The Infamous "Fat Attack"

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Not too long ago, I posted on my Instagram (@movementcounselingservices, go follow!) about a book I started to read. I’ve recently been working my way through Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston, Ph.D. Let me just say that this book is has an eye opening experience on every page! Link to purchase this book will be at the end of this post. I can’t recommend this book enough!

One thing that stuck out to me was the phenomenon the “fat attack”. I never knew it had a name until I read this book, and I can say that this is something I’ve experienced. 

So what is it? Anita Johnston, Ph.D. describes it as an experience when you all of a sudden feel as is you’ve gained 20+ pounds over night. Rationally, you know this can’t possibly be true, but it definitely feels like you’ve put on the weight in a very very short amount of time. If you’ve ever struggled with body image and or disordered eating, you know exactly what this feels like. It comes on suddenly and can feel intense. 

You might say to yourself that, “why do I feel okay some days and the other days I feel like a whale?”. While a “fat attack” is an unwelcome guest, it can actually be a good thing in that it gets you to explore the root cause of the problem. So what causes them? Most of the time, they can serve as a signal that there is something else bothering you. Your weight and feeling fat may feel like it is the real problem, but it is a distraction from what’s really going on. Issues with weight seem to have a simple answer; lose weight. But what happens when the real problem is you are unhappy in you relationship? You have to confront a friend on something that’s uncomfortable? You hate your boss at work? These are problems that don’t have an easy solution. They are complicated with many moving parts. They take being vulnerable with others and once it’s out in the open, we can’t hide from it. 

So the next time you have a “fat attack”, ask yourself, “What is this really about?”

Happy Friday everyone!

Shh...you're laughing too loud!

 photo captured by our dear friend @tarakoenke

photo captured by our dear friend @tarakoenke

When we think about body image, we generally think of our body from the neck down. We think about our arm fat, or our midsection and rolls we have when we sit down, or the fact that we don’t have a “thigh gap”. But what about from the neck up? What about our eyes, our smiles, our teeth, our ears? All of that counts too! After all, it is part of our body! But what about our laugh, would you consider that to be part of it too?

The reason I’m bringing this up is because so many people are insecure about their smile and their laugh. During my braces phase, you can definitely say that I was. That phase was a long 3.5 to 4 years, let’s just say that. My smile eventually changed, but my laugh has always stayed the same. I used to be so insecure about it because whenever I would laugh, I noticed people’s eyebrows would raise. They were shocked that a laugh like that came out of a girl like me. 

Some background info: I come from a loud family, and on top of that, myself, my mom, and my aunt all have unique, LOUD laughs. And by loud, I mean really loud. My baba (grandma) used to tell us we were laughing too loud and give us a sharp, “Shhh!”. Eventually she realized our laughs couldn’t be tamed, and she gave up. I think a big part of it had to do with the fact that I married into a family that has some members with some pretty kick ass laughs too! 

I’m not quite sure when I stopped being insecure about my laugh, but I can tell you it’s the greatest feeling! I do, however, think I know how I got over this insecurity. I realized that I love to laugh and I love the feeling when I’m laughing. When I’m laughing it means I am genuinely happy, and usually surrounded by people I love and care about; the people who accept me just as I am. If they can accept all of me (flaws and all) and still love me, then I damn sure should be able to do the same for myself!

Happy laughing and happy Friday everyone!

The Impact of Exercise on Body Image

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Getting a bit more personal on this week’s blog post! Growing up, I looked at my body as something that could be better and I took it for granted. I wasn’t grateful that it could allow me to ride horses, play lacrosse, run with my dog, jump on a trampoline, you get the idea. I was mean to my body more times than I was nice. 

               And yes, that's me!

If you struggle with body image then you probably don’t believe that your body is an incredible machine capable of so much more than you ever give it credit for. But IT IS! I didn’t believe this until I actually started to work on my relationship with my body. The most impactful thing I did was to find an exercise routine that complimented my lifestyle and my goals. This wasn’t the only thing I did, but exercise was what allowed me to see physical progress when I was discouraged for not seeing more emotional and mental progress. It helped keep me motivated. In regards to physical progress, I’m not only talking about changes in the shape of my body, I’m also talking about changes that went deeper than that. I noticed myself getting stronger, faster at running, my posture improved, I slept better, and I felt productive and accomplished. I was bridging the gap between my self, my mind, and my body. I started my journey wanting to just be happier with the way I looked, but I ended up with so much more. I can say that I am truly grateful for all that my body can do and allows me to do. 

Exercise routines require hard work, determination, and persistence, but the impacts on mental health are invaluable. Therefore, I encourage all of my clients to engage in an exercise routine that fits their lifestyle. Anything is fair game! Kayaking, hiking, yoga, walking, weightlifting, running, biking, anything that gets them moving! I ask them to not focus on losing weight or inches, but instead focus on what they are gaining. Are they getting faster? Can they notice themselves getting stronger? Are they able to lift heavier weights? Has their balance improved? Can they go farther without getting tired?  Can they finally do that difficult yoga pose? We often approach our weight and bodies with the idea that we need get rid of fat or change it’s shape that we forget to notice all the things we gain along the way.

Orthorexia; Is There Such A Thing As "Too Healthy"?

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I know these posts usually happen on Fridays, but I'll be out of town for the rest of the week and weekend and I wanted to make sure that I got this week's post in! 

Even though the DSM V doesn’t recognize Orthorexia as a disorder, it is something to be discussed. It is on the rise and something to be aware of. The term orthorexia refers to an obsession with eating foods that one considers to be healthy, and the avoidance of specific foods that one believes are harmful or unhealthy. It is marked by a self-punishing relationship with food. 

Being part of the competitive bodybuilding world for a short time, I can most definitely understand how eating “clean” and healthy can turn into something much more serious for some individuals. While I learned so much about my diet, which foods to eat when, how much water to drink, etc., keeping track of that all felt like a part time job some days. Everything you eat is measured down to the ounce, you follow a specific meal plan, you eat at specific times, and you are working out sometimes multiple times per day. The end physical result being a kick ass body, but not many people are able to endure the mental and emotional strain that this puts on them. In addition, that “kick ass body” can become something that you want to have all year round but that simply isn’t possible nor is it healthy. In an attempt to preserve that body, some individuals can go to extreme lengths to try and hold on to it. 

Orthorexia can occur in individuals outside of the body building world as well, however, I am speaking from my own personal experience here. It can begin with a desire to start a specific diet or just the wish to be healthier.

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Here are some signs to look out for:

  • A fixation/obsession over the quality of food: this is often at the heart of orthorexia. Individuals fixate on the quality and purity of foods, and often limit foods to those that are organic, raw, whole, etc. 
  • Inflexible eating patterns: rigidity in the type of food they consume. Foods that are labeled “bad” or “unhealthy” are avoided at all costs. They would rather eating nothing than something they have labeled “unhealthy”.
  • Emotional distress if “rules” are broken: straying from strict diet and exercise regimen can cause severe anxiety, panic, guilt. shame, and or depression. 
  • Cutting out food groups: this is a common occurrence among those struggling with orthorexia. Common food groups that are eliminated are processed foods, sugar, meat, dairy, carbs, and or gluten 
  • Worry about sickness or disease: often they believe that if they consume foods that are not “whole” or “clean” they will become ill. They also often refer to foods that are not “whole” or “clean” as poison. 
  • Anxiety being around certain foods: they may feel the need to separate themselves from their “banned foods”. Being around these foods can be incredibly uncomfortable for them and they may even leave the situation. Isolating is a common avoidance technique for those struggling with orthorexia. They may skip social events where they may be forced to face “banned foods”, which can lead to depression and even more intensified distortion in thoughts and behaviors. 
  • It is not always fueled by poor body image: it is not always fueled by obsessions with appearance or the desire to lose weight, but it is more rooted in the need to eat or be “healthy”.
  • Weight loss: in some cases weight loss is not intentional, but the restrictive nature of orthorexia can lead to weight loss and malnutrition. 

Other things to look out for:

  • Spending much of your day thinking about healthy food (to eat, prepare, etc.). This time spent thinking about food gets in the way of other responsibilities like work, family, relationships, etc. 
  • Intense guilt eating “unhealthy” foods and feeling judgmental of others who eat those foods.
  • Sense of happiness/self-esteem/joy being dependent on the “rightness” of what you eat.
  • Wanting to not follow such a strict diet at special occasions, but you can’t. 
  • Over time, the list of foods you aren’t “allowed” to eat has grown.
  • Loss of weight has led to malnutrition, skin issues, loss of menses, and or loss of hair. 

If you are someone you know may be struggling with this, don’t hesitate to reach out! You or they can learn to let go of that rigidity over time with the right support!

Happy early Friday everyone! Have a great weekend!

Reconnecting With Your Body

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Your body should be a safe and comfortable place to live but for many people, it's not. If you're reading this, chances are that at some point in your life you have felt disconnected from your body and maybe you still do. Maybe you're not even sure how you got to this point, but you do know that you feel like a stranger in your own body.

Let's start with some of the reasons that we can be disconnected from our bodies.

1. If you've ever struggled with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, you know that you can feel numb at times. This numbness causes us to feel disconnected from ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically.

2. If you struggle with body image issues they can make you want to stay disconnected. If facing your own body Is hard, then you may avoid trying on clothes, looking in the mirror, looking at certain parts of your body, etc.. This only makes the disconnect stronger and that much harder to break the cycle.

3. Today many of us are more connected to our devices and we are to ourselves and others. We spend so much time on our phones, tablets, computers, and in front of the TV that we forget the importance of being present with ourselves and others. Humans by nature are social, and the more time we spend with our face in front of our devices the less time we have for social interaction. But first if we want to have strong connections with other people, we need to have a strong connection and relationship with our self and our body.

4. We are often up in our heads and not in the present moment. The more time we spend with only our thoughts, the less time we spend in the present moment. We start to get the sense that only our mind is what runs the show and our body is just along for the ride.

So how do we become reconnected? It takes time, energy, patience, and practice. But it is possible, and I'm living proof of that. Below I'm going to give you a few tips and techniques that can help you to begin to become reconnected with your body.

Try completing a body scan meditation where you focus and bring awareness to each part of your body. You can start from your head and work your way down to your toes or vice versa. Try noticing how each part of your body feels. Notice if there is any tension or aches and pains. Try doing this for five minutes to start. Here's a link to one to help you get started! 

Try going for a mindful walk. Here you will take a walk and notice your surroundings using your five senses. Also notice how your body feels--your feet hitting the pavement, breeze on your skin, warmth of the sun on your face, notice tension/aches/pains. Here is a file for more information!

Try a grounding exercise. This helps keep you in the present and helps you notice your connectedness to the universe. Start by sitting or standing and notice your feet on the floor. 

Try yoga, especially beginner poses such as child's pose and warrior pose. Yoga is all about the mind, body, and spirit connection! Make sure that during your practice you are focusing on bodily sensations. 

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

The Food-Mood Connection Part 2, feat. Processed Foods--You Are What You Eat

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Nutrients from food provide the foundation for the structure and function of the cells in our body. Our bodies are constantly building, repairing, healing, and rebuilding. The cells that make up our bodies are always regenerating and replacing old ones, and how healthy these cells are are determined by how healthy we eat. 

Our bodies also contain similar nutrients to the foods we eat, so depending on the kind of foods we are eating and it’s contents, we can be affecting our nutrient levels and overall health more than we think we are—all the way down to the cellular level. 

Here’s a rough breakdown (varies by individual). Our bodies are:

  • 6% minerals, carbs, and other nutrients
  • 16% fat
  • 16% protein
  • 62% water

Processed foods:

They contain many unneeded chemicals and calories that our bodies don’t need. They are biggest sources of added sugar, which is essentially empty calories. This amount of sugar can have an impact on metabolism over time, and can lead to insulin resistance, high triglycerides, and high levels of harmful cholesterol. All of this can lead to fat accumulation throughout the body.

They are engineered for overconsumption. A great deal of money is spent on making food as desirable as possible and rewarding on the brain. This is a deadly combination in that it can be addicting to the brain and therefore, lead to overconsumption.

They are high in refined carbs, which can cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Over time, this leads to negative health effects. 

They are low in nutrients. The best nutrients are found in whole foods. The more processed foods we eat the less nutrients we are getting 

They are low in fiber. Fiber has many important health benefits, like aiding in digestion. Fiber is often lost or removed during processing. 

They take less time and energy to digest. When digesting processed foods, we only burn about half as many calories digesting and metabolizing them. 

They are high in trans-fat (unhealthy fats). The more trans-fat we eat, the higher our risk is for heart disease. 

Connection to mood:

  • Poor diet can lead to depression
  • Stress causes us to seek out sugar--why we eat sugar when stressed!
  • Food can be addicting
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The takeaway:

  • Eat less processed food
  • Eat whole, nutrient dense foods
  • Make sure your diet incorporates the right amount of fiber, healthy fats, complex carbs, and water!

The Food-Mood Connection Part 1

You know the saying, “You are what you eat?”, well it’s still true! But today, I’ll be writing about how our mood is impacted by the things we don’t eat or the important things our diet is lacking. Next week, we’ll get to how the food we choose to eat impacts our mood. 

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When your body is lacking key nutrients, it doesn’t function as well, and you and your mood suffers. I think that sometimes, we forgot about the important role that diet plays in mental health and how our diet can help regulate our mood. We get into a cycle of thinking that therapy is all about learning coping skills, exploring deep emotions, past traumas, etc, that we can often forget about some basic needs like diet. 

While I’m not a nutritionist or dietician, I am very conscious of what I put into my body. Through personal experience, living a healthy lifestyle, and taking in what body building has taught me, I have been able to learn some of the basics and apply it to my own life with undeniable results!

So let's get to it...

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Diets low in fruits and vegetables can lead to mental health challenges. Fruits and vegetables help balance vitamins that are needed to keep the brain healthy. It is recommended that we get 5 portions per day in order to keep our brains functioning at their best. It’s good practice to balance your intake of fruits and vegetables to balance the sugar found in fruits. Some of my favorites for the summer season are grilled asparagus, zucchini noodles, cherries, and raspberries!

Diets low in Omega 3’s and sometimes Omega 6 (fatty acids) play an important role on how well our brains function and how well it communicates with the rest of our body.Also, how well our cells communicate with each other. These fatty acids are essential fats and are not produced in our bodies naturally. Therefore, we can only get them from the food we eat such as oily fish (tuna, salmon), walnuts, spinach, and many more! 

Lets talk water! Our bodies are about 3/4 water and we need at least 8 glasses a day to help replace what we lose. When we aren’t taking in enough water, we can feel tired, experience low energy, suffer from decreased concentration, dehydration, nausea, headaches, and constipation. All of these consequences/side effects from lack of water make us more vulnerable to changes in mood. 

If you realize that you need to change some things within your diet, here’s a few tips:

  • Make sure you are incorporating the key points from this blog post.
  • Develop a routine: prepare meals for the week and incorporate time for meals into your daily schedule.
  • Eat at intervals to help maintain energy and blood sugar levels. The easiest way to do this is make sure you are having 3 main meals with snacks in between. 
  • If you are still struggling, seek some professional help or support! There is nothing weak about doing that! 

Happy Friday and have a great weekend everyone!

Why Can’t I Love Myself & Why Is It So Freaking Hard?!

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We are actually wired to do exact the opposite if you really break it down. Three factors make this a next to impossible cycle to break. 

First and foremost is the negativity bias. This is the phenomenon that if there are two equally charged stimuli, the negative one will attract more of your mind’s attention. The negativity bias is what makes you pay attention to what’s wrong with you and the world, and it’s what also makes you gloss over and disregard the positives.

The second factor is because of a “thinking trap” called attentional filtering. We are constantly having to take in an overload of information at any given moment. There is too much stimuli to process, so your mind filters out most of the information coming at you, and this is called attentional filtering. This helps us in that we are able to keep our brains from becoming a jumbled mess, but it also comes with a price. The price is that the world ends up looking like whatever you are focusing on and if you’re picking up only negativity and your flaws, that’s what takes up the space in your mind. 

The third factor is the media. You know the saying, “Don’t believe everything you think”? The mind isn’t always the best at processing and perceiving reality, and the media does a damn good job of putting a spin on reality. So lets put all of these factors together. Because of the negativity bias, your mind is more likely to pay attention to your flaws instead of positive qualities and because of attentional filtering from your surroundings and the media, your mind filters out most of the stimuli around you. Therefore, you view yourself as as less intelligent, less attractive, less worthy, less deserving; you get my drift. 

So, how do you break this cycle? 

First, pay attention to when you are falling prey to the negativity bias. Pay attention to you inner self-talk and what you’re saying to yourself. Chances are, it’s not very nice. Next, become aware of your thinking styles to identify times when you are falling into the thinking trap of attentional filtering. Then, pay attention to the messages you are taking in from your surroundings and the media. Lastly, it all comes down to you. 

YOU are the single most important person in learning to love yourself. Not your friend, your spouse, partner, significant other, parents, etc. The power lies within you. Now, how do you do that? How do you learn to love yourself with your flaws, past mistakes, perceived shortcomings, and without feeling completely selfish? 

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Treat yourself like someone you love. I ask clients all the time, “What would you say to a friend who had a similar thought?” 99.9% of the time, they say that they would say something supportive and kind. Why is it that we can be kind to others and not to ourselves? It makes no sense. So start. Start being nicer to yourself and treating yourself with love and respect. Make yourself and your needs a priority. That is showing yourself love and is NOT selfish!
  2. Embrace the darkness in life. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and identify ways you have grown from those mistakes. Growth is always something to be proud of. Realize that your flaws are what make you human. No one is expecting you to be perfect, so why expect that of yourself? Validate all of your emotions, even the painful ones.
  3. Find a way to tell your story and recognize that your experiences have shaped you perfectly into who you are. 
  4. Fully accept yourself and let yourself share who you are with others. People can sense when others are confident in who they are. It motivates others and gives them hope that they can get there too. By doing this, you are sharing your own personal gift of your self, and it’s contagious! 

The Link Between Poor Body Image & Depression

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We used to think of body image struggles as the embodiment of  the classic definition for Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which is a preoccupation with a real or perceived physical defect. More recently, we have seen an increase in weight or shape related BDD, where the preoccupation is on an individual’s body shape and what they weigh. This doesn’t mean that these concerns weren’t present before, but with the recent rise in people on their quest to "get fit", it is more in the spotlight than ever before. With more research and what we are seeing in the media, there has been growing evidence that depression and the importance one places on their appearance have a stronger link than we originally thought. When body image struggles and depression go hand in hand for an individual, there is a greater chance that they will experience more severe symptoms. 

Researchers at Bradley Hospital, Butler Hospital, and Brown Medical School conducted a study with adolescent patients in their inpatient unit. They found that those patients with body image concerns were more severely ill than patients who did not report their body image as a concern. The patients who did report that body image was an issue showed higher levels of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and suicidality.

This presents a real concern because often times, many of those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts don’t express that their poor body image could be an underlying reason for their depression, therefore, not getting the all of the help they need. Ultimately, the body image issues go undetected and never treated. This could be due to a clinician’s lack of questioning or assessment around the topic, and or the client’s embarassment or hesitance to bring their symptoms to light. 

Body image concerns can be extremely impairing, distressing, and preoccupying. For the individual struggling with this, it can take up a great deal of mental energy, especially when it is coupled with depression. If you are struggling with this or notice someone you love is struggling with body image concerns or depression and you think poor body image might also be an underlying issue, or you aren't sure:

  • Explore if distress has anything to do with their appearance
  • Find ways or help them to express negative feelings regarding body image and let them know it’s okay to feel that way
  • Help them to begin to recognize the importance of their non-weight and non-appearance based activities that contribute to their self-esteem and self-worth. If you are the one who is struggling, recognize the importance of non-weight and non-appearance based activities that contribute to your self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Locate a professional that can help.

If you feel suicidal or someone you love/care about has confided in you that they are feeling this way don't hesitate to call local emergency numbers or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

I hate my body!

I’ve been there; uncomfortable in my own skin, not wanting to leave the house or dress up, comparing my body to every other girl’s body I saw, hypervigilaint to how my body felt. If you’re reading, you probably know the feeling too. Maybe you are feeling it right now reading this on your phone or sitting in front of your computer. You may have found this blog post searching and surfing on instagram next to a picture of a toned girl in a ruffly pink bikini sipping out of a coconut on a flamingo or unicorn pool floaty. 

Maybe you’re asking if I’ve been there, where am I now? Living life and NOT hating my body, that’s where!

How did I get there? First, it wasn’t easy. The road was long, filled with speed bumps, hills, and self-reflection. If you are starting out on this journey, your road will look different and that’s because your body is different. That’s the beauty of it. You are about to embark on a journey that is uniquely yours and no one else gets to tell you how to do it. 

But, if you must know…Here’s how I got here!

  1. Exercise—I first thought that this was to change my body, but what ended up happening is that exercise changed my mind about my body. I saw and felt it get stronger. I started to realize that my body is capable of things I never thought imaginable. Each day, each workout, each run I grew to appreciate my body and what it could do. 
  2. Eating nourishing foods and learning when to eat them and why. I took time to educate myself on which foods do what in terms of being proper fuel for my body. I also reflected on what it FELT like to eat these foods and the sensations of how my body responded. This helped me to improve my relationship with food and with food.
  3. Wearing clothes that fit ME. I chose to wear clothes that matched my personality and how I wanted the world to see me in them. I also chose clothes based on comfort.
  4. I reminded myself of the parts of my body that I like and I gave the parts I didn’t like a little extra self-love. I made a commitment to not perseverate on these parts, and to accept them instead. 
  5. I spent time with people and animals that helped me to feel good. The ones who loved me for me and the ones who were always there to support me. 
  6. Reconnected with my body. I listened to it and gave it what I needed. 
  7. Treated my body like I would a friend. 

You’re welcome to try any of these things that helped me, but like I said, your journey will most likely look different. Our body is our home. It comes with us everywhere and it helps keep us going. Listen to your body and it will point you in the right direction!

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“Summer Body” Pressures

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With summer fast approaching, it’s hard to not see messages in media urging us to take part in the diet and workout frenzy to make sure our bodies are ready for the beach. We know that with warmer weather, our bodies are more on display. We are more conscious of the way our bodies look when more of our skin is out there for others to see. The quest for that perfect “summer body” can increase anxiety and depression, lead to body image issues, and decrease overall self-esteem and self-worth.

Some things to keep in mind and practice during “summer body” season:

  • Avoid forms of media that trigger you—maybe this is magazines, instagram, facebook, or whatever. If it doesn’t create happiness for you, don’t look at it!
  • If you are dieting or trying to lose weight, go by how you feel and not by the numbers on the scale. Often times, the numbers on the scale are not a good indication of how your body looks. Instead, try to focus on making healthy choices and notice how your body feels when it is fueled by nutritious foods.
  • Keep in mind that there is a whole industry that profits on you not liking your looks
  • Focus on the positives—your positive attributes, making positive experiences, and spending time with people who help you feel good not inadequate. 
  • MOVE! Get up, get out, and move. Enjoy the warm weather!
  • Stay away from crash diets and focus on living a healthy lifestyle made up of healthy choices.
  • Treat yo’ self! No foods are off limits when you eat them in moderation.
  • Find positive role models
  • Celebrate your curves and your unique features!
  • Remember, you grow more from the journey so trust the process!

If you are struggling with the pressure to obtain that “summer body”, I am offering a 3 session program either face to face or online that will focus on decreasing anxiety, increasing body acceptance, and learning mindfulness skills to help you manage your emotions around this topic. This will be offered at a discounted rate of $240, whereas 3 sessions would run $270 total!

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New Oceans

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I thought that I’d change it up a bit this week and write about my favorite quote by Andre Gide (seen above), and why it's my favorite. For those of you who don’t know, Andre Gide, was a French author,  humanist, and moralist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947. He is well known for his works of fiction and autobiographical pieces. 

The quote itself speaks to the fact that change doesn’t happen inside of our comfort zone. For change to happen, we have to be willing to step outside of our comfort zone (the shore) in order to be open to and discover new things (new oceans). Like the quote says, this takes courage. It’s not easy to let go of what we know in order to find something new or greater. It takes great risk and a leap of faith into the unknown. We have no idea what the new waters will bring. Will there be a storm with waves or will it be smooth sailing? We don’t know, and we have no way of knowing. But, we won’t know if we will unless we try. If we don’t take that leap, we will never know if we can fly. 

In my own life, this quote has inspired me in so many ways; personally and professionally. It has inspired me to take risks, push myself, and to be open to new things. I keep this quote close by in my office, my home, and in the camera roll on my phone. It helps serve as a reminder of where I’ve been, what I’ve achieved, and where I can go if I push myself to get there.

What quote has inspired you?

"I'M NOT GOOD ENOUGH."

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At some point, we have all probably thought this way. A lot of the time when we suffer from low self-esteem, depression, body image issues, self-doubt, or a number of other things, this is often a common thought. The good thing is that it is just a thought, and nothing more. It is not a fact, but a judgment made by ourselves that we have internalized due to past experiences and feedback from our environment.

We are not perfect, but beating ourselves up by saying “we are not good enough” doesn’t solve anything. Thinking and believing we are not good enough is not helpful and not healthy. It gets us no where and makes us feel worse. There is no clear definition of what is “good enough”. How would we even put a definition on “good enough”. There is no definition because it’s subjective. What is “good enough” to some may not be to others, and if we keep measuring ourselves on what we think is “good enough”, we will be caught in a web of always feeling inadequate. 

So how do we start to change our thoughts and start believing we are enough; enough to feel loved, to feel good, to feel worthy?

  • Stop fighting “what is”. When we start trying to control things we have no control over, we feel more out of control and unhappy. If we can stop resisting and start accepting, we can start to focus on the things that we can control; ourselves and our actions. 
  • There is always something to be learned from failing. All mistakes and failures are learning opportunities. They allow us to grow and find new ways to succeed. If we accept mistakes when they happen our inner conflict quiets, and we can use our strengths to move forward. 
  • You don’t need approval from others. It’s great to hear nice things and have the approval from others, but we don’t need it. What good is approval from others if we ourselves don’t believe that we deserve it? It goes in one ear and out the other. Focus instead on what you need from yourself. 
  • You are stronger than you think. You have survived every worst day that you have ever had up until this point. That in itself makes you enough. 

Sometimes we want to know more and identify what is left unresolved, ultimately answering the question, “When did I start thinking this way?”. Looking back to the past can help. It could be an isolated incident or a series of events. Either way, it can help you understand where the thought first came from and why you began internalizing it in the first place. 

Start to do this by:

  • Creating a timeline of major life events
  • Keeping a journal
  • Seeking support from a therapist to help you explore this further

Modeling a Positive Body Image for Your Children

For all my parents out there!!

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Every where kids see and hear messages of what they “should” look like based on how society defines “beauty”. The problem is that beauty is subjective. Everyone has a different opinion of what and who is beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there is something beautiful in every single one of us. There is no right or wrong way to be beautiful, and we don’t celebrate that enough.

As a parent, your children soak in everything that you do and say. You are the first step in helping your children develop a positive body image. Here are a few ways you can begin to model a positive body image for them:

  1. Don’t normalize body-shaming. Be aware that your children hear you say, “My thighs look way too big so I’m going on a diet” and "This dress makes me look fat". If you are trying to lose weight or don’t like certain parts of your body, talk about it in a healthier way. What I mean by this is saying things more in a way that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Instead try, “I’m trying to lose weight so I can be more active, healthier, and run around with you guys!”
  2. Listen to your kids if they express that they don’t like parts of their body. Just being heard can go a long way. Take it a step further and sympathize that you have felt less than perfect at times and talk about ways you were able to get through it. 
  3. Embrace the ways in which your body is different from everyone else’s. Try to teach your kids that everyone has a healthy weight that their body functions best at. Emphasize the fact that everyone’s body is different and it is not realistic for everyone’s body to look the same.
  4. Focus on a healthy lifestyle—teach your kids about how healthy foods fuel our body to function at its best.
  5. Make exercise fun—be creative with this and have your kids be a part of planning physical activity. 
  6. Focus on your child’s strengths and talents. Encouraging your children to embrace their talents and strengths builds self-confidence. 
  7. Focus on your child as a whole and not in parts. This means not making comments on your child’s size or shape. This can lead to self-consciousness and decreased self-esteem. 

If you are having a hard time accepting your own body, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. When you work on your own body image, become comfortable in your own skin, and accept who you are, it is contagious. Your kids will notice and follow in your footsteps.

Boredom Eating & Mindless Munching

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“I’m bored, what’s there to eat?” If I had a dollar for every time I said this, I would be rich by now! Who else can relate?!

Have you ever noticed that while you have “nothing to do” your mind wanders to the unhealthy foods you have stashed away in your cupboards or you can’t stop thinking about the mouthwatering brownie recipe video you watched on Facebook? You feel like your craving won’t be fully satisfied or go away until you give in. Just as sadness, despair, anger and other emotions can trigger you to eat, emotional eating also corresponds with boredom eating. We often crave unhealthy foods when we are feeling emotions such as these (sadness, boredom, anger, etc.) because they increase our levels of dopamine which makes us feel better and gives us a sense of pleasure. 

For many, eating is a coping mechanism and often a go to coping mechanism when bored. Snacking during times of boredom helps to give us the “excitement and pleasure” we are looking for. The more we snack when we are bored, the more we look towards food to alleviate our boredom. This can create secondary emotional consequences like guilt and shame, and may lead to more emotional eating; creating an ugly cycle.

So how do we get out of this cycle?

  1. Identify your triggers and situations in which you find that you are bored—Do you feel bored after dinner before going to bed? Do you find yourself mindlessly snacking after work/school before dinner? Instead of turning to food try to keep busy try cleaning out your junk drawer, organizing your closet, or get your clothes ready for the next day. This "busy work" may not bring about the same "pleasure" that foods do, but it will help you feel proud that you flexed your "willpower muscle" and didn't give in to you boredom!
  2. Scan your body for aches and tension. Sometimes aches and tension can trigger stress and anxiety, causing us to eat. 
  3. Plan your meals and snacks—I’m a HUGE advocate for this one. I go grocery shopping Sunday mornings and decide what I am going to have for each meal during the week. Then my husband and I cook every Sunday evening for the whole week. This takes the guess work out of what you’re going to eat and when, it frees up your time for other things during the week, and you know when your next meal will be. Make sure to add some variety in you meals so that you don’t feel tempted to stray form the plan. if it doesn't have enough variety!  * This isn’t for everyone, but give a try for 2-3 weeks and see how it goes! *
  4. Make sure you’re hitting your “macros”. This means make sure you’re getting enough protein, carbs, and healthy fats to fuel your body with what it needs and helps you to feel full longer.
  5. Make sure you’re drinking enough water. Sometimes we get confused on whether we are hungry or thirsty. Try drinking a full glass of water first before reaching for a snack.
  6. Distract yourself—read a book, call a friend, knit, photograph nature, put your phone down and go for a walk, anything to keep your mind and hands busy!
  7. Chew mint gum or brush your teeth. Gum can help satisfy your chewing craving and brushing your teeth can help curb your appetite because you don’t want “ruin” that clean brushed feeling. 

If you try implementing some of these things and you still find yourself aimlessly eating, it may be an indicator that you are eating to fill other needs and not just to relieve boredom. You may need to take a look at deeper rooted issues or stressors.

And as always, don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you think you may need it!

Emotional Eating

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Emotional eating or often times referred to as stress eating is fueled by attempts to control or cope with distressing feelings or thoughts. It is also the act of using food to make oneself feel better, in an effort to satisfy emotional needs and not necessarily nutritional or physical hunger needs. Many people associate food with comfort, and often turn to it in high stress situations or prolonged periods of stress. We are all familiar with the term “comfort food” and its purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bowl of ice-cream or a handful of chocolate when feeling stressed every now and then, but turning to those things all the time would leave me with a pretty empty coping skills toolbox. 

Triggers to emotional eating can be anywhere from daily stressors to big life events. Somewhere in between are the distressing emotions we don’t want to feel such as sadness, fear, boredom, loneliness, emptiness, etc. It is sometimes easier to push them away and reach for some of the foods we know we shouldn’t. When emotional pain is high or something is missing from our lives, emotional eating can be an attempt to fill a void left by a past traumatic event or current problem. If emotional eating continues to be a main coping skill, it can lead to poor self-esteem, undesired weight gain, low sense of self-worth, depression, body-image issues, and possibly obesity. 

Reaching for food is a fast and easy way to try to control unwanted emotions or thoughts. Food doesn’t judge you for eating it; it is safe and always there waiting for us to eat it. It’s important to arm yourself for the stress that life inevitably brings so that you can tackle the stress head on!

Here are a few things to throw into your coping skills toolbox, along with your occasional favorite treat:

  1. Learn how to identify your triggers
  2. Practice mindfulness and meditation
  3. Use deep breathing and relaxation techniques
  4. Keep a journal 
  5. Don’t have an “off limits” list of foods—these are okay in moderation!
  6. See a nutritionist to learn how to fuel your body with the right kind of foods and learn how certain foods can impact your mood
  7. Learn to manage stress and schedule relaxation time 
  8. Go for a walk
  9. Join a support group
  10. Take inventory of your environment—relationships, work, home, and your fridge
  11. Allow yourself to make mistakes
  12. Let go of “all or nothing” thinking
  13. Practice self-compassion instead of self-criticism
  14. Allow yourself to experience unwanted emotions
  15. Don’t deny yourself pleasure
  16. Eat when you’re hungry
  17. Seek professional support

Our relationship with our body is significantly impacted by the food we choose to eat and when. The food, body, and mind connection is a relationship triangle that takes time build and balance. No one if perfect and no one expects you to be! We are all a work in progress. I’d be lying if I said there was nothing I had to work on. Remember to give yourself the space to be perfectly imperfect.

Eat because your body is telling you to, and not because your emotions are screaming at you.

Recovering From An Injury

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If you’ve ever been injured and couldn’t do the things you love, you know that it can it is not an easy adjustment. Often times, recovering from an injury can take as much a toll on your emotional and mental health as it does on your physical health. 

I used to consider myself a runner, and like all runners, I like to push myself; farther, faster, you get the hint. One day I ran 6 miles and my time was a personal best. I noticed that my right hip was hurting afterwards, so I gave it a few days rest and tried to run again. Each time I ran, the distance would go down and my time would go up. I was getting slower and the pain was getting worse, until the point where I would try to take one running stride and feel sharp intense pain in my hip. It turns out that I had muscle fraying and cartilage damage. My runs were now replaced with physical therapy, and I was miserable.  I was young and naive, and I ignored everything my body was trying to tell me.

I was convinced that I would never be able to run again, and that no other workout out there would give me the same high as running did. Others around me started to notice how unhappy I was. 

I was denying the fact that I would have to give up running for a while, until my cousin said to me, “You need to find something to fill the place of running or else you will just continue to be miserable.”

Around this same time, I began to date my now husband and he taught me to love weightlifting and other types of cardio. This new exercise regimen taught me to respect my body, listen to it, and be appreciate how strong my body actually was. 

I learned that I didn’t have to give up my athletic identify, but I could embrace a whole new view on exercise and my body.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t let go of your athletic identity—show up to sporting events to supports others if you can’t participate. Don’t let your injury stand in the way of still being a part of the athletic and active community. 
  2. Be open to new experiences—I had to learn to find a new way of exercising, and in order to do that, I had to be open to trying new things!
  3. Try to focus on happiness and joy, over the pain—keeping a gratitude journal is great for this. Also, engaging in more meaningful activities can help keep you focused on positive things in your life. 
  4. Strive to keep a daily active routine—even if it is just being on a stationary bike, low impact exercises, or stretching, any physical activity is important to keeping your routine.
  5. Focus on moving forward and growing—put some focus on growing as a whole person and not just an athlete.
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
— Arnold Schwarzenegger

Dare To Compare

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You know that person on social media who you just can't help but look at their posts? Or that one peer or coworker who is always impeccably dressed and seems to have it all? We've all been there at one time or another, caught in the vicious cycle of comparing ourselves to them. Often times, we can get sucked into comparing just about anything from our looks, athletic accomplishments, academic achievements, talent, and to anything else that we perceive others as "being better" than us.

Comparisons, however, come with consequences; consequences that can damage our mental health, emotional health, self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. So compare if you dare!

Consequences of Comparing:

  • Most of the time we are comparing ourselves to an illusion. People may look like they have the perfect life on the outside, but we really have no idea what goes on behind closed doors and behind the face that they show to the world.
  • It can breed more judgment and negativity towards others. Our lens in which we view others can become clouded and we can become bitter towards them.
  • We can turn friends against us. Comparisons can cause us to stop celebrating others' successes. We stop being genuinely happy for others and start to creep towards feelings of jealousy and envy.
  • We stop seeing people as human beings.

As I am one who always tries to look on the bright side and see the good in things, comparing can have its benefits.

Benefits of Comparing:

  • It can help to motivate us to be a better version of our self. It can help to push us towards reaching personal goals and to strive for more.
  • It can help us problem solve. We can consider other solutions that we may have never thought of. We can look at others and see how they made it through a challenge and achieved something they are proud of.
  • It gives us the opportunity to build others up instead of knocking them down.

So why do get stuck in the thinking trap that leads us to believe that our self worth has to do with how we compare or measure up to others? It probably has something to do with the fact that we are always in competition with others from an early age. Whether it is in school or athletics, we strive to be the "best" and out perform others. As a society, we have been groomed to think this way. Don't get me wrong, competition is not a bad thing, but we need to be careful with our perception of it and how it applies to our self. Good news though, our self-worth has nothing to do with how we compare to others!

We ourselves have the power to determine our own self worth and no one else.

If you're struggling in the self worth department, here are

a few ways you can start building it up.

  1. Reassess your attitude towards yourself. If it's mostly negative, take steps to bring more positive thoughts into your day. "A bad attitude is like a flat tire, you can't get anywhere unless you change it." -Unknown
  2. Don't be afraid to love yourself!
  3. Practice self-compassion. If you're kind to others, why can't you be kind to yourself?
  4. Stay true to your values.
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Post-Competition Blues?

When we think of competing in fitness and bodybuilding competitions, we tend to think of all the work that goes in to preparing and show day itself; the workouts, the meal plan, the tan, the glam, the suit, the cheat meal. But we hardly really ever think about the “after”. Competitors want to put all of their blood, sweat, and tears into making it to show day.

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"How will I place?"

"Am I prepared? I think that I am."

"I plan to bring my best."

 However, the “after” is often the most important part when it comes to one’s own personal wellness. If one doesn't plan for the after, they can be blind-sided by rush of emotional challenges.

Post-competition “blues” can hit in different levels of severity, especially when one doesn’t prepare for post-show factors. If one doesn’t plan appropriately for life after show day, they could suffer some real emotional consequences. This is especially true for first time competitors.

Throughout their entire “prep”, they are working towards a goal and seeing progress. They make it to show day and see themselves as the best they’ve ever looked. They see the progress they’ve made, and then it’s over. Depending on their experience, they can be on a “high” from the excitement of the day and proud of their accomplishments. If they don’t do as well as they had hoped and did not mentally prepare themselves for disappointment, they can begin to experience negative thoughts about themselves and their appearance.

They can begin to second guess all of the work they put it.

"What did I do wrong?"

"What didn't the judges like about me?"

"But my coach said I looked great."

It’s hard to put yourself out there against a whole group of other competitors, and even harder to be judged on how you look and the package you brought that day. When first time competitors place well, they feel like all of their preparation was worth it, but if they don’t place well, they can feel like they wasted their time, money, energy and resources. Even long-time competitors can feel this exact same way. They all can forget about the fact that they just to step out on stage is in itself an accomplishment.

As they settle back into their routine, they are no longer working towards the same goal and are no longer holding onto that competition look. The tan fades and the leanness slips away. Often times, they can have unrealistic expectations and want to hold on to their competition look as long as possible. This is just simply unattainable; the body can’t handle it and there will be burnout, not to mention possible health consequences. During these times, one can see an increase in stress, depressive symptoms, body image issues, shame and guilt for not sticking to their diet, over eating, over exercising to compensate for eating, lack of sleep, etc. It can turn into a pretty dangerous cycle if they are unaware of what it is they are feeling.

In addition, during the prep, prep comes first. Workouts come first, meal plans come first, water consumption comes first, posing practice comes first. You get my drift. This may cause one to put other responsibilities and commitments on hold, like job responsibilities and relationships. Once show day comes and goes, one might find themselves overwhelmed with all they have put on the back burner. They can become distant, isolated, overwhelmed, stressed, and unmotivated.

It's extremely important for all competitors to have a plan once they step off the stage. Just like a reverse diet, there needs to be a plan put in place to adjust back to their normal way of life. Here's some ideas:

1. Reach out for support if you begin to feel overwhelmed or stressed.

2. Just like you plan your meals, plan time for you and other important things with your life

3. Don't be afraid to enjoy foods off your meal plan

4. Be kind with yourself when you have a cheat meal

5. Reconnect with other things in your life that bring you happiness

6. To avoid burnout, take some time off

7. Listen to your body

8. Try new things in your workouts

9. Be proud of what you accomplished, even if it wasn't what you had hoped

10. Love your body and respect it

11. Don't be afraid to seek out professional help if you need it

Feel free to share other ideas in the comments!

Exercise, The Brain, & Mental Health

Individuals who suffer from mental illnesses are at a higher risk for developing certain medical
issues. Exercise is often used to combat physical and medical issues, and less often used to help
alleviate mental health symptoms. When we think of treating mental illnesses, we rarely think of
incorporating exercise and physical activity. Through research, it has been shown that exercise
has a greater impact on the brain and mental health symptoms than was once originally thought.

It is common knowledge that often times, people experience a mood enhancement effect
after they exercise. This suggests that exercise and physical activity may be used as a treatment
for certain mental disorders in which calls for the regulation of mood. Exercise has also been shown to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. It has also been shown to improve the way that the brain functions, allowing us to better take in and process information. 

For more information about exercise, the brain, and mental health, refer to this literature review written by yours truly!