Tag Archives: Body Image

Boosting Plus Size Teens’ Body Image and Self-Esteem in Today’s Image Conscious World

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According to niddk.nih.gov, young people from the ages of two years through nineteen years, the obesity rate has skyrocketed to over 31% In a society whose media is crazed by ultra-thin models, actors, and Instagram stars, this means one of every three teens you meet is at risk for weight-related issues around self-esteem and body image. Given the toll taken by carrying excess weight, it’s as crucial to counteract the emotional strain of obesity, as it is to drop a few pounds.

What Is The Difference Between Body Image and Self-Esteem?

Put simply, self-esteem refers to the sense of inherent internal worthiness a person perceives him or herself to possess. Body image refers to the way they perceive their body, regardless of how it may appear to outside observers. This explains why people who are clearly in excellent condition may feel very critical about their bodies, whereas others, whose physical condition may not appear very healthy, can have extremely high levels of confidence about their physiques.

How Can I Tell Whether My Teen Has A Weight-Related Self-Esteem Problem

Parents and loved ones are often horrified to notice their once-confident teen has slipped into low self-esteem. Teens’ bodies change rapidly, and they face extreme pressure from both peers and the media to look a certain way. As they change schools and peer groups, formerly happy-go-lucky kids may suddenly display clear signs of discontent such as:

• Scrutinizing themselves in the mirror for extended lengths of time

• Excessively negative, criticism of specific body regions

• Comparison to other teens or celebrities

• Anxiety around leaving the home

• Signs of depression/anxiety, like sleeping more or less than normal, withdrawal from social engagements, malaise, or changes in grades

Jump Start The Recovery Process

So much of the teenage years is centered around creating social norms and a coherent sense of self. This sense of self will follow a young person into adulthood, and inform much of how they make pivotal choices and relate to others. That makes it incredibly important and productive to intervene as soon as possible. Helping teens to turnaround self-esteem and body issues will give them healthy physical habits as well as emotional resilience. Luckily, even the most rebellious teenager craves guidance, encouragement, and resources. Use the following steps at home, and you’ll not only improve teens’ physical and emotional well-being, you’ll reinforce the foundations of your relationship.

It Starts With You

Teenagers are more interested in what you do than what you tell them. Do you obsess about your appearance? Become upset when you aren’t satisfied with how you look in the mirror? Your teen is learning how to react to her own appearance by watching your example. Be mindful of more than how you look. Pay attention to how you look at yourself, and how you act toward yourself when you do.

Changing Self-Talk

Teens listen more than they let on. One of the things they soak up like sponges is the manner in which their role models talk about themselves. A young man who hears his father lamenting, “ Ugh. I hate my chest. This gutt is awful. I just have never liked the way I’m built. I guess I have your grandparents to blame for these ugly genes!” will certainly find himself looking at his body in the mirror, cursing his DNA. A young girl who hears her mother saying, “I just look so fat in these pants. I’m embarrassed to leave the house” will look into the mirror at her own image and wonder if she should stay home if she looks a little bloated.

Parents can change this feedback loop of negative self-talk by saying things like, “ I may have gained a few pounds, but I actually like how strong I look!” or “You know, it’s actually kind of nice to be filling out this dress a little differently!” Even better, saying things like, “I love myself at any weight. This body does a lot for me” can convey to your teen that she is also beautiful and productive at any weight.

Emphasize Health Over Weight Loss

The Oxford Health Journal confirms that weight management programs for children and teens may do more harm than good. Focusing on weight seems to chip away at a whole-person standard self-worth in children. Furthermore, according to NBC, even after losing weight, many girls continue to see themselves as overweight. In other words, a few pounds may drop, but negative body image remains. This is a clear indicator that we must all work on the inside first, building self-love that fosters healthy eating and exercise habits.

Move For Joy

When a person appreciates what their body can do, it’s hard not to love the body that does it. A loved body will be cherishes and maintained, making improved health a natural side effect. One of the quickest way to achieve this is through movement. Calories are burned and endorphins are released for relaxation and happiness. It’s a combination that makes movement a top tool for achieving whole-person health. In kids, this can be as easy as dancing, or adopting a yoga practice. Yoga, with its emphasis on non-judgmental approaches to individual bodies and internal balance, is of particular usefulness. Even severely overweight teens can put a mat down in a bedroom, throw on yoga tanks and a pair of shorts, and start.

VOD: Why Ideal Beauty is Photoshopped

Good Morning America showed this viral ad of a model being photoshopped a few days ago. The time lapse clip lasts a little over 30 seconds but you can see how one model is completely transformed for whatever campaign they plan to use the image for. It’s not just that her blemishes are touched up or maybe they add a bit of bronzer to her skin. Her eyes are widened, hair lengthened, legs and neck are extended – basically her entire body is re-done. It almost begs the question of why have a model there in the first place? It almost seems cheaper to CGI what they want.

The deeper message here is that we often hold these magazines and ads up as the epitome of beauty that we are supposed to replicate – but it’s impossible. Even the models that pose for the picture don’t meet these standards. So the real question is: why do we let images like these dictate what we think of ourselves? Let’s stop that.

What do you think of the video? Let us know in the comments below! 

How to Make Friends With the Li’l Inner Demon Voice Inside Your Head

positiveinchallengingBy Lindsey O’Connor

You know that voice that pops up during your low and vulnerable moments and makes you feel even less? The one telling you you’re not good enough, that says your thighs are too big, or your pimple looks like Mount Everest? Or that convinces you not to wear that cute, sexy top because it will show your stomach sticking out way too much in it?

Yeah, that guy. I call it the Li’l Demon.

It’s incredible how convincing and persuasive the Li’l Demon can be and how easy it is to believe it when you’re feeling a little sad, vulnerable or anxious! When something causes me stress, then BOOM! I’m all ears.

Most of the time I am fully conscious that what this voice is saying is far from the logical and rational truth. But that little demon can be deceptively comforting, because it’s my comfortable “go-to” in a stressful situation. It just peeks over my shoulder and says, “Oh, you’re feeling anxious? Let me help you.” ..NOT.

I keep getting this image in my head:

herculues Too bad he’s not some cute, cuddly, fuzzy baby slothy thing saying this to you:

sloth

Here are some ways I deal with this  little inner bully.

1. Don’t force that voice away, don’t try and push that demon out of your mind. The more you want that voice to go away and the more you try to forcefully separate it from your being, the stronger it becomes.

Don’t give it more power and energy by doing that, because that’s what it wants. I say things like,

“Oh hey li’l demon, what’s up? So you’re here today. That’s cool. Do you want some crayons and a coloring book? Cause I’m busy today doing my own thing and enjoying my life, so I don’t have time to listen to you. You can totes chill here for a while, but I choose to focus on things that make me happy and make me feel good about myself.”

Ok, so I don’t go through that extensive of a conversation all the time, but something along those lines. Just greet it, shake hands with it metaphorically, accept that it is a part of you today. But then go about your normal business and don’t feed it any more energy. If you need distractions from it, have a good book on hand. Call a friend to catch up. Go get coffee. Turn on your favorite music and dance or sing.  Get a hug from a co-worker or friend or loved one. Don’t let that li’l demon take over your day. Accept that it is there, give yourself a big hug and go about your business.

2. Send loving energy to where the voice is sending negativity. If the voice (in my case) is telling me that my stomach is huge, bloated and heavy, I accept the fact that those are the thoughts floating through my mind at this point and they shall pass. Then I close my eyes, breathe and hold my stomach and say how much I love it. I send it loving energy. I connect my belly with the rest of my body, which makes me stronger and more whole against that little demon. I focus on how it fills with air each time I breathe deeply. Be stronger than your demon and overcome its negativity with some self love and care.

I know that this guy can pop up at any moment – at work, at school, before an interview, with a significant other, when you’re all alone – so be prepared. Arm your sexy self with tricks and tools that you’re ready with whenever it rears its ugly head. In your car? Pop in your favorite CD and sing like you’ve never sung before. If you’re at work take 5 deep breaths and focus on a task to do.

Be cognizant of when this demon pops up. Is it with the same people? Certain situations? Specific times during the day? See if there is a pattern to it. If there is, you may want to try relieving yourself of those people and situations. Or find trick of how to handle them and the stress in a positive way.

So, all in all, the less attention and energy you give to that demon (aka the less you try and force it away and the less you focus on it) the smaller and smaller it will become.

Do you ever do battle with your “Li’l Demon? How do you make peace with it or get it to shut up? 

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful: Why I’m Camped Out On A Rooftop Yoga Mat

Right now I’m sitting on a yoga mat on the rooftop of 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. Just below me is a giant red wall painted with the words “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL,” and there are two ten-foot tall inflatable dancing man balloons blowing in the wind beside me. There are men and women walking by on the sidewalk below, a beautiful community garden across the street. The ocean is just visible in the distance. This is #OccupyYouAreBeautiful.

Between today and Wednesday, September 18, this yoga mat will be my home. I will stay here all day and all night — I will eat here, sleep here, and I will be joined by yoga teachers, musicians, speakers, and other members of the community.

#OccupyYouAreBeautiful is a public demonstration of solidarity with people who struggle with food and body image issues on all ends of the spectrum. Together, we are taking a stand – for life, for happiness, and for the right for all people to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

The statistics around eating disorders in this country are discouraging. Nearly 24 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and millions of others struggle with food and body image issues at a sub-clinical level. This disease kills nearly half a million people every year – daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and spouses. That’s not okay. 32-year-olds shouldn’t be dying of starvation. 8-year-olds shouldn’t be vomiting to lose weight. This is not the kind of society I want to raise my kids in.

Over the past several years, I’ve built my life and career around helping others recover from this illness. I believe yoga can be a game-changer in the fight against eating disorders, and more importantly, I believe it can help shift the sociocultural dynamics that contribute to eating disorders to begin with. Yoga teaches critical skills for developing a healthy relationship with food and one’s body (which many of us never learn as children), and it can equip those who struggle with these issues with skills that pharmaceuticals, talk therapy, and other traditional forms of treatment simply do not provide.

That’s why I developed Yoga for Eating Disorders — to teach people who struggle with eating disorders practical tools for using yoga in their recovery. Specifically, the program teaches yoga-derived exercises for tuning into hunger and fullness signals, coping with difficult emotions, and learning to relate to the body as an ally rather than an enemy. The average cost of eating disorder treatment is $1,250 per day, and even at that rate over half of patients relapse after discharge. Eating disorders — from anorexia to binge eating — take a huge toll on our healthcare system. Yoga is a cost-effective way to teach those who struggle with these issues skills for long term recovery, potentially shortening treatment, reducing relapse, and ultimately saving lives.

On July 30th (my 24th birthday), I launched a crowd-funding campaign with the ambitious goal of raising $50K to take Yoga for Eating Disorders to treatment centers around the country at no charge, collect data for an evidence based study on its effectiveness in treatment, and offer pro-bono talks about eating disorder prevention at local schools in each city where the program is offered. We’ve raised almost $30K so far, but with only 4 days left in the campaign it’s time for something a little more drastic. It’s time to Occupy.

Inspired by my friend Will Baxter of the Don’t Let Will Die campaign, I am demonstrating my solidarity with eating disorder sufferers around the world by taking a stand. I invite you to take a stand with me – for life, for freedom, and for the belief that all people have the right to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

With less than 100 hours left in our campaign, I need your help. I will not let this campaign fail. This yoga mat saved my life once, and I’m not getting off it until other have the same opportunity.

Stand with me by donating today!

You can stand in solidarity with Chelsea and #OccupyYouAreBeautiful by making a donation, sharing this campaign with your friends and family, commenting on this page and visiting her at 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. There is no reason this has to be the only #OccupyYouAreBeautiful. Host one in your own community!

My Life With Binge Eating – And the Path to Recovery

338/365 - 9/11/2011To an outsider it might appear that my day was just like any other college student. I got up, went to my morning class, grabbed lunch with a friend, went to my afternoon class, worked out at the gym, did some home work, ate dinner, chatted with friends, got a late night snack then went to bed.

But that façade was far from reality. In fact, I was struggling all day to keep my composure, and desperately trying to hide the fact that I hated myself. I had fallen into a nasty cycle. I would go to bed with my stomach filled to the brim with over 5,000 calories worth of desserts and fried foods. I would wake up ravished and hating myself for needing to eat after the type of dinner I had. So I would try to go as long as possible without eating, and aim to eat only 500 calories a day. My thought process was – if I ate over 5,000 calories yesterday, I should have enough fuel in my body to last me three days. My starvation definitely slowed my weight gain but I still inevitably gained 15 pounds in as little as three months.

The worst part was, I had absolutely no control. NONE. People would look at me like I was crazy when I told them I couldn’t stop myself from eating. Why can’t you just stop when you’re full? They didn’t understand that stuffing my face wasn’t a choice for me. It was a necessity. My hands were not attached to my mind, and I could only stop when I felt so full I wanted to puke. During a binge attack, half of my mind would try to reason why it was okay to eat a whole box of Oreos. The other half of my mind would hate myself and hate the fact that I had no control. There was not an ounce of compassion in my bones. I found myself devouring a whole large pizza, or three whole entrees, or an entire large bag of potato chips. It’s rather astounding how much food my stomach could fit. And the greasier, cheesier or chocolaty the food was – the better.

I do not remember the exact day but I do remember the period of my life when I started having these binge attacks. I was in my second semester in college, and my first real boyfriend and I broke up. I was heartbroken beyond belief, and the sense of abandonment I felt was equal to when I thought my father had abandoned me so many years ago. In reality, my mom divorced my father and moved us to the United States. But to a 7-year-old, all I knew was that my dad was no longer there.

My binges occurred in waves and was never severe enough that I could be officially diagnosed with a binge eating disorder. But that doesn’t take away from the gravity of my situation. My self-loathing only escalated as time after time I would find myself pigging out in front of the fridge. Friends and family tried to help but I knew how to keep my eating a secret. I constantly felt judged and shame ran deep in my veins. WHY ME?!? So many other people in this world have it worse than me, so why do I punish myself? I worried that people would think I was incapable of handing life, and in fact, I did not feel capable at all! No one understood what I  was going through. I was more alone than ever. And so I ate.

I decided to start counseling a month after my first binge and 5 years later I am just starting to understand the triggers behind my binge. The difficulty with this type of disorder, at least for me, is that there is not one cause. A variety of different factors play into my disorder, and its difficult to understand it myself, let alone describe it to others.

What I can tell you is that my binges come more often when I am insecure. When I am lonely. When I feel scared. I was forced to grow up quickly, and to protect myself I was never attuned to what I was feeling. When my boyfriend and I broke up, my heart was ripped oven and all the emotions I repressed since I was a little girl came out. And I couldn’t handle it. So I searched for something to make me feel okay again, and I found food. The feeling of fullness and heaviness was the grounding I so desperately needed.

Food is a tough drug of choice because unlike alcohol, you need food to survive. I cannot abstain from food. The battle happens everyday I sit down with a plate in front of me.

In my sessions, I learned that the most important first step was to find compassion for myself. For the little girl inside me who was terrified of the world. In my seemingly endless binge cycle, it was hard to do. But I started to read books about other people with this problem, and it brought comfort to know I was not alone. Slowly but surely compassion came, and a few times I was even grateful for my disorder. My binges were my body’s way of telling me that I was feeling lonely, overwhelmed, powerless and abandoned. How lucky I am to have such an aware body! Now I just have to get my mind there BEFORE my body finds the need to be comforted through food.

It has been quite some time now since I’ve had a huge binge. In the five years since I first started binging, I have learned to be a little less judgmental. A little nicer to myself. And being nicer to myself includes working on the inner critic as well as letting go of what my diet “should” look like. Allowing myself to eat whatever I want has given me the freedom to eat healthier foods as well as enjoy chocolate here and there. The key is to let go of the guilt.

It’s been a long journey of self-hatred, self-love, suffering and compassion. And I know the journey is far from over. I am still learning how to have a normal relationship with food. I am still learning to treat my disorder as a gift from God. I am still learning that no one is perfect, no one is put together, and all we can do is the best we can at every moment. And I am still learning that self-forgiveness is the most powerful key you can hold in life.

But I also know that because of this disorder, I am stronger than ever. I have faith in life. And if the binge comes again, then so be it. I cannot be scared about the future. Life is a roller coaster and that’s what makes it exciting and livable. And as long as I open myself up to my feelings, and do not allow fear to consume me, then I know I have grown.

We are all imperfect beings trying to live a perfect life. Let me be the first to say – I do not wish to live the perfect life. I just wish to accept my life exactly as it is. That is the true gift of God.

Former Intent Editor Chelsea Roff Launches Indiegogo Campaign to Research Yoga for Eating Disorders!

Setting sail from Intent Blog, former editor Chelsea Roff is now pursuing a path that takes her deep into the heart of her passion: Yoga as a tool for treating eating disorders.

Chelsea’s own background has shown her the power of yoga in transforming body image and bringing about whole-person wellness. Today she launches an Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000 in order to embark on an in-depth research project to compile the data necessary to bring this method of treatment to public awareness.

Intent: This is an amazing campaign! Can you say a bit more about your inspiration for this project?

Chelsea: Thank you! Yes, of course. As many Intent readers know, I struggled with a very severe eating disorder when I was young. Anorexia nearly took my life. Fortunately I was helped by an amazing team of medical professionals, but while treatment did help me recover physically — I still hated my body, was plagued by self-deprecating thoughts, and lacked the resources to step fully into life.

I left the hospital in despair. I wanted to live, but the eating disorder still haunted me. Relapse seemed  inevitable.

But then I found yoga. Or yoga found me.

Yoga gave me a path. It gave me a future. It introduced me to joy and freedom I never thought possible.

The statistics around eating disorders in this country are discouraging. Nearly  24 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and only one in ten ever receive treatment. This disease kills nearly half a million people every year — daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and spouses. That’s not okay. This disease is NOT incurable!

My inspiration for this project is a desire to share the incredible gift that was given to me during my time of need. Eating disorders destroy lives, hurt families and crush spirits. But they don’t have to. There is a way out, and yoga can be an incredible tool in paving the path to healing.

Intent: How has your own history driven your advocacy work around eating disorders?

Chelsea: I think having experienced first hand how agonizing this disease is — and how AMAZING life is on the other side — I just can’t help but want to give it back.

Eating disorders are terrible. Having anorexia is like having a demon inside you that controls your thoughts, manipulates your emotions, and isolates you from everyone and everything you ever loved or cared about. Many people think eating disorders are driven by a wish to be skinny or get attention — I assure you that is not the case. Eating disorders are biological illnesses, triggered by a combination of genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors. No one chooses this illness.

I think my history gives me a combination of empathy for those suffering and hope for their future. I know there’s a way out of this illness, and I hope I can offer a few tools to help others get their lives back from this disease as well.

Intent: After experiencing yoga as such a powerful tool for recovery, are you eager to share this method of treatment to others suffering from eating disorders?

Chelsea: Absolutely!

Over the past several years, I’ve put a lot of thought into which elements of the yoga practice were helpful in my recovery and which weren’t so much (I think some aspects of yoga culture can actually exacerbate an eating disorder). I’ve developed a program called Yoga for Eating Disorders™ that teaches patients practical tools for learning how to tune into hunger and fullness signals, cope with difficult emotions, and relate to their body as an ally rather than an enemy. Without those skills, it’s nearly impossible to be successful in recovery.

Intent: That’s amazing! How can others get involved?

Chelsea: Please support our campaign! Here are a few ways people can help:

1. Donate to the campaign – today! Every little bit counts – even $5! If you’re going to contribute, please don’t wait! We’re trying to reach our first 15K in the first week.  If people see the campaign is successful, they’ll donate too.

2. Like,  Comment on, or Share our IndieGoGo page.

3. Tell a yoga studio in your city about the campaign. For the first 12 studios that make a tax-deductible $5,000 donation, I’ll teach my 3-day Yoga, Food, & Body Image Intensive at no cost to the studio. The program is priced at $300 per participant, so 17 registrations will earn all the money back, and 30 registrations will generate $9,000 in revenue.

5 Quotes From Dr. Christiane Northrup That Will Make You Proud to Be a Woman

 

christiane_prodPeriods, PMS, menopause, morning sickness… Is there any aspect of the body’s cycles women can be proud of? According to the media and mainstream Western culture, women have more to feel ashamed and plagued by than proud of when it comes to their bodies. With messages of body positivity only barely making a dent in women’s overwhelmingly conflicted relationships with their bodies, something has got to give.

Enter, Dr. Christiane Northrup, the women’s health expert shaking every belief we’ve held about the female body for decades. Northrup’s reality check: Menstruation is a sacred experience that demands rest and self-regeneration. So-called “PMS” is really a flourishing of creative energy that surges through the female brain at certain points in her cycle. Menopause is a process of transformation, during and after which women can experience the best sex of their lives.

If any of the above statements contradict your own feeling about your body, then read on. In these 5 soul-shaking quotes from an interview featured in the latest issue of Spirituality & Health Magazine, Northrup offers a rallying cry for women to embrace the powerful bodies they inhabit:

1. The key is to understand that every woman has the keys to the kingdom inside herself, and those keys are found in doing those things that she loves to do.

~

2. You [women] have a cycle where you bleed in tune with the moon. It is the cycle responsible for all human life on earth. It is the cycle that connects you to your creativity and to the very essence of the tide coming in, the tide going out, the seasons, the sap going into the roots and then rising up, and we have been taught for 5,000 years to be ashamed of that cycle.

~

3. Did you know that we have as much erectile tissue inside our pelvis as men have? only, theirs is on the outside. What we have is the clitoris, which is the only organ in the human body whose sole function is pleasure.

~

4. Menopause is when you really move into your goddess energy in a big way. You’re no longer losing your blood, so you move into this phase now where your FSH and LH hormones in the pituitary gland are at the same levels as when you’re ovulating. and for many women that is their peak time
of sexual desire.

~

5. What we women are sure of is that there’s a man out there who will complete us. That’s what every movie tells us. But what it’s really about is doing that inner work of completing oneself.

Only as complete, proud, self-loving individuals can women experience the fullness of life that they deserve. Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

*****

 

SH_JulyAug_CVR_lrgSpirituality & Health is a magazine for people who want to explore the spiritual journey and wake up to our capacity for self-healing, vitality, and resiliency. Read the entire conversation with Christine Northrup in the July-August edition of Spirituality & Health, on newsstands now! Get your first issue FREE here.

Would you like to win a FREE year-long subscription to Spirituality & Health magazine?

This month, Intent is giving away 5 year-long subscriptions to Spirituality & Health magazine. To enter, simply comment below with your favorite empowering quote. Be sure to include your name and email so we can contact you if you win.

 

Dustin Hoffman Breaks Into Tears Discussing Society’s Pressures on Women

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 10.22.16 AMThe notion of ‘beauty’ in our culture tends to be more limiting and shame-inducing than cathartic. What should be a soul-expanding experience of aesthetic pleasure gets confined to a manufactured pill box, forced down our throats by television, magazines, advertisements, the porn industry – you name it. We all suffer from this together as a society, but women, most of all, bear the brunt of the abuse.

In preparing to make the 1982 film Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman was determined to look as much like a woman as possible. If the audience had to suspend disbelief to follow the story, Hoffman explains in an interview with AFI, then it wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t until he looked at himself in the mirror, fully costumed as a female, that he realized the reality women live with every day. If Hoffman saw his female self at a party, he confesses, he wouldn’t give her the time of day. The realization brings him to tears. Take a look:

This might seem overly tidy. “Hey, Dustin Hoffman, try being a real woman for even a day and you’ll experience some truly gnarly things. And before you whine about not making an attractive woman, let’s think about what beauty really is.”

But his emotional response is more nuanced than that. Hoffman bemoans the socialized notions of beauty that kept him from approaching women who might have otherwise added to his life with wit, intellect, and grace. How many women, he wonders, did he miss the opportunity of knowing, just out of prejudice?

The question we would add to that is: Why do we as a society continue to let anything but our own hearts dictate what we find beautiful?

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Did You Overeat This Weekend?

Do you suffer from the barbeque binge? Holiday weekends can sometimes be a trigger for our worst eating habits. Obsessing over food like many other addictive behaviors is just another way of numbing out and avoiding un-felt pain, blocked emotions, or a true experience of life.

Everyone faces their relationship to food in unique ways. Some people obsess over every calorie, whereas others have no boundaries whatsoever. Whether you overeat out of boredom or you don’t eat out of fear, there is a spiritual condition that needs to be addressed.

Admittedly, I still struggle with my relationship to food and in this vlog I share some of my tips for recovery. Feel free to share your experiences with me in the comments below. Outing your ego is the first step in the healing process.

If you’re interested in this topic and want to deepen the conversation then join me next week for the start of my new course, Finally Full: A Workshop on Spirituality and Food.

photo by: Keoni Cabral

Cook Your Way to Total Self Love

Pink Summer Cherry LoveMost of our fears and inner conflicts arise from a lack of self love. The first thing I tackle with clients is identifying and eradicating the root causes of self-beat, shame, guilt and insecurity. I call it “radical acceptance”.

Ironically, one of the best ways to build self-esteem, confidence and a deep, inner sense of contentment and acceptance is incredibly simple and easy to overlook.

Cooking for yourself and practicing conscious eating are perhaps the most primal and important acts of self love. We build a deep sense of trust in ourselves and the world (and relieve stress) when we take time to nurture ourselves by making our own food, sitting down, practicing gratitude and enjoying it mindfully.

You can begin to improve your relationship with food and your physical body by enjoying healthy meals that have been prepared for you, but investing time and energy to plan and prepare your own meals allows for the opportunity to reap the benefits of the loving energy you put in.

A potent message of worth and value seeps into the unconscious mind when we nurture ourselves. Food and shelter are our most primitive, basic acts of survival. When you practice self-care by maintaining a clean (sattvic), safe, inviting home and cook for yourself, you send a powerful message to your psyche that you are worthy and important.

Love is an action verb. How do you love yourself? What do you do to show love? Actions speak louder than words. Affirmations are great…but how are you showing up for yourself on a daily, consistent basis.

Self love through food is connected to the root chakra, or first chakra, which governs the first stage of emotional and psychological development. The root chakra (mulhadhara) is connected to physical identity, physical body, grounding, our relationship to the mother and sense of feeling safe and secure in the world.

Eating disorders, food addictions or obsessive control over diet, the body and food often result from a child growing up in an unsafe environment (abuse, war zone, constant fighting, financial distress, physical illness) or having an insecure attachment to the mother (mother was depressed, alcoholic/addict, working all the time, emotionally unavailable or unsafe). Our unconscious tries to overcompensate, insulate or create an external sense of safety or control through our food choices and physical body.

Always eating out, rushing through or skipping meals, watching TV during meals or choosing unhealthy foods sends a message that you are not worth the time and effort to slow down, nourish, nurture and listen to your body and your deepest needs.

Focusing on your relationship with food builds a sense of safety, trust and connectedness. Your arms and hands are a horizontal extension of your heart center (chakra). When you prepare a meal for yourself, you literally infuse loving energy from your heart into the food you eat. Ayurvedic master Bri Maya Tiwari recommends massaging your food with your bare hands as much as possible and focusing on positive thoughts while you cook. Send loving thoughts, pray, chant or play pleasant music while you cook. These vibrations all end up on your plate, in your belly and healing your mind and heart.

Nourishing yourself by preparing your own food and eating consciously can lead to big shifts internally and externally. Start by making a couple of meals for yourself each week. Take time to eat each meal in a ritual space (clean environment, at a table, sitting down) and mindfully savor each bite. Celebrate quality time with family, friends or yourself.

Lovingly preparing food and cooking for yourself will increase feelings of self-worth, inner security, grounding and be a ritual to receive the love you give yourself – the most important love in the world.

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Ashley will be leading a retreat to Galapagos Islands in July 2013 and works with clients worldwide via SKYPE. Ashley is a member of Young Living Essential Oils, so if you’d like to sign up using her as a sponsor or want more info on oils, click here.

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