Don't be left out!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Inspiring Change In Others

People often inquire about how they can encourage their spouse, parent, sibling or friend to make some changes.  


When individuals experience success working towards goals it's not uncommon for them to want to share the benefits of their new found lifestyle by motivating others.  


While this desire to inspire others is honorable and usually stemming from a place full of good intentions, it's also important to remember that the process of change has many stages. Furthermore, some people may not be interested or ready for change.  And that's totally A-o.k..  


The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM) was developed by James O. Prochaska in 1977 and I love the way Habitry​ founder, Coach Stevo​, describes the various stages of change behavior in his article, “No Excuses”.  


1. Pre-contemplation - “Shut up, I’m all good.”
2. Contemplation - “OK, maybe I’m not all good.”
3. Preparation - “Yeah, I’m thinking about getting better.”
4. Action - “I’m doing what I need to do to get better, dammit.”
5. Maintenance - “I’m better, but still working at it.”
6. Termination - “I’m pretty good and man, was I fooling myself back then.”


So while you may be working on stage five or six.  Your friend/spouse/sibling maybe hanging out in stage one, two or three.  But behavior doesn't actually change until stage four.  


Jumping in to help someone before they're ready can sometimes feel like a proposal on the first date. Totally overwhelming and usually unwelcomed.  Slow down, Killer.  Slow down.  


You and I both know that forcing someone into behavior change is a sure fire ride in the fast lane to broken commitments, lack luster results, hurt feelings and sometimes even damaged relationships.  (From personal experience, I’d recommend that spouses tread lightly.  Very, very lightly.  Wink, wink.)  

So what’s a well-intentioned friend to do when you want to help foster change in someone else?  Be the change you wish to see in others.  Be patient.  Be positive.  And should that stage four day come, be there with open arms to help.  

For additional (and amazing) reading on behavior change and motivating others, check out Habity.com.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Life Lessons Learned Through Lifting

I spent this past weekend at an amazing powerlifting meet hosted by my team, 22nd Street Barbell. The venue, Elite Edge in Ankeny, was a perfect space, providing enough room for both lifters and spectators, jamming tunes, and two platforms allowed the meet to run smoothly and quickly.

There is nothing better than watching your teammates hard work pay off and result in PR’s and pure happiness. This meet marked the first competition for many lifters and as expected many of them “caught the bug” noting that they can’t wait to do it all over again.
Ashley giving hell on bench.  Photo by Ted Sandeen.


With just two years of powerlifting training under my belt and only a few competitions, I’m still very, very new to it all. But the parallels between life and lifting continue to amaze me.

Spending time watching lifters compete this weekend reminded me of a few recurring lessons I've picked up through lifting that are completely applicable to everyday life. And since applying these "lessons" to my own life I've found more contentment and happiness.

It’s you vs. you. I know that sounds like one of those cheesy lines your trainer feeds you in attempts to enter a meet but it is absolutely spot on. There is no minimum strength requirement for powerlifting meets. So that “I’m not strong enough” crap won’t cut it. Unless a qualifying total is required, at any given meet you’ll find novices and experienced lifters alike sharing the platform, some lifting 100 pounds, some lifting 600.

Sure, there are talented lifters who enter meets with the intent of winning their weight class and/or best lifter, but the majority of the lifters are simply trying to do their best and break their own personal records, winning is a bonus. 

As counterintuitive as it sounds competing in powerlifting has helped me to let go of the constant competition I was having in my head with other women.  No more sizing ladies up to evaluate who's stronger, prettier, leaner, more successful, or happier.  I managed to turn my focus inward and over time, what would have been jealousy for a stronger female has transformed into sincere happiness for their success.  

I have realized there will always be someone stronger, faster, leaner with better technique. That's not an excuse to stop striving for improvement but I did give myself permission to stop comparing.  At the end of the day, what others are doing is out of our control. Spend your time focused on progressing your own lifts and not how they stack up against everyone else's.

My amazing teammate, Janis attempted a world record deadlift of 460.  Photography by Ted Sandeen
Effort is respected: While talented and successful lifters get most of the spotlight, effort put in by beginners or weaker lifters
(comparatively speaking, of course) does not go unnoticed. At the gym I train at, 22nd Street Barbell, a stay-at-home-mom focused on gaining strength (like me) is supported the same as elite level lifters with over a decade of experience. Of course the outcome of said effort will vary from person to person but ultimately respect can be gained not just by the amount of weight you can lift but also by amount of effort you put in.

It’s not about what your body looks like but what it can do. Short, tall, lean, thick, straight, curvy, broad, narrow, small, and big. While certain bodily portions may bode well for particular lifts, you will find a variety of body types at a powerlifting meet. But more important that how your body looks, is what you can do with that body. How much power, force and strength can it produce? I have yet to watch someone hit a big deadlift personal record only to bitch about cellulite on their thighs.

22nd Street barbell photo.  Photo by Ted Sandeen
Pass it on. Competing in powerlifting may be (mostly) an individual sport but the preparation to get there takes a village. Hand offs, spotters, encouragement, and accountability are all ingredients to success. As a whole, powerlifters are some of the most helpful people I’ve ever meet. Regardless if you’ve just met them or known them for years lifters help other lifters. Need a spot? No problem! Have a question? They’ll offer help. Squats aren’t deep enough? They’ll tell you because they want you to succeed. (Even though that last one bites a bit).

See, a lot of the knowledge powerlifters have attained is from years of training, trial and error, and learning from other lifters. That’s valuable knowledge, right there. When you get a chance to absorb some of that knowledge, you take it! And months/years down the road when someone else needs it, you pass it on.

Last year, I bombed out of my first full power meet because I didn’t hit depth in any of my squat attempts. I was heartbroken but it wasn’t long before not one but two highly respected lifters approached me with words of wisdom I’ll never forget that encouraged me to keep going. Others have done that for them, they did it for me and you bet your bottom dollar if/when I see someone in need of the support, I’ll be there to pass it on.

What lessons have you learned from competition that apply to life?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

You Don't Need Another Meal Plan

Last week, I sat in my living room with a good friend discussing exactly what was included in the new program, Healthy Habits for Happy Moms, that I’m co-coaching with Mama Lion Strong and Moms Done Dieting. My friend was curious to know if…

...there was a meal plan included?
...there was a grocery list?
...I will tell her what to eat?

Asking questions like these have become fairly standard when buying a product of the fitness industry. In addition to answering questions about our new program, I’m often grilled about food in regards to my personal training services when meeting with potential clients (pun always intended).

In either case, the short answer to these questions is no.

No meal plan. No grocery list. And no, I will not tell you what to eat.

My friend sat in the rocking chair across from me with a look on her face that read, “What the hell? How does that work?” and finally said, “But...I need a plan to follow.”

I explained, “The only plan you need is the one you can stick to, and you know enough about food to start making better choices.” Now, that's not to say I wouldn't help my friend, because I would.  I'd be happy to help anyone in need.  I just don't think forking over the umpteenth meal plan is the solution.


And to all of you looking for the perfect meal plan, diet or weight loss nutrition program, I’d tell you the same thing. In case you missed it, here it is again….

The only plan you need is the one you can stick to, and you know enough about food to start making better choices.

Let that sink in for a minute.

For the average Jane or Joe, when it comes to food selection, most people don’t need more education, they need more confidence.

In an article for the Huffington Post, “You Know How to Eat, You Don't Need a Diet Company to Tell You”, author Marci Warhaft-Nadler says, “After years of being told that we don't know how to eat, we've actually started to believe it. This makes us completely vulnerable and therefore prime targets for any new diet plan or product that come our way.”

As consumers, we’ve lost faith in ourselves.

And I get why. No carb, low carb, high protein, vegan, paleo, grass-fed, organic, raw, low sugar, low fat, low sodium, high fiber, fat free, sugar free, caffeine free, preservative free, macros, calories, whole foods, good fats, bad, fats, GMOs, whole grains, simple sugars…..

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?

While living in the information age has allowed us to quickly gain access to important nutrition information it’s also left many of us feeling incapable of making appropriate diet selections for ourselves. Gertrude Stein once said, “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”

Common sense. 
Go Kaleo's flow chart is a great no nonsense tool

If I put you in a grocery store and told you to buy foods you believed support a healthy and balanced diet. I am certain all of your carts would look a little different, but I’d be willing to bet that most of you would come back with a pretty rad looking cart filled mostly with awesome foods.

Or if I said cook a healthy and balanced dinner for your partner/spouse. I’d be willing to bet that most of you would cook something pretty amazing.

Sure, you may get a little tripped up when selecting “the best” peanut butter because there are approximately five million peanut butter choices and the hundreds of various yogurt styles and flavors is sure to leave your head spinning.

That’s okay. Don’t try to major in the minors by getting caught up in the finer details just yet. Make the best selection you can with the knowledge you have and chalk the rest up to trial and error.

And yea, this approach is simple but not necessarily easy.  Change, any change regardless of how simple can be difficult but I assure you, you don’t need to have all the answers to start.

Think of your first day at a brand new job. You didn’t know everything right away. All you really needed to know is, where is the bathroom, when is lunch, and what day do you get paid. You know, the really important things. The rest of the knowledge you acquire as needed. A reasonable approach to building your personal nutrition plan shouldn’t be any different.

Of course, there are situations where the aid and knowledge of a Registered Dietician or Nutritionist is an absolute must. In addition, individuals looking to change their body composition, improve performance, address medical concerns, etc will most likely require a more detailed discussion in regards to the breakdown of their diet but the average Jane/Joe looking to follow a healthy, balanced diet and maybe even lose a few pounds doesn’t need more knowledge but rather a boost in confidence and autonomy over their food selection.

I don’t want to hand anyone a fish when I can teach them to fish for themselves. And while there are a growing number of fitness professionals preaching a similar message of moderation, sanity, and sustainable changes (including but not limited to Go Kaleo, Disrupt your Diet, Healthy for 100, Mama Lion Strong and Moms Done Dieting) most diet companies won’t encourage a back to basics approach.

Why?

Because it doesn’t make money. You can’t put common sense in a box, slap a few of those aforementioned buzzwords on it and build an empire. It’s not sexy. It’s not exciting. You won’t lose 10 pounds in 10 days. It won’t provide fast results. In fact, it’s pretty anticlimactic with slow, sustainable changes.

Feeling overwhelmed with where to start? Take everything you know about diet and nutrition and dial it back. Waaaay back. There. Start there. As Brook Kalanick from Better By Dr. Brooke encouraged in an article, "I'll Have What She's Having Is Not A Great Fat Loss Plan", "Continue to educate yourself by learning from the pros, but sooner or later you have to get pro at being you. That’s not something any of us are experts in, only you can do that."

Trust yourself. And remember, the only plan you need is the one you can stick to, and you know enough about food to start making better choices.
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Join our Healthy Habits, Happy Moms group starting Monday, March 2nd
 Get the tools you need to reach your goals on your own terms.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Running & Lifting Injuries: Q&A with a Physical Therapist

One of my many favorite aspects of working for my gym is that we have the opportunity to work in conjunction with the Physical Therapists at the YMCA Healthy Living Center if needed.  As a personal trainer, I've found this to be beyond helpful in approaching client programming when specific health conditions and/or injuries are present that are beyond my scope of practice.  

One topic that comes up often with clients and the general public alike, is how to tackle muscle or joint stiffness and soreness.  Ultimately, I felt this question was best answered by my physical therapist, Abbey.  And….since I had her attention for that question, I threw in a couple bonus ones too.  I love Abbey's well rounded approach to both lifting and running, and I think you will too!  

Annie: Stiffness, soreness, and sometimes pain seem to be reoccurring part of many gym goer's routines. When, if ever, is it ok to work through aches and pains and how do you know when to seek medical attention?

Abbey: It depends on where the stiffness or soreness is. For example, if the soreness is in a muscle (ex. quadriceps, gluts, and hamstrings) after strength training, it’s okay to work through that. Keep in mind that it’s suggested to wait 24-48 hours before working the same body part to allow muscles to rest and rebuild. It would be advisable to cross train as a means to ease up on the soreness, for example: swimming, Yoga, Pilates, and cardiovascular exercise.

If it the stiffness and pain feels more in a joint (shoulder, knee, hip, back/spine, elbow) vs in a muscle, you should NOT work through the pain. Commonly, continuing to "work through” the pain can lead to more complicated injuries and intensify the level of discomfort for the exerciser. For example, if an athlete’s knees are sore after or during running, it would be best to discontinue running at that time and focus on the cause of pain. Seeking medical advice from a physical therapist and physician can help to address the issues and correct any faulty mechanics or muscle imbalances unknown to the exerciser.

Annie: Your experience, what is one or two of the most common injuries you see in runners? Is there any way to prevent this injury from happening?

In my experience, I have treated mostly patellar tendonitis and ITB syndrome. Prevention is key since these are both overuse injuries which take time to heal. The best way to stay ahead of injury is to cross train. It is crucial that the athlete/ exerciser take both strength training and flexibility into consideration. Assessment of hip range of motion, hamstrings and quadriceps length is a good place to begin. Basic muscle length tests include: quadriceps= lie on your stomach and pull your heal towards your buttocks; hamstrings= lie on your back, flex your hip to 90 degrees and try to straighten out your knee; hip external rotation= flex and abduct the hip as you laterally rotate the leg (the figure 4 position). If any of these cause discomfort, it's time to incorporate them into your routine, especially post exercise.

Strength of glut max, glut med, quadriceps, VMO, hamstrings, and gastroc is also crucial. Weight lifting in addition to stability training should be incorporated into cross training to give the runner proper support. The muscular system supports the skeletal system so it only makes sense to work on strength training in addition to running. I personally believe core training is a crucial component in a well-rounded program as back pain can arise from spinal compression forces occurring as the runner impacts the ground.

Annie: In your experience, what is one or two of the most common injuries you see in lifters? Is there any way to prevent this injury from happening?

Abbey: Shoulder impingement and tendonitis of the rotator cuff and biceps. Prevention and treatment should both include correct posture, body mechanics awareness, and strengthening shoulder stabilizers (rotator cuff, lower and middle trapezius, rhomboids and the posterior deltoids). Incorporate shoulder stability exercises into the workout or warm-up to prevent shoulder injuries and enhance performance. If a painful condition develops, an evaluation by a physician and/ or a physical therapist can determine the severity of injury and plan of care for treatment. An Easy rule to follow is RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation.

Annie: Core stability is of course popular for many reasons and relevant to many actives. Do you have a favorite core stability move you use with your clients?
Abbey: Core stability IS popular with the general active community, and that’s a good thing!

I am trained in STOTT Pilates which will bias my answer.J STOTT PILATES emphasizes stabilization of the pelvis and lumbar spine (lower back) in either a neutral or an imprinted position. In neutral the normal curve of the lower back is maintained. When lying on your back, front of hip bones and pubic bone should lie parallel to the mat, and your lower back should not be pressed into the mat. This is the most stable and optimal shock-absorbing position for your back The imprinted spine involves flexing/ moving the lower back towards the mat with the recruitment of your abdominal oblique muscles. Avoid pressing your lower back all the way into the mat or tilting the pelvis too far by overusing the abs or glutes.  

After he or she learns the basics of pelvic/ spinal movement, I like to begin with basic exercises such as: hip bridge, hip roll, ab prep (crunches), prone back extension, and swimming or superman’s. Moving into more intermediate to advanced core exercises, my favorites include: Planks, Side Planks, rotating planks, quadruped position (hands and knees) balancing, and stability ball training.

A huge thank you to Abbey for taking the time to thoroughly answering these questions! 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

No Thanks To #noexcuses

Over the last few weeks, an on going heated fitspo debate was sparked after mother and fitness model, Abby Pell posted a photo of her child, six pack abs and the hashtag "#noexcuses".


Both Jen Sinkler and Jennifer from Mama Lion Strong have done an eloquent job explaining why the "no excuses" message is not the most effective method of motivation in their articles here and here.
But after reading quite of few of the comments left on these posts like these and others, it's clear that some of you still don't agree.

The thing is, this really isn't up for debate.  The idealization of images of perfect bodies, perfect lives, and perfect diets via all forms of media is greatly affecting our confidence and self image.  Don't believe me?  Take a few minute and read even just the abstracts on studies like this, this or this.  It isn't helping. It's hurting, and that's a fact.

It's the message, not the messenger.  

The majority of the responses sounded something like "haters gonna hate" or "they're just jelly" in reference to the uproar about Pell's abdominals.

It may not be every one's bag, but I love the look of her abs.  I'll be honest, if they were handing six pack ab's out at the gym, I'd sure as hell take one because I love all the muscles.  I admire and respect the hard work I imagine it took her to achieve those.

However, I assure you, there is not a bone of hate or jealously in my body in regards to her abs.  It's her delivery I don't care for, not her.

Beyond that, this isn't really about a mom with a ripped core.  Founder of Habity, Coach Stevo writes in an article, "No Excuses", "It is important to remember that the difference between excuses and reasons is the feeling of justification. If people are telling you they, “want to change, but…” everything that follows the “but” is not an excuse; it’s an obstacle they want your help getting around."

We need to find a better way of motivating others.  A manner in which inspires people to overcome excuses obstacles, and doesn't leave them feelings lazy, less than and hopeless.

People should take it personally.  

One of the comments I read was from a gentleman encouraging people to just "get over it and not take everything on the Internet so personally."

Well sir, I get that it may not have personally offended you.  But I'm not just thinking about you or me for that matter.

I'm thinking about the community of hundreds of women who see fitspo images like this and feel deflated, never good enough.  I'm thinking about my young daughter and the positive messages I want to promote as she grows older.  I'm thinking about her friends and how they're affected by exposure to similar messages.

Click any of those links I mentioned above and you'll quickly find out why this is beyond a mom with a six pack.  Or take a peek at this extensive research, "Children, Teens, Media and Body Image".  According to this research brief, as early as six years old, both boys and girls in the US have expressed their ideal bodies are thinner than their current bodies.  In addition, by the time they are seven years old, one in four children will have engaged in dieting behavior.

I am certainly not suggesting Ms. Pell is to blame for these alarming statistics.  Her meme is one of tens of thousands out there, her photo just happened to go viral. It is clear however that media plays a role in our perception of self.  Statistics like this are why creating, sharing and re-sharing any fitspo image deserves more consideration.  

In an ABC interview, Pell said, "My message was about having a choice, and showing people that it can be achieved if you want to achieve it…”  In my opinion, that message is what should have been on the photo, not "no excuse".  While that may not have gone viral, I'm guessing that message would have been more helpful and encouraging than the original slap in your face, "no excuse".

Taking back fitspo 

Thanks to Mama Lion Strong a movement has begun.  A movement to take over the fitspo world with positive, welcoming images of everyday women doing their best to achieve their goals.  As Sinkler says, "come with me" images, not "look at me".

We're all in this together.  Join us.  Make and share your own meme with a photo where you feel your best.  That's all there is to it.

No shame, no six pack required.



     







Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mom Guilt: 4 Ways to Work Through It

Yesterday as I walked up the gym stairs to pick up my son from the nursery I noticed another mom doing her best to entice her little one up the stairs in hopes of a quick workout.

Once inside the nursery, the little girl clung for dear life with crocodile tears flowing.  Despite the welcoming gym staff noting that she quieted down quickly yesterday, I could just see the heart break on the mom's face.  She did her best to soothe the little girl, peeled her off and quickly exited the room.

When I left a few minutes later, I found the mom just outside the door listening to hear if her daughter had calmed down yet.

I gave her a smile, patted her on the back and wished her a peaceful workout, but man, my soul hurt for her.

Mom guilt.  It's a b****.

Whether you're a stay at home mom, work outside the home mom, part-time working mom, new mom, or seasoned mom...mom guilt sucks.

When is comes to health and fitness mommy guilt runs especially rampant as, to many mothers, workouts and self care time can feel indulgent, frivolous and can infringe already tight schedules.

I get it.  I really do.  I have left crying babies in the nursery to make it to a yoga class.  I've left my husband with a tantrum throwing toddler so I can take a walk.  I have gotten up before dawn (many times) to lift.  And even been in the gym as late as nine pm on a Saturday to destress.  To say I can sympathize with other guilt stricken moms is an understatement.

But ya know what?  Those workouts aren't indulgent or frivolous for anyone- especially for mothers.  Study after study have shown links to increased mother's activity levels to increased children's activity levels [1], lower stress levels, improve mood, and positively impact body image, all of which greatly impact not only yourself but your entire family.  Remember the saying, "If mama ain't happy, no body happy!".  There really is some truth to that.  It's not just for you, it's for your family too.

It's easy on paper to schedule 4:30 am workouts so you're finished before the first kiddo awakes, and I applaud those who have made that commitment but sometimes you have to part ways with the family to get in activity during the day. Plus, 4:30 is really early.  Ugly early.  

But regardless of why, if you're struggling with mom guilt over taking time out of the day for workouts, here are a few tips to help you get moving guilt free.

They will survive with out you:  Deep breathe, take the super woman cape off and hand it over to dad (or grandma, etc).  I know us moms tend to think the kids may starve, the house will fall apart and homework won't get finished if we don't do everything ourselves, but try putting some faith into whomever is responsible for the littles while you squeeze in some exercise.  More than likely, the to-do list won't be tackled exactly the way you would do it but they will survive while you're gone, and so will you.

Write down your why:  When you're met with resistance at the first drop of the words "Mommy's going to go workout.", it can be easy to just say screw it, and throw in the towel.  But don't give up just yet, write down your "why" on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere everyone can see.  Why is it important to include exercise in your weekly routine?  What are you goals?  What feelings are you after?  Put it down on paper.  When contemplating skipping a workout in attempt to avoid troubling your family, remember your "why".  Keep the big picture in mind.

Surround yourself with support: If you haven't already, fill your inner circle with people who support your exercise efforts.  Find other supportive, gym going mamas at the gym, preschool, even on Facebook.  Those judgy moms who feel superior about spending all their time and energy on everyone else but themselves…you don't need those ladies around.  In fact, putting ourselves last on the to-do list has almost become a competitive sport many women brag about. Ain't nobody got time for that!  Build your tribe with people who support your healthy habits.     Be

Do something together: If all else fails and for whatever reason, you truly can't detach for your family, find something you can do together.  Family walks, bike rides, yoga, playing tag and even calisthenics in the living room can lead to great health benefits.  Your workouts may be interrupted or less than picture perfect but ultimately, it's a chance for your children to see you making your health a priority.  Now that's, time well spent.

Your turn:  Do you have children?  If so, have you been able to maintain an exercise routine?  What's your best tip?


Sources:
1. http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(05)80485-8/abstract



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

5 Daily Rituals To Improve Body Image

**This article was written by me for a self-embrace series for the Des Moines Moms' Blog.  You can read more from the series here.  

Ask any adult what they would change about their body and most of us will be able to give you a long list of dislikes and areas needing improvement. Even celebrities most would deem as perfect, like the long legged Taylor Swift and wildly successful Katie Couric, have openly admitted struggling with body image issues. 

I am no stranger to body image struggles myself.

Memories as early as middle school come to mind. In 7th grade I quit the volleyball team because I was too self conscious about wearing the short shorts. From there, it was a spiral downwards filled with workouts titled “thin thighs”, stressing over my weight, my curly hair, stretch marks, cellulite, and anything else I viewed as flawed.

Even as an adult, my perception and concern over others perception of my body controlled my world. I dodged full body photos. I started a new diet every other week. I was highly critical of not only myself, but other women as well. I let the jealousy of “fit” women eat at me to the point that I temporarily removed myself from Facebook and cut ties with a good friend just because she had lost weight, and I had not. I am certain most of my friends saw me as a confident individual but on the inside, I felt paralyzed by jealousy and dissatisfaction.

Eventually, after too much time spent worrying about my weight, huge quads, and thick calves, it came to a head after I had my daughter. I hit rock bottom. I was at my highest weight and lowest self-esteem ever, but with little baby eyes and ears on me I knew it was time for a change.

I am no body image expert, just a typical girl with a lot of personal experience in this department but looking back at my transformation from sad and insecure to confident and happy, there were a handful of practices I put into action.

The good news is you can make these changes too, right now. Feelings follow behavior. The simple, but not always easy, act of behaving in a body positive manner often leads to body positive feelings, even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it. 

Exercise: People who exercise tend to have a more positive body image than people who don’t exercise. I am not just suggesting this because I am a personal trainer either, it has been studied over and over again. Anecdotally, I have seen the focus, for many, of exercise shifts from what you body looks like to what your body can do. Today, I am adore my “huge quads” because they allow me to squat a crap ton of weight. (Yes a crap ton is a unit of measurement.) Beyond that, Elle Woods was right, exercise increases production of endorphins. And, we all know endorphins make you happy.

Stop using the F-word: Fat. I am talking about the word fat. Just throw it out of your vocabulary, especially if you have children. Stop calling yourself fat. Stop calling others fat. When we use negative descriptions (both in our heads and out loud) enough, true or not, we eventually start to believe them. When you feel the urge to use “the f word”, replace it with something you love about yourself.

Stay off the scale: Many of us give the number on the scale way too much power. Down a few pounds? You are thrilled, it is a great day! Up a few pounds? You are depressed, time to start dieting and exercising. Sound familiar? It can be difficult, if not impossible, to build a solid foundation of self love, respect and acceptance when you’re frequently seeking validation from the scale. Toss that sucker in the trash, or at least under the bed if you really can’t part with it. You can choose to have a great day, any day, regardless of what you weigh.

If you’re working on losing weight, weighing yourself once a week should be plenty. Remember, the number on the scale is not always representational of a healthy/unhealthy body.

Focus on the positive: Even the smartest, most confident, Katniss Everdeen-ish of women have their off days. You are going to have moments when you feel insecure, anxious, jealous, dissatisfied, and even angry with your body. Be ready. Arm yourself with positivity. Keep your attention on what is going well and what you love about yourself. Think of it as two voices. The voice of positivity has to be louder.

 


Sure, the famous Saturday Night Live character, Stuart Smalley, was hilarious but he really was on to something with his well-known mantra, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.”. Have a mantra ready in your back pocket. Heck, steal Smalley’s if you want! When you are tempted to critique, pull out that short saying full of positivity and repeat as many times as needed.

Treat your body like it belongs to someone you love: You know all those negative things you say to yourself? Write them down. Look at them. (Do not read any further until you are done)

Now, let me ask you this. Would you say those things to your child? To your mother? To your sister? To your best friend? I did not think so. Now tear those bad boys up.

Even if you are not in love with your body, treat it like you are. Remember, feelings follow actions. Act out of love towards your body and with time you will feel love towards your body. 

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Years ago, I would have been beyond embarrassed to share my struggles in private, let alone in a public forum. Today, I see them as the peaks and valleys I worked to conquer on a road that ultimately led me to a profession I am passionate about. I have realized that my perception of my body had very little to do with my physical appearance and tons to do with the dialogue taking place in my head. I continue to practice these five changes because I believe self love and acceptance is a skill that should be exercised daily in an effort to reach optimal potential. Just as my big thighs are nothing to be ashamed of, neither are my battles with body image. I am proud to say that through many storms, I am comfortable in my own skin, flaws, and all.