Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One of My #1 Tools to Knowing - and Feeling - Your Body Better

Video below!
One of the biggest challenges women express to me is making time for themselves and the things they know they want to be doing for their body and health.

Here's the thing: When you get sick or your body gives out, you're forced to stop and take a break. That costs a lot of time and energy, sometimes weeks of productivity... but you know what? The world keeps going! Wouldn't it be nice to allow yourself to take your time before you get to the point of break down?

I think about this kind of thing a lot. It's something that motivates me to make time for myself. Let's face it: we spend a lot of time in our heads. It's all too easy to forget about or ignore our bodies. But when we're disconnected from our bodies it's easy to...
  • overeat and feel like crap in our bodies AND about ourselves
  • get into a cycle that burns us out or gets us sick
  • get overwhelmed by our emotions and break down or freak out
  • pull a muscle or put your back out
I've done all of those things. Multiple times. Not being tuned in to my body has even led me to pass out on an airplane! I'm sure you've got stories too. When you're a highly sensitive person... it doesn't take as much to go over an edge.

I can say for sure that I'm not into going over edges anymore. I like balance and feeling good.

The great news is that it's not hard to stay connected to your body, but it does take consistency and making time. I do yoga, I meditate, breathe, visualize... but I want to share with you the key that changed everything for me a few years ago, and that I make sure to get in almost every week now, in some form or another. When I started to do this, it changed my relationship to my body, my energy, my beauty, my eating... really, my whole self.


What do you think? I challenge you - what are you going to do to drop in with your body this week?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Taking Responsibility For Your Eating (and Choices)... Without all the Guilt

I've had a small hand-made sign next to my desk for the past two years. It says "Take Radical Responsibility for Your Reality." It's become the underlying mantra for every decision I make, every invitation I say yes (or no) to, and every food I eat (or don't). What does it actually mean to take radical responsibility? Knowing what it means has changed everything about the way I take care of myself - and how easy it's become.

For most of us, responsibility equates with obligations, burdens, all the heavy stuff of being an adult that, really, we'd rather be free of...

The idea of taking radical responsibility first resonated for me when I was reintroduced to it as "the ability to respond."

Response-ability.

It's an ability that all of us have. While I've spent the last couple of years of my life learning and excepting that I can't really control anything outside of me, I have also, simultaneously, been learning how to respond differently to what is happening inside of me. This was the KEY for me as an unpredictably healthy/out-of-control eater.

"Control my thoughts and feelings? Yeah, right..." I thought control meant restricting myself, holding myself back, depriving myself. Because otherwise, I feared I might lose it one night, never stop eating, and blow up like a freaky obese person. Seriously. And I know I'm not the only one with those thoughts.

What I had to realize what that I needed to stop trying to control everything - starting with myself - and instead, find my feet on the ground and simply notice what was there so I could decide how to deal with it. Reclaim my ability and power to respond. This required me to do some learning and reprogramming of my first-response reactions to things.

Luckily, I love learning and I love knowing myself deeply because it means I can (finally for the first time in my life) trust myself. Feel safe and at home within my own being. Like most of us, I've gone most of my life trying to find trust, safety, love, stability and a sense of belonging (and satisfaction and happiness...) from others without consciously looking for and cultivating those feelings within myself, the one place I do have the ultimate say. This is not our fault. It's the result of being brought up in a consumerist society where we are programmed from birth to look outside of ourselves for happiness and satisfaction.

To stand up and say, "I'm going to decide how I feel and what I want from now on," To me, that is taking radical responsibility.

It requires committing to yourself to look at your own inner programming and habits. It requires getting honest, real, vulnerable and open with yourself. Then you can access your innate ability to respond from a place of grounded, clear awareness and conscious choice.

So how do you stay grounded enough to be clear in your own head, so you can respond with good choices, amidst ubiquitous food and stress?

I see groundedness as the ability to recognize your own two feet on the ground, to see and feel all of your past, your stories, your fears, AND be able to look down and say to yourself "Okay here I am right now, and I'm okay." Maybe you're not where you want to be (aka stressed, lonely or uncomfortable) but if you know where and how you are then you can always do something different.

The willingness to see, with eyes wide open and feet grounded on the floor, and choose, clearly and consciously, how you will respond = claiming and owning one of your greatest powers, Your Response – Ability.

Taking radical responsibility of your eating habits is being aware of your body's hunger, as well as your emotions and mind's stories and desires, and making a grounded choice about what to eat, when to stop, and what not to eat at all. It's knowing why you are eating. I don't mean to take all pleasure out of eating, quite the contrary! Eating for enjoyment and nourishment are my top two priorities! But it's to recognize when eating becomes a distraction, an obsession, or way to check out.

Let me tell you some of my Food Story to illustrate...

When I first started my practice as a Health Coach my focus was on eating for more energy. I was personally eating lots of greens and whole grains, feeling high-energy physically... for the most part. The only problem was that all my stress and little perfectionist self-judgments would pile up at the end of the day and I'd find myself stuffing my face in the pantry almost every night. As healthy as I would eat all day, I would go to bed feeling stuffed, bloated and sluggish, frustrated and disappointed with myself, saying, "That was the last time!"

I wasn't fully taking responsibility for my energy. Emotions, after all, are physical-mental energy too. I wasn't dealing with my negative emotions. I was literally stuffing them down, avoiding them, distracting myself, trying to feel better in the moment. Because I wasn't allowing myself to be grounded, to acknowledge all the things I was feeling and just say "okay here I am right now, and I'm okay," I wasn't giving myself the opportunity to respond to what was going on in my life. Instead I created more anxiety about my anxiety, convinced that if I let it out, it would consume me. That is a victim mentality. But we are not victims of ourselves. All of our actions and behaviors have a positive intention. Some behaviors just aren't serving us anymore.

It was my own coaching training program that helped me to realize that. So I committed to myself to look at my own inner programming and habits. I got honest, real, vulnerable and open with myself. And then, I suddenly had access to use my innate ability to respond, act and behave differently, from a place of grounded, clear awareness and conscious choice. It felt like a miracle. But the ability to respond is innate to every single one of us.

Want to hear some exciting news???

If you're ready to take radical responsibility for your eating and your reality, to feel more in charge and in control of what's going in your mouth, I've got fabulous news for you:

I've taken my most powerful tools and created "In Charge: An 8-week Course on Controlling the Controllable & Letting the Rest Go." Get in control of your eating, deal successfully with stress, and have more freed time and energy to be productive and enjoy yourself. For a limited time, I am beta testing this course for just $500 (that's 2/3rd's off)! Jump on it... is all I can say.

Secondly, I'm laying out an introductory breakthrough package of two 45-minute coaching sessions for only $100, to assist you with stopping your cycle of self-sabotage - eating, health, or otherwise. This is the sampler pack for the curious but tentative. I totally understand how getting started can be, and I believe in clarity through action. You have to try some things to know.

I'm here to make some waves and support you.

If you're ready to take radical responsibility for your health and the places you're feeling stuck, I am your woman, and now is always the best time.

I invite you to take advantage. To find out if we're truly a match, check out my calendar and schedule a Strategy Session with me. I'll help you get crystal clear either way.

Monday, June 23, 2014

When Eating IS the Distraction

One night, home solo for dinner, I make myself a gorgeous plate of lemony greens over fresh whole wheat pasta, snowy with Parmesan cheese. A few of my cookbooks are still open on the table and I start paging through, looking at the pictures and searching for recipes I want to try. Soon, I'm putting the last bite into my mouth and I've barely tasted any of it.

I'm pissed. And disappointed. Despite my intentions and efforts to be more mindful, to be fully present and enjoying the food in front of me, this still happens more than I like to admit. I check the weather (and then my messages and then Instagram) on my phone, or I get absorbed reading the Nutrition Facts on the back of a package. But then I miss the moment, the amazing food in front of me. Studies show that being awake to the process of eating accounts for the majority of the satisfaction you feel. When your mind is distracted, you miss out on feeling satisfied.

You probably know what happens when you don't feel satisfied. You eat more - then or later - because you're still trying to get there. You feel bad about yourself and all your shortcomings. You make promises to yourself you can't keep. You restrict yourself. It's easy to spiral out. That's how I ended up binging on almond butter and cookie dough so many nights. It feels too shameful, too embarrassing, too huge and overwhelming to just change. All the the things you don't feel or don't want to feel, you wind up using food to try to fill or to distract yourself from your mental hunger. And so the cycle self-perpetuates, conveniently creating a problem to distract you from your real issues.

Here's the trick: You don't have to DO anything to change. But you have to BE with your discomfort and the dissatisfaction.

Ok, GRRREAT. That's what most of you are probably thinking. I didn't say this would be comfortable, remember? It's the opposite. The question is: Are you willing to go there and see what happens? I always thought I'd be opening Pandora's Box of Alex's Hot Mess and I'd have a breakdown that would incapacitate me for at least a year. But the most amazing part?  (And I know you know this.) After a good, honest cry, you feel so much lighter.

Here are a few ways you can start allowing yourself to be with uncomfortable feelings in the moment:
  • Crying. I mean it. LET IT OUT. When you hold it in, it becomes tension, it adds to the weight you are carrying around. Emotions are "e"nergy in "motion" - let it move through. Breathe.
  • Running. When I have pent up emotional energy, expending physical energy helps me release. Exhaustion, while not necessary, is potent medicine. Think about a child who plays or cries themselves to sleep. A tired body or mind then shuts down to rest and rejuvenate.
  • Tapping. This is a technique that allows to you accept what is happening instead of judging, resisting or avoiding it. I find the physical sensation to be incredibly grounding. Here's a basic how-to video on how to tap.
  • Writing it out. I don't know where I'd be without my journal, the place I dump out my mind and hash out my feelings. I get such clarity from letting it all out on the page. Write knowing you can always burn it. There is such power in acknowledging for yourself what is really going on. Ask yourself: What am I really needing or hungry for?
  • Voicing it. To my most inner, trusted circle, the people I wasn't afraid (although I still resisted) to cry in front of, people who I knew could just hold space and listen. Find a friend (or two) with whom you can be each others' lifelines. Or a professional you trust.
It takes courage to allow yourself to be vulnerable in this way. What resonates best for you? What are you going to try? Or, are there things here you've already tried that have worked or not worked? Please leave a comment below.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Alone with Chocolate Fudge & Not Afraid Anymore: My Four Big Shifts to Food Freedom

We were sitting around the table, with gorgeous fresh strawberry shortcake sitting in front of us, passing around a jar of chocolate fudge to put on top. Everyone was talking about what they would do with the fudge if they were left alone with it, most agreeing they'd eat the whole thing with a spoon in one sitting. I sat there, almost shocked that I had no desire to eat any more than the tiny dollop in my bowl. Two years ago, I would have eaten myself sick on it every day and night until it was gone. Leave me with it now and I'd put it away in the fridge, no uncontrollable cravings, no feelings of guilt or deprivation. "Whoa," I thought, "I've come a loooong, long way."

Overeating, especially when it feels emotional or mindless (you've checked out of your brain, or something else has taken over), does us a lot of damage. I've interviewed over 40 people about their struggles with food, especially the tendency to binge and overeat, and the physical damage is perhaps most obvious and first to pop into most people's minds when we think about the consequences. The digestive stress and bloating. The lethargy. Worrying about what all that sugar and fat is doing to our health in the long run. Gaining weight... Or living in perpetual fear that we will.

From all those conversations, what struck me at the overwhelmingly most painful, frustrating part - and for me this was the hardest part too - is the repeated blow to your self-esteem and confidence. It's facing a recurring personal failure that undercuts all of the rest of your success in life. It's being smart enough to understand the pattern and yet not being able to stop. It's disappointing yourself over and over again, because you know you know better. It's beating yourself up about not treating yourself the way you want to be... which is still not treating yourself the way you know you want to be. It was enough to wreck my first attempt at a Health Coaching practice two years ago. As an emotional binge-eater, my self-confidence was shot. How could I help anyone else if I couldn't figure it out for myself?

My lack of confidence kept me from building my practice and career for over a year, which - though I didn't see it until I was through it - gave me the space to finally step back from thinking about food all the time (funny how I chose a field that perpetuated that, isn't it?), so that I COULD figure it out for myself. All of the shifts I experienced were influenced by the coaching programs I was participating in as a student, and by coaches I worked with myself along the way.

My Four Big Shifts to Food Freedom:

1. Talking about it, rather than hiding it away. Getting honest and vulnerable in front of the ultimate mirror, another person, someone I trusted to hold safe space for me to show up in all my mess and imperfection. For me this was my partner, and then a coach, and then the people I trained with during my own coach training program. I got support and started creating a network of friends and circles that I knew would see and respect all of me, even when I didn't feel like I could. Eventually, I felt safe enough to share my closet binge-eating story publicly. It was one of the scariest and most liberating things I've ever done. What has inspired me most on this front? Brene Brown on The Power of Vulnerability. Bookmark that one for later.

2. Deciding to take radical care of my body, my vessel and vehicle for experiencing everything else. I started getting massages every week for three months. Dropping into and reconnecting with my body, my energy and physical sensations changed everything. I let myself feel into the times it felt strong, centered and beautiful, instead of dismissing myself as vain or judging myself as shallow. I gave myself permission to enjoy feeling good about myself, and to keep going back to what made my body feel amazing: massage, hula hooping in the park, dance, yoga, walks, baths, laying in the sun, sex, running, eating avocado every day, moisturizing my skin...

3. Letting go of trying so hard: to be so good, to be perfect, to look good, to have it all figured out, to control all aspects of myself... including my eating and my body. I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted. Yes, that turned out to be largely healthy stuff like quinoa and kale and almond butter, but I had to stop judging and denying myself the foods I was craving. Like cheeseburgers and chocolate cake, whole milk and cereal. It's true, sometimes I still went overboard. I ate stuff and more than I wished I had. I still do sometimes. But I also stopped making rules about "tomorrow I won't eat/I'm on a diet..." and started forgiving myself, realizing that every "screw up" was a learning experience, an opportunity to remember to check into my body for its hunger, fullness and needs, and not just what my mind was saying.

4. Learning to feel and be okay with my uncomfortable emotions. I used to act passive-aggressive (I was a master at the silent martyr role) when I was unhappy or wanted something to be different... I never knew how to express my unhappiness and ask for what I wanted and needed. So I either stuffed all the "bad" stuff, my anger, loneliness, sadness, fears, disappointment, and stress down with food, or I knotted it up as tension in my shoulders, neck and back. I worked with an emotional intelligence coach to help me learn techniques for processing, expressing and releasing my emotions... and even though I was initially terrified I'd be opening Pandora's Box of Perpetually Overwhelmed Hot Mess, I found that once I let myself experience an emotion, it would release. And I could move on SO much more easily. For the first time in my life, instead of being on a ruthless roller coaster or a ship lost in an unpredictable sea, I have a sense of clarity, groundedness and strength that feel like the rooted tree of my being, my emotions just being weather.

These shifts are more like practices I've chosen to live by - they are still things I consciously and intentionally cultivate and practice in my life. It doesn't go perfectly and smoothly, but I've learned to treat myself and my body as a priority (or else nothing else or nobody else gets 100%) and, when that falls through, with compassion and kindness, as you would a friend. I know how long and hard some of you have been struggling to figure it out, to will yourself back into willpower. I feel you. I felt for my friends as they sat around the table that night, laughing about their inability to resist the jar of fudge. Because I suddenly knew, for myself - even though I'd thought for most of my life that surely there was something wrong with me - that another way of living is possible.

I'm creating right now... coaching programs, free guides, sugar detoxes, online webinar trainings. I know what's worked for me, but I know we don't all have the same experience. Please share below or write to me and tell me what you want and need. What are your burning questions? What are you dying to experience differently?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why TV Doesn't Count As Down-Time

Have a lot of stress in your life? Do you often feel carried away by anxiety or worries? Do you judge yourself and others way more than you'd like to admit? It's this kind of emotional baggage that leads some of us to stuff ourselves with chocolate or potato chips at night. Or to snap at our partners. Or put our back into spasms. Where does all that junk come from?

Yes, it's in our heads... but we weren't born this way! We've picked it up from all the things we see and hear around us: our families, television, the internet, billboards, books, teachers, movies, social media. As adults, we have more of a choice about the Programming (this was what TV shows used to be called!) that we feed our brains.

What we watch becomes part of our memory and reality. You can't "unsee" or "unfeel" something. Maybe you've noticed, like me, that your own fear-based, judgmental, and self-deprecating thoughts are relatively quick to rise and take you down a dark vortex in your mind compared to your positive, ease-full thoughts. Maybe you've noticed we live in a world that exists in an almost perpetual state of worry and anxiety. And for many people, TV shows, movies and social media have become a main resource for decompressing and mindless escape. Problem is, it isn't mindless.

Many people tell me that they watch TV in their down time especially to relax. Down time is, by definition, time to turn off, to shut your brain and body down for a while so you can rejuvenate. We're not meant to go-go-go all day - that creates chronic stress. Most media plays to that familiar state of mind, keeps us tapped in to our fear so we don't get "lazy" or "fat". Problem is, stress-inducing media doesn't relax you, no matter what you tell yourself. Sure, maybe it does serve as a distraction. But even distractions, while they've got our attention, have their influence on us. When fear-laced TV programming becomes something you consume daily, you are feeding the stress cycle, the same one that may be driving you to mindlessly or emotionally overeat or to turn to "shopping therapy".

Just as I don't recommend watching Cupcake Wars or The Biggest Loser if you want to think about sweets and hate your own body less, by the same token - and especially if you are highly empathetic, sensitive or introverted - I don't recommend you feed your brain violent, sensationalized, or suspense-driven media. What kind of messages are you sending yourself?

When I started really paying attention to the way certain TV show and movies made my body feel (tense, shallow breathing, squirmy), I stopped wondering why I couldn't break free from my stress, my tight shoulders and neck, my midnight mind spins and my anxious late-night food-stuffing sessions. When I started being more selective about what I'd watch, there was suddenly more space to cultivate more of the emotions I DID want... relaxation, ease, clarity.

The great news is that once you acknowledge the power of the media you consume, you can choose to watch, listen to, read and browse from sources that will truly serve the life and mind states you want.

How to Get More Conscious About Your Consumption
(A Simple 5 Step Exercise):

  1. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Draw a horizontal line about a quarter of the way down. In the top left box write: "How I Don't Like Feeling" and make a list of all the ways you feel right now that you don't enjoy (ex: stressed, irritable, restless, not good enough, tense, etc).
  2. In the top right box write: "How I Want to Feel" and write a list of all the ways you want to be feeling as the ultimate version of yourself (ex: confident, happy, relaxed, flexible, easy going, etc).
  3. In the bottom left box, list of all the media you consume on a regular (weekly) basis. Things like movies vary more, but write down what is typical for you when you do watch.
  4. In the right column next to that list, make note about how you feel (what you think about, how your body responds, etc) AND the core messaging you pick up on in that media. Stay open to the idea that you might not be fully aware of how each makes you feel, so start to pay attention this week as you watch, read and listen. Observe your body's responses (emotions are physical energy)!
  5. Cross compare your lists. Are you "eating" (watching) to create the state you want or as a reaction to the state you're in? Decide whether it's worth it to you to keep watching, or whether you want to watch something like it in the future. Maybe you're in the middle of a gripping series that you know isn't really evoking the energy you want to be creating more of in your life. Don't judge yourself for wanting to finish it. Maybe you notice you go into comparison/judgement mode on Facebook. You don't have to delete your profile to have a different relationship to it. Just stay conscious about what and how you're engaging, moving forward.
I know this can feel edgy for a lot of us - it was, and still is sometimes for me too. Sometimes it means telling my partner he should go see a movie without me if he wants to see it. We can be really attached to our devices and our favorite flavor of brain food. But watching something on a screen is NOT down time. Down time rejuvenates. Watching a screen is engaged brain-body-emotional activity.

Tell me below: What has this illuminated for you? What challenges, obstacles or questions are coming up? What "yeah, but"s?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

4 Ways to Show Your Body You're On Its Side

Do you wish you could love and accept your body the way that it is? That you could be on the same team, at least? This can feel like a mountain to overcome for many women, maybe even a pipe dream. I didn't always love my body, in fact, I've spent most of my life feeling embarrassed by it and furiously locked in a battle trying to control its shape and urges.

What you focus on expands. We all see what we believe to be true. We love to be right (and who doesn't more than our ego?) and so we look for evidence, usually completely subconsciously, to prove to ourselves right. If I believe my body is disgusting, all day I notice every little bulge and blemish, I feel worried or guilty about almost everything I eat, and I compare and judge myself against every woman I see.

Be honest: How much of your inner dialogue, time and energy get wasted on beating yourself up? How much of your life, your opportunities and your potential are you missing out on because you're feeling bad about yourself? I talk with a LOT of women and this is something almost all of them say they're sick of wasting their energy on.

What would it be like to stop battling your body and to partner with it instead? If letting yourself love your body is too big a step (and PLEASE don't feel bad - we've all got a lifetime of cultural programming to undo), can you at least agree to take a deep breath and start seeing it more like a friend? Here are four ways to show your body you're on its side:
  1. Dress your body. Figure out what time of day you feel your best (when you get home in the evening, right before bed?) and lay out your outfit, including jewelry and shoes, for the next day. This says to your body: "You are worth the time and forethought."
  2. Adorn your body. Wear a little something extra: A scent (try Ylang Ylang or Jasmine essential oils for their sensualizing qualities), a fancy necklace, your grandma's ring, a luxurious scarf, some bright lipstick or eye makeup, sparkly glitter, or flowers in your hair! This says to your body: "You deserve the extra bling."
  3. Decorate your body. Give yourself a manicure. Get yourself a henna tattoo (try tibetan shops for tubes to DIY or do it with friends). This says to your body: "You are a piece of art."
  4. Moisturize your body. Every day I smooth my whole body with sweet almond or coconut oil (get at your grocery store). This says to your body: "I care how you feel."
What one thing are you going to do this week to be more of a friend to your body? What do you want to express to it? Please share! We are all in this together. We have all been taught to hate and shame ourselves and each other publicly, which means coming into new relationships with our bodies will require us to speak out loud and support one another. There is space to begin right here:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Soothe Your Skin: My Edible Face Mask

I believe in putting on your skin what you would want in your body. Our skin is notably porous: it sweats out toxins but it also takes them in. What you put on your skin MATTERS because a hefty portion of it ends up in your bloodstream!

Do you want toxins and chemicals in your blood, many of which are proven hormone disruptors and linked to cancer. Would you take a lick of your perfume or lotion? Just asking.

It's all over the internet that your skin absorbs 60% of what you put on it. While I'm a healthy skeptic at heart, and can't believe it would be that simple or cut and dry (and I can't seem to track down the source itself), I do believe it's important to consider what you're slathering directly onto your largest organ. I'm a huge advocate for reading nutrition labels AND for reading the labels on the back of your body products.

I've been researching all-natural, organic food-based face masks, and have tested my first recipes! I treated myself to one (well, two... the first was a near disaster) face masks this past Sunday...

The first one burned my face! I'd mixed up a concoction of oatmeal, green tea, honey, cinnamon and a squirt of aloe. The cinnamon is most suspect: I'd read that it has potent anti-inflammatory effects on the skin... and I'd also read to test some on the inside of your arm first (did not = mistake) and my face started burning and turning bright red almost immediately. So I washed that right off and looked for something more soothing.

Bingo. My second mask was not only much more soothing and simple, it was DELICIOUS! I ate all of the extra with my fingers! It has only 3 ingredients: Yogurt, Honey and Avocado. It left my skin feeling supple, dewy and fresh. I could feel and see the healthy glow.

Check out these amazing benefits!
  • Yogurt: loaded with vitamins and minerals, it replenishes withered skin, brightens and evens out skin coloration, moisturizes and nourishes, and its anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties are great for breakouts.
  • Honey: protects your skin from free radicals, hydrates, is anti-inflammatory, and promotes new skin cell formation, which slows down the aging process!
  • Avocado: it's healthy oils deeply hydrate, replenish and protect skin cells, and vitamin C builds collagen to keep your skin strong and elastic

Sweet Green Beauty Edible Face Mask

2-3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tsp honey
spoonful avocado

Mash everything into a spread (mine wasn't completely smooth, you can see by how it dried) and spread it on your face, even under your chin and on your neck. Let dry for 15-20 minutes (read, have a snack, relax) and rinse off with lukewarm water. Gentle enough to do 2-3 times per week. Great for dry, oily, tired and breakout-prone skin. Enjoy!

Want to know more? Check out this resource: 10 Foods That Belong on Your Face!