No More “Empty Nest”!

To clarify, my nest is technically ’empty’ now since my youngest daughter just recently moved out and I have no more offspring living in my home. But my nest isn’t “empty”. No I don’t have any babies at home but I do have my husband, myself and my fur babies. ‘Empty’ is such a harsh word for this part of my life. Let’s look at the definition of the word:

1 containing nothing; having none of the usual or appropriate contents: an empty bottle.

2 vacant; unoccupied: an empty house.

My home and life are not vacant, containing nothing, unoccupied. My nest has changed, it had one less occupant but it is far from empty.

I’ll admit it, I suck at change. Growing up in an abusive alcoholic home where from day to day, minute to minute, you never knew what crazy shit was going to happen, change becomes the enemy. Even decades away from my childhood and adolescence, I struggle with change but mostly I struggle with any kind of a major change whether it is good or bad. Ask my husband, getting me to move out of a house I lived for fifteen years was no small feat even though I love my new house. I sat outside with my three daughters and two of their significant others last night around a big fire looking up at the million stars. It was the perfect summer like night that I would not have enjoyed living in town. We talked, laughed and made s’mores. It was awesome. I haven’t lost my kids, I thought as I stared up at the sky. They are right here. We can still get together and do the things we enjoy, it just takes some scheduling around our lives.

Since 2011 when my oldest moved away to college, I’ve been preparing for the ’empty nest’. Except I couldn’t really prepare for it. Because I didn’t know what it would be like. I could only guess at it. I started making lists of what I could do with all my new found time I would have since I wasn’t taking care of kids. I fretted and worried over this new ‘season’. I read books on empty nests, blogs, articles and so on but nothing clicked. The advice they give you is pretty lame but I think that’s because none of it resounded with me. Frankly, for me at least, it’s not that huge of life change when I think about it. My kids don’t disappear and I never see them again. Plus, I’m not cooking every day which is a bonus!

Logically, I wasn’t taking care of my 22-year old college graduate. She took care of herself. We spent a lot more time together after her two sisters moved out. But now she has moved in with her boyfriend and is starting her own new ‘season’. In a way, as a parent, you feel a little left behind watching your chicks fly the nest and starting up their own lives. It makes you think of when you left the nest, all full of goals, hopes, ideas and excitement. Maybe in a way, I was envious of them because my life never turned out how it was planned. But then when you think about it, so few people ever have everything turn out exactly as they planned anyway. Life isn’t like that. We get crap in our heads that we are a failure because we didn’t exactly reach this goal pristinely. But maybe we achieved it in another way. Which is pretty much how my life went. I achieved most of my goals, just not exactly as I saw it when I came up with the goal or imagined my future. We need to be flexible when we plan our goals and realize, they may happen differently. Flexibility is not a strong suit of mine in this area. I’m going to work on it though.

I’ve spent months dreading my youngest moving out. Who would I go for walks with? Who would I make ice cream runs with? So on and so forth. She was moving almost an hour a way. Her sisters both work second shift which is opposite of mine but they live ten minutes from me. My husband works a swing shift so 7 out of 28 nights, he works. OMG what was I going to do with myself with so much time alone? I was going to be this big loser that sits around her house feeling sorry for herself because her kids were all gone and her husband was working nights that day. As I type this, I realize I really can work things up in my mind, can’t I? I go to the worst case scenario and work my way out. It’s how I am wired. Then whatever it is that I’m afraid of happens, I recover after a few days or weeks, then I’m fine. I think it is more the fear of the unknown.

So I’m alone more often. Big deal. I’m also freer, with less responsibility and a lot less mess in my house. I’m spending less time cooking and cleaning now. Grocery trips and expense have significantly reduced. More time and more money to do fun things or buy myself something frivolous if I chose. I’m mainly an introvert though I hover close to extroversion on the tests. No, I’m not socially awkward or painfully shy or afraid to talk to people. That isn’t necessarily introversion. Introversion just means that people and noise, etc. drain me where extroverts are recharged by these interactions. Hence, I need a lot of quiet alone time compared to an extroverted person. I’ve just recently accepted this is who I am and stop beating myself up because I’m not a fan of group activities, loud parties, a lot of social interaction (social media is a blessing for me), and so on. I’m not a loser because I prefer to take a journal to a coffee shop and write rather than gather up a bunch of friends and go out to dinner. Bottom line: More alone time – good for me.

In preparation for my empty nest, I had joined some social media groups for Empty Nest. Which was depressing. It was either people trying to convince these heartbroken (mostly moms) parents to buy into whatever business they were selling to ‘fill the void’. That pissed me off. Nothing like preying on people who are hurting. Yes, I grieved a bit the passing of that part of my life but on the flip side, it’s wonderful in it’s own right. I’m not saying there won’t be times where I miss my girls or that I feel wistful for the past but that’s normal.

When I miss them, I just open my messenger app and shoot them a group message. One or all three will respond. Thank you messenger app. It’s not like twenty some years ago where you might get a call once a week. We can be in touch all the time if we want. But I’m also lucky in the fact that the fours of us are extremely close. I read posts in the empty nest groups and so many people don’t have this kind of relationship with their kids so I am fortunate.

So no “Empty Nest”. I’m not an “empty nester’. That’s not a label I want to put on myself or my life. I’ve allowed myself to grieve that passing phase of my life. It is a big change after 28 years to not have kids in the house. But I did my job, they are out there in the world being responsible, contributing adults who are for the most part happy. It wasn’t easy, it was pretty damned tough at times. And I’m sure the future won’t be all roses and kittens but for now, it’s all good. My life has changed not ended. It is all part of living, seasons come and go. I need to learn to embrace change better.

Make your own path in this life. Decide what you are willing to accept and not accept. I’m not accepting that my life is empty because it is actually full. I accept that I am fortune and blessed. I chose not to put any label on this part of my life either. I just am, life just is. The end.

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Empty Nest – #1 – Second Season

My youngest daughter graduated college a few months ago and yesterday she left to spend an extended period at her boyfriend’s apartment almost an hour away. They are doing a test run of living together, which when compared to me, is way more thoughtful and smart than anything I did when it came to relationships. But it has brought on a serious case of empty nest for me. The end of an era, twenty-seven years of having kids living with me. Granted she hasn’t moved out yet, but it’s soon and I’m a preparer, I need to figure out how I will handle the quieter home, the next or second season of my life.

They don’t really tell you that sometimes being a parent really sucks. They don’t have a good way to prepare you for life after the kids move out. The advice is all the same, pursue that career you always wanted (not applicable for me), take up a new hobby (I have a ton already), travel (can’t do that every day), take classes (maybe if I can find something I like) and so on and so forth. The thing is, I didn’t really put my life on hold when I was raising my daughters, especially the last ten or so years. I don’t believe you should give up your entire person to raise kids. Granted I had less time for hobbies and such back then when we were full on into school activities, etc. but I still kept time for me. I believed had I done that, lost myself to raise my kids, this moment would had totally crushed me since the majority of my identity would be wrapped up in being a mom. I’m still a mom, but it’s different and in some ways, it’s better because it’s a sense of freedom not being responsible for them and our relationship becomes more like friends.

So while I’m grateful I kept my own life while raising my daughters, I’m still a bit shell-shocked on this ‘second season’ (or whatever you wish to call it but I feel empty nest seems to be a negative term). I’ve been sitting here in my bed this morning, trying to sort out my feelings and thoughts when I decided to put them into my blog. Maybe someone else needs to hear this as well.

I am choosing to look at today as the start of my next chapter or season or whatever. Today is the first day of the rest of your life attitude. So lets start with my assets being 48-years old:

1. I’ve raised my family and am in awe of my daughters and their successes. They have done so much better for themselves at their ages than I did. Goal accomplished.

2. I own my home, need little materialistically. Household established. Live in my “dream’ home (though I am a bit of a simple person so I’m happy even without Italian marble floors). I have everything I could ever want and more. Very blessed.

3. My retirement is on track so I can retire at 67 and live comfortably barring any catastrophes

4. Have a good job with flexibility and excellent benefits. Pays well, not my ‘dream’ job but I believe in our mission, enjoy the people I work with for the most part, some are like family to me. Career – check. (PS – I have no idea what my ‘dream’ job is anyway)

5. Health – Could improve a bit, but overall good health. Very important.

6. Family and friends – Don’t have a huge family or friend group but I am close to my ‘tribe’ as they call it. I’m an introvert for the most part so this is exactly my style. I have a lot of love in my life and am very loved. Again, very blessed.

7. Hobbies – I have a lot of different ones. Interests – I pursue what I am interested in. I have the resources to take on new hobbies if I wanted them.

Reading that list, I am one very blessed individual. Granted, some of it is luck but most of it is hard work. Even with all the stupid decisions I’ve made in my life, I survived. And thrived. I am going to sit with that knowledge for a moment, soak it in. Sometimes we forget to stop and enjoy the moment, the present. I’m really bad about that. I always want to push forward to the next thing.

And maybe that is part of my problem. I’m always pushing for what’s next. What would happen if I just stopped that tendency and just live in the moment? Why do I feel like now that this ‘job’ as a parent is done, that I have to rush out and immerse myself in something new? Why not just stop and enjoy life? Why not just work on my writing when I want. I’ve been considering just self-publishing my last novel as is and then starting a new, fresh project. I’ve been trying to rewrite this novel for 6-7 times and frankly I’m tired of it. Who says it has to be some art of perfection? What if I just did what I wanted for once? Instead of always pushing myself toward some expectation from where I have no idea it came from.

What if I just stopped and allowed myself to breathe? What if I stopped expecting myself to have some ‘great, fabulous’ goal? Would the world end? Deep inhale, full exhale. Repeat. Let go. Just let go of all my self-imposed ideas of what I am supposed to be doing and let’s make a list of things I have to do at this stage in my life (I love lists can you tell?):

1. Feed and take care of myself. Aim to be more healthy – physically, mentally, etc.

2. Feed and take care of my two pets: Baron and Lexington

3. Go to work, make money – pay bills/ taxes

4. Take care of home/yard

5. Spend time with husband and family and friends. Be a better wife, mother and friend.

Really, just the basics of living are left. Is that such a bad place to be in? I don’t think so.

Breathe in, breathe out, let go. That’s what I am going to work on right now. Letting go of the urgency to find the next big thing now that I have raised my kids. Allow myself to decompress, get off the hamster wheel, and just live in the moment. I will admit, this idea of letting go the need to always be achieving something makes me incredibly anxious. It feels as if I stop this track, I will fall apart and I don’t know why I feel that way. Old habits, old expectations, or being busy is my way of coping with hard things? Probably the latter.

I have a hard time just sitting with my uncomfortable or sad feelings. I’m learning to be able to do this and have found that each time I do, I feel better in the long run even if it does feel like I will drown in my emotions or feelings when I experience them. Considering the fact that I am still breathing, still here to write this blog, that’s an overreaction on my part. I have not drowned from experiencing my feelings. No matter how yucky it feels, I will survive by facing them down, by feeling them, by allowing them to pass through and go on their way rather than holding them inside, stewing on them for years. Not good.

The bottom line is, I’ll be fine. I just need to let go.

Sometimes It’s Just Hard Work

I went through this whole intuitive eating/ movement kick earlier this year. Renouncing diets (still do) and advocating doing what you feel like doing. I gained roughly 25 lbs. I know because I went back to weighing myself occasionally but without judgment and criticism. I noticed my clothes were getting tighter. I felt crappy. I was happier because I was free from diets but what these ladies preach may not be completely great for me.

My employer is participating in the Global Challenge where you set up teams of seven of your co-workers and record your steps each day trying to outdo one another. You get this little digital pedometer that syncs with an app to your phone. The challenge runs for 100 days and I’m 51 days in. My daily goal has been 10k steps the first part and now it’s 10.5k steps. I know I have to set achievable goals or I will drive myself crazy with the failure of it.

Many of these anti-diet promoters also promote moving when you feel like it along with eating what you want when you’re hungry. However, participating in this challenge lead me to an interesting discovery. The first week of achieving 10k steps a day was definite a struggle I’m not used to being that active every day. I also discovered how little I move when I’m at the office. If I reach 3000 steps in my work day, I’m lucky. This has prompted me to really push to get out of my chair and take a walk to the other side of the facility. Or walk uptown for my once a week lunch date with my BFF. Or walk a few laps around the building.

I didn’t feel like doing this most days and really had to push myself. So if I followed the advice of the anti-diet, intuitive eating crowd, I’d never really exercise much because I just wouldn’t feel like it. Another interesting result is the daily 10k+ (I’m currently averaging 15,500 steps due to frequent cycling – 229 steps per minute for moderate cycling) is that the exercise has quenched for the most part my desire to eat when I’m bored, stressed etc. It’s counteracted my overactive appetite. Seven weeks in, my ravenous appetite hasn’t returned. Not that some days I’m hungrier than others, but I’m not binging much on snacks and such anymore for just the activity of eating. Which with exercise has netted me an 11.2 lb loss without dieting at all.

It’s not easy to get yourself up and move like that every single day. I’ve fallen short 3 times out of 51 days but my average step count has kept consistent. I haven’t jumped for joy to get up on my bike another time when my inner thighs have painfully chafed because I got rained on the day before and my wet bike shorts rubbed against my delicate skin. I put on some skin protectant and got my happy ass back out on that bike the next day because I didn’t have the almost 2 hours to walk to get in my steps. It take 44 minutes of cycling to hit 10k steps at a moderate pace.

Tonight, I wanted to go up and lie down because I haven’t been sleeping well at all. I forced myself to gather up my dog and my walking shoes. Then I drove to the lake and walked 3 miles to get over 10k. I had to really push myself to walk that far. I picked out a shelter house in the distance along the path and made it my turn around point. When I got back into the car, the skies opened up and it poured. Tired and sore, I smiled to myself with the accomplishment of making my step goal and moving. Also, I was rewarded with a brilliant rainbow over the lake when the sun peaked out. The result – happiness.

Living a healthy lifestyle is work. Eating healthier takes thought and planning. Exercising every day definitely requires planning and dedication. It’s hard some days. Really hard others. I still believe in not dieting, to intuitively eat but I’ve also started focusing on eating more veggies and fruit just because it makes me feel good. As far as moving when I feel like it, joyful movement, eh. I believe you need to choose activities you enjoy, mix it up, try new things but this one you have to really prioritize and make it part of your life. Few of us are so super happy to exercise every day but it is so worth the effort.

My weight loss is just a marker and has not been my goal. I haven’t tried to lose weight at all. I just find it interesting that it happened without dieting. Just to be clear, I don’t believe you should measure your success by a scale. But I do love that my clothes are getting looser. But even more, I love that I feel good (outside of being sore some days), I’m out in the world more and experiencing cool things like rainbows where I may have missed them.

Like the old adage “nothing worth having ever comes easy” or however it goes, is so true. Sometimes I want everything to be easy but easy doesn’t pay big dividends.

Surprising Revelation After Letting Go of Diets

Just a quick check in as I’ve stopped journaling about the whole food peace journey and wanted to let go thinking about it all. It’s been about four months since I embarked on this new way of life and no, I have not suddenly become thin. Actually I’m the same size. While this may seem like it should be disappointing, when you let go of worrying about your weight and body size, there is a surprising outcome when you let go. Happiness. Acceptance. More time to focus on things you enjoy.

I was inspired to write this short post when I was walking by the full length mirrors in my bathroom and I didn’t cringe, I didn’t criticize my body (even in my own mind) and I felt happy looking at myself. My body hasn’t changed. I haven’t miraculously become thin or super fit. Actually, I’m pretty fit for a fat girl and working on getting even fitter (not thinner – if that happens it does, if it doesn’t so what). Since I have stopped judging myself, my body, my weight and my appearance, I feel so much better about myself and my body. I see more positive rather than negative things about it and 0 has changed about my body. I actually like my body, fat, cellulite, freckles, scars, stretch marks, and muscle. I love what my body can do and I want to train so I can do even more. Not to mention I love just eating food without restriction or worry. You stop thinking about it so much and free up even more time.

Most of us as kids, go through a phase where we are fascinated with ourselves in a mirror. We look at ourselves, trying to figure out how we fit together. We didn’t stand there and say, OMG, my knees are fat or something silly like that. We are a wonderful, amazing machine of flesh, bone, blood and organs. It feels really great and freeing to look in a mirror and not criticize something about myself. To feel as if I don’t measure up with the other humans. That I should hide my body and hide myself because I’m fat or whatever.

I’m so dang happy about this. I can’t even express it. I also find I treat myself better in general. I pay attention to eating a little more healthy just because I want to feel my best and nourish my body. I don’t put off buying clothes until I’m smaller. Actually I’m going to sign up with one of those services who send you clothes that you can pick and choose from. I eat what I want when I’m hungry, when I want it. I still emotionally eat a bit but I don’t go overboard because I’m feeling bad about doing so. We all do it from time to time. It’s ok to comfort ourselves sometimes.

Come on guys, life is too short for diets and feeling bad about yourself. You deserve the very best and you deserve to be loved for who you, as you are, today. If you have to change your body for someone to love you, that’s just bullshit. Love yourself. Treat yourself well. Don’t put up with other people’s crap. Stand up for yourself, fat or thin, who cares. You’re awesome and beautiful and wonderful just the way you are. We need to be kind to others but also to ourselves. Especially kind to ourselves. Let go of the crap, let yourself be happy right here, right now, in this very moment. We only have this one life.

If someone said something hateful to you about how you look, who you are, well F*ck them. They aren’t perfect. They have their own flaws, one being that they are an insecure ass who has to put others down to feel good about themselves. Other people’s opinions are none of your business (not my saying). Stop reading those fitness and fashion magazines and articles telling you how to dress, weigh, and so on. Just do what you want. Who cares? I’m fat and I’m going to wear horizontal stripes. I’m almost 50 but I’m not going to dress like I’m ready for the nursing home or like I’m 20. I’m going to dress in what makes me feel good and happy. Screw those rules for how to dress when you’re 30, 40… Who said these people anyway? They aren’t the boss of me. They just want to sell products and magazines. Just like the diet industry is in the BILLIONS of dollars. Stop being their puppet. STOP IT!

Let go of the crap and let yourself be happy, right here, right now. You are beautiful, wonderful, amazing and loved right in this moment. Enjoy it. Set yourself free. It’s one of the best things I have ever done for myself, I hope you find that way as well. Ciao!

Starbucks Drive-Thru Offers Life Perspective or “Bitch, Please…”

Yesterday, my middle daughter and I went through a Starbucks drive through to get a hot chocolate and a Frappuccino. I honestly do not even know what a Frappuccino even is because I don’t drink coffee but I know it costs over 4 bucks. The girl waiting on us was early 20-something, pretty and blonde with a tattoo on her arm by her wrist with the word “Survive”. Granted I have 0 idea what this girl has gone through, I can’t judge her in the least but I found the tattoo to be ironic. Survive. Bitch, please…

Survive, survive, survive. As I drove away with my overpriced hot chocolate, in my luxury car with cash in my purse, I felt this moment of WTF. I don’t have a better descriptor of the epiphany than those three letters. When I think of the word ‘survive’, it conjures up visions of people huddled in a bombed out building trying to survive the night in a war-ravaged area. Survive is picking old discarded food out of a dumpster or trash can because you have nothing to eat. Survive is not eating so your children have enough food. We all have difficult things happen in our lives. Me included. I’ve had a ton of challenges but I never had to be afraid that I would not live another day due to war or not have enough to eat because I live in a poor county.

There is surviving and then there is ‘surviving’ which is where meeting the basic needs just to live another day. I’ve been close to the point where I was homeless or didn’t have enough to eat but I also had the opportunity and resources for aid or help whether it was from a family member, friend or government agency. It was scary sure, but my pride was the only thing that kept me from getting help at times. The help was always there.

But imagine if there was no help or aid. Even in time of great difficulty, I had a backup. I would not had starved and neither would my children. But people starve every single day in this world. People die every single day due to unrest and war in their counties. People die from not having medical care and treatment. Even in this country they do. Which is absolutely ridiculous considering our resources. And I’m driving through Starbucks spending 8 dollars on nothing. Then complaining about my work or something absolutely inane. In the big scheme of things, my complaints are very frivolous.

I live in a world where all 3 of my daughters are healthy and alive. I am married to a wonderful man (no our marriage is not perfect – everyone has their moments). I live in a very nice home, have nice vehicles, I can even have my toilet paper delivered straight to my house. Yet, I always find something to bitch about. Frankly I should be ‘the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse”. I bet those people huddled in a bombed out basement would love to trade places with me. To not wake up and worry if they will live through today. I have so much more than many people and yet, I bitch, whine, moan and complain. Even if there really isn’t anything going on, I find something to gripe about. It’s ridiculous. Every day I squander away my blessings by being a negative sour puss. Okay, I’m never going to be the super cheerful perky type, it’s not in my blood, but I need to start remembering how damned good I have it. Even if someone pisses me off at work or the store or whatever. Is it really that big of a deal? In the grand scheme of life, was it that big of a deal? Nope.

It is all in how you look at things. How you view the world, your world. It’s your choice. Being an old sourpuss even though you have a good life is a choice. Nope, life is not perfect. Fuck, nothing ever is. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow or end up with terminal cancer. Bad things happen and sometimes even in that, you’re fortunate anyway. It was hard losing my mom but I was fortunate to be with her most every day those last months and moments of her life. Nothing is forever, even though you want it desperately to be so. I have many wonderful memories, I hear stories all the time how my mom touched other’s lives and I see her living on in me and her granddaughters. If we had lived in a 3rd world country, I would certainly had her for 7 less years in my life. There would have been no treatment for her first round of cancer, only death. Even in the bad there is good. Seven years of having my mom in my life was an amazing gift.

Perspective. It’s something I’m going to seriously work on. And with that statement, I’m going to close this blog and go enjoy my blessings. And when I forget my wonderful blessing and opportunities in my life, I’m going to smack myself and say “Bitch,please…”.

Love to all.

Food Peace Journal – Final Entry – Just Living My Life

Today, four years ago, my mother lost her brave and ferocious fight with cancer. I’ve spent the weekend quietly reflecting in quite a bit of solitude. I was melancholy but not overtly sad. Reflecting on life. My mom was only 72 when she died and I’m already 48. Life is so short. Shorter than you can ever fathom. This is going to be my final entry on food peace not because I am giving up the journey, but because by focusing on this even though I’ve given up dieting, I’m losing precious moments of my life that I could be spending in other more meaningful ways. Diet culture and worrying about weight and what you eat steals days, probably years from people’s lives.

For me spending a bunch of time listening to podcasts and reading books on intuitive eating, etc. is also really not necessary. The just of it is, eat when you are hungry, eat until you are satisfied, don’t beat yourself up if you eat too much sometimes, don’t restrict foods or you will binge, you’ll emotionally eat occasionally, and eat when you want (no food is off limits except for medical or religious reasons). Trust your body and go back to living. Take the hours you worry about weight, size, diet, etc. and live. Spend time with your family, focus on your career (if that’s important), find your calling, help others, immerse yourself in your favorite hobby, travel, hike, bike, run, swim, spend time outdoors, raise money for a charity close to your heart, go back to school, start that dream career, sit and watch the waves roll in, whatever you love because it is all over in the blink of an eye. Get out and live. Get out and have fun. Enjoy life as much as you can.

For me, I unsubscribed from all my food/non-diet podcasts and I am going to replace them with audiobooks because I realize there are so MANY books out there I want to read. I’m going to streamline my home chores as I spend a large amount of time cleaning. You get the picture. Looking in my life to see where I am wasting time on things that don’t bring me joy and replacing them with things that make me happy as much as I can. I’ll still blog occasionally, on whatever happens to inspire me at the moment (hence the ‘random thoughts’ tag). I may take my blog back into more a travel/adventure type blog with entries about places I visit. I really enjoy writing about them (as well as exploring).

Thank you for reading my food peace journey, feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or want some additional resources. It’s encouraging to see so many items available now to help you reach peace with your eating and loving your body just as you are. Acceptance is a wonderful thing as is diversity. We can’t all be skinny, we can’t all be white, we can’t all be straight, etc. The world would be so boring without the wonders of differences. Now quit reading this and go do something you love! Ciao!

Food Peace Journal – Week 10 – For the Love of a Zebra Cake

Holy Swiss rolls, I’m 2.5 months into this bad boy of Intuitive Eating. Am I thinner? Nope. That’s not the point and honestly, I’ve been overeating a bit so my jeans are a little tighter. Intuitive eating is something I am definitely still learning. I don’t believe it’s something you automatically pick up if you haven’t been eating this way most of your life. There are so many ‘rules’ that have been embedded into your mind and psyche, that it take time to retrain yourself and how you eat.

Coming out of a dieting mindset and realizing that you can eat whatever you want is much like being a kid locked in a candy store overnight. There is a bonanza of foods that you can suddenly eat again or maybe for the first time. Starting Intuitive Eating is scary, and it feels like walking out of a dark, dank prison cell and into the sunlight of freedom. Don’t be surprised if you go through a period where you actually grow a little bigger (get off that scale!) because you’re indulging in all the deliciousness you had been forbidden for years. Then you remember, hmm, I’m only supposed to eat until I’m just satisfied but but lately, I have been eating past that point, quite a bit. Your first instinct will be to start restricting your food intake and what you eat. STOP! Do not do this.

I’m at this point right now and I know the panic you might just be feeling. I’m getting fat (or fatter)! I have to stop, control and restrict before I blow up into a Macy’s parade balloon. Take a breath, a deep and calming breath and remember you’re okay (I just did this yesterday). Think about why you are eating more than you want (or whatever is going on). It’s not about what you are eating but why you are eating. This is a hard thing to decipher at times especially if it is something you’ve done for years. Be kind with yourself, remember that this takes baby steps and it’s a learning experience. You’re undoing years of dieting behavior. Years of emotional eating, though you’ll always have times that you emotionally eat, as much as we want, it’s impossible to be perfect and it’s okay that food provides comfort at times. Deep breath, calming thoughts, its all okay. It’s even okay if you get bigger, we are more than our bodies – I am using this mantra a lot lately.

Being patient with yourself is so hard especially when you have a fear of being ‘too fat’. I know my odd is a little bigger right now than a few weeks ago and since I pursue athletic pastimes like hiking and cycling, I am freaking out inside that I will not be able to do activities I love because I am getting bigger. I don’t want my size to limit my life. So I had to stop my momentary freak out and remind myself that I’m fine just as I am, I just need to look at the fact that I’m eating a lot of times when I am not hungry and figure out why. Maybe it is because I’m stressed at work, maybe it’s because the four-year anniversary of my mom’s passing is close or maybe I feel lonely or bored. Therein is where the hard work comes up, the reason(s) behind the ‘why’ when I emotionally eat. My body is telling me one important thing, I”m feeding it more than it wants, so I need to figure out why I am ignoring my hunger cues. It is a simple theory but not always so simple to figure out. It gives me something to work toward though.

That aside, I have a little story of a hike that I took over a week ago. I took my dog and drove to one of my favorite, closer parks. The sun was out though it was still cold but the wind was calm. I needed some gas so I stopped at a gas station about a mile from the park entrance. While I was pumping gas, I realized, I’m hungry so I went inside for a drink and a snack. I’m asking myself what I might want. What sounds good to me, I pick up a pack of trail mix, nah, on to the next idea. Out of habit I walk by the endcap full of Little Debbie snacks. Little Debbie’s have been forbidden fruit for a long time. I rarely eat one or even buy them. I stop halfway up the next aisle of snacks and realize I want a Zebra cake. White icing with brown stripes over some kind of white cake with cream filling. When was the last time that I actually ate one? No clue. I bought the cake and a tea.

The park is closed to auto traffic right now which is a big bonus to me, the lover of solitude. I packed up my coat with my key lanyard, my cell phone, my tiny notebook and pencil in case I wanted to write or sketch and the Zebra cake. Bundling up and grabbing the dog’s leash, I took to the wooded trails rather than the paved ones today as the mud was minimal. I did one trail, cross the paved road for the nature trail which partially runs along the river. Out of habit I had started a route with my Map My Walk app. Standing a few feet into the woods, I realized I had been walking fast and not paying a bit of attention to my surroundings. I pulled out my phone and deleted all my fitness apps. I can always put them back on if I want but I continued without thinking about speed or steps or calories burned.

Do you know what happens when you aren’t trying to walk to fast and burn calories? The world comes back to you. When you get out of the ‘training’ mode and just enjoy your surroundings, it’s a completely different experience. I would have walked right by the path down to the river because I had to go fast. I would have missed the fact that across the river where the bank was higher, where the trees’ roots anchored the soil and my oldest daughter had recreated in her first college art print, the trees had fallen after all the rain and crashed down right beside where I stood on the trail. A bit of melancholy for a special place to my daughters and I. Looking around, I found several sycamore branches that I picked up to take home. When it warms up, I will clean up the jagged ends and clear coat them for decorations. I would have missed the way the sun felt on my face when I just stopped, closed my eyes and turned my face to the sun, the sounds of the rushing river soothing my soul.

On the way back to the car, I traipsed the same trail I had quickly walked through before I had deleted my fitness apps. I passed the covered bridge and settled into the woods again until I came to a bench in the sun. My stomach was growling a little so I thought it was a great moment to eat my snack. I tied the dog’s leash to the bench as he is so impatient and pulled out the slightly mushed cake. Opening the cellophane, I broke off a piece of cake and tasted it. Granted, this is not the mecca of baked goods but it brings back happy memories of my childhood. In a way, it felt like I was a bit of a kid again, especially when I realized I was swinging my leg like kids do when they are happy. I slipped out my notebook and sketched the woods and covered bridge. Sketch, take a bite, pause, just be. It was the perfect afternoon. Quiet, simple, unrushed, like the summers of my youth. Why do we get so busy doing, achieving, improving and so on? I had forgotten to slow down. Well I’ve told myself I had slowed down but I was still walking too fast to enjoy what was right around me.

We wonder where the joy and fun of childhood escapes as we age but we push it away with all our responsibilities, to-do lists and constant need to be achieving something. We can’t eat a snack cake because it’s unhealthy and will make you fat. But I wasn’t fat as a kid. I ate plenty of them. I just ate when I was hungry normally. I finished my sketch, adding the date to the bottom. I stuck the wrapper in my pocket to discard in a trash can and set back to my car. I don’t know how far I walked or how fast I walked nor do I know how many steps I took. Tracking all that stuff never made me thin anyway and I’m not training for any events. I just felt that I should do that kind of metrics. Why? What is the point? To suck all the joy out of the little things in my life? Oh track your exercise and it will force you to burn more calories. Maybe it does but again, I’m not thin still. I may never be thin and it”s hard to accept that possibility and live with it but I am working on it.

When I went home, I didn’t stop and buy a box of Zebra cakes to binge on. I was happy and contented with one. The knowledge that I can have one whenever I wanted keeps me from wanting to binge on them. It is only when they are forbidden do I feel the need to scarf them down like I may never have another meal. It’s simple psychology when you think about it.

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little down, I pull out my notebook with the sketch and look at it. The memory makes me happy, makes me smile. For the love of a Zebra cake and letting go of achieving every moment of every day.