Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

What this world needs is a new kind of army - the army of the kind. ~Cleveland Amory

A few days ago, I was thumbing through some magazines and stumbled across a new piece of work known as The Twisted Sisterhood written by Kelly Valen and based on her 2007 New York Times essay. The story is essentially about "mean girls," and Kelly's lifelong battle with female-friendship intimacy as a result of a horrible experience she had when she was a college freshman. The watered down version goes something like this: Girl goes to college...girl enters sorority in an attempt to fulfill part of her social life...girl goes to frat party with her "sisters"... girl is raped by frat boy while other frat boys watch..."sisters" make mockery of girl for it and kick her out of sorority....girl grows up and gets married and has children, but she still struggles to trust females and has a major girlfriend-ship gap in her life... girl (now woman) turns her tragedy into some awesome research on female relationships, gets published, gets famous, but most importantly, hopefully gets healed.

This kind of female petty behavior is no new concept. All of us gals have been on one side or the other or possibly both. For a long time, we've accepted this type of behavior, but it's about time that we realize that it's not innocent or harmless and is in fact pretty life-ruining. On Guiltless, we discuss ways to love ourselves. Well, I think that in order to appreciate ourselves honestly, we need to treat each other kindly and fairly. Kelly Valen has taken this problem into her own hands and is spreading the message that females need to stop being cruel to one another and need to start start being supportive of each other. Amen, sister!

Throughout her research, Valen delved into the dark world of girl on girl fights. First of all, on a positive note, research has proved that girlfriend-ships actually boost our immunity! Bring it on, Flu season, my friends will kick your ass and win the battle! YEA!! (Ok, sorry got excited about my awesome friends for a sec...let's continue...) Valen's research shows that females are socialized to use what psychologists call "indirect aggression." The internet has made this much worse, because now people can hide behind computer screens and throw daggers with keyboards. Especially for an adolescent who hasn't learned his/her lesson yet, the lack of responsibility the internet provides can be particularly dangerous and hurtful to victims of "indirect aggression." She also found that this type of behavior can begin as early as (gasp) ages 4 or 5. Finally, research shows that the part of the brain that regulates emotions and creates memories is highly affected by these types of bad memories and can influence behavior for years. What is this negativity doing to us, to our world?

Throughout Valen's research, she found that the mother-daughter relationship is extremely important in forming friendship behavior. I have been blessed with a mother (and father) who taught me how to enjoy being kind to people, and I am so lucky to have an amazing group of girlfriends that I've had for a lifetime. But I have definitely experienced "mean girl" drama, and it ain't pretty...In fact, I still get a pit in my stomach when I revisit the memories.

I've learned so much from my friends: how to be supportive, trustful and trustworthy, appreciative, and how to believe in myself. After reading Kelly's work, I felt such sorrow for both the mean girls and the girls they were mean to, because the energy spent on negativity could be put to such better use and positivity in the opposite direction. I know that Valen's research and book will reach our population, and will hopefully influence female relationships in the work place and social world for the better. But my biggest hope is that it reaches elementary schools and high schools where frenemies are born.

Being Guiltless is not only about not beating yourself up for eating a cookie or skipping a work out. It's about being honest with and kind to yourself and to others. It's about cultivating a positivity among an entire community and using that energy to create unstoppable love and friendship with ourselves and each other. I'm proud of Valen for taking hold of the reigns and revealing her story to the world in an attempt to make it a better place.

What are your thoughts on this topic? How do you think this type of negativity influences how we work/live/love? Do you think that "frenemies" could be a source of some eating disorders or other physically harmful acts? What is your girlfriend-ship status? If you're a guy, what's your perspective on this girl drama? We love hearing from all of you!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Are you up for a Challenge?

Sometimes I am spot-on with life timing, and then sometimes I get to things a little too late. But then I realized that it's never too late to start spreading more beauty messages! So let's hear it for the Beauty Message Challenge!!!


[From their website]

What is the CHALLENGE? Tell yourself beauty messages three times a day for 10 days so that you build self confidence and experience more joy in who you are! By taking the challenge you will see how telling yourself the truth about your strengths and accomplishments changes your day.

WHAT IS A BEAUTY MESSAGE? It is an affirming statement about something you are proud of or love about yourself. It can be a simple or detailed statement that when read positively changes the outlook on yourself and your day. For example: “ I walk into work everyday with a smile on my face to lift others spirits. My care for others is beautiful and so am I.”

WHAT DO I GAIN? Seeing yourself as beautiful for who you are is a self-confidence building exercise. We often speak of the problems of low self-esteem but here are the benefits of self-confidence:

  • Go Power: Believing in yourself and knowing your strengths will help you move towards your goals even when obstacles and challenges come up.
  • Positive Outlook: Feeling good about who you are spills over into how you see your life. People who feel good about themselves easily see the good in their life.
  • Social Ease: Self-confidence leads to more freedom to share ideas and connect with people without fear of rejection.
  • Physical Health: Confident people experience less stress and worry. Stress is a leading factor in numerous health problems.
This has been going on the entire month of September and there is fantastic material available on their website, facebook, and twitter feeds!

So are you up for the challenge? Can you commit to telling yourself you are beautiful for 10 days?? Let's start right now, and practice by leaving a comment about a beauty message for yourself!

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Love my Legs

My dear friend Marissa stayed true to her Japanese roots and wrote me a beautiful haiku about how she loves her legs. I just adore this (and we checked people, it is in proper haiku form)!

my legs crush concrete

and I make myself guiltless

when I run faster

Have you ever written yourself a letter or poem expressing your strength and beauty?? we'd love to hear about it! Thank you Marissa!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Comic Relief

Body Image can be a pretty heavy subject. Day in and day out, most of us strive to be our best yet come down on ourselves hard if we don't achieve one or more of our goals (which are often rather intense or unrealistic). We've used Guiltless each week to explore this cycle and to share our ideas on how to break it and get to the point where we are truly happy with who we are.

With that being said, today I need some comic relief. Check out some of these clips/photos (disclaimer: some of them may be a bit graphic or offensive, but most comedy is!) Hope these make you chuckle...

The first is a scene from The Office. The whole episode is pretty incredible, so I recommend watching the whole thing when you have the chance!

Clip Credit: Richard William Ferrari

Next: Rosie O'Donnell's awesome monologue from "Beautiful Girls..."

The next clip is about a seemingly harmless alien who feels insecure about his looks....

Oh, Gorgon! You may be green and lack a chin, but you are quite the powerful alien.

Ok that's all for today!

What are your thoughts this week?

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat"

For several months now I've been interning with Rebecca Scritchfield, an RD in Washington D.C., working with her on all things blog, and social media related. It's been a fantastic experience, and Rebecca has taught me and the other interns a lot. One of the perks of this position is the opportunity to interview leaders in the field. I spoke on the phone recently to Michelle May, an intuitive eating coach about her new book: "Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat!" You can find the interview below, or on Rebecca's blog, Balanced Health and Nutrition. - Elizabeth Jarrard

Is it possible to eat what you want without gaining weight? Many people, especially those who are chronic dieters are afraid this is not possible. Breaking away from the rigid set of dieting rules feels scary, and dieters are comfortable with the “restrictive” state diets teach. How can we learn to reshape our relationship with food, and respect our hunger?

Michelle May, MD is the author of “Eat what you love, love what you eat: How to break your eat-repent-repeat cycle.“ Her website Am I Hungry? describes many of her eating philosophies. In her own words:

“Most diets are restrictive and unsustainable, leaving the dieter feeling guilty and disappointed. My goal is to help people recognize and cope with their triggers for overeating, rediscover joy in physical activity, and effectively nourish their body, mind, heart and spirit.

Video Brochure: Watch excerpts of Michelle's powerful message Imagine how your participants, members or employees will benefit from a presentation like this!

After reading her article on the blog “Dieting and You” entitled Paint-by-Numbers or a Masterpiece, I decided to reach out to her for an interview. Michelle was kind enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Eloquently and kindly she spoke about how we can turn our relationship with food around and answer the question “What are you hungry for?”

Q: You don’t advocate “Dieting,” So tell us, Why don’t diets work?

A: They do work-temporarily. But they fail to address the root cause, and for many people, result in feelings of deprivation. This causes them to crave food more, and feel more out of control when they are around food. Restriction drives overeating. People think they don’t have enough willpower. Restriction also leads to obsession which is bad. Our body is wise, but people are skeptical because we are so diet-focused as a society. we think that we need to diet chronically to maintain are weight. But, we are all born with the instinctive ability to eat what our body needs. Instinctive eaters eat what they love, when they’re hungry, stop when they’re full and don’t worry about food in the between times.

Q: It can be very difficult and scary for chronic dieters to look at this approach to eating. They believe being intuitive is impossible and they will never know when they are really hungry and full. How do we separate cravings/hunger for love etc. from real biological hunger

A: This is a deceptively simple step. Ask yourself the question “Am I hungry?” Before you eat. Before starting to eat, focus on what’s going on inside. Do a Mind-body scan for the physical sign/symptoms (such as a drop in blood sugar) and also notice emotions/feelings. If your not sure you’re hungry, you’re probably not. If you decide to eat even if you are not physically hungry, notice this, and try to gain insight on why you want to eat. This question, “Am I hungry” must not become a rule to abide to, instead look at it as a way to pause, and reflect, being more mindful of your eating habits.

Q: So if we learn to appreciate and respect our hunger we can end yo-yo dieting and the eat-repent-repeat cycle?

A: Instead of a yo-yo I like to think of this as a Pendulum between excess and restriction. Find the flexible arc in the middle of the pendulum where you still have freedom. We need to get away from this hopeless pursuit of trying to be perfect. Accept where you are. Everyone overeats, undereats, over exercises, underexerises sometimes. Its just important that we find a Balance.

Q: How can we move away from the “perfect” “skinny” mindset and learn to appreciate ourselves and our bodies, our health?
A: For too long now, we’ve tried to measure things by physical attributes-health is just a trophy that everyone seeks.
We need a balance of body, mind, health and spirit. Health is more than a number on a scale. Numbers like BMI, blood pressure, are easy to get obsessed with, and we need to take a step back and look at the whole picture of health.

Q: How can we fit fitness into this pictures without it becoming obsessive?

A: Often we look at exercise as punishment for eating or we need to exercise to earn the right to eat, which creates a very negative relationship with exercise. It turns into a penance for eating a “bad” food, and often you feel guilty if it is missed. This becomes an obsessive behavior which strips all of the joy from exercise. I think we need to not discuss exercise at the same time as weight loss. Exercise is good for everyone! Not just for those people that need to lose weight. It is also important to pay attention to the positive aspects of exercise, and find something you love doing.

Q: How do we create an atmosphere where food is not viewed as an enemy but can be sovered and enjoyed without going overboard?

A: We need to put food back into perspective. When you are eating, EAT. Eat with abandon and joy, not to pay penance or seek to be virtuous. When you are not eating,let it go. Don’t think about it. Enjoy what you are doing at the time. Approach life fully engaged in the present moment. Mindfulness is not only a form of eating, but also a life skill.

Thank you Michelle for your wonderful insight and tips! Check out her website Am I hungry?, read her new book Eat what you love, love what you eat” and follow her on twitter @eatwhatyoulove

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Body battle break down" Guest Post by Mei Ratz

I've known Mei, since well, before I was born. Our mothers were in Lamaze class together, and I'm about 3 weeks older than her. We were raised together, and she's always been an inspiration to me. Always a little bit cooler, stronger, faster, she was a swimming champion from early on. Recently her life has taken her down a different path, but she continues to inspire every day. Life has thrown her extreme obstacles and events that would make most people crumble, but she has come out stronger. She is pursuing her dreams and living each day to the fullest. You can find her gorgeous photographs here, and follow her life adventures on her blog! Take it away Mei! -Elizabeth

When I first sat down, slowed my roll, rested enough to think about what I would write to Guiltless....I felt myself lean over to my sub-conscience and whisper: "Psst....we don't have any food worries, body concerns, or haunting skeletons about body image....Saaaaawwwweeetttt!!!" and then I thought some more....and I thought: WHY was I so quick to claim that I was not involved in a body relationship battle? Why? Then it struck me that my battle was slow moving and constantly morphing. So, here is the Mei Ratz body battle break down.

I grew up in a small town where the role you played in the community could end up consuming your life if you let it....and I did. I took my role very seriously. I was an athlete. I worked out, I worked hard, I played hard, lifted, swam, and then ate whatever I damn well wanted...whenever I wanted. I didn't have any vision, thought, worry, pondering moment, fret about weight or how my body looked....I knew it would get the swimming job done and that's all that mattered. Then I hit college where I began to swim Division 1 and while i felt constantly like my sport, education, and well being depended on my body being "healthy", and strong....I also was embarking on the thoughts that maybe I had not received the golden ticket when it came to body types. I spent a lot of my day around the most beautiful women on the planet - division 1 women swimmers....cut, lean, tall, and smashingly beautiful....but the words of trash talking our own bodies floated through our minds, and locker room. I then began gather my bits and pieces of what I WOULD have had in a perfect world and what the magazine of "Mei's body" really looked like....and the comparison wasn't pretty. I had legs that were burly and strong....but they were far from "sexy". I had shoulders that could heft a 70 pound back pack....but they did not fit in a size "small" anything. I had a belly that held every piece of fuel I would need for every race, adventure, and practice that I had at any given moment...but it was not a belly that I felt like I could show in a bikini. I knew my body was great....but it was more functional then it was flaunt-able.

How selfish and near sighted I had become.

When my swimming life came to a close I came to a cross roads of what will my functional body become when the function is not around anymore? What will my body be when I am not working out more then any average person? Will I look like a weathered toy that had her peak moments and then never saw any again? Or will my TRUE body come bursting out after 18 years of competitively working harder then anyone else? Which option was I more afraid of?

Hm. Then I found out....

HOLY BOOBS BATMAN! Chest muscles exited and boobs exploded!!

Hello tummy! and good bye forearms!

Hello smaller feet! and good bye thick neck!

I was getting "gifts" like I was a 5 year old birthday party....and I freaked. I went to the gym, I drank water, I took diet pills (Worst idea since TV dinners), I tried to curb my eating (Let me tell you that worked like a smart car hitting an elk)...and in the end I realized....

The thing I was trying to desperately to change was the chariot in this battle of mine.

The battle was not between my body parts and myself, it was between the high school body mentality I had forgotten to grow up from and the newly discovered woman body I had just been gifted. Some people don't leave the drama in high school...they just keep it forever in their pocket. I kept my expectations of that 16 year old body I had known back in high school. So I sat down and gave myself a proper talking to...and then came to the thought that....

I don't want a body of a child!! I want a body of a woman!!

Gimme those functional body parts!....they will carry me confidently in the direction of all my dreams!
Gimme those boobs!....I always wanted to shop a few hangers back on the rack at Victorias secret!
Gimme those legs that can bike me along side my man across the Burnside bridge while filling out a crisp black pencil skirt!
Gimme that body that I deserve!

I have worked hard to meet this body at woman hood....I will spend the greater part of my life being a woman...not a child.

I am a woman. Brave, confident, functional, and sexy!

By golly! Bring on the world!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Don't let the Guilt get you Down

By: Stephanie Horton

I used my walk home from school yesterday as a brainstorming session for what to write on Guiltless today. As I was sorting through ideas, I started to literally hear my thoughts as they were getting louder and louder - almost taking on a life of their own. Then I realized - instead of brainstorming ideas for the blog, I was listing things I felt guilty about. And then I started to feel guilty about feeling guilty! Ah!

Guilt is such a loaded emotion, yet it's one we feel every day over countless decisions and interactions. So instead of letting the guilt get us down, let's turn it into a game of sorts. A game, you ask? Yes. Something like that...just to lighten up the mood a little.

In 60 seconds, I am going to list the first five things that come to mind to the question, "What do you feel guilty about sometimes?" I will not stop to question or think about them. After 60 seconds, I'll read them over, and then I will suggest ways to fight off the guilt! Ok ready? 1 -2 -3 GO

1. Deciding to sleep instead of going for a run
2. Going for a run instead of studying
3. Forgetting to call my parents back
4. Eating chocolate chip cookies before dinner
5. Wanting the butter on the popcorn at the movies

This is as far as I got. Then I asked my roommate, Julie, to do the same, and here's what she said:

1. Eating sweets
2. Not working out
3. Being a bitch at work...
4. ummm...being a bitch in general (hahaha)
5. People being mad at me

Ok we're done with that part of the game. Next, I am going to go through each guilty thought and form a strategy on how to let go of the guilt. But first, check out this awesome commercial by Dove chocolate:

1. Deciding to sleep instead of going for a run
(You're body knows when it needs to rest. If you don't feel rested enough after waking up, and you know you have a busy day ahead of you, sometimes it's healthier to opt for sleep over exercise. Check out Elizabeth's post on rest.)
2. Going for a run instead of studying
(Studying takes a lot of focus. Running or exercise will help you maintain focus and composure while studying or preparing for a presentation, etc. So give yourself the time to get moving a little before you start your work. You shouldn't feel guilty about it, because it will have a positive outcome in the end.)
3. Forgetting to call my parents back
(You're family understands that you are busy. They will appreciate it more if you call them when you actually have time to have a conversation.)
4. Eating chocolate chip cookies before dinner
(Ok, so you've had a long day. You're hungry and tired. Making dinner seems like just another thing on your "to-do" list, and it's stressing you out. You spot the cookies. You grab two. You eat two. You're still hungry and tired, and making dinner still seems like another "to-do" task. Still, you ate the cookies, and now you almost want to give up on making dinner and just settling for take-out or a balanced meal of potato chips, more cookies, and maybe some cheese. Before you sabotage dinner time, give yourself a break! You ate two cookies! Oh well. Whip up a salad or maybe some grilled fish and veggies. Put the cookies in perspective. You're only human! As long as you're not eating cookies for dinner every day, it's ok to snack on a sweet once in a while as long as it's in moderation. As a future dietitian, I would naturally prefer if everyone went for the fruit bowl instead of the cookie jar. But I am human too (and Italian no less), and sometimes I just want that cookie...but let's not feel bad about it, k?
6. Wanting the butter on the popcorn at the movies
(How often do you go to the movies? If you said "once a week," then maybe opt for the butter only once a month. But if you said "hardly ever," then I say go for what makes you happy. You might physically feel better if you ask for "light butter," but sometimes life is about letting go and being proud (rather than guilty) about giving yourself the things that make you smile.

Ok, now for Julie's:

1. Eating sweets
(See cookies comments above)
2. Not working out
(See comments about rest above)
3. Being a bitch at work...
(As Julie put it, she only ends up being irritable at work when she gets stressed out. Sound familiar anyone? Take a few deep breaths and try to remember that the work day will end eventually, and you will have some time for yourself. In the meantime, if you catch yourself snapping at a co-worker, acknowledge it, maybe apologize if you think it's necessary, and then just be proud of yourself for recognizing your mistake and then try to learn from it.)
4. ummm...being a bitch in general (hahaha)
(This was a joke. Julie is one of the nicest people I know)
5. People being mad at me
(No one is mad at you! Unless you've done something really very terribly wrong, or unless you were just outright mean to someone, people usually aren't mad at you. One thing I've realized is that everyone is so busy worrying about how they represent themselves to others, that they probably only notice 50% of what you do anyway!)

I suppose the purpose of this game was to help myself recognize that no matter how hard I try to remain "guiltless," there are still things that will creep into my mind, causing me to feel remorseful about something - anything! After all, we are only human. Also, it's nice to reflect on these thoughts and then give advice to yourself on how to change your perspective on them. Give it a try!

Now you're turn: In 60 seconds, leave a comment and list the top 5 things that make you feel guilty. Then give yourself some strategies on how to combat this guilt. We all may learn a thing or two!

Be well, and enjoy the day!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Girls on the Run

There are so many reasons I love the world of twitter and blogging. From fresh ideas to constant inspiration, the cup runneth over. I was reading through some of my favorite blogs and I saw a link about Girls on the Run. What’s this I wondered? When I digged deeper to discover this fantastic organization it was like, once again, everything in the universe was just perfectly aligning. Just a few weeks ago, on a run (of course), I was thinking about what a positive impact running has made in my life, and on my body image. And this lead to me wondering how I could share this love, and inspire other people through my running. “Wouldn’t it be awesome”

I thought, "if we could empower younger girls, before negative body image gets in the way, how wonderful moving your body feels? That you don’t have to be a competitive track star to get outside for a jog, and that the imperfections about running are what make it perfect?" Well, Molly Barker beat me to it, and this is already happening across the country through a fabulous organization called Girls on the Run.

So what exactly is Girls on the Run? It is a program for girls in 3rd through 5th grade whose mission is to educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. This is achieved through two meetings a week for 12 weeks, culminating in a 5K. Not only is this a workout and training program, but the lessons encompass everything from getting to know themselves, team building, and community service. Evaluations of the program have shown statistically significant improvements in body image, eating attitudes and self-esteem. The participants leave the program with an improved sense of identity and increasingly active lifestyle. Not only are the girls getting fit, they are feeling more confident about themselves, and improving their self-esteem. Win-Win!!

These programs are throughout the USA, you can find the one closest to you here. A program just started in Suffolk County out of the Hill House. They are starting small but I am hoping to join them at Walter’s Run, here in Boston, December 12th 5K

SoleMates- an adult runner, male or female can choose any race, anywhere, and raise $262 to go to the GOTR program of your choice. You can sign up here This is a very manageable fundraising goal and you know it's going to a great cause!

Health comes from the inside out-let's show young girls this at a young age!

Growing up did you have positive role models to show you what true beauty was? How has this shaped your life?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eat Pray Love and Guiltless Eating

Lessons on Guiltless Eating and Body Image from “Eat Pray Love”

by Christine Scarcello


For those who have read or recently seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” you’re familiar with the basic premise of the book (woman in mid-30s leaves her husband, job, and the U.S. in a journey of self-discovery) and the themes tackled throughout this travel novel (feminist independence, sexuality, artistic expression, religion and spirituality, finding balance in life and relationships, etc).

One of my favorite themes of the book (and also the movie) is Liz’s detachment from guilt. This is most expressed during her stay in Rome, Italy. It is within this four-month stay that she discovers the Italian passion for eating… and subsequently, an abandon for any guilt associated with the indulgence.

As an Italian-American, I can easily say that most of my life revolved around food: buying it, preparing it, cooking it, presenting it, and lots of eating it. My grandmother had me helping her in the kitchen since I was a child, and we enjoyed fresh, homemade dinners with our extended family almost weekly.

Perhaps I recognized something about my childhood of guiltless eating similar to Liz’s adopted style of eating in Italy in “Eat, Pray, Love,” when she was enjoying every morsel of the food on her plate and every drop of wine in her glass. There was a passion, an excitement, and an experience free of guilt during these indulgences – something that we don’t often see here in the U.S. “Dieting” is a multi-billion dollar industry, and magazines, news reports, and web articles are always offering the latest way to lose weight. For Liz, this experience of pleasure was just what she needed following a difficult divorce that left her feeling guilty and hopeless about everything. For those of us reading and watching her, perhaps we can adopt some of that healthy passion into our own lifestyle as well.

Furthermore, “Eat, Pray, Love” tackles issues of body image. There is a scene when Liz confronts her Swedish friend Sofie, who refuses to eat her pizza when they are visiting Naples because of the weight she has been gaining while in Italy. Liz tells her that it’s time to “give up the guilt” and stop obsessing about calories and foods. She even makes a “date” for the following day to go shopping with Sofie so that they can buy bigger jeans to accommodate the weight they’ve gained from indulging in so much Italian food.

While I’m not a proponent of over-indulging on a daily basis, I am a big supporter of living in the moment and enjoying oneself. In “Eat, Pray, Love” Elizabeth Gilbert learned the importance of living and eating with passion. It’s not a lifestyle we can maintain daily, because eventually all those tasty Neapolitans, pizzas, and glasses of red wine will add up. But she jokes about gaining weight, and in the book (as well as in the movie) she buys beautiful lingerie to celebrate her body and herself, though she makes it more than clear that she has no one to show it off to.

Loving your body and appreciating it for yourself are important lessons that women and men must accept. Amid the glorified supermodels and images of what we’re “supposed to look like,” we must always remember that we are beautiful - no matter what. It’s okay to eat pizza when you’re in Italy… it’s okay to eat pizza even if you’re not in Italy! The key is to find balance and to listen to what your body needs during those moments in your life when you need it. So enjoy life. Enjoy your body. And enjoy food! Bon Appetito!

Thank you Christine for this great post! You can find her on twitter (@_Nourish_)or on her blog

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nipping it in the bud

By: Steph Horton

I wonder how kids and teens today feel about their appearances. With such increased access to media and the internet, it only makes sense that their access to mind-molding images is far more than mine when I was younger. I think back to high school and remember how hard it was to appreciate myself, because I was so incredibly consumed with the parts of myself that I was uncomfortable with: which were my, um, just about everything. Sound familiar?

I have three nieces and two nephews, and every time I see them, they seem to be approaching teenager status faster than I can keep up with. My sweet, energetic 5 year-old niece Eliana is already looking in the mirror and asking her Mommy questions about her appearance, and my 11-year-old niece Jacqui could seriously pass for a 15-year-old fashionista beauty queen. My 9-year-old niece Jillian has such a tremendous spirit and imagination, which I fear every day have the potential of being broken down by societal norms. I look at the three of them and my breath is taken away by how beautiful they are. And then I remember what a cruel world it can be out there, and I fear that at one point not far down the road, the they will learn to be uncomfortable with their bodies or guilty about certain foods. I have this connection with my nieces and not as much with my nephews, simply because I was never a teenage boy! But I'm 98% sure they go through their own versions of self-induced teenage hell. I hope we can nip this one in the bud and encourage teens today to have positive body images that will last them a lifetime.

I wish I had a way to stop this from happening, but if I said that kids are more likely to listen to their Auntie over a new, colorful, funky advertisement or Disney fairytale movie or Ken and Barbie, I'd be totally full of it. On a more positive note, Michelle Obama has been pushing her Let's Move! campaign as a way to get kids excited about healthy eating and exercise. While this movement is mostly geared toward reducing childhood obesity rather than encouraging positive body image, I'm hoping that it will have double the effect and do both. But we can't rely on national campaigns or major companies to fix the twisted messages reaching these kids...we have to at least try to make a difference at home first.

Here are a few tips on how you can influence the teens in your life to love themselves just a little more:
  • Compliment their athletic abilities and encourage them to build their strength and endurance.
  • Let them know they are talented and smart and imaginative. Focus on their intellectual our BU professor Joan Salge-Blake always says, "The sexiest part of a woman is her brain!"
  • Tell them they are beautiful for everything they are on the outside, but most importantly, because of everything they are on the inside.
  • Be straight forward! Kids are smarter than we think, and if we just sit down with them and say something like "these thoughts you're having are normal...everything you see that makes you feel bad about yourself has been making others feel bad about themselves's hard, but you have to try to remember that you are unbelievable and special and that no one can take that away from you..."
I'm not a parent, so I can't say that these tips are exactly expert advice. But I am an Auntie, and I am a woman, and I have once been a teenage girl, and I remember that when my mom, dad, sister or brother did these things for me, it really helped. I think we should also do these things for ourselves once in a while, just to remind the kid in us that he/she is beautiful. Enjoy the day!

Do you remember what it was like to be a teen? Do you have any specific memories of struggles with body image that you'd like to share?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Resting on this Labor Day

Happy Labor Day!
Hopefully today can be spent outside of work, relaxing with friends and family, and enjoying a labor-free day. Days of rest are extremely important and in our hurry to accomplish more, and do more always, they often get brushed aside. No one wants to be perceived as lazy, and we must always be on, on, on, going, going, going.
There was a point in my life when I worked out 7 days a week. I wouldn't let myself take a day off, because I felt guilty skipping a workout. Needless to say, it was draining, and stripped all the joy and fun I had originally found in my activity out of it. Going to the gym become a drag and a chore, and I found that I wasn't able to put my best effort into my workouts. One day I fought this compulsion to exercise, and took the day off. I tried to push away the feelings of guilt and laziness, and occupy myself with other things. It was to my surprise that the next day, rather than losing all of my strength and turning into a pile of fat, I was much more energized, and had a fantastic workout.
I began to repeat this cycle and found a brand new appreciation for days of rest.
Our bodies work hard every day, and without rest they begin to wear down. Besides feeling lethargic, if you don't rest as an athlete you risk developing over-training syndrome. Without taking a day to rest and let your muscles repair, rebuild and strengthen you are at high risk for developing muscle strains, and other injuries, which will have you off your feet for much longer. There are also psychological benefits, in that rest days can help maintain a better balance between home, work and fitness goals.
So this Labor Day, and at least once a week, I hope you can find time to rest. Giving yourself permission to jump off the go-bandwagon just for a short while will have you feeling more energetic and excited about life once you get back on.

I dare you to:
-Give yourself permission to relax, recharge and rest.
-Let go of your fear of rest, remove the guilt from treating your body with respect.
-Take a moment to take a deep breath and appreciate all that you have worked so hard for and received.
-Instead of staring at the computer screen, take a few minutes to rest your eyes, perhaps even meditate.
-Show your body some love by taking time for it, and allowing it to rest.

Enjoy your day of rest!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Small Victories

by Teresa Miller

I had a moment of triumph sitting around a campfire. Chatting with a couple of friends and making s’mores, I silently asked myself whether I wanted another delicious sandwich of marshmallow, milk chocolate and graham cracker. My answer? No, I don’t think I really want “s’more,” heheh (The voice in my head has a really corny sense of humor). I’m done. And I left it at that.

Why would I consider this a triumph, you ask? Well, having spent the last five years fighting against my body in an attempt to control it, I have recently decided to take the scary step of letting my body speak for itself, and listening to it. Having spent time in self-righteous starvation mode and dealing with the shame of binges more recently, I know the misery and failure of trying to make your body’s appetites conform to your will.

The first thing I did was to allow myself to eat—even if it meant overeating, eating more when I knew I was satisfied already. It was time to let this happen without an overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame—I thought of it as a kind of “getting it out of my system.” If my body got used to the idea that it could have whatever it craved, maybe it would adapt by gradually letting me know it had had enough, and I could allow myself to stop when satisfied. I gave it a try, at least.

The fruits of this effort showed themselves that night around the campfire. Instead of the panicky voice that usually commentates in my head during an event like making s’mores (How much have I had? Do I want more? How much will I regret it?), I found myself leisurely roasting marshmallows and eating fairly unconcernedly while talking with my friends, really listening to and paying attention to our conversation rather than to the voice in my head. After a couple of s’mores, I asked myself the question: Should I eat another one? And, miraculously, when my stomach and sweet tooth replied that they were satisfied, I listened, and let the matter drop.

I realized that: relinquishing the (imaginary) control I have over my body allows it to make its wise voice heard. Oh, and that keeping my attention focused outside of myself—say, on the wonderful friends surrounding me—rather than allowing my obsessions to take over, is an incredibly freeing sensation. I feel I’ve finally taken the first (perhaps obvious) steps toward living guiltlessly. I wish you luck on your own journey!