Food Matters: You Pick Yourself Up, You Dust Yourself Off

regret

Hi guys,

Thank you so much for the nice comments about my bathroom breakdown! Since I moved into this apartment, I’ve had a number of amusing/scary mishaps, but this one is the undisputed winner. At least I can add it to my bastion of stock New York City disaster stories. That said, my management company could not have been more helpful: within 24 hours, my bathroom had a repaired and painted ceiling, a new toilet, new lighting fixtures, and someone – whoever did the work – was kind enough to vacuum and sweep. I’m going to get that person’s name from my landlord and send him raw cookies or something.

So I’m home from two nights of being a refugee at my Mom’s, safe and sound.

I’m moving on to another in my “Food Matters” series. For those of you who missed the first of these posts, I’m using this “series” as a chance to discuss the things I’m learning from my work—for it’s a plain fact that I learn as much from the clients I coach as they do from me. Today, I’d like to talk about (and pay tribute to) a very courageous client of mine who exercised the quality of resilience this week.

This client—Joanna, we’ll call her—is young, exuberant, intelligent, informed. In short, she’s all of the things I could hope for in a client! Due in part to an acute health condition in her past, she, like many other women, has developed some imbalances with food. She has a tendency to overeat at times, and then to berate herself with guilt and shame.  In recent weeks, Joanna has been eating a balanced, mostly raw and plant-based diet and feeling tremendous improvement. A few nights ago, she told me that she’d had a difficult night. She overate dramatically, especially in comparison to the equilibrium of the last few weeks, and was in a state of major regret.

What makes this story so remarkable is not the fact that Joanna suffered a setback; it’s the buoyancy she demonstrated the day after. Rather than waking up and calling it quits—and then spending the day with a tub of ice cream or a box of cookies—Joanna woke up, ate a light and healthy breakfast, went shopping for produce at Whole Foods, and remained calm. She didn’t feel her best, but she didn’t allow herself to feel defeated, either. She didn’t purge or take laxatives or take any other drastic and unhealthy measures to erase what had happened, and she didn’t spend the day overwhelmed with regret. And because she didn’t, she’s now back on track, eating well and feeling energetic and hopeful once again.

We all know the proverbial story of falling off of a bike (or a horse) and never getting back on, right? It’s very much the same with overeating. A person who’s overeaten will think, “what’s the point? Now I’ve blown it; I might as well continue to overeat, or to purge, and give up on this whole health kick.” This is both unfairly self-critical, and also totally self-indulgent. To berate oneself for a bad night is harsh and unnecessary. On the other hand, it’s also complacent; it’s using a momentary slip as an excuse for giving up.

Here’s another analogy. Ever wake up with a hangover? You feel lousy, if not lousy and remorseful at once. You know that you can drink some coconut water, go for a walk, and have a banana. Or you can lie in bed all day and eat a bacon egg sandwich. It may be tempting to do the latter, but you will undoubtedly feel better if you do the former. Best of all, you’ll be reminded that one icky morning is not a permanent failure; it’s a minor setback, from which you can easily rebound.

The point is this: it’s totally human to have a bad night. It’s human to overeat, or even to binge; it’s human to have a few too many margaritas at a party, or to eat more dessert than you wanted or needed. What defines the moment is not your aberrance from generally healthy habits, but rather the resilience and strength you demonstrate in getting back on track.

Part of getting back on track is realizing that one evening is not enough to derail you—EVER. Think of it this way: if you were to exist on a diet of Big Macs and milkshakes, and you happened to eat salad for a day, would you consider yourself a healthy eater? Probably not. Well guys, the converse is also true: a single carb-fest or trip to the ice cream pint is not enough to make you an unhealthy eater—no matter what your guilty conscience tells you.

Guilt, I like to remind my clients, is a uniquely counterproductive emotion. Guilt is what compels you to lie in bed, rather than taking a restorative walk; guilt is what makes you want to overdo it at the gym when you feel as though you’ve gotten off track; guilt is what makes you turn away from healthy habits, away from feelings of self-worth, away from anyone who’s supporting you in your journey towards balance. Guilt is your enemy, plain and simple: it isn’t going to make you any better.

Strength, on the other hand? Resilience? Hope, even when you’re down? These are the feelings that—no matter how hard to muster—will push you back towards feelings of balance, pride, and joy.

I am deeply proud of Joanna’s attitude this week. She had a moment of frustration, but she defined herself as resilient and determined when she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and started all over again. She is a shining example of the best we can all do when guilt or remorse strikes: to start fresh, remembering that no single slip-up is enough to jeopardize overall progress.

I hope what you all will take away from this is a gentle reminder that forgiveness and determination are always more valuable than remorse or despair.  This is just as true in life as it is in matters of health: being downtrodden by a professional setback, heartbreak, or personal loss will inevitably prevent recovery and healing, whereas resilience—even when it’s hard to muster—will allow for a fresh start.

On that pleasant note, I wish you all a good weekend!

xo

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    70 Comments
  1. Hi guys,

    I know this might be a bit off topic but seeing that a bunch of you own websites, where would the best place be to host. Someone recommended I use Blue Host for $6.95 a month which seems like a great deal. Anyone here on http://www.choosingraw.com using them?

  2. Hi everyone! I do not know where to begin but hope this site will be useful for me.
    Hope to receive some assistance from you if I will have some quesitons.
    Thanks in advance and good luck! 🙂

  3. Great post!

    Question, where can I find coconut water? I’ve looked (obviously not very hard) at my local grocery store but didn’t find it.

  4. Hi Gina,

    Have you tried Indian food and what do you think of this cuisine? It seems like most dishes are cooked though.

  5. This is a really great post! I had one of those nights about a week ago and it was good to hear this story and know that everyone slips up sometimes but as long as you get back on track, there really is nothing to worry or beat yourself up about. I think if I overindulge again one day, just thinking of this post will help me get back on track!

  6. Gena, I loved this post. It inspired a reply! I’ve never commented on your blog before, but I’ve followed it faithfully for a while. You are super insightful and I love to hear about your personal victories (and struggles too). You make the raw lifestyle seem so realistic, attractive and just… *right*.

    I think it’s because of your blog that I’ve gone almost 90% raw in my daily eating. It feels FANTASTIC!! Thanks, Gena 🙂

    This post was so wonderful, because I think we all beat ourselves up about the little things, but in the big picture – staying on track and forgiving ourselves is the best present we can give to our present & future. At the risk of sounding corny, lol.

  7. Thanks for this post Gena! i was having a bad week, i was overeating and then compensating by working out a lot. Then my period came (after almost a year of not getting one!!) and i realized i was getting all those crazy cravings for that reason! so now im so ready to get back on track 🙂

  8. It’s so hard for me to not feel guilty… but I’m really good at brushing it off my shoulder the next day. I guess I can’t win them ALL. 🙂

  9. GREAT post 🙂 I try to remind myself on days I feel stinky or days I’ve had a few too many Michelob Ultries. You’re client should feel so good about herself for conquering the next day full on!

    have a fab weekend 🙂

  10. What a sweet and inspiring post! Thanks so much for sharing your balanced approach Gena. I think everyone can apply these feelings to something in their life. Have a nice weekend as well, xoxo!

  11. Loving and enjoying your posts dear Gena! Thank you for sharing your heart, passion and RAW truths!

    Namaste,
    Jill

  12. As someone who has struggled with overeating in the past, I know that the lesson in the blog is very true. Taking it one day at a time, and not allowing a set-back to stop you is the secret to success. Taking small steps, I have lost over 50 pounds in a year. While I don’t eat a raw food diet, I do try to eat healthfully and I try not to over-indulge.

  13. oh ….great post…
    I have a big problem accepting my mistakes when it comes to bad food choices…but I never give up…it’s a horrible sensation, though…
    I mean…it’s truly awful…
    I think I just need to start being a little more flexible (not indulgent) with myself 🙁
    thank you gena, this was such a beautiful and inspiring post…

  14. This sounds like it should be a college essay or something…so poignant, so well-written, and so true! I really liked when you said – a person with a normal diet of Big Macs isn’t considered a healthy eater if they have a day where the eat a salad, and the opposite is true with a healthy eater having overeaten one day. I never thought about guilt being the enemy – I always thought of the undesired behavior being the enemy – but you are so right. Gena! I wish I were as wise as you are!

  15. Thank you Gena,
    I’ve had plenty of those “guilty” days, and as cliche as it sounds, tomorrow is always a new day. I love knowing that I can make a fresh start each morning, and you are so right…forgiveness and determination are always more valuable than remorse or despair!

  16. Wow. Just, wow. I think I’m going to have to come back and read this post again and again when I’m having a bad day or beating myself up over something.

    Gena, are you sure you’re only in your 20s? Because you sure seem wiser than your years. 🙂

  17. Thanks for such a wonderful and well written message. It’s really hard not to feel guilty sometimes after overeating/eating unhealthy foods, especially if it makes you feel ill! But your right that it is so much better to just not stress out about it and move on. If I eat lots of veggies and fresh foods 90% of the time, then an occasional late night ice cream binge won’t make me unhealthy 🙂

  18. Agreed!! Great post, Gena! This is something I’m sure a TON of us experience and it’s really nice to know how to handle the situation.

  19. i’m really happy that you shared this story with us. i tend to make myself feel guilty over things easily. i’m not a very moderate person, so i gravitate toward extremes sometimes. i love that joanna continued on with her next day as if the night before never happened. we should all learn how to forgive ourselves like that and move on. balance is key. overeating and then depriving ourselves the next day, in my opinion, would be MORE unbalancing than overeating and NOT taking any extra measures to lessen the setback, but rather continuing on with our normal lifestyles. forgiving ourselves makes us feel powerful, and will therefore make us stronger when another setback comes. i love empowering stories like this one. so thank you again, love. you have a great weekend too! and thank you for emailing me back, by the way. 🙂

  20. Hey Gena!

    Thanks for the great post– your timing couldn’t have been better! I can certainly relate to those “falling off the bike” moments, and it’s definitely how you handle yourself afterward that matters! I’m still working on that!

  21. Hey Gena,

    I think you’re blog is great. You write so intelligently, but also in a way that’s understandable. I’m pretty new to raw, so I love reading about your experiences. This post hit home for me, because I deal with this scenario more frequently than once every couple of months. I eat mostly raw, and when I “fall off the bike” or wagon, or horse, most of what I binge on is raw and/or vegan food, but it’s the sheer quantity of it. My question is how do you pick yourself up when it’s been 4 days of eating too much, or a day of eating WAY too much every single weekend? How do you pull yourself out of that habit? I guess it’s up to the individual to figure that out, but it’s still a mystery to me and still something I struggle with. Anyway, I love your blog and visit everyday. Keep up the great posts!

  22. What an important topic. I’ve struggled with this a lot. I’ve been doing well recently, though. When I eat a big traditional meal at a restaurant I say to myself, “what a lucky person I am- that I can eat really healthfully most of the time, and eat my old favorite foods once in a while without big consequences.” The consequence, of course, is feeling crappy afterward, but if it’s just one meal it doesn’t last long. Then I focus as much as possible on getting right back on track, because the more I stray the more the yeast and chemicals and stimulation of these foods pulls me away. My difficulty is with trips longer than a few days. I’ll be at home next week, with lots of family reunion food and restaurant dinners. Generally if I can keep my usual breakfast and lunch, dinner turns out reasonably and I am spared the agony and guilt. Hoping I can do it well this time!

  23. Oh wow Gena, thank you. You write everything so beautifully. The post really hits home for a girl sitting in her cube with a hangover, on top of having eaten meat for the first time in a long time last night. ICK. Cheers to letting go of the guilt.

    K

  24. What a great post! This made me feel more human and more able to get right back on track. It is also good to remember unhealthy habits make you feel physically – not just emotionally.

  25. This is certainly the right approach to improving one’s health habits, and I really like one of the above commenters’ analogy of not crashing the car because of a dent. Duh! After last week’s meltdown, though not food-related, I was feeling kind of lame for giving in to the feeling of hopelessness that was overwhelming me at the time, but in retrospect, I did end up picking myself up, looking at the positive and feeling “over it” pretty quickly, so I guess I can be proud of that! These are the times I’m thankful for my practical nature. 🙂

    Bon weekend, m’dear!

    • I love your real life analogy! This is something I have to remind myself professionally all the time.

  26. Thank you so much for writing this. This is something I struggle with DAILY. To the point I feel guilty about feeling guilty! I tell people I’m a “fat kid in skinny kid’s body” because people look at me and think I eat perfectly. I feel such a pressure to eat right, because people tell me how great it is that I can eat so healthy and they wish they could too. I have a terrible sweet tooth, I eat when I’m upset, and if/when I do drink there’s a 50/50 I’ll get black out drunk. Moderation is something I continually work on. This reminds me that as much as I need to think about moderation, I need to forgive myself and not guilt myself too much.

    It ain’t easy being human.

  27. Yay for ‘Joanna’!!!! I can relate to the struggle with guilt and then beating myself up. I have really grown in that area though:) I no longer do things to counteract what I feel was so wrong with my eating. I just try to breath deep and start over. That is such a freeing feeling! Thanks for sharing this!

  28. Incredible post about Johanna!! It totally paints the picture of your “progress, not perfection” philosophy. Thank you again for helping so many people.

  29. Congratulations to ‘Joanna’ for being so strong. It is very hard to re-program your brain after years of damage done by dieting, overeating, and the associated guilt. This was one of the most difficult parts of my own treatment. After 15 years of self-loathing, it felt impossible to finally be kind to myself for a change.

    The key for me was to immediately get back on track. A binge and/or purge at 4:30PM did not mean that it was OK to skip dinner (as much as my mind told me to do so). I soon learned to become even more diligent about eating a healthy meal after a binge or purge, just to help my body bounce back a little faster. I would pull out my healthy mental tools, get my head back in the game, and put together a healthy meal. This ensured that I would refocus on something positive.

    I am very thankful that Joanna has you. In my own treatment, I was lucky to have a very holistic approach, and my therapist and nutritionist worked together to find the best treatment plan or me. Without the holistic treatment that I received, I can’t say that I would be as intuitive about my body as I am now. I gained a lot of insight from learning how to listen to my own body. Many others are not so lucky, and receive a very clinical approach to disordered eating. Joanna is one of the lucky ones.

  30. That was such a great and well expressed post! I loved how you used the converse example of the person who eats Big Macs all the time and then decides to eat a salad. You really put the “over indulging” guilt into perspective and provided a great reminder that you can always assuage your mishaps.

  31. This post could not have come at a better time for me. I’ve been working hard to eat healthier and experienced an overeating incident yesterday evening. I was kind of “beating myself up” over it and definitely feeling guilty.
    Your post reminded me that I’m not a bad person just because I slipped up. Reversing bad habits and recreating one’s lifestyle is hard, and after I read this, I realized that you’re right–guilt is counterproductive. Guilt doesn’t inspire me to do better next time; it just stresses me out and makes me feel lousy about myself.
    Kudos to Joanna for her positive and realistic attitude towards her health and her eating. I’m going to take this post to heart and recognize that I’m a human being and make mistakes sometimes–and that that’s ok. If I overeat in the future, I’m just going to remind myself that that one incident doesn’t define me and act as Joanna did. It’s certainly more helpful than guilt.
    Thanks for sharing this story–what a great post! I love reading your blog and always take away something from your posts to apply to my own life.
    On another note, I’m glad to hear that your management company was so helpful to you regarding the “bathroom incident.” Thank goodness that the situation was resolved so quickly and efficiently!

  32. Another great post Gena and so well-written. I can completely relate to Joanna and I’m so glad she’s making such incredible progress. I still have problems feeling guilty about eating certain foods, but I have to remind myself that it happens and the things I want to say to myself are things I would never say to a friend (or allow a friend to say to him/herself). It’s nice to remember that we’re not robots and we deserve to treat ourselves kindly. Thanks for this Gena! 🙂

  33. Thanks, Gena. This could not have come at a better time for me. I’ve been doing really well with the light-heavy raw ’til dinner eating and then really got off track the last two nights and have felt terrible about it. We often feel so alone in our “missteps” that it’s reassuring to know that others are also working through similar problems. Thanks for the chin-up reminder!

  34. such an inspiring post! i don’t really have huge problems with guilt over food (most of the time, anyway), but this is definitely something i need to keep in mind for my life in general. the smallest thing done wrong will often give me an overwhelming sense of guilt. thanks for reminding me that mistakes happen, but it’s how we recover from those mistakes that defines us.

  35. I think I need to copy this post and look at it DAILY.I need to look at things differently in order tho change the rut I am in,and this is the EXACT mindset that is keeping me overweight and unhappy.
    So well written-merci and bravo!

  36. This is a great post – thank you for the inspiration to keep going and not beat myself up over one bad choice.

  37. these are beautiful words, gena. i’ve had those feelings of guilt all too often in the past. learning to trust my choices and allow myself to be human (and imperfect) has made me feel stronger than striving for perfection ever did. thanks for the words of wisdom! 🙂

  38. Great post Gena. I am sure you know this touched me, and I can relate to this well written account. 🙂 Have a lovely weekend!

  39. Forgot to mention: in a support forum that I visit from time to time, one of the regular posters threw in the following analogy which really spoke to me:
    If you put a small scratch, or dint in your car, you wouldn’t go and total the whole car. Its just a small scratch-not worth writing the car off for.

  40. This is such a huge concept. I’ve found that as I changed my tendency to beat myself up over indiscretions, I lost the need for them. in other words, when I refused to turn my behavior into a weapon I could use against myself, my behavior started changing.

  41. Wonderful post, Gena. I have struggled with one form or another of an ED for well over 14 years, and more recently have been prone to boughts of binge eating followed by compulsive over exercising. It is a terrible cycle to fall into, but I am trying my best to rectify my imbalanced habits. I love being very active, but have to make conscious efforts to eat an adequate amount of food (mostly whole, unprocessed is what I am for) to sustain my high activity levels-something that is a very tangible struggle, as I am so used to extremes: either restricting or over eating. The not beating myself up part is most difficult, but something I work on every single day.
    Thanks for the post!

  42. Gena, this is so important! I think anyone with food issues can relate to this. I thank you!

  43. This is so powerful, Gena! I love the notion that guilt is counter-productive, and that saying “screw it” is very self-indulgent. Both of those points really speak to me. Thank you!!

  44. Gena, this post could not have come at a better time. I completely overdid it tonight and have been awake since 1 a.m. thinking about it. Thank you for putting things in perspective – because of your blog I am going to seriously consider changing my eating habits and move to a high raw diet.

    On another note, I wanted to let you know that your writing is so excellent. Your posts are always insightful and well thought out. You have a gift!

  45. Great post! There was a time in my life when I would have nights of horrible food choices and portion decisions. I would literally wake up the next morning with a food hangover. My body did not appreciate those times. I love how you explain the counter-productivity of guilt and the benefits of strength and resilience! I no longer have those nights because I know how awful my body will feel in the morning. But, it took a lot of effort in releasing feelings of guilt and cultivating strength 🙂

  46. what a great post! Thank you so much for writing this … i really needed it as i could not stop eating myself tonight! argh! lol.
    i will be strong though – it always pays.
    -muffy

  47. So right on, Gena, as always. In a “screw you stomach flu!” move this morning, I ate a bowl of oatmeal and two pieces of bread and was filled with regret all morning. The difference now, though, was that I didn’t let hit sabotage me, and I just moved on, without over or under compensating, and just listening to my body. And my body THANKED me for it. I’m thanking my body with green juice in the morning. And I’m thanking you for a wonderful post.

  48. Another fab post, Gena!

    When I think of how many years I spent on the now-I’ve-blown-it-what’s-the-point merry-go-round, it makes my head spin. Also, makes me sad. So much wasted time.

    A big part of changing my relationship with food has been letting go of the crippling guilt. Realizing that there is no wagon to fall off of, that it’s about choices – daily choices – set me free to leave the crazy world of dieting behind, and start living.

  49. This is a beautiful post with a wonderful message! I have, unfortunately, fallen victim to guilt and negative self talk far too often. Your words are a wonderful, gentle reminder to snap out of my old behaviors, refuse to make excuses OR beat myself up! Every single positive decision is a move in the right direction. Actually, I’ve started thinking of it as a “health bank” – for each good choice I make (whether that’s walking to work, choosing fruit over a candy bar, hitting up an exercise class, or spending an evening relaxing with good friends) that’s “money” in the bank. Every once in a while, it’s totally understandable that I’m going to withdraw money from the bank (make a decision that doesn’t benefit my health, or doesn’t make me feel so hot). No big deal! I’ve been saving for occasions just like those 🙂

    Sorry, I know it’s kind of a cheesy and unoriginal analogy, but sometimes the simplest things help!

    • I really like this analogy- thanks for sharing! I just worry about what happens when I get to “rich”- sometimes I start to feel protected from loss. Alas, one can never be too rich in this context!

  50. This is such a great post!! For a long time, I would feel ridiculously guilty if I over ate and I almost gave up a few times but it’s advice like this that kept me going!!

    I know now that one bad food choice is not going to ruin everything!!