It's not about the food

I love mountains. Seeing their magical splendor is grounding for a busybody like me. Hiking within them evokes my sense curiosity and connection. And climbing them? Well, let's just say I feel nothing short of Wonder Woman when I do!

But, I haven't summited a mountain in years (*sad face*). The story goes something like this...

"I can climb any mountain, but getting down is an issue. My knee simply collapses, after a few short strides of a steep downhill climb. And then my other knee overcompensates and collapses as well. I have literally been carried off of a mountain, more than once (thank goodness for strong - and impossibly handsome *wink* - hiking partners)!"

Recently I was visiting my chiropractor, reciting the story above, when she said to me, "Often times, when we can't get down the mountain it's actually because of the ankle." What???

Of course it is, because it's all connected. If the foundational piece (feet/ankles) are not aligned, the body compensates for it downstream (er, upstream? Anyway, you know - knee, hips, etc). And the same is true when it comes to emotions and food.

For example, I had a client who came to me saying, "I tend to overeat. I take second and third helpings when I know I've had enough." (Let's call this the symptom - the equivalent to me blaming my knee for my inability to get down the mountain.)

When we explored this theme a bit further, she came to realize how stressed out she was about her job and that she felt a significant lack of joy in her life. (Let's call this the root cause - cue the sneaky ankle letting the knee take all the blame.)

As she worked toward integrating tools for stress resilience and consciously cultivating joy in her life, she found that she was less inclined to overeat. *ta-dah!* Now, she eats when she's hungry, stops when she's full, and doesn't feel guilty for indulging in chocolate, cheese, and locally-brewed beer. She's confident around food because she knows she has addressed the (sneaky) underlying cause. Ultimately, she knows deep down, it's not about the food.

I've seen it happen again and again, so I know it's possible for you, too!

Calling all Wonder Women!

Let’s talk about Wonder Woman (no spoilers, I promise)...

This movie is getting all kinds of attention right now, and rightly so! The portrayal of this superhero awakens the deepest yearnings of all women. It’s a bit of a nudge that inspires and thrills. She’s kind, brave, strong, and fierce. She trusts her gut and doesn’t let anyone stop her. She is you and she is me. Except…

She also happened to grow up surrounded by strong, powerful women. She trained hard to hone her skills. She grew up in a culture that celebrated those traits. And even though she was the bravest, the strongest, the quickest, her fellow women supported her. No catty, judge-y jealousy happening (that I saw) amongst that tribe!

She wasn’t taught to play small, to be modest, to talk down to herself, to be ashamed of her body or overly modest about it. She wasn’t taught to hide her power, or that she was inferior, etc.  

Yes, she worked hard. She fell a lot before she flew. She got knocked down. AND SHE GOT BACK UP. And while she may have momentarily been distracted by the urge to be everything to everyone, she ultimately followed her gut, channeled her energy, and went right to the source. Even Wonder Woman has limitations, but that didn’t stop her. She fought one battle at a time. She remained clear on her purpose. She was creative and persistent in accomplishing it. And she allowed herself to be supported (sure, she did most of the heavy lifting, but it was definitely a team effort). 

This is where things get juicy. When we talk about tapping into goddess energy, the basic idea is that we look to these archetypal examples of female strength. We examine what makes them successful, and what we can learn from them. Then we look at the areas of our life calling for our attention, to close the gap.

So, when I look at this strong archetype of Wonder Woman, what comes up for me is that we’ve been going about this superhero thing the wrong way. We’ve taken on her good qualities without acknowledging her limitations, or the ways in which she allows herself to be supported. We’ve forgotten about the behind-the-scenes work that sets her up to be able to accomplish great things.

To continue in this way leads to burnout (perhaps you're already there?) - it impacts our relationships, our professional lives, and our health. It looks like that workout routine you've been meaning to start, frozen pizzas for dinner, your friends thinking you've been abducted by aliens, your partner reminiscing about when you "used to be fun", and hiding under the covers when the alarm goes off. That's no way for Wonder Woman to live!

It’s time to get real, as women. We can do it all, but not all at once, and not without proper support systems in place. We are more powerful when we focus our energy in one direction at a time, and when we have a method for charging it back up.

If you've been trying to be Wonder Woman, and find yourself approaching burnout instead, Shasha Crow and I hope you'll join us for Nourish & Restore: Elemental Goddess Retreat. You see, we want to create a tribe of women like you, who will support one another in reclaiming their energy and confidence by learning to trust themselves. To do so requires trusting the women with whom you surround yourself. 

P.S. Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar that will help the modern-day Wonder Woman focus her energy in order to access her full potential!

What's love without trust?

I've been thinking a lot lately about this self-love thing that's all a-buzz and I think we're skipping over an important piece of the puzzle here. I want to zoom in on something that's not being talked about.

You see, I've noticed a common thread in the women I know, and that is that they don't TRUST themselves. Think about it - the very roots of our capitalist society are depending on you feeling inadequate and reaching outside of yourself for the answers. This is especially evident in the diet industry:

  • The onslaught of contradictory trends in nutrition make it impossible to separate fact from fiction, creating a sense of overwhelm and confusion, which leads to a belief that you can't be trusted to figure out what's right for you.
  • We've been taught that willpower is the name of the game and not having it means you're weak. How could you possibly trust yourself around food if you're "weak" and have "no willpower"?
  • Labeling foods as "good" or "bad" gives them power over us, and takes responsibility away from us, which reinforces the feeling that we can't be trusted.
  • The processed foods industry has highjacked our naturally occurring desire for sweetness, which now means when we crave sweets, we reach for processed and refined sugars, which we're told are "bad", so obviously our bodily signals cannot be trusted.

I could go on and on, but do you see what I mean? Now, consider this - how easy is it to show love to someone you don't trust? (I know, love is a verb and it should be unconditional, etc. But even at that, I'm willing to bet you probably don't practice that toward yourself most of the time, so bear with me while I dig a little deeper here.)

In any relationship, romantic or otherwise, one of the first things you look to is the reliability/trustworthy factor. Do they do what say what they're going to do? Do they demonstrate that they have your back? Check out Brené Brown's Anatomy of Trust for more about how you decide a person is trustworthy.

The bottom line is this - yes, I believe most of us can do a better job at loving ourselves. But demonstrating love is easier and more authentic when trust is in place. So, instead of jumping on the bandwagon and "treating" yourself because you're "practicing self-love", I invite you to consider the ways in which you can begin to cultivate self-trust:

  • How do you set and honor boundaries that serve you?
    • Saying "no" when you're plate (literally or figuratively) is too full
    • Considering the impact of your decisions in the moment, as well as how you'll feel about it tomorrow, and next week, and next year
  • How do you follow through on what you committed to yourself?
    • Allowing the reward you promised yourself for your hard work
    • Balancing your plate with leafy greens when you indulge in the pizza
  • How do you approach yourself with non-judgment?
    • Acknowledging your feelings about your body without berating yourself ("It's difficult to accept my changing body" or "I'm sad I don't feel good wearing my favorite jeans")
  • How do you allow yourself the benefit of the doubt?
    • "I'm doing the best I can with the tools I have"

Start small - remember, if the name of the game is "trust", you need to be able to do what you've set out to do. That means no grand, romantic gestures, or world-record-setting resolutions. Just something tiny, yet meaningful, that tiptoes you into believing "I trust myself".

P.S. Cultivating self-trust is going to be a big topic on the the Nourish & Restore: Elemental Goddess Retreat. If this post resonated with you, I encourage you to check out the details of the retreat at www.christabitner.com/retreatdetails. And, lucky you, Early Bird pricing is happening now so you can snag your seat (and your room) at the best price *score*!

Chakra Shakedown

Hello Goddess! Christa and Shasha back for another installment of Food, Fun, and Spirituality! We both work with the energy centres of the body known as Chakras. When we first discussed creating a retreat for women incorporating both our areas of practice, the chakras were one of our early meeting points. They literally cover everything, which we’ll explore further in today’s post.

Christa: Shasha, would you explain what chakras are and how they serve as our foundational structure for retreat?

Shasha: Chakras are key points or energy hubs on the intersection of the three main energy channels of the body known as nadis. These were first written about in the East, and Western science has since shown us that these points correlate to bundles of nerves in the body as well as important glands. Each chakra relates to different bodily functions as well as emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. Every chakra is also associated with a particular element, and in turn, the goddess energies reflect the elements. It’s both fun and powerful to work with them, especially giving them a good shake-up with my trusty Hopi rattle!

How you incorporate chakras into your work with food relationship?

Christa: I love working with chakras for so many reasons! Because they’re so comprehensive, they provide a helpful framework for understanding what’s going on with a person at every level. As a holistic practitioner - treating the whole person, with a view that everything we do and everything we are is connected - this is important. When looking at the patterns in a food relationship, the chakras can help us understand the deeper meaning. For instance, many of the women I support have been using calorie counting and weight tracking as a way of gaining a sense of control. Wanting or needing to have a sense of control is often a symptom of an imbalanced second chakra - often not about the food at all. So, we look to the second chakra themes of emotions and creativity to understand what is not being expressed or acknowledged (at work, in personal relationships, etc). In this way we get to the root cause of the symptom (calorie counting, strict food rules, etc.) so that the pattern can resolve itself.

And how do you find yourself working with chakras both in your yoga and spiritual work?

Shasha: Yoga is a spiritual practice that has incorporated the science of the Chakras since time immemorial! Different yoga poses stimulate or balance different chakras. Through poses, breathwork and meditation I have experienced profound effects on my overall energy. When I feel something physical release during practice, I may have no idea what the ‘issue’ relates to. However, when I understand which area of the body is governed by which chakra I can start to unravel patterns that are presenting. It’s very powerful and exciting. That is not to say that I am not gentle with the work, either in my own practice or that of guiding others. I’ve learned that less is more!

Creating space for that awareness to unfold has been essential in my own practice, both on a daily basis and on retreat for longer periods. I’m seriously excited about sharing the power of that with the beautiful women on our own retreat!

We have so loved sharing these conversations with you. Thank you from our hearts for coming along for the ride. The hope is that each of you has found some point of connection that you can take away with you on your journey.

P.S. Stay tuned for detailed information about our upcoming retreat and click here if you want to be the first to know when Early Bird registration begins (it’s soon!).
 

About our guest, Shasha Crow

About our guest, Shasha Crow

Ritual? Habit? What's the diff?

Hello goddess! Welcome back to Food, Fun, and Spirituality with Christa and Shasha. Last week we talked about goddesses and elements, which we both choose to incorporate into our spiritual practice. This week we would like to delve a little more deeply into spiritual practice in general, as well as food relationship, and how these two disciplines can be used to transform your health and wellbeing.

Shasha: Christa, let’s start by discussing food relationship. What does it mean to have one and why is it important to have awareness of it?

Christa: Your food relationship is like any other relationship in your life - it’s how you interact with the food you eat, how it serves you (or doesn’t), how you nourish the relationship (or don’t), and what you believe about yourself because of it. Like any relationship, we come to it with habits, patterns, beliefs, and assumptions that usually don’t get our attention until they’re harming us. For the women I’ve worked with those symptoms often include not fitting into their skinny jeans, feeling ashamed for eating dessert, or doing the cravings vs. willpower dance to the point of exhaustion. It’s ok if you’ve never thought of it this way before; most people haven’t. Recognizing that you have a food relationship is a great place to start. From there,  you can  learn to cultivate a healthy relationship with your food, which can be a transformative portal for healing. Instead of engaging in a battle of wills, ‘shoulding’ all over yourself, and ending up in a shame spiral, you get to become a detective to unravel your body’s secret code!

Shasha, what does it mean to have a spiritual practice?

Shasha: Spiritual practice means very different things to different people. I grew up in a religious setting where there were very clear rules and guidelines about what we should do, and when. Over years of exploration I have come to see that a rigid set of rules doesn’t work for me. What is most important to me is to feel the presence of Spirit - I’m a “feely” person so the things that work best for me are “feely” things like meditation, chanting, and journeying as well as yoga of course! Some need more structure than that. The most important thing is to have a regular practice incorporating the elements that are meaningful to you, be it oracle cards, affirmations or a physical practice. Conduct the ritual in a way that expresses your unique flavour and it will become a part of your expression of life.

Do you use rituals when working on your food relationship?

Christa: For sure! Even if you don’t realize it, you probably have food rituals already - your morning coffee, your afternoon snack, or your evening glass of wine. When I work with women around rituals, we consider what they are and how they’re serving you (or not). From there, we can use existing rituals to enhance wellbeing by adding another component (think of habit-stacking - using one habit that’s already in place to anchor another you’d like to incorporate). Or, by investigating what the ritual is intended to serve, we can adjust some components so that it achieves the intention. For instance, I’m working with a woman right now who has adrenal fatigue and so cannot drink coffee. By digging deeper into what her coffee ritual means to her, we discovered it’s a moment of quiet reflection and the warm beverage is soothing (like a mini-retreat!). So, we explored other warm beverage options (hearty, rich, and flavorful) to replace the coffee component that was not serving her, while keeping the part of the ritual that does (sitting quietly in reflection).

Shasha: I can so relate to that! Every time I go to teach at the Yoga Shed I ritualise that coffee after class, in the presence of such loving people. At Feel Hot Yoga it is a cup of green tea with my friend on Reception. Even retreat itself becomes a ritual, annually, seasonally, taking that space to connect for a longer period to the Divine Life Force. So what would we say is the difference between rituals and habits or patterns? For me it’s about intention and honouring the moment. Would you agree?

Christa: I do agree. Intention and how it’s serving you are common themes in my work. I often say that most people use food as comfort or reward at some point. The thing to ask yourself is to what extent is this behavior having a negative impact on your life? If your health is suffering, you’re unhappy with your weight, you beat yourself up, or you obsess over what (or what not) to eat, then it’s likely some of your behaviors are not serving you.

Shasha: Wow! We’ve covered so much ground this week! But hopefully our readers can start to get a picture of how spiritual practice, food relationship and the rituals that characterise each become intrinsically woven into our lives, whether we intend it or not. More transformation comes when we put intention behind all of that.

With the demands of modern life it is easy to relegate our sacred rituals to the lowest priority as we serve the needs of others. Acknowledging, and then taking the time to retreat (even for five minutes a day) is an important ritual for nourishing your body, mind, and soul. Still not convinced? Consider this - when you are well nourished, you can be of more service to others. Makes sense, right? So if you’re feeling guilty about taking time for yourself, see what happens when you consider it in service to others.

What are the rituals you incorporate into your day and how are they serving you? Let us know in the comments below!

P.S. Are you craving some nourishing restoration? Click here to be the first to know when registration opens for our upcoming retreat!

About our guest, Shasha Crow

About our guest, Shasha Crow

Tools for transformation

Hello lovely! It’s Shasha and Christa, back to share more about Food, Fun, and Spirituality! Today we want to start by giving a “shout out” to our dear friend and business mentor, Rebecca Tracey! Without being on her retreat in Belize last year, we would never have met each other!

In this blog we talk about why we decided to go on that retreat and how this has affected our renegade work in the realms of food and spirit.

Christa: Shasha, I think our work overlaps, in that we both support women who are overwhelmed, depleted of energy, and are seeking ease and clarity in this journey of life. From my perspective, an underlying need here is learning, as women, how to prioritize taking care of and making space for oneself.  A retreat is a great way to do that. The irony is that booking a retreat seems almost impossible and difficult to justify for most of the women I know. And yet, doing so is exactly the magic that is needed to get energy flowing again.

Shasha: Yes! That is exactly why I took the leap to book onto the Belize retreat. I had got to the point in my life and work where I really needed replenishment and some support from others. Of course I get this from my close ones. However, taking the steps I needed to, in order to get there, was a statement to myself that I was committed to nourishing my own development in a way that would also benefit everyone who works with me.

Christa: So powerful! And for me, I tend to try doing ALL of the things. So it was helpful to literally retreat and focus on this one thing at a time, in a group of women who were also working on a similar topic. It was inspiring to hear their ideas and experiences, and to have them reflect back my own process to me. Much more powerful than me sitting at home on my computer doing the exercises alone! In addition, being in a relaxing environment, with meals taken care of, and not worrying about day-to-day allowed me to access deeper levels of intuition and transformation than I do in my normal life.

A big part of your work is helping people learn to use various tools for accessing intuition. For us, in Belize, it was easy to tune into the energy of the elements, being so close to nature. And the two of us connected strongly with goddess energy too! During your Spirit Rebel Journey I had a chance to bring those tools into my everyday practice.

Shasha: We have shared many times this past year, Christa about the goddesses that have inspired and comforted us on our journeys. One you introduced me to is Goddess Yemaya who is one of the goddesses of the sea. The water element is one I have a strong affinity with and I know you do too! Very often I will start the day with an invocation to the main Mum (Gaia) and then ask Yemaya to give flow to my day. Gaia is a grounding goddess (Earth element) so she holds space for me as I teach yoga classes. Divine Feminine is strong with me!

How do goddesses and elements arise in your practice Christa?

Christa: Oh, Yemaya! I believe she is a lifelong energy for me because she teaches us about surrender and going with the flow, which is an important learning for a recovering perfectionist like me! This is powerful energy for many of the women I support, who are holding tightly to what it means to be healthy, labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, and beating themselves up when they succumb to that hot fudge brownie sundae that was calling their name! Working with the elements comes naturally, too, when we talk about food. For instance, root vegetables are very grounding (they grow deep in the earth) and are used for building nutrition and energy, whereas fruits have a water element and are cooling. Understanding the elemental energy of food can be helpful for creating balance on your plate and in your body!

Shasha, for those who would like to learn more about goddesses, what do you recommend?

Shasha: One simple way of starting to learn about different goddesses is to work with a goddess-oriented oracle deck. Alternatively there is so much out there on the internet just waiting for you to find it! Have a google, and see what resonates, perhaps using an element in the search if you are interested, for example,  a water related goddess. On the elemental side, Mother Nature is our best teacher.

We both agree that being surrounded by Mother Nature’s glories is the easiest and best start towards working with the Divine power in the form of Goddesses and elements. This is why we want to hold space for women we work with in a place where that beauty is pure and abundant. The energy centres of the body (stay tuned for chakras an upcoming blog!) can be safely opened under these conditions. We have an inherent need to retreat to nature regularly, whether it be to the back garden or an exotic location - the power is there amongst the elements.

Are you getting excited? We are! Comment below and let us know your favorite goddess and/or element. New to this? Not to worry - let us know what questions you have!

P.S. If going on a retreat to nourish and restore, through connection with goddess and elemental energies, click here to stay in the loop!

About our guest, Shasha Crow

About our guest, Shasha Crow

When two renegades collide...

A little story for you...

Two yoga-loving renegade goddesses met in the jungle of Belize. One was a spirit rebel from the UK named Shasha. The other, a Food Therapist from the US, named Christa. Between hammock time, river adventures, and a dip in the goddess pool, a deep friendship was born! These business besties/soul-sisters shared a dream to host a retreat that would empower women to access intuition, harness inner strength, and reclaim body wisdom through intuitive eating & yogic ritual.

Yoga-loving renegade goddesses, Christa & Shasha

Yoga-loving renegade goddesses, Christa & Shasha

Today we want to introduce our tribes to one another and learn more about how these seemingly different practices complement and enhance one another. Both of us use nourishment, spirituality, ritual, and self-care in our work.

Shasha: So, Christa, what does a renegade Food Therapist do exactly??

Christa: Well, I’ve learned that when people think of a nutritionist, it’s someone who is going to have very strict rules about food - telling you what to eat and how much, taking away your favorite foods, and strictly monitoring your calories. The thing is, I became a nutritionist because I LOVE FOOD and I believe in the importance of food ritual. So, I’ve gone a bit rogue by encouraging people to ditch the diets, buck the trends, and enjoy their food guilt-free. One of the first clients I ever worked with (and most of them since!) loved her bit of chocolate after dinner and she was scared I would take it away. Nope! Instead, we worked together to help her enjoy the chocolate instead of feeling guilty and beating herself up about it! Sometimes, you just need “permission” and a bit of creativity instead of a complete diet overhaul!

Now it’s your turn Shasha! What does it mean to be a spirit rebel?

Shasha: Well. From my perspective we are all spirits having a human experience. I suppose for me, the ‘rebel’ part of it comes in when you decide not to be driven by the human mind or others’ expectations and decide to be led by, and deeper into Spirit and Spirituality as a whole. It’s about getting in touch with ourselves as spiritual beings and running with that in transformative ways! Of course the mind is an important tool. But it doesn’t need to be driving the car! From my own personal history, I have been considered a bit of a Rebel as I found myself unable to stick to any set of religious or spiritual rules that had been laid out by another. I choose to use my own discernment. I believe in making my own path and learning what is right for me.

Christa: So it sounds like we are both the renegades in our areas of expertise!

Shasha: Very much so! On the subject of spirituality, Christa, could you tell us a little bit about how it ties into your work as The Food Therapist?

Christa: I’d love to! For starters, I’m deeply spiritual myself, so practicing without this component is just not possible! Mindfulness is a term that gets thrown into the “spirituality bucket” these days and it’s an important tool for helping us engage fully with our food, getting the most pleasure from it. It also helps us learn to interpret our body’s response to the food, so we can eventually free ourselves from thinking so hard about what to eat. On a deeper level, I believe that many unhealthy eating patterns are symptoms of soul-dissatisfaction. So, addressing the underlying cause (i.e. what the soul craves to express) often helps resolve symptoms such as binge eating, emotional eating, rigid eating patterns, etc..

What importance does food/nourishment have in your practice?

Shasha: My relationship with food has developed so much over the years. I was always a bit of a gobbler of food because I loved it so much. It helped allay social awkwardness and comforted me when needed. It was when I attended a silent meditation retreat that I noticed exactly what mindful eating looked like in practice. When you are effectively alone with yourself for 7 days, meal times can be more of a comfort than ever. I was inspired by one of the guys there who ate so slowly and mindfully he made me feel like a pig! The difference is, now, and especially after going through your program Christa, I consider my body’s needs and the feelings I am having around meals. In this way it becomes a sacred activity. It’s an essential element of my mindfulness practice. I refer to it as ‘awareness’ more than mindfulness, but we are in the same ballpark there! I’ve always given thanks before eating, but now I do it with even more feeling and intention. I speak directly to Mother Earth and everything that has come onto my plate to give me life. It is also, therefore a gratitude practice.

Christa, what would be your number-one piece of advice for our tribe today?

Christa: I would encourage you to get curious and pay attention when you’re eating. Use your five senses to engage fully with your food and see what comes up for you. What makes your toes curl? What makes you gag? How do you know when you’ve had enough? Starting there can reveal so much, and besides, it’s fun!

Shasha, I’ll ask the same of you. What’s your spiritual tip for today?

Shasha: Mine really ties in pretty nicely with what you said. Sit with yourself for a few moments today. Close your eyes and listen to your breath. Start to feel all the sensations in your body; what does it really feel like to be you? You may have done this before but I encourage you to do it again today. We are in this moment now. What does this moment feel like.

We hope this gives you a window into how our work and practice is being blended to create something powerfully transformative. Next week we will be having a conversation about self-nurture and the power of working with Goddess and Elemental energies. Stay tuned! Sending you love.

P.S. If going away on a Goddess retreat to nourish and restore appeals to you, click here to find out more!

About our guest, Shasha Crow

About our guest, Shasha Crow

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