Get Your Healthy Body Back
The kids are back in school and there’s a definite chill in the air. Putting on an extra layer reminds me that soon the days will get shorter, and T-shirts will give way to sweaters. As summer segues to winter, it’s a good time to take stock and make some changes. The truth is, I’m tired of seeing stress in my face, living in sweatpants, and feeling crumby first thing in the morning. I’m tired of being tired. My self-care has gotten flabby, and it shows. I want to get my healthy body back.
Over the past 18 months, like everyone else, I traded fitness strategies for coping strategies. Who didn’t cut themselves slack and do a little bingeing? The lockdown was softened by a plethora of streaming options and an ongoing excuse to veg-out. (I had fun defining that term for my grandsons.) Even when I made a point to exercise, I often found myself in front of the freezer looking for ice cream. Although I could feel the unhealthy results, I gave myself a pass for extraordinary times. But now, I’ve come to my senses and want to take charge. From past experience, I know that being present and being positive are the keys to making healthy changes.
Being present: This means paying attention and observing the mind-body relationship. To get a peek at what’s going on, just listen in to your self-talk. Check it out the next time you stand in front of a mirror or feel the lead on an uphill hike. Don’t be surprised if your thought bubble holds a not-so-subtle, far-from-loving message – a toxic combo of personal history, the judgment of others, and cultural opinions. This negative messaging is not helpful to the task at hand. But, identifying the particulars and consciously turning them around is a proactive way to practice being positive.
Being positive: To root out the negative messages in your self-talk, you need to tone up and flex your positive thinking muscles. As you diligently rescript every negative with a positive, think of it as building core strength. This is how it looks for me: When “I wish my chubby waist would disappear,” I replace it with “I love my cushy body.” I know such a reframe seems simplistic and quite corny but making sure my body hears the positives is a good way to improve my body-mind relationship. Then the mind can deliver the facts and design a personalized program. And the body can try it out and deliver feedback. Then, as a team, both can course correct if necessary.
Being positively present: Living in a health-conscious community, we all know what foods and exercise are good for a healthy body. No empty calories or inflammatory foods and 20 minutes of aerobic a day, right? Yet, from a body wisdom point of view, how we show up is as important as the foods we eat or laps we swim. Being positively present for eating and exercising doesn’t require more time, it just asks for your attention. Turn off the podcast; take out the ear buds; close the newspaper. You get the gist. Let the time be about experiencing the body rather than finding ways to occupy the mind. As a self-care strategy, this might sound obvious, but it’s not necessarily easy. Here are four ways to focus your mind on your body, no matter what you’re doing:
– Center your awareness in physical space: how you feel and where you are.
– Observe the mechanical beauty and sensual pleasure of being physical.
– Keep a light-hearted perspective when you encounter obstacles.
– Find lots of occasions to appreciate the simple beauty of your body self.
Being positively present for eating or exercising makes it easier to grapple with emotionally charged fitness and body image issues. By this time in life, we’ve established a complex relationship with our body. Bring in the element of change and, predictably, the old, familiar negatives begin to show up. For instance, if you happen to put on a pair of slightly snug pants, expect a few snarky comments in your thought bubble. Add a couple of reps at the gym and, suddenly, you feel discouraged. Sit down to a bowl of popcorn and, instead of enjoying each bite, you want to shove it in your mouth. Set off for a silent walk on the beach and your mind won’t shut up. The best way to handle this push back is to keep looking forward, find a little humor, and see yourself as a work in progress.
Staying positive: Because the physical body and emotional body are so entwined, making changes is bound to bring up feelings. It’s important to find time to process so you don’t get bogged down. As every healer knows, old issues and programing come up to the surface on their way out. Letting them move on helps you stay positive, in present time. If you let them go, whether through self-talk or self-expression, you lighten the load. You can feel it. Remember, it’s easier to stay upbeat when you feel the reward of your efforts.
In my experience, being present with a positive attitude is part of a reliable progression. With mind and body on the same page, the “what, when, and how much” reflect my intention for being healthy. Every conscious choice I make helps me get in shape and feel better about myself. As the positives multiply, healthy routines are reinforced. Once I get it rolling, the reward of a feeling better keeps it rolling. Then, not only do I get my healthy body back, I get it back better. You will too.