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Learning to feed the soul…without food

Lori-Sunsetbeach.jpgI just got back from a fabulous trip to Santa Barbara, California, where I spent a week feeding my soul. I did all of the things I absolute love in one fell swoop – walked the beaches, took in sunsets over the ocean, spent time in the mountains and wine country, shopped, went nightclubbing, met new people, and just chilled. It was awesome. And I am totally on a high right now. My soul is happy!

How many of you regularly schedule time for yourself – both fun and quiet, contemplative time? I think it is incredibly important to find ways to feed your soul, nurturing mind and body on an ongoing basis. Not only does it help keep you in the equation, but it restores you and fills you up.

Trust me, I was not always good at this.

For years, I stuffed my emotions with food. I ate when I was stressed, sad, nervous, fearful, even happy. Food was comfort. Food was reward. I wonder how many of you reading this blog are in that same camp? Filling yourself up with food – literally and figuratively – is a very tough cycle to break. And while food might help us stuff emotions in the short term, it does not feed our soul in productive or lasting ways. It does not restore us. And for many of us, the pattern becomes abusive and addicting. We lose hope that we can find alternatives or break the cycle.

I am living proof that you can break the cycle of using food to comfort. You can find amazing new ways that fill you up and give you vitality, happiness, and joy. It is not easy at first but once you get the hang of it, wow, is it liberating. (P.S. It is absolutely an ongoing process and not a place you arrive and are done. I am continually managing this in a proactive way. But today I am having more success/more wins than not. Here’s how.)

For me, it starts with learning to listen to and “feed” my heart and soul in other ways – without food. Just quieting down and paying attention to what is going on with me is an important first step. When I am truly aware of what is happening – how I am feeling and what I need – I can consciously change course and find less destructive ways than reaching for the go-to-drug of choice – food.

Providing a preemptive strike is also a good strategy. By that I mean, be sure you have time in your day, week, and year – regularly scheduled time – to nurture yourself in both little and big ways. This can make all the difference.

I started by making a list of all of the things that I like to do that would nurture me when I want to reach for food. That list includes going for a walk around my lake, calling a friend, writing a friend, blogging or journaling, practicing mindful meditation for 5 to 10 minutes, getting a pedicure or a massage, meeting a friend for coffee or a walk, cranking the music and dancing in the kitchen, attending an exercise class, and trying on my coolest new outfit. For you, the list might be completely different.

The bigger ways I feed my soul are awesome. They include traveling and exploring new places, climbing mountains, competing in half marathons or other competitive races, getting a full body massage and facial in the same day, trying something new for the first time that puts me out of my comfort zone, spending time with someone I love and adore…and the list goes on.

Finally, I make sure to schedule regular down time for just me. That means one to two planned personal retreats per year. This time – whether one day or one week – provides an opportunity to recharge, quiet the mind and get grounded in my life, my dreams and goals, and what’s really important to me.

Last year, right after I reached my goal weight and had a party to celebrate, I scheduled a one week personal retreat in Maine where I slept, hiked, read, blogged, contemplated, and climbed some big mountains solo. It was amazing! Later in the year, I scheduled a two-day time out at a small cottage on Lake Superior just to get in touch with myself and where I was headed in this new body and new life. For one of those two days, I did a silent retreat not talking to anyone in the outside world. Which for me, is quite a feat! It was restorative, energizing and just what I needed.

What are the ways you feed your soul and keep your spirit strong and healthy? I would love to hear from you.

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  1. Amy Miller #

    I really like this: “When I am truly aware of what is happening ā€“ how I am feeling and what I need ā€“ I can consciously change course and find less destructive ways than reaching for the go-to-drug of choice ā€“ food.”

    and this: “P.S. It is absolutely an ongoing process and not a place you arrive and are done. I am continually managing this in a proactive way.”

    The first because it really acknowledges food as a from of drug. I think it can be difficult for some to understand that it really is an addiction and coping mechanism for people. It may not be to the same degree for each person, but for those of us who struggle with eating habits, it’s good to acknowledge why that behavior is happening.

    And the second struck a chord in me. I just recently finished sixteen successful weeks of following a nutrition plan, and just started back up again today, but the three weeks of “break” in between I found myself falling back into old habits. I was disappointed in myself at times, but an important step is realizing that it’s never something that will completely go away. I’m working hard now, and I’ll most likely have to work to some degree or another every day to stay on a healthy path.

    Finding healthy ways to feed our soul is just as important as finding healthy ways to feed out bodies. I love your list have have done a similar one myself. It helps to remind me why it was important for me to start on this journey to begin with. It includes: reading a good book, singing, dancing, and visualizing dressage tests to prepare for the summer show season. šŸ™‚

    February 24, 2013
    • Hi Amy, Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. I love that you caught the nuances of those two phrases and they had meaning for you. Food addiction is real and I am finally admitting it and proactively dealing with it. It can be addressed and you can live a happy life without using food as your go to drug of choice. But, like you said, I have also learned and am continually learning that I must be always aware and always diligent. We will falter but for me the key has ALWAYS been the ability to restart and just get myself back on track. I LOVE your list of go to ways to feed your soul. Thanks for sharing to give others ideas. So much fun. Best of luck to you. Thanks for commenting.

      February 24, 2013

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