“I love my body,” part 3 of 4

My heart got broken earlier this year–-but that very same heart kept on beating. It pumps blood every second, to my brain, to every extremity, perfectly. Every minute of the past 43 years. When I sleep, my heart miraculously never skips a pulse. I should be on my knees thanking God every day for my beautiful body.

“My body serves me well.”

In a thousand ways. I am going to record a meditation CD about this, to go along with 12 Steps to Whole Foods, in 2011. (Keep my feet to the fire about this! I have a lot of plans for 2011!) At the end of the meditation I am working on, I want you to feel awed by your gorgeous body. (Which then will translate into your making good choices to treat it with respect.)

Tell yourself, “I love my body. It serves me well” every day. Repetition is key. (Thus the need for the meditation I’m working on.) If you think what I’m telling you here is ridiculous, that’s okay. Just do it anyway.

Since you’re a woman, I’m not going to bother trying to get you to talk like a man. (My 17-y.o. son said last week:

“I poned that basketball today!”

and

“I was DOPE at practice, Mom–I’m maxing the bench press!”

I don’t know how you pone something or what exactly dope has to do with the bench press. But male culture allows, even demands, macho bravado–and confidence. Ours doesn’t.)

In all reality, if you’re a woman, I’m not going to get you to talk about yourself this way. You didn’t create the system for girls–you just operate in it. I get that.

But there are ways you CAN love your body that are socially acceptable. Will you commit to saying this:

“I love my body. It serves me well.” Or something LIKE that, every day several times, when you catch yourself thinking negatively about yourself? Say it a thousand times, until you believe it. (It took me a long time before I believed it.) Then say it, still, to reinforce that knowledge.

I think you are beautiful. I don’t care that you have stretch marks or your breasts sag or whatever. When you show up in my class or on my blog, I know you are a seeker of truth. You’re a goddess with unlimited potential. You are many things to many people who love you. You are good at your core and have a divine source, which endows you with divinity. You aren’t perfect, but your imperfection makes you relateable. I hope you believe that, let it sink deep until you begin to tap your potential.

As you do, you will find yourself refusing to engage in behaviors that abuse your beautiful body.

And if you eat something that makes you feel ill rather than well, choose not to guilt-trip yourself. One of my grad-school professors used to repeat often, “Guilt is a useless emotion.”

I agree. Do you love your body more when you pound on yourself about every less-than-optimal choice? Just because you ate those frosted sugar cookies today doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you can’t make good choices tomorrow. It means you’re human.

(I teach my kids: “Sin is not a tragedy.” It’s inevitable and it’s how we grow.)

During this holiday season, there are so many opportunities to abuse our bodies. So please start now in nurturing self-talk and spend some time meditating on how blessed you are to inhabit your own skin.

This really can translate into a strong desire to honor your body that transcends addiction and self-medication.

“I love my body,” part 2 of 4

I spent far more than my share of time hating my body. For 20 years, in fact, before I experienced a dramatic mental shift. Ask my best friend, Laura, who started in junior high school trying to get me to see myself differently. We spent a lot of time on beaches or in her backyard pool in Florida, after she and I both moved away from Bellevue, Nebraska, where we met the first day of 7th grade.

“You are beautiful,” she would tell me when I’d tear myself down. For a long time, I’d wonder what she was seeing that I did not see in the mirror and in photos. After many years, I began to believe, at least, that SHE thought I was beautiful.

“You have two choices,” she said to me once. “You can spend your whole life miserably trying to change your body. Or you can learn to love it.”

I figured out it was much easier to put my energy into the latter. (If you’re reading, Laura, I love you. Thank you for teaching me this.)

One day years ago I was at the gym, and a friend I’ll call Dawn, who lived in my neighborhood, changed my life unintentionally. I was criticizing myself for my physical flaws, and she said, “Hm. Well, I love my body. It serves me well.”

I found myself speechless. First of all, Dawn was no supermodel. By the world’s standards, she was 20 lbs. overweight and not particularly pretty. Second, what she said violated the code of women.

For the men reading this, women all know the drill: if given a compliment (that you look pretty or whatever), you must reply by saying the compliment is not true and then saying something derogatory about yourself.

Usually girls have this important social code mastered by, oh, about 7th grade! My oldest daughter has it down pat. She is phenomenally gorgeous and has a beautiful body by anyone’s standards, but if given a compliment, she will say something like, “My thighs are huge,” with a disgusted sigh.

For the women reading this: ask a man. They HATE this. They looooove to give you compliments. They would LOVE it if you just said “thank you!” and it brightened your face into a big smile. (I know this because I used to poll my university students–-the guys would get very passionate in responding to this statement. Male readers can please agree or disagree with what I’ve said here.)

But when my friend Dawn said that to me (“I love my body. It serves me well”), I was speechless. I walked away and saw her differently from that moment forward. I saw her as far more beautiful than I ever had before.

Confidence is beautiful. Confidence and humility are not opposites. Insecurity or self-deprecation is not the same thing as humility and is not attractive.

I have learned to love my body. As I experienced this dramatic mental shift, I changed in numerous ways. I dressed differently: I dressed to flatter my body rather than hide it. (Appropriately.) I learned to spend my time and energy enjoying the positive ways my body serves me.

You can imagine the impact this can have on a sexual relationship. (I have mentioned before that I was once an MSW therapist trained in sex therapy. Many if not most sexual problems in couples point directly to the woman’s negative opinion of her body. If she feels negatively enough, she divorces herself from her sexuality, with potentially dire consequences for her marriage.)

Learning to love yours also has these profound possibilities, which became a reality for me:

I learned to make better choices about what I ate, AND I learned to stop battering myself with guilt if I made a poor choice.

As I learned to love my body, I quit shying away from competitive sports.

When you love your body, you’re far less likely to eat foods that harm it, and far more likely to enjoy foods that nourish it. This will be a natural byproduct of valuing that beautiful mortal place that your spirit and heart and mind reside in.

Tomorrow, more thoughts on this, and my challenge for you.

Gratitude, part 3 of 3

I want to express my gratitude for something else. I was sitting at the top of the high school bleachers recently, in the sunshine, watching my son Kincade play baseball.

His athleticism astonishes me. I have two brothers who played college baseball, but still. Cade made a diving catch in right field, he had two amazing hits (one a double), and he very nearly threw a kid out at home plate from the outfield. A month or so before, he hit a grand slam.

His fastball is nearing 85 mph average speed.

Forgive the bragging. But there’s a point to this:

When he was 18 months old, I was given yet another prescription for oral steroids, the 5th round in as many months. Kincade was regularly up all night, wheezing and coughing, turning blue, getting more and more sickly and underweight, on a regular basis. I fed him the usual suspects: infant formula, chicken nuggets, popsicles, dairy products, cinnamon raisin bread.

I dreaded night time when the asthma became terrifying and I rocked him for hours, panicking. I intended to give that rocking chair to a friend for his yard sale recently because it has bad memories for me. (Kincade asked if he could keep it as I was driving away to give it to the yard sale and said, “I have happy memories of that chair.” Who knew!)

Something happened that day in the doctor’s office when I was given that fifth steroid prescription. I became acutely aware that if I kept doing the same things, I’d keep getting the same results. I became aware that the drug therapies were hurting, not helping. They were masking symptoms, not solving underlying problems.

The results of following medical protocols were terrible: a sick kid, anxiety, hopelessness. The doc had sent me out the door with a warning: kids who have 5 courses of steroids in a year have stunted growth.

Long story short, I was desperate to avoid “stunted growth.” In his father’s family, the men are 6’4 to 6’8″, and height is a birthright in both our families. I began seeking, reading, learning. I changed his diet, starting with kicking sugar and dairy to the curb.

END of asthma. END of doctor’s office and ER visits. END of all-nighters feeding him cough syrup and strapping the nebulizer mask to his face so he could suck some bronchodilators and vaporized steroids into his lungs.

It seems like a miracle that my kid is 6’2″ and growing, 172 lbs., and strong and healthy as an ox now. And it is a miracle. Naaman in the Bible was told by the prophet Elisha to “wash and be cleansed” to be healed of leprosy. And he “turned and went off in a rage.” Fortunately Naaman repented after his servants challenged him: “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?”(2 Kings 5:11-12).

It’s the simple things that often give us the miracles. Go and wash in the river–far too simple, right?

Can you handle the fact that the simple fact of replacing dairy and sugar, with whole plant foods, changed the course of not just Kincade’s life, but my whole family’s? Just a year of shifting to natural, mostly raw foods.

Is it too hard to believe, because it didn’t involve fancy medical technology, new drugs, herculean efforts? I wish I had a more whiz-bang story, but all I have is the truth.

I am so thankful.

Gratitude, part 2 of 3

From Liz Gilbert’s book, Eat Pray Love:

“I keep remembering one of my Guru’s teachings about happiness. She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment. It’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments.” (p. 260)

And this:

“The Yogis . . . say that human discontentment is a simple case of mistaken identity. We’re miserable because we think that we are mere individuals, alone with our fears and flaws and resentments and mortality. We wrongly believe that our limited little egos constitute our whole entire nature. We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character. We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exists a supreme Self who is eternally at peace. That supreme Self is our true identity, universal and divine. Before you realize this truth, say the Yogis, you will always be in despair, a notion nicely expressed in this exasperated line from the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus: ‘You bear God within you, poor wretch, and know it not.'” (p. 122)

I hope you don’t mind my diverting off the path of talking about good nutrition, to talking about living an examined life of gratitude. To me, it’s all connected.

But tomorrow, a personal story about miracles and good food.

Gratitude, making your own happiness, part 1 of 3

My good friend Matthew left formal religion as a non-believer. This was a big problem for his wife, who consequently dumped him, moved away with his kids, and remarried. He counseled me a lot as I was newly divorced.

I sought that out, because his divorce was amicable and he refuses to be miserable. What happened (losing his wife whom he adored, and his very young kids moving to another state) is the kind of thing many people spend a lifetime recovering from.

But he’s made a choice to be happy, make a cool life for himself. He has found meditation and gratitude exercises to be life-savers. He gave me an awesome Tony Robbins Gratitude CD a long time ago. You can’t listen to it and stay in a gloomy place.

Today I just want to write five things I’m thankful for. I hope you’ll do the same.

One, I am so glad I have my four beautiful kids. They all have quality friends and activities they excel at. They have fun, unique personalities and I learn from them every day. I made a goal today to not allow myself to say anything that “corrects” them (i.e. constructive criticism!) unless I’ve said five positive things first. Parenting thoughtfully has taught me creativity. Just now, I said to Ten, “I am going to be SO proud of you when you start putting your Lara Bar wrappers in the trash–I’m excited about that!” instead of “Why did you throw this on the floor again?”

Two, I am thankful for a healthy body that serves me well, never lets me down. It lets me play tennis, run, and my latest fun thing–Zumba dance.

Three, I am thankful I live in the Rocky Mountains, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I have a beautiful view of nature every day. Snowy, green, yellow/orange, depending on the time of year–I love it year-round. Sundance / Provo Canyon are my “happy place” on my skiis, bike, or feet.

Four, I am thankful for beautiful and unique friends who each contribute something valuable to my life, make me laugh, help me see things differently, and teach me stuff as I sit with them in negotiating their life’s trials. That includes my internet friends–every one of you who contributes here. (And even you lurkers–love you, too!)

Five, I am thankful for meaningful work that I love. I get to help people, write, travel, and eat good food, in my job. How could I ask for more? I always have a choice: and I choose to focus on what I have, not what I don’t.

I would love it if you would undertake this exercise–here on my blog or privately. I have a few comments tomorrow about creating your own happiness.

Some of you will outgrow me, and I HOPE YOU ALL DO!

In the recent Mercola/Campbell debate I called “Clash of the Titans,” a comment was made by a reader that you may not have noticed–but it really made me think.

“John” said that the more he stays close to sun and soil, and the more he learns and empowers himself, the less attention he pays to “outside experts.”

I love that. Very frankly, you should move down the path to less reliance on me, too.

I have seen some readers do it in the past three years. Some whose stories I know well, I have observed. They include Darlene in Canada, Tina in North Carolina, Jamie in Utah, Tonya in California, Tricia in Texas, Leslee in Texas, Dr. Denise in Florida, and my very own Jenni, whom I adore and who is head of my customer support team.

These eight (and more–name yourself and tell your story if you fit in this camp) got their start here at GSG or elsewhere, but embraced knowledge and change.

They’ve outgrown me. They’ve studied, pondered, and prayed. They’ve practiced. They’ve developed a repertoire of recipes and habits. They’ve overhauled their pantries, fridges, freezers. They’ve begun growing gardens. The learning curve got flatter and flatter.

They’ve seen the fruits of their labors: better health, amelioration of energy deficits and chronic conditions. They’ve converted others to the lifestyle that has so dramatically helped them. They haven’t done it halfway–they’ve done it flat-out, in a committed way.

Most of them voluntarily wrote testimonials for 12 Steps. They didn’t write sophistry or canned marketing hype or excessive praise. They wrote the real stories of their families’ genuine experiences.

They check back here now and then because no matter how far down the path you go, you need reassurance, community, and support.

But their knowledge eventually rivals my own. AND I LOVE THIS. I honor all all of you who have a sincere wish to help others learn the truth and get healthier.

As John said (which reminds me of someone I read Bernard Jensen saying, a pioneer in nutrition who lived well into his 90’s), live close to the rich, black dirt, and the air and sunshine. Where those things are, you’ll find whole foods: they keep you grounded, sane, and whole.

Does it help to visualize? Hit The Cycle!

GSG reader Alisa sent me her meditation CD for evaluation, and I was listening to it this morning. Over the sound of ocean waves, it says in a million ways, “I am choosing habits to lead me to my slender, healthy body NOW.”

Do you think it makes a difference to imagine positive outcomes in your life?

My son Kincade is a junior in high school. Today against Lehi High School, he hits a single, a double, and a triple. At Kincade’s last at-bat, Scooter Nelson says: “You gonna hit The Cycle, Cade?”

The Cycle is legendary in baseball. It’s happened ONCE this year in MLB. It never happened on the Thunder, the outstanding traveling baseball team Cade played on for 4 years before high school, coached by Dennis Smith, one of the best men to ever walk Planet Earth.

So Cade walks up to the plate with Scooter’s words ringing in his ears. On the first pitch, he smashes the ball 40 feet over the center-field fence.

The Cycle is a single, double, triple, and home run. See our celebratory photo after the game, below.

Every player comes out to body-slam Cade as he rolls into home plate, and Coach Nelson, of 4 state baseball championships, says, “That was psycho stuff,” and gives Cade the game ball.

He is batting 900 in his first three games of the fall, and he had 7 RBI’s tonight, winning a game against a very tough team.

How much does VISUALIZING positive outcomes matter? Imagine yourself healthy, with energy to spare, doing stuff you maybe haven’t done in a decade or more. It can happen. Not magically, but because actions start with thoughts–consistent ones that you nurture.

My 17 y.o. baseball player is the sickly, underweight, chronically wheezing kid taking five courses of steroids in his second year of life. The one whose story I tell on the site and in my latest book. Whose life did a 180 when we started eating whole foods and quit eating dairy, meat, and sugar.

[Oh, and what IS that shirt you’re wearing, you ask? I got grease all over my favorite white t-shirt and ripped a hole in it, extricating it from my bike chain today. So I let my two youngest kids “decorate” me with a bag full of Sharpie markers. Then I went to the gym in a tank top and everyone pointed out the Sharpie bleed-through all over my shoulders. BEING A MOM IS FUN!]

Change is good . . . or at least inevitable (part 2 of 2)

I once gave up another new sport I’d fallen in love with, kickboxing, when I peeled a tendon off my shoulder bone hitting the bag too hard. For 9 months, I couldn’t do the things I loved. Just like now. A friend of mine just invited me to do a 10-hour hike this Saturday and I had to say no, because of the injury.

Change happens. It’s not that it’s good or bad, although I think most change is a crucible that leads to growth. If we let it be.

It helps to quantify the changes and why the differences inspire and enhance my life. From tennis and running, to cycling? I now have different legs than I had before–biker legs instead of tennis legs. I like them. I liked my tennis legs, but the different, evolving muscle shape is awesome now too. I also get to be outside enjoying the most beautiful scenery in the world.

I went biking Saturday with my friend Kristin, and on the downhill she said, “This is like therapy!” I said, “I know! Sometimes when I’m up here, I start laughing, because it’s all so beautiful it blows my mind. And sometimes I pray. I say, ‘God, thank you for this!'”

And I feel thankful that change–something bad, actually–threw me into these discoveries and metamorphoses that feel like they are “meant to be.”

So why do we resist change so much? It’s scary, I know.

I watch so many people making the shift from the standard American diet, to the whole-foods, mostly raw program that I teach. And I see their reluctance, their fears, their excuses, in the beginning. I see their challenges and hurdles, their small successes, their building excitement, their health improvements and weight loss.

Change we have no control over, that seems bad at the outset, often leads us somewhere good.

Through my divorce, I gained or rekindled two new hobbies/skills (tennis and skiing), new friends, a lot of self-awareness, learning and growth–and it frankly made me a better parent. Because of plantar fasciitis, I’m now spending lots of time biking the beautiful Provo and American Fork Canyons in 20- to 50-mile rides.

Through my son’s illness, I changed my entire family’s health, with nutrition, and wrote books and developed this site to share with others.

Change has cost me a LOT of effort and angst, but it’s made me so much better.

So why don’t we make change that we know is going somewhere good, more often? I wish I could convince everyone to eat whole foods with me. I know sick kids whose parents won’t make dietary changes–because they fear change.

“I won’t get to eat foods I like.” “I won’t know what to make.” “I’m sure it’s too expensive.” “My family won’t support me.” Just some of the excuses to avoid change. I’ve heard from hundreds of people with those complaints, who took a leap of faith, and ended up with glow and energy and chronic conditions reversed.

I am learning to be a person who embraces change and sees the challenge and promise in it. Come with me.

Do the Opposite, Take 2

My girlfriends and I went to the Peter Cetera concert (musically bordering on awful, but good times nonetheless) this past weekend.

Apparently we were rather loud.

Do you remember my Do the Opposite story? I don’t know if I attract these people, or what.

Apparently a few of us, I won’t say which, were singing and laughing too much (like many others in the “lawn” crowd). A couple of women in front of us got up and moved. They never asked us to pipe down, or we would have.

A woman in their party, after they moved, came over and stood right in front of us. (See photo below.) Keep in mind we were on the lawn, and 100% of those attending the concert were sitting on the ground. She swayed to the music, blocking our view, and when we didn’t react angrily to her clear provocation, she moved backwards to stand on our blanket. She began to be rather obnoxious.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Tif was there, the only one my friends who was there in Long Beach for the first story. And Jennie reads my blog and knows the story well.

But my other friends Jamie and Lisa, and Jamie’s mom? They don’t know about Frowny and what went down in March in Long Beach.

So I turn to Jenni and Tif, and I say: “Do the opposite.” They totally get it. It’s where you don’t suck into an aggressive person’s negative emotional-energy vortex. You stay clear of it and choose a path far from what that person wants from you, which is to be reactionary and engage in their anger/hostility.

I offer Aggressive Lady some gum from somebody’s purse. She accepts. I ask her if she’d like to sit with us on our blanket. (If she had, I’d have put my arm around her and invited her to join in on the swaying sing-along.) She says no thanks, though she can’t help but respond to the hospitality. She seems to decide that she likes me, while my friends, not so much. She steps back further onto our blanket, onto some of our belongings. Jenni and I amiably move our stuff, scoot over to make room, and continue enjoying ourselves, laughing and joking and singing Chicago songs.

Jamie, Sue, and Lisa, though . . . they begin to confront and then argue with Aggressive Lady. One of them gets a security guard. A big scene ensues. I don’t really know anything about it because Jenni and Tif and I are continuing to have fun and blowing it off. (As you can see, photos below.)

Aggressive Lady succeeds in ruining three of my friends’ night. We explain Do the Opposite to them later. We tell them that by choosing the opposite of instinct, you don’t drain your battery being angry and miss the whole point of the concert–the R&R.

Anyway, this is my philosophy about the Mercola/Campbell debate. It’s an important issue. When I see irresponsible statements made in my field, I will address them and I will be plain. Some will get angry. A handful comments on my blog on both sides of the debate I didn’t accept because they weren’t constructive, just angry and misguided. I’ve often observed that people are more emotional about food than they are about religion or politics.

Now I’m done saying what I felt needed to be explained. I’m not going to give it excess energy. I want my energy for productive things. I believe Dr. Campbell feels the same. We’ve heard from Denise Minger here and I would imagine we’ll eventually hear from Dr. Mercola, and I welcome that. Thanks to everyone who has, and will, weigh in on this complicated but important debate.

If you have ever tried Doing The Opposite, let us know how it went here. I use it with my kids often, always with anywhere from good to great results. Once you start doing it, you never want to go back to allowing people to suck you into negative energy.

Mid-Life Mojo, part 2 of 2

Since I turned 40, I have done a bunch of stuff on my bucket list, for instance:

  1. Write three books (two published)
  2. Travel in 19 countries
  3. Take up a competitive sport and advance in it
  4. Start skiing again
  5. Do service in a 3rd world country with my kids
  6. Fall in love (that didn’t work out, but now I know it can happen!)

I’m not done, of course. I’M JUST WARMING UP! That’s the thing about shifting some of your unhealthy habits to healthy ones–you get YOUNGER and you tap energy you’d forgotten long ago that you once had. You get to do stuff on your bucket list!

I got on the back of Dixon’s Harley to drive the Alpine Loop and I was enthralled, enamored, blown away. “OMG!” was my out-loud reaction. (My secret reaction was, “Move out of my way and let me drive!”) But I am intimidated because I’m not mechanical and that kick-start thing reminds me of the lawnmower rip cord. I love mowing but hate dislocating my shoulder using the ripcord. I texted Dix and he said, DUH, they start with a button nowadays! Yay!

So, new things for my bucket list for the next 18 months? In no particular order:

  1. Go to Africa
  2. Go to Australia / New Zealand
  3. Write a couple more books
  4. Start a new web site
  5. Hold a GSG retreat
  6. Buy a Harley and learn to ride it

Somebody hold my feet to the fire and ask me how many of these I’ve done, in a year.

Please make a bucket list of what you’re going to do with all your newfound energy. Don’t let your conversations when you’re 65 be about what your cardiologist said about your need for stents and open-heart surgery, and how much your joints hurt, and how you aren’t digesting your food and the Metamucil just isn’t working any more, and how your Prilosec is bothering your stomach, and . . . .

(In case you’re wondering, that’s part of a real live conversation I had with a 65-year old person who is no longer LIVING but rather is SLOWLY DYING and it’s by CHOICE because she is reaping the sad consequences of lifestyle choices. It’s not just depressing to listen to, it’s got to be a nightmare to LIVE that life! And why? So that you can cling to the one pleasure you have left–In ‘N Out Burger?)

I have been accused of having a mid-life crisis. No way! (Where’s the crisis?)

I’m just LIVING in mid-life rather than settling into an armchair and beginning to die. When did this become the standard?! Join me for more Mid-Life Mojo than you ever dreamed possible.