Category Archives: body image

Finding Your Happy Place in Health

While I do consider myself still in the Paleo category of living, I very much despise diets and labels and any over-moralization of the way we eat. Why?

I think Americans (mostly women, but men are also affected by this as well) suffer from chronic disordered eating. Maybe it doesn’t look exactly like anorexia, bulimia, or body dysmorphic disorder, but it certainly isn’t healthy or normal. We are in a constant pendulum swing of dieting and indulging, loving and hating, restricting and overeating, overexercising and vegetating…and even though the “right” side of the swing may appear healthy, it’s extremity is doing us no favors in the long run.

happy place in health

What we need to find is our happy place in health that allows us to be content with who we are. How do we do that?

1. Avoid “Challenges”

You know that saying It takes 21 days to make something a habit? No? Maybe six weeks? Whatever you’ve heard, it’s probably inaccurate. A recent new study shows that it can take at least two months to build a habit, and for some people it can take several months.

So what does that study have to do with challenges? Diet-based challenges are meant to “reset” or “detox” your body so you can jump start your perfect new lifestyle. But here’s what actually happens: you over restrict, under eat, over exercise, and then punish yourself when you slip up. (Am I projecting? Sounds like my old self!) That restrictive, punishing mentality is setting us up for failure.

 2. Enjoy and Move On

Stop thinking of slip ups as slip ups. I do still consider myself Paleo, but when I go out to eat with my husband  or go to New Orleans and eat all of the holiday food I can manage, I am not at all concerned with the outcome. (Okay…the goal is to not be concerned with the outcome.)

Will that meal or extra beer change the fact that I can go to Body Pump tomorrow? Does it mean I’m a bad person? Does it mean I have no willpower? Nope. It means that food is delicious and life’s too short to deny yourself a good meal. Savor it, and move on. The lettuce is still in the fridge waiting for you, and it won’t be any less nutritious because you had ice cream yesterday.

Of course we can’t have special meals everyday, but once a week won’t cause you fall off the wagon.

3. Realize That There is no Wagon

(I’m only referring to dieting, here.) Those individuals who claim to have all of the willpower required to successfully eat restrictively are winning no awards. And those little treats they avoid here and there will add no significant time to their lives when compared to a person who eats moderately healthy. And is it really worth it to constantly fight with your “willpower” over whether or not you can have that piece of chocolate?

There is no diet “wagon” that we are on or off…and you don’t need more willpower to win all of the diet wars. Eat well, move frequently, and enjoy that bowl of Ben & Jerry’s on Saturday.

4. Emotionally Eat

I want to be careful with this one because I do think extreme emotional eating is a part of the chronic disordered eating I mentioned earlier. But if you are a relatively healthy and active person, indulging after a long day can be good for your mental health.

Do be sure that it’s what you really want. Would it be more helpful to enjoy a few chocolate chip cookies or would you rather binge watch Orange is the New Black? (Or both!) That’s not a rhetorical question, and each individual will have a different answer. Sometimes, I want a drink to feel like an adult after a day of working with 8th graders. Other times I just want to zone out in front of the television because my nerves are shot from the day’s tasks.

You need to decide which action will be most helpful to you, and then make that decision with no consequences. Do not force yourself to skip a meal or wake up extra early just because you gave yourself a break the night before. Our bodies are always fighting to get back to equilibrium, so that once-in-a-while emotional decision will not have long term effects. No punishment required.

Resources

If you’re like me and are always searching for ways to 1) be more effortlessly healthy and 2) be happy with who you are, then I suggest some of these wonderful ladies to follow:

Summer Innanen: nutritionist and body coach who wants to make you feel fearless!

Maddy Moon: “reformed” fitness model who learned to be healthy by letting go of restriction

Paleo for Women: Stefani Ruper is an incredible advocate for women’s health, and it’s so refreshing to learn about the Paleo lifestyle from someone who has taken the time to learn what it means for women. Obviously, this link has a Paleo spin, but Stefani focuses on a whole health approach that will help you boost your health and confidence :)

I’ve also written my fair share of blog posts on the issue. Check these out!

Five Ways to Find Your Happy Weight

Self Care & Sanity

Let’s Kill Restrictive Eating

Why “Bikini Body Ready” Programs Are Not Okay!

Best and Worst Body Moments in 2014

Question for readers: What do you do to keep yourself happy and healthy?

A Great List

Clearly, blogging is no longer a regular hobby of mine. Changing back over to public school teaching has sucked up most of my available time. The time I used to spend cooking fun, new meals and creating blog posts are now replaced with 11 hour work days that involve lesson planning, creating materials, researching strategies, and of course teaching.

I’m not mentioning all of this to complain. I love teaching, especially since I’m working in a public school teaching 8th grade English/Language Arts and social studies. I am, however, constantly busy and tired. Sometimes I forget to take care of myself and pay attention to my husband!

I’ve had a 5-day stretch with no students. Thursday and Friday were both professional development days, and today (Monday) we are off for Columbus day. (I think this is the first time in my life I’ve had this day off…it feels weird.) So I’ve finally had time to slow down, take some time for myself, reflect on how I spend all of my time, and write a fabulous blog list :)

A GREAT LIST…a list of great things :)

10. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

SO great. I’ve had my fair share of food fears over the years, and I think Ben & Jerry’s may have helped fix me! Under the premise of the diet culture, people are on an unending search for that “guilt-free” diet food that allows them to eat ice cream (or whatever sweet of your choosing) guilt free. Guess what? It doesn’t exist.

Low-fat ice cream, Skinny Cow products, and diet “You can eat the whole pint!” companies like Arctic Zero are doing us no favors. First of all, those products filled with chemicals and additives generally not allowed in other developed countries that often make us hungrier. Second of all, blegh! That is not ice cream!

I’m growing weary of references to “guilty pleasures,” “falling of the (diet) wagon,” and “cheat foods.” How about we just eat food we like? Have you had Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Fudge Core? It’s AWESOME. And there’s nothing guilty about it.

9. Nature

I miss New Orleans. But New Orleans does not have the lush, green nature that Georgia has. It’s everywhere. The neighborhoods are beautiful. There are trails everywhere. And the state is devoted to keeping its parks and pathways as pretty as ever. It’s also important to mention we’re a quick driving distance from beautiful state parks and the Appalachian Mountains.

Nature is good for the soul. A walk outside under oaks, maples, and pines the size of 10-story buildings can reset your mind and keep you focused on what’s important in life. Work problems, grad school problems, house problems, and other stressors all seem much less significant after taking the time to get outdoors!

chimney tops

8. Teaching

While teaching may be a large reason for the neglect of this blog, I do very much love what I do. It’s not easy. Textbooks are really a thing of the past, so teachers must recreate a curriculum year after year that’s engaging, rigorous, differentiated, and “just right” for their students. If you have more than one subject to plan, then everything is multiplied!

When you teach, you get to show students a whole new world every day. Middle school students are dying to be treated like adults, so it’s great when they are able to collaborate and problem-solve their way through the material.

7. Reading

If I wrote this post two weeks ago, this wouldn’t have been on the list. One of my favorite hobbies that I have ignored over the last few years is reading. Recently, I’ve only read young-adult books as I learn more about the best new authors for my students, but that’s significantly better than not reading at all!

And actually…young-adult literature is great! The stories always deal with difficult issues, and you know the story line will be engaging :) The best can be found on the “National Book Award” list or any banned book list! The one I read most recently for my class is called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexi. This novel is about a Native American boy who is trying to escape the cycle he sees on the reservation. He leaves his reservation to attend an all white school, and he struggles to find acceptance at school and at home.

If you have a middle schooler (or you just like to read good books), I highly suggest it :)

part time indian

6. Me time

This is something that comes rarely these days. How do people with children find any time for anything????

At the beginning of this year (August…I count time in school years!),  I was able to have some me time during my long runs when training for the Smoky Mountain Half. That’s it. Maybe an hour or more.

Fortunately, every teacher becomes more efficient as the year goes on, and lesson planning takes up less and less time each week. I’ve had some time here and there to just watch a TV show, go for a walk, or read. And today, because I’ve had 5 student-free days, I get to blog!

Be sure to take some time for yourself away from everything. It’s important that we have this time to keep us grounded and remember the things that really matter.

5. Body Love Movement

Isn’t the Body Love movement great! It’s great! As someone who has always felt that I should eat/look/dress/be a certain way, the self-love movement that is currently blasting through the media has given me the opportunity to reflect on these ideas that I’ve had in the past.

Listening to body-love activists— Summer Innanen, Caroline Haagen, Stacy Toth, Sarah Ballantyne, and the many many others I’ve been learning from over the past few years—has taught me to stop focusing on arbitrary numbers that society deems acceptable. There is no perfect number for workouts, calories (sorry, calorie counters…restriction is a slippery slope), dress size, pants size, shoe size, or anything else.

We are all people doing the best we can. Sometimes that means I eat big Paleo salads and other times that means I eat Ben & Jerry’s. Both are great :)

Source: SummerInnanen.com!

Source: SummerInnanen.com!

4. Food

Life’s too short to not eat what you enjoy. For the first time yesterday I had an Ethiopian dish with injera, a spongy, delicious bread that is used to scoop up the entree with your hands! Was I going to let the fact that injera is made with wheat stop me from enjoying it? Absolutely not.

I still do the whole “Paleo thing.” I really do think it’s awesome, and I get a lot of happiness out of eating nutrient dense food. BUT when an incredible meal is set down in front of me, there are no rules. I will eat to my heart’s content. Because I can. No rules.

3. Exercise

It’s taken many years to exercise because it’s good for my body, not because it will make me look a certain way or create a magical number on a scale. Exercise is good for overall health…physical and mental.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post with my weekly workout schedule. It contained two very challenging strength workouts and three cardio workouts, all of which lasted about an hour. There’s no way that kind of routine happens in the real world. (I checked the date…I wasn’t yet employed in Houston, which explains my excess of time.)

Walking is great (I wish I could go hiking every day of my life) and strength training will keep us young! But we must do it for holistic reasons…not because we’re watching a ticker on a scale.

stone mountain cherokee trail 6.27.15

Hiking the Cherokee trail at Stone Mountain

2. Sleep

Sleep is great. It fixes many problems. Enough said :)

1. My Husband

My husband is great. He takes care of me when everything seems impossibly overwhelming. He is my life buddy, and we tackle these new Georgia adventures together :) All of these things on this great list are greater when we experience them together.

Having someone so supportive and so loving of me at all times makes those challenging moments worth it.

hawaii birds

What things go on your Great List????

Why “Bikini Body Ready” Programs are Not Okay

This is the first post I’ve written in a week! Ryan and I have been SUPER busy in these last couple of weeks, so blog posting has gone to the wayside. Now that my grad school program is finishing up for the semester and some of our grown-up obligations are being fulfilled, I have time to return and post about the things that make me happy :) Today’s topic falls under one of my favorite categories: body image.

there is no wrong way to have a body

Just Say “No!” to “Bikini Body Ready” Programs

Now that we’re well into Spring and on our way to summer, I’m seeing the annual “Get Bikini Ready!” blog posts and web articles. These articles usually include tips like: cut sugar! cut bread! sweat a ton to lose water weight! cut just 500 calories a day! take supplements!

There are a few things wrong with this kind of yearly call to action.

  • It assumes that you feel the need to change. You already look GREAT in a bikini. You don’t have to change yourself simply because the calendar pages are moving forward.
  • It assumes that there is only one way people should look in a bikini.

happiness isn't size specific

  • For whom am I supposed to be changing my body? Think about it…shouldn’t it just be about you and how you feel in your own skin? My husband loves me all year long, not just during bikini season. He’s happy with me year round. I’m happy with me year round. Why does anyone else’s opinion even matter?
  • Whether or not I personally feel bikini ready (which just sounds so silly) is no one’s business but my own. POPSugar, Nike, Weight Watchers, and everyone else professing this “bikini body” nonsense should just stay out of it.

There is a constant influx of media concerning the way women look. Yes, everyone should strive to feel happy and healthy, but we don’t need profit-driven businesses telling us how to eat or how to look. We’re fine the way we are, thank you.

love yourself first and everything else falls into line

I’ll say it again: any and every woman can ROCK a bikini. You do not need to crash diet and change around your whole schedule to look a certain way. Do you want to eat healthier to feel better? Awesome. Do you want to work out more often to feel strong? Cool. Should you do these things to look a certain way in a bathing suit? Nope. I personally don’t believe that’s a healthy mindset. The cold water and fresh sunshine on a beautiful beach won’t care about your bathing suit.

exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it

I’m all for wanting to improve oneself in the name of health, so be sure whatever regimen you have is safe, healthy, and just right for you!

What kinds of food/exercise/hobbies make you feel your best? Scroll down to comment!

(Image Sources.)

Let’s Kill Restrictive Eating

I’ve found myself reading a lot of articles and blog posts about positive body image and the goal of having the general population accept that extreme diets will never work.  I am fascinated by the way media and businesses have made a profit off of people who just want to live a higher quality life.

I’ve never done a true “crash diet” because I was well aware that they are incredibly unhealthy and scientifically proven to result in weight gain down the line, but I have dabbled in unhealthy restrictive eating.

Let's Kill Restrictive Eating

What does that look like? I looked back in some old food journals from my freshman year of college…it looks like a single boiled egg and a cup of grapes for one meal, grilled chicken and broccoli for another meal, and steamed spinach and a cup of black beans to finish out the day. By the end of each “meal,” I popped a piece of gum in my mouth so I wouldn’t want to eat any more. I would also get like 6 cups of herbal tea so I could sip while my friends finished their normal sized meals followed by a chocolate chip cookie.

If you’re like me, then you’ve watched a friend eat a slice of cake or a chocolate chip cookie after dinner and wondered “How can she just EAT that like it’s no big deal?” I wanted that…to eat normally without anxiety of eating too many calories.

Eat Your Cake

Fortunately, I no longer have that amount of anxiety (thanks to many years of practice) over something as harmless as dessert, but I still over-analyze the choices I make when I’m eating a “treat.” It doesn’t help when people feel like they can comment on what others eat. I’ve had all of the following comments from the SAME person:

“You have so much food for lunch today.”

“Is that all you’re eating?”

“Well of course you can eat that because you’ll work out later.”

“You must just have a good metabolism.”

“I didn’t think a healthy person would eat those kinds of things. ”

Why do some people feel the need to comment on what others are eating? Unless your comments are said out of genuine concern, just stay out of it. I usually offer a quizzical look to the unsolicited commentary and remind myself that what I eat should not be dictated by other people’s opinions (or what I perceive other people’s opinions to be…) I worked very hard to overcome some personal issues, and I want others to have the same freedom that I get closer to each day!

If you’re a restrictive or anxious eater, here are some sources I think might be good reads/listens!

RESOURCES TO HELP US CONQUER RESTRICTIVE EATING!

Caroline Dooner

Caroline Dooner.

“You’re Supposed to Eat, So Stop Eating the Smallest Amount Possible” – This article, written by Caroline Dooner of “The F*** It Diet,” delves into her previous restrictive eating and overexercising habits. She also offers a few tips on how to begin the process to END restrictive eating and how to eat without anxiety.

A notable quote from the article:

Start using your unique voice. Stop stifling yourself. Stop waiting to be thin. Stop waiting to be better before you reach your goal weight. It is never gonna happen that way. Your life starts NOW. This is the crazy, exciting paradox. All the things you thought you had to wait on weight for, you can do those now.

Summer Innanen. (Source)

Summer Innanen – Summer is a certified nutritional practitioner and body image coach who is OVER dieting and unhealthy restriction. She has a blog, a podcast, and a course all dedicated to helping you figure out how to be content with yourself, love your body, and be more fearless in all aspects of your life :)

From MaddyMoon.com

Maddy Moon – Madison Moon is a former fitness model and self-proclaimed G.I. Jane who let food and exercise dictate her life. She’s made some incredible changes, and she writes about important body image topics on her blog and her podcast.

@positivebodyimage on Instagram – While Instagram often comes under fire for deleting pictures of women that seem a little imperfect, they also have some great user accounts posting awesome messages and photos every day! By the way, if you have any accounts with “fitspiration” or “thinspiration,” please unfollow. It’s not healthy, and those people are probably hungry.

From PaleoParents.com

Paleo Parents While this site primarily focuses on how a family lives a Paleo lifestyle, the creator, Stacy, also talks a lot about positive body image. She has two podcasts: The Paleo View and Strong Woman Radio. Both podcasts discuss how to live life in a healthy, restriction-free way.

Comments? Thoughts? More resources? I’d love to hear from you!

What do you love about yourself?

What positive body image resources have you found and loved?