This is a guest post by Kori Kostka, BSc.
“Ugh, how is it I am so successful in so many areas of my life, but taking care of myself?”
Did I see a hand raise?
Are you one of those overly worked career people, who get everything done above and beyond the call of duty? Your boss praises you. Your friends love and adore you. Your family thinks the world of you. Everyone wants to be around you. The outside looks great, but you’re a freakin’ mess on the inside! If they only knew… you almost laugh, or maybe you do, out loud at the comments, “How do you do it all?” You do and you do it well, but at what cost?
You never seem to have time for yourself; everyone else matters and is higher priority. And when it comes to you, it’s like crickets as to what is it you want or need. What do you want to make for dinner for yourself? Did you pack a lunch that you actually will enjoy? Wait, did you even have something to eat this morning? Can you go to a restaurant and eat joyfully without the calories or social pressure influencing the option for you.
Only to end up at home with a midnight pantry raid as you feel like you missed out on something. And working out, geez, you know you should, but when?! You leave super early and are tapped out in the evening.
Yep. You’re right. You do deserve a reward. You are AH-mazing! How do you do it all? It doesn’t have to come at the cost of your self-care.
I have been there, done that and now being a mom of two youngsters under the age of three, wowee, do I ever get it! Life is busy. There never seems to be enough time (it seemed like that even when I didn’t have kids!). I am usually being called for by one or two at all hours of the night and trying to run an online business during the day (or at least when the sun’s up, as some days seem like they’re 24 hours long!). Someone once told me, “You are a woman on a mission…”
Uh ya… duh! I want to save the world! As a Registered Dietitian, I want people to have a great relationship with their food, truly develop an understanding of what health really is and never diet again! But… you do need to walk the walk for people to really believe and connect with you. If you keep yourself so busy, of course you won’t have time to think, feel or do anything but take care of everyone else.
What are you so afraid of? Finding out just how wonderful you already are? That you don’t need to diet in order to prove that to yourself? That looking beyond your weight to deal with what’s really going on is too scary to even think about? It’s just easier to follow what someone else is doing? I get that. But will that actually bring you to true happiness? Does it really give you the confidence to take you to the next level in your life?
At one point in my life, I thought I had it all together. And maybe I did on the outside, but woah, did my insides so not match the outside. It looked great to everyone looking in, but really I was disconnected. I was a dietitian, still am, but one of those stuffy, snotty, know-it-all type who worked out and ate “well.”
And you know what, I was miserable! I hated going to the gym. I forced myself because I thought I had to, to look the part, and I ate food that I thought I had to because it’s what I learned to do to be healthy. It felt like a full time job, one I was afraid to ever be “off duty” from. I was afraid of being caught not being a dietitian. But then, when I wasn’t in public, I’d sneak forbidden foods because I was rebelling against acting the part (not because I actually wanted them).
Eventually I got to a point where I was exhausted from playing this role and I just gave up. I stopped exercising. I stopped watching what I ate. I think if you have experienced the typical yo-yo dieting pattern, you can probably relate to this.
And I still felt like crap. Exhausted. Uncomfortable. My digestion worsened, my skin looked blah and my energy was non-existent. Motivation to take care of myself tanked. Hmm…this approach doesn’t work either. Heck, I thought if I am experiencing all of this, my clients are too! No wonder they have such a hard time maintaining behavior changes for the long-term. Something’s missing.
When I was introduced to mindful eating, it was like my whole world was turned right side up. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment without judgement. Mindful eating stems from that, but I’ll give you a little taste since it’s hard to fully explain in a few paragraphs.
I learned that I don’t need to be perfect with my eating and movement (which I now call exercise, seeing how it doesn’t have to be exercise), no one is (well I already knew that, but this time I learned to believe it). I started practicing and experimenting with food choices. I gave myself permission to eat ALL foods. And really eat them.
And to love food. Really love it, not rush it, hide it or mimic what worked for others. I sat at the table (my preference for eating) and turned off distractions. I started giving thanks before meals, a practice of gratitude for my food and for what was involved for it to get to me. I started listening to my hunger and fullness. I eat, for the most part, when I am in need for fuel guided by my newly learned hunger and fullness cues, which takes practice! And I choose consciously when it’s time to stop. Sometimes I go back for more, sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan, but mindfulness has given me permission to drop all judgements and use those once perceived failures as learning opportunities. What can I do next time to leave the meal feeling the way I choose?
So, whether you’re a mom or not, on a career driver path, an entrepreneur or a stay at home caretaker, you are wonderful already. It’s not you that needs changing. It’s the crap you were told that you need to do first in order to be efficient and successful.
If you learn and practice to take care of you, you will show up in a way that scares the heck out of this patriarchal society. It’s what threatens those around you. You are not bad because you ate a piece of chocolate cake, you’re a badass because you know how to get shit done and you don’t need to follow someone else’s rule to take care of your beautiful body.
You just need permission that doing it your way is exactly what you need. If you don’t know how to do that, you’re not alone. Give yourself time to learn by doing. Not thinking. Thinking too much gets you stuck spinning on a hamster wheel, and never getting anywhere but to exhaustion. The best way to learn is through immersion.
Set an intention for yourself to dive deep into finding ways to make your life more mindful. Make it a ritual. Read blogs. Borrow a book from the library. Download podcasts. Do whatever you need to do to learn how to be more mindful with taking care of yourself. And then set what and how you’re going to do it. You don’t need to know everything, you need to do and find what works for you.
Remind yourself it’s a lifelong journey. Three months before your cruise isn’t enough time. This will help you to look beyond focusing on weight loss as a goal. Sure, your body may or may not be at the weight it’s meant to be at. But focusing on and obsessing over how awful you look and how much weight you wish you could lose by such and such date doesn’t motivate anyone. If it does, it doesn’t last past that date.
Becoming mindful lets you find out who you are in the process, what you like, what you need, how to ask for help without feeling like a failure, and lets you learn to nourish your body in a way that’s liberating, manages your health and lets you eat and enjoy the damn cake.
Food has become food again. I am still a dietitian. I care about my health and how I feel, but I do it my way. Life is a little sweeter. I learned how to be happy in the moment instead of longing for what’s not or hasn’t happened yet. How can I take care of me now to feel good, keep feeling good or feel even better yet?! I can genuinely breathe.
And now I don’t feel like an imposter who just looks like they have it all together. The way I eat, move my body and take care of myself are proof of that now. I do it intuitively. It takes practice. It’s an ongoing journey since life keeps changing (surprise, right!) and now I have learned to enjoy the journey, since without a happy journey you can’t have a happy ending.
Fully adopting mindfulness it gave me the courage, or at least the light to my hidden courage, to finally quit a job that no longer matched my career goals and to jump fulltime into my online counselling job where I coach nutrition professionals and clients how to live and eat mindfully.
I remember sitting in my office, procrastinating, wasting so much time doing everything but what I knew I needed to advance myself and my career. It was fear. But it was also because I had totally lost myself. I put so much attention on other parts of my life, but me; "me" didn’t have much to her other than work.
There are self-compassionate questions I now say instead of “You should eat that.”, “Oh now you need to workout.” and “You know better, why do you keep doing that?”
Now I hear myself say and can answer questions like “What do you want for dinner?”, “What do you want to do tonight?”, or “How do you want to move your body today?”. I have energy I don’t know what to do with, my spirit feels more creative and free and life just feels happy.
Thank you, mindfulness.
Kori has been a Registered Dietician for 10 years and is the owner of Nourished Body. She started off as "your typical meal planner," but quickly realized moms needed more! She now coaches women through mindful eating, which is also about self-compassion and self-discovery. In her mind, food is meant to be fun! She lives on an old working farm in the country, Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada, with her husband Matt and two kids Halley (2) & Myles (1). Fun fact: Kori once helped Maroon 5's crew who were lost in Toronto an hour before the show, then snuck back stage and got to meet the band!