Mindful Body & Soul
On the cusp of retiring my uterus, my mind is shifting towards my body image, and a great deal of self-awareness is coming to pass. As a woman who has now delivered 7 babies (4 of my own children, and 3 surrogacy babies), I have battled a love-hate relationship with my body. I think most women feel this way at some points in their lives. But it is especially difficult through pregnancy and birth and the months following when we look in the mirror. The female body is a powerful entity and when we forget to appreciate it for the strength it holds. We neglect to love ourselves for what we are – Goddesses.
I began writing this blog with a sense of urgency to get everything out that I’ve been struggling with. It just kept spilling over. I realized that one blog was never going to be enough to address all that was circling in my mind. So, I turned it into blog series about Mindfulness and how it pertains to health and body image. I needed to write it for myself, but also in the hopes it might stir something deep inside of each woman who reads it.
Weight: The Constant Battle
We tell ourselves from a young age that a female body must look a certain way to be attractive. Why? Because the media floods us with the message that to be thin is to be sexy. Over time we begin to soak this mentality up as truth. Then we have babies. Our bodies change. We fail to keep in mind that we are supposed to morph into something new to nourish the life growing inside. Yet we are so unforgiving about the changes pregnancy inevitably requires of our bodies. The aftermath can be devastating every time we walk past a mirror, or when we try on our old clothes. We loathe our ‘baby belly’ and chastise ourselves by going through Yo-Yo diets and setting ourselves up for failure. We pretend that we should be able to bounce right back into the previous version of us. We are changed from becoming a Mom, and so are our bodies.
Gaining weight is part of the pregnancy journey, but it doesn’t have to be permanent after birth. There are many excuses we make about weight, but the reality is after every single pregnancy I have fought to get back to my desired pre-pregnancy weight and have been successful. And now I’m working on my final journey through this battle. Is it possible? Yes. It’s always possible to lose the weight. But that won’t necessarily bring your body back to where it once was. So be real with yourself. So, let’s talk about our bodies and weight.
Bodies are all uniquely designed.
- This does not mean you get be 300lbs and accept it as the way you are supposed to be. That’s nonsense. Nobody ordained you at birth to be 300lbs. This simply means that genetics do play a role in how our body is structured, and how it tends to react to things like exercise and food. Use that knowledge to help you. Do not compare yourself at a height of 5’2 to your friend who is 6’1 and try to suddenly wish yourself taller. Your bones won’t grow longer in your 20s. Sorry. But the same follows for someone with wider hips, vs. someone with small feet. STRUCTURE!! We are all built differently. But we too often use this excuse in regard to our fat and muscle composition. We complain we can’t control this, but we can for the most part. It is just more work for some than others.
Body Mass Index is worth squat as it relates to health.
- Did you know that BMI was originally created for insurance companies who wanted to be able to stick people into a general healthy or not healthy risk category? I work in a world with fertility doctors who tell me all the time that BMI matters in getting pregnant. But someone 1lb into the obesity range can’t possibly be the same at risk as the person 50lbs into the obesity range! So, let’s get something straight. BMI means very little in overall health. You could be a body builder and be considered obese based on that nonsensical chart. So, throw it out the window. It’s useless in everyday life when it comes to our understanding of health.
It’s 2021 – Three major societal changes have affected our weight over 50 years.
- We are not as active. Labour jobs were more prevalent back in the day. People worked on their feet from dusk till dawn. Now many of us sit in front of computers all day. We just don’t get the same level of activity throughout the day anymore.
- We eat too much. We are not mindful of the food we put in our mouths. We are an instant gratification society and can drive up to an easy, fast food restaurant or Starbucks whenever we have a craving. It has become entertainment to go out and eat. We indulge too much and think there won’t be consequences. It used to take hours to cook anything we wanted to eat. Now we can just walk around the corner and choose from a dozen places who will give us what we want in a matter of minutes. We don’t appreciate the work it takes to create good food in our own kitchens.
- Foods are now highly processed. Everything used to be grown from nature. Now a good majority of our food is made in a factory. We have to relearn what we thought we knew about calories, and watch what we eat, or the weight will creep up. Stay to the outer aisles of the grocery store. Everything inside the middle aisles is packaged garbage. Refined sugars and deceiving ingredients are in so much of our processed foods. We don’t even know what we are ingesting a lot of the time.
Knowledge is Power, but be careful.
- We have the answers for everything at our fingertips. But be careful, because with every question may come multiple answers. You have to know how to carefully weed out fact from possibility. Remember when you had to go to the library and sign out an encyclopedia to do a project for school? I do and I’m only 41 years old. Those days are long gone. But there was a limited amount of resources so we took everything we read for fact. Now with the World Wide Web, you have to be more critical about what you read. That being said, you can stop making excuses for not knowing things about how your body works. You don’t need to see your doctor to ask about how to lose weight. Trust me, doctors get so little nutrition and fitness knowledge in University, that you might as well take a wild guess. Just look it up!! If you want to know the best ways to burn fat, GOOGLE it! And yes, I realize everyone has differing ideas on the matter, but in general you can find thousands of answers and there will be a single commonality in some. Follow that yellow brick road. Be proactive in your own health. But stay away from fad diets – there are thousands of them everywhere you look. Seek knowledge but know that it will take work to sift through all the information out there.
The scale can only have as much power as you give it.
- A fitness friend (Andrea) kept grilling me about getting off the scale and stop focussing on the number of pounds I weighed. I would get upset with myself if I gained weight and got completely elated if I lost a pound. The scale was addictive. Then one day I watched one of her live videos on Facebook and she said something along these lines…
You could use the scale as a check-in to keep yourself accountable for your goals or you could use the scale to beat yourself up. A scale is no different than the clothes we wear. If our clothes start getting tighter, pay attention. Don’t throw them out and buy a bigger size. To have a healthy relationship with your scale, you have to tell yourself that the number it shows you isn’t about who you are, but about checking in with yourself about where you want to be in your overall health goals. When I started seeing the scale this way, I actually started getting on it less. I didn’t need the constant check in, because not only were my clothes telling me everything I needed to know, but I was feeling better and shifting my lifestyle in general. The scale was just one tool for me to check in with.
Define healthy properly.
- Stop kidding yourself. I eat healthy, but I still sit down some nights and eat chips with dip while binge watching a good tv series. The problem isn’t the evening activities; the problem is what you consider healthy. The rule of thumb should always be 80/20. 80% of the time I eat healthy and 20% of the time I indulge in things I know are going right to my ass. Don’t beat yourself up every time you have a treat. If you let yourself be human, you’ll be less apt to binge eat. It comes down to understanding food. Read the labels before you put it in your cart. If you know a bowl of chips are going to be 300 calories, you better want them. Maybe you schedule an extra walk in for that day you indulge. But either way, it’s not the end of the world. Just don’t indulge daily and think it’s not your fault. We are accountable for what we put in our mouths. It’s the same for our daily activity. An hour of activity each day is ideal. But that doesn’t mean you have to work out for an hour every day. It means that your body should be moving for at least an hour of the day. Seems easy right? Go for a 20-minute walk and you likely have half the steps for the day. So stop finding excuses to NOT be healthy, because being healthy can be as simple as getting in 1-2 nice walks during the day. Maybe your healthy is doing 3 workouts a week on top of that. Everyone’s definition of healthy is different. But don’t be delusional and pretend that couch surfing and eating donuts daily is healthy. You know better.
Be realistic when setting goals.
- If you’ve never run a marathon you can’t wake up one day and announce you are going to throw on your shoes and run 42kms. How many people continue to tell themselves on New Year’s Eve that they are going to join the gym and lose weight? I think the gym industry is mostly supported by these people. Don’t join a gym if you don’t like working out! Ever tried to force yourself to do something you hated? Don’t tell yourself you are going to lose 10lbs in a week and then wonder why you are disappointed it didn’t happen or that you just put the weight back shortly after. Be realistic with your goals! Start small. I want to lose 5lbs and then create a new goal. I want to be more mindful of my physical activity. I want to start holding myself more accountable for snacking at night. Small steps are attainable, and they help keep you positive.
Pay attention to this statement. Read it several times. Let it sink in.
Attitudes about body image will quite literally keep your pounds on or take them off.
The biggest asset in the world is your mindset. How you start to see food will change everything. Do you see it as a crutch? As something you have no control of? You have to re-evaluate what food is to your body. It’s no different than anything else in life that you need. We need air. You can never think of air or you can be mindful and spend a few times a day really breathing deeply and relaxing your whole body into it. Be grateful for the air passing through your lungs, into your bloodstream and then to your heart. If you see food as sustenance it will change how you eat, which will change how your body takes on weight or releases weight.