COMING CLEAN: Theories and Thoughts Around Food-Plan Slips

How the Handel Group’s concept of Divine Spit has me re-examining my food-slip theories.

Sometimes bad things happen. After many years and much resistance, I’ve come to embrace the saying, “everything happens for a reason,” but I still believe there are instances that just cannot be explained. (My 1999 car accident, for example, or see my blog post on cousin Jaime’s stroke.)

If you stand by this adage, the “reason” could be what we glean from unexplainable events — the appreciation for our precious lives, the strength we gain physically and mentally as we re-learn skills. Or perhaps the lesson isn’t for the victim but for the guilty party (the woman who rear-ended our car has hopefully learned to be a more cautious driver).

I’ve been thinking these deep thoughts after a recent call with life coach Lauren Zander. I confessed my slip with the cookie dough, and she declared it an act of “Divine Spit.” Lauren directed me to speak with The Handel Group’s Katie Torpey, who’s experienced this curiosity on her own weight-loss journey. (If you haven’t read Katie’s story yet, please do. She’s examined and changed every aspect of her life, and lost 130 pounds. Her blog is very honest and really inspiring.)

A few times a month, Katie allows for a “cheat day” where she eats off her meal plan. She’ll weigh in the day of her cheat day, and if she’s at her desired weight, she doesn’t stress about what she eats for the day. Occasionally, though, she’s hopped on the scale and found her weight to be wildly off, a full 10 pounds over her usual weight. She knows she’s been eating healthy and following her plan, so what could explain this gain? A broken scale?

She then reflects on her week: She’s late on turning in a proposal at work. Or she hasn’t called her parents when she said she would. When she rights these wrongs, the scale returns to her normal weight.

Bizarre? Yes, indeed.

And a bit hard for me to wrap my mind around. I’m fairly practical, so immediately I started thinking that maybe she had too much salt, or her weight gain was linked to her cycle, or the batteries in the scale were dying. Or stress! Yes, that had to be it — she was stressed because she missed her deadline and the extra cortisol might have made her more bloated. Hmmm…but 10 pounds?! That’s tough to rationalize through science if she wasn’t eating deep-fried everything and pounds of sugar. I had to let go of my analytical mind to learn more.

Editorial note: This blog post is not intended to be a criticism of religion. The concept of Divine Spit is a spiritual theory, and may not be for everyone. As always, the ideas in my blog do not reflect the philosophies of Experience Life or Life Time Fitness.

Since I’m pro-introspection, I was open to hearing the concept of Divine Spit. And as I’ve allowed my weight-loss process to become my teaching tool, understanding the “whys” behind my relationship to food and my body, garnering different perspectives has be hugely helpful. This idea was perhaps the hugest: The universe had a hand in my cookie-dough illness.

Before you judge, hear me out: I wasn’t raised in one particular religion (when I’m asked, I usually say I believe in all of them and none of them at the same time), but I learned important values of love, respect, hard work and generosity, among other traits, from my parents. My mom explained the cornerstones of various religions to me and told me I was allowed to find my path, if I ever chose to join a church or temple. For a long time, I always grouped “religion” and “spirituality” together, but now I know they are very different. And I have a strong spiritual side, even if it doesn’t fall under one school of thought. (See the editorial note above.)

The Handel Group’s theory of Divine Spit, then, isn’t one of Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Buddhism — although it can be, if you see it as God’s will — but rather one of connections. It’s an idea similar to karma, or the “everything happens for a reason” dictum that’s perplexed me all these years. If you lie to a friend, for example, then walk out the door and fall on your face, it wasn’t a coincidence but instead the universe calling you out.

Let me explain.

First, you’ll want to be familiar with the concept of “Personal Integrity.” It’s the foundation of The Handel coaching method, and an idea we’ve written about in Experience Life. Lauren introduced it to me when we first started working together: The thought, essentially, is that you keep promises to yourself. What you say and what you do aligns with your highest values. You walk your talk.

I think most people would quickly conclude that they live in Personal Integrity. Of course I do what I say I will do! I know I thought that way. But when I started to reflect on the promises I was making and keeping, they were all for other people. I would meet my friend for coffee when we made a date. I would turn in my assignments at work when they were due. I’d call Grandma back to answer her questions about Gmail. Or if I needed to reschedule, I’d ask in advance. (Granted, some people struggle with these commitments — even I have when I’m feeling overbooked — but generally speaking, showing up to work, paying bills, and being a good granddaughter are nonnegotiable.)

When it came to my own self-improvement goals, however, I was routinely breaking my promises. I’d tell myself that I’d go to the gym three times in a week, and I’d only go once. Or that I’d only have one glass of wine and I’d have three instead. I may have told myself my plans, maybe I even wrote it in my journal, but if I didn’t tell anyone else, no one was the wiser. We break our promises to ourselves first because we don’t need to be accountable to anyone else. So those times when I feel overbooked? I’ll cross off “gym,” or “facial” or “meditation” from my list in favor of finishing a project for work.

I could go on and on about the concept of Personal Integrity, but once you understand how this has fueled the work on Project Me (circa January 2010), you’ll see how Divine Spit can play a role.

The Handel Group defines it as:

Divine Spit (spiritual): When a person has developed Personal Integrity and been great in a specific area of their lives, a metaphysical, spiritual, funky woo-woo event happens if they break their integrity. It’s a beautiful whiplash of your higher self managing you — teaching you a lesson and waking you up to breaking your integrity. We call it “Divine Spit,” similar to the concept of instant karma. The universe decks you.

I’ve been eating healthy and making allowances for the occasional treats, but when I chose to eat the cookie dough last weekend, I was completely off my plan. Even as I lifted the spoonful of cookie dough to my mouth, I thought, I shouldn’t eat this. I knew better. And yet I ate the cookie dough anyway. It felt like self-sabotage.

As I’ve been journaling and examining this food slip, it’s been constructive for me to be open to all angles. While Divine Spit blew my mind, I know there are many theories, including:

  • I became ill because I ate raw cookie dough. Plain and simple. The package clearly stated “please do not eat raw cookie dough.”
  • I became ill because I didn’t know the source of the ingredients. It was a Big Brand, and most likely used eggs, dairy and flour from Big Farms — a much different place and product than the free-range, cage-free, certified organic eggs and chicken I eat from a local farmer.
  • I became ill because I have an intolerance to wheat and dairy.
  • I became ill because I haven’t been eating wheat and dairy, and it upset the delicate balance of my now-healthier gut microbiome.
  • I became ill because of Divine Spit, because I knew better — and told myself no — and karma came back to bite me. I fell out of line with how I want to be eating, and I paid the price.

It’s a bold and mighty thought: If I eat that cookie when I tell the world I’m on a diet, Divine Spit will surely get me! That’s a powerful motivator to stay on track.

Do I believe in Divine Spit? A little bit.

As Katie explained it to me, I started to think about the days when I’m clumsy when I’m usually not, or the day that I spilled water in three separate meetings. Was the universe trying to send me a sign to slow down and focus?

I’ll leave the interpretation up to you. I do know, however, that I continue to need all the help and support I can get (in weight loss and in life), so I’d rather keep the universe on my side.

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