Checking Out: Sometimes, you just gotta do it

IMG_9335I cannot believe so much time has passed. Here it is, St. Patty’s Day 2019 and I have not written anything since last Fall? I used to be so disciplined, waking up early every Saturday morning to write. There was always something that felt pressing to talk about, or some important message (in my mind) to share with whoever might be interested. Sometimes, I just needed to vent over some ridiculous diet thing I came across, to be sure to set it straight. Over the past several weeks (months), however, I feel like I have “checked out”. Trust me, there have been moments where I have said to myself “OMG, you need to write something about that, that is ridiculous!”. But then, the holidays came, I needed to visit my mom, the couch looked more inviting than the computer, “This Is Us” sucked me in. Football. Politics. You name it, I had an excuse.

What motivates me now to write again? It struck me that what I am going through is probably very common. The feelings that surface when you don’t do what you think you should be doing are different depending on who you are, but I am guessing there are lots of people like me who feel a bit guilty, inadequate, not living up to expectations. The funny thing is that at this point in my life I thought I had gotten over all that. “It’s good enough” has been my mantra for years now. And yet, I have been judgmental of myself, feeling “intellectually lazy”. By that I mean, I just don’t feel like thinking sometimes. This is different than just feeling “lazy” physically, which happens to all of us (listen to your body, I always say).

Anyway, with the New Year come and gone, I thought, “should I make a resolution to start writing again?” Nah. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t believe in setting unrealistic expectations for yourself (just another reason to feel inadequate!). Instead, I have kind of accepted that my life may be shifting as I get older, closer to retirement age (although as of now, I just can’t imagine not working at the jobs I love, with people I cherish). Maybe it is coming to the realization that as time goes by, career is so much less important to me than other things in life. I feel like things are changing fast. I see my mom getting older, slowing down. And although I haven’t lost energy physically (thank God) when mom and I go for long rides in the countryside, neither one of us can remember where we are going or how we got there….FYI if you have to get lost in Connecticut, Litchfield and Cornwall are beautiful, New Haven not so much.

Yes, I have to admit I enjoy getting lost in the countryside and listening to my mom’s stories much more than thinking about dietitian kind of things. There are times when I quite honestly am really tired of being a “nutritionist”. I get tired of the reality that so many people think about eating and food in ways that to me are just not fun. Sometimes it makes me sad that a person can’t just “dig in” and enjoy food because their thoughts are busy judging, fretting, worrying, feeling guilty, planning, ugh. Sometimes I wish I did not notice these things, but because of my career and because of the clients I worked with for so many years, I can’t help it. I have spent decades trying to undo whatever damage I can, every chance I can. Even though I don’t work specifically with eating disorders any longer, I still try to give anyone a reality check who asks me for one. “Is the keto diet good?” NO. “Aren’t carbs fattening? ” NO. “Should I count calories?” NO.  And on and on and on. I have been trying in my daily life to help anyone who asks me a nutrition question to avoid the lure of crazy diets that promise to make you into something that supposedly is better than who you are right now. I have spent lots of energy over the years trying to teach people, anyone who asks, about a more holistic approach to feeling happy and good in your body. This involves intuitive eating (which is much harder for some than others, much more difficult than it sounds for those who have dieted or who have body image issues or disordered eating). It also involves good sleep, joyful movement, good hydration, healthy relationships and mental health in general.

So I guess the reason I needed a “time out” or to “check out” for awhile is just because I got tired. And just because I am writing now does not change anything. I still am tired of thinking about nutrition, but I am not tired of trying to help others enjoy their lives. I may have just shifted, I have noticed, into enjoying the cooking and cuisine aspect of it all more than the nutrition aspect. It is just so awesome to watch as someone (tentatively) tries a spinach ball or mango salsa for the first time, and ends of loving it. It is even more rewarding to see an autistic kiddo who used to only eat candy now accept pears and strawberries and blueberries. It even makes me happy when my corn-dog lovin husband tells me my quinoa sliders are delicious : D

My priorities have definitely shifted, and I honestly don’t know when I may feel like writing again, and who knows what I may feel like writing about….but spring is around the corner, so I am guessing it may have to do with flowers…..

In the meantime, please check out this article about how people judge what we eat, it says it all     .Don’t Judge

Happy St. Patty’s Day!! Hope you eat or drink something green today, and I don’t mean kale!

 

Some Thoughts on Feeling Guilty: Women, Food and Life in General

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Having a Bloody Mary on a Saturday Morning on the Connecticut River….should I feel guilty?

Yesterday I didn’t brush my teeth until almost 4 pm. That was right after I finally got the energy to get off the couch to take a shower. I did something I have not done in years. I called in sick. I tormented over the decision the night before because I just hate letting anyone down. Also, it was  Autism Awareness Day (a big day for the school where I work on Friday) and everyone was going to wear blue. But I had been feeling abnormally exhausted and people at work had been ill and it had lasted days, and I did not want to get it (worse than I already had). Plus, I just needed to be constantly near a bathroom, and well, that means staying home. I pretty much stayed in my PJ’s until noon, sat on the couch and watched the 2 hour episode of American Idol that I recorded. I got up to heat up leftover cheesy scalloped potatoes, which was about the only thing I felt like eating. It was dreary out, a perfect day to sit on the couch if you have to. But instead of totally allowing myself to relax, I kept checking my email to be sure I got back to who I needed to at the school. Finally, it hit me, why do I always feel guilty about things like this? All I was doing was taking care of myself. But there are other things too, and I know it is not just me. Many wonderful women that I know and love also feel guilty about things they probably should not. What is it about women in particular?

After looking into it a little bit, I actually came upon an article in Psychology Today. It explained that “guilt is a way we have of recognizing that we have not lived up to our own values and standards. At its best, it is an opportunity to acknowledge and rectify mistakes. But often guilt bleeds into shame, and then it becomes another story”. I felt a bit better in that shame was not what I was feeling. The article goes on to describe how Brené Brown puts it : “adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” Shame, on the other hand, she says is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

It seems to me sometimes that women feel guiltier than men. When a man forgets to call his wife to tell her he may be home late, he wonders why she is not too happy when he gets home. If, on the other hand the wife decides to run out shopping with a friend, leaving the husband home to care for the baby, well, most women I know feel guilty about this (not all, of course, but in my experience with MY friends, well, we tend to have all kinds of guilt when it comes to our children).

Low and behold, according to one  Study reported in the NY Daily News there is actually a physiological reason why women may feel more guilt than men. The article mentions  Cambridge University neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen  and his book “The Essential Difference.”  Apparently, “The female brain is predominately hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominately hard-wired for understanding and building systems.” In the study that was conducted in Spain, both adolescent females and woman age 25-33 showed higher levels of expected guilt than men of the same age. In the older age groups however, guilt levels were similar between men and women. It may be related to changing hormone levels according to the article. When men get older and settle down,  “their testosterone levels decrease and their oxytocin levels rise, making them more prone to empathy, which goes hand in hand with guilt”.

Interesting. Reading this made me reflect back on all of the things besides calling in sick that I have felt guilty about. Never going down to visit my daughter when she lived in Austin. Not visiting my son in Colorado (but going to do this in a few weeks, so that will help, I can’t wait).  Not visiting my parents enough. Forgetting almost everyone’s birthday (except people on Facebook, thank goodness, the one great thing about wasting your time on there). Not doing weights. Not doing yoga. Missing my yearly check up. I did feel guilty about not flossing my teeth enough, and out of fear alone (of the repercussions) I was diligent for an entire year. It felt great to go to the dentist and FOR ONCE have him say I was good. One less thing to feel guilty about!

My friends and I often think back about when our kids were young and some of the things we wish we did differently. More guilt. But, we realize, they have all turned into wonderful human beings and so, maybe we were meant to make those mistakes after all.

And then there is food. And eating. The patients I have worked with in the past have showed me a whole different way people look at food and eating that is filled with guilt. Eating “bad” food. Eating too much. Eating sweets. Eating fried food. Not eating enough vegetables. And on and on.Recovery Warriors share a great post that talks about the disordered thoughts people have when it comes to eating and guilt, and most importantly, how to change these thoughts. People with guilt about eating actually may be displacing their feelings. They focus on food instead of real feelings. It is important to  work on becoming aware of when you are demeaning yourself and using food and eating as an excuse. Instead, they suggest ” when the guilt pops up in your mind during or after eating, take a moment to step back and try to realize “Oh there is guilt, it’s going to make me feel bad, but you know what, I’m not.”

It is not easy to take care of yourself. We all want to be caring, empathetic and good human beings. When I get confused as to what is wrong or right, I think about the simple but wise advice my mom gave me. Growing up, she always would say: Dig down deep in your gut. What is the answer? What pops up first? Yes or no?

Yesterday, the answer was YES. Stay home. It is ok.

So, next time you feel guilty, or are confused about something you think you should or should not do, it is not simple, but dig down deep, and take care of yourself. You probably have the answer.