Book Review: How to Eat Like a Tree

How to Eat Like a Tree: Unearthing the Moderate Eater in You
 - by Dara Boland

If you're a gardener or a tree hugger, you'll enjoy this book. It's handwritten & illustrated, and it's laid out according to how you might plant a tree (consider the climate, choose the site, etc). It's got a lot of good tips, but what I liked best about it was how it resonated with me at the time. It focuses on balance, on eating for both life and enjoyment, without binges or guilt or deprivation. 

The top tips I got out of it:
  •  Consider the Climate:  
    • Observe your life. Take note of the things stressing you and how they affect your eating. Consider the things you are capable of changing. 
    • Set the table. Eat slowly, savoring every single bite. Try to eat like you did as a child.
  • Choose the Site:
    • Make a list of the things you enjoy in life (big or small) and how often you indulge in them. Add more time for these positive things! Even if it's just 10 minutes of quiet time to read, or walk, or sip your morning coffee while petting your cat.
    • If we do not indulge in these enjoyable things, that's when we tend to binge.
    • Food guilt (a big one for me): as long as you have eaten in a conscious manner (selecting what you really want and enjoying every bite) then you have taken in calories wisely because you have filled a void.Your internal need for comfort food has been filled, and you can move on.
    • After a binge, do not beat yourself up. Instead, add something else comforting, such as curling up with a book, watching your favorite movie, snuggling under a blanket washed with extra fabric softener, curling up with your pooch. Adding a positive every time can eventually lead you to select the non-food positive instead of a food binge the next time you have an emotional trigger.
  • Break Ground
    • Keep a daily journal of how you feel, and what you eat. Be detailed. Soon you'll see how your emotions affect your eating, and you'll find your own custom strategies to make healthier choices.
    • Don't focus on removing negatives. Focus on adding positives habits that will eventually "crowd out" the negatives.
  • Dig Shallow & Wide
    • Make a list of your 10 favorite people, activities, places, things - compare to what you actually do. Make a list of your 10 favorite foods - compare to what you actually eat.
    • When you are lacking in one place, you overload in another, to achieve a balance of some sorts; likely not the balance you want (otherwise you wouldn't be reading this).
    • The more you can add of the things you love to do, the less you will turn to food to achieve that balance. Or, the less food you will need (no more binges required!) to return to a fulfilled state of mind.
  • Prepare the Soil
    • Find a physical activity you love. If you hate running, don't do it. If you love long walks, do that. If you love group fitness classes, do those. If  you don't like anything, keep looking. There is something for everyone!
  • Add Organic Matter
    • Focus on drinking lots of water and eating more healthy vegetables & fruits at every meal or snack; don't worry about removing your wine or chips. Focus on adding positives.
    • Forget about weight loss. Instead, focus on weight management. Learn how you're going to eat for the rest of your life.
    • Experiment with new recipes & foods; shop the organic vegetables, buy fresh herbs, visit your local farmer's market. Try something new.
  • Mulch to Protect
    • Daily habits add up. The best metaphor: it's like pulling a weed or two every single day.
    • Allow yourself food indulgences when required, but include daily non-food indulgences as well. 
      • Winter weekend mornings may call for blueberry pancakes, but perhaps an hour outside sledding with the kids will be just as bucket-filling. Or? Do both.
      • A summer evening on the patio with a glass of wine might be just the ticket to ease you from work stress to Friday-evening relaxation. But then perhaps you can follow it with a hike in the park on Saturday morning to reconnect you to nature and invigorate your energy for the weekend!
For me personally, this particular quote really hit home: "Do not be afraid to plateau once in a while. Plan for it. Even the wildest of oceans are placid at times." During tax season, I not only hit a plateau, I went totally backward. And that's okay. I learned many lessons during that time.

Here's an example of how I'm applying this book's lessons while I battle my running pain: I know that I can't go run 24 miles this weekend. I probably can't even run 2. So instead, I'm planning all of these wonderful things to please my brain:
  • Today: Spartacus workout at lunch. Joining Amy for a hike tonight at Lake Carlos State Park.
  • Saturday: 10am workout with Amy. Parking my bike in the bike rack at work, to be left there all summer for easy access. Visiting the library after the workout.
  • Sunday: 10am workout with Amy. Make a bunch of healthy meals. Supper with tax firm coworkers.
  • Timing that depends on the weather: Read. Work on filing pile in 15-minute chunks. Go for a bike ride. Play in the dirt, in my flower gardens and maybe my mom's as well. Bring the cats outside to eat grass and roll in the dirt!

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