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Green With Joy

Green with Joy

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.” – Adele Davis

I had it all: three beautiful children, a gorgeous and supportive husband, and a thriving company. It was just as I had dreamt it would be, except for one thing: me.

I was miserable. On the inside, I had tons of guilt that I preferred work over being with my babies. On the outside, I was eighty-five pounds heavier than I had ever been.

I found myself hiding behind my kids, my husband, or a computer screen as much as possible. Days were organized around the needs of my family and my clients. When I couldn’t hide, I found pizza. I would gobble it down alone at pizza parlors all around town, and then venture out in the world to hide some more.

Looking back, it’s quite obvious that my entire dream was built from the outside in—based on a picture of “happiness” inspired by television, magazines, and distant relatives whose lives I secretly envied—and that I hadn’t put much thought into what the inside looked like. At the time, however, I wasn’t sure what had gone wrong. I considered myself a thoughtful mom. I bought my kids good wooden toys, funky clothes instead of the typical blue and pink, and the hip gummy snacks from Whole Foods. I sent them to the “good” nursery school. Who was I to be so miserable when I had everything I desired?

This was not my first time struggling, but it was the first time I had to do it with four pairs of loving eyes following my every move. It was also the first time that my Band-Aid of choice—food—did not work.

Just to be clear, my eating habits had nothing to do with food. Other than that there were three meals a day, snacks, and sometimes dessert, I had no understanding of what or why one was supposed to eat in the first place. What I did know was that when I felt small, or frightened, or upset, food was there for me.

Food had always been my fix. Too much or too little; it didn’t really matter, as long as I was in control of it.

When I was little, I was constantly told I was chubby, and I never felt very well. I regularly visited the doctor for ear infections, allergies, lack of a period, and the mysterious chronic fatigue that ruled my childhood days.

When I was in fifth grade, my mom and I joined a Weight Watchers program. It was the first diet I’d ever been on. All I really remember was eating Wasa toast (which closely resembles cardboard) and feeling hungry all the time. The one and only time I cheated was at a birthday party. Our Weight Watchers guide showed up with her daughter mid-cheat: I had a mouth full of cake. And just like that, body, food, and humiliation were officially connected in my ten-year-old head.

In high school, a friend I looked up to decided to take matters into her own hands. I joined her in eating nothing but lettuce for six months. Very quickly, I started getting complimented on how great I looked, which felt terrific to someone looking for approval. At last, the happiness I sought seemed close! However, the boy whose eye I’d been hoping to catch never did take much notice, and those six months of lettuce were followed by six months of Hostess apple pies.

Happiness had eluded me once again.

And so it went for quite some time. From Atkins, to Jenny Craig, to really any plan that someone gave me, I tried it all. And inevitably, three or four months in, there was the binge: the bagel-and-beer phase in college, huge plates of pasta multiple times a day during my first pregnancy. It was a yo-yo, but at each point of transition, I found a small moment of calm in my busy and critical head. Those moments pulled me forward; they literally kept me alive some days.

So when I found myself in my most depressed moment to date, with four sets of beautiful eyes staring at me, I did what any soul-seeking, hip, Sex and the City-inspired mama would do: I pretended like I had no work or personal responsibilities, and went to yoga.

This was no ordinary yoga class. I felt a certain connection to the teacher, and afterward, though it was totally out of character for me, I approached her and introduced myself. A couple of days later, I reached out to her for help—and finally, I was prescribed my final diet.

I was always a people-follower and rule-abider, so I took careful note of everything the yoga teacher told me. She told me to only eat raw vegan foods, go to yoga every day, and buy a book on deliberate creation. It was a tall order, but I was at a point that I couldn’t always see how to get myself out of bed in the morning. My mind, body, and soul were suffering, and not even Ben and Jerry could lift me out this time.

What followed was not to be believed. For the next six months, I did not eat one cooked morsel. I lost weight quite quickly while eating abundantly, but there was so much more! My allergies and asthma disappeared. I got my period without a pill. My energy was boundless, and my dentist was shocked by how much my teeth improved. I had moments of clarity where I could see how much good there was in my life and in the world around me, and as time went on, those moments just continued to expand.

By the time I hit the three-month mark, I was getting pretty sick of the ten things I was eating, but I felt a certain love for my green juice and kale that I had never felt for food before. At the same time, my thoughts were shifting away from control and following rules. The food was actually grounding my body, and my soul was trying to soar.

I enrolled in raw food classes to learn more about this new way of living, and started reading everything I could about how food affects our bodies. According to my prior life cycle of diet and binge, it was just about time for me to stop the diet and really indulge. But this time, I didn’t feel that urge. I wasn’t feeling deprived. This was no longer a diet: it was a lifestyle.

And then one day, while on my yoga mat, I realized how happy I was.

The food I was eating was serving and nurturing me. I felt connected to my life, my family, and my work in a way that I never knew was possible—in a way that none of the magazines I’d read could explain. I could very clearly see that every moment in my life, good and bad, had led me right there, to that moment, and I was grateful for all of it!

I did have one remaining obstacle, though. For a good six months, I had really focused on myself. My family was happy to see my transformation, and delighted to get their mama and wife back. But in some ways, I had left them behind: this green-guzzling mama was still feeding her little ones mac and cheese, and treating them for ear infections. Two of my children are girls, and I could see I was leading them down that path of “doing what the cool girls do” instead of teaching them to listen to what their bodies are asking for.

And so began a journey of changing things up. I couldn’t be all raw, and they couldn’t have boxed mac and cheese.

We took small steps together, and today we operate from the inside out. At our family dinner each night, we talk a lot about how we feel, and about how food contributes to that. By eating healthy and consciously, we’ve become more connected to our bodies and each other.

The cool thing is that I have a base now, a strong foundation that can’t be shaken by the next drama that comes along. Somewhere between the yoga teacher’s plan, cooking classes, and meditation, I stopped being a follower. I created my own path, and that path has led me to happiness. I have full access to my mind, body, and soul. Even when the path is winding, I can skip along with a big smile.

I now see that happiness is a choice I can make in each moment—and in making that choice, I can inspire those four pair of beautiful eyes to honor their own paths, too.

(A Chapter I wrote for the International Best Seller Choosing Happiness)

 

 

 

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