Bringing Your Body Into Balance

My 100+ pound weight loss is what grabs people's attention. However, my weight loss was merely a side effect of finally taking my health and happiness into my own hands and finding that perfect balance. Body, mind, spirit. It all matters.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Intermittent Fasting: How I Am FINALLY Controlling My Weight Naturally

When I first set out on my weight loss journey, I was very much an "eat before you get hungry" gal. I was constantly grazing throughout the day. And it worked! I was able to lose weight this way. But I always felt unstable. I would dutifully count calories and try to make myself stop eating my frequent little unfufilling snacks when I reached my limit. 

I always felt like a ticking time bomb. And sometimes I would explode....metaphorically. I would break down and go way past my calorie limit. 

Often, even after I had exceeded my calorie limit for the day, I would have a protein shake at night because I worried that my body would go into "starvation mode" in the middle of the night, shutting my metabolism down and eating my muscle. 

Then, a couple years ago, I started learning about Intermittent Fasting. At first I was very dismissive thinking, "There is absolutely no way I can go long periods of time without eating. I will literally die." 

However, the more I learned, the more compelling this concept seemed to me. So, finally I thought I'd try it. For the past 6 months or so, I have been pretty religiously following a 16/8 plan. What this means is that I eat all my meals within an eight hour window of each day. Usually the times that work out best for me is eating my first meal at 11am and my last meal around 6-7pm. I don't always do this. And if I have a day when I'm just ravenous, I don't do it at all! 

Here's what I've experienced so far:

  • Reduced hunger. I was born hungry! Seriously. My dad likes to talk about the time they put a nipple on a gallon milk jug and let me drink from it because I came out of the womb starving. The more I stick with my 16/8 schedule, the more I notice that I'm simply not hungry outside of my eating window! This is absolutely HUGE for me!
  • Increased energy during fasting. This is the one that really blows my mind! I always assumed that trying  to attempt anything of importance (working  out, intense concentration on an important task) in a fasted state would end up in disaster. However, some days I deliberately wait longer to break my fast because I feel so good and energetic and I've learned that my focus and energy will actually decline once I eat that first meal. I've heard many other IF fans claim this as well. 
  • Almost effortlessly controlling my weight. I say "almost effortlessly" because I still have to be aware and make tweaks. For instance, if I've edged my eating window up all weekend and maybe consumed a little too much wine, I know I need to extend my fasting periods or reduce my food intake slightly to compensate. However, these efforts can't even compare to the constant calorie counting and extremely long exercise sessions that I used to use to control my weight. Now, I don't count calories at all. I try to be mindful of not eating too much in one sitting and I focus on consuming lots of good, healthy food but I also cheat on a daily basis and refuse to ever give up all the good tasty things that put more flavor and happiness into my life. And now I don't have to! I have consistently maintained the lowest body weight I've seen in about six years with the smallest effort so far!

So here's some common myths about Intermittent Fasting that I'd like to put to rest:

  • If I go long periods of  time without eating I will be starving and binge: What I've found is that the longer I consistently fast, the smaller my appetite gets. There's actually a very good reason for this. In the short term, our bodies will start to turn off the hunger signals when they don't receive food and switch to metabolizing fat, which is a healthy, clean form of energy (and one of the reasons for the high energy levels and mental clarity one experiences when in a fasted state). Also, going the longer periods of time without insulin present  in the body, helps us to become more insulin sensitive which can help reduce/prevent binging not to mention reverse the risk of Type II Diabetes!
  • Skipping meals will put my body into starvation mode and lower my metabolism. This is the one that really freaked me out! However, there are plenty of studies emerging that prove this isn't true. "Starvation mode" is absolutely a real thing but it appears to occur after about 48-72 hours in a fasted state and only temporarily lowers metabolism. The opposite has actually been found to be true. Fasting can actually increase your metabolism because, again, you don't constantly have insulin present in the body from eating frequently as the presence of insulin temporarily slows metabolism.
  • But breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Wrong. This is a myth. Period. Look it up. The one and only seemingly compelling argument you will find is that studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are, on average, healthier with lower body weights. However, this is actually correlation not causation. We've been told for a long time that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That means, someone is more likely to take this advice of eating a nice, big breakfast if they are health conscious. However, these same people are also more likely to exercise, eat their veggies and get a good night's sleep for the same reason. You can't isolate this one variable. (When reading scientific studies, always be on the lookout for the correlation vs. causation flaw.) Besides, breakfast by definition is "breaking a fast" so I have breakfast every day....I just have it at 11am. Furthermore, if you think about our prehistoric ancestors, do you think they casually rolled out of bed each morning and cooked up some eggs, bacon, toast and a big bowl of oatmeal? Then they continued to snack all day? Heck no. When the sun came up, they hit the ground running. They gathered food, hunted animals, ran from predators. They more than likely ate their biggest meal of the day as the sun was going down....or maybe they grabbed a squirrel while they were busy with their daily tasks. 
Bottom line, I am absolutely convinced that humans, for the most part, are not "grazing" animals, especially if we are leading fairly sedentary lifestyles where we spend a large portion of our day sitting still. We eat way too much and too often as a society and our bodies are suffering because of it! 

A couple of things to be mindful of before starting IF:

  • Be mindful of your relationship with food. There are some suggestions that IF can cause eating disorders. I can kind of see how this could happen as being in a fasted state can make you feel so good at times. Also, focusing on that meal when you break your fast could cause an unhealthy relationship with food. However, I think this potential pitfall is avoidable by simply making sure you have a healthy attitude about your body. Don't fast to punish yourself for what you ate the day before. Don't have a free for all gorge when you break your fast (most of the time anyway!). Instead, learn about the health benefits of fasting. It helps strengthen your cells and gives your digestive system a  break. It increases the amount of human growth hormones present in your body. Of course we are all going to cheat occasionally. But make sure you are focused on putting lots of good, living foods in your body in the meantime!
  • IF might not be right for you if you're pregnant, nursing or have diabetes or some other metabolic disorder. Pregnant and nursing women especially. In fact, if you look at cultures who fast for religious reasons, these two groups of women are often excluded from fasting. If you have any concerns about your current state of health, find a knowledgeable health professional to help guide you into IF.
  • Also, ladies, be mindful of how IF can affect your hormones. My schedule of 16/8, I am quite certain, has positively  affected my hormones. My menstrual cycle is the most regular it's ever been, I've had zero pimples and my midsection has finally been reduced significantly. However, some women may experience different hormonal results. Especially depending on if they find fasting to be liberating and energizing (like I do) or if they find it to be stressful and exhausting, which will cause cortisol levels to spike. There are tons of different ways to fast. I have one client who simply reduced her food intake time from a whopping 6am-10pm window to a 6am-7pm window and saw results. 

Most of all, I'll say what I always say,  Educate yourself! Don't take my word for it. Don't take the word of Big Mike at the gym. Don't even take just your doctor's word for it. When it comes to your health, trust no one but yourself! You know your body more than anyone else does. Everyone else is just a resource,  a guide, in your journey to better health!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

What You Should Eat

I have spent a large portion of my adult life trying to find all the "keys" to health and maintaining an easy, natural weight. I've read countless books, watched many talks and combed studies on nutrition until I've gone cross-eyed at times. All in search of "The Perfect Diet."

By far, the #1 question I get both in my career and via this blog is "what should I eat?" 

Here's the short answer...."I don't know!"

Here's the long answer...."What you should eat depends on everything from your genetics and epigenetics to how old you are, what ratio of hormones your body is producing, how much activity you get, the current state of health in your body and what you've done with your body up until now." 

I am absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as a perfect diet. As humans, we have evolved in many different extreme circumstances and somehow still survived. For example, Inuit (who have survived cold, harsh temperatures in often barren conditions for over 6000 years) have a diet that consists mainly of meat! Fatty meat at that. They may eat a little bit of roots and berries in the warmer months but that's about it! 

However, it is questionable just how healthy they are in their later years. There is much debate on this as they appear to age faster and have higher rates of osteoporosis and heart disease. People from the low fat/high carb camp will isolate their diet as the cause. People of the high fat/low carb camp will argue that you can't isolate this one variable because they live in some of the most extreme regions of the world which would be very taxing on their bodies. 

I belong to neither camp but I have to agree with the high fat people on this one, you can't isolate this one variable. In fact, you can't even reproduce this one variable in the general population to form a study because,  after 6000+ years, the Inuit have genetics that are different from ours. The Inuit who didn't thrive from this specific diet were more likely to die and not perpetuate their genetics (genetics that maybe would've thrived on a lower fat/protein diet). This is evolution folks. Evolution isn't some crazy "we came from apes" sci-fi stuff. Evolution is genetic selection. Nature weeds out genetics that are considered weak and do not serve the overall species in whatever environment they are trying to survive. 

Another example of this genetic selection (or, some will argue, genetic mutation) is seen in people who are truly not lactose intolerant into adulthood. By nature, it would appear that early after weaning, something "shuts off" inside of us that makes us lactose intolerant into adulthood. However, there are some adult individuals who truly can digest dairy and appear to thrive off of it. This is called lactase persistence. Although there are many theories surrounding the "why" of this, one that seems to be most widely embraced (and makes the most sense to me) is that these people descended from Nomadic herders. There were times when the herders may have had little other sources of food except the milk being produced from their animals. The herders that were able to thrive from consuming this milk (whether it was because they naturally could already consume it or because of a genetic mutation) were more likely to pass on their genetics to the next generation. The ones who didn't  thrive, often died before reproducing. 

Less dramatic versions of this genetic propensity to thrive on certain diets can be seen all around the world. So, I believe that can be your first clue: find out what your ancestors ate. Not your grandma but the indigenous people of the land(s) from which your ancestors came. 

Leaving genetics behind, let's also talk about Ayurveda. Although, I could easily believe the argument that Ayurveda is closely linked to genetics and possibly a better map to follow since a large portion of us would be hard pressed to narrow down all the places of origin from which we descended. 

Without getting too deep into this, I'll break it down in the most simple terms I can and then I encourage you to seek out your own answers in this field. Ayurveda is a form of holistic "health care" that was developed in India thousands of years ago. One of the foundations of Ayurveda is determining your doshas. There are three. Pitta, Vata and Kapha. We are all a combination of these three doshas but in drastically different amounts. Some people may be predominantly Kapha (this is usually marked by people who struggle with their weight, have large round features, oily skin and are slow and sluggish) while others are predominantly Vata (struggle to keep on weight, anxious, dry chapped skin). No one person will fit perfectly into any one description but learning what balance of doshas you have in your body can help you to understand what you need to eat, what kind of exercise you need to do, etc. in order to bring your body into balance and thrive. 

The key is to balance these doshas. An interesting thing I have observed in myself is that over the past couple of years, I've managed to tip the scales in a different direction within  myself. Years and years ago when I learned about Ayurveda, I was a straight-up, hardcore, card carrying Kapha. I was slow, round and mellow. However, I somehow managed to tip myself into Vata territory a few times. Now is actually a perfect example of that. I suddenly am not struggling to keep my weight down, which sounds great, but I am also struggling with bouts anxiety and frenetic energy and dry, chapped skin. And, understanding what I do about Ayurveda, it makes perfect sense to me. I've been eating a diet and doing extreme forms of exercise that tip my scales out of balance in the direction of Vata. To counterbalance this, I know I need to do more slow forms of exercise (more yoga, less Crossfit) and eat more warm foods containing healthy fats. 

This may sound like pseudo-science to many but I encourage you to learn about the doshas and how they apply to your life. I have yet to have a friend or a client to learn about their own doshas and not become a believer. Not once! 

The next thing we have to consider is what you've done with your body up until now. Maybe your body could, by nature, tolerate a large amount of carbohydrates but you've eaten them in excess to the point where your pancreas is no longer functioning the way it should. Maybe your liver could handle a lot of fructose and/or alcohol but you drank yourself stupid for all of your 20s. Our bodies and each organ therewithin have a certain amount of mileage and then that's pretty much it. We can do some things to restore health to our bodies but someone who has gorged on desserts their entire lives to the point that they develop type 2 diabetes by the time they are 40 (or, like me, just have a general state of insulin resistance as a result) won't ever be able to consume the natural amount of grains and fruits that they were originally born with the capacity to handle. 

Which leads me to my final and, by far, most important determinant of what YOUR specific and unique diet should consist. Ask yourself this one question and nothing else will matter:

"How does this food make me feel?"

And you ask this question throughout the entire eating process. 

Do I have a strong craving for it? (Often times, we have strong, blinding cravings for foods that we actually have an intolerance to!)

How do I feel immediately after eating it? 

How do I feel 5 minutes, 30 minutes, 2 hours after eating it?  Do you feel light, satisfied or energetic or sluggish and kind of hungry again? Does your stomach feel comfortable or are you gassy and/or nauseated?

Also pay attention to the fact that some foods will trigger strong cravings for that same food later that day or the next day.

And that neatly leads me into the advice that I feel 100% comfortable giving everyone!

Refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, excess alcohol and processed foods are not good for any of us. If it has an ingredient label it's automatically suspect because that means it's not straight from nature which makes it, by definition, unnatural. Clean water in amounts appropriate for your body (which also varies) is vital. Making vegetables the cornerstone of our diet is important for almost all of us (there are a few--a VERY small few--who may not be able to tolerate vegetables but they are extremely rare and you're almost definitely not one of them so don't even try it my friend!). 

Bottom line, tune into your body and the rest will unfold naturally for you. If you watch cows eating grass, you will start to notice that some seek out clover while others seek out wild onion grass. When dogs are sick, they will eat grass at times to correct some digestive issue they are having. We are born with an internal compass that will guide us toward the best food choices. However, our modern lifestyle has us so removed from nature that we can't hear that little voice of intuition. So tune in and, ultimately, let your body be your guide.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Finding My Way Back to Center

I'm growing. 

I'm so close to a complete person I can smell it from where I'm standing. 

But I'm not quite there yet.
This is my beautiful, messy story.

Recently I almost lost myself. It involves a man and I promise I'll dish more on that in a post very soon but I want to keep this post about me. Because that is what my life is supposed to be about right now. Me and my growth.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Pema Chodron:

"You are the sky, everything else - it's just the weather."
I let the weather throw me off center.

There are so many things that can throw us off our center. And the inherent problem with this is that once we are thrown off, it's really hard to realize that's the problem because we feel so freakin' bad! So, instead, we reach around and desperately grasp for something that feels good to heal our suffering. And I think we all know by now that reaching outside of ourselves for happiness or peace is not sustainable and almost always ends in emptiness and pain.

So, what do I mean by "off center" as it pertains to my life?

For me, I know I'm off center when life suddenly holds no joy or wonder and I find myself unfocused. When I get off center, I suddenly lose motivation for everything that previously mattered to me because it no longer seems important.

This isn't a new concept for me. It's something we all experience. In fact, a large majority of people spend most of their lives walking around at least slightly off center. I spent a good chunk of mine doing this.

However, now that I know what it feels like to be truly centered, I learned yesterday that suddenly feeling off centered feels absolutely horrible, almost painful, in comparison. Finally understanding what being centered and grounded feels like, it's so much easier to find my way back. And when I'm centered and grounded, I'm happy and confident and all of this radiates out of me and draws good things and good people into my life. 

Yesterday I woke up completely off center. A lot of little things in my life felt out of control. So, instead of facing my problems head on, I found myself consumed by thoughts of a man almost too good to be true. A man it would be so easy to lose myself in. Especially when everything else felt so out of control. But I'm different now. I've got an amazing person in my life who has always, consistently been there and always will. Me! And thank goodness I'm finally at a point where I actually believe and embrace that I am worthy of my own attention. I truly enjoy my own company. I am someone I would (and do) hang out with on a regular basis. Now I know the elation that being at peace within myself can provide and not even the intoxicating feelings of budding love (that we're not talking about right now) can compete with that! So I knew I had to get back to me and fast.

Today I woke up completely centered with peace in my heart and my passion for my own life restored. How did I do this in neck breaking, record time when it used to take me months to get re-centered only to keep losing it again? Well, I'll tell you...

First, I've created a life, a mind and a body that I absolutely love. In the past, I was constantly looking for an escape from the miserable existence I was living. I never fully inhabited my own life or even my own body for that matter. Now, I'm living a life I love in a body capable of amazing things. 

Which leads me to the next thing I did. I ran. Literally.  I ran like hell. Never underestimate the power of a cleansing, sweat soaked workout to help you get back to center.

Next, I have formed amazing bonds with friends who prop me up in my weak moments and inspire me. In my old life, I think I almost felt unworthy of good friends. And even if I happened to make a few friends, they were out the window as soon as I was in my next relationship. Now my friends are such an important part of my life that I really don't know how I survived without them before. In fact, at times I barely survived. In my darkest moments yesterday, I reached out to my two best friends and they helped hoist me up by the elbows and drag me back to my path.

This one might seem a little weird or insignificant but I've found NUTRITION to be extremely important in staying centered. Different foods have different kinds of energy. When I eat dead food, my emotions feel dead. When I eat nourishing, living foods, I vibrate at a higher frequency. So when I'm down and tempted to eat "comfort food," I remind myself that these kinds of foods will be anything but comforting. They will drag me further down. Instead, I eat lots of brain foods like avocado and raw nuts as well as lots of vibrant fruits and veggies.

I took care of my crap! Because I felt out of control, it was easy to try to distract myself. However, the subconscious mind is way smarter than that. All those little loose ends that needed to be tended were still hanging out in the back of my mind driving me mad. So finally I dug in my heels and did something I do a LOT...I made lists. Then I started tackling all the easy, bite size things I could on my list so that I could see progress happen as I ticked my tasks.

I got a good night's sleep. This one has tripped me up a lot. Never measure your life through the lens of a foggy, sleep deprived brain. It will never look very bright or happy. That's what I was doing yesterday. I was prioritizing fun, late night conversations over a good night's sleep and I paid for it. You can't borrow extra time from your sleep. The economic principle of "there's no such thing as a free lunch" comes to mind. It WILL catch up to you. Last night I went to bed at 9:30.

And the most important difference that made getting back to center so easy?

I've done it before. 

Thousands of times now.

Meditation, mindfulness, being present. It's all the same. It's an exercise. A practice to find your true north. It's like working a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it is to find your way back next time. 

Oh, there's one other thing that made all this possible. I finally chose better people to be in my life. The man I'm not going to talk about, the amazing one, he didn't use my moment of being off kilter to suck me in and try to own me. Instead, he gently took me by the shoulders and pointed me back in the direction of my path. I took it from there. Maybe it's wrong to pat myself on the back for this one but I can't help but do so. I did the work. I raised my frequency to attract higher quality people into my life. I quickly identified and eliminated the toxic, low energy people. 

So it turns out growth definitely is the squiggly line people say it is. But I can look back over my lifetime and see where I've come from and where I'm headed and my heart swells with pride for the work I've done.

I'm growing. 

I'm so close to a complete person I can smell it from where I'm standing. 

But I'm not quite there yet.

This is my beautiful, messy story.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Feeling Pain

I don't know what I would do without my amazing friends sometimes. Especially now that I am deliberately single for an extended period of time, I've become so acutely aware of the importance of good friends on difficult days like today.

Recently I found myself becoming interested in a man. This obviously isn't new territory for me but this was definitely new territory during my fast. Up until now it had been easy to stick to my goals because, quite honestly, no one piqued my interest in the least. And then this earthy, athletic, spiritual, attractive man came onto my radar and started telling me how amazing I am....which (as a chick with less than stellar self-esteem) is my kryptonite. 

I suddenly found myself unfocused. My thoughts would wander to him. I started digging and looking for some reason not to like him and have yet to come up with one that has anything to do with him. However, last night I came up with a much better reason. BECAUSE I AM NOT READY.

In addition to the fact that I am still growing, I am also still in mourning. Obviously the most specific thing I am mourning is my last big relationship. But, it's more than that. I am mourning every painful thing that happened to me for years and years during that time that I learned to shut down and run from my pain.

I was discussing this with one of my very best friends this morning. He is the person I've come to rely on in my darkest moments because he always guides me back to the light when I'm too broken to guide myself. This morning was no exception.

I told him that I hate my ex for still having any power over my emotions (even if those emotions are only hatred and pain) because he doesn't deserve them. I told him I was tired of feeling pain and acknowledged that I had used this recent guy's attention and the prospect of new romance as a distraction. His words moved me to sobbing tears:

"Remember what Brene Brown says about numbing our feelings. Alcohol, drugs, sugar, caffeine, shallow flirtations....we often engage in these things to distract or numb ourselves to pain. But when we numb ourselves to pain we also numb ourselves to joy and love and true connection. Feel the pain, and know that one day that pain will be replaced with joy."

These words have created a complete paradigm shift within me. As I sit here with tears running freely down my face, they feel different to me. Every. Single. Tear. is a promise that the numbness I have felt for years, numbness that I created by steeling myself against toxic men, is melting away. I am finally feeling (and releasing) the pain of every time I was lied to, cheated on, screamed at, insulted and ignored. And when I really pay attention to this I realize that life has progressively became brighter and brighter. My laughter has been more jovial, my love for my son swells bigger in my heart. Everything is deeper and more meaningful. So I'm going to count my tears and thank my pain for making me whole again and reminding me I'm alive.

Today I had the dreaded memories pop up on Facebook. I'm guessing anyone healing from a long-term relationship who is on Facebook can probably relate to this. Some days I don't look. Some days I'm just curious. I want to see old pictures of my son and weird things I said almost a decade ago. Today I stepped on a landmine. There were quite a few pictures of me and my ex ranging from two years ago to four years ago. I noticed how happy we looked in those pictures. And, you know what, those early pictures, I was happy. Everything was new and sexy and exciting, nothing had really started to erode yet. But those later pictures? Well, here's the funny thing...we looked just as happy! In fact, I've had so many people comment, "wow, you guys seemed so great together." It's so easy to paint on a smile and look happy. What I felt was numb and anxious....mostly numb. I've noticed it more and more over the years. I don't blame my ex. I blame myself. I was the unhealthy one who chose to shove my painful feelings down so that I could continue to have those fake, foggy moments.

So now I'm paying my dues. I'm peeling back the layers and finding lots of sad things I never dealt with. These pre-date my ex, of course, because I was unhealthy long before my dysfunction met his dysfunction. I am continuing down this sometimes unbelievably painful path of self-discovering. I'm not distracting myself. Not with food, exercise, men, booze....I'm feeling the full spectrum of my feelings. And sometimes it's going to hurt like hell! But my smiles will continue to be more and more authentic as I continue to do my work.

So my hunky new man friend lives in the friendzone for now as we get to know each other and I ride out my fast. When I catch my mind wandering to "what might this become?" I'll redirect my thoughts to "what might I become?" because THAT is the most important question right now.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Day 30 of 133: Who's Counting Anyway?

I love this meme. I keep it in my "favorites" on my phone. It challenges me.

If someone is completely isolated in society without any friends or family, that is a different kind of loneliness! We are, by nature, creatures who need other creatures. However, if you are surrounded by friends and family who love you and you still feel lonely, chances are good there is something inside of you that needs mending.

That's where I was. 

And, God forbid, if I was actually physically alone for five minutes, it was unbearable. I would seek out someone to fill those empty moments. 

That's no longer where I am. And this is huge for me! 

Something has really shifted inside of me. I am not sure exactly what caused the switch but I am guessing it has something to do with me stopping my desperate search for that man who I was convinced would complete me. I stopped and faced some really uncomfortable feelings. And here I am, an entire month into that resolution and at a point where I actually embrace being single. I don't mean this in a "you know, even if I never have anyone, I think I'll be okay" kind of way. I mean this as in, "it is hard for me to imagine trying to make room in my life and my mind for 'the one' now."

 As I've freed up this mental energy and done away with the time suck that is dating, I have really zeroed in on my own life. Here are some big changes that I've made recently:

  • I've drastically, and I mean drastically, cut down my son's daily screen time. I've also increased his responsibilities around the house and forced him to eat better. He was not happy about this, let me just say. And it requires a lot of extra time and energy on my part. When I was constantly distracted in life, it was so easy for me to let him watch just "one more show" or suggest he hop on my computer for a quick innocent learning game so I could have more time to do whatever distracting thing I was doing. Part of this, however, had absolutely nothing to do with a man! I was exhausted. Constantly. I couldn't think straight and had chronic brain fog. Until very recently. Which leads me to my next big change...
  • I have completely cleaned up my diet like I never have before! All processed sugars, super sweet fruits, simple highly refined grains (and all wheat), alcohol, dairy and a few other things that I knew were making me feel bad but I kept ignoring because I enjoyed them too much. I am convinced I was finally able to do this where I never had been before because I've removed other toxic behaviors from my life. I've aligned my actions with my values and sent the very powerful message to my subconscious that I am worthy of self-love. Energy flows where attention goes and the attention has been on myself finally. The result of these dietary changes is that I am progressively waking up each day with a clear mind!! And I don't feel a desperate need for a nap each afternoon. I mean, it's amazing. Honestly, the entire post should just be about this one thing because it's life altering. And I knew it was possible but food addiction is a serious thing that only someone who has it can understand. In addition to not waking up feeling hung over every morning, I am officially the lowest weight I've been in four years! 
  • My workouts have purpose and self-love behind them. In the past, I've often felt like I was hating myself into better shape. Especially after my break-up, I felt like I was desperately trying to run away from the flawed woman that was discarded. All of that has changed. I no longer work out to try to eradicate some part of myself that is not worthy. Every single inch of me is worthy. I want to be strong and scale walls. I want to be doing it when I'm 60 too! I bust my butt in my workouts and with my trainer but I do it in a safe, loving way that ensures this body will be the best it can be for years to come. Unrelated tip: if you want a rounder, more defined bottom, learn about "glute activation." Squats are most definitely important but if your glutes (butt muscles) aren't firing correctly, you're not going to target them properly and you're probably going to end up hurting yourself in the process! Exercise safely to ensure your body continues to perform for you....and you'll actually end up with a better body if you do everything properly!! I find the chick at Redefining Strength to be an absolute genius in all things fitness and she has excellent form in everything she does. Here's her Youtube Channel
  • I nurture friendships. Friendship used to be this side gig that I would fall back on between breakups. Maybe I would even have a double date here and there. But that was about it. I never truly understood the importance of maintaining actual friendships. I now realize that they are so unbelievably important. I am blessed with an amazing family. I think it's maybe why I never nurtured friendships because I've had four built in best friends my entire life. However, there is something about people who choose to have you in their life out of no obligation other than the fact that they care about you and you bring value into their lives. I have a wonderful little circles of friends now that I know I can always turn to for anything. Three of which are officially my "tribe." We text each other good morning and good night. We set goals together. We run to each other in dark moments and hold hands until all the tears are gone. My friends are so precious to me and I can't believe I somehow survived so much of my life without them. No wonder I felt so alone. Likewise, I nurture my relationships with my family more. Like I said we've always been close, but now I actively make time for them. They're never an afterthought like they often were when I was in some dramatic whirlwind of a relationship. And last but most definitely not least....
  • I am content with my alone time. Friday nights (when my son goes to his dad's house) used to be date night when I was with someone or "desperately find someone to hang out with" night if I wasn't. No more. Yes, some of my Friday nights are now spent having belly laughs and intense conversations with friends. Others are spent curled up in my bed watching a chick flick or reading a self-help book and falling asleep by 9pm. And I'm perfectly content with either. This is uncharted terrain for me. 
I feel at peace. I don't know how else to describe it. And I hate that I can't somehow offer a "how to" to anyone who is struggling to get to this place. I guess I just faced it all and allowed myself to get uncomfortable. I stopped running away from those icky feelings of loneliness and just sat with myself until they stopped feeling so icky. 

I still have 103 days to go. I have male friends who joke that they are counting down. I joke about it sometimes too. But I'm not counting down. In 103 days from now, I won't start looking. On day 134 I will wake up, meditate, shower and start my day like any other...with myself and for myself.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Day 23 of 133: Thank You Sir, May I Have Another

When I've been in the throes of a toxic relationship, I've thought almost nothing of hanging on just a few more weeks. And I've often done it for absurd reasons. Maybe we had a fun outing planned or I wasn't ready to let go of the physical stuff quite yet. Whatever the reason, I could very easily justify "what's a few more weeks?" 

So when the idea occurred to me yesterday to extend my "man fast", it concerned me that I needed so much time and thought to mull it over. After all, "what's a few more weeks?" And that's exactly why I'm extending it.

The reason for this extension, in addition to the fact that I simply need more time, is that I am signing up to do a 5k obstacle race and mud run on March 18th (which would be the arrival point of my new countdown!) For some people, signing up for such an event is just a fun challenge. For me, it's much more.

By nature, I have always been a fearful person. I'm afraid of getting hurt and of being embarrassed. I have always tended to avoid any activities that could cause either and most definitely those that can cause both! 

However, a few years ago when I embarked on this new journey of self-discovery, I really started pushing the envelope. Exercise was the equivalent of what this mud run has turned into (as well as a skydiving trip I am seriously contemplating). Exercise used to be very fear inducing for me. There are even times now, when I walk into my Crossfit style gym, I look at the workout of the day and feel that little hint of fear bubble up inside of me. But I push through and grow every single time.

So, I've learned that facing my fears equals growth. Right now I'm facing a lot of them. In addition to the aforementioned, the fear of being "alone" is one I'm facing down every single day and it progressively has less and less control over my thoughts. There is something actually very liberating about facing life every day without a man around to tell me my value. I find that in myself now.

I recently had a male friend, who I used to be extremely interested in but he did not reciprocate my feelings at the time, tell me that this "new me" I was becoming made me extremely attractive. Likewise, other men, a type of men who never seemed to express interest in me in the past, have started popping up and challenging my resolve. Do I struggle when this happens? Yes. But not how you might think. I struggle to remain focused on my own self-worth instead of the false sense of self-worth they could temporarily provide. Other than that, I have no desire to pursue anything with any man right now. No matter how amazing. This is MY time and it's been a long time coming.

My last "almost relationship" was a couple months ago with a man who was so completely not my type. He was cute enough, cool enough and very funny but I consistently had to overlook all the many indications that he was not "the one". But still I struggled to let him go because THAT is how much I felt I needed a man in my life.

But the final straw that broke me of this toxic addiction to men was when my ex came back into my life a couple months ago. This was an ex who repeatedly hurt and betrayed me in various ways, eventually walking out of my life for another woman. I had, at least, grown enough where I had no desire to be in a relationship with him again. However, I hadn't grown so much that I didn't need his validation. 

Honestly, I can't say the subsequent time I spent with him was completely in vain. Maybe I would've healed eventually on my own. But I felt like I had hit a wall in my growth because I felt so unbelievably rejected and undesirable as a result of the way he had left me. 

Now he was back and telling me everything I needed to hear to feel once again validated. It was every bit of validation that a woman could ask for....yet it wasn't.

When he first came back around, it almost seemed that he was testing the waters of possibly getting back into a relationship. I was wholly uninterested in this and I told him so. I told him I could not see us ever being back together again. At the time, he seemed affected by it. Then suddenly he did not. He said he would be happy just being my friend forever. That bothered me. A lot. It bothered me that he seemed okay to never have me again....even though I didn't want him!

However, we both kept discussing how we were two broken people who kept going from one broken relationship to the next. We promised each other that we were going to be single for a long while in order to work on ourselves and learn to be alone. We were going to be friends and offer each other support in this. I felt good and excited about my own resolution....but somehow his still bothered me. I needed him to chase me like he used to. When I would bring it up, he would point out how he might have broken up with me once but that I had broken up with him four times before that and that he wasn't going to chase pain and rejection again. Intellectually, I understood this. I could look back to that first night he came back around and remember the look on his face when he said, "wow, you're different. More confident." Intellectually, I really did understand. I knew I had outgrown him. And I knew he probably knew it too. He knew I wouldn't tolerate so many things that I had in the past....but somehow I was still bothered that he didn't chase me....

This actually ate away at me and started to tear me down again, despite the overall ego boost that he had given me. I finally recognized this destructive pattern within myself and that is when my 100 day resolution began. My resolution of Brahmacharya: the conservation of ones vital energy  in order to direct one's attention toward divine pursuits and self-knowledge. I wanted to finally find that validation and self-acceptance that I so desperately needed.

At the time, my ex and I were attempting some convoluted version of a friendship. I told him I needed a little time before I actually saw him again so that I could really focus on myself and my new goals. Within less than two days, I told him I, instead, needed zero communication with him for a while to truly focus on them. His last words to me were "I completely understand, I will always be there for you. I'm not going anywhere."

About 48 hours later, he mysteriously had me blocked via text and social media. 

I could probably guess the reason why but focusing my vital energy on all that is exactly opposite of what I'm trying to accomplish here. And, interestingly enough, I find the "why" suddenly is of no consequence to me. I feel like in that moment of realization that he had walked away in this new fashion, that part of my mind and heart that had been reserved for him emptied out. I've had quite a few people comment since that I seem so different and "over it". And I am. It went from being a chapter I was stuck on and reading over and over again to a chapter I had no interest in whatsoever. 

As I look back, I realize that him coming back into my life was the biggest blessing he could've ever given me. He helped me break through that wall I had hit. I was so stuck in that feeling of rejection and pain he had caused me that I just couldn't seem to move forward. I was seeking validation from unworthy men as a band-aid. And, again, maybe I would've eventually worked through it all on my own. But he came along and accelerated that whole process for me. Then he gave me the biggest gift of all.

He left. 

He left no stone unturned when he burned that final bridge we had: potential friendship. And, in doing so, he somehow broke that connection in my mind. There were no more unanswered questions. It was finally over in my heart. I kept waiting for it to resurface but it truly seems to finally be gone and I can breath deeper because of it. But there is still much work to do because life won't always be this neat and tidy. Someone could grossly reject me again and not come back and validate me. I need to be okay no matter what. 

So, back to me. As this is what this post is actually about! 

Instead of spending so much time obsessing about who may or may not like me, I find myself fantasizing about the new car I'm about the get, imagining myself free falling out of an airplane, running through muddy obstacles with one of my very best friends, the personal training sessions I bought as a Christmas present to myself, a three day backpacking trip I'm going to take with another friend and so often smiling to myself when I realize the unbelievably amazing little man my son is growing into. I am finally FINALLY fully engaged in my own life! And, yes, someday I will know great love. I will be a whole and healthy person and I will attract the same but, for now, I can't even think about all that. 

With every passing day, I find that I am more comfortable in my own skin. Without a man standing in front of me whose actions and facial expressions I can analyze and obsess over to determine if I am worthy enough in his eyes from moment to moment, I turn inward. And I find that I am enough. I am more than enough. I am amazing! And I'm becoming more amazing every day. I can honestly say that I am finally someone who I would that's what I'm doing. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Damage Control

The mentality of most of my clients, and probably most Americans at large, is that tomorrow is a day to throw down. People everywhere will be eating themselves into a stupor in a few short hours. And I totally get it! Thanksgiving has turned into a festive day of never-ending feasting and I've definitely viewed it as such myself in the past.

However, let me ask you, how do you feel after a day of eating like this? Even an afternoon. Are you glad you did it? That's what's ironic about our resolutions to just "enjoy the day." It often ends with us feeling absolutely horrible. Our bellies hurt and we are too tired to think. People like to blame it on the tryptophan in turkey but, I assure you, people who eat ham in lieu of turkey can often be found snoozing on the couch later that afternoon too. 

The problem is, our bodies can only handle so much food at a time. We shovel in massive amounts of various types of food (eating a variety of foods at one time regardless of the quantity can, alone, be very taxing on our system) and then we sit or lay down and allow that traffic jam of food to accumulate like a rock in our bellies. We go to bed that night often feeling anything but festive. 

So I want to challenge everyone to start approaching Thanksgiving the way I have the past few years. Changing my view of what Thanksgiving is has completely changed my holiday experience. 

First, did you know that each and every bite of food you put in your mouth you taste a little less than the bite before? It's the law of diminishing returns. So, instead of piling your plate high with gobs of everything, start with a small selection of your very favorite foods, including dessert. Keep in mind this law of diminishing returns and remember that each bite you take will deliver less flavor and pleasure than the bite before. Savor each and every bite knowing it is literally the best bite you're going to have from there on out. 

This does a couple of things. First, it takes a certain amount of time, that is different for each person and can average anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, for the stomach to start sending the brain messages that it is starting to feel full. By eating slowly you are sending less food down to create that full feeling.

Also, when we chew our food well, not only do we increase feelings of satiety (mouth pleasure is an important and often overlooked part of satiety) but we are also producing digestive enzymes in our mouth in addition to breaking the food down into smaller pieces, both of which are going to help us more easily digest our food, avoiding gas and other digestive discomforts.

I have found since I started being mindful of this that I enjoy my food much more than trying to see how much I can shovel in before I start getting full. Keep in mind that, in addition to not enjoying the food as much, once those gobs of mashed potatoes and bread hit our stomach, there's no turning back. You'll start out with a slightly full feeling but over time it turns into a horrible PACKED feeling! 

So, in addition to slowing down and savoring my food (and, therefore, eating less of it), here are other shifts in my mindset I have made regarding Thanksgiving:

  • It's no longer a "food" holiday. Yes, it's a time for tasty eats but my new focus is on my family and friends gathering together to enjoy each others company. At the end of the day, it's become a tradition for my son and I to put up the Christmas decorations. 
  • I never sit down after eating my Thanksgiving feast! Instead of being the selfish, overgrown child after the meal, I help in the kitchen until everything is clean. Not only do the women folk who assumed this chore a long time ago appreciate this but it also creates necessary movement which aids in the digestive process. 
  • I try to get people to go on a walk with me. After everything is clean, I try to rally some of the lazy, overstuffed troops to take a walk. This is another nice, non-eating tradition that can be created for Thanksgiving. In addition to creating closeness and helping everyone digest their rocks, it is such a beautiful time of year to get out and see the brilliant colors of fall that will soon turn to gray.

But before any of this, I do something so crazy that I don't even know myself at times. First thing that day....

  • I exercise.

I know I probably lost about 7/8 of my readers just now. But here's what exercising on major holidays (yes, I also exercise on Christmas) can do...

  • It reminds you of your goals. "Energy flows where attention goes." Working out on Thanksgiving morning sends the very clear message to your subconscious "I even value my health and my goals today, on Thanksgiving."
  • It does the obvious of offsetting some of the extra calories you're consuming. Although don't get carried away with this mentality, you often burn way less calories than you believe. However, if you work out hard, it depletes your glycogen stores which means less of those simple carbs will be converted to fat.
  • It makes you enjoy your entire day more. There's something about starting ANY day with a workout that makes your eyes a little brighter and your step a little peppier. You will be more focused and positive the entire day and, thus, more able to enjoy the non-food elements of the holiday....the non-food elements being those other people sitting around all that food.

Thanksgiving used to always end with me feeling sick and depressed. It was the epitome of irony when I would look forward to it so much. Now I know I really can look forward it and I'll go to bed that night feeling fit, satisfied and happy. My day will be active, full of laughter and precious moments with the people I love most in the world and moderate amounts of tasty treats that I don't usually indulge in. And I will have savored every single moment and bite of the day.