reason we crave sugar and caffeine when we are stressed and your body and mind are not at fault. Your lifestyle is. If you are not getting what you need in the form of love, rest, or social connection, it will manifest in the form of food cravings. Just changing your food does not work which is why diet’s don’t work.

For some people it may be beneficial to hire a coach to help guide this process. It’s easy to get stuck and want to give up when the going gets tough and a coach can provide accountability and motivation to work through what are often deep sources of pain that have led to the disordered eating. We are here to help if you would like additional support in making changes to improve your health. Use these steps as a platform to get started and keep your head up! Healing is a slow process, but if you give your body half a chance, it will lead you back to health every time and this is what everyone deserves! 

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Shawn Clavelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Vermont. She earned her certification in Holistic Health Coaching from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Shawn’s vast clinical experience and knowledge of the healthcare system makes her proficient at helping others design their own treatment plan through structured goal setting and continuous evaluation of progress. Using a holistic approach with a focus on nutrition, she helps uncover the obstacles to good health and provides simple options for making better lifestyle choices.  

It seems as if everyone today is suffering from some degree of anxiety or depression. Our lives are busier than ever with increasingly demanding jobs, fast paced technology and media, packed schedules, and pressure to keep doing more. We are a society that thrives on what’s new, which makes things exciting, but also easy to lose gratitude for what we have...because, after all, what we have is probably “so yesterday” already.

 

I grew up in small New England town where the pace of life was a bit slower than city life. In fact when I visited a city and then eventually lived in one, I found myself exhausted and overwhelmed at the end of the day. It was exciting to be in the midst of all the happenings, but I noticed myself getting further and further away from nature and the connection to my body. I often thought, how do these people sustain this level of energy and stimulation all the time? Quick answer, they don’t. Not without a great cost to their physical, mental, and spiritual health. We are a nation that survives on coffee. Really, think about it...how productive would we be without caffeine and sugar to keep us going? Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up my daily cup of joe anytime soon, but just think about how we keep ourselves going to sustain this whirlwind pace we have created. No one has time for anything anymore! We are all so busy, yet, depressed, have poor energy, stressed to the max, and often sick as a result.

 

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders can have a strong genetic component, but our lifestyle and diet today is also heavily contributing to the sharp increase in morbidity. We all have experienced some degree of depression at some point in our lives. Major clinical depression is another beast all-together that requires an individualistic treatment plan, often including medication and psychological counseling. There are chemicals in our brains called neurotransmitters that allow our nerves to talk to each other. These include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine-our “feel good” chemicals. It is believed that those who suffer from depression have less of these available, and thus, resulting in a lower mood. Antidepressants help make more of these chemicals available, ultimately improving mood.

 

Exciting new research suggests that there are natural “antidepressants” called polyphenols found in many whole foods we consume. Polyphenols are micronutrients found in many plant foods. The studies suggest that these natural chemicals can affect the physiological and biochemical reactions in our body in the same way that an antidepressant medication would. I am never ceased to be amazed at what nature provides for us and how incredibly intelligent our bodies are! These powerful little mood enhancing nutrients can be found in foods such as apples, kale, berries, grapes, and onions. I would also like to highlight three categories of foods that can be crucial to improving mood.

 

1. Chocolate (dark chocolate, or raw “cacao”): Cacao is raw chocolate before we add the cream, sugar, and flavoring. It is high in antioxidants, contains calming magnesium, and decreases toxic stress hormones like cortisol. You can buy it in it’s raw powder form or eat it as delicious dark chocolate in small doses as it is higher in milk fat and calories.

 

2. Carbs: Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap lately and partially for good reason:

refined sugar, a huge contributor to obesity and diabetes. Not all carbs are bad, however, and whole grain carbs can promote serotonin production, thus increasing mood. Just choose whole, unprocessed, no sugar added varieties such as oats, brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa.

 

3. Omega-3’s: We don’t make this essential fatty acid in our bodies so we need to get it from food. The best source is ground flax seed or flax seed oil, but you can also find it in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can buy supplements sourced from algae.

 

Of course, do not stop or change your medication dose without speaking to your doctor first. These foods can absolutely elevate your mood, but it is important that you have adequate support and oversight if you feel your medication treatment needs to be adjusted. The best place to start is to experiment with these types of foods and note how you feel. Keep a journal so you can track progress and what you learn about how food affects your mood. Most importantly, have fun and get your smile on! 

 

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Shawn Clavelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Vermont. She earned her certification in Health Coaching at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Shawn’s vast clinical experience and knowledge of the healthcare system makes her proficient at helping others design their own treatment plan through structured goal setting and continuous evaluation of progress. Using a holistic approach with a focus on nutrition, she helps uncover the obstacles to good health and provides simple options for making better lifestyle choices.  

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