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Month: July 2015

Confessions of a Naysayer

Criticizing various lifestyles negatively has been common during my search for sustainable weight loss and fitness solutions. I confess I was a naysayer. Hearing the words, Nutrisystem®, Atkins®, Weight Watchers®, South Beach®, Jenny Craig®, Raw Food Diet, The Zone Diet®, The Lemonade Cleanse®, and Restricted Calories Lifestyle, I cringe imagining the multiple experiences and money eaten up with each food plan over decades of weight loss attempts. Buns of Steel®, The Firm®, P90X®, TurboFire®, marathons, and gym memberships, all tried and tested live in the past. Certainly, every food and exercise plan works for somebody, and may be sustainable for someone. None mentioned above curved my appetite nor motivated me to continue long enough to maintain weight loss, lose optimal weight, or increase muscle mass. As a Debbie Downer, a wet blanket upon other’s dreams, the pessimist searching for a sustainable solution thinking the well ran dry, I am now a recovering naysayer.

Recollecting who I used to be within the eyes and voices of others, I listen now as others question my current success, wondering about its sustainability. Can clean, real food, unprocessed, free of gluten, simple sugars, and most dairy, with community support become a lifestyle? Will I always journal my food? Will boot camps, StrikeFit®, and other specialty exercise classes lose my interest, while injuring joints and muscles while aging? Will motivation wane and perseverance give way to cookies, candy, and the next food craze? The critical inquiry is lifestyle sustainability. If every plan works for someone, have I found the one that works for me. Informing my cardiologist uncle that I consume several eggs daily but my LDL (good cholesterol) level reads 74; he infers genetics plays a role. Yet my parents consume cholesterol medication daily confirming that everyone is highly individual.

After one year, my current lifestyle seems sustainable, while my body, mind, and soul continue to feel well. The journey always necessitates continued evaluation and growth. Needing not to answer how the future unfolds, but knowing a solution exists in my favor is the imperative piece of the puzzle. Personal growth aims for our best selves. When we arrive, do we know it? What does it look like for each of us? What necessitates change? What is sustainable? As individuals react differently, finding the right avenue for each of us is crucial. While a naysayer, stuck in my own failure, envious of those who discovered sustainable weight loss, maintenance, and fit lifestyles, my negativity unleashed inward and outward. While in recovery now I observe my old self in others, naysaying, hoping they, too, shall find their sustainable solution.

Essential Zzz’s

One of the most crucial elements to weight loss and gain is sleep. My experience, articles, and studies, validate this assertion. When weight loss and overall well-being are your intention, prevention of sleep deprivation must reign supreme. Mental clarity, metabolism, health risks, and a plethora of plaguing reactions occur without enough slumber. Consequently, when high levels of the stress hormone Cortisol exist, interrupted sleep and inability to sleep, may contribute to weight gain results. If weight loss seems stunted, examining your stress and sleep levels may be an immediate solution to effectively rev the engine for optimal forward motion.

Sleep deprivation affects the brain’s frontal lobe, the focal point for decision-making and impulse control. Like being inebriated, lack of mental clarity slows reaction time, and failure to respond responsibly affects choices negatively. Several studies indicate that less sleep contributes to high fat and high-carbohydrate snack cravings and consumption, late night eating, and utilizing food to relieve lack of sleep’s discomfort. Without effective quality and amounts of sleep, attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving skills are impaired and decrease successful weight loss attempts.

Recognizing how quality and amount of sleep affect the metabolism from functioning properly is imperative for a successful weight loss journey. Author, Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep and clinical director of the sleep division of Arrowhead Health in Glendale, AZ, states that receiving enough sleep affects nightly hormones. Ghrelin, the hormone that signals when to eat elevates with sleep deprivation, while leptin, the hormone that controls satiety decreases. Additionally, less than seven hours of nightly sleep affects glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, determining how well the body can metabolize energy from foods containing carbohydrates.

Hosts of other ailments conclusively correlate with sleep deprivation. Insomnia increases the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. Sleep deprivation may attribute to lower levels of libido, hence affecting sex lives as well. Less than six hours of sleep has been associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Lack of sleep also ages skin, causing puffy eyes, dreary skin, and fine lines. Without effective sleep, the stress hormone, Cortisol, may break down collagen that maintains skin’s smooth elasticity, while the growth hormone that thickens skin, thickens bones, and increases muscle mass, decreases.

Necessary sleep is crucial for optimal health. Affecting decision-making, metabolism, cravings, hormones, libido, depression, anxiety, skin, and overall well-being, the connection between sleep deprivation and weight loss efforts is immense. Seven to nine hours of slumber per night requires due diligence. Utilizing magnesium or a relaxation routine to encourage immediate and quality sleep is helpful. Reducing stress via meditation, healthy food, and a calmer lifestyle, to prevent Cortisol levels from rising, while reducing caffeinated beverages in the afternoon are also supportive measures. Optimal sleep is a definite prerequisite for weight loss management. Be sure you are getting your essential zzz’s.

Strategic Advantage

Self-reliance and accountability are vital necessities in life, yet human connection is equally important. Traveling the weight loss and exercise journey alone carries greater potential hazardous risk of failure. Community support, our external environment, and helping others while holding ourselves accountable are a combined union for successful results. When asked what happens when the support dissipates leaving me alone to fly solo, will I succeed upon this journey? Conclusively my thirty years of experience answers definitively, I shall never seek weight loss and exercise alone. Rather than living in a bubble with sole self-reliance, accessing community support encourages human connection and a web of consistent accountability. Although courageous and ambitious, martyrdom I seek not. A solo expedition increases failure rate considerably. Community support is a strategic advantage in winning the weight loss war.

Hardwired for human connection, we utilize communities consistently to support our families, education, and lifestyles daily. Companies, jobs, and careers require human support networks to accomplish numerous tasks. Raising families without community support through carpools and helpful emotional sustainability, care, and sustenance, external resources as recreation and education would fail miserably. In all facets of our existence, the reliance upon others requires trust, faith, and vulnerability. To empathize, support, and reciprocate help is part of the human condition. Allowing others to raise us up in many corners of living is no different from living a healthy lifestyle. Many studies prove that social, external support to improve weight loss management is crucial. Without it, the risk of relapse is greater. Joining supportive networks of friends and strangers along the same journey is significant for successful long-term results.

While being self-reliant is notable, seeking support is not weakness. Instead, it shows wisdom to recognize the power of community, the effectiveness of common experience to propel success, and the strength of helping others. This strategic advantage does not release self-accountability. There is no one holding my hand to choose healthy foods, driving me to boot camps to pump weights, or tracking my food intake. Self-motivation, determination, and perseverance are still required, as is independent action. Yet orchestrate a union between self-accountability and community support, and the power to succeed strengthens. Going it alone is one option, combining it with the power of many is strategically beneficial. Propelled to utilize the latter, everyone must decide for him or herself. Yet community support remains a strategic advantage in my playbook.

Winds of Changing Habits

When asked about my fitness and weight management lifestyle, I explain its gradual, consistent, and purposeful ascent into habit. With focus and intention on “clean” eating, allowing it to penetrate physically and psychologically, it becomes a consistent routine. Not a diet, I defensively deny the depiction of the boxed definition of deprivation, restricted calories, and control over food intake.

Instead, my lifestyle requires a new mindset, viewing food as fuel, consuming an abundance of healthy real food, and practicing self-respect and care for what enters my body. As for fitness, boot camps, and specialty strength classes work the core, muscles, and mental toughness. Yet subtle describes the process, like a dot-to-dot puzzle, connecting one action to the next. When exchanging old habits for new ones, fresh seeds grow. They orchestrate the winds of change.

Twelve months concentrating on altering my actions, mindset, and knowledge, establishing a sustainable lifestyle is transformative. Yet time is the deciding factor, judge, and jury. Is it sustainable for a year, two years, five years, or a lifetime? Embracing this lifestyle and engaging in extensive emotional healing with significant physical, mental, and emotional strength adds a meaningful dimension to life.

A newly conceived body, a healed heart, and a committed mindset lead the line of longevity. Making the habits what I do, who I am, and how I live, allow the winds of change to wash over me and require continued motivation, inspiration, and intention towards each day’s actions. Can I do this for a lifetime? At the end of my life, I will know. For now, moment by moment, I embrace the change while a lifetime passes.

Living from the Tombstone

While attending business school, an assignment to decide the words upon our tombstone fostered a meaningful discussion. Writing our eulogy for leading a better life examines values, ambitions, and dreams. Hearts beat in an inspiring direction to live life with purpose. Grounded in meaning, our actions breathe a life of compassion, kindness, and connection. A playing field of anything is possible sprouts from the imagination. Yet as I took stock of my life, awareness of my damaged wings rose to the surface. Emotional baggage prevented me from soaring, tattered and torn wings weighed down by my past grounded me from liftoff. A wounded soul in need of healing, I reexamined my life from the inside out.

To live a life with meaning, my wounded heart must know forgiveness, experience peace, and learn to love again. Without the wherewithal, I searched within for worthiness only to find empty space, a tortured anger, and dormant sadness from yesteryear. Uncovering the depth of my despair, healing the wounds with compassion, love, and forgiveness, years passed. The process was as silent as a whisper, as if inching closer without hearing fully, gathering strength by the gram rather than pound, and releasing the past like a caress that dissipates into the wind. Enigmatically with fifteen years of gradual ascent, a knowing of self-love, gratitude, and comfort of self-worth encompassed every cell of my being.

Arrival at this knowing is palpable, but not readily explainable. Like a softened heart, an inner strength, and self-respect, the intangibles source the emotion of well being, happiness, and self-love. Healing reformulates wings, magically it seems, stronger than I imagined or thought possible, and spread full of Grace for flight. Soaring now with self confidence, self-worth, and comfort in my skin, I fly effortlessly, higher by the heart’s internal light, and smoother by the wind that releases my sails initially obstructed by weight, force, and obstacles. Lightened by the healing, love, and journey, I see my tombstone now engraved by a life being fully lived. Written upon it is the description of a woman who lived, worthy of speaking her truth, loving, and connecting all the way to her grave. She soared like an eagle, free to fly, free to roam, and free to live without fear. Are you living from the tombstone?

Never Loved You Anyway

Waiting for the pounds to plummet is like a spoken southern drawl, elongated by the sound of our feet hitting the scale, the relentless exhale as the ticker lands on a number like a roulette wheel, and the realization of defeat again. Many worldwide awaken to step upon the metal box that adorns the bathroom tiles, praying that a certain number’s appearance commends and rewards efforts. Unfortunately, the lifeless object contains no feelings, friendship, or faithful bond. Without any authority, it has an “all-knowing” power. Allowing this metal, rectangular prism to declare your fate of happiness or tears, smiles or sadness, strength or weakness, is a practice in futility. Is it time to say “good-bye” and “good riddance” to this imbalance in your life?

The scale, housing itself on millions of bathroom floors tortures those who step upon it while giving it the power to decide their emotional state. Giving the scale the heave-ho may be the next step. As a measurement tool, limited in its inability to accurately calculate body fat, size, or muscle mass, its inexact results also do not tally water retention. Furthermore, consistency from one scale to the next differs significantly. Yet its emotional power over the masses has long reigned. Whether you stand upon it multiple times per day, per week, or per year, it may change even when your body has not. Yet it loses its power when you remove it entirely.

Hopping upon the scale never shows us any love, nor does it say, “Good job.” The clunky base adorning bathrooms awaits silently our arrival, yet will never be your friend, nor has it ever been. It bruises egos, shatters confidence, and adds fuel to the pendulum of bad feelings. We want a good relationship with this daily visit, yet the final figure glides upward causing realization, upset, and arousal from a numeric value defining us. When the number hunkers downward, we scream with alliance, yet an upward spin makes us yell with defiance. It seems a no-win proposition to have any relationship with the scale even though breaking up is hard to do.

The scale’s utility as a weight loss, assessment tool is limited. It sets off emotional turmoil, resulting in momentary approval or disappointment. Rarely is satisfaction the resulting emotion, and its effects of overconsumption no matter the direction the dial moves, negates progress. Removing it from the household may be a plausible solution for this negative, influential, inanimate object. After years of this toxic relationship, it is time to give it the boot. Happiness you seek lies within; no number defines you. Recognizing the weight on the scale as simply assessing your gravity in relation to the ground and not your success rate, the healthy lifestyle remains the focal point. Dump the scale; it never loved you anyway!

Extricate Emotional Shrapnel

Emotional shrapnel from dieting war games wounds confidence, damages determination, and remains affixed until removed. Insecurity bleeds beneath the surface, discouragement dangles from imperfection, and defeat from pounds lost and gained builds scars, while self worth takes a continuous beating. To rehabilitate from such battles, inner healing of self-acceptance, love, and respect must emerge. Winning the war on pounds is about regaining self worth initially pounded out by early emotional defeat. To release this birth-given, divine right of worthiness into present day living, is to establish the frontline with an innate knowing of who you are. Without becoming your authentic self, the long-term battle is doomed to fail fatally and repeatedly. Self worth dictates choices and therefore, motivating self-love to rise within is crucial for victory.

Choosing nutritional rather than toxic edibles to bypass our lips and practicing self-care versus destructive behaviors to support rather than debilitate, navigate the healthy path. Eating harmful foods, taking care of others without addressing self-needs, and choosing toxic relationships, are ingredients that stage a battlefield of self-destruction. Self-limiting beliefs and steeping feelings of non-deserving of optimal options, burn into the psyche. Decades of choosing poor quality foods, partners with low self worth, and emotionally toxic friends, depict low self-value. Without optimizing choices for better, drawing along the mediocre line in the sand stands below par. Storming the beaches for improvement must correlate with actions.

Exercise environments that increase energy, endurance, and strength as well as confidence, friendship, and community highlight a self-care model for internal and external healing. Clean food that supplies mental acuity cleanses physical interior walls, a “feel-good” energy adds to the foundation to illuminate self worth. Coordinated with therapeutic relief from past emotional pain through forgiveness, and alleviating dormant trauma triggering today’s actions contributes to overall sustainable well-being. This effortful process is the “worthy” fight. Win this war, and sustainable weight loss is possible. Emotional turmoil, a heavy burden from past or present deters weight loss sustainability, and is the tipping point towards success or failure.

A lifestyle plan may drop weight physically, but without self worth at its foundation, sustainability is futile. Working on the core of who we are contributes significantly to results. Yesterday’s actions affect today’s outcome while today’s moments are a product of tomorrow. Therefore, change today and tomorrow becomes anew. Self worth enables actions to align respectfully in favor of successful outcomes. What we put out in the world reflects back to us. Many believe we attract what we do, but reflecting who we are seems accurate. Emoting self-love that extricates the diet war’s emotional shrapnel plaguing hearts consecrates weight loss sustainability into a foundation of lifelong worth within us. Let self worth reflect upon the world enabling limitless possibility.

Cookie for a Skinned Knee

Whether a cookie, ice cream, or brownie graces the table with each bee sting, bruise, academic or athletic achievement, food rewards are a challenging habit to break. Skinned knees, A’s on report cards, holidays, hurt feelings, achievements, and pain rewarded by food is a common response, fostering the “I can fix, heal, remove, celebrate that feeling” with food. Reeling us into the pantry for sugar-laden medals and sweet rewards, goodies celebrate the victories, and/or ease the pain of falling down, burning a finger on a stove, or hurt feelings. Junk food consumption for regular relief of feeling uncomfortable or emotionally hurt, packs on the pastries and pounds. Reframing food’s purpose by releasing connections between food and emotion is vital for successful weight loss and maintenance.

Food as fuel negates food-rewarded needs, and fosters respect for healthy choices and the body. If food’s sole purpose is energy, emotional responses must reroute or express themselves elsewhere. Gathering alternatives for discomfort, emotional releases, and successes is imperative to reframe food’s function. Not an easy transition, yet it changes the way we view situations; therefore, the responses alter course. Exercising and building the muscle to modify eating behavior takes practice, perseverance, and motivation. As a repeated reminder, food’s function as optimal energy, fueling muscles, and sending nutrition to the brain, is essential. Physically feeling good is the prime goal, while cravings dissipate, energy resumes, and mental clarity returns. Imbalanced sugar levels cloud judgment, energy levels, and fool the appetite by misguided hunger.

Proper nutrition provides a balanced chemical response that enhances quality of life. By rewarding emotion with unhealthy foods, we threaten the body’s optimal functioning. Equilibrium, the natural response, causes the body to attempt elimination of incoming threats of toxicity or unrecognizable ingredients within processed foods, by becoming inflamed, digestively distressed, or eventually diseased. Treating ourselves respectfully with healthy, edible options, and utilizing “food as fuel,” circumnavigates this problem. Anything that band-aids rather than cures is counterintuitive to healing. Treating feelings with food addresses symptoms of discomfort and emotional celebration, yet damages heavily. A cookie for a skinned knee eventually causes additional pain, sometimes irrevocable. Healthy food as fuel can temper this future predicament.

Commencement

Commencement represents graduating from one life chapter into the next while contemplating the future. When I taught middle school, every June a recurring dream envisioned my death and a funeral to follow. I wondered who would attend and how would anyone know of my demise (prior to social media). A relentless sadness engulfed my psyche. With concern my death was imminent, a friend set the record straight, suggesting that the end of each academic year brought with it feelings of completion of one life, while a new set of students started the process again in September. As my current twelve-week exercise and weight loss journey ends and a new one commences, I contemplate the future with fresh eyes, ears, and actions.

With one week remaining, taking stock of the experience flows into my consciousness. Many prior participants fail in second, third, and fourth twelve-week program attempts, as their practices become lackadaisical, laid-back, and rebounding pounds return while former, poor eating habits resurface. Fueling motivation to reduce future failure like the initial fire that sparked my first twelve weeks requires exploring, searching, and digging for inspiration. Engaging with each twelve-week challenge, as if brand new, requires intention, goals, and determination that pave the path to continue what experience has taught me, while releasing less than optimal actions. When failure occurs along repeated journeys that were once successful, inner healing waits an awakening.

Getting to the core of underlying emotional issues along the weight loss journey sounds an alarm. The initial accolades that complemented your journey from outside sources as friends, neighbors, and strangers, cannot remain prime motivation. Internal praise, the heart or soul’s applause, contain the continued fist bumps. Transitioning to a long-term healthy lifestyle, growing comfortable in a new body, and healing within, must differ from the initial bout in the ring of past weight loss failures. Going ten rounds in the fight for maintained weight loss, fitness, and inner healing, is lengthy, hard, and requires stamina, consistency, and perseverance. Each leg of the journey commences, graduating from an ending to new beginnings. Repeated finishes and starts are lessons in completions and renewals, freedom from past transgressions, and a movement forward to pastures of personal growth. Let the commencement begin.

Hit the Refresh Button

My weight loss and maintenance process is broken down to twelve-week increments. The door of my recent three-month experience is closing as another opens. Strategically I end and then start a fresh twelve-week challenge with a supportive, social network of like-minded individuals with similar weight loss, fitness, and personal growth goals. Each person arrives at beginnings differently, some distrusting from being duped by the diet industry, several open with a hint of nervous excitement and opportunity awaiting, while others trust the process immediately. Whichever pile an individual originates from, all are worthy of reaching their goals. Helping others acclimate into the lifestyle is inspiring, energizing, and rewarding. New beginnings starting each three months refreshes the journey.

By hitting the refresh button, an excitement reoccurs every twelve weeks, reengaging the process by reframing and renewing the knowledge and wisdom. Like a starting line with newfound energy and vigor for the next cycle, we shift into drive away from coasting, no longer running on empty fumes and final sprints to the finish line. That prior race becomes history, while new avenues establish fresh paths to carve and pave, alternative strategies yet to come, and non-scale victories on the horizon. No longer bursts of pounds dropping, instead tiny increments of ounces decrease to cross a major finish line onto the last lap of lifetime weight and fitness maintenance, full of strength, self-assurance, and pride. Living in the body that highlights your best self, comfortable in your skin with emotional balance, and living your ultimate purpose, is a victory within a lifetime marathon, rather than a sprint.

Refining our tools for a lifestyle of clean eating and healthy boot camp classes is the continued journey. Given a repeatable opportunity to right the wrongs of failed attempts, healthy living rebounds, buoyant and refreshed by newfound energy. Each trip enables a strengthening of healthy practices, learning from the errors of our ways, and enhancing the success rate of hard work, dedication, and resilience. To regain footing when traction slips, we return to the track when off roaded by distractions and lift ourselves up when life shoots us down. Interruptions sometimes lead us astray. Doing consistent actions over time is the foothold of ultimate, long-term success. Hitting the refresh button repeatedly enables improvement, increased motivation, and resilience along the weight loss journey.

The Quest for Greatness

My quest for the Holy Grail of sustainable weight loss and maintenance is complete. Eating enough calories for satiation and preserving muscle while balancing sugar levels and exercising vigorously for short periods, is my prototype. To eliminate the weight, reveal the underlying muscle, and heal the inner emotional turmoil, are pieces of my puzzle for sustainable weight loss. When put into place, wholeness replaces the void that used to occupy a space within. Maintaining this masterpiece of wholeness completes the quest for greatness.

Tools scattered, half-baked solutions abundant, and follow-through short lived, I searched for the magic pill, the pot of gold, and the silver bullet of sustainable weight loss. The search ended when I stopped searching outward, as the answers lay within. Truth lay dormant in my heart and soul, awakened by readiness, desire, and effort. Finding the Holy Grail of weight loss, weight maintenance, and fitness took extensive research, experimentation, and struggle along a roller coaster path of weight loss and gain. Yet a paradigm shift occurred, changing my mindset about food, exercise, and time as an elixir, while required healing within turned the necessary final key to reach the ultimate treasure.

Bypassing hard work is not an option; emotional healing cannot be hidden, squashed, or swallowed. Gathering the broken pieces of our bodies and hearts is a prerequisite for change. Without addressing internal strife, imbalance occurs, causing preservation of brokenness within, diminished physical strength, and revisited pounds. Utilizing community support conjures weight loss, and empowers transformation. Like an everlasting Gobstopper®, the colors might keep changing, but eventually if you remain committed, you will reach the core, the great sweetness of arrival. There are no shortcuts to the center, no biting through to shortchange the journey. Lessons along the avenue of change are vital for achievement, maintenance, and increased strength.

Eating for fuel, weight bearing exercises, and psychological healing, are works in progress. Without the journey, the result is short lived. Finding a man behind a curtain with all the answers, only to realize they were with you all along is an age-old story. Yet seek the truth and you shall find the will, ability, and motivation, to carry yourself over the rainbow and back home again. Within our hearts and bodies lives the Holy Grail, we sought to find. There stands our strength, our noble steed, awaiting an awakening into wholeness of being.

Through the journey, winding roads, and obstacles there to teach resilience, lessons of forgiveness, and great understanding, we reach a pinnacle unlike anything experienced before. These lessons build courage, knowledge, and fortitude for the lifelong journey. They fill in the puzzle, putting pieces in place where gaps had stood, resulting in wisdom, healing, and courage for a lifestyle of maintained sustenance, strength, and wholeness of well-being. The quest for greatness continues over a lifetime, no ending, no beginning, but a journey to the Holy Grail within.

Far Side of Struggle

Struggle finds us even when our eyes are wide-open awaiting shoes to drop and mountains to crumble. It surprises us, makes our knees buckle, and the ground suddenly feels closer to our hearts than moments before. We grasp at air to stay standing, yet fall upon the ground, pushing and pulling, clawing and climbing until we rest as our energy wanes among the ruins of despair, waiting for a savior, surrendering with a white flag flying, uncertain of how to rise to our feet again. Solutions are distant like a memory trying to retrieve itself, former knowledge vanishes from the forefront, and we lay tattered, worn out, and empty in the dirt of failure.

Yet when silence and stillness come, a soulful whisper does speak volumes of our strength, past victories, and resilience that live within. With self-compassion, begin to dust off, take stock of the current situation, and align goals with actions. Perhaps initially we rise to our knees, strength builds upon small increments until momentum or a hand lifts us higher. Atrophy need not return to the distant starting line, but further along than initially thought. Our egos recap incompetence, worthlessness, and failed outcomes, while our hearts reiterate our true value awaiting acknowledgment shutting out the cruel inner voice that plagues us.

Though the struggle is real, the heart leads you to the other side where healing lays waiting for solace, strength, and confidence to build. When feeling the pain influenced by hurtful substances ingested, let yourself feel the wanting of more and more, to let go of needing more and more. In these moments cry the tears of old patterns, desires of comfort, and absent relief of pain, like an old muscle memory that lingers long past its welcome. Those symptoms torment for immediate gratification while the heart aches for reaching the other side of struggle. The sweet relief is temporary until we distance ourselves from the culprits taunting our taste buds, acting as dictators to our senses, and attracting themselves to us like the addiction they have become.

The far side of struggle stands past the pain and requires acceptance of its lesson. Embrace the knowledge it offers. Old patterns repeat as guidance of significant value with messages that engage the future path set for us. Consequently, struggle waits steadfastly until ready to move to its far side. Lean into the emotion to let the whispers speak fully and wholeheartedly. Our healing lies within hearing the cries of wisdom. Without moving beyond the struggle, we remain in a holding pattern, reacting to pain with comfort by unhealthy replacements for nurturing. There we reside until the healing comes. Be mindful of how pain exhibits itself, what it teaches, and how to align with it for healing. The paved path is a truth away with a shift of intention, focus, and awareness bubbling to the surface. This path leads to the far side of struggle. Take the first step.

Shift Happens

External transformation causes an internal stirring of emotions. On the periphery, we alter our bodies and environment: reduce inflammation, cleanse clothes from the closets, release toxic friends, clear the clutter, and eliminate consumption of artificial ingredients. Inevitably, an emotional shift occurs when we lose significant weight. Clean food choices, exercise, and community support change our energy, physically and psychologically. Deadened, dormant pieces of ourselves arise from their slumber and shift our awareness. Deep-seeded, internal, heartfelt secrets emerge from the soul and awaken for healing, retrieval, and release. Speaking our truth, illuminating the untold stories and guarded spaces of ourselves, ultimately sets us free to live an enlightened existence of self-love, peace, and happiness.

When we physically change, sacred secrets hidden within awaken our senses. Releasing imprisoned emotions requires courage to bare the bones of our hurt, alleviate our pain from the past, and shed the stale crusts of our core, ignored, buried, and shut out from the light. These shadows deter life’s full potential, limit possibilities, and diminish self-worth. Shielding ourselves from truth, we fear its existence and the vulnerability that lurks with possible exposure. Yet that vulnerability is the exact necessity for strength and healing. The hidden pieces of us must find light, awareness, and visibility in order to heal, mend, and alleviate buried pain. Without this nakedness of being, we lay injured, in disrepair, and immobile. Love, worthiness, and healing are precepts for change, strength, and connection.

Hardwired for connection, vulnerability, truth, and empathy are its foothold. To have a sense of belonging, we must feel worthy, illuminate our authentic selves through truth, and access the deepest depths of our hearts. Mutual exposure with others forms human bonds where empathy lives. Accessing “me also” from another strengthens vulnerability, an empowered feeling and weaving of connection. Even if our experiences are different, we walk in other’s shoes in our mind’s eye to share the sacred space. Taking the risk to reveal our inner selves to entrusted friends, therapists, or relatives, has rewards, while exposure to those who do not have our backs may warrant some falls in the process. While failed connection may occur, entrusted confidantes holding your story and pain with safety, empathy, and love is worth the risk.

As the body transforms into a stronger, thinner, and exposed version of our old selves, so too will our insides shift. A supportive network of people is necessary to carry our truth, healing, and pain. Aloneness, independence, and sole survival do not equate with humankind. Delving into our past reveals our true selves, alleviates the wounds, and stirs inner change. Although an internal process, community rises up in support. When the shift hits the fan, life happens. It spins, sputters, and spits out the dust of life experiences, awaiting cleanup. Should we allow the dust to settle upon the sills of our lives, it may remain untouched until stirred by the winds of change. Body transformation is the ultimate in unsettling our dust. Worth exploration, worth risk, and worth pain to heal the inner wounds, we enable true worth of our existence to rise from the ashes with the support of community. We are worthy of this greatness.

Raise ‘Em Up

The remarkable workout community I frequent uniquely offers support. Competitive, corporate, and scrutinizing gym populations miss the mark propping up peers. Exercise environments propagate vulnerability and act as starting gates for fitness and weight loss. Initially physically weak, aiming for strength and health, a harsh, competitive atmosphere triggers newcomers to run for the exit long before reaching goals. Discovering an alternative, special environment, where raising one another up and offering support, rather than negatively judging, surprised me. Helpful advice granted, sacrificed workouts to guide others, and extreme encouragement offered to the new, the weary, and the shy, counter usual gym atmosphere. Raising others up emotionally is a lesson in giving, wishing better and more for the stranger next to you, an effective, overwhelmingly, heartwarming experience.

Giving without expecting anything in return, this gym community bonds within a private, social media page with words of wisdom, inquiries, and cheer. Motivational pep talks parade the pages; postings by veterans and newcomers alike engage and commiserate about emotional healing, fitness, and weight loss. Pictures of food preparation, inspirational quotes, and before/after photos of successful participants, bombard the posts to engage and inspire the masses toward successful choices. Women vulnerably divulging life struggles meet up with empathy, supportive solutions, and listening ears, raising hope, sharing healing processes, and establishing an inclusive, belonging spirit to over four hundred pairs of watching eyes and sponge-like minds

Besides the virtual community, connection, camaraderie, and collaboration occur upon the floors of exercise classes. Teaming up for intense strength interval training, boosting the efforts of a partner, is a full energy sprint in giving with energy, enthusiasm, and support. Wanting more for someone else orchestrates a genre of palpable, euphoric giving. It plays a harmonizing tune in our hearts, pounding from adrenalin, beating with love emotionally, and sounding the alarm of support. Reciprocation feels immensely satisfying, yet unexpected. Joy, healing, and belonging occupy connection among peers while bonding ensues, vulnerability dissipates, and strength flows among the masses.

Competitive environments motivate many, yet within the vulnerable space of healing the broken emotional parts of ourselves, empathy necessitates a kind-hearted community, connection, and consoling place. Typical gym philosophy negates this need. Yo-yo diet and fitness cycling continue without core results, core healing, and core well-being. Community supports accountability, and motivation to be better, do better, and become the best versions of ourselves. Breaking down the boundaries, revealing the depth of our despair, and revolutionizing support through connection, the charge to change fitness communities is possible. Raising each other up enables the successful road to wellness, paved with generosity, sharing, and engagement of humanity’s greatest strength, love.

Recognize other’s success is not your failure, kind people are the best type of people, and a supportive environment is the difference between successful, sustainable lifestyles and failed long-term attempts. Boosting up others’ spirit, power, and reserve to continue when failure feels inevitable, empowers the masses. It raises hope that anything is possible with the power of many. Assembling the pieces of the weight loss, fitness journey alone requires perseverance, focused energy, and consistency. Yet when the shoe drops, others picking you up, dusting you off, and exhibiting compassion, a web weaves connection. Together courage, accountability, sustainable success causes the confetti to fly. Community within the gym requires “raising ‘em up.”

Toxic Friend Removal

Besides cleansing the closet, body, and pantry of past poisons and fashions, emotional toxicity lurks within relationships. Chosen friends strengthen or deplete, support or oppose, compliment or criticize. When you succeed or fail, do they empathize or sympathize, encourage or discourage, share or monopolize? Toxic individuals embody a variety of characters, yet how you feel when with them and long after reveal the amount of connection, sincerity, and support within a friendship. During the weight loss journey, a path of improvement strengthening physically and emotionally, intention, connection, and camaraderie among friends requires evaluation. Identifying ally or enemy is vital for success.

Friendships experience transitions, sometimes necessitating change and departure. A former “you” no longer fuels the same fire and needs to change environments to accommodate successful results. Reaching goals through actions requires setting and aligning parameters. Environments we choose, including our social interactions, must correlate with changes to our lifestyle. Like alcoholics no longer visiting bars, healthy lifestyles constitute gym gatherings rather than junk food outings. Like dates with Ben and Jerry traded in for Sal and Ed, the old connections no longer serve you, as drinking, all-you-can-eat buffets, or commiserating about the hardness of life, pivot to healthy options with like-minded souls.

When change bestows novel experiences, revelation, and positive body and mind transformation, finding and utilizing social support is beneficial. Like energy vampires, those that suck life force from a path that highlights healing, strength, and personal growth, toxic relationships test stamina and determination. Low self-esteem perhaps enables a friend to feel needed, helpful, and supportive. When independence and self-reliance appear, their importance diminishes, and the friendship’s foundation depletes. Authentic, balanced relationships remain fertile even during change and struggle. Genuine friends support unconditionally, surviving, shifting, and thriving, while relationship limitations illuminate weakness when emotional bonds disband as each individual grows.

Connection requires vulnerability, allowing emotional exposure. Laying our hearts open in the presence of others is required. If you feel threatened, violated, insulted when you reveal yourself with words and emotions, then disconnection exists. Toxicity of that nature is the poison that burns our insides as we hang up the phone and think, “That felt awful. Did she insult me while complimenting me? Was she cheering for me while criticizing simultaneously? Was she jealous rather than envious?” Friendship is safe, feels good, and requires reciprocation. Sharing that vulnerable emotional space builds a foundation of connection. Empathy, the “me, too” attitude is required, while sympathy, “well, at least you …,” disengages the closeness. Although situational moments exist, connection strengthens a relationship.

Friendship has equal opportunity for trust, support, and affection. Anything less is unworthy of your time, energy, and commitment. Experiencing worthiness is pinnacle in healing and lifestyle change. Those that respect your choices will always be there to share, cheer, and support your endeavors. Saboteurs, naysayers, and negative Nellies, weaken our resolve when we allow it. Accessing independence from others’ thoughts equates to “what others think of me is none of my business.” Removing toxic people from our lives is another step in the journey to self-care, self-reliance, and self-respect. Our renewal depends on setting those people free and releasing their lassos. Building a network that correlates with who you are becoming is a prerequisite to long-term healing, healthy weight loss, and well-being.

Embracing the Pear

Disproportionate, pear-shaped women who embrace their curves encompass self-acceptance. An eyebrow of uncertainty rises while reading this by those unaware of this particular population. Less than endowed upper-bodied women, occupying a bigger, bequeathed booty, have curves like a trapezoid, also known as pear-shaped or pyriform. Essentially shoulders, chest, and waists, are narrower, while hips, thighs, and buttocks, have considerable width in comparison.

Therefore, bathing suits bought in separates is necessary; pant sizes are larger to accommodate a bigger booté; and A-line skirts, dresses, and wider pants are prerequisites for attire. Although pear-shape physiques have a decreased risk of heart disease and child-rearing hips are handy for motherhood, supermodels with this description rarely exist in our culture. Embracing these bodily quirks and blessings are part of the healing journey towards a healthy body image.

My pear-shaped experience as a thin person proves that when my pant size dips low, my emaciated upper body receives great attention from the critics. “You’re getting too thin.” “Are you okay?” “I think you should stop losing weight.” These meaningful warnings alarm the presence of a disproportionate body. Although my weight is perfectly within optimal, healthy levels, the distorted ratios of my physique are misaligned. Therefore, I have a stopping point, where my hips and thighs measure thinly, strong, and fit, when my upper body is close to the bone.

Appreciating and loving my body has been a lifetime of redirecting perceptions and mindset from disadvantaged genetics to opportune beauty. My shape, a God-given gift, thankfully has awarded me athletic prowess and a plethora of physical abilities. Fitting the inside with the outside, the emotional and physical puzzle pieces together, and paves the path to a healthy wholeness. The internal messages speak and must correlate with loving all parts of myself.

Although some harvested pears disengage from trees prior to ripeness, others remain to grow further. My own journey equates to growing upon the tree, awaiting my moment to ascend to acceptance, love, and respect for the shape I am. Self-love for the beauty bestowed upon us at birth is a blessing to embrace wholeheartedly. Pear-shaped or any other carries us through life, irrelevant of its appearance, shouldering greater responsibility for physical movement and empowerment. Embracing the curves and the pear is a step in that direction.

Imposter

Feeling like a fraud and faking our way through life is normal modus operandi. Much prepares us for life, yet fearlessly facing the unknown, doing something for the first time takes courage and a little, ”Fake it ’til you make it” protocol. Insecurity put on the back burner, forging into unknown territory, and jumping stepping-stone to stepping-stone until functioning with confidence, fortitude, and experience is imperative for transformation, personal growth, and renewal.

On a side note, my seventy-two year-old father-in-law reinvents his career every five years. When asked about his experiences, he notes, “I’ve never taken a job that I knew how to do.” Finding, figuring, and perfecting a new career is similar to any transformation in life. Until arriving comfortably, there is a holding pattern awaiting safe landing into the position. From temporary imposter to confident specialist requires patience, action, and drive for education, experience, and expertise.

Although having posed as a math teacher, entrepreneur, writer, film series host, president of a non-profit organization, and mother, nothing has been more profound than my role as a skinny, kickass, kettle bell-wielding woman. Impersonating skinny, strong, and tough women I first reverted to an overweight, uncomfortable–in–my–skin little girl, fat and afraid to expose herself to the world. Becoming an imposter, you must believe yourself worthy, accept the role wholeheartedly, and act as if you are that individual, faking it until it becomes second nature. Without self-belief, the position is temporary, and expertise unreachable.

Posing as of a thin, badass woman and imitating her actions, I have claimed self-worth to meet the ambition of the person I had not been. Learning her cues, strengthening from boot camp classes, and becoming the woman who respects her body with what she feeds it, I am the thin, confident, worthy woman I impersonated. Becoming that which I desired is a process of fraudulent beginnings. Imitation to start, but a genuine marathon race to the finish line, I medaled in posing, winning the gold for becoming my intended self. When the dots are connected, following a path of those that ventured before, I became my intended, an imposter at first, but genuine victor at the finale.

Mending Damaged Goods

After two scores and seven years, recreating my physical and internal “self” into appreciated assets is overdue. At a high school reunion, a friend was shocked to hear of my early insecurities; my confidence level appeared indestructible. My childhood comprised a hidden home life; I struggled terribly. School served as an escape comprised of ultra-optimism and happiness. During my initial twenty years, I lived two lives. At seventeen I departed home, discovering my inner self without the barriers, rebellion, and barrage of shame, and began to peel the layers to reveal my inner core, an independent, vulnerable, and lost soul, in search of meaning. Deeply damaged, I began the healing process.

Ten years later, still tossing, reeling, and spinning out of control with symptomatic yo-yo dieting and destructive abusive relationships taking the helm while looking for love, emotionally dying inside was my diagnosis. My walls were crumbling, the floor was made of sand, and my climbing ability weakened upon each ledge. Aching, lying upon the bottom rung of my own doing at thirty, I had seen and felt enough pain to gather my belongings, take stock, and edge gracefully to the surface for sunlight, healing, and gentle strength, increasing with each step. If guidance reigned from above or an inkling of self-awareness enabled me strength, I am uncertain. The depth of despair dissipated like fog, and I empowered my existence into greater healing.

With insight, clawing for breath and driven to exhale, my recovery ascended. Difficulties traveled like a seesaw never quite hitting the ground. The daily grind of regurgitating the past grew old, tiresome, and wrapped itself around me like mummified, tattered strips. Yet continuing to replay the music of my past proved helpful; it slowly and melodically healed my damaged soul, and elusively replaced itself with self-love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Introspection, analysis, and meditation, brought me closer to the self I was meant to discover and be. It played as my heart opened, softened, and strengthened, allowing life force energy to pump through it.

Today, my past feels partially unrecognizable, comforted by transformation, mending, and peace. In the recent year, physically changing my body laminated an inner self-respect, self-love, and self-acceptance the soul required for my healing. Sanding the shattered shards from my childhood continues to heal the brokenness that pained my past. Today I celebrate the change, resulting in happiness, empowerment, and a life with meaning. Reinventing the old into the new takes processes, time, and deliberate choice, faithfully knowing the power lies within. The day to reinvent your life with meaning, heal the past, and value its lessons, is present and yours for the taking, to reach the ultimate you.

Blueberry Binge

Exhaustion and an uncomfortable sensation encourage sleepwalking through choices, an opportunity to sabotage hard work and momentum along the weight loss journey. A series of small decisions made under the influence of sleep deprivation significantly throws the destination off course. Without careful deliberation, poor eating habits gain momentum, miles off kilter from goals. Seemingly inconsequential adjustments may affect results significantly, as an airplane 1% off course from California ends up 150 miles north or south from an east coast destination, depending upon the trajectory. Ultimately, sleep deprivation causes subpar choices, leading to lousy habits and failure.

Recently behaviors, cumulative in nature, seemingly inconsequential, and mindlessly conducted, awakened my senses. Without resting a minimum of seven hours, I function in an intoxicated-like state, asleep at the wheel. On autopilot, inattentive, and a barely breathing, my body walks through the day surviving, unaware like sleepwalking through life. Decision-making becomes elusive; choices are habit-driven. Hence, old habits haul to the frontline to lead the battle. When the battle is weight loss, healthy eating, and intense exercise, former leaders who typically lost that war resurface, with old tactical equipment, poor strategies, and disastrous results.

Therefore, when sleep deprived, or running on disrupted sleep, I may pull off a successful boot camp class, yet arrive home exhausted, depleted, and walking on borrowed time. Numbed into submission upon the couch, the uncomfortable sensation ensues. Unsteady, famished, and imbalanced, I reach for the habitual recovery protein shake, complete some parental duties, and return to the couch in a semi-conscious state. The next meal, prepared by a habit-formed ritual, I consume unmindfully. Soon, the sweetness of the blueberries from my recent meal catches my attention, reminds me of comfort, tastiness, and relief. The discomfort of low energy, exhaustion, and depravity, leads to a careless choice and consumption of two pounds of organic blueberries. (900 grams)

While lobbing berries into my mouth one by one, the sweet sensation relieves and numbs the discomfort. Serving its purpose, I am dumbfounded, looking at an empty container as the last blueberry vanishes. Suddenly aware of a bloated feeling, emotions point toward shame, sadness, and disappointment. Unable to comprehend the why of it all, I accept responsibility and journal the blueberry consumption into My Fitness Pal. Yet within an hour, the physical effects of bingeing on blueberries surfaces, as the blood sugar level plunges into discomfort with low energy and exhaustion, commonly identified as “food coma.” I lay upon the couch, surrendering to the semi-loss of consciousness with momentary lapses of shut-eye. Upon waking, shredded parmesan cheese whispers my name intuitively, and a sleepwalking body consumes half a pint of the salty scrumptiousness, balancing with former blueberry sweetness.

Again, a subconscious choice repeats until I awaken long enough to recognize the mishap, change environments, and contemplate the root cause of sleep deprivation. Some argue that blueberries and parmesan cheese are acceptable choices for overconsumption with limited damage and rapid recovery. Yet this habit-forming behavior of blueberry bingeing has occurred a half dozen times in the past few months. Unaware the source lay in lack of sleep, the habit dug deeper and gained strength; uprooting the tendency toward repeating has proven challenging. Getting to the foundation of “why binge?” is half the battle. Consciousness, analysis, and problem solving are crucial to recovery.

Sleep is imperative in winning the weight loss war. Sleepwalking decision-making is consequential when repeated. Initially without significant impact, yet bingeing diverts a recipe for success, off roads goals, and produces negative, zigzag, weight loss patterns habitually sabotaging concerted efforts. Successful ingredients for weight loss include conscious choices made under the umbrella of a rested mind. Sleep deprivation as the foundation of future actions is a recipe for disaster through subconscious eating, raised Cortisol levels, and habit-forming actions. Blueberry bingeing may seem negligible, but overtime it may be the leader of the losing battle. When waging a weight loss war, it is best to hire a well-rested leader, consistently and consciously able to choose best practices, leading to a successful, sustainable lifestyle.

CLEAN Does a Body Good

Gluten, milk, and simple sugars withheld from my palate seem extreme and impossibly sustainable. One year later and an ingrained lifestyle replace these ingredients. The critical three ingredients contributing to inflammation, obesity, and digestive issues, thwarted my weight loss efforts and overall well-being. Now real food sits as the foundation to the kingdom I always wished to enter. The weight loss speed is remarkably slow, yet attains the results of a sustainable lifestyle that eliminates excess weight, and improves health, mental acuity, and energy level.

Ridding life of processed, chemical-filled, fake foods is a present to the soul. It lightens the poundage, illuminates the flow and efficiency within the body’s system, and relinquishes mind fog. Releasing the foothold of toxicity from the brain, blood, and joints is a recipe that reduces inflammation, disease, and chronic pain many endure. Processed foods, aimed for extended shelf life and never meant to sustain the body, continue to plague humanity, zapping energy levels, dimming the brain’s capacity, and expanding the waistline. Removing one root problem by altering food choices to unprocessed, organic, grass-fed options for sustainable fuel is worth considering.

Although a financial and time expenditure exists for adopting real food, long-term effects of unhealthy, edible food substances that harden the body, our hearts, and our well-being, cost considerably more. Medications, physical stress, and low self-esteem are often required costs long-term when our lives are absent of such change. Engaging in a sustainable solution of “clean” food fuels the body efficiently, reduces physical stress, and affects an emotional positivity that decreases anxiety and depression. Initially this process was challenging. Yet in time, it became a lifestyle, sustainable, freeing, and invigoratingly healthy. “It does a body good.”

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