Weight Loss

Your Own Kind of Beautiful

This new journey into fitness/wellness/health, stepping outside my comfort zone, embracing vulnerability every single day as I try to finally follow my passions has caused me to remind myself again and again of one truth that took me quite some time to learn. I think about what I wish I could say to my 20-something year old self. I have two young women in my life that are on the brink of beginning their 20's. I see them and pray they see just how beautiful they are in their own unique way. It's not cliche, it's real, and it takes a strong sense of self to believe that truth. I think of them so much because I remember that at their age was the time where I really lost my sense of self worth.

I clung to external validation like it was oxygen I needed to breathe. 

I was in pageants...I voluntarily entered myself into contests where complete strangers scored me based on my outward appearance and wardrobe choices.  I did the pageants you do to eventually win Miss South Carolina and then Miss USA. I have no qualms with pageants or the beautiful women who do them and do them well, it's just that the reason I did them was not healthy or productive at all for my own growth. I did them solely to feel validated and to be told that I was enough in the most materialistic sense of the word. I wanted to be told I was beautiful enough, interesting enough, cool enough. I often did them to meet the "goal weight"...to impose strict deadlines on myself to lose weight, and fit into the size 4 dress that usually never got past my ribs. The lengths I went to to become the ideal that the pageant world sought after was quite hilarious now that I think about it...

I would travel 2.5 hours to this one personal trainer recommended by my pageant coach who told me to never ever lift weights on my legs...because they were too muscular as they were.

So instead I would go to my own personal trainer locally and tell him I can only work my upper body….how weird is that?  I then went on to do as I was told to achieve "the body" and would do 5 sets of 25 of about 4 different exercises of leg lifts that would guarantee me long, lean legs necessary for swimsuit. This routine took about 1 to 1.5 hours. This was after I would do the requisite 60 minutes of cardio to be sure I was in the "fat burning zone," and not any higher. I think I did this the entirety of my fall semester of my senior year. I had a lot of positive things going on with my academics, but my outside needed to be validated, my thighs, my dress size, my ab lines, my tan. That is what I cared about, spent money on, spent my precious time on. I feel sad for that girl now. Oh the fun I could've had, the places I could've traveled.

Our messy, real, beautiful life in the lowcountry with our girls.

Our messy, real, beautiful life in the lowcountry with our girls.

I'm worlds away from that girl now, but the lesson I wish she could've learned is the same lesson I must repeat to myself over and over and truly believe. The first is…MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR THIGHS. Seriously, it’s time. The second is this:

1. Being yourself is the only way to be happy and successful. I've watched successful people a lot lately, I've read about their stories, listened to a gazillion podcasts. There seems to be a common theme...no one is happy and successful by being someone they're not. You could be successful but once you got to the top, you sure as hell won't be happy.

2. Release the need for approval or validation from other people. You just won't get it, not in the way that it matters. Like that glorious Eleanor Roosevelt quote, it is guaranteed that you will be criticized anyways, so why not do what's in your heart.

3. Avoid Comparison. Your efforts towards true, lasting health will not work if you're seeking an ideal outside of yourself. I believe this from the bottom of my heart. You must start with the fundamental truth that you are your own kind of beautiful. You will become only more of your own kind of beautiful the healthier, more energetic, and more vibrant you become. But it has to be yours and not someone else's. Comparison only brings negative energy and will sabotage your well-intentioned efforts.

This time, if you’re starting again, starting to move for the first time in a while or wanting to release some weight, or just simply get healthier, listen to the voice in your head, watch what your goals and intentions are behind a new program, and try to tell yourself that what you are right now, the way you look and move and speak is beautiful….you are beautiful because you’re real, you’re alive, and you have so much love to give.

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In health,

Erica

Me and my two girls. These girls are polar opposites but oh so beautiful in their own way.

How I Lost Weight

I fought with myself for years over what I ate, how much I exercised and what I looked like. I am no different than probably 95% of women who bought into the ideal of what a woman should look like based on society's image.  I was the girl who always said "i'll be happy when..." I would yo-yo diet, and lose the same 5-10 pounds again and again only to regain it. I had so many rules for myself. No carbs, then no sugar, then no cheat days or meals, then a lot of times, I would make myself run off the calories that I had eaten outside of what my goal was. Moral of the story...I STRUGGLED. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food and with exercise.

Here's what I know now, it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible to love your body, feel good in a bathing suit chasing your kids on the beach and put more energy into the things that matter rather than the way you look. 

The thing was, I was wrong about how I would get to this place. Now, I'm nowhere near perfect, I still struggle with negative self-talk or comparing myself, but I'm at a place where the thoughts may come into my mind and I'm able to let them pass on through. 

What I think happened is I finally gave myself a break, and let go of the rules. I listened to my body, and got to the root of the issues I had with food, which were way deeper than failing to have the willpower to follow a strict diet. 

What I've learned and am still learning is that our bodies, being inextricably connected to our minds and our thoughts, respond to very ingrained behaviors and habits that we have acquired over years of doing the same thing. Here's a breakdown of a little brain science 101. (I'm sure my neurologist sister will laugh at this but let's give it a shot) From what I understand, and what I found to be true about me is that this big, bold, cold turkey/deadline/high pressure diet and weight loss goal strategy I made were often destined to fail. They were up against a brain wired to turn to food if I was stressed, negative self-talk that sabotaged any hope of commitment or confidence I could follow through, and just plain inconsistency of moving my body. I underestimated how powerful the wiring of our brain was from previous longtime habits. 

I couldn't say it better than this mindbodygreen article*(link below) I came across that basically explains it this way: 

"First, the act of thinking sets into motion a chemical reaction in the brain that can be likened to plugging in a string of lights. As you think about something—be it positive or stressful—you turn on a string of lights related to that topic.

Second, the more you think, feel and act the same way, the faster the lights turn on and the brighter they glow. Thus, the string of lights related to driving a car at 45 years old is much brighter and faster than the string you had at 16 years old.

Finally, we have trillions of brain cells, resulting in thousands (if not millions) of strings of lights correlating with our habits in all areas of our life. Donald Hebb’s landmark discovery in 1949, “neurons that fire together wire together,” best explains the process of wiring and strengthening brain pathways. The key is to activate as many of these pathways as possible given they work synergistically. One pathway alone is not enough to successfully rewire your brain. However, when you repeatedly align your beliefs, feelings, vision, and actions you will experience lasting changes in your brain."

Why does this matter? Because healing yourself of bad habits, making actual progress towards weight loss, stress relief, general positive thinking even, doesn't happen, for most normal people, just by garnering up a massive amount of willpower. Each negative thought you can counter with a thought about something you're grateful for, literally rewires your brain. And if you do it day in and day out, you will have changed your brain and become better wired to actually accomplish the goals you set for yourself. Each time you move, even if just for 20 minutes, is again affecting the entirety of your body and working synergistically with your positive mindset, and with each day/each choice building on the next, the sustainability of your change is only growing stronger, and your brain changes. 

THIS is why we call Flow Space a mind-body studio. You cannot have one without the other. 

So this is how it actually happened for me,

1. Gratitude/Changing your Thoughts- This changes the hardwiring of your brain. Gratitude and movement were the only tools that I could find to slightly lift the pain and heartbreak of grief to be able to move through it. I still turn to it every day. This will make the other changes involving exercise and nutrition so much easier. It can begin with simply countering your negative thoughts/angry thoughts/victim mentality thoughts with 1 thing you're grateful for. On my particularly rough days, I could always counter with "I am healthy and my children are healthy." That was enough to change the course of my thoughts to a positive place. 

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2. Movement- Your body will reward you with feel-good chemicals when you move. It is proven and backed by scientific data. Begin with walking, and I can almost guarantee you'll feel so good that you'll search out more ways to move. Or come to a flow class!

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3. Eating foods that make me feel good- Period. I don't believe there is one diet or nutrition plan everyone should be on. My mostly plant-based diet doesn't feel great to my husband who prefers to add in beef or chicken. But I have found through a lot of trial and error what foods feel good to me. They are clean, healthy, plant-based and usually pretty simple. Also, an important part of this is if & when you fail to eat the most healthy foods, which you will do if you're human, let it go and move on to the next healthy meal. 

4.Self-Discovery-Start doing the work of finding your purpose. Journal, recognize what you're pulled to and do more of that. Follow the feelings where you feel expansive rather than constrained. Recognize that you are an individual that may be heavily influenced by what you "should do" and allow yourself to be free of those expectations for as much as you can to figure out yourself. Sometimes our issues with food and having a sedentary lifestyle is because we are numbing ourselves to avoid the feelings of anxiety and depression that come from not feeling fulfillment or purpose. 

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I share these thoughts not as an expert, because I certainly am not one, but because it was what I wish I would've heard in moments when I needed it.  I have so loved people reaching out to me directly in response and us being able to have real dialogue about these issues that I feel are life-changing for me. If you're looking for more help on getting through a weight loss journey or just want to get on the road back to better health, I would love to have you in one of our classes, or you can always reach out to me at erica@flowspacefitness.com to see how we can help put some tools in motion to begin your health journey. 

In health,

Erica

*https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11762/5-ways-to-rewire-your-brain-for-meaningful-life-changes.html