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, May 9, 2016

To the Women I Admire: The New Fitness Models

I managed to drag myself into the gym this weekend even though I've been struggling with some constant queasiness lately. I like weekend workouts because the gym is almost empty and I can just get inside my head and do my thing.

I noticed, as I'm sure everyone did, an extremely beautiful, young and seemingly perfect looking girl walk into the gym about halfway through my workout. Her shorts perfectly hugged her butt cheeks and ended just right under them. Not a lick of cellulite. How is that possible?! She began her workout that consisted mainly of strength. I've always envied these girls. The ones who appear to be naturally thin and can focus on putting on muscle mass to make their already flawless looking body into works of art for all to admire.

Some girls really can turn themselves into walking works of art. You can't help but stare at them.

We see them on Instagram. We occasionally see them in the gym. I've walked in on a few taking selfies with their shirts pulled up to show their perfectly chiseled abs. Their smooth, flawless skin. Their dimple free legs. Their butts that seem to defy the laws of gravity. They pull their hair up without much thought into these buns that somehow manage to turn out looking like a hairstylist worked for an hour to achieve the perfect "I didn't even try but, yet, here I am looking perfect" kind of look. We follow their pages in hopes that some of their perfect gloriousness will rub off on us. We cringe when we realize our boyfriends and husbands can see these girls too. 

I, on the other hand, wear capris when I work out because my cellulite covered thighs jiggle. I quickly pull my hair up in a bun when I'm in the midst of a gruelling workout, only to be mortified when I find a mirror and realize I look like a haggard, slightly melted Dr Suess character. My butt is trying it's best to defy gravity but, no matter how hard I try, it will never ever have that flawless, perfect round look. My abs are very strong and, when I pull back the layer of fat, I can see my own six pack chiseled beneath. 

But, then I ask myself, why do I care so much? 

I've been asking myself this for a long time actually and the answer is changing as time goes on. My desire to be perfect and to be admired has faded and given way to a desire for something more substantial and long lasting.

I want to take a moment to clarify, this is not a post bashing those women who are currently focused on appearance more than anything. You know what, I don't blame them! I've actually come to appreciate my physical imperfections because, if I looked like them I think I would be completely focused on the same things they are. It must be intoxicating to be that special looking! 

But this is the body life has given me and I am thankful. Attention is nice and, I won't lie, I've had my fair share since I lost weight. And I also won't lie when I say it feels good. However, the feeling quickly fades and you either need more of it or you realize that you need something more "real". 

There are so many areas in life this feeling can be found: family, spiritual growth, giving to others, etc. However, to stay on topic, I want to focus on fitness. 

I used to do a ton of butt exercises because I wanted my butt to be larger and more round. Once I accomplished that, I noticed that it kind of creased at the bottom so I wanted to get rid of that. I created some rather painful muscular imbalances in the process. I've always been self-conscious of my arms so I used to do a ton of bicep and tricep exercises to try to bulk up the muscles in an attempt to reduce the flab. I ended up developing some painful elbow get the idea.

Now my workouts are to be as strong and functional as I can be. I do exercises that would allow me to pick something heavy up off the floor and set it up on a shelf without hurting myself. To pull myself onto a high rock when I'm exploring new terrain in the run from a bear (okay, that one may never work but I'd like to at least try).

All of this has led me to notice a new kind of woman in the gym. You would be hard pressed to find Instagram accounts for these women. You might not even notice them at the gym, especially if they're next to a dimple-less beauty in booty shorts. 

The red faced woman who has been 25 pounds overweight ever since you joined the gym a year again...but is still there three times a week anyway. The woman who wears the same basic black basketball shorts and oversized tshirt almost every workout and keeps her head down because she's shy. The 70 year old woman in Zumba who is having the time of her life, even though she can't do the jumps or fast turns. The other woman in Zumba who always stands in the back because she has zero rhythm and coordination.

EVERY. SINGLE. WOMAN who embraces fitness for fitness sake and nothing more. The women who don't have the promise of the energy that comes from admiring looks to fuel them through their workout. The women who know that they are going to work their butts off every day for yet another winter and know that they still won't feel like or look like a VS model in a bikini next summer. You are all my new fitness models!

I guess I fall somewhere between these two spectrums of women. I will never be the fitness model. However, I would be a complete liar if I said that the goal of someday feeling confident in a bikini wasn't somewhere in my mind. 

No matter where our fitness goals and motivations fall on this spectrum, we would all do well to remember this: fitness should always be a journey, not a destination. And, exercise for the sake of exercise and nothing else, is the safest path to take to ensure that not only do we stay safe and healthy but that we ALWAYS have motivation to work out. Even when no one is looking. We do it because it feels good and it gives us the power and energy we need to live our very best lives!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Organizing Your "Weigh" to Weight Loss

Once upon a time...I was a complete slob. I seriously was horrible. As a teenager, my friends would clean my room when we hung out because, even as inattentive teenagers, it was literally so out of control that even they noticed.

I remember always feeling like organization and structure or even "wasting" my time cleaning would box in my soul and kill my free spirit.

In my 20s, I did slightly better. My complete chaos turned into controlled chaos. But I still abhorred structure and suspected it to be the death of free thought.

Now, at almost 40, I suddenly realize that I feel very different! I can't pinpoint exactly when it came about but I've realized that I have, over time, done a complete 180! I have gone from refusing to plan or organize to refusing to walk away from any of my spaces without leaving it clear and perfectly organized...generally with a list sitting out in clear view of what I plan to do the next time I return to that space.

Here's the crazy thing. THIS HAS SET ME FREE!! I feel more stress free than I ever have before. I feel in control. I never intentionally did this to control my weight but I've also noticed that I can control my impulses much better when I feel in control of all controllable areas of my life (because, let's face it, there will always be things that even control freaks like me can't control).

This was all something I've realized on some subconscious level for a while now. I've even written past posts about "what I have control over" and how it has helped changed me. But it really hit me on a more aware level just yesterday as I listened to an audiobook called "Willpower". What is very interesting about willpower is that it's not really something we have much control over. We have a certain amount of it each day and it varies based on not only how much sleep we've had and how much we've used our willpower that day but also on our socialization as well as just our genetics!

It's almost kind of depressing to realize that we can't really improve our willpower that much. BUT what we can do is conserve and optimize it! One great way to conserve it is to control the world around you as much as possible. Anticipate variables and unexpected things. This can be accomplished by creating budgets, lots and lots of lists (otherwise it will be floating around in your head, taking up space, until it's settled...and you could STILL forget it when you need to remember it), hanging your keys in the same spot every single time, planning your food including bringing extra healthy snacks with you on particularly stressful days. Doing all of these things can help calm your brain as well as avoid a lot of stressful situations.

Oh! And oddly enough, practicing good posture has also been shown as one of the only ways to possibly improve willpower.

I am going to write more about this, time allowing, but I wanted to go ahead and share this while it's fresh on my mind in hopes that it may help someone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

CBT: Unscrewing My Brain

I am in counseling. There I said it. Feel free to attach the stigma of your choice. I am no stranger to counseling actually. In fact, in case if you haven't figured it out by now, I am a self-help junkie. While others swoon over Tatum Channing (which, I also totally get!) and various other famous people, nothing quite does it for me like a self-help author with a calming voice gently telling me how to be a better, happier person. 
So this new counselor probably makes a solid half dozen that I've had in my life. One of the things I adore about her is that she is completely down with working in a synergistic way with me. She understands and even appreciates that she is going to have to enter into each session with me not knowing if I've spent the last week learning everything I can about something she mentioned in passing the previous week and had planned that day's session completely around. 
Last week was the perfect example of that. Two weeks ago she had outlined our "treatment plan" based on my diagnosis (ADHD, OCD and General Anxiety shame in my game, these are just the labels that describe my own assortment of thought patterns).
One of the treatments she intended to use was CBT. Well, I went to work learning everything I could about it. I watched tons of YouTube videos and listened to two audio books on the subject. I walked into our session last week explaining to her how I was using CBT to interrupt negative thought patterns and create new ones. She seemed pretty impressed so I wanted to share them with you guys as well.
I've provided a graphic above to give you a visual of how our thought patterns work. These patterns are created from a lifetime of, well, shit happening to us! For example, if we were betrayed at a vulnerable time in our lives, we may develop the schema (core belief) that people can't be trusted.
Therefore, when we are in a situation where we feel vulnerable (emotionally or physically), we have that thought of distrust come up.
This will create feelings of fear or anxiety. Maybe even anger.
This will create a behavior of self-protection. It could be pushing the person away or suffocating them with love in an attempt to hold onto them.
CBT is interrupting this loop somewhere along the cycle. Anywhere.
I am going to use a very personal example to demonstrate this. And it taps into one of my biggest fears to share this: My fear of unworthiness and rejection. But that's exactly why I've decided to share it. To, first, challenge that fear in order to change it. And, secondly, to show others who have this same fear that you're not alone, it is actually extremely normal and can be corrected.
Okay, so my fear of rejection almost definitely stems from a childhood of being socially rejected and bullied. Fast-forward to my dating years where I've been cheated on more times than I can count (although I now recognize that it was this original belief that I would be rejected that caused me to date men who would confirm this belief...more on that later). Whether cause or effect, my many experiences in life have caused me to believe that I will be found unworthy and rejected by others once they get to know me.
So, that is the "belief" part of the cycle. The next part is "feelings". When this belief is triggered for any reason, it creates feelings of anxiety, fear, dread and sometimes anger. From an evolutionary standpoint this makes total sense. In modern times, someone rejects you and it's not a big deal compared to, in more primitive times, when it would've threatened one's survival. Before the constructs of modern society, social rejection or rejection from a mate could very well mean your death because you would be isolated and more vulnerable to dangers like predators or starvation.
Then we have "behaviors". This is how I react to and/or deal with the feelings that come up. For me this can span the spectrum of clinging to a mate extra hard all the way to snooping into his email to see if I can prove my schema (that I will be betrayed).
I've learned from my counselor that we love to be right. Even when being right can be unbelievably painful and life altering. It's just who we are as human beings. So, if I believe that I am unlovable and will be rejected, I will pick mates that can deliver this. I will seek out life experiences that will confirm the beliefs that I fear the most. That I am unlovable.
A perfect example is my current situation. I am almost six weeks post-breakup. During the first couple weeks, I just couldn't help myself. I would stalk him on social media and just look for confirmations that he had moved on...with someone better than me of course. I would seek this information out even though dread would eat me alive as soon as I even considered doing it. Why? Why would I deliberately seek out pain? Because our brains love to be right and I was convinced that I was easily replaceable. So I would stalk and stalk until I found something, no matter how small, to confirm that I sucked.
Here's how that applies to the CBT cycle:
My belief is that I'm unworthy and will be rejected.
My feelings that arise from this are anxiety, dread, fear and sadness. Sometimes anger.
My behavior is to seek out confirmation of my belief.
I view anything I find through this lens of unworthiness. Therefore, the results of my behavior very often reinforce my beliefs that I am unlovable. Not good enough. Rejection from everyone in my life is inevitable.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Well, that was my old cycle. So, in CBT, the goal is to interrupt the loop anywhere in the cycle. When I catch myself in this loop, I literally envision myself poking it with two fingers somewhere along the cycle. Anywhere. Here's how I deal with this particular loop (because I have many, we all do, but I'm going to stick with this example).
Anything can cause my feelings of believing I am unlovable to pop up. Sometimes even just having unrelated negative feelings will attract to it other negative feelings. So it's no surprise that during a painful breakup where I often get sad and miss him that I would become more vulnerable to any negative beliefs entering my head, especially one as closely related as being unlovable. When I recognize these beliefs popping up, I challenge them. I think of every bit of proof in my life that this is not the case. I think about how some of my exes have told me how special I am. I think about how my most recent ex seemed to love me with his whole heart and seemed to appreciate the unique things that made! I think about how my family and my clients love and accept me even when I make mistakes or gain a few pounds. I think about what's right about my body instead of what's wrong. It's not an exact list of things I have to do or think about. All I have to do is shift my attention from these previously negative and limiting beliefs to something better.
When I recognize my feelings popping up, usually anxiety, I focus on the physical sensation of the feeling. For anxiety, which I tend to feel in my belly, I breath deeply and deliberately and envision a pink and loving light moving into my stomach. It is calming. Again, this isn't some specific, scientifically proven method of calming feelings. This is merely poking a hole somewhere in the loop. Disrupting an old pattern. Breaking a cycle. You get the idea.
When I feel the impulse to do a certain behavior, like Facebook stalk my ex for example, I think about how I'll feel after I do. I try to think of something I could do to turn the focus back to myself instead of him. This is something I've gotten really good at over the years during breakups. I observed that I felt much more energetic when I shifted my focus off of him and back onto myself and my own growth. I just never knew it was called CBT. Furthermore, I've written a contract to myself swearing that I won't do it. Yes, sure I could break the contract but having it is just enough to interrupt the process and turn an almost compulsive reflex into something I have to deliberately make the decision to do...which I don't anymore!
I am not going to say that I have 100% broken this cycle, but it's pretty darn disturbed and not on autopilot anymore.
There's an audio book that's less than an hour long on Audible called Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It. He talks about how he changed his entire life by just repeating the mantra "I love myself. I love myself. I love myself." I've applied this to my own life.
When all else fails and I'm stuck in a cognitive loop and feeling too distraught or apathetic to do anything proactive, I begin repeating this mantra over and over again in my head. And it's working!
But this mantra is just the tip of the iceberg of self-love for me. Because I've learned that THE BEST way to break any negative pattern is true self-love. We tend to not beat up on people we love. Mantras are a good start but investing time and energy into my well-being is a direct message to my soul that I am worthy of being nurtured and loved. And I am. We all are.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Changes to My Body AND My Belief About My Body

I really hate to be "that girl" but I am just so proud of myself. About two months ago I was starting to feel really thick and just not healthy. In the past 60 days, I've lost 16 pounds and 3 1/2 inches off my waist. And this time I can honestly say I've done it in an unbelievably healthy way!! And the other night at the gym I did 46 standard pushups! (3 sets: 16, 15, 15)

Id also like to add that im not the lightest I've ever been. And part of that is definitely muscle mass but part of that is that I am just naturally a thicker chick and Im never going to starve myself again to fit some kind of image of beauty. I am almost ALMOST to a place where I am comfortable in my own skin. I've come so far from the obese, exhausted 20 year old and now, less than two years away from the big 4-0, I can honestly say that I feel in the very best shape of my life. And not just physically but mentally and spiritually. Which, for anyone who knows me well enough, knows it has been hard earned.

Side note: I've also stopped tanning. I have tanned for years out of insecurity and vanity. No more! This girl is going pale. I am who I am. Sexy, cellulite, pretty, belly, morning breath, inviting smile, wild chin perfectly, imperfect self and I'm through apologizing in either direction.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chopra Center Meditation E-Book

I just wanted to share this free e-book that I've been reading through. Inspirational nuggets of wisdom to apply to your growth....

Chopra Center Meditation E-Book

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Living With Awareness

I have always been the queen of distraction. I recently went to a silent meditation weekend retreat. I learned so many things about myself and others but this is perhaps the biggest lesson I learned: mindfulness. It's something we talk about but seldom actually do. Since going, I've become a little obsessed with the idea of trying to be fully present in each moment of my life. I've even finally broken out an audio book that I bought forever ago but just didn't feel the motivation to listen to. I actually highly recommend not just this book but their whole series. They're called "The Great Courses" and they feature top experts in their respective fields giving approximately 30 minute lectures. Most of these collections are very long. The one I'm listening to now, "The Science of Mindfulness" is almost 14 hours long so I'm guessing there's about 28 bite size lectures in all.

This book, along with journaling and overall self-awareness is helping me learn how to consistently pull myself back to the present. One thing (of many things) this helps with is anxiety, which is something I've always really struggled with. The great thing about being mindful and being present in the moment is that very few anxiety inducing things happen right in front of your face. Most happened in the past or you fear them happening in the future. Most moments are beautiful and peaceful when you remove your projected ideas of meaning (past or future) from them.

A perfect example of this happened just last night. Yesterday morning I woke up to my son (once again) in my bed. He felt very warm to the touch and was tossing and turning so I was unsure whether he was feverish or overheated. He woke up and said he was hot and his head hurt. My head hurt too. My allergies have been flaring up. So I gave him a homeopathic medicine we have for sinus issues and told him to go lay down in his bed. I decided to let him sleep until he woke up naturally again. I contacted all my clients and told them I was pretty sure he was sick and I was going to have to cancel. I arranged someone to watch him long enough for me to go grab some work and come back. I was in full-on mommy in crisis mode and I was rocking it. Then he woke up and he felt completely cool to the touch! He acted slightly lethargic but begged and pleaded to go to school because they were going on a field trip. I eventually gave in and took him to school late.

I was able to recover a couple of my canceled clients and, while I was training the first one, I received a snide voicemail from my son's teacher in which she said "he needs to come home now, the Tylenol is wearing off and his fever is going back up." I felt rage boil up inside of me. She was very obviously implying that I dosed my son with Tylenol to lower a fever so I could take him to school. I called back and defended myself and she, in her syrupy sweet voice, said "Welllll, I'm just going by what he tolllld me. He told me you gave him medicine." ....He actually told her I gave him "two marshmallows", which is what we call the homeopathic medicine for allergies. But that's neither here nor there. The fact that she was not so subtly accusing me of deception and neglect, not just of my child but of all the children there, was loud and clear.

It took me a while to get past that one but I was soon distracted with a very sick child. That's when I actually did dose him to get his fever down after it crept up from 99.7 to 103.4 within less than an hour. Finally it was under control and he was comfortable. That's when thoughts of the teacher's accusations snuck back into my head. I felt my blood start to boil again. I looked over at my son in my bed, watching tv peacefully.

I surrendered. 

I let go of my fear that he would get worse in the night. I let go of the anger toward this woman who, in the grand scheme of things, is an insignificant blip on the radar that is our lives and I even let go of the fact that I had probably already caught whatever this was that he had (yes, I'm a mom with a dose of selfishness). Instead, I wrapped my arms around my slightly warm little boy, buried my nose in his hair and truly experienced that precious moment with my most precious child. The room suddenly felt still and quiet. Weird? It had been so loud just a moment before. All that turmoil and chaos and noise had been right between my ears. In that moment there was nothing anxiety inducing. Only peace.

I have never been as in touch with my feelings as I am right now. Which is especially hard because I'm going through yet another break-up with what was the 3 1/2 year, sometimes bumpy, but almost always beautiful, on-again-off-again relationship with the love of my life and it would be SO easy to just put my head in the sand and think about and do other things. I could do what I've been great at doing in the past, running headfirst into my next relationship. But I'm not. Instead, I am sitting smack dab in the middle of the pain. And, amazingly, it's healing me. And it's healing me in the most beautiful way because it's a deliberate, heartfelt process instead of just the fading of memories which never truly works because the intellectual brain may forget but the body and the soul does not. Likewise, the times of joy are much sweeter when you live in mindfulness as well.

I recently re-listened to a Brene Brown TedTalk. The thing she says that echos through my head when I'm tempted to run is this: "you can not selectively dull emotions. If you dull one, you dull them all."

That's really profound if you think about it. And, on some level, we all already know it's true. The more I allow myself to collapse on my bed in gut wrenching sobs in those sad, dark moments, the more I find myself belly laughing with the people I love or feeling giddy feelings of awe at sunrises. It's all connected. There can be no light without darkness. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Social Media Detox and Subsequent Evolution

I recently had things happen in my life that helped me decide to take a break from social media. It hasn't been a 100% hardcore detox but, other than a sneak peak here or a blog link posted on Twitter, I've been pretty darn serious about it. In fact, I even deleted all my social media apps off my phone. 

And, I have to tell you, it feels damn good! Now, the first couple days, it did not! It felt weird. I would pull up my phone and scroll through, quickly realizing I had nothing to distract myself with. I'd maybe check the weather and make a list on my notepad but that was about it! Now, just a few days later, I've come to embrace it so much that I've taken it a few steps further and stayed almost completely off the internet other than work related things and concrete research here and there. 

As a result, I find myself not looking at my phone for hours at a time! I actually keep losing my phone. 

Anyone who knows me, knows this has become out of character for me over the last few years. I've even had a few people text me and then text me an hour later and ask "Are you okay? Are you getting my texts?" Realizing that my loved ones are concerned that I may, in fact, be injured or dead by my lack of prompt response has made me acutely aware of what a phone zombie I had become. And I never used to be.....and I never will again. 

How did I get that way? Where I had to constantly feel connected. I didn't realize how much time I wasted doing it either. I didn't realize how tuned out I was to what was going on around because of this self-imposed obligation to promptly respond to everyone whether it be via text or social media. I've went ahead and told my friends and family, "If you don't hear from me for a few days, I promise I'm alive, you'll understand and appreciate this new development when you see me face-to-face again and receive my undivided attention."

I am officially no longer a member of the "tuned out" society and now I want to encourage everyone around me to tune in to your beautiful, rich lives right in front of you. I can't believe the peace and happiness and clarity that life offers when you truly tune in to the moment. And it goes so far past just not starting at a screen. It's also not dwelling on events that already happened or may happen in the future. It's not dwelling on people that aren't present. It's allowing yourself to be fully engaged and present in the moment. 

And the ripple effect of this is amazing. I recently had a very deep and enlightening conversation with my father that prompted him, at 71 years old, to try to fundamentally change something about himself that will enhance his own life. I would've never had this conversation prior to my social media detox because it was late one evening and I was getting sleepy and I would've been scrolling through my phone having a light-hearted, half engaged conversation with him because that's what I tend to do when I get tired, I space out on my phone. My son is suddenly better behaved and connecting more fully with me. I am getting TONS more done with my life. 

I am almost ashamed to admit that these things are just now happening and were ever hindered by my phone zombification but if no one admits it, then no one learns, and I'm all about always learning and growing!

Today's topic at my UU church was about love. He spoke of how the opposite of love is not's indifference. Let that sink in. Really sink in. I know it did for me. And the opposite to action is also....indifference. Apathy. It's where we sometimes go when our emotions get too hard to deal with...into apathy. We space out. And it detracts from our humanity. 

A couple years ago, someone special in my life introduced me to Pema Chodran, who's writings I've been devouring again lately. She talks about the importance of sitting with your feelings and truly drinking in the full spectrum of them. THIS will add to our humanity. This is adding to MY humanity. I am feeling more pain but, as a result, I am also feeling more joy, wonder and love. I am feeling at peace within myself and that is an amazing step for me. It's something that I don't think I've ever felt. I've always ran. When I sit back and think about it, I've ran through every type of distraction in my life. All seemingly different, but all serving the same purpose. Daydreaming, various screens (tv, computer, phone), food, alcohol, men, cleaning, organizing, SLEEPING....whatever! Just don't feel the pain! Don't sit with the uncomfortable feelings at any cost.

No more. I am learning to sit with all the uncomfortable feelings more and more as time goes in. And the more I don't run, the more humanity I feel. The more love I feel. The less hate I feel and, here's the most amazing part...the more I am okay with just sitting with myself and not needing anyone or anything to "feel okay".

Next weekend I am taking it one big old giant step further. I am going to a silent meditation and yoga retreat. This is a really huge deal for me, someone who is always trying to run from the noise in my head. 

I'm done running. And the more I stop and listen to the's not noise at all. It's me. It's my emotions. It's my humanity, my soul. And I'm FINALLY ready to listen.