Why You Are Resisting Accepting Your Body As It Is

“I’m willing to love and accept my body just as it is”.

This is the mantra I suggested for my coaching client, let’s call her Susie.

The silence on the other end of the phone is thick, from objections not yet spoken. I know Susie is not buying this and wants to ignore my suggestion. She would end our call right now if I gave her the option.

Susie shares with me what she’s thinking.   

It’s not true. I don’t like the way my body looks. I have a fat ass and my arms are flabby. I’m tired of not fitting into my skinny jeans. I need to lose weight.

I’ve had similar versions of the these thoughts myself. This old voice still whispers in my ear on occasion. When I catch a sideways glimpse of my belly. When a workout feels crazy hard. Or, when life doesn’t seem to be going my way and I wonder if life would be easier if I was thinner.

A few weeks earlier, Susie was so busy throughout her day that she didn’t have time to eat. Her stomach was growling and uncomfortable, but she put her deadlines first. When the early evening came, Susie was beyond hungry. She felt so panicked that she was driven to eat whatever she could get her hands on. Crackers. Cheese. Chips. Pasta and meatballs. And then a huge bowl of ice cream. Susie ate until she felt sick. When bedtime came around, Susie felt horrible. I’m disgusting, she thought.

This is what hating on our bodies looks like. And feels like.

These body hating thoughts have a big impact because they turn into action. When we don’t love our bodies, we ignore, punish, abuse, blame, judge and criticize.

As our coaching session continued, I hear Susie quietly share I’ll love my body when I’m thin.

Her body needs to earn her love. In Susie’s mind, an overweight body can’t be loved. The love of her body is conditional.

Susie flashes back to scenes growing up with her younger sister. Her thin younger sister that always got praise and attention for being so lean. Susie may have been smart and driven, but her body wasn’t as slim as her sisters. She saw the positive attention and heard the casual compliments her sister received from family, friends and boyfriends. Along the way, Susie created her own truth. She needed to be skinny to be loved and accepted.

Hating our bodies for it’s size and shape isn’t just about having poor body image, it’s also about having poor self image. The act of criticizing and judging our bodies is an act of self loathing. We hate our bodies because we don’t believe we are acceptable just as we are.

Our resistance in accepting our bodies isn’t about the claimed 5, 10 or 50 extra pounds of weight. It’s our own resistance in acknowledging our own worth. The weight is just an illusion, an excuse if you will, to understand why we feel unlovable and at times, disgusting.

After all, 5 years ago, Susie finally reached her lowest weight. She didn’t wake up each morning feeling more loved. She didn’t put her skinny jeans on feeling like she could take on the world. She felt the same dreaded feelings about herself. She wondered if all of the diet sacrifices were worth it. Her self esteem hadn’t gone go up when the number on the scale went down.

Stop chasing the fairy tale ending that you’ll love and accept yourself when you lose weight. Each time you buy into it, you are buying into the idea that your own heart and soul isn’t worthy of love.

You have a beautiful light to share with the world.  Go out and share it, with your body and your gorgeous self, just as it is.

Don't Be Tricked By the Treats; 5 Easy Steps to Not Binge or Overeat Halloween Candy

Halloween is just a few short days away. Costumes are ready, the decorations are out and the pumpkins are carved.  Did you buy some of your favorite snack sized candy bars for the little Treaters, hoping you can just enjoy one or two pieces for yourself? Or,  does having all of that Halloween candy around the house feel so stressful, like a cruel trick?

In the past, to me Halloween candy seemed like a supernatural being that possessed multiple powers. It would act like a magnet pulling me in that I couldn’t resist no matter how hard I tried. Or, it would act like burning coals and I knew if I touched it I would get burned. Or, if somehow I forgot it was there, it disguised itself into something friendly and kind.  I would be tricked me into having just one piece, that ultimately turned into two, or five, or 10 or countless more.

Halloween candy doesn’t have to have that kind of power over you. You can breeze through this upcoming holiday without the worry that those bite sized Snickers bars may get the best of you. You don’t have to go to bed on October 31st with remorse and a bloated belly.

For starters, make the choice to eat the candy when you truly want it and are actually hungry. I realize how basic this advice sounds: eat when you are hungry and eat the food you desire. However many chronic dieters do not follow these simple guidelines. A few years ago, when I looked through my daughter’s trick or treating bag, the Peanut M&M’s jumped out at me. I was hungry and they were exactly what I wanted.

Now that you made your candy choice, give the candy your full attention. Sit down. Get away from the TV and the laptop. Shut down your Facebook and Instagram. Notice the taste and the consistency and experience the whole eating process. When I was eating the Peanut M&M’s, I did notice how much I liked the crunch but not the taste. They were too sweet to me and the peanuts were tasteless.

After you had one piece, you may want a second. Check in and ask yourself some questions. Are you still hungry? Are you still enjoying the taste? Knowing you can eat this candy without guilt, how do you want to feel after you have eaten it?

If the answer is- I’m not sure (often my answer), then make a choice to leave the candy where it is for 20 minutes and go do something else. Give yourself full permission to eat another piece in 20 minutes if you still want it. This step is not about not eating the candy but about giving yourself the space to eat with intention.

After I had the Peanut M&M’s, I noticed that my belly felt bloated. Assess how your body feels, so that next time you can make a powerful and informed choice. I can choose to eat Peanut M&M’s again, but if I do, I may be choosing to not feel my best.

Changing your relationship with food is a process and a practice. Certain foods don’t need to be bad or forbidden. You can trust yourself around all foods and build confidence in yourself that you can be in charge of your own choices. Halloween candy is a great place to start.

Now, I enjoy the little ones in their costumes that come to the front door. The Halloween candy is there if I choose to have a piece or two. I don’t give it much thought or concern. You can have that same freedom, which is one amazing treat. 

Create Your Focus, Create Your Life

Years ago when I was dieting and feeling desperate to shed some extra weight, unconsciously I was choosing to disconnect from my body. I chose to follow a meal plan or to eat a predetermined number of calories instead of asking my body what it needed.

For years I floated around without any intention of what I wanted my relationship with food and my body to be. Consciously or unconsciously, our focus is on something that results in us living a certain way.

When we aren’t aware of how we are living, it is as if we are a small boat in the middle of the ocean being tossed around by each smashing wave and pulled along by the current. The small boat may stay in the middle of the ocean or it may ultimately arrive on shore. Without awareness or purpose, the boat’s destination would be haphazard and accidental. The other option is creating where we want to go, how we want to be. This is like giving that same small boat a GPS and ultimately a guide to whatever destination we choose.

Now, I create guidance for myself daily. Sometimes my intention is for my whole day and sometimes just for certain areas of my life. I keep my language simple- one or two words.  I create ease and peace around food and compassion and healing around my body. If you ask me tomorrow, my intention may change. I can recreate how I want to be based on what intuitively feels right. This guidance helps me navigate through food choices and also whether I choose to go for a run, take a bath, or go to bed early. My intentions are the foundation of all my actions.

Creating an intention is the starting point for creating the life you choose. When it comes to shifting your relationship with food and your body, you are also in the driver’s seat. Changing your relationship starts with choosing what you really want and keeping that top of mind moment to moment. This isn’t hard, but it does require effort and awareness. The beautiful thing about this process is that you can create a loving relationship with your body, peace around food, and a life you love.

Right now, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Ask yourself: What kind of relationship do I want to have with food? How do I want to view and treat my body?

Chances are, you’ve been trying to restrict what and how much you eat, and you berate yourself when you fall off the wagon. You are scared you will gain weight and worry you will never lose the weight you want. When it comes to your body, the criticism doesn’t stop. It’s now time to replace the criticism, restriction, fear and worry with how you really want to live around food and your body. You get to pick. Choose what comes to mind first. And if nothing comes to mind, love and compassion are always great places to start.  Put your energy in the right place and your actions will follow. It starts with you.


How to Recover From A Food Binge

If I were the superstitious type, I would have thought I jinxed myself. I had recently told a few people: my husband, my Naturopath, my coaching group. I said out loud, “I don’t binge eat anymore.” And then Saturday afternoon after a big shopping trip, I came home, made a plate of crackers and cheese, and pretty much ate everything on the plate. As expected, I immediately felt disgusted. And because I am now coaching women on how to listen to their bodies and change their relationships with food, I also felt like a complete fraud. If I can’t stop binging myself, how do I expect to guide others? My mind raced:

I shouldn’t be coaching women in this work. I’ll just go back to what I know.

I can’t believe I ate that whole plate of cheese and crackers. I even had gluten. Why do I make choices that will make me sick?

I have tools, I should be using them! What is wrong with me?

My belly feels so bloated. I’ll need to hide that so no one suspects.

From the outside that evening, I appeared quiet, reserved, and disconnected from my family. I probably seemed a little melancholy. I went to bed early and wrote in my journal.

This is what binges do. They absorb us into a shame cycle. They have us questioning and doubting everything about ourselves. Our body feels sick; therefore, we assume everything about us is sick too. Binges make us withdraw from the world. We don’t want to show our disgusting selves to the people we love around us. After all, they must be judging us the same way we are judging ourselves, right? This episode refreshed my memory of how destructive binges are because the binge eater withdraws, hides, and feels terrible and full of shame.

We are disconnected from our bodies when we binge and overeat. I clearly felt disconnected on Saturday afternoon and resorted to an old habitual pattern. When I woke up Sunday morning, I reminded myself that I have a choice where I focus my energy. I can beat myself up about the afternoon before, like I have in the past, or I can see my experience as an opportunity to go deeper in my own healing. I’m choosing to go deeper.

As I look back to my earlier declarations of binge eating being something of my past, I realized there was a part of me that felt being binge-free was too good to be true. I secretly worried that all of this healing and new learning would disappear. I know now this process is not a delicate one. Our practice of connecting to our body grows stronger the more we listen to it. I don’t need good luck to be aware of my body. My journey to freedom around food and body struggles may have it’s share of up and down and side trips. I’m okay with that. I’m also really okay with not being perfect. I’ll take confidence and connection over luck and crossed fingers any day of the week.

How to Eat Mindfully

I’ve made this amazing shift in how I eat most of my meals. For the most part, I no longer eating frantically, standing up, on the run, and without paying any attention to what I eat or how much of it shove in my mouth. I’ve embraced a new way that has brought me so much connection and vitality. Eating for me is now like moving through a yoga class. Now, I eat with intention. I make the choice to eat. I choose what I eat based on what I want and know will serve me well.

I give eating my full attention. I sit down and take a few deep breaths. My body relaxes. I put my cell phone away and turn my laptop and IPad off. I am here to eat.

With every bite, I spend the time to notice. With all of my attention on what I am eating, the tastes and textures are sometimes big and complex and sometimes so simple.

Like a beautifully timed child’s pose, I naturally take a few breaths in between bites. These are moments I take time to check back in and notice my body.

I naturally stop eating. Sometimes there is nothing left on my plate. Sometimes a few bites remain. My body simply says “just enough”.

Sometimes, my mind wants more and my body says stop. There may be a bit of a wrestling match. I notice that too. There is no perfect answer. With awareness, I consciously make a choice; continue to eat or stop. I practice keeping it simple.

I have finished eating, but I stay seated and invite in a few deep breaths. It’s like shavasana; a time for my body to integrate with the food I just nourished it with. These are the sweetest and most tender moments.

I spent years eating too much or not eating enough. I was lost without a diet or a set of rules to offer me the answers. Thankfully, the power of my yoga practice has opened my mind and guided me to a new way that focuses around being intentional and mindful. Eating now is an opportunity for connection instead of a process filled with uncertainty and numbing. I am so grateful for my practice. Namaste.

What Happens When You Stop Following Food Rules

This just seems like another day. A day with plans to spend time with family, squeeze in a bit of work and play outside in the newly fallen snow. I couldn’t help but to notice that it wasn’t just any other day, although it felt that way. It was the day after Thanksgiving. And this year, I’m so grateful for the freedom I was able to experience preparing our feast, enjoying it and more importantly the time spent after it was all finished. Before this year, freedom was the last way I would describe my experience of Thanksgiving. It was more about struggle, worry, guilt and shame. Thankfully this year, I gave up a few old patterns and embraced new ones. This year, I didn’t break any rules. Not because I followed all of them, but because I did not have any to break. In the past and as recent as last year, I’ve made my family dizzy with which diet I was following. They had a hard time keeping track of whether I was following a vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, dairy free, sugar free, low carb, or gluten free diet. For me, I would plan well in advance and prepare special food that I would allow myself to eat. All the while, I would be noticing not what I could eat but what I couldn’t. Or, there were years that I would be following a particular diet up until Thanksgiving, and then allow myself one day to go off it. No matter what I did, I felt guilty and my mind was preoccupied with the should and shouldn’t. This year our dinner table was filled with an abundance of beautifully prepared foods that our whole family took the time to make. I didn’t see the food as either good or bad. I simply enjoyed it.

This year, I ate and lived moment to moment. I made from scratch chocolate chip scones and spinach, feta and red pepper quiche Thanksgiving morning. It felt so indulgent to have chocolate for breakfast. The kids and Mark loved them and so did I. There were many Thanksgiving mornings that I would only allow myself fruit or maybe a green juice or smoothie with the idea that I had to eat as light as possible to prepare for the huge amount of eating that would come next. For some meals, eating only fruit or green juices could be perfect, but I would make that choice based on what would serve me best in the moment. I ate the perfect amount that morning and trusted that in my next meal I would do the same.

This year, working out was something I simply made time for. But it wasn’t my main focus. In years past, I would plan for an extra long run or an extra challenging workout Thanksgiving morning. I knew I was going to be eating a lot of calories and I needed to pay my dues so I could deserve to eat the extra serving of mash potatoes and pumpkin pie. This year, I just knew I would feel better if I moved. I went down to the basement; I got some good sweat on and finished with a headstand. It took less than 30 minutes. I was completely unconcerned with how many calories I burned or how many calories I was planning on eating.

This year, I went to bed feeling great. My belly wasn’t stuffed with food. We ate a later dinner and funny enough, decided to wait until the next day to dive into the special chocolate cheesecake that Anna made. I remember past Thanksgivings where we would finish our dinner and immediately break out the pies. I did this without any regard to whether I was hungry for them or not. As our family was preparing our meal earlier in the day, we sat down for some cauliflower soup and a few fun appetizers. Afterward, we shared a slice of pumpkin pie. It was perfect to have a small dessert before our main meal.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to share and acknowledge all of the things we are grateful for. This year, I’ve let myself out of prison. A prison that I designed myself around an obsession with food and body weight. My prison robbed me of enjoying my life fully. How could I really enjoy and be thankful for my family, friends, our health, our homes and all of the wonderful things I truly have in my life when I’m mentally and emotionally consumed with what, when and how much I’m going to eat and how long I’m going to work out? It was exhausting and I did it for a long time. This year, I let go of diets, food rules and the idea that I have to struggle with my weight. This year, I’ve deepened my practice of connecting to the wisdom of my body. I’ve held the key to letting myself out of this prison the whole time. Starting this year, Thanksgiving for me is now about freedom, gratitude, connection and celebration. I am so grateful.

The Missing Piece To Your Health

When we think of increasing our health and vitality, we might think about what we are eating, how much sleep or sex we are having, the workout that we said we were going to start and really stick to, or planning a spectacular vacation. But there is one important component that we may not even realize we have or that is missing from our life. Do we see ourselves as part of group where we feel a connection is the foundation to our wellbeing and living a fulfilled life? Ann in boat

Oxford Dictionary defines community as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals”. According to Oxford, to be part of a community, one does not have to sign a legal contract, live in a certain place, or formally be part of a specific group of people. Oxford implies that community lies in the experience of the person defining their community. Community is in the eyes of the beholder.

When Seacoast Power Yoga celebrated its 3rd year anniversary, over 50 of us gathered to mark the milestone with lots of laughter, sweat and gratitude. Although each of us have different experiences of our community, by showing up to celebrate, everyone was offering themselves and giving themselves at the same time. Many students have shared with me personally; the community of Seacoast Power Yoga has made their lives better. And in my view, it’s because each of them chose to be a part of it.

Here are a few reasons why communities make such a big difference in our lives:

~Community gives people a place to belong. Whether you are 12, 25 or 83, people want to be a part of something. Not everyone has a job they love. Not everyone has a family life that is full of nourishment and connection. A community can be a place where you share something in common or work toward a common goal. Or it can be something that you are just a part of because of where you live or some place you go regularly. I’ve stopped by our Newfields General Store early in the morning and there is a group of men that get their coffee every morning standing around chatting. Community can be both formal and informal.

~Community supports the human connection. People need to be seen and heard in real time. The complexity of our lives is increasing and when our phone calls or lunch dates with friends have been replaced with texts, Instagram comments and Facebook messages, getting in the same room with other people is more important than ever.

~Community supports courage. This may be a sweeping assumption, but taking risks are something that many of us don’t take lightly. Having a community in our corner cheering us on or knowing they will be there if we stumble can make the difference between taking a leap or staying where we are. It’s like jumping off a cliff with a safety net.

~Community offers love and support. After my shoulder surgery, friends and neighbors brought us homemade dinners for a week. It was such so nice and the kids absolutely loved it. People were thinking of us and doing what they could to make things better. My husband and I have also pulled together some meals for friends that could use the break from cooking to focus on their health and healing. It feels great to receive the support and it also feels great to offer the support.

The afternoon of the yoga studio’s anniversary celebration, I flew to Colorado to attend a yoga conference with 400 other yogis with my teacher, Baron Baptiste. I met up with and hung out with old friends but I also made many new ones. I didn’t just show up, I put myself out there and made a point to connect. It was 3 days of fun and I was so filled up by the whole experience. The Baptiste community is always there, but I made the conscious choice to be part of it. I chose to invest in the community and in turn invest in myself.

Communities are like gardens. The more care and attention the garden is given, the more it offers in beauty and bounty. Look around and see the communities that you are already a part of. Make that conscious choice to not only see the community as yours but also to nurture it. Your life will be all the better for it.


New Girl, New Habit

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I have a confession to make.  It may make you laugh. My family thinks it’s hysterical. Over the past 2 ½ weeks, I’ve been obsessed with the TV show “New Girl”. I sat down to watch the pilot on Netflix and after a few shorts weeks, I’m already in the middle of Season 3. I’ve been watching the show religiously every night, averaging about 2.5 shows an evening. This is a big change for me as I typically only watch TV  a few times week. But now, I sit down to watch it with a glass of red wine or a cup of tea (depending on the night), curl up on the couch and let myself be thoroughly and mindlessly entertained. A habit is supposedly formed by consistently doing the same thing every day for 28, 30, or even 40 days (depending on who you ask and where you look). So you may not call my "New Girl" routine a habit just yet, but it did get me thinking about habits and how some habits can be so easily formed and some habits can be so hard to break.

People spend a good deal of time and money trying to create positive habits and to break negative ones. They often look at the action of the habit itself, for example, smoking, running every morning, or flossing before bedtime. But there are a few other pieces to the habit puzzle that are more critical than the action itself. A habit also includes the desire we crave before we move into action and the outcome that immediately follows. Take my “New Girl” routine. It started with me looking for relaxation, which is the desire I craved. While I watched the first 4 episodes of Season 1, I laughed, gave my mind and body a break sitting on the couch and afterward felt renewed. Immediately, my mind drew the connection. Desire to relax > "New Girl"> Feel Better. It didn’t take more than a few days for me to realize that when I wanted to feel better; I sat to watch "New Girl".

One habit that I’m familiar with is around binge eating, as it started for me in my early teens. At the time, food was the only coping mechanism I knew to help me deal with overwhelming feelings.  Even though I wasn't aware of it at the time, my desire was to not feel the intensity of my sadness, frustration, anxiety or anger. When I stuffed myself with food (maybe girl-scout cookies or M&M’s) I went numb and didn’t feel anything. The outcome of my binge eating habit was to take away the immediate discomfort (even though it was fleeting and ultimately I felt worse). This habit continued over the years by eating uncontrollably in response to stress, overwhelm or anything else that I wanted an escape from. I would try desperately to change this habit by trying to stop binge eating, like it was the cause and effect of my problems. The more I fought with the binge eating, the more energy I was giving to the one thing I desperately wanted to change. I realized, with mindfulness, awareness and compassion that acknowledging and not reacting to the the emotion was at the heart of dismantling this habit. It was then that I began to replace binge eating with a more loving habit.

Here is the thing. We make our habits and then our habits make us. The action of the habit can define us if we let it. We start to smoke and we become a smoker. We train for our first 5k and we become a runner. We stop eating meat and become a vegetarian. Look at your habits carefully; are they reflecting who you want to be and how you want to live? If not, look at the desire and the outcome of the habit itself.  Is watching "New Girl" every night a reflection of how I want to live? Maybe not. But let me put it another way, is relaxing and laughing every evening how I want to live? Absolutely.


The Key

A short while back, I was driving to Seacoast Power Yoga and this thought popped into my head- if I had a month to live, what would I change about how I was living? Yeah, there is a good chance that one of those American Idol winners or some country music singer was on the radio at the time singing about living life to the fullest. But for some reason, this thought hit home and something immediately came to mind.  I would change all of the negative mind share I was giving to my body and the food I ate. This was weighing me down like a ball and chain and enough was enough. Sure, I’ve come a long way with this stuff. I had become a much more mindful eater, I had approached my body in a much more loving way, and exercise became much more fun and less about burning calories. But something continued to linger and I realized that I didn’t want to give it any more negative thought or concern. A few weeks later, I took, what may seem to some as, a radical step. I decided to just drink liquids for 10 days. I gathered up a couple of friends to have as partners in crime and we jumped into drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, and herbal teas on the “Get Juicy” cleanse. On the first day of this cleanse, I wrote down all of the limiting beliefs I had around food, my body, and my life.  The light went on!  I saw right there on the piece of paper in front of me what was weighing me down- the beliefs I had about myself.  And those beliefs; what I do or do not deserve in life, what kind of life was possible for me, what my body could be like, were all just thoughts that I chose to believe.

That one question in the car ride created a really powerful change for me. I’m now physically and mentally lighter. I’m so grateful that I decided to not waste another day feeling weighed down. I don’t have to go skydiving or ride a bull to feel like I’m really living my life. I just had to unlock that ball and chain from around my ankle. Funny enough, I had the key the whole time.