My late grandfather was a senator in Vietnam before the Communist takeover. I didn’t know him very well but I remember he was a kind, open-minded man; my dad said he was a visionary and passionate about serving others.

My dad served as an officer in the South Vietnamese army. Shortly after my parents got married, the Viet Cong captured him during the Vietnam War. He was a POW for 3.5 years. He would’ve been imprisoned longer but my mom was persistent in trying to free him. She skirted booby traps and snipers in the jungle and mountains in various attempts to bribe a soldier to free my dad.

I was a 19-day-old baby when my parents left their family and friends in Vietnam behind, and the three of us boarded a small boat with about 200 people, escaping to a refuge camp in Indonesia. Not everyone on the boat made it, and we were robbed three times by pirates. But my parents had a compelling goal: Make it to America. Make it to Freedom.

It’s not an uncommon immigrant story. But reflecting back on it recently, I noticed a common thread in my family’s story and my work: I realized that one of my core values is Freedom.

This translates to my work in a couple of ways. First, I love the freedom and flexibility of having my own practice – setting my own schedule and never compromising my integrity or values in order to fit someone else’s agenda or bottom line. I can speak (and write!) my truth, and offer only services that I truly want to fulfill. I have the freedom to change and grow my business, as I change and grow myself. Secondly, my passion is helping others to find freedom in their relationship with food.

So what does freedom with food even look like? I want to hear your definition. To get your brainstorming juices going, here are some of my thoughts:

  • Freedom to enjoy whatever activities and pursuits you want (e.g. traveling, socializing, celebrations) instead of being held back by food fears
  • Freedom from self-judgment about what you did or didn’t eat
  • Freedom to enjoy eating what you truly want and feel satisfied
  • Freedom from food worries, deprivation, preoccupation, food guilt or shame. This leads to the freedom to be more present in your life.
  • Sense of ease and trust
  • Freedom of choice: feeling like you can say yes OR no to that second helping or whatever food depending on what honors you in the moment (versus some arbitrary food rules or trying to please others)
  • Freedom to honor your body and treat it with respect and kindness
  • Time and energy for what you value most in life

If this feels too far out of reach, know you’re in good company and try to extend some compassion to yourself. You’re not expected to go from A to Z overnight. And if you’re struggling with disordered eating, you’ll need a team to support you (eating disorder nutritionist, therapist and medical provider). Getting to food freedom is a process that involves empowering food experiences and building self-trust — one meal, one snack at a time.

For now, here’s what I propose you try: take a moment to write out the elements of your Wellness Vision. This is a compelling vision that includes how you want to feel and what you see yourself doing on a regular basis. Consider elements related to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. What do you want your relationship to food to look like? What about joyful movement, self-care, relationships, meaningful pursuits, play/fun/creativity? Include as many details as possible. You can always revise it later if you want: after all, it’s your North Star, no one else’s. Helping my clients create their Wellness Vision is one of my favorite things to do in an initial session. Before you strategize or dive into problem solving or goal setting, it’s important to know exactly why any of this matters. For me, I’ve learned it’s all about Freedom.

New Intuitive Group starts in ~2 weeks! If you want less struggle and guilt, and more peace and freedom with food, the upcoming 5-week Intuitive Eating Group is a great place for both peer and expert support. Get the details here. As always, shoot me an email or give me a call if you have any questions at all!