Words from Nutrition Coaching graduate, Maria:

People’s ‘food issues’ are rarely just about food.
— Abby Langer, R.D.
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I started my Nutrition Coaching journey as someone who had tried everything - or, at least, it sure felt that way. Low carb? Tried it. Crazy amounts of time spent in the gym doing cardio? Guilty as charged. Juice cleanses? Kale, yeah!

But, I didn’t journey into the world of weight loss completely on my own. Rather, I sought out what I thought would have been helpful at the time. In 2010, after seeing a bunch of ads on TV and Oprah’s glowing endorsements, I started a well-known weight loss management program. This program required tracking of every bite that I took, and at first, I felt so in control! Sure, I’ll measure everything out! I need to purchase a food scale? Okay! Let me figure out the points! Sounds like a blast, eh? Yeah, I didn’t think so, either. Full disclosure: I was able to find temporary success, but I knew very clearly that the constantly-tracking way of life simply isn’t sustainable (or enjoyable for that matter!). I tried that program three times - and yet, over time, and each time, I gained the weight back.

At the heart of my struggles with weight loss, there was a plethora of larger issues - emotional baggage stemming from a childhood of living with an alcoholic father, untreated depression, and a general lack of self-worth, just to name a few. And let me tell you, some of these struggles were really deeply rooted. For example, growing up, food was my escape from the reality of my surroundings. I have vivid memories of my father drinking, and me taking a bag of pretzels up to my room, closing the door, and eating to distract myself from the chaos that was going on within my own home. While far from an ideal way to handle the situation, it was effective. Plus, when you’re nine, there’s not much you can do to control your environment. Of course, though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was the beginning of my very misguided and unhealthy relationship with food.

When I started Nutrition Coaching, I’ll be completely honest: My main goal was not weight loss. Rather, I wanted to figure out what a healthy and well life looked like, and I wanted to pursue that. I knew how resilient I was inside, and I wanted to show that strength externally, too. As a teacher, I knew that if I had tried so many methods to lose weight, but none of them stuck, clearly I really wasn’t learning anything. It was almost like I was studying material (in this case, calculating points, following a cleanse, etc.), passing the test (losing the initial weight), and then forgetting everything on the test as soon as I took it. When the final exam of sustainability came around, I failed each and every time, because I had not actually learned new material. The biggest problem was that these approaches didn’t change my habits, thoughts, or my perspective.

So, not knowing exactly how to proceed, or what to do next, I did what many tech-savvy people do- I reached out to my Facebook network. I asked, instead of weight loss recommendations, if anyone had suggestions regarding a local nutritionist. One of my former high school students recommended Coach Nicole, and 1 short email and private message later, even if I didn’t realize it, I had taken a big step to changing my life once and for all.

It’s important to note that I came to Nutrition Coaching on the heels of one of the most tumultuous points of my life: In addition to not enjoying my job any longer, my husband and I had been battling the emotions of infertility (The issue was on my end- cue the unbelievable guilt!) and the financial stress that accompanies the alternative pathways to pursuing parenthood. In order to cope, and in what I later realized was a form of self-sabotage regarding the guilt that I felt, I turned to eating. Eating my feelings led me to be about 30 pounds heavier physically, which seemed minor compared to how much heavier I felt emotionally. In typical Maria-fashion, I put on a brave face, though, so no one really knew the interior turmoil that I was feeling on a daily basis. Getting out of bed every day was a true struggle, and it was an unbelievably lonely time.

I wasn’t healthy - inside, or out. I had my body fat percentage calculated as part of my gym package, and I was surprised to see that I was significantly into the overweight category for my body type and frame. Then, Coach Nicole and Precision Nutrition entered my world. I started Nutrition Coaching weighing 165 pounds (For reference, at my heaviest, I was around 173), unaware that in the year that followed I’d lose so much more than the additional pounds.

What did I learn in my year with Coach Nicole and Precision Nutrition? Um - I don’t know how else to say this: I learned everything. Now, I don’t literally mean I learned everything there is to know. Not at all. But, everything I know in the world of nutrition and habit formation I attribute to the education I gained through Nutrition Coaching, and that’s a big deal. What were some of my biggest takeaways? I learned that our relationship with food is based on habits, and that our habits are made up of the choices - large and small - that we make each and every day. I learned that trying to do too much too soon is not sustainable, and while it may work very short-term, it isn’t going to ultimately help you reach your goals permanently. I learned that there are far better ways to “treat myself” than with food. I learned that everything has a cost, so even if a food is cheaper monetarily, I pay more for it with my health. I learned that so often, I inhaled my food, not slowing down to pay attention to the details - its texture, the taste, the smell, etc. I learned that it’s important to focus on one thing at a time and master that thing before we move on to the next. I learned that real results come from trying to be just a little bit better- even 1% better- than we were yesterday. I learned to prepare and anticipate any roadblocks during the week and plan my meals, because if I have a plan, I’m less likely to make decisions that do not align with my goals. I learned that there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Most of all, I learned that we overcomplicate things in the world of nutrition and wellness. We think there’s some magic plan or formula that we have to follow, but in reality, if we just slow down and pay attention, it becomes clear that it isn’t rocket science.

My Nutrition Coaching experience wasn’t without some pretty big surprises, too. The biggest surprise? That’s easy - I could not believe how much I learned beyond nutrition and wellness. So much of what Nutrition Coaching taught was applicable to life in general - from mindfulness, to focusing on being 1% better, to focusing on one thing at a time. Additionally, I learned so much about myself, which helped me to be able to apply the lessons to my own life. In terms of successes that I experienced, I’m so happy to report that one year later, I slowly and sustainably lost 20.31 inches and 19.4 pounds. I’m at 145 pounds, which is a weight I have not seen on the scale since college. In fact, for the first time since high school, I weigh less than my mother! I’m really proud of the losses that I’ve seen measurement wise, but the main reason those losses make me so happy is because they are a representation of the things I’ve gained through working with Coach Nicole and Precision Nutrition.

In the last year, I’ve gained the ability to separate my emotions from my food choices, I’ve gained the ability to enjoy the foods that I choose to eat, I’ve gained the confidence to step into new exercise classes that I’ve never tried without anxiety (Hello, barre!), I’ve gained the ability to be a great role model for my daughter that we recently adopted, and, as it was one of my goals and ways of measuring progress that I picked at the start of my Nutrition Coaching journey, I’ve gained the ability to completely finish the lunge track in Body Pump (and can now even add weights to the track!). Hysterically, I said to Coach Nicole (on more than one occasion) that while checking my form in the mirror at the gym during Body Pump, I didn’t recognize myself. Simply put, due to a health condition, I’m unable to lift more than 20 pounds, but I was shocked to see that I actually had muscle definition!

Through Nutrition Coaching, I also gained the knowledge that I have a big dairy sensitivity by paying attention to how my body reacts after eating different foods. Who knew?! Beyond all else, throughout the process of losing the weight and inches physically, I also lost the guilt that I carried for far too long about not being able to make my husband a father, and I was able to release the frustration and anger I held on to regarding the toxic environment that was my childhood home. Through the process of letting go, and wiping the slate clean each day, I gained the ability to forgive - and not only to forgive others, but also myself. Nutrition Coaching where you gain more than you lose? That, my friends, is what I gained through my experience with Coach Nicole and Precision Nutrition. I am stronger than I’ve ever been in my life - mentally, physically, and emotionally - and you can be, too. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Here's to being messy, awkward and less-than-perfect!

Perfectionism is a shield that we carry with a thought process that says this, ‘If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, and do it all perfectly, I can avoid or minimize feeling shame, blame, and judgement.
— Brene Brown

Have you heard this before? I LIVE in this passage. Perfectionism has been my jam - my comfort zone - for many many years. Not that I'm always perfect, certainly not, but my every action has been externally driven by the question, "what will people think?" - striving to avoid any inkling of shame, blame or judgement. 

Living my life behind the shield that is perfectionism has kept me, what I mistakenly thought as, safe. But in actuality, my shield of perfectionism has only kept me from being seen. Despite my many years of following orders, exceeding expectations and doing the "right" thing, I had never learned how to be known or how to be seen for who I am, performance aside. 

It's taken a lot of good therapy to open my eyes to this, and for that I'm eternally grateful. So here's what I want to share with all of you - because, while sometimes we need to fall down and skin our own knees to learn the lesson, sometimes the best lessons are learned by those around us, if we just learn to listen. 

So here it is bb's - Failure isn't optional. Rest isn't earned. Imperfection isn't negotiable. 

You're going to fail. It's required. You're going to need rest. It's required. You're going to be imperfect. It's required. Failure, rest and imperfection need to occur regularly and without justification if we ever expect to grow. Did you hear that? Regularly. And without justification. 

Too often we treat being known and seen by those around us as something we earn. If we do everything right, THEN we'll earn love. If we excel at our job, THEN we'll be worthy. If we do more, THEN we'll reach our goal. But it's not always about doing MORE and it's certainly not about living in FEAR, because if we're honest, those of us living behind the shield are really just afraid of being seen for who we really are.

Will I measure up?

What will everyone think of me?

Will I be good enough? 

Being truly seen and known isn't contingent on anything else other than our willingness to be seen and known. I am worthy of love, acceptance, belongingness and compassion regardless of how much I do or don't do. You are worthy of the same. 

And you know what makes all the difference and defeats that heavy ass shield? Authenticity. Being bold and uniquely YOU. And in the words of Brene Brown, "being unarmored, messy, awkward, compassionate and less-than-perfect". 

So here's to being messy, awkward and less-than-perfect together! 

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Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

What Sucks about Body Image

Yesterday at the gym, I was finishing my workout with bear crawls when my trainer politely said, "focus on keeping your hips parallel". After finishing the movement (with a renewed focus on parallel hips) I popped up and asked, "what was I doing wrong?" 
"Nothing", he replied. "Just focus on keeping your hips parallel to the ground." 
"But that means I must have been doing it incorrectly, right? Just tell me - what sucked?" 
To which he responded, "Don't focus on the negatives. Keep your sights set on what's good."
Sometimes it's a damn shame my trainer is my husband...especially when he's right. 

But this got me thinking - how often do we choose to intentionally focus on the negatives? Even when there are positives right in front of us, we look for what's wrong/bad in order to blame, criticise and shame. ESPECIALLY when it comes to our body image. 

On a daily basis I hear things like, "gross, my thighs are so jiggly", "I ate so badly this past weekend, I need you to punish me", and, "I hate sex because I hate my stomach". And when we share these scripts with those around us, many validate our statements by silently agreeing or by responding in a way that lends credibility to the shame, like, "oh, I hear you! me too!" or, "but at least you have a great butt!" 

Well, I'm not buying into it anymore! I refuse to play the role of shamer and refuse to tolerate body bashing (my own and anyone else's). Instead of participating in language that focuses on the negative and brings us down, let's be more aware of what tumbles from our lips and the message it conveys - both to ourselves and to those listening ears around us! And let's really explore - dive deep - into what's going on in our lives that drives us to speak about ourselves (and sometimes others) in that way. 

Nine out of 10 women say they will actually not eat and risk putting their health at stake when they feel bad about their body image.* 

SOMETHING HAS GOT TO CHANGE. We need to help empower each other! We need to increase body-confidence education, drive meaningful conversations around the pressures women and girls face, advocate for change in how females and their appearance are talked about and portrayed in the media, and most importantly, we need to teach - and KNOW - that all bodies are beautiful and worthy of love and belongingness. Every shape, shade and stature. 

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Want help becoming the healthiest, strongest, most body-confident version of you?

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, stressful, media-driven lives.

That’s why I work closely with my Nutrition Coaching clients to help them reach their health, fat loss and body confidence goals...no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

For more information on Nutrition Coaching with Nicole, drop a comment below or shoot me a message at [email protected]

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

* Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, 2017

How I learned to love my body...

This weekend, I ate ice cream twice in one day. 

And I enjoyed every single bite. Zero guilt. Zero regret. 100% satisfaction. 

A few years ago even just one bite of ice cream would have sent me into a tailspin of restriction and remorse. From 2009-2012 I weighed myself every single day, tracking calories obsessively. Every. Single. Day. And based on the number staring back at me - whether I had gone over my 900 calorie limit (self-imposed, mind you) or was up a fraction of a pound - my attitude and activities for the day proceeded accordingly.

That number determined everything. Up on the scale? Run more and eat less. Ate too much according to my "lose 2 pounds a week" My Fitness Pal guideline? Run more and eat less. 

That number determined if I felt worthy. If I felt happy. If I felt like socialising. That number determined what clothes I wore. What I could eat. How long I would have to workout. Along with every other aspect of my day to day life. For three years I hated myself this way repeatedly, refusing to actually live my life and engage with other people because my need to be smaller, lighter and thinner meant more to me than any relationship or adventure ever could. 

Today. Today I don't track calories and I weigh in only occasionally. I know that I am 40 pounds heavier than I was at my thinnest and I know that I am the happiest, healthiest and most confident and powerful I have ever been in my entire life. 

People often ask me how I got here - this place of confidence and comfort around food, around fitness and most importantly - in my own skin. People ask because they too feel lost in their own skin, at war with their own bodies, ruled by the scale and consumed by the caloric culture we (as  a society) are so obsessed with. 

My answer is always this. There was no magic switch. No lightbulb moment. But rather, it was work. It still is, some days. It has taken me YEARS to unpack the reasons why I hated myself, neglected my body and starved my mind. It has taken me YEARS to separate what I believe to be true from societal narratives telling me how I should look or who I should be. It has taken me YEARS to heal from the hurtful things that were said and done, finally realising that I am the boss of my own body. 

And some days it still feels like I'm learning. Because loving yourself is not a linear journey. And there are no shortcuts. You will have bad days. You will backslide. And you will struggle with giving power back to the scale and your calorie counting apps, because that's what you know. 

But know this - life without the scale, without calorie counting, without external pressures and internal dialogues telling you that you need to look, feel or be a certain way is worth all the time healing takes. It takes work. But the work of investing in yourself is always worthwhile. 

If you're ready to do the work - unpack the untruths and the unrealistic expectations - and start harnessing your own power, being the boss of your own body, you don't have to do it alone. If you're ready to do the work - learning how to love your body; not hide it, not feel ashamed of it, not constantly work to change it because you hate what you see, you don't have to do it alone. I'm here for you. 

I've created a coaching program that will help you to feel sexy, confident and powerful, just as you are. If you're looking to love your body, learn to establish a healthy relationship with food, and banish those feelings of unworthiness, let me help you.  You deserve it. 

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WANT ME AS YOUR COACH?

**I have a few spots now open in my coaching program.**

If you're looking to finally take charge of your health, nutrition, and your sanity around food and eating, send me an email and we'll start the conversation.

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

So, birthday's suck.

Tomorrow's my birthday. And in lieu of the party and the gifts my two requests were: 

1. Can we please go away, anywhere but here? and,

2. Can you please shave so I can see your beautiful face?

(My always-bearded husband was on the reciprocating end of my wishes) Those might sound like a strange birthday wishes to most, but, when your brother dies on your birthday, shit gets real.  Even more so when it's a tragic, opioid-epidemic kind-of story ending. Sparkly things mean a lot less and time spent with the people you love most means a whole lot more. 

Birthday's are typically a time to celebrate. Everyone gathers together to sing and reminisce about the best years, dreaming and memory making for the years still to come...at least that's how my first 25 went. 

26. Twenty-six was the worst (birth)day of my life. Since then, birthdays have never, and will never, be the same. Because who wants to hear a chorus of "and many moreeeee" on the special day you share with your brother who doesn't have any more years, days or even moments to share? Not me. 

So, we don't celebrate anymore. Not really anyway. We tried, it sucked. So now we try less. Because it's too morbid to throw confetti and eat cake when every year older just means another year without him. How can you celebrate life on the anniversary of your brother's death? Maybe that's the very reason to celebrate life, but I just can't seem to wrap my head around it. Maybe next year. But, maybe not.

No birthday - or any day really - is the same when everyone else is counting blessings and all I can see is the absence - empty space - where one of my biggest blessings used to be. 

There's a nagging voice inside my head - probably my mother's - that reminds me that I should count my blessings and be thankful for what I do have...

Fuhhhk that. 

I'm tired of pretending everything's okay. I'm tired of "good vibes only". I'm tired of moving on because the rest of the world has. And I'm tired of celebrating a day that should be sad. And I'm tired of everyone being "fine" when that's the last thing I'll ever be. 

So this year, as a gift to myself (and everyone else, really) I'm choosing to just feel. Feel sad. Feel heartbroken. Feel empty. Feel left behind. Feel resentful. Feel angry. And any other emotion that may surface as a part of my grief journey. 

So here's to another year - 

Darker, without you.

Empty, without you.  

Older, without you. 

I miss you, Kev. 

PS. If you're struggling with the loss of a loved one, or grieving in some other way, therapy helps. 

Nutrition Coaching with Nicole - ITP

A BIG Thank You to my friend, Dave Shiley, over at ITP Income Tax Preparation for the recommendation below: 

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"One of the most challenging parts to a healthier lifestyle is making positive changes and then sticking with them weeks and months down the road.  This is where Nutrition Coaching with Nicole has been found to excel. In an effort to help clients get the best results that last for the rest of their lives, Nicole Hagen encourages sustainable habit-based strategies as opposed to the deprivation-based mindset of dieting. With guidance and accountability from an educated and experienced nutrition coach using sustainable, easy-to-begin habit-based coaching, Nicole believes anyone can create healthy, positive change that lasts a lifetime.

As a certified nutrition coach, Nicole helps people change their bodies and their lives with guided nutrition coaching geared specifically to their individual goals, lifestyle, and preferences.  Through her nutrition coaching process clients will learn the best eating, exercise (optional), and lifestyle strategies — unique and personal — for their body. And because she recognizes that we live in a fast-paced world, Nicole offers both in-person and remote nutrition coaching packages. So even those who live at a distance or who can’t get away for a face-to-face consultation can stay consistent and see results, no matter what life brings. 

The majority of her clientele have fat loss goals, whether it’s 10, 50 or 100 pounds. She also does a lot of work with disordered eating and sport-specific clientele. So whether you feel like your body is working against you and just can’t seem to lose weight, or you’re looking for a way to enhance your fitness performance, Nicole is here to help guide the way. 

Nicole utilizes an online nutrition coaching portal with her clients. This service allows for daily accountability, so nutrition and fitness goals remain a priority amidst the everyday life distractions! You can learn more at her website or Facebook/Instagram pages, where she posts daily Nutrition Tips of the Day. Nicole is also on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/nutritionwithnicole/.  If you need any additional information, Nicole is happy to help via email at [email protected]!"

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

If you can't say something nice about yourself, PRACTICE.

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What was the last nice thing you said to yourself? 

Can't remember? 

Yeah, too often that's the case. 

We hear a lot about self-talk these days. We know that negative self-talk is "bad" and that positive self-talk is "good", but do we really know and understand how that impacts real life goal achievement?  

I would argue that we don't. And here's why, based on what I see with my one-on-one fat loss and disordered eating coaching clients:

1. Client sees something beautiful; a goal worth pursuing

2. Client attempts to reach the goal 

3. Client fails to reach the goal

4. Client decides that the goal probably isn't that beautiful after all and that the pursuit isn't worth his/her time

5. Client gives up and looks for the next beautiful thing

Every time you make an excuse, beat yourself up for failing or justify why you can't do something, you begin to believe those scripts a little more each time. Take for example the forty-something  female client who desperately seeks acceptance and body confidence but repeatedly fails to find it amidst the decades of negative scripting ingrained by her over-dieted mother who insisted on deprivation as a form of love and affection. What we hear most often is what we begin to believe.

So I want to ask, what story are you telling yourself? Or maybe, what script has been fed to you? And is that story/script holding you back from what you truly want?   

It's easy to want something and to run after it.

It's easy to convince yourself that you didn't want that thing after all because the road to get there is hard or uncomfortable. 

It's hard to keep trying despite skinned knees and a bruised ego.

It's hard to keep running after what you want - choosing deliberately to celebrate the wins and learn from the failures.  

Because guys, you're going to fail. And guys, there will be goals you don't reach the first, second, or even third time you try. But gosh darn it guys, that doesn't mean it's not a goal worth pursuing. 

What if, instead of feeding yourself negative self talk and scripts laden with excuses and justifications you praised what went well, re-evaluated what didn't and encouraged yourself (i.e. positive self-talk) to try again? What if that voice inside your head was supportive of your efforts? Inspired by your attempts? And encouraged your steadfast consistency? 

Might you then have the strength - the power - and the resiliency to reach that big, bold beautiful goal? I say 100% yes. Because you and I, we're motivated by praise, not punishment. And that little voice inside each and every one of our heads is no exception to the rule. 

So set big beautiful goals. Say nice things to yourself. If it's hard, practice. And above all, keep trying. 

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

I'm Not For Everyone.

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It took me a long time - way too long - to come to this realization, but, now it's quite clear. 

I am not for everyone. 

As a first born I crave affirmation, yearning for recognition.

As a female I was taught that good things come to those who look the part, play the part and are envied by those around her because of it. 

As a Christian I was taught that I need to do what is right - not necessarily according to my own personal standards, but according to the standards written for me. 

As the only surviving sibling to a family ruined by drug abuse I was taught the power of guilt, shame and grief. 

Compile these, and the many other pieces that when put together assemble the person that I am, and you get someone who looks for validation in alllllll the places, performing like a symbol-clad monkey according to the expectations and beliefs of those around me. 

I wanted to be liked, adored, loved even by everyone around me and I couldn't begin to fathom the idea of authenticity. Sure, it sounded nice but I couldn't even understand what that meant, let alone how I might live it out in my life. 

The day I discovered that authenticity meant letting go of the person I thought I should be and embracing the person I am felt so unbelievably freeing. And even more - to know that authenticity isn't something that I had or didn't have (there I go again, looking for a pat on the back because of my qualifications), but rather something that I choose to practice each day until it becomes my norm. The power that lies within the fact that it's my choice to show up vulnerably - as I am - bumps bruises and all - each and every day knowing that I have absolutely zero control over how the world receives me, it's magic. 

Yes, some people will turn their noses up at your authenticity. 

But you know what? The people who matter will love you regardless. 

And guess what? You can't control their feelings or opinions no matter how hard you try. But you can shake those shackles off and embrace this truth: You are not for everyone. And that's okay. 

Be for you. Learn who you are and show up. Own what you stand for, what you don't and what you're all about (or not about). Be for you. Own your integrity.

How can you arrive at authenticity? I don't know exactly. I think the road looks different for all of us. To be completely honest, for me, watching my coaching clients transform through this authenticity process has helped me to do the same. To see them shout proudly, "this is who I am and this is what I need", committed to living out their best life each and every stinking day - choosing to say no to the one-size-fits-all model -  is the most beautiful and empowering thing I've ever witnessed. 

So, if letting go of the person you think you should be and embracing the person you are feels as freeing to you as it did to me, go for it. And share your story! I'd love to hear from you.

What do you stand for?  

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

I was that girl who felt less than good enough because a number said so.

Let me tell you about a thing that happened.  

It's no secret that I am a recovering (it's a life-long journey) disordered eater. At my lowest I weighed about as much as a paper weight and things weren't good. I obsessively tracked my calories, being sure to never eat more than 900 a day and I obsessively burned calories, being sure to always run at least 5 miles a day. If you do the math you can quickly see why I wasted away to almost nothing in the span of just a few years. My hair started falling out, I stopped menstruating, friends started expressing concern, and little did I know, my bones were becoming more and more like swiss cheese every day.

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For a period of about 3 years my life WAS the pursuit of skinny. There are a lot of reasons for this, but this isn't the post where I'm going to get all mental health on you (although, that's important, so if you're struggling, talk to someone). The point is I was NEVER satisfied. 

Despite my constant drive to be smaller - take up less space - weigh less - I was NEVER good enough. Whether I was in a size 6...4...2...0 or 00, I hated my body.

Flash forward several years and I've found (or more accurately, created) health. My mental health is in-check, my physical health is in-check and my self worth is stronger today than it ever has been. All good, right? Ehhhh, not exactly. When I began the  l o n g  journey of recovery the goal was simply to gain weight. So by exercising a little less and incorporating some of the foods I had labeled as "off limits" I was easily able to appear "healthier" to those around me - and no one hesitated in telling me so (at the time, I felt as though this was the worst compliment a person could possibly give). I experimented with maintaining a healthy weight, incorporating more strength training and less cardio, focusing on my headspace and balancing my new relationship with food and fitness. But this is tough stuff! Anyone who's ever struggled with disordered eating or addiction of any kind will tell you - recovery is HARD. When it comes to disordered eating you can't simply abstain from your substance of choice - in fact doing so is often the very opposite of what needs to happen. You still need to eat, but now have to learn how to eat enough, how to eat well, how to eat mindfully and how to listen to your body's hunger cues which you've worked so hard to turn off. 

This road to recovery left me much healthier, happier and also 50 pounds heavier. While still at a healthy weight, I felt uncomfortable with my body and ready to progress toward a slightly leaner version of myself with my new, healthy food and fitness parameters in mind. Over the course of the last four year (yes, you read that correctly, YEARS, not days, weeks or months) I worked toward my goal. 

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I used sustainable habits that allowed me to look, feel and perform how I wanted. I was careful to avoid anything restrictive or depriving and I took breaks to maintain my weight and enjoy my new, healthy, normal. 

The other day I weighed in at my self-proclaimed GOAL WEIGHT - a weight that I hadn't been to since before my eating disorder that felt healthy to me - and you know what happened? I flipped the eff out. Want to know why? Because just a month before I had weighed in at 2 pounds lighter. And now I was UP TWO POUNDS!? How could this be? What did I do wrong? How did I let this happen? ... Like I said, that road to recovery is a full time job. 

I got caught up in the scale. For a split second, I was that girl who felt less than good enough because a number said so. Thankfully I have a support system around me to keep me in check. Because even though I've been in recovery for years, disordered eating brain still creeps up and I have to be sure to check my perception, expectations and reality from time to time to make sure I'm prioritising what truly matters and what is healthy for me and my body. 

Because the numbers don't matter. YOU matter. Find something that allows you to feel good mentally, good physically and good enough. Because you are. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Living with anxiety is hard.

"You have anxiety. You vibrate with it." 

When I first heard those words it felt like coming home. That might sound odd considering that anxiety isn't typically a warm, comforting place to rest, but it's been my norm for as long as I can remember, waxing and waning at various points in my life, but always there. 

I originally started therapy to cope with the grief of my brothers death, however, once we started talking it quickly became apparent that many of my tendencies - disordered eating, perfectionism, desire for absolute control and of course, grief, were/are firmly rooted in anxiety. 

The clinical definition of anxiety is this, "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome." To me, it's overthinking, overanalysing and over-expecting when it comes to just about everything. Being hyperaware of all possible variables and fielding every infinitesimal thought or feeling as it fills my brain. In a word, it's exhausting. Constantly, I find myself obsessing over the smallest of possibilities, wanting to control all extraneous factors. I play out every possible scenario, only to end up disappointed when it doesn't go exactly according to plan (my plan, mind you, not anybody else's). I've even found myself getting anxious about my anxiety. If you've ever felt your heart begin to race and your face begin to flush only to take your pulse and proceed to freak out even more as your heart thumps more intently against your ribcage, you and I would get along. 

But you see, while all of this is going on, you (the onlooker) have no idea. To you I appear cool, calm and collected, perhaps even detached or disinterested. Because anxiety is a battle within. Between me and my thoughts. 

And I'm not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States, almost 20% of the population! And while anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

Living with anxiety is hard. It doesn't just go away. You can't "just stop thinking about it" (saying this is a sure fire way to aggravate someone struggling with anxiety). In certain situations medication is helpful. Other strategies for coping with anxiety include therapy, being aware of your triggers (for me, having a packed schedule with zero "me" time is a major trigger), taking time to care for both brain and body (because that "flight or fight" response affects the whole system) and of course, connecting with others. 

KNOW THIS: Anxiety is not something that needs to be cured or fixed, but know that it can be managed. If you're like me and struggle with anxiety, reach out, connect and seek help. If you're someone who can't quite relate, be patient with those of us who can, please don't take offense if we're needing to veer from the status quo, be patient and most of all, show that you care. 

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"Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light." - Brene Brown

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.  

Breakup with the Scale.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I would wake up, pee, strip down to my skivvies, step on the scale and allow the number staring back at me to control my entire day and demeanor. 

If the scale read what I wanted it to, which, let's face it, happened almost never because my expectations were ridiculously unrealistic, I'd continue to compulsively weigh in multiple times a day to ensure that it was still there (or going down) and not headed in the opposite direction. 

If the scale didn't read what I wanted it to, I'd punish myself with exercise and obsessive food rules that eliminated more than they allowed for and I'd repeatedly weigh in after each event. Step on the scale. Go for a run. Step on the scale. Eat a meal. Step on the scale...yeah, not a lot of self respect. 

For years I viewed that number as something that dictated my self worth. I spent countless days, months and years allowing how I looked at myself in the mirror, the size on my jeans and the number on the scale to dictate who I was and what I was or was not worthy of. There are a lot of reasons for my behavior, but the bottom line is, I allowed the calories I consumed and burned and unrealistic societal standards to dictate how I regarded myself as a human being and as a woman. 

This is not how I want to live my life. Do you? 

Changing the way you regard yourself. Learning to accept and love yourself and your body in today's climate. Those are acts of pure defiance. And I'm here to tell you to be defiant. It takes time. It takes grace. It takes resilience. It takes the ability to fail over and over again, continuing to pick yourself back up and charge forward. 

But I'm here to tell you that it's a practice you can't afford not to commit to. Despite what the world is telling you, or what your scale is trying to convince you of, it's time. It's time to breakup with the scale, rendering it powerless against you. And it's time to begin redefining your self worth. 

Earlier this week, I stepped on the scale. I do this from time to time as I continue to reshape my perception of weight as a number that can be used, or not used, as needed. What I experienced was both reinforcing and discouraging. The scale reflected my lowest (healthy) weight yet, paired with my lowest (healthy) body fat percentage yet. I looked at the numbers and my thought process wants something like this... 

"Wow",

"I wonder how much lower I could go...",

"Eh, this is just a number. It will change tomorrow and the day after that. Keep moving forward." 

So, my breakup with the scale? It's an ongoing process. But it is, hands down, one of the best decisions I ever made for me. Because I am so worthy of love and acceptance. I am worthy of living my best life regardless of what the scale says. 

Ready to begin your breakup with the scale? In 2018, I'm opening up a select number of 12-week coaching spots for women who are looking to break up with the scale, redefine their self worth and work towards healing their body image while reaching their health & fitness goals and feeling good about the way their body looks. If that sounds like the road you want to take this New Year, fill out this application to be put on the waitlist: https://goo.gl/forms/60m0qW0wuM7FiTgn2.

I'd gladly have you join me on this journey toward self discovery and unhindered acceptance. 

 Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Un-merry.

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I am all about tradition. This time of year, I love being smacked across the face by twinkling lights, the smell of that douglas fir, carols on the radio and the giving of magical gifts. From the time the air starts feeling like Christmas, I'm pretty grossly full of holiday cheer. 

But here's the deal, holidays pretty much suck now. 

I mean, they aren't a total drag, but once upon a time I had the family life people dreamed of. Two loving parents, a kid brother, a dog, a unifying faith to carry us through anything...it sounds sickening, but I loved my life. It felt happy and all was right with the world. 

Flash forward to current day and I'm an only child with a dysfunctional family (sure, everyone's a little dysfunctional) trying to stuff the grief that has become the air we breathe deep down inside. I hate to sound like the Grinch, but it's not Christmas cheer we're breathing anymore. 

Not a day that goes by is easy, but some sure are harder than others. The holidays, they're always hard. There's this big emphasis on family and togetherness and those of us without a family, or with missing pieces in our family get lost in the cracks.

Good tidings are being handed out like Christmas cookies, but here I am watching all the holly jolly from the outside of this snow speckled globe. Some of that is because I'm still learning how to build my new narrative, learning how to celebrate holidays on my own terms with these new missing pieces. Some of it is because our culture doesn't know how to appropriately acknowledge grief and suffering, especially during what is supposed to be the "best time of year". 

So if you're having a hard time this holiday season and you just can't seem to get on board with all the "deck the halls" business, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's nothing wrong with not having a holiday at all. And there's nothing wrong with having a holiday that doesn't feel like holiday or act like a holiday. Despite the tidal wave that is Christmas in our culture, you do not have to be merry if you don't feel merry. 

Just in case you needed to hear it from someone else who's a little less-than-merry. 

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Breaking up...with my relationship with food.

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"No, this isn't like any of the other diets. I'm changing my relationship with food." 

I heard these words from a client just the other week. She and her husband were taking a look at their budget (as we often do) and trying to find ways to trim around the edges. Having previously been a self-proclaimed chronic dieter her husband looked at her and said, "what about your Nutrition thing? Could you drop it?" 

When she said "NO!" her husband looked at her with questioning brows but she proceeded to explain to him that this wasn't just another thing. This wasn't going to be a temporary fix like the diets that had come before, but rather a long-term solution and an investment in her relationship with food.

I almost cried. And I would have been totally okay with it. 

Because, guys. Here is a kind, sweet, compassionate woman who, for years, has been battling with emotional eating and an unhealthy relationship with food - at times uncomfortable in her own skin, not proud of the things she had eaten and the accompanying shame she carried. But this kind, sweet and compassionate woman is now seeing the bigger picture. She is saying no to the obsession with shrinking and feeling like a stranger in her own body. And she is saying yes to being a powerful, radiant, autonomous human being who is the boss of her own body!

How beautiful is that? Because, yes, it is an investment. And just like any relationship, it takes time and nurturing. But it is always - ALWAYS - an investment worth making when you are left with the power to define what your relationship with food will look like and how it will empower you to be a stronger, sexier, more satiated woman. 

How are you investing in your relationship today?

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

"I'm stressed out of my mind"

This is the No. 1 thing I hear from my clients as a nutrition coach. You might think it'd be something about diet or exercise, and while I hear about those too, nothing rings louder than the "I'm stressed out of my mind" plea from the men and women I work with. 

Whether it's the mom with four kids trying to remember to eat because she can't keep track of much else outside of the extracurricular activity schedule, or the overworked husband who can't seem to turn his brain off even after his 12+ hour days, or the twenty-something female struggling with her weight because school, friends, moms bad relationship with body image and her own struggles with disordered eating seem to take more energy than she has to give...the stories go on. But the story I want to talk about today is yours. 

Are you stressed? 

Let me rephrase. Are you struggling to lose weight even though you're trying to make strides in the kitchen or the gym? Do you find yourself eating emotionally whenever a particular event or interaction occurs, despite your best efforts? How about your self-care, does it exist? Do you battle with losing (and finding) the same 10 pounds over and over again? 

If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, it's safe to say you're overstressed. But, I probably could've guessed that. Because we're all stressed, overworked and overly busy, right? I mean, it's even a cliche to say we're busy because everyone's busy. I don't know what the heck that's all about. 

Let's talk about why your stress is keeping you from your weight loss goals. 

When stress is chronically high your body pumps cortisol and adrenaline like a well-oiled machine. When this happens, your "non-critical" functions like digestion, metabolism, immune function and reproduction are inhibited. The result of all of this chronic stress is hormonal havoc, reproductive dysfunction, muscle loss, fat gain and chronic fatigue. GAHHH! But that's the opposite of what I want, right!? 

Right. Less stress = more weight loss. But don't give up just yet. Because research shows us that even if you are currently under a lot of stress, there's still hope. People who are able to reduce stress while losing weight have better weight loss. In the big picture of weight loss we often talk about calories burned and calories eaten but we're missing one crucial component. It appears as though reducing stress may be just as important as reducing calories.

Diet + Exercise + Stress management and Self care = Fat loss

Okay. So, you're stressed. And reading this is making you more stressed because now you're stressed about your stress. Breathe deep my friends. Help is on the way. 

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If good health and weight loss is the goal, aim to get 6-8 hours of sleep (more if you’re working out  regularly) and make relaxation techniques a part of your day.

No, this is not the part where I tell you that you need to buy a yoga mat or start taking Tai-Chi, because there's even better news ahead - the activity you choose doesn’t matter. Say whaaaa?? It's true. The only thing that matters is the state you achieve by doing the activity.  For example, one person might be able to achieve a relaxed, parasympathetic state while practicing yoga. Me on the other hand, I use that 90 minutes to think about everything I need to do, everything I haven't done and...did I remember to turn the Crock-Pot on this morning!? Clearly, yoga isn't my activity. But again, it’s all about the state, not the activity.

Think about exploring activities that can help you get 30 minutes of quiet, restful, worry-free parasympathetic activity each day. Performing these activities regularly is the best way to get control of your stress. But just like with anything, it's not simply going to happen. You won't magically find the time, but rather, you'll need to invest the time to reap the rewards. 

Rest and recovery are as important as what you’re doing in the gym and what you’re doing in the kitchen. Because they aren't as segmented as we like to think. If you're stressed and unrested, do you feel like going to the gym? And if you do happen to drag yourself to the gym are you going to get a lot out of that workout? Likewise, if you're overworked and stretched thin are you going to have the mental or physical capacity to make the healthy choice over the teasing temptation? Obviously, the answer to all of these is no. 

So do yourself a favor and start taking care of your whole self. You know, your brain AND your body. Then, and only then, will you find the results you're looking for. 

As always, if you need some help with this, I have recently opened up three coaching spots. This time of year can be e x t r a stressful so don't let self care fall by the wayside. Manage your stress and work toward that sexy body with the help of a coach who can see you through to your goals! 

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

...my first thought was probably just another crazy fad diet!

Let me tell you about my friend, Luke. 

When you look up consistency in the dictionary, you'll find Luke's picture there. Luke is someone who has spent much of his life dedicated to his health - both in and out of the gym. This time last year, Luke was willing to take his health and fitness goals one step further. Luke knew he wasn't looking for a quick fix, but was willing to start slow and focus diligently on changing his everyday behaviors to reshape his body and his life is a sustainable, life-giving way. 

Over the past year Luke has lost 20 pounds and over 8 inches, but Luke's story is less about what he lost and more about what he gained. But don't take my word for it, take his. 

"...my first thought was probably just another crazy fad diet!  Within a few weeks of lessons, I recognized advice that would be useful the rest of my life.  So glad I embraced and followed each lesson wholeheartedly.  After doing what I thought was pretty good on my own with nutrition and fitness, PN Coaching helped me lose 20 more pounds and 8.75 inches of total girth.  Outside results, such as muscles and definition never seen before, are nice.  More important are the inside results. Feeling years younger makes me believe PN Coaching improved my body’s functions contributing to better health. Who knows? I may have extended my life by years because of one decision to get serious about my appearance and health.  PN Coaching is about more than what to eat, when to eat it, and why.  For me, it was the start of a journey I intend to enjoy the rest of my life."

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Are you ready to try something useful for the rest of your life? Ready to say no to diets that last only days? Feel like your body is working against you? Learn how to stop dieting and start feeling better immediately. 

This is your opportunity to get in the best shape of your life, and stay that way for good! 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Building A Base

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By, guest blogger: Patrick Hagen, Strength Coach

Preface: There will be several references to hiking and climbing as you read along here. Don’t let me fool you into think I’m an avid climber; but the illustration is appropriate.

 

As I scroll through fitness accounts on Facebook and Instagram I see an overwhelming number of videos and photos featuring amazing lifts, skillfully sculpted individuals and inhuman feats of strength. While there’s nothing wrong with this, so to speak, we fail to factor in everything that’s come before. We’re inspired or perhaps even jealous of the all-out max effort lift or the “ripped” physique without acknowledging the days-weeks-months and years that have led that person to that point. In most of these cases, someone has dedicated a lot of time to food prepping in the kitchen or working diligently on form in the gym (most likely both) in order to achieve these amazing results. I want you to think of these results as mountain peaks. In the split second we see these images, we get hung up on getting to the peak of the mountain and we forget all the terrain that needs to be crossed at the base of the mountain in order to support the steep climb up to the peak. It’s an amazing view from up there, but it’s also a long, hard climb up to that view. That’s what I’m here to talk about - building your base!

Let’s take a look at your mountain for second. Let’s pretend your mountain is an equilateral triangle. For those of you who did not like geometry, an equilateral triangle is a triangle where all sides are the same size and all angles are the same. So if your mountain is an equilateral triangle, the peak of your mountain will be determined by how big the base is.

Let’s say your goal is to lose weight, and your overall weight loss goal is 50lbs. The peak of your mountain is that new you, 50lbs leaner and lighter! If you’re like most of us, as soon as you set this goal all you do is worry about the peak of the mountain. How do I get there? Why isn’t it happening faster? I want it so badly! You’re so desperate to get to the top that you begin climbing at an unsustainable speed. You cut out a whole food group because someone on social media told you to, or you count every calorie that enters your body because it worked for your friend... Before you know it, you reach a plateau. Out of breath, tired and feeling defeated. Let’s stop here for a second though. Is this really a plateau? Or did you choose the mountain with the small base (not a lot of good habits to support you) in an effort to get to your peak faster? You chose the quick fix, but without a firm foundation there’s no way you can make it to the top.

Let’s rewind this scenario and choose the mountain with the bigger base. Before you think about climbing up, you take your time covering the terrain at the base. You learn the appropriate skills and practice the habits that you know will push you to the peak. Instead of resorting to extremes you focus on your hunger cues and what it means to eat to 80% full. You learn to slow your eating down and listen to your body. You focus on hydration and learn what amounts of carbs, proteins and fats work for YOU. This is your base. You now begin to climb, focusing on sleep and stress and how those affect your nutrition and vice-versa. You start to look at the quality of your food, not just quantity. But you don’t look at everything at once. Instead, you take one step at a time, working your way closer and closer to the top.

You are starting to realize this mountain might take longer to trek, and you might not always have a great view but when you do get to that view, it’s everything you were expecting and more. Picking the mountain with the bigger base pays off every time.

And yes, you’ll still hit plateaus and get out of breath, but you’ll have an arsenal of skills and healthy habits as your foundation. Even if you misstep, you wont’ slide all the way back down. There may be periods when you have to climb down a portion of the mountain (revisiting old habits) but you’re always moving, always making progress toward sustainable weight loss.

Any journey in the fitness world, whether lifting or nutrition will contain both peaks and valleys. And once you reach your ultimate goal you might find that there are new mountains to climb with even greater peaks. Or hey, maybe you decide to stay at your current peak and just enjoy the view for a while because it’s so damn great and you hiked your ass off to get there. Either way, appreciate a solid base. Don’t get so caught up with the promised peak that you miss out on the journey. Learn along the way. Take time to listen to your body and adjust based on your feedback. Put the work in at the beginning, create a solid base and the payoff will be grand. Don’t spend your whole life climbing only to keep sliding back down. 

 

PS. If you need help building a base when it comes to strength training, fat loss, injury rehabilitation or athleticism, this guy is who you want to see! Message me if you'd like to get on his client list. And, if you need help building that base when it comes to nutrition, you know how to reach me. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

Take this QUIZ to find your holiday coping style!

Just kidding. There is no quiz. That's just what you're supposed to say to get someone to click on your link, right? Marketing ploys aside, read on and let me know if you can relate to any of these holiday coping styles. 

It's coming. The season of endless social functions, cocktail gatherings and incessant opportunities to justify your Santa-sized cookie consumption. It always happens, around this same time of year in fact, and yet most of us are completely unable to float through the festivities without gaining the weight of a Thanksgiving turkey (give or take a few pounds). 

You'd think we'd be used to it by now. You'd think we'd have developed skills and habits that allow us to both enjoy and sometimes indulge while still feeling great about ourselves, our bodies and where we're at in perspective of our health and fitness goals. But, no. Each year comes and goes and the New Years resolutions stay the same: "Lose 10 pounds", "Go to the gym", "Eat fewer sweets". I know the drill. 

But I'm here to tell you that you don't have to stay on that hamster wheel. Break free from the coping style that's no longer serving you and try something new - something that works! But before we get into that, let me know which coping style sounds the most like you: 

1. The Resolution Roadie: You love looking to Monday to start something new. There's a thrill to starting with a clean slate, although too bad it never sticks. The holidays are meant to be fun, festive and you're not about to say no to Christmas cake and cocktails. January is right around the corner, you'll start fresh then. It's a New Year! And in the meantime, you'll just wear that cute chunky sweater with those stretchy pants to hide the holiday bloat. 

2. The Justification Junky: It's all about calories, right? So if I'm going to my company Christmas party tonight, I'll just skip lunch...or maybe I'll just eat celery all day so I can afford to eat whatever I want tonight. It's all about balance right? Less good stuff leaves room for more bad stuff. It's the weekend/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years after all. Maybe I'll just have one more drink - one more bite - and then go for a long run tomorrow to burn it all off. 

3. The Sentimental Sap: Cue the nostalgia. The holidays are full of so many special moments and you just can't wait to relive them all. I mean it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the turkey, stuffing mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie! And of course, we just HAVE to spend an entire day baking cookies (it's tradition!), keeping dozens in the house pretending we're only going to eat a few. The holidays only come around once a year, and my mother in law would just kill me if I didn't eat her sweet potato casserole (made with more marshmallows than actual potatoes). 

4. The Good-Intentioned Goon: Okay. This year is going to be different. I can't afford to gain weight like I did last year. I can swap those sugar-filled beverages out for seltzer and try to make healthier cookies for the kids...only before you know it, the calendar is full, your healthy swaps are less satisfying and you've resorted to eating the leftover pumpkin pie straight out of the fridge. Better luck next year!

It's no wonder January is most popular time for gym memberships and commercial diets. None of these coping styles leave you where you want to be come January 1st. Does it sound familiar? 

If it does, you're not alone. Many of us survive the holidays by clinging to one (or several) of these coping styles. But what if this year you did more than simply survive? What if you THRIVED? What if you learned healthy habits that applied whether you were eating in or dining out? What if you had a nutritional skill set that allowed you to enjoy holiday treats guilt-free and still make progress toward your goals? 

Sounds pretty perfect, huh? 

If you're ready to try something new this year and feel as though having accountability throughout the holiday season could help you stay on track with your goals, let me know. I'm starting a three month non-New Years Resolution Challenge that kicks off October 15th. This challenge will walk you through the craziest time of the year guilt-free. Show up this holiday season - authentically, intentionally and fully empowered to live the inspired, purposeful life that you crave. Because you can be free in your body, comfortable in your skin and still be in fa-la-la-la love with the holidays. 

Interested? Register using this link: https://goo.gl/forms/IeaNk6xKQeyV09Bh2 

Or drop me a message to start your non-New Years Resolution Challenge!! 

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Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear" - C.S. Lewis

Grief. What comes to mind when you think of that word? Losing a parent? Saying goodby to someone too soon? The loss of a loved one? That's what quickly comes to my mind. Grief, to me, has always been the emotional suffering I experience because someone has been taken away. 

But did you know that grief can also occur after the loss of something? Even subtle losses in life can trigger a grief response. In fact, any loss - that's personal to you in some way - can trigger emotional suffering and pain. 

I never really gave this much thought up until a week ago. It all started with a therapy session (oh boy, here we go). I started seeing a grief counsellor after my brother Kevin died. It's been over two years now and I still go to therapy. Because, yes, I'm still learning to cope with the loss of my brother but also because there are other areas of my life in which I experience trauma and/or loss and need the guidance of a mental health professional to, in essence, sort my shit out. 

We talk about all sorts of things like how sadness doesn't have to be a bad thing and how joy isn't something I need to constantly express to those around me, or how maybe I should get better at expressing anger once in awhile instead of suppressing my emotions...all that typical therapy stuff. But we also talk about my job, Patrick's job, finances, what our life goals are, how Patrick and I can effectively communicate with each other given our different attachment styles, my disordered eating brain and how that impacts my body and my brain today, even after six years of being in recovery.

It's because we talk about these things that I have a better understanding of just how closely my identity is connected to my ability to perform. Academically, occupationally, but also recreationally with tasks like staying fit and healthy, being active and eating well. For many reasons, this isn't ideal. Sure, it's okay to prioritise these things and value them, but who I am shouldn't be all about what I do or don't do. I learned this lesson back in 2012 with a fractured hip but apparently I didn't learn it well enough because here I am again in 2017 relearning the same lesson only this time with a fractured spine. 

When asked how I was doing in regard to my injury my response was, "I think I'm under functioning as a result of my depression" (clearly someone is a psych undergrad). Stephanie, my therapist, smiled and said, "Nicole, I know you well enough to know that you don't ever under function. Why do you think that?" I explained that I've been suffering with this debilitating back pain for over a year now and there doesn't seem to be any concrete guidance as to what I can do in order to relieve it and get back to my normal life. So instead of being proactive I feel like I've just given up and given in to being depressed about it. "I'm tired of talking about it. I'm tired of waking up in pain and going to bed in pain. I'm tired of doing half workouts. I'm tired of not being able to do all the things I want to do, so, I think I've just resigned to being depressed and dealing with chronic back pain for the rest of my life..."

You know what she said? "It sounds like you're grieving". Ha! As if. How can she say that? How can a back fracture cause grief similar to that of a lost loved one? That's ridiculous...isn't it? She went on to explain that just like after losing Kevin I had to grieve the loss of him but also the loss of my identity as a sister, the loss of a family of four, the loss of not only who he was but also who I was with him. I'm still learning all of that, only today, I am also learning to grieve the loss of the life I want to live/should be living/could be living. Instead of losing a someone I have lost a something. Both can push us into a grief response. 

Whether it's an injury or a miscarriage. Losing a job or losing a pet. The loss of a cherished dream or the loss of a relationship. Loss of health or loss of safety. Any loss can cause grief. The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief may be, but whatever your loss, it’s personal to you, so don’t feel ashamed about how you feel, or believe that it’s somehow only appropriate to grieve for certain things. 

So, while the purpose of this blog post is ambiguous I want to invite you to join me in taking a look at your life and identifying areas of loss that might need healing. Be gentle with yourself as the stress of a loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Look after your physical and emotional needs, and remember: 

- Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.

- Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Write about your loss in a journal or get involved with a cause or organization that was important to your loved one.

- Look after your physical health. When you feel healthy physically, you’ll be better able to cope emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising (but for those of you who are like me, remember not to over train or under eat). 

- There's comfort in routine and getting back to the activities that bring you joy and connect you closer to others can help you come to terms with your loss and aid the grieving process.

- Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment.

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Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

When was the last time you made the list?

As I reflect on our 1st Anniversary (eek!) I've been reminiscing on a lot of beautiful memories, but among them is a piece of advice I hope never to forget. 

Your marriage doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you. 

As someone who tends to care a little too much about what others think, anxiously worrying about how I might appear to those around me (regardless of whether or not those perceptions may be true), I found these words to be extremely refreshing. Not just in the sense of marriage, but life as a whole. Why should I be consumed by whether or not my marriage - my life - whether I make sense to anyone else? 

Why do I care? Why should someone else's opinion of me dictate what I do or don't do? Why should I live up to someone else's standards if they aren't also my own? What about what's best for me? Best for my body? Best for my life? 

^^^ Clearly, this is something I'm still working on.

But the point is, what if you (and I) applied this piece of advice to all other areas of our lives? Like our diet, for example. What if we ate, moved and made lifestyle decisions in a way that made sense to us, yielding everyone else's thoughts and opinions as inconsequential...like a suggestion box that never really gets looked at? 

Some of you reading this are thinking, "Oh, I could never do that", "But what if people think..." and others are shouting, "Hell, yes!!" Do you know why? Self-worth. 

We like to talk about it, but I'd argue that very few of us actually know what self-worth is or spend much time (if any) contributing to it. Sure, you know that without it your mental and emotional well-being will suffer, but do you know that YOU are the only one who defines your self worth? NO ONE else. Self-worth comes from within. It is, by definition, the value you place on yourself. YOU (and me), we are in control of how outside factors influence our inner sense of value. Outside factors like the actions, judgments, reactions, demands and expectations of others. 

Up until not too long ago I allowed these external sources to completely dictate my self worth. You're happy with me? Okay, I'm happy with me too. You're disappointed? Oh gosh, why am I failing? I need to try harder, do more, be better. I spent waaaaaayyy too many years trying to build my self-worth by meeting and exceeding every anticipated expectation and let me tell you, it sure is a shitty way to live. Because you never win. When your primary source of self-worth is everything around you there's a lot of room for disappointment, confusion and shame. 

Why, when you know yourself better than anyone else, do you give everyone else the power and control to dictate how much you're worth, who you should be and what you should do? What about your own strengths? Your individual potential? Are you blinded to those? Can you see your worthiness despite how you may be failing to live up to the external expectations around you? Many of us can't. Because we're not on the list. This list that somehow dictates what our priorities are and where our energy needs to be spent. This list that determines who is important and who gets loved, treasured and taken care of first. This list that teaches everyone around you that you come second, or dare I say, last. 

When was the last time you made a decision for YOU with YOUR best interest at heart? Sister, let me tell you, if you're not on the list we've got a major problem. 

A large majority of my clients (they're amazing people, let me tell you) struggle with making themselves a priority. They take care of so many other people, making decisions for everyone but themselves and guess what - they struggle with weight loss, disordered eating and body image, among other every day stressors. Why? Because they've forgotten that they too are amazing creatures who are worthy of love, care and belongingness. Sound familiar? 

You are allowed to be a priority. You deserve to make decisions that make sense for you. There will always be someone who can't see your worth, don't let it be you. 

Make the list. 

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Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. 

You're breaking my heart.

Did you know that according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting? Ninety-one percent. That means that women who dislike their bodies, engage in self-defeating, negative self talk and who are victim to the societal pressures of perfection are the MAJORITY. 

I think it's safe to say that being unhappy with who we are - what we look like - and how we feel is the perpetual struggle for the modern woman. Ladies, pardon my French, but this is bullshit. 

Would you tell your 10 year old daughter/niece/sister that her worthiness was dependent upon her body fat distribution? Her stretch marks? Her cellulite? Or the number of "likes" she gets on an Instagram post? Of course not! And yet, 81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat. So, be it intentional or not, that's exactly what we're telling ourselves and the 10 year old young ladies in our lives.  

Before I dive into coaching with a client I like to ask them a few soul-searching questions so we can establish goals and resistance to change together. 

These questions look something like, "what do you want to achieve by going through coaching?", "why haven't you achieved this yet? what's standing in your way?" and "what might happen if you achieve this thing?" 

Recently, I enrolled 50 young ladies (aged 21-60) in my coaching program for a free 4-week Body Comp Challenge. The responses came flooding in and here's (a paraphrased version of) what some of them had to say in response to these questions: 

...because I hate my body. 

...I want to be able to get dressed and go out without feeling depressed. 

...I feel like hiding every time I'm out in public because I look disgusting. 

...I want to be confident with my intimate relationship. 

...because I want to believe my husband when he tells me I look beautiful.

...I don't want to run away from social situations because I hate the way I look. 

...because I want to like myself. 

Is your heart breaking? Because mine certainly did. After reading response after response, most of them fragrant with a similar tone of disgust and defeat, I was broken. Broken because I know how these ladies feel. We all see the same images on social media. We all hear the same critiques - whether of ourselves or of others - claiming to be too fat or too round or too this or that. It’s never been easy for women to deal with the ever-mutating standards of female beauty, but now more than ever (thanks to the incessant bombarding of air brushed perfection that crosses our social media sites each and every day) women constantly doubt and define themselves according to how they look - as if that dictates who we are as human beings, as women. 

What if we refused to let others dictate how we live our lives and what our bodies should or shouldn't look like? 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and are trying some sort of diet or weight loss system. That means, some of those women have perfectly healthy, beautiful bodies - something to be proud of - and yet, are still discontent and resorting to extremes in an effort to shrink and change their physical form. Where does it end? Do we ever arrive at a place where we feel happy, worthy and content in our skin? At what point do we stop and say, "I am looking pretty damn good and I’m OK with it"?

If we don't learn how to love ourselves despite not emulating societies standards of perfection (or whatever other unattainable standards we've built up in our heads), I don't think we ever will. Perfect is a state that is completely unreachable and mythological, but happiness is a state you can reach any time, anywhere, in any body you please.

You are a goddess. A warrior. A strong force of feminine power. Sure, sometimes you're a bit of a mess. And other times you don't feel strong or capable, but you are still a goddess. You are still worthy of all the love you yourself have to give. 

Life is far too short to go another day at war with yourself. It's time to fall in love with everything that we are - even our changing bodies that will wrinkle and sag with time. 

"You are imperfect. Permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful." - Amy Bloom

If you're looking for a way to nurture and nourish your body, while learning how to love it, let me know. I'm here to help. 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.