Monday, 21 April 2014

Nourishing the body, mind and spirit.

As an Accredited Practising Dietitian, I spend my days helping people nourish their bodies with a variety of food and regular physical activity. Earlier this month, I was reminded that nourishing the physical body is only a small portion of caring for our overall health and wellbeing.

At the beginning of this month, I was lucky enough to spend 5 days in stunning Byron Bay, at the inaugural Body Positive Retreat , facilitated by the wonderful Fiona Sutherland and Sarah Harry. Although initially excited by the prospect of the retreat, I was highly apprehensive about attending; how would I cope spending a week with complete strangers, no gym, and no control over what I would have to eat?? A week of living outside my comfort zone ensued!

Despite being plagued with apprehension and guilt for attending the retreat, I am so grateful I attended this enlightening escape. My mind has certainly been broadened to encompass mental and emotional health as part of looking after myself.

There is no doubt the retreat was challenging; day 1 and I was already challenging my thought processes in a group discussion about body image. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve the 'thin ideal?' How many people in the world actually look like that? Why do we (I) aspire to look like the girl on the front of the fashion or fitness magazine? You know, the one who has been photo-shopped and airbrushed to an inch of her life. Yeah her! Good luck with that. The body positive retreat made me consider, what if, instead of criticising ourselves for not looking like the cover girl, we looked inside ourselves and celebrated all our wonderful qualities? It's hard, but from what I learned over those few days in Byron Bay, it's also oh so worth it.

During the retreat, we also discussed the wonderful work of Dr Rick Kausman and his If Not Dieting, Then What? work. This led to talk of (and an attempt to practice) 'mindful eating' - the challenge of being truly present whilst eating; paying attention to the appearance, smell, texture, mouthfeel and taste of food. Quite different from shovelling it all down whilst sitting in front of the TV. It is amazing how different food seems when you really pay attention to it! There is no moral value attached to food when eating in this manner, you just appreciate it for what it is and where it has come from.

Yoga and meditation also featured heavily throughout the retreat as a way to connect with our bodies. I will admit I struggled big time with the yoga and the meditation on day 1! Compared to the high intensity gym classes I usually complete, the yoga felt very much like a waste of time. However, once I came to understand it and connect with my breathing and my body, I fell in love! I really struggled to slow my racing mind, but at the end of the retreat I was surprised by how calm and clear I felt.

Not a bad view for early morning meditation. 

Another fascinating topic of the retreat was sleep. Often overlooked, but ever so important for our health. The lovely Thea O'Connor spoke on how a 20 minute nap can re-invigorate the body and also calm the mind. You can join the #napnow revolution by napping for good health and getting your colleagues to do the same. Go on, you will be more productive if you do......

In regard to the food on offer during the retreat, all I'll say for now is oh my. There was a sumptuous array of wholesome fresh food which was just to die for. I think that is a post in itself though....
 I did purchase the chef's cookbook and have attempted to copy a recipe or two already. Man I ate well over those few days!

That has been a very slight snapshot of the joy of the first Body Positive retreat. It was such a wonderful experience which I am so thankful to have attended. I have come away feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and with a greater understanding of myself. I've also returned home with a few new friends, a wealth of knowledge, some yummy recipes and a positive mindset. I hope I can continue to use positive thinking to appreciate things for what they are and enjoy the present moment. It takes practice but I;m willing to try and would encourage you all to do the same!

Until next time, stay positive, love yourself, and thank you for reading.

Em x

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