Seasons are changing here in Denver, Colorado — at 10am this morning the temperature was a balmy 32 degrees! Yesterday I frantically covered my garden and pots as best I could and am praying that they pulled through this cold snap. Oh, Colorado weather, you never fail to challenge me! I still have so many tomatoes that need to ripen and pumpkins to turn to orange
It is supposed to be back in the 80s next week, also a typical Colorado weather pattern this time of year. I love fall! The shift of the seasons also brings events like back-to-school time and many other forms of change. Going back to school can be an exciting and anticipatory time — what will I learn this year? Who will I meet? What will be my greatest challenge? Where will I grow the most?
It also can be a time where body image concerns can show up pretty intensely as each student is finding their group of friends, adjusting to the school atmosphere, and embracing the unknown. Thoughts like “How do I measure up? Will I fit in? Am I accepted?” can show up during the first few weeks of school. As we wear less tank tops and sundresses and begin pulling on long pants and coats, so, too, do some of us feel a little more self-conscious about our bodies and how we feel in them.
I thought it would be a helpful exercise today to offer some tips for boosting your body image and embracing the awesome person you are as school starts up and the seasons shift. Whether you sometimes struggle with body image concerns or not, I’m hopeful you can find something to relate to and take with you from the list below.
1.) Ask yourself: “How do I feel about my body?” . Remember that you are unique and have so many gifts to offer that only you can! Focus on three body parts that you don’t normally pay attention to (your glands, for example!) and offer them gratitude for the function they serve for you. For example: “I love my spine. Each vertebra is lovingly connected to its neighbors. There is smooth, perfect interaction between them. I am strong and flexible.”
2.) Find a body image boost buddy (BBB). Reach out to someone you trust and talk about body image. Talk about what you love about your body and what you struggle with. Ask them their body image story. Swap tips for embracing and loving the body you were gifted with.
3.) Speak up when you hear someone talking negative about their body or someone else’s. Negativity and judgement can spread like a wildfire and it’s hurtful. If you notice someone putting their body down or criticizing someone else’s, say something to them. They might not even notice what they are doing or the impact it can have. This also can help you feel more positive about yourself, your body, and the messages you are sending about body love.
4.) Create a vision. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel inside this body? If I felt this way, how would I move differently, how would I interact with others differently, what would this free me to do and experience?” Using guided visualization, to step into and experience this vision, allowing yourself to have a goal to work towards.
5.) Notice your body talk. How do you talk to your body? How do you talk about your body to others? Notice the negative or critical thoughts that you have towards your body and write them down. Then write a counter to each of those thoughts and formulate thoughts that are positive about your body.
6.) Be active. Being active in your body — running, dancing, stretching, playing soccer, or whatever makes you feel good — can help you connect to it in a healthy way and show you the amazing things your body helps you do each day.
7.) Wear clothes that make you feel confident. Wearing clothes that fit your body well can help you feel more comfortable and confident in your body. You may need to buy new clothes or find some oldies but goodies that you love. What’s important is that you enjoy wearing these clothes and therefore are choosing to treat your body with love and respect.
8.) Notice the messages that influence you. Where do you get messages that there is something wrong with the way your body looks? Are there magazines, commercials, television shows, advertisements that try to convince you that you need to change? Before buying into them, try to notice them and ask yourself if you truly believe their message or if they are trying to sell you an unhealthy thought.
9.) Listen to positive messages! The good news is there are so many uplifting and fun sites and other media that are trying to change the way we talk about ourselves and our bodies. Here are a few of my favorite: Operation Beautiful, Beauty Redefined, The Body Positive, and here’s a great list of more body image boost sites!
10.) Redefine what health, beauty, and happiness mean to you! Maybe your definition doesn’t entirely fit with society’s or your best friend’s. That’s okay! This is your body, your life, and you get to decide what makes you feel wonderful!
Here’s a fun video of a hip new song called “All About That Bass”, which promotes positive body image:
Lyrics for this song are here.
Come up with your own! Leave a comment below about your own ways to Boost Body Image!
Happy Fall and Back To School~
As a young girl, I loved to play in the fields of sunflowers by my home and watch as they reached higher, higher, and higher, always facing the sun. They thrived in the light.
As a teenager, I became disconnected from my love of the earth and as my eating disorder destroyed my life, I barely noticed the neglected tulips outside my window. I hid in the darkness and so did my garden.
As an eating disorder survivor and now a professional counselor, I play in my garden daily to nurture my recovery, to nourish my soul, and to reconnect with my authentic self. While I have been recovered for more than 10 years now and feel very solid in my recovery, gardening is an integral factor in sustaining my recovery.
I am blessed to be able to help others who struggle with eating disorders to find their own light in their recovery process and I often utilize metaphors from mindful gardening practices (and get our hands in the dirt and actuallypractice it!) to help them cultivate their own inner gardens.
Do you like to garden? If you were a plant, which type do you think you’d be? Why?
The earth is a natural source of healing energy for us and if we connect with it, we can soothe our inner hunger and feed our soul in a way that food cannot.
1. You are the artist of your own garden. There are hundreds of flowers, herbs, vegetables, shrubs, and other beauties that can make your garden lush and bountiful! Yes, this can be a bit overwhelming, but it can also be fun! It’s up to you to decide what you like, what you don’t, what you want to experiment with, and what is aesthetically pleasing to you. In recovery, it’s so important to learn that you are unique, you are wonderful any way you want to be, and your voice is the one that truly counts when it comes to taking care of yourself.
2. Can you try to embrace your inner weeds instead of pull them all out? Weeds can sometimes be unpleasant, unsightly, unwanted parts of our gardens. They show up when we didn’t plant them and crowd into our beautiful peony plant. You can spend hours upon hours weeding (trust me, I know!) and while it can be therapeutic to do so, you can never get all of the weeds to permanently scram. This is also true of things in our lives that we feel we want to go away — we can spend so much time and energy trying to get rid of them that we don’t have much space left to notice and appreciate what we already have. Also, some weeds are beautiful and can pop up unexpectedly in the most amazing places — kind of like in recovery when we focus on what we’re grateful for and notice that some of our challenges can sometimes be our greatest teachers.
3. Just as any garden does, your inner garden needs tender, loving care. Self care is so integral to eating disorder recovery. Listening to your inner needs, voice, and limits can foster a healthy bed for lasting recovery. Sprinkle in some self-compassion and you’ll have a beautiful recovery garden nurturing inside of you. Just as gardens need water, sun, shade, and fertilizer, for your recovery garden to thrive you will need to actively and regularly tend to it as well.
4. There is no such thing as a “perfect” garden. Sometimes the gardens that are the most quirky, fun, and unconventional are the ones that we gravitate toward. They embrace themselves even if they don’t follow all of the “rules” of gardening. Just as a garden’s uniqueness is refreshing and inspiring, on the road to recovery it’s essential to remember that there is no perfect body, shape, personality, life, family, recovery, etc. We each discover our recovery in its own imperfect and messy way and through acceptance of this, we learn to accept and cherish ourselves just as we are.
5. If it doesn’t work out the first time, try again. There is no such thing as failure, just learning and having fun. In May, I had just planted my little seedlings that I’d been carefully nurturing indoors for two months. They were finally strong enough to go out in the earth and grow! Of course, the next day we got a MASSIVE hail storm that just about drowned all of my little plants in golf-ball sized pieces. I was so upset, worried and frustrated. After some deep breaths I came to realize that I cannot control nature and that my little plants are going to show me how resilient they are. Once I embraced what I could not change or control, I turned my attention to what I was grateful for and my stress oozed out of me.In recovery, trying to embrace what you cannot control is one of the most difficult but also most freeing concepts — I cannot say that I’m always successful, but hey, I’m not perfect.
6. Patience is a virtue. What seeds do you want to nurture in your own inner garden? Take some time to think of several that you would love to grow in your life. Plant them by writing them down or planting your own garden and setting intentions for each seed that you sow. Of course, some seeds may not grow — this is the nature of nature and also the nature of life. Just plant more. Then, have patience. The most beautiful and magical gifts in our lives take time, gentle care, and acceptance for them to thrive.
Recovery is a garden worth waiting for!
Post originally written by Kate Daigle, MA, LPC and published on the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders site.
For the past several weeks, I have been practicing the 21-day meditation challenge Expanding Your Happiness, presented by the Chopra Center (a great *free* resource to help you get in a daily meditation routine!). This experience has been very beneficial for me in helping to set intentions and practice mindfulness every day with a topic that is relevant to expanding my own inner happiness.
As I listened to today’s meditation topic, “Being of Service”, I felt a deep resonance within me as Deepak Chopra described the immense personal and global benefits of being of service to others:
“When you are living the happiness that comes from your Being, serving others isn’t an obligation. It’s not about feeling like you’re a better person or raising your image in the eyes of others. Something deeper happens because in serving others, at the soul level, you are serving yourself.”
This Friday, August 29th, marks the four year anniversary of the day I founded my business, Kate Daigle Counseling, LLC. Happy birthday KDC!! Kate Daigle Counseling is flourishing and growing each year and I’m so very happy for this success!
I cannot believe it has been four years since the day I signed the Articles of Organization and while every day I am struck with gratitude for my work, this week I am especially mindful and appreciative of the gift I have received. Being able to be present for others, to support them in their pain, to offer hope that there is light in their tunnel, and to observe the immense courage and resiliency that it takes to find peace and inner serenity gives me a feeling of deep personal joy that I have never before experienced.
I truly relate to Deepak’s words – as I am able to serve others, I connect deeply with a value of my own, a value of Acts of Service. Through performing this act, I offer myself a gift that I could not find anywhere else. Giving back, giving to others through my time, my presence, my ability to offer empathy and hope, allows me to continue to feel full and hopeful even amidst a world of pain and suffering. I also wish this for you and for everyone I meet.
So, I am filled with gratitude, can you tell? Here is my gratitude list as I reflect on the past four years of owning and operating Kate Daigle Counseling:
Someone who had been struggling to overcome emotional and mindless eating for decades just recently described to me an epiphany she had, one that was also testament to how hard she has worked in her own recovery: “eat” is embedded in the word “create”! So, whenever we feel that inner restlessness and want to turn to food, we can ask ourselves: is this physical hunger or emotional hunger? And if it’s emotional hunger, instead of eating something that won’t truly nourish us, we can use that inner energy to create something that feels fun and personal and channel our emotions and needs in ways that actually work! A piece of art? A poem? A garden? A conversation? What else is possible? What can you create?
I thought this was SO COOL, and just continues to feed that vein of passion I have for exploring healing and recovery in ways that are fun, authentic, and truly nourishing.
So, as I embark on the next four years of Kate Daigle Counseling and helping people find their inner voice and path, I thank YOU, my readers, for supporting me and allowing me to have this outlet to share the things I’m excited about
To celebrate KDC’s birthday, I will be unveiling in the next couple of weeks a refreshed website layout with oodles of more resources and information for people, new services such as supervision, and announcing a new FREE body image group to begin in October! Please sign up for my mailing list and follow me on Facebook or Twitter if you have not already! I welcome collaborating and connection with other mental health professionals and would love to meet with you in person to learn about your work as well.
In the spirit of gratitude, what are five things that you are grateful for today? I invite you to share in the comments below!
At work and in my personal life, I make a conscious effort to “practice what I preach”. I love my job in that it allows me to offer support, encouragement, and tools to my clients to help them create a more fulfilling, balanced and enjoyable life. Much of what I talk about in sessions with clients is “self care”, which is a practice of taking care of yourself through activities and rituals that nourish and foster relaxation and healing.
This, admittedly, can be difficult at times if you’ve struggled to have an accepting relationship with yourself. “Oh, it’s so much easier to take care of others than to take care of myself”, is a common excuse to avoid practicing self care. Yes, I agree that focusing on ourselves can sometimes be uncomfortable and unsettling, however the mental, physical, and emotional rewards of such practice is undeniable and incomparable.
I believe strongly in congruency and authenticity, and feel that I cannot appropriately suggest to my clients to do things that I myself am not able or willing to do. So, I try to maintain a regular routine of self care in my own life. This typically involves exercise, mindfulness practice, gardening, spending time with loved ones, and volunteering.
Yesterday I gave myself a gift of something I’ve never done before, and I have to admit, something I was a bit unsure about: an hour in a floatation tank. A floatation tank is an enclosed, insulated, sound- and light- proofed tank filled with water and 1000lbs of Epsom Salt. I entered the room which held the tank and was told that I would be retrieved again in one hour. “Sometimes that time goes quickly, sometimes it feels like it goes very slowly”, I was informed by the woman working there.
Then she left me. A jolt of anxiety and nervousness rushed through me. I gingerly entered the tank and closed the lid. Pitch blackness. No sound. And I was floating as if my body was weightless. With sensory deprivation this intense, my mind started to freak out a bit. “What if I can’t get out?”, “What if they forget I’m in here and I get stuck?”, “How am I going to just float here for an hour? That seems like an ETERNITY!”, were all thoughts that raced through my head.
After about (I think) ten minutes, I noticed my mind begin to settle down. I tried to actively practice mindfulness of where I was and to notice any thoughts that came into my mind that took me away from the present moment and to put them in a balloon and let them float up to the top of the tank for the time being. I tried to do something that has been a difficult practice for me for my entire life: to let go.
When your mind can’t get data from what you see, and when it can’t register information from what you hear, it feels quite deprived. It’s lost two of its most reliable sources of data which can tell it if it needs to feel a certain feeling: fear, excitement, joy, surprise, or if there is some sort of threat. At some point, the struggle to try to control the experience lifted from me and I was able float, aimlessly. As my mind quieted, I was left with only the sensations that my body was feeling — body talk. I felt fully, truly present in my body.
This type of experience taught me so much and in reflecting back, I believe it could be very beneficial for anyone who feels stress. I think it could especially be powerful for people who struggle with issues related to body image and disordered eating because for this hour, your body is completely weightless. You must trust it, as it is your only source of information and awareness. It challenges you to re-evaluate how you perceive and feel in your body without using visual cues to determine this, and it gives you a sense of being in your body in a whole new way.
Here are the Top Ten Benefits of Floating
And more, depending on your personal goals!! Read more about floatation here.
From the perspective of a professional in the mental health field, I would add:
After my session, I felt rejuvenated, relaxed, and also slightly discombobulated. I felt like I had been on a different plane of existence for an hour — a refreshing to “get out of your head, into your body”, and embrace a new perspective.
I’d encourage anyone who would like to explore a new way of being in your body, a refreshing way of experiencing your mind, and to experiment with “letting go” and trusting your intuition to sign up for a session in a floatation tank. You’ll walk away feeling much different than you did before you went in, and this experience is unlike any other!
This is the first year of a big project I like to call “Garden Overhaul!”….I planted a massive vegetable garden in an old plot that had never been touched and was full of weeds and dirt that was basically hard clay. I now have plans to tear out much of my grass next year and cover my front yard with native water-saving plants, herbs, trees, and shrubs. Big project, but big reward! Talk about reaping what you sow I can have the most stressful day in weeks, but the second I set foot in my garden all is calm. It is truly my meditative oasis.
If you read my previous post about hail damage on my freshly planted garden, you know about the trials I’ve experienced (and any gardener does) in “letting go” of what I cannot control and embracing hope that my garden would be resilient…which it has been! I love the metaphors that can be found between gardening and self-care, mindfulness, and acceptance. I am putting together a Mindful Gardening Workshop this Saturday that will integrate so many of the concepts of weeding, planting seeds, nurturing, harvesting in gardening and also in our own lives. I can’t wait!
While preparing for this workshop, I have been utilizing two wonderful books: The Art of Mindful Gardening: Sowing the Seeds of Meditation by Ark Redwood, and The Meditative Gardener: Cultivating Mindfulness of Body, Feelings, and Mind by Cheryl Wilfong. Both are written by master gardeners and seasoned mindfulness practitioners and offer so much wisdom from buddhism, psychology and gardening about the natural healing tools available to us in our natural world.
I am now contemplating. . .
What Would It Be Like To Accept Our Inner Weeds Instead of Eradicate Them?
We all have those parts of ourselves that we would rather not spend too much time with — perhaps they are filled with pain, remorse, shame, guilt, or discomfort. Or perhaps we just don’t know them very well and they seem dark, looming and scary. These could be called our “Inner Weeds” and our first impulse could be to rip them out. When looking at our garden, planted with beautiful herbs, colorful flowers and budding vegetables, it can be an unsightly eyesore to see weeds popping up and trying to push out our lovingly cultivated bounty.
I have spent hours pulling weeds out of my garden, and let me tell you — it feels good to get those buggers out! It’s a therapeutic treat to yank out the “intruders” to my garden (though the are just as natural and organic as anything I have chosen to plant). . . .but they come back even if I pull them out. It reminds me of that saying “what we resist, persists” . . .or, on the other side, “what we water, grows”. When we water our garden, we inherently water the weeds in it as well. Why fight them?
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says:
“There are already trees and flowers in our garden. There may be some weeds too. The gardener does not hate the weeds. The good gardener knows how to use the weeds to fertilize the fruit and flowers. The practice of mindfulness does not mean hating the imperfections in ourselves. The practice is to attend to what causes us pain and suffering and use it as fertilizer to create the most beautiful garden possible. ”
This reminds me strongly of concepts of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which borrows a piece from Buddhism that acknowledges that there will always be some form of suffering in life — but asks us how we choose to approach it. Do we struggle against it and the emotions it brings and try to weed it out? That is A LOT of effort. Or do we work to accept it for what it is and let it help us fertilize the other parts of our garden — our life — as well?
Can you learn to love your inner weeds, the parts of yourself that you wish weren’t there, and which you are forever trying to pluck out?
Until we can accept their presence inside of ourselves and value them for what they are, they will continue to persist and cause us more pain and suffering.
We have a choice as to whether we water those seeds or not, the seeds that may grow into something we see as a weed. But, if we don’t water those seeds at all we cannot just turn our backs on them because they are part of what makes us human, what makes us whole, and what makes us beautifully imperfect. Just because we don’t want to water them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
So, speaking without metaphor, I ask you now:
What parts of yourself do you try to pluck out, or turn a blind eye to? The one who judges yourself and others? The part who feels ‘not good enough’? The part who feels jealousy of another?
For a moment, try to let yourself contact those parts of yourself that you have spent so many hours avoiding. Try to let yourself offer that part kindness, understanding, and acceptance instead of avoidance or judgment. Let it be. Notice that even though that part is there, flowers can grow all around it. Flowers that are joy, resiliency, creativity, intellect, and love may even thrive while co-existing with those “weeds” and it feels like so much less work to let them all live together.
Off I go into my garden. Sure, I’ll pluck a few weeds. But I’ll also notice them as a part of a bigger picture, that they are just as natural in my garden as the vegetables are, and that they do their part to make my garden a whole, messy, imperfect, and magical retreat for rejuvenation.
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
― Brené Brown
Do you know that feeling of putting on your pajamas or your favorite sweats, snuggling up to your most loved movie, and feeling so safe and content? Doesn’t it feel great? We all crave that sense of safety in our lives and feeling that place of contentment gives us a sense of security, coziness and comfort despite the stressors that we face each day.
But what if we get stuck there? What if it’s not serving us to stay there?
I’ve recently been reflecting on this concept of a “comfort zone” and how, while it feels so nice and non-threatening to be there, staying there can actually keep us away from what we’re really needing and yearning for.
In my work with clients, I believe one of my greatest strengths is empathy, active listening, and being present. I could empathize all day long with my clients’ struggles.
However, if I don’t help push them forward, if I don’t challenge them to embrace vulnerability and connect with their greatest self, they stay stuck. They may find themselves lost in that messiness that is a part of life, that “mud” which is perhaps comfortable but not helping them connect to that inner warrior who wants to fight for true inner peace.
So, what keeps us stuck in our comfort zones, and how can we push past them to realize our true potential?
1.) Fear of the unknown. I think we can all relate to this fear — “if I change, how will I know what it’s like? What if I can’t predict what will happen?”. This is very common, and yet change is happening all of the time. We have a choice to embrace it or to resist it. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy a common mantra is “embrace your demons and follow your heart”, meaning can you allow yourself to feel your emotions and fears, to not resist them, and to follow what your heart truly desires? I feel that if we are willing to take that leap we can learn that we have more resiliency than we may think and that we can cope with just about any change that can happen. And who knows, that change may be the thing we really needed to feel more connected to ourselves!
2.) Fear of failure. Oh boy, this is a biggie. So much of the time we resist change or trying something new because we are afraid of failing at it. Have you been there? I have. Why are we so terrified of failing? We cannot succeed all of the time, nor is it even healthy. Failing at something helps us learn more about ourselves and embrace that life is full of ups and downs. Pushing out of our comfort zones may mean “failing”, but there is always another chance to try again or to try it a different way. By failing we learn what actually works.
3.) Fear of rejection. I feel this is closely connected to #1 and #2. One of our greatest fears is to be rejected, as that could trigger feelings of shame or being unworthy of love, belonging, connection. Researcher Dr. Brene Brown so eloquently states: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable — to take that step outside of our comfort zone — we can deepen and nurture our sense of worth.
4.) Fear of success and progress. Yes, I know that might sound strange and counter-intuitive. However, if we can’t really predict what it feels like to change and to push out of our comfort zones, sometimes it can feel overwhelming to actually get to where we want to be. Have you ever made a big change in your life, one that you feel is a positive one, and yet still have trouble embracing or owning it? For example, many people who are working on recovery from an eating disorder may truly, desperately want to get out of the struggle with the disorder. However, letting go of it (making “progress”) might mean giving up something that has comforted them for so long and being vulnerable or “naked” without it can actually be quite terrifying. Helping ourselves see that “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” (Brené Brown) can give ourselves the grace to be our authentic selves.
Whew, I notice quite a few “fears” listed here. It’s interesting how fear can keep us so stuck, so disconnected from our values and what really matters to us, and allow us to stay in our comfort zones — places that don’t always serve us in a meaningful way.
Where are you stuck in your comfort zone? What is one step you can take to push out of it, embrace vulnerability, and be willing to accept whatever comes next?
I’m happy to share today an inspiring guest blog post by Julie Larkin of Perfectly You Integrative Coaching & Energetic Healing. I love Julie’s fun and quirky writing style and in this post she invites us to look at the parts of our lives that give us a ‘squirrelly’ feeling (and I am not a fan of squirrels, especially when they eat my garden!) — which she describes as ‘That restless feeling that has you contemplating any number of life adjustment(s) from quitting a job, to moving to another state, to leaving the relationship, to utterly altering your lifestyle, to a trip around the world …’
Julie and I connect on a similar vision: helping people connect to their authentic selves and supporting them to live a life that fulfills those unique values, goals, and joys. Julie is an Innovative Coach and Energy Practitioner and she loves to help people live more Perfectly-You on this adventure called life! She integrates forms of energy healing with coaching practice which I think is such a cool way of helping clients access all parts of themselves as a whole being and integrating them into balance. Check out her website at: www.perfectlyyoucoaching.com.
That restless feeling that has you contemplating any number of life adjustment(s) from quitting a job, to moving to another state, to leaving the relationship, to utterly altering your diet, to a trip around the world …
(Okay, okay. That may just be my level of squirrelly. Ha! The ‘let’s do this and let’s do this BIG’ variety … Yeee Haaaaw!!)
Regardless, if you find yourself sitting with some pretty significant restlessness; with feelings that you need a change … well, by all means, make a change!
Ahhhhhh, but practice a bit of mindfulness prior to jumping (if you’re the jumping type).
So very often, it’s the small adjustments that make the BIG difference. It’s why you so often hear that the move to another place, relationship, job, etc. eventually results in more of the same. DAMN IT! (wink)
WHAT SMALL ADJUSTMENTS WOULD ALLEVIATE YOUR LEVEL OF SQUIRRELLY?
Wait, that’s such a broad question. One that might get your anxiety levels up in addition to the squirrelly-ness. Sorry!
What small adjustments would alleviate your level of squirrelly AT WORK? AT HOME? IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP? RELATED TO YOUR SELF CARE? RELATED TO YOUR NUTRITION? RELATED TO YOUR HAVING-FUN FACTOR? ETC?
(Oh, and … this is scientifically proven. The butterfly affect of chaos theory. Read on science geeks!: The Butterfly Effect: This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened.A more rigorous way to express this is that small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results. Our lives are an ongoing demonstration of this principle.) Awwwww Yeaaaaaaaah!!!
Many of the clients that I work with report feeling “disconnected from”, “at war with”, “disgusted by”, or “dissatisfied with” their bodies. To me this says that there has been some form of trauma that has caused a rift in the natural mind-body connection. This could mean an actual traumatic event in one’s life, or, more commonly, it could mean that some form of internal experience (feelings) has felt too painful or too disregulated and we must disconnect from it. Our bodies can be a battlefield for our emotions. Castlewood Treatment Center defines one’s body image as:
‘Body image is comprised of how one sees their body, lives in and experiences their body and perceives how others see their body. Negative body image can serve a protective function to distract clients from painful feelings or emotions held in the body.’
To heal from this disconnect between mind, body and soul, we strive to become more “embodied”, to literally attach ourselves to our bodies once more, as we were when we were born. To find a way to be accepting of our internal and experiences and thus more accepting of ourselves.
What does it mean to “be embodied”? Being “embodied” signifies:
Here are a few ideas for beginning to implement these and be on your way to “becoming more embodied” in a safe, accepting, nonjudgmental, and joyous capacity.
1.) Bring your focus to the daily essential tasks that your body performs for you. Have you ever noticed how many muscles, bones, and ligaments it takes to walk effectively? It’s not just our legs and feet that need to be involved; our whole body is on the job as we walk down the street and keep us balanced. What about all of the steps it take to take a shower? Have you ever slowed down and tuned into each step? Your body does so much for you — much of it out of your consciousness — and you may not realize this. By bringing attention and focus to the physical tasks it implements for you, you can begin to feel more present, grounded, and appreciative of your whole body and the miracle it is.
2.) Draw a body image timeline. What is the story of your body? What would it say to you about its life if it could speak? Begin with a large piece of drawing paper and some art materials. Draw a line from your earliest memory of your body to the present. Fill in each of the events that stand out to you (for example: ‘felt self-conscious in my bathing suit at the pool party, age 13′, or ‘gave birth to my first child, age 33′). Use colors, shapes, words to describe the journey your body has been on until this point. Add influential people to the timeline. This is not about weight, but about how it has felt to be in your body. Then, draw a line from the present into the future: how do you want the story of your body to look from here on out?
3.) Pay attention to the messages you send to your body. These may come from both internal and external sources. What kinds of statements do you send to your body? That it’s not good enough? That it’s awesome and strong? That it’s beautiful? That ‘if only I could lose 5 more lbs, I’d be happy’? Write these down in a notebook. Then try to reframe the negative ones to thoughts that feel more accepting, validating, kind, and compassionate — the kinds of messages you would send to someone you love very much. Offer kindness to what it’s been through — pains, injuries, surgeries, etc — and how resilient it is!
4.) Dance, dance, dance! We all can project feelings of awkwardness, uncertainty, or insecurity on our bodies. Have you ever watched someone dance in a way with complete abandon, fearlessness, and joy? Try it! You can begin in your own home. Turn on a song that you love, one that really gets into your soul, your joints, your body. And let yourself dance to it with no rules and no self-consciousness. Fling your arms around; gallop across the floor; jump in the air! Do whatever your body wants to do — just follow it. See how it feels!
5.) Spend a day tracking your emotions and your body signals. We tend to hold our emotions in our bodies, and they can often show up as somatic concerns if we don’t address them. Have you ever had a stress headache? Or shoulder tension? These could be the result of untreated emotional pain you are holding in your body. When we take care of our bodies appropriately (and this means REST as well as movement!), then we send the message to our emotional selves that we deserve to be appropriately tended to as well. Spend a day tracking the messages from your body and your emotions. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side, track any emotions you feel that day (sad, angry, lonely, surprised, etc). On the other, track physical sensations you feel (headache, stomach queasy, muscle spasm in leg, tight hamstring, etc). Just notice where these line up next to each other and if you see any connection.
These are only a few ideas to helping you become more embodied in your body, your soul, and your life. This Saturday, March 29th, I’ll be facilitating a full-day workshop on this topic, using some of these techniques and so much more! There are a few spots left, so contact me ASAP at 720-340-1443 to reserve yours!
Leave a comment below with ideas you have tried that have helped you feel more “at home” in your body. What are the daily practices you use to facilitate this? There are more great ideas as Embodiment Training as well.
This is the only body you’ll have. Let’s see how we can celebrate our bodies and pamper them instead of judge and criticize them!
Today I am pleased to offer a guest post by blogger Lizz Schumer, who has known the dangers and pitfalls of disordered eating and exercise, and now advocates for healthy recovery and body image.
Here, she shares her experience with ‘fitspiration’ and describes her journey to balanced, intuitive exercise that fit her body’s unique needs:
I called it the “tyranny of the numbers.” I couldn’t be content to run x number of miles, burn x number of calories or spend x amount of time. The three x’s had to line up, like pictures on a slot machine, for me to hop off the treadmill satisfied. Bingo.
In this way, my compulsive exercising brain held my body captive, tied to a treadmill until one would let the other stop. If I skipped a day, I hated myself, my body, the weakness that I thought resting implied. I counted calories like I counted steps, minutes: obsessively. This was not fitness. This was an exercise in illness.
A person only need spend five minutes on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or even Twitter, to notice the “Fitspiration” trend that’s taking over social media. Slogans like “unless you puke, faint or die, keep going” and “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch,” slapped across photos of tight bodies in tighter clothes flash across the screen in the name of fitness. But what are they really saying?
After years of fighting it, I’ve learned to listen to my body telling me what it needs. My body isn’t a machine and it isn’t a tool. It’s a part of me, and a part that I love and respect. If it’s fainting or puking, there’s something wrong. That isn’t fitness; that’s illness.
And no matter how slow I go, my body still needs rest days. It needs the couch, sometimes. And yes, it often needs potato chips and chocolate, too. And if I don’t give it some off time, my body will break down. Or my mind will, because neither can exist at maximum capacity for long without falling to pieces, because neither were made that way. That isn’t fitness either. But I can tell you what it is.
It’s a culture trying to sell fitness by encouraging shame in our bodies. Fitspiration encourages pushing a person’s body to the limit and beyond, implying that any less is failure. It’s an all-or-nothing attitude that isn’t just discouraging; it’s dangerous. Women are already taught that we’re not good enough. We’re taught that our bodies are imperfect, our efforts are less valuable, our work is worth less. None of these are true, but all of them sell beauty products, self-help gear and yes, workout clothes. We have to look beyond the fitspiration messages and realize that slogans that subjugate aren’t selling us anything we should be buying. That we’re stronger, smarter, better than that.
True fitness, the kind that leaves a person feeling better and living healthier, has nothing to do with fainting and puking. It doesn’t require, or even usually result in, glistening muscles rippling beneath branded spandex. And most of all, real fitness makes a person feel better, not worse. Because my personal fitness level, no matter where it is, is nothing to be ashamed of.
These days, I don’t treat a treadmill like a slot machine, just like I don’t treat my body as a vessel that needs punishing. I put a book over the numbers, cue up my favorite podcast and exercise until a chapter break, the end of the broadcast or my body tells me to. No matter what the numbers say.
Bio: Lizz Schumer is a writer, reporter and photographer living and working near Buffalo, N.Y. The editor of a local newspaper, her work has appeared in a variety of forums. Her first book, “Buffalo Steel” is available from Black Rose Writing. She can be found @eschumer, www.lizzschumer.com and www.facebook.com/authorlizzschumer.
Do you want to read more about ‘fitspiration’, its unhealthy messages, and related topics? You may find out more about why fitspiration really isn’t that inspirational here; or uncover some of the most damaging fitspiration messages here, and read a report about the dangerous effects of fitspiration on mental and physical health as discussed by psychologists here.
With the news of The Biggest Loser contestant who dropped more than 60% of her body weight over the course of the show and fell to an unhealthy weight, The National Eating Disorders Association asks: ‘Who Is the Biggest Loser? All of Us.” A timely topic that we all must confront.
What are your thoughts or reactions? Please feel free to leave a comment below!