I am inspired to write this blog post today after seeing a very special documentary last night. EMBRACE is a powerful film about body image that every girl and woman should see. A courageous former client and now friend of mine was determined to bring this film to our town. She set out on a mission that included having to sell a certain number of tickets before the theater would agree to air it and guess what? She sold the theater out. I am amazed that this film isn't playing in more places. It was beautifully done and the radical notion of self love is one we should all be embracing. I was sure to take my 16 year old daughter and there were many friends there. It was such a treat. You will surely be inspired as well. So.....
I started this blog over a year ago with a loose idea of revolutionizing how we view health and wellness. To explore topics beyond just clean, nutritious food. While I have a HUGE passion for eating healthy and fitness that is fun, I have learned the hard way that true health and wellness extends far beyond how often we exercise and how well we eat. Ultimately, optimum health and wellness comes from a sense of feeling good about ourselves, being happy, having peace, liking who we are, who we spend time with and how we spend our time. It is the balance between mind, body and spirit.
I was a compulsive dieter starting in my late teen years. I was a very late bloomer so my freshman year of college, my body really started to change in ways that made me feel even fatter and worse about myself. I would restrict what I ate for weeks at a time. I began to exercise a lot in ways I didn't really enjoy. GNC became my favorite store, picking up the latest diet pills, vitamins and supplements. My senior year of college I was living on a 1/2 cup of oats made with water and a dash of cinnamon every morning for breakfast, a hard boiled egg for lunch and canned tuna with lemon pepper and 1/4 of a bell pepper chopped in it with nothing else. I drank lots of water to keep me feeling full. After weeks of this craziness, I went out for a jog and only made it about 3 feet past the steps of my building before I collapsed. My landlord found me out on the sidewalk. It was a low for me and a real wake up call. I couldn't survive like that. I had constant migraines and the acid in my stomach was damaging my esophagus. Some weeks later I graduated and attempted to start a professional life. My health was poor and I had to give up my apartment in Philadelphia and move back home to SC. For a time, I lived with my parents. I was never honest about how I got sick but I always knew.
Moving to SC was a curse and a blessing. It was a curse because we lived at the beach where I was always in a bathing suit comparing myself to everyone around me. It was a blessing because the ocean always held a special magic for me that gave me a sense of peace and restored my senses. I battled for many more years with body image but never sunk to the low points I had in Philadelphia. I began practicing yoga and pilates which was the first time I exercised and felt joyful doing it. In 1999, I read 8 Weeks To Optimum Health by Dr. Andrew Weil. In an instant the world shifted for me. I connected deeply with his message that health went beyond diet and exercise. He talked about breath work, how negative messages in the news affect our health, environmental factors, sleep and more. I dedicated myself to his plan and guess what, my life changed. It couldn't have come at a better time because I found out I was pregnant shortly after. As my body expanded with pregnancy, his messages of health and wellness resonated with me and I loved myself in ways I hadn't before. I kept up with my yoga, stopped watching the news, started journaling and more.
What started 17 years ago has continued to flow through me until I got pregnant with my second child in 2004. I gained 75 pounds during the pregnancy, had to move 700 miles away from my SC island sanctuary and suffered postpartum depression. I developed severe mastitis that after it healed many months later, left my breasts a mess and noticeably different sizes. At 7 months old, my son was changing every day but my body remained much the same as it did days after giving birth. I was never told I was beautiful and not to worry. People in my life that I loved told me I was fat. It was hard to remind myself of the lessons I had learned 5 years before from Dr. Weil. I don't really know how I did it, but one day I just said I cannot keep waging a way on my body. I figured out a way to get back into pilates and yoga, I started shopping at the farm market, a joined a moms club, I started to get outside and walk, and day by day, I started to love my body again.
As I felt myself returning to peace, I wanted to share with other women the message of self love. It started with letting go of toxic relationships with women who didn't support each other and making new friends who lifted each other up. From there I became a pilates instructor. What a privilege to share with women a method of fitness that is gentle, nurturing, fun and health??!! I then started working towards becoming a certified holistic health and wellness coach and finally a yoga teacher. I wanted to create a space in my community where women could care for the minds, bodies and spirits in an integrated way. Each time I am with a client or class, it is an honor to hold that space for them. We aren't doing this work to punish ourselves, we are doing it because we love ourselves. If it isn't fun or inspiring you, then don't do it. My passion for this work has now led me to hosting regular sacred sisterhood circles. A time each month for a diverse group of women meet in a sacred space to share their stories, to support each other and to engage in sacred rituals. For most of these women, they have never experienced health and wellness this way but the healing taking place in this space is mind blowing!!!
I want women to know that there is no ideal body size or shape, no perfect skin tone or hair color, there is a place for all of us to feel beautiful. In that space is where true health and wellness lies. When we hold that space for ourselves and the women in our lives a beautiful thing happens...joy. No surprise that the healthiest people are the most joyful, the happiest, the ones living life to the fullest.
So I have decided to walk the path of radical self love. It isn't always easy but one I am committed to. I make choices everyday now based on what supports my vision for this one precious life I have. I now longer torture myself with fad diets, diet pills, restrictive eating, and endless exercise I hate. I look at my body lovingly and appreciate all it does for me. I can't remember the last time I weighed myself, I don't really care. I am not that number!! I am the sum of all my parts...mind, body and spirit. I no longer focus on the flaws I used to so easily find across my entire body.
I walk confidently in a body I adore. I am abundantly thankful that it is a vehicle of adventure, love and motherhood.
I share this photo with you because it says something very important about my journey. It embodies so much of the adventure and peace I now surround myself with now. When I feel stress or anxiety, I turn to nature. More importantly, it is an angle I would never shared or liked many years ago. I have cellulite on my backside. YEP! Its there and I can't do a thing about it. Trust me I've tried. I have gone to extreme measures, yet there it remains. I honestly don't really care anymore. If I am judged for the cellulite, so let it be. I am sure however, I was the biggest judge. Sure sometimes I still wish I didn't have it but most days I am so grateful for a body that carries me through a life of trying new things, going on adventures, being surrounded by the love of my family and friends that I don't even think about the cellulite anymore. My purpose on this planet is so much bigger than any number a scale would register. Step away from the mirror and off the scales. Stop comparing yourself to over edited images in magazines, to your fellow sisters, to the models on the runway. You just need to love you.
Decide today to EMBRACE you amazing body and commit to radical self love!
In Health & Wellness...Live Radiantly!