Why My Honeymoon Was Perfectly IMperfect

I’ve been on hiatus from writing for the past few months to enjoy a very exciting time in my personal life. Last month I finally married the guy of my dreams and we shared the most incredible celebration with our families and friends. We were then lucky enough to jet off to Moorea and Bora Bora for a couple of weeks of honeymooning paradise. We also squeezed in buying a new home and have been in the process of moving out of the city. So, needless to say, it's been busy. And phenomenal. And surreal. And, at times, overwhelming. Without the “distraction” of the daily grind (kind of), I tried to take the opportunity to soak up as much...everything as I could – as much emotion, as much awareness, as much appreciation.

I was, surprisingly, not overly emotional on our wedding day. I wanted so much to be in the moment, to savor every second, knowing how quickly it would pass, that it didn’t leave much space for me to feel anything other than pure joy. No joke, we slept for about 3 days after the wedding, when the emotional drain of it all set in. So, it wasn’t until more than a week later, when we settled into our honeymoon, that I found myself attune enough to start noticing and really feeling again.

When we weren’t indulging in poolside cocktails or swimming with sharks and stingrays(!!), there was a lot of time. We had days of unscheduled time to totally decompress and bask in the glow of our wedding day in the most stunning, romantic setting we’ve ever seen. And all that time gave me the space to realize that I felt somewhat...unsettled. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

One evening our months-long planned dinner reservation got messed up and it completely threw me for a loop. I think being in a foreign country can add to the overwhelm when something doesn’t go as planned but I certainly am not one to end up crying in the ladies room just because dinner plans are turning into the comedy of errors. But I was.

A day or two earlier, I noticed myself feeling super insecure about my body. I was really proud of how I handled the lead up to the wedding in that regard. I didn’t diet. In fact, I didn’t change much about how I ate, but I amped up my workouts and felt better than ever in my body. Exactly how you want to feel on your wedding day. A week and half later I was obsessively examining the other women on the beach, thinking they probably weren’t eating the rolls with every meal.

I didn’t feel depressed or overly anxious but I also didn’t feel AMAZING. And I was pissed. I wanted to feel amazing. I was on my honeymoon in the most glorious place with my favorite person on the planet after the best day of our lives...why didn’t I feel amazing??

I think we were actually lounging at the pool when it sort of clicked. I was pissed about not feeling amazing and I freaked over a misstep in our plans because in my head I wanted it all to be PERFECT. I couldn’t imagine life getting better than this moment so I wanted it all to be PERFECT – every meal, every interaction with my new husband, every photo to remember it all by. And when I recognized that emotional desire, I also recognized the intellectual absurdity of it.

Not everything was going to be perfect for 12 days. And that’s OK.

The bigger realization for me, though, was how much sense it all made. This desire for “perfection”, this need for everything to be picture perfect...it’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always struggled with. And I realized it, not in a judgmental way so much as in a way that gave me pause to explore it.

If I ask myself why – where that need comes from, I’m not sure I have an answer. I’m sure it’s a combination of self-imposed expectations and the desire to appear a certain way to others. But just recognizing it, without judgment, felt important for me to do. It gave me a sense of relief to understand how I could be feeling unsettled when my circumstances were so great.

I recently came across the term “recovering perfectionist” and I LOVED it. It fits me to a T. The awareness doesn’t mean I’ll stop chasing an unrealistic desire for perfection. Like recovery from anything, the desires likely won't go away. But when we can recognize those wants, we are better equipped to handle them. For me, that day on the beach, that meant sitting with those emotions and giving myself permission to feel them. Understanding the origin of my feeling, rather than trying to negate it, or push it down, in of itself felt healing. It wouldn't be perfect. And it was silly to need it to be. But that was how I felt. And I observed those feelings and accepted them.

I think that has been the most powerful part of what I've taken away from my personal growth over the last few years. The understanding that any feeling is OK. Just because it’s not the part of myself I’m most proud of doesn’t mean I have to pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s very much how I came to terms with (and still come to terms with) my depression. I tried desperately to hide that part of myself from everyone for so long because that wasn't the part of me I wanted them to see. I wanted them to see “the real me” in spite of that part. But the truth is, that part is part of the real me. I am bubbly and outgoing and loving and I struggle with depression.

Your feelings don't need to be right or wrong. They don't need to be justified. They are your feelings. So feel them. And see what happens when you do.

Does this resonate with you? I'd love your feedback in the comments below on what type of content you'd most like to see from me!

Why In The Hell Would I Wanna FEEL Stuff?

My previous job in advertising kept my mind in this constant state of busyness. There was always something to do–a problem to solve, an email to craft, a presentation to design. It was stimulating and kept my brain in a constant state of movement.

In my new work in health coaching, I find my mind in a constant state of feeling, of exploring. It’s also stimulating but actually forces my brain to slow down, to dig deeper, to question more.

My therapist always used to say to me that I needed to learn to “Feel your feelings, Em. You don’t allow yourself to feel your feelings”.

What in the hell does that even mean?!?, I always raged in my head. She’s nuts. All I do is feel shit. Depressed. Lonely. Self-loathing. Resentful.

Feelings.

Crappy, crappy feelings!

I had a moment the other day where I think I finally figured out what she meant. Experiencing an emotion is not necessarily the same as feeling that emotion.

Certain emotions are pleasant to experience. When we're proud or excited, we tend to revel in it, to wrap that feeling around us like a cozy blanket and embrace its pleasurable effects. But when we feel sad or lonely or ashamed, we want to shed those feelings. It’s why so many of us turn to other stimuli to numb those feelings–for some, like me, it was food. For others it's drugs, or shopping, or sex, or something else. I believe the root of all these addictions is the same; no one is better or worse than another. We're seeking a way to feel something else. Or to feel nothing at all. Because feeling certain emotions hurts too damn much.

Through my struggle with depression, I often felt unworthy and resentful that this was my life. It didn’t seem fair that I had worked so hard only to be so unhappy. But rather than sitting with that resentment and allowing myself to explore it–or, god forbid, share it with anyone else–I berated myself for feeling it. How could I be so ungrateful when I am so fortunate and have so many things that others don’t?

Sadness overcame me all the time, but I never granted myself permission to just feel it for as long as I wanted or needed to. I never shared it with anyone else because that made it real, it made it valid and I didn't believe it was valid. Those feelings needed to be drowned out immediately. And shame on me for having them in the first place!

Well, this moment I had where it came together for me stemmed from a rather common thought that passes through my brain:
Ugh. How amazing would it be to have a body like hers? How good would my life be if I looked like that?

My initial instinct was to attach judgment.
Emily, you know better. Thin doesn’t mean happy. That goes against everything you preach to your clients.

And then I paused. How could I judge myself for having a thought? We can’t control thoughts coming into our heads. And if I'm honest with myself, that’s a thought I might intermittently have for the rest of my life. It comes up less often than it used to, but it’s certainly still present.

Having the thought isn’t necessarily what matters, though. It's how we respond to it that holds the real power. So I pushed myself a little further and realized that I had spent the day outside, working on a business I created because I genuinely believe that it’s my life’s purpose. Later that night I would be drafting the vows which I will exchange with my future husband in 2 short months.

WHY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WOULD I WANT ANYONE’S LIFE BUT MY OWN? I’ve never been happier.

That was when it clicked. Experiencing an unpleasant emotion or having a negative thought is fine. Healthy, even. Don't try to dismiss it as fast as possible.

“You need to feel your feelings, Em”.

Look at them. Wonder about them. Say them outloud. What happens?

It's human nature to seek pleasure and to seek to end discomfort. But our ability to not just experience an emotion, but to really explore it, is hugely powerful. It’s not easy. Sometimes it's downright painful. But it’s also what allows us to grow, to learn and to come out the other end in a better place than we ever thought possible.

The next time you experience an emotion, good or bad, try not to shoo it away or figure out a way to “fix” it.

Let me know in the comments below:
How does it FEEL? Where do you FEEL it? When you sit with it, what does it uncover for you?

How My Badass Client Lost Her Food Rules And Gained A New Lease On Life

Last week I wrapped up a six month coaching program with one of my most amazing clients. I wanted to share, with her permission, a bit of her story with you all because it is seriously powerful. I am so inspired by this young woman. She recognized that she was on a path she no longer wanted to be on and she made the commitment to herself to create change.

Martha and I started working together last Fall. She had spent the last year (or so) on a very restrictive diet, obsessing about food - tracking her calories, constantly thinking about what she ate or what she was going to allow herself to eat. Food choices determined much of her social life and her overall mood on a given day.

#beenthere.

Going to restaurants was a less than enjoyable experience because there would likely only be a couple of “acceptable” choices to order from on the menu. She liked the way that “eating clean” made her body feel but she didn’t like feeling as though her life was controlled by food and exercise.

As we worked on setting her goals together, Martha knew she wanted to find a balance between good nutrition and being able to enjoy her life without constantly thinking about food. BUT she wasn’t ready to let go of weight loss goals either. So, we set out with both sets of goals on the table and determined how we could best align those goals.

First we assessed what she was eating. Bottom line, it wasn’t enough. She was deficient in protein and good fat sources, leaving her always hungry and, naturally, often thinking about food. Many people don't realize that undereating can sabotage your weight loss goals because the body goes into starvation mode, slowing down the metabolism. Your body is built to adapt; if she is underfed she holds on to every source of energy she can and signals your brain that she is HUNGRY AND NEEDS FOOD. Always being hungry isn't helpful for weight loss, right?

Martha was open to educating herself and experimenting with new foods. But the real work began with opening herself up to letting go of the food rules that she had set for herself. We focused on how eating based on a set of rules and judgments about specific foods disconnects us completely from our bodies.

Think about this for a second. If foods start to fall into categories of “good or bad”, “safe or unsafe”, feeding ourselves becomes an operation entirely of the mind, not the body. If we determine that carbohydrates are “bad”, for example, we don’t pay attention to how actual foods make us FEEL.

How do you FEEL when you eat brown rice?
How do you FEEL after eating high quality dairy?
Does meat appeal and satiate you in a good way?

These are the type of questions we want to ask ourselves when we make food choices. What does my body need? Something warm and comforting? Or something crunchy and refreshing? How do specific foods make me FEEL during and after eating and is that how I want to feel?

For those of us who spend years following traditional diets (PSA: a diet is just a set of food rules), we have to actually practice how to tune into our bodies, rather than relying on intellectual ideas like “it's Tuesday which means I can't eat bread”.

This is the journey that Martha set out on.

Like many women who struggle with these issues, Martha has a good head on her shoulders. She knew intellectually that those 8 or 10 pounds didn’t determine her worthiness as a woman or a person. But she was consumed by the rules - what she should look like, what she should eat, when she should be entitled to a night of wine with friends. Today she told me that she now realizes she needed help breaking free from this mental block of arbitrary rules and recalibrating those belief systems.

Her insights got me thinking about how we live in this culture where we equate intensity to success. Intensity of work, intensity of exercise, intensity of academia. We subscribe to the belief that doing more and going harder is somehow better. I’m not suggesting it’s bad to strive for excellence and I’m not judging those who push themselves to the limits - hell, if you know me you’re like “Hey, pot? I'm kettle. You’re black”.

It just strikes me that we tend to glorify intensity as strength and dismiss gentleness as weakness. Being gentle toward yourself isn’t weak. It takes a great deal more strength to be kind to yourself than it does to berate yourself. When healing from an injury or an illness, do you heal faster by punishing that part of your body or by tending to and caring for that part of your body? The same goes for how you nourish your body. Self kindness goes a long way in making consistent choices that serve your body and mind well.

At only 22 years old, Martha realized that living her life according to “shoulds” wasn’t the kind of life she actually wanted. Damn, this girl inspires me. Six months may seem like a long time when you commit to something new - or to anything for that matter. But to make a significant life change that impacts every aspect of your day to day world in six months? That’s freakin’ mind blowing. And that is what this girl did.

In the span of that six months, Martha told me that she “got back to being herself." She started dating a special guy, she reconnected with friends in a meaningful way and, most importantly, she found ease and comfort with herself. She is now spending a lot more time thinking about her career, planning trips with her boyfriend and exploring the city with friends, and a lot less time calculating how many calories she burned on the treadmill.

She went from weighing herself daily to not stepping on a scale for 4 months because she decided that starting each day with that measurement didn’t set her up for success. She’s not sure what she weighs - whether it's more or less than when we started. But she does know that she is right where she wants to be. She experiments with food and pays attention to what her body asks for. She is training for her first 10K and listening to her body on days when it asks for rest.

Does she have days where she feels insecure about her body? Of course she does. She’s human. We all have those days. This kind of work doesn’t mean you won’t have those days. It means that those days come and go without necessitating a 3 day juice cleanse or canceling dinner plans with friends.

I’m so proud of this girl. I’m so proud of her ability to see the big picture when it’s so easy to get caught up in what is right in front of you. I’m so proud of the commitment she made to happiness and health. And I’m so proud that, even at just 22, she is able to grasp what so many of us don’t: that skinnier does necessarily mean happier.

Girl, you are a badass. XOXO

If you find yourself bound by a set of rules when it comes to food and how you feel about your body, email me or book a FREE 1:1 session here. I'd love to connect with you.

A Different Kind of "Girl On Girl"

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I’ve been a bit MIA lately, but with good reason…I’ve been learning from the amazing Marie Forleo (if you have any entrepreneurial desires check her out) about how I can bring you guys more of what you really desire. There is so much more I want to create for my clients but, as they say, if it’s not hard, it’s not good. So I’m taking my time and trying to keep my patience in check!

In any case, today’s topic is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately and have been wanting to write about for some time. It was somewhat prompted by...wait for it...a Kardashian. I know, I know. But bear with me for just a sec.

Several weeks ago I was reading about the totally absurd "twitter feud" between Kim K and other (mostly) female celebrities regarding a nude selfie she posted. Given the state of the world we live in, and how our country is potentially on the brink of major change, there are obviously topics more worthy of our time than what Kim K is (or isn’t) wearing. But it got me thinking...even the women whom, as a culture, we have deemed the most successful and most beautiful – the ones we obsessively watch and strive to look like, or dress like, or live like – are tearing one another down.

Yes, I realize this is a generalization and I'm not suggesting that everyone wants to be like a celebrity. And let me be abundantly clear here. I am also NOT trying to make a statement about who should (or shouldn’t) be considered a role model to girls and women. My feelings about the Kardashian phenomenon are irrelevant, as are your personal feelings about Kim K. My point here is that we’ve made it the norm for women to tear one another down rather than lift one another up.

WHAT is that about? As a woman, you can stand for something without putting another woman down. You can promote the importance of teaching girls that their worth is determined by so much more than their bodies (MORE OF THIS PLEASE) without shaming another woman for embracing her body. In fact, I’d love to see more women, ones of all shapes and sizes, embracing their bodies in whatever way feels good to them. The two ideals don’t have to conflict one another. We can, and should, be teaching women to take care of and appreciate the bodies they are in so that they can focus more of their energy and extraordinary talents on things other than their physical appearances.

I think back to my days in college (not a high point in my life) where some of the brightest, most driven and talented young women had earned an opportunity to do just about anything. But you know what I remember? I remember a lot of fortunate girls sitting around commenting on what another girl was wearing. Or what bag she was carrying. Or what she ate for dinner that night.

Sure, it was college and we were young and immature. But can you honestly say you don’t see (or participate in) the same behavior now? In your workplace? Or your gym? As an adult? I do. I’m not trying to exempt myself here. I have participated in this kind of girl on girl nastiness. But as I get older and as I focus so much of my time working with women to empower them, to help them see their own beauty and appreciate their own worth, I can’t ignore how detrimental this norm is.

The force that comes from women tearing one another down is dangerous. Likewise, the force that comes from women lifting one another up is limitless.

And the fact is, it doesn't have to take much. I was waiting for my barre method class to start the other morning; it’s pretty standard that for about 10 minutes while we wait for the previous class to end, a few dozen women in workout clothes stand around, not really interacting with one another, likely silently sizing one another up. I noticed a girl with great, long legs wearing super cute leggings. So I told her “I love your leggings, they look awesome!" It sparked a conversation on a variety of topics beyond leggings and actually changed the dynamic of the room.

Have you ever done that? Given another woman - a total stranger - a genuine compliment? Have you noticed what happens? Her face lights up. I actually do this pretty frequently. It’s partly just the extrovert in me but it's also my own attempt to let another woman know when I admire something about her. Imagine how you feel when another woman compliments you - unprompted, totally authentic, not with any agenda in mind. It makes you stand a little taller.

some bad ass women taking the rapids (and our 30's) by storm!

some bad ass women taking the rapids (and our 30's) by storm!

As women, we are often pitted against one another in a competitive way. It becomes natural for us to feel envious of other women who have something we don’t have, or look a way we wish we could look. Complimenting someone else is not enough to make you learn to love yourself, but it can help you take a negative feeling of envy and transform it into something more productive. By sharing your admiration with that other woman, you harness positive energy by lifting her up instead of putting yourself down. Chances are she is feeling equally self-conscious about herself in some way. You may actually find that it helps to make you feel just as good as it makes her feel.

I’ll leave you with a challenge. Do something to lift another woman up today. Don't do it just for the sake of complimenting her...find something that you really admire about her and let her know. And then take inventory of how amazing you are and tell yourself something that you really admire about you.

Please share in the comments below – what did you do to empower another woman? How did it make you feel?

But Will I Be A Beautiful Bride?

On August 13, 2016 I get to marry the love of my life. Every fiber of my soul cannot wait to be this man's wife. It took 13 years of dating, but I found him!

I always imagined that meeting the right man would, to some degree, heal my body image issues. If someone else found me beautiful, certainly, I would finally be able to see the beauty in myself. Right??

For me, it was always the physical aspect I struggled with. I was raised to be very clear about my worth. I always believed that I was smart and kind and worthy of love, that I had a lot to offer someone. But I feared that if I wasn't thin enough, if I didn't meet the typical standards of "beauty", then that love may not happen for me.

Before you scoff in disapproval, you should know how difficult it is to write that about oneself. Admitting that one worries deeply about his or her appearance indicates a level of shallowness that I would not characterize myself with. The fact is, though, this was my truth. I had a deep-seeded fear that my body wouldn't be acceptable enough to attract a man. 

I was wrong, as we usually are when we are blinded by our own insecurities. I met my perfect man, who tells me often how beautiful I am. And I guess I believed that would be enough. Falling in love does seem to have that effect on humans. It feels so good that it can, at least temporarily, mask a lot of the pain that might still be at play in your life. The truth is, however, that the love of someone else cannot heal something that is broken within you. 

So, here we are. I am so fortunate to be planning a beautiful wedding to celebrate spending the rest of my life with this wonderful man, yet I find myself experiencing many of those all-too-familiar self-loathing thoughts about my body. Sure, every bride wants to look and feel her best on her wedding day, so it's no surprise that anxiety about my body would be heightened right now. But over the last couple of months I catch myself falling into old habits; feeling uncomfortable in my skin and removing his hand from my belly, berating myself with negative thoughts that I spent so many years a prisoner to. 

As a health coach who fundamentally does not believe in dieting, it's a provocative place to find myself in. I very much believe that traditional dieting methods are not a positive option for me and I know how deeply important self-kindness is when it comes to how I take care of my body. In other words, when I am cruel to myself, I don't treat myself well. Those are the days I skip my workout or binge on foods that don't feel good in my body. When I am gentle and kind to myself, that is when I take the best care of my body and when my body responds well in turn.

I don't just know these things intellectually and preach them to my clients. I have experienced them and I trust in them deeply. But there is this bizarre element of weddings – this desire to put on a flawless performance, when we really should be focused on celebrating a partnership that is guaranteed NOT to work if treated like a performance - that can make us lose our way. I'm lucky to have a partner and a family that reminds me of this fact; the fact that the best part of all of this excitement is what happens when it's over: I get to be married to this person for the rest of my life!

Does this mean I won't stress about my upcoming dress fitting? No. Does it mean I won't have days where I revert to my old ways of trying to punish myself into the body I think I "should" have? Ummm no. I wish I could say otherwise, but this is the place where I get real with you guys about real shit. And that would not be real. 

The difference for me now is that I have the tools to keep those feelings at bay. I can allow myself to experience these feelings, as crappy as they feel, without allowing them to debilitate me. I can be open and share these feelings with others who support me, rather than keeping them hidden where they do the most damage. I can trust in the belief that I am loved as I am today. And I will be loved as I am tomorrow. And if I feed my body, mind, and soul with that belief, I'll also rock that dress, which will be icing on the proverbial wedding cake. 

The Pursuit of Perfection: A Doomed Undertaking

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For years, one of my biggest struggles in therapy and trying to understand my eating disorder was being unable to unlock that A-HA moment. I felt that successful therapy meant I had to “uncover” something…something repressed, something traumatic in some way. Something must have caused my illness. (Too many movies, maybe?) It’s true that for many people, an eating disorder is the manifestation of control in a world where they feel they lack any control. But I had always felt a high sense of control over the direction of my life. I had amazingly supportive parents who had a wonderful marriage; we were financially blessed and well cared for; I was a successful student, had lots of friends, and a great boyfriend. I was very outgoing and socially well adjusted. So, major depression and the inability to stop obsessing over my body seemed almost…unreasonable. I had such a good life. Why couldn’t I enjoy it? 

I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about depression*: that you have to have something to “be depressed” about. The thing is, feeling sad about something is different than being depressed. Feeling an emotion, whether sadness or anger or incredulousness or anything else, is a healthy emotional response to some thing, some stimulus. Being depressed is an illness. 

Perhaps one person’s depression seems easier to “understand” than another’s. (I can certainly see how people would look at my charmed life and think what do YOU have to be depressed about??) But that makes it no less real for the person suffering. That desperation and isolation is no less intense, no less abundant in every minute of every day of that person’s life. I never faulted those around me who wished I could just be better, wished I would just show up anyways; I very much understood why others couldn’t empathize with what I was going through, and trying to explain it felt futile. So I stayed silent and did my best to fake it when I could and hide from everyone when I couldn’t.

A few years ago, I decided to revisit therapy – something I love going back to when I feel I need to amp up my self-care. I’m lucky to have a special relationship with my therapist, the same one I’ve been seeing on and off since my parents dragged me there at 16. This doctor came to know my family members and the intricate dynamics of our family quite well. But it wasn't until more recently, as I said, that she said something that, suddenly, made sense in a way that it never had before. In hindsight, I think that she had probably mentioned it many times before. But, for whatever reason, it took until that moment for it to register any kind of meaning for me. 

We were talking about my family dynamics and, specifically, how I was feeling about my sister’s latest episode. My older sister suffers from chronic mental illness and debilitating anxiety. Unfortunately, her combination of disorders and symptoms makes successful treatment quite difficult. Though not diagnosed until her 20’s, thinking back, there were certainly signs of her disorder going back to her teenage years (at least that I can remember). So it was an observation my therapist made about my “role in the family since childhood” that struck a chord. 

I was the middle child, with an older sister that was often suffering and, from my vantage point, causing my parents to worry. I assigned myself the role of being the “good one,” the one everyone could be proud of and not have to worry about. Of course, I didn't realize that’s what I was doing. I just felt I had no choice but to make it easy on those around me. I had to be the straight A student going to the Ivy League School. I had to have lots of friends and an appearance of cheeriness. And, well, I guess I believed I had to “look the part" because that went with the territory of having it all together. I never wanted to be someone that disappointed others or caused them stress. So, when I wasn’t succeeding at starving myself anymore, I felt like a failure.

Turns out, this was the moment in therapy that was my A-HA moment. For me, there was no traumatic event. There was nothing I had repressed, so to speak. My therapist helped me realize that a lot of my struggles had to do with my desire to play a role, even as a child, that NO ONE can successfully fill. That pursuit of perfection is like the rabbit they dangle in front of the dogs on the race track. They will never catch up to it because it’s designed to keep them running. No one can be the perfect child, mother, friend, or sister. No one can always have it together and not need help. Even if they look like they do. 

I think it took me so long to be able to process how much my family dynamics impacted me because I aways feared that others would understand it as blame. I feared people would blame my sister or my parents – or worse, that they would think I blamed them. I don’t. I feel beyond grateful for the family that I have. I feel grateful to truly understand what being parents and partners in life means as I am about to enter marriage, thanks to my parents. I feel grateful to know that life can be one hell of a fight, but it’s so worth fighting for, thanks to my sister. I feel grateful to know that kindness is the greatest quality one can have, thanks to my brother. And I feel grateful to have learned the significance of taking care of the most important person in my life first–ME. 

Self-care can mean different things to different people. I have identified that the most important type of my own self-care is not being afraid to put myself first when I know I need it. For me, that may mean being able to say to my fiancé “I just need today to be sad, even though I’m not sure why”, or choosing to be comfortable with disappointing someone else in order to do right by myself.

It’s not selfishness to be able to appreciate how much your needs matter, how worthy of love and care you are. It’s a gift. 

 

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. These views are my own based on my experiences with anorexia, bulimia and major depression.

Everything The Diet Industry is Marketing To You Is BS

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Having worked on the front lines at an advertising agency for over 8 years, I’m here to tell you that everything the diet industry is marketing to you is a bunch of BS. Today I saw an ad on social media for the “secret to six pack abs”. The word choice here is carefully designed. It’s intended to give you pause, against all your rational judgment. There’s a secret?? All this time…if only I had known! Give me the key! Show me the way! You know there isn’t a secret. But you want to believe it just badly enough to give it a whirl. 

If there is one secret the fitness and diet industries are keeping from you it’s that not everyone can have a six pack. I’m talking biologically. Straight up genetics have a big part in dictating whether or not you have a six pack. I’m not suggesting that nutrition and exercise don’t directly impact your body. Of course they do. But I am suggesting that I could do the same exact workouts and eat exactly what Jenna Dewan Tatum eats and I still will not look like her. 

There is something unique about the nutrition/diet industry that works to the advantage of marketers. Its confusing as all hell. 

    *Fat is bad, don’t eat it…Fat is critical to a healthy diet.

    *Salt causes heart disease. Don’t worry about salt. It’s sugar that's making you fat and sick.

    *The healthiest people are vegan…PALEO, baby! Paleo! 

Saying that it’s hard to keep up would be a colossal understatement. The fact is that nutrition is a younger science and you can expect for conflicting theories to continue for some time. The good news is that doesn’t mean you need to throw your hands up and give up entirely (I know, for a second there you got all excited that I was going to tell you to tweet @Dominos.) It does mean, however, that it’s all the more helpful to be able to weed out the noise and simplify things. 

Don’t forget that both food and fitness are big business, driven by sales. It’s nice to think that your health and wellness are these companies top priorities, but the bottom line is…their bottom lines. Food corporations have special interest groups that lobby on their behalf, meaning they are highly influential in politics and directly impact how much you pay for a product, how it’s labeled, and how it's marketed. So while the diet industry is making you scared of (gasp!) bread, it’s also telling you that those pre-packaged gluten free, dairy free, sugar free cookies are “all natural” and totally healthy! OK, I’m calling Bull on that one!

My point is not that we should wage war on the advertising industry – how we hold these companies more accountable is a complicated topic for another day; it’s just a reminder that we should be extra weary of what we’re being told and being sold when it comes to our health. So to help combat the confusing nature of nutrition combined with the emotional manipulation inherent to advertising, I thought I would offer 5 pretty basic tools for weeding out the BS:

  1. If it’s labeled as “natural”, it might not be. When was the last time you saw broccoli being marketed as “all natural"?
  2. Labels like gluten free or dairy free don't necessarily = healthy. If you have experimented with your diet and learned that you have a sensitivity to something and it doesn’t agree with you, then absolutely cut it out, or cut back on it. But that doesn't mean that gluten free junk food isn’t exactly that…junk food.
  3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If there was really a secret to six pack abs, don’t you think someone would have spilled the beans by now? Brands don’t sell the latest ab gadget by reminding you that every one is built differently and optimal health looks different on everyone.
  4. Just because Oprah endorses it, doesn’t mean it’s any different than any other diet. I may get some flack for this one but I feel strongly about it. Don’t get me wrong…of course I have great respect and admiration for Oprah. Who doesn’t? And it’s not that I have anything against Weight Watchers in particular. It’s just that... it’s still a diet. It’s not teaching you how to listen to your body and eat mindfully. It’s teaching you that certain foods have certain values. While it may help some people better understand portion control, if you are someone that has chronically struggled with weight loss and food addiction (like Oprah openly has), portion control is probably not something you need to be educated on. It’s much more likely that you are stuck in a cycle of assigning judgment to yourself based on what you eat, which, in turn, leads you to reward and/or punish yourself with food or lack of food. Counting points instead of calories doesn’t change that. 
  5. If you are working to add more vegetables (especially green ones) and cut back on processed foods, you are moving in the right direction. Try to pick the highest quality ingredients, whether its chicken or chocolate. Water should make up the majority of your beverage choices. And that pretty much covers the basics. Neither Vegan nor Paleo is a better choice. You need to find the better choice for you.

Getting your sustainable body isn't easy. But it also doesn’t need to be complicated. 

5 New Years NON-Resolutions

The promise of a new year often gets you thinking about a “new (and implicitly improved) you”. Between the heightened noise of the diet industry and the reminder that you didn't achieve last year’s goal (it was the same one, wasn’t it?), you are conditioned to believe that it’s your willpower that is lacking. This will be the year. I WILL lose 15 pounds. I will get OFF SUGAR. I will BE STRONG. 

When you stop and think about it, it’s a rather bizarre phenomenon. Every year at the same time – after a month of indulgences which you inevitably feel guilty about – you pick something about yourself to improve upon. Don’t get me wrong; self-examination is an incredibly important practice and something we should do all year long, but let’s break this down for a minute:

The definition of resolution is the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose. 

I’m going to write that again. Firmness of purpose. The words are critical here. They imply that if you want something enough you can make it happen, and if you fail it’s because you lack resolve. It becomes a judgment on your character. But if you are someone that has struggled with your weight or body image for years on end, you know in your heart that its not your resolve that’s lacking. Your desire to lose weight is very real and very strong. But you still don’t lose weight. You only deepen the hate you feel for yourself and your body.

The idea that willpower is the key to losing weight is the equivalent of believing that people with depression can just “snap out of it”. With any type of illness, you experiment with different treatments until you, hopefully, find something that works. You don’t expect that if you’re "tough enough" on yourself, you get healthy faster. If someone suggested that you just work harder to beat that flu virus, you would dismiss them as insane. No, you allow your body time to rest and repair. It’s no different with dieting or losing weight. It is equally unrealistic to believe that hating your body enough will give you the strength to change it.

My point is not that losing weight is impossible, nor that wanting to begin a new year with new goals is a waste of time. I merely want to demonstrate that how you approach it does matter. For starters, what if you ditch the notion of a resolution (and it’s implication that desire equals success) and shift, instead, to the idea of opportunity. What opportunity does the new year present you with that you most want to take advantage of? What opportunity do you want to make more space for in your life this coming year? 

Rather than looking to change something about yourself that you don’t like, what if you appreciate yourself exactly as you are today so that you may start the new year with the increased capacity for self-care? If you focus more on creating space for the positive in your life and the things that make you feel good, you are much more likely to reap positive rewards, whatever they may be. If you practice self-love, you are much more apt to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Since this might be a radically new approach for some of you, I thought I would offer you 5 examples to get you inspired!

5 NEW YEARS OPPORTUNITIES FOR 2016:

  1. Make eye contact - maybe for you this means putting down the phone and actually smiling at the cute guy in the coffee shop you see every day.  A little eye contact goes a long way!
  2. Eat MORE veggies - instead of focusing on the “bad” foods you want to cut from your diet, instead work on adding veggies at every meal. Don’t skip the pasta, just add a side salad. This way you are upping your nutrition and getting full from great stuff without depriving yourself of anything in the process.
  3. Enjoy your food - ditch the guilt. No matter what you are eating, practice committing to tasting and enjoying it. You might find that certain foods you think you love don't actually taste that good (or vice versa).
  4. Take time for self care every day - this does not mean you need to make it to the spa once a week. Choose something realistic; find one thing each day to compliment yourself on, for example.
  5. Be vulnerable - share your victories and your hardships with someone who cares about you. You are not a burden. Your loved ones WANT to be there for you. Let them in, for the good and the bad.

Keep ‘em coming, guys! Would love to hear what opportunities you want to create space for in 2016! Share in the comments below or on Facebook or Instagram!

Here is to you recognizing how perfect you already are.

A most personal post

This is not the blog post I had planned for this week. But rather than stick with my Type-A agenda (we will get to New Years resolutions and why I don’t believe in them next week), I decided to use this as an opportunity to share some personal stuff I have been experiencing the last few days.

This past weekend I was a bridesmaid in one of my dearest friend’s wedding. It was perfection, all of it. One of my best friends in the world and the love of her life radiated love and joy in a celebration that highlighted the very best of both of them. My lifelong friends and I danced and laughed and drank champagne as we watched someone we love embark on the next chapter of her life with her very own prince charming. Perfection.

breathtaking bride

breathtaking bride

And while general exhaustion was undoubtedly partly to blame, I, nevertheless, began the week on Monday feeling kind of…down. It’s not unusual for me to feel kind of blue after a long weekend of partying and not enough sleep. It tends to be how my body reacts. But Monday turned into Tuesday and Tuesday into Wednesday - a few days of not exercising and eating in a way that doesn't serve my body or my mind well. We all experience these so-called “ruts” in some form – a couple of “off” days where we fall out of our routine and aren’t feeling our best. Nothing wrong with that! So I tried to use this an opportunity to practice what I talked about on the blog last week.  You can check it out here). This time, though, a few “off" days set me down an all-too-familiar spiral of self-abuse which I am constantly working on removing from my internal dialogue. You are lazy. You are fat and disgusting. How could Jarrid love you? You aren’t worthy of his love.

Ok, I am going to pause there for a second. Some of you may be thinking SHE’S a health coach? Why in the hell would anyone trust HER to coach them on their path to health and self-love? Crazy alert! 

Well, that is precisely why I am sharing these intensely personal, profoundly vulnerable pieces of myself with you. I really believe that this realness, this unguarded accessibility is what will allow me to a great coach. I am still and will forever be on my journey to self-healing and self-love. Some days I do well with it. Other days I really struggle. But I spent years so ashamed of feeling this way that I didn’t dare share it with anyone – not even (or especially not) those closest to me. I have learned in my new career as a health coach that sharing these inner-most, terrifying-to-say-aloud feelings is, ironically, what heals me the most. 

So, here I am. All of me. The good, the bad, and the...brave. This morning I dusted myself off, got up early and hit my spin class. And for every moment of feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, for every thought of why do I do this to myself, I countered it with today is a new day. You cannot change yesterday but you can make today better. Why? Because you ARE worthy of the love of your friends and family and incredible fiancé. But mostly you are worthy of loving yourself.

HELP! I know what to do but I still don't do it!

emily health coach

For those of us who are pretty in tune with our health and bodies, we tend to know what works for us and what doesn’t, right? For me, for instance, exercise has an extraordinarily powerful impact, not only on my body but also on my mood. When I start my day with exercise, I fuel myself with nutritious foods and treat my body with respect. On days I don’t, I am more likely to feel lethargic and take less care in the way I treat my body and speak to myself.

In fact, I was reminded of how powerful this can be for me the other day. I hadn’t slept well the night before due to a few things making me feel anxious – an emotion I don't feel all that often and tends to make me super uncomfortable. You know it, that knot-in-your-stomach feeling. So, I headed to my spin class later that morning and when I left feeling totally rejuvenated, I was taken aback. Sure, the sweat and endorphins always make me feel good. But I was substantially calmer, feeling more at ease even though none of the issues making me anxious had changed at all. It struck me how incredible our bodies are at self-healing. 

So, of course, if you find a healthy behavior or tool that has a positive impact on you, do it as often as you can! But today I want to take a look at WHY we can know intellectually that something will impact us in a positive way, but still choose not to do it. Or, similarly, maybe we know something has a tendency to set us down a negative path but we still do it time and time again. Infuriating, right?! I think we tend to write these things off as “bad habits”. For years I felt these behaviors in my own life were habits I was just stuck with. But, in fact, our bodies have an exceptional ability to clue us into things that our minds may not be aware of. 

At our core, this behavior is probably serving some function for us. It may not lead to what we consider a “desirable” outcome, but it's serving us in some way. If we try to lean into that action when we are doing it and tune into how it might be serving us in that moment, perhaps it can make us aware of something we otherwise would overlook. 

For example, my experience has taught me that starting a weekend morning on the couch in front of the TV tends to lead to a day of lethargy and just feeling lousy. But sometimes I do it anyways. Instead of beating myself up for it, I can use it to clue me into something. Perhaps it is my body’s means of alerting me to the fact that there is an emotion I am feeling that I would rather distract myself from (with TV or Facebook) than actually experience? Or maybe I just need some alone time to block out the lists and "shoulds" and noise. This recognition means that I can look for more positive ways to meet those needs.

Maybe you know that a lot of sugar makes you feel awful – headachy, tired, moody – but lately you can't get the sweets down fast enough. Before you just assume it's because you have zero willpower, maybe consider something else your body could be trying to tell you: Are you feeling the need for some serious self-care but you can't seem to make the time? Or maybe you’re feeling the need to “act out”, to “be bad” but you don't feel there is any space in your life to do that outside of food. These are powerful signs our bodies are telling us! What an incredible gift! 

So, in this season of giving and receiving gifts, take advantage of this gift from your body. Next time you find yourself engaging in a behavior that you know doesn't serve you well, ditch the guilt and take a few minutes to reflect on what your body may be telling you that you need. Tell us what those clues are for you in the comments below or on Facebook and Instagram!