Pesky Pounds? I Call Them Prosperity Pounds.

How often have you enjoyed a delicious meal with family, festive drink with friends or decadent dessert with yourself—only to feel immediate shame over indulging?

I personally feel less and less guilt around enjoying myself, at the table or elsewhere. But our society’s obsession with weight loss, perfection and generally making us feel less than is very real.

Whether it’s “Keep off those holiday pounds!” “Lose baby weight fast!” or “Burn off the belly bloat!” it’s as if we’re constantly told: “You aren’t skinny, attractive, fit, healthy, or good enough.”

No wonder so many of us feel anxious not just around the holidays, but around any breakfast, lunch or dinner table year-round. Add in beautifully-curated social media accounts bombarding us with #fitspo and #cleaneating posts, and it’s a miracle any of us feel up-to-snuff at all.

Lately, I’ve been embracing a more radical approach to eating. Instead of agonizing over any “pesky pounds” that may result from choosing to be in the present moment and celebrate life, I affectionately call these extra inches “prosperity pounds.”

That’s right: While consciously choosing to increase my intake of vitamin P (for pleasure, of course), my pants can become a little bit tighter.

And rather than beating myself up for indulging while traveling (pizza, pasta and gelato in Italy) or catching up with old friends (who bake irresistible cupcakes), I reframe my slightly curvier figure as a sign of success, abundance, luxury, well-being … you know, the good life.

This isn’t about “letting myself go,” and I have no desire to be overweight. This is simply an act of love for myself. I’m committed to enjoying each moment and giving up the guilt.

Some days that commitment looks like slow walks in nature, instead of a high-intensity sweat fest at the gym. I may not burn as many calories or feel quite as fit, but my body appreciates the rest, and my mind and soul feel nourished. Other days, I can hit the gym all the harder, at ease with myself.

When I’m traveling, I tend to indulge more, eager to experience the culture. I balance that with protein shakes and more fresh fruits and veggies when I return home.

Nutritional psychologist Marc David, MA, says the level of enjoyment we experience in eating our food has very real biochemical consequences that directly affect our metabolism and digestion. “Half of nutrition is what you eat, but the other half is how you eat,” says David, founder of The Institute for the Psychology of Eating and author of The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy and Weight Loss (Healing Arts Press, 2005).

David notes that feeling guilty for eating our favorite foods takes away from the pleasure. We all know it’s not healthy to eat ice cream every day, but he believes conscious doses of pleasure put us in a state to honor our desires while nourishing our bodies in a thoughtful way.

I could choose to feel terrible about myself for eating pasta at almost every meal in Italy. Or I can lean into gratitude for the experience of working and traveling in such a magical country. There is so much freedom in enjoying exactly where we are—both geographically in the world and physically in our bodies.

I’m not suggesting anyone make choices that feel unhealthy for them. I’m just asking that we each consider that food and life are meant to be savored and enjoyed—and that the idea of having to choose between pleasure and wellness is wrong. There is a wealth of evidence that focusing on food’s sensual pleasure actually can help you find a healthful balance.

To get the most pleasure from food, I recommend slowing down while you eat, rather than shoveling it in. Remove distractions like the phone and television, so you can eat mindfully.

Be sure to use all your senses to fully experience your food. Appreciate colors, textures, aromas and presentation. Notice every flavor you are tasting, while chewing thoroughly. Studies show that when people eat more slowly, they tend to take in fewer calories and feel just as satisfied. You’ll also digest your food better and absorb more nutrients.

Instead of trying to avoid foods I enjoy, I find it more effective to stop labeling certain foods (and myself) as “bad.” I’m relabeling “forbidden” foods as “fun” foods instead.

Changing our mindset and viewing foods as neutral allows us to make choices based on both health and pleasure. Since I’ve stop labeling pizza as “bad,” I crave it less—and when I do go for it, I eat a lot less.

I’m finding that eating a balance of nutrient-rich health foods, coupled with some fun foods, is the ultimate healthy diet for me.

And healthy pleasure is something we can all agree on for dinner. Cheers!

A Simple (And Fun!) Exercise To Discover Your Life Purpose

Do you ever wonder if you’re on the right track? Do you sometimes struggle to find meaning and purpose in your life? Have you ever thought, “Is this as good as it gets?”

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone.

I recently lost two dear friends to suicide, and their tragic and untimely deaths shook me to my core. I not only had to deal with the pain of losing them, but I was also forced to take a deeper look at how I was choosing to live my life.

Like my friends who decided to end their lives, I, too, was placing so much importance on what other people thought, and getting most of my worth from the external world—my career, financial success, material possessions, appearance, validation from social media, you name it. I didn’t really know who I was on the inside. My identity was wrapped up in my job title, relationship status and what I looked like.

We all know if we want strong physical muscles, we need to move our bodies so we don’t get flabby. But what about our emotional muscles? How do we combat emotional flabbiness and stay spiritually fit and strong?

The answer for me was found by going within. By getting still, quiet, removing distractions, and becoming practiced at listening to my inner guide, higher Self, infinite intelligence, God, spirit, universe, whatever you want to call it, we all have a brilliant wisdom deep within us that has all the answers. We just have to learn how to hear it.

One of my favorite ways to do this is by going on a walking meditation. I live on the Hudson River, right across from Manhattan, and there is a beautiful track right there where I go for guidance. I don’t meet with a sage, teacher or coach, instead I take myself on a walk.

It doesn’t matter where you take your walk, but it’s inspiring to be surrounded by beauty and nature. You can listen to music, but I prefer to be earphone-free, and listen only to my inner guide and higher power.

While moving your body at a comfortable, not strenuous, pace, ask yourself this question: “If you take away money, what people think, other people being impressed by or validating you for doing something, geography and all other external circumstances, what do you really want to do?”

Let your heart, not your mind, answer. You should hear a response almost immediately. Don’t edit, judge or try to resist what comes up.

I asked myself this question recently at the track, and my answer blew me away. It was everything I tell myself and others I don’t want. For example, I pride myself on being a fiercely independent career woman with my own money, and (up until very recently) a huge part of my identity was being a single woman who is open to a life partner but doesn’t want to get married or have children. So when I asked myself this question, and my heart/inner wisdom answered immediately, “I want to be a wife and mother,” I began to weep.

This walking meditation exercise has opened me up to myself in such a profound way, and I know it can do the same for you. It proves that we often do things in life in the name of what we think we want, should do, what society deems as important and worthy, what others will think or are impressed by and so on.

I love this exercise because it’s fun, easy, free, can be done at any time, and once we get clear on our heart’s true desires, we can go back and meditate, asking for what inspired action steps to take. When we get quiet, go within, clear ourselves from distractions and ask for divine guidance, it is always available to us. Our inner GPS is like a computer file that cannot be deleted. We just have to choose to download it, and keep downloading it.

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