Body Positivity Walk 2019 Mental health and BoPo articles

Intermezzo: Intuitive Eating on the road

I wrote something about this on my previous rest day, but WordPress decided it was a good idea to delete the whole text, and frankly I haven’t had time or energy since to write a new version.

In the meantime I’m 5 days further in, so I also have 5 days more experience. 😉

I’m sitting here in my cosy quarters in Celle, looking at the rain falling against the window and enjoying the comforts of inside. Like heating, plumbing, comfy seats and shelter from the weather. It’s funny the things you take for granted when you don’t spend most of the day outside and on your feet.

So, intuitive eating is something I’ve been practicing and preaching for a while now – I was nevertheless curious to see how this journey would affect it and how I would feel both mentally and physically about what I’ve been eating.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been very hungry, and my body seems happy as long as it is getting enough food. I do probably have at least a slight energy deficit most days, but have generally felt both satisfied and nourished by my meals.

When I started out I was bracing myself for a lot of junk food and cheese sandwiches. On the latter front I was pretty spot on. I’ve been packing lunches from hotel breakfasts or similar almost every day, and cheese sandwiches are then one of the easiest things to take with me that are both vegetarian and relatively filling. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t crave a bit more variety, but peanut butter is not the staple food in Germany that it is in the Netherlands. Sometimes I throw a Nutella sandwich in the mix for those sweet cravings. And mostly I have an apple with me. And my stash of nuts and dried fruit.

Dinners have been very mixed – from the leftover slice of bread, chunk of cheese and tomato I had a few days ago when I was too tired to leave my room, to the culinary feast I had at an Italian restaurant last night. And there have been a couple of (delicious) pizzas.

I have not had a single salad since I started walking. That being said I do try to take care to get some vegetables with my meals and put for instance cucumber, tomato and pepper fruit on my sandwiches. Overall I’m probably eating a bit less veg than I would normally, but at the end of a long day of walking I just do not want a salad. If it’s on the side of a burger or some fish, that’s OK, but by itself, absolutely not. I crave warm, rich, comforting foods.

How am I feeling, physically and mentally about my food choices? Pretty good. If anything I would say that with this walk I am learning to eat even more intuitively and judge my choices less. Simply because the hunger is clear, the need is clear, the signals I am getting from my body about what it wants are unambiguous, and I just listen.

Normally in life we have a lot of interference in our relationship with food. From what others think of our choices, what we read and hear from so-called experts to what we can afford and what meets our moral and ethical standards, and so much more.

But the walking washes away all the bullshit and everything that is not important*, until only the essence is left. I feel every part of myself, physically and emotionally. I just am.

I am human. I need food, I need rest, I need shelter, I need movement, I need love and compassion. And when I tune in to these needs, respect them and meet them, I am OK. I am more than OK. I am whole.

*I don’t mean to imply that it’s wrong or indeed bullshit to make food choices based on morals, ethics, money, health, comfort etc., but what I mean to say is that it can be quite useful to get back to the basics of what food is, and just listen to what the body wants and what feels good and learn from that. Which is how I believe intuitive eating should start.

Body Positivity Walk 2019 Mental health and BoPo articles

Go out there and happen to things

.. to paraphrase Leonardo Da Vinci (full quote: “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”).

So… *drumroll*… Yesterday I finished my planning – sort of – for the walk to Berlin. I’ve spent days poring over maps, routes, accommodations, prices, adjusting and re-adjusting. And well the long and the short of it is I have 20 accommodations booked through the month of September, and have inadvertently (because I needed to go where the accommodations were) added 40 km to my route (updated route to come).

This, by the way, means that I’ll be walking a total of 674 kms, averaging 27 km per day of walking. Yikes! Also, that’s almost exactly equal to 16 marathons.

Even though I’m only at 35% of my funding I’ve decided I can still do it, so I’m going to. I’m walking to motherforking Berlin, benches! My ass is going to be broke when I get there, but it’ll be worth it, right? And I already paid for my return train ticket.

So, I should be all giddy with excitement. The overwhelming feelings at the moment however are fear and anxiety. Sure, there’s some positive excitement mixed in there with the dread, but the dread definitely has the upper hand.

Things I’m afraid of (in no particular order):

  • Getting lost (yes, this is bound to happen, probably more than once, but the idea of routinely adding an extra 5-10 km to the existing 30 or so is not appealing)
  • Running out of water WHILE being lost
  • It being the hottest/coldest/wettest September in history (in other words consistently having to deal with extreme weather)
  • Being attacked/mugged
  • Getting injured/having an accident (and being in the middle of nowhere with no phone coverage)
  • My mum became severely allergic to wasps as an adult but was fine as a child. I’ve not been stung by a wasp since I was a child. What if I’m also severely allergic and get stung, in the middle of nowhere and my throat closes up? Or what if I’m deathly allergic to some other random substance I come into contact with when there’s no help to be found?
  • I’m not an experienced hiker. Like, at all. What kind of problems might I run in to that I haven’t even considered (see, I’m also worried that I’m not worried enough – it’s a problem..)?
  • 27 km per day is A LOT. I’m in decent shape, I work out consistently, but I do not routinely go for walks above say 13-14 kms. And my longest hike will be 37 km. Today I walked 20 (with 18 kg backpack) and am sore and limping a little.
  • … which nicely brings me to my biggest fear, which is failing. Not just failing really, but failing spectacularly and early on. What if I do the first day (35 km, nice tough start..) and then simply cannot get out of bed for day 2? What if I’ve gone out there and said to a bunch of strangers (and friends, and family) that I’m going to walk to Berlin, and I actually only walk 5% of the way? I’ve gotten AT LEAST 26 people to believe in me, to fund me even, to do this thing, and I honestly don’t know if I can. Although crowdfunding is buying into an idea or a concept rather than the promise of a finished product, I definitely still feel a strong obligation to my backers, and feel like I’ll be letting them all down if I don’t complete the journey. And I’d be letting myself down too. I had in my mind’s eye this epic adventure, this amazing project that would get us all talking more and thinking more about how all bodies are good and all bodies can move. This project that would be an experience of a lifetime and that would somehow make up for all those times I wanted to go out in the world and do things, but didn’t dare. And instead it becomes another failure. That would make me embarrassed and incredibly sad.


….BUT the only thing that would make me sadder would be to not even try. So, I promise you this: whatever happens, and however afraid I get, I will give it my best shot.


Peace out!

Mental health and BoPo articles

Fake it till you make it – yes or no?

Lately I’ve been seeing pushback on social media regarding the (in)famous expression “fake it till you make it”, and it got me thinking about the different ways in which we fake it, and which of them are useful.

I’m sure we’ve all heard this term in some context or other, and I think the pushback is related to the toxic success-culture that social media helps breed, and the idea that if you are not part of it, you are failing. 

Finding a balance

It’s hard to hit the right balance, whether as a private person sharing large and small life moments with friends and family, or as a business owner or influencer trying to reach your target audience. 

If you’re posting only heavily edited pictures (like using beauty and slimming filters for selfies), champagne and caviar, and quotes about loving yourself and life you will not only risk alienating people by being over-the-top, but you can also make others feel like they are failing at life because they do not live up to this polished image you are projecting onto the world. And it will make it much harder for you to ask for help when you need it, when the carefully constructed public image starts to crack.

On the other hand it’s understandable that you don’t want to share every detail of your marital or financial problems with the world at large, and that can also be something that puts people off from interacting with you or following you. Nobody wants to fill their life with negativity. 

My advice is to be real. Be true to yourself. If you are speaking your truth you will automatically be genuine. And don’t take yourself too seriously. Did the cake you attempted to make come out looking like unicorn poo? Did you take the worst selfie in the history of mankind? Did you attempt a cool dance move and fall flat on your face? That’s OK, we’ve all been there. And sharing those moments of your life with people gives them a glimpse of the real person behind the online persona. It makes it easier for people to engage with you, and it makes it easier for you to admit when things are not perfect. 

It’s great to have goals and aspirations, to be ambitious and go out there in the world and get stuff done. But it’s also totally OK to admit that right now things are not going as you had hoped, or that you’re struggling.

Being realistic

There’s also obviously a limit to fake it till you make it. You cannot fake being rich (buying things you cannot afford, projecting a social status and class that’s not in line with reality, etc.) and expect to become rich – in fact it’ll probably have the opposite effect. Faking your appearance is not only horrible for your self worth, it also only really works until people see you in real life, without makeup on, in your sweat pants, and so on. 

Faking it is a psychological tool that can help boost your confidence both inwards and outwards, but it requires work, adaptability and insight into yourself. It is not a magic trick.  It’s a process of self-development and learning.

Learning, and not doing it alone

As this article states, faking it really only works if you are still open to learn from your mistakes and from the process. 

Be ambitious, say that you are going to climb Mount Everest or design the perfect AI, but if you don’t succeed, acknowledge it and use it as a learning opportunity rather than brushing it off, getting angry or pretending you did it anyway. 

Or say you jumped into a crowdfunding venture, giving it your all, believing in it and the power of your message and that you were in fact going to walk from Amsterdam to Berlin, only to discover that crowdfunding is really hard. You could choose to see yourself and your project as failure, or you could recognise that crowdfunding for a cause, by yourself, without much of an online presence, in a sea of other good projects and causes is actually quite difficult. You can choose to be proud of how far you have come, you can choose to adapt your plans to something more feasible, and you can learn for next time. Be better prepared, get help, do more research. And remember Edison. 

Also, there is nothing wrong with recognising your limitations. If you hate public speaking but want to be a politician, recognise that it’s going to be harder work for you than for someone who is naturally outgoing and well-spoken, so you have realistic expectations going into it. I went into this day with the wish to get a ton of stuff done. But I am not a fast writer and it’s currently approaching 6 PM. And that’s OK. In the immortal words of Ron Swanson: never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.

It is also really important to have people in your life to whom you don’t fake it. A friend, parent, partner, penpal, what have you, with whom you can share your fears, concerns, and dreams and just be you. Faking it can help you get started, help you drive your career or project further, but it cannot be all you are. Underneath all of it we are all fallible and vulnerable people, and that is a beautiful thing. Not something to be afraid of. 

Impostor syndrome

I have impostor syndrome in pretty much everything I do. So a certain level of faking it is simply necessary for me in order to get through the day, and not curl up in a ball on the floor (a slight exaggeration, but you get the point). Even now, writing this article, I experience imposter syndrome. What do I have to say about this, why should anyone listen to me? When are they going to realise that I have no idea what I’m talking about? But partly exactly because I have this experience, I do know what I’m talking about. And every time I overcome that feeling, and I give someone advice or embark upon a project and I realise that I can do it, and that people appreciate my help and advice, it becomes a little easier. That voice in my head becomes a little quieter. So, I keep going, even though it terrifies me sometimes. 

The upside of impostor syndrome is that I get to be amazed and surprised every time someone tells me I am doing good work. 

Positive self-talk and confidence

There is some truth to the saying that what we give energy to grows (the whole “the wolf you feed” concept). It’s not the be-all-end-all, and having negative thoughts is not why you are depressed, why you have cancer or why you are poor. Positive thinking does not cure (mental) illness. 

However, there is definitely an advantage to using positive thought as a tool to achieve a genuinely more positive outlook. It’s OK to fake confidence when you’re nervous, to get stuff done. 

And to take a personal example: I have struggled with body image most of my life, and it has taken a lot of me saying that I love myself and I love my body before I genuinely started to feel like it was real, true and lasting. It honestly helped to repeat this over and over to myself, and also to others. Of course, just saying the words is usually not enough. You have to try and feel it. Maybe love is too much to begin with. Maybe you can try to feel like you accept your body, or there are certain things about your body that you can appreciate, and try to build on that. Megan Jayne Crabbe’s tips for belly love in her book Body Positive Power are great for this (in fact the whole book is great for anyone who struggles with body image). Try starting with gentleness, kindness and understanding. Touch your belly in a gentle way, appreciate that it is part of your body and that it is necessary, remove judgement from the thought process. If you can manage that even for a few seconds, it is something you can build on.

Another great tool for getting into a positive frame of mind is energy tapping.

Positive energy tapping

As an energist, I use a certain idea of faking it till you make it in my work. With modern energy tapping we acknowledge the negative emotions, we accept that they are there, and they are valid, but we do not feed them. Instead, by focusing on what positive energies we can use to evolve the negative feeling, we feed the other wolf, so to speak. Again, this is not a magic trick. It requires knowing yourself, being open, using your imagination and connecting your energy body to your mind and physical self. But by connecting to the power of positive energy, by feeling it in the body, by breathing it in, we can in a very real and helpful way fake it till we make it.