Today we are so happy to welcome Autumn to NW Healthy Mama. Autumn, a PNW native is a stay at home mama to two little blonde firecrackers. She’s muddling through motherhood, marriage, natural parenting, and homeschooling in her 100 year old quirky dream home. She strives to be thankful, mindful, and thoughtful in the day to day, moment to moment. Today she’s sharing her story with us and I think you’ll really love it.
I could write a how-to post, or tell you what websites and workouts are amazing and free of body shame. I could write easily about how yoga has changed my heart and connection to my body’s capabilities. I could talk about diet and Whole30 and Paleo all day long. Advice on how much activity you need, what exercises work, and how much fat is a “good” amount of fat are all easy for me to pin down. And easy for you to google. But none of them will give you self love and the freedom that follows. Or the amazing health that follows that.
None of those habits will stick, or matter, or change you for your entire life, though. A perfect diet won’t give you the words to say to your daughter. A day of physical exercise can’t always save your heart from more cruel words that your mind slings around. None of that will teach you to slow your brain down and speak with only kindness towards yourself and your body.
I began about a year ago – and I’m on the long road. One overfull with those historical markers that tell you all about the past as you are on your way to the summit. The summit being unabashed and unconditional self love. The trail being… rocky. My marker posts probably look something like yours. Rife with numbers that mean nothing and everything. Full of signs of 20 pounds ago reading “Wedding Weight” and more of “goal weight”, “happy weight”, “okay enough”, “pre babies” and the like. All pointless indicators that don’t tell the whole story. The small print reading “disordered eating”, “binge drinking”, “self hate and depravation necessary to maintain this” “over exercising” “obsessive calorie counting” and on and on. It’s in noticing the fine print and tearing down the signs that I feel my muscles grow as I continue to step up the switch backs of this hilly path. Leaving the markers behind.
This time was different than the hundred times before. I started with tossing away calorie counting, tracking of any variety, and instead chose real food. I won’t lie, I went into my first whole30 with dreams of an amazing “after” with hopes of being one of the lucky who ended 20 pounds lighter. I wasn’t. I ended about four pounds lighter. But the changes I felt during the month were immense. My ecezema began to heal, I started to sleep better, inflamation and bloat were gone, my energy levels were sky high and I began to workout regularly again.
I started embracing the concept of “moving for pleasure” instead of payment/pain/punishment. I chose a workout regime that wasn’t full of body shame. I ditched Jillian Michaels’esqu videos that were rife with “imagine yourself jeans shopping! Think of the bikini!” and chose workouts and people who encouraged “Think of your long term health. Do the extra rep because it makes you stronger.”, running with podcasts I enjoyed, and workouts in the sunshine! In the forest! And without shame of “skipping” a day to sit in the sun on the playground with my kids. I chose, again, a mindful workout. Not a shame based one. Variety(!), movement, sweat, near daily. That was my only prescription.
As the months went on, the roller coaster was (is? sometimes.) still there, but my body and mind are making solid steps forward. I struggled and struggled to write this post because I haven’t arrived in any sort of way. Do I show my before and after? Do I share a meal plan? Or do I just bare it all and write that I still sometimes feel that pull to never leave my bed because it’s painful to imagine people seeing me, and my body, out in public.
Obviously, I choose to bare all. Because in choosing reckless body love, unabashed shameless self care, and radical acceptance, I also choose risk. I cut the shackles of a number on a scale, or a calorie count, or macro perfect balanced and what am I left with? Freedom. And fear. Because how I define myself and if I am “okay” is no longer easily quantifiable. I am left to accept myself just because myself is enough.
You, regardless of what you have eaten, what number is on that stupid grey rectangle, when you last got a “good calorie burn” or run in, are enough. You are multitudes. You are overflowing with energy, and ideas, and magic, and sparkling eyes and a smile that widens at the thought of your healthy children that you have a piece in creating. You, just you, are enough. And that may feel like an overstatement. It can feel hard to hear. When those words cascade, again(and again), from my husband’s mouth I want to shove them back in and yell “I know! But I can’t feel it!” but the truth is I can. If I stop. If I breath. If I eat and slow and sleep and listen. I am powerful and mindful and can accept those words.
The risk in deciding that daily, hourly (often more), is immense. Taking responsibility for my own feelings about myself, my thoughts, and my actions, feels so immense. I mindfully eat, I pleasurably move (although, sometimes, in the middle of a HIIT workout that pleasure and pain line is awfully blurry), and I choose to take each cruel thought that doesn’t line up with my decision to Love Myself and toss it as far as I can muster.
There are days that I toss those thoughts and they roll right back to me in my sloping and uneven home of a body. And there are days where I knock those thoughts out of the park and walk taller and stronger. I have learned my way back from the darkest of caves and for me the path to the summet is paved in dark leafy greens, heavy weights, a sweaty forehead, and grins from my children as we choose a new hike. The path down is a back slide, and back up can feel hard, but my legs are strong and they carry me all the way back to the top. Again, and again. As many times as I can choose it. That view, the one of myself as beautiful, is always there. Just waiting for me to turn back to it.
My nitty gritty resource list.
Whole30 was where I began to heal my relationship with food. I highly recommend the book (It Starts with Food) if you want some of the science behind eating real, whole foods, and finding the perfect diet for your specific body. The website (whole30.com) is exceptionally laid out, easy to navigate, and really helpful. There are also unending Whole30 groups on Facebook (I run one called Whole30 Ladies) that can be really supportive. The instagram community #whole30 and #Iamwhole30 is also really supportive and informative with recipes and ideas.
For exercise I keep it varied with hiking and running but during these rainy months I stay really consistent with Fitnessblender.com their workouts are all free and on youtube and they are exceptional, real, have a huge assortment of options and an easy search feature on their website. They also offer low cost workout programs that load an online calendar with each day of workouts depending on what you pick (I have loved the 4 week abdominal program, the 4 week butt and thigh program, and am currently on week 4 of the newest FBFit 8 week and really loving it). A great place to start with their work outs are their free Five Day Challenges. The one for Busy People (if you just search: Five Day Challenge for Busy People, on their website, each workout will pop up) is a perfect first foray into their workouts. All free, only 30min, and with people who get sweaty, have real bodies, and encourage eating real foods often – without tracking. Bonus! They’re from the PNW too!
Another amazing way to begin, or continue, to move your body and start to appreciate and feel it more is yoga. I adore Yoga With Adrienne on youtube.com she has two 30 day challenges that are both really gentle and great but will absolutely grow and stretch your skills no matter where you are in your practice. Yoga is also all over instagram and there are several really encouraging accounts that show how yoga is important and possible no matter what your body size. Check out the hashtags #yogaeverydamnday and #yogaforeverybody