Please pass the salad…but hold the side of guilt.

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I’ve just returned home from coaching a class this morning and meeting with a personal training client, and I am preparing a healthy salad to take to one of the two picnics on my schedule today. I decided to pop onto my blog and share some thoughts that are running through my mind today… and quite possibly some of yours as well.

It is Memorial Day. Ahh… a day off work (paid holiday for some people). This day, although actually a rather solemn occasion to commemorate the fallen in our country and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, marks the beginning of summer. Summertime is basically “the season of cookouts and day-drinking”.

In fact, as I sit here and think about the approach of the cookout season, I realize that it’s  pretty much always a season with a reason to party. We come out of the Fall and Winter holidays into Valentine’s Day, then Easter and then summer madness is upon us just when we thought we could “get back to that diet once the holidays were all over.”

Okay, I’m about to hit you with a real truth here… “you need to stop waiting and stop making excuses” for when you are going to “get to it”… however, approaching your new-found healthy lifestyle from a place of guilt and shame will lead to absolute failure quicker than anything.

So now that you are totally confused, I will try to clarify where I’m coming from. As a survivor of an eating disorder, I know how to play the shame game with myself pretty darn well. I’d say I ought to win a gold medal in that game. I’d go to a party or a cookout and I would avoid eating all together. I’d say something like “oh, I ate at another party… or at home…” feeling guilty that I was not partaking in the efforts of the gracious host. Or I’d go to the party and eat the fun foods, like the potato salad, the fried chicken, the cheese and crackers, and then I would feel such crushing guilt and shame from “eating all the bad foods”. It was definitely contributing to my mental illness, y’all! What a crazy cycle that was. But I felt like every time I turned around there was a family birthday party, a friend’s cookout, a work party, a holiday… it was a constant battle.

As I regained mental serenity and learned to come from a place of self-love, I discovered that I could live with a balance of a healthy lifestyle and also truly enjoy the moments spent with friends and family. And today, I’m going to let you in on my secret equation.

Forgiveness + Commitment = Balance

First and foremost, you have to forgive yourself. Truly forgive yourself for all of the nasty, rude, mean, cutting things you say about yourself inside your head all the time. Go ahead, take a few minutes and really forgive yourself for being so harsh.

And know that when you fall off your healthy bandwagon, as we all inevitably do, you will need to do this whole forgiveness thing again. It’s okay!

Now that you have forgiven that little bratty critic in your brain, it’s time to fill that spot with self-love and gratitude. Celebrate the fact that you have family and friends to celebrate with and things to celebrate! That’s the real point of these get-togethers. Food is just one element of the connection we make at these events. So that said, no need to stress about it!

Second, you have to commit. I know this concept is really difficult for a lot of people, and often is where the hang up lies. Let’s think for a moment what the word “commit” means in other areas of our lives and how we can adapt and apply it to our healthy lifestyle.

If you are in a committed relationship, or a marriage, you are totally in it with that other person. When the going gets tough, by golly, we roll up our sleeves and get going. We are “committed” to making it work, even if there are rough patches, arguments, disagreements. We have a level of priority in lives for that person and that relationship.

When you take a position at work, you “commit” to that job, schedule and set of expectations from your employer. You may stay up late or wake up early to finish a project or make sure you are there on time. In fact, for a lot of us, your job takes priority in life over family or personal desires. That is commitment, y’all.

Now, let’s apply that same level of commitment to a healthy lifestyle. That life has to be a priority. A friend you “call everyday”, a place you “show up” to everyday. Just like you sometimes leave work early to go to a doctor’s appointment, understand that there will be moments when you aren’t completely perfect in the execution of your “healthy lifestyle”. And it is in these moments, you forgive, recommit and move forward.

So what the heck does this look like in the day-to-day and how in the world do I apply it to the holiday/cookout/neighbor’s brother’s kid’s 2nd birthday party world we live in?

Balance.

The habits you build every day “in the trenches” I call it… will be your armor for how you deal with all of the other situations that arise in your life.

Making healthy choices in the day-to-day, regular Tuesday at work situations will help you build a strong foundation.

If you know that your group of friends or your family is not on this health journey with you, and there probably won’t be any “healthy” options at that party, offer to bring the salad, the veggie tray, the fruit salad. Trust me, your friends will end up eating it with you and your healthy influence just might rub off on them! Plus, you will know there is something for you to fill up on at the party that is healthy.

When there are fun indulgences at the parties, ask yourself “what kind of joy does this treat bring me?” Meaning, is that your Aunt Judy’s famous apple cobbler that she only makes on the 4th of July? This might be the only time of year you can eat that special treat and you know how much Aunt Judy pours her soul into making that cobbler. If having a serving of that cobbler brings you joy, then eat the cobbler. And don’t stress about it. Don’t abuse yourself mentally about it later. Just eat it. Enjoy it. And move on.

If it’s a brownie from the grocery store, or something you could literally eat any ole time, maybe that is not as special of a treat for you, and may be easier to pass up for a more healthy option. Since you now have forgiven yourself for past and future offenses, know that it’s not the great famine, that food will always be there if you truly find joy in it. The allure of the “unhealthy” food loses its power if you can remind yourself that you aren’t choosing to avoid it because you are being punished, but because you are committed to your healthy lifestyle and you will wait until something comes along that actually brings you pure joy.

Enjoy the summer! It flies by so fast! Remember that there are a lot of active and playful ways to enjoy the summer weather and celebrations without focusing on the food.

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Hey loves! The Playful Trainer here, coming to you with some honest truths about me.

I’ve recently been beefing up my social media presence as I am building my in-home and online personal training business. I post pics of myself, my food, my daily activities… etc. So as I expose more of my life and myself on social media, I open the door to haters and trolls who want to tear me down.

I almost feel a little special… like oh hey, my idols like Jillian Michaels, Rachel Hollis and Lori Harder have to deal with this kind of negativity, I must be doing something right. Right?

But then that body-image monster rears its awful head and I doubt everything I’m doing, everything I am and I’m presenting to the world.

I’ve been searching for the opportune way to tell my readers about my struggles with food and body image. Perhaps the thought I had this morning sparked a long trail of thoughts of the past and how I continue to fight the body-image monster every single day.

As many children do, growing up, I had somewhat of a dysfunctional family.  It’s cool, I’m in therapy and I honestly wouldn’t change a single thing about how I grew up. That aside, I learned from a young age to find comfort in food, and seek the approval of peers and strangers to give me self-value.

The first “medication” I turned to as a child was food. I was a stress-eater from a very young age. I was overweight throughout grade school. I recall the time I was in second grade. We had a substitute teacher, and as part of “health class” she weighed all of us in front of the class. She stated everyone’s weights aloud for the class to hear…. but when it came to me, she tried to hide it from the rest of the class. “120,” she whispered to me. Well, if you’ve been in a classroom with 8 year-olds, you know that kids are nosy and have impeccable hearing. I was mortified. I cried. I was embarrassed. But most importantly, for the first time, I realized that I was “different” from my classmates. I gathered that my weight was something I should be ashamed of… I mean obviously my teacher was ashamed for me because she whispered it. Before that moment, I had been pretty care-free about my appearance. I hadn’t compared myself to other girls, or body-shamed myself.

I don’t think you’ll be too surprised with my 8 year-old self. I didn’t go home that day and change my habits, give up soda, stop sneaking late night snacks…. in fact, I turned to food to comfort the sad, lonely, stressed out feelings I had experienced. I wanted to confide in my “friend” sugar, to make me feel better about the teasing from my classmates about my weight. Sure enough, sugar, my ole pal, was there for me…. every time.

As I continued into middle school, my family situation had not improved, and neither had my health. I was sick. All the time. I missed a ton of school due to just being down and out with flues, colds and irritable bowel syndrome. As I reflect on this time in my life, I realize now, that a lot of my illnesses were likely a result of my unhealthy mental state as much as of my poor dietary choices. I absolutely judged my self-worth on what I thought others perceived of me, so suffice to say, my self-worth was pretty non-existent.

And suddenly, I hit bottom… I discovered boys. Kidding aside… again, because I completely judged my self-worth based on other’s perceptions of me (and obviously could only see my faults and outside appearance), I thought “no one will ever find me attractive, and I’ll never have a normal teenage life, and I’ll be alone and unloved forever unless I make a change with my body.” I can see the absolute fault in this thinking as I look back. I was basing my need for change only on my outward appearance, my weight, my size. I was attacking “the problem” which I thought was my weight, not resolving the actual issues involving my mental health.

You guessed it. Food became my enemy. How could this loving friend that I confided in for years just totally turn its back on me and ruin my life?? I was angry at it, wanted to remove it from my life completely…. and I pretty much did just that.

It took years before anyone, including me, noticed that I had an eating disorder. “You look great!” I heard from many people as I started to lose weight. Everyone thought I was doing it “the healthy way”, cutting out soda, sugary juices, bringing a lunch from home instead of eating the school food. And really, when I started to lose weight, I honestly thought I was doing it the “healthy way”. I was reducing my calorie intake, increasing my exercise, avoiding fried foods, staying away from processed sugars… all of the things I basically tell my clients to do to lose weight and be healthy. The problem was I beat myself up every time I ate, no matter what I ate, but especially when I ate a food that was pegged “unhealthy”.

The more weight I lost, the more my peers responded. Even parents of kids at school were coming up to me to tell me how “good” I looked. I equated this new attention and acceptance from my peers to my ability to control my food intake and my losing weight. That became my “medication” – the positive feedback I received for the weight loss.

What I also learned, via my therapy sessions, was that my eating disorder was not completely related to food. And it certainly wasn’t as easy as “just eat the freaking cheeseburger” to recover from that disease. I was absolutely phobic about eating that cheeseburger. Not eating that cheeseburger was all I had. It’s the control I held on to so tightly because I felt utterly helpless and out of control in so many other areas of my life. To top it off, I felt that if I ate that cheeseburger, I’d be a failure. I would let down all of those peers and parents that had congratulated me on “losing the weight” a “job well done” and remember I completely valued myself based on other people’s opinions of my physical appearance.

I am so blessed to sit here today and write this blog because I survived that eating disorder. I honestly “survive” this eating disorder every day. (Stay tuned and I will post a follow up blog on my journey to recovery…)

When I read those awful comments on my posts, they cut to my core. That 8 year-old me pops up and tells me “I’m not worthy of success or love” – “I need to be just 5 lbs, 10 lbs, 15 lbs… thinner” – For someone with a history of an eating disorder, there’s a fine line between a healthy lifestyle and obsession with calorie intake, food control and excessive exercise. 

This topic is so near and dear to my heart:  The truth that you are worthy of love, worthy of success and vibrating so much higher than the ignorant haters in the world.

There is also a delicate dance I do between encouraging my followers to be healthy and pushing them to the point where they put too much self-worth on physical appearance.

Yes, it’s nice to have goals like fitting in a dress size for a wedding, feeling confident and sexy for your partner. I encourage my clients to set goals that transcend physical appearance and “weight on the scale”. Improved cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol, prevention of diabetes, pain-free movement, and increased stamina, strength, mobility, energy, mood … these are all amazing goals and benefits from healthy eating and physical activity.

I pray that I can set a positive example for men and women on their fitness journey. To have a healthy relationship food, where it’s not love or hate, but appreciation and gratitude.

Thank you for joining me in this blog post. “Hater’s gonna hate”- thanks for that reminder Taylor Swift. Don’t let yourself be one of those haters in your own life. 

I cannot take credit for this phrase, but I absolutely repeat it any chance I get –

“Work out because you love your body, not because you hate it.”

Krystal 3

Thinking about the beach…

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It’s November 1st. This means different things to each of us. For some, it is the first day of the holiday season. Retail stores are absolutely decked out in Christmas decorations and holiday colors. For others, this day marks the excitement and anticipation of the holidays. You may be looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends, taking holiday trips, or finally buying that Mercedes with the big red bow on it…

I apologize for any disenchantment in this post, but for me, November 1st pretty much marks the beginning of winter for me. I think I could in fact live the life of a bear, hibernating from November 1st to March 30th and being just fine with skipping everything in between. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays and all the merriment… I just think we should be spreading good will and cheer all year round. I also live in the Chicago area (so our climate is pretty bleak this time of year). Perhaps if I lived in Arizona, Hawaii or even Florida, I might feel different about these next couple of months. But alas, I am a Midwest girl, so I suffer from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and use a “happy light”<— an actual thing.

In my meditations this time of year, I visualize being on a beach. The sand is hot, but I can sink my toes into it just deep enough to find coolness. There are waves ahead of me, lightly crashing onto the shore as if they are nudging me to step into the water. I step into the waves, just enough to get my feet wet up to my ankles and the water is …..

… Ok, here’s the point in my meditations where I completely fall of track and start thinking about random things. Meditating makes me anxious because I constantly feel like I am doing it wrong. Am I doing it wrong? Is there a right way?

So the other day, my mind wandered off as I stepped into the waves. I thought about how as a child, I was never the kid who just “jumped in” the water. I would find the steps or the ladder and very slowly and carefully walk in about to my waist line before just dunking in all the way.

I realize now this has been a pattern my whole life, not just in the water, but in all my endeavors. I proceed with caution even when I’m really excited about something. Perhaps it comes from the fear of disappointment. If I did not get my hopes up about something and it fell through, I wouldn’t be so hurt. It was my way of protecting myself from false promises and the “let down”.

The cool thing about this pattern that I noticed though, was that once I’m “in the water” I don’t want to get out. I’m staying in until my fingers are wrinkled and I can do the perfect somersault. I think to myself “it took so dang long to get into the water, I have to make the most of it now.” The “getting in” is the uncomfortable part, but once you are submerged, you feel warm and light and free.

I’m a loyal friend, a dedicated wife, a determined employee. Once I’m in, I’m in all the way. Full attention and energy, full speed ahead.

It’s this dedication that is driving me to spend long hours at night after a full day at work studying sales funnels and building my empire. There’s no time for chatting on the phone, mindlessly watching TV or late night snacking. I’m all in. This is it. I’m in the water folks, and I’m not coming out until I have mastered the perfect hand stand.

… a hand stand.. I was never very good at gymnastics. I can barely do a cartwheel…

Oh that was the point in my meditation where I completely started thinking about my unhealthy childhood and my inability to do acrobatics. But that my friends is for another blog post another night.

Meditating makes me uncomfortable. I suppose I’m still wading in the water up to my knees on that one, but I trust that once I completely just dunk in, I’ll be some sort of guru.

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Waiting to win the lottery.

As I gathered my thoughts for this blog, it occurred to me that I’m overwhelmed. This seems to be the active state for me most of the time for most of my life.

However, I realized this sense of overwhelm is different than it’s been in my past. I would say it’s coupled with a dose of impatience. What would you do if you knew you’d win the lottery, but you had to wait a whole year to buy the winning ticket? You might face moments of frustration and anxiety and might wish that time could pass more quickly or that you didn’t have to wait so long.

I’m having those moments of frustration, and I’m experiencing a great deal of inner turmoil. I’m in somewhat of a transitional phase of my career. For the past 33 years it feels like I’ve been living everyone else’s dreams (with the exception of my hubby, he’s amazing.. and that dreamboat is all mine, baby!)

After high school I went to college to get a degree so I could get a sensible job and have a sensible life… after some soul searching I think perhaps I made that decision to appease my parents. I would much rather have skipped the books (at least in my 20s) and gone full steam ahead to pursue my entertainment career. Not that I would have been uber famous, but ultimately, that was my passion.

That decision of backing away from my dreams to go to college was the beginning of many derailments I would have over the decade.

After college I got a 9-5 gig, worked in corporate America for several years, then through my heart and soul into building a dream for my best friend.

So the lesson in all this? I would do it all over again. I wouldn’t change a thing. I have to clear my heart of resentment and shame and embrace and recognise the blessings I’ve had so far. I am so proud of my friend and the business we built together. And I do believe each turn I’ve made on this journey has brought me to this unique moment.

That moment is now. I have arrived. No more living how I think others want me to live. I’m going for it. I’m doing this! Game on! Freedom is calling, and, whew, it’s overwhelming!

What is the dream on your heart? It’s not too late. You can change that story you tell yourself everyday. Each experience and interaction you’ve had has lead you to this turning point. Go on, take the road less traveled, and share some love with your fellow passengers along the way.

One simple “Yes” can change your life

Whew, I am exhausted… this could be the adrenal fatigue I am recovering from (more about that in another post), or it could be I traveled to NYC from Chicago and back by car in 4 days. This exhaustion is a good feeling though, it’s invigorating! The difference I think is that I am on a fulfilling journey that is finally my own.

You see, about 16 months ago, I decided to say one simple “yes”. It is a “yes” that I knew I needed to say for many years, decades even. I just didn’t have the courage to say it. I thought saying this “yes” would make me a selfish person and made me feel guilty. I believed the lie I told myself and I was in a sense dazed and confused about life, my role in it, my responsibilities and what I was in fact free to do.

This “yes” was to myself. I asked myself that day in April 2017, “Am I living a life for me?” See, simple stuff here. Likely a question I had asked myself hundreds of times before. But each of those other times before this my answer was “no”. Certainly at the moment I said “yes” my life looked very different, and I was not actually living a life for me. By changing my answer to “yes” and proclaiming it spoken and in writing, I changed the course of my life indefinitely.

Now, I want to mention that I am a spiritual person. I do live a Christian way of life and philosophy. I believe in my Higher Power and I know It’s always got my back. This was the key to finally being ready to say “yes”. Through the help of friends who are much wiser than me, I was able to find my Higher Power and build a relationship.

Ok, cool, so what’s the big deal? How about a completely different life! One without the constant guilt and shame I felt. A life that I am excited in the morning to greet. One with possibilities that do not seem hopeless and dreams that are within reach. A life where I am able to focus on my health and actually feel like a normal human for the first time in years.

So what’s the catch? There is one thing to consider when saying “yes” to yourself. You have to realize that in order to do so, you must say “no” to other things. I was the best, like seriously, I’d win a gold medal, in saying “yes” to everyone and everything else. Some of those things I enjoyed a lot, and other things I dreaded doing. But in saying “yes” to those things, I said “no” to myself… over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I still love helping my family and friends and volunteering at church and in my community. But before I say “yes” to those things, I now ask myself “am I doing this with a song in my heart or with resentment?”

Since this revelation, I have participated in my very first beauty pageant, I started my own business (one that I am super passionate about). I’ve connected with amazing people and made some incredible friendships. I’ve traveled to Arizona and New York, and I found physical healing through the help of a naturopath. Now that I am living in a better harmony with my body, mind and spirit, the Universe is opening up all kinds of incredible opportunities to me. Ones that I can “yes” to with an absolute song in my heart.