Micro-living: the good, the bad and the ugly

Small Loft Flat

A few days ago, a British politician made a comment about how poor people should buy 2kg bags of fresh potatoes instead of the more expensive and smaller bags of frozen ready-cut chips, and it got me thinking about how many people have no idea what life at the bottom is really like. This is not, however, a post about that. If you’d like to read more on that, you can find a lot of thoughtful pieces on the Steel Magnificat blog on Patheos Catholic. Living in small spaces is an urban thing that transcends class: nowadays, London houseshares in zone 1-2 come for a minimum of £800-£1000 per month per room depending on area. You can’t pay that much if you are earning a retail wage. Even the houses that are large by city standards are not that big when you think of how much space you’d get in the countryside. The cost of a zone 1 flat can buy you a French castle. In fact, Savills has a few going right now for the cost of a 2-bedroom flat in Battersea, let alone a 5 million+ Chelsea penthouse. 

I’d still rather have the flat in Battersea than the French castle, though, so I have long resigned myself to make the best out of life in small spaces. However, the flat we rent now is so tiny that it requires a lot of ingeniousness to make anything good out of it, especially since my husband couldn’t sleep long term in a futon so the bed is a permanent feature of the room. If I had the freedom, I’d definitely embrace the futon, which was traditionally created precisely as a way around the problem of multi-use rooms. Since the bed is here to stay, and it’s the largest item in the room, allowances need to be made in other ways. 

The Bad:
It’s either doing the laundry or sitting on the sofa|

I guess this one is my fault for not buying a tall drying rack instead of using the big horizontal one I bought when I had a room in a house and a garden, but if the laundry is drying (and yes, I’m aware of the advice against mould, but what can you do without a balcony?) then it blocks access to the sofa, unless I go out of my way to squeeze it near the bed and free the space, which leads me to the next point.

Home exercising is not as simple as putting down a mat
First, no laundry can be there, which means I have to stick to a regimental schedule for timing my activities. Secondly, the table needs to be moved into the kitchen to free the space, and it’s still so limited I am slightly restricted in the type of activities I can do. No bear walks and even simple things like stretching the upper body on a side leg split, I can either do the split or stretch the upper body with my legs closed. It’s a first-world problem, I know that, but it’s a hidden aspect of the reality of making do with small spaces that you don’t think about unless you are forced to. 

Every bit of space gets squeezed for storage 
Compared to a lot of people, I have quite a minimalist lifestyle. I guess compared to others, I have way too much stuff. Still, we have enough between the two of us that we had to find creative solutions for using every small nook and cranny as storage space.  In the end, the house looks as full as a Victorian one, while also being entirely free of decorations. 

The Ugly:
It gets cluttered really easily 
It’s hard to hide clutter in plain sight in a small space. My husband emptying his pockets after work is enough to make a mess of the table (but there’s no space for an entryway catch-all, so the stuff has to go somewhere…). It’s enough to make one meal for the kitchen to be full of dishes to wash with no space to dry them unless someone is there to get them off your hands as soon as they’re rinsed (it’s crowded but the least bad scenario). You can’t afford to ever be lazy unless you are ok with a degree of messiness that goes beyond “lived in”. Contrary to popular belief, my tolerance for messiness is actually low, and I had to learn to live with it because chronic illnesses ask you for trade-offs, but it’s like living with someone you hate that you’ll eagerly throw out of your house as soon as you are able. I have a clutter-induced nervous breakdown at least once a week…

Buying in bulk is the luxury you really crave 
It’s not news that I love cooking, but the kind of pantry you see in Nigella’s TV shows is the stuff of dreams. I have a tiny fridge and even tinier freezer, so I have to plan recipes in advance, only buy what I need for 1-2 weeks at best, and only keep a limited number of staples in the cupboard (90% of which are spices). I have often been in the position of not having enough space to store the shopping after it turned up (2kg bags of potatoes being one of the hardest things to fit, by the way).

Nowhere to go for privacy  
I laugh bitterly when every advice column for insomniacs mentions going away from the room if you can’t sleep, or keeping the bed just for sleeping and baby-making. I guess I could go sit on the sofa if I put a reading light there, but it still means disrupting someone else’s sleep with a light on when watching anime on my iPad doesn’t. Since I don’t have set working hours I end up sacrificing my sleep, there is nothing to stop me from getting up at 2pm and working way past 9pm (yes, I am aware I just keep the cycle going). Sleep problems are not the only way, you can’t get away from the person you live with unless the tiny space has separate rooms. In a studio flat, it’s either the bathroom or outside. I guess yoga mats have the potential for multi-use (I slept off a migraine on the bathroom floor when the last bed broke…).

The Good:
You might be surprised that I have some positives to bring to the table, but if I didn’t I’d have embraced the suburban lifestyle long ago. 

You become extremely resourceful 
My landlord could not believe what I did with the space to make a home out of a hole. I’d still prefer to have a futon, but I had to find creative solutions for how to make the best of a small space, and even with the downsides I’ve listed above, I’m quite proud of what I pulled off. I have everything I need if not everything I want, but I guess that itself is a positive if trying to break away from excessive consumerism and be more minimalistic. 

Great location 
I have a park, two bus stops, and two convenience stores within 500m of my house. In fact, I can get to a shopping area within 1km, and the main train station to the centre of London is a 15 min walk away (not that I like to go by foot, but it’s good if I have to). I would still like to move back closer to the city centre because I’m tired to work from home and it’s expensive to commute, but it’s not because the area is in any way inconvenient (council’s rubbish collection aside, it is the worst). Culture and food from all over the world are almost on my doorstep (it’s about 30 minutes to Zone 1 if not delayed) and I have easy access to most major transport routes to outside of London, including international ones, which truly makes me feel connected and at the centre of everything. It’s a feeling that is very important to me, and if I have to trade space for it then so be it.

You see things in a different perspective 
When I say things, I mean literal things. Objects. Stuff. It’s easy to give up on minimalism in big spaces, as they seem too empty and sparse and I don’t like it. It’s also easy to buy more things on a whim because there’s no significant consequence to it once I take it home. Living in a small space has forced me to become more intentional about what I buy, and what is important to me about home (food and entertaining, if you had any doubts). I’m not the kind of person who stays at home much, mostly seeing it as a prison guarded by illnesses, so in an ideal world (no lockdown) I don’t really notice the space. I’m either unable to leave the bed, so I don’t really care, or out of the house treating it as a space to recharge the batteries before going out again.

So that’s my experience with micro-living. I’d love to hear from other people in the same boat so hit the comments with your experience if you’d like.

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The Serpentine Perspective: Why I still love Harry Potter

Harry Potter and cauldron

July 31st is the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, the birthday of my late friend Liam and the birthday of Harry Potter, so it seemed fitting that we would keep July’s installment of The Serpentine Perspective for today. As usual, you can read Rory’s view on the same question at According to Rory

This month’s topic has a number of ways in which it can be seen. We’re both in our 30s, so you might think we are beyond the age of enjoying children’s literature, but also, in the past few months, J.K. Rowlings herself has come to be seen by many fans as pretty much Voldemort because of her political opinions. In a funny twist of events, the very people who were once burning her books for being about wizards with bad Latin spells, are now flocking to her defense. In my post, I will mostly focus on the first part of the question, but the second one is also relevant regardless of my opinion of her opinions. She created a world that has grown beyond her own imagination into something of which fans took ownership, and not just because of how much ink has been wasted on fanfiction over the years. 

While, legally, she owns the copyright to everything and she enforces it ruthlessly, generations of children came of age alongside our heroes, and our anti-heroes in the case of Rory and myself and fellow Slytherins. We dreamed of our place in this universe, finding ourselves in the process. We may not have wands that cast spells or brooms that fly on a Quidditch field, but we have our imaginations and our hearts and our desire for adventures. We also had the very problems they had: jealousies in the family, jealousy of more popular friends, insecurities, being bullied, first crushes, first loves, hardships of various kinds, homework. I even had a professor who hated me as much as Snape seems to hate Harry Potter, although she never managed to be objective in spite of that. 

Some of us were grown up already when Pottermore came along and gave us the much-wanted information about ourselves: which house we belonged to. I guess it may seem puerile and inconsequential, but it came as a vindication of what we felt growing up, and confirmed the belonging to something that united us with other people. We had made friends pouring on the pages of those books…in fact, I even shared them with my mother and to this day she doesn’t know I have read the 7th book in English before she could read the translation and I fear she’d cut me out of her will if she knew. Probably not the best idea to put it out on the Internet, but it shows you just what an important role it played in our home. 

What J.K. Rowlings created was a universe, and we carved our space in it: in my opinion, she disappears behind all that even when, at times, her biases clearly appeared in the writing (which, admittedly, was not really the best). The Harry Potter world went beyond the novels, and not just because of how much it has been monetised in recent years. So, for me, it doesn’t matter if I agree or disagree with something that the author believes in her private capacity. A bit like a deistic view of a cosmic intelligence creating a world with rules to govern it that then goes on to be its own thing independent of it, what she created has stopped being hers the moment the first sold copy was open by a reader, and the words “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much” entered their mind. 

As for why we still love it as grown-ups, I guess part of it might be nostalgia, or the sort of feeling of something that has become a part of you that you cherish because of that rather than the thing itself, but my mother read all the books as an adult so I don’t think there is much of that in why I still love them either. I probably enjoy things targeted at younger audiences as escapism anyway, but this is also more than just that. There are few things over the years that brought me together with other people as sharing the love for this series, and most of them revolve around a fantasy universe of some kind. I enjoy a lot of things without ending up bonding with people over them, partly because I don’t have people to bond with, and partly because I don’t feel the need to bond with people over literally everything (that’s what long-suffering husbands are for). Growing up, the same books that appeared to me to give one message have become different every time I read them again, at a later age, with different experiences and even state of mind at the time of reading. That’s something I really value about the power of literature. 

I don’t have children yet, and may not have any ever, but if God was to entrust one or more in my care I will love the chance to bring them into this world and yes, bond with them over it. I may even accept them being sorted into Gryffindor. Reading widely has expanded the capacity of my imagination, and playing with the worlds that I explored on the page made use of it in a fun way. Now I mostly play Hogwarts Mystery and the boardgames held at the Ludoquist, but children would bring back the good old fashioned playacting as well, and the world of Harry Potter would grow bigger because of the joy of those little minds. Still, even without children, I enjoy holding onto this little world of the imagination and giving myself permission to be a child again. 

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The Soul Care Series: Heart-Centred Goal Setting

Kawaii Stationery

I have had to take a break for the last 2-3 weeks as my health took a turn for the worse (those of you who listen to Alessia’s Divine Comedy will know already I barely managed to keep that afloat with some delays). I guess, in a way, it made this next topic in the Soul Care series more timely, since we are talking about the new coaching buzzword for planning. 

You might be wondering what’s the link with wellness, so I guess I should first explain what is meant by heart-centred goal setting. You might have heard of Daniella LaPorte and her best-selling book “The Desire Map”. Heart-Centred goal setting is an evolution of that: it’s about making decisions and plans that come from the desires of our hearts and it’s linked to wellness because a lot of undue stress in our lives comes from chasing things that won’t make us happy and having goals that are pushed on us from the outside world. 

On a superficial level, what she says is not bad. In fact, she takes some concepts of the Catholic tradition and twists them into a generalised New Age paradigm that talks of a “connection with the Divine” (that has no name, and so no identity and so, I’d say, no being). She talks about discernment as a form of “divinely infused knowledge of how things truly are”, as opposed to our own interpretation of them, which is what discernment is in the Ignitian tradition, except that she strips it of its true spiritual depth. 

I know Christians of other denominations who are fans of LaPorte, because her language blurs the line between our Christian understanding of concepts and the New Age views she actually holds, so I wanted to explore what this concept looks like within the Catholic tradition instead. One reason for it is that sometimes we can be stuck in a trap of over-discerning because of the delicate intricacies of such a deeply spiritual matter. You might say it’s playing semantic, but it’s so that we may shift our mindset just enough to resolve the impasse. LaPorte, in an article on Vista Magazine, distilled the process into 3 simple steps: visualise, start small and write it down. Choosing small goals and writing them down is pretty uncontroversial, so I’d like to focus on the first one only.

Visualising 

Visualising, in my opinion, gets an unfair bad rep because of the common link people make between it and manifesting, if they don’t downright make them out to be synonymous. In fact, Ignatian spirituality is deeply visual, and we are using our holy imagination to enter into contemplation. The same principle applies if we are using it to imagine ourselves in a Bible story or prayerfully evaluate the impact of a decision we are discerning so that we can figure out our way forward, which is both part of the Spiritual Exercises and what is known as visualising in the secular realm. You create a scene in your mind that is as detailed as possible and pay attention to the emotions that arise in response. Contrary to popular belief, God does not want you to be miserable, what marks a saint is that even in the direst of circumstances they are joyful.

If you have a path that gives you peace and joy, even if there is another one that you feel is somewhat holier, the one that is meant for you is very likely the first one, and you’ll become as holy as you are meant to be following it even if it’s being a producer at the BBC instead of becoming a priest or something. It’s a fictional example, don’t read too much into it. We are told that God gives us the desires of our hearts when we delight in Him (Psalm 37:4): we only need to listen to His quiet voice over the noise of the world, it’s not just fancy words from modern coaches promoting a self-centred worldview to say “the answer we seek is in ourselves”. We are, after all, temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), make your decisions accordingly.

Manifesting 

So, I have already said people seem to confuse these two ideas, or at least see visualising in a negative way because a lot of people who use it as a technique and call it that are also fond of this bizarre idea. Manifesting is the idea that if you experience what you want you will attract it from “the Universe” because good energy attracts good energy. You use a similar technique to visualising, that’s true, but there is a difference even before we get to the philosophical error of placing a created thing in the place of the Creator, on which I have more to say. 

Visualising is about thinking through things in a way that connects to our intuition, which is God-given, and the things at the bottom of the many layers we add to the way we make decisions because of what’s around us. It’s about stripping bare to see more clearly. You can, and you should, pray to the Holy Spirit for that level of vision, so that we can find God’s wishes for our life and align ourselves to them, and of course, we have Scriptures to match things against so we can evaluate if they truly are from God. Manifesting is about choosing what we want and then sort of praying for it. Some of you might wince at the use of the word prayer, or even be offended, but it’s an accurate description. In the Bible, we have examples of people praying to idols, like for example 1 Kings 18:20-40 when Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to get their “god” to start the fire over their burnt offering as he would ask of the God of Israel, who started a fire on wet wood.

Just because an idol is not there to hear your prayers, it doesn’t make the utterances of the idolaters not prayers. It is in this sense that manifesting is a form of prayer. These people who buy into this wrong worldview of the Law of Attraction may not call it prayer, (or even may not be aware that prayer is what they are doing), but it is prayer nonetheless. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prayer as raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” (CCC 2559). Of course they are not praying to God, but the whole edifice collapses if you don’t see “The Universe” as a sort of deity. In fact, the words used to describe “The Universe” by manifestation guru Gabby Bernstein are a lot similar to those we use to speak about God.

In her Dos and Don’ts of manifesting, she talks about how “The Universe” has a better plan for us than what we come up with in the manifesting. She also talks about how we shouldn’t expect things to fall in our lap as we ask for them, and she even gives people a prayer to let go and trust that would sound really familiar if we swapped “Universe” for God, as it should be: ““Thank you, God and guide of the highest truth and compassion. I am ready to feel free. I welcome a newfound faith”. Then she cautions us not to try to make it happen (a tale as old as time) and to practice what she calls the “Spiritually Aligned Action Method”, which makes you a co-creator (one word we use to talk about our participation in God’s kingdom)What comes next in the article sounded exactly like many talks I have heard about discernment: question your whys to make sure they are based in service and not your ego, and inspired by the Holy Spirit and not your ego. She tells us to cultivate joy in our lives, like St Paul in his epistles, and she tells us to make manifesting a part of our daily life, which is the most basic advice on prayer.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like there are grounds for copyright infringement here. She is making a fortune out of a distorted version of the wisdom of the faith that is built around the idea that “The Universe” and the divine are one and the same, when God created the universe and all that is in it (it’s a form of Pantheism). And this idea is so insidious a lot of the wellness sector embraced it, and manifesting your wellbeing has become a thing. Of course, I am not suggesting actual prayer for healing is not beneficial, but prayer has a fundamental difference with this that goes beyond the fact that you are asking for something of a Being that actually has the power to grant it. Prayer is more than asking for things.

Prayer

The Catechism continues its definition of prayer in 2560-2565. Prayer is a gift of God, a covenant and communion. In these 3 capacities, prayer makes up a relationship with God (2558). A relationship means a state of being connected and implies knowing the other. Why anyone offered such a gift as a personal God would exchange it for an impersonal universe that dishes out energies is beyond my comprehension. I don’t care if anyone thinks this is controversial. Furthermore, this relationship is not any relationship, it’s a covenant. As it was stressed to me and my husband by a kind Oratorian priest, it’s a relationship of commitment that makes you bound to the other, and you stick to it no matter what. In the history of humanity, we were the ones who broke the covenant while God was faithful throughout. 

Life in the New Covenant, that is Christianity, goes a step further. By virtue of our baptism, our prayer is in communion with the life of the Trinity. We have the gift of this intimate connection with the divine, which is most visible to us in the Sacraments (CCC 1115-1118). In this sense, then, of course manifesting is not prayer and it’s something that Catholics must avoid engaging with. Praying with boldness for something that we have discerned to come to fruition is not the same thing because the Catholic way, as I’ve just pointed out, rests on a completely different conception of God and how we relate to Him (and, on a basic level, we pray to a higher being than ourselves, while “The Universe” is not one).

Now, I have used examples from people who are quite obvious in what they are doing, but manifesting is so common it can be found in more subtle ways and I’ve seen it prop up in content for entrepreneurs from people who had been talking about God a week prior. I hope this essay provides a starting point for evaluating what’s put out in the coaching industry since openly Catholic Coaching is not a thing. We have spiritual direction covering the most important aspect of our life, but then we are mostly left to our own personal prayer and the advice of trusted friends to work out everything else, and it’s easy to look beyond them to find more pertinent advice (no judgement there, sometimes common sense cannot match actual expertise) and be served a reheated heresy. 

My favourites
Goal Setting with Lara Casey. I’ve used it since 2017 (setting the 2018 goals) and I have found the process really fruitful. She is a Christian so the process is built around the spiritual life, but it can be adapted for non-believers. I loved not having to adapt a secular thing for once.
Own your Life by Sally Clarkson. I’ve read it last year at the same time as the 2020 goal setting. Sally Clarkson is, for me, an accidental spiritual mother. This book was like a series of coaching sessions, with questions to ponder.
An Ignatian Framework for Making a Decision. Pretty self, explanatory, it’s 11 steps for the discernment of a decision.
The Litany of Trust by the Sisters of Life. A helpful addition to step 10 of the Ignatian framework, but also to your prayer life in general. I don’t think heart-centred planning can be a thing without a trusting heart that rests in God. 
Lastly, a prayer for surrender: St Ignatius’ own one; Novena of Surrender to the Will of God; and a Healing Prayer of Surrender if for you, like me, surrender comes hard.

Rooted in the Word
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’.  (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’

John 4:7-10 (NRSVACE)
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Intuitive Eating: my experience

Food in 3 plates

In the latest Soul Care post about nutrition, I mention in passing that my food philosophy nowadays (after a lifetime of disordered eating of various shapes and forms) is Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating is not a diet, but rediscovering the way our bodies were created to work. For me as a Catholic woman, God has made us need food, but also able to enjoy it, giving us hunger cues and other signals that indicate to us that it’s time to eat, or that we’ve had enough and we are satisfied with what we had.

This approach to nutrition originated with the work of Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in the mid-90s, but it has some commonalities with previous discourses in psychology and the way the 3rd wave feminist movement looked at fat and women issues in the 70s. To this day, it appears to still be strongly linked to the fat acceptance (also referred to as liberation) movement, but I believe it shouldn’t be the stuff of radicalism and instead be the mainstream. The diet industry keeps us engaged in a rat race that replaces God’s vision for humanity with a lot of negative feelings life self-loathing, desire for controlling and punishing the body for just existing and taking space and moralising our food choices even when we’re in no real danger to our health, and so far the best option I have found to counteract this mentality is Intuitive Eating. 

There are 10 main principles of Intuitive Eating, which you can find here. We have grown accustomed to having set times for meals and controlling our bodies no matter what they tell us, and it seems to be almost a badge of honour if you are hungry and don’t eat. We should eat for sustenance, yes, but we also kind of have a duty to enjoy it because what we eat is God’s gift to us. Jesus could have said people had enough to drink at the wedding in Cana, but instead he agreed to use His divine powers to give them more wine and the best wine while at that. And on top of that, a lot of the mental space and energy we spend worrying about calories or whether a food meets the standard of X diet, etc can be spent loving God and loving our neighbour better. 

Many people mistake Intuitive Eating as being a green light to eat a donought after another to keep the sugar rush going, and so dismiss it as a bad lifestyle, but the reality is you tend to only crave such things if you have been depriving yourself of them. Most proponents of Intuitive Eating have, on the surface, the same diet as your average Healthy/Clean Eating proponent because we tend to give our body what our body needs, without the value judgement that goes with it. We adapt our food choices to what our body needs in any given moment, without compensating for a meal that happened earlier, or that will happen later. The fact the choices end up being what is generally accepted as “healthy” is because that’s how we were created, but the difference is that we don’t demonise eating other things and don’t waste the same amount of energy avoiding foods (or feeling guilty) the way those lifestyles do. We know that we “don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. (We) will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.” 

I am pretty obsessed with Japanese culture, and one thing I love is how pleasure is seen as key to healthy living. It used to be the case in Italian culture too, historically, but it was not my experience growing up in a family shadowed by anorexia and excessive concern with food. Diets rely on our wrong assumption that a certain way of eating and doing so in certain quantities will result in weight loss, something that has been proven to be wrong over and over. Intuitive Eating should not be seen as an approach tailored to losing weight because it’d miss the point of what it is about, but it’s true that many people have benefitted from letting go of the extra stress created by being on a diet and have found themselves achieving what seemed impossible before without even trying. To me, this only goes to show just how damaging diet culture is.

On a spiritual level, Intuitive Eating has given me a way to exercise the muscles of the virtue of temperance and, to an extent, generosity. In the way that we have to listen to our bodies in order to eat enough, we also have to listen to them when it says it is enough. That can be a challenge when you have a sweet tooth, a problem with emotional eating, or both (that’s me). Part of Intuitive Eating, though, is to give up the puritan mentality that you have to be perfect all the time and accept that it’s OK if things don’t go to plan, or old patterns reappear and you need to pick yourself up again. It’s a journey rather than the destination, and it can take a while, although it seems that therapy helps you pick up Intuitive Eating more quickly.

And, most importantly, it’s a way in which we love others as we love ourselves: there is often a lot of self-loathing connected to a diet mentality, and often fear of becoming like an “other” that we reject. That’s not a good way to approach our neighbour, but once we ditch the moralistic messages around good and bad food choices, good and bad bodies, and move from the perspective that all bodies are good bodies because they are made to be in relationships then we can love our neighbours without reservations. One big thing for me lately has been to learn self-compassion out of the Lord convicting me big time for how little I love my neighbours if I love them “as myself” and how loving them more than myself is not what He asked of me. I am His creation too, and I’ve disparaged it 24/7 for the past 25 years. If the measure of how well I love others is the measure for how well I love God, then the words I say at Mass and when praying or singing to worship song become slightly hypocritical. Like, “Lord you are enough for me” but, in reality, I’d love you more if you took those extra 5cm off my hips so I can fit a size 12. 

It may not be the only way to approach food but, as a woman, it has been the one that has made me grow spiritually because it helped me to at least try and let go of the messages about myself that did not come from the Lord. It helped me to frame nutrition in a neutral way that is geared towards holistic health and taking care of my body as a temple without the burden and stress that comes from diets. I have a certificate in athletic nutrition, although I hardly put it to use and I may have forgotten most of what I studied by now, and as a former athlete, I have always known deep down the reality of nutrition as being about sustenance. Doing that course was a sort of coming home and rediscovering who I was deep down.

Since I don’t have intensive needs due to (lack of) training, I can be more relaxed with timings for eating or what I eat when than I would be if I had to train intensively, which helped me with the journey of unlearning the black and white thinking around food. I’m not perfect, and I still have loads that make me self-conscious especially when it comes to social situations and my perception of people’s judgment of my choices because I project what my family does onto everybody else expecting that’s kind of the norm when my family is likely the minority in being so obsessive and judgemental of everyone around them, and most people just don’t care about you enough to notice. 

At the end of the day, I have good days and bad days in the sense that sometimes it’s so easy to be in touch with my body while other days my general anxiety is just so great that I fall into old and familiar patterns even if I then feel like beating myself up for doing it because I should know better (beating myself up has been my modus operandi since forever) and have to be really strict in extending compassion to myself. The journey for me, so far, has looked like learning, praying, therapy, and eating more greasy American pizzas than an Italian would care to admit. I have no doubt that the convergence of my stumbling upon Intuitive Eating just before Lent and the lockdown happened was providential. Perhaps my journey will look different in the future, as the Lord leads me into a deepening understanding of what it means to live in a body that He has created so that we can bring Him glory. For now, I am wholly committed to this way of living and as zealous to spread it as any recent convert.

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The Soul Care Series: Nutrition

Breakfast

Everyone and their dog has an opinion on diets in general, and often on your diet in particular, so I feel a bit guilty for adding more noise to that conversation, but as I see more and more dubious books propping up in the Christian (and specifically Catholic) sphere I think we are at high risk of being absorbed into the culture that surrounds us rather than transforming it. Diets like the not-a-diet “Light Weigh” programme, and intermittent fasting lifestyles like the one promoted in Eat, Fast Feast walk the very thin line between challenging Western comfort in order to help our spiritual lives, and spiritualising weight loss because that’s the standard of the world we live in. 

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