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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.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sacrifice=Love

Giving up something that makes you feel good because you know it's not good for you is one of the hardest and most liberating things you can do! I've given up so many such things in the past couple of years, things that brought me comfort, happiness, excitement and all those other great feelings we are always chasing after. Well, giving them up wasn't easy, I will never make light of the struggles that have come with some of the sacrifices that I have made in the name of good health (physically AND mentally). However, not only have making these sacrifices made me feel more in control of my life but I find it becomes easier and easier to recognize those toxic things sooner and to eliminate them with less of a struggle.

I have been really meditating on this in the past couple of days because I had to give up one of the hardest things a person can give up....another person. It was hard, it is hard, but I am shocked by how easy a decision it was once I saw things for what they were. Where I once struggled with denying myself a second bowl of ice cream, there was suddenly no struggle with such a big decision. Once I truly knew that having that person in my life was no longer a healthy, constructive choice, it was the same as if the decision was made for me and I just had to suffer through the hurt. Are there times when I'm tempted to say "nevermind! just kidding! come back!" Sure! But at those moments a loving voice tells me gently that it's not conducive to the kind of life I want (and deserve) to live. The loving voice, of course, is my own.

It all boils down to loving yourself. People always say that and it's great advice but what the hell are you supposed to do if you can't stand the sight of yourself in the mirror? I remember asking a psychologist this once when she stated simply "You just have to love yourself." To which I replied, "If I hate myself, how can I just start loving myself?" She looked at me in silence and I could see she had never been challenged on this point before. Finally, she stopped searching the archives of her pre-programmed responses and said with a shrug, "I guess you just have to pretend."

So you don't love yourself enough to do what's right instead of what feels good in the moment?

Fake it til you make it baby!

Since you hate yourself anyway, don't be afraid of how stupid you will sound every morning when you wake up, look in the mirror and say "I love you very much and I am going to treat you with respect and dignity today."

Affirmations are not just for Oprah and self-help books anymore. Words are powerful! They truly are. Our brains are computers and are programmed by the thoughts we think, the words we say and everything we observe in the world around us. So protect your computer and don't allow a virus to infect it.  

Every time you hear that voice in the back of your head say, "I have no will power", you will instantly and deliberately restate "I have complete control over myself and my actions."

Stop focusing on everything you did wrong and focus on everything you did right. Every time you eat a healthy meal or even a piece of fruit after eating badly all day, say to yourself, "I am feeding you this way because I love you and you deserve it" or "I didn't eat that cake because I don't want to hurt you."

Suddenly, yet so gradually you might not even notice, you will wake up one morning to discover you don't loath the sight of yourself. And, as you go through the day, you might notice that you have a quiet, calm confidence that commands respect from others (because you respect yourself). You will wake up and find that you are in love with the best person in the world. Yourself.

Once this happens, it's all gravy from there. Where you once struggled sacrificing something bad for you that you just never thought you could live without, you will find that vice becoming a distant memory and wondering why it was ever so hard to give up.

I know all this from very personal experience. I have given up everything from greasy, happy foods to cigarettes to television to chemical filled energy drinks. I was once the reigning queen of instant gratification!

Because, here's the thing, once you finally love yourself, any love you thought you felt for any of those other things pales in comparison. Just as you would never knowingly hurt your child, your granny or your puppy dog, you would now never knowingly hurt yourself. You'll now be on the list of people you love....hopefully extremely close to the top. And, I'll add this, if you're not somewhere near the top of the "people I love" list of those whom you love, I would suggest you seriously evaluate having that person in your life because part of loving yourself is making sure that those people who you give your love and energy to are giving you the same in return, because you deserve no less.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Excuses

You know what you need to do, it's Monday morning and you got a ton of healthy food from the grocery store yesterday, your healthy meals for the day are prepared and waiting in the fridge. You are ready to start your new life!

But somehow you shut off your alarm clock in your sleep, you've overslept and don't have time to eat breakfast. That's okay, you've got your healthy meals packed! You'll just eat when you get to work.

While you are rushing around to get ready, you knock a vase off the shelf and it shatters all over the floor. Your coworker texts you to say that her son is sick and she won't be in today. You can't find your keys and then, when you finally do, you slam your finger in the door when you get in the car to leave. You are now officially late!

Halfway to work it hits you. CRAP! You left all your meals sitting out in the kitchen. So now you're starving, late to work and your new healthy life is at home rotting on the counter....then you see it....those golden arches. What other choice do you have? And honestly, with the kind of morning you've had, you kinda deserve a sausage biscuit....or two (after all, you might not get to eat for the rest of the day now).

Ten minutes later you arrive to work, your sausage biscuit is gone and so is your resolve. You eat out of the vending machine all day. By the time you collapse in your car to go home that evening, you are exhausted. You text your workout buddy to tell them you can't make it to the gym. Honestly, with the kind of day you've had, all you want to do is grab some Chinese and plop down in front of the couch. It feels so comforting to even think about it.

By the time to go to bed that night, you are depressed and disappointed in yourself. You'll do better tomorrow. No, wait, tomorrow is that meeting and lunch is being catered by your favorite deli and there's gonna be cheesecake for dessert. Honestly, with the kind of week you have ahead of you, this isn't the time to even think about starting a lifestyle change. You are just going to enjoy this week, eat what you want and next Monday is going to be YOUR week! The week when everything changes! Oh! And next Monday is the first day of a new month! How perfect! This comforts you enough to fall asleep....

In a fast paced, stressful, unfair world, excuses are bountiful and motivation sometimes seemingly scarce. There truly is always very legitimate stressors swirling around you, helping you to justify one more day of bad habits. Food might have been my example here but it can take many other forms such as video game addictions, drug or alcohol dependency, or any other habit that doesn't contribute to your well being and usually detracts from it.

It's a vicious cycle, one I lived in for many years and it felt endless. However, somewhere along the way, I was lucky enough to discover something within myself that changed everything. I honestly can't pinpoint the exact moment when the change took place within me because it was all very gradual but I do know when I began to deal with stress by exercising.

My son was about 9 months old and I was suffering from post-partum depression, badly. There were days I could barely motivate myself off the couch to move. Even food and t.v. (my "friends" for years) had abandoned me, they were no longer providing the comfort or escape they always had. I felt like I was suffocating. I was 275 pounds and unbelievably miserable under this heavy weight. I decided to start Body for Life, not to get healthy, just because I was fatter than I'd ever been and the pictures of the people in the book motivated me. The first few days were absolutely horrible and I honestly don't know why I stuck with it.

However, day after day, I found myself struggling to find a way to work out again. Sometimes I would leave my son screaming in his baby swing for the last ten minutes just to finish my workout. After a lifetime of obesity and quitting, WHERE was this motivation coming from?

After a couple months, I started losing a little weight and feeling a little better. After 12 years of being in a marriage that I (nor my ex-husband) had any business still being in, we called it quits and my son and I moved in with my parents.

I really expected things to just become wonderful at this point but I was in for a rude, RUDE awakening! Almost a year into my post-partum, I still was struggling with almost paralyzing depression. The worst time of all was when I put my son to bed for the night because I would just sit awake, unable to sleep, and feel so alone and so depressed. I started heading down into my parents' basement at some point and exercising when I felt just completely out of control. Again, I couldn't even identify quite why I was doing this but I would find myself again and again in the basement, sometimes at 1am, doing pilates or Hip Hop abs instead of binging on junk in front of the television. What had happen to my ability to make excuses?

Well, it turns out, I WAS making excuses. However, my new excuses were for reasons that I should NOT follow through with these old behaviors. Somehow it had finally sunk in that these things were not comforting me, they were making it worse.

When I finally added healthy eating to the mix, the fog in my brain really started to lift and I was able to see things much clearer. That's the thing about bad behaviors, they make excuses so easy, not just because they feel so good in the short run (and they do!) but because they poison our bodies and our brains and cloud or judgement.

Now, a couple of years later, I am using my power for good. When I don't feel so great or I'm having a stressful day, I put those years of practice in excuse making and time manipulation to use and find a reason and a way to squeeze a workout in. Where I used to justify hitting the snooze button just one more time I now justify waking up before 5am every morning to work out, my excuse being that my son will be up shortly after that and I'd rather wake up on my terms, not his and be exercised, energized and ready to go when he wakes up an hour later. Maybe even showered if he "sleeps in" until 6:30am! When I'm feeling stressed out and out of control I turn to....lists! I make a list of everything I DO have control over and I start ticking things off this list because I've learned this makes me feel back in control of my life.

Where I used to justify eating poorly when I had a stressful day ahead of me, I now justify eating extra healthy because I know (and truly understand--knowledge is power!) the importance of the right fuel for my body and brain to be able to deal with the stresses of the day.

Excuses do not have to be bad, it depends on what kind of excuses we are making. Just realize that the power lies in your hands. That might not sound like much but it's HUGE in a world where we can control so little. When you get to the end of your day today, you can either look back and think "Oh well, at least I got through this stressful day and I'll do better tomorrow" and try to make yourself feel okay with the decisions you made. OR, you can look back and say, "Oh well, it was a stressful day but at least I'm a little healthier today than I was yesterday and tomorrow I'll do even better!"


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