Mind, Body & Spirit
I’m often asked what makes our fitness lifestyle and Intuitive Eating coaching programs different from others. While I could point to my experience and educational background, there are others who have as much, or in some cases, even more experience than I do. I could say it is the unique phone coaching method I utilize to get my client to achieve a higher sense of accountability, but I am not the only fitness coach who is certified to help others this way.
To fully understand how these three words serve as the formula for getting and staying in shape, I’ve decided to provide a brief, yet, in-depth look inside the heart of my company’s coaching programs. What you will read on this page comes directly from the framework we have built our programs around, along with excerpts from my book Self-Care Before Sit Ups.
My sincere hope is that you will not only come away with a better understanding of why mind, body and spirit is the missing link for achieving a long, healthy and fulfilling lifestyle, but that you will have strengthened your resolve and commitment for looking and feeling your absolute best.
“If you’re like most people, you probably have at least 75% of your mental energy tied up in…distractions.”
~ Cheryl Richardson, “Take Time for Your Life” ~___________________________________________________
So what’s the first step in adopting the mind, body and spirit philosophy?
The answer: Defining your values.
Our values are what shapes us. Getting clear on our values is the first thing we need to understand in order to start taking care of ourselves.
What does Value mean to you?
I personally like the definition by Hyrum Smith, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Franklin Covey, creator behind the Franklin Planner System, states a value is a statement“you would say about yourself when you think about the best you want to be.”
Take a minute and let those words really sink in: the best you want to be. There are probably many things that you’re doing right now that support you being the best you can be. There are also many things that you’re giving your attention to that are not in alignment with your core values. When this occurs and you attempt to achieve a desired outcome, most often you end up confusing activity with accomplishment. This is otherwise known as “spinning your wheels”.
When we live our lives by indulging our lower values we live in chaos because it isn’t in alignment with you. When we live our lives through our high core values, we live a life of order and direction. When your objective is to exercise, eat healthy and live a fulfilling life and yet, instead of feeling good about our efforts, we wallow in self defeat, it is usually a direct result of not living in alignment of your core values. Living our core values is to be our true authentic self.
Susan Howson, Author and Coach is quoted to say “I AM – the two most powerful words in the world, for whatever we put after them becomes our reality.” This quote has helped me express who I really am and not what I do
Actual Values vs. Ideal Values
Lets go over the difference between actual values vs. ideal values. As women we generally tend to live our actual values. Clean the house (have a nice house), buy the groceries (responsible), kids off to school (be a responsible mom), do a good job at work (good work ethic), volunteer for our community events or church (philanthropic). Our actual values would be considered safety values, or our automatic pilot values. These we automatically do because it is expected and who else would do them. We have a tendency to think we have no choice and that is who we have become, we become doers.
When we take the time to focus our attention on our core values, we start to uncover what is most important to us. When we’re clear about our values, it makes it much easier to sift through what’s working for us, what is true and honoring to our spirit vs. what is depleting us. It is much easier to assess opportunities as they come to us. Without knowing our values, we are prone to making decisions that are sometimes not in our best interest.
I have a client named Deb, who is a teacher, 53 years old and has struggled with her weight most of her life, doesn’t like her body and feeling uncomfortable in her own skin. I coached Deb on a fitness and Intuitive Eating program and looked at what her core values were. She started listing
- work ethic
They were her words but were they who she truly was? She lived her job and all of these were incorporated and tied into her job. These became her automatic values. She would work until the work got done even if it meant staying at work more and not getting in her exercise, less time with her husband and family etc. So I asked her where does her husband, children, faith, health, retirement and even work fit into her values. We immediately began to see she was living her work as her top value. She felt like she was just spinning her wheels and not getting anywhere other than more frustrated.
All of this changed when we examined her values through the statement “I am…”. She listed the following:
- I am a loving wife
- I am a caring attentive member of my family
- I am an honest and forthright woman
- I am self reliant
- I am fit and healthy
What Deb realized is that the first list was just words that were important to her but once listed as I am statements they brought a whole new perspective and set of emotions to her. They fully represented what she strives to be on a daily basis. The list brought more meaning to what she wants to accomplish within herself. The “I am”list played a pivotal role in her achieving her exercise and health goals. What had always eluded her in that area was now a reality as she stayed consistent with her exercise program, lost weight and broke away from the diet mentality and emotional eating.
This positive change in Deb’s life was a result of making a link between her core values and her health. She no longer struggled with her work. She started to take care of herself and the weight started to come off gradually without the inner struggle to make time for herself. Living her core values brought feelings of joy, peace and happiness.
This core value is the #1 secret to making time for yourself within the context of yourown life.
As you prepare to read further about the connection between your Mind, Body and Spirit take a moment to answer this question:
What are your core values?
How would exercise and taking self-care help you live that value?
List your values as Deb did. And then create your own “I am” list.
Tolerations – Who Need ‘Em?
Tolerations are those things that we put up with. They are things that we think aren’t right or we can’t accept. They are things that we continually put off or ignore but they don’t really go away. They could be small things, like a dead light bulb that needs to be replaced or a missing button on your favorite blouse. Or they could be large tolerations, like a friendship that no longer serves you, yet you haven’t let go of it. Or that nagging, uncomfortable feeling of back taxes that you have continued to put off.
Tolerations give off negative energy, rob you of vitality, and create anxiety in your life. The more things you have in your life that you’re tolerating, the less energy and vitality is available to you for things that are truly important to you, such as family, friends and perhaps the most neglected area of your life – YOU.
When you don’t take care of you, who takes care of those you love? And when you stop taking care of your body, and it finally gives out, where do you live? Your body isn’t like a car that you can choose to get a new one when the old run stops running. Now I know these are no-brainer observations, but let’s be serious here. If these things are so clearly obvious, how is it that, according to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 64% of the American population is overweight or obese?
There are several competing theories and a myriad of answers to that question. But in my short time here on Earth, my experience, research and knowledge into living a healthy lifestyle, it really comes down to priorities and tolerations.
How Much Can You Tolerate?
Tolerations deplete us. When we feel depleted, we feel tired, empty, stressed, and sometimes angry, among other negative emotions. We may let these feelings build up inside us and not know what to do with them. Like a deadly tsunami, that rises and eventually drowns just about everything in its path, the more negativity we tolerate in our life, the emptier and more frustrated we feel. In short, our natural strengths, talents and aspirations can ultimately drown if we don’t get a handle on our tolerations.
We often think that to make positive change happen in our life, we need to add something more. In a society that is driven by consumption, it’s often times difficult for us to understand that removing unnecessary things in our life, rather than adding to them, is a more effective and healthier course of action. By identifying the things that are draining you and handling them right away, you naturally free up more energy for living a life according to your values. If you think you don’t have time to deal with tolerations, that, in of itself, is a toleration!
When it comes to exercising, eating and living a healthy lifestyle, pay particular attention to tolerations that show up as procrastinations. What things on your “I want to achieve list” do you continually put off, saying, “Later, I’ll do it later,” ?
These tolerations build up inside you, acting as constant reminders that your world just isn’t right. They become the internal “nag-o-meter” in your head. By first identifying the tolerations and then getting into action, one step at a time to get them handled, you free yourself up for more peace of mind. You give yourself the energy for doing the things that bring you passion and joy.
Once you start handling some of the tolerations, even just one small one, you’ll notice a change in energy. For example, think of revising your eating and exercise habits as you would changing a burnt out light bulb. How differently do you feel when you walk into that room? Do you feel lighter, easier, more positive? Does your energy change? The same happens when you brighten up your outlook on losing weight, getting in shape and feeling your best.
“Self-love is the only weight-loss aid that really works in the long run.”
~ Jenny Craig ~
Our culture rewards “doing” and gives very little credence to “being.” The result is that most of us are constantly running, striving, performing, and endlessly accomplishing tasks at great risk to our body, mind and spirit. It’s the age-old challenge of confusing activity with accomplishment. No group is more prone to this than women, who can be so focused on serving and giving to others that it may, unfortunately, take a major illness or breakdown before we take time to stop and nourish ourselves.
Think of yourself as a beautiful, clear crystal pitcher full of nourishing and life-giving water. Now take a moment and look at the many roles you play in your life: mother, wife, friend, church member, colleague, employer, etc. Think of each role representing a tall glass waiting to be filled. Acknowledge the way you lovingly, devotedly pour your energy, your water, into each of those glasses, every week.
But what happens when you’re empty and the pitcher has run dry? If you’re like many women, you try to keep pouring, pulling energy from your own cell tissue if need be. If that’s the case, you likely feel depleted and exhausted. You’re probably last on your own priority list, if you’re even on the list at all. The only real solution is to make yourself a priority and find ways of filling yourself back up so that you have something of quality to give to others.
Perhaps your challenges with fitness aren’t really about exercise or motivation at all. Perhaps, at the heart of it, it’s about loving yourself and giving yourself permission to be nurtured.
Filling Yourself Up
There are many ways to replenish your mind, body and spirit. While you probably know what works best for you, here are some ideas that I have found work exceptionally well for both myself and many clients my company and I have worked with.
The first one is simply trusting that you are, at this moment, exactly where you need to be. Trust that God or the higher power in the universe has brought you exactly to this moment in time where you are reading these words and taking steps to learn more about yourself.
The next step after trusting, is giving gratitude. Take a few moments, right now, to reflect on all the blessings you have in your life. Although the things that aren’t going right may seem loudest to you, the abundance in your life probably far outweighs the negative.
You can begin with your breath. Simply focus on your breath, moving in and out of your body, keeping you alive, and nourishing your cells with oxygen. In yoga, we’re taught to always come back to the breath. No matter what is going on in your life, whether happy or devastating, you always have your breath to return to.With trust and gratitude, it becomes easier to have compassion for one’s self. Think of how gentle you can be with small children and give yourself the same kind of loving patience. Far too often we lose sight that losing weight or getting in shape is an overnight journey. The expectations are out of whack and when we don’t get the results we had anticipated we quite and chalk it up as another disappointment.
However, just as we tell children, “Keep practicing. Don’t give up,” remember to give yourself the same compassion when learning something new, especially if it is a new perspective on food or a new way to get in shape. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean that you don’t also need time to learn new patterns and gently change behaviors. The all-or-nothing mentality leads us down a slippery slope of regret and disappointmentwhen we believe we need to do things right the first time or not at all.
It is here that so many of the clients we have helped over the years come to us. Their frustration with trying to achieve overnight weight loss or go into a gym and expect a perfectly toned body only after two or three visits, leads them to a point of burnout and total frustration.
Whether you’re taking up a new exercise program or starting a meditation practice, it’s time to let go of “all or nothing,” black or white thinking, and learn to embrace the idea of rainbow thinking. There are as many shades and colors in the rainbow as there are facets of our lives. To think that there is only one “right” way is to box ourselves in and not fully express our many colors.
All or nothing thinking gets us into trouble over and over again. And nowhere is this more prevalent than the world of dieting and exercise. You’ve probably experienced it many times in your desire to get fit. When we start an exercise program we are usually excited and full of anticipation. We have a plan, perhaps a membership at the local fitness club, or a personal trainer, or a buddy to workout with. We set the alarm early for each morning and we get up and go.But after awhile, it doesn’t seem as much fun. The initial enthusiasm wears off. We notice that we’re too tired to get out of bed and we hit the snooze button, again and again. Perhaps we promise ourselves that we’ll do it tomorrow. We get upset with ourselves for not keeping our commitment to exercise We then feel we have blown it and in our frustration with ourselves, we have a tendency to drop all exercise efforts. It becomes all or nothing.
But as you well know, life is not black and white, there are gray areas, there are purple, yellow, blue, green, a rainbow of colors to describe our life journey. We need to learn to be kinder to ourselves, more forgiving, and more nurturing. So if you missed aerobics class Monday morning, there is another one on Tuesday and even more after that. Itdoesn’t really matter how long it’s been or how many classes you’ve missed, there is always the choices you make right now.
Life isn’t planned perfectly, nor should the perspective you have of your life be lived in the rearview mirror. In other words, look ahead at the possibilities in front of you and learn to be flexible in your pursuit of your dreams and aspirations. We can meet our needs and desires in a loving compassionate way rather than tearing ourselves down and feeling defeated. This is one way we fill up our pitcher. And this is a critical component to the mind, body and spirit approach to getting and staying fit.
So when the record in your head starts telling you how wrong, lazy or hopeless you are, scratch that record. Once it’s scratched, the record will never play the same way again.Now it’s up to you to determine what the new message will be. My suggestion to our clients is a message of compassion and action. And that is my suggestion to you too. Remember, enjoy the process and journey of getting in shape, because if you don’t there’s no beauty in the achievement.
“Faith is the starting point of all accumulation of riches. Faith is the basis of all ‘miracles’, and all mysteries which cannot be analyzed by the rules of science. Faith is the only known antidote for failure.”
~ Napoleon Hill ~___________________________________________________
We’ve addressed the areas of mind and body by discussing tolerance, perspective and the importance of filling our own pitcher, the next question may be, “How?” It’s important to look at this issue, which is a very common block for all of us, and evaluate your expectations.
Consider the idea of planting a rose garden. At the beginning, we may have high expectations for the magnificence garden, full of beautiful roses and free of all weeds. And yet, with the pressures of life and schedules, the inevitable nature of weeds, we may struggle to keep the roses a priority.
If we get frustrated and give up, the weeds will threaten to take over the whole garden. If we do a little weeding, consistently, we may not have a weed-free garden but we will still be able to enjoy the roses.
Many of us can relate to this scenario when it comes to our fitness program. We may begin with high expectations but then because it isn’t going as we want it to, we may giveup and stop all our efforts in defeat rather than doing at least a little bit, consistently. When we weed our garden a little bit at a time and relax our expectations of perfection, we can enjoy watching the roses bloom. It’s the same with your fitness program. Maybe we won’t be able to get in an entire hour workout but how about we try for 10 minutes of something rather than nothing.
It’s also a good idea to look at our obstacles (such as time) from another angle: setting boundaries. It’s important to remember that when we set a boundary and say “no” to certain things in our life, we’re actually saying “yes” for the sake of other priorities, exercising or meditation for example.
When you’re running around with a jammed packed schedule, it can feel impossible to know what to say “no” too. One opportunity comes up and looks good, so you jump on it. Only later do you realize that opportunity wasn’t truly in your best interest. One way to eliminate the feeling of being a swung back and forth like a pendulum, is to take a time-out for silence.
“Cherished Self” author, Michelle Spieker, talks about the importance of silence for discovering your authentic self and delving into your inner essence. She says, “This is where you will meet yourself.” In silence, you can ask yourself the deeper questions and receive answers that are true to who you are and will steer you in the right direction.
Tim Kelley, coauthor of the best selling book, “Wake up–Live the Life you Love: Living Your Purpose” is my mentor and coach and has helped me and many others gently diveinto silence to ask questions of our higher power, or God. It is in silence that I receive God’s counsel and guidance. It is there in stillness that I reconnect with myself, my purpose, gifts, and intentions to thrive in a world that so often conspires to pull us away from our true self. It is here that I become self “centered.”
When I recharge with silence and renew my connection with God, I’m better able to reach and serve others in a way that doesn’t deplete my body and soul. It allows me to live more calmly and confidently, more easily taking care of my own physical and spiritual needs, along with those of my family and clients. In taking time for silence and listening for my own answers, I fill my pitcher and have plenty to pour into the many cups in my life.
Let Go and Let God
For years I have been saying, “Let Go and Let God” without realizing that it’s been like a “park and pray” method. So often we start something new, try to do our best, fall short and then give up by saying, “OK God, I’ll give this up to you.” It can become an easy way to abdicate responsibility and justify a lack of action on my part.
The same approach is usually the same with diets and exercise programs. According to recently published reports, one of which aired on CBS News, Americans spend approximately $35 billion a year on weight-loss products. You would think with all of this money being spent the overweight and obesity epidemic would have been wiped out by now. However, the gap between Americans who are living healthy, fulfilled lives and those who are out of shape, overweight and frustrated is widening about as fast as American’s waistlines.
One of the biggest reasons for the disparity between money spent on weight-loss products and actually weight that is lost and kept off, is that most people think that by simply buying a book, diet pills or exercise equipment will miraculously produce results. It’s no different than finding yourself in a precarious situation, yet you take no action to change your outcome other than saying, “OK God, I’ll give this up to you.”
Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be when you are not getting the results you want as fast as you’d like them to come. It is at these times I encourage my clients to shift the focus instead to the many other benefits they receive by living a healthy, active lifestyle. Enjoy the small benefits and take time to acknowledge those.
If it’s a specific weight loss goal, keep moving forward in a loving, caring and consistent way and practice “letting go and letting God” when it comes to the dial on the scale. Remember the rose garden analogy? Ask for patience and work on relaxing your expectations for the “perfect rose garden.” So long as you’re putting in the work, the process will take care of itself. The moment you stop, your momentum stops and so do the results you’re getting.
The journey my clients and I take together in strengthening one’s mind, body and spirit is an inside-out-approach. Taking care of the body is very important but paying attention to our mind and spirit at the same time is where the true value and connection to looking and feeling your best occurs.