Want to be a supermom? Take good care of yourself!

Want to be a supermom? Take good care of yourself!

In my last blog I talked about how to assess your life to see if you are trying to be a Supermom, but burning yourself out at the same time.  

Here’s a little metaphor to help you understand why you need to take care of yourself before you can be a supermom ☺

The metaphor of the oxygen mask

Many years ago I was attending a Mothers of Preschoolers group. This particular group was a small group that was just forming.

There were only 8 or 9 of us at any given meeting, and because we had limited time and budget we shared the duties of organizing what we would do at each meeting. At one of these gatherings, a woman who has become one of my closest friends started her presentation by reading out of a book on women’s spirituality.  

The piece she read spoke about how important it is for moms to take care of themselves. The author used the metaphor of the oxygen mask on an airplane to explain her point:

Think back to the last time you took a flight.

Remember that introductory part that a flight attendant does before you take-off? The flight safety instructions?

 After demonstrating how, in the case of an emergency the oxygen masks will drop down from the ceiling above the passengers head, the flight attendants will instruct the passengers to put the oxygen masks on themselves before helping others who cannot do so themselves – even children!

Why in the world would they want you to ignore your children in order to take care of your own needs first???

Simple – Because if you pass out due to a lack of oxygen you cannot help your child.

So let’s apply this to life in general…

Are you running your children around so much that you do not have any time left to take care of yourself?

Are you working in a job that you can’t stand so that your children can have expensive lessons or go to an expensive private school when there are perfectly good public schools nearby?

Are you volunteering for every school committee, baseball board, girl scout troop, etc. because it’s important for your children to have a fulfilled life?

NEWSFLASH ☺

Your children need you to be relaxed and not exhausted more than they need you to lead their scout troop and serve as the PTA board president.  

Your children need you to feel fulfilled and peaceful more than they need those expensive lessons or that expensive sports gear. If your children see you as a happy person, they will be happy people!

So, put the oxygen mask on yourself first

What things can you cut back on to make more time for self-care?

What can you then add to your life for your own fun and relaxation?

Are you trying to buy your kids happiness instead of showing them how to achieve happiness through easy (often free) relaxation and self-nurture?

Comment below and don’t miss my vlog on Facebook at www.facebook.com/peacefullivingwellness to share how you are going to put the oxygen mask on yourself first!

Love & Light,

Jen

 

The Myth of the SuperMom

The Myth of the SuperMom

A few weeks ago, I asked my super awesome virtual assistant Alexa to hold down the fort on posting to my social media for a week while I spent time with my daughter who was in the hospital.  She replied, “no problem! I’ll keep everything going while you’re out being Supermom.”  I chuckled and groaned at the same time. I am FAR FROM A SUPERMOM!

Her comment made me think of the articles I used to read about the super successful women professionals and entrepreneurs in the Working Mother magazines some well-meaning friend would give me when my children were little.

The articles would highlight beautiful, thin, women who were corporate leaders in their industries or multimillion dollar company owners. They would show pictures of their darling, perfectly coifed children and speak glowingly of how these women would make sure to cook hot breakfasts and dinners and pack organic, wholesome lunches for their children all while working the hours that it takes to become hugely successful! Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… the articles would gush on and on about these supermoms.  

Needless to say, I would first drench myself in guilt over that fact that I just could NOT get up at 4:00 in the morning to exercise and get my “me time” in before my little darlings woke up! And of course, there would be the guilt that even though I was teaching part-time at my university job, I still COULD NOT GET EVERYTHING DONE!  

And then I would try to be like those supermoms.  

I would go full-force, teaching and commuting, cleaning, cooking, laundry, play dates, Musical Munchkins, Gymboree, Tumbletots, dance, Little League, martial arts etc. etc. etc.   And, of course, I would end-up burned out, exhausted and fighting a sense of failure because I just could not do it all.

Here’s the reality check:

Most of the real supermoms I know either have a lot of family support to help them with their kids OR they have a nanny!

Even the media’s most recent darling supermom, Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame, admitted in interviews (after women criticized her) that she had an incredible support system in her family; in particular, her husband would often put her career ahead of his and take on the primary caretaking of the kids.  

As I’ve aged, and my kids have grown, I have met many different types of moms.

I have friends who are solidly stay-at-home moms and happy to do so. I have met moms who are type-A super career women and happy to be so. And I have met a lot of moms who are doing the best they can, but feel very unsatisfied with themselves and their lives because they just don’t feel like they measure up to the dichotomy of mothering standards our society has prescribed for women.

If we choose stay-at-home motherhood then we are not pursuing our full potential. If we choose a fulltime career, we are not giving enough of ourselves to our children. Either way, we’re letting somebody down!

“The Mommy Wars”

This phenomenon was even deemed by some savvy media writer: “The Mommy Wars.”

Through both the media and social clubs women would bash each other for their choices. I read an article by a supposed Third Wave Feminist bashing other women who were giving up their careers to stay at home with their kids.

She did not have enough perspective to see that her career as a freelance writer, her mothering of a single child, and her nearby family who not only offered to watch her child whenever she asked but also for free, is not the reality of most working moms!  

On the other side of the coin were the moms at a Mother’s of Preschoolers (MOPS) group I joined who would look at me with horror on their faces and ask in an aghast voice, “you work? You commute to work?”  

Their idea of a career was to sell any number of crafting or skincare products to their friends. But, even that career had its limits if it in any way interfered with little Jenny or Jeffrey’s schedule! Their “me time” consisted of the one morning a week they spent at MOPS or the play dates they would organize for their kiddos where they could at least chat with other moms.  

Some women must work to support their children

What is lost in these bitch-sessions, oh, I mean discussions (besides the important qualities of empathy and compassion for others’ choices) is the realization that some moms do not have a choice! Some moms must work in order to pay the bills. Of course, there are the single moms who must work simply to support their children. But, in this day-and-age, it is also very difficult to support a family on one income. Many households must have both parents working.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, “to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18, it will cost a middle income couple just over $245,000.”

Multiply that by the number of children a couple has. Add on to that expenses not directly associated with child-rearing, but there nonetheless. And then add on student loans that many educated couples are paying. There is a lot of money going out the door!

Some women want to work

The six months I spent at home after my daughter was born was one of the most special AND most difficult times of my life!

I enjoyed spending time with my two small children. I enjoyed the Musical Munchkins groups. I enjoyed the weekly mommy & me yoga classes we attended! But, there was also something just missing.

I did not figure it out until my first day back on the university campus. I felt like I was vibrant again! I felt a  renewed sense of purpose!

Not all mothers need this sense of professional identity and purpose. But, many do.  I have coached several women whose stress comes from the loss of their professional identity and their inner need to feel a sense of purpose from their careers.  And this is OKAY! It is okay for mothers to feel fulfilled not only by their children but also by their jobs and the time they spend away from their children.

Some women want to stay at home

I have a friend who recently posted on Facebook about how happy she is that she just quit her job and is going back to her old job of being a full-time wife and mother.  She is feeling so relieved. Her job was thankless and was running her into the ground.

I have other friends who were happily employed, but when their children were born found joy and fulfillment in staying home with them.

I even know three women who adopted babies when their biological children were grown because they loved mothering so much. One of these women went all the way to Uganda to adopt two orphans!

These women are fortunate enough that they are financially in a situation where their family is not dependent on an income from them.

Just because they chose fulltime mothering over professional fulfillment, it does not mean that they in any way are less fulfilled than career women. Nor does it mean that they are, in the words of one interesting white male, “not contributing much to society.”

How to find your truth

Most people do have a tendency to look outward for approval. I challenge you to look inward. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I overwhelmed by trying to do it all?
  • Do I feel a sense of emptiness or a lack of fulfillment?
  • Am I more aware of what others think of me or what I know to be best for myself?

What do I do to take care of myself?  Do others always come before me?

Reflect on your answers to those questions.  What do your first-reaction answers tell you? When you look deeper, what does your intuition tell you?

Are there others voices that are influencing your feelings?  Are there any ideas that come to you telling you how you could add more fulfillment, but reduce overwhelm?

Here is an exercise you can try:   

Write out a list of what you do from when you get up to when you go to bed.

In other words, a day in your life.

Take a look at how many things you are doing that are not self-nurturing. How many things are you doing that are not fulfilling?  

Of course, we all have to do many of those things as responsible adults, but are there things on that list that you just do not have to do?

For example, could you arrange a carpool to soccer so that you don’t have to go to every practice? Can you limit your volunteering for extra things at work or at your children’s school?

Are you spending time on social media that you could be spending reading or listening to something more fulfilling? Are you venting on social media instead of in a journal or to a coach or therapist or friend (being that sharing time with others is essential to stress-relief)?

And finally, is your quest to fulfill all of your roles in life – including SUPERMOM – taking away from your peaceful living?

This is only the beginning of what could & should be an amazing brainstorming session about how moms can be Supermom by taking care of themselves! Let’s get this brainstorming session going!!!  Post your comments below and/ or on www.facebook.com/peacefullivingwellness!

 

With Gratitude & Compassion, 

Jen

A New Year’s Resolution that Works: The Gift of Serenity.

A New Year’s Resolution that Works: The Gift of Serenity.

I was pleased as punch when I heard that the theme for this year’s Times Square crystal ball was “The Gift of Serenity!”  You can imagine my delight in finding out that the 2,688 beautiful Waterford Crystal plates on the iconic ball (shown below) were imbued with a sentiment so close to my heart.waterford crystals from 2018 new years ball

The gift of serenity is my life’s passion! So let’s receive this gift and get the proverbial ball rolling for serenity in our lives for 2018 – pun intended 😉

If serenity is your first resolution, the others will fall into place.

The other cool thing that caught my attention this week is that “being a better person,” outranked weight loss as the top resolution this year.

I love that!

There has been so much rancor in 2017 with the tumultuous U.S. election and the subsequent tide of negative tweets coming from the new president. Not to mention the ever-growing phenomenon of social media and the perceived anonymity of the screen that seems to prompt some people to feel empowered to engage in meanness and cruelty.  

And then, of course, there has been the outing of all of the rampant sexual harassment and assault that takes place in the workplace worldwide – I’m thankful that it’s finally being taken seriously.

It’s wonderful that the Maris Poll found personal betterment to be the number 1 resolution this year.

That said, being a better person is sort of a broad topic… 

How can we be better people?

Well, that’s where it comes back to serenity!  If we reduce our stress, practice mindfulness, and find serenity and peaceful living, we become happier, healthier people.

Happier, healthier people are more likely to be kind to others. Happier, healthier people are more likely to be patient with themselves and others.

Happier, healthier people are simply “better people.”

Some Fun Facts

  • Studies have shown that optimism and a sense of purpose equate to at least a 20%  reduction in the development of stress-based diseases such as heart disease, and diabetes
    • (Laura Kubansky and K. “Vish” Viswanath for Time Publishing, The Science of Happiness: Discoveries For a More Joyful Life. 2016)
  • Mindful meditation has been found to strengthen the human immune system, even in people with HIV.
    • (David Cresswell, et. Al.  University of California, Los Angeles).
  • Bringing serenity and peaceful living into one’s life, particularly through the practices of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, have been shown through widespread studies in the field of psychology to reduce the effects of many different emotional and mental health disorders ranging from drug and alcohol addiction to borderline personality disorder, and relapsing anxiety and depression
  • When too much cortisol, the hormone produced by the body when under stress, continually hits the brain it can cause hippocampal brain damage which results in the inability to sleep, memory loss, brain fog and an inability to control moods.
    • (Holly Lucille, ND, RN Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Woman’s Guide to Safe, Natural, Hormone Health. Impakt Health, 2004).

How to bring more serenity into your life

Start each day with gratitude.  

Instead of jumping (or in some cases slowly rolling) out of bed and rushing into your day, take a few moments to wake up your brain by thinking about a few things for which you are grateful. You will notice a difference in your overall attitude for the day when you start on this positive note.

Practice patience.

As things come up in your day that are frustrating take a few moments to breathe deeply and allow yourself to be more patient with the situation, the person, or even yourself if the case may be.

Use mindful communication.

In a previous blog I talked about the skill of mindful communication and how to say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.

A gentle tone makes all the difference both to the person to whom you are talking and to your inner self. It sets a tone of positivity and peacefulness.

Take a timeout.

Taking short breaks throughout your day allows your brain and body to relax and ultimately improves your efficiency and productivity.  You can enhance the health effects of the brain breaks by practicing meditation during your time out.

Do something nice for yourself each day!

Practicing positivity and self-nurture is the ultimate technique for bringing more serenity into your life!

There you have it – the gift of serenity!  

If you give yourself this gift as your first resolution you will find that being a better person becomes easy.

You will also find that being a healthier person, a more productive person, and a more successful person often follows serenity.

So do yourself and your loved ones a favor and accept this gift <3

I would love to hear from you throughout your journey of serenity! Comment here and on Facebook throughout 2018!

Love & Light,

Jen

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

In last week’s blog about resiliency, my last tip for improving your resiliency was to breathe.

Deep breathing elicits the relaxation response and facilitates an even exchange of oxygen to carbon dioxide (source).

In turn, these phenomena both reduce the heart rate and stabilize blood pressure. They also will bring about a deep sense of relaxation of both mind and body.

Try these breathing techniques & see how you feel:

Graduated Breath: 3 – 5 breaths each round.

Round 1

Inhale into your front rib cage.

Allow your heart-center to shine upwards. Feel the front of your ribcage expand and open.

Feel your heart opening as you breath in oxygen.

If you would like to set an intention or start an affirming mantra, this is a good time to do so.

Round 2

Inhale into your full ribcage.

Allow your entire ribcage to expand with the inhalation and gently contract with the exhalation.

Feel a sense of relaxation coming into your body. Bring your attention to your shoulders and allow them to soften on each exhalation.

Round 3

This time, inhale all the way into your diaphragm.

The ribcage still expands and fills with air.

But now, the diaphragm, that belt of muscle that runs all the way around your body right under the ribcage also expands with the inhalation and gently contracts with the exhalation.

Continue with your affirming mantra.

Continue to mentally coax your shoulders and now your back to soften and relax.

Round 4

Draw your inhalations all the way down into the belly. The ribcage is still expanding and contracting.

The diaphragm is still expanding and contracting.

Allow your belly to shine. The ancient yogis say that the belly is the center of our life force.

Allow your life force to open with the breath.

Round 5

Finally, allow your breath to fill your entire torso.

Your ribs expand.

Your diaphragm expands.

Your belly expands and your lower back expands.

Concentrate on the slow expansion and contraction of your muscles and bones. Feel the sense of calm that comes with each breath.

Connect your mind and your body and feel your entire torso, neck, hips and maybe even your entire body relax and let go of lingering tensions.

Continue with your mantra if you are using one with this practice.

Graduated Breath with Counting: 3 to 5 breaths each round.

Start with inhalations all the way into your belly. They need to be shallow at first.

Round 1

Inhale counting to 3; Exhale counting to 4.

Round 2

Inhale counting to 4; Exhale counting to 5

Round 3

Inhale counting to 5; Exhale counting to 6.

At this point either reverse the count back to inhale 4 and then 3 OR continue on until you are inhaling to 9 and exhaling to 10.

Opposite Nostril Breathing: As many rounds as you like.

Preparation

Take your index finger and thumb of your non-dominant hand and make a “U.”

Step 1

Place your index finger lightly on the outside of your nostril along the side of your nose. Close off the air.

Inhale through the open nostril.

Step 2

Place your thumb gently over the open nostril, along the side of your nose, closing it off.

Release the index finger, opening the nostril that was closed.

Exhale through the open nostril.

Step 3

Inhale on that same side.

Step 4

Close off that side of the nose with the index finger; Open the thumb from the other nostril and exhale.

Step 5

Inhale on that same side that you just opened. Repeat the pattern at least 5 times.

Try it out!

These are just three of many different deep breathing techniques to try.

Tune in to future blogs and vlogs for more!

Remember, in yoga, we call it “Breath Work” because it’s a practice.

If you don’t elicit a relaxation response your first couple of times using a technique, keep practicing and keep trying different techniques.

The more you practice Breath Work, the deeper your mind-body connection and the deeper your relaxation will be.

Let me know how these work for you!

If you have other techniques that you love, share them in the comments for others to try out!

We’re a Peaceful Living Community filled with Love and Compassion. So please, share on…

With Love & Gratitude!

Jen

Resiliancy

Resiliancy

“Resilience isn’t a single skill. It’ a variety of skills and coping mechanisms.

To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.”

~ Jean Chatzky, financial journalist

Inner resiliency is an important personality trait to have in order to combat both acute and chronic stress.

I find that many of my clients and friends don’t really know what it is.

A dictionary definition goes something like this:

1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

On first glance, it may seem that only the first definition applies to human beings.

I truly believe that both inner toughness and elasticity are necessary for human resilience.

We need to be both tough and flexible (elastic) to withstand acute stress.

For example, when facing the loss of a job, a scary medical diagnosis or being subjected to harassment.

We need to open our hearts and minds to changing jobs; this requires flexibility.

Thus, when facing a significant life change, we need to be tough in the face of the change, but also embrace the change with openness to something new
(flexibility).

A new normal

Cancer patients are counseled that they CAN live with cancer; but, they will need to adjust to a “new normal.”

They will need to be tough to stand up to the cancer and to withstand chemotherapy and radiation AND they will need to be flexible in adjusting to their “new normal.”

Cancer patients need to be flexible in order to adjust to their “new normal” of living with cancer.

We also need to be both tough and flexible in order to withstand the stressful ebbs and flows of life that cause chronic stress.

Proud Mommy Moment

I was listening to my daughter talk last night about how mean and sassy the kids in her middle school are. I was amazed by her nonchalance about it.

She just said that they bug her, but that she basically doesn’t have time for their nonsense! She is exemplifying the epitome of toughness in a chronically stressful situation!

You have to be tough in the face of chronic stress

Being flexible is just as important in managing chronic stress.

One of my biggest challenges with my clients is to convince them that they do have time for self-care.

They get so bogged down in the chronic stress of their busy lives they cannot grasp the reality that they actually can carve out time to relax and take time for themselves.

It takes flexibility in thinking and actions to take the time to do this for themselves.

What a great way to build the toughness and flexibility required for RESILIENCY!

Self-Care!

The question becomes, how do we get the toughness and flexibility to build resilience?

Here are 5 tips for building resilience:

1. “This Too Shall Pass”

When I was in graduate school I found myself in a professor’s office one day near tears (I cried a lot from the stress of grad school :/ ) .

I was very upset that I did not pass one of the questions on a Ph.D. comprehensive exam.

In hindsight it was quite silly of me to be so upset, because I passed the exam.

We had to pass two out of three questions and I passed both of the others, so there really wasn’t a reason to be upset. At that point in life I had very little resiliency to me!

The professor, wise and benevolent man that he was, sat back, crossed his arms, looked at me and said, “Jen, this too shall pass.”

To me, at that moment in time, I felt like a huge failure! I did not feel like it would pass!

Of course, hindsight is 20/20…

If I had resiliency at that time I would have been tough enough to say to myself that it was okay that I didn’t pass the question.

I would have been flexible enough to move beyond it and not dwell on the false idea that I was a failure.

I would have had enough presence of mind to not get overwrought by not passing one question, when I passed the exam!

2. “What Other People Think of Me is None of My Business.”

This point harkens back to my “Mean People Suck” vlog/ blog.

People can be both super stress relievers and super stress inducers.

When people become stressful having resilience is very important.

If we go back to the example of how my daughter is not allowing the mean, sassy kids at school get her upset, we can see how her resiliency is protecting her from taking it personally when they say mean things to her.

One thing that we all need to learn, is that while we do need to care about what other people think of us in terms of if we are being kind and polite in our interactions with others, we do not need take it personally when others are not being kind or polite to us!

When people are being mean or rude, that is when a resilient person will say to herself, “what that person thinks of me is none of my business,” and move on with her day.

3. “Practice Positivity, But Learn from the Negative.”

I have had enough experiences by this point in life to know that life can be full of joy if I let it.

On the flip side of that, I also know that life has lots of sorrow and challenges.

I can honestly say that embracing joy and working through sorrow has been the most effective method I have found for strengthening my resilience.

Thanks to the efforts of positive psychology researchers like Barbara Frederickson of the University of North Carolina, we now have empirical evidence that a mind focused on positivity is far more open and flexible than a mind focused on negativity:

“Positive people are able to maintain a broader perspective and see the big picture which helps them identify solutions whereas negative people maintain a narrower perspective and tend to focus on problems.”

~ Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.

Remember, flexibility is associated with resiliency!

If you focus on positive thoughts it will give you a mind that is far more flexible than if you focus on negativity.

Thus, over the long-run focusing on negativity does not build resilience.

This phenomenon is not just true in respect to how we as humans view the outer world, but it is also true in terms of how we view ourselves.

Positive affirmations and self-talk build our inner resiliency.

From the century old theories of French Psychologist Émile Coué, to current research out of esteemed universities, we are seeing that positive thinking has efficacious effects for people.

There are some cautionary tales though.

For example, psychology research has also shown that trying to tell someone not to think their negative thoughts can have the opposite effect.

It can cause them to focus on them more.

In other words, while positive affirmations are helpful in building resiliency, it is also important to accept negative emotions and see them as real.

Do not push them down inside of you or blow them off as not important. But, also don’t dwell on them.

Give them their due diligence and move forward.

Once you have accepted the negative you can move on into positivity and allow positive affirmations to work.

This is the key to building resilience. Working through the negative in order to embrace the positive.

4. Self- Nurture

One of the primary themes running through my coaching, my writing, my speaking and my life is that self-nurture is of utmost importance to reducing stress.

By taking time out to rest and care for yourself you are giving your mind, body and spirit the opportunity to heal from stress, revive and strengthen.

By taking time out to nurture yourself you are giving yourself the opportunity to strengthen.

Remember how on airplanes the flight attendants instruct us to put the oxygen masks on ourselves before we put them on our children?

I love to use real life instruction as a metaphor for the importance of self-nurture in our lives.

We need to give ourselves oxygen, so we don’t pass out, before we can take care of others.

By resting and rejuvenating we are strengthening ourselves and building our resilience.

5. And finally… Just Breathe

People often look at me like I’m being a little ridiculous when I talk about how much breathing can help with stress-management.

I mean, we all breath all day, right?

Without breath we can’t live.

I’m talking about a different type of breathing than that which do all day every day.

I’m talking about slow, deep, luxurious breathing.

I’m talking about the type of breathing that allows your entire torso to expand and contract with the breath.

I’m talking about the type of breath that coaxes your shoulders to melt with relaxation.

I’m talking about the type of breath that allows your mind to slow down and your body let go of tension.

I’m talking about the type of breathing that brings you into a place of tranquility and peace…

So, just breath my friends. Just breath…

What are your stories of resiliency? I would love to hear about the wisdom you have derived, please comment and share!

Love & Light,

Jen

Stressing over being fat is unhealthier than being fat

Stressing over being fat is unhealthier than being fat

The stress of fat shaming is more toxic than actually being fat.

The only way to make weight stop being a problem, is to stop making weight a problem–stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Linda Bacon, PhD in Nutrition Science

According to the American Psychological Association stress is linked to SIX of the leading causes of death in the United States: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and SUICIDE. [source] But, did you know that it’s also one of the leading causes of diabetes? [source]

What does this have to do with fat shaming, you ask?   

Fat shaming is one of the leading causes of stress in American society. Not only is it a cause of stress for people who are overweight, but it’s also a major source of stress for people of normal weight!   People in our nation are so worried about being fat shamed that they are worrying themselves sick about it. Why is fat shaming so pervasive in our society?  First and foremost, because it’s tolerated.

  • We see magazine covers touting celebrities, “ASTONISHING WEIGHT GAIN!”  As if it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to them.
  • We have extremely popular TV shows – The Biggest Loser – that chronical the extreme exercise and dieting of contestants to lose big weight, only to gain it back again after the show. [source

Biggest loser contestants must brutally exercise to keep the weight off, study shows. The Los Angeles Times

  • We see supposedly legitimate news sources discussing whatever the latest fad diet is. Watch Good Morning America or The Today Show almost any week and they will be talking about ways to lose weight
  • We have an American Diet Industrial Complex worth over $60 BILLION annually! They are heavily invested in telling us that being fat is bad, to keep us spending that $60 billion so that we can be healthy, look good and, according to them, feel good! [source– “The Heavy Price of Losing Weight”]
  • We have a medical community that largely ignores many of the underlying causes of weight gain–stress being one of the most prominent–and cashes in on diabetes & weight loss pharmaceuticals, bariatric surgeries, and research that is funded by the pharmaceutical and diet industrial complex.

The Obesity Paradox

Obese patients with disease live longer than those of normal weight. Slate.com

  • And, of course more recently, we have a president who fat shames indiscriminately.  

If I were running the view, I’d fire Rosie [O’Donnell]. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly, face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.'” Donald Trump to Entertainment Tonight

So there’s the catch…

Common knowledge says that if we just eat less and exercise more we will lose weight!   And this is true, to a certain extent for VERY FEW PEOPLE! Most people either can’t lose the weight without starving themselves and/or over-exercising.  97% of those who do lose weight, gain it back and then some!

 

My Insulin Story

 

I was a skinny kid. And I was actually a skinny teenager and a skinny college girl. What’s so funny though, is that I thought I was fat! When I was in college I went on Jenny Craig even though I was a women’s size 0! I thought I was fat because I couldn’t fit into the juniors/ misses sizes around my hips very well anymore (it was really just that my body was maturing around the hips as women’s bodies do…)    I didn’t know that because I paid attention to what popular culture was telling me about my body.  Anybody remember Tamilee Webb and Buns of Steel?

 

Except, here’s what was going on behind the scenes in my body:

 

I wasn’t processing the stress of my upbringing or the stress of my current situation well. I was drinking too much alcohol, sleeping too little, and worrying all the time.

 

 

The stress was starting to have an effect on my brain chemistry.

 

I was cycling through episodes of severe anxiety and depression. Much of the time I felt fine, but as time went on the anxiety and depression came around more often and the “feeling fine” time was harder to achieve.  

 

 

Little did I know, the stress was starting to affect my pancreas and my insulin levels were starting to ratchet up.

 

When I graduated from college and decided to go to graduate school, the pace and workload (on top the fact that I still was not coping with my stress appropriately) led to bouts of months-long insomnia, occasional panic attacks and the dreaded weight gain! During my master’s program I gained 20 pounds – in only a year-and-a-half! During the first year of my doctoral program I gained another whopping 20 pounds!!!

 

 

Then, I had the opportunity to go to Europe for two months.

 

 I climbed to the top of every cathedral I could find. I walked and walked and walked… and I ate the amazing fresh food that Europeans are lucky enough to eat every day! I lost 20 pounds!

 

 

It was great! Or so I thought…

 

The problem was that it was the beginning of a cycle of stress-induced weight gain and physical activity + a more relaxed lifestyle weight loss. I wasn’t yoyo dieting – I was yoyo stressing!

 

Fast Forward to 2016

 

I just turned 46 and was feeling horrible! I was at my highest weight yet, but I also was in a constant brain fog. I couldn’t remember words, I would show-up for appointments at the wrong time, I was lethargic and constantly battling depression.

 

 

“But, I’M A STRESS MANAGEMENT COACH!!!”

 

I would say to myself with exasperation! What’s going on… why are my awesome mindfulness techniques not working to help me feel better???

 

 

I sought out medical reasons for why I felt so bad.

 

Low-and- behold, after a year of seeing different doctors and having A LOT of blood drawn, it turned out that my pancreas was producing so much insulin that if it kept going at that pace it would likely shut down very soon. When the endocrinology nurse practitioner told me this news the first thing out of my mouth was,

 

but, I’ve tried so hard to lose weight! I only eat an average of 1600 calories a day, I power walk 3 to 4 days-a-week and I do yoga 3 times a week!

 

Her response was to look at me seriously and state, “

 

This is not your fault. You are not insulin resistant because of your weight; you are having trouble losing weight because you are insulin resistant.

 

It turns out that, according to Allison the NP, the only connections that research has found between causes and insulin resistance are heredity and STRESS.

 

Here are some facts:

 

  1. People with overproduction of insulin may be genetically prone to the condition. There is a hereditary effect, but it’s not necessarily the case for everyone. There is a high correlation.
  2. People with insulin overproduction do not usually have what is normally considered to be high blood sugar. For example, my A1C (fasting blood sugar average) ranges between 5.5 and 5.8 – that is well within normal range. In other words, they are not on the typical path toward Type 2 Diabetes which can be detected through rising blood sugar levels.
  3. People with insulin overproduction may be overweight in spite of diet and exercise efforts that would produce weight loss in other people. This is true of children as well, many of whom have been put on calorie restrictive diets by pediatricians who don’t bother to check their insulin.
  4. People who have insulin overproduction are often overweight because of their insulin – NOT the other way around!
  5. A history of high stress is strongly correlated with insulin overproduction.

 

My endocrine NP’s exact words were:

 

This is not your fault.  This is not about our weight. Your insulin is so high that it seems like it has been climbing for decades. You may be able to control this to a certain extent through diet–A Low Glycemic Diet. But, most likely you will not be able to fully control it through diet.

 

Here’s the long-and-the-short of it…  

 

  • My lack of knowledge about how to control my stress early on most likely led to this condition.
  • Was some of my stress due to my socially constructed ideas about my weight and body proportion? Absolutely!
  • Have I been fat shamed? Absolutely!
  • Do I let it stress me out now? Absolutely NOT!

 

What’s the Take-Home here?

 

First, don’t fat shame, or even judge the bodies of, others. You have no idea what is going on with their weight.   Insulin resistance is only one of many underlying medical conditions that affect weight. The stress you cause by judging others size is more harmful than their size actually is. AND don’t fat shame yourself! Accept yourself for who you are and what your body looks like! Definitely get yourself to the doctor if you have unexplained weight gain. Be kind, loving, and accepting of yourself. There is a lot of medical and epidemiological research on your side if you are overweight. That is, there is a lot of medical and epidemiological research that says that if you are “overweight” you are perfectly healthy and thus not “over” anything!

 

 

Aaannndddd… Let the comments begin!

 

Namaste Y’all!, Jen

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