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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Tag: mindful eating

08 Mar

Your Inner Nutritionist

Ideas to Consider 7 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

bon appetite {credit prettystuff; via pinterest}


I used to wear glasses, and when I did you could frequently find me running frantically around my house, late for work as usual, as I searched for them. If you were looking in the window during this charade, you would undoubtedly laugh, as I would estimate at least forty percent of the time they were on my face or folded on to my shirt. To me, this demonstrates just how disconnected I was from my own body. I could have glasses resting on my skin, making my vision clearer, and have no awareness in the moment of what was, literally, right in front of me.

Thanks to LASIK and mindfulness practice, I am much more connected to myself these days and don’t lose any glasses. I know that I’m haven’t been alone in this disconnection, however. Every day I see individuals who are utterly unaware of their bodies unique signals, and I see how this unawareness wrecks havoc on their ability to properly care for themselves.

When it comes to feeding ourselves, our bodies have an absolutely incredible system for keeping us healthy. Many of us believe that if we really listen to our bodies, it will tell us to eat Hostess cupcakes all day long and send us spiraling into a state of obesity. In fact, our bodies just don’t work like that. That belief itself is worth exploring, and is often tied to messages that we’ve gotten throughout our lives about how bodies just can’t be trusted. We’re told this by our parents growing up (“You can’t be hungry yet – you just ate!”), by our friends (“Watch out or your Twinkee addiction is going to catch up to you.”) and by the diet industry (“Trick your body into losing weight!”), and even by the government and food industry, (“Follow these food pyramid guidelines, not your hunger! Don’t worry that they are the result of dairy and beef industry’s advice to the USDA.”).

What we often fail to hear through all the white noise is the sound of our Inner Nutritionist, despite the fact that he or she is wailing to get our attention. Our Inner Nutritionist is comprised of all of the internal wisdom that resides in our amazing bodies. It’s built on millions of years of collective evolution and decades of your own personal experience. To put it frankly, it knows what it’s doing – a heck of a lot better than your Aunt Sally, Slim-Fast, or the USDA.

Our Inner Nutritionist tells us things like when we are hungry and when we are full. The Inner Nutritionist even has cool hormones at his or her disposal that can make certain foods more or less appealing.  Linda Bacon talks about the restrained eater, the subject of many studies, in her book, Health at Every Size. The restrained eater is someone who has kicked their Inner Nutritionist to the curb, and instead responds to external cues to determine their eating. The restrained eater responds to things like the amount of food available, peer behavior, and their emotions to determine how much and what they eat. While these things can influence all of us to some degree, those with a tight relationship with their Inner Nutritionist are able to observe and acknowledge these factors and return to their own sense of what’s right for their body in the moment.

Utilizing this resource can take a lot of practice, particularly for someone who has long ago fired the Inner Nutritionist. Bringing it back happens when we can practice mindful eating and develop a more balanced relationship with our bodies. An Inner Nutritionist packs his or her bags when her boss doesn’t believe she exists, ignores her, or, worse, berates her.  Just for today, practice being curious as to where your own Inner Nutritionist might be.

Do you believe you can trust your body for your food choices?

02 Feb

Mindful Exercise

Exercise 27 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul


{Image Credit :: Josh Janesen}

I often hear fitness experts promoting various ways of distracting ourselves from the pain that many believe to be inherent in exercise. I’m not talking about mantras or visualizing yourself crossing the finish line, both tools that can be very positive and body-affirming; I’m talking about tips I’ve heard such as “mentally prepare your grocery list” or “listen to an engaging audiobook.”

The problem with thinking about milk and eggs while engaging in exercise is that, like worrying about tomorrow’s budget meeting while having sex, it takes us out of the moment and into our minds. And our minds, amazingly enough, are not always the best places to be.

I would venture to say that the vast majority of us are not present during 99 percent of our lives. Being present means approaching our thoughts, feelings, and actions with awareness and intention. When it comes to mindful eating, it means attending to the full range of sensations in the experience of an orange.

But what is mindful exercise all about?

Mindful exercise involves being aware of our bodies and minds during physical activity. It means tuning in rather than tuning out, and allowing ourselves to be fully present, even in moments of discomfort.

Why the heck would we want to do that?

Great question! There are numerous benefits of practicing mindful exercise. Consider a few of them:

  • Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer and her student found that making women more aware during physical activity resulted in lowering their blood pressure, decreasing their body weight and body fat, and improving waist to hip ratios. The women in the study did not change their behavior, they simply became more aware that they were engaging in physical activity.
  • Mindful exercise serves as a great practice of mindfulness in our daily lives. If we exercise daily – whether it’s more formally by going to a gym or simply by playing with our children or shoveling the snow – we have a built in time to practice being more present in our lives. And we know that this practice can lead to decreased depression and anxiety, decreased stress, improved immune functioning, stronger relationships, and better sleep. It’s like a magic pill!
  • Mindful exercise also tunes us in to our bodies. If we stay focused and aware of the various points of tension and stress, we can detect problems more quickly and potentially avoid more serious injury. Personally, I blame too many treadmill workouts watching the Today Show for my late-in-the-game marathon training injury a few years back. Had I been focusing more on the signals my body was sending me sooner, I may have been able to resolve the issue and avoid being sidelined.
  • Mindful exercise can make us better athletes. When we’re able to tune in to the way that our bodies move and flow, as well as increase our awareness of our surroundings, our performance improves. To be on top of our game, we have to be operating with intention and focus. In competitive sports, mindfulness gives athletes an edge by increasing perception and reaction time.

So, how do I do “mindful exercise”?

If you tend to be an on-the-go runner, like me, it may help to supplement your more intense aerobic workouts with a lower-intensity, mindfulness-based practice, such as yoga. A recent study found that even a single session of yoga or Feldenkrais produced mood-enhancement in participants. Stepping off the elliptical and into a class such as these will help you learn to focus your awareness and stay more present as your body moves.

While anywhere your mind goes is okay (You’re not doing anything wrong if you do start planning your grocery list. It’s a judgment-free zone!), it might be helpful to start by becoming aware of the following:

  • Breathing – Notice the rate of your breathing, the feeling as your chest rises and falls, and even the sound.
  • Heart Rate – Notice how your heart feels as it pumps blood to the rest of your body.
  • Muscle Pangs – Observe all the little twinges, and make sure to stop if you the twinges are actually pain.
  • Areas of tension – Notice where your body feels tighter and looser. Focus on what it feels like to have your muscles contract and release.
  • Joints – Observe the feeling as your body moves at your joints. Is it smooth? Creaky?
  • Thoughts – Notice any thoughts that come into your mind. If they are critical, observe them and come back to your breath.

Just like everything related to mindfulness, mindful exercise takes practice. You’re likely to find your mind in all sorts of different places and tied up in all different ways, and that’s okay. Stay aware that even by engaging in a few moments of mindfulness per day, you’re treating your mind, body, and spirit in a whole new way.

Do you ever turn off the iPod and focus on your body during exercise?


03 Jan

The Last to Go

Education, Ideas to Consider 23 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul


Whether it’s from an eating disorder, years of disordered eating, or a lifetime of chronic and chaotic dieting, recovery is long and arduous battle. As the adage goes, the first step is simply – though it is not always simple – acknowledging that you want your life to be different in some important way. The next few steps on the winding journey involve building awareness of the factors that have led you down this path and working to adjust them by shifting the way you experience your thoughts and feelings and altering your behaviors.

As we progress further on our journey, many of us begin to get a bit comfortable. We’ve made some major changes in our lives and can and should feel immensely proud of those changes. We may be eating regular meals for the first time in our lives, have eliminated binging, or have developed a healthier relationship with our bodies. These gifts deserve all of our adulation. But, the work doesn’t stop there.

In talking to individuals who have are in recovery from disordered eating or have finally gotten off the diet rollercoaster, what you’ll often find is traces of a life where food was the enemy. Flashing glimpses of body-shame, obsession, and anxiety emerge if you dig just a bit below the surface.

A seasoned expert recently said that true recovery takes five to seven years. This may seem like a long time to those who have worked hard to live a more joyful and free life (and truly each individual is different), but shifting a mindset that has often been built on a lifetime of unhealthy thought patterns takes time. And even more importantly, it takes awareness.

Living a life free of disordered eating means asking yourself why you are making the choices you are. It means peeling back the layers of things that are habit and comfortable and exploring what those things bring up for you.

Here I’m going to share a list with you of common traits, practices, and thought patterns that are often the “last to go.” (This list was compiled with the help of Margarita, Christie, Joy, Karen, and Mara.) Often these things hold on until the very end of a recovery, sometimes only arising to the surface of awareness when a trusted friend points them out or you experience an “aha!” moment.

Common “Last To Go” Signs

1. Eating the same meals daily, or regularly, without variation.

2. Using a very small or very large amount of condiments (e.g. salad dressing, ketchup, hot sauce, butter).

3. Exercising more on days when you have had or expect to have a larger meal, dessert, etc.

4. Avoiding certain social functions that involve food.

5. Packing your own food when attending events (with the exception of having a food allergy, etc.).

6. Maintaining a vegetarian, vegan, or other diet that restricts certain types of food.

7. Becoming upset if you are unable to work out on occasion.

8. Wanting to be the last to finish your meal.

9. Eating very quickly or very slowly.

10. Frequently choosing to eat alone.

11. Eating while engaged in television, work, or other distractions.

12. Only eating at certain times or after a certain number of hours.

13. Using food as a reward, such as waiting to eat until you finish a task despite being hungry.

14. Engaging in other restrictive behaviors, such as not allowing yourself to buy something that you need and want (and can afford).

15. Lying to other people in any capacity about your eating or exercise.

16. Pushing yourself during exercise in a mean and threatening way – or hiring someone to do it for you.

17. Putting off eating in order to “get things done.”

18. Scheduling events around food and using it as justification for eating more.

19. Only eating at certain restaurants.

20. Weighing yourself regularly.

21. Not wearing certain clothing items that you like out of fear.

22. Buying low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb or only “health” products.

23. Using artificial sweetener.

24. Holding on to your “skinny jeans.”

25. Having rules or patterns around eating meals.

26. Not keeping certain foods in your home that others may enjoy.

27. Destroying food in any way.

28. Chewing gum or eating mints frequently to stave off hunger.

29. Engaging in fat-talk.

30. Loading up your schedule to avoid free time.

31. Getting in arguments over food with friends or family.

32. Turning down birthday cake (when you want it!).

33. Commenting on other people’s eating habits.

34. Frequently seeking approval from others.

35. Reading blogs that don’t promote a healthy balance.

It is important to note that not all of these behaviors will indicate a problem for every individual. There are potentially healthy reasons for many of them. But for some individuals, they will signal that there is more work to be done. Behaviors themselves often tell us very little. Instead, it’s the thoughts and feelings driving those behaviors that need to be explored.

Living an authentic life means continually asking yourself why you are doing the things you are, devoting your time the way you do, and making the choices you make. And if you discover that you are still struggling, it doesn’t diminish at all the work that you may have already done to live a healthier life. It simply means that you may need more support.


06 Dec

I eat chocolate every day.

Ideas to Consider 39 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

chocolate Not a self-portrait.

Photo Credit :: Adwriter

Many years ago I was talking with a dietician I know who pulled a Hershey’s Kiss out of her purse and began peeling back the silvery wrapper to reveal the miniature delicacy inside.

I asked her, curious given her chosen profession and small frame, “How often do you eat chocolate?”

She smiled as she popped the kiss into her mouth, one of those smiles only known by a woman who has a piece of heaven melting on her tongue. She replied, “Well, every day.”

I remember being shocked at the time, amazed that this professional who was dishing out nutrition advice like my grandmother dishes lasagna – in generous portions – could eat chocolate every day. How does she manage to keep her weight in a normal range, I wondered. Does she cut back in other places? What about desserts only being for special occasions? Would she recommend this to her clients? My mind was reeling as I stumbled upon this new reality. Could there really be a universe in which eating chocolate every day was okay?

Several years later, hundreds of thousands of dollars in education poorer, and potentially wiser, I’m here to tell you that the universe that once only existed in my fantasies is in fact right here. I know this because, like my dietician friend,…

I eat chocolate every single day.

Footnote: And I love it.

And it’s not always dark chocolate and I won’t sit here and tell you that I eat it because it will lower my blood pressure or cholesterol or boost my mood via serotonin, though it certainly possesses these health benefits. No, I eat it because I love it. White, dark, milk, chewy, crunchy, salty… I love it all.

Do I indulge in heaping scoops of double chocolate Graeter’s ice cream daily? No… (though I might if it was sold closer and were slightly less expensive). Do I consume a triple layer chocolate cheesecake every night before bed? Only sometimes. Seriously though, I do eat some form of chocolate every day of my life.

I don’t do it intentionally or set out to make it a part of my routine, but it unfailingly happens. I’ll have ice cream after dinner, a brownie with lunch, or pop a mini-snickers in during the afternoon lull. Or sometimes all three, though usually not. See, having chocolate every day does not make me a ravenous lunatic who seeks it out like crack at every opportunity available. And if I have too much, my body tells me so. And then I don’t want it so much. I focus on mindful eating, enjoying every sensation of the experience. And then I move on.

I am telling you this because I want you to know that I give myself permission to eat things that our society tells us [to not, to limit, to work off, to feel guilty about, insert other demonizing command here] and in doing so, my life is full of joy and my health is better than it has every been. It really can be that simple. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a fresh-made batch of chocolate chip cookies calling my name.

What do you eat every day? What foods bring you joy?


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