9 Plus Ways to Activate Your Parasympathetic Nervous System

9 Plus Ways to Activate Your Parasympathetic Nervous System

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.

 

Self-Soothing

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.

<3

 

So you Don’t Believe in Resting?

So you Don’t Believe in Resting?

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

  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • 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.

 

<3

 

How to Stay Sane This Holiday Season

How to Stay Sane This Holiday Season

As much as the holidays mean spending time with our loved ones  – they also can mean…STRESS!

Pulling together gifts, cooking, indulging in treats and extra time with your family – no matter how much we love them, can lead to burning out.

And we all know that can happen, FAST.

I think a lot of us are consistently running at 100 MPH all the time, but it feels like the holidays exacerbate this even more.

I am SOO hoping to stay ahead of my stress this year, which is why I spent some serious time making a plan for the best techniques to use when I am feeling frazzled.

It can be hard to remember to take time to take care of ourselves and maintain our health during the holiday season –  so check out these tips to help keep you calm, cool and collected.

#1 Magnesium Bath

Want to get in touch with your luxurious, goddess self? Fill up a hot bath with magnesium flakes. Try adding flower petals and lighting a candle to create some serious atmosphere.

#2 4-7-8 Breathing

Sit upright with your back straight and breathe in through your nose for 4 counts. Hold your breath in for 7 counts, and then exhale for 8 counts. Repeat this process 4 times. This exercise is literally retraining your brain on how to hold deeper breathes, and forces you to pay attention to your breathing patterns. This exercise has really helped me in deep bouts of anxiety.

#3 Progressive Muscle Relaxation 

This popular method is based on the theory that if you can control the tenseness and relaxation in your physical body, your mental tenseness can also be controlled. Lay somewhere where you will not be bothered and tense a muscle group, for example, tightening your fist. Hold for a few seconds and release. Move through each muscle group until you have worked through your body. Pay attention to how your muscles feel after releasing the tension.

#4 Basic Emotional Regulation 

Remember this Acronym :
PL  Treat Physical Illness
– Eat
A – Avoid Mood-Altering Drugs
S – Sleep Well
E – Exercise
The science behind this shows that you cannot help your mind relax unless you are taking care of your physical body first or in unison.

#5 Get Outside 

Biophilia is the principle that states that when you are surrounded by nature, (this can even be a picture of nature) your mood is improved, you will experience stress relief, and even increases the speed at which people heal. Get outside – Take a forest bath!

#6 Meditate 

Yes, I know meditating always makes these lists, but that is because IT WORKS. I promise. There is the research to prove it. Take 3-5 minutes and sit with your eyes closed and back straight and focus on your breathing. Or complete a guided meditation, like any of these. There is no wrong way for your thoughts to travel while meditating.

#7 Drink some tea 

Preferably some non-stimulating blends like chamomile, ginger or peppermint. Sometimes I let the steam wash over my face before sipping and really absorb myself in the moment. This can create some additional moisture on the face and eyes, opening up the pores and creating a warm embrace. 

#8 Exercise

Even if it is a light walk, get out and exercise! We have all heard, ENDORPHINS MAKE YOU HAPPY! Even better, get outside to exercise and receive the benefits from #5 too!

#9 Get busy

Science also shows that spending time with loved ones and being intimate will help release stress and boost mood. So grab your beaux and load up the Netflix queue. Not feeling it?

#10 Pet your Pet

There is a reason cat cafes are becoming so popular in large cities. Once again, science has proven that spending time with our pets releases stress. So give your little cutie a much needed snuggle

#11 Be alone 

In order to fully register and process our thoughts and feelings, we really need some solo time (even you extroverts out there!). Make some time for yourself, whether it’s time in the shower or on your morning commute and focus on your thoughts and feelings.

#12 Gratitude journal

 One way to check your stress is to switch up your perspective. Jotting down a few things you are grateful for can really help center your thoughts and refresh your perspective.

#13 Work on a passion project

For me, it can be as simple as going dancing or focusing on what makes my body feel best. Spending time on the tasks that fuel our internal, creative or passionate fire can help us remain focused on long term goals and desires or just remain present.

 

What about you, love? Do you have any go to stress relief tips for the holiday season, or even year round? I would love to hear them and have more options in my back pocket – leave a comment with your favorite way to stay sane, below!

 

<3

5 Paleo for Women Approved New Year’s Resolutions

5 Paleo for Women Approved New Year’s Resolutions

Woah, 2017. I can’t believe you are almost here!

At the writing of this blog post I’m pondering the making of new years resolutions.  Are they healthy?  Are they harmful?  Are they something in between?

I’ve gone back and forth, but concluded that, like them or not, new year’s resolutions are a part of our culture, exciting and important motivators that can give someone the push they need to make valuable and lasting changes. 

I’m not into crash dieting (or “diets” of any kind really) and I’m not into resolutions that end up making people feel worse about themselves when they fail to live up to unreasonable standards.

But health IS important, and focusing on feeling better and doing better in the new year is something admirable, after all.

So here’s my list of 5 Paleo for Women Approved New Years Resolutions!

#1 Cook More

Cooking is something I usually despise doing and avoid if I can help it.  But it gets old eating canned salmon all the time.

As the new year begins, take some time to plan a daily schedule.

If you’re a detailed list maker, you’ll love it and if you’re not, you might feel caged in, but sketching out your time might show you ways you can be more efficient and leave room for home cooked meals.

Try buying books with meal and shopping plans already inside for you.  Practical Paleo (find it here) is one of my favorites, because it contains meal plans for every possible variation of paleo.

There are other great books too.  Stick with ones that focus on easy recipes that can be made quickly like Well Fed Weeknights (find it here).  Or try books that utilize less dishes for easier cleanup like One Pot Paleo or Paleo Slow Cooker.

Cooking more will mean eating more veggies, one of the biggest indicators of a healthy lifestyle, and will cut down on the amount of rancid oil, sugar and Omega 6 you eat, making you feel healthier, improving skin and cardiovascular health, and probably helping you lose some weight.

#2 Lose Weight

Speaking of losing weight…

I might catch some flack here.  You see, I believe strongly in body positivity and the body positive movement.  That means I do hold firm to a belief in health at every size.

However, I also believe that weight loss can be a valuable goal for certain people. 

Excessive adipose tissue does produce inflammatory responses in the body and does contribute to a range of health issues.  And whether we like it or not, it IS something that we need to consider in our modern world of convenience foods and obesity related illness. 

If you’ve become out of sync with your body, feel you need to lose excessive body weight (and remember that doesn’t mean you need to be stick thin!) the only real difficulty is finding a way to do it gently, positively, and with as little guilt and shame as possible.

That’s where my weight loss program, Weight Loss Unlocked comes in.

It’s designed to help you lose weight efficiently but mindfully, learning to listen to the natural signals of your body, rather than the mean girl in your head. 

It can help you follow those New Years Resolutions without the fad dieting that normally goes with it.  I’d suggest pairing it with a great paleo cookbook with meal plans like the ones I mentioned above.

Find Weight Loss Unlocked Here

#3 Focus on Self-Love

While most people choose to lose weight at the beginning of the new year, it’s just as important to choose to love.

We often become our worst enemies and meanest critics, beating ourselves up and tearing ourselves down. 

Disordered eating, low self-confidence, so many things stem from not loving ourselves. 

To give and recieve love in the new year, we’ve got to start with healing our own hearts.

There are many, many people out there happy to help you do it.

To discover the sexy, confident woman you really are, try reading my book Sexy By Nature.

If you’ve strugged with disordered eating and are ready to take control of negative thinking, try my friend Kayla’s program Starting the Path to Recovery and Discovery here.  Try reading When Food is Love (find it here), a classic for any emotional eater.

If you’re shy, perhaps try pushing yourself to do something that sounds fun but makes you a bit nervous- go out dancing or join friends at a party. 

And if you’re always out to avoid being alone at home, perhaps try a night in of reflective thinking and journaling (Let it Out is a great resource) and sit with some of those emotions. 

You’ll gain self-awareness and balance which we all could use in the new year!

#4  Breathe More

Breathing is something we do far too often without really thinking about it.

Most of us don’t even use the full capacity of our lungs, but only a tiny portion of them. 

And breathe, just like food, is so important to life itself, and quality of life. 

Improper breathing can do damage to the body just as poor food choices can.

Proper breathing, taking deep, long breaths, and long, smooth exhalations, can also be a form of meditation that has been shown to reduce stress, calm the nervous system and relax the mind. 

It’s an imperative especially for those with anxiety, and may help anyone with stress-flaring conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, autoimmune conditions, and more. 

With the new year, I’m vowing to remember to breathe in positivity and breathe out negativity.  I hope you’ll do the same.

#5 Let Go

And as I work to breathe out negativity, I’m going to be trying my best to let go of anger, expectations, and arbitrary standards I place on myself and others. 

2016 was a hard year for many and it’s easy to pick out the bad things that happened and let them stew and boil within us.

We can focus on that negativity, that anger, and let it fester. 

Or we can consciously make the choice to let it go. 

I don’t have a 3 step program to help you do that (though I’m sure one probably exists!) but I think we should try it nonetheless.

Let’s focus our hearts and minds on the good in 2017 and work for peace, justice, and positivity in the new year.

I will.  I hope you will too. 


What are your new year’s resolutions?

Evidence: You need Physical Health in order to be Happy

Evidence: You need Physical Health in order to be Happy

It may not be a double-blind study, but this poll of thousands of Americans conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health has some pretty damning – and alarming – evidence in store for us Americans:

We are stressed out.

Not just a little bit.

But to a frightening degree.

I feel two very strong, antithetical emotions when I look at this data. On one hand, I feel so much sorrow for all of us stuck in vicious stress cycles. I am saddened, and hurt, and I wish desperately I could make it all better. On the other hand, it’s kind of comforting to look at this data, and to know that I am not alone.

50 % of respondents reported a major stressful event in the past year.

More than 25 % reported being significantly stressed within the past month. When we combine these two statistics, we get the very real conclusion that many people are under significant chronic stress.

There are many fascinating graphs over at the NPR website. I recommend you check them out. They’re good for learning. For example, one piece of data I find particularly interesting, and quite funny, even, is this:

By age group, it’s the 20-somethings who are the most stressed out by having too much responsibility.

I guess it takes some time to adjust to, but I’d imagine having a spouse, children, aging parents to take care of, mortgages, and empoloyees… many of the responsibilities that come later on in adulthood, is a fair bit more pressing than what most people have going on in their twenties.

Like making sure to buy groceries over the weekend and showing up for work on Monday.

Not like I can do any hating, since I am a significantly stressed 20-something. I’d like to excuse myself, on the other hand, or at least get a giant tattoo on my forehead about it, because the vast majority of my stress comes from my heart/kidney issues, which give me palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia.

And I know, I know, I can’t judge anyway. Life as an adult is hard, and it hits you like a freight train when you first try to do it.

Regardless, the source of my stress – my health – brings up the most important and relevant factor for the PfW blog. Of all the respondents surveyed, those who suffer from disabilities or health conditions are the most likely to be stressed. As we would expect, those with health conditions score the highest in reporting stress from their own health conditions (80%). But they also report the highest amount of stress from nearly all other sources, too.

                                   OverallChronic illnessDisabledIn poor health
Too many responsibilities overall54%53%53%63%
Problems with finances53%58%64%69%
Work problems*53%60%n/an/a
Own health problems38%51%65%80%
Family health problems37%46%50%58%
Problems with family members32%38%37%26%
Unhappy with the way you look28%38%33%46%
Problems with friends15%16%19%n/a
Changes in family situation10%11%11%10%
Problems with neighbors7%5%7%4%

(The graphs are prettier at NPR – go look!)

The far left column is “overall.” The far right is “in poor health.” Taking a look at the above graph, then, we see that, overwhemlingly, those in poor health rank far above the average in just about every category of stress.

It’s not just our health conditions themselves that directly stress us out…

but our health conditions that make everything else stressful, too.

Now, you might ask: is there not a problem in the inference I am making between correlation and causation? Am I drawing a cause and effect relationship where there isn’t one? Perhaps it is a coincidence that people in poor health are more stressed by all stressors than other people. Perhaps people who have stressful situations also develop poor health! Perhaps people who don’t have their shit together just don’t have their shit together, in all categories.

Perhaps, I’d say. Perhaps that is possible.

One piece of data that might support the hypothesis that “just not having your shit together” is the fact that people who earn under $20,000/year also report much greater stress than those who earn more. Without much income, it’s much more likely you’ll eat an unhealthy diet, develop health conditions, and struggle to get the medical and nutritional support you need. It’s also much easier to lose your grip on everything without money. Financial stress bears on the ability to do just about everything in society today.

Nonetheless what these stats and questions all invariably demonstrate is that stress and poor health go hand in hand. If you’re stressed, you might get sick. If you’re sick, you’re almost definitely going to get stressed out by it.

And, if you’re sick, there’s a good chance other aspects of your life will become more challenging, too. Sometimes it’s harder to work. Sometimes it’s harder to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. Sometimes it’s plain old harder to deal, such that even small stressors end up feeling like monumental weights. Poor health very quickly leads to “not having your shit together” syndrome.

And boy, oh boy, do I ever know what that feels like.

The evidence is in for health and happiness, and damning.

Is there a takeaway message? I don’t know.  What I do know is that I have done significant work to help people with health conditions feel better, which can help reduce stress.

My book PCOS Unlocked can help you take charge of a very stressful chronic hormonal condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Weight Loss Unlocked can help you to healthfully decrease fat if it is necessary for you.

And my bestseller Sexy By Nature can help you put it all together, understand your body and how it functions, how to love it and treat it well.

The best I know that I can personally do with it is have forgiveness for the anxiety I feel, and to move forward working on my health issues with patience, knowing that easier times in many regards are likely ahead.

(Statistically, they’ve just got to be.)

I think.

Finding Strength After the Stage, a guest post by former fitness competitor and rabid body lover Madelyn Moon

Finding Strength After the Stage, a guest post by former fitness competitor and rabid body lover Madelyn Moon

 

The following post is written by a lovely and powerful new voice in the body love scene. Her name is Madelyn, and she used to be a body builder.

I first came across Madelyn’s work I believe at some point in 2013. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan. I was perhaps even appalled. A bit horrified, maybe. Sad. Angry. I mean – it was okay. But what she was selling on her website, more or less, was herself as a muscle-glorified sex object.

madelyn 2

Yep.

Madelyn-Moon-Fitness-Bikini

Mmhmm.

madelyn 3

Honestly, that’s got to be a hell of a body to let go of. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to step ‘down’ from so high a pedestal.

madelyn 4

Now this is the kind of photo I used to look at and weep tears of envy.

 

 If you go to her site today, you’ll see a lot of the same photos.  These kinds of photos sell appearances more than health, which isn’t my favorite way to inspire people.

Yet with a keen eye, you’ll see, too, a woman on a hell of a journey of change, and a set of photos that tell a story.

Because while so many of the photos are the same, the language is different. Madelyn talks about “health” and “inner strength” and “acceptance.” Those photos are old, and she and doesn’t compete any more.  Her invitation to join her mailing list reads like this:

“Ready to love your body? Sign up for the FREE eCourse “Mind Body Satisfaction, Sacrifice-Free” and learn how to fall in love with yourself exactly how you are. “

but anyway. It’s so powerful to witness someone coming through these changes and rocking them out. Madelyn now loves her body because of the way it feels far more than the way it looks.

Madelyn is over body building. And in love.

She recorded a hell of a youtube video about her journey –

– and if you’ve got ten minutes it’s definitely worth the watch.

Here she is, in her own words. You can find more of Madelyn (and her kickass podcast, which I was just recorded for last night) @ MaddyMoon.com.

————

The following story generally rings true for many people, which is why I’m such an open book in regards to my food and body issues growing up. Nobody is alone in this battle and there is most definitely a solution just waiting to be discovered. I am so glad I can now share my discovery of that solution.

 

I started my food obsession, body shaming, and negative self-worth at a really young age. When I was about 15 years old I watched a television show that warned against the dangers of anorexia, bulimia and the likes. Even though it warned against the tragic habit, it was the first time I had really heard about eating disorders and it stuck in my head as something to try out later and see what happened.

 

I wouldn’t say that I suffered from one specific eating “disorder” but I’ve had disordered eating most of my life. My relationship with food always depended on my relationship with my weight. And my relationship with weight depended on how “in control” I was of everything else. It was a terrible cycle that I seemed to never get out of.

 

I started the cycle as a vegetarian, mostly for animal rights, but it eventually turned into a weight control practice. I then realized I wanted the body of a fitness model and physique competitor, so I switched over to the meat eating clan and began to eat like a bodybuilder AKA six meals a day, every three hours, no salt, no fruit, everything had to be weighed and measured and eaten out of Tupperware. Soon enough, getting my body fat pinched every weekend was a typical activity, as well as my hour-long cardio sessions in the morning paired with lifting sessions in the evening. Amidst this loveless, foodless, deprived life, I was starting to become addicted to seeing my body transform. As the body fat melted off, my self-esteem skyrocketed. As my butt got rounder, my smile got larger.

 

After hitting the stage for my first and even second fitness competition, I gained a little weight back and returned to my average size. In fact, I was much stronger, healthier, happier, and fuller (physically and emotionally) but less toned. Womp, womp. The psychological struggles continued. I loathed my lack of leanness, I hated my distorted body image and I still measured and weighed my food in attempt to create that perfect body again.

 

Soon enough I discovered paleo after receiving a book to review for my blog, and then again, when a friend told me how awesome the “diet” had been for him. I became really interested and really involved in the community, where I met many people who taught me to love myself no matter what. Though this is easier said than done, after extreme commitment, positive affirmation, journaling, getting a dog, and moving states (not necessarily because of my body image struggles but it certainly didn’t hurt), I finally found something deep inside of me that was dying to come out.

 

Strength.

 

Not just physical strength but emotional strength. I developed the strength to challenge social norms and to decide for myself what I think “beautiful” really means. In the end, I decided beautiful means life. It means coffee in bed on a Sunday morning. It means an extra spoonful of peanut butter just because. It means going four wheeling or boating whenever I want, because I no longer have to worry about bringing Tupperware meals. Last but not least, it means being able to tell myself “it’s okay” to not work out when I don’t feel like it. It’s okay to put family and friends FIRST before the gym and bulk cooking. It’s okay. Why? Because I’m already beautiful.

As many people say, paleo is not just a diet. It’s a lifestyle. It means to live organically, stress-free, happy and healthy. Healthy can be subjective but for most people, it means to live a life that promotes your version of optimal health. It means to live in a way that promotes mind-body satisfaction, without the sacrifices.

When I first discovered paleo, I went the strictest route. I basically did a Whole30 but for four months. I became too rigid and decided that wasn’t the healthiest for me, personally. I even discovered I have no allergies to gluten, dairy, beans or grains. While that’s kind of cool, I didn’t go crazy on eating them because as I listened to my body, I discovered those foods don’t necessarily make me feel optimal energy.

Truthfully, I rarely eat gluten or legumes by choice because they don’t make me the best version of myself. Dairy on the other hand makes me feel like a rock star.

So I make it work for me. Paleo has allowed me to find the best version of myself by helping me realize what makes me feel best, inside and out.

There are no meal plans, no food scales, no body fat pinchers, no tiny swimsuits hanging on my “inspiration wall” and certainly no sports-bra and spandex clad photo shoots in my near future.

I’m so excited to now have the “Madelyn Moon Diet” and nothing else. And more than just the diet aspect, I now live a much more minimalistic life. I try to keep my household minimalistic, as well as my face (less is more, ladies) and even my workouts!

The people I have met in the paleo community have literally changed my life in every aspect. I could name you ten people right now that have impacted me in some way or another and have brought me to tears from their support and generosity.

I am in no way exactly where I want to be in terms of body image and my relationship with food, but I am much farther in my journey than where I started. I have come incredibly far in all actuality, and as long as I remember to keep up the self-love and acceptance, I will be in the best “shape” of my life (possibly literally, but that one is more metaphorically).

 

Because I wanted to share how I’ve learned to retrain my brain into loving my body just the way it is, as well as block out all of the lean body fitness fluff, I created an eCourse that guides readers step by step on how to do exactly that.  My goal with the course is to give you small, easily implemented changes you can make every day that will eventually lead you into non-negotiable self-love and body acceptance.

 

Lastly, I wanted to further share my passion for the ever-so-important mind body relationship by creating a podcast, called Mind Body Musings. The podcast features various guests that are well-known in the fitness industry who share their stories, theories, research and knowledge with us so that we can all better understand our bodies and brains. The podcast can be found on iTunes here, or you can go to my website here for the direct download links.

I also provide a free audioguide 4 Pillars of Femininity for Perfections, here.

A big thank you to Stefani for letting me share my story with you today. Stay tuned for this story to be published in The Paleo Miracle 2 as well, along with many other inspirational mind body strengthening stories.

 

I hope you enjoy any newfound insight you learn from these two tools and further develop your own strength, beauty and self-love.

 

With love,

Madelyn Moon

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