As the weather gets colder and preps us for the holiday season, it becomes easier and easier to stay indoors. In my home state of Michigan, we typically get brutally cold winters accompanied with ice and snow, which I definitely avoided as much as possible when I could. I love exercising outside so much, and not being able to partake in the same activities in the winter month really messes with me. I have a sneaking suspicion this could contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder too. So what are the best winter fitness tips to keep us happy and fit through the colder months?
This year I am going to try hard to continue to move my body in ways I don’t hate (read: hours on end on the treadmill or elliptical). I have made it my mission to try different interesting new exercise classes to see if I find anything I like. For instance, did you know that dancing classes are offered year round? Check out my whole bucket list of interesting indoor activities for staying fit this winter, below!
1) Acro Yoga
I have been told this is a combination of Pilates, acrobatics, dancing, and yoga. If anything, I know it makes a great Instagram photo opportunity from what I have seen. To be honest, I love dancing and the feeling of being weightless and the movement surrounding that, which is why I wanted to try this. A lot of the moves are partner based, resulting in a great way to get your social interaction and indoor exercise all in one.
2) Rock Climbing
I was always a tree climber as a kid, and I wish this transitioned more easily as an adult. The idea of taking on a rock climbing gym is slightly intimidating, it has a CrossFit clique aura around it. Not to mention the equipment, where do I even start? However, my love of climbing and primal desire to get back into this sport are stronger than my fear of rock climbing gym hipsters. I will conquer my fear!
3) Tai Chi
This long-standing tradition of slow and controlled movements has roots that extend back centuries. I have seen a lot of almost miraculous injuries healed from the power of Tai Chi, and I know this practice is used commonly amongst those that struggle with chronic pain or depression and anxiety. The slow pace does intimidate me, but the patience and strength required for this practice is something I want to learn.
4) Naked Yoga
Yep, I went there. This practice is something where you need to find a legitimate and qualified studio to practice. It’s probably like a nude beach when you first try it, the awkwardness and trying not to look at everyone. I really would like to become in tune with my body and practice only in this form. I am also hoping the movements won’t be too strenuous, because sometimes sports bras are necessary.
Looking for a combination of self-defense and a workout in one class? Look no further than forza. In this exercise class you use an imitation samurai sword to imitate movements used by traditional samurais. I want to take this class because not only does it sound badass, but you know wielding a large sword like a samurai takes patience, skill and finesse. Definitely looking forward to this class!
6) Silk Yoga
With silk yoga, think of the acrobatic goddesses in cirque de olel that manage to dance in an ethereal manner with only hanging pieces of silk strands. The relationship between the person and the silk is whimsical to watch. I can only imagine how much body strength it takes to lift and lower your body into positions like that. It seems like it would take the same strength as rope climbing, yoga, and pole dancing all in one. Which brings me to my next class…
7) Pole or Burlesque Dancing
These classes were made popular a few years back. A lot of people thought these classes were controversially and objective to women, but the more I learn about them the more empowering they seem to women. This is one of those classes that allows you to bridge the brain body barrier and become in touch with your strength and your sensuality all at once. From those I know who have taken these classes, they see an immediate surge in self-confidence by partaking. These are a beautiful way to become in-touch with your feminine energy.
So these are the most appealing classes to me, what about you? Do any of these strike your fancy? Do you have any interesting classes near you that you are thinking about taking? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Or, if the idea of taking one of these strange classes seems intimidating, you can always start with my program, Weight Loss Unlocked.
In this program I give several recommendations on exercise quantities and types based on the results you are looking to achieve. Definitely start here if you are looking for a way to start incorporating exercise into your life!
So I believe there are two generally allocated camps of people out there. Those that want to lose weight because they believe they should weigh and look a certain way, and those that need to lose weight for health related reasons.
The first camp is often fueled by society’s ideal body type, and the standards women have placed on their heads regarding what their bodies should look like. We have all heard stories of women that just want to lose that LAST FIVE POUNDS. I used to be one of them. But I would like to ask you, how important is that last five pounds really? Will it truly bring you happiness? Probably not. Will it make a difference in how your clothes fit? Most likely no. So why do we put ourselves through hell to lose five pounds which is already just an arbitrary number?
Healthy Weight Loss
Those in the second camp are looking for weight loss based on a health based need. This may have been a conversation you have had with your doctor or based on your physiological bodies language to you such as underlying illnesses, you may have been able to determine this was a proper course. To you, I absolutely recommend my program, Weight Loss Unlocked. In this program I detail the following:
- Healthy Weight Loss Goals
- The Metabolic System Basics
- How to Accelerate Weight Loss
- Developing Your Own Personalized Plan
- Quantity and Quality of Exercise Needed
- And so much more.
Get Weight Loss Unlocked here
If you have been dieting and are consistently not experiencing weight loss, the following items could be contributing.
1) You are not healing underlying issues
No matter how hard you try to lose weight, you might not be able to if you suffer from an underlying health condition.
Thyroid diseases like hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are super common problems for people trying to lose weight, especially women.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), and leaky gut are all gut health problems. They might not seem like they are important for weight loss, but they are some of the most important. Without a healthy gut, you cannot absorb nutrients well, or have a healthy hormonal response to food.
Autoimmune diseases are also very important to tackle. The best guide for overcoming them, in my opinion, is Sarah Ballantyne’s, here on Amazon.
Figure out your underlying issues by taking stock of your body. What symptoms do you experience? When? For how long? How long have you had them? Take your answers to google and to the doctor. Get some tests done. Paleo is fantastic for healing, but a more targeted approach can help heal you all the faster.
Then, the faster you heal your underlying problems, the faster you can lose weight.
2) You are Under Eating
People are not wrong when they say that you need to be in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight.
This is one of the reasons paleo can be so great for weight loss: it spontaneously helps you eat less, by being more simple and satisfying than processed foods.
But there is such a thing as over-doing it.
If you undereat, and especially if you do so for an extended period of time, your thyroid gland will slow down. The body starts to burn body fat more slowly because it detects an energy decrease.
Depending on how restrictive you are, your body might even stop burning fat altogether, or will gain it. This is especially common for women. The female body is so much more sensitive to body fat levels (which you can read more about at my post here) than the male body is.
This is a weight loss plateau. The solution? Eat when you’re hungry! If you need more specific advice than that, do not eat below 1800 calories a day, and if physically active, then at least 21 or 2200.
3) You’re stressed out:
Stress, for a third, is also incredibly important. Many studies show that stress, like fitness level, is more important than body fat percentage in promoting health and longevity. For example, some studies show that implementing Healthy At Every Size practices, which means ignoring weight regulation in favor of intuitive eating and living, significantly decreases mortality in overweight adults, and promotes better lab results, health behaviors, and self-esteem than weight loss treatment. For those who are stressed out about losing weight this can be a never ending cycle, try not weighing yourself and paying more attention to how your body feels. You can read more about how the parasympathetic and sympathetic states of the body are influenced by stress and can influence your weight loss.
4) You’re not getting enough sleep:
In 1960, a survey of over 1 million people found a modal sleep duration of 8-9 hours. In 2002, polls conducted by the National Sleep Foundation indicated that the average duration of sleep for Americans had fallen to 6.9-7 hours. Recent data indicate that a higher percentage of adult Americans report sleeping 6 hours or less. In 2005, in the US, more than 30% of adult men and women between the ages of 30 and 64 years reported sleeping on average less than 6 hours each night. This decrease in sleep duration has occurred over the same time as the increase in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. These studies have shown correlations with hormone leptin, sleep, and weight loss.
Leptin has a distinct diurnal and circadian rhythm. It has minimum values during daytime and a nocturnal rise with maximum values during early to mid sleep. The amplitude of the circadian variation averages approximately thirty per cent. Leptin levels rise during the night to suppress appetite while sleeping.
Moreover, with sleep deprivation, the reduction of leptin at night spells bad news for the rest of the day: it sets the individual up not just with lower leptin levels in general but also decreased glucose tolerance and an increased craving for carbohydrates. So not only are our bodies hungry, but they are craving foods that are less nutrient rich.
Putting away electronic devices or wearing blue blocking glasses before bed can help melatonin production which will help you fall asleep easier as well. You can learn more positive sleep hygiene tips here.
5) This is the weight you’re meant to be:
Just because your body might not burn through fat as efficiently as someone else’s doesn’t mean they are more healthy than you.
If there isn’t an underlying health condition associated with fat storage, it may be a simple matter of genetics, the quality of nutrition and a body type you had as a child growing up, or of having a history of dieting (which so many of us do), which leads to slower fat burning mechanisms in the long run.
It is also incredibly important to bear in mind that fat cells don’t go away once created. They can shrink, but they never go away. This makes it much easier for people who have been overweight in the past to keep weight or to regain it once they’ve lost it. This has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with the biochemistry of fat storage.
But by and large, you may just be at a satisfactory weight especially if you do not have an existing or underlying health conditions. I know it is scary to approach the thought that you just may not be destined to be a size zero, but that is OKAY. Body types vary, and that is what society doesn’t show us. It also doesn’t show us the extremes that it may take to maintain that size of body.
All I ask, is that you consider this on your weight loss journey: How important is this weight loss to the grander scheme of life and my purpose in life? Will losing weight allow you to achieve your goals and make shit happen? Is this something I am doing for my health or to live up to somebody else’s expectations of who I should be?
In a recent blog we really dove into why rest is important not just for the reasons we hear often, but underlying reasons.
When we are relaxed we aren’t consistently shooting adrenaline throughout our body causing an inflammatory response like when we are stressed. Our body is able to maintain a balance that keeps us healthy. Being in a parasympathetic state can reduce stress on our heart, chronic illnesses, and immunity in general.
Parasympathetic states also affect our metabolism. When we are in fight or flight mode our cortisol is spiked, causing the blood sugar to spike. This can lead to weight gain.We know that stress can lead us to carry weight in different areas of our body. This stress weight is often related to being in a highly functioning, yet overwhelming sympathetic state.
If we don’t rest, things start to go wrong. We become exacerbated, exhausted, and fatigued.
How to Find Balance
So now that we know the ins and outs of our nervous system states, how do we achieve balance between them? The first step we can take is being cognizant of what our body and mind is telling us. I find it much easier to recognize cues of being in a fight or flight mode (sympathetic state) in my body than in my mind. These cues like racing heart beat, fidgety limbs, sweating, or wanting to run away (literally), help tell me that I need to reflect on the situation and see if I really should be engaging in fight or flight rsponse.
The more aware we are of our bodies and when we begin to track our varying cycles, the more we will be able to respond to the correct state with an educated and effective response.
How to Activate PNS
There are several ways to activate your PNS system. You can typically hack this by being in the company of others, or self soothing. Some of these items below may not apply to you; or you may have other activities that help you achieve PNS. It is important to take note of your physiological and psychological state to see whether the activity is right for you.
Our paleo ancestors did this. They groomed each other, slept together, communicated to each other in their own ways. This part of being human is ingrained in our DNA.
But sometimes it is difficult to understand how to enter a rest state; especially if this is a state we are unfamiliar with.
Soothing with Others
Some of my favorite ways to soothe around people include the following:
- Talking nature walks with my friends, either on the phone or together in person
- Taking a yoga class with a friend
- A couples massage
- Reading a book in the same space as a friend or lover
- Watching Netflix on the couch together
- Having a picnic with a friend
- Taking a study break at the library with a friend
- Sitting on a beach with a friend
- Massages or general welcomed and consented touch from others. If touch from others isn’t an option right now, check out this personal massager that does an amazing job as an alternative.
This may seem counterintuitive if you are an introvert who gains energy by being alone. However. It is important for our mental state to be able to soothe with others around. This fosters connections and allows us to enter a parasympathetic state. Simply, because we are with others and our defenses aren’t drawn, as in a sympathetic state.
Basically, any soothing activity you can do with a friend can be beneficial. A soothing activity is something that won’t push you to create more “should do this” or obligations while completing the task. Notice how I said taking a study break, not studying with a friend. To soothe, it has to allow you to slow down.
A lot of times when I need to get into a PNS state, I need to be alone and the reason I am in that state is because I exhausted my social capacity with others. The following are my favorite ways to get back in a parasympathetic state all by myself.
We are rounding a full circle here; no pun intended. A healthy lifestyle includes eating proper foods, moving your body, taking care of your mind, and incorporating balance and rest. In the paleo community, and in any western society, it can be easy to forget that the end goal isn’t always weight loss, physical appearances, or accomplishments, but that it’s sustainable health and wellness over the course of our lives.
In order to achieve this ideal state of wellness, we need to incorporate balance.
If I had a dollar, or even a penny for every time I have heard that rest is a crucial factor in keeping our bodies and minds stable and functioning, I would be entirely too rich for my own good.
We hear this from medical professionals, our friends and family, blogs, and people we may not even know that well. Everyone tosses around the word “rest” like it is something easy to obtain. However, I find it quite challenging to hit this idealistic state that is rest. (hello insomnia).
We are culturally and socially programmed to believe rest is not okay. Success comes to those that don’t rest, not those that do. Every seen that quote, Beyonce has the same amount of 24 hours of day as you? I had a therapist at one point suggest I rest more, despite the counterculture characterization that comes with resting.
Well big news loves! It is possible to rest in a way that won’t consume your entire weekend, or force you to cancel plans, and I am not talking about meditating either.
The Truth about Rest and Digest:
Rest and and digest is a common phase thrown around describing the state you should be in when you are eating. We want to be in a rest and digest state to avoid causing digestive issues or inflammation from eating too fast, while stressed, or on the go. But what does this really mean? And why is it important to be in rest and digest while eating?
Rest and digest is a term describing when your body is in a parasympathetic state. This is the opposite of the term “Fight or Flight” which is when our body is in a sympathetic nervous state. Read more about this, here. Like all things with our bodies, we need a balance of both states to maintain optimal health.
When our body goes into rest and digest, which can happen after eating, our body is able to restore and repair itself. When activated, the body has the following physiological responses:
- Slower breathing
- Relaxed muscles
- Heart rate drops
- Saliva is increased
- Pupils constrict
Why is the Parasympathetic Rest and Digest State Important?
When we are relaxed we aren’t consistently shooting adrenaline throughout our body causing an inflammatory response. Our body is able to maintain a balance that keeps us healthy. Being in a parasympathetic state can reduce stress on our heart, chronic illnesses, immunity in general to name a few.
Parasympathetic states also affect our metabolism. When we are in fight or flight mode our cortisol is spiked, causing the blood sugar to spike. This can lead to weight gain.We know that stress can lead us to carry weight in different areas of our body. This stress weight is often related to being in a highly functioning yet overwhelming sympathetic state.
To read more on how this can affect our metabolism and other systems, check out this post.
What is Sympathetic State:
Sympathetic state is what we often refer to as Fight, Flight or Freeze. This is the state our body naturally goes into when we sense danger. This can be as minimal as something like seeing a gardener snake on a trail ( so minimal, I know ). Our body may tighten up, we recoil and run or fight. We often feel a burst of energy, or adrenaline as the body initiates this reaction in a moment of danger.
However, we can also be in a sympathetic state in a less obvious moment of danger. Stressed at work? Home? Feeling overly fried? You could be extended out of the sympathetic state. The longer we are in sympathetic state without a balance of parasympathetic states, the closer we creep to what’s known as collapsing.
Sympathetic State Physiological Responses
- Clenched muscles
- Fast talking
- Pupils dilate
- Heart pumps faster
- Gut is inactive
- Thoughts that others are enemies
Why Too Much Sympathetic or Fight or Flight is dangerous
When you are constantly in sympathetic without a return to parasympathetic, your body and mind is put into a state of exhaustion.
Think about a time, maybe work or home, when you supported and cared for everyone else, and met that deadline, only to be followed by a weekend of booked plans, and no downtime in sight. Instead of canceling plans, you pursue on and meet all of your plans and deadlines, but feel yourself wanting to run away and hide to get time to bounce back.
This is your body creeping towards collapse mode. We will get into that in a second.
When the body releases cortisol, it is also stimulating an immune response. If your body is continuously in this state, it is always issuing immune responses. The Paleo Mom has an incredibly in depth article on this that can be found here. She notes that cortisol can affect the way our chemical messengers are transmitting information to our immune system. There are theories that this is contributing to the effect of our immune systems fighting back at us, due to confused signaling from those messengers or Cytokines.
Collapse or Freeze Mode
This system engages when your body is unable to reach a parasympathetic state. I have seen colleagues and students in these positions many times, using caffeine and reducing their sleep quality and quantity to complete as much work as possible.
When you are in collapse mode, your body is forcing you to rest. Collapse is often used interjectly with freeze, in reference to fight or flight. Collapse or Freeze is what happens when Fight or Flight is not engaged fully, but your brain is fully trying to complete the cycle of Fight or Flight. This is your body conserving all energy so when the “fight” is over, you are able to go find help when it pushes more cortisol throughout your system.
Putting it together:
We ALWAYS talk about how stress and lack of rest can contribute to so many dangerous ailments and conditions from autoimmune to physiological distress. There is proof that being in a highly stressed state, even if it is your normal functioning state, can be seriously detrimental to your health.
The Benefits of a regulated nervous system include
- More stable blood sugar
- Better overall energy
- Better Sleep quality
If you want to read more about hormones, stress, and your health and happiness, I have a whole book on the subject that is – well, it’s the place I went to dump all the knowledge I have about all the things, and what to do about it. You can check it out, here.
Stress is a dangerous thing, and I know it can be overwhelming to manage, but there are ways. Next week we will be discussing easy ways to activate the parasympathetic response system.
For those that are going working through restrictive eating patterns or negative body image, this post may be triggering.
I have definitely put off wearing a bikini, or a bathing suit for that matter, for YEARS, like probably half my life easily. Regardless of my weight or size, I always saw something different and unacceptable in the mirror.How many times have I looked back at photos of myself being extremely thin but also extremely unhealthy and unhappy at the same time, knowing my thoughts went something along the lines of:
“If I lose five more pounds I will be happier”
“Why can’t I work harder to maintain a fitter thinner shape?”
“I will never be strong or thin enough”
“I would give up blankity blank blank if only I could be my goal weight”
I look back on a lot of these mindsets and cannot help but face the overwhelming sadness and pain I was going through, and how I am incredibly happy and relieved to be at a place where I can respect and love my mind and body together.
And that includes wearing what I want, when I want it, especially if it makes me feel sexier and more confident in my own skin. This is because everyday is a new day to continue to implement this healthier mindset, or not. And in order to continue on this path of grace and self love, I have to work at it.
In this instance, working at it means wearing my bikini. If you have been in a similar pattern as me, please read through a few of these reasons (amongst many) why you should give society’s idea of a women a big ole adios and put on that bikini.
1) Because if you want to wear the bikini, you should wear the bikini:
Seriously let’s cut the crap. Why are we still caring what others think of what we are wearing?
2) Because its hot!
We already have to wear bras, why are we subjecting ourselves to more torture by wearing more clothes than necessary when it’s hot out!
3) Because the styles available are endless:
Check out Swimsuits For All for styles that look great on everybody.
4) Because you can embrace and love yourself in a bikini regardless of your weight:
This is possible, but it really starts with taking care of your mind body connection. With a more confident and accepting mind, you can learn to love your physical appearance too.
5) Because you may just love it :
What if…. just what if…. you put on that bikini and you feel damn good! Think of all the years you have been holding back, and just try it out. You may really love it.
6) Because you need Vitamin D:
We all need Vitamin D . If you’re going to be outside why not multitask and wear that bikini and get the Vitamin D you need at the same time! Just don’t forget the sunscreen, it doesn’t prevent the body from absorbing Vitamin D, just preventing sunburn!
Did I convince you? Would it help to know I wore a bathing suit while writing this for you? I am serious about eating my own dog food, loves!
If you are struggling with repairing your body image or are interested in losing weight in a HEALTHY sustainable manner, you can check out my program Weight Loss Unlocked here.
I also have a plethora of resources for increasing your body image. Check them out below.
My fave self love and self help books : http://paleoforwomen.com/resources/#selflovebooks
5 Things You Must Know About Self Love
My Favorite Self Love Resources
5 Habits Preventing You From Cultivating Self Love
Overcoming Self Sabotage
Self Love and Weight Loss: Enemies or Bedfellows?
Summer can bring up a lot of negative feelings towards our bodies. This is the prime time to be targeted by ad campaigns that shame us into feeling like we need a certain body type to wear certain summer clothes. Which we know is bulls^&*.
In light of this, I want to give you a little reminder to you that you should celebrate your body, no matter what it looks like, regardless of whatever anyone tries to shame you into feeling. Your body is your home, and with your mind body connection, you are a fearless, powerful women.
Can we please keep pushing momentum towards the women empowerment movement? A huge part of this is being respected and treated equally as others, but another important part of it is also to not let others dictate what we should think of ourselves or what we should and shouldn’t look like.
I am asking you to challenge yourself and your thoughts on this topic. Put on that dress, outfit, bikini whatever, and OWN IT. Don’t put it back in the closet and say “I will wear it someday”. Wear it today.
Let’s celebrate ourselves and our bodies and minds because we are kickass! Let’s stop denying that of ourselves, it is truly an empowering and inspiring feeling to be on your own side.
Here are a few ways to start:
Where a bikini or whatever swimsuit you want – If you want to wear the bikini, wear it! If you want to wear the one piece, wear it and wear it with confidence! It is hot out there woman, let yourself enjoy some sun in whatever you want to wear, just remember to put on sunscreen. Have y’all seen Ashley Graham’s swimsuit campaign? It gives me all the feels. Check it out here.
Hula Hoop in the Rain – Hula hooping is an awesome, full body low impact workout (insert link to last weeks blog) that is a ton of fun. There is something about the connection we form with our body while being able to keep a hoop in the air in unison with our bodies movements. Try in the rain for a spiritual-like experience, or just throw on your favorite music and hoop it up! They also make weighted hula hoops if you are looking to modify this into an even more intense workout.
Meditate in the Sunshine – Meditating is crucial. Elevate this experience by sitting in the sunshine, or on a bench in the middle of the woods. Focus on feeling your breath through your entire body to really engage the mind-body connection. This is a great way to increase your Vitamin D and gain peace of mind after a long workday.
Walk in the Sun – Movement + sunshine is a great way to take care of your body: Vitamin D! Bonus; a connection with nature! I find that sunshine strolls are a great time to practice gratitude, not only for the things in my life but for my bodies ability to move and carry me throughout these strolls.
Exercising – Exercising is basically giving our body positive fuel to maintain itself. By giving our body exercise, we are increasing our mental strength and are able to see in action our bodies capabilities which is so fulfilling. Don’t look at it as a punishment but as a reward for your body.
Have a Photoshoot – Boudoir shoots are becoming more mainstream since the explosion of the body positive movement. I seriously recommend this as a way to view your body in a new light. Photographers are talented people, and with their help and your body, you can be exposed and forced to look at your body in a different way. This can also help you become more confident in your poses and physical body.
Look in the Mirror – Check yourself out! I went so many years without looking in a mirror if I was passing by because I was scared to see something I didn’t like, and I didn’t feel confident catching my appearance off guard like that. Don’t be afraid to check yourself out, take a moment to reflect on the things (try identifying at least 3) about your body that you love versus what you don’t like.
Be Positive Towards Other Women – We are in a culture that makes us believe we can only feel good about ourselves by putting another person down. Don’t post that negative comment on someone’s instagram or gossip about another body. Give a compliment to a stranger and watch your own self-esteem rise. If we identify positive things about others it becomes easier to see them within ourselves.
Take a second and give yourself a hug and share a moment of gratitude for yourself. It is so hard knowing the things we as women say to ourselves that are just mean, cruel and astounding. Replace that negativity with love and watch how much more time and love you can give to other things in your life that are more important than your physical appearance.