In high school, I remember caring about being “skinny” or doing what I could to try to be. Like most young, impressionable girls, I fell for what society was telling me was an ideal. As we get older and wiser, we learn to question an imposed ideal. Regardless, it’s refreshing to see this ideal shift in a positive direction. Gone are the days when women needed to align to a withering away, skin and bones definition of beauty. We are living in a time of an incredible cultural paradigm shift! The beauty ideals for women are shifting from thin and weak to strong, confident, and empowered. We are now seeing more and more women stepping into their authentic power and beauty – owning their strength and radiating life. More women are making a choice to nurture, love and fully live in their bodies. Instead of shaming and criticizing – honoring, sculpting and appreciating seem to be on the rise. As a mother of two young girls, I cannot be more thrilled to get to be a part of this shift. I am beyond excited to get to show my girls how unleashing our physical strength trickles in all areas of life.
As a sociologist by training, I know how society, especially the media and peers can influence us so much so that we may not even be fully aware of the influence. In college, when I was still living in the dark about outside forces, I sadly admit, I didn’t nourish myself. There were times I ate very little, or tried diet pills. It wasn’t until after my first husband passed away, when I was twenty-six, that the vanity quest to being skinny died.
It was being with him in the hospital that my awareness about our miraculous bodies started to emerge. I realized how we can take so much for granted. For example, our heart, our lungs, our livers are all working correctly as we go about our day, we don’t even give this a second thought. It’s not until something stops working, is hurt or destroyed that we truly wake up to appreciate what we take for granted. Once I stopped taking my body for granted and opened up to gratitude for all it is doing for me, I was able to step into consciously taking care of it. This has meant fully nourishing myself and allowing myself to reach my potential. Years later my quest for healthy, organic foods married strength training, and soon, my most energetic, leanest and most confident self was born.
In my experience strong, healthy bodies lead to strong, healthy lives. It is fantastic to see society shifting in this same direction. Getting fit can genuinely be a gateway to a better you. Psychologically, researchers studying exercise have consistently found that it has a positive impact on mood. As most of us know, physical activity stimulates endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. But did you know that exercise can act as a diversion from negative thoughts? Also, exercise improves mood as a result of feeling awesome after accomplishing a physical goal. Strength training has explicitly been found that by training hard in the gym for as little as 20 minutes, long-term memory increases. And if these exercise benefits aren’t enough to sway you, check out how shifting your eating patterns can have drastic benefits to your overall health and quality of life.
In regards to nutrition, emerging research in the fields of neuroscience and nutrition show that people who eat a diet of modern processed foods have increased levels of depression, anxiety, mood swings, hyperactivity, and a wide variety of other mental and emotional problems. One study looking at the association of food on adolescents found that adolescents with low-quality junk food diets are 79 percent more likely to suffer from depression (Jacka et at, 2010). Another study found that diets high in trans fats found in processed foods raised the risk of depression by 42 percent among adults throughout approximately six years (Sanchez-Villegas et al., 2011). A large study that looked at over 50,000 women’s diets by the Harvard School of Public health concluded that those whose diets contained the highest number of healthy omega-3 fats (and the lowest levels of unhealthy omega-6s) were significantly less likely to suffer from depression (Lucas et at, 2011). Thus diet can most definitely affect mental health. So how do we shift our day-to-day to support our mental and emotional well-being?
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According to the physician, Dr. Drew Ramsey at Columbia University, strict diet regimens are almost always doomed to failure and often leave people feeling worse off than before. That’s why the best prescriptions are often those that are simple and easiest to follow.
Here are 3 easy things you can do today to embark on a lifestyle centered on nourishing and empowering yourself.
Nourish Yourself with Goodness
Many insecticides and pesticides are neurotoxins, and although some claim the science isn’t settled about their health risks, the same was said about cigarettes for decades before their dangers were officially recognized. I would rather be safe than sorry. Organic food usually costs a little more, so it’s smart to start by switching to organic apples, celery, peaches and other produce that generally rank highest in contaminants. For a full list, check out the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen.”
Eat Whole Foods
To really get the results you want, at least 80% of your food intake should consist of whole foods, unprocessed and unrefined (or little refined) foods that come as close as possible to their natural state. Examples are fresh meat, fish, poultry, eggs, veggies, legumes, fruits, and quinoa. Processed Foods usually contain added sugars, trans-fats, nitrates, corn syrup, sodium, and more chemicals. Examples are bagels, fruit bars, cereals, pizza, cookies, sausages, frozen meals.
Eat Healthy Fats.
Healthy fats improve fat loss and health. They also satiate, digest slowly and are affordable. Eat healthy fats with every meal and avoid artificial trans -fats & margarine. Healthy fats can protect against heart diseases and cancers, promote fat loss, and decrease inflammation.
Exercise causes water loss through sweating which can impair muscle recovery. Drinking water prevents dehydration but also hunger since an empty stomach can make you think you’re hungry. Get a water filter, it’s cheaper than bottled water and tastes better and is better for you than straight tap water.
Love and Nurture Your Body
Research shows that just two strength-training sessions a week can help you burn more fat, sculpt lean muscles, feel more energized, and so much more. Between the ages of 30 and 70, women lose an average of 22 percent of their total muscle. What’s even worse is that over time, the muscle void is often filled with fat. One pound of fat takes up 18 percent more space than one pound of muscle, so even if the number on the scale goes down, your pants size might go up.
The best way to get and stay toned? Strength training!
Get Out and Do What You Love
Strength Training is terrific and has a ton of benefits; yet, it’s vital also to get out and do what fills your heart with joy. Any form of activity can increase endorphins and get you in touch with yourself. I personally do love lifting, but I also love yoga and long walks, so I make sure to incorporate these every week. Doing so fills my cup every time, which allows me to show up better for my family.
Take Time Out For Yourself
We are all busy. Life pulls at us in so many directions that often we forget to take at least 10 minutes out to just be with our own thoughts. Meditation truly helps me recenter and feel a deep relaxation like nothing else. Only 10 minutes a day can make all the difference.
With meditation, the physiology undergoes a change and every cell in the body is filled with more energy. This results in joy, peace, and enthusiasm as the level of energy and connection to yourself increases. Meditation also brings the brainwave pattern into a relaxed state that promotes healing.
On a physical level, meditation:
Lowers high blood pressure
Lowers the levels of blood lactate, reducing anxiety attacks
Decreases tension-related pain, such as tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle, and joint problems
Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior
Enhances the immune system
Increases the energy level
On a mental level, meditation:
Improves Emotional stability
Lead to clarity
Sharpens the mind by increasing focus and expands through relaxation
Reduces negative emotions
The key is to make small, consistent changes to optimize your overall health. Want to learn more about not being intimidated by strength training, how to quickly tweak your diet to feel more energized and alive or how to slowly incorporate meditation into your life, sign up for ZONIA for FREE today to get coaching in all of these areas.
Graham, Amy (2012) “Is Strong the New Skinny? Exploring Athletic Ideal Internalization Among Women” Dalhousie University.
Howard, Jacqueline (2016) “What Weightlifting For Just 20 Minutes Does To Your Brain” The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/03/weightlifting-memory-brain-video_n_5926320.html
Jacka et al. (2010) “Associations between diet quality and depressed moods in adolescents: results from Australian Healthy Neighborhoods Study.” Aust NZJ Psychiatry. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%2020397785
Lucas et at (2011) “Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of clinical depression in women: a 10-y prospective follow-up study.” Am J Clin Nutr. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21471279
Ramsey, Drew (2012) “Eat For Happiness: 5 Rule” The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/drew-ramsey-md/food-mental-health_b_1703007.html
Sanchez-Villegas et at (2011) “Dietary fat intake and the risk of depression: the SUN Project.” PLoS One http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=21298116
“Lifting Weights, Improve Your Memory” (2014) Georgia Tech http://www.news.gatech.edu/2014/09/30/lift-weights-improve-your-memory
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