A girlfriend of mine whom I went to school with posted her final project on Facebook earlier today, and I just need to share it with you. I think it’s an insightful, thought-provoking presentation on how detrimental the concept of the ideal body shape leads to anxiety and even eating disorders in young children as well as adults. The ideal image is something that I’ve struggled with, and it’s something I know many of my friends and family have also struggled with and found troubling.

 

 

I’ll share one additional story. A babywearing mom posted on a Facebook group last week that someone came up to her and accused her of having a “fat” baby because she was wearing her six-month old, who happens to be a chunky baby. (I saw the picture of the child and they were cute as a button and nowhere near obesity.) Obviously, this really upset the mother. The thing is, if our concept of the ideal body shape is that entrenched in our cultural mindset that we cannot see that chunky babies are healthy according to medical standards, what are we going to think when we see active young children put on a few pounds just before their growth spurt? Or adolescents when they’re dealing with hormonal (let alone social) changes? Or those who have severe medical issues that require them to take medications that cause weight gain?

 

The point: you don’t know why someone has put on weight, or why someone loses a lot of weight. The body is the vessel, the covering of the soul. Yes, we should take care of it to the best of our abilities, but judging someone based on what shape they naturally take–big or small, curvy or straight, tall or petite, muscular or not–doesn’t allow you to see who they really are. Shape doesn’t give us insight as to what’s really going on inside. Shape doesn’t display an individual’s character, intelligence, drive, or wit. Shape is merely shape and I find it sad that we have such a hard time looking past the surface appearance toward the shining human being standing before us.

 

Magazines are not good standards. TV and Hollywood actors are not good standards. A lot of these people have genetic predispositions, trainers, doctors, dieticians, and money that buys them most of what they want, including–sadly–drugs and alcohol; and yet, many of them still have eating disorders.

 

Good standards are a healthy whole foods diet, regular exercise, daily activities around the house or out and about, happy and wholesome relationships devoid of malice, jealousy and fear, enjoyment of solitude as well as society, and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Laughter is the best medicine, after all 🙂

Wow, is time flying! Not only are we one-third of the way through the year but my daughter is trying her legs out. Good thing I have baby gates ready…

 

In other news, here are articles and recipes that I’ve been storing up for the past month or so. It’s time to get them out of my inbox and into a post. Seems like as soon as the snow begins melting, everyone returns to their blogs 🙂 There’s a lot of good stuff in here:

 

Beating Belly Fat

The Low-down on Ab Exercises

Understanding/Alleviating Plantar Fasciitis

Yoga for Neck/Shoulder Pain

8 Yoga Poses to Try with a Block

Music Training and Brain Anatomy

Time to Tame the Sweet Tooth

Sneaky Names for MSG

Supplements and Blood Pressure

What’s a Macrobiotic Diet?

Sorghum

Avocado and Appetite Suppression

 

12 Green Recipes that Will Have You Glowing

25 Reasons to Eat Bananas

10 Healing Benefits of Ginger

Sweet/Savory Medjool Date Pho

Spring Vegetable Stew

Hemp/Pumpkin Seed Veggie Burgers

Grain-free Hamburger Buns

DF Molten Lava Cakes

GF Garlic Knot Rolls

GF Chocolate Chip Muffins

Homemade Hot Chocolate (sugar- and dairy-free)

Like many who hit the gym hard, I’m a hard charger. Advance, advance, advance. “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” goes the famous USMC slogan. If we’re talking about muscle pain (within reason), then yes, depending on your tolerance and fitness levels, soreness and fatigue are good things.

 

For joints, ligaments, tendons, and anything deeper, more internal, pulling sensations or sharp, biting pain should be noted and whatever action is causing them ceased and/or modified immediately. Pushing through isn’t a good thing. It can lead to the destabilization of joints or the spinal column, overstretching or overworking or even the breaking of ligaments and tendons (I know of people who’ve injured both), strains, sprains, dislocations, herniation, joint or spinal deterioration, and so forth. Having personally experienced a knee dislocation due to overstretching, I’m here to tell you that it’s no fun hurting yourself and no fun being slowed down by rehabilitation–particularly for go-getters.

 

There is a prevalent mindset urging exercisers to push through the weariness, soreness, and pain. Popular workout-at-home videos like P90X, CrossFit, and so on, have motivational personae encouraging the participant to keep going, keep going, at the risk of sacrificing body alignment and precision for the sake of burning more calories.

 

I come from a very different mindset, the body-mind mindset, where body alignment and precision are two very fundamental principles of a strong, supportive workout that gradually gets harder and digs deeper over time. Ah, yes, a lot of folks have trouble with those last two words, “Over time.” We live in a society where people want instantaneous results. Diets and exercise programs promise a loss of [insert a number] pounds in the first 2-6 weeks. And, let’s face it, the weight might come off but does it stay off, or are we happier working harder rather than smarter, or do we feel any better about ourselves merely because we’re dieting/exercising in order to fit in with the current skinny-Minny trends of the magazines?

 

The answer, most often, is no, we don’t feel better about ourselves, and pushing beyond where our bodies physically can go today isn’t necessarily going to make us feel good…about ourselves or anything else.Yes, we ought to feel weariness at the end of a tough workout, but we shouldn’t feel our lower backs or joints. Yes, we ought to push ourselves, but we shouldn’t compromise the precision with which each exercise ought to be accomplished. It is better to do fewer repetitions, or move gently into a stretch, rather than finding ourselves jerking and twisting and exerting too forcefully for our bodies to handle that momentum and force placed upon them.

 

The solution to avoiding an injury, then, is quite simple and another foundational principle of mind-body exercise: listen to your body. It will tell you where to go every day. Each day may be different, and that’s okay! Gains in strength and flexibility (range of motion) should be earned through gradual increases of weight or stretching over a long period of time. For us go-getters, slowing down is hard but essential to preventing the wrong kinds of soreness and injury. The best gains are the safest gains!

Posted on Tumblr

Posted on Tumblr

We’ve all heard the quote, “April showers bring May flowers,” but how about these:

 

  • April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. (William Shakespeare)
  • The April winds are magical, And thrill our tuneful frames; The garden-walks are passional To bachelors and dames. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, “April”)
  • When April winds / Grew soft, the maple burst into a flush / Of scarlet flowers. / The tulip tree, high up, / Opened in airs of June her multiple / Of golden chalices to humming birds / And silken-wing’d insects of the sky. (William Cullen Bryant, “The Fountain”)

 

Flowery ways of simply stating that Spring is on its way, regardless of how slow it is coming to some parts of the world. And after hibernating throughout a rough winter often buried in copious amounts of snow, trapping us inside our homes till we are all crazed, now is a good time to think about stepping outside to breathe in fresh air.

 

I am currently reading The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, to my daughter and am reminded by Burnett’s strong belief that the great out-of-doors heals the spirit as well as the body. I put those things in reverse because often this is how the gentleness of a nature walk works. It changes us from the inside out, working on the cares and troubles of the heart and mind, and therefore the body receives the benefits. Why else would the USA’s National Parks be handing out free passes to active duty military and veterans? Studies done on Post-traumatic Stress Disorder have shown that getting out into nature is one of the best ways to create calmness and peace, and reduce the risk of suicide.

 

Olympic National Park, Posted on Tumblr

Olympic National Park, Posted on Tumblr

Removing ourselves from a chaotic space into a serene one helps us clear the mental clutter that so often overwhelms us, throwing our Fight or Flight response (the sympathetic nervous system) into continual overdrive, resulting in weight increase, anxiety and emotional issues, chaotic eating, sleep disorders, and more. We move from a place where we have no time to think about anything into one where we have time not only to think but to solve problems. Furthermore, at some point, the mind is eased into a happy quietness. Have you ever noticed how suddenly you stop thinking about all your cares and are instead gazing around a forest pathway in admiration of all the things growing there?

 

Plus, you’re moving! Moving burns the body’s extra stored energy. Nature plus exercise equals a win-win situation, in my opinion. That’s why so many people choose to take their workouts outside (though yours truly finds herself far too distracted to actually finish a rigorous workout; yoga and Pilates are different to me). I see countless individuals around where I live–a desert, of all places–take their CrossFit, P90X, yoga, running, TRX, you name it, out the gym doors because, I believe, they find the environment natural, soothing. To be honest, is there anything soothing about the pound-pound-pound of feet on a treadmill, or the whir of elipticals? I didn’t think so.

 

In conclusion then, I just encourage everyone to get outside as much as possible with the nice weather coming your way. Mine has already arrived and I’m enjoying it as much as possible before the burning sun chases me indoors with summertime highs. I find it so soothing to just get out and walk around the neighborhood. How much more peaceful and joyous would I feel if I were in a lovely national park?