Sunday, March 26, 2017

LiveBlog: Annual Re-reading of "Health at Every Size" by Dr. Linda Bacon

I try to read this book every year or so to get myself back into the mindset needed for effective mindful eating.  I've found that mindful eating works the best for me.  Other people's mileage may vary, but overall following this philosophy has given me a much healthier relationship with food.  I don't obsess about it any more, I don't do fad diets any more, and I enjoy my food for what it is instead of what it SHOULD be.

On that note, this passage from page 106 always strikes home with me, so I post it here:

There's one nutritional concept that seems to make a healthy relationship with food particularly difficult, and that's the idea that some foods are good while others are bad.  Labeling a food good or bad stops you from questioning and discovery.  If you label a Twinkie as bad, you are not able to observe its effects on you, and you lose the opportunity to learn from it.  On the other hand, if you maintain a neutral attitude, you can watch your response to that Twinkie.

You can be more perceptive to its flavor, noticing whether it really tastes good to you, or if it was just the idea that tasted good (my emphasis).  Perhaps you learn that it doesn't satisfy your craving - that there was something else you really wanted that the Twinkie can't provide.  Perhaps you become more sensitive to your taste buds toning down after the first few bites, making the next bites less pleasurable.  Or perhaps you notice that half an hour after indulging in that Twinkie, your energy crashes and you start craving sugar again.  This information will ultimately affect your taste for Twinkies in the future.

Is eating that Twinkie good or bad?  It all depends on how frequently you eat it, how much you eat, what else you eat it with, whether you were attentive to it...Rather than eliminating these variables, we need to listen to them.  By staying connected to your body, some foods may lose their appeal or you may no longer be driven to over-indulge.

So, in answer to the questions, "Is [fill in the blank] bad?," the response is, "Of course not."  We simply need to respect it.  Let it teach us whether or not we want to indulge or when enough is enough.

It may sound crazy at first, I know that when I first began attempting to follow this way of life, my concern was that I would go crazy and eat chocolate, ice cream, and so on without stopping and I would just end up killing myself with high blood sugar or a heart attack or whatever.  The funny thing is that I found out something:  when you listen, I mean really slow down and LISTEN, to what your body is telling you, the things you find yourself eating vary across the full spectrum of foods.  Nowadays I find myself craving salads and fruit as much as I find myself craving sweets.  But more importantly, when I DO crave sweets, I go ahead and have them!  Instead of shoving them into my mouth as fast as I can eat them because I'm not sure when I will get them again, though, I eat slowly.  I actually take the time to enjoy the flavor and the texture of things.  This allows me to also pay attention to my body's responses to them.  There really is a moment when things go from tasting amazing to tasting 'meh', when my body signals that the craving has been satisfied and enough has been eaten.

In the past, I would have just kept eating until all of the food I was eating was gone, whether it made me nauseous or not, whether I was full or not, it didn't matter because I was so used to depriving myself that my instinct was to binge when I had the chance.

I feel free now, and it is wonderful.  I am free to have chocolate when I want it.  I am free to eat an apple when I want it.  I am free to make steak for dinner one night, and veggie stir fry the next, all because I am learning how to listen to those signals that I spent years suppressing by following the instructions of so many diet plans.  Eat this, don't eat that, eat now, don't eat then, none of that matters.  What matters is that my body actually KNOWS what is best for it and now that I've begun trusting it again, the signals just keep getting stronger.

This is why I re-read this book so often.  It reminds me of thoughts and ideas that can get drowned out by the constant pounding of our "thin is in" society against our brains.  It is easy to give in to the pressures brought to bear by that society.  This book helps me fight those pressures and stay true to myself.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Definitions of Productivity

We all have our own definitions of productivity.  For most of us, I would imagine, these definitions are developed most strongly when we become part of the workforce.  The word "productivity" becomes synonymous with "results that can be measured quantitatively".  This may even begin when we're in school, with students who get high grades being considered productive, and those who get low grades considered to be unproductive, no matter how much work either student actually puts into getting their grade.  Any way that it is instilled, however, by the time we reach adulthood we all seem to have pretty solid ideas as to what that word means to us personally.  Changing that definition is not an easy task.  But it appears to be a change that I am currently involved in trying to make for myself.

I am in the process of shutting down my business for a hiatus.  At least, I hope that it is just a hiatus.  I really do want to come back to it at some point because I love my business, I love what I make, and I love selling what I make to my customers.  Sadly, with the national stress levels so high due to the unusually rancorous elections last year, people were hanging onto their money very tightly.  I worked twice as many markets and made half as much money.  This did not give me enough of a margin to pay all of my overhead and keep buying raw materials to produce or to pay booth fees for the coming year.  So...the hiatus, which will ideally give me time to pay off what my business owes and to re-establish my financial cushion (and to make it even bigger this time to prevent another such occurrence).

In the meantime, I am looking for work, preferably in the form of a work from home job, and taking the time to continue gleaning through our household, getting rid of excess "stuff", and organizing the remaining items so that there is less clutter.  I am also spending time on craft projects, a number of which will end up being holiday gifts this coming December, and continuing my personal form of education via reading a multitude of books and taking as many free online courses as I can.

What I have found, however, is that I am battling my previous ideas of what is productive and what is not.  Despite knowing how reading a wide variety of books expands the mind and the knowledge base, in the back of my head I find myself fretting about wasting time when I'm reading.  There is a part of me that seems to feel that if I am not actively doing housework, then I am being lazy.  This same thought pops up when I am busy with craft projects.  Somehow, at some point in my life, I relegated reading and craft projects to "relaxation" rather than considering them to be productive uses of my time.

This is a foolish point of view, however.  Creating beautiful things for people to enjoy is not a waste of time, nor is increasing my literacy.  These are both activities that serve multiple purposes, and yes, one of those IS relaxation, but they do so much more than that as well.  Crafting keeps my dexterity sharp, lets my mind rest for a bit while I focus on the physical, or even lets my mind focus on learning if I am listening to an audiobook while I craft.  Reading not only gives me more information about the world in general, but sharpens my imagination and my creativity.  It increases my eloquence, it expands my vocabulary, and it helps me formulate thoughts more quickly and coherently.

Can these various skills be measured by numbers?  Possibly.  Should they?  I'm not so sure.  While physical chores like housework, organizing, and simplifying have their values, so do other parts of life.  Beauty, creativity, and knowledge are all worthwhile goals in and of themselves.  I know this in my rational brain.  Now I just need to get the part of my head that houses my ingrained American Puritan Work Ethic to understand and accept that qualitative productivity is just as valid as quantitative productivity.

That, my friends, is the hardest part of all.  But I plan on continuing to strive for this achievement.  It is important, and important things are worth the effort.