Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The No-Shame Way to Lose Weight, Feel Great and Motivate Yourself Toward the Body You Want

By Amy Phillips-Gary

The organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is notorious for making their message known in an in-your-face and difficult to forget way.

I'm usually all in favor of guerilla theater, nonviolent resistance and other forms of getting the word out about particular causes in creative and colorful ways.

But I'm never in favor of shaming and degradation.

Recently, PETA put up a new billboard in Florida with the words “Save the Whales” in bright pink letters.*

Next to this slogan was an image you might not expect-- it was a drawing (pictured above) of a large white woman's torso with a bikini on, complete with flesh hanging over her waistband.

Yes, this is PETA's latest effort to encourage people to adopt a vegetarian diet-- by making them feel probably more self-conscious and negatively about their body size than they already do.

This is not a blog post about PETA and its media strategies. This isn't even a blog post about vegetarianism.

Instead, this is a no-shame motivator to help you move closer to loving the body you have and having the body you want.

PETA is just the recent voice in a long-line of public outcry against the obesity “epidemic” in the U.S. Headlines scream at us about the health risks of weighing too much and eating a diet too heavy in sugars, fats and processed foods in general.

Yet we still reach for the cookies and ice cream when we're stressed out. We continue to munch chips with abandon when we're bored. And we prolong our time on the couch watching a favorite show instead of heading to the gym.


Is it because we're lazy, addicted or even apathetic?

I don't think so.

I believe that, in many cases, the guilt-inducing stream of images and rhetoric out there about our bodies, diet and exercise actually contribute to the actions (or non-actions) we take that keep us in bodies that may be heavier and unhealthier than we'd like them to be.

Instead of PETA vilifying people who eat meat and insinuating that vegetarianism automatically equals a thin and fit body, I'd like to see them uplift people of all sizes and then talk more about the many benefits of living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

Let people make their own decisions about what they eat-- educate and motivate using methods that support dignity and respect.

Sit with It Before You Act

We all make choices. Every time each one of us eats or drinks something, it's a choice.

When I'm feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, I sometimes reach for the bag of chocolate chips that I know is in the freezer. In such a mode, I often mindlessly shovel handfuls of those sweet morsels into my mouth.

The result of this coping mechanism for stress is almost always that I stop and realize what I'm doing at a certain point and then I feel bad about myself.

The pounds seem to multiply with this realization and-- the biggest kicker of all-- I am still stressed and overwhelmed.

If you can simply sit with how you are feeling before you reach for your stash of chocolate (or whatever it is you use to try to cope with difficulties), you are taking a huge step.

In her book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of the Buddha, Tara Brach suggests that you pause and “not do”when you feel driven by wanting. In other words, sit and notice how you are feeling before eating that chip or diving into the pint of ice cream.

Set aside even a few seconds to acknowledge how you are feeling and what you are truly wanting at this moment. Remember to breathe deeply.

After this noticing, if you still want to eat chocolate chips, do so. But know that you will be making a more conscious choice.

This can actually make a difference. You are choosing to eat or not to eat chocolate chips rather than devouring them in an out of control manner.

The eating of the chocolate chips becomes separated from your attempt to cope with stress as you take the time to offer your attention to your emotions before taking any action.

This can help you to feel more empowered and may lead to you making a different choice-- perhaps eating fewer chocolate chips, eating something more nourishing instead or maybe taking a walk to relax.

Stand behind the choices you make in your life-- including what you eat, how physically active you are and what your body looks like.

It is from this place of self-acceptance and self-respect that you can more easily make changes and celebrate the strides you are taking toward your goals along the way.

*In response to an outpouring of negative public response to this billboard, PETA changed it. Visit this blog for more information.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Peace Talks

By Amy Phillips-Gary

It is nearly impossible to share love with others and your world if you do not fully love yourself.

Sure, I've heard this before and I whole-heartedly believe it.

It's super easy for me to love and feel at peace with myself after I've connected deeply with another person, helped out a stranger or was given a compliment.

At those times I feel warm, fuzzy and all aglow. I am proud walking around as me and these great feelings spill over as I easily appreciate the wondrousness of all around me.

Then there are those other moments. After I've snapped at my kids or my partner; when I look in the mirror and see flaws (or worse) in my reflection; and when I think, say or do something that literally makes me feel ashamed.

In times like these I clamp down, cave in, tighten up and the warmth and glow are quickly extinguished.

During those other moments, I feel about as far away from peace as can be.

Loving yourself and being at peace with who you are (all of it) is essential and required if you want to give to others and be of benefit to your community and world.

How many of us strive to truly love ourselves completely?

When you're in a place of self-love, your entire perspective of others and life is positively enhanced. You can more easily see and appreciate aspects of others and situations when you grant yourself complete love.

I think that loving yourself sometimes gets a bad rap. I know that there is a part of me that associates self-love with narcissism or being self-centered.

In actuality, those who are labeled vain, arrogant or narcissistic quite often feel hollow and lacking within.

When a person is truly at peace with him or herself, there is an underlying calm, assurance and confidence about the person. There is a sense of love that is present and even unconditional.

It is delightfully contagious.

Even when I set aside the negative associations that are linked to notions of self-love, it can still seem tricky to actually love myself no matter what.

To love yourself unconditionally does not mean that you are claiming to be perfect in the sense that you have no more room to grow, learn and improve.

We all have “bad” habits, “ugly” aspects or “embarrassing” traits. Let's just face it.

The key to learning to love yourself is to appreciate everything about you and who you are right now-- even the stuff you cringe about.

In fact, if you'd like to make a change in your life, noticing what you don't like and then loving yourself -- including the habit, trait or aspect-- is a first step to opening up to a new way of living.

As you become aware of what you don't like about yourself, pay close attention to what you do next.

If, as I have done in the past, you turn against yourself and rail on internally about how horrible it is that you are or do _________ , just stop right there.

Even if, at this moment, you can't love yourself for being judgmental, having the body you have or yelling at your kids, at the very least you can pause before you take yourself further down the road of self-loathing.

Set up peace talks between you and you.

This might mean that you start looking more deeply at this habit or tendency of yours that you do not like. Don't analyze or try to rationalize it.

Instead, feel into yourself and acknowledge that there is some purpose this aspect has served in your past or in the present.

There truly aren't any “bad” habits-- there are merely those that take us in a direction we want to go and those that take us to unwanted places. Sometimes the consequences are desired; other times they are detrimental or even dangerous.

And this can change over time.

What was once a useful, even necessary, skill for dealing with a set of circumstances may now be an obstacle to you reaching the goals you currently have.

As you attain a deeper understanding of your tendencies and acknowledge the ways that they might have served you in the past (or even the present), you can soften and begin to ease up on yourself.

You might decide that you are ready to make different choices and respond in a new way. Or you might decide to stay the same for now. Neither have to be done at the expense of self-love.

You don't have to castigate yourself in order to improve. In fact, from this ease-full and open place, you can usually glide into the change you want rather than battle yourself to get there.

It all comes down to love.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Something Is Standing In My Way...Oh Wait, It's Me!?

By Amy Phillips-Gary

Have you ever been so close to having the job, relationship, car, vacation, or whatever it is that you want but something happens that seems to prevent you from actually having that desire come into fruition?

What is it that blasted thing or person that's standing in between you and what you want?

When I've been in such a place, I sometimes delude myself into thinking that it's another person or some outside force that is the spoiler.

This delusion is the “easy way” to deal with my frustration and disappointment that what I want is not happening anytime soon. Unfortunately, this “easy way” also gives all of the creative power to somebody or some entity apart from myself.

I am off the hook, so to speak, but I am also left feeling quite a bit helpless.

When I really look at what's going on in my life and I ask myself why I'm not living the ecstatically happy and blissfully abundant experience I crave, I am the main reason why.

Of course, I have so much that's going wonderfully in my life. I appreciate and acknowledge how truly blessed I am.

And of course, I do not live in a vacuum. There are other people, institutions and organizations that impact my life.

But it's time to stop pretending that these outside forces are determining my experience!

Obstacles of our own making

Almost every single one of us short-circuits our own desires at times to lesser and greater degrees.

As much as you claim that you want to start your own business, meet your perfect partner or travel the world, it's quite likely that the reason you haven't moved closer to realizing these aspirations is you.

Even if what you want is not a huge change or move from what you know right now, you can still stand in your own way.


Sometimes we put up obstacles to what we want because we actually don't want those things-- or we feel conflicted.

When your heart is not in whatever it is you are doing, it makes perfect sense that you would drag yourself along-- possibly even kicking and screaming!

Other times you are clearer about what you want, but you don't feel deserving of actually having it. So many of us lug around old beliefs about ourselves, the world and others from our past.

Like the proverbial self-fulfilling prophecy, you expect yourself to mess up when it really counts-- with your partner, your kids, your friends and at work-- and so you do.

So when the breakup happens, the fights occur or the promotion never comes, you are not surprised.

Clear the way

Blues singer Keb Mo sings: “Get out the way and let your light shine.” These are wonderfully wise words...but don't always seem easy to do!

In order to get out of your own way and start manifesting what you want in life, you need to clear up your self-limiting habits.

Start to notice what it is you believe and acknowledge that these beliefs might have made sense at one time in your past-- try not to cast blame or judgments on yourself.

When you uncover a belief, ask yourself if it feels open and expansive or closed and limiting.

What happens to your shoulders, your jaw, the pit of your stomach? Even a slight tension or sense of holding can signal that a particular thought or belief is keeping you stuck.

I don't advise you to start re-living your past, but it can be extremely helpful to offer yourself extra love and care around those tight and tense areas that link to limiting beliefs rooted in your past.

You might find that you need to make a completion about something in the past that is lending extra intensity to your beliefs. If so, follow through and do that.

Remember to be gentle and loving with yourself. Know that you have the power to clear up your thoughts and create space for new ways of living.

From this clearer space, allow what you want to unfold. Don't force it or try to “make” your dreams happen.

Act when you are inspired to act, even when it seems crazy or different than what you'd usually do.

Remind yourself that you are supported, loved and worthy. Cultivate trust in yourself, your inner knowing and your Source.

As you let these truths fill your thinking and your whole being, there is literally nothing you cannot do!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Don't Get Mad, Do Yoga!

By Amy Phillips-Gary

Have you ever felt so angry, you could hardly see straight? Or maybe you were overwhelmed by fear and felt closed off and small inside. Perhaps, your brain seemed in a fog-- it was next to impossible for you to think clearly....

We've all been there.

Whether it's feeling mad, sad, afraid or even spacey, sometimes it seems as if we are stuck in particular emotions or a certain mood and we just can't figure out a way to move through it and release.

Have you ever tried yoga in cases like this?

Yoga's Health Benefits

You probably are aware of the physical health benefits of yoga. This practice is a fabulous way to increase your flexibility and strengthen core muscles in your body.

A regular yoga practice can also help you be more relaxed which usually means your blood pressure will stay in a healthy zone. Many practitioners experience a greater mental clarity and ability to focus as other positive side-effects of yoga.

Each yoga pose, or asana, targets particular areas of the body and even specific organs.

When it comes to your emotions, the asanas act in a similar way.

5 Yoga Poses to Ease Challenging Emotions:

Please research and learn more about each of these yoga asanas before attempting them. Yoga can fit just about anyone's fitness capabilities, but it is important that you be informed about the poses.

The asana descriptions I provide below are not meant to be instructional.

If you notice yourself feeling out of sorts but you're not sure why, take a few moments to tune in to what you are feeling. Give most attention to the emotions you are experiencing and less to any stories you associate with the emotions.

Remember to breathe...
Bring your awareness deeper into yourself and your body by breathing from your abdomen. Inhale slowly through your nose and allow your abdomen to move out away from your spine. Now exhale slowly and let your abdomen move back toward your spine to it's more usual position.

Yoga Pose #1: Mountain (*Tadasana)

Mountain pose is a deceptively simple asana. You basically stand up tall on the floor. Feet are hip-width apart and your hands are loose at your sides. Breathe and feel yourself connect with the Earth as you hold this pose.

As you might expect, Mountain pose can help you ground yourself when you feel flighty, scattered or you just can't focus. When you direct your attention to your feet as they connect with the floor and symbolically the Earth that supports you, you can more easily come back to the present moment and improved clarity.

Yoga Pose #2: Warrior (Virabhadrasana)

There are several variations of the Warrior pose. Most involve standing to the side with your legs and feet apart. Front foot faces the front and the back foot is perpendicular to the front.

Depending on the version of Warrior you choose, your arms will be out and parallel to the floor or up over your head pointed toward the sky. This asana often involves shifting your weight toward the front and slightly bending the knee.

If you are feeling fearful,weak, or ineffectual, try Warrior pose. As you stand in this courage-enhancing asana, you can feel into your own power that might before have seemed hidden.

Yoga Pose #3: Triangle (Trikonasana)

Triangle is considered one of the most essential and core poses there are in many yoga traditions. It is similar to Warrior and can be practiced in conjunction with it. Again, there are variations to Triangle.

Your feet are the same as in the Warrior pose. Your arms are out and parallel to the floor. This time, your legs stay straight as you bend from the side to reach your front arm toward your front foot on the floor as your other arm raises up behind you.

Triangle is the quintessential balancing pose. It can be extremely helpful if you are feeling stuck or stubborn about some belief or position you are holding.

You might be having a difficult time seeing another's person's point of view. Or it could be that you feel like you have “no options” in a situation.

If so, see if holding the triangle pose helps you loosen up and open up.

Yoga Pose #4: Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Facing Dog pose is another favorite among those who practice yoga. You start out on your hands and knees and then slowly place your feet on the floor behind you, arms on the floor in front of you and your eyes comfortably looking down at the floor or your stomach. Your body forms a triangle shape.

Downward Facing Dog is a wonderful pose and stretch. And when you feel angry, constriction often results. Go into Downward Facing Dog when you are irritated or mad. The symbolic submission to the situation can help you release your anger and, perhaps, take a different clearer-headed view of whatever is going on.

Yoga Pose #5: Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

The Handstand pose can be difficult or seem scary to beginners, but it can also be easily worked up to. Find a wall with plenty of space around and behind you. Start out facing the wall and then go into Downward Facing Dog with your hands and head near the wall.

Next, gently kick up into a handstand and allow your feet to land against the wall for support. Hold it as long as you are able to.

There are certainly times when a situation seems totally opposed to what you intended or wanted. You might feel frustrated or distressed about where you are and simply not know how to turn yourself around to point where you want to go.

Inverted asanas such as Handstand can help you literally turn a situation on its head! You might not be able to hold this pose for more than a few seconds at first, but the shifting benefits can still be felt.

When you are feeling out of sorts and stuck in a mood, take a deep breath and try some yoga.


*I have listed the Sanskrit name for each of the poses for your information. In a yoga class or other resource, these asanas might be referred to in the Sanskrit.

*Visit http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/info/downward-facing-dog.asp for fuller descriptions and graphics of all of the asanas described in this article.