September 24, 2012

Your Body Journal 1: Life's Most Empowering Self-Care Tool

Writing in journals has helped me to grow dynamically during several different times in my life. They haven't always been pretty. To be honest, several of them have been pretty craggily and difficult to reflect on. Every so often there are other journal entries, where I find myself  feeling like I read something insightful written by a stranger.

  No matter what the state of journal--they all hold a fairly similar purpose: a place to process, record, question, listen, and heal. I have seen similar changes in others who journal year after year and honestly, I think it is one of the most valuable tools we can use to heal ourselves. You will learn something new every time. All it takes is patience and a promise to honor what your mind, body and spirit speak.

In part one of this series, I touch on one of my personal experiences with a  food based journal in order to witness how what I ate made me feel. I touch on this in particular because I think that foods have so many more side effects than most of us could try to imagine. The same food that is a fuel for your friend, may be a foe to your body. Some negative symptoms that foods can conjure are: moodiness, poor digestion, depression, ruddy looking skin, dark circles under the eyes, body odor, anger, irritability, muscle tension, stress, lack of coordination, fogginess of mind, chronic feelings of lethargy, insomnia, skin disorders, shortness of breath; the list goes on and on!

I hope to help introduce--or re-introduce-- you to the use of a journal as way to better cultivate body-awareness for sure situations as these. Hopefully, some of these stories and experiences may help those of you who could benefit from removing certain foods from your daily consumption.

It's great way to connect to the elements around you and your internal wisdom.  If you would like more detailed guidance on recording a food journal, stay posted; I plan to type up more on how to start a food journal (the compassionate way) in the future.

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on how to use a journal as a tool to listen to your body. Part 2  shares an exercise to create a "Journal to Cultivate Awareness" and ideas on how to find the perfect journal format for you.

Part 1. Listening to The Voice of Your Own Body and Food Journaling
Part 2. Choosing Your Medium...Cultivating A Journal As Unique As You Are
Part 3. Deepening Body Awareness: "Sensing the Seasons" Journal Exercise

Listening To The Voice Of Your Own Body...

...Through Journaling

The most important thing we can do to truly heal our body, mind and spirit, is take the time to listen. Our bodies are incredibly intelligent; they talk to us all the time and have a lot of wisdom. They offer us a plethora of signals that, if we listen, share many of the secrets we may ever need to know about health. 

"Healthy" isn't about the latest health fad, not about what works for your friends, and most definitely not about ignoring what your body tells you when someone else feels differently. The saying "You know your body better than anyone else"  is not a farce.  It is a great truth. It requires time, patience, self reflection, and reflection of your many different environments. 

Honoring Your Diversity and Knowing It is Beautiful.

Honoring your diversity is the root of living holistically. There are so many different kinds of people and body types out there, how could there possibly be one right way?! 

Best Tip Ever: 
If you want to be a healthy human being, take the time to observe the many facets of your true self and how you react or respond to the different environments as a whole. 

We're all born with our own set of tools that help us navigate through life, some tools sharper than others ;) I know that for me, physical exercise and fitness has always been a challenge since I was in elementary school! I was a chubby kid who hated running. When I ran, I felt as if  my lungs were caving in, no joke. I didn't realize this was not normal, I just thought, like everyone, It was because I was fat. We never thought to check if something was wrong, or thought to see if I had "asthma".  I would just push through my feeling of humiliation as I typically trailed along the trail end of the happy and healthy kids. Even behind the skinny ones who had be diagnosed with was pretty sad (Charlie Brown music que-in here). Why is it that no one ever asked the chubby kids if they had asthma in the 1980's?! I know that's likely not true, but, looking back, I don't really recall many heavy kids with inhalers. 

Okay,  3-2-1 CUT! 


Journal Success Stories...On Being "Fat and Lazy"

While journaling (about 20 years later), I discovered some pretty fascinating patterns over the years that helped me resolve a large portion of my physical turmoil. It was by avoiding certain foods that caused me to experience unpleasant side effects. THAT SIMPLE. I wasn't just a fat and lazy kid. I was having a systemic response to a few foods that I literally ate almost daily as a child! An un-diagnosed food sensitivity was a root cause for my poorly functioning lungs, among many other symptoms such as depression, poor digestion, break outs, and headaches. Not to mention terrible self-image and self-esteem. Asking me to run while eating these foods would be like asking a normal healthy child to run with a small fraction of their true lung capacity...probably not fun for them either!

I have a lot to say about how certain foods (not just the amount of foods), can make one person "fat", and not another. I will blog on that soon. Until then, I urge you to have more compassion for people in the world who carry more weight than is comfortable. And, most of all, if you fall into this category, have compassion for yourself, and know that there is help and hope out there. 

Food: Fuel or Poison?

I am ever thankful for coming across the whole concept of making a food journal during my apprenticeship with Myron Hardesty, at Weeds of Eden in Louisville, KY. He first introduced me to fellow herbalist and nutritionist, Paul Bergner in December of 2005-at a time when I needed it most. I always had a fascination with nutrition, but, never did I really think about how certain foods made me feel. I knew that I had an intolerance to dairy, but that was due to obvious digestive side effects---I never thought to evaluate my emotional and mental well being as well when it came to food before then. It has been a long journey of patience, trial, and error...but, so worth it. 

Is your breakfast causing your "Depression"?

I honestly feel that many people who are diagnosed as "bi-polar", and or depressed, may actually just be having a systemic response to what they are eating. I feel the same way for people that have asthma, Irritable bowel syndrome, ADD/ADHD, psoriasis, edema, etc. I have seen many people get better from the above conditions (and the like) after they start paying attention to what they eat! The remove a specific food from their diet, and "voila!", the symptoms are gone! 

I like to refer to these foods as "food offenders", as their side effects often make someone feel attacked in some shape or form. I think this is because the body is actually being attacked on a systemic level. If you ask someone how they feel in the midst of an emotional food crisis--the kind that makes one tense, irritable, angry, impatient and maybe a little depressed--often you hear things like "I feel like I am being attacked", "I feel like the world is caving in on me", "I feel claustrophobic", etc. I truly believe that this is a perfect example of the inter-connected nature of our mind, body, and spirit. 

Foods influence us in BODY, MIND, and SPIRIT

1. BODY-We eat something that our bodies recognize as poison= "food offender".  

2. BODY-MIND-Our bodies begin to attack it's own tissues in defense of the "food offender". Some individuals at this point emotionally feel "attacked". Making them feel "on edge".

3. BODY-MIND-SPIRIT Symptoms such as sudden spike in blood pressure, pulse, 'stress mode' gears up to high, we respond with a change in mood, and often a seeming change in personality. This can be just as confusing to the self as it is to the surrounding others that experience what I like to call, "the wrath!".

4. BODY-MIND-SPIRIT-Sudden feelings of exhaustion,  overwhelm, sometimes feverish impatience and anger; or for others feeling a need to become highly withdrawn. 

Thunder Thighs, Bubble Butt's, & Beefy Biceps.

Those particular observation come from my office and in the years of my own learning experiences. Many of the people who fit the personality description above (particularly women), also have a lot of lymphatic fluid that settles at their hips, thighs, buttocks, upper arms and belly. I noticed this pattern in my office, but, at the time, I thought that these areas simply help more "fat". I started to wonder if "pear shaped" females for some reason were more susceptible to food sensitivities more than other body types. This body type was often paired with intense waves of stress, irritability, pain, and tension. They were the people who would call to get a massage the day that the shit hit the fan. Ah, this was all so familiar to my own experiences! I loved to be able to be there at these times, as I know I was always so thankful when I could get a massage on those days too!

At the time, I did not realize that what appears to be a dramatized 'pear shape', may actually be  just an outline of where the lymphatic fluid settles. So often, this fluid is thought to just be fat. I know...I thought the same thing on my body my whole life. Not to say that I didn't have a good dose of bonefied "fatness", because I do. That having been said, t was not until I removed my most recent food-offender that I lost inches, many inches (like several pant size inches in less than 30 days) from my thunder thighs, bubble butt, and upper arm dangles. 

Lovely, right? Yeah,  felt duped. I spent so many years having to carry that shit around!  But, guess what, it barely took any effort. My energy is WAY up, my moods still steady as ever and body feeling pretty good. And...I still can't really believe it. Oh, and I don't feel 'hungry all the time'....a feeling that wasn't actually hunger, it was a sensation that i confused with hunger. My 'blood sugar' feels more stable than it has been in a decade and I no longer "have to eat every 3-4 hours".  

The Signs Are There...We Just Have To Look For Them!

I had several massage therapist's tell me I had "lymphatic fluid" built up in my thighs and hips, but, I didn't really know what to do about it. It was not until this past summer, while taking many road trips (with the same breakfast food), that I noticed something was wrong. I would bring these super happy summery shirts and skirts to wear. I would get to the conference, feeling pretty good and ready to absorb new information! Yay!

Over time, my mind would grow foggy, and my  gut would begin to grow, even my thighs felt heavier. When I would look down at my belly from the side, I found Vain-shaan saying, "WTF! My belly didn't look like this yesterday, what happened!".  On my third trip this past summer, I sat through a class with Paul Bergner at the Medicines From The Earth Conference. He presented slides of individuals who's bellies and bloating went down drastically after removing a food in which they were sensitive. I saw the bloated belly on the slide, then looked down at my belly. I saw the dark circles under their eyes, and then recalled the tired ones I have developed over the years. It then dawned on me: I had been eating a boiled egg for breakfast on every trip I had taken. Agh! It was the eggs...a very sad food friend for me to lose. But--yet-- not worth eating again. 

Not to say it hasn't been hard.  But, it gets easier over time! Yes, those of us who can't eat a lot of foods have to get creative! It makes it hard to attend social occasions without feeling a little awkward at first and likely, very hard to eat at a restaurant. The hardest part I think is how people react when they realize you are not going to eat their food. Food can be very personal. Some people totally get offended when you decide not to eat what they have made, and, so often, they just don't "get your new diet".  Somehow it always makes me feel like I am an asshole when they say stuff like that!  Diet = Word I hate antd I am not the one making a stink about it.

 So, I have found that it is so much more acceptable to just say something like, "Yeah, I actually totally hate cake!", and the whole conversation goes a lot smoother. They can choose to make fun of me, or just laugh at me! It's so much more socially acceptable. I highly suggest it as a decoy to the "why I am not eating your food" conversation. 

Let your true inner self shine!

Francis says, "If I can try to journal, so can you!".

 If you are feeling crappy or even only slightly out of balance, you deserve to spend a little time to narrow down the possible causes! Are you very sensitive? Ever notices a sudden change in your mood, body, or energy levels and not know why? If so, then creating a daily food journal may be the perfect thing for you. If you feel that foods are not what are affecting you, take a look at your environment, physical activities, use of cleaning products, personal hygiene products, and the people and places in which you choose to spend your time. 

 Everything around us has an affect on us. We may not consciously process them all at once--thank goodness--but, they do in fact affect us. 

Get Ready To Be Your Own Health-Detective!

What do you have to lose? Take time to ask, listen, and reflect within; your emotional body, physical body, mental body, etc. You may be surprised at how many patterns reveal themselves to you! These patterns light a path to the environmental factors that affect you. And, if you are patient enough, eventually, you will also figure out why. This is the most empowering practice anyone can do to take charge of their health. With this knowledge and effort comes new level of freedom in life. Let your true inner self shine!

Part 2 of this series will help you come up with some creative ways of making several different kinds of journals. Writing isn't for everyone, and not all journals need to be made of pen and paper! Stay tuned for Part 2. "Choosing Your Medium...Cultivating A Journal As Unique As You Are". 

 Are you the kind of person who  prefers to use a pen and pencil? OR,  do you find it easier to flow through typing? Any particular reasons why?

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