Tag Archives: Mind/Body

Tuning into H.A.L.T.

H.A.L.T. is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. These physical and emotional states can leave us feeling very vulnerable. For this reason, H.A.L.T. is often used in recovery groups such as Alcoholic Anonymous and Dual Recovery Anonymous. H.A.L.T. is relevant for all of us though. Women cope with stresses by turning to other forms of addiction: eating, shopping, watching TV, being on the computer, negative dialogues with friends, inappropriate sexual activity or attention-seeking behaviors, and more.

Today, in the spirit of wellness and self-awareness, we’re going to take a look at quick lists of healthy activities you can engage in so that hunger, anger, loneliness, and fatigue are nipped in the bud.

Prefacing these suggestions, I encourage you to do the following:

1) Identify which one or two parts of H.A.L.T. leave you feeling the most susceptible to making poor choices.

2) Write down two to three healthy actions you can engage in when you feel challenged by these physical or emotional states.

Now, a closer look at H.A.L.T. coping strategies…

 

HUNGRY

When was the last time you ate?! Have you worked through lunch? Have you been trying to deprive yourself of calories all day?

hungry

  • Carry small, healthy snacks in your purse or keep them in your desk drawer at work.
  • Make note of when you feel most hungry and cranky (ever heard of HANGRY?!) each day. Try to start eating a snack or meal 30 minutes before that time.
  • Take time to sit down and focus on your food. No computer. No distractions. If you fully taste the food then you will feel more satisfied, calm and able to control portion size.
  • Avoid mindless eating by putting everything you want to eat on a plate. Yes, that’s right! Pile it on. Some days you may eat it all, but there will be plenty of days when you don’t finish it all because you fill up or you realize that you just don’t need that food. If you keep mindlessly reaching into a bag of chips or tub of ice cream, you’re at greater risk for overeating. You are also likely to feel less satisfied by the food and what started as hunger may turn into anxiety.
  • Don’t skip meals thinking that you should save up calories for a decadent meal later. Chances are this will leave you hangry (yet again) and making poor choices later. Let yourself eat. Maybe consume a hundred calories or so less per meal leading up to your big night so that you can indulge a little.

NOTE: When I was a little girl my family always knew when I was hungry because I got SO cranky. It’s pretty funny in retrospect. I always protested, feeling like my frustration was rooted in something else, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. They were always right though. I just needed food.

 

 ANGRY

Are you experiencing a particularly stressful period in your life? Do you feel like you need an outlet for all that bottled up frustration?

angry

  • Recognize that it’s OKAY to feel angry, but taking it out on yourself or others isn’t.
  • Acknowledge that controlling anger takes practice. You’re not going to be great at it on day one, but it’s important to identify a time when you’re ready to start dealing with it.
  • Learn what makes you angry. Write it down. A journal identifying how you deal with anger is a good idea too, especially as you start to progress to healthier responses and actions and you can reward yourself for it! This is a great place to get some worksheets that will guide you through the process:  http://bit.ly/1APW2j3
  • Exercise! You will feel a lot better afterwards. Your body will have passed through the fight-or-flight phase and will feel more calm a little while after exercising versus when you initially feel angry and your heart starts to race.
  • Talk with someone you’re not feeling angry with. They will probably give you outside perspective and help you calm down. Plus, you will avoid escalating the issue with the person you really wanted to scream at.
  • Deal with your frustration later. It’s probably helpful to deal with the issue when a little time has passed – even if that’s counting to 10 slowly while taking deep breaths. Time can aid with perspective and healing.

 

LONELY

Have you had quality time with friends or loved ones lately? Do you feel isolated while you work at home or take care of your child? Do you experience feelings of isolation even though you’re surrounded by other people?

lonely

  • Join a class! This could be exercise related like a running group or bootcamp, or arts related like an acting or pottery making class. Or you may be interested in a group like a bible study group or a book club. Whatever spikes your interest, try to find a way to become engaged with people who share your passion.
  • Similar to joining a class or group; try volunteering! This is a great way to be around people and generate positive vibes for others and yourself.
  • Research has shown that loneliness and depressive symptomatology can act in a synergistic effect to diminish well-being, meaning the more lonely you are, the more depressed you feel, and vice versa.” Thus, consider looking into a cognitive behavior therapist. It can be a bit scary and vulnerable feeling at first, but it’s perfectly healthy and normal to lean into professional advice and support. You don’t have to wait until you feel like it’s the only option left.
  • Reach out to an old friend – sometimes even just writing an email that positively recounts your years of friendship and shares your current experiences can be therapeutic and heart-warming.
  • Try to use any of the above strategies to build towards three solid friendships with individuals who you can share life with you in this season. Your best friend may be across the country and your dependable mother may be just a phone call away, but relationships with other women who we can see in person, on a regular basis, is also important for relieving loneliness and feeling emotionally fulfilled.

NOTE: Getting a pet is another strategy but if you feel it will add a ton more stress to your life right now, then maybe hold off on going to the pet store…because once you see Fido’s cute little mug, you may not be able to say no! 

 

TIRED

Did you get enough sleep last night? Do you regularly skimp on sleep to get more done? Do you get enough sleep but still feel lethargic every day?

tired

  • If you’re feeling excessively tired but you get plenty of sleep, then you may not be moving enough! Yes, it’s true; exercise keeps our metabolisms going and helps improve alertness. Try gradually getting into the habit of exercising most days of the week or, at the very least, try standing up every 1.5 – 2 hours to walk around for 5 minutes.
  • If you’ve been sleep deprived or stressed lately, try lying down for a 15-20 minute power nap. Your body will wake up refreshed versus craving more sleep (as is the case with longer naps).
  • Set a bedtime and stick to it. It’s a good idea to do something calming like reading a book or stretching in a dim lit room for an hour before bedtime versus doing something that keeps you alert, like trying to manage stressful tasks or chores.
  • Enjoy caffeine here and there to perk you up, but try to keep consumption moderate. Approximately 300-400 mg of caffiene/day appears to be healthy for most adults, but individuals may vary in sensitivity so listen to your body and identify if this is too much for you (i.e. jittery feelings, racing pulse, increased anxiety or agitation). Also, be careful to keep caffeine consumption to the earlier half of the day, especially if you notice that it disturbs your sleep.
  • Try to take breaks from multi-tasking as this can wear you out. Short bouts of mindfulness or meditation are particularly helpful for re-energizing mentally and physically.
  • Eat healthy foods that have an even mix of protein and carbohydrates so that nutrients are properly absorbed and readily available for energy. (Oh yea – and don’t skip breakfast!)

I hope at least one or two of the aforementioned H.A.L.T.-health strategies speaks to you and feels like something you can implement right away! If you have any others that I haven’t mentioned then please share them in the comments section!

Lastly, as useful as these strategies can be, it’s important that I take a moment to acknowledge the need to sometimes seek professional intervention. Please reach out to someone in your area if you feel that you may need help. There is support out there that, along with eating well and exercising, can help you flourish. 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

http://www.addiction-recovery.com/HALT-hungry-angry-lonely-tired.php

http://www.chinnstreetcounseling.com/zomerland/zomerland_11.shtml

https://draonline.qwknetllc.com/relapse5.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678

http://www.innerhealthstudio.com/anger-management-worksheets.html

http://stress.about.com/od/psychologicalconditions/a/loneliness.htm

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Boudoir Lessons for Bikini Season

Beach Body

So, I have a confession to make. Back in March, I decided to embark on a mission to discover how Victoria’s Secret models feel when they’re in a photo shoot wearing…not much. It started as a little oh-la-la present for my husband, who travels four days out of the week, but it turned into a full-fledged, top-priority operation [on behalf of my readers]. I sought to discover how on earth someone could feel comfortable in little more than a bikini’s worth of material, and learned way more than I bargained for. No, I’m not sharing pictures, those are for my hubby’s eyes only, but I will share the lessons learned along the way, and the ladies I encountered who are changing the world, one bikini-fearing, underwear-shopping-adverse woman at a time…

When I signed up for a photoshoot with Three Boudoir, I knew I would have to restrain myself from going crazy over the next few months. I’m the type of person who likes to have event specific goals to train for (weddings, bikini season, road races). It’s easy to be motivated by external pressures that have tangible deadlines attached. It gets us tying up our gym shoes a little faster, and choosing salmon and broccoli more often than steak and fries. But, I wanted to challenge myself to refrain from ramping up my exercise and trimming out a few hundred calories every day, in preparation for the photoshoot. I actually wanted to just feel like myself for once. I knew that if I could step into that intimidating environment, cameras flashing, feeling…normal…that I would really put myself to the test.

I have to tell you; I’m SO glad that I did. Upon signing up for the photoshoot, I anticipated that I would be plagued by major stomach cramps from pent-up anxiety and a ten-fold increase in nervous butterflies on the day of. Surpisingly, my tummy only did a small flip-flop or two.

Body Confidence Bobbi Brown

I was grateful to the Three Boudoir girls for the encouraging emails they sent me prior to the photoshoot. I was initially worried that I may have put myself into a queue to be objectified, but when I got their first email, I understood that they were all about empowerment, and that thrilled me. They incrementally boosted my confidence and made me feel reassured about just being my natural self. Here’s a little sample of their enthusiasm: “Give yourself a huge pat on the back. You are brave and fearless. You are about to take on a super fun boudoir shoot that is going to leave you feeling sexy and ready to take on the world.”

Every single email that the company sent me was full of positive language. I’m pretty sure they used “hot,” “sexy,” “gorgeoous,” “amazing,” “brave,” and “beautiful” dozens of times each. Even though I giggled and let the comments slide off of me at first, over time, I started to feel better about myself, and was more excited than nervous. I started to believe in my bravery and beauty. What an even grander benefit than having pretty pictures!

On the day of the shoot, I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the women who helped me pose and look my best. I give myself ZERO credit for being able to strike those poses on my own; it’s hard work! They were encouraging, natural and fun. The time actually flew by. I felt my long-standing intimidation of models, and the unnatural poses they’re photographed in, begin to melt away. I might not look exactly like a lot of models, but I’m me – and that’s pretty awesome. Likewise, for you! 

What made the biggest impression on me though, is that apparently lots of women are more accepting of themselves than I knew. Apparently, plenty of women prefer to leave their simple “imperfections” front and center rather than edited out of photos. The boudoir ladies told me that lots of women prefer to let birth marks and scars show in their pictures. For example, without naming names, they told me that even women who have undergone surgery following breast cancer may prefer to let their scars show, because it’s part of their identity. This fits exactly within a message, on Three Boudoir’s website, that all women can take to heart: “Every single person that comes through our studio has unique qualities that we know exactly how to draw out and capture in photos.” Oh man, I might as well be their spokeswoman with all this good PR! Haha. No, they did not ask me to write this. I prayed for the confidence to share this all on my own.

Done with Guilt, On with Life

Unfortunately, positive affirmations and mood-lifting information isn’t internalized very well by women. Glamour magazine polled 1,000 women, ages 18-40, and found that body image today is actually worse than 30 years ago.  Even though women have been dominating in many professional fields, proving to the world that we should have been taken more seriously long, long, long ago, we’re suffering from a lack of self-esteem more than ever. Why?!? Someone tell us why!!!

According to Glamour, modern women compare themselves more to the girl next door than celebrities. Instead of flipping through magazines a few times a month, as may have been the case 30 years ago, we’re now inundated by at least 1.8 billion, yes BILLION, new pictures posted to social media every day! Since we’re seeing a lot more normal people, we curiously scan the endless images until we find someone that looks like our “ideal body,” and then believe we should and can look like that too.

Nowadays, the thinking is a little like this:

“Oh, I know I can’t achieve a Cameron Diaz or Madonna body. It’s unrealistic because I’d have to be super rich and paying a personal chef and world-class trainer to sculpt that kind of bod. But, my friend Michelle’s recent pictures on Facebook and Instagram make her look super amazing and she’s not a celebrity. She has a child and a full-time job! If she can get a ripped stomach then I can do it. If I can’t look like her, there must be something wrong with me. I have to prove that I can be just as on-top-of-it and slim. Why not, right?”

I’m all for women feeling empowered because of other people’s successes, but comparing ourselves to others is apparently at the core of what makes us dissatisfied. Geesh. What to do?

Here are few simple steps towards feeling your best:

1) Quit comparing yourself to others. Easier said than done, I know. But, you should try anyways.

2) If looking at other people’s pictures makes you feel bad, then place a limit on yourself by monitoring your media browsing.

3) Reinforce positive language about your body whenever the urge to shame it creeps up – aka, fake it until you make it. Positive affirmations breed positive thinking.

4) Exercise – it’s a natural self-esteem, feel-good boost.

5) Give yourself some love. Think about what healthy actions make you happy and do more of them, instead of repeating negative habits or actions that lead to frustration and anxiety.

Bikini Joy

Another fun thing you can do to feel invigorated and ready for bikini season, is treat yourself to some new underwear that will make you feel great and build up your confidence! I recently met a fellow UVA alum, Katie Fritts, who started a company called UnderClub. Katie discovered that many women often don’t toss out their older pairs of underwear and are so pressed for time that they don’t have the mental energy to make a one-off trip to the mall for minor but necessary basics like underwear. Underclub offers women a way to turn this chore into a fun subscription-based service, delivering customized high-quality undies straight to their doorsteps. To accompany the cute packaging with every order, Underclub includes a personalized note for customers; a simple reminder of their beauty or a little something to make them feel good. Love it. 

Whether or not you’re planning to buy chic new undies or a fun seasonal bikini, I encourage you to remember what you love most about your body, mind and soul this summer. You don’t need to be in skimpy stuff to feel worthy or attractive, and you certainly don’t need to be objectified, but you can put on a sleek, sexy, feminine, bold, fun, or classy attitude that makes you outshine the sun. YOU make any little piece of fabric look good. Don’t forget it.  

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

References:

http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2014/10/body-image-how-do-you-feel-about-your-body/1

http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2011/02/shocking-body-image-news-97-percent-of-women-will-be-cruel-to-their-bodies-today/1

http://www.threeboudoir.com/

http://www.underclub.co/

 

The 6 Dimensions of Wellness

Wellness has six dimensions, and although this blog has so far provided more information about the physical dimension, the other five are just as important.

Before jumping into what other dimensions make up what I call the “wellness wheel,” it’s important for us to understand how the wheel works…

All six dimensions of wellness exist in equilibrium, like spokes coming out from the center of a wheel. If one spoke is too short and another is too long, the wheel won’t roll smoothly down the road. Each dimension is ideally balanced out by another, creating harmony and smooth movement for the wheel. This balanced lifestyle has been called, by some spiritual leaders, the “whole life.”

While this sounds lovely, like butterflies, rainbows and flowers, it’s more than just idyllic. It’s a naturally occurring ebb and flow within our lives. Physical, emotional, social, occupational, intellectual, and spiritual wellness work concurrently to satisfy us. One is not more important than another.

I was actually shocked to hear Pastor David Stine, a spiritual leader in the DC metro region, say that being overly focused on being spiritual, at the cost of our physical health (and/or other components of wellness), can become just as unhealthy for us as not being spiritual at all. Yes, it’s true. A faith leader actually said this. His congregation responded with cheers and gasps of surprise. This demonstrates the power of living in wellness.

wellness wheel

Take the following examples of people who are having a hard time growing and/or who are living one-dimensionally…Maybe you can relate to one of these?!

Out of Balance

Julie works incredibly hard as a consultant. Approximately several times a year she will go through a 4-6 week long period where she doesn’t sleep more than 5-6 hours each night and forgoes the gym to work extended hours at the office. She usually takes Saturday nights off during this time and likes to go out for a handful of strong cocktails with friends, anxious to let go of some tension. On Sundays, she wakes up tired but she slugs down some coffee and gets back to work. After the 4-6 week period is done, she goes into overdrive at the gym, to make up for not working out. Julie tries to put in 1.5-2 hours each workout during this time but usually quits the gym entirely after 2-3 weeks because work starts to get busy again.

Dimension Stagnation

Martha has a stable job working for a tech company. She gets to work reasonable hours and can count on getting home to her family in time to cook dinner, put the kids to bed, and have a little personal time with her husband. Her family is financially comfortable and has a great network of neighbors and friends to keep them busy and happy. But, Martha just can’t understand why she feels so depressed since everything in her life seems picture perfect. The only thing she can think of is that she hasn’t been stimulated at work in over 3 years and can no longer imagine growing within her company. Every time she thinks about starting the job hunt she gets anxious but every time she looks around her office she feels underutilized.

One-Dimensional Focus

Last year, Brittany set a goal of losing 50 lbs because she was unhappy with her body. She went from hating the gym to waking up extra early to attend fitness classes and work out. A little over halfway through the year she has already surpassed her weight loss goal. She feels so empowered that she has decided to keep the ball rolling. She will try to lose another 25 lbs in the next three months even though she has reached a healthy weight. Her boyfriend has told her that she is beautiful how she is but every time Brittany hears this she rolls her eyes. She doesn’t want to go out for date nights anymore, fearing food at restaurants where she is unsure of the calorie count. Brittany’s friends also can’t convince her to go to brunch, or even to attend church together, because she says it will cut into her gym schedule. She has started arriving 15 minutes late to work because she wants to fit in extra cardio in the mornings and she often leaves work a little early to hit the gym again. Her boss notices that her job performance is deteriorating and her boyfriend is on the verge of breaking up with her.

Do any of these women sound like someone you’ve known?

Do any of them sound like you?

6 dimensions of wellness

 

I’m not saying we haven’t all “been there” because of course we have! We may have walked in similar shoes as Julie, Martha or Brittany, or our “wellness wheel” may have been dysfunctional due to other factors. Living in balance is NOT easy; however, living in balance is a worthy goal.

If this seems challenging and elusive to you, you’re not alone. Pursuing self-improvement in each dimension at once is admirable but also darn near impossible. We’re never going to be “perfect” but we can definitely strive to improve and become self-aware. We can challenge ourselves to balance out work and life. We can work to grow spiritually while also becoming socially vibrant. We can juggle our emotional worlds even when they are juxtaposed to our mental realities. The desire to grow, even if it means a little back-sliding and upheaval, is the ultimate catalyst for achieving satisfaction in the deepest parts of ourselves.

And so, we will season the content of this blog by sprinkling in wellness topics, interviews, and discussions. By touching on each of the six dimensions over time, we will grow ourselves and the women around us. I hope you’re as excited for the journey as I am.

PS – To show how dedicated I am to opening up these transparent discussions about women’s fitness and wellness, I will be sharing a personal story about emotional wellness very soon.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

http://www.dcmetro.org/media/sermons/a-life-lived-whole/video/

The Latest Trends that Threaten our Fitness

There are some older fitness and dieting trends that women now understand are baloney. Others that have more recently emerged, however, threaten our health and fitness in new, unanticipated ways that throw us off our game. Today, we will take a magnifying glass to the unfortunate, latest trends in fitness that threaten our efforts to become fit. We will also discuss how to live your own life by rules that work for your body’s personal needs.

 

Post-Baby Expectations and Pressure

3

Almost every woman has an immediate interest in feeling like her “old self” again after having a baby. Whether you’ve given birth to children before (perhaps many years ago) or have a female relative or friend, you can empathize with the emotional and physical struggle that can ensue post-natal months of sleep deprivation, crying through the night, dirty diapers, and hasty efforts to satisfy family needs at meal times.

Recent pressures from the media, to lose 20-30+ lbs of baby weight in under 30 days, are unrealistic. While it’s helpful to lose the majority of the weight in under a year, it’s also a challenging prospect when hormones are experiencing a daily rollercoaster ride. Every woman’s body will respond differently according to oh, say, 1,000,000,000 factors during those initial post-natal months.

While it’s inspiring to see that baby weight CAN be lost and a flat belly CAN be regained (in some cases), weight loss should not be a measuring stick of maternal success nor an opportunity to shame one another for less successful efforts.

Maria Kang, a mother of three young boys turned social media celebrity, became famous for a picture she posted of herself in her underwear, posing on her knees with her three adorable sons alongside her. They’re all under the age of three…so at least they won’t remember this photo-opt with mostly naked mommy. Across the top of the professionally done, glossy photograph, and just above Maria’s perfect smile, perky boobs, and tight tummy, is plastered the question that spawned media attention, debate, admiration, and ridicule: “What’s your excuse?”

Maria, to her credit, intended to inspire women, not ridicule or shame them, and she has. Her latest mission is the “No Excuse Mom Movement” where women support one another through workouts and keep each other accountable to goals. The movement embraces ALL different body types. This is the important, critical point – women of all different body types have babies and women enter the motherhood journey with different obstacles in their paths.

Tips to encourage women (yourself or loved ones) to feel their best post-baby:

  • Be patient with your body and its terms – motherhood is tough.
  • Enlist a woman’s help to buddy up for gym/workout time – maybe even just a simple walk during lunch a few times a week.
  • Although day one is not the time for a tough workout, don’t delay the simple things like clean eating and minimizing stress – these will both go a long way towards your health and your baby’s health too.
  • Keep a journal of positive moments both for you and your growing family and for you on your personal journey of health – celebrate even the small feats like drinking more water, getting a few minutes of extra shut eye, and eating more vegetables.
  • Keep focused on your personal journey rather than comparing yourself to someone else’s experiences and “failing” before you start due to intimidation.

 

The Thigh Gap Controversy

Legs

I must be living under a rock because I only recently heard of the “thigh gap.” A friend asked me if this was something women can achieve through exercise or if it’s just something else to add to the long list of unrealistic standards women impose on their bodies.

When she asked me, my mind immediately jumped back to middle school when I was in a swimming pool with a friend one night. She compared her legs to mine in the underwater light that cast shadows of our lower bodies across the pool floor. She said “perfect legs have space in the middle like mine when my knees are touching.” I looked at my legs in the water…no space. I remembered in that moment, that when I was even younger, in elementary school, a friend commented that my legs were a lot bigger than hers.

Now, it will come to no surprise to you that I still have nice “sizable” thighs to this day and frankly, I’m okay with it. It’s how I’m built. My legs are muscular and have allowed me to work out for the majority of the days of my adult life. They also hold more body fat than my stomach and mid-section, which is my body’s way of staying fertile and protecting against disease.

For women with my body structure, pining after a “thigh gap” is a waste of time. Only through drastic, unhealthy measures will this be achieved. “Reportedly, some teenage girls have taken the view that the bigger the gap, the more beautiful the girl. However, some have resorted to extreme dieting and surgery in order to try to obtain it. Critics are concerned that young women may develop an eating disorder by trying to obtain a body shape that is unnatural for them.”

There are some women, however, who have this body structure naturally. That’s okay, too! Everything must be framed around the question “what is natural for my body?” Katherine Timpf wrote for the National Review, “I have a thigh gap. Guess what? I’m also a healthy weight for my height. I’m not disgusting or scary, and I don’t look this way because an industry oppressed me into believing that I have to. I look this way because of my body structure: thin legs and wide hips.”

Tips to know what is normal for your body:

  • Look at your family members’ bodies – yes, everyone is different and our lifestyles may differ somewhat but genetics do play in. For example: I’m pretty sure my dad appreciates my mom’s lower body “assets” and I have no doubt that probably 25% of why my husband married me is thanks to my similar body shape, haha.
  • Consider consulting with a fitness professional who can discuss what various measurements mean for your body and health – weight on the scale, circumference measurements, and body fat measurements.
  • Consider what your body type is – pear, apple, hour-glass, triangle, etc.
  • Ask yourself (and answer sincerely): “Can I feel better and be more confident in my body if I eat better and exercise?”  And next “What is a realistic size I want to be and can stay, healthfully, for years to come?” If you answer in truth, rather than based on societal pressure or an extreme body type, you will figure out where and if there is a difference lying between your actual body size and a size that will help you live happier and healthier years.

 

Exercising and/or Bulking too Much

Bulking

Just as women can go too far with dieting or overeating, we can also go too far with exercise. In the past 5-10 years I have noticed that more women are excited to demonstrate that they can hit the gym 7x/week, run marathons, or weight train for bikini or figure competitions. These efforts are awesome and show how far we’ve come as a gender – just decades ago women were criticized for working out if it gave them muscle because it “isn’t feminine.” Pssssh. On the flip side, these hardcore efforts also deplete our bodies and can be just as unhealthy as other extremes.

Over-exercising, overeating, or under-eating are all different faces of the same monster. It’s the same monster that kept our hunter-gatherer ancestors alive and supporting one another: dopamine. This hormone triggers us to repeat behaviors that we deem positive for our survival. In modern times, since we’re equipped with easy grocery store access, modern-day appliances, and fast ways to socially connect, we don’t fear survival so much…instead, we often fear not meeting modern day, self-imposed standards for what we “should” do and how we “should” look.

Here are a few examples of how this works:

  • A woman makes herself throw up to become thinner and feels good, like she is closer to her goal afterwards. Ding!! Shot of dopamine in her system.
  • A woman is stressed about her job and knows that the rich taste of gooey brownies makes life feel better so she decides to eat three at once. Ding!! Shot of dopamine in her system.  
  • A woman exercises regularly and feels she must set herself apart from the throngs of gym-goers, striving for higher excellence, so she decides to work out for twice as long as usual, taking creatine to power her workout, and fueling up on protein-powder based shakes afterwards. Ding!! Shot of dopamine in her system.

As you can see, dopamine makes us feel “safe” even when our behaviors are risky. Thanks to this feeling of safety and accomplishment, dopamine is the most addictive hormone in our bodies. We crave it more and more AND MORE. As you can imagine, this spirals into extremes that threaten our health if we aren’t careful.

Women realized years ago that amenorrhea (i.e., loss of a menstrual cycle) due to over-exercising (typically excess cardio exercise) and under-eating is dangerous. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet realized that losing a cycle because of weight-lifting may also be potentially dangerous for our long-term health. “Bulking” is increasingly popular in the fitness realm and involves regular heavy lifting and eating excess protein calories while minimizing carbohydrate intake. This causes stress to the kidneys, sometimes causes excess proteins to be present in our bloodstream (which they shouldn’t be), and may cause amenorrhea.

Amenorrhea indicates that you aren’t presently fertile and may be accompanied by such symptoms as milky nipple discharge, hair loss, headaches, vision changes, excess facial hair, pelvic pain, and acne. Developing this condition appears to be more about low energy availability for the body than being merely underweight. So, even women at healthy weights can develop it.

Focusing on intense goals such as running a marathon or bulking for a season or so is okay. Heck, I’ve done both before! But we must be careful that we’re not hurting our health or ignoring our optimal needs.

Finding a balance is tough. I get it. So, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help stay in check:

  • Have you been eating enough fruits and vegetables or are the majority of your calories coming from animal and plant proteins?
  • Have you given yourself a few days off from the gym over the past few weeks to month or do you feel like you “have to go” every day?
  • Are you feeling more sore and tired after your workouts and never “bouncing back?”
  • Is your sleep becoming disturbed or restless?
  • Are you exercising through physical ailments with the mentality; “no pain, no gain?”
  • Are you obsessing over your goal to the extent that it is hurting your personal life or your professional obligations?

I hope reading this article, and its many nuances, can help you and/or the women in your life find health and happiness! You deserve it. She deserves it. 

Have you ever had challenges with your health because of pressure you feel about how your body “should” look? Please share your story or share this article! Let’s all pay it forward.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amenorrhoea

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/amenorrhea/basics/symptoms/con-20031561

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/395879/thigh-gap-shaming-not-body-positive-katherine-timpf

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/maria-kang-no-excuses-fit-article-1.1994785

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thigh_gap

Unselfie; The Joy of Stepping Back

Unselfie?! Does this mean being selfless during the holiday season or are we talking about literally quitting with the mobile driven selfie shots (aka turning your camera view inwards for a self-portrait)? Answer: both.

The holiday season is a time to enjoy being present so that others can receive one of the most precious gifts we are capable of giving: undivided attention.  Taking a break from being “selfie-centered” is rewarding on many levels and there’s scientific data to back that up…

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It’s incredible how many guests at special events spend the entirety of their time with their faces buried in mobile devices. Most of us can admit to both casting disapproving glances at people who whip out their handhelds at delicate times and at one time or another, being guilty of doing the same. I can remember one wedding in particular when I looked at the bride and groom’s table, beautifully decorated with flowers and special place settings, and over half of their attendants (at the same table) were tapping away at their phones, heads down and detached.

The selfie picture taking phenomenon is popular at weddings, family gatherings, date nights, parties, and more. It seems just about every moment of our lives can be broadcast in the form of selfies via social media. If you’re not in a generation that takes endless mobile photos then no doubt you are at least related to another woman who does this. She will probably try to take a selfie with you over the holidays! Selfies have even become a means of checking out how we look, almost akin to looking at one’s reflection in the mirror.

There are a few problems that come with the selfie culture though…

1) Selfies are a highlight reel. Endless filters and photo editing techniques distort the images from reality and allow us to only display the “most beautiful” versions of ourselves. Ever looked at social media sites and the endless attractive pictures of friends and strangers and felt like you just don’t measure up?

2) According to MailOnline Pat Hagan’s article, Looking in the mirror DOES make you more anxious about your looks, ten minutes of looking at your own reflection every day can increase anxiety.

3) Ellen Vora, MD with One Medical writes in her article 5 Health Hazards of an “Always On” Lifestyle :

“As much as we love the convenience of video chatting and Skype to interact with friends and family members, it’s still just video on a screen. A Gallup study found that human beings need up to six hours of social interaction a day to achieve a sense of thriving emotional well-being—and quality matters. Unfortunately, substituting technological communication won’t cut it, and then we frequently disengage once we’re in social situations by fiddling with our phones.”

WW Frozen montage 2

4) Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing, says “Not all social time counts the same. In-person time counts more.

So there we have it! These are only a few of many reasons why opting for the “Unselfie” is going to be worth it! It might only be for a few hours, a single event, a day, several days – whatever you choose is great. It’s all about being present for those around us and yes, present for ourselves.

Caring about looks and trying to capture them in time is important to women and it starts at a young age. The recent Disney movie hit Frozen has made over $1 billion in the global box office. That’s not including the incredible amount of money made on Frozen paraphernalia. For example, the number of Elsa and Anna princess costumes that were sold in 2014. Can you guess how many? Wait for it…here it is…3 million! Wow-ee-wow! 

What strikes me the most about these princess costumes is that the majority of them are Elsa. She is the queen with magical ice-shooting powers who feels like an outcast. Her younger sister Anna is warm, self-confident, and always eager to boost her sister’s self-esteem. Anna’s outfit in the movie is rather plain when compared to Elsa’s long crystal-blue gown. Thus, it’s no surprise that millions of little girls wanted to dress up as the “prettier” princess for Halloween 2014. Check out this adorable picture of an elementary classroom full of Elsas on costume day: http://i.imgur.com/yTnbbAi.png  Makes me giggle every time. 

Now, let’s not find fault in these sweet little girls for running around saying “trick-or-treat” between lines of the famous Frozen song “Let it go.” Let’s also not find too much fault in ourselves for being concerned over our looks. The point is simply to say that caring beyond a certain point, fixating on our looks, can become unhealthy for us. It can also cause us to emphasize “you look pretty” lines to a tender, impressionable little girl versus empowering her to invest self-confidence in qualities she has more control over such as her intelligence, humor, or compassion.

This holiday season follow Elsa’s famous words and “let it go.” At least for a little while, let go of constant worry about your looks and let go of the fear that if you don’t post a selfie on social media that you aren’t validated.  You are validated.  You are you. 

 

Holiday medicine

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

References:

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/guess-frozen-dresses-sold/story?id=26679037

http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Frozen-5-Most-Mind-Blowing-Accomplishments-41974.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2097717/Looking-mirror-DOES-make-anxiouslooks.html

http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/151499/Business-Good-Friends.aspx

http://www.spoilertv.com/2014/08/selfie-pilot-review-how-are-you-amy-pond.html

http://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/tech-hazards/?utm_source=One+Medical+Group+-+Members&utm_campaign=d516031f09-One_Newsletter_December_2014_DC12_2_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_74172da58b-d516031f09-256466233

 

Find Your Wellness Brand

Pop Princess Katy Perry’s song “Roar” was nominated at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards for the 2013 Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. The song is about self-empowerment. We’re not here to talk about whether or not you’re familiar with the song. We’re here to focus on one of the song’s verses: “I stood for nothing so I fell for everything.” Most women can identify with feeling this way at some point in life. We have all experienced times when we find ourselves falling for anything and everything. The chaos of our indecisiveness can become so intense that we reevaluate our personal beliefs.

Our belief systems have become synonymous with our “personal brand,” aka how we project ourselves to the outside world. We typically think of our careers, clothes, hairstyle and social media presence as components of our personal brand; however, wellness is a huge, oftentimes forgotten, piece of the equation. When it comes to wellness, what do you stand for? What do your food choices, exercise patterns, self-confidence, and health say about you? Are they consistent with the “you” you want to be?

When I started working full-time in the fitness industry I found myself trying to take on one too many personas. I was struggling to figure out what I stood for and to find my own brand. I was determined to be a hard core boot camp instructor, an intelligent personal trainer, a peaceful yogi, a thoughtful Pilates instructor, a powerful cyclist and an avid marathon runner all at once. At the same time, I was overindulging on the weekends, enjoying lavish parties and DC’s fine dining. I barely got any sleep during this time because I was living out the cliché phrase “burning the candle at both ends” and as a result, my health was suffering.

After trial and error, I found balance. I decided that I stand for and believe in moderation. I will always love diverse exercise formats and I will always love food (between the two sides of my family there are bread and wine makers!) but taking any of these things to the extreme is moving away from the path of wellness and balance.

The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” This means that wellness is not a static state, it is an evolving one.WW Yoga Pic

As we grow and age we have greater potential to evolve into the best versions of ourselves. We can establish a meaningful existence and anchor our personal brand. Scared of aging? Don’t be! Time and experience help us become aware of the positive and negative consequences that different decisions have on our wellness. Wellness is a journey.

A journey takes place daily, one small decision after the next. It’s not a quick sprint or a linear path. Often we become more in tune with what we believe, and how we want to act, after moments of tension and regression. These moments act like slingshots, pulling us backwards to the point of maximum tension before we are catapulted forward a greater distance than we would have achieved without such strain.

My days of overindulgence didn’t actually pull me backwards. They catapulted me into a love of helping people live in moderation and balance. The decision to change was not instantaneous. The progress was not always linear. But I evolved and so can you.

Consider another example of non-linear change: Melanie tries to lose weight via crash diets and daily exercise but finds that every time she reaches her goal weight she rebounds and quickly regains every single pound. Fed up and frustrated, she decides to follow the advice of a respected nutritionist who counsels her to make modest adjustments to the portions of her meals instead of drastically cutting calories or surviving on detox, juice-only diets. The nutritionist also advises Melanie to work out four times a week instead of seven. Melanie initially gains a few pounds following this system; however, at the end of six months she has lost more than her goal weight! She feels that she is in a healthy routine that is easy to maintain.

Melanie’s weight loss proves that change does not happen overnight. It also does not come without mistakes and resistance; however, over time, positive decisions add up. They become so great in number that they start to define you. They begin to anchor you in a more harmonious existence and your brand becomes a reflection of your beliefs.

One simple decision. That’s how we change. Go try it out. Try today!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roar_(song)

http://www.forbes.com/sites/shamahyder/2014/08/18/7-things-you-can-do-to-build-an-awesome-personal-brand/

http://www.nationalwellness.org/?page=Six_Dimensions