Every winter I get ridiculously anxious for warm days, and sunny skies. Don’t get me wrong… it’s not that I don’t like winter, I really do. But towards the beginning of March (and definitely by the beginning of April) I’m almost always ready for a change of pace, and I’m often frustrated by how reticent spring can be.
Seasons are a good reminder that stories take time, and we can spend all our energy being frustrated with that process– or we can lean in. As the adage goes, “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, Only Bad Clothes.”
Ok truthfully, I’m not quite that optimistic—I do believe there is such a thing as bad weather—but I would also say that most weather can be greatly improved with the right clothing, just as most inconveniences and frustrations can be reframed with the right mindset.
So today, I decided to put on some good clothes and lean into the well-established pastime of the Spring Cleaning; the perfect tradition of preparing for a shift in routine by clearing out spaces that have become pile-ups, removing things that are no longer useful or helpful, and in general channeling my inner Marie Kondo
I don’t know about you, but it isn’t just my outer living space that needs a spring cleaning. Towards the end of winter, the inner self needs one too. Which makes spring the ideal season to think about detoxification. So how can you give your Wellness Story a Spring Cleaning? Well like most stories, it begins in your brain.
1. Develop your “Yes, And” Mindset
One of the best life-hacks I’ve picked up in the last few years came from comedian Tina Fey. According to Fey, one of the most vital rules of improv is that you always agree with (or say “yes”) to the person who is on stage with you. It doesn’t matter what the other person throws at you– your job is to agree with what they’ve said. (Hints the, ‘yes… AND’) For improve to work, the people on stage simple can’t constantly be contradicting one another. And let’s be honest, life is kinda the ultimate improv, right? Yet, for many of us, instead of taking what comes at us, we fight what comes at us. We fight our age, our weight, our strength, or maybe an illnesses –yep, I’ve fought them all. But the problem is, we can get so caught up in fighting the fight, that we negate our power to frame the story in a way that helps us move forward.
So this is your first tip to spring cleaning your story: take what life has thrown at you, and use your and to frame it in the direction of where you want to go. What does this look like?
- Start with saying something that life threw at you
- Follow that with your version of and ___.
For instance, one of my ‘yes, and’ examples might sound like:
- I was a fat kid, who struggled with miscellaneous autoimmune symptoms…
- and that propelled me to study nutrition so I could better learn how to care for my body, and I now help other people write their wellness stories.
That’s a pretty simplified example, but these sentences can become as simple or as complex as you need them to be. I might add, it’s important to note this is not intended as a trick to silver line your past. Ignoring the parts of our story that were painful, or trying to ignore obvious realities, doesn’t benefit anyone. The intended gift of the ‘yes, and’ is that you aren’t denying what your body is, or any of the facts that have brought you to this place. Instead you’re acknowledging what is, and reframing it into a meaningful context that allows you to bridge forward into the next chapter of your life.
*Side Tip: this can be good tool for helping you draw meaning in your own story–– it is not helpful, or recommended, to try to ‘yes, and’ someone else’s experience. Just remember, while it is the business of reasonable and thoughtful people to find meaning in our own experiences– having someone else try to do that for us generally feels condescending rather than helpful.
2. Swap the Diet with a Reset
There’s a lot of really great work out there written about the damage of diet culture. At this point, I suspect a lot of us can agree that dieting has done a lot of damage, specifically to young women. As a nutritionist, I have mixed feelings about the term diet—on the one hand, a lot of people require therapeutic diets to address particular health concerns, and in its simplest definition the term diet simply refers to ‘the sum of food consumed by a person.’ Diet should be a benign term. But it’s not.
The problem is, diet has become a four letter word. Instead of insinuating a neutral explanation of a person’s nutrition, the word is loaded and often weighted with shame. Instead of being a tool we use to help with health, it’s more often something that we penalize our bodies with anytime we perceive them as being “out of line” or “unacceptable.”
Obviously this has given way to a lot of diet push-back—and I happen to agree that most of this is warranted. As someone who had a long history of disordered eating, I found a point in my life when I had to completely swear off dieting for my own wellbeing. The sad truth is dieting can become a vicious cycle, that sets up binge patterns and self-punishing behavior that ultimately ruins metabolisms, self-image, and potentially even seeps into other areas of our lives, damaging our personal relationships, and diminishing our capacity for doing meaningful work.
On the other hand, our eating patterns (not unlike our pantries, our closets, and that one drawer in your house where everything migrates without you trying –often referred to as the “junk drawer”?) sometimes need cleaning up. This is where a reset can be helpful. So what’s the difference between a diet and a reset?
Honestly, there are probably a few definitions that would work, but I think one of the most important differences between a diet and a rest is mindset. And mindset matters.
- A diet is often pursued to starve and punish your body into a shape, so that it will be pleasing to other people or to the culture around you.
- A reset is intended to help you focus on foods that fully nourish your body regardless of its shape, so that your body can better serve your life.
- A diet is about making your body’s size your focus.
- A reset is about caring for your body because your focus is on your life.
- A diet is about having a life with a great body.
- A reset is about cultivating health so your body can support you in living a great life.
While nutritional resets aren’t always the solution for everyone, just like cleaning out your closet can make your house feel like a better place to spend time, cleaning up your nutrition can make your body feel like a better place to live. Nutritional resets can be a tool that allows you to ‘go through your junk drawers’ and help you, as Marie Kondo says, discover what sparks joy.
3. Retire Binary Thinking about Food.
One of the most frustrating aspects that constantly comes up around food, is this binary thinking. What do I mean by binary thinking? I mean this idea that we can classify some foods as “bad” and other foods as “good.”
There are a few reasons that I find this a completely useless (potentially damaging) nutritional faux pas. For starters, there is the fact that when we define some foods as good and some as bad, we suddenly have found a way to “moralize” food and have created another way to judge other people as being “good” or “bad.” So I’m going to go on the record with this one: What you eat cannot make you a bad person …or a good person. Food is not moral.
The second problem with this fact, is the further people go into this thinking, the more likely they are to become increasingly restrictive and obsessive in what they eat. One person thinks “all carbs are bad” another person thinks eating red meat is “destroying the planet.” And the extremes go on… often ending up miles from the truth.
So, wait a minute, you might say: Am I telling you, “you can eat whatever you want?” Basically? Yes. But before you go buy your favorite junk food item, I would recommend that you consider what food is. Food is a creative power. The food we eat is loaded with biochemical information that interacts with your cells on the molecular level. So while food does not make you a good person, you can use food to help create the kind of good life you want to live.
As we move into the spring season I hope you’ll be inspired by these ideas, so you can start spring cleaning your wellness story. Remember, if you’re ready to spring clean your wellness story:
- Develop your “yes, and”mindset
- Swap out Diets with Resets
- Retire Binary thinking about food
Blessings on your wellness story!