Gift of Weight Gain in 2017

During the second-half of 2017, I added an additional 25-pounds on my 5’2-frame. For months, I’ve been carrying around tremendous amounts of guilt and shame for this weight gain. At one point, I convinced myself that if I could get my physical body back to where it was 3-years ago, then I could be happy again. Instead of confronting the truth, that life had changed in completely radical ways this year, I continued to deny my pain. Life would never be the same, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe it; I was too overwhelmed by stress and sadness.

How many of us share the same experience? How many of us have hidden or denied our pain instead of honoring those emotions? And how many of us have felt shame for it?

Working through loss and grief does require some movement. Whether it’s walking around the block or simply walking away from the old reactions and automatic responses that keep us in pain and do not bring us the peace and love we are seeking, it is important to remember to keep the old, wounded energy moving on. About 2-months ago, I finally surrendered. And with each breath, I learned how to be compassionate and gentle with myself. Eventually, I gained control over my emotions; I allowed them to surface instead of resisting or suppressing them. I learned to sit in pain, accepting it without judgement. In understanding that I only had to face one day at a time, I began to cope. And here is the lesson that I can share with you — stop wishing to go back; appreciate the present moment and know that you are perfect, just as you are. It’s time for us to start working with our bodies, not against them. And that starts with self-compassion.

This year, I became so frustrated that I just stopped. Stopped reading, studying for my next certification and pushing myself to learn more. Stopped trying to maintain a clean diet. Stopped running and working out. This was probably the best thing that could have happened. Gaining 25-pounds gave me the incredible opportunity to find a deeper appreciation for my body. When I look in the mirror, I see a body that supported me through another year full of challenges and changes. It was with me as I made some of the most difficult decisions of my life, as I faced fears and took risks. It experienced loss, heartache and fought extreme bouts of depression. It felt the rollercoaster ride of medication changes and suffered through the physical side effects. It worked 7-days/week with very little time off. It made sacrifices and endured sleepless nights. It got me up after those sleepless nights and devoted all of my attention to teaching and working with my clients. It gave me the energy to keep and maintain my personal relationships, even during times when I was feeling burned out and worn down. It broke down, fell apart and continued to carry me through. When I look in the mirror and see that my face is fuller, my stomach is rounder and my thighs are thicker, I see a woman who ventured into unknown territory and a body that supported that. This is the deepest level of self-compassion that I have ever achieved.

Despite what I do for a living, body acceptance has always been a HUGE struggle for me. I work in an industry that’s obsessed with physical appearance and my own weight has always been open to criticism. When I lose weight, I hear about it. When I gain weight, I hear about it. And as a professional, I’ve been guilty of not treating myself as a client. For many years, my irrational mind made me believe that I was somehow above my clients and peers; I was the exception to the rules. But truthfully, I’ve been fighting a painful battle with my weight and body-image for as long as I can remember. As an adult, my weight has fluctuated from 135-lbs to 185-lbs; I’ve worn everything from XS and size-0 to LG and size-13/14. And some people will argue that even at my biggest, I still looked good. But it’s not about how they feel about my body, it’s about how I feel about my body.

I’ve trained for specific athletic endeavors. I’ve trained for speed and power. I’ve trained for strength and hypertrophy. I’ve trained for endurance. I’ve trained for fat-loss. I’ve trained inconsistently without any structured program or methodology. I’ve trained obsessively without adequate rest. I’ve trained with injuries and physical ailments. I’ve struggled with depression, obsessive dieting and disordered eating patterns. I’ve struggled with the pressure of being a role-model that “walks their talk” and the scrutiny of colleagues and clients. I’ve struggled to keep a smile on my face and a positive attitude when someone makes comments about my weight fluctuations. I’ve struggled with feeling unworthy and not enough in my personal and professional life. I’ve struggled with my confidence as a professional because hiding these secrets makes me feel hypocritical and less credible. This is not my essence; this is not who I am.

Why am I telling you all of this? After over a decade of working in the fitness and wellness industry, I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with countless people dealing with similar struggles. I hear their stories, celebrate their successes and help them learn from their defeats. I laugh with them, cry with them and talk them off the ledge when they’re ready to jump. Why am I qualified to do these things? For the first time, I realize that it’s not the impressive resume of certifications that I’ve worked for years to build — it’s because I am one of them. Today, I embrace my story to help you change yours.

Truthfully, I’m not too concerned about the weight. I know my body will release it when it’s ready. So, I’m starting the new year with a focus on creating a lifestyle where I’m able to pay attention to my body in the way it deserves. I plan on sharing a series of posts over the next several weeks explaining what lifestyle changes I’ll be making in my life in order to take care of myself even better. It’s going to be a lot of little things, no drastic changes. And it will be a combination of what has worked for me in the past and new strategies that I’m excited about implementing.

If you’re interested, stay tuned!

My Love Note to 2017

Dear 2017,

Your predecessor (2016) was a year of breaking deeply-rooted patterns, letting go of attachments, graciously surrendering to hardship and supporting myself through extremely painful periods of grief. It was a year of intense healing and forging resiliency. It was a year of dissolving boundaries and consciously shedding layers of stories, identities I was invested in and roles that defined me. I finally learned how to fully love myself, feel completely worthy and no longer stuck in a disempowered narrative that had me believing that I am not enough. I learned how to show up authentically, connect from my heart and share these lessons with others.

But this year, it all fell apart.

I rapidly grew tired from trying to hold all the crumbling pieces of life together. I wanted to give up and throw the towel in, wave the white flag and call it quits. Some periods of life are not easy. They call for deep inner work and emotional heavy lifting. You blessed with me a year of important lessons and opportunities for massive growth. And those opportunities came with a whole lot of tears; I’ve cried more this year than any other year of my life.

You gave me the permission to get messy, fall apart and lose myself in the chaos. And you never failed to provide a silver lining in every heartbreak, every stumble and every shaken reality. You taught me how to shout “YES” to life at the top of my lungs, even in the darkest and most frightening moments. You helped my discover the power in my voice and for the first time in my life, I feel free from self-inflicted judgement. You showed me the incredible beauty in vulnerability. You worked your magic and invoked the parts of my self that have remained dormant all my life, helping me reconnect to them, setting them free, allowing them to integrate, so that I could become the full expression of who I truly am.

Thank you for divinely orchestrating every synchronistic moment, from the major shit-storms to the beautiful highlights filled with infinite amounts of love and light. There were some wonderful surprises this year, the kind that restore my faith and give me hope. In the process, I found family, friendship and sisterhood, the type of love that runs deep. Without it, I’m not sure where I would be.

For this and so much more, I thank you.

Merry Christmas, 2017

Many holidays were birthed from or originally contained rituals that were designed to help human beings connect to the seasons and the passage of time in meaningful ways, yet we seem to travel further and further away from these roots each year. To revitalize the meaning inherent to the holiday season, I always encourage people to create rituals for themselves that will remind them of the underlying principles of all rituals — to let go of what no longer serves your higher purpose and send an open invitation to the qualities that you would like to enhance in your life.

This is the time of year when we start to do a lot of things without much attention; we start running on automatic at the very time it would serve us best to be more intentional. There’s so much packed into the few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day that it hardly seems there could even be room for holes. And yet, they’re there — those spaces between what we’re doing and what it all really means. It’s easy to rush past the meaning in our efforts to just get it all done. This year, I made it a point to be intentional and fill those holes.

Beyond the decorating, shopping, cooking and parties, there are “reasons for the season” and if we put first the true meaning of our holidays, the real reason we have them in the first place, our priorities become clear, making it easier for us to follow suit with our actions. And if we take an honest look at our priorities, we can probably separate those things we do out of a sense of obligation and duty from those in which we truly find joy. This is what I deeply wanted — to slow down and focus on the true meaning of the holiday season, to establish and define traditions, to make the days leading up to Christmas be all about spreading pure love and joy. And here we are, with the actual holiday finally upon us.

Despite what the lyrics may say, the holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. I will admit, I’ve been struggling. This will be the first Christmas without two of my sisters and for the past several weeks, I’ve been desperately trying to avoid feelings of sadness — turning it off in public, so as not to dampen anyone else’s holiday spirit. Honestly, I’ve been hiding out in my apartment to avoid those uncomfortable moments. Because when you have lost someone special, your world loses its celebratory qualities; holidays only magnify the loss. For the past several weeks, I’ve been feeling fully overwhelmed by the realization that the gaping hole that is left behind by the loss of a loved one, is something that will never truly go away. I deeply and intimately know this, having been without my parents for most of my life adult life. This year, I find myself deep in the grieving process over my parents, sisters and friends that passed this year and before — every significant loss that I have ever experienced. It feels extremely raw and it’s a lot to process. Whenever I get impatient or frustrated with myself, I have to remember that there is no typical loss and no typical response to loss; our grief is as individual as our lives. And I need to give myself permission to be sad, to move through my grief in a way that feels comfortable.

If you’re facing a similar battle with grief, please know that you are never alone. And while the grief doesn’t go away, it will fade and every passing day, every passing holiday, every passing year will bring you a little bit closer to celebrating memories of your loved ones, the holiday season and the beauty of life again. We just have to remember that love and support is always there for us, even in ways that cannot be seen or comprehended. Give yourself permission to create meaning in your own way. Don’t hesitate to do whatever makes the holidays more meaningful and more bearable for you, but remember to create space to honor your grief and pain.

For me, there is always great pleasure in helping others and immersing myself in gratitude. And after a morning of teaching and volunteering with old and new friends, I’m looking forward to a quiet afternoon and evening of writing and reflection. There are so many wonderful things to be grateful for this year and I want to count those blessings. Even the saddest goodbyes ushered in the most amazing opportunities to open new doors, light the path of healing and ultimately, discover peace.

So, Merry Christmas! To anyone whose holiday plans are not shaping up as “expected,” I pray that you take comfort in what is, rather than what hasn’t come or what used to be. That you remember that the future is still bright. And that you carry the joy and surprise of the season with you, no matter if someone or something else comes along to share it with you. Whatever you’re going through right now, it’s my pleasure to share my own process and remind you that all you need this holiday season is a little faith, patience and YOU.

Self-Reflections on Happiness

Self-reflection is a humbling process and with only a few weeks left in 2017, I surrender and welcome whatever comes.

Something begins to change when you get closer to what really matters in life and love. You understand more and more just how much you have to be grateful for, even when life throws you for a loop. You begin to appreciate just how big the little things truly are and you finally get it — you get that happiness isn’t something you chase, it’s not somewhere you one day get to as if it were your final destination. Happiness, real happiness is something you create.

Truthfully, being happy isn’t easy. It requires a whole lot of you; it demands work. I will be the first to attest, something happens when you make the conscious choice to avoid numbing out. When you dig deep and work at it every single day. You realize that happiness isn’t so elusive after all. That in fact, it’s right there in your own two hands.

Happiness is an interior process and comes without validation from others. For me, this is a lesson that must be revisited every single day. I have found that the more time I spend alone, the more comfortable I become in my own skin because I can truly get to know myself. This arms me with more patience to accept myself as I am, wherever I am in my journey, on a daily basis.

And here’s the thing, we never have to push ourselves. We don’t have to try new things. We don’t have to get uncomfortable. There is no law that says we need to change things up in order to be happy and fulfilled. But regardless of what we choose, life will change around us and eventually make changes within us. The real choice is whether we want to open up to new possibilities or wait for the world to tell us what those possibilities are. So why not stand up, claim your power and chart the course for yourself? I mean, what if it actually works?

The Truth About The Truth

Here’s the truth about secrets, they hurt. And if they’re the type that slowly eat away and consume you, they will have a huge impact on your happiness and well-being. If nothing else, they’ll take energy away from your real purpose, whatever it may be. Secrets can do irrevocable amounts of harm, no matter what it is or who keeps it. It’s all completely relative. What the world needs more of is empathy, not judgment over who has the most pain or is entitled to it.

This year, I learned this devastating truth about the secrets we keep the hard way. And this lesson came at an enormous cost. Earlier in the year, I found myself keeping a coworker’s secret and ended up living in an indescribable nightmare for several months — I sacrificed myself, rode the downward spiral and walked hand-in-hand with the addiction that I was helping them hide. This decision didn’t serve me in any way, but it also didn’t serve the team or the individual that I was protecting. Looking back, I regret not saying something sooner. Maybe fewer people would have been impacted, maybe I would have had more peace of mind and less sleepless nights, maybe this person would have received the help they needed sooner.

In my role as a Chapter Advisor, the majority of my time is spent with risk-management. I’m in a constant process of identifying, assessing and controlling risks/threats to the chapter’s functioning and public image. But at the end of the day, the hard decisions and tough calls that I need to make are ultimately for the safety and well-being of the 80-100 collegiate women in the chapter and any future new members. And as you can imagine, not every choice that I make is favorable. But it never comes from a place of bad intention and it’s never a quick decision. Even when faced with a hard deadline, that deadline exists on the outside. I’ve learned that my inner instinct doesn’t work on timelines; it speaks loudest when I am willing to get quiet and sit with it. So, my first response to any tough decision is to pause and access patience.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for me has been the realization that somehow by choosing to be true to myself, I need to also be responsible for the reaction of others. That’s an incredible amount of pressure and nearly impossible to execute. As you’ve heard me say a hundred times before, the truth will set you free — but first, it will make everyone else around you incredibly uncomfortable. And I take responsibility for the fact that I’ve recently made a lot of people uncomfortable with my truth. I’m just thoroughly disheartened and disappointed by the lies and the rumors.

Here’s the thing, sometimes the right path isn’t the easiest one. And taking this path was not an easy choice; it wasn’t as simple as drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper, picking a side only when I was sure the great outweighed the not-so-great outcomes. It involved hours of hard conversations and talking myself off the ledge, it took energy away from the things that are actually important. And taking it to the source didn’t work, because no one was willing to listen. You can’t forcefully change anyone who’s not willing to see an issue in their actions. And no amount of positivity from a single individual can combat the toxic, negative energy from an entire group.

It’s really easy to point the finger, blame, criticize, spread rumors and talk shit. But in doing that, you’re really avoiding personal responsibility. No matter how good we may be at convincing ourselves of things, the moment we take the stories we tell ourselves as pure expressions of absolute truth, we are likely to lose touch with what is actually happening. In times of pain and discomfort, we’re most likely to lie to ourselves — we tell ourselves certain stories about why and how things unfolded, in an attempt to justify our position, to justify being right.

We cannot live our lives as authentic, truthful human beings until we live our life with honesty and integrity. Sure, some people will reject us. Some people may ridicule us, or even worse. As much as it pains me, I’m learning that it’s so much better to be authentic than popular. Why does growth have to fucking hurt this much?

Season of Giving

During the holidays, we shift our focus towards others with gift-giving and material objects. Why not start by being generous and kind to yourself instead? You have a lot of love in your heart; give some of it to yourself. Because we spend most of our lives trying to be good enough for somebody else and more often than not, we end up leaving ourselves last. We sacrifice our personal freedom to live according to somebody else’s point of view.

Why not put yourself first, maybe for the time in your life? Taking time for yourself is never a selfish practice. And learning how to love yourself unconditionally is the best gift you could possibly give yourself this holiday season. Once we learn to express ourselves authentically, we have infinite power to give to others.

I’ll admit, I’ve been overextending myself for others and not spending enough time taking care of my own needs. I accept where the choices I’ve made have taken me, but I aim to make more balanced ones from here on out. We get what we give and presence will always the best gift. Honor and celebrate the ways you can be present and show up for yourself. To truly give, you need to take care of yourself first. There needs to be a healthy balance between self-interest and sacrifice.

Mental & Emotional Purging

When the relationships we’ve worked hard to build for many years aren’t giving us the joy they once did or a sense of community and energy anymore, what do we do? What if it feels downright toxic and negative to be around them? Look at the relationships in your life and be honest about those that are purely negative. Can you let go of them entirely? Can you minimize your involvement?

Last week, I cleaned, organized and completely rearranged my physical environment. Now it’s time for the emotional purging; letting go of the things that will not serve my highest good in the upcoming year.

I’ve spent over a decade helping improve the lives of others through informed and inspired coaching, but I have no idea how to “raise the bar” for myself — at least, not in this moment. Truthfully, I’m afraid of standing in my own power because this means standing by myself. And what I don’t want you to know about me is that I’m terrified of being alone, I afraid to speak up and not be heard; the mask that I wear is orphan, the mask I wear is insignificant. But despite this, I’ve grown far too comfortable with being by myself; reaching out for help is often painstakingly difficult. It’s hard to be the person that everyone looks up to, because in the on-going attempt to “look good,” I always end up self-sabotaging.

My work has always provided a deep sense of security that I lack in other areas of my life, but it has always been just enough — never more, stagnant. This month has brought some unexpected disappointments and my first instinct was to try and control what was happening, to attempt to rearrange the world to feel better. But then I remembered, sometimes gifts and miracles are buried within things we don’t understand.

And this morning, just one simple statement shifted my entire perspective, “You’re in transition.” Today, I honor the space between and feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity to gauge my own bar from a brand new perspective. Raising the bar for myself in this transitionary period may not be the huge leaps and bounds that I’m used to, but that doesn’t mean the steps are any less meaningful or significant. Instead of fighting the discomfort, I need to let life unfold — as painful as that sometimes can be. Transition is awkward, but what is mine will come to me. How it will come is none of my business. My business is simple, show up and learn to let go of any outcome or expectation and be gentle and forgiving during the process.

Never be willing to compromise your peace of mind. If it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive! And as you release yourself from the weight of negative relationships or toxic environments, you can be free to grow in other directions and with other people who will nurture your spirit. You will breathe easier, feel stronger and lighter. All you need to do is have the courage let go and make space for what you wholeheartedly want.