Tag Archives: Self Love

Loving Myself and Conquering The Brain

No external change can happen without a true internal change, and as most of us know, that is the biggest challenge. It’s not really a matter of whether or not you can run a mile (trust me, you can) or 10 miles (you will, if you train) or if you can lift 5 pounds or 50, or if you can finish a 5k or a marathon or an Iron Man. It’s not even if your body is capable of losing 5 pounds or having abs or having a firm butt. All of that is possible. All of our bodies, more or less are built quite the same. If all those people filling up your Pinterest “Fitness” board have achieved those incredible bodies, honestly there isn’t any reason why our bodies aren’t capable of our own versions of the same. After all, we all do have a six pack somewhere in there and glutes and biceps and thighs and all the same muscles as all of those people. So, really, why not me? Why not you?

[Anecdote/afterthought: You may know I like running. I recently ran a 10k, and I’ve run several before. I’m hoping to run a half marathon this year, and maybe a marathon next year. Running has become a huge part of my life. But, fun fact: I used to hate, hate, HATE running. I couldn’t run a mile 3 years ago. Couldn’t and wouldn’t. I’d rather die. But I had a personal trainer for a while in college and she forced me to run a mile with her once or twice a week, and slowly but surely, running became a part of my life. IT IS POSSIBLE. The end. Back to regularly scheduled programming.]

Thats the easy part. Getting your body to look like that is easy when you look at it factually: Eat lean, clean, natural foods, lower your calorie intake, and exercise. Its a simple equation. To lose one pound of fat in one week, you must lower your calorie intake by 3,500 calories in that week. That means that you need to lessen your calorie intake by 500 calories a day through a combination of exercise and healthy eating (perhaps you burn 200 calories in exercise and you cut out 100 calories from breakfast, 100 from lunch, and 100 from dinner). Honestly, that doesn’t sound too bad, right? All of us are capable of achieving the body and the health that we desire. It is in our genetic makeup to be able to achieve that.

So… why in the hell is it so goddamn hard??!

If I really try hard, I can do enough bicep curls to have killer lady guns. No biggie, right? My body is capable of doing exactly what I want it to do. But my brain is the hardest muscle to reshape. The struggle for self control and stronger willpower seems to be so much more challenging than the 80 burpees I did on Monday (more on that later). And even doing the burpees isn’t even the real issue… I know my body will do them. My legs can jump and my arms can do push ups and my lungs can breathe and my heart can pump blood. I’ll be exhausted, but I can do it, eventually. But why is it that after doing 5 of those burpees, my brain says, “No, don’t do it, don’t do it! Noooo!” It requires turning off those thoughts (so hard to do) and forcing your body to do things that your brain doesn’t want to adjust to. Whether its burpees, 10 miles of running, weight lifting, or not eating the tempting food or choosing to eat salad instead of whatever you normally eat, it’s entirely a mental choice and our brains are so, so resistant to change.

Not only that, but I feel my brain being swarmed daily with conflicting ideas and advice about how to achieve the change I really want, and I’m constantly torn between different ways in which to get started. Should I focus on building healthy habits outside of health and exercise, and maybe I’ll get fit along the way? Should I focus on becoming vegan and then it’ll just be so much easier to lose weight? Should I focus on just exercising more, that way I’ll be happier and have more energy and be more motivated to make changes? Should I focus on writing more about how I feel about my current state so I can start to analyze my thoughts and behaviors from a basic, psychological level? Should I focus on doing more yoga and meditation to be centered and strong at my core? Should I focus on self love before changing anything about my lifestyle so that my heart is in the right place? Should I maybe just start with one thing and not overwhelm myself, and let everything else in my life stay the same for a bit so the change isn’t so striking?… AM I OVER THINKING THIS?

These are the things that go through my head constantly. And I haven’t quite found a balance between any of these thoughts, but the best answer to myself is… maybe its just a little bit of everything? I’m too distracted and ADD to be able to just do one thing. I need variety. Or at least variety is what has sustained me up until now, and I think it would be foolish of me to try to change that part of my personality. I need to learn to work within my own personal “constraints” in order to find the answers that are right for me. So taking a little from each of those thoughts and I suppose just patching it all together and “making it work” is the best, maybe the only way for me.

BUT ANYWAYS… what I was getting at was this: The body is easy. The mind is the real struggle. And even if I don’t always believe or truly internalize all the things I want to believe, as a friend (who happens to be a therapist) has said to me many times, “In order to achieve those deep-rooted cognitive changes and mental reframing, the trick really is just to fake it until you make it. Ultimately the subconscious doesn’t know the difference.” So, I suppose thats a great place to start. Similarly, a friend recently sent me this intriguing article explaining the effects of positive self affirmation, and how phrases like “I’m awesome” don’t really do much but something like “I am a great runner” are much more effective because they are direct, tangible, and easy to believe and internalize.

So, I want to focus on reminding myself of things that I know I’m good at and things I already like about myself, and I encourage you (whether you prefer privately or better yet, share it in the comments!) to do the same.

A few things I love about me:

I am an excellent dancer. It’s my greatest love, my greatest talent, and my greatest source of joy.

I am a great swimmer. 12 years of competitive swimming has made me a strong little fish, for life.

Thanks to swimming and waterpolo, I have strong shoulders and killer legs. My legs might be my favorite body part.

Hourglass figure! I’ve learned to love it as my love for fashion grew and I realized I could wear so many sexy, feminine pieces, like high-waisted skirts and belted dresses. I have a womanly body, and I like that.

I’ve always loved my hair. Though I have been caught complaining about the frizz (probably because every girl needs to find some aspect of their hair that they hate because its taboo to like your hair), it has always been a lie. I love my hair. Always have. Always will.

I like my eye color. Hazel.

I’m assertive and a natural leader. I love dealing with people, helping people, and teaching people and I love that about my personality.

I’m optimistic.

I speak 3 languages and I’m proud of my ability to learn languages with relative ease.

So there… a few things that I love about myself. I may make another one of these lists later, along with another list of accomplishments from the day. I found that to be a nice reminder to myself that things really are going well, even if I’m inclined to find the reasons for why they are not. Ultimately, things are GOOD. Things are great. I am healthy and strong, even when I have moments of weakness. Must learn to remind myself of this daily. Things really are just fine.

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A Little Thanks

I was reminded this morning by a friend about the importance of being thankful for all the things we already have in our lives, which reconnected me with a journal entry I wrote in January (in the Tone It Up community page) about giving thanks. As I recently wrote about Awareness, I want to follow up with that with a little bit about gratitude.

(Like I said, this was something I wrote in January, so it’s a little outdated, but it remains completely relevant and I want to share)

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I had a powerful moment today. I forced myself to go out on a run, even though it was raining when I stepped outside (and rained the entire time), because I’m training for my first half-marathon in two months and I need to catch up on my training. I really did not want to run. It was raining. And cold. And I was hungry. And tired. But I just shut off all those thoughts and went.

As I started to get wet, I said to myself, okay, maybe I’ll just do a short 10 minute run, and that will be enough, instead of my 4 miles I was supposed to do. But as I got the music in my headphones going and as the water started violently attacking my face, I just sort of forgot about all my worries, and kept running. Suddenly I felt so alive. I mean, it was just water, after all. Not all that different from the sweat dripping down my back. It’s just water, and I’m warm and dry (thanks to my new waterproof running jacket), and my music is good, and my legs feel fine, and I feel happy, so why should I stop early? I just kept running, never once stopping to question why, or how, and soon enough, I had reached my two-mile mark, when I knew I could turn around and run back home. And the whole time during my run, I kept thanking my feet and my legs for continuing, my heart for beating, my skin for sweating, and my mind for staying positive. And it was that continuous gratitude that really allowed me to succeed. I am certain of that.

Anecdotally, an old friend of mine from grade school just suffered a terrible loss in her life – her beloved older sister (only around 27 years old) passed away suddenly, leaving behind a loving young husband and a beautiful 2-year-old daughter. Her death has impacted me deeply, even though I didn’t know her much, and as a result, I have found a sudden, yet tragic, appreciation for my own body and my own life. This body that I have, however flawed it may be, is still my only vessel to exist on this planet – with out it, I am no longer. This is my home, where my soul can experience this beautiful life of ours, and I owe it to myself and to my loved ones to treat this body right.

During my run today, I kept having flashes of gratitude for my body, of excitement for the power I was generating with each sprint, of joy for the feeling of rain splattering my face, and of sadness for my friend’s sister, and that she will never feel this, ever again. My eyes watered and my arms spread wide into the air as I thought of how great it felt to be alive, and my eyes watered in another way as I thought of this girl, and how she is no longer. I thought of all the times I’ve gone running with my mother, and how her daughter will never share those moments with her own mother. I thought of the cramp in my side, and how she will never feel this annoying sensation again. And how lucky I am to feel pain. I thought of my small love handles and of my non-existent six-pack and of the hair on my arms and of my moderately sized chest, and how glad I am to have them all, because the alternative is just no good. Perfect or not, my body is alive, and that is the biggest blessing I could ever ask for.

I found out a few months ago that I have high cholesterol – apparently its genetic. My grandpa, a thin, healthy man, suffered a heart attack and had a triple bipass surgery over 20 years ago, and since then he has been very careful about watching his numbers. My dad, a cancer survivor and the healthiest person on this planet, also has high cholesterol despite his impecable diet and exercise regime. So it makes sense that I too would have the same problem, despite my otherwise healthy, active lifestyle. The news of my cholesterol being high was not really as impactful as it should have been at the time, because I continued to eat and slack off on my exercise as I have been for months now (I’ve gained over 15 pounds since May and until now, haven’t really done much about it, other than complain), and shortly after this news, I moved to France, where I’m sure my numbers have only gotten higher, thanks to the unhealthy French diet (cheese, butter, cream, red meat, bread, sweets, alcohol). But with the new year, and with the terrible news of my friend’s sisters death, I feel more inspired than before to really get back down to business and take control over my health, my body, and my life.

With todays successful run, I have discovered a few important things, mostly which I already shared above. It mostly boils down to being thankful for what I have, because it is so precious and life is too short to not care for the great gifts we have. So here is a little thanks, to me:

 

Thank you, legs, for pushing through all those miles even when brain said “stop”. Thank you, knees, for staying strong after everything I’ve put you through. Thank you, feet, for finding traction on the wet, rainy ground. Thank you for never quitting. Thank you, heart, for pumping blood into my runners veins. Gotta beat that damn cholesterol somehow! Thank you, body, for always being there for me when I want to run. Thank you for being alive, healthy, and beautiful. Thank you, me, for caring enough about my life to get up and run, even in the rain.

With Love,
Me

 

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Message me or leave a comment sharing what you’re thankful for. Your gratitude is an inspiration. Let someone be moved by you!

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Salad Bowl

One of the things I’m slowly learning is how to use what I have on hand to eat as healthy as I can. Since I live with a host family, I don’t exactly have control over what groceries they buy or when they buy them, so I’m often at the mercy of whatever is available here, which is not the typical food that I would normally buy at home. One afternoon, after a good workout, I went upstairs and, because of my limited time and my general laziness, I came dangerously close to eating something stupid for lunch, like cereal and cheese or whatever. But I took a moment to think about it and I decided to try to make some type of salad with whatever I could find, and surprisingly, it came out pretty damn good. So good, I ate the whole bowl.

(In my defense, lettuce takes up a lot of space on a plate so I had to use a salad bowl to be able to eat properly)

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In my salad, I used lettuce (yes it was the lame kind, but beggars cant be choosers), leftover bits of chicken, a bit of a red bell pepper, shredded carrots, raisins, walnuts, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Not too shabby for a whatever-I’ve-got salad, I must say.

It’s moments like those that remind me that I am strong enough to say no to the easy way out and to prioritize my health above my instincts to not care. In general, my host family does have healthy options at home, but they are different from what I’m used to or what I normally like and I have to get creative in order to feed my body right. I think this is extremely important for anyone in a remotely similar situation to mine, like people on a budget (which I totally am on), or people also living abroad, or people without a lot of time (aka, everyone), or whatever your circumstance may be. Taking 5 – 10 extra minutes to prioritize your health will payoff in more ways than I can count, and in ways that extend far beyond just the immediate impact of a good meal.

Making your body (your one and only vessel where your soul can exist!) a priority is of incredible importance. It doesn’t have to be about getting abs or having a jiggle-free ass… those things are accessories, if you work hard enough for them. More importantly though, it’s about maintaing a healthy weight, because obesity is one of the worlds greatest killers and it seriously affects the global economy because of its effect on healthcare systems. Its also about prolonging your life so that you wont spend your old age in a bed, that is if you are lucky enough to make it to old age. Its even about making the right choices for the environment, for the economy, for your society, by choosing raw, natural, organic, local food over processed, mass-produced, government subsidized food-like products. Its about knowing your own strength, your standards, and your needs and working hard to maintain them all in a positive light. Its about loving yourself enough to care about this one precious body and life of yours. Eating right is just simply the right choice, and there are just no two ways about that.

As I’ve heard many, many times over, “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.”

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