Lose the Weight of Limiting Beliefs

As a Behavior Change Coach who focuses on health and fitness, I’m trained to help my clients work through their resistance to change, but it’s not easy.  Like pulling weeds, unearthing all the debris in a person’s mind–clutter getting in the way of realizing one’s deepest desires.–takes time, effort and a lot of grace.

I remember working with one client who came across as uninterested in working with me despite initiating the relationship.  Her goal in working with me was to lose weight without sabotaging her results, which was her pattern.  But during our meetings, she’d answer questions with one-word responses while checking her phone. It was hard not to personalize her seeming disinterest.  At times, I was so discouraged I wanted to give her a refund and end the relationship, but I endured.

One day while sitting with this client, a “knowingness” washed over me and I was suddenly filled with the understanding that she was abused as a child (Intuitives and Empaths know exactly what I’m referring to).

With hesitation, I asked if she was ever abused.  I worried that my question was inappropriate and irrelevant, but she said, “Yes.”  Her childhood was laden with traumatic experiences which caused her to feel vulnerable and fearful.  We explored how those experiences were influencing her attitude towards her body.  Eventually she admitted she was afraid to “let the weight go” because in her mind it was protection.

When it comes to obesity, there’s a tendency to focus on one’s habits rather than on the beliefs, attitudes, fears, and familial/cultural pressures at the root of it.  We prune the leaves without uprooting the weeds.  Like weeds, irrational beliefs suffocate our desires, keeping us locked in cycles of self-sabotage.    As was the case with my client, the idea that the excess fat on her body could  protect her was irrational; but it was true for her—so true that it controlled her decisions without her awareness.

Forcing ourselves to make a change despite feeling unmotivated is necessary at times; however, “force of will” alone is not a long-term solution for people struggling to make any change.  Our subconscious works like an ocean’s undercurrent, undulating uncontrollably, hurling us in different directions.  Confronting those overpowering psychological forces requires looking beyond the surface of consciousness, diving within to explore our internal programming.  This is a more valuable approach than imposing changes on ourselves that we aren’t emotionally/mentally prepared to make or sustain.  Enforcing a lifestyle we’re not ready for is like running with extra weight strapped to our back: how far will we get?  Wouldn’t we run farther, faster, if we released that burden altogether?

Mixed race woman holding out cupped hands

Tony Robbins said, “People are not lazy.  They simply have impotent goals.”  Nothing deflates our goals like limiting beliefs.  The solution to feeling unmotivated isn’t imposing seemingly worthy goals on ourselves, but challenging our outdated beliefs.  They linger like monsters under the bed, only for us to turn on the light and find nothing there except old pairs of shoes and broken toys.  What old and broken things are you holding onto?  Let the first few pounds of weight you release be the heaviness of beliefs which are no longer useful.

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5 Tips for Better Skin

Lately, I find myself receiving compliments about my skin.  At first this surprised me because my skin is prone to hormonal acne, cystic acne, dryness, and hyper-pigmentation.

Over the years I’ve learned how to care for my skin and minimize these problems.  While the recent compliments about my skin have been surprising (at first I thought people were being shady…), their words of praise forced me to give myself some credit for the consistent practices which have greatly improved my skin’s condition.  Again, my skin isn’t flawless, but it’s now clear enough for me to feel comfortable leaving the house completely bare-faced on occasion–something I would have NEVER done 2-3 years ago.

These are the steps I have implemented to address MY specific skin problems.  This is not meant to be prescriptive, so take these tips with a grain of salt and do what works for you.  You’ll notice these are preventative measures used to preserve the skin’s health and prevent adverse reactions.  If you have an active, severe skin condition, try to see a dermatologist.  I went to a dermatologist over 2 years ago and learned a lot of what I’m sharing here.  While she did prescribe medications for my face which helped to treat active skin problems I had at the time, using these measures has helped to MAINTAIN the results I attained from using prescribed skin creams.  I haven’t used any medications to treat my skin in 2 years.

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Tip No. 1: Cleanse

Choose the right cleanser: Find a cleanser that is designed to address your skin’s condition.  If you have sensitive skin, use a cleanser for sensitive skin.  If you have oily or dry skin, find a cleanser that addresses those issues.  If you have sensitive skin and decide to use a cleanser that is too abrasive, it can create cracks and cuts in your skin where dirt, dead skin, makeup and facial oils can get trapped, causing breakouts.  Dry skin types would do well with creamy, hydrating cleansers, whereas oily skin types need a cleanser that has a more drying effect on the skin.

I avoid using electronic cleansing brushes because I learned that they can embed dirt and makeup into your skin and cause breakouts.  I think this is due to my skin type and the size of my pores.  I also wasn’t using the proper brush head for my skin.  People with closed pores would probably benefit from electronic cleansing brushes.  I could probably use them with a brush head designed for sensitive skin, but eh.  I do like using silicone cleansing pads.   I avoid using sponges and cloths because they collect bacteria.

Cleanse at least 2x daily: This was a hard habit to establish at first, but now I must wash my face before I go to sleep or I feel gross.  The reasons for why you should wash your face at night are self-explanatory.  Most of us know we should wash our faces at night, but we can be lazy about it.  At first I started using wipes to clean the makeup off of my face.  This doesn’t count as cleansing, but it was a step in the right direction.  After a while, the cleansing wipes alone were not enough.  I wanted my skin to feel fresh and clean, so I began to wash my face after using the cleansing wipes, and it has made a tremendous difference in my skin.  I also aim to clean my face before and after workouts or engaging in any activity that causes me to sweat.

Deep clean: I use muds and masks to draw out dirt and impurities buried deep in my skin.  Every other day seems to work for me.  I do not like the deep cleaning techniques used during some facials at certain spas.  Extractions cause me to break out and popping my own pimples causes scarring.  I’m sure this is due to my skin type.  Speaking of which, avoid discount facials.  It’s worth spending money on an Esthetician who knows how to work with your skin.

Tip No. 2: Exfoliate

Getting into the habit of cleansing my face every morning and night improved my skin greatly, but it didn’t address blackheads/whiteheads.  Exfoliating removes dead skin cells from your face, preventing them from clogging your pores.  I believe it also speeds the healing of dark spots and brightens your skin.  Exfoliate at least 1x a day using a gentle scrub.  Use circular motions, always moving the fingers in an upwards direction.

There are some gentle peels on the market which are also helpful at removing dead skin from your face.  Depending on the type of skin you have, you can use a peel every other day or 1-2x a week.  There are products out there which can be used daily, but I like to start out using them every other day to gauge my skin’s reaction to the product.

Tip No. 3: Tone

I use a toner like witch hazel after washing/exfoliating to remove any remaining dirt or makeup from my face.  Toners also help to minimize/close pores.  Speaking of closing pores, I splash cold water on my face to seal my pores after I have cleansed and toned.

Tip No. 4: Moisturize/Hydrate

I have dry, sensitive skin.  Keeping my skin moist and supple prevents cracks and cuts, where dirt and makeup would ordinarily get trapped inside and cause a breakout.  Also, excessively dry skin can create an overproduction of sebum (skin oil), which is also responsible for breakouts.  I moisturize 2x a day.  In the morning I apply a facial moisturizer with sunscreen (SPF 35).  Exposure to the sun has been shown to cause sun spots and rapid aging, and I’m trying to preserve my skin’s youthfulness!  In the evening I use a myriad of moisturizers depending on my mood and what free samples I got in my Ipsy bag.  🙂   Find a moisturizer that fits your skin type.  If you have oily skin, you would want to avoid greasy moisturizers.

Also, drink lots of water.  LOTS OF IT.  The magical ingredient found in the fountain of youth is plain old water.

Tip No. 5: Stress Reduction

Stress definitely contributes to breakouts.  This is especially true for women around our periods.  During PMS, estrogen reaches an all-time low, and an androgen known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) surges.  Stress contributes to a rise in this androgenic hormone, which is also responsible for sebum (skin oil) production.  Excess sebum is at the root of the PMS breakouts we’ve all grown to dread every month.  Ugh.

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I’ve found that active stress management techniques like incorporating daily mindfulness practices into my schedule (e.g. meditation), and being committed to Emotional Self-Care has greatly reduced stress levels and nearly eradicated my PMDD symptoms, which were insomnia, uncontrollable hunger, severe mood swings, suicidal thoughts, and breakouts.  Yes, suicidal thoughts were a common part of my experience with PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), so I understand how grave the condition can be.  I am in no way minimizing the symptoms of PMS/PMDD or advising that women should simply “chill out” and namaste their symptoms away.  But I do know that taking a proactive approach to ensuring my well-being (mind-body-and soul) has greatly improved my overall quality of life as well as my skin. I still have normal PMS symptoms, but they are moderate at worst and nowhere near as debilitating as they used to be.  (I will post about my PMS self-care regimen soon).

My self-care approach involves developing coping strategies for stressful situations, honoring my boundaries (saying NO and sticking to it), and putting my well-being first NO MATTER WHAT.  The amount of stress I am under has not decreased, but my ability to cope with stress, deprioritize other folks’ drama while prioritizing peace, joy, and my sanity has greatly improved.  The less stressed I am, the clearer my skin.

Speaking of Emotional Self-Care, this is a topic I talk about extensively with my clients, especially because it is how I have managed to overcome a debilitating mood disorder and deactivate the schemas at the root of my depression and anxiety.  I plan to do a Vlog about this topic very soon, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, what are some of your favorite skin care tips or products?

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Lifting the Weight

Back in June of 2016, I had the privilege of being featured on one of my FAVORITE live radio shows, the “Keeping It BEAUTY Show,” hosted by Akilah C. Thompson.  Akilah, founder of I Am BEAUTY, Inc.  is a trained life coach whose “[…] mission is to empower and inspire girls and women to be BEAUTY. I am B.E.A.U.T.Y. aims to build self-esteem by helping participants love who they are, believe in the leader they can become and equip them with the tools needed to accomplish their dreams.“

 

As you can see from the above quote, Akilah inspires women of nearly all age groups to embody BEAUTY in all areas of our lives, not just appearance.  She herself is a striking model of beauty and is always striving for excellence.  It was a great honor to be featured on her show.

During the show, we talked about lifting the weight of depression, disordered eating, obesity, body image issues, and struggling to find acceptance with who and where you are in this moment.

Check it out here and let me know what you think!

Oh, and make sure you check out the other episodes!  xoxo

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When the Personal Trainer Needs to Get in Shape

As it stands right now, when I weigh myself, the digits on my scale’s digital display show a number somewhere in the 180’s—still down 80 pounds from my heaviest; however, 30 pounds heavier than when I was my leanest and fittest.  And while the scale doesn’t accurately account for body composition and muscle mass, I’m still considered overweight—even obese by medical standards.

13 years ago, I embarked on a journey to a healthier me and lost over 100 pounds through diet and exercise.  2 years ago, I was in the best shape of my life, lifting weights 6 days and doing 5 hours of cardio a week, preparing for a body building competition.

And then I stopped.

I couldn’t bring myself to touch a weight.  Even a 5 pound dumbbell felt too heavy.  I was lucky if I could bring myself to run once a week.  It was the burden of a major depressive episode, weighing me way, way, way down.  It was hard enough lifting my body out of bed every day, let alone picking up a barbell.  The hardest part about it was feeling like I had no one to turn to, and no one who would understand.  I was the person everyone looked to for motivation, and yet I could barely motivate myself to leave my bedroom.  Curled up in a tight ball on my bed, I asked myself, “Who could possibly understand this?  They won’t.  They’ll tell me I am letting everyone down, including myself.  They’ll be mad at me and tell me I need to find some way to get past this.”  I was spiraling in a state of helplessness and despair.  “No one will understand how hard it is to move right now.”

The depression lasted a year and a half.  During that time, I had periods of minor relief, thanks to the antidepressant I began taking.  But I mistakenly tried to jump back into my old routine instead of approaching exercise progressively, and I hurt myself.  I knew better, but I was desperately trying to make up for lost time, especially as a Certified Personal Trainer & Behavior Change Specialist with active clients.  After a sprained ankle, tendinitis in both knees, an elbow sprain, and a strained forearm—each injury taking months to heal—I was forced to sit my eager ass down and try something different: radical acceptance.

Radical acceptance is the practice of making peace with what is in each moment.  It is a mindfulness practice, involving an intentional and intense focus on the present, and only the present moment.  It is an abandonment of the past, and complete detachment from the future.  To cultivate this ability, I began meditating and practicing yoga.  As I continued to strengthen my spirit and my mind, the depression left me.  I stopped taking medication, and found a renewed sense of inspiration.

Now I incorporate this practice with the clients I work with, but I face an uphill battle.  The concept of acceptance is counter-intuitive, especially in our cultural fanaticism over physical “perfection” and the unrealistic ideal of having not one inch of fat to pinch anywhere on your body, ever.  But I offer that true transformation must first begin with acceptance.  Approaching our goals from a place of self-love and worthiness makes the process of transformation rewarding.  Exercise becomes a “get to” instead of a “have to,” and healthy eating becomes an empowered choice instead of a chore, or punishment for being fat.

Now that I’m renewed of mind, body, and spirit, I am setting new goals, and making moderate yet progressive changes to my diet and exercise regimen.  I don’t expect, nor do I want to yield fast results.  I’d rather employ and fortify the longterm lifestyle strategies which have allowed me to stay on the opposite end of “200 pounds” for over 13 years.  I know that I will reach my goals in due time.

But I have to be honest about something.  Despite my recent invigoration in the gym, I struggle with an element of shame.  I am self-conscious about rolls of back fat now protruding from my t-shirts, the bra bulge around my overly tight sports bras, and the size of my thighs.  But in those moments of judgement and shame I revert to gratitude—for all that I have overcome, for all that I am, for my body’s resilience, muscle memory, my sexy shape, and my ability to keep going and honor my 100% even when at one point in time, that 100% was my warm-up.

What matters is that I am my own voice of encouragement, shouting, “You are doing such a good job, Tam,” over all the other judgmental voices in my head.  And I think, as it relates to my ability to motivate others, it is better for people to connect to my humanity versus a perfect body.  A flawless figure is beautiful, but so is an imperfectly perfect body, doing the work.  What matters to my clients is not that I am perfect, but that I show them what it looks like, enduring in spite of obstacles and setbacks.  I think it’s my courage and willingness to be authentic about my own fallibility, (and how it doesn’t detract from my worthiness as a human being), that will touch, move, and inspire the world to get moving and be their best selves while embracing their own frailties and imperfections.

Because perfection is an illusion.  And our bodies are just tools we use to interface with this physical reality…the larger part of who we are is much, much greater.

 

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Fitness: One Size Fits All

In 2015 I put together a #Fitspiration photo shoot.  The idea was to broaden our perception of fitness, showcasing women of different racial backgrounds, sizes, shapes, fitness levels, and attitudes about what fitness means to them.

 

Many of us have an extreme, singular concept of what fitness is. We limit our idea of what it means to be in-shape to aesthetic flawlessness (i.e. not one inch of fat to pinch). This image perpetuates unrealistic expectations of what it means to be healthy, and alienates people who are looking to become fit.  People who struggle with obesity or lead extraordinarily sedentary lifestyles feel especially helpless.

I admire body builders, athletes, and fitness models.  I know firsthand the work ethic it takes to achieve the outstanding results we see in fitness magazines.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for people who model exemplary standards of fitness.  But there’s a bit of a gap between the Career Couch Potato, and the Former High School Track Star who can’t imagine NOT running 6 days a week.  There’s also a wide bridge between constant binge/emotional eating, and eating boiled egg whites with unsweetened oatmeal for breakfast every day.  Granted, it is a bridge which can be crossed (I’ve crossed it), but only through a series of steps, not leaps and bounds.

 

Fitness, in a technical sense, is characterized by muscular strength, cardio respiratory endurance, joint flexibility/range of motion, and an optimal body fat percentage (<31% for women and <24% men) . However, fitness as it relates to us on an individual level has various meanings and degrees of importance. For people who suffer from depression, exercise improves their mood and self-esteem. For dancers, movement is about self-expression, freedom, and joy. Some people value their exercise regimen because it allows them to focus on themselves, clear their thoughts, and connect to their bodies in a way we often don’t in our everyday lives.  So there is a psycho-emotional benefit to exercise and eating well which can far outweigh the benefits of having 6 pack abs.

 

Another misconception around fitness involves its execution.  When we think of what it takes to be fit, we picture ourselves running or lifting weights.  I personally enjoy running and lifting weights; however, there was a time when walking was a laborious task.  How did I get from barely being able to walk 5 NYC blocks to running 7 miles?  The key has not only been moderation and progression, but also finding innovative ways of moving my body and making the experience rewarding. NEWSFLASH: Exercise can feel rewarding!  It does not always have to be excrutiating.

Some people associate exercise with fierce physical intensity, but I lost my first 50 pounds dancing to my favorite music playlist for 20 minutes a day.  I was working up a sweat and enjoying every moment of it.  If we didn’t worry so much about the elitists who caution, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,” we could stop trying to do what we think we’re supposed to do in the gym and discover a form of exercise we love.  Humans we are motivated by rewarding experiences. For the seasoned gym rat, the reward is in the challenge itself; however, for the beginner, the reward can be as small is showing up to class.  The challenge of intense exercise is a deterrent for newbies and is the reason for a 50% drop-out rate from new exercise programs.

I have witnessed some of the nastiest judgments aimed at people who go to the gym regularly yet still don’t “look” fit–as if their efforts are a waste of time.  I find this mentality to be extremely elitist and exclusionary.  What if the people who don’t meet your standards of fitness are actually happy with their bodies, and simply happy to be moving?  This is the prevailing mindset among some fitness enthusiasts who, instead of inspiring others, wind up alienating and intimidating them.  It’s the reason people who are overweight are terrified of going to the gym and either being judged, or worse yet, patronized: “Oh, look at that fat person working out.  How good for them!”  Both approaches can be humiliating.

 

This mentality plagued me, and for years exercise was a tool I used to punish myself for having an imperfect body.  I used it to try to fix what was broken.  Instead of focusing on the healthfulness of foods, I grouped them into two categories: foods that threatened my ability to keep the weight off, and foods that helped me stay slim.  I lived in fear of ruining my progress.

This was not how I began my journey.  Exercise and eating well was a meaningful and joyful experience.  But as I began to put my story out there, I faced a lot of criticism from people who told me I didn’t have the body of a fitness professional.  I heard a lot of unsolicited comments and tips on how to “tighten that up” or “get rid of this or that.”  I allowed these comments to strip my hard work of its beauty, pride, and triumph.  I veered from my joyful approach to health and wellness and became perpetually dissatisfied with myself.

Luckily I’ve done the work to transcend such a limiting mindset; however, I know a lot of people who work out religiously and adhere to stringent diets at the expense of happiness.  They’re driven by feelings like shame and fear.  It is an unbalanced view of health– it is unhealthy.

Fitness begins in the mind. A healthy mindset is unlimited in its capacity to inspire change. When the mind and the body are working together harmoniously, it doesn’t matter where you are on your fitness journey, it will feel good. This rewarding feeling is accessible to all of us regardless of where we stand on the path to fitness. It is for everyone.

What does fitness mean to you?

 

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Loving Your Body “As Is.”

Pssst…

In case you didn’t know,

Your body is already in perfect condition.

Many of us are looking to make changes in our bodies, either through fat loss, muscle gain, or cosmetic surgery.   For the majority of us, these changes stem from a belief system built on not feeling good enough.  We attempt to make changes from a mindset of, “I’ll be good enough when I lose this weight/have this procedure done.”  The “not good enough” narrative is rampant in our society, and it shows up in statements like, “I’m not small enough.  My booty isn’t big enough.  My breasts are not lifted high enough.  My stomach is not flat enough.”  The underlying belief is, “I AM NOT ENOUGH.”

Now imagine trying to accomplish anything in life with this mindset: how successful do you expect to be at any of your goals if deep down inside, you believe you aren’t “enough” to begin with?  Can you really excel in school if you don’t feel smart enough?  That belief is not in alignment with your goals.  If you’re insecure about your ability to do well, the likelihood that you’ll do well is very small.  Well, the same applies to body transformation.  This idea that you aren’t good enough does NOT, I repeat, DOES NOT GO AWAY once you have reached your goals, because the root cause of not feeling good enough runs much deeper than you can imagine.

Many of us are taught to believe that change can only be inspired by situations you aren’t happy with.  But I’m here to tell you that there’s ANOTHER source of inspiration you can tap into.  Instead of focusing on what you “don’t want,” start focusing on what you DO want.  And focus on it from a place of love and acceptance for who you are right now, in this moment.

For many of you, acceptance is difficult because that “not good enough” script replaying over and over in your head began very early.  My challenge to you is to take out a pen and paper (or a journal), and do the following exercise to start the process of healing:

  1. Ask yourself, “When did I first start to see myself as not good enough?  What was the experience or comment that triggered that belief about myself?”  Write it down.
  2. Now ask yourself, “If I could build a time machine and catch myself in that exact moment when I began to feel like I wasn’t good enough, what would I say to my younger self?  What words would I use to encourage myself as a child?”  Write that down.
  3. Now look at the words of encouragement you used to encourage your child-self. How did it make you feel to stand up for yourself in such a loving way?  In the same way you stood up for your inner child, you can stand up against those old beliefs and for yourself NOW.  Repeat those encouraging words to yourself over and over again.  Say them in front of a mirror.

Try this exercise and let me know what opened up for you, or if you have any questions about the process.  I’d love to hear from you!  Email me at tamara@mybodymyvision.com.

 

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6 Steps to Getting Back In Shape

What’s more discouraging than looking in the mirror and realizing you’re a mere shell of what you once were?  What happens when the flat stomach you used to have is conveniently hidden behind a thick layer of flab?  What do you do when your favorite pair of jeans suddenly doesn’t close, or even worse, only goes halfway up your thighs?

Well, if you’re like me, you immediately attempt to jump back into the rigorous exercise and diet regimen you used to follow.  You know, the eating and exercise plan you were on when you were at your fittest.  Working out 5-6 days a week, sometimes twice a day, and prepping all your meals for the week on Sunday evening.  Yeah, that plan.  Only this time around, you find yourself hitting a wall.  What used to be, “Woohoo, that workout was great,” now feels like “Holy shit this is fucking HARD!”  And that ½ cup of unsweetened oatmeal and 4 boiled egg whites you used to eat with a smile on your face because “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” now tastes like puke and broken dreams.’

Now what?

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been there before.  And if you’re anything like me, you’ve been there more than once.

Over 12 years ago, weighing a little more than 1/10th of a ton, I decided I didn’t want to be obese anymore.  Over the course of 2 years I dropped nearly half my weight in body fat.  THE END!  Oh wait, no, that wasn’t the end.  What I thought should have been a happy ending to a beautiful story was only the beginning of what I now know is a lifelong journey filled with many ups and downs.

For the most part, I have kept the weight off.  My body has gone through numerous transitions and transformations as my workouts have progressed alongside my fitness level.  I’ve gotten stronger and faster over the years.  But there were 2 periods of time where I began to regain weight after the initial weight loss, and both of those incidences happened alongside major depressive episodes.

After having been hospitalized 4 times in one year, I was diagnosed with a mood disorder when I was 17.  I had suffered from depression ever since I can remember due to a tumultuous childhood.  My obesity was directly linked to this.  Part of treating my obesity has been treating my mental disorder.  I had to deal with what was happening on the inside before I could change what was happening on the outside.  Obesity was not the problem, but a side effect of the real issue.

I’ve done very well managing my depressive episodes as an adult.  I have not been hospitalized since my teenage years.  But there were 2 periods in my life where extenuating circumstances led to very deep depressions.  If you know anything about depression, you know it is physical as well as psychological.  When you are depressed, you are actually sick.  Depression manifests in me physically as severe fatigue.  There are days, and there have been weeks, where I could not bring myself to get out of bed.  Even the most basic tasks seem excruciatingly difficult.  Counting calories and weighing food goes out of the window when you can barely manage to tie your shoes.

The first time I was hit with a major depressive episode as an adult, I quickly gained 40 lbs.  I re-started therapy and began taking a natural anti-depressant.  As I got better, my energy returned and I was back to my normal, fit self in no time.  It took a couple months to lose those 40 lbs and I was good for another several years.

The second time around, I was able to identify the symptoms of depression sooner and begin treatment earlier.  As a result of being more diligent about taking care of my mental health, I only gained about 20 lbs.  I did a lot better this time around.  The depression lasted about a year.  In that time, I had moments when I felt I could workout, and I did.  But my heart was heavy—too heavy to lift weights (which was my primary form of exercise for years).  During this time, I turned to running and yoga.  I was gracious with myself.  Some weeks I could run 4 days.  Other weeks I could only manage 1 run or 1 yoga workout.  I honored my efforts either way.  My 100% looked different each week, and I high-fived myself for whatever I managed to accomplish.

I was also mindful about my food choices.  I abandoned the previously rigorous eating regimen I had adhered to, and ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full.  Of course I was eating more and working out less, and with that came a lowered metabolism and a 20 lbs weight increase.  Some people would impale themselves if they gained 20 lbs.  But I know how to give myself grace for being sick.  I’m actually very proud of myself and how I handled it this time around.

So now that I’m doing so much better and I have the physical energy to execise again, I am increasing my workouts and adding some rigor to my eating habits.  But it hasn’t been easy.  I wanted to jump right back into where I left off when I was my fittest, but I’m just not as strong as I used to be, and that’s okay!

Finally!  Here are the 6 steps I am taking to getting back in shape:

  1. Drop the ego.

    This is tough for those of us whose identities are founded on how fit and athletic we are. I get it.  But let it go.  Let go of what you used to be able to do.  Don’t compare your current body to the former body.  Acknowledge and honor who you are IN THIS MOMENT.Instead of looking at it from the angle of needing to get back to where you used to be, see it as an opportunity to build upon a blank slate, establishing a new and stronger foundation.  Strengthen those fundamentals we sometimes get in the habit of overlooking when we are super active.  Focus on those warm ups and those stretches.  Master your form, which often gets sloppy when we think we know what we’re doing already.  What will happen is you will create a stronger foundation for surpassing your former personal bests.

  2. Ease into it.

    One of the biggest mistakes we make when starting over is thinking we can make up for lost time by doing too much, too soon. We cram too many expectations and goals in a short amount of time thinking we can magically get back to where we were when we got derailed.   As I mentioned before, your 100% probably looks a lot different now versus what it used to be, and that’s okay.  Honor it.  Thinking you can jump back into what you were doing before can backfire.  Injuries and feelings of discouragement & disappointment are some of the consequences of trying to pick up where you left off.  Ease into it and give your 100% based on your CURRENT capabilities.

  3. Be patient.

    Often we want to see results ASAP. Sometimes our minds are way ahead of our bodies.  We may want to run 10 miles because it used to be a piece of cake, but as of right now, you can barely run 3 before wanting to pass out.  Suspend judgement!  Be patient with your body.  Allow it to adjust and acclimate to your regimen.Remember that it probably won’t take too long to get to where you want to be due to muscle memory.  Your body wants to do what it used to do, just give it the appropriate time it needs to get there.  Patience, grasshopper!

  4. Seek support.

    If you’re like me, you’re a lone wolf who prefers doing things alone. You’re independent and don’t like to be micro-managed.  AND you’re a know-it-all who hates unsolicited advice.   You’ve done this before so you know what you’re doing and you don’t think you need support.  But the reality is, we all need support, no matter how subtle.I used to have a very high level of self-accountability, but if I’m honest with myself, I’m not quite there yet, so I ask my friends to support me by holding me accountable to what I say I’m going to do.  I also take classes to support me in pushing harder than I would if I were working out on my own.  I didn’t used to need a push, but right now I do, and that’s okay.  There’s nothing wrong with requesting the support you need.  It doesn’t mean you’re less of a person, it means you’re human.

  5. Be gracious.

    The desire to curse yourself out for only being able to do 5 pushups when you used to do 40+ consecutively is quite high. Well, for me it is.  We have a tendency to beat ourselves up when we realize we are weaker or slower than we used to be.  But how is that productive?  Well, it’s not.  If anything, it’s counterintuitive and it is going to KILL your motivation.Be your biggest cheerleader.  Life throws so many obstacles at us, why create another one with your harsh criticisms and self-inflicted beatings?

  6. Forgive.

    Lastly, forgiveness is the final, yet most important step of all. Forgive yourself for whatever caused you to get off track.  Forgiveness by definition means you are completely giving up your “desire or power to punish,” and in this instance, we are giving up our desire to punish ourselves.

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I Remember When I Learned to Hate My Body

I was 11 years old.  My brother and I were visiting family members in Puerto Rico for the summer.  I was so excited to spend time with my grandparents, who I hadn’t seen in years.  They lovingly greeted us at baggage claim and escorted us to their car.

My hair was curly and cut very short.  My mother had decided to cut it off after my third case of head lice.  I was very self-conscious about being mistaken for a boy, which had happened on several occasions.  I didn’t want to look like a boy in front of my grandmother, who I always thought was one of the most beautiful women in the world.  So I wore my prettiest floral dress.  It came to just above my knees.  It had a collar and had to be buttoned from top to bottom.  It was a little snug, especially around the chest and hip area, but it was still my favorite thing to wear.  No one could mistake me for a boy in it.

My grandmother was very loving and affectionate when she first saw me, and we chatted cheerfully on our way to the car.  We sat in the backseat together, and the “men” (my brother who was only 14, and my grandfather) sat up front.  While seated, my dress rose and exposed my thighs, which were always thick.  My grandmother noticed and took a long hard look at my legs.  After a while she looked up at me and told me I was overweight.  I shook my head no.  I had never been told I was overweight and was in disbelief at her assessment.  She said she could tell by pinching the fat above my knees.  She said I was not supposed to be able to pinch anything but skin.  I pinched the meat above my knees attempting to prove her wrong, but to my dismay, I grabbed a pretty big chunk of thigh.  She said, “You see?”  She told me that I would have to start dieting.  My heart sank.

I was probably somewhere between 4’9” – 5’ tall, and I weighed 120 pounds.  I had very thick thighs, but looking back at pictures I took at the time, I was nowhere near overweight.  In hindsight, I realize my grandmother was concerned about how fast I was developing.  I had a woman’s shape already at the age of 11.  I guess she felt the solution to me developing so early would be for me to get skinny.

All summer, my grandmother attempted to get me to eat less.  She criticized my portions and my desire to have seconds.  If I wanted a snack between meals I was forced to wait and drink water.  I was encouraged to go outside with my brother and play basketball with him so that I could be more active, but I preferred to sit in my room all day reading books and completing word puzzles.  My grandmother disapproved.  She told me I needed to act more like a kid.  She wanted me to go outside and play and make friends.  I was discouraged from socializing because I did not speak Spanish.  The only other girl who lived in the mountains of Utuado did not speak English.  I attempted to spend time with her once or twice, but it was fruitless for the both of us.

My grandmother grew increasingly frustrated at my unwillingness to behave more like a child and my inability to shrink my thighs.  My body continued to mature, and I got my period.  In her frustration at her lack of success in stopping my body’s maturation process, she said some not nice things to me about my body, and I in turn developed a complex about it.

I began to see myself through her eyes: BIG.  I started to obsess over my thighs.  I eventually stopped wearing shorts.  I kept pinching the meat above my knees, disappointed at the fact that it was never just skin I was grabbing.  My relationship with food also changed.  I tried so hard to restrict myself and found that doing so only made me hungrier.

Looking back, I wish I had the perspective I have now, so that I could have seen that weight was not the issue for my grandmother.  I wish I understood then that underneath her fear of me getting “too big” was her disappointment that I was no longer her grandbaby.  The last time she had seen me before then, I was a very bony 8 year old child.  She was not expecting to see her little Tammy with C-cup breasts and thighs thick enough to make men turn their heads.  What I had once interpreted as disapproval was really love.  Yes, love.  She loved me and she meant well.

Some of us have people in our lives that love us dearly and mean well, but say things we probably would be better off not hearing, especially when it comes to our bodies.

As women, our constant hatred of our bodies is not something that comes natural to us.  It’s learned.  And there are numerous experiences that contribute to this hatred, from disparaging remarks from people in our lives to various media outlets brainwashing us into believing we can and should strive to achieve society’s standard of beauty and physical perfection.

Can you pinpoint the time when you started to think about your body differently?  When did you become conscious of your appearance and others’ reactions to your body?  How has that experience shaped the way you view yourself today?  How has it influenced your behaviors?

And while it may be hurtful to look back and reflect on something so sensitive, I encourage you to do so, and I encourage you to forgive the person or experience which shaped your hatred of yourself.  I also encourage you to forgive yourself, for perpetuating a pattern of self-hatred in your life which has not served you up to this point.

Sometimes, forgiveness is not a one-shot deal.  Sometimes, it is a daily commitment.  I forgive myself daily for struggling with my body image.  I forgive my grandmother over and over again.  I forgive the kids who made fun of me and called me an ugly whale.  I forgive the man who shouted to me in the street that I needed to tone my thighs up before wearing shorts again.  I forgive myself for believing my imperfect body rendered me undesirable and unworthy of love.  I forgive, over and over again, in order to make peace with it all, because I deserve peace, and so do you.

 

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The Privilege of Dieting

Disclaimer:  When I talk about dieting, I’m referring to the concept of modifying eating habits for the purpose of meeting a specific health/fitness goal.  I am not a proponent of fad dieting.  I encourage moderate, progressive lifestyle changes.  Establishing new habits takes time, so setting realistic goals is important.  I also don’t have a black and white view of food; I teach and practice moderation. But for people with specific, time-based health and fitness goals, diligence and sacrifice is par for the course.

“The first 3 letters of the word ‘diet’ spell DIE. I know you’ve probably heard that joke before.  It humorously depicts how dreadful dieting can be. In addition to physical discomfort, there is also the psychological distress of restriction and avoidance. A deprivation mindset will lead to feelings of resentment.

Your body actually hates dieting just as much as you do. Hormonal changes occur when you decrease your calories.  These changes may cause you to feel lethargic, angry, depressed (or HANGRY).  This is especially true if you abuse dieting, but that’s another topic altogether.

Our bodies are designed to ensure survival, and that includes ensuring there is enough fat on our bodies to endure famine. Fat is the body’s insurance against starvation.  So the fact that food makes us feel good is not merely psychological, but also physiological. Let’s face it, eating the foods we love is rewarding on several levels.  It’s the reason food is such a big part of our social activities. But sometimes we get carried away with unhealthy eating habits and must choose to implement some changes.  And while this doesn’t always feel like the exciting thing to do, we don’t have to go about it begrudgingly.  Despite the difficulties and discomfort of dieting, we tend to forget it is a privilege.

The fact of the matter is, modifying our food choices in ANY way is a privilege.  It’s a privilege because there are millions of people around the world who cannot exercise the amount of control we can when it comes to our food intake.  From what we eat and how often, to when we eat and how much, we are in complete control. Meanwhile, there are  those who don’t know where their next meal will come from. The moment I think to complain about a diet or meal plan, I remind myself that it’s a choice, not a chore, and I reflect on this choice in gratitude.

Does this mean that you should love the discomfort of enforcing a few restrictions for the sake of your health and well-being? HELL YEAH!  Talk about a first world problem!  Of course you should implement changes that make sense (don’t starve yourself or follow a ridiculous diet plan), but progress can only be made with consistent effort (note: consistent effort, NOT perfection).

I know it’s not like me to say this, but sometimes we just need to suck it up and do what needs to be done if we’re going to get what we want.  This is true for all areas of life.  At some point, we have to acknowledge there will be some challenges and sacrifices to be made, but in every moment we can choose our attitude towards the process.  I choose to feel grateful for the opportunity to make those sacrifices.

It is a privilege to decide you’ll stop eating in excess of your body’s energy needs. There is absolutely nothing to complain about. It may be uncomfortable. It may not always feel pleasurable.  But it’s still a choice you GET to make.

You GET to eat better.  You GET to take care of your body.  You GET to choose.  You are blessed.

And you are worthy.

<3

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