Are You a Influencer or Follower When it Comes to Food?

Ariel Richards

Ariel Richards

WF Certified Coach

The holiday season is upon us, and so are the parties and get togethers! Ultimately the key to championing your WildFit food guidelines at feasts is to anticipate your fears and honor your feelings. Last December I attended a brunch fundraiser at a resort in Cabarete. I was feeling ambivalent about attending, as I hadn’t slept well and was dealing with some personal drama. However, I look forward to the event each year, so I got dressed up and headed out the door. My awareness of my need for space and quiet allowed me to mentally and emotionally prepare for what was ahead of me. I knew what I was looking forward to and what I needed to avoid. 

They greeted us at the door with a smile and an extended glass of champagne, which set the atmosphere for what lay ahead. Once we moved out into the garden the smells started wafting towards me. The most prominent scents were that of coffee, breakfast sausages, bacon and fresh pastries. I mentally prepared myself for the spread. I had already enjoyed my morning Alkagizer and was well hydrated, but was feeling somewhat vulnerable. There were hundreds of people of all ages, children running around and filling the pool, beautifully polished adults clutching glasses in tight circles, a band, a silent auction, the caterers, the servers, chaos! 

As I moved through the crowd to get an ice water I felt anxiety building. My daughter was nervous because of all the noise so she hung heavily on my hip. Beads of sweat formed on my brow and dripped down my neck. We slowly meandered our way through, greeting many familiar faces. Each benevolent question asked triggering me slightly. “How are you?” (exhausted and irritated) “Good thanks, and you?” “What are your plans for Christmas?” (lengthy travel with a toddler to challenging family gatherings) “We’re heading back to Canada to spend time with family, and you?” I could feel tension winding inside me as possible trajectories of these future events ran in the background of my mind. I consciously started breathing deeply to let the pressure off.

By the time I reached the drink station the buffet was being served. I gazed over the feast and saw mainly sugar and dairy in various formations. My daughter was whining hungrily. I paused, closed my eyes and asked: “What would help me feel better most in this moment?” “CHOCOLATE SQUARES!!” “No, look deeper. I need to be calm, centered and energized.” “Okay…” I moved through the tables, choosing brightly coloured salads, lingering at the omelette station, and gathering indulgences from the fresh local seafood that was available. We also got a heaping plate of fresh fruit. In looking at my selections I grinned inwardly. I chose well and it felt good. 

When we arrived at our table I sighed in relief to be sitting. Around me friends had large plates of as many confections as they could carry. Some were going back for seconds. I knew this was an eat and drink until you are ready for a siesta kind of event, but I was not about to conform to that madness. I had become a wellness leader in that community, it was after all up to people like me to change this norm. I ate slowly, enjoying the colors, flavors and shapes before me, savored the mouth feel, paused between bites. Around me there were groans of discomfort and grumbles of regret. My efforts to choose according to what I really needed were reinforced by observing the outcome of their choices. 

As I had noticed their plates and energy, those around me had noticed the difference in my plate too. Some had expected it, but those who didn’t asked me the usual questions. Ultimately what they wanted to know was, with all the beautiful cakes, pastries, pancakes, various potatoes and cheeses available, why would I neglect them? Was I on a diet? My short answer was “I don’t eat that anymore.” The longer answer was: “I know that those foods don’t agree with me, so I told myself I wouldn’t eat them anymore. I’m working on acting in favor of self discipline rather than impulse, so that I can consciously empower myself rather than sabotaging and becoming discouraged.” This answer, whether they found it inspiring or not, led to a conversation about things other than me being different or other. By anticipating my fears and honoring my feelings I was able to enjoy the event and eat in a way that best served me. I may have also inspired a few friends to join the next WildFit Challenge.  

It is often much easier to go into these situations with friends and strangers than with family. Family have a greater ability than anyone to show us where we still have work to do. We tend to believe that we are static, and that as we progress we will continue to always move forward. We are however dynamic beings, and just as we are able to completely transform who we are from one year to the next, we can also regress quite quickly when a pain point is pressed.

I have on a number of occasions found myself eating chocolate chips right out of the jar in my parents kitchen after a classic argument between them made me feel I was seven years old again. If I am caught off guard, their words have the ability to trip a silent alarm inside me that sends me into subconscious panic mode. The stress builds from a knot in my stomach to a clenched jaw, and ultimately a trip down to the kitchen for something sweet. 

Over time I have trained myself to turn right out the door at the bottom of those stairs and take several deep breaths in the fresh air, asking: “What is bothering me? Why am I letting it bother me? What message is this stress sending me? How can I better alleviate it? Nine times out of ten this enables me to come back into alignment with my true self. Those times that I still find my hand in the chocolate chips, I don’t scold myself, but instead move into my deep breaths. I have learned that by scolding or shaming myself I would only be adding to the stress, creating the need for another venting session down the road. We cannot control what is said or done around us, but we 100% control our own actions and reactions. We are in charge of our choices and decisions. If we react in a way that is not congruent with who we are, we can correct that with our next action. 

I was not always the healthy person in my family, but I earned the title with my interest and enthusiasm over time. I find that this also really helps me to stay consistent with my food choices, as others now look to me for advice and to set an example. In becoming a healthy person, rather than just trying to be a healthy person, it grew into my identity and a part of who I was. Once that happened, I no longer had to choose whether I would make the best choice for my body or not, because an intrinsic part of who I am is seeking optimal health and vibrancy. 

My baseline shifted to a place of generally eating the natural human diet with some modern, conventional food products scattered in, rather than the other way around. This was not an event, but rather a process made by one choice after another to choose in alignment with my long term health and happiness. I became a real life food influencer, rather than a follower, which is an experience I now share with many of you who are transforming the lives of your family and friends. 

I hope that as you move into this holiday season you will remember to also be kind to yourself, learn from your experiences, and always aim for progress not perfection one decision at a time. What are you most looking forward to at holiday gatherings this year? What are you dreading? Has this article been helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below!

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Ariel Richards

Ariel Richards

Ariel Richards is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Wellness Coach and Energy Worker living in Canada.
She is passionate about nutrition, its impact on happiness, and effect on the mind. Eating meals rich in whole and nutritious foods and practicing mindfulness has renewed her life with feelings of health, vibrancy and energy. With a specific focus on conquering chronic illness and living with mindfulness, her life experience will inspire you.
She's all about natural food and lifestyle solutions for real people living everyday lives.

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