For the Love of Pumpkin

October 5, 2016

pumpkin“Oh come on! You can’t hate pumpkin!” my friend said curtly while shaking her head at me.

We were sitting at her kitchen table talking about carving a pumpkin when she recalled my pumpkin-history. I was turned off eating pumpkin by a popular diet system that I religiously followed for decades.

This diet system touted canned pumpkin as the perfect low-cal, high fiber meal extender in its more-food-for-fewer-points = more pounds lost formula. I would have sold my soul to lose 20 lb. back then, so I kept every one of their rules and rushed out to buy dozens of cans of pumpkin. Obediently, I added it to everything: my oatmeal, my smoothies, my mashed potatoes and even my beloved dog Gracie’s food (What was I thinking??)

Not only did I hate the taste of pumpkin, but I hated the texture, too. This realization woke me to the ludicrous notions that quantity of food supersedes quality of food and that eating more food for fewer points was considered a sane relationship to honoring the body’s hunger and satiety.

“How do you hate pumpkin when it is so big these days? Pumpkin crackers, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin meatloaf… and I make the best pumpkin muffins. You’d love them! Everybody thinks they’re delicious,” she lectured me.

I scrunched up my face, and then I defended my pumpkin-lovin’ self, “I am not a pumpkin hater! I adore their squatty round shape with the elegant pin-tucks. I love to decorate them, and I go a little crazy decorating with them. You know that I watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV every fall. I even use it as a term of endearment – I once had a car named Pumpkin. I just don’t like to eat it from a can…”

She scowled at me disapprovingly. So I showed her my shoes, my wallet and my favorite scarf all in swoon-worthy deep pumpkin orange. “Oh, I eat roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil! Does that count?”

She rolled her eyes at me and asked, “Have you tried a Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte? Everybody loves those. There’s always a line out the door to get one…”

“Contrary to the marketing message, there’s only a hint of pumpkin puree in a Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte, and besides, you know that I don’t drink coffee…” I said, quietly.

I could feel the distance growing between us as we stood staring at each other in a pumpkin standoff.

“What is the matter with you?!” she hissed disparagingly, looking a little like a Jack-o-lantern.

And there it was. The gut punching, soul crushing shame message that I used to do anything to avoid feeling.

Shame, according to shame researcher and author Brené Brown is the intensely painful thought-based feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging just as we are. Left unaddressed, these internalized shame messages will keep us hustling for worthiness… like eating pumpkin to belong when we really don’t like it.

“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness — the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness—that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging — lives inside of our story.” —Brené Brown

My shameful failing, according to my friend, was not joining in the trendy pumpkin food-fest and not molding myself to accommodate her view of the world.

For a few breaths, I felt vulnerable and rejected. But I found my footing, stepped out of the pool of shame and calmly replied, “There is nothing the matter with me. I simply don’t like the taste of pumpkin,” and shrugged my shoulders.

It was obvious that my friend felt threatened by my pumpkin preference, so I tried to assure her that we could happily coexist in our differences. I wouldn’t stop her from joining in the all-pumpkin-all-the-time autumnal food trend nor did she need to force feed me pumpkin muffins with pumpkin spice latte chasers.

Shame messages will surely come our way, but we don’t have to believe, accept or internalize those painful missives. When we are at ease with who we are and what we like and want in life we know our worthiness from the inside out. Now, that’s what I call delicious!

I am Lisa Bourdon and I detest canned pumpkin. This is my (pumpkin lovin’) story.

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The Forbidden Fruit

September 7, 2016

apple-big

The orchard was a real life Garden of Eden with soft grass paths meandering through apple trees that covered the distant, rolling hills. The intoxicating scent of sun-warmed apples filled the crisp air. Mmmm!

Apple picking in Vermont was a cherished family tradition. We did it every fall, as far back as I can remember. long as I can remember. I loved everything about it – the bountiful trees with heavy, drooping branches that generously offered us low hanging fruit, the ripe red apples that dropped right into our hands, and brown paper bags filled until they spilled over.

Everyone was taking big, juicy bites.

Everyone but me.

You see, I had a lifetime pass for the diet roller coaster, and my diet du jour was the no-carbs diet, based on the “carbs are evil and make you fat” mindset.

This diet had simple rules: consume lots of protein and fat, absolutely no fruit and only the teensiest amount of vegetables. In this wildly popular diet, eating a bacon and cheese beef burger with a side of bacon is a good meal option. This seemed perfectly reasonable to my diet-addled brain. And the diet guaranteed that I’d lose 14 -21 pounds in two weeks. Losing a bunch of weight fast meant everything. So, there would be no apples for Eve (I mean me) because apples are full of evil carbs…

My mouth watered as I watched my double fisted family sink their teeth into crisp apples, but my internal diet dogma enforcer clamped down hard. When my Dad said, “Oh come on! It’s an apple, for chrissake! Apples don’t make you fat. You’re being ridiculous,” it only steeled me against his coaxing.

Another one of my internal diet enforcers whispered how righteous and virtuous I was in my apple-deprivation (given the staggering temptation), and my ironclad will power fed in to this false superiority. And so my afternoon of apple restriction went off without a hitch, and I left the Garden of Eden with my head high, chest puffed out, feeling like a carb-conqueror.

3820761_hiresBut late that evening the pendulum swung from extreme deprivation to frenzied indulgence…

Alone in the cold, dark garage where the apples were stored, I bit into the forbidden fruit. Before I knew it I had devoured three whole apples, barely chewing, without even tasting the sinful sweetness.

I gave in to temptation and fell from dieting grace. And the apple was my demise.

There was no pleasure for me in those devoured apples, only a night ravaged by guilt and shame with the all too familiar chorus, “You are destined to be fat forever” playing in my head. Yet, no matter how hard my inner diet enforcers sneered, shamed and cajoled me over the following days, they couldn’t drag me back on the diet roller coaster track.

My body craved the fruits of the season, like roasted acorn squash, carrots and turnips tossed in olive oil and salt. And warm, spicy apple cider with a freshly baked crueler. And, I was driven like a mad chef to cook up a cauldron of vegetable soup served in crusty bread bowls topped with melting parmesan cheese. My soul ached for fresh, seasonal food – any food that wasn’t beef with a side of bacon.

I had careened into a dieting dead-end.

Looking back, this apple incident was a profound initiation for me into Intuitive Eating, an evidence-based process that unleashes the shackles of dieting (which can only lead to deprivation, rebellion, and rebound weight gain). Intuitive Eating focuses on nurturing your body rather than starving it and learning to trust your body and its signals. To end food lust:

Make Peace with Food.

The third principle of Intuitive Eating states:

“Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.”

Ditching diet dogma and giving yourself unconditional permission to eat isn’t always easy since we are culturally conditioned to believe that deprivation and restriction are essential to the never-ending quest of being good enough and having a good enough body. It is particularly difficult if you’ve spent decades entrenched in diet mentality. But, these are key steps toward forever ending your struggle with food, weight and body image.

stock-illustration-15837950-apples-on-a-branch-all-green-one-red

So, go ahead. Eat your “forbidden fruit” – whatever it is. Eat it boldly in the light of day, in the presence of others – savor the sweetness. See how good the fall from dieting grace can feel!

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Declare Yourself Free

July 23, 2016

free

With full fanfare and flags waving, I signed a Declaration of Independence at a Weight Watchers’ meeting just over ten years ago.

This declaration was meant to set me free from my favorite grilled cheese sandwich, the homemade blueberry muffins heavy with fresh berries and the succulent Maine lobster with drawn butter that were, allegedly, causing my problems at the weekly weigh-ins. I was also there to declare my independence from “bad” eating habits, such as eating between meals, snacking while watching TV and eating cake for breakfast.

This just-say-no strategy didn’t work… I was not liberated. Actually, I felt more burdened than ever. All the rules to follow, the points to track and the real-life hungers to ignore felt oppressive and joyless to me.

Since then, I’ve learned that true eating freedom comes from identifying the oppressors (the diets, the diet mentalities and the anti-eating culture who make the food rules), and then declaring your independence from the lot of them. The first step:

Reject the Diet Mentality

The first principle of Intuitive Eating states:

“Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.”

Declaring true food freedom can be a big challenge if you have a long history as a chronic dieter and you have a whole squadron of Food Police in your head dictating your food choices with their endless lists of no-no foods that leave you in shackles.

But, you can break free from these food shackles. The move toward freedom is recognizing that what you tried in the past, all the rules and restrictions, didn’t work.

As for me, I embraced a new Declaration of Independence:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one woman to dissolve the food rules which have connected her with unhappy living, and a decent self-respect, regardless of the opinions of the Diet Mentality, requires that she should declare it cause for separation from the pro-diet, anti-eating culture.

She holds these truths to be self-evident, that all food is created equal, that she is endowed by her Creator with certain unalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Delicious, Real Food.

Are you ready to declare your independence? Can you taste the freedom?

Declare Your Independence

Fill in the blanks to reflect what food freedom means to you.

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for _____________________ to dissolve the food rules which have connected her with unhappy living, and a decent self-respect, regardless of the opinions of the Diet Mentality, requires that she should declare it cause for separation from the pro-diet, anti-eating culture.

___________________________ holds these truths to be self-evident, that all food is created equal, that she is endowed by her Creator with certain unalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of __________________________.

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Dessert Moments

May 5, 2016

cookies

“I should not eat dessert or even want it. And if I get dessert, I must share it.”

During our work together, Christina unearthed this deep seated food rule about eating dessert that had nagged her for her whole life. It began as a diet restriction imposed on her as a child by well-meaning, but misguided adults who wanted her to be thin (thin = happy).

Their message was, “Dessert makes you fat.”

During her coaching session, we explored this rule of hers, its origins, how she followed it and why she sometimes rebelled against it. Gradually she came to see how oppressive that rule is.

Deeper than delicious dessert, this rule restricted her day-to-day choices, pushing her into denying herself the sweet stuff of life: luxuriating in a relaxed Sunday morning with her fiancé, playing with her dog, Eloise, in the park just for the fun of it and walking aimlessly in New York City taking it all in with no agenda. But to a part of Christina, life was serious business with no time for relaxation or play.

Ouch!

Just as we were imagining what her life would be like without the no-pleasure-for-you rule driving her, her doorbell rang. She asked me to hold the line while she answered the door.

When she picked up the phone, she breathlessly exclaimed, “You’re never going to believe this! There was a delivery guy at the door with a box of cookies and chocolate milk for MEEE! This is my absolute favorite dessert in the world!”

We both squealed with delight.

“Should I really eat it?” she asked in a hushed tone.

“You tell me,” I cheekily answered.

“YESSSS!” she replied. “I’m kinda hungry, the cookies are warm and gooey and the milk is rich and cold. And, ha ha ha! I can’t share it with you because we’re on the phone! If this isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.”

We sat in sweet silence while she delighted in dessert, and I marveled at the serendipity of the whole thing. I couldn’t have planned a better illustration of my point:

Challenge the Food Police.

The fourth principle of Intuitive Eating states:

“Challenge the Food Police. Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.”

Christina’s assignment from me that week was to continue to relax the no-pleasure-for-you rule that kept her imprisoned, and to purposely seek life’s dessert moments, including eating once forbidden food, as well as enjoying playful, relaxed time with her furry friends and family.

Happily, she absorbed the delicious life lesson.

A few months later, Christina sent me selfies of some deliciously sweet moments, one of which was a photo of her and her husband on their wedding day simply tagged, “Dessert Moments.”

Take a cue from Christina and relax your no-pleasure-for-me rule that is keeping you from your “dessert moments”, and be sure to send me a selfie!

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