What I've been chewing on lately...

November 15, 2016

embodiment2

It’s 2 am in my home (11 am in Berlin which is what my body clock is set to which why I’m wide awake) and I’ve just gotten off my yoga mat. I had gotten out of bed to pee and on my way back I felt the urge to go straight for my phone, for Facebook, for the noise.

But what my days need from me now is embodiment.

(If you missed last week’s post “Stay” please read it first, this is a follow-up).

Mind you, it’s not my natural inclination. It’s often easier to check out. Being here, especially now, requires choosing.

But I’m devoted to serving more than ever and so I’m devoted to being in my body. I’m choosing to be here.

Being in my body does not mean I will run a marathon or do Crossfit (though if those are your thing more power to you). This is a commitment to simply keep returning to the sensations and wisdom of my body. Returning in small but meaningful ways.

And yes it’s sometimes painful because I’m in pain. My emotions, just like your emotions, reside in the body. So to feel my body is to feel my feelings–to feel what’s true. What’s true for me now is grief (all the stages) and fire and love.

And I want to add that when I got on my yoga mat I didn’t do any formal yoga poses. I just let my body lead. I stretched and moved in whatever way felt good. I used my foam roller to get out the knots. I reminded my hips, which are the first to clench in the face of distress, that it was safe to open. I patiently massaged an ache on the bottom of both feet.

Being in our bodies doesn’t have to be complicated, or graceful, or formal. Being in our bodies is just an awareness practice. Yes we can be in our bodies sitting still in a chair but sometimes for me, and for most women I know, a little movement, a little stretch, a little wiggle really helps to drop us down.

As a way to support you in being in your body I want to share with you two guided meditations from my Feast masterclass. In the first audio I guide you into your body and into the kind of intuitive movement I just described. In the second I take you on a guided body scan to put you in touch with your body’s hungers (and I’m not talking about food here). In short: I’ll take you there.

If you are living from the neck up…

If you are overwhelmed from the woes and waves of change in the world…

If you are skeptical of or mistrust your body…

If you want to drop into yourself but crave a friend go to along with you…

I invite you to listen to and practice these meditations.

posted in food+body
November 9, 2016

stay

Every cell of my body is screaming “leave!” this morning. There is no where I want to be less than here. But I stay.

When I heard the news I ran to the toilet to throw up. I sat on the floor of the bathroom rocking back and forth, tremoring, breath shallow wanting so intensely to leave this moment, this world. But I stay.

My mind grips and grasps for me to run away to the future. To the what ifs. To the terror. To the tracing of all the steps in history that lead me and us to this moment. To the search for blame. To the desperation for salvation. My mind implores and beckons me to leave. But I stay.

As a woman, my body has rarely felt like home. For too long I didn’t live here. Here was not a place to trust. Here was not a place that I thought I could handle with my eyes open. But I found my way back and I stay.

Today the invitation I have for you may not be easy: stay.

Stay in your body. Stay with the tremors and the shaking. Stay with the pit in your stomach. Stay even as you notice yourself bobbing in and out. These feelings. This trauma. This fear and anger and sadness and confusion and despair cannot kill us. In fact staying is our salvation.

Stay in your body. Just sidle up next to whatever sensation is coursing through your flesh. Feel the pain. Notice the quality of your breath. Are you hungry? Cold? Perhaps the best way to describe here is ‘numb’? That’s all welcome.

Stay.

The body knows and it has evolved over millennia to process trauma like many of us are experiencing. These processes require little effort on our part other than loving presence…other than staying with kindness.

Stay.

In staying we can receive our bodies wise requests. Is it aching for companionship? Asking for quiet? Nudging us to put away the screens or put on a sweater? Now is the time to heed our body’s requests. Now is the time to stay.

There may not yet be answers to the questions in our mind but we can answer the requests of the body.

There will be a time in the near future that we act boldly, consistently, together and with steadfast determination but right now the impact has just happened, the car has just rolled, the fire just ravaged through, leaving our skin raw and our being bewildered. So right now our best action is to simply stay. Stay and tend. Stay and feel. Stay and listen.

Here is my call: let our response to this moment be deeper embodiment.

Why embodiment? What can embodiment do in the face such real-life practical threats?

Embodied women are resourced.

Embodied women are awake.

Embodied women are rooted.

If there were ever a time for women to be resourced, awake, and rooted this is it.

Let our commitment be to stay and to feel and then to act on behalf of those whose bodies are most threatened. And it’s all a threat to bodies isn’t it?

Marriage equality and LGBTQ rights? Human bodies.

Racial justice? Bodies.

Reproductive rights? Bodies.

War? ISIS? Bodies.

Affordable and accessible healthcare? Bodies.

Responsible gun control? Bodies.

Immigration? Bodies.

The disembodied cannot support and protect the physically vulnerable nearly as effectively as an army of the deeply embodied.

Don’t move to Canada.

Don’t disappear.

Don’t check out.

Don’t give up.

Don’t turn to your escape of choice.

Stay. Just here. Just now. In this hurting, reeling body.

All you need to is stay and when you leave, come back as soon as you are aware.

Stay.

When all you want to do is leave.

When hopelessness nips at your toes.  
When you don’t know where to go or what to think or how to proceed.

Just stay here in your powerful, vulnerable, sacred flesh.

The way forward will be found here and together, in our bodies, we will rise.

posted in fear / food+body
September 11, 2016

hspus

I was just a few months into dating my now fiancé and we were returning from a day trip.

I was tired.

He was all of the sudden excited. “Oh! I want to take you some place!” he exclaimed.

“I’m pretty tired” I replied, struggling to find my clear “No thank you. Take me home please.”

It’s called the Warehouse Cafe though it’s much more warehouse than cafe.

Walking into this dive bar, so dark that it took more than a minute for our eyes to adjust from the afternoon light, I immediately felt awash in sadness. Not my own sadness, but the sadness of the people there. Hunched over the bar, nursing a drink that was far from their first of the day. They were sad. Not even outwardly sad, but emanating sadness nonetheless, and I could feel it.

It washed over me like a cloud of cigarette smoke and made it just as hard to breathe.

Returning with drinks for us Justin beamed with that ‘Isn’t this place cool!’ look in his eyes.

“I need to get out of here” I responded as tears welled up in my eyes and my breath got short.

Wandering out back amidst a crowd of rowdy bikers we found a place to sit and I started to cry.

Needless to say he was perplexed.

Why had walking into a bar—a bar he was excited to take me to—made me cry?

I tried to explain.“The people in there.” Wiping away tears. “They are so sad. I can feel it.”

Now he was annoyed. I seemed crazy to him and his mind flashed forward to what life might be like with me, unable to ever set foot in a cool dive bar, too sensitive to have any fun. Or so he feared.

Underneath it all he was disappointed. I had popped his balloon.

Nothing I could say in the moment helped me make sense to him.

He was annoyed and I was outraged.

How could he not understand?! How could his first reaction to my upset not be compassion?!

No one spoke on the drive home and when he pulled up in front my apartment I got out, slammed the door, and he sped off.

We’d had our first big fight.


In the years since then I’ve come to understand several important things about myself, sensitivity, and relationships.

First, I am a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and I was born this way.

Just like dogs can pick up on sounds and smells that humans cannot detect, HSPs can pick up on a whole range of stimuli that non-HSPs are often oblivious to. This makes us powerful. This temperament is a form of intelligence. We’re also the target of messages that we’re weak and too sensitive. Not so. Being an HSP is an asset despite the fact that our dominant culture doesn’t see it that way.

In my masterclass Feast we spend an entire week focusing on high sensitivity because it’s such an important cornerstone in the journey to make peace with food. Often a student will tell me they are an “emotional eater” but what they describe is an overstimulated highly sensitive person using food to calm their nervous system. The more my students understand what it means to be an HSP, shake off any shame of their sensitivities, and take care of their unique needs, the faster the choppy waters of eating stills.

The three aspects of self-care for HSPs are prevention, mitigation, and recovery. Prevention looks like making choices to avoid or modify situations in advance that are overwhelming to our nervous systems. Mitigation looks like being in the middle of an overstimulating situation and doing what you can to make it better. Recovery looks like preparing for and acknowledging that after an overstimulating event our nervous systems are asking us to actively participate in self-soothing.

As an HSP our role in relationship is that of educator. It is our task to teach others about our temperament, our needs, and importantly, about the myths and stigma surrounding sensitivity. It’s just fact that most people aren’t yet familiar with the term or definition of HSP. It’s on us to teach them both directly through words and indirectly by role-modeling how we treat our own sensitivities.

Four years after that tearful trip, Justin has a deep understanding of my sensitivities and a respect for the gifts they bring. Yes, he has moments of frustration but they are minimal and assuaged by all he knows now.

Recently Feast students asked about dating as an HSP, afraid that they would always be perceived as “too much” by any suitor. Rather than speak for him I asked Justin to share a little bit of his experience and this is what he had to say:

What would you tell a guy friend who said he was dating a someone who is an HSP? What advice would you give him?

Learn to be patient. It’s easy to overwhelm an HSP, and you need to slow down and most of the time, lower your voice.

Sometimes what triggers Rachel doesn’t make sense to me, and you just need to understand that it’s her own experience, and you just need to accept and respect it.

What would you tell a single female friend who was trying to navigate finding a partner as an HSP? She feels ashamed and afraid any partner would find her sensitivity a burden. What would you tell her?

Be yourself, and be honest with your partners. Either they get it, or they don’t. Don’t hide those feelings just to spare yourself embarrassment.

What’s been the best thing about dating an HSP?

Letting me tap into my own sensitivities, and knowing that you (Rachel) understand me and can empathize, no matter how odd or off-kilter my feelings might seem.

What’s been the hardest?

Missing out on going out to clubs, loud bars, dancing, drinking. Crowded places are hard, places that most of the time I wouldn’t have a hard time with.

What do you see me (Rachel) doing in terms of my own HSP tendencies that make dating me easier?

I see you try hard and put up with things you might not have been comfortable with before, like sometimes putting yourself in crowded/loud social situations you might have avoided in the past.

What do you do to make dating me (Rachel), an HSP, easier?

Accept the fact that you’re special and that I should treat you unlike any other woman I’ve been with before in my life.


Relationships don’t come built straight out of the box. They come as a pile of incomplete pieces that you, with your combined strengths and challenges, work to put together and when you need a missing part you have to work as a team to find it. As an HSP a few things make it easier to assemble a truly great partnership: 

  • Learn about your unique temperament
  • Exorcise any internalized shame you might have about being an HSP
  • Develop your own personalized ways of preventing, mitigating, and recovering from overstimulation
  • Respect your boundaries 
  • Assume the role of educator in relationships

Photo Credit: Rachelle Derouin

 

August 9, 2016

fitbody

Before you read any further, head over to Facebook and follow Charlie Shipley’s The No-Diet Notebook where he shares the simplest hand drawn words in support of living a diet-free, body-loving life. They’re pure, bite-sized brilliance. 

Here is this week’s entry from The No-Diet Notebook:

nodiet

I shared this image with my current Feast cohort and one student replied: “I think having a fit body is an accomplishment. What am I getting wrong here?”

Her question is apropos given that the Olympics just kicked off and much of the world is celebrating the super-human feats of these athletes.

But is a fit body an accomplishment?

Let’s take a deeper look.

The first thing we need to do is separate out a fit body as defined by abilities (endurance, flexibility, strength, balance, etc.) and a fit body as defined by appearance standards.

The latter, a fit-appearing body, is not an accomplishment at all. There is nothing superior about a body that conforms to society’s narrow and incorrect standard of what a fit body looks like. Athletes of the highest caliber come in all forms. It’s a myth that you have to have a flat stomach or thighs that don’t touch or low body fat percentage.

At the height of my anorexia, strangers would openly comment on my body making it clear that they equated my thinness with health and fitness. “You must work out” they’d say when my reality was days spent in bed too weak to move from severe starvation.

My partner has a sturdy build, broad shoulders, and strong arms. He doesn’t lift weights ever. He’s of Polish descent and this is simply the body shape his genetics produce. Nevertheless, people make assumptions about him based on his appearance all the time.

Fit people come in all shapes and sizes. They have round bellies and thighs that touch. Strong people can come in bodies that look weak. Likewise, unfit people come in bodies that appear fit.

Bottom line: we simply cannot know from looking at someone if they are healthy or not and as such, appearing in a fit body is not an accomplishment.

Now if we’re talking about a fit body in terms of performance, it all depends on one’s personal values. It depends on personal values because physical fitness is not objectively (or universally) an accomplishment. It depends on what is important is to you and what your motivation is.

Personally, it’s not important to me that I can swim fast or lift large amounts of weight. It is important to me that I feel good in my body, am able to enjoy and live my life (go hiking, swim in the ocean, carry my groceries up my six floor walk up, etc). These are my values. Michael Phelps, Misty Copeland, and possibly the student who asked the question, have different values when it comes to fitness. That’s okay. It’s personal. If I don’t value these things I’m not less accomplished. I am likely accomplished in different ways.

Remember: all bodies are good bodies.

ALL BODIES ARE GOOD BODIES.

We rank bodies for sport in our culture, but we don’t need to and doing so is violent. It’s okay to opt out of the body comparison game, as it’s a game that ultimately hurts us all.

It’s also important to explore our motivations for pursuing fitness. As I tell my student WHAT we’re doing doesn’t matter so much as WHY we’re doing it. Whether leaving food on our plate or asking for a second helping, running a 5K, or napping on the couch–why are we doing it? Are we doing it because it feels good to us and brings us joy? Are we doing it because we feel like we’re not enough? Are we acting out of fear? Are we doing what we want or what we think you should do?

I strive to act from a “wholesome” why. To move in response to self-awareness, embodiment, kindness, self-compassion, sustainability, a personal desire to feel alive, connected, and of service. 

We could be the fittest person in the world, but if we got there because being fit is a way to compensate for feeling like we’re not enough or to be accepted, loved, or approved of–I question the blanket awarding of the label “accomplished”.

We also need to be careful when using a word like “accomplished” as there is an implication that one who is not accomplished is lacking, failing, and unfinished or incomplete. We want our language to make room for celebrating individual success while not shaming those who define success differently.

A final note: there are real life circumstances that can impede traditional fitness pursuits or results. They include but are not limited to poverty, mental illness, physical illness, physical disability, and serving as a caretaker. Having the time and resources to devote to fitness is often a luxury and privilege.

So is a fit body an accomplishment?

No, unless it’s important to you, available to you, and supportive of you. And even then, you very well might not look like the picture of fitness and that’s just fine.


RELATED RESOURCES

“There’s No Morality in Exercise: I’m a Fat Person and Made a Successful Fitness App”
Ragen Chastain of Dances with Fat (In particular this post and this post)
“Dear Virgie: ‘Why Does Exercising Feel So Complicated?'”
“How To Exercise Out Of Self-Love — Not Due To Fat-Shaming”

posted in fear / food+body / self-love
July 13, 2016

This week I had yet another client tell me that a certain diet (rhymes with Hate Talkers) is the only one that has “worked” for her. (See this: defining what “works”).

My client is telling me that this diet has “worked” but she is seeking my help with overconsumption and general dis-ease around food — two almost certain outcomes of said diet. Never mind the yo-yoing of her weight that she dislikes.

So I want to make something very explicit: food restriction (by any name, real or perceived) almost always leads to overconsumption (by any name, real or perceived). Buy one, get one free—like it or not.

Cycle

Let’s take a minute and better define restriction and overconsumption:

RESTRICTION

Generally, in this context, restriction refers to reducing or eliminating food items or food groups from one’s diet. This can look as benign as “I’m trying to eat less sugar” all the way up through traditional diets and on to full blown orthorexia and anorexia.

The appeal of restriction is how it makes us feel—at first. We feel in control, powerful, safe, virtuous, and even high.

However because our brain interprets restriction (including often just the thought of restriction) as “famine is imminent” even the strongest will is often over run in pursuit of being fed. This is just our built in survival instinct.

Has this ever happened to you: You think “Today I shouldn’t/won’t eat X” and before you know it just the thought has sent you into eating twice as many of that food?

This is why whether restriction is real or perceived it’s equally potent.

OVERCONSUMPTION

We have a stereotype in our head of binge eating: on the floor in front of the refrigerator surrounded by empty packages of food, spoon deep in a carton of ice cream. Yet overconsumption most often appears in subtler ways that have more to do with what’s going on in our minds than what is going in our mouth. When I was anorexic I had an allotted amount of crackers I would eat each day. If I went over that number, I felt like I had binged, even if I was still calorically deficient. I used to say to my therapist that a binge for me was less about the food and more about the fact that while eating I was consumed by thoughts of the next thing I would eat. Again, I might still have been in a normal or deficient caloric range, but the experience in my mind had the fingerprint of overconsumption.

You probably know what overconsumption feels like to you and while it’s personal and often private the impact is fairly universal.

So what is the mental experience of overconsumption? At first, coming from restriction-ville, it’s release, calm, and a sense of safety as the brain registers that food is here and abundant. Typically this is followed by feeling out of control, ashamed, guilty, and “bad”.

Can you relate?

Without seeing the cause and effect of this cycle most people hop right back on the restriction bandwagon.

I implore you:

  • Do not blame yourself for feeling out of control around food when you’ve been sold a cycle that all but guaranteed exhaustive circular trips from restriction to overconsumption and back again.
  • Do not hop back on the restriction band wagon when you are or have been overconsuming. To so do would certainly cause you to repeat the same patterns over again. Diets by design (as a result of how they interact with the human psyche) include a trip through the land of over eating.
  • Do not think that you can buy  one (restriction/dieting) without getting the other for free (overconsumption).
  • Do not suggest to anyone, ever, that a diet is the answer to their struggles.

I’m posting this image again so it’s crystal clear just how one feeds into the other:

Cycle

GETTING OFF THE NOT-SO-MERRY GO ROUND

If you’re tired of going round and round…

If you’re tired of feeling like it’s your fault when a diet doesn’t “work”…

If you’re tired of how short lived the “perks” of dieting are…

Take the off ramp: intuitive eating.

It’s the only thing I know of that puts an end to the insanity and the off ramp exists at any point, no need to wait for another cycle.

Intuitive eating works with the human brain such that you never feel like famine is coming or that you, your body, or food can’t be trusted. Intuitive eating is sustainable and doesn’t require that you sign back up with a company selling you a guaranteed to fail product.

To start, read the book.

If you need help bringing intuitive eating to life, as most of us do, work with a coach, counselor, intuitive eating-focused nutritionist, or take a course. (See this list of resources).

 

May we all find our way to freedom.
May we all find our way back to our body.

posted in food+body

Hi, I'm Rachel

I am a life coach and fierce advocate for women feeding their truest hungers. I'm also a curator of inspiration and this is where I share the wisdom I've gained, words that trigger deep reflection, and resources to help you live your most well-fed life. Feast onward.

Returning 2017

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