5 Tips for Embracing Your Body

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving spent with those you love and care about.  I had a whirlwind of a trip to Philly but it was a blast!

I just haven’t had the motivation after Thanksgiving to write about what I am thankful for (I know this sounds awful) but I have had the desire to hit a couple of other topics and when I write, I don’t like to force it and prefer to go with whatever I have on my mind.

So as I have had a few topics floating around in my brain over the past week, I decided to talk about embracing one’s body.

At Integrated Fitness, co-owner Jim Crowell and I ran a nutrition challenge with some clients and on our last day of the challenge we were discussing the positives and negatives of the challenge and the clients’ goals going forward.  One woman mentioned her goal was to look good for her husband so he would look at her the way he did when she was in her twenties.  Jim followed her statement by asking her what does looking good look like?  That question is a hard one to answer for all of us and as I sit in class helping Jim, I find myself getting just as much out of the challenge as the clients as I reflect on my own struggles with body image and what I desire to look like and the happiness I expect to come with that look.  I always find it borderline humorous (or embarrassed to admit) that I am rarely truly happy with how I look and am always wanting to lean out a little bit more regardless of what my bodyfat is.  When I competed in figure, I was never lean enough for stage, tapping out at 15-16% bodyfat where I needed to be 12-14%.  Post show I blew up and gained about 30lbs and was so self conscious and hated my body that I could hardly look in the mirror.  And for someone who places a good bit of importance on having a physique I am proud of, it shouldn’t be hard to believe that I was miserable.  After about 6 months of slowly turning my 30 lb gain of body fat into about 25-20lbs of fat and 5-10lbs of muscle, I started to diet again for another figure competition which turned into losing 10-15lbs and many plateaus along the way over the course of 5 months (way too long of a process).  Eventually I gave up this seemingly impossible feat to do Crossfit instead.  I wasn’t really happy with where I was, was tired of treading water and getting nowhere, and figured if I wasn’t going to achieve my goal of competing in figure then I would try to achieve my goal of doing a Crossfit competition.  After I started Crossfit I gained a few lbs most likely due to water retention because of the high work load and the added weight of additional food.  I still however found myself craving to see 150 on the scale versus the 155.  Then I moved home, other crap in my life hit the fan, I had to stop most of my heavy lifting due to injuries, and I was tempted by food at home.   Due to the stress, my ability to resist and say no to cravings was pretty much non-exsistant.  I shot up to 159 and have floated up to the low 160s.  I started to freak out slightly since that put me very close to my heaviest during my “fat stage” and knowing that, it took a toll on my mind even if I am more muscular than I was last year. I then had thoughts of “if only I could get to the 155 I was while starting Crossfit back up”.

Yes, I realize how crazy this type of thinking is and how ironic it is that I end up wanting what I had.  Why couldn’t I just be happy with 155 and realize that eventually I would lose some body fat once my body has destressed and healed from the distruction I put it through by dieting for figure?  Why can’t I just care less about my trouble spots and focus more on my positives?  Part of this is just being a typical female, part of it being a bodybuilder and the damage it does to your mind and body, and part of it is just wanting to have an elite athlete’s physique that I am proud of.  I think that having high standards for my physique is fine, but what is not great is when I am unhappy because of my body’s current condition.  Instead of telling myself that eventually my body will lean out when it is ready and what I do like about my body, I constantly focus on what I wish it would look like.

Most of you are thinking one of these three things: 1. I am crazy because I look good to you which my typical response is..”well you don’t know what my midsection looks like (my main trouble area)” or “well I don’t want to look good, I want to look elite” 2. You know exactly how I feel because you go through the same thing yourself 3. and the rare few lucky people who read this are thinking you have no idea what I am going through.

So if you find yourself unhappy due to your physique, what can you do?  Now I am not saying that you will never have a “fat day”…you know, the days you wake up and look in the mirror and are not happy with how you look, how your clothes are fitting, what the scale says (even if you look exactly the same as the other morning), etc.  But crash dieting, shoving chocolate in your mouth, or saying ugly things to yourself will not make anything better.  Crash dieting only lasts for as long as you crash and ends when you begin eating again, chocolate usually just adds to the problem, and talking negatively to yourself only leads to a snowball effect of self-deprication.

Through my journey of physical changes from one extreme to the other, I have not found the magic answer to suddenly love your physique regardless of how it looks, but I have found some things that have helped me become more positive about my body.

1.  Focus on your positive physical attributes

We all have our physical strengths whether it is our shapely/strong arms or legs, glutes, stomach, eyes, hair, smile etc.  Instead of hating one part of your body, try to take your eyes off of the “problem” and look at all the good you were blessed with.  What do you possess that others admire?  Take a few deep breaths, stop the negative self talk, and admire what God as blessed you with.

2. Refocus your thoughts on something other than your body

Regardless of my physique, I know I am strong and love lifting heavy weight.  I set goals in the weight room as well as outside that I work towards daily that are not physique related.  These goals are my major form of gratification and I can reach these without how I look having an effect.

3.  Do something about your problem areas

Instead of just complaining about your body, what are you doing about it?  Are you lifting heavy, doing some cardio, and eating a balanced diet?  If not, then stop complaining.  You can’t want something you are unwilling to work for.

4.  Surround yourself with people who love your strengths and could care less about your “flaws”

Even though constant compliments will not keep us from wanting better or more for ourselves, it does help us to feel loved and appreciated.  Nothing worse than surrounding yourself with people who tear you down or are not supportive of your goals.  Surround yourself with those who love you for who you are and want you to become the best version of yourself.

5. Focus on the journey and set goals to help you stay on track

Body transformations do not happen over night, so rejoice in the little victories you make whether it was to skip out on dessert or your pants not feeling as snug compared to last month.  Try not to obsess over things you can’t control or little steps in the wrong direction.  Winning a war doesn’t require you to win every battle you encounter.

 

Even though at times it is hard to distract yourself from what you don’t like about you body, remember that you are more than just your physique.  You are a unique individual that offers the world something no one else can offer.  Give yourself a break and really look at the person you are and focus on your strengths, whatever they may be!

Traveling Towards Happiness

Hopefully most of you have at least one extra day off this week in order to spend time with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving.  The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of the year…so please be careful if you are traveling!  This year I will be making the trip across PA to spend Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family like we have been doing for as long as I can remember.  Typically my family travels Thanksgiving morning, but with my work schedule and my sisters both currently in VA, we are all traveling in three separate vehicles.   This means 5 hours by myself across the state to take in the scenery and do what I do best–sing to any and every song I play along the way.  I do not doubt my ability to sing the whole 5 hours, but I typically take out a few good books on CD from the library, with a few that are along the lines of self education/self-help (I know some of you are laughing at this) to get something from the extended amount of time in the car.  Might as well do something productive right?

So my schedule will consist of getting up at 3:30am to coach, coaching 2 classes, working out followed by a shower (just in case you were concerned I may skip this step), private train a client, coach a nutrition challenge class, then hit the road around 12pm.  Most likely I will start my drive with normal music, and then possibly switch to Christmas music–non stop singing of course.  Then whenever I have to make my first “pit stop”, I will most likely get Starbucks (love the red cups).  As I drive across the state I will be looking at all of what nature has to offer.  Being a natural introvert (some of you may find this surprising), I will most likely be letting my thoughts drift onto the impressive number of topics my ADD mind can cover per minute.  Some topics may be what I am thankful for (post to come this week), what God has blessed me with in my life, the obvious hand God as used to shape my life with job opportunities and the amazing people he has placed in my path, the struggles I have overcome and am still overcoming, what I want my life to look like 5 years from now, what kind of person I want to become, what I am doing to achieve my goals, how I am going to go about leaving an imprint on this world, etc.  Don’t worry, there will most likely be some shallow thoughts interspersed (what I will be wearing that night/the next day, what I will or will not eat on Thanksgiving, why am I hungry again–you get the drift).  Every so often there may be a negative thought in reference to where I am currently and how far I may have to go to reach a specific goal, but those are reframed into positive thoughts almost immediately.

I know you are probably wondering where I am going with this post, but here are two points I want to leave you with today.

1.  Find happiness in life’s simple pleasures:  Red Starbucks cups, Christmas music, nature, giving thanks for all that I have in life, thinking of meaningful gifts to get those I love, smiling at random strangers, watching parents herd their children like cats around the rest stop all dressed up…these things will make me smile on Wednesday as I travel.  Maybe I am easy to please, but I believe being easy to please makes one happy a lot more frequently.  If it snows come Wednesday when I am traveling, it would be easy for me to complain about road conditions or how miraculously people tend to lose the ability to drive in wet conditions, but most likely I will be thinking how beautiful the snow looks with a smile on my face.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”

2.  Your thoughts shape your life:  Where does your mind wonder off to when you have time to think?  Thoughts comprise our attitude which affect our words and actions which greatly impacts our ability to achieve happiness.  Are you unhappy a lot with life or do you find yourself always talking negatively?  Well take a look at your thoughts.  How many times do you notice a negative thought cross your mind and how many times do you consciously turn it into a positive?  If you think about it, how can someone be happy when all they think are negative thoughts?  How draining!  So reflect this week on your thoughts and when a negative thought creeps into your mind, spin it into a positive.  When you find yourself wishing you had something else, try giving thanks for what you have been blessed with.  Instead of hating your current situation, focus on what you can do to accomplish your goals.

So as we near the holiday season that should be focused on giving thanks and love, spend time reflecting on the positives in your life.  Let those special people in your life know what they mean to you.  Look for the small things that make you happy.

Remember, happiness is a state of mind not a destination.  Change your thoughts, change your world.