Tag Archives: body image

The Myth of The Girl in The Body from Your Past

I want to ask you to question the validity of the stories and myths you tell yourself about your past.

When we’re going through a tough time, we have a tendency to look at our past and see just the pretty parts. We also tend to alter or mythicize the truth in order to make sense of where we are now.

It’s a common theme in our lives.

This happens when we are in a job that isn’t a good fit for us. A previous job that was stressful and draining and all consuming starts to be remembered in a much fonder way.

We’ll find ourselves doing this when we’re single and missing some of the benefits that come with a romantic relationship. We suddenly remember an old boyfriend as being more handsome, more interesting and kind than he was in reality. (He was a dirtbag and you still don’t need him, I promise.)

It’s not hard to find more examples of this in every area of our life. When we’re bored or stressed about the responsibilities of raising families, keeping a home and paying ever mounting bills, we think about how carefree we were in our early 20’s. We conveniently forget that we didn’t have health insurance, our car starting was a daily gamble, and our diet consisted of ramen noodles and frozen burritos (that might be a year old) because we often didn’t have any money for food after paying our bills. It was stressful and awful in a different way but we forget that.

We remember eating better (we ate terribly). We slept better (we hardly slept). We had more energy (we napped all the time). We were more fun (we were just as anxious as we are now). We were more outgoing (No, there were just more opportunities to socialize). More interesting (we just liked to hear ourselves talk about everything we were learning).

The list goes on and on.

The way we remember things and the way we view ourselves isn’t always accurate. We glamorize and mythicize to suit a “need”. The thought is that if we can make ourselves feel that the past was better, maybe we’ll be motivated to make changes or take action to change now.

The most common example I see is in glorifying the myth of the girl in the body from our past. Most commonly the smaller body from our past.

You may believe this myth yourself when thinking of your younger days. Or you may have even seen it shared publicly from someone else, as we tend to do things since the advent of social media! Usually it comes in a “I miss this girl” kind of post on social media. Sometimes it comes in the form of a before / current photo and talk of starting their journey back to their pre-x, y or z weight. (complete with a photo of them drinking an expensive powdered shake in a plastic container of course).

You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Someone posts a photo of themselves in their younger thinner years, usually in a bikini, short shorts, or other various states of light clothing wearing.

It’s always the same.

They’re young. They’re pretty. And they are in a smaller, seemingly imperfection-free body.

They express a desire to get back “there”. (We do this in our heads too – social media isn’t necessary for this kind of myth perpetuation)

The woman they are today (and that most of us are today) has probably been through a lot and on the way, her body has changed. She’s gained some weight, maybe she has stretch marks and cellulite. Maybe she has wrinkles or gray hairs. She may have dealt with some health issues. Her physical body is overflowing with the marks of time and life.

When I see these photos like this or hear statements of “I miss this girl” and “I was so much better then” it makes me so very sad.

First, because in hindsight, we see the younger, thinner version of ourselves as being free from worry, free from problems, and having the body that we would desire to have now. It must have been so fun to have that body then, right? We must have appreciated it and loved it and treated it with respect and great care.

HAHA!

The sad thing is that we didn’t appreciate it. We didn’t love it. We didn’t respect it.

Those of us who are reeling from our current bodies are partly in the place we are in because we treated our younger bodies abysmally.

Raise your hand if you started dieting as a pre-teen and your entire teenage years were consumed with thoughts of needing to stay small or lose a few pounds so you’d be as small or smaller than your friends.

Raise your hand if your norm in those smaller bodied days was to go as many hours as your could between meals and to eat as little as possible at each meal, filling up on rice cakes, fat free cottage cheese and cucumber slices or anything else that your teen magazines told you were low-cal.

Raise your hand if you remember the hours you spent in tears because the boy you liked didn’t like you back and you attributed it to your thighs (and how large you thought they were).

Raise your hand if you started smoking to reduce your appetite, started drinking coffee to lose weight (you didn’t need to lose in the first place) and bought jeans a size smaller than you wear so that you would be too uncomfortable to eat.

Raise your hand if most of your actual memories of those years are not of all the fun ways you lived in and enjoyed your body but instead are flashes and pieces of hunger, thoughts about food or feeling badly about your body for various reasons.

We don’t usually land in our today bodies accidentally.

When we spend time fantasizing about the girl in the body from our past, we are indulging in a myth. When we say “I miss that girl” in our thinner and younger photos, what we are really saying is:

I miss feeling in control of my life and my body.

I feel invisible and too visible at the same time.

I want to feel beautiful, powerful and carefree.

I want to feel confident and happy.

That girl you were wasn’t necessarily any of those things just because the you of today thinks her old body was better. If we’re unhappy now, we tend to look at our past selves with rose colored lenses.

Please, don’t make the mistake of glamorizing the past in favor of crapping on your now.

The body you had when you were 16 or 20 was probably treated often with the same disgust and disdain that at times, you have treated your body of today with. That body didn’t bring you joy and you didn’t feel half as confident as the you of today thinks you were.

The problems you see with your body today were likely the same things that bothered you then (even if there is or isn’t a discernible size difference between the two). And these things will always be a problem as long as you believe they are a problem, no matter what diet or workout routine you take on.

The best thing you can do for the you of yesterday and the you of today is to not wish to be someone from another place in time. Instead start practicing love, respect and appreciation (or at least just acceptance) of the body you have right now.

Don’t sugar coat or gloss over your past. Don’t pretend things were perfect. All that does is set you up for failure. If things weren’t perfect then and you weren’t happy and confident then (before bills, before kids, before work, before LIFE), then how in the world do you have a chance of achieving happiness, confidence and perfection now??? The answer is you don’t. So don’t hold yourself to an impossible and imaginary standard.

If you want to radiate the confidence and beauty you think your younger self is the epitome of in old photos, you don’t get there by making yourself feel bad for where you are today.

You get there by practicing kindness to yourself, always, by caring for your body physically in ways that make you feel good (move your body joyfully, feed both it’s needs and wants) and by removing the pressure on yourself to look a specific way.

You live your life in the present moment.

If the girl you were in your high school days could speak to you today, do you know what she would say?

She’d tell you that she’s always loved you, she just didn’t know how to show you that. She wishes she had spent less time focused on staying thin and being pretty and more time enjoying the freedom those younger years usually bring.

She wishes she had eaten to fullness, laughed with her friends, gone out for ice cream regularly and never started to smoke in the first place.

She wishes that you appreciated all that your body still has to offer you now, exactly as it is and before it’s too late.

She hopes you will stop wishing and missing the girl you were and start paying attention to the woman you are and can still be.

She hopes you raise your own daughters to love, respect, appreciate and accept their bodies for enabling them to breathe, love, create, dance, run, climb, laugh and live. She doesn’t want you to miss the girl right in front of you, right now.

Go out and love and appreciate her.

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This is How You Respond with Love When You Overeat

How to respond with love when you overeat.

How to respond with love when you overeat.

Responding with love after an overeating episode.

How do we do that?

Last week I wrote a post on how the way that we respond to ourselves when old eating habits resurface can make a big difference in how often we overeat. I talked about how there are two ways you can respond – either with love or with shame, disgust and guilt and that responding the more familiar, negative way is the sure way to find yourself rooting around the pantry again. Responding with love can help these kind of overeating episodes become less frequent and less damaging over time.

So let’s talk about what responding with love actually looks like!

If you’re like me, you like lots of information when you are trying something new. Information, details and answers make you feel safe or like you’re on the right track. But I also have a tendency to overcomplicate things with my need for details (haha! If you’re like me you probably get that too!) so I’m not going to do that to you today! I’m going to give you the info you need but not so much that it makes you feel paralyzed or stuck in taking action.

Responding with love each time you overeat doesn’t have to be a huge, complicated process. It can just be something you do, naturally, simply and normally.

If we go into this by only focusing on giving ourselves love when we eat in a way we aren’t happy with, it’s going to feel like an uphill battle. So with that in mind, the way you respond with love in your overeating episodes is to respond with love every time you eat.

Each time you eat, whether it’s a normal meal, overeating, under eating, a binge, a diet, a snack say thank you. If you’re eating a salad, a steak, a cup cake, a whole sleeve of Ritz crackers, say thank you. Every day. Every meal. Every bite.

Thank your body for receiving the food.

Thank it for digesting it.

Thank your teeth, saliva, your tongue for chewing it so that you can digest it.

Thank your body for retrieving the energy and valuable nutrients from the food that it needs so that you can live your life.

Thank your body for giving you feelings of comfort and satisfaction and safety after a meal.

Tell your body your love her. For no reason other than you are present with her now. Thank you, I love you. Thank you, I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Get in the habit of sending her adoration and gratitude at every opportunity.

It might feel silly at first.

You might feel conceited.

But it’s not conceit. It’s not pride. It’s one small, gentle, non-threatening way you can show yourself love.

We already are really good at saying thank you. From an early age we are taught and trained to say please and thank you. Saying thank you in response to certain situations becomes automatic. We want to show respect and be polite. We want to acknowledge the thoughtfulness and kindnesses others show to us. Why can’t we do the same for ourselves? Isn’t our body deserving of the same pleasantries? Literally everything we are able to do in life happens because we have a functioning, breathing, thinking body. And eating and processing food is a part of all that. Thank your body so often for it’s daily gifts that your positive response will become automatic (just like it is when someone holds the door open for you).

Your digestion will be better. Your body will absorb more nutrients from the food you eat. Your general outlook will be better. You may not even recognize why but it’s because you’re connecting with and acknowledging the role your body plays in your world.

If this feels crazy silly to you, you could also try saying a form of “grace” before you eat or after you eat. Instead of (or in addition to) a prayer to God or your higher power for providing the food you are eating, you could pause for a moment and to yourself (or out loud if you wish) say:

“Dear Body, I thank for all the work you will undergo so that I can eat this food and digest this meal. Thank you for making it so the nutrients in this food allow me to have a productive and satisfying day. Thank you for giving me energy today. I love you for all that you do, all that you are and exactly as you are right now.”

Alter that as you wish. What does your body want to hear? What does she do for you every day that you are grateful for? How is she worthy and deserving of your love? And will you try giving it to her so that it becomes easier to give it to yourself?

So now you know how to respond with love to your eating episodes. Will you try it?


Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

Need help with your own eating struggles? Let’s talk.

Two Tips to Building Body Confidence

Body confidence doesn't come from what you look like. It's how we use our bodies and what we do with our thoughts that make the biggest difference.

Body confidence doesn’t come from what you look like. It’s how we use our bodies and what we do with our thoughts that make the biggest difference.

There was a time when I thought my lack of body confidence came from being overweight. I remember thinking (on every diet) that things were going to be so much better when I was thin. I thought I’d suddenly have the confidence to do things I’d never tried before, I thought I wouldn’t self-conscious or awkward anymore. Every piece of clothing I’d put on would look amazing and I’d never have a zit again.

Haha.

It wasn’t realistic at all, but if you’ve ever spent a good chunk of your life moderately overweight you may have had similar delusions!

I made it to “thin” around 2006 and let me tell you, all the body image issues I had when I was a size 16 were still there when I was wearing a size 4. In some ways, they felt magnified. I still saw myself as a large person. I’d look in the mirror and see so much more that needed to be worked on. (See the poor quality black & white photos below.) My skin was now “loose” and appeared “flabbier”. My stretch marks, while faded, were almost more visible. It was so hard to appreciate what I had because it looked different than the perfect image I had created in my head. I picked and tore apart my body on a daily basis – always finding something wrong with it.

My weight has gone up and down drastically several times since 2006 and I’ve learned a few things each time but probably the most glaringly obvious thing is that body confidence has nothing to do with your size or shape. It has nothing to do with your weight.

Attempting to take body "progress" pictures back in 2007. I weighed about 139 lbs here but still felt bad about my body.

Attempting to take body “progress” pictures back in 2007. I weighed about 139 lbs here but still felt bad about my body.

You can be heavy and have confidence in your body. You can be thin and have confidence in your body. Your body can still be a work in progress and you can still feel confident in it. You can also accept your body as it is right now and feel confident. It’s not dependent on what the scale says.

There are 2 things I do now that have made the biggest difference in my body confidence – regardless of the current size of my body. One of those things is moving my body in ways that I love and the other is to stop paying attention to negative thoughts about my body. I’ll go into more detail about each of those below. I hope you’ll try these in your own life!

 

Move your body in ways that you love.

I remember spending hours and hours on the elliptical at the gym, bored out of my mind and barely working hard enough to raise my heart rate. It was hard to keep myself going when I didn’t enjoy what I was doing and also I wasn’t really seeing any changes in my body. Exercise is so much easier to do when you find things that you love doing! Take a dance class, try CrossFit, barre classes, start a walking group in your neighborhood, join a hiking group on meetup.com. If you have an internet connection, all it takes is a quick search to find free exercise videos you can try from the comfort of your living room. You don’t have to go to a gym if that doesn’t excite or motivate you. When you find movement, exercise or activity (we can call it whatever you want) that is fun and challenging, you’ll want to do it.

I’ve found that I love barre classes for how graceful they make me feel and because they strengthen my core without having to spend hours on my back doing crunches. I love riding my bike because it’s a little bit like flying and I enjoy the wind on my face (perhaps I was a dog in a past life). I love seeing how far I can travel in a short amount of time and love knowing that it’s all powered by my strong legs. I love strength training with heavy weight because it makes me feel strong, powerful and like I could kick anyone’s ass.

Lately, John and I have been spending some of our free time hiking and while it’s challenging, I’m always amazed how much better my body handles it at 38 years old and 158 lbs than it did when I was 23 and 220 lbs. Yesterday I tackled a hill on a bike ride that used to kill me – even a few years ago I dreaded it every time – so much so that I sometimes thought about doing a different route so I could avoid the hill (hills are not my favorite) but I blew up this hill yesterday like it was nothing!! I couldn’t believe how easy it was for my body now and it felt great.

John and I moving our bodies in ways we love (despite what the look on his face says).

John and I moving our bodies in ways we love (despite what the look on his face says).

I get my body confidence now from what my body can DO. It is no longer dependent on what it looks like. Yes, doing all these activities definitely changes how my body looks (I thank barre for my smoother inner thighs and weight lifting for my shoulder/bicep definition) but it’s not the sole reason I do them. It’s not even the most important reason. I get a major thrill in being able to do things physically that might have previously been out of reach for me.

I can do a chin up from a hanging position. YES! Just a few months ago I was excited that I could do most of one as long as I jumped up the first 1/3 of the way. Now I can do one without that boost! Holy crap, I never thought that would happen. This is MY amazing body and it’s strong.

I can carry a ton of grocery bags from the car through my garage and basement and up the stairs into the house and not be winded and do it again and again.

I’m thankful that my body can do these things (and aware that my health allows the possibility). I get excited to challenge it in new ways. How can I not be confident in this vehicle which allows me to travel everywhere I want to be and do everything I want to do? How can I not feel good in it? Why would allow myself to feel anything other than awe, appreciation and love towards it? When I do physical stuff that I love doing, it makes it far easier to love my body. Seriously, it’s the BEST.

There’s a great side effect that comes from focusing on what my body is capable of and not what it looks like. I couldn’t do the things I do if I wasn’t eating properly. If I don’t eat enough, I won’t be able to complete my strength workout. If I don’t eat a good balance of protein and carbs, I won’t be able to bike 20 or 30 miles. If I eat crappy today, I won’t feel so hot on our hike tomorrow. Focusing on the amazing things my body can do and what I want it to be able to do makes eating well so much easier. And eating well means I have less bloating, less insane cravings and my clothes fit better.

 

Notice how much you think about what your body looks like and then stop doing that.

How many times a day do you mentally criticize it?

How long does it take you to find something to wear each day that doesn’t make you think terrible thoughts about yourself?

How much are negative words directed towards your body a regular part of your routine?

When I say “stop doing that”, I know some of you are rolling your eyes at me. “It’s not that easy Andrea!”. I know it’s not. It’s not easy to stop doing it if you think there is nothing you can do about it. This is just the way you are, right?

I’ve said it 1000 times and I’m going to keep saying it until we all feel empowered with this idea:  We don’t have control over the thoughts that pop into our heads but we DO have control over what we do with those thoughts. If a thought about our thighs, our belly, our stretch marks appears, we can either go look for evidence that the thought is true or we can choose to ignore that thought and move about our day.

Yes, you CAN ignore these negative thoughts about yourself. Think of these thoughts as a heckler in a crowd you are performing in front of (as a comedian, an actor, whatever). You can choose to listen to the heckler and let him affect your performance, you can choose to engage with the heckler and give him the attention he’s after and again distract and affect your performance OR you can ignore the guy and do your thing. You could even ask him to leave! Have him escorted out – it’s your show!

We don’t have to indulge or engage with the heckler. Those negative thoughts you have about your body are hecklers. Don’t give them extra attention. The less you pay attention to those kinds of thoughts, the less loud they will get and soon you’ll find yourself “performing” at your very best. Totally focused, prepared and unable to be flustered by any thought that shows up.

Not engaging with these thoughts does take practice. It’s a matter of noticing when they happen and then paying attention to what you do with the thought. At first you’ll think that you aren’t doing anything with those negative thoughts – the engagement and indulging of them has become an automatic habit and just like any other habit, it takes effort to break. When a thought appears, like “Ug, my stomach looks so disgusting in this shirt!” pretend it’s one of those choose your own adventure books you had as a kid (those were the best!!!). Which path are you going to choose? And where do you think you might end up?

I’ll give you another analogy (since I love them). The obnoxious political posts on social media. You’re scrolling through and read a post from one of your relatives spouting insanely ignorant and divisive rhetoric. It infuriates you. In fact, you feel anger bubbling up in you as soon as you  read it. You can A) Start typing furiously away, blasting their post with counting facts one by one or B) You can continue scrolling by without responding (or even “hide” the person and their posts so you don’t have to see it again).  The first time you choose B and don’t respond, you might feel bad. You might keep thinking about it and wanting to go back and say something. You may even find yourself venting to someone in your real life about the post or the person. But if you ignore this kind of stuff again and again and stop responding to it, you’ll find that it becomes easier to do with time. My facebook is a whole mess of obnoxious posts from people with different beliefs that me and I just don’t engage anymore (because it’s healthier for me). I used to get into lots of arguments with people online – I felt like I couldn’t NOT say something. Now it’s easy to just move on.  You can do the same thing with negative thoughts about your body.

The cool thing that happens when you stop getting down and dirty with those negative thoughts about your body is that you realize you don’t even need to replace the negative thought with positive thoughts. You don’t have to do affirmations if those don’t speak to you. You don’t have to write love letters to your hated parts (though it won’t hurt!). By ignoring the negative stuff, neutral becomes the norm. Your body becomes your body, a vehicle to use to live your life and not something that warrants consideration for how it looks. Aren’t you just glad your car starts in the morning and gets you safely where you need to be? It doesn’t matter if there is a little rust on it or some bug guts squished on the window – it’s purpose in life isn’t to be shiny and pretty and perfect. It’s purpose is to take you from A to B safely.

That’s it for today. Two ways I’ve built up my body confidence that have nothing to do with dieting, losing weight or being thin. What makes you feel confident in your body? What is your favorite thing about what your body can do?


Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

Realization: I Still Try to Make Others Laugh at My Body

I've always made my body the joke to protect myself.

I’ve always made my body the joke to protect myself.

Earlier this summer I arrived at a family cookout and one of my relatives said to me “Oh, look at your nice figure”. I was wearing a long fitted henley sun dress. Instead of just saying “Thank you.” I said “oh, it’s because I’m wearing too tight clothes! haha.” I cringed the second it came out of my mouth. The dress isn’t even too tight. It fits me perfectly and I love wearing that dress.

I have a tough time accepting a compliment without making a joke about my body or me. It’s what I do, what I’ve always done.

But it’s kind of a problem since I, you know, work with women who have emotional eating struggles and because I’ve come so far with my own. I’ve changed a ton but from time to time behaviors come to my attention that make me go “whoa! what is this?”

I’ve learned so much about myself the last couple of years. I finally feel like I’ve figured out how I can eat normally, how to not overeat, which foods work for me (and which ones don’t), how to move my body with exercise that I enjoy (instead of just whatever will burn the most calories).

I’ve become hyper aware of all the routines and habits I had created that kept me stuck in the same cycle of overeating and dieting. I no longer try to go as long as I can on as few calories as I can so I can eat a ton at night. I can sit comfortably with uncomfortable feelings without needing to eat to comfort myself. The negative self talk about my body that used to be a never-ending commentary in the background hardly ever shows up at all anymore. It’s quiet now.

I feel more confident in my body.  Enough so that I find myself doing things like taking off a sweat drenched tank top in the middle of a busy NH state park parking lot after a hike, and switching it out for a clean one, without worrying who might see me in my bra or might see my belly. That probably doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you’ve spent most of your life changing in shower stalls or bathrooms so you didn’t have to have your body seen naked in public view it’s a big deal. A really huge accomplishment. I can go to the beach now and wear a bathing suit and not worry about my pale thighs or belly rolls. I’m there to have fun, not to look like a model. I’m sure some of that comfortableness comes with getting older and just not giving a fuck but I know a lot of it comes from the work I’ve done in coaching.

All of this isn’t to say, wow, look at me, I’m doing so well. This is so easy! Everyone can repair their relationship with food on their own! No. All of this stuff is awesome and I feel great but, what I’ve noticed, is that as far as I have come, and as more “real” as this feels as any of my previous attempts at a normal life with food and my body, is that sometimes shit I thought was behind me still comes up from time to time.

Occasionally eating more food than I needed? Not a big deal, especially when it’s an incredible meal at a restaurant that I’ve been dying to check out. Occasionally choosing to eat foods that don’t have any nutritional value? Really not a big deal, especially when I’m choosing to eat it because I really want it (and not because I need to hide from some feelings).

Something I thought I was over, that keeps popping up is saying negative stuff about my own body to other people!

If I see someone I haven’t seen in awhile and they tell me I look great, I tend to wave it off by saying “oh, thanks, but I’ve actually gained a couple of pounds.” If someone tells me I look like I’ve lost more weight, “thanks, but I’ve really been slacking lately!”. I’ll whine about clothing stores having weird sizing and billowy styles and how at Lucky Jeans I have to buy a size Small shirt, even though there’s no way I’m a Small! If someone tells me I’m getting skinny, I say things like “Nah, I weigh about 157 lbs!” (as if it would be impossible for someone at that weight to be slender or fit looking).

In my head, I feel good about my body. I wear clothes that I feel comfortable in. I think I look pretty fit.  And I’m at a sustainable and healthy weight. But outwardly, I find myself projecting the thoughts that I may no longer consciously be having, but were a part of my repertoire for decades. Like tree ring patterns, the ways I navigated through my world have left a record of my history that can’t be washed away so easily.

I’ve always had a self-deprecating humor and made fat or ugly jokes about myself. When I was a kid, people would make jokes about my size in my presence and it stung, a lot. I remember playing the game “Taboo” once with my sisters and some of my cousins. Taboo was a game where you had to use words to get the other players to name a word on the card without using the 4 or 5 other synonym or related words on the card. Sort of like a riff on charades or pictionary but with without acting or drawing.

One of my cousins was trying to get us to say “fat” or “chubby” or something like that. I don’t remember what the actual word was. He was struggling to come up with words to give us hints because things like “obesity”, “overweight”, “large” were off limits. So, what he finally said was “Andrea”. My sister’s and cousin’s looked confused and shouted out things like “blonde?”, “girl?” and then finally someone said “fat!” and my cousin said “ding ding! That’s it!”. I was totally mortified (and pissed! This cousin had a bit of a weight issue at the time himself.). It certainly wasn’t the first time someone in my family had referred to me as fat but it was the first time it became clear to me that that was how most people would see me. That was how they would describe me. It was what I was leading with, even if that’s not who I saw myself as.

I think I started to make the jokes myself with the idea being that if I made sure everyone around me knew that I knew that I was fat, anything they may say or think about my weight couldn’t hurt me. That rational didn’t work out so well, it still hurt, but I adopted the practice as a form of armor. If they’re going to laugh at me, I’m going to be in on the joke dammit! They’re not going to laugh behind my back – they’re going to laugh with me!

Making these jokes about my body, in response to anything and everything was just how I operated. It became a part of my personality in a way. So much so that most of the time I don’t even know I’m doing it. It’s just “me” now.

The summer after my junior year in college I worked for the University’s department of housing. It was a physically demanding job – we worked long hours in sweltering heat painting dorm rooms and carrying heavy furniture up and down many flights of stairs. I remember a few of the other kids always wanting to be my partner in carrying furniture. I was strong and I made carrying steel bedframes feel easy for the other person, because as a “fat” person, I thought it was my duty to take on more of the weight, more of the work. I could handle it. Even the guys would rush to carry with me. And it felt good to be wanted. It felt good to be seen as useful and valuable. For once my fatness was a positive, not a negative. I made jokes about being built like a “brick shithouse” or I’d hold flex my biceps and say “Have you seen these guns?” and everyone would laugh. They thought I was so funny and down to earth and “real” (something that seemed rare on a college campus). I said what everyone else was already thinking. My roommates and I became regular hosts of parties at our apartment that summer for our coworkers. My fatness was valuable at work and the humor I used to detract from myself also made me a riot and people loved to party with me. I could drink almost everyone under the table. It was a joke but also a sense of pride that I took at the time being able to pound 12 beers with the guys on my work crew. I may be fat, but I can party! The fat strong funny girl was a party animal too. The more attention I got, the more the jokes came. I couldn’t stop.

I’m not that girl anymore. My life is really different from my college partying days. I can’t drink anyone under the table anymore (and nor do I want to). I’m still strong but you can bet I’ll let others do their share of the hard work (but I’ll still ask that you admire my biceps). I still make jokes, about my body, but also about really morbid stuff. I have a really dark sense of humor. I’m step over the line a lot. But I don’t want to be that person who makes negative remarks about their body all the time.

She’s still there.

And it’s really annoying because the negative self-talk about my body isn’t there so much anymore. I can walk by the bathroom mirror naked and look at myself and not think much of anything, other than “that’s me”. I don’t recoil in disgust.

In general, I don’t necessarily want to change things that are part of my core personality. I know that a lot of that stuff is what makes me “me”. It’s even part of how some people know me. Who am I without this stuff? Who am I if I don’t make these kind of jokes? Could I be someone who just says “thank you” to a compliment?

I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say with this post.

I guess just that even as far as I’ve come, there are still things that come out sometimes that surprise me. I thought this was behind me. I thought I was healthy enough to not crap on my appearance publicly and regularly. I have clients who get upset sometimes at old behaviors that they still find themselves doing sometimes and to them I say “I know how you feel”. I feel like a failure when this stuff pops up. How can I preach “self-love” and body acceptance when the moment you complement me I have to make a joke about the size or shape of my body? Ug. That’s horrifying.

I have come really far and I don’t see myself ever going back to the unhealthy place I was in in the past but there are still some things I’ll need to keep my eye on.

I have to work at doing this differently. Knowing that I have this behavior isn’t enough to change it. Awareness is a start but I have to keep going and do more. This was something I actually forgot that I did. And now that it’s on my radar, it’s my job to actively work to do better.

If this hits home for you, here are a few questions to explore for yourself. I’d love to hear some of your answers if you want to share them with me:

  • Is there something that you’ve discovered about your personality or behavior that you believe is a result of your history with your weight or eating struggles? How does it impact your life? How does it impact how you view yourself?
  • Why do you think you developed this trait or habit?
  • Would you like to respond differently? If so, what would that look like?

Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

Things I wish I knew sooner (on this food, fitness and health journey)

Things I wish I knew sooner: that finding exercise that you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you "endure".

Things I wish I knew sooner: that finding exercise that you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you “endure”.

My mother had this sweater machine – a big electronic knitting loom thing that helped her make sweaters and blankets way faster than she could knit them by hand – because she loved to sell baby sweaters at Church fairs. In order to create a new row of stitches she had to move this white plastic handled part of the loom from left to right, right to left over the machine, and each time it went over the rows of yarn, it made a loud click-clack sound for a few seconds. I remember timing my trips to the kitchen by that sound after school. I’d wait in the kitchen with my hand on the cookie jar lid and when I heard the click-clack start, I’d lift the lid carefully and reach in and grab some cookies. My mom probably would have said yes, had I asked for a cookie. If she heard the cookie jar opening, she probably would have commented “hey, don’t ruin your dinner!” but nothing more. She wouldn’t have shamed me but I somehow knew I didn’t want to have a conversation about it and I knew that if I did it quietly I could go back and get more cookies. Just have to wait for that click-clack of the knitting machine to start so she couldn’t hear me.

“More” food was something I always craved and yet I wanted to push away all accountability for my choices all at the same time. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. If I wasn’t sneaking food, I was trying to find ways to burn more calories so that I could lose weight. I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but I remember laying in bed as a child saying my nightly prayers and asking the Virgin Mary to make it so that for every calorie I ate, I would actually burn 2! I obviously hadn’t worked out how that math would work long term had she been able to fulfill my wish and I may have misunderstood the types of things that prayer was useful for, but you have to admire the shameless way I tried to elicit the Virgin Mary’s assistance on my #bodygoals.

I don’t remember when specifically I learned that I was overweight or when I learned that that was something I needed to change. I just feel as though I always knew it was something “wrong” about me. Other people with food/weight stories like mine usually have one or two defining moments that stick out in their minds. I have tons of small moments that just add up to a life of feeling completely controlled by or out of control around food.

I’ve spent the last decade plus a few years working on my eating and weight issues in some manner (some things more successfully than others). The most progress in my journey has definitely come in the last 3 years – when I decided to train to be a coach and when I started taking on clients of my own. Watching other women make connections about their own stories and be empowered to change their story going forward has made my own stuff become so much clearer.

During this journey, I am constantly unlearning and relearning things that I took for granted. Things that I once took for certain, like “fat is bad”, I now can’t fathom that I ever believed that. I wish I had known that fat was a crucial and necessary macronutrient a lot earlier in this process. I think my relationship with food might have been less tempestuous had I been able to eat foods that were more satiating due to their fat content. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

If I was starting at the beginning of my food and weight story again, there are a lot of things I know now that I wish I knew then. I am going to share some of those below in case you are just beginning (or well on your way) and one or two of these could help you get to where you are going a lot sooner.

 

Things I wish I knew sooner:

  • that what you eat affects how you feel physically and emotionally.
  • that can’t outrun a bad diet.
  • that just being skinny wasn’t going to solve my problems.
  • that the things I didn’t like about my body when I was heavy would still be the things I didn’t like about my body when I was thinner.
  • that I don’t need to eat to comfort myself.
  • also that there are better ways to comfort yourself, that last longer and don’t have negative effects.
  • that there’s no quick fix, fast diet, pills or powders that will solve what got us into this mess in the first place.
  • not to compare my body and my progress to someone else’s. We’re all on different journeys.
  • that feelings won’t break me and I can feel anything without resorting to food.
  • that the number on the scale can go up and down throughout the week or month and not be an indicator of actual weight gain.
  • that foam rolling existed!
  • how to prepare healthy food so that it tastes good. I used to think it had to be bland and flavorless to be good for me.
  • that this is the only body I have and I need to appreciate it for all that it does for me.
  • that fat wasn’t going to make me fat and that eating it would actually help prevent me from overeating! (Could have saved myself a decade of being hungry here!)
  • that being strong and capable feels way better than weighing a certain amount.
  • that you can enjoy eating without it being your primary source of joy.
  • that liking myself was more important than liking how I looked.
  • that the amount of calories I burned during exercise doesn’t give me a license to eat as much junk as I wanted.
  • that having cute and well fitting clothes to wear makes exercising way more fun.
  • that motivation isn’t a secret energy that only some have, it’s just another word for being disciplined. When you say you lack motivation, what you really mean is that you lack discipline. We can train ourselves to become more disciplined – and it will stay with us a lot longer than any motivation, inspiration or will power.
  • that saying you are “trying” to do something is usually a hint that you are expecting to fail or preparing to never even get off the ground. Remove “try” from your vocabulary and just “do” (not “try” to do) the things you want to do.
  • that being so overweight wasn’t just a given because of my “genes”, or being born “big boned”. In my case, it was the direct result of many, many actions (and inactions) I took over many years (calculated hand in the cookie jar!). Had I recognized earlier that I had a huge hand in getting to such a high weight . . .I would have also been able to recognize that I had a hand in getting myself out of it.
  • that being attractive is not directly tied to the size of the dress I’m wearing. You can be thin and unattractive and you can be fat and attractive. Attractiveness is something so much broader than our size or shape.
  • that the more I worried about how much I ate, the more how much I ate would be a constant concern.
  • that taking rest days when my body needs them actually helps me make more progress, not less!
  • that lifting heavy weights wouldn’t make me big or bulky. (Getting big or bulky from weights requires major herculean effort – you aren’t going to get there accidentally).
  • that for every restrictive diet there will be an equal or greater binge (that idea is goes to Geneen Roth). The more I tried to dial back and eat less, the more I felt compelled to eat more the second I thought I could get away with it.
  • that physical hunger doesn’t cause panic (emotional hunger does). I didn’t really know what hunger felt like for a long time and instead had taught myself to feel “hungry” when I was bored, tired, overwhelmed, stressed, confused etc. I have relearned what hungry feels like in my body and it’s a lot easier to manage now.
  • that taking care of my body feels much better than retaliating against it.
  • that finding exercise you love will make getting to the gym, studio or lacing up your sneakers exciting instead of something you “endure”.
  • that having a proper sports bra makes exercise less painful and makes you feel good (check out Enell, Moving Comfort or Panache if pulling an elastic tube top over your chest that smashes you down isn’t working for you).
  • that keeping weight off after you’ve lost it can be harder than losing it in the first place. If you lose it in a fast or unsustainable way, how will you keep it off forever? Something to think about.
  • that love, success, friendship, admiration, creativity, self-worth and confidence isn’t something reserved only for the thin or fit.

What are some things you’ve learned during your health, weight and fitness journey that you wish you knew sooner? What would you tell someone just starting out?


If you’re not ready for a consult with Andrea but you like what she has to say, then please download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

What if We Gave Up Wanting to Lose Weight?

Is the idea of losing weight holding you back from the life you could be living?

Is the idea of losing weight holding you back from the life you could be living?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what motivates us to work at improving our bodies, and for so many women, it’s the number on the scale. We think the number on the scale automatically translates to looking good or bad. It holds so much power over us, if we let it. But really that number doesn’t really mean all that much. It doesn’t tell us how strong you are. It doesn’t necessarily tell us that you have too much body fat. It doesn’t tell us what your body can do and it doesn’t show us what you look like (despite our thinking that it screams “fat! fat!” to anyone within sight).

You can take three women who weigh the exact same amount and they will look remarkably different. Height, genetics, body composition, body shape and lifestyle can all affect what those women look like at the same weight. A woman who is 5 ft 9 and runs 4 days a week, will look different from a woman who is 5ft 2 and sedentary, and they’ll both look different from a woman who is 5 ft 6 and is a powerlifter.  They may all weigh 145 lbs but be wearing different sizes and be capable of very different things. The number on the scale alone doesn’t tell us anything about them or their lives. It’s not useful but we cling to it like it’s the end all, be all, that determines our worth and how we feel about ourselves.

What if for just a few weeks or months we gave up wanting to lose weight? That nagging, permanent and always just out of reach, weight loss goal? The one that plagues us no matter what weight we are.

You know which one I’m talking about.

You lost 50 lbs . . but that’s not quite good enough, “oh I just need to firm up my belly or lose this belly flab. I’ll be happy when I lose another 10 lbs, I think . . .”

You lost 10 lbs. “Ug, it’s not enough. I need to lose a few more. My thighs are still out of control.”

“I won’t start living until I get rid of this weight.”

“I’ll accomplish x, y and z when I reach that weight. I’ll go on that trip. I’ll date more. I’ll start dating. I’ll buy a bathing suit.”

Try to remember back to the last time you were at that goal weight, you were probably there at some point (even if it was middle school). Were you happy with your body then? Or were you in it but wishing it was something different?

I have clients who by all ways of measuring are what many of us would consider a perfectly acceptable weight – but they’re still not happy with their bodies. Or they are, until they hop on the scale in the morning.

I have friends who are at what most would consider a perfect weight but they’re not happy with their bodies either.

When I was my thinnest, I still felt bigger than everyone around me and found fault with the most ridiculous things – my ass was too flat, my stomach has too many old stretch marks and loose skin etc. I determined that the number on the scale must still be too high.

Some of us will find something to criticize or tear apart no matter how much we weigh or how little we weigh. And sometimes the more we lose, the more we find fault with.

And we put our lives on hold until some mystery time in the future when everything about our bodies will finally be right? But they’ll never meet our expectations. There will always be something we don’t like.

Isn’t that the most insane thing ever?

Could you let go of wanting to lose “weight”? If not forever, how about just for the next 3 or 4 months? If after 3-4 months of not trying to lose weight, you are not happier in your skin, you can go back to being unhappy in it while also wanting to lose weight.

And during that time, instead of focusing on diets that restrict and make you feel tired and hungry, could you focus on taking amazing and loving care of yourself?

Instead of losing weight, your goal for the next 3-4 months is to:

  • Eat food that nourishes, soothes and satisfies your body. Food that gives you energy but also leaves you feeling light and free.
  • Move your body regularly with activity that makes it feel strong, powerful, graceful and resilient. And if it doesn’t feel that way now, your goal is to try new activities that you know will help you get there.
  • Get regular sunshine, fresh air and be social with people whose company you enjoy.
  • Laugh and cry and feel joy but also feel boredom, anger and sadness. Feel all the things, as much as you can.
  • Stay home in your pjs occasionally and drink coffee and read fluffy fiction like it’s your job.
  • Say “no” to some invitations/events/requests that you don’t want to do.
  • Get 8-9 hours of good sleep per night (that means putting down your phone an hour before bedtime).
  • Wear clothing that makes you feel amazing (no matter the current size or shape of your figure).
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Live. You will do everything you had planned to do when you finally reached that weight, size or shape. You won’t wait, you will start doing those things now. Right now.
  • Look in the mirror every day and find something that you like about the way you look. Bonus points if you can come up with something different each day.
  • Give away as much love as you are willing to receive back (you ARE deserving of it). If you’re not there yet, practice will get you there!

During this time you won’t:

  • Criticize your body in any way shape or form. Also don’t criticize other people’s bodies.
  • Make judgements about the food that you eat or about yourself for having eaten food that previously you labeled as good or bad.
  • Restrict, count calories, points, macros or anything else.
  • Overexercise.
  • Weigh yourself

Try it. Just for a short period of time, try letting go of the need to lose weight – especially if this is something that has plagued you your entire conscious life. Losing another 5 or 10 lbs is not going to fix what isn’t working in your life but putting down that burden might give you the clarity to find another way.

What might you be able to do if you were freed from thinking about your weight or size daily? Who do you think you would be? How might you be different? What about you would be the same? Would you like the woman you’d be? How can you be more like her now?


Like this? To get more like it, please download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

I see you hiding in photos.

unsplash hideI see you.

I see you there, in a group picture, behind the woman with the long blond hair and the one with the oversized glasses.

I see you smiling. You look like you’re having a good time.

I see you’ve placed yourself behind the other women in the photo so that all that I can see of you is your face, your body hidden by the other bodies in front of you.

At first, I thought your placement in the picture was because it was crowded and you’re a little taller than your friends. Perhaps you went to the back so that your graceful height didn’t block someone else from view.

But then I saw you again. In another picture.

This time, behind your children when they were toddlers. You pulled them to you in a loving embrace, in front of your body, so much so that you looked like a smiling floating head in between their little faces.

Your body once housed them and protected them as they grew, now you use them to protect you.

You are still smiling.

I thought it was a sweet photo and familiar. I had certainly seen many many photos of other mom’s proudly displaying their beautiful children in front of them. This is not an abnormal thing for mothers to do.

But then I saw a new photo.

This time, behind a group of your high school friends, at a reunion I think, where this time you were not the tallest one, yet there you were politely moving to the back in order to make sure more of the others were seen.

And again in a group photo with your girlfriends at a party. Everyone is having a good time and there you are, again, all I can see is a smiling head.

Then again at the beach. This time, you are not hidden by people but by towels. Completely wrapped up in a towel at the beach on a 90 degree day, and behind a chair.

Your face is all we can see of you physically in these photos. And you do look happy, which is great. But I can’t help feeling sad that you seem to be trying to hide yourself.

Not Fit to Be Seen (Unless Photoshop is available!)
I see women who are underweight, average weight and overweight do this and they’re all doing it for the same reason – they don’t want their body to be seen.  They’re not the size they want to be. They’re not the shape they want to be. They’re heavier than they were in the past. They haven’t lost the baby weight. They don’t feel like they are fit to be seen. They don’t want to see themselves and they don’t want others to see them either.

One thing that isn’t helping is this photoshop, “waist trainer” and plastic surgery obsessed society that we live in. If you own a smart phone, odds are you spend at least a portion of your day looking at carefully curated celebrity profiles or your friend’s profiles. It’s hard to look at that stuff day in and day out and not feel a little ashamed about how we look. But most of what people post on social media is FAKE. These people don’t look like this in real life. Their photos are so doctored up with filters and makeup “apps” that we wouldn’t recognize them in person. We’re feeling bad about ourselves while we compare ourselves to something that isn’t even attainable in real life! It’s completely crazy!

If we physically hide ourselves in photos because we believe we aren’t fit to be seen, what else might we be hiding from?

Where else are we hiding in our lives?

Where else are we only playing part way?

Where else are you putting limits on yourself?

Where else might you be holding yourself back?

Make no mistake, the self-consciousness we have about our bodies drips over into other parts of our lives and affects a lot of things. I want more for you. I want more for all of us.

Messages Sent and Memories Made
If you run to hide every time a camera appears, I worry that your daughter is getting the message that if her body isn’t the “right” size or shape, that it shouldn’t be seen. And since you share genetics, she is likely to end up with a shape similar to yours someday and will remember that it’s not one to be comfortable with.

I worry that your son is getting the message that shape and size are more important than who someone is. Or that women with imperfect bodies should move to the back.

I worry that your kids will look at photos of their childhood and wish that they could see you better because they love all of you, not just the part that looks pretty or neat or small.

I worry that there will be a lingering sadness when you or they look back at your family photos because instead of remembering being in the moment, you’ll remember that your mind was more on your bodily position in the snapshot.

When we look back at old family photos of relatives or friends who are no longer with us, what do we see? What do we remember about them?

In my experience, you remember the twinkle in their eye, the way they laughed with their entire body, the way they made you feel like the most important person in the world each time you saw them.

You remember their delicious cooking and their love of ghost stories.

You remember how when they played video games with you for a moment you saw what they may have been like as a child and it made you feel closer to them. It made you understand them more.

You see how you actually look a little like them and how your daughter is like a carbon copy of them. You suddenly see that your brother has their nose and your cousin got their smile. You all have a little bit of their spirit.

You see that they loved to wear bright colors and prints and how their jewelry glistened so much it looked like it had been stolen straight from the Crown Jewels.

You see that they loved life and were living it without self-consciousness.

You see who they were through the photo.

You know what we don’t see, what we don’t remember?

Their size. Their weight. When they last colored their roots. What state their body was at different parts of their lives.

We don’t care if Grandma was 100 lbs overweight and had thinning gray hair – she was amazing.  She survived horrific things we only read about and still managed to laugh daily.

We don’t care that Aunt Mary was built like a brick shit house (that was one of my mother’s favorite sayings actually!). She was a powerhouse of love and force to be reckoned with. And also incredible meatballs. She fucking loved to make meatballs.

Despite the craptastic amount of energy the Instawhores spend on creating unrealistic photos, I know on some level most of us do recognize that the physical appearance of our bodies not very important – but sometimes it seems we don’t really get that until someone isn’t here anymore. That sucks.

You know who doesn’t care what your body looks like? Little kids. Little kids will think you are the most beautiful person in the world if you are kind to them and care for them and play with them. I don’t have kids but I have nieces and nephews and I have been a blonde, brunette, and a redhead, I have been skinny, fat and somewhere in between. I have had crazy rosacea eruptions on my face and acne and they’ve seen me without makeup (and coffee). And they think I am beautiful. They see who I am inside – they see me for me, not for what I look like. But give kids a reason to pay attention to the size or shape of our bodies, by hiding them (or commenting on how much we dislike something) and they will learn really quickly how to judge a body and the person inside it. That also sucks.

Can you look at yourself the way your kids would look at you, before they learned that they should be judging everyone by their bodies?

Can you look at yourself the way you look at your own children, seeing all their amazing potential and beautiful humanness? If you can’t, why can’t you? What’s the harm in giving that kindness to yourself?

Which is it? Is my body important or not important?
I know it sounds like on one hand I’m telling you that your body isn’t important, so you should stop hiding it. And then on the other I’m saying it’s important so you should stop hiding it. Haha. But bear with me. It’s both.

It’s not really about whether we actually see your body or not.  I know a lot of people judge us for our weight and it feels even more so with social media these days. Fuck them. Fuck all of them and their judgey selfs. It’s really more about the messages you are sending by hiding – the message you are sending your kids (discussed above), to yourself and to your sweet body. Nevermind the message you are sending to others – it’s like a beacon telling others that you value yourself less. And some assholes will see that as permission to treat you as less.

Your body lovingly and carefully carried those children for 40 weeks. In many cases, it physically provided food for them in their first year. Your body enables you to do all the things that you do. Go to work. To and from school events. You wake up still breathing each morning. You, at whatever current size you are at, whether it’s big or small or somewhere in between, care for your family, your friends and everyone you meet in some way. You go the extra mile anytime it’s asked of you. You are a rock when necessary and a teddy bear when called for.

As a side note, this isn’t unique to moms. Even if you haven’t had kids, your body too, it also does amazing stuff every single day! Maybe it’s run marathons, works double nursing shifts or has beaten cancer. Maybe it’s gotten you through heartbreak and back again. It literally stands up for you, every single day. It’s the BEST friend we can have.

I am amazed by how generously loving my body is to me, still, despite the abuse I have put it through! This thing keeps on giving back to me. It’s self-less. And doesn’t that deserve some respect?

Your heart beats. Your eyes open. Daily.

Your heart beats. Your eyes open. Daily. Just that it exists at all on this planet, in this universe is a miraculous feat.

Doesn’t your body, don’t YOU, deserve more than to be hidden?

Your body is a prize. It’s award winning. It deserves applause. It’s beautiful as it is.

This is the body you have. This is the only life you have. You should enjoy both while you can.

Your heart beats. Your eyes open. Daily. Just that it exists at all on this planet, in this universe is a miraculous feat.

Please don’t hide yourself.

Please put down any shame or discomfort you may have about getting your picture taken. Jut out your hip like you own that body the way you want to (because you do whether you believe it yet or not).

Flaunt it like you respect it. Like you already KNOW how amazing it is.

And what’s great is when you do that enough, when you “fake it until you make it” with your physical posture – you actually will start to feel more confident (and you may even take better care of yourself – which will be reflected in your appearance). Don’t think about it. Just do it. Treat your body like it’s a trophy worthy of being on display. If you want to practice this, please watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are and do the poses she talks about. It’s ridiculously powerful.

Show your kids that you love yourself, that you are unashamed and unabashedly YOU, that you are living your life and not thinking twice about filtering it for the masses. Your body is amazing as it is right now and you don’t have to hide it anymore.

I see you. I see who you are inside. I don’t think she is someone worth hiding and I hope that after reading this you agree.