Tips For A Better Body Image

If you have food issues, fear foods, disordered behavior, or are a professional dieter, I can almost guarantee that they stem from struggling with Body Image. Think about it.. if our bodies didn't change because of the food we eat, or how much food we consume, then food would not possess such intense morality. It doesn't matter if you are fat or have thin privilege, the feeling of body dissatisfaction FEELS the same for any woman who experiences it.

Thin privilege is a term that describes a woman who is in an "acceptable BMI range" and does not have to face the day to day struggles and experiences of a person in a large body who's mobility is effected or who faces criticism from society or who is automatically viewed as unhealthy because of their size. And Yes, I do have thin privilege, and I have received the insinuating comment that I just couldn't possibly understand what it's like to be in a fat body. And although our experiences are different, In any life circumstance, we can never fully know what anyone else is going through. But  I can however almost guarantee that I've had the same self- negative body talk, the same diet mentality, the same hatred for a body part(s) and the same wishes to be thinner as any other woman. Size is not a factor here.. What matters is how we view ourselves and learning to erase the inner mean girl that we all have sitting in our brains. We all have internal struggles and for anyone to suggest that our feelings about our bodies are valid or invalid based on how society labels the shape or size of our body to being acceptable or not, fat or thin, is unfair. 

 In my opinion the majority of women who control their food, aren't doing it solely for life-span & health purposes. Most people who are eating clean or healthy, have some underlying motive to achieve thinness or have a fear of being fat. 

So, In order to achieve a place where we can view food as just food, (a human necessity that is nourishing, energizing and keeping us alive), we must address Body Image. If we can come to a place where we accept our body for what it is and we can put aside trying to achieve a unicorn body, then the food issues will no longer be an issue - our quality of life will increase and in turn, we will be living in a healthier mind set.  In order to do this, we have to change the neuropathways in our brains to believe different truths. Truths and beliefs are ingrained as children and solidified over the years from outside messages and internal thoughts that we believe to be true. (Subscribe to my newsletter to learn more about this). 

I am not claiming that it is easy or that body image work is ever done, it takes work everyday. I still have triggers that have my mind racing that I should be stronger, thinner, taller, leaner or triggers that have me criticizing the shape of my legs or stomach or have me saying I feel "fat" in certain clothes. But I can tell you from the experience of doing the work, these thoughts that I use to mull and obsess over for days and weeks, last about 3 minutes tops. Because of the tools and knowledge I have, I can appreciate and accept however my body looks today. And you can too. 

I'm filled with ways to help you achieve a better Body Image but here are 3:

  1. Filter your social media. Too many times we are following people who “trigger” our negative thoughts. Whether someone posts a picture and we start comparing our body to theirs or they say something promoting diets or weight loss or those awful before and after transformation pictures. Sometimes we forget that we can literally unfollow people and then fill our feed with body positive profiles and messages. Even if you have to unfollow a friend, you can kindly explain that you don’t want to hurt their feelings but you are on a body positive journey and you need to block some things that are triggering and right now you have to #doyou. Believe me, your true friends will understand. Follow profiles of people in similar or larger bodies as you. Fill your eyes with different images then our Diet culture provides.
  2. Accept the things that you can. Maybe you have bigger legs then you’d like or your stomach isn’t as flat as you’d like. We all have these thoughts.. and when they come up, you can catch them. Stop. And change your train of thought. Tell yourself, my legs may be bigger, but they can function. Wouldn’t it be worse if I couldn’t walk? Or my stomach may not be what I want it to be, but I can put my hand on it and remind myself that I am breathing and am literally able to enjoy life. Or it gave me beautiful kids that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
  3. Appreciate where you came from. Think about your mom, aunts, grandmothers, cousins.. what body shape do they have? Is yours similar? We all have different and unique genes and family lineage. So it’s nearly impossible to look at a celebrity, or friend or any other image of a woman and wish we looked like them. Think about the people and family traits that make you unique and start to appreciate that!

For MORE body image tips, join in on  :

Why Women Fear Appetite

Have you heard of the story of Adam and Eve? Of course you have! But for all intensive purposes, lets sum up the moral of the story. Eve, a woman is told to eat from the garden, but not from the sweet delicious fruit from the forbidden tree. But Eve has a hunger, an appetite - a hunger for that fruit. And her desire for that fruit takes over and she takes a bite of the fruit, fulfilling her appetite. And she is heavily shamed for it. Because she let her appetite take over, because she lacked willpower over food, she is deemed as bad and wrong. She is punished for her actions.

Have you ever said to yourself, or heard a friend say, "I was so bad, I ate that brownie, ugh I have no willpower." Women have a strange way of feeling internally bad or wrong when they eat something they desire that is "forbidden". Whether you forbid yourself to eat certain foods, or society is telling you which foods are not allowed on your clean eating plan, your body will automatically start to build up a desire to eat that food. And eventually, the cravings grow stronger, and ultimately we "give in" and feel shame and guilt. And furthermore, we might even punish ourselves by working it off, or eating cleaner tomorrow. Interesting right? We are almost passed down this idea that our appetites are shameful if not tamed. 

Appetite is a biological necessity but it is something that women struggle with constantly. How many times have you thought to yourself, "I can't give in to my hunger, because if I ate whatever I wanted, I would go off the rails - I would be a bottomless pit!" But when we deny that our appetites are right and good, then we are creating a jail that is keeping us trapped in the endless diet cycle. 

Our desires are always leading us to the truth of who we are - including our appetites.

If you pay attention to your hunger and fullness, and you tap into the wisdom of your body, then you would be guided into a way of eating that is natural for you. We all are equipped with a body that has an innate sense of the right foods to eat and how much to eat. Your body physically does not want to overeat. Nutrition is not an exact science. If there was one diet that worked for everyone, then we would all have been on it and Diet Culture would fizzle out. The only way we can find the nutrition and a way of eating that will work for us, is when we are able to tap into our body's cues around food. Hunger, fullness, satiety and cravings.

I will add a disclaimer here before I go on any further.

Overeating is NORMAL and OK. Sometimes we are enjoying family, we are at a celebration, or we just want to feel full. Emotional eating is for another blog, but that too is normal and OK.  It is when we connect overeating to feelings of shame and guilt that it becomes a problem and when those feelings are interfering with your life (for example, you can't stop thinking about it, or you feel the need to make up - repent - for it) then you need to assess and find a different way.

That being said, Some reasons we overeat are:

  1. Deprivation, this is "forbidding" foods (whether that be physical or mental- mental meaning its "off limits, or to be managed when eating).
  2. Denial, ignoring our hunger or denying ourselves an appropriate portion size
  3. Dieting, same as physical deprivation
  4. Disconnection to our bodies, we are ignoring hunger and fullness cues or we disassociate from the act of eating or the food.

Binge eating is a even more severe form of overeating, when we consume large amounts of food in a short amount of time and most definitely numb out or feel a loss of control.

Binge Eating is not a problem or a disease. It is a biological response to restriction and deprivation. Whether its physical or mental. 

Yes it can take a while to retrain your brain to stop binge eating, but with the right tools and mindset, you can stop the behavior.  And it also can be dependent on how long you've restricted for. Binge eating or overeating is actually a biological mechanism that is replacing the food that your body needs from restriction. If you feel like you are eating sufficiently, then really dive into your mental thoughts around food. 

If you are a chronic dieter, All of this takes practice, patience and guidance. But I'm telling you right now.. Your appetite is helpful, not harmful. You do not have to live in a constant state of willpower. Your hunger is not something that needs taming or control. 

So you don't have to fear your appetite, you just have to learn the act of listening to your body. Freedom around food is in your hands, take back your power. 

If the holidays are a time where you feel like overeating is a problem for you, check out my holiday coaching program..

 

 

Is My Salad Unhealthy?

If you asked anyone if a salad is healthy or unhealthy, they'd probably start asking you what kind of dressing it has on it, or if there is fried or grilled chicken on it.  What if I told you the ingredients in it isn't what makes it healthy. Nutritionally dense, maybe. But Healthy, no.

This, by the way, also pertains to ANY food you are eating.

The way to figure out if the salad you are having for lunch is healthy or unhealthy, is by putting the salad itself aside and evaluate WHY you are eating it and HOW you are eating it. WHY did you chose the salad and in what way are you eating it? Here are some concrete answers to help you decide your WHY and observe your HOW.

Are you eating the salad because:

  • You are avoiding the sandwich
  • Salad has no carbs in it
  • You ate pizza last night, you really should have a salad for lunch
  • You need to get back on track
  • You are trying to lose weight
  • You are scared of other foods
  • You have no idea what the office lunch would do to your figure
  • You just worked out so you can't "defeat the purpose"
  • It had the least amount of calories from other options
  • You stocked up on salad stuff last night because your healthy habits  "start today"
  • You are suppose to go out to dinner tonight, so you have to conserve calories today

These reasons behind choosing the salad CAUSE the salad to be UNHEALTHY for you. If these are your WHY'S on choosing the salad, then most likely the following is going to be HOW your eating it.

  • You have no desire to eat the actual food, its just a gateway to keep you skinny.
  • You feel pressure while eating it.
  • You are completely stressed out because if you eat salad all week and don't lose a pound, then it was a waste of "trying"
  • You envy the person next to you who ordered the sandwich, if only you could eat whatever you wanted and not gain weight.

The entire thought process while eating ANY food is sending signals to your digestion and if you are STRESSED or thinking NEGATIVE thoughts while eating, your digestion is turned off and the food will get stored as fat until you are in an optimal state of digestion.

Your body cannot differentiate between Real Stress and Imagined Stress. Your (lower) critter brain has the same reaction whether or not you are being chased by a bear OR if you are desperate to lose weight and stressed out about your food choices to reach that goal... what happens is this: Your blood flow is routed away from digestion and heads to your legs and arms, adrenaline and cortisol speeds up, which forces your body to hold onto weight,  (in order to escape the "bear"). Also when stressed, your body will increase expelling nutrients through your urine and decrease gut flora.. It is only when you can eat in a relaxed state that your body is able to digest and fully absorb the nutrients.

Making a "healthy" food choice is only 1/2 the equation to healthy living.. The other  1/2 of the equation is Being in an ideal state to digest food. 

So is your salad Healthy? It is if you are eating the salad:

  • Because it sounded good and you chose it
  • Your body wanted it and you felt a craving for it (if you think this is impossible, I strongly urge you to join in on one of the coaching programs!) 
  • It was the only food left on the earth and you needed to eat it to survive.

If this is the case then HOW you are eating it would be:

  • Relaxed
  • Enjoying it
  • Using all your senses and appreciating what the food is providing
  • Indifferent (this is also another piece of connecting to your body signals)

Whatever you are having for lunch or dinner today, instead of putting all the focus on WHAT to have, ask yourself the WHY and the HOW. WHY am I drawn toward this food and WHY am I choosing it and HOW will I feel when I eat it. 

 

 

 

Halloween Candy Panic

Well todays the day. Women across the country are getting their kids ready, so excited to see their babies in cute costumes, that picture is going to be adorable. And the other half of them is  in FULL PANIC MODE. 

Better get to the gym today.

I hope we get rid of all this candy, start giving kids two pieces each so I won't have leftovers.

As soon as my kids come home, they'll have one piece and then I'm throwing it out.

Every night I've been dipping into that candy, what will happen when my kids come home with bags filled!

I can feel women everywhere literally white knuckling their way through Halloween and in the weeks to come. Sitting on their hand every night trying not to dip into their kids' bags. Going to the gym an extra amount so they can indulge at night. And waking up in the mornings with candy shame and regret.

And MY favorite - Trying to convince themselves that they are satisfied by replacing candy urges with chocolate diet shakes.

The problem here is not you. The problem is that we live in a society that has taught us that we  shouldn't eat certain foods. That being fat is a horrible thing, and if you gain weight, you have lost all control and you are lazy and worthless. We live in a society where food is of abundance and being skinny is praised. We get these messages every single day. This is the season where we get bombarded with weight loss ads and programs that will help us say NO to holiday treats. They promise to provide you with the willpower to get through. 

This is all bullshit. Why do you think Nestle bought Jenny Craig. What a genius idea! Sell delicious chocolate that women can't refuse and then when they gain weight, we will tell them that is not acceptable and we can make more money off of them because we have this amazing weight loss plan.

We have been taught these messages from childhood. They are beliefs that are drilled into our unconscious. DON'T EAT THE HALLOWEEN CANDY. 

Here's my advice, eat the damn candy. Have a piece, have two or three. Chances are if you can't stop eating the candy, you are most likely a restrictive eater and you feeling uncontrollable around candy, is your body giving you a message: You have been depriving me (mentally or physically) and now that you've allowed yourself a piece of candy, your body is like, "All systems go! She's giving us food, quick turn on every signal and urge to keep her eating".

I'm going to leave you with this, take away shame, guilt and restriction today. Use today as an experiment. Can you eat a couple pieces and be satisfied or are you sitting on your hands trying to distract yourself from trampling over your kids to get into that bag? Learn something about this experience of Halloween and how you want your life to be for the next 10 years when it comes to your experience of eating and food.

 

 

Storytelling and Food Behaviors

I recently listened to a Podcast Called Every Body Episode #17 with Dr. Anita Johnston, who was a guest on The Everyday Woman Podcast Episode #23. For those of you who don't know, Anita has been working in the world of eating disorders for 30+ years, she is a depth psychologist who uses metaphor to help her patients understand the deeper meaning behind their food behaviors. 

 Do you ever notice when you are around your parents, or friends of your parents, you might feel like a young child again? Or maybe your divorced in your 30's and meet someone new and feel like your 16 again? This is because:

We are always all of our ages.  

We are always all of our ages means that we can always connect back to how we felt at any point in our lives. For example, someone who feels a lot of shame or guilt around eating too much, might feel that way because in their childhood, they heard comments around the dinner table such as "wow, your stomach is like an empty pit." or heard an adult saying (what they thought was innocent) things like "Fast food is bad, it will make you fat". So a 32 year old woman could be eating a fast food meal but feel intense shame and guilt while eating it because they were told it was bad at age 10, and that belief is still in them.

All of which is to say, I really connect with metaphors. I think they can present us with a visual that is able to provide us with a deeper understanding of our behaviors. Most children have an intense imagination, and even thinking back to your own childhood, I'm sure you can remember having stories read to you and even telling stories of your own. I think this is why metaphors can deeply impact our understanding because storytelling is imbedded into us.

That was a big Segway into sharing with you the story that I heard Anita tell on this podcast episode that really resonated with me. I think it is an ingenious way to give us a different perspective on how we treat our bodies. I think we forget that our bodies are animals. We often think that our mind can control how our bodies look, and quickly forget that our bodies are its own animal, it sends us messages on how it needs to be taken care of. And will always take actions to keep us safe. 

This very paraphrased story is taken directly from the Every Body podcast with Dr. Anita Johnston, who is a brilliant storyteller and explains our relationship to our body in a beautiful metaphorical way. If this story speaks to you, I recommend listening to the episode. 

Once upon a time, there was a king who went on a long voyage. Upon his return home, The King arrived at his castle gates and his loyal companion, his dog, is there waiting for him. His dog is fiercely barking and growling at him and The King thinks, "I've been away too long, surely he is mad at me". The King follows the growling, barking dog who leads him to the nursery of his first born child. The King looked down closely at the dog, his best friend and most loyal companion, and was horrified to see the dogs muzzle with blood. And he looks into the nursery and is beyond horrified when he sees blood splattered all over the walls and the crib knocked over. The King became enraged at the betrayal of his best friend and took his sword and plunged it into the dogs heart. Immediately, The King heard a cry from across the room. He slowly walked over and beneath the carcass of a dead wolf was his infant child, completely unharmed.

Read this story again but replace the characters:

The Dog in this story is our Body, our most loyal companion, our best friend who will be with us everyday of our lives.

The Infant is our unique self, our soul, who we are.

The Wolf is our inner critic - the one who tells us our bodies need to look a certain way, we need to eat a certain way, and the messages we learn from Diet Culture. Messages that prey on the most unique aspect of our being, our true selves.

When we sense that something is wrong, such as using all efforts to make our body to look a certain way OR stuck in a habit that we feel out of control around, we make an assumption that the problem is with our body.

Ever catch yourself saying "I wish I didn't like ice cream" or "I cant even have chips around because I'd eat the whole bag" - this is a feeling that you have when you feel out of control, likeyour body is taking over. How about "I wish I had those abs" or "My thighs will never look like that, I've tried". This is another example of feeling like your body has failed you.

The Problem is NOT with our body, the problem is Diet Culture and our Inner Critic. The dog (our body) is trying to protect the child (our inner self) but the King ignored his most loyal companion and assumed it was betraying him and instead reacted to the strong remnants (Diet Culture messages) that the wolf left. In the end, the dog (our body) gets punished for sending messages that are designed to protect us.

Anita does a wonderful job in this story explaining how women receive Diet Culture messages telling us we should eat, workout and look a certain way. The "Right" way. We often resist the messages our bodies are giving us, such as ignoring hunger and fullness cues or our intuition. And when we try and try, and our body doesn't do what we want it to, or what we think it should, then we envision "wolf blood" splattered all around us, and we react. We think our body has betrayed us. And then, we react by treating our bodies worse by working out more and eating less. 

Being able to become intuitive and listen to your body sounds like a hippie idea, but the reality is, our bodies were designed for it. Our bodies are designed to give us messages and grab our attention to tell us what it needs. It is when we have the ability to listen, and shew away outside influences, then our body will take care of us. Think about going to the bathroom. We feel an urge to go and we recognize the feeling, we listen, and we respect that signal and we go. Until we are finished. We don't stop halfway because someone has told us the right amount of pee we should have and if we keep going, we are over-peeing because that's what society has told us. Hunger, food, eating is the same type of message from our body. But instead of recognizing, listening and respecting our hunger signals, we ignore, get annoyed or manipulate that signal. Ever stop eating because you are at lunch with someone who has finished before you? Or change the meal you wanted because your friend picked a "healthier" option? 

One more example to drive this point home. Often times women will tell me, "If I listened to my body, I would eat all of the junky food and I won't exercise. They envision this picture of themselves, 50 pounds heavier, lying on a couch with bags of chips, cakes and ice cream around them. This isn't listening to your body. This scenario is when we listen to outside messages that we shouldn't eat certain foods, and believe the messages that we will become lazy and accrue excess fatif we don't control our food choices. "No excuses" "Work Hard" "Eat Clean" "No pain, No gain" "Push Harder" "Be Stricter" "Chose Wiser" "Self Control" "Willpower" "Earn the Junk Food".... These messages are so strong that they force us to believe that we can't trust our bodies. When we tell ourselves that we shouldn't eat a certain food, you better believe the desire to eat it will get stronger. If we tell ourselves that we are going to "eat better, starting tomorrow", Your body will go into full on last supper mode and that's generally why we think we will end up on that couch if we relinquish control.

Listening to your body is an art, it takes work and guidance but once you can do it,  you feel more powerful and in control then you ever did when you were following a rule based rigid plan or conforming to diet mentality messages.

Take care of your Dog and it will be loyal to you.

 

 

 

Calories

I wasn't planning on writing a blog today but I just felt an extreme need to. Yesterday,  I had some time alone with my 12 year old daughter, Sofia and we decided to go to the movies. Being a holiday, it was pretty crowded, especially with little kids. 

We were waiting in the line for popcorn, behind us was one woman with 4 girls. Three of them were around 8 years old, so I assumed they were friends. And the older girl, probably a sister, was around 11. 

There was a stand next to us filled with boxes of candy that you could pick up before you hit the register. The girls behind us each picked a box of candy. Not two seconds later, the girls started comparing the calories in their candy. "I have 130 calories in my box, what about you" "oh no, I have 150 calories!" and this went on for about 10 minutes. The mom just looked at the girls and laughed and said, "I'm sure they don't contain a lot of protein".. and the girls proceeded to compare grams of protein. I was shocked and quite frankly, furious. Is this what we are teaching our young girls?! 

Now I want you to picture this because these three little girls were very petite as was the mother feverishly talking about calories, maybe not even aware of what they were even talking about... and quietly listening in was the 11 year old girl who said nothing but I could see her mind was running like a hamster wheel. This 11 year old girl had fat on her bones and I could tell she was going to be tall but hadn't quite gotten there yet. Her body was clearly in that pre-pubescent process of changing but she was significantly larger then the other girls.

By the way, VERY NORMAL FOR A GIRL WHO IS 11 AND 12.

Finally I watch as the older girl slowly looked at her mother, as if to say "am I fat, should I not be eating this candy", but the mom just grinned, unaware of the underlying reaction. Then the 11 year old looked back at the girls and said, "stop, you guys shouldn't be concerned with calories." And only because I turned fully around and glared at the mother did she proceed to reiterate, "yes I know, little girls shouldn't concern themselves with such things." I nodded my head in agreement.

What I wanted to say was, "And adult girls should? What about College aged? High School girls? - Should they be concerning themselves with calories and grams?" I held my tongue, but I regret doing so. 

This is exactly why I am passionate about the work I do. I have heard countless moms tell me how they teach their daughters about a positive body image and how to love themselves, and then they model the opposite. Its mom 101... Monkey See, Monkey Do. 

I am no saint, 3 years ago, I was the same. I am horrified that my kids watched me over-exercise and talk about food in a way that was "right or wrong". I hated that my meals looked different then theirs.  And I did all of that because I was afraid of fat, my number one goal was to not gain weight. I have since talked with my daughter about this and tried my best to rewire everything I may have taught her in the past. She has also watched me become more relaxed around food & exercise and restore some weight, and be ok with it. She knows what I do now for work now so she immediately looked at me and rolled her eyes when we over heard this calorie talk.

No one will be a perfect parent, but I've learned the hard way that in order to be greater role models for our kids, we have to improve ourselves.

 After a year off of exercise, I have just started back into it. Because I do encourage working out, it provides us with more energy and vitality and helps increase strength so that we can be more active and productive in daily life. I am all for goals. I am all for movement and eating healthy to feel our best.

I, however, think we have to stop talking about food, body image and weight as some sort of hierarchy. If we keep doing this, it will only continue. I don't agree with all the commenting on body types, or labeling food. I also don't agree with associating the amount of food we eat with the amount of exercise we do.

I believe that food and exercise should make us feel good, not cause us stress or anxiety. And I do believe that young girls learn from what they see which is why I am extremely conscious of showing my daughter the power of owning her body however it shows up. And not manipulate it with food and exercise. 

I believe in living an ideal life, not living in an ideal body and I hope she will monkey see, monkey do that. I hope she will learn by example. Of course, I'm human, I'm bound to have hard days, and have a negative thoughts, but I have learned how to quickly dismiss them so that I can show her how to accept and be good to her body. If nothing motivates me to be kind to myself, she always does.

 If you are afraid of fat, they will learn to be afraid to.

If you put weight and body image on a pedastool, they will be too.

If you put your morality around what you eat and how you exercise, they will too.

If you say no to an afternoon sandwich because it has bread and you just worked out, they will pick up on it.

If you comment about your body size, food and exercise, they will hear it.

If you associate the word Health with your clean way of eating or needing to exercise for an hour every day, they will pick up on it. which leads me right back to my story..

How would an 8 year old girl learn to flip over the box to look for the calories?! I'm sure her mom would say she hasn't taught her daughter that...but I'm pretty sure she does it.

Think about this, the only reason someone would concern herself with calories, is because she has learned that eating too many calories will cause her to gain weight. And gaining weight would be a concern because she was taught that gaining weight is bad and becoming fat is unaccepted. 

My guess is one of those 4 little girls are bound to have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. I have done countless amounts of podcasts with women who were ingrained and taught at a young age that fat is bad and that skinny is good. And it may have just taken one comment or one instance of calorie counting at the movie theatres. This is why, I want make sure I am teaching and modeling body positivity at home the best I can.

If we are partaking in diet culture, then diet culture will never go away. If we are talking about fat, calories, labeling good food and bad food and are buying weight loss products or being rigid about exercise, then diet industry is winning and our girls will continue to hear these messages that can lead to a very serious mental health problem.            

 Are you a mom, aunt, sister? If a young girl in your life said she was dissatisfied with her body, would you tell her to clean eat and over exercise? Or would you sit her down and tell her she is beautiful the way she is? Would you tell her to skip dessert because she had a little extra fat on her body? Or would you tell her to enjoy life? Then why are we as grown women treating ourselves this way?! 

When we can change our views on body image and health, our young girls can start to receive different messages. And something magical could also happen, we might just start to believe it for ourselves.

Health

What is Health? Being Healthy? I literally cringe everytime I hear a new shake, product, plan or cleanse hit the diet market promoting a "health". Health may be a science, it's definitely medical but it's not at the bottom of any shake or at the end of any plan.

Ever Google the definition of Health? I did. And here's what I found, 

HEALTH:

  • The state of being free from illness or injury.
  • A person's mental or physical condition.
  • The condition of being in sound mind, body and spirit
  • Freedom from physical disease or pain
  • A condition in which someone is thriving and doing well

If you compare that to some of the current societal messages of what we are told health is, its a pretty remarkable difference to say the least.

I may not be a health expert but here's what I do know, 

Health doesn't have to look like yoga pants and smoothies. 

It can be sweatpants and cookies. 

It doesn't mean a grueling 30 minutes on the elliptical and going home to a perfectly portioned salad. 

It can be eating in the car and picking up the baby a million times a day.

Health isn't weighing in every day week, or month and wanting to do whatever it takes to achieve a thin, toned body. 

Health isn't defined by what your body looks like. 

You can love to work out or you can hate it. 

You can make a schedule or you can wing it. 

You can take a yoga class once and never do it again. 

You can resurrect a Jane Fonda tape and do it in your pjs. 

Health doesn't need to be a grand scheme plan, resolution or promise .

It's not a one size fits all, it's unique 

It's receiving guidance not dictation 

Health doesn't have a face

It is not a competition 

Health isn't abs or rolls 

Health isn't a wagon that you can fall off of or a track that you can get back on. 

Health looks different for you then it does your best friend, sister,  or the woman down the street. 

Health isn't in counting numbers or tracking them

Health is being OK with how it looks for you today. 

Health is counter-intuitive when obsessed or stressed over 

Health isn't a start date or a redo.

Health is not an end goal. It is progress.

 

Just as life isn't perfect, neither is health. 

 

Cleanses and Toxins? To hear my thoughts on this...

What I've learned along the way...

I get it. Long Blogs aren’t for everyone. If you want to skip to the takeaways, scroll to the bullet points in Bold at the bottom.

Being a mom is hard. It's full time and there is no manual to how it's done. I have three kids; Girl 12, boy 9 and boy 3(almost 4). With a preteen girl in the house and a non-verbal autistic son , plus my “middle child”- (if you have one, you know what I'm talking about) - let's just say there's never a dull moment in my house. 

As moms we all have our challenges. We also all have our ways of coping with stress. My way of coping with stress towards the end of high school was to control the way my body looked. I am a type A and a perfectionist so this was a way that I felt in charge during  the uncontrollable and unpredictable events of life. 

I never had a diagnosed eating disorder but I just thrived off of the control and predictability of being on a diet/plan. As a homebody moving off to College, my control over food and exercise and manipulating my body escalated and definitely lead me to disordered behaviors and thoughts around food.  I'd stick with a plan and then go off it, I'd go up and down with the same 20lbs. I'd go through times of either rigidity or  “off the wagon” not caring about my body much. There was no in between. 

After I became a mom 12 years ago, I entered new phase in my life where I was responsible and in control of caring for and nurturing other tiny humans, so my obsessive body and diet thoughts really quieted down and “hid away” if you will. 

But motherhood is unpredictable and so is life and five years ago, there was one stress after another, and it was like my brain reached down and grabbed the one way I knew I could grasp control. These series of events that happened went like this:

-My husband and I started trying for a third child, I had three miscarriages in one year.

-Discovered the reason was that I had a blood disorder that makes me prone to clotting among other scary things.

-Got pregnant after discovering this and had to be put on blood thinners making it an extremely stressful pregnancy.

-My Mom was going through some very stressful health problems that affected all of my family and caused me a daily amount of extreme stress

-My youngest son who was 22 months and developing normally- saying things like “I love you mommy”, “let's go play” etc. was suddenly regressing and after 2 months stopped speaking altogether.  

-At the age of two, He would be diagnosed with autism.

I quickly learned that people don’t diet anymore, they get healthy! So my goal was to get the healthiest I could, it was like a challenge. 

My way to the healthy body (aka aesthetically perfect) was Eating “clean”, eating perfectly, not allowing indulgences or room for flexibility in my diet, allowing a cheat meal or two on allotted days and going really overboard on exercise. Let's just say, if we celebrated a birthday on a Monday I'd kinda freak out about eating cake when it wasn't my scheduled “cheat meal”. I'd still eat it, but I'd be flooded with thoughts before, during and after about how bad I was or worrying that I'd either gain 2 pounds or fall of the wagon of my perfect healthy diet. 

This healthy diet started about 1 yr after my son was born and through all these named stressors, lasted a little over 1.5 years. I had a goal weight in mind, one that had my happiness wrapped up in it.

And I surpassed my weight goal making it the lowest I’d ever been, I was toned and looked healthy. What an accomplishment right?...and my new healthy self had also given me some bonuses:

  • My hair was thinning

  • I was a complete bitch

  • Even though I was eating sufficiently, I was constantly hungry and obsessed with food

  • My cheat meal turned into a cheat day and I felt like I couldn't ever get enough food

  • I was irritable

  • Couldn't sleep

  • Constantly tired

  • Despised and dreaded workouts

  • Lost my period

  • Lost any sense of a womanly figure

  • Lost any type of sex drive and started to feel a disconnection to my husband

  • Felt miserable

  • Became completely selfish and always put workouts as a priority

  • Heightened anxiety

  • Lost all sense of spontaneity, forget sharing an ice cream with my kids on a Tuesday afternoon!

  • Felt like a robot and had no sense of fun or happiness

You could say I had lost my spark. I couldn't take it anymore and I thought, maintaining this weight loss and perfect body wasn't worth a shitty life. And I was giving my family the worst version of myself.

So I quickly learned that diet culture was a thing that In fact, I could chose to escape and break off from. I learned that we are ingrained with beliefs as young girls that our bodies should look a certain way, it is so prevalent that it becomes unconscious. I learned that even if you have a mother who never dieted in her life, you can have a predisposed personality that makes it a perfect storm when you are impacted by outside social influences that exemplifies dieting. I learned the sneaky ways society pressures women to diet. The media is always selling something, and in order to sell a product, sometimes they dig into your insecurities. I was a perfect consumer. Anytime I was in a stressed or uncontrollable period in my life, I want to find control. And diets give us such promise. “you're doing so great because you have such willpower and it is so amazing and awesome that you are morphing your body into an acceptable and perfect image, everyone is sure to love you and you will get so much attention and approval!” ...All False promises.

I lost the weight, I had almost no body fat, was even getting those sought after abs. And I was completely freaking miserable. 

I learned intuitive eating and instead of looking at food as my highest reward and my worst enemy, I learned how to look at it as just food.

Like I said, Motherhood is challenging, and there's never a dull moment. Now I'm confident that no matter how much stress pops up, I have other ways to cope and deal, without taking it out on my body. And there's no greater feeling then that.  

So, After learning that I could actually make the decision to never diet again and feel food freedom, here's what I've learned along the way:

  • Women are flooded with images and influences of an ideal flawless figures. And we are pressured to achieve a socially acceptable figure.

  • Women spend their lives chasing a thin ideal that they are not genetically predisposed to.

  • We are all born as unique humans with different genetics and environments, so to think any given diet is “the right one” for any and all people is kinda crazy

  • Women are ingrained with beliefs that the quest for thinness will solve all of our problems and cause immense happiness.

  • Our bodies aren't something we need to work on and change

  • Weight and calories are insignificant numbers

  • Our physical appearance is a tiny percentage of who we are as a person

  • The US’s weight loss market bombards us with fat phobia messages

  • You don’t have to lose weight to have fun at a wedding or event

  • Food isn't good or bad

  • Food is keeping us all alive, we shouldn't feel ashamed or scared of it

  • Working out isn't meant to be a punishment

  • When you go on vacation, you don't need to come home and “get back on track

  • Eating can be the same no matter what day it is or what location you're in.

  • You don't need to “recover from” or “prepare your body” for the holidays

  • You can embrace your body the way it's suppose to be

  • You can manipulate and diet the shit out of your body, but it will always fight back

  • Emotionally eating isn't a bad thing

  • Women who may look like they have the perfect body, can, and most times do,  have an unhealthy life.

  • Rules around food are bullshit and a setup for disordered thinking and feeling crazy around food.

  • Diets give a false sense of security, community, belonging and happiness.

  • Diets are meant to look appealing and attractive

  • We live in a culture that has an abundance of food and indulgences and at the same time, gives us a message to restrain our cravings

  • Cravings are not bad and they don't need to be “tamed”. They are actually a message our body is giving us to tell us something

  • Food that contains more sugar than a vegetable doesn't have to be earned

  • Food holds no morality on your personal character

  • Wellness has a different meaning for each person

  • It is possible to listen to our bodies

  • It is possible to accept ourselves

  • It is an amazing and attainable to feel completely free and neutral around all foods and eating 365 days a year.

  • Eating on Thanksgiving Day doesn't have to look any different than any day in early January.

  • Our health isn't determined by how our body looks

  • Many times we are giving up our mental and emotional health to control our physique

  • Contrary to popular demand, Being a woman doesn't carry a responsibility to have to be physically attractive for males and in competition with females.

  • We are taught as young girls that skinny equals beautiful and superiority

  • We are taught as young girls that we need to conform to the body type that society deems as good

  • My daughter and all other preteen girls will be exposed to the same thin ideal and body manipulation influences unless we collectively change the rules and messages.

  • I can talk all I want, but My daughter will never love and accept her body if I'm constantly hating on and trying to change mine

  • Body image dissatisfaction is very real no matter what size you are. Even if you're in a thin body

  • Food is only considered bad or wrong when there is guilt and shame around it.

  • Fear around food is extremely common

  • You don't have to have an eating disorder or even disordered eating to have some type of negative food issues, in fact, I’d say 80-90% of women do.

  • Control of food is a symbolic substitute for something deeper

  • Most women are quick to genuinely compliment the women yet they have a running reel of negative thoughts about themselves daily.  

OK, so Derived from my love of reality TV, I’m going to leave you with this... My Journey with Diet culture reminds me of the show which documents Leah Remini’s experience with Scientology. When you're in it, you believe it's everything right, good and it is the way to becoming a better person.. But when you step out and look in,( or when Leah remini exposes it), you can see it for what it is. A big scam for money and power. And upon escape, I quickly learned that I wasted so much time, energy and money on an endless and rather pointless system that is designed to be a hamster wheel-like circle. When in actuality, I was holding all the answers on how to find the right nutrition and health within my own body, and so are you, you just have to trust it enough to listen.

**Would you like to share your story of overcoming a struggle in your life on The Everyday Woman Podcast? E-mail me!

"Its all in how you look at it!"

Your body is the most powerful tool in existence in determining what is healthy for you!

Hi! I’m Kristen, a wife, mother and former “over exercising/clean-eating/number on the scale obsessed junkie”. After my last pregnancy, I had worked so hard to get my “body back”. I finally reached my goal weight and I was immersed into playing the maintenance game, and the strangest thing happened.  I started having symptoms that made me miserable: headaches, night sweats, irritability, insomnia, loss of period, lack of passion, and the list goes on. I thought to myself, “Interesting, I’m pretty sure that I was supposed to reach this euphoric state of success but the polar opposite happened”.  I was lucky enough for these symptoms to be enough to flip my switch and assess what the hell I was doing and why I was doing all of this in the first pace. If my ultimate goal was happiness and I was feeling nothing of the sort by doing all of this strict nutrition and intense exercise. After some re-evaluation and hard work, I came out the other side. I felt a sense of freedom and amazement that life didnt have to be like that. That I didnt have to micro-manage my nutrition, run a million miles a week or manipulate my body through weight. I could actually trust my body to tell me what it needs and if i did, it will in turn, effortlessly self-regulate my natural size and keep me healthy. I immediately felt a strong pull to help other woman who are in the same spot I was and I enrolled in school and became a Certified Health Coach.

I now teach women a Breakthrough NO-diet approach to learn how to be intuitive and neutral around food, exercise and body image so they can stop feeling obsessed and out of control around food and trying to achieve a perfect body. Instead of trying to  jump on a program bandwagon, discover how to listen to your own body and trust your natural signals.

It is challenging for people to trust their bodies and be intiuitive without guidance. Especially when society is pointing us in the direction of mistrusting our natural instincts. We are conditioned to feel the need to gain control of our diet and follow endless plans becasue if we dont we will be sitting around eating Cheetos and ice cream all day and slowly lose control of our shape! This is just plain untrue, you just may not have been given the tools yet to overcome the “diet” mentality….Until Now!

Visit theeverydaywomankris.com to learn more about how to work with me so you too, can experience body freedom!

Here are some hard facts, Did you know:

  • 98% of people will go on a diet at some point in their lives
  • 95% of diets fail.
  • 97% of women have at least one body hate moment a day.
  • 9 out of 10 women are unhappy with their bodies.
  • 75% of American women engage in unhealthy behaviors related to food or their bodies.
  • 53% of dieters are already at a healthy weight.
  • 81% of 10 year old girls experience a fear of being fat.
  • 2 out of 3 teenage girls are more afraid of gaining weight then getting cancer.
  • Up to 90% of teenagers diet regularly.
  • 50% of women are on a diet at any given time.
  • Americans spend more money in dieting, dieting products, and weight loss surgery than any other people in the world*livestrong

Me, scale-recovered

A couple of years ago I was controlling my weight fiercely. I was weighing in all the time. Although I looked super happy in the picture, I was a mess. I had a crap load of symptoms, and I was probably thinking if I will look skinny enough in this picture and planning my next run. Two days after this picture I will be in the hospital, yet again, for another horrific migraine, caused by stress, anxiety undereating coupled with over-exercise.

Here I am, 1 and 1/2 years later, truly happy, feeling amazing, and enjoying a gorgeous days at the beach with family and friends. Scale-recovered, not caring about how I look, in a bathing suit non-the-less (hard for a perfectionist mentality), and completely in the moment. You might think I look similar but I can assure you, to me those times are night and day to the way I felt in each picture. I’ve received comments my whole life that I’m a smaller person and implications that I’m almost not permitted to express having body image struggles.

Yet I want to make this clear, It doesn’t matter if you are a person living in a “smaller” body or a “bigger” body. Control over body image and weight, is about trying to gain control because you feel out of control in another area of your life. It can be a coping mechanism, and it can be about anxiety. For me, it was all of those things. I guess it’s where my perfectionistic, type A personality can have its downfall. Its almost like telling someone who comes from a good family and successful, that they have no reason to be a drug addict. We all have our things and they can lead us into dark and unhealthy places.

If you’ve read my blogs before, then you’ve read about my struggles with controlling my weight. Over exercising and being strict about my diet. In recovering from taking that control away, I’ve vowed to myself that I will once and for all give up my scale.

My scale and I have had a hell of a relationship. We’ve been through puberty, high school, many doctor’s visits, college, three pregnancies, and in turn, three times of “getting my body back”. I know when and how much my weight has fluctuated. I know my highest weight -not including pregnancy) and my lowest weight after working at it quite hard at it as well as my lowest weight, not intentionally, but because of issues with anxiety. I know what my weight was on the day of each of my children’s birth as well as the weight I was at in high school, when a boyfriend asked me how much I weighed…. (My thoughts exactly! Talk about building insecurities) – he actually then praised me for giving him an exact number instead of rounding it to a number that ended in a 5 or 0… “because then if his friends asked, they knew it was the truth”…WHAT?! Of course my 15 year old self just giggled and felt proud for telling him the exact number.

I knew how much of a difference clothes made or an empty stomach. I always weighed in first thing in the morning, naked with not even a sip of water in me. It was always so funny to me because if I had a doctors appointment in the middle of the day,  I’d be so surprised when the scale was 4 lbs more then that morning. And I’d actually sit there justifying to myself that it was because I had breakfast, lunch, water and clothes on. Looking back, the whole thing of scales was me playing a mind game with myself to achieve happiness and control.

Being scale-recovered, I realize, what does it even matter? I was still the same person I was when I woke up in the morning! I was the same person all day long. So did the scale really dictate that I was a “better” person in the morning as opposed to later that day?

The scale has always had this power that I believed kept me in control and in check. It has been the key component to whether I’m feeling good or bad. For the longest time, I was a daily weigh in type gal. This was very stressful. I recognized the anxiety it was causing me to see any type of fluctuation, so I decided to make it once a week. Same day, in the morning. Clothes off. Making sure I didn’t have a heavy meal the night before. This kept me on the track of maintenance. I was obsessed with doing the same routine and diet plan all week for fear of one slip that would potentially make me gain weight, even 1/2 a pound up would make me “do better” the whole next week. It was insane and put so much unnecessary stress on my body, that I wasn’t even aware of.

When I came to, literally, its like being woken up from a nightmare, I realized I was harming my body rather than staying healthy. At first , I ditched diet rules and exercise. But I didn’t ditch the scale. How else would I measure if I was letting myself go. Then after learning more and more, I realized, this is exactly what diet culture is. Going on a diet, fearing that you’ll loose control and gain a lot of weight. Then your body rejects the restriction of a diet, and causes you to eat and all it takes is seeing one small fluctuation on that scale and your thrown back into that mentality, “See?! I can’t trust myself. I have to go back on a diet to gain control”. I was sick of living on m scales terms – or this idea that I had to control my body into the weight I wanted to be, because I liked the way the number sounded.

So I decided to throw away this notion that I needed ,my scale and I tossed away my scale once and for all. It was empowering, amazing and the most relaxed, body image wise,  I’ve felt in all of my life. This past December I had a doctors appointment. I was very anxious thinking of them putting me on the scale. I knew it’d be higher than my previous weight. That weight for me wasn’t sustainable without intense exercise and food restrictions. I pep talked myself into thinking that whatever it was, I wasn’t going to make me feel any type of emotion.

“Let’s go ahead and get your weight”, the physician’s assistant said. It didn’t phase her any, she does this all day long. So I was disappointed that I felt disappointed that I was up a little bit. It wasn’t even a lot, but enough to make me revert back to thinking about it. And as I thought, it was obvious how I used to let the scale change my entire day.

After I got weighed, I was only half concentrating on what the doctor said. My mind kept wandering to thoughts of “needing to get back on track” and “will I keep gaining if I give up the scale completely?” My mood also dramatically deflated throughout the day. I was preoccupied, irritated and feeling down. All because of a number.

And why is that? Maybe I felt a sense of loss of control when by giving up the scale. Maybe it was fear of the unknown. Maybe it was fear of what people would think if they noticed that I’ve gained weight.. would they think I was lazy or unproductive? Would my husband find me less attractive? Would I worry about being jealous of someone who appeared smaller then me?

All of it is so silly. But oh so real. I did some deep thinking. I deep think every day. My life has been more rich, enjoyable, in the moment and less stressful since I gave up the scale completely! My friends are still my friends, my husband still thinks I’m attractive, I feel physically amazing, I am healthy. Not just physically healthy, but more importantly for me, I am in a way better place mentally.

It is now almost March and I have not been weighed since that December appointment. And I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had moments when its crossed my mind that maybe I should just “check in”on the scale. But now I know when I have those thoughts, its ultimately something deeper going on, and not about my body, and I’m equipped with the tools to cope with that anxiety. I know that its not worth it to go there and I know better. I feel extremely comforted and relieved that I don’t have a weigh-in coming up and that I don’t have to care. I pay attention to how I feel and not on a superficial piece of metal. Its extremely freeing and rewarding.

Before, I was completely focused on a scale number.

Now, I am completely focused on living life.

-Kris