Earlier this week I was reminded to finish a post I’ve been drafting for about 6 months. This is the third version of this post that I’ve put together, and hopefully by now I’ve collected my thoughts on the matter enough to share my philosophy on the matter with you all. It’s something I’ve advocated extensively on multiple podcasts and try to really focus on in my own everyday life. But sometimes life gets the better of you. Sometimes it just doesn’t come easy. Like this week, when I shared about the emotional struggle I was having and very openly posted about it on here on facebook and here on instagram asking for your help.
I have a confession. I’m struggling. I haven’t been my best lately. I have been staying up too late, am more stressed about things than I need to be, am focused on the negative instead of finding the positive, am not working out consistently, and I haven’t been making the best food choices. It’s not lost on me that all of those things snow ball into each other, making getting back on track that much harder. This time of year has been very hard for me since my grandmother died a few years ago, and on the heels of a busy time in my life it has hit me hard. What do you all do to get out of the rut, to be inspired, to get back on track with health, healing and happiness?
Sometimes just admitting something is happening is the motivation I need to stop the behavior. So, I re-read this old post from 2011 to remind myself where I’ve come from as well as where I want my mind to be. Afterall, action breeds belief, right? Starting today, starting now, not tomorrow or after the holidays, it’s time to take care of myself. Today I had an incredibly stressful day at work and I desperately wanted to eat cookies and drink wine. Instead, I lifted heavy things and got to feel great not only about my healthy choice but also enjoy an endorphin rush. I needed a reminder that this is the best gift I can give myself!
Specifically, I referred back to this post from 2011 about “what losing 100lbs feels like” and realized that a) depression at this time of year has been on-going for me for years since the sudden death of my grandmother, with whom I was very close and b) filling an emotional void with food and bad lifestyle habits is a lifelong habit that will always be a continuously evolving journey of improvement for me – as it is (apparently) for so many of you. And, just like in 2011 – the best way for me to refocus and stay positive is to remember where I’ve come from. So. Very. Far.
Before and after photo from 2011: Left- 286 – down 50lbs from starting weight of 336, Right, 100lbs lighter at 236
I heard from so many of you wonderful words of encouragement and ideas on how to reframe my life in the positive. I have given a lot of thought to a lot of them and want to share some ideas for what I’m going to henceforth refer to as “Self Respect”. And honestly, I am thrilled to say that after making this post – within 48 hours (just like the post in 2011 said) – I’m feeling better already!
So what are those things that inspired me, that got me off of the couch eating a metric ton of paleo cookies and into the homegym back on my daily soup routine?
♥ Communicating the need for help. Boy, this was by far the biggie for me. I told you all – and got an incredible flood of support and inspiration. I told my training buddy Viv and she volunteered (and seems happy to be paid off in food) to come work out with and coach me every Friday night! I told my family, who gave me permission to feel sad and encouraged me with snuggles and happy thoughts. And I told my husband, who helped me find the positive, helped me craft a plan, and volunteered to join me for every step of the way to getting back on path and staying there. I’m SO excited to get to do a training program with him, to have him encourage me with healthy eating, and have him wagging his finger at me when I’m being dramatic (read: stressed) or staying up too late.
♥ Get in a groove and create new habits. Maybe try a new activity that seems fun and exciting, to start a spark. Whatever it is, consistency creates habits. Start packing your lunch the night before and turning off electronics an hour before you want to be in bed. Put an appointment on your calendar for the time you want to carve out for exercise or food prep. Put timers on your phone to simply stand up, walk around, and maybe do some air squats a couple of times a day. Whatever it is, once you start it’s much easier to keep going!
♥ Don’t be overwhelmed with where to start, take baby steps. It can seem like a never under-ending uphill climb when thinking about “fixing” bad food, sleep, stress, and other lifestyle habits. You can’t possibly take them all on at once and not feel overwhelmed. Pick something, anything, and just do it. Then keep making improvements when you’re ready. For me, it was exercising, which then made me want to drink more water, which helped me eat better! It’s always a work in progress, don’t be afraid to accept that this is a journey!
♥ Don’t be a Paleo Perfectionist. As Robb Wolf once said on an Instagram post of mine whereby trolls were hating because we were eating at 5 Guys, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.” No one is perfect. NO ONE. Every single Paleo leader makes concessions and choices sometimes. The key is determining where and when you will chose to make them, and then getting right back on path (without guilt) after.
But, dear ladies and Gentlemen, we need to have a chat.
As much as there were wonderful inspiring, fantastic ideas there were also ideas that contributed to the exact behavior I was expressing frustration over. We each have our own paths, our own goals, our own desires. But when someone is interested in bettering their situation advising them to fall face first into a gluten-free pizza and guzzle a bottle of wine with chocolate ice cream waiting in the wings isn’t going to help. In fact, in my case, that’s the exact way I got into the negative, depressing head-space I was occupying at the time.
I think somewhere along the lines, the recommendations to “unconditionally” love ourselves, to feel satisfied that we’re “enough exactly as we are” allowed us to forget one very important factor. If you’re not happy with yourself, then you have the power to change it. Acceptance of misery doesn’t make it better. If you’re not content with the life choices you’re making, the situation you find yourself in, or how you feel – you don’t need to believe that you’re enough or accept it – you can change it!
Loving Oneself Means Respecting Oneself
Having an emotional food binge because I was emotionally upset about a bloated belly (from poor food choices), soft muscles (from lack of desire to exercise), poor lifestyle choices (because I wasn’t prioritizing me and the sleep I needed), and poor stress management (because I let everything snowball and affect me more than appropriate) wasn’t going to help me feel better. In fact, it was most certainly going to doom me to feeling even worse!
Should we feel guilty and beat ourselves up for choices we’ve made in the past that we can’t change?
Could we focus on learning from our past and work on making better choices to improve how we feel?
I guess for me, as an overweight leader in a health movement (yup, we’re still the fattest people in paleo and that’s OK) and advocate for fat acceptance, I feel responsibility to highlight this very nuanced but extremely important difference.
♥ Self love is not chocolate, or any emotional food choice.
♥ Self love is not ignoring our body’s signals that it requires things like sleep, less stress, and exercise to feel it’s best.
♥ Self love is not some Jack Handy quote that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy about the fact that we haven’t worked out in weeks, are eating paleo cookies for breakfast, and that our pants don’t fit our waistline anymore.
Should we love ourselves despite our size, despite our choices, and despite what other people think?
Can I get a hell yes?
Is it loving ourselves to make bad choices that contribute to bad health and not feeling or best?
Am I making my point clear here, yet?
Listen, I’m all too familiar with people judging me. I come from the internet. The other day I read some YouTube and iTunes comments about myself that made me cry. For hours. I’ve got pictures of myself in my underwear all over the internet. I know better than to read comments, to worry about what others’ think, but sometimes it happens. And it’s not easy to shake off! I may have a “tough girl, strong woman” persona but underneath that tough shell is a woman who is a giant, emotional softie who is so hard on herself (hello, Type A personality) that the idea of someone else coming up with additional criticism is almost enough for self-imploding.
Which is when stress starts, which triggers emotional eating, which usually involves sugar before bed, which means I stay up too late, which means I don’t get enough sleep, which means I don’t rest and recover, which means I wake up the next day even more stressed and emotional – triggering the whole cycle over again.
It’s not just emotional, this cycle is scientifically proven and defined in our hormone cycle. The relationship with cortisol, leptin, melatonin, insulin, and a host of other hormones all interact and make it physically difficult to make good choices.
Action Breeds Belief
This incredibly difficult cycle of negativity I just described is physically difficult to abandon. But it’s never going to become easy. You’re never going to magically be elbow deep into a Costco size container of chocolate covered almonds and decide, “You know what I want to do? Work out and start eating clean!” and then poof it becomes easy. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Positive thoughts are the best way for positive results.
If you make good choices, reward yourself. NOT with “bad” habits or food. Create good habits with positive reinforcement: buy work out clothes, go get a massage or manicure, buy yourself a Paleo cookbook (I have a few I can recommend),
Start making healthy food, whether you want to eat it or not. Simply prepping a bunch of veggies, making a batch of organ meat jerky, or starting a batch of stock will encourage you to partake in those foods instead of indulging in less than healthy choices.
Learn to say no. No, seriously. I was invited, and had said yes to, going out with some girl friends yesterday evening. I knew it’d mean we’d be out late and there would be alcohol and tempting food involved. After being on the straight-and-narrow for a short 48 hour period I did the very, very difficult thing of calling my friend and having to change my RSVP. And you know what? The world didn’t stop. In fact, I felt proud of myself for learning to say no.
Trust on others to help you, communicate your needs and ask for help. You’ll be amazed at how much people want to help once you simply tell them you’d appreciate it.
Make a plan, and stick to it. Don’t become overwhelmed by too many things – avoid analysis paralysis. Just choose one, feel good it’s the best decision you could make at the time and feel really great about it. And then, just do it. Make time. Forgive yourself the things you have to say no to in order to accomplish it. Do what it takes in order to respect yourself enough to get it done.
Use language that reinforces these are your choices, and that it’s because you respect yourself and love yourself that you’re choosing to not go with friends to the pancake house after that Saturday morning WOD. Or, if you feel you have the willpower to handle it, order steak and eggs while there! I like to say things like “I don’t eat that” instead of “I can’t eat that” because it puts the power back in my hands and makes me feel good about my choice and being empowered, instead of frustrated by something I’m being denied.
And if you find yourself in a situation where you regret a choice you made, forgive yourself and move on. Decide that today, right now, is the moment you’ll make different, better choices going forward.
That is self respect. That is loving myself.
Self respect doesn’t mean figuring out ways to lose as much weight as possible. It’s about focusing on you, on your own needs and wants and prioritizing them – with your own best interests in mind.
In that respect, I DO love myself. I do this FOR myself, because I RESPECT myself. For me, that means a focus on nutrient-dense foods, sleeping 8 hours a night, getting solid family time daily, exercising several times a week, and trying to avoid stress. For me, it does not mean losing weight (although fat loss is never upsetting), looking or behaving like someone else’s ideals.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is, the next time you want to do something and you think to yourself, “I deserve this.” Question yourself. Really. Ask the tough question, “Is partaking in this respecting my body, my health, my mind – or am I emotionally justifying bad behavior?” No one can EVER be perfect all the time (I know I’m not!), but if we become more self aware of the choices we each make, perhaps we’ll make better ones more often.
Epilogue: From My Perspective
I strive to share with you my most intimate and heartfelt thoughts, take pictures of my foods – both deep fried fish heads and non-paleo treats. I am up front and honest about almost everything I can be in order to show that this lifestyle isn’t about perfectionism, but rather making the best choices you can make every day towards a path of life-long, sustainable health and wellness.
That’s why I’m a bit frustrated that I’ve also become an excuse for people to make poor decisions and justify their behavior.
My mission has always been to encourage everyone to find their path to health and wellness. I’ve written countless articles and filibustered epic soap boxes on a number of podcasts about how passionately I feel about people (women in particular) allowing themselves to feel good about focusing on health and wellness instead of weight.
I myself lost 136lbs on the paleo diet. Then I kept 100+ of that off for 3 years. You know what that means? I gained about 35 of it back. gasp, shock, horror Just the last year alone I’ve put on 10lbs. Of muscle. I also lost an epic amounts of inches and gained so much strength that I won several strength competitions, the first time I’ve ever attempted to do anything athletic in my entire life.
And I fight.
I fight for us all, when I declare that I am healthy. That I am happy. That I have the heart rate and blood pressure of an athlete with blood tests that make my doctor swoon with delight.
I fight for myself when the gluten-free brownies call my name and I ask instead for a cup of tea.
For years I’ve used this blog as an outlet for my own thoughts, from Fat Acceptance to my declaring I Want To Be Strong to finalizing realizing I Am Strong. If you haven’t read those posts yet and find this topic interesting, please go read them. While at it check out What Losing 135lbs Looks Like and What Losing 200lbs Feels Like, or my original post that started this blog’s popularity and inspired today’s post – What Losing 100lbs Feels Like. What you’ll notice about all of these posts is that I try very hard to focus on health and well being – both physical and mental.
I often talk about body acceptance. Loving your body no matter what it looks like, in favor of finding health at any size. I focus on simply loving yourself. Forgiving yourself. Or better yet, not feeling guilty to begin with in order to not need to forgive yourself. It was a gluten-free cupcake that I ate, not a crime I committed.
What I also say, and sometimes goes unheard, is that we women need to respect ourselves. By all means, love your body. Love other people’s bodies. Love everyone and everything you possibly can in order to make the world a more joyous and happy place. But the other part of respecting yourself means doing the best you can for yourself. Whether that means working less, sleeping more, or eating better – by respecting my body it means that I give it the absolute best things I know how. That doesn’t mean ice cream every night (I wish) or gluten-free processed foods at my every whim. When I love and respect myself it means nourishing my body with healing foods.
I highly encourage you to challenge yourself today, and everyday going forward. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s extremely difficult. I challenge you to respect yourself enough to make the right choices for your health and well being, while loving yourself enough to not feel shame or guilt when you make a choice that’s less than ideal. I ask you to not use my encouragement of body acceptance as justification for bad habits. Because if you truly love and respect yourself and your body, you will want to nourish it for the longest, healthiest life possible. – Stacy ♥