Stressed? Science Says Smell THIS!

Mamas—raise your hand if you’ve found yourself stressed out in the last week? Day? Hour?

Ha! Ladies, I know my audience, and I’m thinking pretty much every hand is up right now. (If not, I’d love to know your secret. Let’s talk. Like, really.)

Well, for starters, know that if you’re feeling the stress, you’re not alone. And secondly, you’ll be happy to know that the antidote no longer requires a trip to the rose garden…though that probably wouldn’t hurt.

A recent study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports that a woman’s stress level can drop when she takes a whiff of her romantic partner’s t-shirt.

Researchers studied 96 opposite-sex couples and had the men wear the same t-shirt for 24 hours with no deodorant or scented body products to interfere with their natural scents. The t-shirts were then frozen to preserve the smells, and later presented to the women in a series of experiments. Some women were given the t-shirt of a stranger to smell, others their own romantic partner’s. The women were then given mock job interviews and difficult math problems to solve in order to raise stress levels.

After the “tests” were performed, the women were asked to rate their own stress levels and provide saliva samples in order to measure cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. Unsurprisingly, the women who were provided with the shirts of their partners had lower overall stress levels than those of their counterparts in the study, suggesting that the familiar scent of a loved one can create a sense of safety and calm, even during a stressful situation.

So, the next time you find yourself worrying over that mountain of unwashed laundry, just stop and…well, smell the dirty laundry.

 

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Science Says 15 Minutes Can Fix This Common Disorder

Did you know that the average American child spends over seven hours in front of a screen every single day?

It’s a mind-blowing number that becomes even more shocking when compared to the research showing that same child spends less than ten minutes in freeform outdoor play per day. It hardly seems possible when I think about my own dirt-road upbringing, but given the onslaught of increasingly pervasive technology, Nature Deficit Disorder has become a legitimate threat in today’s world.

The term itself may seem a little hokey, and is not actually medically diagnosed, but the data is there to back it up. Access to open, green environments has proven to have a positive impact in children studied throughout the years in critical areas such as confidence, academic achievement, stress-relief, and social and emotional well-being.

As adults, we have all experienced that literal and metaphorical breath of fresh air when we make the time to get outside—away from phones, televisions, laptops, tablets…need I continue? It’s no different for our kids. The stresses of growing and learning can weigh heavy, and children are desperate (despite their moaning at our demands for screen-free time) for that relief. Just fifteen minutes a day can make all the difference.

So, schedule some time to get outside with your kids this week. And better yet, encourage them to play freely while you take in some fresh air of your own. We’ll all feel healthier for it.

 

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Science Says: Have Your Cake And…Fiber, Too.

Remember the good old days when a well-rounded diet consisted of meat, potatoes, bread slathered in butter, the occasional veggie, and a beautiful display-worthy cake every night for dessert? (Wait, was this the 1950s or a dream I had the other night…? Really hard to tell.)

Either way, those dreams have been crushed as every diet in the book has risen to the surface over the years, each preaching a contradictory message to the last:

No meat! All meat! No starch! No carbs! Aaaaaaaall the carbs! No fat! All fat! How could anyone make sense of all the options?

Thankfully, science is now telling us that we are free to have our cake, as long as we have some fiber, too.

Recent research done by the University of Georgia tells us that in tests conducted where each group was fed either a high-fiber diet, a high-fat diet, or a high-fat diet supplemented with fiber, the latter didn’t come out looking half bad. While the high-fiber diet group came out of the study with the best overall gut health, those that ate the high-fat diet supplemented with fiber had less weight gain and obesity than the solely high-fat dieters. The fiber supplements also helped decrease the size of fat cells, regulate blood sugar, and lower cholesterol.

I bet those bran flakes aren’t looking too bad right about now!

So, it looks like we can put the diet battle to rest at last as moderation in all things is probably our best bet. Especially since I am now justified in finishing off the ice cream tonight because I had a bowl of ultra-fibrous peas at dinner. Win.

 

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How to Start (and Keep) Friendships as an Introvert

Very few people who meet me would ever consider me an introvert. I dance this weird line of being an extroverted introvert.  When I get in a group I am very chatty (too chatty?) and loud and comical and can’t really turn it off. It’s more of a coping mechanism because meeting new people skyrockets my anxiety. I become incredibly self-conscious. I second guess everything I say and then replay it in my head for weeks (sometimes months).  I don’t need to socialize outside of my 1-2 closest friends (and even they rarely see me).  If you call, count on me not answering (why? why would you not text?!). If I do socialize, I am going to need a day or two to recover, so no, I won’t be going out again with you this week… When people ask what I am doing for my birthday, I feel ashamed to admit that I just want everyone out of the house so I can lay in my flannel sheets and watch all the grown-up shows I can’t watch while my kids are awake. All day.

In high school I had a frustrating phone call with my very, very best friend at the time.  I really liked like naps. I grew up in the pacific northwest where it was cold and I hate being cold.  School was too early, and I am the furthest thing from a morning person. My preferred after-school routine was to walk in the door, cover the heater vent with a blanket to create a cocoon of heat and nap. I loved this routine. Apparently, this isn’t a good routine for a high school social life.  As my friend dragged me out of my nap with yet another phone call, she began to tell me how bad of a friend I was because I didn’t like to talk on the phone to her. What she didn’t understand is that I didn’t like to talk on the phone to anyone. And I just saw her at school! What really could have happened between 3pm and 6pm?? This was the moment our friendship started to see trouble. I never initiated communication with her outside of school. She was always the one dragging me around.  Which I loved, but that one-sided love can only last so long.

                source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/1407443614173492/

 

Here I am 20 years later and just now learning that no matter how much of an introvert I am, if I really like someone and want them as a friend, I need to start by doing these 3 things.

ANSWER THE PHONE.

Why is this so hard?!  It seems simple to all you non-introverts, but this is a miserable task. When I get a phone call I am put on the spot and have to answer and discuss unknown questions and topics. I have no time to prepare myself or look at my calendar to find potential ways to already be busy for whatever they want to invite me to.  However, people call you because they WANT to talk to you! Answering phone calls will make them feel as though you are engaged and not avoiding them.

INITIATE OUTINGS.

I love it when plans are canceled. Doesn’t matter who with — I just love the feeling that falls off my shoulders when I HAD to do something and now don’t have to.  However, you don’t get friends by canceling plans whenever possible. Sometimes you MUST be the person who initiates social outings. It could be as simple as a movie at your house, a quick lunch with the kids at a nearby park, or even a quick coffee. Any time together is an expression of love and caring; it’s saying “Hey, I like you and want to spend time with you.” (Imagine that!) 

BE OPEN ABOUT BEING AN INTROVERT.

Some people may not fully understand what you are saying when you tell them you are an introvert. So if you really like someone and really do want to be their friend, you have to communicate to them about who you are.  One of my dearest friends is the best kind of introvert friend ever. I often tell people we became friends after she tried to date me for a year.  She NEVER gave up on me. I remember plenty of texts where I bowed out of plans or invites and followed it up with “Please don’t give up on me. Still invite me.” And she did. Even though I said no most of the time, she never let me go too long without seeing her face or getting a text. Soon enough she was a safe, anxiety-free place for me to land…and now she gets video chats about my dirty clothes pile.

Introverts are tough to be friends with. Trust me when I say that just because we really like being home and doing “boring” things that don’t involve socializing, it doesn’t mean we want to be forgotten or left out of the invites (and all you introverts — you have to say this to people!! They don’t know!). We just need time and space to figure out when we are comfortable enough to get involved. 

 

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What Is Normal Eating?

At this time of the year when so many people are making goals around food and eating, it’s a good time to be reminded about what constitutes normal eating habits.

The best quote comes from fellow dietitian and author Ellyn Satter, who is known for her Eating Competence Model. She is more concerned about helping you develop eating confidence and competence versus developing uber-healthy eating habits.

In essence, you would do well to learn how to self-moderate and trust yourself to make wise decisions around food than to stick to certain outside rules or guidelines for eating. Her definition of “normal eating” will help explain this concept:

“Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it — not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.”

What this definition does is normalize a wide variety of eating behaviors. Eating should be flexible, variable, satisfying, nourishing and enjoyable. It shouldn’t be obsessive, preoccupying, rigid, overwhelming or worrisome.

If your eating habits currently feel chaotic and haphazard or restrictive and obsessive, this can feel very out of reach. So how do you get there?

Recommendations for normal eating

1. Don’t tell yourself there are certain foods you can’t have. That will only work to increase anxiety around food and will encourage all-or-nothing behaviors. When you know you can have a food anytime you really want it, its power over you decreases. On the other hand, if you know this is the last time you’ll be able to have it (or at least the last time this week or this month, etc.), you’re going to have all of it right now, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. It’s much easier to behave in a level-headed, sane and wise way around food when you aren’t being micromanaged by rules.

2. We tend to run scared of feeling satisfied because we equate it with overeating. However, satisfaction is our solution. Eat for the intent to feel satisfied. Eating to feel satisfied naturally decreases overeating or under eating because neither of those are satisfying (rather, uncomfortable or painful). Feeling full and satisfied from your meals and snacks is your solution. Not feeling full and satisfied is what leads to problematic behaviors.

3. Normal eating is about being intentional, mindful and aware. Instead of tracking calories or portion sizes, note hunger and fullness levels before and after eating, while paying attention to how the food makes you feel. After a meal or snack are you left feeling satisfied? Energized? Lethargic? Still hungry? Balanced? Get curious about how you feel and function instead of being judgmental about what you look like or weigh. This will help connect you to intuitive signals that will naturally guide eating instead of outside rules or measurements.

4. As mentioned, normal eating includes being mindful. While it’s not realistic that we always eat without distractions, aim to show up to your meals with awareness. You are more likely to know when you are full and satisfied if you are paying attention. Maybe set a goal to do this with one meal or one snack each day.

Becoming a normal eater is possible for everyone. In fact, you aren’t learning something new, you are remembering something you were innately born with. Keep that in mind as you practice — you can trust yourself with food.

 

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Holiday Survival Guide – How To Navigate Food

The holiday season is full of opportunities for celebrating gratitude, family, love, faith and service.  Food is often a big part of those celebrations, as it should be!  However, it’s during the holiday season that many are tempted to adopt an all-or-nothing attitude toward food, throwing all caution to the wind only to punish themselves come January.  Instead of falling prey to extremes in thinking and behavior that only leave you feeling exhausted physically and emotionally, these tips are aimed to help you enjoy the holiday season without feeling the need to pay penance.

1.  First and foremost, don’t plan to diet or follow some sort of meal plan after the new year. That’s a sure fire way to trigger the all-or-nothing mindset during the holidays.  If you know restriction, deprivation or a diet is around the corner, it can create “last meal syndrome” where you get all of it right now even if it means consistently feeling stuffed and uncomfortable.

2. Along with that, be sure you are eating consistently, regularly and adequately rather than skipping meals or saving up for holiday meals.  If you go into a meal starving, it’s hard to stay level headed about how much and what you eat.  Regular, balanced meals will stabilizes blood sugar levels, which helps to reduce cravings. It also influences mood regulation as well as overall hormonal balance.  That’s going to come in very handy in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and managing stressful situations and schedules.  Taking care of yourself doesn’t need to come last!

3.  I would recommend approaching holiday meals like any other meal.  While it may include traditional foods, seeing the holiday meal as different usually means you choose to eat differently, losing sight of listening to hunger or fullness levels.  Remember that you can have tasty, flavorful, satisfying meals any day of the year. This doesn’t have to be reserved only for holidays. Even make your favorite holiday dish at other times during the year or at least during the season.

4.  LOVE the food you are eating.  Get picky – eat what is truly satisfying and enjoyable for you.  If you find yourself eating a treat or a portion of your meal that doesn’t taste good, leave it behind and move on to something that does.  If you love your Grandma’s pumpkin pie and she only makes it once a year on Thanksgiving, you better have a piece but allow yourself to eat it without self-inflicted shame or guilt.

5.  Make memories and find meaning in what you’re celebrating. Food is a fun part of that – and perhaps symbolic – but it’s not THE celebration.  That can help put food in perspective, making it less overwhelming or preoccupying.

6.  You may overeat, that happens.  Trust that your body knows how to self-moderate; it can handle it without needing self-imposed restriction and rules.  Be intentional about listening and learning and respecting what it’s needing.  That could take practice!  Recommit to yourself rather than recommitting to a diet or set of food rules.

I wish you nothing but a healthy, happy and mindful holiday season!

holiday food

 

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Life After Birth: 5 Ways to Take Care Of Yourself

Check out part one and part two of our series of frequently asked questions on postpartum mood disorders. We are offering an exclusive discount to Today’s Mama’s readers. Enter code HMHBLOVESTM to take $40 off a lifetime membership to our program. In our two-part series on postpartum mental health, we mentioned the idea of upping your self-care game if you have the baby blues. (Please note: the baby blues is not a postpartum mood disorder. Read our previous posts for a clear explanation and check out this post about baby blues vs. postpartum depression.) Self-care is often neglected during the blur of new motherhood, so we hope these fun ideas will tempt you to treat yourself and indulge in some much deserved YOU time.

Enjoy Some Water Therapy

Budget: Ask your partner, a friend, family member or sitter to take your little(s) for an hour of uninterrupted time. Fill up your tub and add your favorite bubbles, oils, or salts (we love these Ancient Minerals bath salts). Light a candle, and turn on your favorite Pandora station loud enough to cancel out any potential baby/toddler noises. Make sure to lock the door, so your zen isn’t interrupted.

Splurge: Consider checking out a float tank (get approval from your provider first!) in your area. Float tanks (sometimes called sensory deprivation tanks) are large, light- and sound-free chambers concentrated with Epsom salt so your body floats to the surface. It can be used as a tool for stress and pain management. If you don’t have any float tank companies in your area, consider getting a day pass to a local spa that has a hot tub. Either way, you’ll still get some deep relaxation and restorative time alone.

Find A Supportive Community

We were designed to mother in communities. Reaching out for help is life skill that you can start practicing today! Sometimes a good laugh or venting session with a friend can help do the trick. Other times, you may need a more experienced professional to step in.

Budget:  Set up a babysitting swap with another mama friend. You watch her kid(s) while she enjoys some alone time, and next time she’ll watch yours. Don’t have any close mama friends? Ask anyone you trust to watch your little(s) and you can “repay” them with a coffee or have them over for dinner once you’re feeling up to it. Don’t want to be alone? Strap the baby in the stroller, grab a friend, go for a walk, and allow yourself an hour to just vent on how freaking hard motherhood is. Once you’re done releasing, discuss ways you can troubleshoot the difficult situations. Need professional support? Check out Postpartum Support International’s free, live “Chats With an Expert” which are facilitated by licensed mental health professionals. You can also see if your insurance covers visits to health professionals, such as a behavioral health and marriage and family therapists.

Splurge: Hire a personal trainer, registered dietitian (this may be covered by your insurance), life coach, or business coach who can offer you personalized strategies to reach your unique goals, whatever they may be.

Streamline Your Beauty Routine

I mean, you’re absolutely stunning without makeup, but sometimes it just feels nice to spend a few minutes brushing your hair and taking care of your skin. Take some time to figure out a quick beauty routine that works for you. If you know you can breeze through your beauty routine in under 10 minutes with products you love to use, you’ll probably make regular time to do so.

Budget: We all have that one friend who has fantastic hair and makeup. Ask her if she’d come over to take a look at your makeup drawer and help you figure out which products to keep; which products to toss; which products to invest in; and how to organize everything. She’ll be honored to share her tips with you, and you’ll get some girlfriend time in!

Splurge: Consider going to a local Ulta or department store make-up counter and have them give you a quick make-over. You’ll likely have to purchase a product and/or pay a small fee for the service, but it can be a fun, new way to recreate your style. Ask for a simple routine to keep it reasonable! Or, you can try Beautycounter’s 5-Minute Face Kit. You could also go to a nice salon and get a great new haircut. Ask the stylist for some tips for fabulous, low-maintenance style!

Channel Your Inner Bookworm

I’m talking fiction — dramatic, juicy, “I can’t put it down” books. I’m NOT talking sleep training books and the other millions of baby books that make you doubt your mama instincts. Pick a new favorite tome and find some time to read each week.

Budget: Head to your library and find something that will take your mind off of mom-ing for awhile. You may be able to time it just right to join the library’s mommy and me group while you’re there! Or, you could also borrow a book from a friend, family member, or neighbor who has similar interests. Consider joining a book club. You might be able to find a local one on Meetup, or you can join an online book club on Instagram, like Belletrist, Book Bento, or RWBookClub.

Splurge: Consider getting a Kindle or Audible membership to keep your personal library fresh with new options.

Get Help with Grocery Shopping and Food Prep

Budget:  Consider a time-saving grocery service, like Instacart. Some popular local grocery stores also offer this service, and Amazon Prime Now delivers groceries in specific areas. You could also host a  weekly meal swap with your neighbors/community, where you each make a few batches of your favorite meal. Then you can “trade” batches of your meal for other meals so you get a variety of meals throughout the week, with less work and prep time.

Splurge: Let meal-delivery companies do the cooking for you! There are plenty of Whole30 Approved options out there. If cooking relaxes you, but you’d like help with some of the prep work, consider a service like SunBasket. Maybe meal planning gets you down. In that case, a subscription to RealPlans might be the ticket. It will save you tons of time planning and you’ll find delicious, new recipes to keep your meals exciting.

Bonus ideas from our HMHB Community:

“Tiara time” Dedicate at least 5-minutes to yourself.  You can designate this time by literally putting on a toy tiara, or by sitting in a certain spot in your house. When your partner or (older) kids see that, they’ll know that you need a minute to recharge and that they can’t interrupt you until it’s over.

Purchase a new coffee mug with a fun slogan Choose something to make you smile every morning. I like mugs from Brim Papery and The Love Bomb Company.

Start a new hobby or rekindle an old passion. Strap on your dusty rollerblades, learn how to kickbox, decorate cakes, play piano, color, or dance. The options are endless!

Walk around Target without a child or a time limit What else is there to say?

Recognize Yourself

The simplest way to take care of yourself? Remind yourself that you’re still you! It’s important to “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” In order to be the best version of yourself, you need to have your own needs met, and this includes taking time for self-care. When you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re more likely to pick arguments with your partner, yell at your kids, and emotionally eat. Simply taking a few minutes for yourself each day can make all the difference. Give it a shot, mama! What do you have to lose? What’s your favorite way to take care of yourself? Join the conversation on Instagram or send us an email.


Steph(hi)-6Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice, RockYourHormones.com.

 

 

Note: Some of the links contained in this website are affiliate links. This means that we may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase from the affiliate. We only recommend products and services that we know or trust to be of high quality, whether an affiliate relationship is in place or not.

 

Complaining Is Actually Making Your Stressful Holiday WORSE

It is not unusual to be frazzled or stressed during the last months of the year and so many celebrations crammed into 2 months time. With family parties, school parties, gift buying, gift giving, delivery deadlines, finding time for traditions, decorating, baking, sending out cards and making everything absolutely PERFECT for your children so that they’ll always remember the magic of the season, it’s obviously a cause for elevated stress level. And then you check your Instagram only to see that everyone else seems to be doing it better than you with beautiful smiles and stylish holiday decor.

via GIPHY

But before I give you permission to complain about all that and more, here’s why complaining will actually make your holidays worse.

Complaining rewires your brain.

Complaining is totally normal and we’re all prone to do it. It feels as if it’s helping because for the moment, you’re blowing off steam. With all the pressures and the to-do’s during the holidays, it can breed negativity if you let it. The more frequently you complain, your brain will make it easier to complain in the future – basically, your brain will rewire itself. So, over time, that negativity will become second nature. If you’re turning to negative thoughts more frequently, it will be more difficult for you to break that habit. Do you know one of those people that is constantly negative? They likely didn’t get there overnight. Practice makes perfect.

Complaining is bad for your health. 

So what’s the harm in complaining, even if it does rewire your brain to make it second nature to complain more? Complaining can actually harm your health. We all know how stressful the holidays are already, you won’t want to compound that stress.  Dr. Travis Bradberry wrote, “When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, for example, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be prepared to either escape or defend yourself.

All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.”

Joining the pity party.

You know that saying that misery loves company? Same goes for complainers. You seek validation for your complaints and then it just becomes a time for those who commiserate to join in the complaining. The negativity grows and you don’t want your most memorable party during the holidays to be a pity party. The holidays are a time for you to enjoy being with family and friends and being in a complaining cycle is not where you want to wallow.

 

Here are some ways to dial down the stress.

 

Make your complaint have a purpose.

Complaining in and of itself is not necessarily a problem. It’s the constant complaining that breeds negativity that can be a problem. If you have a complaint – something that you require a solution or a resolution to, take a step back and evaluate. What the problem is and how you can solve it? If you get angry every year because a member of your extended family forgets about your child’s very serious food allergy, address it before it becomes a problem when you are in a good place instead of testing them to see if they’ll remember and then complaining when they don’t. If you can identify the things you are most likely to complain about, you may be able to prevent it in the first place. And if you can’t, make sure that when you do have a complaint, you can use it constructively. Evaluate if it is worth addressing and if you can find a solution.

Stay positive and turn things around.

Just as complaining can become a problem, doing the opposite can bring more joy to the holidays. Yes, this means focusing on the good things, perhaps altering your attitude but the results will be worth it. If something about the holidays drives you crazy, do you really need to be doing it? If those neighbor gifts are becoming more of a burden than an expression of friendship, it’s time for you to ask what your goal is and if what you are doing is achieving that goal. Would a short, handwritten note suffice rather than an elaborate gift suffice?

Each year, a friend of mine would ask me if I was sending Christmas cards. For some reason this stressed me out and began to irritate me because it made me focus on my short-comings. I’m more of an every-other year lady in that department and having someone ask me about it was making me anxious. A few years ago, I got the e-mail again asking if I was sending cards and asking me for one and I realized that it was super important to her. It dawned on me that I could just send her one card without needing to send cards to everyone on our list. I turned something that was driving me crazy into something that I love doing now because I changed my perspective and realized something that required hardly anything from me was something very big for her.

via GIPHY

Let it go. 

When all else fails, let it go. A friend of mine years ago told me to pretend I was a sea otter and let it all just roll off of my back like water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that trick. Sometimes you can’t change a person or a situation but you can change yourself. You can choose to let it go. I don’t get hung up on the fact that I really wanted to make gingerbread houses and I just couldn’t find the time this year. Instead of venting about how I’m letting my family down by not finding that precious gingerbread house building time, I check myself and ask myself if it is worth giving that negativity a voice. No, I’m not perfect and neither are my holidays. But I’m going to do my very best to enjoy every bit and let go of all the rest.

 

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Cultivating Gratitude For Your Body

We live in a weight- and body-shape-obsessed society, and it’s easy (and normal) to develop body dissatisfaction.

I recently heard the term “normative discontent,” coined in the 1980s by researchers who found widespread negative body image, particularly among women, in the United States. I really love it, I think it describes the issue perfectly, and also makes it so obvious how easily we fall prey to cultural norms, even if they make us miserable.

Essentially, it’s become really normal and socially acceptable to hate your body to the point that if you don’t, you are the minority. Isn’t that sad? While this may be more common among women, men come under the same pressure to look a certain way.

It starts young, too. A staggering 42 percent of girls in first through third grades want to be thinner, while 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Further, eating disorders affect 10 million females and 1 million males.

body positive girls happy

While there are many causes for developing eating disorders, we see exponential increases in body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal (or muscular ideal) and disordered eating with increases in exposure to media and popular fitness culture. Feeling inferior or flawed can make us desperate, as evidenced by the $60 billion diet industry.

Why cultivating gratitude can help

As a nutrition professional who regularly counsels individuals with disordered eating and body hatred, I have found real benefit in helping clients cultivate a sense of gratitude for their bodies.

With such extreme societal pressures, it may not feel realistic to love — or even like — your body, at least right now. It may be easier to practice body respect, weight neutrality and less emphasis on appearance in general. Shifting focus from appearance to how your body feels or functions can help cultivate gratitude for what it can do, or what it allows you to do.

This quote from Robert Holden perfectly summarizes why I feel cultivating gratitude for your body is so effective, “The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”

As you cultivate gratitude for your body, you embrace where you are, allowing you to connect with what your body needs. This leads you to take care of yourself in a way that can bring about improvements in overall health and well-being. It has nothing to do with changing or manipulating your body and everything to do with supporting, respecting and caring for it. If your body changes as a result, then there’s that.

If it doesn’t, it’s no less deserving of support, respect and self-care.

 

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How do you do that?

So how can you cultivate gratitude? When I think of November I think of cooler weather, crisp and juicy apples and Thanksgiving. Most notably, I love the reminder November brings to practice gratitude.

This November I am about 6 months pregnant.  I’ve had really positive body image throughout my pregnancy and obviously that has nothing to do with getting smaller.  My belly is growing and some of the rest of me is too.  But because this pregnancy was such a huge surprise and I really didn’t ever imagine I would be pregnant again, I’ve had such a profound sense of gratitude for my body and for all it’s doing to grow a baby.  I have no idea how to do that, but it does, and I’ve trusted it to let me know what it needs.  That may be extra food or rest or physical activity or something else entirely.  I’ve had gratitude and trust for my body which I know is the reason for my positive body image.

That’s important because we typically think of positive body image happening after we change or manipulate our body to be smaller or stronger or fit any other societal expectation.  In reality, you can cultivate body trust and gratitude right now.

love yourself body positive

I asked some of my favorite body image gurus to comment ideas for how to cultivate gratitude.  I hope you find their insight helpful.

“Feeling thankful for one’s body often doesn’t come easily, but everyone can develop a practice of body gratitude. No matter what your size, fitness level or health status, your body is doing its best by you. Begin by choosing one part of your body and saying something positive about it. If this feels too scary, start with an easier, less triggering body part. It could be as simple as, ‘My ears keep me connected to the people I love by letting me hear their voices. I love to listen to my children’s stories.'” — Barbara Spanjers, therapist and wellness coach

“Learning to cultivate gratitude for your body can feel really difficult when you are struggling with negative body image. One way to combat that is to allow yourself to let in a mix of feelings — both positive and negative. Giving yourself permission to feel grateful for a healthy set of lungs won’t eliminate the judgment you feel about your thighs. But it will open the door for you to have a more nuanced experience of your body rather than one that is dominated by negativity. This will help open the door to a more peaceful relationship to your body.” — Marci Evans, registered dietitian and food and body image healer

“YOGA! Yoga was the beginning of my well-being journey, and it continues to prove itself valuable. No matter the pose, I feel as though it’s the best way to express gratitude for my body. I accept my body exactly how it is, which creates a space to stretch a little further if it feels right. If not, I’m still breathing, and that alone is something to be grateful for.” — Maggie Danforth, registered dietitian

gratitude body image healthy yoga

“Body-hatred takes time to learn and thus, it makes sense that body neutrality (or even body love) is a process that takes time as well.” — Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW, psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist

I hope this has given you an idea of how to practice body gratitude. While it’s tempting to think you can hate yourself into feeling motivated to change your body, it’s never effective, it keeps you stuck and only causes emotional distress. I know food and body peace is possible and cultivating gratitude is the path to get there.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

 

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The Most Accurate Labor Simulation Video I’ve Ever Seen

As a doula I’m constantly answering some of the most random and personal questions about childbirth, women’s health and people’s most private parts.  One of the most popular questions first-time-mom’s ask is “what does labor feel like?”  That is such a difficult question to answer, but the following video is the most accurate labor simulation video I’ve ever seen!  While it can’t fully describe the sensation of labor, it does a good job of pinpointing where those sensations are happening and what they’re doing!  In this shockingly accurate demonstration, Liz Chalmers, owner at the Puget Sound Birth Center in Kirkland, Washington, and Renton, Washington, is going to change the way you think about childbirth:

The video, which was originally uploaded to Facebook and has over 2 million views, was a teaching exercise Liz made for her niece Charlotte, who is in the process of becoming a childbirth educator in New Zealand.  Liz starts by explaining she learned this demonstration from a workshop called “Stomp Out Boring Childbirth.” She inserts the ping pong ball into the balloon and inflates it halfway.

 

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balloon uterus birth demonstration with ping pong ball

Then she uses her hands to demonstrate the difference between real contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions. Braxton Hicks are contractions that don’t do much (which is easily showcased with this object lesson) and real contractions help move the ping pong ball down and out.  “Real contractions happen at the top of the uterus.  That’s where the power of contractions happens.  The muscle fibers at the top getting shorter and thicker which squeeze the top and pull up on the side of the uterus” teaches Liz.

balloon uterus birth demonstration with ping pong ball

Braxton Hicks tend to squeeze the uterus in general, while actually contractions can be felt more in the top and back of the uterus.  She also explains effacement and dilation better than any book ever could, by squeezing the balloon the same way actual contractions do, showing how the cervix works.  This video is such a good visual for women to understand that just because dilation isn’t happening doesn’t mean progression isn’t happening and dilation isn’t necessarily the best measure to validate labor.

 

See More:  5 Questions to Answer Before Your Baby’s Birth

 

balloon uterus birth demonstration with ping pong ball

Finally the balloon “delivers” the ping pong ball.  How cool is that??!  I’m absolutely amazed at how a balloon and a ping pong ball can so easily show the principles of dilation and effacement.  I’ve never seen anything this visually effective!

Are you expecting?  Was this helpful?

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