A deep, unabashed affection for sweet things has been with me my whole life. I grew up in a family where dealing with my feelings looked like a comforting bowl of rocky road ice cream. From a sugary cereal to kickoff my day, to a little treat in my lunchbox, to an afterschool snack, to a special something after dinner to round it out, I’m amazed I was as calm of a child as I’ve been told I was.
A few years ago, I read somewhere that we’re only supposed to be getting 25-35 grams of added sugar per day. And I panicked. Because when I started looking at what I was eating, I realized I maxed that total shortly after I got out of bed each morning. As I’ve grown older, I’ve started prioritizing higher quality baked goods and using a little less sugar than my baking recipes called for. But while I’ve been able to significantly curtail some of my other not-quite-relinquished habits like caffeine and alcohol, I’ve yet to release the stronghold sugar has on me.
Then along came Ingrid Benecke, a holistic health coach, yoga instructor, and vegan chef who recently joined Freed Bodyworks. A session with her seemed like the perfect first foray into getting some professional advice. Before I met with Ingrid, I was a little worried. Was she going to put me on some kind of regimen? Would I horrify her with my high sugar consumption? Was I going to have to buy a blender and start making kale smoothies? Will I need to eat chia seeds...and find out what chia seeds are?
The answer, of course, was that the session wasn’t anything I thought it would be, but exactly what I could have hoped for.
Not once did Ingrid ever say, “sugar is bad,” or “you should really eat less sugar,” or “what do you mean you sometimes chase your cereal with a banana chocolate chip muffin?” In fact, “should” doesn’t appear to be a word in Ingrid’s vocabulary. I went in wary to disclose such an open secret, but I left feeling like I was doing just fine. Ingrid’s steady affirmations left their mark – I ended the session feeling far more connected to my own potential for change.
Ingrid’s approach was to bring an experimental, exploratory mindset to food. Because I’ve eaten sugary cereal everyday for um, my entire life, Ingrid gently noted the impact when it’s the first information I give my brain in the morning. My brain is like, “hell yeah, this is delicious!” And a few hours it’s like, “gimme more of that!” And the cycle continues. Ingrid was a wealth of thoughtful suggestions for small tweaks I could experiment with and see what happened, unattached to any outcome. What if I tried making overnight oats instead of my usual maple syrupy-granola? Or what if I left out the maple syrup altogether and added apples or berries instead? Since I get most of my baking recipes from food blogs, what if I tried these other blogs that offer more inventive and minimalist recipes? I felt my options growing more expansive rather than restrictive.
One of the most important steps Ingrid identified is just to be more present. With my food, with my body, with my life. Noticing what I’m eating and how it makes me feel could go a long way toward deepening a diet that’s body-centered and not spurred by stress, habit, or guilt. For example, have I tried eating my treats more slowly and enjoying them fully? Perhaps if I pause more, I might feel full – or get everything I was looking for from that first sugar kick – sooner than I’d think.
Ingrid shared that she normally doesn’t offer such specific advice for a first session, but I came to her with a very specific question. I found it so important to be able to talk it over with someone who is as affirming and thoughtful as Ingrid. Nothing dramatic happened. No big changes were authorized. No elimination diet was proscribed. I don’t need to buy a blender or protein powder or flax seeds. My chia seed ignorance will live another day. This is all okay.
Indeed, perhaps the biggest takeaway from my hour with Ingrid was a reminder that it’s not so much about doing this or doing that, but cultivating a loving, curious commitment to my own well-being, wherever it takes me.
***Want to meet with Ingrid? Click here to schedule a holistic health coaching session!***