Body-Blaming

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This week in my Mindfulness course we are focusing on how our emotions work with our physical body. This is a subject near and dear to my heart and really the prime foundation for this blog and my classes. What spoke to me was how we treat and think about our bodies?

Think about it. We hate our butt, our belly, our wrinkles, our flabby arms, etc.  This list goes on and is different for each of us. But why are we hating these parts of our body. Why do we hate our body at all? The body is simply a container. The body didn’t do anything wrong.

The body simply reacts to what WE do to it and for it. If we put more calories in then we use up, the body gets larger. If we use up more calories than we take in, it gets smaller. If we move our bodies, they become more mobile and fluid. If we don’t move our bodies, they become rigid and stiff.

Wine_BDCThe body isn’t doing anything except reacting to our actions and it’s environment. Genetics, the environmental, and accidents aside, we are entirely responsible for how the bodies we have been given look, act, and feel. It is time we stop blaming our bodies and start appreciating all they do for us in spite of how we treat them. You cannot blame someone else for the choices you make in life and you cannot blame your body for reacting to how you treat it. The container isn’t bad, just because the contents may be.

For the most part, we are the only ones responsible for the health of our “body-containers”. I believe that if we want to be healthy, we should be mindful of how we feed and treat our body-containers.

Remember, our bodies are also under constant attack from illness and disease, environmental pollution, toxic chemicals, and countless other factors. It needs all the help and support it can get to function at it’s best. Let’s appreciate that instead of blaming or hating on it.

How can we treat our bodies better? Here are some ideas…

  1. Try to be more aware of what you are eating. Most of the foods we eat should be to support our health. This does not mean deprive yourself. It means all things in moderation. My goal: I am going to try to lovingly feed my body what it needs and thrives on, instead of living with so many post-meal regrets.
  2. Try to pay attention to how you are eating. Slow down and enjoy your food. Actually chew and taste your food. I come from a family of fast-eaters, this is hard for me. My goal: I will try to thoroughly chew and enjoy my food, bite by bite. 
  3. Pay attention to why you are eating. Are you eating because you are actually hungry or because you are bored or stressed out? Mindless eating is a fast-track to poor health. For example, instead of eating when you are stressed, pay attention to the stress and focus on how you can reduce it instead of how you can make yourself temporarily feel better. My goal: I will question myself about my motives to eat and try to be more mindful of mindless and emotional eating.
  4. Incorporate exercise every day, move your body. Exercise, especially if you are not used to it, does not have to be long or strenuous, you just have to move. It can be stretching, walking, gardening, swimming, whatever! We sit too much and we are on the computer too much. Stand while working on the computer. Make sure to take a break every 30 minutes and stretch. Go for a walk, anywhere. Look at where you are and make one improvement every week or every month or every season. My goal: Don’t give up my yoga, get back to some sort of strength training at least once a week (its been a few years) and really try to meet my FitBit’s goal of 10,000 steps most days.
  5. Stop judging your body.  Our bodies are not to blame. They are to be loved and respected. Our bodies are beautiful vesicles that keep us alive and grounded here on earth. If you don’t like how you have treated your body, then change that. Also, remember that each body-container is different. There is no right or wrong way to look.  Each body is given a genetic code and our job is to work with the body we have been given for this lifetime, the good and the bad, without judgement.  My goal: I will try not to blame my belly for being bigger than it used to be or my clothes for being tighter. I will acknowledge that my genetics, my hormones, my age, and my actions are responsible. Some of this is out of my control and some of this is not. This belly may be here to stay and I will try to look at it with more understanding and compassion. I will try to be more loving with myself.
  6. Don’t judge anyone else’s body. Each of us is unique and has our own journey and set of experiences. It is not for us to judge another person’s lifestyle or outward appearance. Worry only about your own.  I have found that as we judge others less, we will feel less judged. Life would be so boring if we all looked the same. So let’s embrace and celebrate our differences. There is no need for fear or intolerance. My goal: Pay attention and catch myself when I am being judgemental and try to nip it in the bud by shifting my focus to something more positive. 
  7. Appreciate your body.  No matter what, love your body! Say thank you to your body for all it’s done for all it’s gotten you through, for all the stuff it’s had to deal with. Honor the stage of life you are in. Keep looking forward, not backwards. My goal: I will try to mindfully appreciate my peri-menopausal body and the changes it’s having to go through at this stage of my life and cut it some slack. 

Let’s put an end to body shaming. Start with yourself. Then we can work on positively affecting others and the media.

SOOOO tired!

JordanRecliningYesterday I felt really tired and irritable! I was a Negative Nelly and couldn’t get out of my own way. I really don’t like feeling like this or behaving this way.  So last night I took stock of my week to figure out how I got here so I could make some changes to my routine.

First, I had not slept well for a couple days. I NEED my sleep. I am an emotional and physical wreck without 7-8 hours of good sleep. Because I naturally toss and turn, that could mean 9 hours in bed, depending on the circumstances. This week I was up late one night but still got up at my regular 6am and two other nights were fairly restless because I let my dogs sleep with me while my husband was away. One dog had stomach problems and one was restless…up, down, up, down.

Second, I realized last night that I had not enough water throughout the day. I was probably dehydrated or getting there. I had spent way too much time driving my kids around and didn’t pay attention to my own physical needs.

Third, I did go to the gym for the second time in 4 years but that shouldn’t have made me tired. That might have been the only reason I didn’t crash sooner. But it could have contributed.

Forth, I was stressed. I have a lot on my plate right now (and coming up) and I am feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Most of us have a lot on our plates and the difference is how we handle it. Because I was already tired for other reasons, I started to focus too much on the big picture and all my fears and frustrations. I really needed to take step back and focus on one thing at a time. I was multi-tasking too much and doing nothing well.  I am practicing my mindfulness and trying to finish one thing before I move onto the next. Already messed up one appointment doing this, but stress and schedules never go away. It’s about how we react to it.

Fifth, it could have been allergies. Although the pollen counts are low for my area, it doesn’t mean something else isn’t blooming. We did just put the air conditioners in so that’s a new source of possible allergens.

Finally, I blame hormones because why not! I am a peri-menopausal woman and when all else fails…blame my hormones.

This was my self inventory… your’s could be similar or completely different.

So, I decided to look up what doctors say are some causes of being tired or exhausted and here is what I found.

The Mayo Clinic lists on their website Lifestyle, Psychological, and Medical conditions that are causes of fatigue. I am not going to list medical conditions because the list is long. You can click HERE to learn more.

Lifestyle factors

Alcohol use or abuse
Caffeine use
Excessive physical activity
Inactivity
Lack of sleep
Medications, such as antihistamines, cough medicines and cold remedies
Unhealthy eating habits

 

Psychological conditions                                 

Anxiety
Depression
Grief
Stress

As you can see, I had many of these things going on.  But this list made me realize my diet was also contributing.  Although I was eating fairly well, I was not as good as I should have been. This does not mean I shouldn’t enjoy what I eat, but I was eating some things I should not have been eating.  Because I was hungry, tired, and stressed, I was reaching without thinking. Also, there were times this week when I didn’t eat enough calories…that’s just as bad.

Today, I start anew with awareness and some self-love.

Last night I had good night’s sleep, early to bed, meditation, dogs in crates and husband home. Today, I have already had more water this morning than all day yesterday…so far, so good. Will be headed for my walk soon and plan to do a little stretching for my sore muscles. Also, I took care of some things this morning that have been lingering on my mind so I can now check them off the mental list and move forward.  I am avoiding those cravings that are emotion-related and/or cause me negative symptoms. Finally, I let myself know that I am human.

Every day is a new day and chance to start over. 

 

Mindful Movement

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This week in my Mindfulness Course, we are supposed to practice our mindfulness while moving aka Mindful Movement. Some options we had for practicing mindful movement were:

  • Walking outside (especially barefoot in the grass)
  • Washing the dishes
  • Opening a door
  • Getting in and out of your chair
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Pushing a shopping cart

Yesterday, I went for my usual walk with my dogs at a local conservation land. However, this time I decided to practice my mindful movement and so I paid more attention to my body and my surroundings. At first, I focused on my feet hitting the ground and how each part of my body felt as I was walking; my arms swinging, the position of my shoulders, the timing of my breath, the contraction and relaxation of my muscles.

Then I moved outward and began by focusing on what I was hearing. I listened to the birds singing, the leaves rustling, and the far off sounds of civilization. Instead of watching my dogs swim, I watched the birds and the dragonflies fly over the pond, dip into the water, and chase each other. It was a spectacular and mesmerizing dance. As I was walking, I felt the wind on my face and noticed that when I stopped so did the wind. This refreshing breeze was entirely from me walking. I all but forgot about the heat and humidity.

It was one of the most peaceful walks I have ever had.

I think my dogs were more at peace too.

 

Body Image and the Media

Lately, I have been paying more attention to the articles listed on my yahoo news home page. What I noticed was that there were so many articles that judge people’s looks. I know the world of celebrity is vain and superficial but the media just takes it to a whole new level. It seems every where you turn, someone is being criticized. This one is too fat. That one is too skinny. This one is wearing a cute outfit but that one is not. Who has the right to really judge another person’s looks. Looks can be so subjective.

So I decided to count how many online articles were about looks. In one morning, there were more than twenty different articles about celebrity appearance on my yahoo home page alone. They ran the gamut from Kris Jenner looked like Zoolander, Jaime King is too skinny, some star is now a lumbersexual, and Jennifer Lawrence wore a dress, to an article about another celebrity who gained too much weight.  There was an article on armpit hair, one on lavendar hair, and yet another about Serena Williams getting body shamed.  OMG, STOP! This is crazy…

We wonder why we have so many body issues, especially our youth who are more prone to celebrity and media influence.  A recent poll of a local Massachusett’s high schools found that 45% of student were trying to lose weight. But the obesity rate in the area is the lowest in the country at 13%.  That’s not okay! Something has to be done.

Body Image Graph HS

We need to remember and teach our children that most of the images in the media are photoshopped. Well, except the really bad ones that try to make fun of someone with cellulite, wrinkles, flab and normal body features. There is a reason companies such as Dove are starting to include all body shapes and sizes in their advertisements…because they are real. They want people (esp. women) to accept themselves and see the beauty in their bodies. This is empowering! Other magazine and celebrities have been foregoing the photoshopping because they know the emotional damage that has been done when young boys and girls think they have to look like people that don’t really exist in real life. Just the other day, Kim K, did a spread with allegedly no make up on. That reality remains to be seen but what a step forward if it’s true.

Check out this PDF file of before and after images of celebrities that have been photoshopped for the media.  It’s eye-opening!

Kim Cattrall, just as beautiful without the touch-ups.

Kim Cattrall, just as beautiful without the touch-ups.

Body Image & Advertising PresentationAndyRoddick

How can we expect to look like them when they don’t even look like them? Andy Roddick commented on his before and after images that they pumped him up so much, it doesn’t even look like him. He admits he’s pretty scrawny for an athlete. It isn’t just girls that are being manipulated, boys are being sent messages too!

AndyRoddickWe shouldn’t be striving to look a certain way to feel valued and desired, we should be striving to be healthy. Instead of feeling the need to change ourselves, we should be embracing our differences and learning to love our bodies and our unique qualities.

If you want to work on something, I think it’s more important to work on personality (emotional state) than appearance. Have you ever met someone who is considered “average” but when you get to know them, you find them absolutely beautiful? It works the other way around…how many “beautiful” people do you know that once you get to know them, they don’t seem so beautiful anymore. Yeah…inside is more important! The happier and healthier you are, the more beautiful and radiant you become. Who isn’t attracted to a genuine smile and/or a vivacious laugh?

So at this stage of my life, I am trying to learn to love my 45 year old body, wrinkles, grey hair, and all. I am not 25 and I am never going to look 25 again. I think aging gracefully is far more attractive. This doesn’t mean I don’t work out or watch what I eat. I absolutely think it’s important to eat right, move our bodies and maintain a positive attitude. So, I am trying to keep everything in perspective as I age.

It also doesn’t mean I give up and never try to look by best. I want to feel attractive just like anyone else. But I need to be the best me, not a poor excuse for someone else. I am really trying to be honest with myself and realize that there are other influences that may be making me feel bad about myself or making me think that I should look a certain way. This is what I am trying to be more conscencious of.

So I say let’s not judge each other and let’s not give the media so much power. If you won’t do it for yourself then do it for the younger generations. Let’s help them honor and love their bodies by loving and honoring our own bodies. Let’s lead by example.

Let’s embrace being healthy and enjoying life!

created by Jen B. Peters. Click to go to website

Created by Jen B. Peters. Click to go to Jen’s website

 

 

 

Mindset: the new psychology of success

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So right now I am reading this book for school called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S Dweck, PhD. OMG! I wish I had read this book years ago. All parents, teachers, coaches, and bosses should read this book. It’s amazing! I am so glad to be working and learning in a school that requires this type of reading.

First of all, it discusses the definition of and differences they found between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. For example, praising your child’s effort is a growth mindset and your child is more likely to keep trying and putting in effort. An example of a fixed mindset is telling a child how smart they are but what happens when they struggle or get something wrong? They will feel like a failure because they are no longer “smart”.  This can make them stop trying.

A growth mindset believes you can work hard and succeed, the fixed mindset believes you are born this way and effort is not important. A fixed mindset coach believes win and losing are most important and they define his/her coaching. A growth mindset asks players to put in effort, work hard, and learn from mistakes.

It’s fascinating. They did studies with kids where they were able to change the child’s mindset, and improve outcomes and performance, by adjusting how they explained instructions or expected outcomes.

The book is full of examples and studies comparing these two types of mindsets and how simple changes in communication can improve a person’s self-esteem and level of success.

Truly this is great book for all to read but especially parents, coaches, and teachers.

 

 

Our brains on the internet…

Right now I am taking a Mindfulness foundations course through Mindful Schools. I am hoping the practice will help me when I transition from stay-at-home mom to full time working mom AND I hope to be able to share some techniques with my students.

Yesterday I watched a video in my class that explains how the internet is affecting our brains and why it now so very important to teach our brains how to relax.  Back in the day, we needed to pay attention to everything around us in order to stay alive. We don’t have that need anymore but the brain is still wired like that. The internet feeds that part of our brain now leading to a chronic state of chaos.

However, our brains do need times of calm for memory, learning, and attention. In order for our brains to think creatively and critically, it needs to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, the brain must be able to focus on one thing at a time. Enter Mindfulness training. (it really does feel good to slow down and be in the moment)

Nicholas Carr discusses this in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains“.  Here is a fun video that provides some information about this.

Something to think about.

Raspberry Gelato

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Today I made a Raspberry Gelato recipe I found in the magazine Naturally, Danny Seo (also a new favorite find). It is included in an article featuring Lee Holmes, author of Supercharged Food, Eat Yourself Beautiful. Great article, by the way. Lee talks about her battle with health issues and how she came to correlate her diet to some of her symptoms. This is very similar to my own experiences. In the article, she has tips on healthy eating, diet myth busters, and some yummy looking easy recipes, such as a stir fry shrimp (I would call it a coconut curry shrimp), a cleansing tumeric and ginger tea, cauliflower, granola, and, of course, this raspberry gelato.

Back to the recipe. This is a vegan gelato recipe that uses cashew nuts and coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. I am still waiting for it to freeze but so far so good. It tastes wonderful at room temperature. With raspberries bursting with freshness right now, it is a great time to try out this recipe.

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Raspberry Gelato by Lee Holmes

1-1/4 cup raw cashew nuts

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 frozen raspberries (I used fresh…not sure how it will affect the recipe)

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 drops of stevia liquid

1/2 cup additive-free coconut milk

Place all ingredients in a high-speed food processor and blend until smooth. Place into 3 individual ramekins or ice cream molds. Place in freezer for 2 hours or until set.

Remove from molds by running a warm knife along the inside edge of the mold.

Enjoy!

Is nice always nice?

Very nice girls getting their "don't mess with me" on

Very nice girls getting their “don’t mess with me” on.

When is being nice, not nice?

The other day I asked a group of students “What are your greatest strengths?”  I did not expect profound answers; I know that they are still figuring things out. What struck me was the difference in answers between boys and girls.

The boys answered with words describing sports, abilities, and inner strengths. The girls answered “nice” and “polite”. When I first saw this, my heart sank. It is not that I don’t value being nice and polite, I think they are very important traits. I totally think we need more nice in the world. But many times girls and women are nice/polite to gain acceptance and they give themselves away. They are not incorporating into their self-awareness that they need to be nice and polite to themselves. If they are putting others feelings first and putting themselves and their own needs second, that is not a good thing.

Where do they get this? Why the difference? Remember the old saying “Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of”. Boys are made of adventure, fun, play, and distraction. “Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.” Girls are nice, polte, sweet, and pretty. Hmmm? Truly, I should not have been surprised…it was typical of traditional gender roles.

Many families and cultures still hold these gender stereotypes as the norm. They do not value the girls for what they can accomplish, they value girls for how they make themselves and others feel. This is especially true in male-dominated cultures/societies. This is sad to me that in 2016, some girls are still not being raised to identify and honor their natural, inner strengths. Ask my daughter what her strengths are and she may never shut up…but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.  🙂

It is important to let all of our children know that they have strengths and weaknesses. It’s normal and it’s what makes each of us unique. They do not have to be perfect. No one is perfect. Teach them to honor and use their strengths. It’s okay to have weaknesses, they can work on them, but they don’t need to be identified by them. In order to teach them not to compare themselves to others, we must model that behavior. We must honor and love ourselves if we want them to love and honor themselves. We should also encourage them to find their passions, their strengths, their hearts.

Also, we need to make sure that we are not looking for our self worth from others. We will be sorely disappointed. We must find our worth in ourselves. We will never find happiness in someone else, that comes from within and manifests in our actions, thoughts, and words.

On top of this, we must all learn how to set up healthy boundaries with friends, family, and co-workers. It is important to balance our needs with the needs of others. Doing for others, without regard for our own health and life, can lead to negative consequences like depression and low self-esteem.  It allows others to take advantage of us and our good nature. Some people will take advantage of others on purpose, while other people may not realize they are doing it. Boundaries allow us to establish clear definitions of behaviors that we find acceptable, actions we are comfortable with, and that our time and energy are of equal importance.

Want to read more about this? Before I started writing my blog, this article presented itself to me.”Being Too Nice Can Contribute to Depression

So at the end of the day, I was hoping the students would look at themselves to see what they are good at.  I wish I could go back and tell the girls that I saw creativity, artistry, storytellers, strong-wills, outgoing personalities, great fashion sense, inner strength, risk-taking, compassion, and good communication skills.

I hope they see these things too.

Text Neck

_MG_7961Look around today. Almost everyone has a smart phone, including young children. It is a great way to stay connected and allows some people more freedom because of this mobile connection with work and family. But there are downsides.

The negative impact of smart phone include distracted driving issues, instant gratification, and lack of verbal and personal communication. However, one of the biggest issues is health related. Doctors are now seeing patients with, what they term, Text Neck. This is chronic neck pain from looking down a lot. This includes computer work, reading books, cooking, interacting with children, gardening, etc. We, as a community, rarely look up and this is straining and injuring our muscles, our eyes, and our joints. With the potential to cause early onset arthritis and other issues (Spine-Health website).

What are symptoms of Text Neck?

According to Spine-Health website, symptoms are:

  • chronic headaches
  • upper back pain
  • shoulder pain
  • neck pain
  • increased curvature of the spine

Although neck, shoulder and back pain can be caused by many things such as poor posture, emotions, stress, lack of exercise, and excess body weight, looking down can add to these and make the problem worse.

Stop right now and look up…how does that feel? Tight? Yeah…those muscles need a break and some counter-stretching.

What to do?

If your pain is serious or chronic, you may need physical therapy. A physical therapist may use heat or cold therapy, massage, electronic stimulation, stretches and strengthening exercises to get you back to normal. What is nice about PT is that your treatment is individualized AND once you know what to do (properly) you can always use them when you need it for the rest of your life.  I went to PT for this and when my neck gets sore, I can go right to my exercises to make sure I take care of the problem before it gets worse.

For what it’s worth, here is a link to a pamphlet on cervical (neck) exercises, KnowYourBack.  It is much better to be taught in person and make sure you are doing them correctly but this does a fairly good job explaining some of the exercises you can try.

No one likes pain but the American lifestyle is not conducive to a healthy body. We sit too much (watching TV, driving, working), our postures are not natural (Text Neck) and we spend more time looking a tiny screens instead of vast horizons.  We don’t get out in nature enough and it shows.

So if you want to feel better, go outside and look around. Pay attention to your body and your thoughts.

Do one thing everyday to be healthier.

Today…look up and see your world.

Health Changing with the Seasons

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I have spent a lot of time looking for skin care products and makeup that are natural, organic, and have minimal ingredients. It took a long time to find the right products for my face and body. In general, my face breaks out like a teenager. I have combination skin but a tendency to go dry and I am very sensitive to fragrances, chemicals and many other ingredients. But I didn’t take into consideration the hot and humid summers here.

Over the past winter I found a great combination of facial products from Dr Hauschka, Pai Skincare (out of UK), and Banyan Botanicals. My face was as clear as it has ever been. Then summer hit. The combination of products worked great for the cold, dry winters but not the heat and humidity.  Once I realized my skin eruptions were from using the wrong seasonal products, I made changes, and things are getting better.

When the weather is cold and dry, most of us need to moisturize and warm. This includes eating warming, grounding foods. So when the weather turns hot and humid, we may get too hot and moist and need to balance that with cooling and dry foods and products. Remember heat rises….facial eruptions and redness can be just that, too much heat.

This is a basic principle in Ayurvedic Medicine and in Chinese Medicine.  In chinese medicine, there is a balance of yin and yang in the six influences of the body. The yin attributes are cold and damp. The balancing yang attributes are wind, heat, dryness, and summer heat.  In both, health is about maintaining balance between all of these factors, just like in Ayurvedic medicine.

What did I do to change my routine for the change of season?

For my face instead of using my Ayurvedic Vata Oil(warming) by Banyan, I ordered some Pitta Oil (cooling). In the meantime, I started using sunflower oil which is a cooling oil and the bases of the Pitta Oil. My skin is starting to clear up without anymore acne meds, topical antibiotics, etc.

For your personal Ayurvedic constitution and where you are right now (how balanced or out of balance you are) check out Banyan Botanicals or speak to a local Ayurvedic practitioner who can help you.

For those of you experiences the same problems, you can try replacing (or adding to) your moisturizer with some or one of the following oils:

  • Coconut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Pitta Oil

 

Some cooling foods, which should replace those heavy, greasy, warming foods are:

  • Leafy Greens
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber
  • Mint
  • Coconut
  • Summer squash
  • Fennel
  • Cilantro
  • Aloe vera

For more information check out the two resources list below.

For more information on Ayurveda, I like “The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies” by Vasant Lad.

For more information on Chinese Medicine, I highly recommend the book “Healing With Whole Foods; Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition“.