In this episode, fitness coach Mel Prickett (www.excelwithmel.com) and I discuss how to avoid the traps and myths that undermine our success in achieving our fitness goals. We discuss why fitness is critical to the reaching our optimal level of success in life.
Read on to discover:
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
Fitness helps you look and feel great; yet the benefits go beyond your physical body. Focusing on your fitness goals will help you feel more confident, energetic, and can help you accomplish your other personal and professional goals.You have enough time for everything important in your life; decide what's important. Click To Tweet
Women of Wisdom is a podcast that brings you insights from amazing women about how you can live a healthier, happier, and more rewarding life. If you have suggestions for future topics or would like to be featured on an upcoming episode, please email me [email protected].
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Beach time is quickly approaching and many women are buying diet pills, body wraps, and any other product promising to give us the perfect body. Although Americans spend more than $60 billion annually trying to lose weight, 71% of American adults are obese or overweight. A 2007 report by British researchers found that women in the UK spend about 31 years of there life on a diet. This is not a continuous healthy eating plan, but rather a yo-yo diet with most women giving up in less than six weeks. The reason why our “health obsessions” lead us to even greater levels of poor health is because they are based on loathing our bodies. The secret to getting your perfect body immediately and permanently is learning to love the body you have.
Body loathing includes words and actions that insult, harm, and degrade your body. It involves criticizing your body or parts of your body, damaging your body by depriving it of sufficient healthy and nourishing food, and publically insulting your body. In fact, much of our female-female conversation involves the body loathing ritual of trading criticisms about our bodies. All of these body loathing activities harm our physical and emotional well-being and make it difficult for our bodies to be healthy and functional.
While you might consider criticizing your body as motivation to improve, it actually has the opposite effect. Science teaches us that human behavior is improved by a positive encouraging environment, not a negative one. In a 2005 study published in the American Psychologist, researchers documented the critical element in promoting human flourishing. Flourishing is living at the optimal level of functioning and performance. It is associated with perceptions of goodness, creativity, growth, and resilience. It is estimated that less than 20% of Americans are flourishing and this lack of flourishing is linked to a host of physical, emotional, and economic problems.
So what best predicts whether an individual or an organization will flourish? The ratio of positive to negative thoughts. Those with a ratio of at least 2.9, approximately three positive thoughts for every one negative thought, were much more likely to experience flourishing: peak human performance.
As an educator, I know the great importance that my attitude and approach can make in student performance. If my students perceive me as caring about them and their well-being, they are able to take in my instruction and feedback and use it to improve their knowledge and skill. However, if they perceive me as a harsh task master who cares more about my instruction than them, they will resist learning anything from me. This principle underlies all human behavior and performance.
Recall the individuals in your life who have been great teachers and/or coaches. Who were the people that were able to inspire you to work your hardest and get the most improvement in your performance? What did they think of you? How did they treat you? Most likely these were individuals who had high standards for you and communicated a high regard for you. They valued and respected you and your ability. They knew you were talented and worked diligently to cultivate that talent. And in this context you flourished.
Now compare that experience to the external and internal messages you take in daily about your body. Do these messages affirm the inherent value and beauty of your body? Do they celebrate your body’s function and performance? Do they nurture and cultivate your body in a loving, supportive environment? If you’re like most of us, the answer is no. It’s no wonder that our bodies respond like rebellious children, refusing our explicit instructions to be well and perform.
When you separate yourself from your body, evaluating it as a set of components, you are objectifying yourself. You are treating your body as an “object” separate from you- the beautiful soul that inhabits your body. It is a mistake to believe that you can demean your body and love yourself. It does not work because there is a permanent connection between our bodies and our souls.
Belittling our bodies diminishes how we feel about ourselves. When we demean our bodies and say explicitly or implicitly that our bodies are not good enough, we are saying to ourselves that we are not good enough. We are not good enough to be loved and respected by others or ourselves. That’s why we believe it’s appropriate to demean and brutalize our bodies with forced deprivation, injurious workouts, or feeding it unhealthy food.
Both the so called “healthy” behaviors and the unhealthy ones come from a place of body loathing and our bodies respond with resistance. Resistance may be in the form of a plateau where your body refuses to release any more weight in spite of your best efforts. Resistance may be in the form of returning to your pre-diet weight with a few extra pounds for support against the task master of self-deprivation. Resistance may be in form of weakened performance and diseases as your body withdraws from the hostile climate you’ve created.
All of these forms of resistance are natural and appropriate responses to assaults on the dignity and worth of the self. Resistance is the natural response to oppression, even when we are the ones creating the oppressive environment.
The way to end this resistance and reconnect with our bodies is to create a body loving environment. A body loving environment will remind us that our bodies are not objects to be controlled, but rather visible extensions of our unique selves. Body loving environments affirm our inherent value and dignity. They operate from the assumption that we are already “good enough” and create an environment to remind us of this truth and encourage us to do our best.
Perfect comes from the Latin word perfierce, per- meaning “completely” and farcere meaning “do”. Thus saying something is perfect suggests that it is whole, complete, and lacking nothing. You have successfully developed into a full grown woman with all of the curves, lines, rights, and privileges that status entails. You are whole and complete. You are perfect!
Claim your perfect female body today! All it takes is recognition that you already have it.
You are already good enough.
You are already beautiful.
You already perfect.
You do not need to get her eyes, butt, breast, skin in order to be beautiful. Nor do you need to lose, gain, shrink, or enlarge any part of your body to be deserving.This moment, at this size, is your perfect female body. Click & Tweet! As you come to understand and accept this truth, you will be able to love and nurture your body (and yourself) in a way that brings out your personal best. You will care for it as you do a newborn infant. Providing it with all the nourishing foods and experiences it needs to grow and flourish. Celebrating its changes and development. Affirming its inherent value and worth.
Loving your body means feeding it nourishing foods out of your care for its well-being. It means being gentle will your body, giving it the rest it needs and deserves. Loving your body involves moving your body, celebrating it’s growing strength and improved functionality. Loving your body also includes protecting it from harmful toxins and emotions that damage its functioning. Finally, loving your body includes speaking loving words of praise, gratitude, and affirmation regularly about your body. As you love your body, it will love you back. Click & Tweet!
As you do these actions, you and your body will develop a beautiful relationship built on love, respect, and cooperation. In this body loving climate, your body will transform to its optimal performance. You and your body will flourish.
Just as a loving teacher brings out the best in her students, your loving care will bring out your personal physical best. You will look and feel great! Most importantly, these changes will be permanent and built on healthy, respectful actions.
A group of over 1,800 women shared their body loving affirmations on a hypnobirthing blog post. I’ve posted a few of my favorites here to get you started on celebrating and cultivating your perfect female body. I suggest that you practice these affirmations standing in a full view mirror so that you can experience the full impact of learning to “see” yourself differently and learning to love what you see.
Congratulations on claiming your perfect body! As you celebrate your body, you give other women the permission to do so as well. So please share your insights and your commitment to creating the perfect female body.
A sensory walk optimizes one of the best forms of exercise: walking. Walking lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, strengthens bones and muscles, and improves sleep. Walking in nature has even more positive physical and emotional health benefits.
Research comparing walking in nature versus walking in urban areas showed that individuals who walked in nature experienced lower levels of stress, increased attention span, as well as improved creativity and problem solving. An easy way to optimize the physiological and psychological health benefits associated with walking is to take sensory walks.
Sensory walks are a mindfulness practice that enables you to have a whole body experience with nature while walking. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of University of Massachusetts Medical Center’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Sensory walks are an easy way to integrate mindfulness into your daily health and wellness routine.
Sensory walks, like many other mindfulness practices, encourage you to use all five of your senses to connect with the natural world. It can be helpful at some points in the walk to stand still and close your eyes. Ending your reliance on sight can heighten your awareness of the other senses. Whether you are walking or standing still, the goal is to notice as much as possible the beauty of the world surrounding you.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that can guide your focus as you practice your sensory walk.
Sound is a powerful sense that activates our emotions, promotes visual imaginations, and strengthens our memory recall. As you engage in your sensory walk, pay attention to the distinctive types of sounds that you hear.
Can you hear your footsteps? Are there birds chirping? Can you hear running water? It’s important to take the time to really notice the sounds of your external environment rather than drowning them out with your internal dialogue.
No, I don’t mean identifying your emotional state. I mean paying attention to the largest organ in your body: your skin. Skin is a primary vehicle through which we experience the world, both sensations of pleasure and pain. Our skin has the most nerve endings that provide us with a fine tuned gradient measure of our environment. We can even sense very subtle changes in the environment with our skin and respond quickly with goose-bumps or having the hair on our necks stand up.
As you engage in your sensory walk, pay attention to your skin and the sensations it communicates to you. Depending on the weather, there may not be a lot of your skin exposed to the outside elements. However, even when covered with clothing and shoes your skin is still communicating important sensory information about your environment.
Can you feel the sun on your skin? What does the ground feel like under your feet? Is it firm, mushy, rocky? What does the temperature feel like on your skin? Again, stopping to closely your eyes briefly will help you better tune into all this lovely information your body is experiencing.
Smell is often thought of as one of our most potent senses. It is closely connected to our memory and can quickly recreate feelings associated with a past experience. We are usually aware of smells at the extreme of the spectrum, either very pleasant or very offensive. But as we practice mindfulness we can become aware of all the varieties of smell around us.
Practice using your sense of smell to create a “map” of your sensory walk. What smells are associated with the various areas of your map? What smells can you identify? Can you distinguish the distinctive smells among the various flowers? What about the trees?
It’s useful to stop and get up close the the objects you are smelling. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Yes, I do want you to stop and smell the roses…and the daffodils….and the pine trees. Allow yourself to fully savor the sensations of the smells of nature.
Our taste sensations are closely connected to our sense of smell. As you allow yourself to experience more fully the smells associated with nature, you may notice an activation of your taste buds. You may even begin to salivate. Great! Enjoy these tastes of nature.
Those of you who are more knowledgeable about the various edible flowers, nuts, and berries that grow freely in nature may want to partake in enjoying these delicious gifts during your sensory walk. My children and I love the smell and taste of wild growing honeysuckle and often snack on these sweet treats. Nature provides us with so many gifts and fully experiencing and enjoying these gifts is one way to say thank you.
This is known as our proprioceptive sense and is often overlooked in our discussions of our sensory experiences. However, proprioception is responsible for our perceptions of our body position, motion, and balance.
Without proprioception we wouldn’t experience the excitement of our stomachs dropping when we ride on a roller coaster or the relaxation we feel when sitting in a swing or a rocking chair. Proprioception allows us to know where our body is positioned in space even when our eyes are closed. Our proprioceptive sense also helps us to be more alert when on an unstable or elevated surface.
As you practice your sensory walk, vary the surfaces you walk on and notice the changes in your body. Do you feel different walking on a gravel path than walking across a fallen tree? How does it feel when you cross a stream using the river rocks as your bridge? Vary the pace of your walk (fast then slow) and notice the differences in your body.
Sight can be a very pleasurable part of our experience of nature. Just looking at a beautiful nature scene can bring feelings of peace and relaxation. As you engage in your sensory walk, imagine that you are a cinematographer trying to capture footage for National Geographic.
Take the time to see what is likely a familiar environment for you with fresh new eyes. What are the “postcard moments” of your walk? What images bring you feelings of warmth, pleasure, relaxation, excitement, or awe?
As you notice these sights, stop and focus on them to intensify your experience of the moment. For at least 20 seconds, pause and focus on the image, breathing deeply and enjoying the feelings that are evoked by this sight within you.
Remember, what you focus on becomes magnified. As you focus on the pleasure of nature and wonderful feelings you are having at this moment, your joy and gratitude will be magnified. Moreover, these feelings will stay with you and can be brought back to mind long after you are physically removed from this experience.
As you complete your sensory walk, reserve time at the end to sit quietly and capture the beauty of these moments. You may want to bring a sketchbook or a journal to record your reflections. Regardless of your artistic skill level, draw at least three items that you noticed on your sensory walk.
Although the drawing activity is visual, you do not want to rely only on the sights of your sensory walk. How might you be able to visually represent the smells or physical sensations that you experienced on the walk? What about the tastes and movement sensations?
After you’ve captured at least three sensory memories of this walk, write 1-2 sentences of gratitude for what you have just experienced.
As you focus on the sensations and emotions produced from the sensory walk, your awareness of the gifts of nature will abound. These gifts of nature are free and always available to you whenever you need them. Even when you can not physically return to the site of this walk, you can review your journal reflections and activate a full sensory recall of the memories of this experience.
As we celebrate the beginning of spring and Earth Day, I encourage you to add a 10-15min sensory walk into your routine. You will find that this practice greatly reduces your level of stress, expands your sense of joy and connection to a larger world, as well as increases your energy and feelings of well-being.
Today, give yourself a gift of vitality and joy! Take a sensory walk.
What are the benefits you received from your sensory walk? Leave a comment below or you can email me directly at [email protected]. If you have pictures from your walk, please share so we can expand the joy!
Many of us have worked hard to lose weight only to find that that scales aren’t turning in the right direction. We are eating a clean diet, exercising three times a week, but we are still not losing weight. If this is true for you, it may be that an unknown culprit is conspiring against you in your plan for healthy weight loss: stress.
An effective stress management system can be the missing ingredient preventing you from obtaining the strong, good looking, and healthy body you are seeking. Continuing to neglect this vital area of weight loss can be a costly mistake. While we know chronic stress is not good for us, many of us have no idea what it does to our bodies and how it undermines our health. Here I’ve listed some of the biological pathways through which stress promotes weight gain.
Stress activates our body’s fight or flight response. It produces hormonal changes signaling to our muscles the need for quick energy. The muscles get this energy by increasing insulin production to move sugar from the blood to our muscles. This physiological response makes us more alert and alive in a stressful situation. We are stronger, quicker, and can think faster. All of these responses to stress are helpful in keeping us alive in dangerous situations. However, if our body does not actually use this surge of energy to react, we store this unused energy as fat. In situations of chronic stress or worry, our body produces the same increases in sugar and insulin that creates new layers of fat. Much of the fat tissue that is produced from chronic stress is “visceral fat” that builds up deep in our bellies. This can be seen in the “pot belly” we gain as we age. Visceral fat in the belly is the most life threatening fat and the hardest to get rid of.
We have all experienced the food cravings that occur when we are feeling stressed out. For me it’s starchy and fatty foods like mac & cheese and fried chicken. This connection is so strong and immediate that we often find ourselves eating before we are even aware of it. When we become aware, we are already eating a bag of chips or in the refrigerator nibbling on left overs. We know that this pattern of mindless eating undermines our health goals and we often blame ourselves for not having enough willpower. Yet, science shows that there is a biological basis to this pattern of mindless emotional eating. Researchers suggest that we might actually have a “flight, flee, or chow down” response to stress, meaning that the activity of eating physiologically relieves the stress in the same way as the reactions to flee or fight. Jason Perry Block, MD, an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard, “This happens, in part, because the body releases chemicals in response to food that might have a direct calming effect.” Thus emotional eating is a learned habit that is connected to biological triggers and rewards.
Chronic stress produces the couch potato syndrome. In the APA study “Stress in America”, 42% of Americans reported watching television more than two hours a day to relieve stress. Unfortunately, this strategy of stress management actually increase weight gain and other health complications that arise from a sedentary lifestyle.
In their pioneering research, Profs. Annette deKloet and Eric Krause discovered a “fat to brain feedback network”. This study suggests that the density of fat tissue influences the way the brain controls stress, regulates energy and other metabolic activities. It’s not just that stress encourages your body to produce more fat, but that the fat changes the way your brain regulates your metabolism Click & Tweet! . While in the short term this is adaptive, the fat to brain feedback network under situations of chronic stress is dangerous.
The good news is that we can reverse the pattern of weight gain directly implementing a stress management system Click & Tweet! . An effective stress management system will not only reduce your current levels of stress, but will promote healthy weight loss, increase your energy, boost your immune system, and heighten your joy. You will look and feel better and get more enjoyment out of the people and activities in your life. I’ve listed five activities you can do to begin implementing an effective stress management system. These activities will quickly reduce your level of stress and promote healthy weight loss.
Exercise is a great stress reliever because it actually uses the increases in insulin and sugar created by stress in more productive ways. It also promotes the release of endorphins which make us feel good, think “runner’s high”. However, exercising for stress relief should be moderate and not too rigorous. High intensity exercises actually raises cortisol levels, contributing to over eating and increase and fat production. Think a brisk 20 minute walk.
Sleep reduces feelings of stress, promotes healthy weight loss, and increases well-being. Most Americans are sleep deprived. We should strive for 6-8hrs of sleep each night. If worry or anxiety is keeping you from getting a good night of rest, some of the activities below can help.
Meditation is a powerful relaxation strategy that has been proven to lower stress, improve health, and increase our sense of well being. The wonderful thing about meditation is that you can do it anywhere and you can reap the benefits of meditation with a small investment of time (10-20mins/day). Other relaxation techniques (deep breathing, listening to music, walking in nature, taking a bubble bath) can also be used on a daily basis to reduce stress and promote weight loss. What is most important is that you integrate these behaviors into your daily life.
We eat every day, but do we eat mindfully? Mindful eating is a slow sensory experience of food. It encourages us to notice the color, smell, taste, and texture of our food and to eat slow enough to enjoy the experience. Mindful eating is the direct opposite of fast food or tv dinners. A research study of binge eaters showed that participating in mindful eating program produced fewer binges and lower rates of depression. Mindful eating can lower our stress, improve our mood, and prevent our over eating Click & Tweet! .
While the above techniques may help us manage the levels of stress in our lives, we need to engage in structured self-exploration to identify the causes of stress in our lives and actively address them. Living under chronic stress compromises our health, career, relationships and sense of well-being. It is up to us to commit to identifying and eradicating the sources of our stressful lifestyle. Processes of self-exploration that are research-proven to be effective in increasing emotional and physical well-being are: journaling, counseling, and working with a life coach. Choose the method that works best for you, but by all means commit to your personal development. Through your process of self-exploration, you can uncover ways of thinking that are increasing stress and weight gain, as well as develop a plan of action to move you closer to your goals of health, peace, and joy.
You can not change your genetic makeup, but you can create a strong, lean, healthy body. Implementing these five components of a stress management system will permanently transform your body and your life Click & Tweet! . Most people acknowledge valuable information that could help them achieve their goal, but never act on it. You could be different.
I’d love to hear about the improvements you are seeing in your body and in your life as you implement your stress management system. Leave a comment below or email me.