diet

Why Weight Loss and Body Acceptance are NOT Mutually Exclusive

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The holidays are upon us. Christmas tunes are playing as I sip from my red Starbucks cup (in other words, it's official now). And while the charm of this season is in the air, it's also a difficult time of year for many: the stress of hosting, complicated family dynamics and financial pressures can make it hard to relax and soak in the holiday spirit.

It's a natural human tendency to look back and focus on the things we didn't fulfill, the resolutions we didn't keep, and the mistakes we made, rather than reflecting on the positive steps we took, the accomplishments we achieved, and the lessons we learned.

I ask you, how many of your past years' resolutions sounded something like this?

I WILL fit into my skinny jeans

I WILL NOT eat carbs

I WILL get back to my wedding day weight

My New Years resolutions were weight-related year after year. I began each year ashamed that, as much as I wanted to lose weight, as motivated as I was (and I was motivated) I would find myself in the same place, just one year older.

So, a few years ago I decided that was enough of that. I realized that shaming myself into success did not work for me. Looking at the upcoming year in a frame of punishment was setting me up for failure before I even started. Because here's the thing. My internal dialogue was not about self care or how I could better feed my body and soul. It wasn't about leaning into things that made me feel good and proud and strong. It was about loathing the way I looked now and berating myself into change. Not shocking that it didn't work.

That's not to say that we shouldn't have weight loss goals. It's the approach we take to get there that makes all the difference. So many of the women I talk to believe that weight loss and body acceptance are mutually exclusive. They are not. Believing that you are worthy NOW and treating yourself with kindness is a MUCH more effective means of losing weight than trying to punish yourself into new habits.

I found sustained weight loss when I shifted my approach from punishing rules and self-hate to mindful eating and self-kindess. And I've seen other women have tremendous success doing the same. To help you step into this holiday season and new year with light, I would like to offer you a FREE, private 30-minute breakthrough session that will help you re-frame your weight loss goals and plans. Booking that breakthrough session will also make you eligible for special holiday pricing on 3 and 6 month coaching packages through the end of January.

If you have trouble believing this works, I don't blame you. But I do ask you to do one thing. Think back to times where you have felt that self-loathing. It was pretty fierce, wasn't it? It may have made you want to hide under the covers, but did it change your body?

So, this new year, don't resolve for a "new" or a "better you". Resolve to love yourself NOW and learn how to introduce methods of self-care that encourage sustainable healthy habits.

Cheers to you. Exactly as you are right now.

Why You Hate Dieting But Can't Let It Go

In working with clients I have seen a lot of women who have a major aversion to the idea of “giving up” dieting. When I share my own food journey with them, they immediately connect to it. “Yes! That is exactly what I do! You GET it!” But when I make it clear that my program is not a diet and, in fact, my philosophy around food is averse to traditional dieting, I can see the dread in their eyes.

They agree that traditional dieting has not served them well; it has not helped them attain (or sustain) their goals; and it’s usually affiliated with some level of resentment.

Ugh. I can’t {insert enjoyable experience here}. I'm on a diet.

I understand that dread. After all, while that diet has not helped them find a sense of ease around food or a love for their bodies, it has provided them with a sense of security that they don’t want to let go of.

The notion of eating without rules is so foreign to some of us that it can be downright scary.

What would that even look like? How will I know what to eat? Won’t I just eat brownies and pizza all day if there are no rules to follow?

No. You won’t. But let's come back to that later.

Remember that line in the film Knotting Hill where Julia Roberts' character jokes how she’s “been on a diet every day since I was nineteen, which basically means I've been hungry for a decade”? It’s funny until you realize that it’s actually very realistic for a lot of women.

I was consistently dieting in some form from the age of 15 to 29. It covered the basics: Weight Watchers, South Beach, eating only non-fat foods; Nutri System (the one where you microwave preservative-laden “food” 3 times a day). I lost weight and gained it back multiple times - nothing uncommon. Whatever the form of the diet, I inevitably wavered between feeling good when I ate the minimal amount recommended and becoming deeply depressed when one "misstep" sent me straight into a binge, feeling wildly out of control.

Weight loss has an extremely high recidivism rate. In other words, studies suggest that of those who are successful in losing weight on a diet, more than 90% of them gain that weight back. My point is not to diminish the success that some have (if you find something that works for you, that's awesome!) or to imply that weight loss is impossible. But I do think it’s critical that people understand that the failure of a diet to produce the long term results you want is not a reflection on you. Dieting is not a long term solution for most people. You are NOT a failure. You do NOT lack willpower. You are NOT lazy or pathetic. What you ARE, in fact, is very normal.

To me, that indicates that we need to explore different means by which to achieve our goals. After dieting for over 15 years (which was more than half of my life at that point), I had to face the reality that what I was doing was not working. And if it hadn't worked for 15 years, it probably never would.

That was a life-changing realization for me so I think it bears repeating. If it didn’t work for the last 15 years, it wasn’t going to work in the next year or 5 or 10. The magic diet was not right around the corner.

So why is it we hold onto the belief that “this time” dieting will work? As I mentioned, there is feeling of security attached to following a set of rules. We are told that by following those rules, we can get a desired outcome. When it doesn't work? Well, it’s because we didn’t follow it perfectly enough. There is no where to place the blame other than on yourself which leads you down a horribly familiar path of self-loathing and guilt, and often face first in the pint of ice cream.

This is why I work with clients on a long term, non-dieting approach to nutrition. In my mind, dieting means that you assign specific rules to foods and food groups based on an intellectual idea rather than based on how those foods make your body feel. Typically this involves a good deal of restriction, whether that means restricting certain groups of foods, limiting food intake to a set number of calories/points/colors, or assigning judgments to foods - good foods and bad foods; good eating days and bad ones.

I’ve done all of it. And truth be told, I’m still a work in progress. I often still feel terrible guilt and shame when I eat foods I once categorized as “bad.” The difference is that I now tune into my body and remind myself that foods have no value outside of how they make me feel, how they nourish me, energize or deplete me.

I am no “better” a person for eating kale and no less of one for eating pizza. But those rules were ingrained in me for much of my life and there is no off switch. Those thoughts will continue to creep in but I will continue to do my best to remind myself that what I eat does not warrant judgment, just the recognition of how it impacts my body.

I believe there is a difference between avoiding dairy on a regular basis because you find you have a sensitivity to it that causes discomfort, bloating, fogginess, etc. versus deciding to be dairy free because you read that "dairy is bad". But putting those beliefs into practice takes effort and work. It takes the same work that you put into your daily yoga practice or your 21 day diet – in fact, it probably takes more because it means working every day at reversing long-held beliefs that are no longer serving you.

If you take one thing away from this article, I hope you will be honest with yourself. If your approach to food and your body has not worked for you to date, why are you still holding onto it? I'd love for you to share in the comments below.

Or set up a FREE 1:1 coaching call with me to discuss a long-term, non-diet approach to your life.

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!

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.

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. 

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.

My Mother's Daughter

My mother is the strongest and most badass person I know. Its empowering to be raised by a woman who demonstrates strength in all aspects of life. It's not her phD or her professional success which make her, in my eyes, the strongest woman I know. Its not that she and my father started their young lives together with nothing and raised three children while working full time and providing us with everything we could hope for. It's not even that she beat cancer and cared for my father as he beat cancer. As an adult, I can now appreciate how much sadness and adversity my mother has faced in her 66 years: the loss of both of her parents, one when she was in her 20's; the loss of a sister; the fear she had to face for a child in the throws of an eating disorder. Most trying, though, has been her fight to help her oldest child - my sister - who suffers from debilitating mental illness. Its a fight that is ever present in her life, day in and day out.

And yet, she gets up every day and lives life with grace and fortitude, recognizing all that she has to be so grateful for. She does everything in her power to support a child that cannot help herself but doesn't let it keep her from living her own life. She still finds joy in the small things - the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach, an afternoon with a lifelong friend; and she relishes in the big things -  supporting me as I embark on a new career path.

The strongest woman I know. And, yet, I have these vivid memories of being a girl and hearing her wish longingly for "legs like that woman's". I remember my dad telling me how my wise, successful, stunning mother (see above) used to comment that she wished they had machines that could stretch your body out. It's something most (sadly I don't think thats an exaggeration) women probably think about more often than we'd like to admit, regardless of how successful or fortunate we are.

I tell you this story not because I think my mother did anything wrong or "caused" my body image issues. My mother was and is incredibly supportive of me in all ways. I share this because as I get older and plan my future with my fiance, the thought of how I teach my daughter to embrace her body is always on my mind. How can I guide her to love herself and be grateful for the incredible things her body is capable of, regardless of what size she wears, when it has been so hard for me to do the same for myself? How do I ingrain in her that she's beautiful as she is while making her realize that she is so much more than what she looks like? So much more than her measurements.

I suppose it's something I can't answer, at least not yet. One thing I do know is that it begins with me. Children pick up on how we treat ourselves and they mimic us. So it's up to me to walk my walk and not just talk my talk. It's up to me to embrace my body for all she is capable of, whether I ran 5 miles or ate pizza on the couch that day.

I also know that we will talk about it often and honestly. I can't control the so-called "ideal" images of women that will surround her everywhere she goes. But I can remind her that who we are - not the size of our skinny jeans - is what makes us beautiful. And it's when we love ourselves and our bodies that our beauty shines through most brightly. 

Ladies, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, whether or not you're a mom. How do you approach body image with your daughters, sisters, and loved ones? Please share, as it's something all of us can learn and benefit from!

Fifteen

I was 15 when I decided I wanted to lose some weight. Nothing drastic - I had always been a pretty athletic kid. But I had just finished my Freshman year of High School and I was realizing I might need to work a little harder to look the way I thought I "should" look. I was away at sleepaway camp for the summer, so I cut out the junk food (read: no sneaking Twizzlers on the rafters of our bunk) and started jogging. It worked. And people noticed. I started that school year on cloud 9. But it wasn't long before I had lost the reins. Breakfast was coffee, lunch a small fat free yogurt and an apple, and dinner a large veggie salad with fat free cheese (i.e. plastic) and half of a piece of pita bread. Every single day. And I ran. And ran. Outings involving food now riddled me with anxiety. Would I HAVE to eat? Would they have plain vegetables? The very possibility of having to eat something outside of my 3 safe food categories was terrifying. My parents took me to see a therapist and a nutritionist but it fell on deaf ears. I was really good at not eating...

Until I wasn't. After years of starvation, not getting my period, bad skin, and faking that all was great, I couldn't do it anymore. My body needed nourishment. But my mind wasn't ready to accept that "failure". So, instead of learning to feed my body with good foods, I began a treacherous cycle of restricting and bingeing. A few days of not allowing myself any food were followed by a day (or 3) of hiding food under my bed, hiding food wrappers, and eating until I was physically sick. By the beginning of my sophomore year of college - which I had worked my whole life for - I had gained 50 pounds and was deeply depressed. Many days I could not get out of bed, I contemplated suicide. I was trapped in a body I detested. I loathed myself and prayed for a disease - anything to end this misery. 

After a weekend visiting my sister, I couldn't deny that I was at a dangerous point and needed help. Three days later I took a leave of absence from college and entered an inpatient eating disorder treatment facility. It was the first step in a very long road to recovery; one which I will probably always be on.

I spent all of my teenage and most of my adult life to date obsessed with my body and what I would or would not eat that day. It took 15 years for me to learn that my self worth does not equate to what I eat, that a day can only be "bad" based on what I've eaten if I allow it to be. The truth is, there are days when I forget that. At times it's easier to fall back into what I call the "dieter's mindset" - a self-fulfilling roller coaster of following and breaking rules, emotional highs and lows, feelings of self-worth followed by guilt and punishment crashing down on us.

And on those days I remind myself that I deserve better. I am more than the sum of my meals. My experience is what prompted me to launch the Sustainable Body Project. That is my story. It's made me who I am today, and for that I am grateful. What's your story? I'd love to hear from you. Comment here and follow me on Facebook and Instagram.