Author Archives: Leanne

You are not bad, Dear One

You are not bad for being the size you are. Fat or thin or somewhere between.
You are just you.

You are not bad for loving food. A lot or a little or somewhere between.
You love what you love.

You are not bad for eating the cake or extra slice of pie or the whole box of cookies.
You eat what you eat.

You are not bad for craving the chocolate, the cheese, or the carbs.
You need what you need.

You are not bad for feeling sad, angry, scared, or depressed.
You feel what you feel.

You are not bad for not exercising or sculpting or shaping your body.
You move how and when you want to move.

You are not bad for pursuing health that looks different from the norm.
Your health is your health.

You are not bad for accepting or even loving your body even though it doesn’t match what your doctor, your partner, your friend, or your family says it should look like.
You love yourself the way you are.

You are not bad. Period. You were created to be the person you are inside the body you have now by a God who knew what he was doing when He created you. You are capable, powerful, and influential… regardless of your body size, your food, your level of health, or other people’s perception of how you ought to be. No one else gets to have a say in what your body looks like, how you should or should not be eating, or what healthy is for you. Don’t let others’ opinions, including those from your closest most intimate relationships, force-fit you into a mold that isn’t meant for you.

You are good. And if you don’t believe it now, if you are feeling bad because you perceive yourself as fat, ugly, out of shape, and unhealthy  thus making you “bad” in all your choices, I encourage you to go on a journey to find out why you believe these things about yourself. Where is the source of your body beliefs? I can tell you it isn’t from the One who created you because God doesn’t see you as all the negative descriptors culture uses against you. And also, fat is not ugly, out of shape, or unhealthy. Fat bodies have equal power to be as beautiful, strong, and healthy as thin bodies and all the body shapes between.

You are not bad, dear one.

For more positive messages in your life, click on that little golden gift box on the top of this page!

 

 

You Can’t Ruin Nutrition

We have a cultural belief that if we muck up something healthy with something unhealthy, we’ve now ruined the nutrition in what could have been a healthy choice. For example, putting cheese over broccoli or dipping our chicken into ranch dressing or eating pizza for breakfast (feeling the need to say ‘well, at least I ate breakfast’.)

The reality is, we don’t denature or obliterate nutrition when we spruce it up for satisfaction. Broccoli doesn’t lose its fiber and Vitamin A if we sprinkle cheese or even pour a creamy cheese sauce over the top. The protein and fat doesn’t disappear from grilled chicken when we dip it in creamy ranch. Our metabolism still turns on and distributes the nutrients in pizza (carbs, calcium, protein, and micro-nutrients from veggies) when we eat it for breakfast. When we modify our food to accommodate our palates, the nutritional value in our food is still valid. If you add a little something extra tasty to satisfy your taste buds, you’re simply adding to the nutritional pool provided by your meal or snack. It’s okay and normal and healthy to customize your food to satisfy your preferences.

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We spend a lot of time coming up with “healthy alternatives” for the fun foods we love to eat: carrots instead of potato chips, smoothies instead ice cream, nuts instead of a bagel, etc. None of these foods are right or wrong or healthy or unhealthy from our bodies’ perspectives. Our bodies don’t say, “Oh! Thanks! I really wanted potato chips but you gave me carrots instead. Good job, you sure are healthy!” Or “Wow! That super green smoothie with the hemp powder and matcha was such a better choice than the Rocky Road with chocolate syrup!” Our bodies don’t judge the food we feed them. Bodies simply read the nutrients, process where the nutrition needs to go, and excrete what they doesn’t use or need.

When we substitute foods with “healthier choices” what we’re actually doing is depriving our bodies of one nutrient and giving them a different nutrient. Our bodies read and operate on nutrients, cuing us through cravings when it needs more of something. So if you’ve got a hankering for potato chips, your body is asking for some carbs and salt (both necessary nutrients), and if you feed it carrots instead then you’ve fed yourself vitamins, fiber, and water. You’ve given your body good nutrition that it will use from the carrots, but it is still missing the carbs and salt… which is why you won’t feel satisfied and will continue craving those chips. Both the chips and the carrots are nutritious because they both contain necessary nutrients the body needs. One is not better than the other in and of itself, but the chips will be a more satisfying choice if your body is running low on carb fuel and if they sound good.

Another fun fact, when we give our bodies permission to eat what sounds good, with zero judgement and zero “guilt free” substitutions, the need to binge goes away. Binging behavior is often a result of deprivation, the constant avoiding or substituting for food deemed “unhealthy.”

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Rather than viewing food from a “good” or “bad” perspective or labeling food as “healthy” or “unhealthy,” take a more neutral approach to food, understanding that each food contains its own set of nutrients. A neutral approach allows all foods to be valuable… the super green smoothie AND the Rocky Road are equally good depending on what your body is asking for. The cheese sauce over the broccoli is twice as delicious with the bonus nutrients in the cheese. Either the nuts or the bagel will satisfy depending on how hungry you are. Maybe you want pizza for breakfast and nuts for an afternoon snack. Who knows? You will!

You can’t ruin nutrition. Modifying your food to suit your tastes is not bad. Choosing foods that sound good without substituting for healthier alternatives is 100% okay because all foods carry nutritional value. Knowing these truths takes the guilt, shame, and pressure out of food and allows for a more relaxed and enjoyable eating experience, without the binging and constant wanting.

For more information about nutrition and resources on improving your relationship with food visit:

Martha Barnhouse Wellness
Be Nourished
Christy Harrison MPH, RD, CDN

 

 

The Dancer on the Treadmill

We were not designed for exercise. We were certainly designed for movement, but not exercise. In our culture exercise has taken on a harsh connotation of militant command: “YOU MUST EXERCISE TO BE HEALTHY! IF YOU DO NOT EXERCISE YOU ARE LAZY AND DESTINED FOR FATNESS WHICH MEANS YOU WILL BE UNHEALTHY, SICK WITH TERRIBLE DISEASE, AND SHAMED FOR YOUR LACK OF SELF-DISCIPLINE AND ABILITY TO CARE FOR YOURSELF.”

So we do one of three things (or cycle through a combination of the three):

1) Muster up the motivation to start an exercise regimen, setting the expectations high with little to no regard for our nature or needs, thus setting ourselves up for failure: “I need to lose _______ pounds, so I will get up at 5:30 am every day and run ________ miles. Maybe I’ll even do a marathon! I’m not a morning person and I hate running and I hate being in the cold and dark, but I can do this!” Three weeks later “I can’t do this. I need my sleep. I am terrible and have no discipline and only fall into bad habits. I am so bad.”

2) Express vehement and righteous hatred for exercise and declare that no one shall ever see us run unless a bear is chasing us. So we don’t even get started because “Meh. Who needs it?”

3) Start a workout regimen and get so obsessed and righteous with it that everyone we know should do it too, regardless of their nature and needs, because it works and that’s how we should all get healthy and we’ll all hold each other accountable and we’ll all love it because we’ll all get skinny, toned, and feel amazing!

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When I was at the gym last week I noticed a woman walking on the treadmill. I noticed her  because her body was decorated in elaborate butterfly tattoos, which made me think about my Grandma E. who loved butterflies. I clamored onto my elliptical machine (I use this in kindness for my cranky knee), which are lined up behind the treadmills, and I studied the woman from behind. She had a larger body, dark brown hair pulled into a messy bun, a turquoise tank top, black leggings, and leopard print sneakers. If she hadn’t had all the cool butterfly tattoos, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed her strolling along.

Until she started dancing.

Smooth as silk she began to hop-skip in rhythm with her walk stride, which was a mere warm up before she began to spin and twirl to the movement of the music she was clearly hearing in her earbuds. She raised her arms and moved her hands like flowing ribbons in cadence with the easy shimmy-shake of her hips. The treadmill had become her dance partner, a steady and trustworthy support under her moving feet, giving her momentum for her fancy footwork and body movements. Her lips silently formed to the words of the song and her eyes never once focused on keeping balance or wondering what other people might be thinking of her. It was the most beautiful, inspiring, and dare I say, sexiest thing I’ve ever seen at the gym.

She wasn’t done, though. Once the dance was over she raised the treadmill to a steep incline and got in mountain climber position, bending way down to grip either side of the conveyor platform with her hands. Then she climbed, bringing knee to nose, knee to nose. Without warning she began to hop her legs out and in, out and in, like lower body jumping jacks in mountain climber position.

After thoroughly confusing the machine to the point the treadmill was like “MOTION CONTROL UNIDENTIFIED. SYSTEM INITIALIZING.” In other words, “WTF IS HAPPENING!?” She switched to a different treadmill and danced again. When she was all done, she grabbed the journal she had tossed onto the floor behind her machine, kneeled down, and scrawled her thoughts onto the pages… in orange ink. My Grandma E.’s favorite color was orange, which became my favorite color the day she passed away.

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This woman wasn’t exercising. She was dancing, enjoying her movement while tuning in with what her body already loved doing.  She cared so little about the numbers tracking on the treadmill dashboard that she literally obliterated system stats and used the machine as a tool to assist her in joyful movement.

And this, my friends, is what we’re designed for. Joyful movement. Freedom to move our bodies in a way that feels good to our nature and needs with no regard to regimen, number tracking, programming, and rigid expectations of how we should be moving. As a culture we’ve distorted exercise into this “thing we have to do if we want to be healthy.” You don’t have to exercise to be healthy. Instead, discover movement your body and mind enjoy that make your heart happy, and when you do, health will follow.

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If you’ve ever chastised yourself for not sticking with a workout program, it’s not because you’re lazy and undisciplined. You’re likely uninspired and out of tune with how your body actually wants to move. Ditch the regimen (and the unkind self-talk!) and approach yourself with curiosity instead.

What kind of movements do you love? What exercise tends to make you go “ugh”? Answer the question “My body feels great when____?”

 

The Religion of Health

Health is the new religion. It’s almost cult-like, but instead of “Drink the Kool-aid” it’s “Get on this diet with us” or “Do this cleanse with me.” The act of getting healthy has become an act of worship to our bodies, but rather than shaping a golden calf from various and a sundry gold, our bodies are molded to the shape of food rules, diet plans, cleanses, and “green and clean”  food.

I was part of the health religion for over 13 years, following the laws of health and the religious rituals of eating and exercising. Every food and exercise decision had to adhere to the rules of my religion, which could be summed up in its own set of commandments:

1) Thou shalt honor thy body first and foremost

2) Thou shalt never be fat

3) Thou shalt remain thin and tone 

4) Thou shalt never eat sugar

5) Thou shalt count all carbs

6) Thou shalt track all calories

7) Thou shalt ignore all cravings

8) Thou shalt only eat good fats and clean food

9) Thou shalt exercise to reconcile calories in and calories out

10) Thou shalt never rest

If any of these commandments are broken, thou shall suffer the internal shame and anguish of laziness, disobedience, over-indulgence, selfishness, ugliness, sickness, disloyalty to thy body, and furthermore shall be deemed “unhealthy” and suffer the societal offenses associated with unhealthiness and judgements associated with fatness and the mental angst associated with unworthiness.

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Think of what an abusive, controlling relationship looks like. When you don’t follow the expectations of an abusive partner, they get upset and will find ways to devalue you as a person, whether they physically hurt you, manipulate your emotions with guilt and shame, or verbally chastise how unworthy you are with their language toward you. Over time, your life revolves around controlling yourself and/or your environment, regardless of your actual needs and feelings, to keep your partner from getting upset and hurting you. But you never know for sure what is going to set them off or if you’ve done enough to earn their love. There is constant worry and anxiety of whether you’ve followed the rules well enough to keep from getting hurt and if you’ve earn your value as your partner’s partner.

In the religiosity of health, Health became my abusive partner. I was constantly under pressure to earn my value as healthy. I engaged in behaviors, rituals, and beliefs that would force and control my body to look and be certain way so I could be deemed as “healthy” and thus worthy of belonging and validity in the religion. My body had become my idol and working out and “eating right” were religious acts to worship my body.

Whatever was happening with my body would dictate how I felt about myself and life. When my weight went down, I felt righteous in my health decisions; I felt good about myself; I wore my clothes proudly; I walked a little taller. Only for a moment, though, because something in media or life—an article, a picture, a comment—would cause me doubt that I had done enough to perfect my body—to please my idol. When my weight went up, even by a pound or two, then I would feel ashamed, frustrated, and even angry at my inability to stay disciplined enough in my religious acts to stay healthy.

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Because of the consequences I both believed and feared if I didn’t adhere to the commandments of health, my whole life revolved around my body and my food. Every decision of the day was related to how it was going to affect my body… from how I scheduled my day to get my exercise in, to what I did or didn’t eat, to when I did or didn’t eat, to how hard I pushed myself in a workout.

Every meal became a number: how many calories, how much sugar, size-of-portion, how many ounces, what time did I last eat?

Every workout became a number: how many minutes did I go, how many miles did I go, how many did I do, how many calories did I burn?

My body became a number: how much did I weigh, what size was I wearing?

Numbers became the way for me to measure whether or not I was following the rules to avoid the consequences of unhealthiness. But I was never completely certain that I was following the rules well enough and if my body was good enough to be deemed healthy. With Health as both my religious leader and my abusive partner, there was never validation… only more rules and more threats about what would happen if I was not healthy. Whatever honor/value I thought I’d earned for my body–meaning the external praise I received for my body and health from other people–I was terrified of losing. So I was constantly trying to “maintain” my body and thus the honor of “being healthy.” The obsession with my health caused deep anxiety and deep dissatisfaction with my body and myself as a whole. I was tired, stressed, worried, and deeply sick both physically and mentally.

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In my relationship with Jesus, my life was about honoring my body rather than honoring God. I was in relationship with God, but devoted my body to the religion of health.

In my relationship with God there are no rules, and I do nothing to earn His love. I am worthy in this life simply because He created me. But for over a decade (and probably most of my life) the depth of that belief only went so far. I entered into this distorted side-religion and abusive relationship that required so much of  me and made me feel anxious and at constant risk of unworthiness. I had to let go of health as a separate religion and give my body back to God. Through recovery and disconnection from health rules (also known as the diet mentality), I re-entered into relationship with my body, which is a physical extension of my relationship with God. There are no rules in relationships. There is respect, trust, compassion, and love in relationships but not rules.

I no longer follow the rules of what’s “healthy” or “not healthy,” but rather I follow the intuition and physical body cues God has given me to nourish myself. I respond to my body and its needs without judgement and with respect, trust, compassion, and love. Like any relationship, I am not blissfully happy inside my body every day, and I am not goo-goo over God every minute of the day. I’m still human and experience human feelings of discouragement, frustration, and anger. But as a whole I live in peace inside my body and away from the religiosity of health.

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How about you… Do you ever feel pressure in your quest for health? When is the last time you felt worthy or valuable inside the body you have right now?  Does health feel like an abusive religion to you? Have you ever thought about trusting God with your body?

How to connect with your body rather than demand from your body

How does one “connect with his/her body”?

I talk all the time in this blog space about connecting with and listening to your own body rather than listening to all the cultural rules, diets, and programs geared toward changing your body. But how do you do that? And what if you don’t like your body or certain parts of your body… why would you want to connect with something you don’t even like? Shouldn’t you change your body into what you do like so you want to connect with it?

First off, no. You don’t need to change your body before you learn to connect with it or even learn to love it. In fact, it’s the other way around. Learn to connect with and love your body as it is right now and watch change happen.

Second, I’ve learned in recovery that journeys happen one step at a time. Part of my anorexia disease came with an element of body dysmorphia, which means what I physically saw in the mirror wasn’t even close to the reality of what my body actually looked like. I saw flaws in my body that weren’t even there. So not only was I disconnected from my body and its cues, I was also disconnected from reality. Learning how to reconnect with reality and my body took slow, careful baby steps starting with the most fundamental body function I have:

Breathing

And that, my friend, is where we can all start learning how to connect with our bodies. We rarely notice the one thing that keeps us alive… what it feels like to breathe; how our body moves when we breathe in and how it moves when we exhale; how the new air going in and down feels in our belly and nose, how the muscles in our shoulders, neck, and spine relax as we cleanse through a breath out. Connecting with our breath connects us with being alive inside our bodies.

We ask a lot of ourselves, don’t we? We expect much from our minds and bodies in the mess and stress of living. Not only do we ask our bodies and minds to stay tough and strong and capable through the expectations of daily living, but we require that we look good and be healthy doing it. So we run ourselves through the ringer of diet and nutrition and exercise trends, demanding cooperation and results from our bodies. When the diets don’t work or we’re too tired for the exercise regimens, we blast our minds with negative self-talk and self-blame.

I am suggesting we let go of all the requirements and learn to connect with what our bodies are saying rather than telling our bodies what to do and abusing ourselves when our bodies don’t listen to us. The best place to start listening is in the quietness and simpleness of breathing.

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Confession: In preparation to write this post today, I did the breathing practice that I am going to share with you in just a minute. As I laid on my yoga mat with my hands resting with love on my belly, the gentle rhythm of my breath made me emotional. I began to cry as my body softened. I didn’t realized how disconnected with myself and my emotions I have been these past weeks. While my recovery is strong, life was both stressful and tragic in August. I rode the waves of emotion as they came through the month, but I hadn’t taken the time to truly connect with myself–mind, body, and heart–to understand my body was both taking the brunt of my feelings and still taking care of me. My neck, shoulders, arms, and back were grateful for the breathing cleanse as they were finally able to relax with every exhale; my brain was able to rest with its only focus on my most fundamental need… breath.

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The video below is all about breathing and connection–no scary yoga shapes. Keep an open mind and try. Yes, this is a yoga instructor but don’t be intimidated! Yoga isn’t always (or rarely is it) about twisting your body into inhumane shapes. The Yoga with Adriene mission and motto is “find what feels good” and she caters to beginners.

Two things to think about:

1) There are no rules about how this is supposed to look or work. I have a cranky knee, so even just sitting on my knees isn’t available to me, but I modify movement as needed and will even come to a simple seated position. Be kind to yourself and do the same for your body if you need to.

2) Body connection takes practice! Breathing takes practice. Have grace for you if you find yourself distracted or frustrated. Baby steps, remember?

3) I would love to hear about your experience if you try this! What did you notice about yourself and your body as you connected with your breath? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Much love to you all!

Namaste.