I love television.
That might be a bit taboo to say, but it’s true.
I get an enormous amount of pleasure from watching my favorite shows. At the moment, if you’re curious, they are: Orphan Black, The Americans, and Family Feud.
Anyways, there is nothing wrong with loving television. It gives me a tremendous amount of joy, laughter, and relaxation. Put simply, it feeds me.
Most of the time.
I can also use TV as a tool for avoiding life when checking in, not out, is would serve me most. I noticed recently my viewing habits detracting more than helping and no surprise my first thought was “I’m going to just give up TV. Go cold turkey. Block Hulu from my computer. Commit to reading a book a week….”
Yes, my initial response was to go on a diet.
But the problem for me in this case wasn’t television, but the amount and the way I was using television.
Sola dosis facit venenum.
This translates to: The dose makes the poison.
I learned of this principle in graduate school.
We were taught that everything in the world is medicine and everything is poison, depending on the dose. This idea is a pretty radical in a world that loves to categorize most things into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Organic local apples = pure goodness. Wonder Bread = bad, devoid of any value.
But it’s not that simple. You can eat enough apples to make you sick. You can enjoy a sandwich on Wonder Bread without any negative consequence.
And this rule, “The dose makes the poison”, extends beyond food to include everything we take in: relationships and people, music, television, movies, alone and social time, time in the sun, and so forth.
With everything there is a tipping point where it goes from serving us to taking away from us. Herein lies the delicate balance of self-care. It’s easy to make blanket statements like “Get rest” or “Move your body” but at what point is sleep or physical activity no longer of service?
We can’t say, can we? Or rather, we can’t say for anyone but ourselves in a given moment.
There are no rules here. There are no formulas.
And what works for us at one point can change in a moment. We might have spent months exhaustively working on a fulfilling project and then run out of steam. So we turn to a period of restoration, but without mindfulness the even rest can turn excessive when it’s not longer what we need or what serves us.
Oh how we love an all or nothing scenario though. Our black and white oriented brains get a hit of calm when we (attempt to) draw a hard line in the sand. This is the rush that comes with the start of a diet or a rigid commitment to be in bed by 10 pm, every single night. We love the boundary—until we don’t.
You see we spring back from the hard line, rebel against the confines of our tightrope-of-a-plan in part because the things that we think are poison, are also medicine when served up in a different dose. A warm, carb-filled meal after a long day. An extra two hours of sleep. A marathon of our favorite television show when shutting the world out is sometimes, even often, just what’s called for.
Nothing’s all bad, or all good, as much as our reductionistic minds would like to make them out to be. There is a time and place for just about every thing.
So what are we to do when the very same thing can turn from serving us to detracting from us in a day?
We forget perfection and stop chasing purity.
Outside of a newborn baby, purity and perfection don’t exist. When we try too hard to eat perfect, look perfect, and be perfect we end up cutting ourselves off from life and from things that, in certain doses, are really do serve us.
We pay attention.
Diets, even those that restrict television and not food, allow us to be on a sort of autopilot. When we’re on one we don’t have to think or feel, we just have to follow the rules. But, to live our lives free and well we have to pay attention.
We find the kind choice.
If nothing is all good or all bad, we have to inquire moment-by-moment what the kind choice is. Sometimes not doing the thing is kind. Sometimes doing the thing is kind. By following kindness we find our way in a world where nothing is just black and white.
Lastly, we double check our knee-jerk reactions.
Notice what you label as good or bad without question. What gets a knee-jerk green light from you? and what gets a red light?
Right now I’m off to finish sewing up my latest project. Tomorrow at this time I might be catching the latest episode of Orphan Black.
Sola dosis facit venenum.
If you follow my work you know that I’m huge fan of the pioneering researcher Dr. Linda Bacon . Her findings are integral to the work of the Health at Every Size community. This year she came out with her second book, a collaboration with Dr. Lucy Aphramor, entitled: Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight.
When I heard this book was coming out I was quick to preorder and devour it. When the publisher asked if I wanted a copy I said, “Thank you, I already one and I love it, but if you want to send one over for one of my readers please do!”
I decided I wanted to give the book out to a newsletter subscriber who sent in their own definition of a Well-fed Woman. I received dozens of submissions and I decided I’d pick at random, not wanting to play favorites. Winner aside, I had to share a some of these beautiful interpretations with you…
“A Well-Fed Woman: A woman who unapologetically claims her brilliance, bravely opens and shares her most vulnerable moments, is willing to lick her fingers of pleasure, wears an apron with gratitude for her divine imperfection, and knows that self-worth is an essential ingredient in life.”
“To me, a well-fed woman is one who feeds herself on the levels of body, mind, heart and soul. She doesn’t deny herself pleasure, and she nourishes herself with food, people, and experiences that makes her feel alive!”
“My definition of a well-fed woman: one who loves herself fully, even if others taught her not to, and tries to listen to the subtle messages from her body and soul in order to live fully with delicious desires and an intent to fulfill them.”
“A well fed woman is a woman whose body vibrates with love and passion for herself, her family, and her community. She is well fed in the sense that she takes the time to honor herself with food and patience (or is working on it everyday). She is well fed in the sense that when the inevitable struggles of daily life create a deficit in joy, she can count on a warm reception from herself and those who love her to fill in that space with extra care, even if it is hard sometimes. A well fed woman is delighted to see the ancestry and genetic gifts and treasures given to her from a long line of women before her….the soft, the hard, the plump, the flat, the everything in between. A well fed women connects with her source of the divine and is full.”
“A well-fed woman tends her own garden, knows when her well is drying out, and knows which gardener down the street might have some water to lend.”
“A well-fed woman is an empowered woman, immersed in self-care and receptive to nourishment from others and the world.”
“A well fed woman responds to her bodies cues with compassion, like tending to a child with leadership and love.”
How would you define a Well-fed Woman?
Pursuing a well-fed life is not one long buffet table of awesome-sauce.
When you agree that your hungers are wise and that you are worthy of being fed, you also agree to experience being hungry.
And most of us don’t enjoy being hungry. In fact, many of us will do anything to avoid this particular flavor of lack.
To avoid feeling our longing and desire we put our hungers in the back of the closet, or in the attic, or behind the stove. Anywhere out of reach of our conscious experience. And to keep them there, we numb ourselves through all the usual suspects: food, shopping, alcohol, staring at screens, and so forth.
And the result of putting our hungers away, in an effort to not feel hungry, is that we are then rarely, if ever, feel fed. Quite simply, it’s hard to feed a hunger that we’re actively denying.
The solution: play the odds.
I can’t promise you that if you walk the path of a Well-Fed Woman that 100% of your hungers will be fed, 100% of the time, with minimal discomfort or waiting.
What I can promise is that the first option—stuffing them down or denying them—has a near 0% success rate when it comes to living a happy life.
The second option—saying yes to your hungers—the option I’m advocating for, will always lead you somewhere very fulfilling.
I can also promise that the discomfort of being hungry won’t kill you. And, perhaps more importantly, I can promise that hunger becomes significantly less uncomfortable the more we have a ‘yes’ relationship to it.
Much of the discomfort we experience around being hungry comes from anxiety and fear that we might not ever be fed or get enough. But women committed to living well-fed lives, over time, we establish a pattern of feeding ourselves and tending to our hungers, such that the anxious (and previously starved) part of us becomes reconditioned to trust that hunger is just a precursor to delicious satiation.
So yes, if you want to be a Well-Fed Woman you will experience periods of hunger. Some will last mere minutes and some will last many years. And the reward for your courage to feel these wise messages will be a life far more satisfying than if you deny your wants.
In my book, this is a risk always worth taking because the odds are in your favor.
You can’t know what will feed you unless you taste it — and taste a lot of other things that don’t feed you.
And sometimes you need to taste something many times before you know if you like it, if you need it, and how much of it is supportive for you.
This will mean tasting things that don’t taste good.
This will mean tasting things that might make you ill.
This will mean tasting things that are almost right, but not quite (Hello, Goldilocks).
If you’re not sure what you are hungry for, start by tasting anything and allowing your wise body and heart to tell you what is satisfying.
This might mean trying out dating a wide range of people.
This might mean a career path that is anything but a straight line.
This might mean asking to sample all 31 flavors when you go for ice cream.
It’s not only okay to take the time to taste all that life has to offer, but it’s essential if you are to be a Well-Fed Woman
Wouldn’t it be a magical world if we already knew what was right for us before trying anything out, before making a mistake, before embarrassing ourselves, or ruffling any feathers, or hurting feelings, or ‘wasting’ time.
Nah. That world sounds bor-ing.
Tasting the full menu is one of the best parts of life. It allows us to feel grounded in knowing that what we’ve chosen is more right for us, in comparison to what we’ve let go.
When I look back on my life I see a woman who needed to taste some very icky, very off, and very painful things in order to learn what worked.
When you ask yourself “What was I doing back then (in my 20’s or 30’s…)? What was I doing with in that relationship? What was I doing in that dead end job?”
The answer to all of these questions is: “I was tasting.”
Seize your freedom to try new things that might feed you so you can discover what actually does.
Want to be a Well-Fed Woman?
Better get to tasting.
Last year my boyfriend declared February to be Pleasuary.
Lucky me, he has declared this to be an annual tradition.
Pleasuary, if it’s not clear from it’s name, is an entire month dedicated to pleasure.
There’s no real reason this needs to take place during February, although Pluly or Pleptember just doesn’t sound nearly as fun.
If you’re inspired to join me in celebrating Pleasuary here are a few pointers:
Giving vs Receiving
Pleasuary is perfect for those in a relationship where one person tends to be the giver and the other tends to be the receiver. For heterosexual couples, it is often the woman who tends to give and the man who tends to receive. If you relate to this dynamic, allow yourself to shift the natural order things for the month. Wear a new groove.
Try this: Make a pact. For the month of Pleasuary your job is to receive. Their job is to give. Rest into it. It might feel awkward. It will most certainly feel good.
If you’re single, decide that you’re going up the pleasure you give yourself and instead of feeling guilty about this, set the intention to truly receive what is given.
Feeling Safe vs Feeling Alive
Feeling good comes from so many different sources and there are infinite shades of good feelings. It’s important to differentiate between the good feelings that come from being comforted and the good feelings that can come from being outside our comfort zone. Of course, we need a base line of feeling safe if we’re to dip our toe in more enlivening waters, but there is much pleasure to be experienced outside of our bubble of safety.
Try this: In your journal, brainstorm two lists: things that make you feel comforted and safe AND things that make you feel ecstatic, alive, and deeply pleasured. Then circle a few from each side that you want to make happen this month.
Quality and Quantity
This month is about both, quantity and quality. It’s about making pleasure part of the everyday. Upping the pleasure at breakfast. Upping the pleasure in our work. Upping the pleasure in the mundane and the extraordinary.
Try this: Make a list of 30 (or more) ways you want to receive pleasure and be about checking them off the list. Of course, spontaneity is also part of this so don’t let a checklist keep you from new and sudden bursts of pleasure receiving.
In terms of quality of pleasure, this is the result of deep and open presence. Even thirty seconds of pleasure can be knee shaking if we are truly present. High quality pleasure is like fine cheese or good chocolate, the experience is so much more satisfying. A little goes a long way when we allow ourselves to drop into receiving and the sensations of feeling good.
Try this: Set aside time to turn off all electronics. Tune into your body. Pleasuary is an adventure of discovering what exactly gives you pleasure. And, it’s important to know that you don’t have to know right now. In fact, you most certainly don’t know all the ways that you can experience pleasure. Play a sort of ‘Marco Polo’ pleasure game where simply allowing yourself (and your partner) to go towards what’s ‘warm’ and away from what’s ‘cold’.
Sense-uality & Indulgence
Pleasuary is not wholly about knocking boots. Pleasuary is about attunement of the senses to good feelings and expanding our capacity for pleasure.
Try this: List all the ways you might experience pleasure through your different five senses then attempt to saturate yourself with pleasure from all of these entry points.
The definition of indulge is to “allow oneself the experience of pleasure.” On that note, if you’re game for the Pleasuary, go indulge! Soak it in. Green light your enjoyment. Hand out the permission slips. Decide to taste, smell, touch, listen, and see it fully.
If you’re wanting more pleasure and enjoyed this post you can read more of my thoughts on feeling good in P is for Pleasure.