Welcome! Here’s a few thoughts about how the course is designed, and why, before you get going.
What you can bring to an online course at the moment will be shaped by the fact that we are living through all the uncertainties and risks of Covid. Please pace yourself. It’s fine to do as much or as little as feels right just now. You are the captain of your own Learning ship, you can cruise or paddle or be full steam ahead! If you hit stormy waters, or unfamiliar words, or lose your way, please let me know as I have charts and tidal readings and experiences that might be useful.
A bit about what to expect: Well Now isn’t new rules, it’s a way of helping you work out how to ask yourself new questions about your life with your strengths and struggles, from a place of respect. This helps you make sense of things in new ways, so now you have more ideas and begin to feel differently about yourself.
There’s no need to work through every activity in each lesson. I mean you might, and that’s fine. And you might not, and that’s fine too. You will know what the right pace is for you at the moment. I recommend taking part in the zoom sessions even if you haven’t done much or any of the lesson as the conversations and people’s questions can still be really helpful.
You can always download teach-sheets to return to in future if you choose. The course content is there as a door that you open to let yourself know things. Knowing new things about food and bodies takes time. It takes letting go, and breathing in fresh things, and sitting with old things, from our fluid emotional landscape. That’s how the adjustments happen, gently and gradually.
Even so, this is big. There can be a lot of shame, secrecy, confusion, and embarrassment around eating and body struggles. That’s certainly where I was for long time. If you recognise this then I hope, that like me, you will experience the healing power of compassion and acceptance.
It’s also big because its roots go deep. Our early experiences of feeding shape how we relate to food – and so much more. Pretty soon we get exposed to ideas about what makes a good body and a bad body, and these attitudes go deep too. Everyday biases that are sizist, racist, ableist, sexist and so on get entangled in these food and body messages. Once we begin to explore our eating issues it can feel like there’s a lot more wrong with the world. This might feel daunting, but at the same time it means we are now in a place to make sense of how things are connected – and that’s great news! It’s a little known fact, but making sense of things is key to our physical, mental and communal wellbeing.
My hope is that you will be gentle with yourself as you let new understandings trickle in. If you feel flooded I hope you can turn to someone for support as you sit with any painful emotions, realisations or memories.
There could be times when it feels like emotions belong more to the past. If so, here’s a tip from my own experience. It’s no good trying to move ourselves with logic when the emotions were stored in the past. Current logic won’t shift past feeling. Paradoxically, the feeling shifts when we don’t try and shift it. Another way of describing this is saying that the way to change an emotion is to accept it. There is something in the act of acknowledging an emotion (naming) and accepting it (not telling ourselves we are wrong to feel this way) that lets us process it.
If the emotion from the past is intense or painful we might also want another step. This might involve our grown (adult, now) self reassuring a younger (past) self that they are ok. If you feel unmoored at any time when you’re going through the teach-sheets, you might like to experiment and see if any of these suggestions are useful for your adult self talking to your younger self: I’m sorry that was so tough for you. You shouldn’t have had to go through that. It’s ok now, you are not being judged. You don’t need to change yourself at all. You are loved just as you are. You’re not alone anymore. The shame was never yours. I’m the adult, I’m here for you now. It’s ok to trust me. I got this.
Also, this might not be relevant to you. And guess what? Yup – that’s fine too!
Why are you here? Ok, I know that’s a big question! You can certainly include deep existential refections if you like, of course you can! And also, if you want a more contained entry point you can reframe the question to ask yourself “why am I doing this course?” “what do I hope for?” “what topics do I want to explore?” “is there anything that I want explained?” “why now?” And a useful overall question is to think about what you would like to be different when the course closes.
You might also like to think about what you bring to your own learning and to the group. What are your passions, values, experiences? Your hopes, errors, confusions?
What makes a great learning community? What does this mean for how you want to engage and what you’re looking for from me and other learners?
Setting the scene for yourself like this can help the learning sink in and get under your skin in a good way, instead of feeling like it’s just out of grasp.
What do you know about diets and dieting?
Some questions to consider are:
- what is the intended outcome of saying ‘eat less, move more’ to improve population wellbeing?
- what is the actual outcome of public health messages like ‘eat less, move more’?
- why diet? what is the hope and goal? where did you learn this?
- what happens to start with? how do you feel?
- what is the long term outcome? how do you feel?
- what are the benefits of being on a diet?
- what is hard about being on a diet?
- are there any discrepancies between what actually happens with diets and what the science seems to be saying should happen? if so, why do you think this is?
What do I mean by diets and dieting?
It’s time to open or print the Well Now Eating Apples teach sheet. This considers what we mean by “dieting.”
Here’s an outline of the Well Now Cycle
What do you think about this as an approach to promoting public health?
Lily Myers performs “Shrinking Women”
Untangling Factors That Influence Our Wellbeing
You might like to print off the Well Now Untangling Table .
Many factors impact our wellbeing. Do you know Mary Oliver’s poetry? The poem she’s reading here, Wild Geese, reminds us that we belong. Listen out her iconic phrase “the soft animal of your body” too.
Does Dieting Work?
This is a really short one. I ask two questions and have spelled out some common responses that often get mixed in together. Can you choose an answer? We can discuss it on Monday. It’s just here to help you get clear on what you think.
So, does dieting work – or more specifically, do most people who try to diet lose weight and keep it off?
What Can We Learn from the Research on Attempted Dieting?
We’re not quite done with dieting yet. It is important that we give it time as the attitudes and beliefs are so widespread that they seem normal.
Questioning them can feel uncomfortable because we are questioning a whole culture. In a world of diet logic our body is on autopilot to feel at ease with ideas that support dieting. This makes it easy for us to agree with information that shows dieting isn’t a great idea, and then in the next instance plan a diet. It’s like our body hasn’t caught up with what we know intellectually.
Approaching new ideas in different ways helps us make sense – in our bodies and minds – of what we are learning. If we go too quickly the new learning doesn’t ‘stick’ because we only know it in our head but we haven’t processed the adjustments emotionally or in our body.
I’m not saying that facts instantly change how we feel, but they do shape how we feel. Many people have spent a long time believing faulty ‘facts’ about diets. This leads to blame, shame, and a sense of failure. Revisiting those faulty facts doesn’t mean people stop wanting to be thin, but it can mean they stop beating themselves up.
What Does Research Actually Show About Dieting?
There is a lot of research data showing some of the personal outcomes when people diet. The most obvious outcome studied is weight loss. If a group of people reduce their energy intake (calories, or kilojoules) and maybe also increase their energy use (increase activity), what do you think happens to most people’s weight?
You might be surprised by the answer.
This teach sheet is designed to help you think things through in a way that makes it easy to remember the outcome.
Creating spaciousness when we are learning helps us make sense of things. It helps us make sense in an intellectual meaning of the word sense, and make sense in the body perception meaning of the word sense.
Learning involves sorting through a jumble of new and old ideas, attitudes, story lines and emotions. Allowing time out from thinking, and time in for stillness and connection, supports this. I’ve made a few notes with links to audio and video clips.
Have you learnt any new facts about dieting? Probably not much is my guess. You might not have been aware of what research studies on attempted weight loss showed, and maybe you didn’t realise there was so much fraud in science!
So what can we do instead?
… well, there’s kindful eating:
Here’s a Kindful Eating teach sheet to open and fill in.
This video steps you through the cycle.
Here’s my filled in version of the Well Now Kindful Eating teach sheet .
Looking After Yourself, Covid, and Connection
What helps you feel connected? Since the start of lockdown I’ve surprised myself by communing with oaks. It’s been fascinating noticing how much I notice them locally, whereas before I just walked past unawares. And I’m loving watching them change – who knew acorns were so big!
Having more ways of feeling connected can provide comfort and support change. It might be something you’d like to explore ~ what are you drawn to? It might be several from dancing, jigsaws, crafting, spiritual practice, being among trees, and a whole lot more.
My friend Emily wrote a list of things she’s found helpful getting through the Covid-fog, shared below as prompts for own ideas ~
1. Get out in nature as much as possible. 2. Be honest about how you’re doing, especially with the people you love most. 3. Have your delicious foods when you can. Nourish yourself.
4. Consider counselling or other forms of support if the downs are outweighing the ups.
5. Move when you can, rest when you need to.
6. Stick on some happy tunes.
7. Make something new, be creative, new buttons on a cardigan counts as much as painting a masterpiece.
8. Think about what you don’t need, what is bogging you down in life? Can you simplify?
9. Write a gratitude journal, noting down something (or a few things) you’re grateful for everyday.
10. Learn, laugh! Find something new to learn about or take an online course (so many are low cost or even free). Watch some comedy ~