Body Image and Health

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Regarding the title, Body Image and Health, you'll probably wonder what I'm doing in the picture above? I'm pulling up my pants. They are low-rise and therefore sitting in them without a belt, means that I have to adjust them before I sit down for a photo opp. Body image is a topic that everybody can relate to, everybody in a different way though. For me personally it came as a big surprise when my 15 year old lanky frame suddenly started developing curves. There were areas that took a little while longer, but not my hips and bottom. Suddenly what felt like overnight, I had a butt. And I didn't like it.

In today's society we are fed pictures of Victoria's Secret models strutting their stuff down the runway looking curvy to us, however they are really only curvy in relation to their otherwise very slim frame. Fashion models are preferably androgynous with narrow shoulders and no hips. So it is now wonder that we women strive to maintain a slim frame from the moment our body changes in adolescence. We own skinny jeans and keep them "in case we will fit into them again", we are joyous at the thought of wearing a size 4 (which is manufactured to make us feel smaller), we compare, we follow trends, we play with colours and shapes and we work out to get slimmer.

As a professional athlete I was huge by society's standards, I had broad shoulders, strong legs (one leg was so much bigger from fencing than the other, that I had to buy jeans one size up), I had big guns and I had a runner's butt. My body was my job, I was eternally grateful for all it could take, it was my tool, and I was incredibly proud of what it stood for: strength in swimming, steadfastness in shooting, a deep seat on horseback, explosiveness in the fencing and a graceful stride in the running. When I quit competing, my body placed fat on top of my muscles, courtesy of me continuing to eat like I was training 25 hours a week. And somehow at the time I didn't notice.

I look back at those photos now (no, I won't share them) I cringe slightly at how unaware I was, not just of how I looked but how unhealthy I was. I had left a very controlled lifestyle for the first time and I was consuming a lot more than was necessary or good for me.

And then a beautiful thing happened: because I was so unaware of my heavier frame I didn't do anything about it. I started eating less as my body recognized my lower output, I incorporated some exercise into my life again and my body naturally "shrunk" back to my healthy size (mind you, over the course of almost 2 years!). I have been at my size and weight for 8 years now and as people who know me will attest, I eat a lot and then some.

Working with people now, my priority is not teaching them how to lose weight quickly and I personally don't measure success by watching people shrink. What makes me happiest is seeing both men and women embrace strength, develop skills, grace in situations in which they were convinced they would never be, change their perception of food and gratification and most importantly make movement an integral part of their lives. If there is an obsession that I support then it's feeling the urge to move to experience health in body and mind.

I embrace my body and my butt now. I'm a woman so I have fat days, bloated days, feeling ugly days, sad days and envious days. But overall whenever I do, I try to think back to the pride I used to feel over a healthy body that allowed me to do so much. I dare you to think of a night out in which all you did was have fun and thought of nothing else. Not your outfit, not who you wanted to impress, or what anyone else was wearing... Right there, that's the feeling that exudes a quiet confidence that is so irresistible...

Stay tuned for the letter C tomorrow! And make sure to hop on over to my Facebook page for the rest of the alphabet.

xxR

Organize, Enjoy, Repeat

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Today seems to be the first day in a long time that it is overcast and slightly cooler. A perfect day to tend to some business at home. Things that usually pile up because the summer lures us outside. Whenever I tackle the chaos at home, I usually start in my head. I like to make lists, look ahead and determine short term, mid range and long term goals. In my last post I mentioned manifesting and I would put that under long term goals. Manifesting or visualizing for me is a way of becoming clear about what I would like a the best outcome to be in the future. Mid range goals usually include my calendar for the upcoming week, including groceries (to be able to grab healthy snacks and cook well) and taking care of our dog, Zola. I try to get an idea of my husband's calendar, too but it tends to change on a daily basis.

Today is a short term goal kinda day, clean and store my workout equipment, clean the apartment, prepare my next sessions and decide which ice cream to make next in our new ice cream maker.

When I'm organized I tend to eat better, sleep better, create better and generally feel more at ease; but in a hectic city and being plugged in electronically 24/7 it is sometimes difficult to achieve. Some people hire others to help, them but what if that is not an option? My coach was pretty good at giving sound advice on this topic (and could be strict enforcing it) during my very active years. So here they are: tools necessary to organizing yourself despite what is thrown at you on any given day:

  1. Take a step back: don't dive in head first, you will exhaust yourself trying to do everything at once. Instead, take a step back and assess and then create a list of what needs to be addressed first, second, etc. Competing in five events and training for each one, taught me that it was probably less detrimental to miss a shooting practice than losing hours in the pool or on the track.
  2. Don't get distracted: mindfulness is beautifully described in this recent article: "This Simple Mental Trick can slow down Time". Pay attention to what you are doing and maybe you will find some fun in it. I never particularly enjoyed stretching before a swim practice but I tried to focus on each stretch and what its benefits were.
  3. Remember the big picture: if you feel like you failed at any given time, don't dwell on it too much. Things are still moving along. Who says you won't meet your goal? You're likely to cause more damage beating yourself up than remembering where you are headed and marching on. My coach was a master at creating semi-annual goals and remembering them throughout smaller setbacks. If I got sick, there was really nothing we could do than be patient and get back on the horse (literally!).
  4. Reward yourself: once you meet a deadline, achieve a goal or a part of it, celebrate it! Now that can be a very individual thing, whether you enjoy a good massage, a nice meal or quality time with friends it will all help you to be even better in the future. In athletic terms there is something called supercompensation when you take a sudden dip from a plateau before you soar to much better results. Recognizing that point of having reached a new high is important. Only through rest and contentment can we tackle new things.
  5. Do everything with focus and diligence: similar to not getting distracted this is even more important. Treat each task as if it was the most important one. Only then will you finish it satisfactory. If you clean the apartment (find help on Sous Style) but only parts of it instead of focusing on getting it all done, you will keep that nagging feeling that it's not quite right and not be happy with it. In sports, if I didn't give it my best when 100% were demanded in practice, meant that during my next competition I would be missing these important seconds, the speed, the agility or the endurance and precision.
  6. Delegate: ultimately, when you can't do it all yourself. Get help! This is particularly important in an office environment or in any other team environment really. You can't do it all by yourself. As much as I was a professional athlete in an individual sport, I was only as good as the support both practical and emotional that I received from my coach and others that wanted me to succeed.

I dare you to try it. Have a great weekend! Enjoy the calm after the storm.

Big Sur