I like big hearts and I cannot lie <3
Some of you will be starting Series 4 this week, and I am so excited for you! For those of you who are on an earlier series, here is a little taste of what’s coming soon.
Of course, you know SwanFit will prove to be challenging and energizing, but what I’m most excited about this round is the Series 4 Yoga and here is why:
You’ve heard me talk about how important it is to love and appreciate your body, wherever you are in your journey. I don’t believe in tearing people down or body shaming. I want you to be the healthiest version of yourself, but mostly, I want you to love your life and live filled with joy. Message continued…
I am admittedly a little obsessed with fitness. I know…you’ve all just passed out from the shock of that declaration. But seriously, I cannot stress enough the importance of balance. I have been on the extreme end of things. I have had low self esteem. I have felt “too fat” or “too ugly” or “not special” in my life. I have taken dieting too far. I don’t want to turn this post into a therapy session, but I want you to know that eating disorders and body image disorders are widespread and they don’t just effect teenage girls. Adult men and women, teenagers and even young children are affected by these conditions.
At a very young age, we begin to fill our minds with insecurities. If we let those false perceptions linger in our minds, they will get the better of us. Obsessing over our body image can lead to over-eating, starvation, self-mutilation and/or depression. An extreme fixation on becoming thinner can be dangerous, rob you of joy and distort your self worth. You are more than your body weight.
As a teen, I went through a time in my life when I deprived myself of food. I knew I wasn’t fat, but I just felt so imperfect or unexceptional, that I wanted to prove to myself that I could control my destiny. As a teenager, there are few things you have complete control over. Our bodies happen to be one of those things. I gradually reduced my calories over time until this one time, at band camp (Hehe, sorry, couldn’t resist), I ate one Nutrigrain bar and a few lettuce leaves for the entire week. I was exercising for several hours per day at this time and definitely needed more calories than what I was taking in. Even though I was wise enough to understand this basic concept (calories=energy), I didn’t care. In fact, I was embarrassed about what I was doing, so I’d try to pretend I was eating by pushing food around on my plate. Greater than my embarrassment though, was the power I felt in my ability to refrain from eating (something I actually do enjoy doing). That is what makes this disorder so difficult to recover from. The feeling of control can become addicting. While eating disorders may seem to be about an obsession with weight, they are often used as a coping mechanism for a long list of mental disorders. I am very fortunate to have the parents that I have. Around the same time that I was struggling with these issues, I stumbled upon a paper my dad had written in college about Anorexia Nervosa. I’m not sure if I found it by accident or if it was placed where I’d see it on purpose, but nevertheless, I read it. My dad is quite the writer, making even the driest material more interesting. I’ve always been a sponge for non-fiction anyway, so I read the entire thing and became horrified at what I was actually doing to by body, brain, hair, skin, nails, etc. I’m not saying that I did a 180° overnight and developed a perfectly healthy relationship with food, but at that moment, I decided to eat again. I also decided that if I was going to have to eat, I wanted to know as much as I could about food and how it affected our minds and bodies. I’ve spent many years reading, learning and practicing the physiological and psychological affects of food. Here is what I know for sure: 1) Eating disorders aren’t about food. 2) We need food to live. 3) Eating processed junk leads to disease (mental and physical).
Why am I sharing?
For starters, I bet many of you have struggled with body image related issues at some point in your life. While we often think of puberty as a time that these issues unfold, adulthood doesn’t free us. Aging can cause us to feel insecure. Relationships, career and family related challenges can leave us searching for coping mechanisms outside of ourselves (or within ourselves).
While all of us can benefit from a good certified counselor (seeking help from a professional is always recommended and often necessary), I want to share some valuable coping mechanisms with you.
1) Make sure your nutritional needs are met through a balanced meal plan. Being depleted of any one of the 3 macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) can prevent the brain and body from functioning properly. Too little fat causes brain fog, dry eyes (leading to macular degeneration), adrenal fatigue (bye, bye metabolism) and malabsorption of nutrients. Carbohydrate depletion can lead to dehydration, sluggish digestion, stress on the liver, and a weakened immune system. Not enough protein can result in muscle loss, and a decrease in immune boosting antibodies. It can also lead to hormone imbalances (as can a depletion in any of the macronutrients). So, if depleting yourself of just one of these macronutrients can wreak havoc on your body, imagine what depletion of all three can do. FYI, filling your body with processed, packaged foods is not nutritious and can lead to macronutrient depletion as well as micronutrient deficiencies.
2) Surround yourself with people who lift you up. No need to be a verbal (or physical) punching bag for someone else. You’re worthy of being loved. Being a good friend will also lift you up. We never regret words of kindness. Say ’em and mean ’em as often as you can. In fact, say them to yourself as well. Be your own friend and lift yourself up. If you cannot imagine telling a friend, “you are fat” or “you’re so stupid,” don’t say them to yourself.
3) Journal. Write as often as you can about anything you want. Gratitude, reflection, observation, intention, etc. You can gain much perspective by putting something in writing. You don’t have to share it with anyone else. Just release it. If it’s something you need to let go of, burn it or shred it. If it’s something you need to remember, save it and reread it.
4) Get a hobby. You probably already have one, but if you don’t, start researching things you may enjoy. I’ve read that people who struggle with eating or emotional disorders often have “obsessive personalities”. I like to say “passionate”, but whatever :). Direct that passion to something that sings to your heart and fills you up. Photography, painting, dancing, swimming, crafting, sailing, volunteering, etc. Don’t feel like you have to be a pro at it either. Take lessons or practice for the love of it. If it’s something that you can’t access all the time, you can still read about it, study it, make Pinterest boards about t it. You don’t have to be the best at it. You just have to enjoy it.
5) Exercise. It’s therapeutic. It’s good for your mind and body. This month SwanYoga is all about opening your heart and embracing where you are. As you lengthen your muscles, release the tension and stress that comes from unbearable expectation. Let go of negative thoughts that are robbing you of joy. Contemplate the things you love about yourself. If you’re having a hard time thinking of things that are lovable about you, ask me (or a friend, parent, child, etc! I bet I can come up with lots of things. It’s your time to reflect, heal and renew.
I want you to be the healthiest version of yourself mentally, physically, and beyond. I am not a doctor of any kind, nor am I a trained counselor. I am a real person who has experienced life, much like all of you. I’m on this journey with you!
With all that in mind, it’s totally OK to want to look great in a bikini, have smoother skin and and a healthy glow. Self improvement is not the enemy. But, you are not what you eat. You are not what you weigh. You are defined by the way you feel about yourself and the way you make others feel.
I’ll see you on the mat for some heart openers…then I’ll push you to your limit in SwanFIt 🙂