Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guest Blogger: Confident, beautiful, strong mama

I'm so excited to introduce you to the wonderful Jenarcissist from The Closet Narcissist. She has graciously agreed to write something for my readers today. I hope you enjoy this post, and take the time to check out The Closet Narcissist, you'll be glad you did.

Hi there, LITM readers. My name (okay, my online alter-ego, emphasis on the "ego" *wink*) is Jenarcissist. I'm one-half of the duo that runs the closet narcissist, a blog, online shop, and web site based all around celebrating self-love and building confidence - and having fun doing it. I was so excited when Melanee approached me to swap guest posts with her. We've been following each other's blogs for a while now, and I always get something special out of reading her posts. Her journey towards her own self-acceptance is so inspiring because she's so raw and personal. It's literally exhilarating to me seeing where she was before and where she is now.

So today's the day when I make a rather big announcement on our blog that I am with child. :) That's right, I am 11 weeks pregnant! I've been waiting on this my whole entire life. Because I've always wanted to be a mom so bad and have always thought there is no more beautiful and radiant woman than a pregnant one, I always assumed pregnancy would be blissful. I had this idealized vision of loving my ever-expanding body while I happily awaited my bundle of joy, totally care-free. I was going to sail through pregnancy with a constant glow and never feel big, only pregnant. What a dolt I was! ;) I thought this guest post would be a good opportunity to talk about my adjusting to this new body and new life.

As excited as I am between bouts of puking, pregnancy has brought about a lot of unexpected things for me. I never in a million years expected to have any sort of body image issues when I was pregnant, but I've struggled with some (and may yet as my hormones keep surging). My relationship with food has changed from enjoying the sheer pleasure of food to feeling like it's a chore because my little one is very demanding and wants me to eat all the time and doesn't care if I'm sick or not. I smell things that I know are not real, which is really bizarre (rubbing alcohol, stinky feet, and blood to be exact...great for an already queasy tummy, right?!). I'm facing an exhaustion unlike anything I have ever known; it's like I'm drugged all day and night. I went from a gal who usually wore makeup daily for the sheer love of it and actually gave a crap about my appearance to someone who's just lucky to roll out of bed. I don't know how, but I didn't know pregnancy was THIS uncomfortable! I was completely unprepared for all the changes to my body and emotions.

To all those women who say they didn't start showing til 4 or 5 months, I hate you all!! No, I'm only kidding, of course. :) But I had always heard you didn't really start showing for a quite a while, so imagine my surprise when my belly noticeably popped out at about 6 weeks, a mere week-and-a-half after we found out the good news. Looking at the picture compared to now, I’m like, that’s what I considered "popping out"?! But at the time, it seemed so sudden and strange. I thought I'd be able to wear regular clothes for a while, but even that early, jeans or anything other than something elastic-waisted were out of the question. Nothing felt comfortable. I was extremely bloated, which made me feel bigger than I actually was. When I'd say I felt as big as a house, people would look at me like I was crazy, but it was the feeling inside. Add the fact that I was hiding it from my job until I had my first appointment, and I felt even more self-conscious about my growing bod. I just didn't want people to know yet, and I was worried that my sudden wardrobe change and all my weird pregnancy behaviors were going to give me away before I felt ready to divulge. And one more piece to the pie. I've never had an eating disorder and have a pretty good body-image now (that wasn't always the case). However, a few years ago, I was about 30 pounds heavier than allowed me to feel good health-wise, so I'm guessing at my peak, I'll be back up to that same weight in pregnancy or higher. In a way, that was a discomforting thought because I was scared to go back to how I FELT at that weight (regardless of how I look)...and at the same time, it's comforting because I have been that weight before and know what it's like – although being pregnant is still an entirely different feeling. I had finally gotten to a point where I really was happy with all of me, inside and out. And then I got pregnant! haha 

I had to learn early on that people's tact goes out the window when you're pregnant. People feel free to say whatever they want (particularly about your weight, as well as all their advice), and even when they don't mean anything by it, it can be upsetting when you're exhausted and your hormones are in complete control of you because it's harder to let things roll off. At 6 or 7 weeks, I was already being told that I'm showing too early, getting bigger very quickly, my hips were getting wider, I must be further along than I think, maybe I'm having twins, that’s gonna be a big baby, etc. I know the people behind these comments didn't mean anything by it at all; they're as excited as I am about this baby. But I guess the comments just hit me during the wrong week when I was already extremely emotional and vulnerable. I started wondering if they were right...what if I was gaining weight too quickly and setting myself up for an unhealthy pregnancy? I was worried about that much more than how I looked. (Hint for the next time you encounter a pregnant woman: just tell her she looks amazing and leave it at that, or else you may cause her to obsess unnecessarily!)

Then I decided to do a Google search for pictures of women who were the same amount of weeks along as I was that week...wow, was that liberating!! There were women with all shapes and sizes of bellies. Some of them, like me, already had the pooch. Some didn't. I suddenly realized what I already knew in my non-pregnant life: women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful. That sounds so cliche, but it's absolutely true, and it applies to pregnancy as well. Just seeing other women who were already showing made me feel tons better about my growing belly, as well as talking to a couple of friends who also showed so-called “early” when they were pregnant. I started seeing my body in a whole different light then. Despite the three pairs of pants I could comfortably wear that I was rapidly getting tired of, I started checking out my side view several times a day in the mirror and smiling every time. I had been taking belly pics already just because I knew I'd want them later, but then I started enjoying taking them! I think I'd like to make a flipbook from start to finish where it looks like my belly is getting bigger really fast. :) And after we "went public," I remember very vividly the first day my husband and I went out when I just let it all hang out, with no more need to hide behind a hoodie. MAN, it felt good!! I will never forget that outfit either. It was nothing special - just a cute, tunic-length tee with birds on it and some drawstring, cargo-length cotton pants - but I sure felt like a hot mama flaunting my baby!

A couple other things that helped me were these two blog posts (written by the same fantastic woman, Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner) about pregnancy, weight, fears, and body image:

I related to her so much. Sometimes, we as women just need to feel validated, knowing that someone, somewhere out there has experienced what we have. And when we don't feel alone in our feelings anymore, suddenly they don't hold as much power over us!

Since that time, I've had my first appointment and was told I've gained the normal amount of weight thus far, I'm eating pretty well in spite of lots of nausea (though, hey, let's face it - sometimes if something sounds good, you just have to go with if you want to eat at all), and I exercise when I can handle it, so I'm not in the least concerned now. But I'm already trying to gear myself up for later on when people feel the need to comment even more as I get bigger and rounder; I know even strangers will want to comment. It also astounds me how people already just walk up and touch my belly without asking! If it's someone I'm close to, it's perfectly fine, but if not, it can feel rather invasive, like someone you don't know suddenly hugging you with no warning, but way more personal.

We won't know for a couple more months if we're having a boy or a girl. But what I do know is that all the work I have done on myself to get me where I am now was never really just for me. There was always the thought of my future child in the back of my mind, spurring me on to become whole within myself so that I could pass this down to my child. Whatever gender my child is, I am vowing to teach her as best I can to love herself just as she is. I know all too well what it's like to struggle with a poor self-image, and while I can't 100% prevent her from ever having any confidence issues, I can do my best to encourage her, never make her feel "less than," accept her as she is - no ifs, ands, or buts - so she can do the same, and inspire her to shine with all she's got. I think that's one of the most important gifts a parent can give to their children. Having a mom who is secure in herself inside and out can go a long way in helping a daughter in particular feel that way about her own self. And if she does have some issues, which she probably will at some point (after all, middle school happens to all of us!), I hope she'll be able to learn from my experiences and be empowered by them. 

Wow, today, I sure do sound like a confident mama...but I have plenty of bouts of sheer terror over trying to raise a little person into a well-rounded individual without screwing them up. :) My own mom passed away a few years ago, which has added plenty of other raw emotions on top of the normal ones. Since her death, I've come to realize just how much she struggled with her own body image and insecurities, yet she always tried so hard to make me feel good about myself. Something she told me has always stuck with me: "If you love your child enough, they'll forgive you just about anything." My mom was scared to death when I was born, and somehow she just learned as she went, and she was right...it's not her mistakes that stick out in my mind...it's her unconditional love and her efforts to help me feel that way about myself too. And that's how I know I'll be fine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The power of a hot bath

While my baby was napping yesterday I began running my mind over my "to do" list. It was long. I had already slipped the cake in the oven and had a good 40 minutes before it would be done. The kitchen needed cleaned, but the bathrooms were already scrubbed and the laundry was going. While there was plenty I still could have done I decided to take a few minutes to soak in a warm bath while the cake was baking.

I stepped out of the tub with just enough time to throw on a robe and dash to the kitchen. The cake was done to perfection. As I was making my way back to the bedroom to get dressed I paused and looked in the mirror. My hair was disheveled in the pony tail that it was mostly falling out of. My face was clean. No make up. I was totally natural as they say. And I realized in that moment that I liked what I saw. Not only did I realize it, but I admitted it to myself. Looking in the mirror in that state I let myself enjoy the beauty that is me. Not because I'm perfect. Not because I had taken the time to get all fancied up. But just because I was me and that was enough.

What happened next surprised me a bit. As I acknowledged that I liked myself I felt this urgent need to take good care of what was there. Despite the fact that the smell of the most seductive chocolate cake I have ever made was pervading every corner of the house I was craving cherry tomatoes and a big glass of water. This made me smile. The girl with the sweet tooth didn't want sweets, even with the smell of chocolate on the air.

I went back into my bedroom and used one of my "fancy" lotions just because I felt like it, got dressed in some comfy clothes, turned on some relaxing music, poured myself a glass of cold water, and indulged in some delicious cherry tomatoes. It was only an hour that I spent pampering myself, but it was enough to energize me to finish decorating the cake and clean the kitchen.

The best part is, after taking a few minutes for myself I was a much better (and more patient) mother as the day went on. I was a kinder wife as well. Because I had taken a few minutes for myself I was able to take better care of the ones around me. I love this. 

Too often we feel that if we take time to take care of ourselves, let alone like ourselves, we will be selfish. Women are supposed to shoulder the burden of taking care of everyone around them selflessly. Or at least that is what we have come to subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) believe. What a shame. Some days we may not have an hour to spend on ourselves, but even 5 minutes of looking at what your needs are can make a difference. By caring for ourselves first we are better able to care for those around us.

The other thing I love about this story is how much I wanted to take care of myself as soon as I acknowledged that I liked myself. I knew I was special enough to wear my "fancy" lotion just because. Liking ourselves allows us to take better care of ourselves which in turn allows us to better care for our loved ones. So everybody wins. Eating intuitively is one of the best ways I have found to nurture and take care of myself, and to foster feelings of self-love. Yoga has also been instrumental for me in finding self-love. I have said before that learning this love is hard, but it is probably the most worthwhile thing you could do. I stand by that. And I think this story is evidence why.

Find what makes you feel amazing. Focus on that amazing feeling. Appreciate your body for how it makes you feel. And learn to love yourself. It can be done. Less than a year ago I proclaimed my hatred for my body. Today I feel the opposite. Oh there are still days and moments, but they are becoming fewer. The more I learn to love myself the more I am able to love others. Believe me, it is worth it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Writer's Block

I've hit a bit of a writer's block the last few days. It's not that I'm out of ideas. I have tons of ideas that I wish to share with the world. It's that I'm distracted. I hurt my wrist yesterday and it is really hurting. I don't know what I did. I'm trying to decide if I should just suck it up, or see a doctor.

My special project that is a surprise is getting close to being ready (not finished, but ready). I've been consumed with plans and working on things to get it all the way there. I can't wait for the final product. It's turing out better than I had thought. I also can't wait to tell you all what I'm up to.

Last night I begged my husband to take us out to dinner. I didn't want to cook. We've been eating out a lot lately though. So I promised him that we wouldn't eat out for the entire month of April (except when family comes to visit at the end of the month since that was already planned). I need some yummy, easy, inexpensive dinner ideas. So my mind has been on that (any suggestions?).

Cormac has been cracking me up on a daily basis. My little boy is growing up and changing so quickly. With all the projects we have going on here sometimes Cormac has to play by himself. He's still in the room with me, I'm just not very involved. So I've been trying to make sure I spend some time each day with nothing else going on but time with Cormac.

And lastly, tonight we have a Relief Society dinner at church and I am making a cake for the event. My mind has been on cakes and decorating cakes. I'm not much of a cake decorator, so this has been intimidating. But exciting.

So today I'm going to refer you to the side bar where you can pick any of the links there to find a little body image inspiration. I'll do better tomorrow. In the meantime, any dinner ideas that you love? Or maybe you could give me some ideas to blog about as well. What would you like to read here?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Let it shine

Wednesday night I was able to teach yoga to a group of 17 and 18 year old girls from Church. I admit I was intimidated by the task. I was very into a specific body type in high school, and let's just say my current body isn't it. So I was worried these girls would not take me serious, or not believe that I was any good. These fears were fleeting and I was able to quite them down without a struggle. I may not be perfect, but I'm a good yoga teacher (ahem, toot toot), I know my stuff, and I can do a headstand what more do you need?

I should have known that those fleeting fears and moments of intimidation were silly. We had a wonderful class, and the girls were very eager and ready to learn more. I love to teach. And I love yoga. It's a great combination.

At one point during the class one of the adult leaders of the group commented that she thought I looked like Elizabeth Taylor who had passed away that day. Wow. Thanks.

But then one of the girls in the class said, "No, I think you are much more beautiful than her."


Talk about good for my ego. This girl wasn't at all offended by my size. And she even thought I was beautiful.

Maybe this isn't such a big deal, but it made me realize one thing loud and clear: I had been holding on to a belief that I could learn to see my beauty and inner beauty, but that the rest of the world probably wouldn't because I was too heavy.

How sad. I have been walking around with this unconscious idea that outside of my husband the rest of the world would just see another heavy woman. Rude. "Just another heavy woman!" Melanee!

There are many problems with this, but here are a few I thought of:
~ I am not "just another" anything. Neither is anyone else.
~ When I look at other people I see that they are beautiful. Generally their size doesn't really register unless I'm being self-conscious that day and playing the ever dangerous comparison game. So why would people not be able to look at me that way.
~ I'm not fat.
~ How sad that someone who advocates for better body image can still hold to a belief that the rest of the world is incapable of seeing beauty beyond pant size.
~ Confidence exudes beauty. It lets all that inner and outer light shine. Mine included.

Granted I don't want my life, my confidence, or my self-esteem to be based on if others think I'm beautiful or not. But come on, who doesn't like to be told they are beautiful? Growing up I heard it a lot, and I think I put too much stock in that. Now I just hear it from my husband. I have, thankfully, gotten to a point where I don't need to hear it as much, but it certainly doesn't hurt my feelings.

It is time for me to stop feeling sorry for myself because I sacrificed my beauty to have a child (or whatever random story I am telling myself in my subconscious). I was beautiful as a child, I was beautiful in high school, I was beautiful in college, I was beautiful when I got married, and I am beautiful as a new mother. Each stage in life has held a different form of beauty. My beauty has evolved as I have grown and changed. That's kind of what makes it so beautiful. But that beauty is certainly not gone, and I don't have to believe no one sees it.

Neither do you. You are beautiful as you are. As you learn to love and accept your body that beauty will shine all the brighter.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beautiful, Capable, Trustworthy

A few days ago I posted about intuitive eating. My friend Sarah left a comment. Intuitive eating means you must trust that your body knows exactly what it needs to be healthy and fit. Sarah commented that many people do not trust their bodies. Instead, they believe if they throw out the rules they will live on pastries alone. While it may work for some people to listen to their bodies, many hold to a belief that it would not work for them. Their body is not to be trusted.

I've been thinking about this a lot since I received that comment (thanks Sarah, as always you are wonderful and help me to improve). My mother-in-law kindly gifted us a book called Simple Abundance* by Sarah Ban Breathnach that I have been reading. Here is a quote:

". . . whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we're constantly programmed by the world to be other women, not ourselves. We're supposed to look like Cindy Crawford, entertain like Martha Stewart, and decorate like Alexandra Stoddard. With this pervasive social schizophrenia, it's no wonder that most women are terribly confused about the the issue of authenticity."

Top this off with a nice dose of "obesity epidemic" scares and you have a recipe for disaster. We have come to believe that we can achieve all the lofty goals of becoming "the perfect woman," or another woman for that matter, if we look and act a certain way. We'll focus on the look part for today; the act part is a post all unto itself. So in order for our dreams to come true we focus on something we are supposed to be able to control easily with diet and exercise when in reality, that doesn't work for some people (most people). With everyone walking around talking about this or that diet we assume that bodies are not to be trusted, and so we too jump on the wagon and begin a regimen that can set us up to roller coaster through out our entire lives.

So how does one learn to trust their body again? I certainly don't have all the answers, but I will divulge my own path.

I believe that the main catalyst for success in trusting my body started with yoga. Even though I was not as experienced, flexible, or strong as many of the wonderful women in the class with me as I became certified to teach, I began to truly appreciate the ability I had. Every practice made me see that  my body was capable of amazing things. Each day I could go deeper in a pose or lift myself a little higher. My improvement came quickly and helped me see what an amazing mechanism this body of mine was.

During those weeks of training I was also able to reconnect with my body. That is, after all, a large part of yoga. Through regular practice and meditation I began to slowly recognize someone I had known all along, but had forgotten about in the frenzy of life: my body. My beautiful, capable, trustworthy body.

It has been several years since that time and I am just now learning the ropes of intuitive eating, so at that point in my life I wasn't ready to jump in head first, but it set the groundwork. I have mentioned before my struggle with fibromyalgia, insomnia, and fatigue. These issues have also helped me to reconnect with my body. In order to gear up to get a full night's sleep, I would listen to my body throughout the day trying to assess if I was too stressed or excited to sleep that night. Then relax accordingly. On days when my body was in pain I would try to listen to what it needed to feel better; a bath, a good stretch, maybe a walk. These attentions were small, but they allowed me to reconnect.

So when I started intuitive eating I had laid the groundwork of body trust, but I will admit I wasn't fully convinced I could do it. I had spent my life consuming exorbitant amounts of sugar and simple carbs at every possible moment that I wasn't failing at a new diet. Nothing seemed to curb my cravings. How could someone like that be set free of the "rules?"

But I had hit dieting bottom. I wasn't losing the baby weight as advertised (nursing isn't magical for everyone in that way), and every new attempt to diet led me straight to the refrigerator or pantry so I could eat everything I would never eat again before I began. Then I'd diet for a week or maybe two or three and when the scale didn't move, moved up, or only fell a pound I'd give up and run back to my comfort foods. And I felt miserable.

Then there was the knowledge that as a new mother I wanted to be careful to instill good body image ideas in my children, and I was to the point where even if I never dropped a pound I wanted to be happy and ultimately healthy. And dieting wasn't providing either of those things. Besides, aren't we born with the innate ability to eat exactly the right amount to grow and develop? Shouldn't we hang on to that? Yes and yes.

This is getting lengthy so allow me to sum up: I feel immensely better when I honor my body by eating intuitively. I eat less sugar than I have eaten since before I can remember. Not because it is forbidden, but because I don't like how I feel after I eat it. We still have treats in the house, but I can eat one or two and walk away. I no longer have to finish the bag. I'm learning to recognize when I am wanting to eat to mask other emotions. I'm learning to deal with those emotions in a healthy way (this is a work in progress). The scale doesn't seem to move, but my clothes are getting more loose. And while there are still plenty of days and moments when I am tempted by a new diet I hear about, and while the siren song of losing weight still captures my attention from time to time, I am ultimately happier when I push those aside and realize that this body of mine is beautiful, capable, and trustworthy.

*Disclaimer: This link will take you to Amazon. Purchases made from connecting from here to there (funny things are everywhere, Dr. Suess much?) will help to support this site and feed my darling little boy:)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stop overeating and reconnect to your body

One of my major downfalls in the past has been overeating. It was not uncommon for me to be so uncomfortable that I would want to just curl up. Miserable.

Learning to stop overeating has been hard for me, to be perfectly honest. But it has been very worth it. I'm not perfect yet (this weekend out at my in-laws can attest to that fact), but on the whole I've been better.

So I have put together 10 tips that have helped me. I generally shy away from making lists of behaviors because everyone is individual and needs to find what works best for them. However, in order to find out what works well you need to know what to try. Most of these are not new or ground breaking, but they are working for me and maybe they can help you too.

So without further ado, here are Melanee's 10 insights into stopping the overeating (in no particular order):

1. Eat often. I used to skip breakfast. By early afternoon I was so hungry I couldn't stand it. So I started eating breakfast, but then I'd skip lunch and be ravenous by dinner. Having a little one helps. I try to have a snack any time he does. You don't have to eat a lot, but just keeping yourself from getting too empty makes a big difference.

2. Have a stash. When Cormac was about 4 months old we went to visit Ammon's sister's family. I was nursing at the time. I knew his sister, but not well. During mealtimes I would catch myself eating insane amounts of food because I was worried I would get hungry before the next meal and not produce enough for my baby. I wasn't totally comfortable asking for snacks (I'm shy like that), so I overate. Since then I've had a rule to have a stash when I go places so I don't feel like a crazed animal. I don't want to eat like that, it's rude and unhealthy. I find having a granola bar or a stash of nuts in my purse during any given day is a good practice. Just plan ahead.

3. Eat mindfully. It was a rare thing when I would eat without distractions. Often I was reading or watching something while I ate. I still like to do this, but I'm learning to stop in order to listen to my body. If I'm distracted with something else I don't know when to stop eating.

4. Slow down. Growing up it was always the family joke (more of a reality) that my mom would spend all day slaving over the most amazing Thanksgiving dinner and we would be done eating in 15 minutes flat. By the time my brain figured out what was happening it was too late. I was over full.

5. Small portions. I think this one complements number 4 nicely. When I fill my plate with just a small amount of everything I am able to enjoy what I like and then pick seconds of that thing. While picking seconds I have time to assess just how hungry I still am. This has also helped me to learn about how much food I truly need. It obviously varies from day to day, but having a rough idea is nice.

6. Save it for later/prioritize. I read recently that those of us who feel like we have to finish our plates or else it is going to go to waste need to realize that it is going to waste either way. If we are full our body has what it needs. Any extra is waste. Leftovers are magical. I used to despise them, now I purposely cook to have them. Also, when I sit down to a meal I look to see what will save well and what won't. I eat the item that won't be great leftover first then fill in the gaps with the other foods until I'm full. The next day I have a wonderful meal waiting for me.

7. Observe. You need to take time to observe how you feel during your eating. No judgements here. If you mess up and overeat one day forgive yourself and move on. It's no big deal. Just keep paying attention and practicing and you'll get it down.

8. Stop emotional eating. This one is very tricky for me. When I find myself mindlessly wandering to the kitchen I have been learning to stop to see what it is I really need/want. If I find myself just eating something. . . anything, I know that there is something else a foot. Time to take a step back and address those other things, even when it's hard.

9. Savor. Take time to taste your food. Rejoice in the various flavors and textures. Eat the rainbow. Involve all of your senses. It makes meal time much more rewarding and satisfying.

10. Eat what you want. You are much more likely to stop after you've had enough if you've eaten exactly what you want. If you eat something else you won't be satisfied and you'll keep grazing the kitchen searching for that satisfied feeling. Rather than do that, throw out your rules and eat exactly what you want and what makes you feel good. Practice being an intuitive eater.

Pick and choose which of these appeals to you. Everyone is different. Everyone is unique. And everyone has a special combination that works just right for them. Take the time to find yours. Your body is worth it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Intuitive Eating Explained

I have mentioned the words "intuitive eating" a lot on this blog, but it occurred to me that perhaps this might be greek to a few people. After all, less than a year ago I had never heard of intuitive eating myself.

The most common reaction I get from people who first hear about intuitive eating is that I'm giving up. I'm embracing the idea of spending my life extremely overweight so that I can indulge in all the sweets I can get my hands on.

My husband used to call me his hummingbird because of my obsession with sugar. During all my years of restricting and dieting I would sneak sugar whenever possible. I looked for ways to always be getting more sugar into my diet. I could never stop at just one piece. I had to eat the whole package. My family all knows me as the one with the sweet tooth. But since I have begun intuitive eating I eat a piece of candy here or there, or a dessert when I feel like it, but I'm able to stop after just a small amount. In fact there are times I have passed up on dessert altogether.

Here are the details.  While it is true that when it comes to intuitive eating there are no rules, that doesn't mean eating with abandon. Calorie counting and forbidden foods go out the window. If you want ice cream and french fries for dinner that is completely allowed and acceptable, no guilt. However, it is called "intuitive" for a reason. The idea is that you are getting back in touch with your body.

The hope is that you will stop eating when you are full. You'll only eat when you are physically hungry. And you'll eat exactly what your body wants.

How often do you eat something just because it's available? What about eating mindlessly until you realize you are so full you might pop? And have you ever eaten a ridiculous amount of something because "tomorrow you're going on a diet and you'll never get to eat this again?"

When eating intuitively you listen to your body making sure to only eat when you are hungry and to stop when you are full. Sounds simple, but it's amazing how difficult this can be for us to actually put into practice.

The other side of this coin involves eating what your body wants. So let's say you did eat ice cream and french fries for dinner, how did you feel after the meal was over? Did you feel energized? Did you feel healthy, happy, nourished? Because that is how we want to feel after a meal. The more time you spend observing how the food you eat makes you feel the more you want to make choices that help you feel your best.

People who practice intuitive eating find their weight battle at an end. They no longer lose and gain like they are on a roller coaster. Their weight naturally stops where it should be.  There is no "giving up" involved. Rather, intuitive eating is the ultimate form of healthy eating in order to lose weight and give your body the nourishment it actually wants and needs.

Read this post by Dr. Solomon from Nourishing the Soul for more on the subject of "giving up."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Loving away self-hatred

We live in a society where it is rather in vogue to be dissatisfied with at least something when it comes to your own appearance. Younger and younger children are being fed lies about how they should look. There's such a huge focus on the outward appearance that it often leaves little time for development on the inside.

Right now at Voice in Recovery Kendra has started what she calls a "grass roots movement" to stop self-hatred. While this is not a new concept and certainly not the only movement of it's kind out there, I am excited by the idea that there are others out there who see the problem with self-hatred.

Here's my take on it. I lived years in a state of finding fault with my appearance. I was always slightly dissatisfied with that lifestyle, but it wasn't until I was around people who were happy with themselves just as they were that I began to realize just how much I wanted that in my own life. My change started because I observed others and felt like I wanted to live the way they did. No one told me to change. No one guilted, scared, or pushed me into it. I decided to end self-hatred because I liked what I saw when others were doing it. And as a mother I didn't ever want to pass self-hatred on to my children.

Large scale change starts with the individual. It will happen when individuals decide they are good enough and stop self-hate. As those around them see what they are doing they too will get the bug and they too will change. As mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, brothers, and friends embrace a life of acceptance our children will naturally develop a healthy relationship with their bodies. The market will change as well. If everyone is happy as they are the media will follow suit.

I believe that the way to make a difference and to change the world has nothing to do with ranting and raving against the system and everything to do with changing our own lives. Sometimes it will be met with hostility from people who don't understand and think we are "giving up." Sometimes it will be met with criticism. But when you have changed and find the peace and happiness that accompanies it others will see that it is worth it.

We can't change anyone until we have changed ourselves. Stopping self-hatred starts with you. Start small. Make the decision that you are done with it. Then stop fat talk. Next start questioning your inner voice that tells you you aren't good enough. It takes time. Be patient and forgiving of yourself when you aren't perfect. Over time you will see a happy and welcomed change.

Let's make a move to stop self-hatred. One by one we can make a difference.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I hope you all remembered to wear green today. I haven't gotten dressed just yet, but when I do I'll be sure to get some green on my person. No pinching me. I thought I'd share a few fun things with you today to help you celebrate the day.

First off, be sure to read up on St. Patrick's day with this article that summarizes it quite nicely.

If you haven't seen this already you need to watch it. No, it has nothing to do with St. Patrick's day, but I love it. So incredibly cute. It'll make you feel lucky (or maybe not, but I'm trying to stick with the theme, work with me here).

Speaking of luck, today on Positively Present there is a wonderful post on creating your own luck and living a more positive life. I really love this one.

If you are looking for something green to eat today check out this guacamole recipe from Health for the Whole Soul. And while you're there enjoy this cute poem about self acceptance.

The wonderful Joy at Being Joy talks about coming out of hiding. I love this video because I feel like this is one of the things I'm trying to accomplish on this blog. Take a minute to watch it.

After you watch that check out Curvy Yoga for a few thoughts on weight loss.

While we are on the subject of weight loss, I love, love, love this article on Weightless about health magazines, so eloquent. And while you are there read about true beauty. This is a really inspiring post.

Then to finish it all off I would like to refer you to The Beauty of Different to celebrate differences.

And back to the theme. This little guy isn't Irish, but his name, Cormac, is.

And he makes me feel lucky. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

P.S. Need a good movie? Watch The Fantastic Mr. Fox. HilARiOUs.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heart Break for Japan

The last few nights I have had a hard time sleeping. Every time I close my eyes I see images from the scene over in Japan. My heart aches for the people who are suffering, for the families that have been destroyed, for the lives that have been changed forever. So much destruction. It gives me nightmares.

Geneen Roth talks about a meditation that she learned in her book Women, Food and God:

"I heard a meditation years ago in which a teacher suggested that we think about what people who had recently died would give to be sitting where we were. To be sitting in any body, in any room. He said, 'Think of what they would give to have just one more moment inside this physical form, these arms, these legs, this beating heart and no other.' I gathered that the dead to whom he referred didn't really care about the size of anyone's thighs."

Thinking about the tragedy in Japan has made me feel that often the things we struggle with during the day (like the size of our thighs) is trivial in the big scheme of things. It is humbling to realize that if a catastrophe hit I would crave just a few more moments of my family regardless of my appearance. Our bodies are a gift from God, but we rarely treat them as such. Instead we spend time, money, and energy trying to force our bodies to fit a standard that is not realistic. We spend hours, days, weeks, months fretting over our failure to weigh a certain weight, or wear a certain size.

Our troubles are real. Our problems are important to us. Even the trivial ones. But sometimes it is valuable to step back and understand that what really counts, what is really important has nothing to do with our appearance and everything to do with how we use our bodies for good.

I snuck into my son's room last night in the middle of the night when I wasn't sleeping. I picked him up and held him in my arms while he slept. I paid close attention to the weight of his body against mine, and I thanked my Heavenly Father that I had a body to hold my son against. I thanked Him that I was able to even have a son. I felt sorry for the time I have wasted feeling bad about my body, especially since the birth of my son. What a gift, these bodies. We could never experience a hug or a physical touch. We wouldn't be able to smell a rose or know when rain was coming by the smell outside. We would miss so much.

My heart is aching for Japan. I'm thankful for the human race and the thousands of people rushing to the aid of those who are suffering. It always warms my heart to see how the world responds to a catastrophe. If you are wanting to help as well I'll refer you to The Beauty of Different where Karen outlines places for donations and aid.

At this time I am also thankful for my knowledge of the after life and that families are eternal. If you would like to learn more about what I believe go here.

Take today to revel in the world around you. Remember your 5 senses. Enjoy your family. Take the time to do something good with your body and enjoy that you have such a gift.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Inner Critic

I am reading a book by Geneen Roth called Women, Food and God. It is a very interesting read. In part of her book she talks about something she calls The Voice. I think we often call it our inner critic or other such things. Basically it is the voice in your head that keeps you down. You know, that little voice in your head that tells you you're too fat, too ugly, too stupid, a worthless waste of space?

For me, learning to combat this critic has been essential to my progression toward self love. For many of us (dare I say nearly all of us), this little critic is a powerful force that keeps us from trying new things. It keeps us from loving ourselves. This voice is responsible for our self hatred.

The Voice is developed from an early age. It starts out as a way to keep us from doing things that are socially unacceptable (like burping loudly in public). Our experiences help shape this voice. Then over time it evolves into the critic that convinces us we aren't good enough. We don't question this voice. We just accept that what it says is true. We convince ourselves that this critic is just trying to keep us safe and is speaking in our self intrest.

So what do we do about this? I think the first thing we need to do is take a step back and question this voice. Would you allow anyone else to talk to you that way? Would you speak to anyone else that way? When the voice tells you that you are as large as a rhinocerous take a minute to think. A rhinocerous? Really? Have you ever seen a rhinocerous? Obviously your voice is exaggerating. Maybe it's not as credible as you've always thought.

The next step for me has been to argue back. I know, it sounds a little odd, but it is really working for me. When I look in the mirror and the critic starts to tell me that my eyebrows just aren't good enough it helps for me to remind myself that there isn't a whole lot I can do to change the shape of my eyebrows. They are good just like they are. I am thankful I have eyebrows.

Taking a step back to remember that we are enough just as we are is important to keeping the voice at bay. Continue to talk nice to yourself. Internal dialogue is incredibly powerful. I love this comment that I got from a reader. Dani wrote:

I think it is important to understand that sometimes we have to say something to believe it. "sometimes we don't know we know something until we say it". We weren't born to think we are "fat, ugly, or an outcast. We learn it, whether it be from peers or family somebody taught us that we are those things.

So keep talking nicely to yourself, even if you aren't completely convinced. Over time the inner critic quiets down. My inner critic isn't gone yet, I doubt it will ever totally disappear. But I am getting really good at shutting her up when she starts to be critical. Life is too short to miss out on things because of a false belief that we just aren't good enough.

Learning to love yourself as you are is a lot of work, but it is probably the most worthwhile thing you can do.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The scale will not be my master anymore

Yesterday I finally broke down and went down to the doctor. I was really dizzy. My ears were drumming. So I had my husband drive me (rather than endanger the world with my dizzy driving).

As is the custom of doctor's offices I needed to stand on a scale at the beginning of the appointment. I have been very careful to avoid scales for the last few weeks. I have been trying to turn my attention to how my body feels, rather than how it looks.

I thought about stepping on backward. Then I would never know. . . but then there is a part of me that is still concerned with such things as weight. So I didn't. Besides. I was confident that the numbers would read lower than they did the last time I was on a scale.

They weren't lower.

And I had a moment of panic. For one fleeting moment I thought I should start a new diet. Summer is around the corner, how can I take my son to the pool without first dropping some weight? How can I successfully instruct yoga without losing some weight? How can I be a good wife if I don't lose some weight?

For one moment I thought of all the things that I could do to drop weight. I could set up some rules. Restrict certain foods. Exercise more (aka kill myself at the gym).

But the moment was rather fleeting. It passed quickly. And I realized that I didn't want to step back in to that lifestyle.

The most exciting part? I shrugged off my weight like it didn't matter. I had my moment of "oh no" and then moved on. I sent myself some love. Said it was okay that I wasn't dropping pounds left and right. I acknowledged that I felt thinner (I have lost inches even if I haven't lost pounds). But more than feeling thinner, I felt healthier than I have in a while (other than my exploding ear drums that is).

Ladies and gentlemen, I had a break though moment. A moment where I observed myself exactly where I am and decided that I am enough. Nothing needs to change. I'm okay with being me, and I'm okay with where being me is at right now.

So it is possible. Learning to love ourselves. I'm happy to say that I think I'm getting it down finally. Because I'm beautiful just the way I am. And I deserve love. So do you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lessons about food from my toddler

Yesterday I couldn't get my little one to eat. I tried everything, but he just wanted his sippy cup. I was happy to see him staying hydrated, but was concerned that he wouldn't eat more than a few bites of anything.

Cormac has been sick lately, but the last two days had been on the mend. So his lack of appetite was concerning for me. Tack on the fact that he is P.I.C.K.Y. when it comes to food (I don't know where he gets it; I was always such a good eater. . . sorry Mom for putting you through that) and you get one stressed out mom. I was sure I was starving him to death.

He wasn't the only one without an appetite yesterday. I didn't want to eat anything. Food just seemed unappetizing and yucky. But I was sick. I knew what was wrong with me. And if I decided not to eat than it way my own business. Besides, how was I expected to eat when I was sure my ear drum was going to burst if it hadn't already. I was so sure that it was okay for me not to eat. I knew what I was doing. I am learning to become an intuitive eater and if my body didn't want food than it was just fine.

But Cormac needed to eat.

Because I'm an adult.

And I knew better.

Last night after putting Cormac to bed I was sure he would wake up in the middle of the night starving. I was sure I should have tried harder to get him to eat something. Anything.

This morning when I woke up I was hungry. My appetite had returned. My body is still not healed, but whatever was going on yesterday had eased and it was time to fuel my body.

And Cormac? He slept great last night. And he woke up hungry too. He ate a good breakfast. Not as much as I though he would, but then I think his recent growth spurt has slowed as well.

As I was thinking about food and bodies this morning I realized how silly I had been trying to force Cormac to eat. There is a lot about intuitive eating that I am still getting used to. And there is a lot that I can learn from him. We are born intuitive eaters. We are in touch with our bodies right from the start. It's over time that we learn how to stop listening.

So while being a mom is hard, and I will probably always stress when he is not eating as well as I think he should, I am going to try to ease up and allow my son to always stay in touch with his own body. If he feels he has had enough then who am I to tell him otherwise? And maybe I can get just as in touch with my own body someday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

For Women

A few years ago (well, okay it is now more than "a few" but it only feels like it was a few) I lived in Ufa, Russia for 9 months. I was there teaching English as a volunteer. It was a wonderful experience.

Little Russian snow baby. I wish I had an outfit like this for my son.

The snow sculptures in Ufa are truly awe inspiring.

This makes me shudder. Palmeni was not my favorite. Especially for breakfast.

My students, minus the two boys.

We spent time at an orphanage a few times while we were there. The kids were so much fun.

The first semester I lived with a host family, this was my little sister, Adela.

Two of my fellow volunteers. We had too much fun together, and we clearly didn't fit on this slide well.

Now this was something that was truly delicious. It's hard to go wrong with so much deep fat fried goodness. Paroshkee, yum.

My Americans, second semester: Me, Stephanie, Heidi, Rachel, Megan, Nicole. This was after we had gone cave spelunking with a crazy guide named Oleg.

One of my students. This was the most advanced class. We had kindergartners on up. This was the whole group except Tiger, who was taking the picture.

And no trip to Russia would be complete without seeing St. Petersburg, this is Catherine's Palace.

And also Moscow. This is St. Basil's.

Sorry for the picture overload. I would love to share a million more, but perhaps I'll save it for another day. My time in Russia was amazing. Though it was difficult to be a 19 and then 20 year-old away from home, family, and my own country, it was an amazing experience.

So why am I sharing all this today? Well, today happens to be International Women's Day. Which happens to be a really, really, really big deal in Russia. I found Russians to be rather reserved for the most part, except on this particular day when total strangers would congratulate me for being a woman. My students showered me with gifts. The entire city of Ufa was in celebration of the women in their lives.

On this day when I was in Russia I truly felt like it was pretty awesome to be a woman. Not that I feel contrary to that on other days. The truth is, most days I don't think about it. That's just what I am. But on March 8th I like to remember how great it is to be a woman.

So. . . to all the amazing women out there: Happy Women's Day! I hope you feel special today because you truly are. If you don't have someone to buy you flowers today, go get yourself some. Because you are a woman. And today is our day. Make it special.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Changing the world: Self Love as a Revolutionary Act

So I'm on this path to become an intuitive eater. I'm making progress. But it certainly doesn't happen over night. I was first intrigued with the idea of intuitive eating back in August, however I wasn't really ready to embrace it yet. It was a radical change in thinking for me. One I wanted to make, but wasn't really there yet. And even though I'm still learning the ins and outs of intuitive eating, and even though I still have to really think about it my mind is in the right place and I'm converted.

A funny thing conversion. Once someone becomes truly converted to a cause they become passionate about that thing. They want to share it with the world and convert everyone else. I too have had these feelings. Any time I hear a friend or family member speak of how they are counting calories or doing this or that diet I want to tell them how wrong they are. I want to explain to them that there is a better way. I want to show off all my new knowledge about how dieting is destroying our bodies. I forget that a few short months ago I too was not ready for intuitive eating.

I heard on the news yesterday that they have come up with a new diet fad. It's a pacemaker for your stomach. Apparently after you eat some food it sends a signal to your brain to tell you you are full. Um. . . did you know that we already have those mechanisms in place? We are born with them. We just stopped listening.

Then I hear about things like bariatric (weight loss) surgery. Great idea. Go to sleep and wake up thinner. Except that the health "complications" that come after the surgery are truly horrifying. You have to live the rest of your life like that, you can never go back. And often that life is cut short as a result of the surgery. What about the HCG diet? Well, I know people that are having strokes because of it. Younger than me. And most of the people are gaining back all the weight.

Every new diet hurts our body. It causes so much damage. Even calorie counting and exercise is damaging. The only true way to be healthy is to listen to your body's cues. But I need to back off, because, once again, this is a radical thought that can be too much for those not ready to hear it.

I have been reading Health at Every Size (which I highly recommend and no I'm not getting paid to tell you that). She points out that we've already lost the "war on obesity." Every new generation is a little taller, yet we haven't waged a war on height. As we evolve and our circumstances change so do our bodies. But being "overweight" isn't really as dangerous as many (those who stand to profit from it) have led us to believe.

But I digress, what I really wanted to share from that book was this:

"Self-love may be the most revolutionary act you can engage in. A person who is content in his or her body--fat or thin--disempowers the industries that prey on us and helps rewrite cultural mores."

What a way to say it. What we really need in this world is a lot more self-love. When we learn to love and appreciate our bodies we will also learn to take care of them. We will learn to listen and trust our bodies. God gave us all the tools that we need to be healthy (and that includes maintaining a healthy weight). But we have to tune out the noise and learn to listen again.

So I'm converted. And if you would ever like to learn more about this new lifestyle I would love, love, love to share of my knowledge. And I'll try to remember that preaching won't change the world.

If you are a convert to this lifestyle too and are struggling with how to balance your beliefs with those of family and friends I recommend this article.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Just Breathe

We have had so much going on here at my house. . . too much in fact. With two large projects in the works life has been busy. I'm trying to keep up with small things too such as laundry, dusting, blogging, scouts, my personal yoga practice. Cormac has been sick. And I'm officially run down. The exhaustion has set in.

So yesterday night I had had enough and declared it an early-bedtime night. The hubby and I were tucked in bed by 9:30. Within 1 minute Ammon's breathing had slowed and he was already drifting in dream land. I so wish I could fall asleep that fast. As I snuggled up to him and tried to sleep I couldn't keep my mind from the millions of places it was going. How was I going to find time for all of it. I needed to go grocery shopping. What about the dishes? What color to paint the shop? So many things to think about.

After about 15 minutes I was beginning to panic. This usually happens with me when I'm trying to get some rest and am busy. I've struggled with insomnia for years. It has been much better recently (having a baby and being a mom wears you out). But as the time continued to tick, and I continued to be awake I started to worry that I wasn't going to get to sleep. Then I would have to run on empty the next day as well.

I tried talking myself down. Nothing was going to get done right then. If I wanted to be more productive tomorrow it was important that I allow my body to rest.

Still my mind wandered. Still I panicked that I wasn't sleeping.

It was after about 30 minutes of this that I decided to take some wisdom from yoga. I began to breathe. Okay, so I had been breathing the whole time, but I began to be conscious of it. When my mind wandered I acknowledged the thought and put it away in the file cabinet of my mind to be dealt with tomorrow. Then I breathed some more.

In. Out. In. Out.

After about 5 minutes I realized that I had calmed down and had been drifting in and out of dream land. It was amazing how calm, relaxed, and ready for sleep I was. And yesterday morning I woke up refreshed for the first time in weeks.

In case you are struggling some night and need to calm down and relax I will share with you the pattern of breathing I used. I inhaled for a comfortable amount of time. For me that is 4 seconds. Then I exhaled the same amount of time. I allowed my breathing to be equal until it was comfortable and natural. Then I extended my inhale by one second. In for 4 seconds, out for 5. After a little while at this rate I bumped it up to 6 seconds out. Keeping the inhale where it was. Worked like a charm.

The power of our breath is absolutely incredible. Why do you think they teach women going into labor how to breathe? It's that powerful. Try it out. Just taking a few minutes each day to breathe consciously can help you manage stress and anxiety in powerful ways.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Accepting that my buns will never be steel

I bought a gym membership because my doctor thought it would be a good idea for me to start swimming. I have a horrible back. It has gotten to the level of constant pain (on a side note, I think this could be helped with yoga, but I'm so busy, so so busy that I usually only get in about 30 minutes of yoga a day). I walked into the gym and instantly felt bad about myself.

For the next few weeks I worked out every day. Sometimes twice a day. I just knew that if I worked out hard enough in no time I would look like the girls I imagined were shunning me. I ignored the sore feelings all over my body. The ones that made it difficult to life up my baby boy. I even imagined my back was getting better (it was not).

Cormac was allowed to stay in the day care for 90 minutes. I felt that I had to work hard the entire hour and a half. If I went to an hour long class that left 30 minutes for some self punishing. But some days I was so so tired. But if I couldn't do the work outs I would never be able to change. And I would be a failure. How hard could it be? Other people did it.

But after a series of horrible ear infections that Cormac managed to get every single time I'd take him to the day care we decided to take some time off. I think that's when I realized how incredibly burned out I was. Working out was awful. I hated it. I just wanted to lay around and never move again.

I tried going back to the gym a few times, but I would usually give up after a few days. It was too hard.

Yes, it's safe to say that sometimes I am hypocritical. I tell you all about how I'm trying to love my body where it is, but then I would go to the gym for a punishing 90 minutes after which I'd put the baby down for a nap and do at least another 30 minutes at home. But the only thing I was gaining was more and more injuries. And I really wasn't losing much weight, if any. I stop abusing food to abuse exercise. When I'm not abusing either of those I move on to money or obsessive house cleaning.

Learning to love yourself is hard work. For me learning all the different things I do to hide from dealing with my insecurities has been particularly difficult.

But I digress.

So I had stopped going to the gym or working out at all. But one day it was warm out. And sunny. And oh how I want Spring. So I put my little one in his stroller and out we went. It felt good. As I walked I started tuning in to my body. I loved the way it felt to walk and move. I realized how much I truly love to walk. Moving my body didn't have to be all punishment.

I finally decided to go back to a kick boxing class one day. After the class I would go home. No guilt over the last 30 minutes I didn't spend working out. That evening I did a nice 15 minute relaxing yoga routine to stretch out after the class and help avoid the aching in my body. I felt great.

I've come to the realization that little things add up. Getting a little physical activity in each day is  far more beneficial to my health than killing myself for a few days/weeks in a row then taking a few months to recover.

So even though I may never have buns of steel (who wants to sit on steel anyway?) I can have an incredibly healthy heart and enjoy my body.