Archive | her

The Body… Beautiful

 

I first saw this Nike ad in a blog post a couple of weeks ago on the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s website. It asked the question, “Does Nike’s New Ad Champion or Jeer at Overweight People?” The ad was run during the coverage for the Olympics and it was greeted with a wave of controversy because it depicts a 12 year old English boy named Nathan Sorrell who is in middle school, who is 5 ft 3 in and who weighs 200 pounds.

It brought to mind this ad for Equinox which depicts Briohny Smyth, a strong and sexy woman, doing a morning yoga routine in her underwear, steps away from her still sleeping boyfriend. Provocative for different reasons, it also, at the time it first appeared was not without its own controversy.

Both are first and foremost advertisements and ads are trying to sell a product, and each ad uses a bit of controversy to get people talking. Beneath that, they have really stuck with me for the same reason. The depiction of the human body doing physical activity and the controversy that resulted. The human body comes in all different shapes, sizes and colors. It comes in all different levels of abilities and it, in its various forms, is beautiful.

In my health coaching practice, I work with women to come to see themselves as beautiful. Through ads, we are often sold this line that perfection is attainable but what if, we were already perfect just as we are? What if we are each our own unique version of beautiful. A woman who inhabits her body fully, a woman who embraces her curves, accentuates her attributes and accepts her imperfections and her flaws is in the body beautiful.

“It’s important for all types of women to know that you don’t have to fit a prototype of what one person thinks is beautiful in order to be beautiful or feel beautiful…. People think, Sexy, big breasts, curvy body, no cellulite. It’s not that. Take the girl at the beach with the cellulite legs, wearing her bathing suit the way she likes it, walking with a certain air, comfortable with herself. That woman is sexy. Then you see the perfect girl who’s really thin, tugging at her bathing suit, wondering how her hair looks. That’s not sexy.” ~JENNIFER LOPEZ, Readers Digest, Aug. 2003

 

Happily (and Healthily) Ever After

 

And they lived happily ever after…

If you are like me, you grew up hearing a lot of  fairy tales that ended with the phrase “and they lived happily ever after.” While it sounded good, the proclamation always left me with a lot more “but what happens next” kind of questions.

  • Where and what is happily ever after anyway?
  • What does it look like?
  • Will I know it when I see it?
  • Is it an actual place or is it something to be experienced instead?

No one ever explained how to get to the place of happily ever after, let alone how to live happily ever after if I ever found myself there.

Happy was a bit of a mystery.

Now as an adult I find that the phrase “be healthy” feels very similar.  If you are anything like me, you read article after article, you purchase fitness magazines and order subscription after subscription and devoured them whole. You watch news shows, read blogs and recipes that all have the “be healthy” message but beyond those two words, there is a lot of conflicting messages out there.

  • Do I eat full fat, low fat or no fat?
  • What is all of this buzz about sugar?
  • Should I be gluten free or wheat free or simply carb free?
  • Or is it about eating high protein? And should it be cage free, (oh no, free range) or is it best to eat no animal products at all?
  • Oh and then there are diets…Atkins or South Beach, Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig?

Personally, I have gone from carnivore, to vegetarian, to vegan and back around again and as time passed, the only thing that became clear was that the more I heard, the more confused and muttled the information became.

Healthy, like happy, was a bit of a mystery.

So what is a woman to do when all she wants is for someone to tell her, finally, once and for all how to live happily (and healthily) ever after?

I have discovered that it isn’t a one size fits all question. What brings you health and happiness versus what brings me those things can be very different and as I work with my clients, I have come to realize that this is a great thing.

“What? A great thing? What do you mean? I just want to follow a set of rules that will get me there. I just want to live my life, just as it is and simply be happy and healthy,” the internal voices are probably shouting.

It is a great thing because that means that your body has all of your answers. Your body is working overtime to get your attention and your job is to turn toward the face in the mirror and ask her what she needs. It is like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who always had the power to go home. You have always had the power to be what you most desire, and to live happily and healthily ever after.

 

Loving Her Interview: Heather Day of Vital Being Wellness

Heather of Vital Being Wellness

A few months ago, I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know and be interviewed by Heather Day of Vital Being Wellness. She is a self proclaimed anxiety warrior, a kindred spirit and a woman walking her talk in this world.  I am over the moon excited to share with you her words on meeting your body and the art of loving your {im}perfections.

 

*Tell me more about your idea of the art of loving your {im}perfection.

Intellectually I’ve always know that perfection is a myth. When I am fully honest with myself, I recognize the insidiously ridiculous side of the whole concept- by nature, nothing is ever perfect.  Trees grow limbs in patterns all akimbo, but when a leaf or branch no longer serves the whole, the tree slowly adapts to live to its highest potential.  What would a perfect tree look like? Smell like? That question is useless. A tree lives, thrives, grows, reaches toward the sun and deeply into the earth. And that is all it needs. We are not so different.

Still, it took me a long, long time to fully believe and embody what my intellectual brain knew deep within my heart and spirit. Now I can see, and hear and feel::

I am imperfect, flawed, broken and ever-growing. And in that dance, wild and un-choreographed and gorgeous, it is exactly my imperfection that is the perfect beauty.

It is the joy that makes me glow that is my gift to my community. In the messy process of exploration, it is art. It is perfectly me, perfect and exactly what I need to live in truth with my highest self. And now that I know- and believe- that my wild dance is the only way for me…. Well, I have no choice but to love my imperfection!

*How do you suggest meeting your body where it is?

There is this magical place, it seems, this beautiful relationship that a woman can have with her body.  It exists in the space where we stop trying to force her into some sort of odd shaped mold, forget about building muscle where it doesn’t belong or losing fat from the places we need it, and start adorning it in sunlight, and luscious oils, and clothes that flatter its form. We start spending more time nude. We start celebrating its strengths and honoring its struggles.  And in that place, the body finds joy. Balance.

When we listen keenly to what the body is saying, it gives us all we need to know.

For me, I’ll never have a muscular frame.  My body isn’t meant to take that form- I have long, lean arms and legs that are more suited for yoga than organized sports. I used to hate them with a passion, their lack of curves and musculature, but now they stretch so beautifully in a forward bend. I’m not a busty gal either, and I’ll never quite fill out a dress the way my best girlfriends do. I’ve dieted, I’ve overeaten, and my body has been many different shapes as a result. But she has settled into one that is healthy, strong, and balanced now that I’ve stopped forcing.  I honor the fact that my body doesn’t want meat, but really needs fat and grains. I know that yoga is like honey for my body and soul. Weight lifting, not so much.

Listen. Your body houses infinite wisdom and speaks in every moment. We just need to be willing to accept the unique truth that is ours alone, and know that we will serve ourselves best by meeting the body where she is.

*How did you come to love your body? How do you tune into the cues of your body?

This question is juicy. Tender.  I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about this recently, and I’ve come to realize that during the time in my life that I didn’t love my body and ignored her cues, the pain had to crescendo to a fracture point. My heart, my spirit, and my body were so, so tired of the battle.  I was no longer a woman- I was a mind in a body, trying to rend one from the other, to tear my identity from this shell that was the enemy of all I wanted to be.  Or thought I did.

There was a time of breaking- breaking down, breaking open, so many tears and apologies to the body that is my vessel in this journey.  And the greatest wisdom that grew forth was that we are one. Yes, my body and my soul and heart, but all of this- this Universe, we are all one. A gorgeous dance of energy. And once I came to see myself as one piece of it all, my body carrying the light and love of my spirit, I surrendered. That’s the only way to put it- complete surrender.

And by absolving myself of the duty to be independently perfect, a superhero so strong I could carry the weight of it all and maintain six-pack abs… I could slow down and listen.

For me, that’s the point of turning:: finding the slow, the quiet, the deep, long breaths. Only when I am not constantly barraging my senses and my body with stimulation and “shoulds” and overworked-underslept stress can I hear the fullness of the wisdom my body speaks. It’s always there, and it’s always right. When I listen and honor, I am in balance and harmony. I feel strong, inspired, joyful.  When I’m not listening, I slide. I get headaches, don’t sleep well, start to cast sideways glances at the mirror. But with reconnection, a day to myself, a long bath… it’s like calling up your oldest friend. We pick up right where we left off, and it is blissful.

Heather is the Mistress of Magical Living, an Imperfect Illuminatrix, a Right-Hand Righteous Revolutionary and pure inspiration on loving her. You can find her at vitalbeingwellness.com.

Self Esteem or Self Love – Which Do You Choose?

 

Recently, I was listening to the audiobook version of  “Self-Compassion” by Kristin Neff. She was talking about some research around self-esteem and how high self-esteem can actually be a false goal. The research she cited did not surprise me because we’ve all met the person whose opinion of themselves far outshines their ability, the person who blames the circumstance or others for their mis-steps, the person who never takes responsibility for any of the mistakes but is more than happy to jump in and grab all of the praise.

She writes “Self-esteem is an evaluation of our worthiness, a judgement that we are good, valuable people. Research shows that self-esteem is more strongly influenced by the perceived judgments of strangers than close friends and family. We tend to give more weight to what nameless, faceless, “other people” think of us. The big hole in this line of reasoning, of course, is that the thread on which we’re hanging our self-esteem is incredibly thin.”

As I listened, I began to think about the intersection between self-esteem and self-love. As I work with coaching clients, my personal goal for each person is to love themselves. I weave in ways to introduce them to their physical being, to help them begin to see how their body is constantly communicating with them and has always wanted to be an ally, a support, a loving and trusting best friend. Ultimately my wish for them is to reach a state of self-love. Yet, I am often asked, how do I do I love myself when I weigh more than I should? When I am not working out everyday? When I ate too many carbs or too much sugar? I think what they are really asking is

“How do I love myself when I am not perfect?”

My answer is always the same.

Right now, in your imperfection, is the very best time to love yourself.

Think about those people in your life that you already love. When they are vulnerable, when they make mistakes, when they do something that you would really prefer that they didn’t do, do you love them less? Do you look them in the eye and tell them that they aren’t quite good enough? Do you withhold your kindness and compassion waiting for the day that they will be perfect? Of course not, you pull them closer to you, you remind them that they are amazing despite their momentary evidence to the contrary. You love them more for their vulnerability and for their realness.

What would it be like if we began to turn just a bit of that love toward ourselves?

What if each time we looked into the mirror we reminded ourselves of our innate worthiness and goodness? What if we reminded ourselves that we are valuable just as we are? What if we just loved ourselves for simply being?

Everyone’s journey back to loving themselves is separate and different but I truly believe that it is necessary and vital. As I continue to walk farther down my path of self-love, I find that what others think doesn’t matter as much. I don’t feel the need to defend my choices or seek praise for my successes because I know that when I get home and look into the mirror, the woman looking back at me will think that I am alright just as I am.

What Your World Is In Need Of

 Self

The words what is the world in need of swirled around and around in my mind. I contemplated it in relationship to the value of my work in the world. I looked at it through the lens of the intentions that I fiercely hold for my clients. At some point, without notice, the question shifted into something more tangible and I found myself asking instead – what is MY world in need of?

And from there came a lofty and laudable list of words, deep states of grace for anyone to strive for no doubt:

authenticity

love

compassion

 

peace

joy

happiness

 

deep rest

mindfulness

comfort

 

connection

passion

support

 

When thinking about THE world, out tumbled all of these other questions:

 

Who do you think you are?

Who are you to think what you have to offer is important?

Even if you could make a difference, where would you begin?

 

Yet, when it became about MY world, what occurred to me was that it all begins and ends with me and I believe that in order to be a change maker, the same holds true for each of us.

These words can be wonderful gifts when they are lavished upon those that we care for and about. They can be healing when they are directed toward those that we don’t care much for and they are profoundly life-changing when they are directed toward yourself.

There is an idiom that says, “Charity begins at home.” This phrase has come to mean that you should begin by helping your family and friends before you help other people. I believe it goes deeper than that. For me, it means that you should help yourself before you venture to help your family, your friends and the rest of the world.

I can hear those conditioned voices shouting…

“That is so selfish.”

“You are self centered.”

“You only think about yourself.”

 

My reply to them is a resounding yes! Yes, I am selfish. Yes, I am self-centered. Yes, I am thinking of myself because in order to change the world, or at the very least, my corner of it, I have to begin at home, with my breathe and in my body. In order to make change in my outer world, things have to change in my inner world.

In order to provide THE world with what it needs most, I must provide MY world with what it needs most which quite simply is me.

A me – who acts authentically, her heart filled with love and compassion toward herself and others.

A me – who is so filled with a peaceful spirit that joy and happiness just radiate from her eyes.

A me – who is mindful enough to notice and provide deep rest and comfort.

A me – who can reach out in connection with passion and purpose to support others when she is feeling 100% fully herself.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman

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