Strong not Skinny

For most of my youth and early adulthood, I struggled with body image issues. I consumed a lot of popular culture; and I wanted to emulate the women that I saw idealized in television, movies and magazines. I held myself to an impossible standard and I believed the lie that being skinny guaranteed access to happiness, love and success.

Over the years, I have learned that this is far from the truth. If you do not hold peace and acceptance inside, it does not matter what you look like on the outside. No one else can make you feel worthy and valuable. This belief needs to come from yourself.

As a forty-three year old woman, my focus is now on cultivating strength and joy within, rather than trying to fit into any external ideal of perfection. I aspire to be of service to my family, friends and community; and my aim is to age with grace and dignity. I can only do this if my body and mind are strong, fit and healthy.

Living in this stressful and busy world, it is extremely helpful to have daily practices that anchor and ground you. In order to do this, I follow a low inflammation diet and I practice a range of strength practices every week. Here are some of the ones that I enjoy the most:

Meditation: Meditation is a practice that spans across cultures and it takes many different forms. It is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being. The basic premise is that you create the space for your feelings and thoughts, allowing them to come and go: observing them with curiosity and not hanging on to any one thing. The timing varies on what works for you. You can do it in as little as five minutes a day and in almost any place: while sitting, walking or washing the dishes. The key is to use your breath. To explore how to meditate, there are great free tools available, such as Headspace app.

Walking: I love to go for long walks. I walk for an hour or more, a few times a week, to get my heart rate up and to build muscle. I love being outside, breathing in the fresh air and spending time in nature. Even in an urban setting, there are often trees and greenery to enjoy. This is the time that I most enjoy listening to podcasts. Some of my favourites at the moment are: Rich Roll; Marie Forleo; The Tim Ferris Show; and Coffee Break French.

Yoga: Yoga is not only good for the body, it is also nourishing for the mind. It is an amazingly versatile practice, which offers everything from restorative to power-based options. You can do it in as little as ten to fifteen minutes a day. I love the idea of growing into a ninety year old woman who can bend over and touch her toes. Yoga is my anchor and I highly recommend that you explore it. The great thing is you no longer need to find a studio to try it out. There are some fantastic free resources online that you can now access at home. A few that I like are: Do Yoga With Me and Yoga with Adrienne.

Bootcamp / High Intensity Training (HIT): Muscle density is important for healthy aging. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade. Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults. Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase the risk of falls and fractures. Building muscle does not mean bulking up; it is about creating an overall lean body structure and maintaining a healthy, stable body weight. I really enjoy taking a bootcamp class in my local community. The trainers are fantastic, kind and encouraging; and there are participants of all different ages and abilities. I am in and out of there in forty-five minutes; and the class is different and varied every day. If you do not want to go to the gym, there are also some great free resources online that you can follow at home, with a mat and some hand weights. I enjoy Christine Salus’ HIT workouts.

How you you like to stay strong? Tell me in the comments below.

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Free Solo: Dare to Dream

“You see things as they are and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were, and I say, ‘Why not?'” ~ George Bernard Shaw

I recently listened to a fantastic interview that Rich Roll did with documentary filmmakers, Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin about their Oscar-winning film, Free Solo. It captures the journey of climber, Alex Honnold, to become the first person to free solo climb the 3000 ft granite face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, without a rope or safety equipment. El Cap is considered by many to be the epicentre of the rock climbing world. It is a vertical expanse stretching more than a half mile up—higher than the world’s tallest building. Jimmy and Chai give a behind the scenes perspective into the unique challenges faced in making this film. It is a great interview and I highly recommend you listen to it.

I am personally petrified of heights. I generally have no interest in watching extreme sports or following rock climbing but this really story captured my imagination. Alex Honnold knew from an early age that climbing is his destiny; and he has spent his entire adult life relentlessly honing his craft. All of this work culminates in his dream to free solo climb El Cap: something which has never been previously achieved by another human being.

The film is particularly compelling as it not only captures the climb itself but it gives you an inside look into the close knit nature of the community, which includes legendary climber Tommy Caldwell, filmmaker and climber Jimmy Chin and Alex’s girlfriend, Sannie McCandless. Although they are each deeply concerned for his safety, they support him wholeheartedly to achieve his seemingly impossible dream: not knowing what the ultimate result will be. Death is a very real possibility for free soloists and Alex fully accepts this as a potential result.

I love this movie as it reminds me of the importance of following your heart and living the life that is most authentic to you. No one else needs to understand your dreams, as they are unique to you alone; but you need to be willing to pursue them with a singular focus and determination. Alex fully embodies this philosophy of life. He lives his life from a place of clarity and driven passion that is very rare. Watching this film stirred something deep in my heart. I was left feeling very inspired about what a human can accomplish if he puts his mind to it. I encourage you to check it out.

Podcast Passion

podcast

As I have talked about in earlier posts, I really enjoy listening to podcasts, especially when I am out walking or spending time working in the garden. There are so many good shows out there on virtually every topic. I particularly enjoy ones that delve into topics on writing, creative inspiration, health and well-being.

A few of my favourites at the moment are:

A few episodes that resonated with me recently are from the RobCast. He interviews his wife Kristen Bell on strategies for living with anxiety (episodes 226 & 227). She presents some great self-care suggestions, as well as perspectives on how to befriend the emotion, rather than push it away. I also really enjoyed the two Rob did called “An Anatomy of Restlessness” (episodes 230 & 231). He unpacks the feeling of restlessness and how it is an important message and catalyst for change. Lastly, I loved an interview that Rich Roll did with the screenwriter, Brian Koppelman, on how he broke through his own mental blocks to become a writer. It is really inspiring and contains some fantastic, actionable ideas for how to bring more creativity into your life, if you want it.

What are your favourite podcasts? I would love to hear what they are and why you love them.

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