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Numbing Vs. Nourishing

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Every now and again, someone says something that stops me in my tracks. Something that shifts my perspective or helps me to look at something in a whole new way. I love when this happens.

Here’s an example: I was having dinner with my friend, Jamie, and I was telling her about my struggle with ice cream. Let me preface this story by telling you that I have a very healthy relationship with food. I’m not a big fan of restriction, and I truly enjoy eating all of the things. In any event, my relationship with ice cream is…complicated. So, I was telling Jamie, that I was struggling, because while I love everything about ice cream, what I don’t love is that I have no self-control when it comes to eating it. It’s a full pint or nothing at all for me. And the truth is that I have a great metabolism and an iron stomach, so physically I feel fine consuming an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting, but I’m bothered that I can’t just eat a modest dish, or a single cone, like other people.

Numbing Vs. Nourishing, life clarifying questions by Shira Gill Home

And so, Jamie asks me this question that stops me in my tracks: “When you eat a pint of ice cream, does it feel numbing or nourishing?” And I love the complexity of this question, not only because it places no blame or shame on my ice cream consumption, but also because the answer is BOTH. Some days, I decide to treat myself to a pint of Ben and Jerrys Half Baked, and I savor and enjoy it, and feel like I am winning at life. Other times, I intend on only eating a small bowl, but then I head back to the freezer three times to refill the bowl, consuming the entire pint at the speed of a moving train, and then I wonder what just happened. Jamie’s question clarified what was troubling me – I love to eat ice cream when it feels nourishing, but when I use it as a tool to buffer or numb after a long day, it doesn’t feel like a positive or loving choice.

Since our conversation, I have shifted my relationship with ice cream. Before I dig into a pint, I pause, and ask myself, “is this numbing or nourishing?” If the answer is nourishing, off I go – BEN AND JERRYS COME AT ME!  But, if I realize that something deeper is going on, now, instead of plowing through the pint unconsciously, I take a few deep breaths. I write. I call a friend or have a chat with my husband. I take a brisk walk. I snuggle with our puppy. I do something that does, in fact, feel nourishing.

Numbing Vs. Nourishing, life clarifying questions by Shira Gill Home

Asking yourself if your behavior is numbing or nourishing is a great way to clarify whether you like your reasons for making any choice, whether it’s eating, shopping, or binge watching The Real Housewives of Orange County (just me?). All of these activities can feel good, and even energizing, or, they can feel depleting and draining.

So, my challenge to you is this: the next time you find yourself engaging in an activity that you’re not sure is healthy for you, ask yourself if it feels numbing or nourishing, and then use the answer to help you make a conscious choice that feels good. Make sure you can stand behind your reason. And then off you go!

P.S. You can check out Jamie’s coaching practice, and her post about numbing vs. nourishing right here.

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13 comments on “Numbing Vs. Nourishing

  1. I allow myself one day a week for ice cream, and it is the real stuff. I feel empowered when I allow myself certain times to indulge. You just can’t have it all 😜

  2. I struggle with Yoga. Not whether it’s numbing or nourishing (that much is clear), but rather giving myself permission to take an hour+ out of my day.

    What’s numbing is the endless task list that goes through my head during Eagle’s pose, or the fact that I should (read: guilt) be attending to more pressing (read: maybe they’re pressing, maybe not) matters.

    In the end, I’m always grateful that I took the hour+, as I know without taking care of me, I can’t take care of anyone, or anything, else.

  3. Love this, thank you for sharing. Just signed up for “truth bombs” from Jaime because that’s exactly what this was for me, and seriously, what DOESN’T this question apply to?

  4. Great post – and you’re so right, the same action can be numbing or nourishing, it all depends on where we’re coming from.
    I love your minimalism posts but enjoyed hearing from you on a different topic, too 🙂

  5. Love this Shira!

    I do something similar. I ask myself if I will feel an afterglow or an after burn when I have a drive to do something (shop, eat, hoard).

    I got this from Dr. Laurel Mellin a health psychologist who specializes in the neuroscience of our excessive drives and author of The Stress Overload Solution.

    I just signed up for your Virtual Workspace Makeover. Very excited to wrangle my paper stacks.


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