Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

Gratitude

What up, friends.

I was having a discussion with a client of mine about positivity, and it struck me that I’ve never straight on discussed on my blog how I feel about positive thinking.  I think it’s… well.  It’s amazing.  Perhaps

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the most important thing in our lives.   For mental health, for our relationships, for our bodies, for our souls…   Gods!  It’s a huge topic, too.  “Positive thinking.”  So I’m going to focus on, like I said, the most important points.  First, gratitude.  Then, what does gratitude do to improve our mental and physical health?

First, there’s a caveat. (I feel like Prometheus.  These damn things never go away.)  Positive thinking is, while the absolute most important, also the absolute most difficult part of this whole recovery deal to wrap our heads around.  Whether it’s because of our natural wiring and drive perfect ourselves, or our consumer culture, or globalization, or stress, or what-have-you, we are really, really good at being down.  Sadness and futility are pervasive.  The English language, you know, has twice as many words for describing sad emotions as for describing happy ones.  That shouldn’t be surprising.  The real kicker of the whole deal, too, is that sadness begets sadness.  Once we start thinking negatively, more negative thoughts pull us further under, and before we know it we’re being dragged along the bottom of the ocean bumping our heads on all sorts of lava flows and abandoned ships.  I see this time and time again with my clients.  Everyone recognizes the fact that positive thinking is the pavement on the road to recovery, but no one has it easy internalizing this fact.  So take it slow.  Practice some of the ideas and activities I (and others) propose when you feel like it.  Affirm yourself as much as you can.  Love and forgive yourself as much as you can.  Try and think of how you would treat your partner, or your child, and give yourself the same leeway. Look at the things in your life that give you stress and see how you can change them.  Trust me– the world really is a bright and beautiful and lovely place.  All we’ve got to do, well, I guess is warm up to that idea over time.  Then give it a bear hug and fight as fiercely as possible to hold on to it forever.

The world is full of pain.  We all know this.  Yet while it sucks big time, why dwell on it?   Especially when it’s our own suffering?  Focusing on our own problems doesn’t do anything for anybody.  What’s more, everything in our lives could be a whole hell of a lot worse.  We could have a shit show of everything.  That would be very bad.  That would be as bad as some other people do have it.  So perhaps we should feel sympathy for them, and think about their pain and how we can ease it, instead of focusing on our own issues that really could be eons worse. Every day we wake up feeling healthy deserves a prayerful of thanks.  Remember how scary it is to be sick?  It’s amazing that we have whatever health (and existence!) that we do.  This fact is worth cherishing beyond measure.

That said, the pain that we do experience doesn’t even have to be a bad thing.  Instead, we can internalize it as an inherent part of the human experience.  Without pain we would never know true joy, so we honestly have no choice but to be grateful for sorrows.  Moreover, we, as human beings, are united by our basic humanity.   “Hearts united in pain and sorrow,” wrote Khalil Gibran, “will not be separated by joy and happiness. Bonds that are woven in sadness are stronger than the ties of joy and pleasure. Love that is washed by tears will remain eternally pure and faithful.”  Not bad, eh? We are profoundly connected to each other by our abilities to feel and to love and to bleed, and all of our struggles help us to be truly, deeply human.  In this way, our suffering makes us profoundly (and bittersweetly) beautiful creatures.  We can–and should–find gratitude in our hearts for every experience, even for this.

What else do we have to be grateful for?  How many good, or fine, or acceptable things are there in our lives?  How many beautiful things surround us on a daily basis?  One of my favorite pieces of prose I have ever read was by a female prison inmate.  In it, she discusses the simplest of pleasures, and how desperately she yearns to experience them.   The greatest aspect of all, to me, is that she talks about color.  She yearns for color.  When I read this piece, I think about the fact that no matter where I am or what I am feeling in my life, I will always have the beautiful, wonderful experience of color.

“I want to see the colors, all of them, every color ever spun into existence.  And white, true white, pristine and unblemished.  And acres of green trees, and miles of yellow-ribbon highways, and yards of Christmas lights.  And the moon.”

What a rich and lovely and vibrant thing.  This passage will never leave me, even in my saddest times.   And it will always remind me of what it means to be human, to have senses, to experience the world, and to live and love and absorb beauty.

One of the great loves of my life once said this:

“I love life. I love everything about it. Smiling, laughing, loving, crying, breathing, jumping, running, flying, standing still – arms open, head tilted towards the heavens. Everything in, around, and about my life is beautiful. I watch countless sunrises, sunsets, wind blowing in the trees, waves rolling on open water, birds flying in the endless sky and fall more in love with this world every day. I don’t understand how any person could be anything but overjoyed with life.”

And he has a point, does he not?  The things he loves are simple and universal, and they flood him daily with enormous feelings of gratitude and love.

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So what does this do for our bodies and our health?

Feeling gratitude in every moment, and looking at the positive aspects of our experiences, increases the amount of time we spend thinking positively about the world.  With more and more positive thoughts accumulating in our heads, we are de facto pushing out the negative ones.  Instead of spending our time trying to get rid of negative thoughts, which can sometimes help us achieve neutrality, we can actively use positive thinking to shove them out the door. “Sorry, self-hate! My brain is an open invitation party for lovers and optimists only.”    Even if it is only a little bit at first, the ability to think positively and gratefully about our lives grows and grows, and can become more and more the dominant mode of thought.

Like I said above, easier said than done.  But it’s true and it’s important and it’s absolutely a practical step towards well-being.   Make a list about yourself, for example, of all of the beautiful things inside and out.  Or stand in front of the mirror.  Or flex and look at your muscles.  Do whatever you need to to appreciate your own body.  Lay in your bed and breathe deeply in and out, and think about your heartbeat and your nerves and all of your fibers working together.  Even better, though, is looking for gratitude outside of yourself. Open your fridge and feel grateful for your bounty.  We live in a world of abundance, so instead of resenting it, be grateful that you have enough food and resources to meet your needs.  It’s okay if you overeat once in a while, or what-have-you.  Isn’t that better than starving for the rest of your life?  I know a lot of people who in secret admit that they have envied starving children in India because it is “effortless” to be thin.  Please don’t be one of them.  It is the most wonderful thing to be fed and warm, and we have nothing to be but grateful for it.  Our societies have hindered our ability to normally use those resources, but that’s okay.  We can get that back.  We just have to love, love, love ourselves and rise above the troubles coming at us in our lives.  We have worlds worth of things to be grateful for, and focusing on them helps us transcend the ugliness in our own lives.

Studies about gratitude have shown time and time again that it increases well-being.   Feeling grateful makes the world a generally brighter place, and we could really use that from time to time.  The thing is that it doesn’t just have to be an occasion, or an intervention, but it can be a habit.   To make that happen, we can routinely focus on our gratitude, AND, if we really want to push the envelop, we can explicitly express our gratitude.  Expressing thanks to others has shown to be hugely beneficial and stress reducing.  One slighter but no less important method is expressing thanks privately, such as writing, drawing, or singing how we feel.  I mean it.  Get it out there.  Share with your loved ones and the wider universe what you are grateful for in any situation, and your brain be much better prepared to deal with future struggles.

I write about gratitude today not only because it is the most important thing in my life but also because it is so incredibly relevant to contemporary culture.  We live in a time that compels us to think about what we can’t have, to wish we could be better, to want want want want need need need need.  Bullshit!  Contemporary culture actively works to eliminate gratitude and appreciation.  Constantly, it chips away at our “gratitude muscles.”  I don’t like this one bit.  Positive thinking is enabled by gratitude and acceptance and love, and sometimes we need reminders of that fact.  So… stop.  breathe.  look up.  look around.   Life certainly is a clusterfuck of struggles and pain sometimes, but we always exist, and we always have something beautiful in our lives, and we always have each other.  If those things aren’t enough to ease the burdens off of our shoulders, I don’t know what possibly could be.

Kevin Spacey’s character in the film American beauty says:

“It’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst…and then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…”

 

 

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The history behind Paleolithic diets

The palaeolithic diet, is a eating style which is compared to the caveman diet because it only allows you to eat certain types of meat and vegetables and bans sugar and ready-made meals. Similar eating styles were presumed to be used 2.5 million years ago. The modern version permits dieters to have grass fed, pasture raised meats, fish, vegetables, roots, nuts and fruits. However, it excludes grains, legumes, refined sugars and dairy. It tries to mimic what cave people might have lived off of.

The science behind this method is that research has suggested that modern people are genetically developed to consume the diet of their ancestors. In addition, studies have shown that there has been nutritional benefits of trying the old age diet. Some people think it can help with acne because it helps improve their skin. It seems like a good idea if you want to cut down on fatty items and ready-meals, improve your quality of life, living longer which will reduce the risk of your family cashing in on the Aviva Life insurance, or which ever company you might be with. However, it is not popular with everyone, nutritional experts and the National Health Service of England have implied it is likely to be a fad diet. Critics believe it doesn’t reach certain dietary recommendations and the diet provides no benefit, but equally no harm.

The main foods of the diet are based around those which can be hunted or gathered, such as fish, eggs, nuts, fruits and seeds. By eating lean cuts of meat, including wild game and grass fed beef, proved to have higher levels of omega 3 oils. Any product which was not consumed by the cave people are not permitted, these include dairy and grains.

To wash all that down with, dieters can drink water and some teas, but are banned from alcohol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16

05 2011

Reader Insight

With the permission of a reader of mine who has become a dear friend, I am posting part of one of her emails to me.  I find it to be very stirring and very true, and I think that the words of someone wrestling with food so intelligently and bravely right now might be a good perspective to add to mine on this blog.  She discusses what makes her binge, and why, and it’s enormously touching.  Moreover, we could all really learn from her radical and brilliant self-honesty.

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I thought about WHY did I want to eat. Was it because I was hungry? Was it because I had just “allowed” myself  that day and wanted to make the most of it as a treat? Or was it because I wanted to be distracted from a thought about myself or a void inside?

Usually when I binge, Stef, I think its the last two questions.  I’m getting better at learning how to handle the second to last one- the go crazy because I already screwed it up mentality- that’s all about willpower, and realizing that the real treat and the real spoiling of myself comes from getting to that goal weight that would make me so happy. It’s the last question I think is the hardest- the types of thoughts I’m trying to escape from are ones where I am disappointed in myself, or ones where I feel lonely (like I’ll never find someone to spend the rest of my life and will live alone forever), or thoughts about how I could be better at everything, or thoughts about how little progress I’ve made- I don’t need to describe more because we both know what those self-castigating thoughts (thriggers [purposeful misspelling lol] lets call them) are and how they get us going on a binge.  And we talked about it before and I knew that, but what I think I realized this week, is when you are in that moment, when you are reaching to eat something, and IN THAT MOMENT when you realize that you are doing it because you don’t want to think whatever you are thinking, or you want to run away from that loneliness inside- it is so hard to put it down. Not because you dont realize its not going to make you better- I’ve made that realization already- i know that it’s not going to make me feel better, and i know that probably in an hour and the next day its going to make me even feel worse but IN THAT MOMENT, it’s something to do, something to distract myself with, something to fill myself with. Something to keep me from being alone with my thoughts of self loathing and loneliness. And when you do decide to put it down, and when you do decide to not eat, you are alone with those thoughts. And that’s when it becomes something you actually know- that is when you actually realize that you were eating to not be alone with those thoughts, because being alone with those thoughts suck. At least it was something to do (like people turn to alcohol or drugs, the analogies weve made before to addictive substances).  It’s not until you actually let yourself be alone with those thoughts do you really understand that you were running away from being alone with them. And I know why- because it sucks to be alone with them. But I know thats the only way to heal.  Its the harder route, but in the long run makes me happier, and in the long war against self loathing, its beginning a small battle with those thoughts- giving yourself the opportunity to sift through them, to face them, instead of eating away from them.

Did any of that make sense? I hope it did. I was trying to convey something I think that’s been very powerful for me.  Realizing that 1) not only will eating not make it go away or make it better and will actually make it worse and make me hate myself more and that 2) being alone with these thoughts is what I was running away from, is what binging was doing for me.  The thoughts of feeling like I obsess too much on whats on the outside and that my inside is not good enough, or that I will be alone forever. Or that I feel like a failure in everything. Not always, many of the times I binged because I felt I needed to make the most of this “break” — which I think is more about dealing with willpower and arming myself with the knowledge that Im not depriving myself but actually doing better.

As you can see, I’m sifting through the WHYS of my binging so I can move forward with better armor and preparation as you suggested is best.  I’m reading this book called “the act of racing in the rain”- it’s absolutely amazing. I want to copy in a paragraph for you, but it will take too long. Basically the point of the paragraph is:  “that which you manifest is before you”– I’m explaining it horribly, but the idea is that you create your own destiny by the decisions you make and the way you react to things that are outside your control- by realizing the response to these actions are in your control.  I woke up this morning (the hardest part for me is the day after a bad day , I just want to make that bad day bad too and the cycle goes on) saying “that which you manifest is before you- it is in my hands to get to my goals or not, I can decide whether I’m going to make this day something that I want rather than something that is self sabotage”- and I am pushing and pushing every time a thought of laziness, post fruit from yesterday hunger pang comes, to remember my goal to get to Sunday with my break only lasting one day. And I WILL do it Stef, I’ll be dammed, but God willing, I will get there. Because I can decided whether I will or not, and I decide to do what I know I want for myself.

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She’s brilliant, isn’t she?  And strong and courageous, and making so much progress, and really doing well.  And getting through med school at the same time.  In any case, the greatest lesson I think we can learn from her is that running is not the answer.  Food as a distraction is not the answer.  Is it momentarily numbing?  Absolutely.  But it is a band-aid, and a bit of a scary one, at that.  One of those that pulls all of your tiny hairs out when you take it off.  Don’t let food be a band-aid.  If you need one, look elsewhere.  If you don’t need one, face your demons head on, and think about how to best deal with them, and approach the problem with as much patience, love, and positivity as you can muster.  And I promise, I promise: no matter the depth of your pain or your self-illusion, recognizing food as a distraction will help you walk away from it more easily.  Hell no, it won’t be easy.  But it will be easier, and you will be able to more clear-headedly think about your problems and how to fix their place in your life.

12

05 2011

Your body as a temple

I spent the vast majority of my life hating my body.   If it’s not because my thighs are too fat and my skin is too pockmarked, it’s because I’m infertile, I can’t digest dairy, or my inside has just as many problems as my outside.  My metabolism is too slow.  My joints are too weak.  My gut too leaky.   I can come up with and rationalize about a million reasons to hate my body, and once I solve one problem, it’s pretty easy to start zeroing in on another.

First: this is just dumb.  Everybody’s body has more and less smoothly running components, and whatever we punish ourselves for probably isn’t all that bad.  And if it is, chances are good we’ve each got lots of stellar things going on to counteract it.  The world, and, in particular, your body, isn’t out to get you, just like mine isn’t out to get me, so don’t let yourself be drawn into viscous cycles of hate and pain.  What is, is, and never in a malicious way.

Second: these negative feelings–ones of self loathing and hate and despair–they foster in us feelings of deprivation and need.  I see every single day clients dealing with self loathing as their biggest roadblock to mental and physical health.  I hate this!  It’s ridiculous!  And I’ve battled it over and over again myself in just about the most viciously possible ways.  Hating my self and my body made me feel as though I could never make progress, and I was hopeless, and I hated myself for it, and as such I needed, so desperately, something to make me feel better.  Food was my drug of choice.  So it called to me strongly, and often I binged.  Or grazed.  Medicated. And then I’d feel even worse.   And drawn to food.  Again.   Cycling constantly between futility and pain on one hand, and food on the other. It’s not a good situation to be in, and the longer you’re in it the harder and harder it gets to pull yourself out.

And then you acquire all sorts of disordered behaviors, and negative associations with foods, and you doubt yourself and you doubt your body and the world makes less and less sense every day.

OR perhaps your situation is not quite that dire, but you want to have the healthiest relationship with food and your body as possible.

So what do you do?

You reconceptualize.  There are a number of ways to do this.  For one, you can seek out healthier ways to medicate, such as yoga or running.  Or, two: you can consistently employ positive reinforcement to make yourself realize all of the truly wonderful and beautiful things about you.  A third heuristic that I find quite helpful and awesome, however, is this:

Pretend you are a god.

I’m not kidding.  Think about a god, a goddess, a temple, some divine being, something you worship and cherish beyond all other things (get your minds off your Rabbits, ladies).  What would you feed it?  When would you feed it?  Why?  How often would you make it exercise?  Would you drive it into the ground with cardio or with weights?  Would you pop it’s zits in the mirror?  Would you pinch it’s fat?  Would you say nasty things to it when no one else is listening?

Fuck.  No.

You would, clearly, adopt whatever habits are best for it’s health.  You’d also probably let it deviate, and eat chocolate from time to time.  You’d be honest with it, but you’d praise it thoroughly.  You’d lavish on it wonderful, luxurious attention, and you’d appreciate all of it’s imperfections exactly as they are.  You’d give it bubble baths, you’d tell it to calm down, you’d make sure to keep it’s fridge stocked with the freshest ingredients possible.   You’d encourage positive thinking.  You’d treat it well.  You would, in essence, give it, to the best of your knowledge, and within the realms of your power, the greatest care imaginable.

Now let that temple be you.

See?

It kind of works, doesn’t it.  It rather inspires me.  I feel a greater sense of self-love when I think this way, and I want, more intensely than usual, to be good to myself and to relax and to be healthy and to be free. This kind of external perspective helps us be more objective about the ways we should treat ourselves.  And it makes it fun.  When we step outside of ourselves, and release ourselves from whatever negativities or loathing or what-have-you we might we wrestling with, we can breathe more deeply and think about ourselves as beings that deserve love. Because we fucking do.  And if we deserve love, oughtn’t we be the first ones to treat ourselves that way?  Nuture yourself.  Don’t be a punisher.  That kind of discipline, ages and ages of psychological research has shown us, is ineffective.  Instead, be a positive reinforcer, and be a nuturer, and a lover.

This kind of perspective also adds a bit of inspiration to adopt new behaviors.  It helps us stick to them, too.  Suddenly our new, difficult eating habits are less of a burden and more of an exercise in excellence!  How fun!  Wake up in the morning and ask: what would I feed a lovely mermaid?  Let’s get her some fresh juice and an omelet, tell her she’s lovely, stroke her hair, and invite her back for healthful, filling lunch.   And tell her to wait to eat again for that meal, because she’ll be more metabolically healthy that way, and mermaids deserve to be as healthy as humanly possible.  AND THEN REMEMBER THAT THIS MERMAID IS ACTUALLY YOU!  And you’ve got power and self love and beauty and all of the tools necessary to treat yourself like it.   I am Aphrodite, hear me roar!

 

10

04 2011

Self Compassion Saturday!

A link, and my favorite poem:

Self Compassion: Why forgiving yourself actually makes you eat less.

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Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

12

03 2011

I will not be afraid of women

I just read a rather touching post over at Modern Paleo, titled Crossfit and Body Image. In it, the author Emily talks about her experience with Crossfit as focused on fitness and health, rather than image.   Awesome.  I’m thrilled that this is a common Crossfit experience.  W2FG, Crossfit.  This kind of shit rocks my world.

The most poignant part of the post for me, however, was Emily’s opening anecdote.  Emily told the story of a young, fit girl at the Crossfit gym who was disgusted with her body.  As she disparaged her butt and her thighs, Emily watched, dumbstruck.  First, how could such a beautiful girl think such awful thoughts? Second, if this young girl loathed her perky, perfect body so much, thought Emily, how must she feel about Emily’s older, more heavily-worn limbs?

I’ve experienced the exact same situation many times.  She’s so beautiful: she must think I’m fat.  !   I’m sure everyone has felt the weight of similar comparisons.  Yet of course our loathing is internally directed, and chances are quite good that if we saw a random, anonymous body that looked just like ours, we might like it just fine.

The thing is, we have to be able to be simultaneously more removed from and more in touch with our bodies.  More removed because we need to be able to step back and say “fuck it, body image isn’t really a bit deal, and I look just as normal and good as everybody else,” and more in touch with our bodies because we need to forgive and embrace them.  Perfection isn’t achievable by anyone, not by a long shot, so stop looking at other women in your life like they’re beating you to the finish line.

There is a Dar Williams song, “As Cool as I am.”   It’s about embracing womanhood and supporting each other, rather than fearing each other’s opinions and feeling judged all the time.  So… let’s do this.  In Crossfit gyms, at the mall, on campuses.  At work and in the grocery store. All over the world.  There is no race to beauty, and there is no race to health.  No man or woman is your enemy, and I’ll be damned if I ever play a part in making anyone feel otherwise.

Edit: Nor of men!  Competition with the other gender is different, but it is still important.  This really struck home today when my mother asked me if I read the latest post over at Mark’s Daily Apple, the Unconquerable Dave.  I deliberately hadn’t read it, I realized as I was emailing my mom back, because sometimes the awesomeness of others makes me feel inadequate.  I was afraid Dave would make me feel inadequate.  This was ridiculous.   He was enormously inspiring, and I’m buoyed to the moon and back by his joys.

10

02 2011

Photojournalism

I love taking photos. I use a simple Canon Rebel EOS with the cheapest available telephoto, wide angle, and macro lenses. I’d love to talk shop about it with you. Mostly I like to photograph nature scenes and people scenes that tell stories. I can’t promise I’m any good at it, but I think photography is a really beautiful language. For that reason, I’m going to make photo-centric posts every so often, and then compile all of these photos on the “Photos” page. They can be viewed in slideshow form.

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Today: Grasses. I made a bit of a project for myself while I was at home in Detroit this past year, deciding to photograph as much color and natural beauty as possible. I wanted to show that beauty can be found anywhere. It is. This is a very cool fact.

Grasses

03

02 2011