Trusting Your Body Again

Letting-GoWhen I work with women we discover often that we have lost trust in ourselves, in our bodies, in being OK as we are. This loss of trust leaves us in a vacuum of wondering that usually gets filled with symbolic substitutes like turning to food for love, hiding our insecurities in constant busyness, burying our needs and desires under the masks of professional achievement, or even emptying all we have and are into the lives of others so that we become shells of our true selves.

All this from lack of trust in ourselves.

Being open and vulnerable when you are in the middle of weakness is tremendously difficult to do–and close to impossible without deep trust. Believe me, I get it. I hate crying in front of people and that seems to be my “go to” response!Bbrown vulnerability qte

How do you find that trust? In relationships, it’s from other’s behavior being proven true over time. It’s through experience that doesn’t violate our safety, that trust can be forged.

Sometimes, trust is a volitional act of faith. We simply choose to trust that the other is worthy and deserving of it. We have no proof of experience yet. We have nothing but the decision to step into that space.

I participate in and lead small groups of women. I’ve done this all my life because I believe that we become our best selves when we walk through life together creating safe spaces to be vulnerable, build trust, heal, grow and expand.

Sometimes it is REALLY hard. Sometimes, all I can do is show up and be in that moment. Sometimes, I even fail to show up for myself and others.Brene Brown show up

But, I always keep trying, joining, leading, committing because that is the best way I know how to live: In a specific place, with specific people creating community. It’s easier to learn to trust ourselves again, to trust our body’s innate wisdom, within the context of community.

So many women have told me over the years how comforting it is just to talk to someone who knows and understands what is going on with them. We take a big risk when we do this. When we put ourselves out there, bare and raw. It is hard. And so very rewarding.

If we can’t be real and vulnerable and lay it “out there” with safe people, then the change we desire in loving ourselves and bodies won’t ever happen. I know it was really scary for me when I worked with my coach to trust my body again, to let go of false control and listen for real. This really hits us when it comes to food, because we think if we stop controlling and restricting we will start eating and never stop.

But we do stop. I promise.

When I tell you that it’s possible to learn how to trust yourself again, what runs through your mind? Do you believe me? What’s been your experience with trust, vulnerability and your body? If you are too shy to reply on the blog (I get it!), email me instead (mh AT BraveGirl DOT me)

In Love and Trust,

 

Michelle

PS. If you are ready to explore rebuilding trust in yourself and your body, so you can live in body freedom and peace, schedule a complimentary Body Freedom Breakthrough Strategy session with me (25 min).

 

 

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“Feeling Fat” Today?

feeling fat nametag

I know you have those days when you feel fat and disgusting, no matter what you do. We all have those days. And guess what? It doesn’t matter if you are ACTUALLY fat (like me) or not. It’s really not about your body.

Think about it. How can you feel fabulous in the exact same body on a different day? Exactly.

I learned a loooong time ago that this is a head game, through and through. I remember when I was 16 and feeling fat wearing my snug fitting navy blue/turquoise pinned striped skinny jeans (although they were not called that back then!).  This is etched in my brain (which amazes me and shows the power of emotions), me sitting on the edge of my water bed, talking on the phone (with my 25 foot cord–I’m totally dating myself here) and looking at my ENORMOUS thighs in those pants.

soccer thunder thighs skinny jeans

I was an athlete and had powerful beautiful thighs back then. But what mattered wasn’t that I fit current beauty standards, it was what was going on in my head. I felt “fat”. What I really felt was insecure, unhappy and tired, but all that stuffed emotions got put onto my poor thighs.

Later that year, on a youth ski trip, I was still “feeling fat” and by now very unattractive because I kept liking boys who didn’t like me back. It was on that trip that I performed my very first BODY LOVE EXPERIMENT. Woot.

This experiment is called the “As If” game. I decided I would act like I was the hottest girl on that bus and that every boy wanted to date me (I was not a particularly deep teenager!). The results amazed me. It was like I became a magnet. I exuded confidence and BAM!

The lesson I learned that trip impacted me hard: It’s ALL in my head. The fact that I even remember all this when I’ve forgotten so much of my youth attests to this.

This is a powerful, life-changing, pretty much instantaneous experiment.

You’ve got to deal with your issues, obviously. My little experiment didn’t fix my problems, but it sure put them in perspective.

 

It’s like putting on Marilyn Monroe’s mink coat or something.
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Have you ever strutted your stuff? Did it boost your confidence? I would love to hear about your experiments. Comment below or email me.

Have a fabulous day!

 

Love,

 

Michelle

PS If you want to share more body love experiments come join our FB group! Or sign up for the email group to be kept up on the BLE happenings by going to https://BraveGirl.me

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Am I a “hard body” hater?

hard bodyHere are some thoughts in relation to two media items about women and their bodies. One was an article and the other was a video infomercial type ad. This isn’t very eloquent, but you’ll get the gist…

My friend pointed me to this article the other day, which seemed fairly reasoned to me—but she said to read the comments for the “ugh” factor.

 

The topic was “Why do women over 40 have to kill themselves to have 20-something looking hard bodies like the celebrities?” Good question, right?

Well, the comments in the post blew up.

Of course, there were plenty of reasonable replies that didn’t miss the main point (reading comprehension 101 anybody?), but many women were triggered by a few things. Some were in the camp of “I don’t want to be a sick, fat lazy person, like my parents became.” A valid desire without the moralistic blaming.  Who wants to be sick or infirm in old age? Zero.

 

The other responses fell into the, “How dare you say that what I have poured all my energy into (creating a chiseled “bikini-bod” after 40) is not something to be valued and admired!” These women, as so many people do, took the thought that you could be ok without all that effort, sacrifice and “working my butt off” (literally), as a personal attack to their identity, their reason for being. These are women that feel their worth is completely tied up in their physical appearance. To suggest that softer bodies are ok, that it is natural and normal and nothing to be ashamed of…well, it really pisses them off.

In their minds, you are attractive (“worthy” of love) with a hard body that takes hours of discipline & restriction each day to achieve, or you will end up trolling the “big box stores” in your motorized scooter because you can’t walk.

(BTW, psychologists call this extreme or black and white thinking. One of the patterns that leads to depression, anxiety and other problems. Just sayin’).

Now, with all that said, before the “health” advocates and athletes send me hate mail, I must clarify:

  • I think exercise is a good idea! No matter how hard or soft your body is, finding consistent movement you enjoy (either during and/or after!) is key to overall health & happiness. If your body CAN move, it wants to and needs to. So get off the couch and go dancing,walking, swimming, cycling, hiking, surfing, yoga-ing…You get the idea. Get outside (if you can) and enjoy yourself.
  • I reject the harrow and racist notions of what is considered attractive, sexy & beautiful in our culture. If your criteria for a woman being sexy is 23 % body fat, a six pack and no visible cellulite anywhere, then there is really no point in us talking at all–or, if beauty to you is ONLY EVER a 5’11” super thin photoshopped supermodel, ditto.
  • I support health at every size as a movement. Being emotionally, spiritually & physically healthy are personal values of mine. They aren’t for everybody. Plus what is health anyway? Do you mean cardiovascular health? Metabolic? Mental health? Being an elite athlete? Does health mean being a certain size to you? Because if it does, there are waaay too many people debunking that myth.

 

I just listened to an infomercial online the other day that was targeting women and their fear of being fat. It wasn’t selling itself as a diet, but rather targeting our endocrine system. Yet, even though getting our hormones balanced is SUPER important, (when out of balance we can pack on extra, unnecessary pounds and not be able to lose said lbs until back in balance), this does not make us unattractive, unworthy, or ugly!  Hey, I’ve got hypothyroidism. I know of what I speak!

Throughout this whole reasonable sounding pitch words like “unattractive”, “fat”, “soft parts”, and “problem areas” were constantly repeated. These qualifiers were in constant use. It was so subtly intense, even I had to remind myself it was bunk!

All these “soft problem areas” are what make our figures more feminine versus masculine. These parts of our bodies are designed to store fat for energy and warmth (and providing for healthy babies). So basically, they are saying that the parts of you that “mark your body as female biologically are bad. Instead of being life-giving, they need to be cut away, dieted away or burned away. Your body needs to be more masculine–“harder”, “firmer”, and “less curvy”. (To my gender-fluid intersectional friends, I’m sorry I am only able to address this issue from a dominant culture social construct.)

Back to the infomercial. As this man is so kindly telling women that it isn’t their fault they have unattractive soft fat on their bodies, they were made that way after all, nevertheless you can make your body more valuable to men by remaking it to fit suposed masculine ideals. How crazy is that?!

I can hear the jaws clenching now from my gym rats, so here’s caveat #4

  • I support strength training and “lifting” for women. A lot of women like to lift weights. Me, not so much, I do a little, but prefer using my body weight and resistance bands, etc. But that’s just personal preference. Strength training is excellent for women’s self-esteem and confidence. It can be a healthy activity when done correctly. We all lose muscle mass as we age and so I think we all need some type of strength training whether it is cross-fit, yoga, or lifting cans of food in your kitchen. But then again I value personal health and think most of us (myself included) need to move our bodies more.
  • I think we need to all join Tess Holiday’s movement #effyourbodystandards and claim our own definition of what is attractive, sexy, beautiful and not let the diet industry decide that for us.
  • And finally, if you got this far, BRAVO! Please know if you want a hard body, go for it, just know why you are doing it. However soft your body is, does not define WHO you are or How Valuable you are as a person.

You are valuable.  ‘Nuff said.    

P.S. No nasty anything will be published in the comments, so don’t bother. And don’t give me any “health concern” arguments either. I’ve read the research and do not buy into the hype.

                                                              

Ditch The Diet Train (do you freak out with holiday weight gain?)

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With the holiday season upon us, talk about food is everywhere and so is the diet culture freak out. You’ll hear the “dire” stats of the average poundage (US) people gain at the end of every year (In the US it’s 2.5 lbs). Then, all the those “useful” tips that every chronic dieter lives by pop up in article and TV news features every where you turn. And since, chronic restricters are gonna let loose during the festivities, the guilt piles on!

They are priming the pump…for when people unbutton their pants lounging on the couch in a food coma. Then they move in for the kill:

New Year’s RESOLUTIONS!!!

You’ll be sufficiently chastised for your over-indulgence (such a bad, bad girl) and ready to jump on the New Year’s Diet Train.  In the back of the train the billions of dollars are jumping for joy.

Every year it’s the same thing, because this cycle is what passes for normal around here.

I’m so over it! (Are you?)

Let me tell you that if you’re caught in this cycle you are not a failure. You are not a weak-willed glutton in need of drastic measures (read: punishment)

You and food together is not a moral issues.

It’s really just a simple matter of a biological cycle in overdrive because, Guess What? If you diet all the time, your brain is in “famine” mode (not a happy place to be). When you finally loosen the reins a little bit it reacts like any normal starved person would.

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Look! Food! More! Don’t Stop! I need fuellllllll!

Who can blame your brain. Your history tells it the next real fueling opportunity may be a long ways away. The only way to stop this madness is to get off that gravy train for good.

Here’s the good news:

It’s possible. I’ve done it and so can you. People of all sizes have dropped out of diet culture and don’t worry about food during the holidays anymore.

I’ve got to tell you the truth though (always): The longer you’ve been on that crazy train, the longer it will take to reprogram your brain.

Free your mind and the rest will follow. 🙂

It took me about 2 years to radically change the way I think by uncovering my blind spots. My worldview is just different now.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on becoming a happy diet culture drop out.

1. Accept you need to change & decide to actually do it.

2.Embrace & grow your self-compassion muscles (start small, practice often)

3. Find others on the same journey. (HINT: They are not hanging out at Weight Watcher meetings! Check out my IG friends to start…)

4. Start today. Hey, it’s a process, so you might as well stick your pinkie in the cool-aid now. 🙂

Love,

Michelle

PS. If you are ready for a group experience to support you on this journey, we’ve got 2 openings left in your Body Freedom Formula. We are waiting for you to jump in the mix. Our kick off is a New Year’s Day virtual mini-retreat (eating encouraged).

My Anger Confession or Post Baby Bods Are Perfect

angry, frustrated girl with hands in her hair screaming - isolated on white
angry, frustrated girl with hands in her hair screaming – isolated on white

Something happened the other day that I want to share with you.

I’ve always had a problem with anger. I thought anger was bad and wouldn’t allow myself to feel it most of my life. I grew up repressing my anger. I don’t do that anymore, yet I’ve got to tell you that when I get REALLY angry—you know like at life’s big injustices, not just because my daughter’s room is a disaster (always), but real things that matter—well then, sometimes I don’t know what to do with the intensity of it. Usually I end up crying at some point.

I know. We all have our issues.

So, the other day I was looking at some posts online and I kept getting angrier and angrier. I used a few of the techniques that I teach to put on my observer hat and see if I was being personally triggered. There was a little bit of that and I’ll explain that in a minute, but most of it was the anger I feel when women are allowing themselves to be robbed of their worth and dignity.

You might think this is stupid. Or you might think I’m nuts. Or you just might not even get it at all. That’s ok.

You’ve probably heard me rant against diet culture numerous times and for good reason. It’s EVERYWHERE and so much of it we don’t even recognize as such because we are so inside of it ALL the time. But a particular one “before and after” just got me.

The first shot was a beautiful mother (by any standard) in her bikini a few months after giving birth. She had a tummy, because well, SHE HAD JUST RECENTLY GIVEN BIRTH TO ANOTHER WHOLE HUMAN BEING, but otherwise she was pretty slim.

The next shot is of her in her bikini looking pretty ripped. You can tell she is the kind who likes to grind at the gym—that’s all good.

But the “copy” about how much her body and energy had changed by using this product since she had a baby made me guffaw at first. No duh, she’s tired she has a newborn at home to take care of! You think she’s low on energy? And you think that “months later” with more sleep and everything else she needs she might be feeling a little better?frustrated-woman-using-her-laptop-250-thumb-250x250

But that isn’t what really got me mad. It was the idea behind it that there was SOMETHING WRONG with her post-pregnancy body. That she “needed” to get it “back into shape” because, God forbid she have a stomach where a HUMAN BEING WAS GROWING FOR 9 MONTHS!

To me this completely devalues a woman’s fertility and the amazing miracle that motherhood is. Instead of celebrating that, the focus was on getting her abs ripped again. Because you know, you don’t really have any value as a woman unless you look like a fitness model.

Now, I’ve never had the honor of giving birth and I’m not suggesting that motherhood makes you a “true” woman or anything like that.

“But Michelle,” my sister told me later. “I get that. I felt that pressure after I had given birth. You totally buy into it and you don’t realize how wrong it is. That mother doesn’t realize, she doesn’t even think the way you do about it.”

Hmmm. That doesn’t make me feel any better.

I’m telling you this story because I am fiercely dedicated to our freedom as women. And I’m determined to take as many of you with me that I can on that liberation journey.

I think we need to do something to change this devaluing of women and our bodies. At the very least, stop using women who had just given birth as the “BAD” BEFORE picture! I don’t get how other women aren’t seeing that as completely offensive. Instead, they complement the gal on losing weight and how “good” she looks now that you can’t tell her body had a baby.

We don’t even see how warped that is. We need freedom to be in our bodies however they are and to celebrate them for however they are!

But it seems most of us are trapped.

If you want more body freedom, I invite you to come along side some other brave women in my brand new group program. What would it be like for you to unravel the stories our culture tells us, so you can be confident in who you are in your body as a woman? When you start to put attention on this, I can show you how to dismantle those bad body thoughts and start to live from an empowered state of mind, in tune with your body’s intelligence. Freedom, in this case, is a state of mind.

I’ve written all about the Body Freedom Formula on this page and it just might be the perfect thing for you right now. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out by replying to this email. I’d love to have you join us.

Love,

Michelle

PS. We have moved our first BLE Monthly Community Call to next Monday, mainly because it’s more convenient for one of my partner’s in crime. You see, Friday seems to interfere with her date night! Our topic will be Surviving the Holidays with Grace & Sanity, plus Q&A. Hope you can join in the conversation.

 

Summer Sizzle Secrets with my guest Ragen Chastain

Summer Sizzle FB

WE had a great teleseminar last week with the wonderful Joy Bufalini talking about body shame, diet culture, not dieting, loving our bodies and other things!

This week (Wednesday) we are having the Q&A with the amazing speaker, writer and athlete of the blog “Dances With Fat“.

Submit your questions to be answered LIVE on the call. You can also ask questions during the Q&A, since that is the format. You will hear all about embodying the HAES perspective in practical ways, and we’ll be dealing with some touchy issues like body shaming “loved ones”….YEP.

Join us! This is a free series.

All calls are recorded if you can’t make it live.

Again you sign up here.

To Your Happy Body!

Michelle

The Land of the Beautiful and Body Image Triggers

SUP_paddleHI_hawaii_yoga-5446What are your triggers?

That is my question for this week to you all. I’m back in my home town, where I grew up and lived for 35 years. The beach is in my blood! I love it here. AND, I have lived away from all this for almost 6 years. I lived in the hippie pot growing boonies on the Mendocino coast for 5 of them.

People were very relaxed, natural and accepting. You didn’t see a lot of cosmetic surgery, and the place was definitely not focused on how one looked for their social acceptance and self esteem. The natural beauty of the redwoods meeting the sea seemed to imbue the culture there with respect for a more natural state of things. Most women didn’t wear make-up much. Of course, there was a fashion aesthetic and it was fun and funky! Anyhow, my point is that even at the beach, the pool or wherever you could just BE without worrying about being judged on your cellulite content!

Six years is enough time to really be able to see my hometown with even fresher eyes; to see what level of the frog-in-the-soon-to-be-boiling kettle is going on here in relation to what is considered beautiful and how people are valued. I can see how easy it would be to feel insecure if you didn’t fit in the land of the beautiful people which strives for physical perfection. Obviously, this is a generalization. Plenty of people of depth and significance live here that don’t focus on the superficial. But you CAN feel the vibe especially strong in certain places.

I’m noticing all this in the context of having gained some weight recently beyond my comfort zone (yes, fat people have comfort zones too!) due to hypothyroidism and peri-menopausal hormone craziness. I laugh at it actually because I am in a phase of working out regularly at the gym and I think it is so funny!

So, I’m not really triggered per se. But I am watching all this and thinking about it. I’m talking with my body a lot. Happily, I can report that I’m not reverting back to teenage insecurities even when I’m around them! Yay for growth. smile emoticon

What are your triggers in our society? Share below please!

19 Years of Wedded Bliss!

19 Years of Wedded Bliss…IMG_20150422_164259

Ah, wedded bliss…If you believe in that, I’ve got some swampland in Florida to sell ya at a great price! (As my dad, the real estate broker always used to say!)

Seriously though, my hubby and I recently celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary and it has not been all perfection. Yet, we are still going strong even with all the challenges we’ve had over the years.  I’ve been thinking about why we haven’t ended up as another statistic of divorce (aside from my hubby’s Saint status!).

Why does any relationship last and what makes a good one?

There are MANY answers to that question, but a few points jumped out at me. And guess what? These are all elements you need to have a good, strong, loving relationship with your own body/self also:

Forgiveness, Humor, Compassion and Commitment are the ones that came to mind first.

In this post, we are going to talk about the importance of forgiveness. I think you will be surprised at how it can impact you in little insidious ways that stop your progress in living the life you want, feeling as good as you would like to and loving your body over-all.

Forgiveness:

Lack of forgiveness leads to bitterness, cancer, divorce and a whole lot of other problems in any relationship. When you don’t forgive YOURSELF for all the things that you judge yourself for, you enter a cycle of shame that is self-perpetuating. And guess what? You have to step off that merry-go-round because it does not stop.

When we hold unfogiveness in our hearts (minds) it causes subconscious blocks and stress in our bodies. Stress, as you probably know, is the cause of about 95% of all illness.

You might be amazed at the things you hold against yourself if you start looking at it. These areas of forgiveness can cause all sorts of emotional problems, like anxiety and depression, as well as, success sabotaging actions. The power of your sub-conscious is astounding–90% of what you do is motivated by this undercover part of your mind. If unforgiveness is hiding out back there, you can be sure it is affecting you in ways you might not even imagine.

Here is a silly little example (and just so you know, these silly things can be powerfully sabotaging also):

I was feeling very agitated one day and the overwhelm was piling up with all the undone tasks, including the things I was procrastinating on (article coming on that!).  I was judging myself harshly for not getting it together, which just made me avoid things even more! So, I went to the gym to do my interval elliptical workout (really boosts my mood) and did a forgiveness exercise in the sauna afterwards, since no one else was in there.

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Forgiveness Exercise:

Out loud I stated:

“I forgive myself for _________________. And I love myself even though I am human!”

And I forgave myself for every little stupid thing I could think of like procrastinating, staying up too late, not eating breakfast, berating myself, not planting the tulips, not writing my blog in forever and a day, not….you get the idea. For you, depending on where you are in your life, it might be for hating your body, for calling your cellulite “disgusting”, for punishing your body by working out to hard, or not eating enough food. Anything really. You’ll have to look inside and see what your “little things” are.

After I did this exercise, a huge burden was lifted off me! All those tiny little dumb things I was holding against myself, judging myself for, were released and let go of. (Here’s my little Instagram post on it.)

A lot more can be said on this topic, fantastic books have been written about it, like the classic by Lewis Smedes, Forgive & Forget.

forgive and forget book

Obviously, there are a lot more elements that go into a strong happy relationship. One big one is the power of intimacy, but I’ll leave that topic for another time.

Until then, what has your experience been with forgiveness? Do you find it hard to forgive yourself?

 

 

 

BBL Speakers Courtney Chalfant & Coco O’Donnell

Courtney Chalfant  –  An Interview with Yogi, Author and Founder of Yahweh Yoga.

Coco O’Donnell – America’s Clean Living Coach on Loving your Body through the process of aging. The power of healthy food and simple habits on feeling good. Plus a few tips for keeping your skin young and supple.

“God reminds me every day that I am...Courtney Chalfant www.BraveBodyLove.com Coco O'Donnell (1)

“Bringing Women from All Over the Globe Together

in an Epic Online Event to End Body Image Issues and

Awaken Our Collective Female Power.”

With Michelle Hess + 35 Experts

February 14-28, 2015

BBL Speakers Susan Berry, Jen McLellan & Megan Gahan

Susan Berry –  “BadAss Eating.” How do we stay mindful, present, connected with and responding to not only what the mind and mouth desire, but learning to eat through the whole body?

Jen McLellan – “Plus Sized Birth Coach on finding the best Care Provider.”

Megan Gahan – “How a Love Letter to My Body Changed My Life.”

Susan Berry. www.BraveBodyLove.com Jen McLellan. www.BraveBodyLove.com -Sharing my story and being completely.Megan Gahan www.BraveBodyLove.com

 

“Bringing Women from All Over the Globe Together

in an Epic Online Event to End Body Image Issues and

Awaken Our Collective Female Power.”

With Michelle Hess + 35 Experts

February 14-28, 2015

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