When people hear self-love they usually picture long luxury baths, spa days, and chocolate cake. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good epsom salt bath… and chocolate cake… but what self-love really means is loving yourself so much that you have no other choice but to act in your own best interest.
In 2007 I found myself kneeling at the altar saying: "I just can't do it anymore." Growing up Catholic, "going to the altar" was quietly walking up to receive communion. This... this was dropping to my knees, crying, and saying out loud "I just can't do it anymore." Not taking care of myself, not listening to my own body, anxiety ridden, depressed, and sick and tired of being sick and tired... I just couldn't do it anymore. That feeling was something that catapulted me into living better, happier and healthier. That feeling to this day reminds me to ask myself: "is this something I can do forever". This kind of questioning has helped me to avoid overcommitment, doing things that don't make me happy, and helped me to create long lasting habits. It's also a question that has helped hundreds of people avoid going on yet another diet.
Relationships are hard. Relationships also affect every aspect of our lives. When there is a disconnection in one of your close relationships it can throw off the quality of your work, your health, and how you interact within all your other relationships. There is power in connecting with other people; when you trust that you'll find within those connections, whether it's a stranger, neighbor, or friend, you'll be delivered exactly what you need.
Do you feel stressed? Let me guess, you feel stressed but instead of honoring that you tell yourself that you have no reason to be stressed because you have a good life (which you do) and that you shouldn't be stressed (except you are). Stress isn't always bad, bones and muscles need a certain amount of stress to stay healthy but like all things there is a good and a bad. Knowing when to take a step back and even out is going to be the key to a better, happier, and healthier life.
Comparing your life to others whether it's feeling inferior or convincing yourself that you shouldn't feel bad because others have it worse is unproductive in actually changing your thoughts or your life. Even if the stress you experience seems to be a creation of your own, it's still very real. When I'm working with someone and they say something like 'I know it's all in my head' I always think of a line from Harry Potter (yes, I'm a big Potter fan). In the final movie Harry asks his mentor, 'is this real or is this just happening in my head' to which he is answered, 'of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, by why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'. The fact of the matter is this, everything that you think and feel is very real. Most importantly, everything that happens within your body: both in your head and physical produces the same response from your body.
The autonomic nervous system controls the actions in the body that you don't normally regulate through conscious thought, such as digestion and eliminating food, releasing hormones, sweating, and regulating blood flow. The autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is where energy goes out and fibers get broken down, sometimes we do this purposefully through exercise. The sympathetic nervous system is also our fight-or-flight response if we are in danger (both in real danger like being chased by a bear and the danger we may perceive in our heads). The parasympathetic nervous system facilitates digestion, repair processes, immune function, it is the yin to the sympathetic yang.
When you are repeatedly stressed, you're continually exhausting the sympathetic nervous system and suppressing the parasympathetic. This imbalance as you can see can cause chronic fatigue, chronic disease processes, autoimmune diseases, not to mention emotional imbalances and distress. Long term stress causes the constant rise of cortisol which can also create excess fat in that beautiful area near your belly button.
Another major problem lies if you top all this off with more sympathetic nervous system in the form of high intensity and long duration exercise. In fact, there are have been clients I've worked with that are working out more than ever and not seeing the results they're working so hard for so we rework their program with less exercise and shorter durations of movement designed to increase energy instead of exhausting it. Like all things, there is a balance to be found and moderation to practice.
For me personally, I do three high intensity workouts a week that last between 30-40 minutes. Everyday I practice some form of gentle movement designed to promote more energy and take care of any places in my body that need extra attention or repair. Once a week I like to get out for a longer period of time: a long walk, a hike, a bike ride. That's it. No seven days a week, two or three hours a day for me. And you don't have to either.
What you eat and drink plays a role in your nervous system, your stress, and your overall ability to connect the mind and body. If you're nervous system is imbalanced that means you're struggling with energy so you may be reaching for more caffeine, sugary drinks, or anything you fill will give you a boost... and also put more stress on that sympathetic nervous system. I love coffee, but I do my best to not exceed one cup a day, on the occasion I go for another cup it better be before 2pm or that coffee will not be loving me back. It doesn't cause chaos in the moment, I don't even have trouble falling asleep, but the next morning I wake up feeling unrested and crappy and I bet you experience something similar even if you don't know why.
If any of this sounds like you, it's time to honor the stress and move forward in balancing it. You may have heard 'the first step is admitting you have a problem', in this case, 'the first step is identifying the primary stressors'. Alleviating the chief stressor in your life creates the most beautiful domino effect you'll ever experience. Make a realistic plan to address your primary stressor and set small progress goals so you can move in the right direction and celebrate each step forward. Surround yourself with positivity and positive people.
Eat and drink to support a healthy system and healthy balance. Instead of worrying about what you should not be eating starting focusing on foods you can eat to support you. Make it a goal to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water (example: 150lbs = 75 ounces of water). Move and exercise balancing both high intensity and recovery, energy balancing movement.
Practice mental exercise. You may be familiar with things like the secret, the power of positive thinking, or meditation. There is a reason these things have been practiced for thousands of years. I read a book a couple weeks ago with interviews from over 130 of the world's top performers, there was a reason that nearly 90% of them mentioned meditation. Be mindful of the words you use, the thoughts you follow, and the people you surround yourself with.
The truth is, you really do have a good life and you deserve to feel good in it. Honor that.
Sweat & Smiles,
The label of your food is marketing, not facts. Billions of dollars are being spent to find what buzzwords will make food sound "healthy" without necessarily being accurate. Buzzwords like natural, superfood, and low or free of anything are all used to boast what's believed to be the good qualities of the product while potentially hiding harmful others. Even the nutrition facts on the back of the label aren't 100 percent accurate. In fact, companies are by law allowed a 20% margin of error for the nutrition facts of each item. As a whole our society is becoming more health conscious but also more confused than ever.
Our nation is obsessed with cardio. When something in your life prompts you to lose weight or to live healthier you probably instantly think of walking, hopping on the treadmill, or starting with the elliptical. I'm here to fill you in on a life changing secret: it's time to put cardio and weight loss on the back burner.
In short, once you take a path it will become easier to keep taking that path and harder to start taking a new one. This is how habits are created. This is how our lifestyles are created. That's why old habits are so hard to change. There's one thing greater, bigger, and stronger than the Law of Facilitation and that is love.
"Eat Less, Move More" is not the answer for weight loss. Our society, trainers and doctors alike, have been throwing this saying around for years as if it were common sense. Not only is it not common sense it down right will not work long term or effectively
Over fifty years ago a famous biochemist named Roger Williams published a book called Biochemical Individuality. What he revealed to the world was nearly all of our internal organs vary in size, shape, location, and capacity. He showed that our metabolic rates (AKA your metabolism, AKA how you use energy) are staggeringly different from person to person. The water content varies from each person to the next. The oxygen capacity of the blood varies from one person to the next. Even if you don't understand what some of that means, here is what you can take from it: just as we all look different on the outside, we all functional differently on the inside. This is reason #153564785439 why diets will not work long term.
Many times people, very intelligent people, find a way to eat and live that works for them. They put a high price on that information and sell it to you... and then it doesn't work for you. You're left feeling like you did something wrong, or as if you didn't work as hard as them. As Roger Williams shared with the world, as my grandmother shared with me, and as I am sharing with you right now: you aren't like everyone else, honey (the honey was mainly just from my grandma).
Other times people, very intelligent people, find ways to "work the system" per say so that you'll drop numbers off the scale and it seems like 'this is the one', it's really working. And then it doesn't. I assure you God (or whoever/whatever you believe) designed your body very specifically to survive. You can't trick your body long term. Your body is way smarter than you are... no matter how intelligent you are.
Sometimes you are plain out being gaslighted (usually by someone who has someone above them gaslighting them). This can be easily found by checking the language. Fat free, low calorie, low fat, detox, sugar free, things like that are all dead giveaways. Things that play on your fears: helping you cut carbs, keeping you on track, and anything that involves a "meal plan" that is for everyone.
Your body, in all its biochemical individuality will waste no time in letting you know you didn't eat right for you. You may feel bloated, tired, get a headache, remain hungry or become hungry soon after. And never underestimate how much you DO know when it comes to food and your health. Fruits, vegetables, organic foods, whole foods (minimally processed, if at all), and animal products (like the ones raised on farms) are things you want to eat more of. Eat a variety of these foods. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water. Avoid processed foods (anything that comes out of a box). Eat organic whenever possible.
For a couple weeks write down everything you eat (like in a regular old notebook). Make notes on how you feel AFTER you eat and leading up to your next meal. When you are eating to please your body you'll feel satisfied after eating. You'll have more energy. You'll feel full for a couple of hours after eating. Use your notes and make adjustments until you find your own personal sweet spot (get it, sweet spot?!).
There is a plethora of information on dieting, health, and wellness. Find people, places, and information that will take into account your personal metabolic type. Then go a couple steps further and take into account the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences in your life. The day you decide to not only look at yourself as an individual but also all of the factors that make up your life, is the day you'll be free to live it.
Sweat, Smiles, & Diet Free,
Time: you never have enough, always want more, but don’t want to take it. I don’t say that to be speaking harshly, and certainly not to shame you (this is a strictly no shame zone). I point out your relationship with time because it is seriously hindering the quality of your life. In fact, a poor mindset regarding time will cost you money, set you back on your health goals, and wastes your very precious time.
‘Sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. For most, that little rhyme was the first introduction to what my grandma used to call “hogwash”. Your words matter. Your words affect your physical feelings, beliefs, the people around you, and even your weight. It’s time to give up the hogwash and be the one that changes the dynamic of our society because your words matter.
I’m pretty zen these days but there are still a couple topics that get me fired up; things like social injustices, gender equality, the propaganda of the fitness industry, and those who could have pulled up in the Starbucks drive-thru but leave me three feet away from ordering.
During the holiday season, especially leading into the New Year, the marketing of the fitness industry is in full effect. Last week I saw a lifestyle blogger share a meme that said “I am sick and tired of food having calories” and I’ve got to be honest, my zen went right out the window. Calories may have the worst reputation in the modern industrialized world, and they don’t deserve it.
I watched a Netflix documentary that I highly recommend called The Minimalist and while I got a lot of profound wisdom from it there was one distinction they made that really stuck out to me. The minimalist guys (which they call themselves) spoke on the difference between constructive worry and useless worry... and how many of us don't seem to recognize the difference.
Constructive worry is the kind of worry that can aid you in what you are doing. For example, checking the time and staying on task so that you don't miss a flight is important. However, if you are twenty weeks away from the flight and it is the 200th time you've worried about missing the flight it becomes useless... and it drains your energy.
Our society is known for worrying that we've not had enough sleep, that we don't have enough time, that we never have enough money. The belief is that we just need more of everything, but the truth is we have too much.
We have too much worry.
A staggering amount of people come to me for advice on how to increase their energy. I see millions of people spending hundreds of dollars a month on supplements to increase their energy. Lines wrapping the building at Starbucks because we believe the caffeine will give us the boost we need (don't get me wrong - I love Starbucks - but I also know it's not going to be the source of my energy). Coffee, energy drinks, supplements, patches, vitamins, more, more, more praying that by taking more - doing more - we'll have more. Even food has become a staple in the search for more energy, just look at the marketing in "superfoods" (which is a marketing term, NOT a scientific one). While food is quite literally the fuel we need for life, I still question why it is that we need so much more energy? Where is your natural energy going?
Our bodies are hardwired to go. Our bodies create energy and crave to expend it. So if our bodies our hardwired to have energy, yet we don't have any, the question shouldn't be how to get more but to ask where is it all going?
I got curious about where my energy was going. The first thing that pops up is: I'm a mom, but the simple fact is: being a mom doesn't require all that much of my energy. The useless worry, the mom guilt, trying to "keep up", the unrealistic expectations of motherhood... now that can zap the energy. What about work? My energy probably goes to my work. Does it? What part of my work actually sucks the energy out? Is it the actual tasks at hand? Nope. It's the useless worry over the things I can't control anyway; it's the negative attachments I've made with the word 'work'; it's the simple fact that we may be doing work that isn't all that fulfilling.
Okay, if it's not your kids.. and it's not your work... what is it that is draining all of your energy?
It's your useless worry.
Envision your brain is a computer and that all of your useless worry is an open tab running in the background. If you open 200 tabs on your computer, it is guaranteed to slow down. If you open 300 tabs on your computer, it may just shut down. The running tabs that you have constantly open and running in the back of your mind is slowing down your mind and body. We are overusing our minds without being mindful at all.
This doesn't mean that your lack of energy is not real, or that it's all in your head, it is very, very real and your useless worry is truly burning up all of your energy. This kind of stress has the ability to turn into physical fatigue, physical symptoms, and even disease. Thyroid problems, chronic fatigue, adrenal problems, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, blood pressure problems, and many, many more are directly related to stress and worry.
The problem persists when we seek treatment for the symptoms. When faced with an illness we look towards what we can take to fix it. What if we started treating the root of the problem - if we look to treat the cause instead of the symptoms? Then the questions turn from what can I take to what can I let go of? Instead of focusing on how to get more energy, we would focus on letting go of the things that steal it.
We all know stress is bad and we've all been told not to sweat the small stuff. But how do we actually stop... well, we don't think about stopping. Telling someone to calm down when they are working up has approximately a 0% success rate - so telling yourself not to worry about something you're worried up will probably follow that trend. Here are 5 things to do instead:
1. Ask questions
Walk yourself through it in baby steps. ie: will this matter in 5 days/5 months/5 years? What's the worst case scenario? What if this did happen? What can I do if the worst case scenario really does happen?
2. Close the running tabs.
If your to-do list is in your head, you're using entirely too much energy to try to keep track of it. In fact, I don't like written to-do lists either. If something needs done, schedule it. Find a spot in your calendar for it and you'll get it done because you've literally found the time. If it is just a thought or idea, you could use a journal, the notes section of your cell phone, or something like Trello (it's an app and a website) - whatever feels good to you; then set a time weekly or monthly in your schedule to go over your notes and ideas.
3. Try a new mindset.
I wrote recently about changing my mindset while vacuuming and I'm still shocked at the difference. How much of the things we think are hard are only hard because we've said or heard how hard it was? School started again and I heard so many people say how hard it is. Is it actually hard? I wonder if we started saying how fun it was if there would be a difference? I think there would be! With Cannon (or any child) you can see how susceptible kids are to our attitudes. Imagine if I talked about broccoli with the same excitement and energy as ice cream.. he'd start believing they were all "treats".
4. Practice mindfulness.
Be where you are. Enjoy who you're with. And for heaven's sake, sit that phone down every once in awhile. When I say be mindful, I mean be all there, wherever you are. When you notice your attention floating away - call it back to what you're doing or who you're with. Give the people you're with your full attention, be curious, ask questions, listen, and learn.
What I mean is practice. Everything else above is going to take practice and with meditation you get to practice whether you are or aren't feeling the stress. If you are stressed, it will help alleviate it. If you aren't stressed, it will leave you better equipped for next time. Practicing while you are in the middle of useless worry is like on the job training; meditation is practicing and preparation for the game. You never know, the quiet may just provide you with some answers.
Sweat & Smiles,
Last year I realized a big change I needed to make, and a blaring kink in my system (and by system I mean myself).
I could not accept a compliment. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I would say ‘thank you’ but then quickly I’d follow it up with a take down. For example, if someone told me how good my arms looked, I’d quickly reply by saying something about the cellulite on my legs. Or when people told me how much they loved what I was doing, saying, and writing, I’d be sure to remind them that I wasn’t always this way.
I noticed it one day, and then couldn’t un-notice it. That’s the thing about patterns - once you see them, you can’t un-see them. So I got curious about why. The truth is, it was partly a habit and partly because I was still a pretty harsh critic when it came to me. But the driving force behind it was a learned behavior - a belief that it was actually the right thing to do. Human connection is a funny thing - we all NEED it, we all CRAVE it, and we’re usually taught a list of things you should and should not do to connect with others. Not being too full of yourself, and not feeling like you are better than others rank highly among the rules of winning friends and influencing people (shout out Dale Carnegie, phenomenal book).
How about self-loathing? Gossip? Judgement? How have they become a solid foundation for human connection. I realized quickly that I was doing myself and others a disservice. I wasn’t sending a message of humility or leveling the playing field. The only message I was sending was: it’s not okay for me to love myself… therefore it’s not okay for you to, either.
Connection through self-loathing, or loathing other women, is a popular way women bond with each other. Women aren’t bad, hateful, or vindictive… most women are afraid and start getting the message that they aren’t good enough at a very young age; and this grows into bad habits, and poor connections.We’ve all seen it: Someone gets vulnerable about their lives… I feel like a terrible mother; I’m a hot mess; I’m so fat; I can’t fit in my pants; my house is always a mess; I’m not good at this… quickly women jump in for the rescue (which is a good plan) but the rescue turns even quicker to self-sabotage (not a good plan)… You’re a great mother, but me I feed my kids twinkles for dinner; you are so tiny - me, I’m the fat one…. The message is meant to make our fellow feel better but the real message sent: yes, this is how we are supposed to feel. I don’t have space to love myself, and I don’t have space for you to love yourself either.
We. Have. To. Stop.
It’s time to change the way we treat ourselves, it’s time to change the way we treat each other.
Here are the new rules:
1. When someone gives you a compliment say thank you - simple!
2. Compliment others, often. Never hold back that kind thing you were thinking.
3. When you see the self-loathing train start rolling, stop it in its tracks.
3a. Step in for the rescue and keep it all positive.
3b. Always remind people know what they’re doing well.
3c. Tell people what you love about them!
People often wonder what this whole self-love thing has to do with health and fitness. Once I lose this weight, I’ll love myself, right?! But that is working in reverse, and often times setting yourself up for failure. Working out because you hate your body, want to change your body, or dieting for the same reasons will only work in the short term - and by work, I mean, you’ll see a change in weight and then it will stop working and you’ll gain it back and then some. Digressing, feeding the harmful cycle.
The self-love route says I want to workout because I love and appreciate my body and it was designed to move; my body has always been there for me so I want to show up for it; I want to eat healthfully because that’s what makes my body feel best! This route will change the game and break the vicious cycles. This route is a road that doesn’t hit a dead-end. This route is a limitless road to better, happier, and healthier.
Sweat & Smiles,