An exercise in self reflection

Do you think that you are half as beautiful as your best friend?


Sometimes I look at my friends and am in awe of their beauty. I know for a fact that most of them, or dare I say all, don’t see this in themselves. Seeing these people lights me up because I see their enormous generous hearts and spirits and they just GLOW. Sure, I know and see their own unique ways of being, how they are with their kids, and how they’ve helped me through hard times. I know each of their secrets, fears, hopes, what makes them happy, what makes them laugh. Isn’t all of this about who they are?  These same amazing, strong, resilient women often express their perceived shortcomings anywhere from humbleness to outright severe insecurity, the range is wide.


And many of the women I have seen as clients have exhibited the same exact thing- they didn’t know their own beauty, value or wisdom. Time and time again I have seen self doubt, but even deeper than that they were absolutely blind to their own brilliance. 


What if you thought about your best friend/sister/loved one and imagine all of the things that come to your mind when you think about this person. What do you think about and how do you feel?  Does she make you laugh or make you feel warm and fuzzy? Does she make you feel centered and strong? And do you see inner beauty, wisdom, strength, perseverance, a good friend, a good mother, daughter?  Now can you try this for a moment- how do you think those people see you?


Some time ago I was sitting in my counselor’s office with my three kids. My counselor was picking up on the fact that my son didn’t fully “get” the full picture of what his mom doewho she is.  She looked at him and said “Do you understand the fact that your mom endured a difficult childhood, teenage years and early adulthood, that with her history statistics say that she should be at an enormous disadvantage right now, perhaps living under a bridge somewhere? Instead she is a conscientious mom, person and successful business owner.”  This may sound extreme but with my background of many early significant losses, an eating disorder, drug use, childhood and adult abuse, and complete and utter bottomed out self worth, it isn’t extreme. That was a moment when I saw myself from another person’s view point and thought wow, I’m badass! 


So the next time that one friend who lights you up calls you and you are instantly happy to hear her voice, think about the fact that you are probably doing the same for her. And how can you possibly feel anything less than wonderful if you can make another human feel that way? 





Overcoming shame

I was thrown into shame at the age of 17 which would turn into a self-defeating cycle for at least the next decade. 


Is this uncommon and why is this important? 


Shame, essentially the opposite of self-worth, requires that your self-esteem not only be bottomed out, but that you will seek out and experience similar circumstances and experiences to what originally occurred because you don’t believe you are worth more...which, in turn, will only serve to perpetuate the belief and you will exhibit further self deprecating behaviors. What is the effect? At the worst case, eating disorders, drug use, and other unfortunate results can occur, and then there’s  overall poor health. If you believe at your very core that you are not worth anywhere near your true worth, you are not going to pursue healthy behaviors, thoughts, patterns, or ways of being in the world. This can and often does have lifelong consequences. 


I was a server in a couple of restaurants in high school where I was the subject of pretty extreme sexual harassment. When actual sexual assault finally occurred, I fell into my lowest point emotionally. Looking back, I can almost picture myself moving emotionally further and deeper into myself so that in the end I felt like just a mere shell of a human being. Not to mention that I was shell shocked.


Before this occurred, I didn’t have impeccable self esteem. I had some circumstances in my early life that didn’t exactly set me off on the right foot. Additionally, I was keenly aware from a very young age that girls were supposed to be accepted by others, at all costs. The societal messages in some subtle and not so subtle ways came in loud and clear. I was supposed to be perfect, and if I couldn’t be perfect, then I had to be accepted. Nothing was good enough, which wasn’t even a possibility. With this ingrained belief, going into an atmosphere of sexual harassment and assault, I was hit pretty hard. 


What followed was years of essentially ruminating in shame. It became who I was, which meant I didn’t know who I was. I floundered for years, spending many years struggling with an eating disorder, drug use and abusive relationships. I was running from myself because if I got too close to myself, I may see that I was just as inadequate and unworthy as I thought I was. Worse than that I believed myself to be a bad person who couldn’t be trusted. So I stayed with my self-hate, humiliation and fear. It was uncomfortable, almost unbearable to be in my own skin. It was through this lens of self loathing that I saw and experienced the world around me. 


In high school on one occasion I ate several pills at a friend’s house with the intent to not wake up. I did wake up, but I don’t remember the three days I spent in her bedroom thereafter. 


I am one lucky girl. 


I not only got out alive but I completely turned my life around. It was through my self discovery where I went into the health field. But not until years upon years of counseling and art therapy and fostering inner awareness, compassion and forgiveness. I became healthy from the inside out slowly and surely. I consciously worked through all of the ugly feelings until I hit a point where I felt healed. 


Why do I talk about shame? Because I see it in so many women I work with. And I also see that harboring shame, even shame that is seemingly pushed to a corner of the psyche, is a major obstacle to achieving inner, and outer, health. Shame is an epidemic of the female race. 


When we identity and give a name and voice to our burdens, they lose some major power over us. Furthermore, voicing our experiences removes the stigma around these emotions and issues. Carrying a heavy load on our backs and in our minds serves as a major roadblock to health and wellness. 


I never imagined that I would overcome this burden. And never in a million years did I think that I would end up full of inner health, self-assured and content.  It requires shaking out the cobwebs to fully embrace our own value.


We are all, each and every one of us, magnificent and universal love.




Who has the control here, you or...sugar?

Who has the control here?  You or… sugar?


I recently coached some clients specifically around reducing sugar in their lives and some interesting things came out of it. They came to me wanting to reduce sugar in their diets as they were aware that their overall health was affected by their sugar intake. They both wanted to learn about alternatives that had less of a negative impact on their symptoms and how they felt. But it turns out that sugar brings up a whole host of other issues in our lives (shocker!). Diving deeper into the process, we discovered that sugar cravings mean different things for each of them. For one person it served as comfort and for another it served as a reward. For all it was a habit to reach for sugar when stress levels were high.


We talked all about the course of the day, their habits, and their typical diets. We talked about their sugar choices which were very different. For one person it meant a ritual she did with her son that enabled some quality time together. For this I didnt want her to stop the activity because I believed it to be a healthy one, but certain things could be changed around it. She and her son liked to bake together and so we worked on finding healthier alternatives for baking ingredients. We also talked about the possibility of other activities to make new connections with other experiences. Bonding is so important and sometimes that involves food, so we don’t want to do away with the food aspect altogether, especially when it facilitates bonding!


This also brought up other issues - that the aspect of food being part of self care was missing from her life. In other words, food and eating didn’t have a positive part in her life overall. This is very common actually, and is probably a topic for another day..


Another client found herself to be quite busy and so she tended to reach for sweets when she was particularly busy or stressed. We discussed the triggers for this, and researched different options for healthier sweets. We also discovered that carbs in her diet essentially acted like sugar in her body (actually, this is the case in everyone but she is super in touch with her body), and so we found other choices to impart less overall carbohydrate and more protein and fat.


With each client I mentioned various sources of sugar, glycemic index, natural sugars and unnatural sugars. It was a lot of information to put into this and they gained some great benefit from it.


I made a suggestion in order to work with sugar cravings: that everytime they wanted to reach for sugar, reach for a fat instead (which also brought up more to discuss - What- FAT?!) This way, they would get a macronutrient that was nutrient-rich, relaxing to the nervous system (remember the reason we reach for sugar is stress), satiating, and blood sugar stabilizing. Did it work?  YES!

Is it ok to have some sugar in your diet? I think so, unless you have a medical condition that doesn’t allow it. Otherwise, you gotta live! It’s just when there is a pattern of reliance on it when it is problematic.

Just imagine the possibilities of changing our longstanding habits, thought patterns and ideas. It has the potential to change our overall health!








Mirror Talk

When’s the last time you looked in the mirror and told yourself you liked what you saw, or even just smiled?

It took me over three decades to stop being so mean to myself. Did I see that i was actually doing harm by always talking so negatively to myself? Not at all, in fact I didn’t think about the fact that I was putting myself down all the time. It was such an ingrained habit that I didn’t think twice about it.

One day I was looking in the mirror and in the midst of scowling and frowning at my reflection I saw my daughter watching me. It made me stop in my tracks. Mid-frown I abruptly stopped what I was doing and walked away. It occurred to me that every time I looked in the mirror, I was teaching my daughter that my reflection evoked my own disapproval. This speaks volumes, right? She was learning by watching me. Think of all the times we are encountered by our reflection or an image of ourselves and all the opportunities where we can either celebrate our image or denigrate it.

Did i want my daughter to pick up this habit of mine? She is beautiful inside and out, independent and strong-willed. The last thing I wanted was for her to struggle with her own self image and self esteem for much of her life like I did. She doesn’t deserve such negative messaging at such a young age and I certainly didn’t want to be the cause of any poor body image for her. I also don’t use words like “skinny” or “fat” which are words that hold an extreme view in our society which is completely unwarranted.

Just last year when my daughter was 12, she made an observation about the sizing at American Eagle Outfitters. She also said something about the fact that they size “cuter” clothes like jeans to be smaller while they size more comfy-er clothes like joggers to be large, implying something about how the two size extremes are supposed to dress and look. This stereotype exists and most youth can’t see it. She is smart and sharp as a whip and I’m proud of her for being wise at her age.

I say let’s change this. I challenge you to listen to any words you might be saying to yourself when looking in the mirror, trying on clothes or even just during the day. If you realize you are scowling more than you’d like, or at all, this can be changed. It’s really about forming a new habit and this can be done with practice. Just try it. When you smile you can’t help but feel good and the practice will grow on you and feel more natural. And also, if you have any children in the house, there is a good chance that someone is probably watching.




Spiced cauliflower roasted with tahini

I have a client whom I cook for who has diabetes. She requires basically a paleo type diet so I focus on protein, lots of vegetables, and lots of healthy fats. I find it easy to pair vegetables with good fats and I use a lot of fresh herbs and spices to add flavor, phytonutrients and antioxidants.

This is cauliflower tossed with coconut oil, paprika, cumin, dash of chipotle pepper, sea salt and pepper, topped with tahini dressing made with tahini, lemon and lots of garlic and roasted.

IMG_1388.JPG

Sautéed sugar snap peas with orange juice and zest and fresh dill

Ingredients: 

6 ounces of sugar snap peas, washed and trimmed 

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder 

zest of 1/2 an orange and juice of 1/4 orange 

1 T chopped fresh dill 

1 T olive oil 

dash of water 

Directions: Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat; add snap peas, water, spices, orange zest and juice, and dill. Lower heat to medium low, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until peas are slightly soft and some edges are slightly brown. Garnish with fresh dill and slice of orange. Serve immediately. 

 

IMG_4376.JPG

Roasted Portobello mushroom caps with garlic, sea salt, olive oil and fresh thyme

Ingredients: 

4 Portobello mushroom caps, washed and stems removed 

2 cloves of garlic, crushed 

olive oil for drizzling

1 T fresh thyme chopped 

Preheat oven to 375. Drizzle olive oil in a baking sheet, place caps topside down into sheet. Drizzle more olive oil onto caps lightly, add crushed garlic and thyme. Roast for 6-9 minutes or until juices are running and caps have softened. 

IMG_4375.JPG

Curried chicken salad with toasted almond slivers, diced apple, lime, cilantro and scallions with Boston lettuce on the side

Ingredients: 

Two chicken breasts, baked in 375 oven for 15-20 minutes sprinkled with sea salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic powder. Then cooled and diced. 

Avocado oil mayo: 3 T or more or less according to taste and consistency OR Greek yogurt, plain, full fat, organic 

1/4 cup toasted almond slivers

1/2 apple diced

1/4 onion diced 

Juice of 1/2 lime 

2 T chopped cilantro 

2 scallions chopping thin

Boston lettuce leaves washed and separated

Directions: 

In a large bowl combine diced chicken, mayo or yogurt, apple and onion. Squeeze juice of 1/2 lime onto salad and sprinkle with cilantro and scallions.  Top salad onto lettuce leaves and serve. 

 

IMG_4612.JPG

Spiced black beans with sautéed onions, peppers and zucchini topped with creme fraiche, lime, scallions and cilantro

Ingredients: 

Black beans (dried - soaked and boiled; or canned- drained and rinsed)

2 T cumin, divided 

2 T chili powder, divided

2 T garlic powder, divided

2 tsp sea salt, divided

2 tsp pepper, divided 

2 T olive oil, divided  

One large sweet onion

2 orange and red bell peppers, sliced 

2 zucchini, halved and sliced 

1 sweet onion, sliced thin 

2 scallions, sliced thin

1 lime sliced 

Cilantro sliced for topping 

creme fraiche for topping

optional: paprika or chipotle seasoning 

Directions: 

Heat 1 T oil in a medium pan; add black beans, 1 T each of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Simmer on medium low, stirring occasionally until beans have softened and thickened.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T oil in a saute pan; add sliced peppers, onions and zucchini. Add 1 T each of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Saute on medium low, stirring constantly until vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. 

Serve beans onto a plate, then pile onion mixture on top; top with creme fraiche, squeeze a slice of lime on top for each serving, and finish with cilantro and scallions. Optional: sprinkle paprika or chipotle seasoning for added zest. 

 

 

IMG_4760.JPG