Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful

I’ve been reading a lot online lately about motivation over the past couple of months. During that time I have encountered many cool, interesting, and extremely motivating blogs written by fabulous women of all ages from all over the world.

One thing that has been really disturbing to me is the number of young women out there who have so much self-hate and dissatisfaction with their bodies … many to the point of having an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, orbinge eating.

Most of us have looked in the mirror and not liked what we saw there. To this day, every time I try on clothes, I still see myselfas the overweight 12-year-old girl that I once was. It can be a huge challenge to look in the mirror and not be critical, but I promise you, this is the MOST IMPORTANT relationship that you will ever have.

Facts About Teens and Body Image

The National Institute on Media and the Family has posted these facts:

In a survey of girls 9 and 10 years old, 40% have tried to lose weight, according to an ongoing study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
In a study on fifth graders, 10 year old girls and boys told researchers they were dissatisfied with their own bodies after watching a music video by Britney Spears or a clip from the TV show “Friends”.
A 1996 study found that the amount of time an adolescent watches soaps, movies and music videos is associated with their degree of body dissatisfaction and desire to be thin.
One study reports that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen.

The Truth About Self-Love

Most people have a little voice inside that has told them that they are “not good enough” for something. This can ruin our lives and often does ruin our relationships.

What people are really searching for out there is self-love … but they are looking for a job or a relationship to fill that void. No person or possession can fill that void. It is solely up to you.

Practicing Self-Love

It’s time to let go & start practicing. Self-love must be unconditional. You can’t only love yourself when you’ve been a “good girl” – that’s too easy. You have to also love the girl who ate the Oreo ice cream sundae or the girl who hasn’t been to the gym in three months. Like everything else … practice makes perfect. Once you have begun to love yourself in a real way, you begin to see a shift in how you prioritize your life.

“Happiness is looking in the mirror and liking what you see.” – Unknown

People who are self-loving see a whole person when they look in the mirror and not just flaws. Keep this in mind. The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, try being a little less critical of the person looking back at you. Let your new mantra be … “Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful.” Say it every time you look in the mirror. Before long, you may just start liking what you see.

How To Hold Yourself Accountable

Last Saturday, I gave a wellness seminar to a group of women at Uforia Studios. One of the topics we discussed was Attainable Goal Setting.

One of the questions I received was, “How do I hold myself accountable?” Great question … and often easier said than done. I’ve been listening to my followers on Twitter & Facebook this week as well, and they are asking similar questions.

The first question I have for you is “Are you keeping track of your goals?” Then, “are you writing stuff down on paper?” There is something powerful about implementing that additional sense. Don’t just hold your thoughts & dreams in your head … put them down on paper!

Now, hang that piece of paper up somewhere that you can see it every day. It reminds you of what you are working towards and keeps you focused!

The second tip I have for you is straight out of my Smart Girls Guide to Getting What You Want. If you want to hold yourself accountable, give yourself very specific deliverables. Don’t just say, “I want to run a marathon” or “I want to be CEO of my company.” Figure out a plan to get to the next level from where you are now. If you want to run a marathon and you are not already running races, start by signing up for a couple of 5Ks.

If you can buddy up with a friend who has a similar goal, this will give you an extra push to meet your goals because you are also supporting someone else. If not buddying up with one friend, how about a group? If you want to run a marathon, try joining one of the many running clubs out there. You’ll be with like-minded people who likely have a set day of the week, time, and route that they run. Problem solved!

Lastly, share your goals with your group of girl friends. Update your Facebook status, tweet, and blog about it. You will undoubtably get lots of “Likes”, a few comments, and plenty of support. I will happily be your first supporter … just share your goal with me! 🙂

Go out there and get started. If you need help, ask for it! Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game!!

The Science of Prevention

The Science of Prevention
Do’s and Don’ts that Could Save Your Life!

Running, Exercising Outdoors

The key to living a healthy, balanced life is practicing prevention. Benjamin Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

If you are not already well versed in your family medical history, I can not stress the importance of having those conversations. If someone in your immediate family has a chronic illness like heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, or a history of cancer, this is something both you & your doctor should be aware of.

There are basically two types of inherited disease: single gene inheritance & multifactorial (or complex) inheritance. Examples of single gene inheritance are diseases like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. In those instances, there are no changes that you can make to your environment or you lifestyle to impact whether or not you will develop these diseases. Multifactorial inherited diseases are a different story. Examples of these are things like diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer. If you inherited a risk factor for one of these types of diseases, taking preventive steps in your life could be difference between developing the disease or not.

Having regular physicals with your health care provider & scheduling recommended preventive screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, and even depression could save your life. Many of these diseases, when detected early, can be treated with medication or in some cases even with simple lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.

Other preventive measures that are important for a healthy lifestyle and in some cases could save your life include:

Not smoking
Getting to & maintaining a healthy weight
Being physically active
Consuming a healthy diet
Not drinking excessively

I’m curious … are there diseases that you know of that run in your family that you could prevent or help your children or loved ones prevent with these tips? Comment below & tell me about it.

If you can’t remember the last time you had that physical or “annual” mammogram, schedule it NOW! Then come back to this page and tell me, “I did it!”

How To Get Fit Doing What You Love

 

Have you ever passed on doing something that might have been interesting or fun because you thought you couldn’t do it or couldn’t do it well?

Or even worse, that someone else in the room would notice you and THEY would think you didn’t know what you were doing?

Get fit have fun doing what you love for exercise

Photo courtesy of webgrrls.com

I remember a time when I was visiting a spa for a week.  Every day, a variety of exercise classes were offered.  The girls that I met and had lunch with during the week were always going to the dance classes.  I thought it sounded fun, but the fact that I didn’t think I had enough rhythm or that I would look dumb doing the moves kept me from joining in.Finally, on the last day, a famous choreographer from New York was there to teach the dance class.  People had been talking about him all week, so I had to go and see for myself.  It was… A BLAST!  I couldn’t remember the last time I had so much fun!  It certainly wasn’t anything like the exercise I was used to doing.  I was so bummed that I hadn’t joined in sooner!  I would have had a lot more fun with my new group of friends that I was having running alone while they were in class.  This was something I could do to get fit that I would love!I was shy growing up.  Even as an adult, early in my career, I can remember being scared stiff when I knew that I was going to have to introduce myself to a room of people.  Seriously!  Just staying my name out loud knowing that every pair of eyes in the room was on me was terrifying!  I’m sure it stems from the fact that I was an overweight kid with stringy hair and glasses.  We all know how mean kids can be to each other.  I guess I thought by staying quiet & not drawing attention to myself, I was somehow protecting myself.At some point, not too long ago in fact, I started to think, “Who cares what people think about me?”  I was actually giving a room of total strangers far too much power!  After I joined that dance class, I looked around and saw that nobody in there was perfect!  They were just regular people trying to get fit.  The difference in me and them was that they weren’t afraid to be themselves and have fun!The message here, friends, is to get out there and not let what you THINK other people will think about you stop you from doing that!  I can guarantee you that you are far more critical of yourself than anyone else on the treadmills or in that Zumba class you’ve always thought of trying will be.Don’t be afraid to try something new.  You may be really good at it!  You may LOVE it!  Take back the power you are giving to other people, and say “I CAN” do this!

Is there something you’d like to try but are afraid of?  Have you own personal triumph story?  Come on… don’t let me think I’m the ONLY ONE 🙂

Please ask your questions and share your stories in the Facebook comment box under this post.  Your question or story may motivate someone else to get fit and make a healthy change in their life — don’t be shy!!

Don’t Let Your Genes Define You

 

I have a personal triumph story to share, and I hope it inspires you when you think that your genes define you.The first time I had my cholesterol levels tested, it was shockingly on the high side.  At that point, I was twenty-one years old, relatively thin and fairly active.  I was actually working in a Nutrition and Heart Disease laboratory at the time as a Research Associate, and I was learning quite a bit about genetic predisposition for a number of cardiovascular diseases and if changes to diet could in fact help a person avoid these diseases.I kept an eye on my cholesterol for the next several years and even though I knew more on the topic than the average person my age (e.g., the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol) I stupidly did not make any modifications to my diet to keep the numbers in check.  I’m sure laziness was a key factor in addition to the fact that I was coming off of the starving student years and thrilled to be able to afford more than bagels and bananas at the grocery store!About three years ago, I made a huge leap and became a pescetarian.  I figured that by giving up meat, I was not only saving animals lives but potentially my own by the huge amounts of fat and cholesterol that I’d be avoiding.  A year into this semi-vegetarian lifestyle, I couldn’t wait to go for my annual cholesterol check.  I was shocked and seriously disappointed when the numbers had in fact not gone down… but up by about 30 points!!!  After a little thinking, I realized it must be all of the cheese I was eating to compensate for the lack of meat in my diet.  I had also started to get much more regular cardiovascular exercise & strength training during this time.  Something else had to be done, and I needed to get smart about it if I wanted to avoid starting statin therapy in my thirties.I began to do research and planned to start a sort of “food detox,” where I avoided several foods for about two weeks to encourage myself to make new food choices rather than those upon which I have forever relied (I had still been lazy up until this point, often choosing foods that were quick & easy versus good for me).  For a week, I ditched foods such as dairy, soy, wheat, and anything processed.  Instead of cold cereal or non-fat flavored yogurts for breakfast, I tried apple slices with almond butter and fruit smoothies.  I felt really good after the “detox” period was over, and have continued to avoid most processed foods.  I also discovered Pu erh tea, which is known to have cholesterol-reducing properties.  Instead of having an afternoon cappuccino, I substituted a cup of tea.

 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I went in for my yearly cholesterol screening.  I was actually really nervous!  I was still exercising regularly, and my cheese consumption had dropped dramatically after being introduced to more protein-containing whole foods.  But the truth was, in all of the years I had been getting my cholesterol checked it had NEVER once gone down and had ALWAYS gone up.

The next day, I got a ping on my iPhone when a new test result from my doctor’s office was posted.  I was shocked and THRILLED to see that for the first time ever, my total cholesterol had gone down!  I still have some work to do on my LDL (bad cholesterol), but my trigylcerides had gone down by over 30 points!  I considered that a huge success and know that saying goodbye to sugar and artificial sweeteners had a lot to do with this accomplishment.

If this isn’t proof that lifestyle changes DO make a difference, then I don’t know what is!  I continue to drink my Pu erh tea every day, as well as include fiber-rich foods and vegetables into my diet.  You can see this isn’t something that I was able to change overnight, but your strength lies in perseverance.

I challenge you to set a life-changing goal today!  You CAN achieve it if you set your mind to it and get a little encouragement along the way.

 

Photo courtesy of www.surgical-blog.com

 

Avoid Food Temptations and Weight Gain With These Simple Tips

 

Did you know that if you consume just 100 calories more than you burn every day, you’ll gain ten pounds in one year?  Pretty disturbing, isn’t it?  This tidbit of information can actually help you now that you are aware.  These small changes can make a big difference in controlling temptations this holiday season.Sit When You EatInstead of grabbing a handful of this or that during the day, actually sitting down using utensils and a plate may help you consume less.  Our brains have been trained to respond a certain way at mealtime.  If you make a rule not to eat without sitting down, eating will become more mindful… therefore, less mindless nibbling while making dinner and throughout the day.

Have the Soup

Studies show that starting out a meal with soup can activate brain signals that begin to tell you that you’ve had enough to eat.  By the time you finish with your main course, you’ll be satisfied instead of thinking about the dessert cart.  To minimize calories, stay away from cream-based soups.  Opt for vegetable or broth-based soups with vegetables rich in fiber.

Stay Away From the Buffet

Scientists have found that we consumer more calories when we see big spread of food.  Don’t torture yourself by going to an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Don’t feel like you have to put a little bit of everything on your plate.  It will not hurt the host or hostesses feelings if you consume in moderation.  If you are at a holiday party and they are serving potatoes, pass on the bread.

Use a Smaller Dish

Do you ever notice that when you choose a larger bowl or container, you tend to fill it up?  When you go for ice cream, use a small tea or coffee cup instead of an oversized ice cream bowl.  Also, use a mini ice cream scoop or small spoon to serve yourself rather than a giant serving spoon.  You’ll serve yourself less and still be satisfied.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When the treats are out, we eat them.  You know that co-worker with the giant M&M jar on her desk?  We’ve all got one — and each time we pass her cubicle, those blue & green peanut M&Ms are beckoning for us!  Studies show that when candies are placed out of sight in the workplace, people ate half as much.  Don’t tempt yourself by keeping treats in plain view.

The Science of Confidence

Research in the field of neuroscience is revealing how the chemistry and design of the brain make decisions for us, and how the brain’s reaction to decision-making is based on confidence.

This really got me thinking…

I always dread that part of yoga class when the instructor invites the class to try Crow Pose, known in Sanskrit as Bakasana.  It is almost always one of the last poses of the class.  I watch as many of the incredibly flexible and experienced yogis in class get into the pose seamlessly on their first try.  They often take it two steps further into a full-on headstand, making even THAT look easy.  I try and psych myself up to do it EVERY class.  Then, there is that final second when both feet have to come up and your head is so close to the floor that a crash seems inevitable.  I immediately start to think that my arms aren’t strong enough, I remember the wrist that I broke in four places in the third grade — all of the thoughts start to flood in during that final second and BOOM… I give up before trying.  Any of this sounding familiar?

When I thought about this new research hypothesis, I see a huge opportunity for a confidence boost by way of shifting my thought process.  I started to think about things that I’m really good at — areas where I am totally confident.  With that, I came up with 4 Tips to Build Confidence that I want to share.  I hope these have you tackling new challenges in no time!

1)  Relax.
Just the idea of doing something challenging and different can bring about more than a few butterflies.  Close your eyes and think about things you do well or have excelled at in the past.  Remember what that feels like?  Scientists at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine and the Genomics Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) found that relaxation techniques can actually alter the expression of genes related to stress.  Channel feelings of relaxation and imagine doing the new thing you are considering just as well.  This enables the brain to take on the task at hand to the best of our abilities.

2)  Stop the All-or-Nothing Thinking.
To my fellow Type A personalities… just because we can’t do everything perfect the first time is no reason to let it ruin your day!  Trust me, getting over this is very tough to master, but consider this… people who are confident do not let one obstacle stand in the way of their goals & stop them from enjoying their lives.  Enough said!

3)  Embrace Your Inner Optimist
I’ve talked about the fact that having a positive or negative outlook on life is an inherited trait in an earlier post, The Science of Happiness.  For those of you (like me!) who have to work a little harder to see the bright side, just thinking about the rewards from inner confidence should give you that extra push.  No risk, no reward!

4)  Just Do It.
Stop overthinking and take action!  For me, I think back to solving math problems (nerdy, yes — but I was good at it!)  I NEVER reworked a problem because I was confident in my technique, confident in the fact that I knew my formulas.  Trust yourself.  If you get up to give a speech on a subject matter you know, the entire room full of people is not going to laugh at you.  Don’t spend the hours before you talk working yourself into a anxious state thinking of everything that could possibly go wrong.  Get up, be confident, and do it!

My goal is to get into Crow Pose by the end of this year!  If I have to call the instructor over to help me the first time, that’s what I’m going to do.  In what areas do you lack confidence?  Based on these tips, can you set a goal to achieve before the end of the year?  Leave a comment below and tell me about it!

Natural Cures for Exhaustion

It’s Friday again. Chances are, you feel drained. Maybe even stressed, tired, or burned out? It’s inevitable given the way we multitask to balance work, family, friends, and other commitments. By taking stock in what you are asking yourself to do in a day, you are taking the first step towards saying goodbye to exhaustion and start feeling better. Here are a few common causes and cures of exhaustion that could change your life.

1) Your breath. Most of us are shallow, rapid breathers. This type of breathing can be caused by poor posture or stiff muscles and can lead to poor oxygen supply making us feel slow, fatigued, and exhausted! To practice deep breathing, start by lying on your back in a comfortable position. Put your hands on your belly underneath your rib cage. The tips of your two middle fingers should be barely touching. Breathe in fully through the nose & feel your chest expand — you will notice that your fingertips move apart slightly as your chest expands with air. For best results, practice deep breathing every day for a couple of minutes. Over time, you will notice a rise in energy levels.

2) Lack of connection. Do you remember your last beach vacation? How did you feel as you sat back in your chair looking out at the ocean? Relaxed, huh? There is something about a connection with nature that makes us feel less drained and less anxious. In our day-to-day lives, especially now that winter is lurking, we may go for days without seeing the light of day. We spend our entire day inside buildings with artificial light. As often as you can, talk an early morning walk. If that is impossible, get yourself outdoors for a fifteen to twenty minute walk at lunch time. Pay attention to the scenery or to your breathing — whatever works. Do not read your email on your smartphone; that’s defeating your purpose of connecting to nature!

3) No motivation. We all need a sense of meaning and a sense of joy to ground us. Getting caught up in the grind can be really depleting if you don’t have something that brings you happiness to balance it out. If you identify with this, I want to encourage you to write a few things down. Start off by listing the things that cause you to feel stressed and disconnected from the world. It could be a strained relationship with a family member, a recent break-up or job loss. Whatever it is, write it down & also write down your reaction to the stressful situation. Next, write down the things in your life that give you happiness and satisfaction. This will likely be a much shorter list, but your job is to start doing more of the things that make you feel connected and happy and less of the things that make you feel stressed and miserable. You might find that waking up early for that yoga class is worth it even if you are tired because you leave feeling energized and accomplished. Whatever it is, follow the positives and you are guaranteed that little spark you are seeking.

Me and the Dalai Lama

One of the key elements to true health and happiness is an uncluttered mind. Do you ever notice that when someone tells you to breathe, you actually pause and take a full and deep inhale/exhale? This is how we should be breathing all of the time, though few of us actually do.

Most of us (including me!) engage in frequent stress-breathing that leads to tightness in our neck and shoulders. Add a few hours at the computer every day, and the result is pain! No wonder massage is nearly a 20 billion dollar/year industry!

The term meditation is used in many ways. For me, the word meditation used to bring to mind something spiritual or ritualistic. Don’t let the word itself scare you! It wasn’t until I spent a week at the famed Golden Door Spa in Escondido, California that I realized meditation can simply be about pausing for as little as sixty seconds to close your eyes and breathe.

Here are a few tips for beginners.

Start S-L-O-W-L-Y. Really, start with just one minute a day. You can be in line at the grocery store, sitting in your car in a parking lot… it doesn’t matter where you are. Sit, close your eyes, clear your mind as much as you can, and just take a few deep, slow breaths in and out. Try and focus on your chest expanding and contracting. You may want to add another minute the following day, find a quiet spot at home in the morning or just before bed. Do what is comfortable for you.

Stick with it. If you want to see a difference, consistency is key. Whether you feel like it or not, do it! Just think, it can be as little as one minute and you WILL see the health benefits from a relaxed mind. Sometimes, you can learn what is REALLY bothering you by sitting through a moment or two of uninterrupted time.

Don’t punish yourself. The goal of meditating is not to stop thinking altogether. It is to be aware and present with your thoughts. My trip to the Golden Door Spa was actually years ago, but I will never forget the wise words of a very wise woman at the Door, AnnHarriet Buck. While explaining how to meditate to a group of over-worked women, she shared a story about a conversation with the Dalai Lama. He shared that even HE had experienced his thoughts drifting from time to time while meditating. He said when this happened, he just laughed a little, forgave himself, and continued on. I’ll never forget AnnHarriet’s advice to us in the room. When she feels her mind wandering while meditating she simply smiles, forgives herself, and thinks, “me and the Dalai Lama.” Years later, I still remember this when I am in a yoga class and having trouble concentrating. I always have a private laugh with myself and keep going.

Good luck! I’d love to hear about your experience with yoga or meditation. Share them below this post in the Facebook comment box!