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86 “Perfect”, Sub “Do Your Best”

Merriam-Webster defines perfectionism as “A disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable”.  Since acceptance is often pointed to as the key to happiness, perfectionist thinking can be pretty miserable to live with.  Rather than the noble pursuit of all things good and holy, perfectionist thinking has been linked to depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and suicide.

Since the outside world tends to be largely out of one’s control, perfectionist tendencies often get channeled inward, making one’s body a perfect target.  The problem with this is, like life itself, the body is not static.  Therefore, “perfect” does not realistically exist outside of the mind.  Holding on too tightly to an unrealistic ideal is not only unhelpful, it can be harmful.  So what’s a wellness warrior to do?

Instead of telling you to swap out salad for french fries, I’d encourage you to swap out the idea of “being perfect” for “doing your best”.  As corny as it sounds, it’s the one mental shift that seems to make the biggest difference in overall health and wellness.  Don’t get it twisted,  it sounds simplistic but can be extremely difficult to do.

Swapping out the idea of “being perfect” for “doing your best” means letting go of some magical thinking.  It’s like the grown up equivalent of learning there is no Santa Claus.  It can be jarring and more than a little bit sad to realize your vision may not equate with reality.  Accepting that no matter how little you eat or how much you run your legs will never grow four inches to look like those of a supermodel is disappointing (yeah, it’s straight up embarrassing how long it took me to reconcile with that little tidbit…).  You know what’s not sad?  Realizing that maybe it doesn’t matter so much after all.

Once you get (or more accurately continue to work on getting…) the self criticism under control, it’s time to deal with that which comes from the outside.  Direct or indirect, messages about what we should look like or how we should feel don’t miraculously dissolve into a puddle of bliss the moment we decide to accept ourselves.  The best we can do is realize (or more accurately continue to work on realizing…) that we don’t need others approval in the same way we don’t need their criticism.  Now here is the fun part:

Once the rest of that junk is out of the way, we are free to focus on what is left.  Getting to know and moving through our own innate rhythms and cycles can actually be pretty interesting.  Noticing, acknowledging, and acting on what we learn is a perpetual practice.  The more we attune to this fact, the easier it is to find satisfaction in a perfectly imperfect body.

I may be writing like a teacher on this subject but in practice I feel more like a kindergartener.  Thought paradigms can be challenging to shift, but neuroplasticity is a real thing, so that’s promising….

As for the title of this post, J and I met while working in an infamous New York City steakhouse.  When the kitchen ran out of an item it was said to be “86ed”.  Since we met we’ve 86ed animal products from our diet and late night bar crawls from our social lives….maybe 86ing perfectionist thinking isn’t too far behind.

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We’re not in New York City anymore…….

 

 

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Planes, Trains, and Acai Bowls

We’ve had a whirlwind of travel over the past month (full disclosure whirlwind = two trips, but for this homebody that’s pretty decent….).  First we went north and T was delighted to take two planes, a bus, and a rental car to visit family.  Next we went south by car to a beautiful beach where more family met us (and which we hope Hurricane Florence decides to take mercy on).

Staying healthy on the road can be tough.  I am a big fan of coming back from travel feeling better than when I left.  Though there are some very valid arguments for ditching routines all together during this time, with a little creativity it can be possible to maintain a sense of equilibrium.  Who knows, you might even create some new healthy habits along the way.

The following are my top tips for feeling robust on the road:

-Embrace the Change in Routine: Rolling with the punches is not only good for the brain, it is great for the body.  Walk or run on some new terrain.  Climb umpteen stairs to view a touristy attraction.  Boogie board like you own the ocean (just try not to land on your head like I did…..).

-Bring Some Gear: Simple equipment like yoga mats and exercise bands pack easily and can inspire some much needed movement after sitting in a teeny tiny seat.

-Hydrate, Hyrate, Hydrate: If there was a traveling MVP, the reusable water bottle would be it.  Considering that most airports now have filtered filling stations, it’s a wonderful way to save money, time, and the planet.

-Stay Somewhere with a Kitchen: Thanks to the popularity of companies like Air B and B, finding a place to stay with a workable kitchen has become much easier.  Not having to rely on restaurants for every meal is not only healthier, but also cheaper.

-Don’t Forget to Breathe:  Travel with family can be hectic.  Even if the agenda is tight, carving out some personal time for quiet contemplation can mean the difference between surviving your travels and actually enjoying them.  For ideas on simple ways to incorporate a mindfulness practice into your day check out my Mindfulness Monday series.

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Green smoothie break for a tired traveling T…..
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Gaining Wholeness with Exercise

You may not be surprised to hear that, in my work as a personal trainer, clients want me to help them lose weight.  And it’s tricky.  Personally, I’ve seen weight obsession suck the joy out of movement for way too many people (present company included!).  Focusing on losing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Focusing on gaining is where it’s at.

Instead of focusing on what they can lose with exercise, I encourage my clients to focus on what they can gain.  Movement is more than simply a means to an end.  It can be a form of self expression.  It can allow us to see the world from a new perspective.  It can bring clarity to the mind.  It can bring peace to the soul.

It’s possible that exercise can assist in weight loss if that is a goal.  Letting it be low on a list of priorities is far more effective (and pleasant!) than creating an obsession around it.  Connecting in a positive way with one’s body is just one of the many possible items that might grace the top of the list.

The following are a few super reasons to move that bod that have nothing to do with losing and everything to do with gaining:

Gain Happiness:  Exercise changes the brain in very positive ways, making it less prone to stress and anxiety and more receptive to positive states.  The increase in sensitivity to hormones such as serotonin and norepinephrine, combined with an increase in endorphin production, is a veritable recipe for mood elevation.

Gain Strength: Weak bones and muscles lead to increased injury and impaired locomotion.  Performing weight-bearing exercise strengthens both and supports the freedom to move about the world in a more comfortable way.

Gain Energy:  Along with proper nutrition and rest, exercise has a major impact on overall energy.  Major benefits have been shown in not only healthy individuals, but also those with chronic progressive illness like multiple sclerosis and chronic fatigue syndrome.

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My little serotonin junky, happy and sweaty sliding at the park…..
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To Be Continued….

There’s a new little rat in town….off performing auntly duties, be back Friday 8/31 with some new content!

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Photo credit: https://www.boredpanda.com/rats-teddy-bears-ellen-van-deelen-jessica-florence/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic