On Leaving Shame & Leaning Into Joy - Real Food Whole Life

On Leaving Shame & Leaning Into Joy

April 13, 2016 (Updated on August 5, 2021)

The Living Within series is about moving away from extremes toward eating and living from and for a place of joy.

Today I want to talk about shame. Which, my husband has pointed out, is a little heavy for a food and lifestyle blog.

He’s right, of course. It is heavy.

But I’m writing this series because I’m on a journey to live within the extremes, where eating isn’t all or nothing. A place where I can get a handle on those hazy, nebulous concepts of portion control and emotional eating.

So, heavy? Yes. But also relevant.

Because it’s not just about what we eat, which is important for sure, but is also overemphasized at the cost of this alternate conversation. It’s also about how we eat, and our overall relationship with food and eating.

Which brings me back to shame. And one simply cannot discuss the topic of shame without first referencing Dr. Brené Brown, whose research has shaped a global conversation on the issue. You may have heard of Brené’s work: her TED talks on vulnerability and shame have been viewed over 24 million and 6 million times, respectively, at the time of this writing.

Her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, is a constant on my nightstand, and I’ve watched her talks at least a dozen times. Each time I read her books or watch her speak I take away a new idea or “aha” on living, as she says, wholeheartedly.

 Photo by  KLiK Concepts  Photo by KLiK Concepts

One of those “ahas” is that courage to be vulnerable can transform the way we eat. That digging in and having this conversation might be exactly the place to start breaking away from extremes and beginning the journey of living within.

In this post I talked about how the thoughts we think, matter. Have you taken time to reflect on your own food- and eating-related thoughts? Once I started paying attention to mine, I was rather surprised to notice how many of them were shame-based.

Thoughts about not doing it right and not being good enough. Basically about trying to do it all and doing it perfectly.

When I started noticing my thoughts, I was rather surprised about how much shame talk I have going on in my own head related to food. Which is disconcerting. But also really energizing.

Because it’s something that can be learned. And then it can be changed.

By working towards a life lived within I believe we can shift away shame-based thoughts toward something else entirely.  

Toward empathy.

And self-compassion.

And letting go of perfectionism and having the courage to get comfortable with being imperfect.

And learning to connect mind to body as well as body to mind.

By practicing generosity.

By letting go of the “never enough” mindset.

By practicing gratitude.

And by leaning into the joy.

I should throw in a caveat here that I am decidedly not from the school of touchy-feely, woo-woo, unicorn magic. I’m a pragmatist and a realist. So this whole publicly writing about eating shame and leaning into joy thing stresses me out so much it’s all I can do not to crawl under my desk with a giant plate of fettuccine Alfredo and never come back out.

I will, however, resist. Because since I started thinking about extremes and living within I believe there is no better place to start than right here.

With empathy, self-compassion, connecting body and mind, and with getting comfortable with the imperfect. With letting go of the scarcity mindset, of practicing generosity and gratitude, and flat out leaning into joy.

In future posts I want to explore specifically how this looks, to dive deeper into how to learn to make this change. As always, I love hearing from you through comments here, or via email, Facebook and Instagram. Knowing your perspective helps so much in moving this series forward.

Until next time.



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0 comments to " On Leaving Shame & Leaning Into Joy "

  • Peg R.

    As a teen I had an eating disorder…so I know about food relationships and how complicated they can be. It was my answer on how to deal with the death of my dad. Thankfully I have learned much better coping skills and have a healthier relationship with food now. I am looking forward to checking out the TED talks and the book you mentioned.
    I have come to see everyone has different perspectives on eating and life as a whole. Recently I read something that if you change your thoughts/perspective on your relationship with food/exercise and equate it to brushing your teeth or putting on your seat belt…as a choice that it is something you just need to do, …no guilt/shame etc. I personally don’t look at my toothbrush and contemplate should I or shouldn’t I. When I get in the car there is no thought and emotion with putting on my seat belt. You gave the example of not eating a plate of fettuccine alfredo…why did you choose this? It sounds like you simply choose what would be best for you…guilt/shame or any other emotion you bring into that decision just mucks up the waters so to speak. I know for me, when I am living life fully/wholeheartedly any remaining issues I have with food periodically become…"I ain’t got time for that girl!" Because I don’t have time. I am too fulfilled and happy to have food be my main source of pleasure and comfort. Not counting calories, getting on the scale, beating myself up if I indulge once in awhile (and I know that is usually connected to my periods so I reassure my self that the cravings will pass in a few days) works for me. I need to be my best support system and that’s what I work towards. Striving for excellence is a lot easier than striving for perfection.
    I have been working on a GF and sugar free food options for the last 6 months…instead of focusing on what I can’t have, I focus on, what CAN I put together that will taste great, look great and be healthy. Again, it’s that "perspective thing."
    P.S. Love your GF carrot cake muffin recipe…one with cream cheese and honey "frosting" and chopped walnuts on top is calling my name. I need to go bake up a batch!

    • Robyn Downs

      Peg, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. It sounds like you have been through a lot and have learned so much! And yes, with the fettuccine alfredo example, it was about making the best choice for me. If I’m making the choice because I truly love fettuccine alfredo (which I do!) and want to enjoy it, then I think that’s the best choice for me. But if I’m making that choice because I’m feeling scared and overwhelmed, then it’s really not the best choice, as you say, for me. I love that you say you need to be your best support system. I may need to borrow that one! So glad you like the muffin recipe, too! 🙂

  • Meg

    Beautifully written and, for me, spot on. Thanking you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable while sharing these thoughts. They mean so much.

    • Robyn Downs

      Meg, thank you so much for your encouraging comment. I’m so glad you’re connecting with the series. Thanks so much for following along! xxoo

  • Sarah H.

    I’m amazed at how much of your journey – each post so far – connects with my journey. I’ve realized lately how much shame and guilt I carried around that I wasn’t eating the way I truly wanted, or exercise as much as I wanted – that I wasn’t being as healthy as I thought I should be. I’m making progress in actually exercising, which as given me freedom from shame, but I know there is still work to be done in not feeling guilty if I miss or skip a workout now and again. Thanks for your vulnerability!

    • Robyn Downs

      Sarah, so glad you’re connecting with this story and journey. It’s such a tricky thing, guilt and shame. Sounds like you’re working on it in your own life and making progress. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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