Can I Really Trust My Body? Three Common Concerns About Letting Go of Your Diet

What if your body is trying to deceive you?

harold.lloyd / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Try to think back to a time in your childhood – maybe you were celebrating a birthday, having a picnic in the park, visiting friends in another state – a time where you remember feeling completely free and safe to enjoy what you were eating.

…This may be tough, but spent a few moments thinking back into your memory.

What was your favorite kind of food? What did you crave eating? Remember, this is before all of the “should’s”, “can’t”, “must”, and other rigid rules around food surfaced. Just a time where true joy was associated with eating.

Now think of today and of the rules that you have created around what you can and cannot eat (or rules that were imposed on you by a diet or influences in your environment). Can’t eat past 7pm. Shouldn’t have carbs or gluten. Must eat under XXX number of calories every day. Should exercise every day for X amount of time….

Why? Who are you listening to?

These rules are most likely not borne of internal signals, but are enforced on you by external sources. In other words, they are rules that are not about listening to your body.

When you think of these two different scenarios, check in with your body. Which one does your body respond more positively to?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make an assumption — probably the first one.

I don’t think any body truly wants to be controlled by someone else’s guidelines.

Since we are all unique and have our own genetic make-up, environmental factors, and personalities, it doesn’t make sense that we could all conform to a similar diet mentality.

So why do we diet? Here are some of the common answers:

  • to lose weight
  • to feel better about ourselves
  • to be healthy
  • to appear more attractive for a potential mate
  • to have some sense of control
  • …..

I am sure there are many others that you could come up with. Yet research shows that diets don’t work, and that over 90% of people who diet will regain the weight (and then some).

Why? According to Dr. Traci Mann’s article You should never diet again: The science and genetics of weight loss,

Weight regain after a diet is your body’s evolved response to starvation. When you are dieting, it may feel as though you are about to starve to death, but you know that you can open the fridge at any time and find more to eat, if you really wanted to. Your body doesn’t know this, however, and you have no way to tell it that you just want slimmer hips or a flatter stomach. All your body knows is that not enough calories are coming in, so it kicks into survival mode.” After your diet is over and you begin to eat normally again, your body will naturally put weight back on (and then some) as a way to survive.

Diets are the antithesis of listening to our bodies, and are one of the biggest risk factors to eating disorder development and body image distress.

In my work over the past six years with people who have experienced a disconnected, destructive and unhappy relationship with their bodies, I have heard many fears of letting go of their diet sand listening to their bodies. I get it – I have myself been on the diet rollercoaster, and for me that tipped into the dangerous territory of an eating disorder for ten years.

But I know intuitively, from my own experience and from witnessing others’, that your body is wise and you can trust it.


Here are three common fears about letting go of the diet mentality – and how to overcome them:


  • My diet is helping me lose weight to be healthier. This is a very common reason to go on a diet – to be healthier and lose weight. Look out for: no flexibility with the “rules”, cutting out food groups for no health related reason, and feelings of deprivation. Try instead: ask your body what it is really hungry for right now. Broaden your definition of “healthy”.


  • My diet helps me have a sense of control around food. My guess is that if you are feeling out of control with food, that going on a diet is not going to solve that problem and may actually result in a more rigid and extreme form of controlling food. Try instead: Ask yourself what else is feeling out of control in your life that you are using food to try to soothe?


  • If I am not on a diet I will feel completely out of control with food. Again, a common fear around dieting/not dieting. I believe this is founded from a deep disconnection between mind and body – one in which you do not feel connected to your body and like you can trust it. In truth, going off a diet may result in binge eating – the mind goes from rigidity to chaos pretty quickly in response to a perceived trauma. Try instead: eating all foods in moderation to begin listening to your body and getting out of that all or nothing mindset.


Above all else, honor your body. Listen to it. Ask your child-like self “What sounds good right now?” “Am I truly hungry or am I feeling something else”?

And if you need support in this process of listening, connecting, appreciating, I can help.

Kathy Crabbe Art / Source / CC BY-NC-ND

Five Things to Say to Your Daughter When She Tells You She Feels Fat

Billy Wilson Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC

Spring has finally sprung here in Denver!  After several weeks of frigid temperatures and snow, we are melting and the crocuses are poking their sweet heads out of the dirt.

Along with warmer weather comes increased sunlight and a desire to be outside, and with that can come more focused attention on body image.  Your friends may be sporting shorts, planning for spring break, shopping for tank tops, and talking about their bodies as we come out from ‘winter hibernation’.

Does this bring up any insecurity for you?

If you have a friend, daughter, son, mother, or loved one who looks at themselves in the mirror, grimaces, pokes their belly, and then mutters “I feel SO fat!!”, then this post is for you.

Five Things to Say to Your Daughter (or son, or loved one) When She/He Tells You She Feels Fat

1.)  Fat is not a feeling.  Facebook recently removed the “feeling fat” emoticon from their status bar because fat is NOT a feeling and proposing that it is a feeling further adheres to the thin ideal and shaming anyone who has fat on their body.  It also can be triggering to those who have eating disorders or body image struggles.  Fat is not a feeling — what are you REALLY feeling?

2.) Talk to her about normal things that bodies do, look like, and feel like.  Everyone has a different body and whatever the number on the scale says, our bodies are amazing and deserving of respect.  Talk with her about what your body went through as you were growing up, normalize some of the uncomfortable things that can occur (i.e.: puberty), and discuss this in an affirming, accepting and empowering way.

3.)  Discuss the ‘thin ideal’ and how thinness is glorified in our culture.  Explore the effect that the media and society have had on her and on others and what message that sends.  Fat is stigmatized in our culture and many people fear being judged, bullied, rejected, or hurt by not fitting into the thin ideal.

Help her get educated and stand up for herself amidst the immense cultural pressure to look a certain way.

4.) Find out what is going on in her life.  Chances are, if she is obsessing about

Jack Mallon / Foter

body image, weight, or food, there are other factors affecting her stress level and wellbeing.  How are her relationships?  How does she feel about school?  Is she pushing herself too hard?  Does she compare herself with her best friend?  Explore the deeper meaning to “fat” and what it is truly trying to express.

5.) Dance.  Invite your daughter or loved one to put on a favorite song and to check your judgments at the door.  Dance with her and invite yourselves to feel the miraculous, fun, strong things that your body can do for you, and does for you each day.  Carve out time each day to focus on what your body DOES, instead of how it looks.

Warmer weather invites the birth of spring, which in turn offers an opportunity for rebirth, renewal, and release.  Ask your loved one and yourself: What would you like to release this spring that is not serving you?  How can your body help you do it?

Seven Things to Try When You Can’t Lose Those Last Five Pounds

What is really weighing you down?

Do the number of inches around your waist measure the amount that you are worth?

Let me tell you something.  You’re never going to lose those last five pounds.

What?? How do YOU know?, you might be thinking.  That’s none of your business! And then: Yes, I will, and I can!

You are right; maybe you can and it is not my place to assume what your diet and body can and can’t do.

But I am here to ask: why is that so important???

I have met so many people who are suffering every day because they have not asked

Funky64 ( / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

themselves that question.

It’s the end of February.  How’s your New Year’s Resolution going?  If it involves weight loss it has probably been thrown out the window by now.   How are you feeling about that?

How are you feeling about yourself?

I hope the answer is “great!”, but I am bravely going to dare to suggest that if a weight loss goal is connected with how you feel about yourself and your body, then you’re probably struggling with some self-criticism right about now.  You are never ‘perfect’ enough…

You may be one of the thousands of men or women who ‘wants to lose those last five pounds’ and then you’ll feel ‘confident’ in your body.

I get it.  That elusive yet seemingly doable goal of weight loss as a way to feel better about yourself and your body is so tantalizing.

The ads on television and in the magazines throw out all the stops to convince you that going on a diet and counting your calories is the solution as to why you don’t feel so great about yourself. (And they make it look so damn easy!) They promise you if you lost five pounds (or more) you will find…wealth…popularity…success…happiness.

I’m not sure about you, but I receive dozens of spam email messages each day.  Here are a few of the most delicious titles:

‘Ellen DeGeneres’ Ageless Look! She looks 20 again just by taking this pill!”,; and from GetSkinnyNow: ‘READ THIS OR HATE YOURSELF FOREVER!’; and from BetterThanBotox: ‘[Secret Revealed!] Arctic Glacier Eliminates Wrinkles Forever!’. And good old Dr Oz promises me: ‘#1 Brand New Diet Tip of 2015: This Miracle Pill Will Burn Fat Fast!!’

C’mon, really?

Since when is deprivation, shaming, and rigidity a path to inner peace and self-love?

Yesterday marked the beginning of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015.  The last week of February each year is designated nationally as a time to flood social media and our society with lots of information, resources, and hope for eating disorder recovery.  The theme this year is: “I had no idea… “that some of the things we do and say each day to ourselves or to others can trigger an eating disorder to develop.

One of those statements is “I had no idea…that my quest for health was making me sick.”

Not all diets trigger eating disorders, but rigid and perpetual dieting increases the risk of developing disordered eating behaviors like binge eating.  Did you know that statistics show that people who consistently diet are thirteen times more likely to binge eat?

And did you know that more than 65% of people who have lost weight on a diet will gain it back (and then some) within the next year?  If weight loss is connected to your self-worth, how is that ever going to point you in the direction of feeling better about yourself?

So instead of focusing on losing weight or counting calories to cultivate a relationship with yourself that is loving and pleasurable, how about trying these seven ideas instead?

1.) Take yourself out on a date.  When you have been dieting and controlling your food and body for so     long, you may have lost touch with what your body really needs or wants.  Spend an evening listening …and then giving.  If it wants a pint of ice cream, yum!  If it wants to go salsa dancing, sounds fun!  This helps to foster a sense of acceptance and connection, allowing you to build on developing a mutually enjoyable relationship with your body.

2.) Ask yourself what five pounds would really change about your life – and if the dieting is worth it?  Is losing weight really the way to get there?

3.) Did you know that muscle weighs more than fat?  Those extra five pounds may be comprised of muscle and strength…helping to make your body awesome and capable of doing so many things.  Why attach a number to that?

4.) Focus on your strength and capability of your body and not your blemishes.  What does your body do for you each day that you are not aware of?  For example, did you know how complex our digestive system is and how our body facilitates so many essential daily processes that we are not consciously aware of? Amazing!

5.) Ask your body if it is truly hungry and if so, what would taste good to eat right now.  So much of the diet mentality is not listening but formulating what you should eat based on someone else’s guidelines.  Somebody who is not in your body and doesn’t know it as well as you do. Your body is wise and when it is well-fed it will shift to a place where it naturally feels healthy.  That may be losing weight…it may not.

6.) Let go of that negative, judgmental, critical monster voice in your head. You may never be able to make it go away completely, but you can change your relationship with it and the influence it has over you. Focus on what you love about yourself, your body, and food…not what is ‘wrong’ with those things.

7.) Follow Your Bliss. Life is too short. We don’t get a dress rehearsal for our life— this is it! How do you want to spend your precious time here? How can you invite your body to join the party?

I invite you to attempt to get off the rollercoaster of ‘loving yourself WHEN….I lose five pounds…when I can bench press X amount…when I don’t have wrinkles on my face anymore’….and trying to love and accept yourself as you are today. I have tried it and it is so liberating! See how that feels on your body.

The One Surprising Thing I Never Knew About Yoga and How It Healed My Disordered Relationship With Food

I am honored today to share a guest post to my blog by Annette Sloan, a health coach and yoga teacher with a passion for empowering teens to embrace healthy living through her business, (w)holehearted.  She is gifting us today with her story about how yoga helped her offer herself something that is so integral to its essence: compassion.  Even when you’re struggling with food or body image issues. Especially then.


~ ~ ~

Have you ever been to a bad yoga class? Maybe it was a class where the teacher wasn’t sure of her instructions and kept fumbling over her words.

Or maybe she talked too much, which made it hard for you to quiet your mind, or she talked too little, which made it hard for you to know what you were supposed to be doing.

6427108983_8c8777c9d0Bad yoga classes are the worst. You take the time in your day to get to your mat, hoping to move your body and calm your mind – and then the instructor ruins the whole experience.

I am a yoga instructor, and I have a confession to make: I once taught the worst yoga class ever. Ok, maybe not the worst class ever. I didn’t make fun of anyone or tell them their body was wrong. No one got hurt. But, I did do an absolutely terrible job of leading the class. I forgot my sequence, mixed up left and right multiple times, and fumbled over the instructions on pretty much every pose.

Not even halfway through the class, I could tell that my students were just humoring me. They wanted to roll up their mats and leave, but they were too polite. It was my first class out of yoga teacher training, and I was screwing up it, big time.

Even worse, this wasn’t just a regular class – it was an audition. One of the polite yogis in front of me owned a yoga business, and I was supposed to be proving my chops as an instructor.

When the hour finally ended, my students gratefully rolled up their mats and departed. I was left with Bonnie, the yoga business owner. Telling myself that I could cry in my car in a few minutes, I looked her in the eye and waited to hear my fate.

Bless Bonnie. Instead of diving into the long list of everything I had done wrong, she kindly asked, “How do you think it went?”

I was honest and brutal in my self-appraisal. Bonnie waited patiently for me to finish, then nodded.

Without agreeing or disagreeing with me, she said, “But did you see how they stayed around to talk with you at the end? If they hated you, they would have left immediately. They liked your energy.”

Once again, bless Bonnie. Talk about compassion.

I didn’t get hired for the job that night. But I didn’t get dismissed either. Bonnie recognized that my nerves had played a huge role in my less-than-stellar performance. She gave me a list of areas to work on, and suggested that I do another audition in a few weeks. Later, she hired me.

The moral of the story is that on the night of my worst yoga class ever, Bonnie embodied an essential component of yoga: compassion.

In my opinion, when a yogi steps onto his or her mat, everything that takes place is in service to a higher goal: to connect mind and body to the present moment – and to be compassionate with whatever comes up.

Downward-facing dog too rough on your shoulders today? Try table instead. Table isn’t feeling good? Child’s pose is always available. The underlying message is: wherever you are, right now, is valid. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. Honor your journey.

I started practicing yoga in high school, and continued through college and my twenties. During this time, I was struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food. (Learn more about my story here, or here for a more detailed version). Thankfully, I’m now on the other side of the struggle. And I can honestly say that my practice of yoga was essential to my healing.

Yoga connected my mind and body in the present moment. It regularly reminded me to practice self-compassion and to honor my journey. My subconscious received the message that I wherever I was, it was ok for me to be there. I was worthy, just as I was.

Eventually, my journey led me to yoga-teacher training, where I found the courage to share the story of my struggle with food.

It was terrifying to make myself so vulnerable – but in airing my shame, I found healing. I summoned up the courage to share my story with others, and eventually, with everyone I knew. Today, I have my own business, (w)holehearted, which specializes in compassionate health coaching for teen girls.

I have yoga to thank for it all – and for that, I will be forever grateful.


Annette_Greeting_WebAnnette Sloan owns (w)holehearted, a Denver-based business specializing in compassionate health coaching for teen girls. Her work as a coach and speaker empowers teens to discover their happiest, healthiest, most authentic selves. Soon, Annette will also debut a program called Empowered Moms, Empowered Daughters, which will help moms to heal their relationships with food, body, and self so that they can be positive role models for their daughters. In addition, Annette co-leads a workshop called “Yoga, Food, and Love: A Compassionate Journey to Healing your Relationship with Food.” Learn more at and

The Surprising Reason You Don’t Feel Confident in Your Body

Here’s a fun guest post I wrote for nutritionist and counselor Stephanie Small‘s blog.  She’s an awesome inspiration in helping women “boost your mood and transform your relationship with food’!  Come back next week to read a guest post from Stephanie on my blog!  Check it out:


If you have found this post, you probably are someone who has struggled with body image issues in your life. You may have had negative thoughts towards parts or all of your body, like: “Ugh, why do my thighs jiggle and touch each other like that?”, or, “My stomach is so flabby I feel like I’m going to burst out of my pants. How disgusting.” Sit for a moment and really let the effect of hearing those statements ooze into you. Do you feel even more yucky after reading them?

I could feel the tinglings of gloom as I wrote them and they are lingering even as of now.14041647615_7d1cb56b96_n

You may have also experienced behaviors that are violent towards your body as a result of some of the feelings and thoughts that have been directed its way. Perhaps you binge eat to a point of extreme discomfort; perhaps you binge and then purge to get the feelings and the food out of your system; maybe you restrict what you eat to try to sculpt the body you think you’d really love.

I’m here to give you some bad news: you’re never going to feel confident in your body.

What? How could those words come from a therapist who spends every day (in and out of the office) offering support to those struggling with eating disorders, body image struggles or who for various reasons feel disconnected from and not at-home in their bodies?

Bear with me. I’m going to suggest that we can never be confident in our bodies until we detach from our bodies. Just for a little while. And then we can come home to them.

As a society, we are afraid of fat. We value thin. We put thin and people who are thin up on a pedestal. You are bombarded with messages that tell you this directly and indirectly hundreds of time each day. It takes conscious, concerted effort each day to notice these messages before you internalize them. And even if you do, you still will internalize them. They will cause you and others lots of suffering because you can never be “enough” of what society tells you that you should be (thin, rich, popular, funny, smart, etc). The point is not to try to stop them, because we never can, but to change the way that you react to them.

I have had many, many clients come to me and tell me about their struggles with food – perhaps they binge eat, or feel out of control in some way. They just want to stop the behavior and they will feel so much better about themselves. This part I totally empathize with – I know how destructive and painful these eating disordered behaviors can be.

Then usually they slip in – ‘I just want to lose some weight and then I know I will feel more confident to [date] [go out for a new job] [stop isolating] [love my body].

They are fused with the thin-ideal as a surefire way to love themselves more. And they don’t realize it or are in denial. I get it – I have been swayed by that campaign as well.

Sometimes we are able to notice that this is happening and step away from being body-centric for a bit and examine what is truly going on for us – fear of not being accepted unless us look a certain way, deep-seated shame, fear of not knowing who we are without being body-obsessed, discomfort with confrontation, etc. – so that we can sort through it, find healing, and then move back to applying that acceptance to our entire being.

But sometimes we can get so stuck on the thin-ideal that we cannot see out of the ‘I must be thin [or lose some weight] to be self-confident’ blinders. We can get on a rollercoaster ride where self-worth is in the same car as ‘physical appearance’, and we are zooming at a frantic pace with seemingly no way to get off the ride.

That’s where I try to stop us (or slow down at least!) and divorce the body for a moment. What is truly going on inside? What are you truly hungry for that has nothing to do with your body? Without looking at that, you cannot be truly confident in yourself or your body (and you won’t be able to actually stop the eating disordered behaviors).

After some time focused away from the external parts of the body and delving deeper into the inner parts of the self, we may discover what that deeper hunger truly is. And we can feed it – without food being the answer.

Then we can re-enter the body work in a holistic, integrated, authentic way where the focus is not on weight but on being embodied – or “at home in your body and yourself”. As you stand on your own two feet, you will radiate confidence from within your body, a confidence that has nothing to do with what your body physically looks like.

When these pieces are integrated back together, you may have thoughts like “I love the way my knees curve that way as I bend down”, or even “My hips are strong and womanly”. Your body may not actually be at the top of your mind as often because it is now a fully connected part of you and the hunger that your body feels is purely physical, or, if you have emotional hunger, you will have the awareness to decipher the “food” that you’re really craving.

What do you think? Have you noticed yourself getting hijacked by the thin-ideal and getting taken away from what really matters to you? How can you find self-confidence without focusing on your body?

I’m All About That Body Image Boost!: Top Ten Steps For Body Acceptance Bliss

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 :)

Bev Goodwin / Foter / CC BY

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.

Top Ten Body-Image Boosts for Back-To-School!

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~

“If You Can’t Spend an Hour Alone with Yourself, How Can You Expect Anyone Else To?”: Adventures in a Floatation Tank

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.

ID-100276528This, 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

  • Renew your energy for daily life in one short hour
  •  Improve your health and sense of well-being
  •  Relieve stress and anxiety
  •  Overcome physical exhaustion
  •  Reset your biological clock, overcome jetlag
  •  Increase mental, physical and emotional resiliency
  •  Increase creativity and problem-solving ability
  •  Enhance athletic performance and shorten recovery time
  •  Strengthen the immune system, alleviate pain & speed healing
  •  Deepen meditation, heighten self-awareness and visualization to achieve your goals.

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:

  • Restore and renew your perception of your body and what it means to “be at home” in your body.
  • Learn constructive and empowering tools to navigate your relationship with your thoughts and your mind
  • Learn to let go and embrace what you cannot control
  • Listen to and embrace your intuition

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!

Five Steps To Becoming More Embodied: How To Be At Home In Your Body

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:

  • feeling at home in your body
  • feeling connected to your body in a safe manner
  • an increased ability to be in your body in the present moment and to feel all of its sensations (emotional and physical)
  • Safe and healthy expression of needs, desires, fears and wants through the body
  • an increased ability to self-soothe when feeling escalated or agitated
  • an ability to identify inner needs and tend to them appropriately
  • Connection to and acceptance of all parts of your body and of yourself
  • Connection to your sense of self; your soul
  • Ability to recognize and correct cognitive distortions related to your body

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!


What is ‘Fitspiration?’: This is not fitness. This is an exercise in illness

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 Lizz_headshot copyeditor 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, and


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!

How many of us must wait until something life-transforming happens before we really appreciate our bodies?

images-24 copyWhile immersing myself in texts, articles, conversations and daydreams to begin putting together a body image group coming in January 2014 (updates coming soon!!), I came across a beautiful and brilliant photo book by photographer Rosanne Olson entitled this is who I am.  Within the book’s covers, fifty-four women are photographed nude, each with stories to tell to prove that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes:

“The portraits, taken by award-winning photographer Rosanne Olson with a steady, non-judgmental eye, speak loudly to the American obsession of feminine perfection — slim hims and full breasts, high cheekbones and tiny waists, taut skin and eternal youth — and even more loudly to the way real women, with real bodies and real lives, look.”

I was struck by the pure humanness and depth in the eyes and bodies of all of the women represented in the book — women from all walks of life, ethnicities, ages, and with their own unique stories.

Utilizing this book with clients who are struggling with their own various body image issues has proven to be an eye-opening and introspective journey.  We have found a richness in exploring how what we see on the outside does not necessarily tell us the true or whole story.  When looking at a photo of a twenty-two year old slim, blonde woman, one might be compelled to focus on her body first and assume (by society’s standards) that she is happy, rich, popular, and perfect.  Reading her story, you learn that she has had part of her lung removed as part of complications of cystic fibrosis and that she lives with other complications every day.  Look in her eyes and you sense a wisdom, perhaps one that delves into her soul and makes her look older than she is.  You sense that she knows her story and its twists and turns.

What do learn or assume if we focus on how a body looks as an assessment tool for how happy, peaceful, confident, healthy, wealthy, etc etc etc a person is?  How true of a measuring tool is that? What are the consequences to this approach?

Ms. Olson posed intriguing questions to her subjects in her “goal of complete revelation — not hiding behind clothing but exposing both body and mind.  What would we learn about ourselves? Would we — could we — become more compassionate?  Not only towards ourselves but towards another?”  I invite you to peruse through the other questions she posed and see how you would answer them yourself:

  • What do you love about your body?
  • How long has it taken you to arrive at acceptance/love of your body?
  • What frustrates you or what would you like to change?
  • Has your body let you down (if you feel that it has) or have you let your body down?
  • How have you supported your body?
  • How have your feelings changed towards your body since you were younger?
  • In general, how do you feel women feel about their bodies?
  • How do you feel the media have affected how women feel about their bodies? (read an excerpt and see some of the stunning photos here)

She then asked each participant why they agreed to be photographed.  Some of the women struggle with eating or exercise problems.  Some have suffered from medical issues or illnesses that have affected the way their body functions, feels, and looks.  They all have had experiences in their lives which have forced them to become more aware of their bodies — whether in a joyful or painful way.

What story does your body hold?  If photographed, what messages about your internal state of being would your body send to those looking at the photo?  Is your internal state congruent with the energy you exude out of your body?

I have been journaling about my own journey with my body.  It has been through so much with me, and yet here it still stands, walks, talks, and dances, my ever dedicated soldier.  I am so grateful for my body, though my relationship with it can wind through sticky paths as well as bright ones.  In my own recovery, I have learned that I must take care of my body, and this is not negotiable.  My body is unique just to me, a gift.  I admire the women in these photos who allow themselves to be vulnerable, naked, and yet to connect to each other and to those who read their stories and see their photos in such a powerful way.

images-25 copyWe have so much to learn from the wisdom of our bodies. Why must we wait until something life-changing happens for us to tune into and adore them?

Stay tuned for my Body Image Acceptance Group coming in January 2014!  The group will be limited to few participants, so sign up quickly.  More info coming soon to my Events page.