Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: love your body

It’s 80 degrees here in Southern California today. My morning clients all canceled and the Occidental College pool up the street is open for laps. But there’s some nasty bugs going around. I had a coughing little boy in my home Tuesday. Seems everyone I’ve encountered this week is getting over something. I’m running at about 85% optimal energy level and last night my challenged hip was achy. Hmmmm….

To swim or not to swim? Here’s what I decided about listening to the wisdom of my body!

 

I’ve spent hundreds of hours sitting with women who’ve invested immense time, money and energy trying to find a way of eating that works for them.  I advocate intuitive eating, learning to listen to and trust your own body. In all my years I have never recommended self-help diet books to anyone. The way to optimal health doesn’t come from outside sources. It comes from listening to your life and becoming your own health expert. The “dieting mindset”‘ and behaviors must be replaced with mindful awareness.

So why now?

eat in alignment with your body

eat in alignment with your body

Unlike diets, The PlantPlus Diet Solution doesn’t tell you what to eat, but offers facts, guidelines and resources for listening to the wisdom of your own body and becoming your own expert as to what will best serve your overall health and well-being.

I’ve learned through twenty-five years of psychotherapy and health coaching with clients struggling with food and weight that, as Joan Borysenko demonstrates through research and examples from her own personalized nutrition experiments, “there is no one-size-fits-all diet.” The key to finding the “right” diet is through paying attention to the impact different foods have on our physical and mental health. Joan does an exquisite job providing tools and information that empower readers to become experts about what best serves our own unique biological blueprint for optimal energy efficiency.

In addition to providing extensive practical support, The PlantPlus Diet Solution explains why willpower alone fails to help people find a life-giving way to eat. Research on the impact of dietary composition and weight loss continues to reveal the importance of metabolic differences in finding the optimal combination of foods for any one person. When asked about the role adherence played in the effectiveness of any particular diet Christopher Gardner, Professor at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, stated: “We think some people have a harder time adhering to a diet because it’s the wrong one for them metabolically.”

Everybody is different!

I’ve been waiting for years for this material to become available at a popular level. Little did I know it would come from the amazing brain and big heart of my dear friend!

The PlantPlus Nutrition Webinar starts Tuesday, January 20th. For those who signup for the course and would like additional support, I’m offering coaching and weekly mindful awareness conference calls along with the Webinar.

And for those who just want to start with the book, the Kindle version is on sale for only $1.99 at Amazon.

 

 

Twenty-two years ago I chose not to have reconstructive surgery following my mastectomy. My reasons were psychological (I wanted to process the loss of my breast before adding anything new to my body) and practical (I figured I’d wait until after I had children then get both breasts done to match). There was nothing noble or moral or revolutionary about it. I just wasn’t ready.

I spent the next decade healing from my own disordered relationship with my body as I walked with others in the same journey. None of that was in my plan when I started graduate school training in marital and family therapy. Developing my own media literacy skills and teaching clients to critique cultural messages and social conditioning about beauty have played a critical role in deciding not to have reconstructive surgery, and to my commitment not to have cosmetic surgery of any kind in the future. It also plays a part in why I’ve chosen not to color my hair — although that is still negotiable as at some future date I may decide to go blonde or add an orange streak to my hair!

Why is having two breasts so important? Does having only one breast make me any less a woman or less sexy or less myself? Would I feel “more myself” and have greater love if I had two breasts? NO! And what about my softening neck or wrinkling eyes? Am I less beautiful with a sagging neckline?

Cultural critique was on my mind yesterday morning as I reflected on my experience at a self-help conference. The beauty and wellness communities are full of self-love messages. Ironically cosmetic surgery to alter self-perceived unacceptable aspects of physical appearance is often also viewed as an acceptable avenue to greater love and self-acceptance. How does “love and accept yourself” work together with choosing cosmetic surgery?

Clinical psychologist William Sheldon wrote that “Deeper and more fundamental then sexuality, deeper than the craving for social power, deeper even that the desire for possessions, there is a more generalized and more universal craving in our human make-up. It is a craving for right direction – for orientation. ” For youth and young adults, that orientation is about developing a solid sense of who they are, forming an identity that enables them to use their lives to create a better world for everyone.

Showing now - check website for locations and times

As I viewed Darryl Robert’s latest documentary America The Beautiful 3: The sexualization of our youth on Sunday night identity development was on my mind. The first two America the Beautiful films explored America’s obsession with beauty and body size. All three documentaries draw attention to the exploitation of basic human insecurities by commercial industries. Sex, slim bodies and beauty sell products from hamburgers to pharmaceuticals. Picture vibrant, slim, well dressed,  youthful looking middle aged couples in commercials for Viagra!

We want to be beautiful or handsome. It’s a basic human longing. We want to “look good.” Even before mirrors and photography people engaged in beauty enhancing techniques based on cultural norms. While across cultures the definitions of what is attractive vary, it seems that throughout history how one looks factors into identity development.

As a “chubby” child and early adolescent, I escaped the beauty, weight and sex traps by opting out of the game. I knew the rules: fat is not attractive. So rather than even trying to play the game, I mostly sat on the sidelines and played support crew for my more beautiful friends who were on the field. That isn’t to say I wasn’t deeply ashamed of my appearance – at least my body size. But I learned that my identity needed to develop from something other than how I looked.

Fast forward 40 years and I am grateful for the psychological insulation my fat provided. I learned that looking good (whatever that means) isn’t as important as being a good, kind, genuine person. I learned that being sexy was actually quite risky as I watched my “more attractive” friends suffer the slings and arrows of adolescent love games. Not to mention a few that ended up choosing to abort unwanted babies when they’d “forgotten” to use protection or the one who ended up marrying the father, moving to Oregon and becoming a teenage wife and mother.

Before I get on too much of a downer here, let me come back to what initiated this blog. My friend Chris Kresbach, who works in the film industry and knows all too well how messed up our cultural norms about beauty, weight and sexuality are, posted this video on Facebook today. It’s a wonderful tongue-in-cheek take on women, beauty and body image. All of which, along with sexuality, are central to the essential human need to know who we are. But they aren’t everything. We must find ways to love and enjoy our physicality and work with the inevitable challenges and changes, but not allow appearance to define us.

Let’s be at the forefront of reminding ourselves and each other about what is most important in life. Perhaps sharing this video with your friends would be a fun and simple way to do that!

Offered with my prayer that you will find ways to love and enjoy your body,  just as you are today!

My mind-body mentor Joan Borysenko’s new book, The PlantPlus Diet Solution, is a compendium of relevant and accessible food science and health psychology. Full of practical tips and recipes it’s an exceptional resource in the self-help diet book genre. The personalized nutrition guidelines she presents aren’t for those who want a quick or easy solution to weight or health issues. But that is exactly what makes it a valuable resource for those seeking a sustainable, enjoyable and life-giving way to eat! Unlike most diet books, The PlantPlus Diet Solution doesn’t tell you what to eat, but gives you facts, guidelines and resources for listening to the wisdom of your own body and becoming your own expert as to what will best serve your overall health and well-being.

eat in alignment with your body

I’ve learned through twenty-five years of work with clients struggling with food and weight that, as Dr. Joan demonstrates through research and examples from her own personalized nutrition experiments, “there is no one-size-fits-all diet.” The key to finding the “right” combination of food for your body is through paying attention to the impact different foods have on your physical and mental health. Joan does an exquisite job providing simple tools that empower readers to become experts on their own unique biological blueprint for metabolism and optimal energy efficiency.

I especially appreciated her clear explanation about the role insulin efficiency plays in metabolism of carbohydrates–and some people’s remarkable capacity to store excess calories as fat. She identifies three types of bodies: 1.) insulin efficient people who can eat all the carbohydrates they want and never experience negative weight or health consequences; 2.) insulin resistant people whose bodies react negatively to diets high in carbohydrates; 3.) and the rest who fall somewhere in-between. Knowing where you fall on the continuum can be an important part of finding a way of eating that works best for your body.

Knowledge is power. Joan provides information to help readers make informed choices about nutrition as well as tools to increase self-knowledge. Best of all, she does so with authenticity and wisdom born from several years of “diet sleuthing” as she looked for solutions to her own nutrition related health challenges. Her personal examples, humor and lighthearted way of writing makes the science digestible for those of us who haven’t taken a hard science course since high school!

For Southern California locals, Joan will be in Pasadena presenting on her new book on October 25th at the I Can Do It! conference. I’ll be there and would love to see some of you there too.

This morning at the end of our strength training workout at Fitness Revolution Pasadena, we took several minutes to just lay and our backs and breath deeply into our diaphragms. Our trainer Joseph says it’s a great way to release the muscles of the spine and prevent back pain. Then we took 5 minutes to stretch. It felt so good to lengthen and soften into the stretches.

As we stretched, I flashed back to Tuesday’s workout when we didn’t have time to stretch. I missed those five minutes a lot. And, my stiff low back and hips later in the day reminded me of the importance of lengthening and softening my muscles at the end of a workout.

Last night at the Long Live LA video screening we viewed a series of health videos by Ann Kaneko. 

Qigong Series: STIFF by Ann Kaneko from Freewaves on Vimeo.

I love the simple message of “Stiff”. It validated my instinct to rub my tense muscles and frequently shift and move my body into new positions.

Sometimes it feels awkward in public situations to stretch or move around a lot, but when my body cries out for attention, I’ve learned it’s better to respond sooner than later. Delaying attention to seemingly small needs for a stretch, a deep breath, a drink of water or to use the restroom isn’t good for my body.

Love your body today. Take a few minutes to practice belly breathing or stretch. Your body will appreciate it.

Years of healing work with myself and other women have taught me that God loves all of creation, including the parts I’d rather exclude from love–like the increasingly droopy skin encasing my upper arms. If I can’t love my body exactly as it is today, whatever my weight or state of health or disease, then I settle for far less than the fullness of life that lives in my by the Spirit of God. And I cut myself off from the transformational power of God’s love.

Having spent the first 30 years of my life in varying degrees of distance from my body, ashamed because my body didn’t match those of the models and movie stars of my day, I know about resistance to accepting and loving your body just as you are.

my nieces Sophia and Caity inspire my work - loving ourselves just as we are today

Acceptance and love for your body doesn’t mean you’ll “feel” good about yourself. Emotions come and go. I’ve worked with countless women with eating disorders and body image problems whose external appearance matched the cultural ideal perfectly, but still loathed their thighs, breasts, belly, nose or some other part of their body. As my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live character Rosanna Rosanna Danna, played by the amazing Gilda Radner (God rest her soul), used to say, “It’s always something…” Either your nose is too big, your breasts are too small or just when you finally came to a place of peace with your body, some other change comes along to upset your equilibrium–like pregnancy, menopause, an illness.

Loving your body as God loves you is about attending to the real needs of your body for nourishing foods, plenty of fresh water, and adequate sleep—at a minimum. Many of us run on sleep deprivation and then drink caffeine or eat sugar to compensate for our lack of energy and focus during the afternoon. Statistics indicate over 30% of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Most of us need 7-8 to function at optimal levels. Countless numbers of us exist at varying levels of dehydration—75% being the statistic most often sited.

Regardless of other possible ways you might respond more lovingly to your physical needs, how might getting seven hours of sleep a night and drinking more fresh water improve your life? It’s likely you’d even begin to “feel” more loving toward yourself as both of these deprivations are associated with increased emotional distress—particularly anxiety and depression.

You can’t have fullness of life if you aren’t fully inhabiting your body. It’s that simple. Your body is where God’s transformative power dwells. The Spirit is an energetic presence that lives in our bodies. I imagine the Spirit operating within our bodies along the central nervous system, but that’s a blog for another day. So the wisdom, vitality, radiance, power, joy, peace, hope—and all the other transformative energies of our new life in Christ—live in and are accessed through your body.

What loving action will you take today on behalf of your body’s real needs? Drink more water? Plan to go to bed earlier?

Pick one small change and work on that for a month. Build the muscle of choosing to love yourself as you are by treating your body in loving ways, even if you don’t feel loving or accepting. Even if you feel shameful, disappointed, regretful for all the years you’ve spent living at a distance from your body. Shame and fear are huge obstacles for many of us. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming blog.

But for today, what might treating your body with more lovingkindness look like, just for today?

When I began practicing yoga a few years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn’t know the research on it’s health benefits, but my gut told me it was good for me.

A study published in the Journal for Clinical Oncology indicates yoga is especially helpful in reducing fatigue associated with breast cancer treatments. After three months of twice a week yoga practice those in the yoga group reported more vitality and better sleep than in the control group which didn’t participate in the classes.

At the six month follow up the yoga group reported about 60% less fatigue than the control group, even though many had stopped practicing after the initial three month trial.

As with all research, correlation doesn’t equal causation. But the current study is one in a growing body of research supporting many physical and psychological benefits from yoga.

If you’re fatigued from cancer treatment or just life in general, consider exploring the potential benefits of yoga. As always, consult with your healthcare provider as to your unique needs and limitations. And remember that all yoga classes are not alike. Do your homework. Find out what studios are in your area, review the class descriptions and look for a beginning level or gentle class to get started.

If you’re in the Pasadena area, my yoga teacher friend Tatiana is offering a four week introduction to yoga series on Sunday afternoons at Mission Street Yoga in South Pasadena. Begins February 9th.

My Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. class meets weekly at Glendale Presbyterian Church.

Hope to see you in yoga sometime soon.

A former participant in my coaching and mentoring programs told me today that learning to listen to her body–to sense her body, to be aware of bodily reactions to emotions and thoughts–was one of the most valuable lessons of her time with me. “I’d never realized how disembodied I was.”

We live in a culture of disembodied ways of being. We pop painkillers to soothe tension headaches rather than alter our too busy lifestyles. We take vitamins instead of  preparing and eating real foods.  And we slather our bodies and faces with products containing known carcinogens because that is what we’ve been taught to do. It’s normal, so no one questions it.

Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” documents a social experiment showing the distorted images many people have of their physical attractiveness. Dove has capitalized on their “real beauty” message–using it to sell many carcinogenic containing products under the auspices of promoting better self-esteem.

On the surface, the message Dove sends is: “You are more beautiful than you think.” But underlying it is the same old disembodied, objectified view of beauty that keeps women obsessing about appearances rather than claiming our unique beauty and getting on with being the dynamic forces for good that we were created to be. Dove presents beauty as an external reality, disconnected from the “real woman” beneath the surface who has an interior experience and her own beautiful story that is about far more than the size of her nose or her wrinkles.

LA Times writer Meghan Daum nails this in her editorial “Real beauty, really Dove?” She points out that all the women in the project conform to cultural stereotypes of attractiveness. As she puts it, “None of the video participants was forced to thumb through the thesaurus looking for a nice way of saying ‘has three heads’.” What if one of the sketch models did have a large nose or a double chin? Would the participant describing her to the artist have said so? Probably not.

As my shero India Aria says “I am not my hair. I am not my skin. I am the soul that lives within.”

Hair comes and goes. Skin changes with the seasons. I’ve heard it said that our noses and ears continue to grow throughout our lives. If my bulbous nosed Irish relatives are any indicator of what I have to look forward to, I’ll be sporting a significantly larger schnoz in my eighties!

So, with all due respect to their intention to support “real beauty”, Dove is still missing the essential piece: soul work. Beauty is an inside job.

The story of beauty that begins in our souls guides us to deeply inhabit our bodies and love our flesh, to value each hair on our head whatever the color, and celebrate each wrinkle as documentation of another year of life. When beauty is an expression of the soul that lives within, the externals fall into proper perspective.

Misogyny and female objectification scored another major victory Sunday night at the Oscars. I posted on Facebook that it was the stupidest show I’d ever seen. A young female friend whom I greatly respect thanked the Oscars for wildly entertaining her.  I thought it might be sarcasm, but she noted that I needed to remember she had a crude 13 year old boy sense of humor.

That pretty much sums it up. Our societal disconnection from the sacredness of our bodies leaves us with no better story about female bodies than Oscar offered Sunday. We live in a culture so saturated with this kind of disgraceful, disrespectful treatment of women and our bodies that even the intelligent, thoughtful women among us found it entertaining.

I don’t fault those who found it humorous. This is what we know.  This is what Hollywood has trained us to find entertaining. Schooled at the movies and television, we’ve become a culture of 13 year old boys when it comes to our bodies.

Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.