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Filtering by Tag: weight loss

If You Struggle with Food...

Danika Brysha

MY FEBRUARY WRITING CHALLENGE: DAY 5 of 28

I receive many questions and emails regarding the topic of emotional eating, binge eating, and food addiction. It has been the greatest challenge of my life and I work hard to manage it daily. Below is my response to a recent email, that I thought may be helpful for others who are struggling. 

 

My true recovery from my food battle is actually only a very recent one, but there were certainly a ton of little victories along the way. These little discoveries have definitely had impacts on my overall healing. I've truly spent the majority of my life on the weight loss quest because being the chubby kid caused me so much pain and it was pain that I never really dealt with properly and am currently working through. I see it as a large part of my purpose to be a catalyst in opening others' eyes about food addiction, emotional eating, and ultimately how to lose the weight for good. What I've learned through my decades of self-experimentation is that it really isn't about the food.

What I mean by that is that the actual food you're eating only has a fraction to do with the extra weight. It's important to eat clean healthy food because it gives you the clear mind and energy necessary to do the inner work that will actually help you find peace with food, but that's really it. We have every single answer and piece of guidance within us, but if our brain is foggy and our attention span is zapped and we get poor quality sleep and we're constantly distracted... then we never give ourselves any chance at hearing that inner voice. You can call it God or your inner self or your intuition or the universe or energy or whatever you choose- all that matters is the acknowledgment that it is critical in healing.

What it comes down to is that so many of us are using food as a drug. To numb out, to quiet the feelings we don't want to feel (this is often completely subconscious so it's easy to say "I'm not feeling anything" because we've gotten really good at turning them off in the immediate second that they surface). We use food instead of God and love and feeling our feelings. What I learned that stuck with me is that when we have feelings and we choose to bury or block them instead of sit with them and feel them, they don't just disappear. They take other form in our body. That sadness we didn't deal with properly by feeling it is now sadness we turn inward on ourselves. Just sitting inside of us.

And I assume you and I are very similar in the sense that you've always been the one that's happy with a great attitude and a smile on her face?  I was that too and I am that, but I'm also sometimes sad and angry and quiet. But for the majority of my life I looked at the outside world to tell me what they liked from me and that was "funny" "outrageous" "people-pleasing", and so I conformed to that, without ever asking who I wanted to be and without acknowledging that every single human has a range of emotions and that is actually the most beautiful thing about this experience. And so I was only willing to feel the feelings that went along with this fabricated identity of the funny, happy Danika that kept everyone else comfortable and happy, and whenever anything that didn't match that came up, I needed to find a way to protect my ego and make sure that it was right about my identity. And so I ate. I ate to quiet the discomfort that didn't match with who I thought I was and that I didn't know how to properly deal with. And it become completely subconscious behavior which made it even trickier to break that habit. We use food to take the edge off. The same way someone has a cocktail when they come home from work, or wants to crash on the couch and watch mindless TV, or take a cigarette break to escape reality, or over-schedule themselves with being "busy" because they're terrified to be quiet with themselves.  In our case, we use food to soothe and escape and relax. Some call it emotional eating, some call it food addiction, and others haven't developed the awareness to even acknowledge that they're doing it.

It starts with creating an awareness in every single situation in which you reach for food and you are not hungry. Just start there. It doesn't mean you don't get to eat whatever you reached for.  It just means stopping in that fraction of a second, being honest about where your physical hunger is (you can label it on a scale from 1-10 if it helps), and acknowledge the fact that you're eating for a reason besides physical hunger. Our mental/emotional hunger can be very tricky. It tends to come from our mouth or tongue or chest or head. If it isn't coming from your stomach or a genuine low energy from nutrient deficiency (another place where clean eating makes healing infinitely easier because you're getting all your nutrients), acknowledge that you're eating for emotional hunger, not physical. Eventually what you can begin doing is pausing a little bit longer in these moments when you reach for food and you're not physically hungry and use that as a cue. "Oh, I'm not physically hungry but I want to eat... What am I feeling". Carry a little notebook and write down what you're feeling in those moments. If you can identify it (ex. You have a big deadline coming up and you're overwhelmed, or your coworker said something that upset you just seconds before you reached for the chocolate) and then tell yourself you're brave enough to feel it and that it won't break you to do so. That moment of awareness might resolve that desire to eat to soothe and you might just put the chocolate down because you're no longer counting on it to give you a hug and unconditional love. Food, unfortunately, is not love, though it can feel that way in tough moments.  If you can do this even once a day, that is a huge victory. It takes time but it gets easier and easier the more conscious you become.

What I will tell you after almost two decades of deprivation and diets and willpower is that it has nothing to do with any of those things. It's actually so much easier than we've been lead to believe. For me, the biggest shift, the one that has transformed my relationship more than anything else is actually one that happened relatively recently. I found myself at rock bottom in a binge of ice cream and chocolate and chips feeling like I'd exhausted every option there was. Every diet, every book, every tool, every food group. And then I found myself praying, which I don't know that I've done from a genuinely spiritual perspective in all of my life... And then my prayers were answered. And with that little tiny flicker of faith, I was able to fully surrender and became willing to believe that contrary to everything I had been told, all this controlling and managing of food was actually the thing that was hindering my recovery and keeping the weight on. I had also been watching Gabrielle Bernstein's workshop Finally Full and so many of her words just stuck with me, reminding me that my constant anxiety and desire to control was the very thing leading me to the binges. My only option was to believe that there was something much more powerful that could take the struggle from me and handle it, as long as I was willing to trust. And I'm not sure what happened this time around that was different than the thousands of times before that I'd heard the words "surrender", but it just clicked. And since that day, I've never felt such inner peace in my entire life. It has been a long and painful and exhausting journey but there is the brightest light at the end and I know this is just the beginning..

 

A Reflection on Bikini Beach Photos with Supermodels

Danika Brysha

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I recently got back from a trip to Miami with two friends.  Did I say friends?  I meant supermodels...

I spent so many years of my life trying to lose weight.  I wanted to be a model.  I wanted to be those pictures of my friends above.  I wanted to be recognized as the beautiful one- the one that society takes and puts a big skinny stamp on saying "you're special".  I wanted to be anything but the chubby, class clown with tons of friends and no boyfriends.  And so I spent 15 years dieting, bingeing, throwing up my meals, taking appetite suppressing drugs, and starving- and then beating myself up over the fact that my willpower wasn't strong enough to get me to where I needed to be.  The place where I thought happiness lived. Somewhere in the gap between my thighs.

It took me a long time but I finally got burnt out and decided I was ok with the hand I'd been dealt.  I started focusing on my strengths rather than shortcomings.  I was tall and felt beautiful most days, and years of having to work to get people to like me landed me one kick-ass personality and some impressive bantering skills. And then one day while at Bank of America, I was scouted and signed with a modeling agency.  At a size 14.  I would be what the industry calls a "plus size" model.  I'd been called a lot of names in my life from "whale" to "fat girl" to a "liability"- but this certainly had a more positive ring to it.  I got to live my dream without trying to be someone I wasn't. And three years later I'm living in New York City as a full-time, plus-size model with my face plastered up on Wilhelmina New York's website. A dream come true- and one that came to fruition when I finally stopped trying to be somebody I wasn't.

But with finding extreme love for yourself comes a new desire to really take care of yourself.  I finally realized my value and decided I wanted to be the best possible version of me.  Through nutrition, exercise, meditation, and a lot of self-reflection- I managed to reinvent myself in the last 9 months that I've been a Manhattan resident. I've lost 30lbs and various jobs but I've chosen my health as a priority. My mind is functioning at a level I couldn't even imagine and I feel more joy, energy, and clarity than ever before.  I am beginning to live my passion and purpose and it has come along with a new found sense of confidence.

Which is important when you take a vacation to Miami with supermodels.  Because honestly, three years ago, you could have paid me $10,000 and given me a free trip to the Greek Islands and I still wouldn't have dreamed about putting on a bikini and posing for a picture in the Aegean Sea. But when my friend Holly suggested a primarily free weekend trip to Miami, the new Danika said HELL YES!

And it ended up being the perfect weekend getaway.  We relaxed on the beach, cooked healthy dinners at home, spent time meditating and journaling, and managed to soberly out-twerk everybody at club LIV.  But throughout the entire weekend, I still found myself feeling different.  Identifying myself as the "big friend". Feeling like the third wheel to two bombshells and having to make up for my shortcomings with my exuberant personality and ability to ask strangers questions for an hour straight without being bothered that they haven't even asked how to pronounce my weird Croatian hybrid of a name.  Dan-uh-kuh. Thanks for asking.

And so on the last day, when our tans were the darkest they'd be getting, Holly and Alexis suggested a group bikini photo by the ocean.  I quickly responded "I'm good, I'm just really comfortable" which really meant "I'm not good and I'm really uncomfortable posing next to you freak shows".  But because I am quite possibly the biggest pushover in all of the land, I finally obliged and struck my pose for the 75-year old Italian men that were one Instagram filter away from a heart attack- and for the one picture ever that I hoped for a finger over the lens, they managed to snap with pure precision.

We returned to our chairs and I requested full approval before posting rights.  And then it happened. I really looked at the photo.  Rather than seeing some version of negative thoughts and assumptions of my differences, I had no option but to admit that I looked GOD DAMN AMAZING! And I also looked just like my friends. Did I say friends? I meant supermodels.

The supermodels who had spent the weekend equally concerned with their own bodies. All of us too busy tearing ourselves down inside to notice that we were all in this together.  Feeling "bloated" or "saggy" or "too pale" or "not toned".  The ones who asked if they looked good in their outfits and the ones that borrowed MY makeup and wanted to know how I ate and what I was cooking and what kind of workout I did at the gym.

And something really struck me.  Even the girls that the media prints in the pages of your magazines- in store windows and taped to teenager's (and murderer's) walls have the same insecurities that we all do.  They wake up having days when they feel amazing but they also wake up feeling less than their best quite often.  They're looking for the latest beauty tips, the best workouts, and the healthiest dinners. They're feeling insecure in their skin because not even THEY feel like the photoshopped version of themselves that's glued to your fridge in an effort to empower you to stop eating.  Empowerment comes from love by the way, not hate or fear.

And so here I am, sharing my Supermodel Bikini Beach photo with the world.  Because someone out there is looking up to me and wanting what I have. And to be honest I don't blame them.  Cause I look good.

And so do the supermodels.  I mean, my friends.

VIDEO: The Trick to Creating Permanent Change: Losing the Weight for the Last Time

Danika Brysha

There's a certain high that comes along with a great weight loss and feeling better about ourselves... and a very clear low when our diet eventually fails us and we gain the weight back. By this point, most health-conscious individuals recognize that diets don't work.  The key is making realistic lifestyle changes that have no end date in sight.  So if diets don't work, what can we do in order to create lasting change? I've got your back!  Check out my latest video on creating permanent changes and the trick to losing the weight for the final time.  And a bonus, this tip helps in all areas of life whether it's addiction, a job we don't like, a bad relationship, or just an overall desire to step yourself UP in the game of life.

Things That Have Been in my Mouth: Ginger-Garlic-Cashew-Dijon-Jalapeno Dressing

Danika Brysha

Another delicious meal has driven me straight to the blogosphere. I was craving a salad for lunch (that sentence was about as recognizable as Arabic for me a few years ago) and I was somewhat bored of my usual olive oil-balsamic-salt-pepper dressing.  I'm traveling to Costa Rica in a few days for a yoga retreat so I'm holding off on going grocery shopping and trying to make use of what I already have in my fridge.  Enter this new salad dressing concoction! And it is DELISH! My mom didn't really cook much growing up- leave it to me to point this out on MOTHERS DAY- but really, she didn't.  We were always on the go so I ate a lot of fast food- pizza, McDonalds, bagels, Taco Bell.  As a result I never really learned how to cook.  As I got older and started caring much more about what went into my body, I was forced to teach myself... and honestly it is super easy. The number one concern I get from people wanting to eat healthier is that they think they can't cook.  I promise you, you can.  Pick a recipe, cook it, and then you can forever use it as a starting point to make your own varieties and mix up flavors and ingredients.

I've been eating super clean for over four months now and essentially follow the Whole30 program, which is quite similar to Paleo.  My diet consists of organic fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and meat that is hormone/antibiotic free and properly fed/raised, and healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, and raw nuts. If it doesn't fall into one of those categories, I don't eat it.  Period.  I've learned so much about our food industry and I think that we desperately need to get away from all the processed foods, chemicals, and added sugars we are filling ourselves with these days. I don't count calories, fat, or really anything. I eat when I'm hungry and I try not to when I'm not. Four and a half months later, 30lbs lighter, and more vibrant, happy, and energetic than I've been in my entire life- I am living proof of how powerful nutrition can be.  Food is most certainly the best medicine. And I am most certainly in this for life.

I often miss those creamy Caesar and Ranch dressings that I used to eat before I realized what was in them, and I've found the secret ingredient to get back that comforting consistency without the poison.  Cashews!!

Ginger-Garlic-Cashew-Dijon-Jalapeno Dressing Recipe (Paleo, Whole30, and Life-Friendly)- Makes about 4 portions for meal-sized salads

1-3 Organic Garlic Cloves (I'd aim for 1, I used 3 and the Garlic was a little overpowering)

1 1/2 tsps Organic crushed Ginger

1 small jalapeño pepper chopped- seeds/center removed

1/2 cup soaked raw cashews- You must soak these or the dressing won't have the same consistency- Just cover them in water and soak for about 6 hours... or if you're me three weeks because I forgot about them.  I recommend making a double batch so you can use them for other things

3 tbsp Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

3 tbsp Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp Dijon Mustard

Salt, Pepper, and Red Chili Peppers to Taste

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor, magic bullet, or whatever fancy apparatus you have that I can't afford. Store excess in a glass jar or tupperware in the fridge. I don't know how long it can stay there. I don't work for the FDA.  I'm surely thinking about it though. 

Arugula Salad with Avocado, Pear, and Cherry Tomatoes (Amounts are for one meal-sized portion)

1/2 bag Organic Arugula 

1/2 Organic Pear

1 cup Organic Cherry Tomatoes- halved lengthwise

Freshly Ground Pepper

Toss arugula, pear and cherry tomatoes in dressing with your hands to coat evenly.  Arrange on plate and add avocado across the top because it will look prettier that way in your Instagram photo.

Enjoy!!

VIDEO: Meditation, Tuning In, and My Weave

Danika Brysha

I've gone and done it friends.  I've started meditating.  And I can't really stop. It's a massive game changer and I had no idea what those crazy meditating people were talking about until my girl Oprah offered me a free 21-day meditation challenge. And if there are two things in this world that I can't say no to, it is Oprah and anything that's free.

Just by sitting still and quieting my conscious thoughts for 20 minutes a day, I have uncovered so many things that I had previously buried with ideas of how things should be, expectations and anxiety, and stories of how I wasn't quite good enough. It has been less than two weeks and I've already discovered a few key points AND seen them playing out immediately in my daily life. Let's just say I've been using the phrases "Wow!" and "Holy Sh!t" in my journal a lot lately.

Here is what I now know for sure through my mediation practice:

1. Everything we need, every single thing, is within us

2. When we find it in ourselves to stop worrying and to trust that we'll be taken care of and everything will be ok, the universe will have the space to get to work.  And that damn "universe" (or God or Energy or whatever you prefer to call it) knows what's best for us. Like always.

3. Letting go of our conscious thoughts allows us access to our core, deeper ones- the ones that know us best and that aren't affected by the stories and lies we tell ourselves- the subconscious self has all the answers but we have to be in a position to listen.

And so maybe this makes me a hippy but I'm certainly ok with that identification if it means I can keep this up on the reg. Do you meditate?  I'd love to hear about your experience if so... mainly to prove that I'm not crazy.  And because I love you. I realized that while meditating. You're welcome.

Check out my experience via video blog, a cameo from Kingsley, and find out why I put my weave in for your viewing pleasure...

Practicing Vulnerability: Journals Unedited

Danika Brysha

In the last couple months, I have been journaling every day.  I absolutely love to write and when I do, time stands still. It has been the first time that I've been able to really make sense of my thoughts and to truly access that deeper level that has been buried or numbed for so long. Most of my blog posts take fragments from my journal and are edited to suit an audience but every now and then I want to share with you the dialogue that comes straight from my heart.  My journal entries, completely unedited.  Here is what came up this morning...

photo 1

Date: Friday, April 11th, 2014

Time: 12:30-1:30pm

Location: NYC- Meatpacking District: random table and chair outside Gaslight

I decided to stop and sit in the action of the city to do this morning's journaling.  With the exception of the cigarette smoke that's reaching my health bubble, everything is pretty perfect.  I just had a casting at Milk Studios so I'm looking pretty top notch as well. I like being alone in a big city occasionally.  All sorts of energy passing by as I peacefully sit here and write.

I want to feel like New York is as magical as if I was sitting in the middle of Paris or Barcelona.  And it is!  It can just be hard to recognize when you feel like it isn't going anywhere.  When you live here it is really easy to take for granted the fact that I'm living in the most beautiful part of the most amazing city in the world.  How lucky am I?!

I really don't need much to make me happy.  Getting good sleep, getting up and ready for the day, and getting out into the world is so fulfilling.  What I'm doing right now is what I hope to be doing forever.  And its so great to know just how little I really need to be happy. A journal, a pen, a roof over my head, food to eat, and love and support around me.  I could really make that a reality anywhere.

photo 2

It's truly a great day in NY.  The first since I've moved here that was really suited to sitting outside and writing.  I have a feeling that Spring will be when I fall madly in love with this place.  As I've been spending more time out and about, meeting people and being present, I'm reminded of how many wonderful people are out in this world.  It's a true shame that we don't get to meet all of them but I trust that the universe brings together the right ones. 

I've been really wanting to be my true, authentic self more lately.  I notice that I still wear a lot of masks and that I want nothing more than to totally strip myself of them in all arenas. The thing is, I know I'm a beautiful, passionate person worth of love and I truly believe that I'd find even more support and much deeper connections if I could just find a way to cut out all the bullshit.  All of the caring what people think, trying to please everyone, and anything I do that suggests I'm trying to be something that I'm not.  I know I'll get there.  I've already come so far and I know it's just a matter of time.  I'm just going to try to be more aware of when I think I may be faking or trying too much and to make some positive shift.

(My friend) Julia is staying with me and she's just so real. So able to be vulnerable and not concern herself with what I think when she tells a story.  She seems to just be really in tune with herself which I admire.  For so long I numbed myself to all my emotions so I can't expect to start feeling and being completely in tune with them right away.  It all takes time.  It's a journey much like mine with food.

photo 3

I'm beginning to get a lot more comfortable with being hungry.  I've found that now that I've told myself that being hungry is ok, I'm a lot less frantic about the concept.  I can relax and live more, knowing that I don't have to plan every move around my next meal.  Knowing that food will always be there and that I won't starve.  It feels really freeing.  And I think that's gonna be the key to being able to tune out the thinking about food all day thing.  Because when I know its ok to be hungry, I can forget to worry about it and in turn focus on living fully during the remainder of my days.  When its not a constant concern, I'll be able to forget about it- which for me is the ultimate goal. 

To only think of food and eating when my physical body tells me it needs fueling.  That would be a true cure for me.  The goal of all of this.  To take all the power away from food and to view it strictly as fuel. 

Be someone who "forgets to eat" or who finally views eating as another normal daily task like going to the bathroom or sleeping.

Something we think about when our body alerts us to its necessity and that we don't think about when it doesn't. That's how I define being cured from food addiction.  That's the END!

I think I've always had a hard time determining what the goal was.  What to strive for at the very end of all of this.  What I can tell people to expect when they can finally conquer all of this.  Being the kind of person that can have a box of Cheez-Its go stale in the cupboard or find a bag of peanut M&M's that have expired in your pantry.  

And fortunately through all of this I've managed to become super passionate about health and nutrition as well.  Thinking for so long that they were two completely related concepts but really they're quite different.  I'm glad my comfort eating led me to thinking nutrition was the answer because though I'm realizing that it isn't, I managed to gain an extreme love and passion for quality, real, whole foods in this process of self-discovery.  And that is truly invaluable!

Danika