Talking about Health through the Lens of Expansion (as opposed to contraction/restriction)
The difference between Expansion and Contraction when it comes to health is a concept I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about lately, and since I’m giving a talk on the subject on November 3rd, I thought it was time I wrote a more in depth post about this.
Coming from a background of having disordered and restrictive eating for a number of years in the past, it has been quite the process figuring out ways to focus on health without leaning into this distorted mindset from my past, both for myself and with clients. For years I’ve been discussing nutrition through this lens: what can you ADD to your diet instead of focusing on things to remove (For example, let’s focus on adding a new vegetable each week, while working on the mindset of accepting choices that we may have previously considered “unhealthy,” so let’s eat more Bok Choy this week, but let’s also work on not feeling guilty when we eat a brownie or two or three or when we boredom eat or when we eat emotionally; these are all acceptable ways to eat and should not induce guilt or shame.), but more recently, as I’ve begun to apply this mindset to other aspects of health, it’s been incredibly eye-opening.
Ask yourself this: What practices could I add that would improve the quality of my life, my health, and my enjoyment?
So instead of saying, I’m going to stop eating emotionally or stop sitting so much or stop eating candy (When we tell our brain NOT to do something, there is a part of our brain that is responsible for remembering to avoid something that is therefore inherently ALWAYS thinking about whatever it is we are trying to avoid.), let’s focus on adding some fruit or nuts or seeds as a snack to sustain energy between meals, taking a walk during our lunch break, adding rice or quinoa or beans to our lunch/dinner for more fiber, adding a new strength or balance exercise to our routine, adding in a couple quick stretches as a morning or before bed routine, adding a couple minutes of meditation to our day each day, adding in a morning routine that gets us excited for our day, adding in a group exercise class or hike or sporting activity with friends each week, etc.
Take some time to think about what you could ADD to your life that would increase the joy in your life. What practices would improve your health, physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual?
If you’re having trouble deciding where to start, try adding one of these three journaling practices daily to begin to see patterns of what brings you happiness and where you could use more of that in your life:
Write down 1-3 things you are grateful for about your body each day.
Write down a negative thought you had about your body today and then reframe it to something more positive.
Write down something you noticed about your body/how it feels today.
What am I trying to increase and expand in my life currently?
- Time in nature (always makes me feel grounded, refreshed, and helps me to appreciate the beauty in life)
- In person coffee dates with friends nearby or phone calls with long distance friends (always good to connect with another human, check in on how they’re doing, and talk through what’s going on in your life with someone else for some perspective)
- Concerts (I used to spend a lot more of my income on concerts and a lot less on clothing/stuff a couple years back, and I noticed that I was so much happier and felt more fulfilled spending my money on experiences that hype me up instead of purchases that last longer but provide more transient excitement/enjoyment.)
Take some time to figure out what you can expand in your life today and DROP THE GUILT AND RESTRICTION AND SHAME associated with a mindset focused on contraction.