When I first started yoga several years ago, I did NOT like it. I kept it up hardcore for around six months until one day, I was suddenly so fed up, I walked out right in the middle of a class. I barely set foot in another yoga studio for the next few years. And each time I did, I’d always end up thinking, “Why am I here? This isn’t for me”.
I typically thought of yoga being a good complimentary workout to my usual routines but overall, I really just didn’t get it. To me, it felt stuffy, overrated and full of awkward postures. And god forbid, if I had to do another chaturanga, I thought I’d hurt somebody.
Fast forward to living in LA when I gave yoga yet another chance. Something had shifted. I started to incorporate yoga into my routine regularly and to look forward to it least as much as I looked forward to any of my other workouts. I didn’t realize it then, what the thing that had shifted was me. I had changed.
Why is it that I hated yoga so much when I first tried it? I believe it was for a combination of reasons. Here’s what I found and the lesson to be learned for each:
I wasn’t ready to feel vulnerable.
Those heart-opening poses, I gotta tell ya, they force you to feel emotions that have been put in place to protect ourselves since childhood. And I just wasn’t ready for it. I had those guards up for a reason and yoga made me feel uncomfortable in ways the gym never could.
Instead of heightened emotions, it would show up for me in much more passive-aggressive ways. In my close-mindedness, all I could think about was how weird it all was. Like, “What’s this intention thing they’re always talking about at the beginning of class? And why do have to sit Indian style after class is over and say Namaste? As if we even know what that means!”
If you don’t go through life with an open mind, you’ll find a lot of closed doors
A couple Sundays ago was the grand opening of the new home for our church. It was a surreal morning with chatter and excitement in the air. As far as I could tell, everything was going perfectly smoothly…
Before I go any further, let me preface this by saying that this is a very embarrassing story about myself and I find it hard to believe I’m sharing it so openly. But I feel it’s important to be as open and honest as possible and there’s a lesson to be learned here. And the only person I’m sacrificing in writing this, is myself.
… So everything was going smoothly except for the one voice behind me that just wouldn’t shut up. It kept persisting and in turn, I couldn’t focus on the message. I could give or take the music but the message, the message is the number one reason I go to church. It’s my time carved out to hear something that connects me to a higher purpose, brings me closer to community and helps me dive a little deeper into myself.
But on this morning, it wasn’t my own inner voice trying to distract me (as it does daily), it was someone behind me muttering ever so quietly but just loud enough to keep pulling my focus away from the pulpit and into the row behind us. All I could think was, “how rude”!
Do you find that your self-help to-do list just ends up getting longer and longer and giving your more anxiety than if you never even had one at all? Get a massage, go to the gym, eat more salads. And for once, you just wish you’d show up for yourself and follow through with something? Like even just one thing you’ve been meaning to do for months?
How nice would it be to actually show up for yourself for a change?
But first, let’s take a step backward. What exactly does “show up for yourself” really mean? And more importantly, how on earth do you do it?
My instinctive thought of showing up for yourself is like when you tell yourself you’re going to do something and you actually do it. I tend to think of showing up for yourself as in actually following through with all those self-help to-do items that seem to just keep piling up.
But what if showing up for yourself meant something different? What if it meant something besides our lists that read something like:
Old Self-Help To-Do List
- Find the time to cook regularly
- Sign up for boot camp, join a yoga studio or…
- Start ______ diet and actually finish it (without cheating)
- Don’t eat sugar or carbs
- Read more books instead of watching so much TV
- Start incorporating essential oils (because I read somewhere they’re healthy)
- Learn another language
- Go back to school
What if showing up for yourself looked more like:
New Self-Help To-Do List
- Be open
- Be honest
- Be truthful
- Be vulnerable
- Be heartfelt
- Be true
- Be you
Ahhhhhhh… now doesn’t that sound so much more pleasant? So much more peaceful?
When I look at the second list, I feel a sense of calm and peace. Whereas the first to-do list makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed. (Completely contrary to what I’m trying to achieve by checking things off)!
One thing I can say for sure is that it takes pain to experience joy. Do you know what I’m saying? I mean, if we didn’t have any downs and only had ups, how on earth would we even know something good? To me, that sounds like it would be an utterly boring life. Without someone we care leaving us, we wouldn’t know how wonderful it is when someone we care about chooses to stay. Or if we never lost a loved one, we may never truly value just how fragile and fleeting life really is. Without the downs, we can’t feel the ups. Not really, anyway.
As I write this, I’m coming from a place filled with limitless joy and abounding love. On Friday, May 19th, 2017 my best friend, lover, soulmate and partner in everything asked me to be his wife. Our journey to each other has been far from easy but I’m thankful for each and every moment that brought us together… the laughter and joy, of course, but especially the hurt and tears. Because without the once unwelcome experiences, we wouldn’t have done “the work” on ourselves and we wouldn’t be who we are today. Perhaps our paths would have crossed but it certainly would only have been in passing, nevermind for a whole lifetime.
Here’s the kicker. We met seven months ago. And the plan right now is to tie the knot this coming fall. To many, this sounds crazy. But as I’ve said a countless number of times, what works for one person (myself included) doesn’t necessarily work for YOU. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Regardless, if it takes a couple years to say, “I do,” or months… when you meet someone who’s willing to do “the work”, that you’re madly attracted to and who fills your day with FUN and your heart with unconditional love, you’ve found THE ONE.
I used to roll my eyes when I heard “When you know you know!” Grrr, it made me so frustrated. In my head, I’d shout back, “How DO you know???” Ok well, I hate to be the bearing of bad news, but they were right. Actually, hold up. As frustrating as it may be to hear, this is actually GREAT news! How awesome would it be to commit to spending the rest of your life with someone without a doubt in your mind that they’re The One? The One person you’re meant to be with till death do you part? Talk about an incredible feeling.
You know how people always say, “ Gosh, I’d give anything to be able to be a kid again.” I vehemently have to disagree with that statement.
I do admit, it makes some sense, though. There are no bills to pay, no responsibilities, no adulting… I can definitely see why it would appeal to others.
But for me, being a kid was HARD. Being a teenager was even HARDER. No way, no how do I want to go back to that again.
As a Child.
I was an unhappy, little girl who spent her days dreaming about being a grown up. And now that I’m officially adulting, I still don’t want to go back to the past.
There was a time I was in church with my parents and one of the members said “hi” to my mom and then to me. I was painfully shy then, so I buried my head in my mom’s legs and didn’t utter a peep. I’ll never forget that day. My dad tried to get me to say hey and basically yelled at me in front of the adult and I ended up coming home with a spanking on his to-do list. I didn’t know how to bring myself to say hi then. But I quickly learned that being the way I was (terrifyingly shy) wasn’t what he expected of me. Or the kids at school or anyone else in my life for that matter.
I already didn’t have a close relationship with my dad at that point as he hadn’t been a part of my life until not long prior to that particular incident. Which made these incidents even harder for a young timid girl who saw her father as a stranger.
Life really sucked back then.
As a Young Adult.
And when I became a semi-adult (I call that mid-20’s because, let’s face it, no one really comes into maturity until around 30), it didn’t get any easier. In fact, if it’s possible, it got even HARDER.
I was always being judged. People in NC, in the south, were so damn judgy. I felt like everything I did was wrong. I couldn’t possibly please such people.
The clothes I wore were too casual/sexy/dressy/short/inappropriate/insertinsulthere for whatever place I happened to be at. My friends weren’t cool with what I did with my time, whether I chose to go out without drinking, didn’t go out at all or didn’t stay out late enough.
The hardest part for me was when it came time to overhaul my lifestyle. In particular, my diet. My friends were relentless. They teased me and incidentally made me feel “less than” for not eating whatever they did.
Currently, I’m packing up my old life in LA and am in the process of moving back to my hometown in Charlotte, NC. I’m surrounded by boxes of my stuff, food containers, and memories of a past life. I’ve been sleeping on hardwood floors and have only a single chair left to sit on (which I’m sitting in as I write this until the next buyer arrives to take it away too.)
In a way it’s funny. And in a way it’s sad. But mostly it’s scary and exciting.
My first big move as an adult was when I left the states and had no idea when I was going to come back. I left my hometown to model in South Africa… not because I wanted to be a model, but because the little girl inside my head wanted to force myself to become someone else. I thought, “If I could be someone different, then I could really love myself. And then I could be loved.”
I didn’t think anyone could possibly love me as I was (romantic or otherwise). I only saw myself as if I was nothing other than a bundle of flaws and that it’s no wonder I had so few real friends. The common denominator was… well, me.
I SAW A GIRL.
… who was over-sensitive. Who felt hurt and tried desperately not to cry when a friend criticized her, constructive or not
…. who was inflexible. She got upset when her friends were late for their plans.
… who took things too personally. She felt guilty about silly things like when her friends pushed her to go out when she didn’t feel up to it.
… who got defensive even when the accusations weren’t true. She was so insecure that if someone accused her of having blue hair, she would have believed it must be true.
… who tried too hard. She wore sexy clothes for attention she didn’t even like but it was better than feeling lonely when she was passed by.
… who couldn’t control her appetite and literally stuffed her face when no one was looking.
… who was labeled “pretty” by outsiders but hated her body for every one of its teeny little flaws.
I didn’t like that girl one bit. I wanted SO BADLY to NOT be that girl. To NOT feel those things. I was always talking to myself, “Girl, get it together.” “This time you can do it.” “This time you can control yourself.” But I just couldn’t help it.
So I did my best “fake it until you make it” impression… until I couldn’t pretend anymore. Since I didn’t know how to “fix” all the things that were “wrong” with me, I decided to throw myself to the wolves to see what happened.
Most of my childhood, I never fit in. Being painfully shy, social anything was excruciatingly hard for me. During recess in elementary school, I’d do everything I could to spend it inside, alone, playing computer games.
Frequently, though, my teacher would insist I go outside and I’d instantly feel an utter sense of overwhelming embarrassment. I didn’t have any friends at school, didn’t know how to make them and didn’t know what to do with myself. So I’d sit off to the side and literally twiddle my thumbs waiting for playtime to be over, trying not to cry and praying I’d disappear. All I wanted was to go back inside so I didn’t have to be reminded so blatantly that I didn’t belong.
I felt so alone. So left out. Like a total loser. And I hated myself for not being able to conform to what I needed to be to fit in. I could hear their voices in my head, “She’s so weird!” “Why won’t she ever play with us?” “How come she always sits by herself?” “I feel sorry for her.” What’s wrong with her?!”
Words and social actions just weren’t something that came naturally to me. No matter how hard I tried, I felt rejected and shut out. I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to say or do. I felt like the other kids were judging me for not participating and not joining their games.
As an adult, I finally understand that there’s a difference from “fitting in” and “belonging”. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else (and not yourself). Belonging is being accepted for being you. Fitting in is the superficial way to having “friends” around to fill up your time, give you something to do with your fingers and being something you’re not. Belonging is feeling connected with people who get you despite your flaws and shortcomings. It’s having friends who may or may not be like you, but accept you as you are.
Do you ever feel like you have two personalities? Maybe you show one in public and the other you keep to yourself or only show close loved ones?
It could be you feel like you have to put on your face when you’re in a work setting, whether that be makeup or a fake personality… but you picture wearing shoes that are actually comfortable and not having to act like your bubbly “self” non-stop.
Do you ever feel like you’re being pulled apart trying to be one way for one group of people and then another way for someone else – and then wonder if you even know who you are anymore?
I’d been feeling this way quite a bit lately so I took a hiatus from all things health coaching recently to come to terms with who I am as a whole and how I can merge my “personalities”.
Here’s the thing. I’m a health coach, yes. But I’m also a professional model. And for some time, I’ve kept them as far away from each other as I possibly could. As a result, I’ve felt like I’ve been living two lives. Omitting one or the other at any given time has left me feeling… disconnected.
Here’s a closer example: I have two Instagram profiles; my health coaching one and my modeling one. My boyfriend, Josh, recently pointed out to me that my modeling profile had nothing to do with who I am as a person and it was confusing to him how I could be so authentic when I’m with him and yet so distant via social media. Even though we’re very close with one another, it made him feel a little disconnected and he wanted to understand it (me) better.
If you’re anything like I was, you always listen to the experts and ignore your body. If they say their diet will help us feel better and lose weight, we believe it must. And when the diet fails, well… we tend to think that we did something wrong.
In fact, it never occurred to me to actually pay attention to my body’s signals. Not that I would have even known what they were for that matter!
These days, I do listen to what the authors and doctors have to say. But my first priority is to listen to my body.
Because I’ve learned that while what the experts say may be 100% true, it doesn’t mean that my body will respond the same.
If you’re not sure how to listen to your body, that’s ok! I’ve experimented with a ton of methods and taught myself and my clients successfully what to look for… And I’m sharing several of the exercises with you today so you can try them out for yourself.
In order to listen to our body, we have to pay attention to not just what we eat, but also to how we eat. The way we eat and the environment we’re eating in matters.
So let’s get started, shall we?
There was a time I would have loved to look like Charlize Theron or Kim Kardashian but alas, it never happened.
We all know that our bodies are completely unique from each another. Unless we invest in a crazy amount of plastic surgery, we’re never going to look like anyone else. (And if you do, chances are you’ll look a pretty ridiculous version!)
Then why is it that we all keep trying to squeeze into the same box and try the same diets over and over? If we look nothing alike, why do we expect our insides to work the same as someone else’s?
You have to ask yourself…
How many diet books have you helped fly off the shelves?
How many times have you run to google to search for the latest health trend?
And no matter how many times you try and fail, you keep doing the same old things time and time again, right?
As intelligent as all the books, experts, doctors, articles and other outside sources are, they don’t take into account our feelings and intuition – or their effect on our body physically and emotionally.
The Brain Inside Your Gut.
Our brain and our stomach are neurologically very closely connected. In fact, your gut actually has a brain per say and that’s where many of our signals related to emotion and food come from!
Think about how you feel when you’re eating in a relaxed state or environment versus eating during a stressful situation. We usually feel it in our gut, don’t we? And most likely we feel it emotionally and physically.
I grew up with two older brothers and all three of us loved cereal. In fact, we all loved it so much that I had to keep boxes hidden in my closet and eat my bowls in secret so they wouldn’t down them all in one sitting.
I always ended up eating my bowl as fast as I could before they walked in. I barely breathed while I shoveled spoonful after spoonful into my mouth and kept an eye out for the unwelcome intruders.
In hindsight, the whole experience was more stressful than it was worth. I barely had a chance to enjoy my favorite food!
And now I know that the minute we feel stress, nutrients zip right out of our body, I like to blame my brothers for training me to eat all wrong.
Thankfully as an adult, I’ve been practicing a few things to retrain myself to eat properly in a way that reduces stress and helps my body assimilate nutrients the way it’s supposed to.
Here are some simple tips for you:
Do you ever wonder how the French manage to stay so thin despite doing everything we’ve been taught is wrong?
We’ve all heard about them. How they eat lots of cheese, croissants and drink wine every single day. Even on their lunch breaks. Not to mention, they smoke regularly, don’t exercise very much and eat lots of high-fat foods.
So what are they doing differently than the rest of us?
They’re eating their food in a relaxed state and they enjoy every bite and every moment of it.
The rest of us aren’t eating food when we’re relaxed and at peace. We eat when we’re hurried and stressed. In fact, we’re always stressing. It’s zapping our energy, causing us to daydream about food and to gain weight.
We stress about food.
:: This ice cream is fattening. I really shouldn’t be eating it.
:: I’m eating this cupcake even though I know it’s bad for me.
:: Should I eat the yolk or just the egg white?
:: I hate running on the treadmill but I had to eat that cupcake last night so I need to burn it off.
We stress about day to day activities.
:: I want so bad to go out with my friends but because I can’t drink, I should stay home so I’m not tempted.
:: I don’t have time to make the Whole 30 meals for today, so I’m just going to have to hold out and not eat anything until I get home for dinner.
We stress about what other people think.
:: I feel so gross, I need to find a cover-up so people don’t see my wiggly bits at the pool this weekend.
:: I can’t possibly go to my high school reunion! I don’t look anything like I did back then.
We stress about deadlines at work, our relationships, our homes… We stress and we stress and we stress.
But here’s why stressing out is such a big problem:
Did you know that Oprah kept a gratitude diary for a whole decade? And she claims it’s the reason for her success today!
And did you know studies show that journaling can actually improve your health physically and emotionally?
If you ever feel down on yourself or maybe even disgust or hatred towards your body (like I used to), your body will try to talk to you to tell you otherwise. But we bury her voice so far inside that we only hear her when she tells us we’re not good enough.
I created the Gratitude Diary so you can start finding things about yourself that you’re grateful for. The reason for this is because a lot of your cravings for food are there simply because what you’re really craving is you.
With the diary, start to keep track of the simple things you’re grateful for. Even the really simple things. Personally, I love that waking up early in the morning comes naturally to me. Or that I always remember to turn the light off when I leave a room.
You could be grateful you took the time to floss the night before, that you’re having a good hair day, or remembered to put gas in your car, etc.
Note this isn’t a diary to write things like how you’re thankful you have a roof over your head or food to eat. While those are certainly things to be thankful for, they’re not the objective of this exercise.
… The objective of this exercise is to accept yourself for who you are so your body doesn’t have to keep screaming at you to pay attention with unwelcome cravings.
Depending on what study you read, 95-98% of all people lose weight on a weight loss diet plan, gain it back within one year. That’s a lot of people trying and failing!
The first thing I did when I changed my life was to change my diet. In short, I shifted from processed “foods” to whole foods. And because my mindset had shifted when I implemented these changes, I started to see significant results.
But the problem was that I was still obsessing over food.
I realized that there was more going on when I found myself binging on healthy foods. A lot. To the point that I often felt sick, bloated and gross. And the next day I always felt uber guilty.
I knew that something was missing. I had made so many changes to my diet and was on the right path but I knew that if I wanted to stay on that path, I needed to dig deep.
So what about the other 2 – 5% that actually managed to keep the weight off? How did they do it? The common denominator is that they all had a significant life change. They switched careers, fell in love, moved to a new city, broke off an unhealthy relationship, etc.
In other words, they healed their relationship to food by digging deep. They did something much bigger within themselves than just trying to just eat healthy foods or follow a diet plan.
I suspect one of the biggest things they did was stop trying to control or suppress their cravings… but face them head on.
When we binge, overeat or feel a strong compulsion to eat something “bad” – what we’re really cravings is ourselves.
She nourishes herself with real food and movement.
She takes her health seriously. And her life.
She invests in herself because she believes she is worthy.
She lives, loves, laughs.
Laughter and food are the best medicines.
She does what it takes to turn her dreams into reality.
She strives to be better because mediocrity is not good enough.
She believes she deserves success and happiness.
And takes action to make it happen.
Live in the moment.
She is no longer a curious child
She is a sensual, empowered woman
Who leads a rich, fulfilled life.
She knows her health means hope. For always.
What’s your biggest wish? I mean, really.
If you could wave a magic wand and have anything you wanted, what would it be?
This is always the first question I ask my clients before we begin working together. The answer usually boils down to this:
YOU WANT NOTHING MORE THAN TO LOOK AND FEEL BETTER.
But despite the tremendous effort you’ve been putting in, you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster with your weight, your health and your emotions.
And then you end up beating yourself up for letting yourself down. You blame yourself for not following through. You tell yourself you’re lazy, you lack willpower and that you don’t deserve to be thin or feel beautiful.
The counting calories, the weighing, the chronic dieting… all it’s doing is setting you up for failure. Because, here’s the kicker:
Nutrition doesn’t come from calories, vitamins, minerals, carbs or proteins. Those are just facts. Sure, they’re helpful for advancing science but are far too oversimplified for the human body.
Always trying to figure out what we should or shouldn’t eat can be exhausting.
There’s a lot of advice out there and it can be overwhelming.
I know because I used to try to implement it all… and then felt like I was implementing nothing at the same time!
WHEN WE EAT INTUITIVELY, THOUGH, WE DON’T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT FOOD ALL THE TIME.
Back when I ate whatever I thought I was supposed to, I was always thinking about food. Constantly.
No matter what I was doing, it was always on the back of my mind.
But now that I eat intuitively, I look forward to eating. And in a way that’s positive and healthy for my body and my mind.
What is intuitive eating exactly?
So in other words, intuitive eating is forgetting about what you “should” be eating and listening to your body and your mind. It’s when you make food choices for yourself out of love and not restriction.
But how on earth do we get there? Watch this video or read on below:
Chewing sugar-free gum is a well-known strategy to lose weight. It’s supposed to help us cut calories, curb cravings and ultimately reach our ideal weight. But unfortunately, chewing gum comes with a whole slew of negative side effects.
I used to chew it all the time. Even though I never liked to. I did it because I liked that it gave me fresh breath and I thought that it was good for me. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I learned that it can actually be quite bad for you.
Before you reach for your next stick, consider these unwelcome consequences.
Have you ever reached into your closet for a piece of clothing and realized… it didn’t fit?
That’s exactly what happened to me this summer.
I went to put on a pair of shorts… and then couldn’t.
They didn’t fit!
So then I reached for another pair of shorts. They didn’t fit either.
My reaction in the past would have been to freak out. I would have gone into panic mode.
You know what I mean?
- You swear up and down that you’re doing to workout like crazy and eat healthy first thing come Monday morning.
- You start leafing through magazines to figure out what the latest trend is that you can start implementing for yourself.
- You cancel happy hour with your friends so you can feel sorry for yourself and binge on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
I’d beat myself up, tear my hair out with guilt and feel more self-conscious than ever before.
But now, I’m a completely different woman and when I realized that none of my favorite shorts fit, instead of going crazy and feeling ashamed with myself, I have an entirely new attitude about it. I laugh.
So when you reach into your closet for a piece of clothing and it doesn’t fit, here’s what you do:
Below you’ll see just about everything I keep in my kitchen pantry. I don’t necessarily have all these ingredients on hand at all times and I hardly think that’s necessary. These are foods that can generally last ages so it’s nice to have a good variety on hand to be able to put together a recipe at any given time.
I hope this inspires you to fill your pantry with whole healthy real foods!
Download a printable version here.
My Whole Foods Pantry List
Oat, brown rice & buckwheat flour (I usually grind my own as needed)
Grains & Pasta: All are Gluten Free
Grains (and seeds) will spoil before I get to them, so I keep them in mason jars in my refrigerator.
Brown rice or quinoa pasta
Buckwheat soba noodles
Buckwheat & sweet potato soba noodles
Oats ( steel-cut & rolled)
Trader Joe’s brown & wild sprouted rice