Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Happiness Diet

I just returned from a delightful vacation away--a few days of sun, swimming, and all the sleep I could stand. I was--and still am a bit--open, relaxed and contented. And I was surprised to discover while on vacation that my appetite was different. I didn't want sweets with the same desperate desire. I stopped eating when I was full.

Of course I'm always working with these awarenesses with clients around the body relationship and food, but I was struck by how easy it was. I wasn't needing to check in as much to see where my urges came from. I naturally gave myself what I wanted and stopped when I was done. Clearly, when I'm more relaxed and less stressed, I'm naturally more in touch with my body and less likely to use food as an escape. I have nothing to escape from!

The question is how to bring that awareness more and more to our daily lives. One of the questions I often like to ask clients is, 'If you were blissfully happy right now and you could feel your whole body infused with that light and openness, would you be eating what's in front of you?' If the answer is 'yes', then they're probably really and truly hungry. If it's 'no,' they're more likely to be using food to fill some other need that gets supplied when happiness floods their system.

What's true for you? The next time you go grabbing for something, practice filling your body with a sense of happiness and light, and then ask yourself if you still want the thing you're grabbing for. If you find that you don't, ask yourself what experience gets you closest to that happiness and light and go do it! Too often we've tricked ourselves into thinking that experience is food.

The advertisers don't help us: images of women with perfect lips floating away by eating a chocolate filled with caramel...the ooey, gooey images of that perfect candy bar or ice-cream. But inside, when we're truly happy and in touch with our real needs, sugar that makes us crash afterward isn't the first choice. We may want something very different, something that honors our ability to move and be more connected to the world.

It just takes discipline, a moment, to get connected to what we really want rather than what we've been sold as happiness, escape or bliss. Home from vacation, I'm watching my mind fabricate all kinds of escapes from insurance paperwork, catching up with client scheduling, the phone calls that need to be made. My urges toward sweets are also urges to time with myself, more sun, deeper breaths. How can I make those things more possible in my life right now, so that I don't need to 'escape' with food? What is it I really want?

It's another reason the body relationship is so important too. If we feel safe and connected, in good dialogue with our bodies, it's much easier to find this place than it is when we are judgmental, warring or trying to get away from our physical selves. Cultivating a good body relationship gives us a reference point, a place to check in about what we really want and be honest rather than running away or shutting down. Another way of asking the question above often comes up in body relationship work: 'If I felt really connected to my body and alive right now, would I want this (fill in the blank)?'

When our body relationship is off, we're more likely to act out with food or treat ourselves poorly because we're not consciously cultivating the possibility of feeling good in our bodies, listening to them and being honest with them. When you choose happiness and the possibility of peace instead of constant criticism or disgust in your body relationship, you're giving yourself a lot of the qualities of a vacation. Then you're able to make choices that feel better for both of you, rather than running away.

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