Why Lift?

Do you ever have those moments in your life when you realize in that moment how cool it is? That happened to me this week.

I was sitting in my gym after a workout talking to woman in her 50s and a 15 year old girl. They were both sharing how strength training has made the more confident throughout so many areas in their life. That they came into the gym to get “healthier” and ended up with so much more than that.  It was a moment that made me just giddy.

I have lifted weights for over half of my life now. For so many years, it was because I was not ok as I am. I needed to be different. For me, it was important to try and achieve that aesthetic of a fitness person.  Some how being super lean and full of muscles would make me worthy, visible, and more loved.

IMG_0254What I have learned through the journey is it doesn’t matter what your body looks like.  What matters is strength training makes you feel strong and feeling strong is bad ass. That strength that you build in the gym from consistent work, from having a plan, from doing things that scare you, from lifting heavy shit simply makes you grow and be better as a person. It radiates out to the rest of your life in ways you don’t even count on like how you show up with others, resiliency through hardships, greater ease in doing day to day tasks and increased confidence overall. Seriously, what areas in your life could not benefit from you knowing you are badass? 🙂

This is of course aside from the general health benefits of strength training.  We want to keep moving well throughout our whole lives. Strength training means more muscle which keeps our metabolism stoked and helps to develop stronger bones that keep us steady and strong. We need the strength to move well. When we are strong and move well, it is powerful combination for living well for a long time.

Morning Ritual: How to Set Your Self Up for a Better Day

One significant practice I have found for being happier and more peaceful on a daily basis  is deliberately choosing my attitude and thoughts in the morning.

I have talked on here before that my first thoughts upon waking used to be disgust with my body. I would automatically touch my stomach and then stumble in to the bathroom to the scale all the while mumbling about how I didn’t want to be up. I already had my mind working on how I suck and how my day already sucks. (This was just the first five minutes of my day!) It is no wonder I have struggled so much with depression. I wasn’t even giving myself a fighting chance to have some peace and happiness.

Through physical reminders (post-its, signs, phone alerts) and lots of practice, I am able to start my day differently. My Post-it on my bathroom mirror reminds me to:

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  1. Decide to make today great. I know that it sounds like a cheesy self help line but there is truth in it. The power is in our hands, our minds. I am deliberate about viewing the day in a positive light.
  2. Get out of my head. Thoughts begin pouring in our brains first thing. It’s a reminder for me to pause, be present and allow the thoughts to slip by and not whip me into a distracted frenzy.
  3. Think of three things. The three things could be  how I have enough in my life right now or three things I am grateful for or three ways my life is amazing right now. It’s all flavors of the same train of thought. It puts me in a mindset of appreciation, gratitude and enough-ness. The more you pay attention to these kinds of things the more you see it in your life.

Of course my favorite sign is this:

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If I can remember this each morning then my attitude is set and the day is better. 🙂

Like any change, setting a positive mental state for the day takes time and deliberate action. I don’t always just wake up awesome but with a little practice I can usually get there. 🙂

What do you do to set yourself up to be awesome each day?

 

The Slow, Unsexy Sure-Fire Way to Success

Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.

This has been my mantra recently.
I am convinced it is what leads to success at most things. In a world where we want a quick fix, magic pill and everything NOW, it can be really challenging. It is not sexy either. It does work though. You are what you do every day. Change will happen.

Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.

I am 42 and want to compete as a weightlifter. I have a coach, good programming and I know what to work on. I show up at the gym regularly and do the work. Slowly things are changing. One kilo at a time, one inch of technique refinement practiced again and again. Change will happen.

Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.

I want to make some body composition changes. I figure out a great way to do it that does not put me back in the restrict and binge cycle. I figure out how I can eat for the rest of my life and then watch my body change. Not over night, a little at time. A pound a time. Oh man. I want it to be faster. Some times it agonizing at this pace. How successful will I be if I keep looking for the next sure-fire plan? I am doing the right things one meal at a time, one day at a time. Change will happen.

Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.

Patience and consistency.

I know I am some times mean to myself. My inner voice can be cutting, shaming, critical. I want to change that. I build awareness and I start to make different choices in how I talk to myself. I am deliberate and I practice often. Change will happen. I am kinder more often. I catch myself and make a different choice. My inner world gets kinder, better. It makes me kinder, better to the world around me.

Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.

I want to grow my business so that I can help others connect with peace, happiness and health. I find good mentors to learn from. I implement changes. I am honest and authentic and I put my message out here regularly. I learn what is working and what isn’t and adjust accordingly. I try new things when I fail. I keep taking steps. Keep moving forward. Progress is made. Change is happening. Its not over night and it maybe small. Maybe one person at a time but the community grows and more people connect with peace, happiness and health.

Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.
Patience and consistency.

My Experience with Mindful Eating Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of my experience with mindful eating. The section is a bit of random thoughts about practicing mindful eating to conclude this series. Enjoy!

1. The guidelines are more than they seem. 

In looking at the previous two posts on mindful eating and the eating guidelines, I realized I was describing them as a list of things to do and felt like I needed to convey that they were so much more than that. Geneen Roth says “the eating guidelines are like nested Russian dolls; they are exactly what they appear to be and they are also worlds opening endlessly onto other worlds.” These practices are about tuning in to your life and your body and paying attention to the here and now. Mindful eating involves becoming aware of and questioning the beliefs and stories that you have. I alluded to this idea a bit in part 2. While the guidelines are useful in and of themselves, its what we learn when practicing them, when resisting them, when sitting with them with ease. THAT is why they can serve as an endless learning cycle. That is where the growth comes and eventually peace.

2. You need support when practicing mindful eating. Find a partner or start a group.

After reading point #1 above you might get a better understanding of why doing this on your own is not setting yourself up for success. You need some one to help you learn and reflect so that you can grow and get through those hard spots. It is hard to do this on your own and make yourself question beliefs or even know what to question. You know how you can clearly see that your friends situation is a hot mess but you can’t figure out your own shit? THAT is why you need an inquiry/mindful eating partner. 😀  Geneen does provide a set of book club questions on her website so you could even form a group and learn together.

3. How does this fit in with being a strength athlete?

I don’t know yet. 🙂 What I can tell you is that so far I have not noticed any effects on my ability to train and make progress. I am more hindered by my askew pelvis than I am by food. I am guessing if competed at a higher level that I might have to make some different considerations around this. I don’t track macros or calories at this point. I do some times drink protein shakes to try and bolster the amount of protein I get during the day even though its not always what my body wants or if I am hungry or not. There might be a time that I need to cut weight to make a weight class (I compete in weightlifting) and I am confident I can do so in a way that is mindful and not crazy making.

4. Will it really take care of my nutritional needs?

I am not a doctor so I can’t answer this from that perspective. I am just a person sharing their experience and thoughts.  I believe if you eat what your body wants that you will eventually turn to things that make you feel good and give you fuel to do what you need to do and to enjoy life. While you might think that all you would eat is peanut butter and whipped cream (or is that just me?!?), my guess is that if you are really tuned in to what makes you feel good and what your body really wants that you will end up choosing a variety of foods that help you thrive (which also includes peanut butter and whipped cream!).

5. Can I really learn to trust myself around food?

Yes. A very resounding yes. I know it feels not even possible some times. TRUST ME. I have been there. I have uttered the cry “Oh my! I can’t possibly trust myself around (buttercream frosting, a bowl of m&ms, cake, chocolate, insert choice of food to binge on here).” I hated that I felt so very powerless against food. I NEVER thought I could do some of the things I have done.  Sit and savor 1 piece of chocolate and then decide I don’t want more? NO WAY not me! Until it happened. It takes time and a lot of work on deprogramming all the messages you have been fed and repeated to yourself but it can happen. Once you take away the forbidden, food is just food. It can still be special of course and savored and delighted in but that is different than NO! I can’t possibly! I am a bad/lazy/undisciplined person if I eat this.

6. Answer this question: How do you want to live your life? 

One of the things that I use as a guide is my answer to that question. The things I wrote down while pondering it: happy, open, free, joyful for just being alive, peace with myself, loving myself, loving EVERY minute of my life.

I decided I wanted peace more than anything….and health of course so that I can live fully as long as possible. I can have those things in my list at any weight. Admittedly, I do still struggle with food and body image – those are pretty deeply engrained patterns in my brain but the practice of mindful eating has allowed for me to have much more peace.  I can’t ask for much more than that. The more I practice the better I will get. It takes a lot of effort to look effortless at something. Hating myself, shaming myself, not trusting myself, only brought me suffering and there was no satisfaction with any goal I hit or size I was.  I have increased my peace and joy with mindful eating and these guidelines. When I get tempted to find the next diet or the next plan that I NEED to be on to be ok – I come back to this question and my answers and think what do I REALLY want? Peace. Presence. Love for myself, for my friends and family, for my life – every minute of it.

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Part 1 and 2 of this series can be found here (part 1) and here (part 2).

My Experience with Mindful Eating Part 1

My connection to sanity and peace around food has grown and strengthened substantially over the past several years. While I have many teachers and practices to thank for this growth for the purposes of this post I am going to talk mainly about practicing mindful eating through the context of Geneen Roth‘s work.

Over the course of 2014, I have taken Geneen Roth’s two online courses based on her book Women, Food and God. Course 1 is The Principles. Course 2 is the Eating Guidelines.  What I like about Geneen is that she gets that the struggle with compulsive eating is not really about the food. Geneen coaches around using food as an pathway to deeper understanding of yourself. (I am guessing some of you just laughed out loud.) 🙂 I have too.

Many things can be used as a tool for self introspection and learning, Geneen chooses what tends to rule our daily lives, what we stress and celebrate over: food.  Through her practices, which I will share in a moment, a person can learn to pause and pay attention – to your body, to your emotions, to the narrative constantly runs in our brains. The practices are about getting curious around things you have never had curiosity about before (What do I believe about eating alone? Why do I want to eat right now when I know I am not hungry? Why am I feeling anger at the moment? Or even what really am I feeling right now? Where did these messages about not being good enough come from? and countless other things that could come up for an individual).  Best of all in my mind, Geneen re-iterates that change is not made through shame and punishment. If that were true we would all be thin, smart and rich. 🙂 She encourages us always to meet ourselves with kindness and curiosity.

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I have been on the path that I am sure many of you have been on. I have struggled with binge eating most of my life. I have tried all sorts of diets. I have been vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, primal and paleo (not all at one time though!). I have thought fat was evil and then carbs were evil. I have tried eating copious amounts of protein and made myself feel sick trying to hit a daily target according to my body weight. I have sought out the magic pill supplements that will make me all better – whole, unbroken, skinny.  I have felt that I have been powerless against food. I have felt lazy, weak and stupid. I have craved the discipline of sticking to a plan because I felt there was no possibility that I could trust myself around food.

Now? Finally through little steps, practicing over and over and over again, I am finding peace in more regular intervals. I am able to trust myself more. I am able to meet myself with patience and kindness more often.

Geneen Roth’s 7 Guidelines for Eating

  1. Eat when you are hungry.
  2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
  3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
  4. Eat what your body wants.
  5. Eat until you are satisfied.
  6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
  7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.

In the next post, I will step through each one and my experience in practicing them.

What’s Going on in Your Circle of Friends?

Repeatedly in my life I have learned that the people that you hang out with often can either raise or lower your game over all. (By game, I am referring to the standards that you measure yourself up to, quality of life, values, etc).

Recently, I have noticed two pretty cool themes in my circle of people that have been pretty damn cool.

1) Doing less.
Several of my friends have made some big decisions in their life to stop doing some of the things they had been doing. It felt scary and questionable. However, now that they have taken the leap they love the renewed energy they have from not being over committed or tied to things that feel too burdensome.

More is not better. Better is better.

Is there a way you can simplify or make room in your life? Let go of some things that drain you or don’t meet with your values and priorities?

2) Taking recovery seriously.
A couple of friends have made deliberate efforts to sleep more, take true days off and away from the gym, practicing more self care, eating enough and working on their mobility. Their bodies feel better. They feel better. Life is more enjoyable. They have more to give when they are in the gym. Take your rest and recovery as seriously as you take your work outs.

So. Cool. I am really impressed when people make decisions that don’t always fit with what is expected or what people view to be as the norm and I love that my friends are owning decisions to make their lives better. My friends make me want to raise my game.

What can you do to step up your game?

Lessons Learned from My Life So far

In honor of my 42 year on the planet, I am going to copy some of my friends habits of sharing a list of things learned in life so far. I am not doing 1 for every year but a top 20 of the things that pop out at me.  I would love to know what resonates with you and what some of your big lessons are.

  1. Love who you are.  We are born knowing this and then we forget or get it conditioned out of us – some times on purpose and some times by the most well meaning of parents. If we are lucky and with lots of practice you can reconnect with it, savor it, live it. It changes your perspective and how you show up in the world.IMG_2543
  2. Know that you are the ocean. You are not the number on the scale, the size of your jeans, your depression, your food restriction or binge. Those are the waves, you are the entire ocean.
  3. Sit, Stay, heal.  I ran from emotions and experiences for a long time. A powerful tool for me to move past what ever feels really hard is it sit with the difficult feeling, be present with it. It changes and dissipates and typically I have a deeper understanding than I did before.
  4. Its so easy to judge. You never know what is going on with some one else. Try and have some compassion. I find that I have often been in a similar situation to what ever that person is doing that I am judging them for.
  5. It takes great effort to be effortless at something.  Sports, dance, art, loving who you are all take lots of practice. Keep at it. Eventually it gets easier, effortless.
  6. I can trust myself. For a long time I didn’t and even more so never thought it would be possible. But then I practiced (see #5) and it got better.  The inner voice got stronger, clearer and I know I can listen and trust.  The inner critic? Well I got that voice to STFU. 😀
  7. Every thing changes. People, pain, health, rules, moods, energy, life, jobs, technology. If it feels hard or impossible, hold on – it will change. If it feels awesome, savor it, it will change.
  8. The number on the scale does not determine how my day will go or what kind of person I am. See #2 as well.
  9. Follow the energy and passion. I do my best to make decisions that keep me where my energy and passion go and take on less of the things that suck the life out of me.  Of course there are always have to do but probably less of those things than you think.
  10. Genuinely and authentically being love for others and myself. I am pretty sure this is my purpose in life. <3
  11. Move in ways that bring you joy. Bodies love rest AND they love movement. While I would love every one to strength train, its so more important to move in ways that bring you joy. Find what you love and do that.   IMG_5410
  12. And throw random movement shit in there too. We don’t forget how to squat, reach, flip, roll over, get up off the floor, find our balance, become less agile – we just stop doing it one day and then we eventually lose the ability.
  13. CTFO on the food rules. If your life and meals revolve around a strict list of what can and cannot be eaten, you may be missing out on life and the stress probably isn’t worth it. Part of what brought peace for me around food is when I stopped having a “good” and “bad” list.
  14. Don’t underestimate the power of regular good sleep.  Yeah.
  15. Choosing the right mindset can go a long way in managing stress. Some times you don’t have to change what you are doing just your attitude towards it and things feel better. Gratitude is a powerful tool and a perspective changer as well.
  16. Value doing less over doing more.  Open time on your calendar, down time during the day is not a crime. We live in a society that glorifies busy-ness. Maybe try doing a few things really well, rather than a ton of things that you only kinda care about because you think you have to.
  17. Lifting heavy weights and long leisurely walks in nature have done more for me than any antidepressant has.
  18. Consciously take care of your relationships. What can you do to make this person feel more loved?
  19. Its fun to walk through a crowd of people and silently offer them the metta blessing – ” May you be happy, May you be healthy. May you be free from fear. May you feel the joy of being alive.”  It can change your whole outlook.
  20. Don’t believe every thing you think. So. Many. Thoughts. They are all just stories and constructs that I have gotten used to. Doesn’t mean its true. The world got a lot bigger when I questioned what I thought.

What Do I Do Now?

When I attended the Train Like A Girl 2 seminar in February, I heard Jim Laird in talking about how little time in the gym is actually needed for gaining health, strength and good movement say you will have to think about what you are going to do with your life when you decide you are no longer “gym girl”, when your identity is no longer tied to spending hours in the gym.

Huh. Interesting.

I am rereading Geneen Roth‘s book Women, Food and God. In this book, Geneen talks about what do you do when you no longer believe you have to fix yourself. Having to constantly focus on losing weight, being on a diet and worrying about what our bodies look like give us a purpose and an activity. She compares it to Sisyphus, who is relegated in the underworld to constantly roll the boulder up hill, only to have it roll back down and do it again. At least he has something to do. 🙂

Huh. Interesting.

What would your life be like if you accepted yourself exactly as you are right now? If you didn’t have to spend time logging hours upon hours in the gym, thinking about food (how much? how many calories? bad vs good?), worried about how other people see you (which you can’t control anyway), wondering how you can be better, different than who you are right now.

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We are lead to believe that if we hit that size or number on the scale that life gets more magical. Life is suddenly easier some how, we love ourselves more and the pain of what life can bring gets easier.  Its a myth that we have been sold.  Haven’t you been smaller than you are right now? Did life feel magically better? Did you really love you more? Did all of your problems disappear?

No? Me either.

I loved that Jim’s question made me think about what I would do with all of that time in my life if I no longer had to be gym girl. I love that Geneen challenged me to give up the obsession of being on a diet and having to fix myself.  While I am still practicing being in that space, I feel like it has opened up a ton of space in my life. I feel like I can be so much more present with the life that is right in front of me – the beautiful, the challenging, the mundane. All of it. I am better at being with myself. I am learning more about who I am. I am more attuned to eating what makes me feel good and I love (LOVE LOVE LOVE!) moving in ways that make me happy.

Can you be brave and consider what walking away from all of that would mean for you? How would your life change? What other things would you be doing and spending time thinking about?  I would love to hear from you.

 

That Little Voice

The first weekend in May, I participated in a 5k called the Rugged Maniac. It was one of those obstacle/mud runs that are happening all over the place now. I completed it with one of my friends and had a blast. However, in looking at some of the pictures from that race I could hear that little inner voice saying “You should be smaller. You are gigantic.

When that little voice pops up, it often throws me out of sorts.

Physically,  I feel a little nauseous and sometimes feel heat in my face and body.

Mentally, I feel like I am REALLY not ok as I am and it makes me WANT to shrink.

That little voice has been with me for a very long time. It used to be a constant companion narrating for me all the ways in my life that I wasn’t ok especially with my body.  Its funny (actually, its not) that it was still there even when I was a size 4, the smallest I have been in as an adult. There is no pleasing this voice and it is never satisfied.

As I have practiced more loving who I am in this world, exactly as I am right now, that little voice is not as constant. It does take lots of practice – you can’t just know that you are ok once or twice and that little voice goes away. You have to consistently work at it or you find yourself stuck back in the pattern of I am not ok as I am. It can be challenging especially when the world around us – culture, advertising, and sometimes even friends and family – tell us that we are not ok as we are.  There can be a great deal of pressure to be “smaller”.

I have learned that little voice is not just about the weight, its about who I am as a person. It is telling me  – you are not ok as you are.  You know what? Its a liar.

If I am not ok as I am right now – loving me in this moment, then I am not going to be ok when I am “over there”. (What ever “over there” represents for you – when you are thinner, richer, have more free time, etc. ) Happiness can be found as you are right now and in this moment.

There are moments when I hear this voice that I pause and pay attention to what it has to say or why I am feeling that way. Other times I just tell it to shut the fuck up.  🙂

The Messiness of Being Human

No Mud, No Lotus.  – Thich Naht Hahn

Some where along the way, I developed a belief that if I get awake and aware enough, present ENOUGH (enlightened maybe?) that life will be easy.  I am defining easy here to mean no more suffering, no more struggling, no more messy, no more imperfect. (Honestly, I often envision being so enlightened that I can actually levitate).  🙂

This believe has caused me quite a bit pain over the years as it made me feel like I wasn’t doing the things right or good enough, like I was falling short.

What I am realizing through my practicing and experiencing is that the suffering, struggling, messiness, imperfection is ALL part of what it means to be human. It IS life. The messiness is not some thing to escape from but something to savor and experience – the joys and sorrows, the highs and the lows, the perfection and imperfection of it all. Being present, awake and aware is what allows for the experience of it all and be with every moment that life brings to us.

Of course this is just a new awareness to me but certainly not an original thought. I just ran across this quote from Thicht Naht Hahn recently.

“The lotus cannot be there without the mud. Likewise, happiness cannot be there without suffering. Looking deeply into our suffering, we gain an understanding of it, which enables happiness to have a chance to blossom. Thus, the lotus does not have to reject the mud, and the beauty of the lotus actually gives value to the mud.”

Instead of wishing the messiness of life away or some how impossibly working to get beyond it, I am now practicing to be with and say yes to each moment.

How are you with the messiness of life? What stories do you hold about how life should be? Can you allow for and savor ALL of it?