- Go for a stroll in nature.
- Listen to your favorite music and dance in your living room like no one's watching.
- Sing your heart out.
- Write a letter to allow all those bottled-up emotions expression.
- Read a page-turner.
- Visit or call a friend who truly loves and supports you.
- Paint or draw out your feelings on a canvas.
- Mold your intangible emotions into something you can see and feel by working with clay.
- Using push-pins chart a course of all the places you would love to travel on a world map.
- Create space to dream.
- Light candles in a darkened room and listen to Loreena McKennit, Mazzy Star, Deva Premal, Mozart, or any artist that stirs your soul.
- Allow yourself to receive a massage.
- Nurture your whole body with a luxurious body butter.
- Slip into the comfort of a soothing soak in the tub.
- Have a loved one rub your feet.
- Get crafty by indulging in your favorite creative hobbies... beading, mandalas, woodworking, scrap-booking.
- Make a vision board. Create a collage to map out your future.
- Enjoy the silence... surrender your worries to meditation.
- Get all decked out just for you and treat yourself to a day out on the town.
- Find comfort in a warm cup of tea shared with a good listener.
- Light incense and allow its scent to carry away your prayers.
- Take your pup for a walk and if you don't have a pooch of your own, offer to walk the neighbor's dog.
- Get organized. Sort through your belongings. Collect clothes to donate, clear out old junk, decorate with some warming touches. Clear out the old to welcome in the new.
- Go on a road trip and bring along a play file of all your favorite CD's.
- Play fashionista. Put together new outfits. Try new make-up and hairstyles.
- Invite a friend over and treat each other to a makeover.
- Invite your friends over for a slumber party just like the ones you had when you were a teenager.
- Write in your diary.
- Curl up in bed for a cozy nap.
- Steep in a hot tub.
- Treat yourself to a facial.
- Go on a walk with camera in hand and take photos of the sights you want to remember along the way.
- Head out for a bike ride.
- Treat yourself to a swim at a local pool.
- Sit in the woods or at the ocean and feel the grounding energy.
- Make a list of affirmations and read them out loud to yourself.
- Leave it all on the mat. Release with yoga.
- Get kisses and hugs from loved ones.
- Spend time with your pet.
- Chant... work with mantra.
- Relax in a hot shower. Let the waters wash away your concerns.
- Go window shopping. Browse in a bookstore.
- Head downtown for a cup of coffee and some people watching.
- Visit a museum.
- Read your favorite book from childhood.
- Have someone you love brush or braid your hair.
- Punch your pillow to let the anger out.
- Have a good cry. Release the pressure of holding it in.
- Pleasure yourself.
- Make a cuddle date with your mate... no expectations for it to lead further... just time to be held and cared for.
- Grab your crayons and color in a coloring book.
- Start a gratitude journal. Keep a running list of everything you are grateful for. Add to your journal at the end of each day, or in those moments you feel down.
- Lounge about and do absolutely nothing and do not feel the least bit guilty about it.
- Treat yourself to a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
- Purchase yourself a very sexy article of clothing that fits your current body like a glove.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
- 3/4 c. organic maple cream line yogurt
- 1/4 c. apple-cinnamon granola
- 1 c. organic wild blueberries
- 1/4 c. hazelnut milk
- 1 Tbsp. natural organic chunky peanut butter
You can't get more simple than this! Toss all the ingredients in a blender, whip up and enjoy. Yummy! Your body will thank you.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Imagine yourself at the end of your life. You have reached the ripe old age of 100 and have carried with you a century of personal growth, life experience and wisdom. You have lived a full rich life. There have been many twists and turns in the road. There have been hills and valleys to pass through. Many moments were accented by laughter and joy. Some, filled with tears. One thing is for certain, it hasn't been boring. It has been quite the wild ride, peppered with plenty of adventures that could be the basis of more than one tale. You have done everything you came into this world to do. As the end of your life draws near, you feel pulled to reflect on your time spent here.
Grab a journal or piece of paper and allow at least 20 minutes to write your autobiography. Write about the moments in your life when you felt most proud. What do you want to be remembered for? What is the legacy you are leaving behind? How many hearts have you touched? How many lives have you enriched with your presence? In what ways has your life made a difference in the world? What are your greatest successes? What lessons were hard-earned? What wise counsel do you have to share from a life well-lived?
Take some time to read your autobiography out loud to yourself. Was the picture painted with your words a portrait of a person you admire? Do you feel a sense of pride for your contribution to the world? Did your autobiography include goals you have already achieved, as well as future dreams you are presently nurturing? In your reflection, did you look back on a life that was deeply rewarding, full of experience, with no need for regret? Was it a struggle for you to envision yourself living a happy fulfilling life? If this was a challenge for you, can you move into the emotional space where you can create room for a more meaningful vision of your life?
Discussion and Homework:
It's amazing how much your perspective can shift when you realize that you have this one life. Your body is the vehicle that allows you to have a direct experience of the world around you. Life is a precious gift. Friends and loved ones will come and go. Careers will change. Home is a state of mind and that's a good thing because you may move residence many times throughout your life. There will be successes to celebrate and losses to mourn, but one thing remains consistent... your body is with you for the entire ride. Its appearance may change over the years. Gravity takes over. What was high up north will soon be heading south. A fresh face once smooth will become etched with the lines of experience. Each wrinkle could tell the story of a heartache and the tears shed, or a celebration echoed in laughter. We have no control over this process. It's out of our hands. Instead of fearing the inevitable, we should embrace aging and the experience it brings as the wonder that it is.
Our body size is also not going to define our time here. Who we are, the people we love and the work we do in the world, is far more relevant than the size jeans we wear. When we pass, we will not be remembered for our appearance. We will be remembered for the fullness of our hearts and souls. When you wrote your autobiography did you note, "My greatest accomplishment in life is that I was able to fit into a size 2 up until the moment I passed?" I should hope not! I hope you spun many tales of adventures lived out, dreams claimed and passions explored. More fitting of a life well-lived would be stories about the joys of parenthood, the volunteer work you did for a cause close to your heart, the books you wrote, the mountain you climbed, or the summer you spent backpacking through Europe.
We can learn so much from the elderly. Spend some time at a senior center and talk with the women and men there. You will hear all kinds of interesting tales of times gone by. Once people reach their golden years, they are no longer concerned with trying to look like a fashion model. They have experienced the passage of time and understand that they will never have the body they did as an 18 year old. They are at home in their bodies. They have moved into a space of self-acceptance. There is such a sense of liberation that comes from accepting your body and focusing on the more meaningful aspects of your life. You do not need to wait until you are elderly to embrace this experience. You can move into this space now.
I have found personally, that I have a lot of time to make up. I squandered many years of my life mired in body obsession. I don't want to let any more precious time pass me by without living each moment to its fullest. I encourage you to do the same.
Stop putting those dreams on ice. Start pursuing your interests and passions now. I encourage you to begin to build a vision of the life you want to live. Leave body goals out of your vision. Forget about investing your life energy in something so transitory. Can you imagine how different your life would be if you redirected all the time and attention you put into chasing the dream body toward actually living your dreams? Think of how fulfilling that would be. See if you can drop the food and body focus and instead put your energy into more meaningful pursuits now. Where do you envision yourself this time next year? What about 5 years from now? How about 10 years down the road? Do you even know? If you haven't a clue, perhaps it's about time you created some space to reflect on what is important to you. What rocks your world? Get out there and find out.
You can begin this process easily enough. Jot down your passions and interests in a special journal. Let this be a scared space to explore your dreams. You can continue to add interests you would like to pursue to your journal when you feel inspired. If you aren't sure what you are passionate about, consider listing activities that have always piqued your interest. You won't know if they light your fire until you give yourself the opportunity to experience some of these things. Keep it simple. The road to the fulfillment of your dreams is made up of lots of small steps. Let's say you have always wanted to create your own line of jewelery but don't have any idea about where to get started. You could begin by taking a beading class. Maybe you have long dreamed of having your own magazine. You can take a small step forward by starting up a blog that will become an online template of the publication you want to create. Perhaps you have longed to travel the globe. Open a savings account and each week deposit a single dollar. It may not seem like much but these small steps bring you closer toward the life you want to create for yourself. They are also symbolic acts of moving forward toward a more meaningful existence.
Our society is so hung-up on instant gratification that we miss the pleasure of the journey. We want it here and now but that is a self-sabotaging mindset. This kind of thinking can make us feel defeated. When we approach our lives in this manner we don't allow time to figure out what we truly want. "Why bother", we think. "There's no way I can have what I truly want. It takes too much time, too much money I don't have, too many connections. What's the point?" We limit ourselves. We give up before we even get started. Stop that train in its tracks. Do you! Don't put off the pursuit of your dreams. Go for it!
Your dreams are a direct communication from your soul. They act as a compass to lead you down the path of a life well-lived. Feed your dreams. Nourish them with your attention and care. Put one foot in front of the other and follow your bliss. When you allow yourself to shine, your example helps others claim the radiance within themselves.
Friday, January 8, 2010
- Run out and grab yourself a copy of, "Health at Every Size", By, Linda Bacon, PhD. It will prove well-worth the read and will shed light on important information we have been kept in the dark about for far too long. This is a book you will want to pass on and share with those you love.
- Begin to explore what it feels like to include more plant foods in the meals you set on the table. Perhaps you can try having a meatless meal one or two days a week. Tune into how your body feels when you bump up the plant foods and rely a little less heavily on animal products. Approach this in a manner that is comfortable for you.
- Take some time to think about the physical activities you enjoy. What sounds like fun? What activities have you always wanted to try? Make a list of the options you come up with during this time of reflection. See if you can pick a few activities from your list this month and give it a whirl. Keep what you love and toss out the rest. Discover what kind of movement gives you joy. Inject your fitness with some fun.
- Once a week this month give yourself the chance to discover the many ways that the practice of meditation can enhance your life, inner sense of peace and personal well-being.
- Your mission this month is to head outdoors and claim your own personal sacred space in nature. Find your spot. This could be amongst the grounding solitude of a redwood forest, nestled in the coziness of your own private corner of an apple orchard, sitting atop a mountain that spills the landscape out before you like an endless sea of possibility, or even resting on a bench at your favorite park. Take the time to step outside, explore the natural world and the spaces it offers for calming, centering, reflection and renewal. Choose a place that makes you feel at peace. Be sure to visit this sacred spot often to commune with nature and listen to the murmurings of your soul.
In order to flow with the introspective energy of the winter season, I would like to share the gift of meditation with all of you. Some of our participants and project followers may already have a direct knowing of the sweet surrender that meditation facilitates. For others of you, meditation may seem completely foreign, or mired in religious dogma. I want to clear up any misconceptions by reassuring those who have these concerns that meditation is completely approachable for anyone. Additionally, although some religions incorporate meditation into their spiritual practices, meditation in and of itself is not a religious act. What is meditation then?
Meditation is like making a direct call to your sacred self. It is a way for you to dance below the surface and come into contact with your deeper knowing. It helps you experience the wonder of being the calm eye in the storm... finding peace and refuge tucked between the busy moments in life. It is a way to release stress and decompress... a path to calm and grounding.
Besides all the numerous internal rewards, there are many health advantages gleaned from engaging in a regular meditation practice. Some noteworthy benefits of meditation are:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Stress reduction
- Improves exercise tolerance in cardiovascular patients
- Reduces anxiety
- Relieves muscle tension and headaches
- Improves mood by increasing serotonin production
- Helps in chronic disease and pain management
- Is beneficial for post-operative healing
- Has a soothing effect on PMS, lessening symptoms
- Invigorates the immune system
- Helps provide a sense of emotional stability and calm
How do you meditate?
- Find a place where you can have some peace and quiet. Not a lot of time is required. Even 10 minutes alone to yourself where you do not have to worry about being disturbed by intrusions can have a potent effect.
- Settle into a comfortable position. For some of you, this will mean sitting cross-legged, or in a comfortable chair with a supportive back. Others may prefer to lie down. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself comfortable, including providing yourself with blankets for warmth, or pillows for cushioning and body support.
- If you are seated, sit with your spine erect. Think of creating space in between your vertebrae, as if someone is pulling a string up from the top of your head. Think lengthening. If lying, quickly scan your body and notice if there are any adjustments you need to make in order for your body to feel balanced and supported.
- Close your eyes, let your tongue rest gently against the roof of your mouth, relax your lips so they are slightly parted and begin to focus on your breathing.
- Don't worry about trying to control your breath. Simply observe its movement. Notice the way it flows in and out of your body. Follow your in breath all the way down to your belly and then trace its movement all the way out of your nostrils on the exhale. Find your rhythm and settle into deep, relaxing nose breathing.
- When thoughts come up, let them surface and then float on by like a leaf in a stream. Sometimes interesting thoughts can emerge, or you will find your mind getting busy as you run through a mental to-do list. Practice non-attachment. Rest easy. The mind chatter will silence the more you allow those thoughts to just 'be'.
- Sometimes using a mantra, or word that has personal meaning to you that you silently repeat to yourself over and over again can help you focus. You could choose a common mantra such as, "om". Even a simple word or phrase like, "love" or "I am peace" can help you focus and find a sense of calm. When intruding thoughts arrive, they can be surrendered to the rhythm of the mantra you have chosen to use. This is particularly beneficial for beginners.
- Spend as much time in meditation as you like. There are no rules or set times you must remain engaged in this practice. Tune in and flow with what feels right for you.
Many feel this way when taking up meditation. Often this leads to abandonment of the practice before the reward of this quiet time is ever received. I encourage you to give it a few tries before you decide that meditation isn't for you. Keep it simple and start from an approachable place. Maybe this means that you begin by practicing meditation for 2 minutes and gradually increase your time until you arrive at a place that feels supportive.
If you really find it a struggle to sit or lie still, you may want to consider walking meditation. This is when you go on a walk and match your gait to the rhythm of your breath. You can also use mantra with walking meditation. Use the movement as an opportunity to develop body awareness. Feel your muscles working. Notice the way your foot makes contact with the ground as you take a step. Pay attention to your environment. Notice the smells in the air. Tune into the sounds around you. Notice the shapes, colors and textures of the natural environment surrounding you. Sense the way the breeze kisses your face. This is meditation in motion and is equally beneficial as traditional approaches to meditation.
Explore the world of meditation during these winter months. Allow yourself to have this experience in a variety of ways and discover which method speaks to you. You may decide that this is a practice you would like to carry with you throughout life. Namaste~
Winter is a time of rest, renewal, reflection and preparation. This is the season that we experience a turning within. The world is a little more quiet and we feel a pull to have more space to ourselves.
This season also offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor sports if you're a snow bunny. There is a plethora of activities to explore if you feel so inclined. A few that bear mentioning are:
- Skiing - cross-country and downhill
- Snow boarding
- Snow shoeing
- Ice skating
- Ice hockey
- Spending the day with the kids building snowmen and making snow angels
- Having a good old fashioned snowball fight
- Sledding, (once you slide down that hill you have to climb your way back up to ride again)
- Shoveling snow to clear the driveway and entry to your home, (anyone who doesn't view this as exercise has never had to face such a task)
I would also like to suggest that you explore different forms of movement that can help you connect more deeply with that place of quiet and calm within yourself. Some options to explore would be:
- Tai chi
- Chi gong
- Restorative yoga
- Nature walks
Make a list that you can add to over time of all the physical activities you love, or are curious about and want to explore. Think outside the box and remember that all movement is exercise. You may love to garden. On the surface this may not seem a route to fitness but you may be surprised to learn that gardening has numerous health benefits including having a strengthening effect on your muscles and bones. Be willing to open your mind to seeing movement in a new light. You may find you have a fitness buff inside of you after all!
Throughout the season, try some of the activities you have listed during your moments of reflection. How do they work for you at this point in your life? Keep what you love and ditch the rest. Make it your goal to build a life-practice of fitness engaging in activities that are fun and rewarding. When you approach movement from this angle, the time you set aside for exercise will be a pleasurable experience you look forward to.
Moving your body should feel good. You should enjoy yourself to the fullest. When exercise becomes rewarding on this deeply personal level it becomes a natural choice to dedicate yourself to providing your body with this care. This is what it's all about. Enjoy!
When thinking of winter, an image of harvest doesn't necessarily come to mind, but there are plenty of seasonal delights to savor this time of year. Sample the fresh produce that winter has on offer. Decorate your home with seasonal blooms. Flowing with the cycles of the seasons puts us in direct contact with our own internal rhythms. It also allows us to merge with the dance of life and live in a way that is kind to our bodies, our local farmers and the planet. Eating in harmony with the seasons has numerous benefits...
- Produce that is in-season has the most dense nutritional value.
- Eating with the flow of the seasons encourages variety in food choices which ensures balanced nutrition.
- When you buy local and in-season you stimulate the economy in your community.
- Produce that is in-season is more affordable, allowing you to save some cash.
- When you buy local and in-season you reduce your carbon footprint. You do your part to not contribute to pollution caused by shipping, packaging and storage.
Vegetables In-Season December - January - February:
Fruits In-Season December - January - February:
Fresh Seasonal Blooms December - January - February:
Casa Blanca lily
Queen Anne's lace
When our group initially gathered for, "The Big Fat Lie" intuitive eating and sustainability project we had the intention of reclaiming our health while also giving back to the earth. It seemed a win-win situation that we could do something for our personal benefit and extend that healing effect to the planet and all who share this little blue ball in the galaxy with us. Many of us had faced health challenges and had been urged by medical professionals to take preventive steps to safeguard our well-being. We had been admonished ad nauseam to drop some weight in the name of health. Everyone wants to look and feel their best. However, our group's focus has always been on health. It was very important to us that we remained rooted on the path of intuitive eating. The intuitive eating approach has been a compassionate guide leading us to a place of peace with food and our bodies. The initial inspiration for our project was in response to obesity research that had been conducted using traditional diet approaches as the testing field. Certain conclusions were reached as a result of those studies claiming that the best an obese individual could hope for would be a 10% reduction in weight. The reason... genetics.
While I could acknowledge that genetics do play a powerful role in the body type we develop... all I have to do is look through family albums and I can spot plenty of bodies that look just like mine... I also felt that self-care is a big component. I felt, and continue to feel, that the highly-processed foods that grace most Americans tables play a great role in the state of our vitality, or lack thereof. I was disappointed to see that all the research that has been conducted used the model of severely restricted calorie diets as the basis of their study. Of course diets are doomed to failure! You cannot work against your body biologically and expect it to cooperate with your agenda. I found it humorous when I read how obesity researchers marveled that those who had been on medically supervised crash diets of under 1,000 calories a day over a period of six months behaved like someone who was starving when allowed the freedom to finally eat of their own accord. Seriously... this isn't some light bulb moment. These case study subjects were starving which is exactly why they became so obsessed with food and found it impossible to stop binging. Of course every pound tortuously shed came piling back on.
By now, many people have heard of the studies conducted during World War II at the University of Minnesota between November 19, 1944 and December 20, 1945 where a control group of completely healthy men who never had any kind of food or body image issues were put on a controlled diet. This study was conducted in the hopes of discovering the physiological and psychological impact of enforced restrictive eating, as well as the potential benefit of using dietary measures for rehabilitation. The study was divided into four separate phases; 12 weeks of observation to determine the test subject's baseline psychological and physiological profiles, 24 weeks of controlled starvation where calorie adjustments were made to produce a 25% decrease in weight from the men's starting point, 12 weeks of a controlled recovery phase where dietary rehabilitation was employed to nourish the subjects back to a state of health, followed by 8 weeks of unrestricted rehabilitation where there were no limits in food choices or calories but the subjects were monitored and their dietary patterns recorded.
Very quickly, the 36 men who participated in this research became obsessed with food. They drew out their meager meals as long as possible, shuffling the food about on their plates. They talked incessantly about food. Some even compiled lists of foods they planned to eat once the study was over. Others took to reading cookbooks. By the time the study was completed the research overwhelmingly confirmed that restriction and deprivation breed disordered eating. This impact was noted both physically and psychologically. All of the men involved in this study developed food and body image issues. The subject's demeanor mimicked behavior classically exhibited in clinical eating disorder. They also gained weight, in most cases becoming larger than they were at the beginning of the research.
More disconcerting was the severe emotional distress and depression experienced by the subjects. There was decreased sexual interest in the men. They also withdrew themselves from social interaction and became isolated. On the extreme end of the scale, one of the men mutilated himself by chopping off three of his fingers with an axe. His level of confusion and mental distortion was evident in his statement that he didn't know if he physically hurt himself accidentally, or with intention.
Overwhelmingly, the research has demonstrated time and time again that diets don't work and often are a gateway to eating disorder. This much is clear. What is unclear to me is why the research has focused on deprivation diets as a route to health when the evidence is vehemently contradictory to this claim. Why hasn't there been more research utilizing an intuitive approach? Could an individual reach a size that is health-supporting through the path of intuitive eating? That remains to be seen and was the initial impetus of, "The Big Fat Lie" project.
Now a new question has begun to formulate in my mind... "How much does body size have to do with health at all?" My change in thought was inspired upon reading a very important book by, Linda Bacon, PhD., "Health at Every Size". I strongly urge everyone participating in our project and all followers of our blog to obtain a copy of this life-changing book. I believe this book should be on the office shelves of every medical professional and individual working in the field of human services. "Health at Every Size" should be required reading in schools. In essence, the wealth of knowledge outlined in its pages contains important information that everyone should be aware of.
"Health at Every Size" took everything I ever believed about how my body size affects my health, every harsh warning uttered by the many physicians I have been treated by over the years, along with numerous well-meaning comments of concerned loved ones and turned it all completely upside down. What a relief! I learned that I can have health here and now. Claiming this as my reality is not dependent on the size of my body. I came to understand that I don't have to fit in the rigid range deemed 'healthy' by medical weight charts and BMI guidelines. I can own my unique body and embrace it for the gift it is. In a revolutionary act of self-love, I can provide myself with the best quality care, not in the hopes of diminishing my size, but because I deserve this compassion and attention. I can claim vitality as my birthright in this moment whether or not taking steps to nurture my health lead to weight release. This realization was liberating!
"Health at Every Size" presents the facts... solid facts based on years of scientific study. Linda Bacon outlines a direct route to health. She doesn't make it convoluted. She keeps it simple and I can appreciate that. How does one select foods to nurture well-being? Emphasize real food... whole foods that come from the earth, not foods that are engineered to get you hooked and leave you craving more. As much as you can, let plant foods form the foundation of your food choices. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are the fertilizer needed to nourish a strong healthy body. They provide a vital ingredient that is sorely lacking in the Standard American Diet (SAD)... fiber. The more you can gravitate toward plant foods and decrease your reliance on animal products, the healthier you will be.
This doesn't mean you have to run out and become a vegetarian, but how about trying to have a few meatless meals within the week? What about trying some new vegetables or fruits and incorporating more produce into your meals? Even something as simple as using a heavier hand with the beans and a little less meat in that batch of homemade chili has an impact, not only on your personal well-being, but the welfare of the planet. If protecting our natural resources is important to you... if you are a steward for the environment... one of the most powerful changes you can make that will directly lower your carbon footprint is to gravitate toward a more plant-based way of eating. Each individual will have their own comfort zone with this. It's something you have to personally feel out for yourself. However, having the knowledge that something so simple as being a little less liberal with animal products can have such a potent effect on our health is certainly food for thought. What you choose to do with this information is your decision alone.
It's not like there is anything so revolutionary about this approach to wellness. I learned from my college nutrition class that the more you can emphasize plant foods, the better off you'll be. This is information registered dietitians have been privy to for years. The problem is that we rarely get our nutritional information from the professionals who have made this their field of study. Medical physicians clock very few educational hours learning about nutrition. Why then, do we look to our doctors and expect them to have the answers when we have questions about the most nurturing way to feed ourselves? Why has our society allowed the mega-corporate machine of the diet industry to provide us with nutritional counsel when their investment is not in our well-being, but in fattening their wallets?
The best customer is a repeat customer. That's business baby. Why would the diet industry want to reveal that the route to health is so easily accessible? It works in their favor to have us buy into the fear-mongering... the belief that our lives are in jeopardy and we are facing an epidemic of gastronomical proportions because we are carrying around a few extra pounds. They have also duped us by making the solution seem so complex and not the simple reality it is. That is how they get us hooked.
The current food climate is mired in confusion. Never before in history has eating been such a complex proposition. Every day we are faced with a headline vilifying a new food that is supposedly 'bad' for us and the cause of disease. Give it a month or two and the same food once maligned will now be redeemed by new evidence that it boasts a high-antioxidant content, or some other such dribble. What it boils down to is lobbying and the bargaining chip is your health. Our current nutritional guidelines as determined by the USDA are established by the highest bidder. Whichever food industry is willing to cough up enough cash is the one that will monopolize more space on the Food Pyramid.
We have also seen the same confusion surrounding exercise. Ironically, in spite of our fitness obsession, many Americans are out of shape due to sedentary lifestyles. Once again, I believe this is because of conflicting messages. We've become a slave to the grind because we have bought into this idea that in order for exercise to be beneficial we have to spend grueling hours punishing ourselves at the gym with relentless workouts. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
All movement is exercise. The key to building a life-practice of self-care through the vehicle of fitness is to do what you love, not what you think you should. Americans are sedentary in large part because we have made the experience of exercise so miserable. It is a chore... something to get over and done with. Why would anyone want to dedicate themselves to a life-practice that is so utterly unrewarding? Our current mindset around fitness is based on punishment, not reward. Each New Year millions of Americans stalwartly set out on 'the last' diet and exercise plan they genuinely believe they will ever need. This is it! This is the year that everything will be different. We set ourselves up and then feel disappointed when we fall flat on our face and find ourselves settling into old patterns of neglect. In order to embrace a new way of being, it needs to be more gratifying than the old way of doing things. If you set out with the intention to deprive yourself by whipping yourself into submission with workouts only a trained athlete could stomach, why would you be surprised to find yourself a few short weeks later burnt out, couch bound, depressed and unmotivated?
It's time we brought the fun back into fitness. Think back to when you were a kid... always on the go... a vibrant being in perpetual motion. Life was different then. You didn't move because you wanted to drop some quick pounds. You weren't trying to fit into that little black number. You were moving for the sheer joy of it. What gives you joy now? Do you know? Perhaps this is an area we could all benefit from exploring.
I've had my own personal revolution with fitness. I used to strongly identify with the gym rat persona. I worked my body into the ground. I found myself suffering repeat injuries and episodes of over-training. I used to equate this to my fiery personality. "I like the intensity"... I would often try to convince myself. The reality was that all my exercise had the same intention... to build the 'dream' body. It really had nothing to do with having fun or trying out new activities that interested me. It was all about the burn. How many calories did I just use up with that sweat session? How many pounds will I lose if I exercise a little harder, a little longer? My exercise stints always came in bursts. They would start off full of vim and vigor, then rapidly fizzle out when my body couldn't meet the demand of the expectation I was putting on it.
In recent months, I've reconnected with that part of me that was the little girl stomping through the creek on hot summer days. I've recalled hours spent holed up in my teenage bedroom, dancing like no one was watching. I've remembered long walks shared with friends while we gabbed away, enjoying each other's company and the natural scenery. I also had visions of my 13 year old self taking those first steps to awaken the yogini within. I remembered opening the pages of a yoga book I picked up at the library and giving the exotic asanas a whirl. It's funny... I came to realize that these are the same types of movement that I love now as an adult.
The illusion was shattered. I hate going to the gym. If I have to hoist another weight I think I will die of boredom. I can't stand running like a hamster on a treadmill when I could be outside in the fresh air enjoying a hike surrounded by the beauty of nature. Forget aerobics classes! I love to dance. It frees up space for me to come into direct contact with my creative energy... the language of my soul. I still enjoy going for a stroll with a good friend in tow. Yoga continues to provide me an island of peace and renewal within the backdrop of a busy life.
It's time that we collectively shed the expectations placed on us by the so-called 'experts' and instead, reconnected with ourselves, our bodies and our own internal source of wisdom. Everything about the way we are biologically designed is geared to seek a state of balance and radiant well-being. The problem is, we continue to look for the answers outside of ourselves. We approach the care of our bodies in a cut and dry fashion. We get in our heads instead of getting into our bodies and feeling our way through. With our brains chocked full of so much useless contradictory information, how are we supposed to wade through all the muck so we can arrive at 'what is'? We never take the time to touch base with our own internal data bank of wisdom.
In so many ways, the material presented in, "Health at Every Size" is in direct alignment with, "The Big Fat Lie" project. On many levels, I felt validated after reading Linda Bacon's words. I could see that our project was built on a solid foundation rooted in established research. However, Linda Bacon brought something new to the table. She opened my eyes and made me realize that our project doesn't need to have weight release as its ultimate goal. Our health doesn't depend on us shedding pounds. What is important is that we show up every day with the intention to treat ourselves in a loving compassionate way and that we encourage others to do the same by taking steps to promote awareness. All bodies are sacred. Instead of chasing an 'ideal', even one medically established, we should be moving toward loving the body we have here and now. We should celebrate diversity by understanding that there are many shapes and sizes in this world of ours. Not one body type can be labeled as the 'right' type.
This is the critical way our project has been impacted by the work of Linda Bacon. As a group, we are releasing the goal of weight release in the name of health as an end result. Instead, we are going to focus our energy on providing ourselves with the best self-care from the inside, out. We will eat foods that we love... foods that tickle our taste buds... while deeply nourishing our bodies. We will bring the spirit of pleasure, nurturing and renewal back to our dining tables. We will move in ways that give us pleasure so we look forward to our time to exercise. In this way, fitness becomes a life-practice of self-care... a time to give back to ourselves with a little TLC. We will make peace with our present body, no matter its shape or size. We will take time to feel and honor our emotions. We will reconnect with the sacredness of our being. We will nurture a state of vitality and wholeness in our lives, whether or not this results in a smaller body size. We will start a self-love revolution by owning our bodies and our right to life, liberation and the pursuit of happiness.
All aboard the self-love express. There are plenty of seats available on this soul train. I hope all of you will grab your boarding pass and come along for the ride.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I wanted to post a quick update to let our participants and blog followers know that the Monthly/Seasonal Focus will be posting later this week. There are several writing pieces involved that are taking some time to put together. Not to mention a need to get back into the swing of things after the rush of the holidays. The new material will be posted as of the evening of Friday, January 8, 2010. I appreciate your patience and understanding. Let's make 2010 the year we reclaim our sacred bodies and deeply honor our healing paths. Best wishes to you and yours...