If you were what you ate then some people I know should be the sizes of houses, myself included. If you were, I would be a towering pile of warm and freshly baked pastries, bread, and pizza.
If you’re not what you eat then who are you?
You’re a glorious mix of;
- What you believe about what you eat
- HOW you eat
- Your natural activity (not just formal exercise)
- Your context
- Your hormones
- The ingredients of what you eat
- The reasons you eat
If you’ve been following my work related to Carbs, Curves & Everything in Between for a while you will have heard me talk about the drama queens that are your hormones. They have a massive impact on how you feel and look – but this is only one part of the puzzle. In fact, there are many other levels of your brain, body, and external environment that all play a role in making up your body. In this post, we will be looking at four other factors that contribute to who you are (not just what you eat).
I never realized what a massive difference context makes until a recent trip to South Africa. To me there is nothing quite so glorious as Johannesburg in early January. It’s generally quiet because people haven’t gone back to work and it’s magnificently hot. I’ve never been able to sleep much in Jozi because the sun is always up and the birds are chirping. It makes me want to jump out of bed and do something. Yes, annoying I know but actually, I think it’s more the context than it is Lisa.
You see, “Lisa in Spain”, a little like “Emily in Paris” , is quite a different character altogether. She can barely pry herself out of bed by 7am and needs a coffee in order to be able to face the day.
I looked at these two different versions of myself in amazement when I landed back in Spain trying to figure out what was going on. Would the REAL Lisa please stand up?
Turns out I’m both of these characters and thanks to the work of James Clear and his book “Anatomic Habits“, I can understand why.
The bottom line is that context matters.
So try, as far as possible, to structure yours in a way that supports you.
In Spain, where I live, it only gets light at 8am. It’s quiet and dark and who wouldn’t want to be sleeping when it’s quiet and dark? Not to mention colder. Also it stays lighter later in the day in Spain and due to the culture, people only eat dinner at 10 and go to bed around midnight. I can’t wait until midnight to shut my eyes but I generally go to bed later than I do in South Africa.
In stark contrast, in Johannesburg, by the time 8am rolls around I’ve typically gone for a run with a friend or done some yoga, have showered and dressed and am meeting someone for a coffee. In Spain, by the time 8am rolls around, I’ve barely wiped the sleep from my eyes.
How would you be different if you changed your context?
And no I’m not talking about changing your country. How about if you met a friend every other morning or decided to start training with your significant other?
You can change your context in small or grand ways!
What are you THINK about what you eat, and yourself
Just take 10 hours and let that sink in.
You are not what you eat. You are what you think about what you eat.
This is a tough one and I’m going to try as best I can to explain it. Recently my beloved aunt, my sister’s friend and I were chatting as we celebrated my sister’s 40th birthday. I had been nagging for chocolate.
They asked if I ate chocolate every day and I said yes.
They asked how come I’m not fat at which point I shuddered because I hate trying to explain this. I will do my best here and in the new edition of my book Carbs, Curves & Everything in Between, releasing March 10th.
I don’t believe chocolate makes you fat. I also don’t believe pizza or bread or pastries make you fat.I just don’t!
Chocolate actually agrees with me in many respects.
I generally have a couple squares of dark chocolate a day. I used to have a Snickers bar every day but I changed to dark chocolate for it’s so-called anti-ageing properties. I say ‘so-called’ very specifically.
I believe it’s anti-ageing and therefore it is. I believe it’s good for me and therefore it is.
How can I stop at a couple of squares? Quite simply because there’s no limit to the amount I’m allowed. The minute there’s a limit my brain goes all psycho on me so I’m allowed as much as I want whenever I want. That way my brain relaxes about the whole story. Thank you Geneen Roth for your work and particularly your book “When you eat at the Refrigerator, pull up a chair”.
I have learnt over the years rather than to eat what other people say I should eat, to trust my own body. And this body loves coffee in the morning, fresh ingredients, pizza, salad, meat and dark chocolate.
I believe these things are good for me and when I eat them I feel good. Is it true or is it because I believe it’s true? Who knows but it works so what the heck!
I do however pay attention to the way things are made and the ingredients because I believe that this matters more than the actual definition of the food.
What do you believe about the foods you eat? What do you believe about your body?
Okay great Lisa, so I have a ton of unhelpful beliefs, now what? Well obviously I’m hopeful that you’ll buy the new version of Carbs, Curves & Everything in Between but there are also a number of other ways. You could see a kinesiologist, body talk practitioner, try out tapping for weightloss or even see a psychologist. (Feel free to contact me for references)
Mostly you’ll find your weight is hardly ever about what you eat.
Let’s talk ingredients
I was kindly invited to celebrate Thanksgiving last year and it was an incredibly special celebration for a variety of reasons.
One thing that really shocked me however is how corn syrup was added to the potatoes and the pumpkin pie. 😲 Seriously!
I guess if you’re from the States, you’d consider this fairly normal and probably be equally as shocked to find that sausage filled with fat is high up on the National favourites lists of both Spain (chorizo) and South Africa (wors).
It’s just that I’ve never added syrup or sugar to vegetables.
For those who don’t know, corn syrup is a viscous, sweet syrup made from the naturally occurring sugars in corn.
Now Lisa, how can you get upset about this when you just told me that it’s what I believe about what I eat that makes the difference?
100% and here’s the thing.
My belief and therefore my perspective is that natural ingredients are better. This means I always try to look for food that is 1) processed as little as possible and 2) made with love.
An example from my world?
I know the baker who delivers the bread to my village every day uses relatively few ingredients to make his bread. It goes rock hard within a day if I don’t get to eat it all which means it has fewer preservatives.
I know he makes it with love because we have a little chat every other morning when he delivers it. It was his father’s bakery before him and he takes pride in the work he does.
It’s based on the same philosophy that I love pizza. I try to eat fresh pizza where it’s made on-site and by the hands of someone passionate about delivering the best flavour.
There’s nothing better than a pizza with fresh local basil and anchovies. How could it possibly make you fat? In fact, one of my close friends Wynand who has a palette for fresh flavours remarked to me just how different pizza tastes in Italy in the small village where he visits weekly versus a fast-food chain.
Lisa, it’s like a completely different taste and experience!
I know right! There’s no way your body could be stressed enjoying a freshly baked thin crust pizza in an Italian village, paired with a glass of red wine and the sunset.
Being healthy should NOT stress you out or cause weight gain. Quite the opposite! You just cannot stress your way to good health!
Where do you buy your food? Does the food you eat make you happy? What are the natural ingredients you most enjoy? How can you support the local economy instead of big chains by buying local great fresh produce or supporting local chefs and restaurants?
Your natural level of activity
Let’s go back to Lisa in Spain. I lost some weight last year and I realized that it wasn’t because I’d embarked on a diet of pizza, bread and pasta either.
My natural level of activity had increased phenomenally!
Not only did I cycle every second day but I also walked everywhere because I don’t and didn’t have a car. Now here you’ll probably say “Oh, that’s why you don’t pick up weight” but the truth is I’ve hardly exercised this year and haven’t picked up weight either although I confess I generally stick to a 16-8 intermittent eating routine out of preference and start each day with a cold shower.
But I digress!
The point is…..🥁
Many of us, thanks to the convenience of cars and how our towns are structured, don’t have a high level of natural activity but you can boost it in fun ways!
No, I wasn’t exactly thinking of dancing with the vacuum cleaner so much as I was thinking of getting some much needed one on one time with your spouse.
Who knows you both may just end up looking and feeling more fantastic than you have in years!
How can you increase your natural activity? Think FUN, not exercise!
PS How you Eat also Matters!
HOW you eat matters as much as what you BELIEVE about what you eat! Do you grab lunch and eat it on the go? Do you eat so fast, your body doesn’t have time to register the nutrients and your mind doesn’t have time to register you’re not hungry anymore? Do you force yourself to eat food you hate?
If there’s one thing you take from this piece, it’s;
Forget suffering! You can’t stress your way to good health and you can’t suffer your way to weightloss.
One dry chicken breast with boiled broccoli and tomato.
Does that sound like fun? Not to me.
You can’t use suffering to make you lose weight just as food can’t be your only reason to be happy.
Of course food makes us all happy! 43 years on this planet and I still look forward to dinner time! I love that food is a source of joy but it can never become a source of happiness.
We eat because of a million different reasons, the least of which is often because of hunger. We eat to deaden our emotions, or try and fill them at least. We eat out of anxiety. We eat out of habit. We eat as a way to buffer ourselves against the world and protect ourselves from hurt.
Can you see that these are not food problems?
As long as you keep trying to fix an emotional problem with food, you’re going to come short one way or another.
Instead use food as your gauge for how you’re feeling, not a fix for how you’re feeling?
Every time I use food as the entry point to see how I’m feeling, instead of the judgement point to prove a ‘bad’ human I am, things begin to change.
I know that if I’m reaching for fast food every day it signals to me I’m burnt out. What most of us do if we’re reaching for fast food every day is tell ourselves how bad we are and find a way to ‘fix’ it. “Tomorrow I will train double!”
This becomes a cycle of reward and punishment and this is a surefire way to war your body and hell with food. Friends I’ve tried this path before for many years and it only made me miserable!
For example, watch what happens if you use inquiry instead;
- I wonder why I’m reach for fast food everyday?
- Because I feel overwhelmed
- Okay why do I feel overwhelmed
- Because I’m constantly under pressure and never achieving
- Okay so what is it I really need?
- I really need some rest.
Food is not your enemy. Food is not something to manage. Food is your gift and if you listen to your body, it can be a source of joy and pleasure without the worry of weight gain.
The problem most of us have isn’t with food. It’s that we don’t listen to our bodies.
If you quit making food the enemy, you’ll see it as your teacher, your guide as to what’s happening on the inside. You’ll start to take an interest in your patterns instead of trying to disown them or avoid them and this is the key to both weightloss and freedom around food.
My wish for everyone is FREEDOM. Freedom to enjoy food. Freedom to be free around food. Freedom to live in a way that feels good. Freedom to enjoy one’s body and life. So if there’s one thing to remember, please remember,