Give yourself some love

February is coming soon, friends. You’ve already started to see the stores fill with Valentine chocolate, not so long after many of us made pledges toward some type of new healthy habit for the year.

Actually, I’m not so fond of resolutions in the new year. January in Minnesota is hard. The weather is ugly, and though we are gaining a minute or two of light a day, it’s still dark. We’re all pretty over-spent and broke after the holidays if we weren’t so good at budgeting the year before. And most of us gained 2-3 (or 7-10) pounds since Halloween. Ugh. Those slim jeans don’t feel so great right now.

Well, bears hibernate! Why can’t we?!? Why were my ancestors so good at storing fat? Oh right, so I wouldn’t starve to death. Give gratitude to the ance(stores) who’s superior fat storage (and hunting skills) are the reason I’m here today.

Speaking for myself, and our human species. 😉

heart shaped chocolates
Chocolate does not equal love. No matter how much I love it. Photo by on

February, month of romance rolls around and we feel annoyed because everyone seems to have someone. If we don’t have someone, what are we supposed to do with all this Valentine chocolate except eat it ourselves?!? I’m outing myself as a person who has struggled with eating and body image issues. SO many women struggle with this, the majority of us, as it turns out.

I keep reading about epidemic levels of loneliness in our society. I believe it. We may be the most “connected” in terms of our possible virtual networks, but this can crowd our ability to maintain our close relationships. Being a true friend (or family member) takes time and energy.

Having a handful of really close and healthy relationships (and/or a pet perhaps) outweighs dozens (or hundreds) of online-only friends. But in professional networks where loose ties are also meaningful in terms of opportunities, it is important to maintain a bit of both.

Food is one way some of us fill our spiritual loneliness, as I learned from Geneen Roth. The comfort it provides is  only temporary and gives nothing “back.” Friendships are for mutual benefit.

human hands illustrations
Photo by Matheus Viana on

And what do we do when we (introverts) feel overwhelmed and burned out by too much social interaction? 

We must learn to down-regulate our nervous systems. We must learn how to let go of what does not serve us. We sometimes must turn down social interactions, even with people we (usually) enjoy in order to take care of ourselves.

Our species simply has not evolved emotionally for the level of inter-connectedness we now experience on the planet. We once saw ourselves as isolated tribes. Now, we know that we are in this together. Kill our environment, kill our planet, we all perish. Not pretty.

What yoga offers to me (and others) are tools to balance our nervous systems. We can cope with our feelings of stress, our difficult emotions and even our physical pain. Most of us desperately need daily and weekly doses of quiet internal reflection to center and ground ourselves.  Even if it is for 3-5 minutes a couple of times a day, give yourself that opportunity.

Your loved ones will thank you. You will thank yourself. And the world will be better served if you are generous in caring well for your whole being.

This February treat yourself to (1)
I’m piloting this short class at work next month! So excited I can offer this in my department.



Saturday Share – Lost and Found

Hi there, friends!

It is time for Saturday Share and this time, I want to share an author and a mini book review. Geneen Roth may be familiar to some of you who have worked through food issues. I was *wowed* by her book, Women Food and God: an Unexpected Path to Almost Anything. It is about the beliefs about yourself and how your relationship with food is a microcosm of your beliefs. Do you believe you will always have enough? Do you deserve kindness, forgiveness, and tenderness? Is food a stand-in for your need for love or affection?

lost and found
Photo credit link – Audible

About a year ago I ordered her audio book Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money. In it she describes losing all her money in the Madoff investment scandal. She writes that food is microcosm for our beliefs, and how we approach money is also a microcosm of our beliefs.

It is an excellent book if you have ever wanted to think deeply about your relationship with money, and examine your beliefs and how they were developed. I have listened to the audio many times and done some work on this issue in coaching.

Many of us formed our attitudes about food and money when we were young. While it is not universally true, we often adopt food attitudes and behaviors from our mothers and money attitudes and behaviors from our fathers.

I am going into a period of transition, drawing down my savings while I move from a generously paid corporate job to freelance consulting. Now is a good time to get more conscious about money, and my beliefs and actions around it.

In general, I have an attitude of abundance, but I realize this can also make me a little careless with money. One of my beliefs is “there’s more where that came from…” so I do not tend to worry about it. I realize this reflects an enormous amount of privilege. With a good education and skill set, I can find work *somewhere* doing something.

Knowing where my money is going came up during a 3-week class with Women Venture on getting started with small business. Tracking my daily expenses felt impossible chore to me, but other women in the class (especially the Moms) had all kinds of strategies for tracking and budgeting.

So I am curious about your experiences, readers. What are your attitudes about money? Do you have systems that work well for you to track your expenses? Any advice on living with the ups and downs of freelance income? 

Thanks in advance for your insights.


How Does Writing Help Us Heal?

via How Does Writing Help Us Heal?

Okay, this blog is somewhat self-promoting, because Julie de Rohan mentions me in her post. But the topic is so relevant and I agree so strongly with the the concept that I want to share it with my readers as well.

Julie de Rohan
Photo cribbed directly from Julie’s blog 

Julie is a psychotherapist in the U.K. who works with clients who struggle with overeating issues. As this is a struggle I have faced (and also probably 70% of the women I know) I always find her writing and insights to be right on target.

I have recently re-listened to a favorite resource on this topic, an Audible book by Geneen Roth called Women, Food and God. Every time I explore another layer of this issue, I realize how much relationship with food is a microcosm of my beliefs about the world. But not until I excavated this issue in my writing and my meditations did I start feeling peace toward it.

Thanks so much for exploring this issue, Julie. You write about it (and many other topics we share in common) in such an accessible way.


Weight and body awareness as a path to inner wisdom (part 1)

My journey:

I have had an ongoing struggle with weight and weight loss since about age 11. When I look back on that time, I realize that it was not because I was overweight then. Rather, it was I was entering a time when my body was changing. I gained some weight and the awkwardness of adolescence made me feel uncomfortable, uncoordinated and out-of-control. By that point, I was a bit taller than most of my peers, and beginning to put on some weight,  as preteens do.  I was not sure how to handle the confusing feelings of being aware of boys while at the same time feeling “too big” and like there was too much of me.

Body awareness image

It was the 80’s and the height of the fitness and aerobics craze. It was the “me generation” and a time when Reagan was President, and image became key for our identities. Greed was considered good, and materialism was rewarded. Weight watchers had been founded in 1963 and was catching on, Jane Fonda released her first exercise video in 1982. In 1988 Oprah Winfrey walked onto the stage with 67 pounds of fat in a wagon to illustrate the weight she had lost on a liquid diet.

On a cultural level, women were told that the right way to BE in the world was to be thin. All the women in my family dieted together. Grandma, Mom, my Auntie and just about all the women I knew were always on some type of diet or another. Looking back, I realize I was not only responding to the messages around me, but I was just trying to fit in. Even my Dad had a regular exercise regimen, which I believe was partly stress-relief and partly body consciousness from the opposite framework. He had always been skinny in his youth, and he wanted to be stronger and more muscular.

So I dieted and I exercised. Looking back on it, I am glad that I saw exercise as important, and cultivated it as a habit. Today it remains a very important part of my mental health and stress-relief to run, do yoga, walk, or move in some way to calm my anxiety at times. But if I had to give advice to my young self it would be: accept yourself, and do not worry about what all others are doing. Stop dieting, stop trying to use food to control your anxiety about yourself, and exercise as a punishment for your “bad” overeating behavior.

Avoiding feelings and desires

I realize today that my emotional overeating came from that early attempt to restrict my food, to diet and to reign in those “bad” behaviors that I seemed so prone to repeat. Control of food became a way to deal with the anxiety that I had started to feel that I was “not enough” or “not right” or not the way I was supposed to me. I know that many girls and women can relate to this, and a lot of research shows that girls suffer from a large self-esteem gap during adolescence in comparison with boys.

The cultural messages we receive through movies and other media is that we are supposed to be beautiful and contained, princesses to be rescued by the prince. Also, in families we often we receive the message that we should be helpful and serve others. We do not receive a lot of guidance on how to pay attention to our needs, and to honor our bodies, or even how to embrace our feelings. Our mothers were often taught that their role in the family is to serve, not necessarily to honor their needs and desires. So many of us wanted to be “good girls” and to do the right things, and we were rewarded for this. I know I am not the first woman to confess to this time as being the origin of perfectionism.

Depression, perfectionism and insecurity

In college I struggled with some binge eating (though I was not into the purging part, which would have made that bulimia) when I would face periods of intense insecurity about my ability to succeed at a very challenging college, surrounded my peers who were very smart. In high school where I graduated salutatorian of my class, I had always known I was a “smart girl” and it had become part of my identity. I was rewarded for being “in my head” and not necessarily paying attention to my body.

When I went to college, my identity was no longer as the smart girl, while surrounded by so many talented people, so I felt a bit lost. Senior year, I went through depression as I struggled to figure out who I was, and what I wanted. I had a scary period of time in which I felt like there was a “fog” in my brain, and a Dean that I consulted to figure out what was wrong told me, “it’s not as if you’ve been struck stupid!” Actually, that’s exactly what it felt like, my cognition was disrupted and I literally was not able to think or use my brain the way I always had. Fortunately I had studied enough psychology to realize I needed help, and I found a kind an wonderful counselor, who helped me navigate this intense period of growth and change in my life.

In my early 20’s after college and after years of yo-yo weight struggles, I gave up on dieting, and focused instead on running, biking and trying to do things that made me feel good generally. I had moved to California after 4 years of living in Pennsylvania and graduating from Swarthmore College, and I was done (for a while) with trying to achieve academic success trying to earn high grades. One thing I realized was that my body seemed to be a barometer for how my life was going. When I relaxed and enjoyed my life, my weight and body seemed to normalize. I was never “skinny” but I did not struggle with my weight very much for a period of years.

Running to manage anxiety

From about 2007, when I joined my current company, I started running more regularly and doing yoga, which was offered on lunch hours at the onsite gym. I had been running off and on since I was 15 or so when I entered my first 5k. Running was a way to control my weight, but also manage feelings of anxiety and restless (and manage A.D.D. which I did not realize I suffered from until 2006 while trying to finish a master’s thesis, which is a story for another day). Off and one I had suffered injuries whenever I increased my running mileage too much, and it was not until I discovered yoga and figured out how to balance out both sides of my body, that I really was able to run longer distances than 10k without getting injured.

Coming home to the body – yoga and meditation

Yoga helped me become more balanced on both sides of the body and to become more aware. Practicing it 1-2 times a week helped me become more aware of my core and more balanced in my fitness, which is more difficult with running, since it is more about the lower half of the body.

About a year ago I realized that I was putting on some weight that was not coming off. Typically my weight tended to fluctuate 6-8 pounds up or down in a given year, depending on whether it was outdoor running season or winter, when I typically get less activity because I prefer to run outside, though I was using treadmills somewhat, because a sedentary lifestyle has never allowed me to manage my brain chemicals.

The weight struggle was starting to rear its ugly head again as I was promoted to a managerial role at work, and I was expected to show up in meetings, and be responsible for clinical operations for Latin America. I had wanted this role, and campaigned for it, and the new responsibilities and leadership really forced me to confront some personal challenges, and grow personally in my understanding of myself.

Compassion for myself, my body

I realized that I had begun using food and alcohol to avoid uncomfortable feelings, and that I had lost touch with my body. I had used running as a coping mechanism for my chronic anxiety but the problem was that I was not aware of what was causing that anxiety. I had blamed my circumstances: a micro-managing boss, a workplace with a workaholic culture, my own lack of focus and self-control.

While all of those may have contributed, I had not realized that my own thoughts were the cause of much of my bad feelings. When I began meditating and becoming aware of my “thought stream” I realized that that was a lot of negativity and self-blame occurring just below the level of my consciousness.

When I began to understand that I had been using food to calm my discomfort, and to push away those negative feelings, I realized I had a lot of work to do. But fortunately, the mindfulness practices, yoga and meditation were all beginning to start to integrate for me. With the help of a therapist who was kindly working with me on various relationship issues, and the practice of yoga with a favorite teacher Ruth Silva, and my growing regular practice of meditation, I began to gradually realize some changes I wanted to make in my daily practices. Geneen Roth’s book Women Food and God (I have the audio version), and also the podcast The Lifecoach School with Brooke Castillo.

This post is already becoming a bit longer than intended, so there will be a part 2 (and maybe even a part 3) for this exploration where I continue to tell my story and distill down some of the lessons I have learned on body awareness and compassion. Stay tuned for that on Thursday as I realize I need to wrap up and head to my “day job” now. Cheers! 🙂