Do you know where winter went? I don’t! Suddenly, it’s spring and before we know it, summer will be upon us. I don’t know about you, but winter (such as is it here in Texas) leaves me a little bit heavier and this year’s season was spent sitting on my butt, studying for board exams [Update: board exams are done!]. It’s time to start looking ahead and getting ready to look and feel great for spring and summer, I realize, and this means…blog post! Today’s topic? Spring cleaning, and not just in terms of your closet or scrubbing the stove. Nope. This one’s about getting rid of some of the mental clutter and habitual activity that’s keeping you on the heavier side. Being stuck and dragged down by baggage is weighty, don’t you agree?
Getting rid of a few things and adding a little of this and some more of that can be just what you need in order to feel and look a lot better. Let’s begin, shall we?
How heavy are you? What are you willing to do to change your weight? And, most importantly, what are you willing to do to accept and embrace what can’t be changed? Weight loss is not always about the actual weight itself. Size, per se, is not a crime. Things need to change when there is an effect on one’s health and/or impingement on one’s day to day living. Something needs to shift if there are debilitating body image problems. But stepping back for a moment and asking yourself some key questions, like how large you really are and what it really means to you is a good place to start. Inquiry, not judgement, are what can help you here. Unpack your perceptions and your self-talk. Figure out what you want to get rid of and what you want to keep.
Weight loss success is generally predicated on history. The more times a person has tried and failed to lose weight the more the cycle of failure perpetuates itself. Social support makes a difference. A person’s natural build, combined with hormone levels, amount of daily activity, and stress levels all combine to construct a certain weight that can defy weight loss no matter how much a person diets. Another real factor? The stories we tell ourselves. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve seen as a health coach and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner who have a clearly rehearsed story about how they used to weight X, now weigh Y, and can never get back to Z because….
The first step in this spring cleaning project? Get really real with your physical self and the stories you tell about it. If you are not honest with yourself you won’t get where you want to go. Why? Because you’ll keep getting in your own way and sabotaging yourself, that’s why. Clarity is key when you want to make big changes, right? And believe it or not, but you have all the answers already. You just need to weed away the barriers between what you know and what you do. That can be tough, sure, but you can do it! Maybe your best bet is to work with a health coach or a personal trainer, even if briefly, but truly…you have what you need inside of you. Trust me, you do.
~~~Getting Rid of Baggage~~~
Cultural expectations and social constructions build a picture of what a body should look like. And yet, what one person thinks is beautiful, another might think of as fat and vice-versa. Example? One guy I met after I became acquainted with his partner is a perfect example. In my estimation, she’s lovely: a little heavier than fashionable, maybe, but proportionate and in possession of a curvaceous posterior. Who wouldn’t love to look like that? Well, the husband commented to me, during a seemingly random discussion of weight and culture, that he would prefer that she lost weight. I was flabbergasted! And when I was in my first graduate program, one of my students was theoretically “fat” by the standards set by her social milieu (undergraduate women at IU Bloomington). Then she got accepted to study abroad in Italy for a year. I knew that she struggled with body image problems, and so–after congratulating her and talking to her about potential classes she might take while there–I said, “Men are going to follow you down the street and ask you to marry them. Italian guys are going to love your shape.”
When she got back from Italy she told me that she got her first marriage proposal right after she got off the plane that very first day. She laughed about it and said that I was right, and that guys routinely followed her down the street and asked her to marry them. She had no body image problems after she got back from Italy. A year of having her Sophia Loren-esque shape celebrated made it possible for her to see herself through new eyes. (If you’d like to read a really nice article about the history of body image and female beauty in Italy, take a look here).
Bottom line? Obesity rates are rising in the United States and yes, it may be that you are truly overweight and it may also be that you would be better off if you were smaller. So? It’s not a crime. You really can start an exercise program, restructure your diet, and lose weight in a slow, steady way without self-criticism or a harsh attitude towards your own body. Lose the baggage and the unkind self-talk and see how much easier it is to take care of yourself and become closer to your ideal of health and right size.
~~~Get Thee to The Grocery Store~~~
Or if not the grocery store, the farmer’s market. Having food at home and doing meal prep will make a world of difference. There are no end to diets and plans and apps to make it all look easy. Losing weight is not easy, though. If it were, nobody would be chubby, there would be no diabetes, and the obesity rates that researchers are fretting about (see here) would be getting lower, not higher. However you choose to interpret current diet fads and trends, the reality is: eating pre-prepared food generally doesn’t help you and cooking for yourself gives you a lot more control over how much salt and other additives you consume.
A really nice article about the different nutrition trends that I suggest can be found here. Yes, it is geared towards athletes but it has a clear, concise description of all the current diet fads with a pro and con for each. As a health coach and TCM practitioner, I try to steer clients away from dietary fads (however, since I’m not a registered dietician, I do not make meal plans for clients). Personally, I think that knowledge is power. One book I always suggest is The Good Gut, which I review here. If you have a solid idea about how digestion works and what kinds of food promote optimal digestion, you are that much more ahead of the game. Both as a certified specialist in sports nutrition and in my role as a TCM practitioner with an MA degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine (aka herbs), I am able to educate my clients about the ways in which food can support healthy weight loss and I take this charge seriously. The more you know, the stronger you ability to make choices can be.
Food carries a lot of baggage and it’s not that easy to change one’s eating habits. By learning more about your digestion and by shopping and cooking for yourself, you become genuinely empowered. If you don’t know how to cook or you’re not sure how to shop, try cooking lessons. If you are in Austin, TX and I’m your health coach, I can teach you how to grocery shop (as can many health coaches, actually, so if you’re thinking about working with a coach, ask them if they do pantry clean-ups or shopping trips. It’s worth the investment!).
~~~Getting to the Point~~~
Everyone knows that diet and exercise are the keys to weight loss. However, if it were only that easy… but there is hope. You can get in shape by late spring/early summer if you are determined and if you start now. How so, you ask? It’s simple:
1). Get in the habit of doing some moderate exercise every day. Even if it’s a ten minute walk, get up and move. Try new things, from the breath and energy work (tai chi or yoga) to cardio (fast walk, jog, run, cardio machines at the gym, group classes) to strength-building (bodyweight exercise, free weights, or weight machines). But commit to your exercise and commit to yourself. If you feel like it would help you, find a personal trainer. If you only want to set up a short-term contract, ask the trainer to help you to design a few workouts. Of if it’s available to you, sign on for longer term training so that you have the accountability and the ongoing structure. But get up and move each day and get in the habit of doing so. Once it’s a habit, then push yourself and continue to expand your horizons. Six weeks from now, you’ll be glad you did. The cliché of the journey of a thousand steps starting with one exists for a reason.
2). In the spirit of the first three points: learn to check in with yourself and do so regularly. If you’re stressed and upset, your hormones react and chronically elevated cortisol levels do nobody any favors. If you aren’t eating in a way that supports both energy to work out AND a certain level of comfort (or at least not feeling like you’re starving) then it’s hard to lose weight. If your self talk is cruel you defeat yourself before you even begin. If you’re overwhelmed, you can’t find your inner voice and your truth. A health coach can definitely help you here. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to have a support system and companion in your weight loss journey; for sure, a health coach can fulfill these roles. Be sure to treat yourself, too. Acupuncture can help you with weight loss (see here) and for many people, it’s very relaxing to get treatments. To reward yourself, you might always trying a bodywork appointment specifically designed to smooth your exterior (check this post).
3). Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. First step? Get used to exercise. Get used to meal prep. Get used to speaking kindly to yourself. Tweak your workout. Be consistent and show up for your exercise sessions. Realize that you can safely lose about two pounds a week (and ideally those should be fat, not muscle). Do your best, each and every day. Your best can fluctuate, but you can offer it up every single day. In so doing, the little things add up to larger achievements. You don’t have to be perfect but you do have to show up for yourself. Again, this is really where a health coach or an acupuncturist can help you to stay on track. If that’s not available to you, try to find an online group or other source of external support to go along with your newfound internal sense of strength and efficacy.
Are you ready? Can you see yourself in ten weeks? Up to twenty pounds lighter and toned, you are ready to take on the world…can you see it? I can, and I hope that you can too.
Now, let’s get started, shall we?
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX office. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
When you are ready to discover what traditional medicine plus a vibrant and engaged approach to holistic health can do for you, either contact Dr. Bruno or book an appointment online.
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Note: Material on this web site site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease, illness, or ailment. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Material on this web site does not purport to identify syndrome patterns.