“A promise to my students this winter season: This holiday season I will do my best to leave references of being stuffed, too many cookies and working off dinner out of my classes. Enjoy your meal; enjoy your family; enjoy your practice. A workout is not punishment and I won’t encourage a cleanse after every feast with friends. This season I’ll extend gratitude for a time of plenty and do my best to minimize any shame related to eating – or at the very least not add to it. Let’s not only strive for a positive body image but a healthy relationship with food. Let’s find physical health in partnership with emotional well-being.”
I made this vow on the public Facebook page that I keep for my yoga business, and I would urge you flock to instructors and trainers that will honor a similar agreement. I’m not doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. But, I am someone that leads people through exercise and offers motivation. I think it’s important to not only care about the physical outcome of the workout, but also consider the mental impact a workout can have. Instructors have the ability to motivate people to work harder and can choose to motivate through love or fear. Personally, I refuse to motivate through fear, guilt or reminders of the past. Holidays are to be enjoyed.
Shame is not a way towards health. The only direction we should move in our practice, fitness, life, is forward! Increasing the intensity of your workout is fantastic if you’re doing it for the right reasons. Hitting an extra class over the weekend because you have the time away from work is a great choice if it’s balance with rest. Choosing to eat a salad for dinner to balance out a large meal the day before can be a very healthy choice. But, if your only motivation to work harder or cut calories is to outrun the guilt you carry from a holiday meal please examine not your waistline but your thoughts. Similarly, if you’re an instructor motivating your clients by demonizing their holiday food choices, consider the impact of your words.
We live in a strange time as Americans. Obesity and obesity-related diseases are on the rise while simultaneously the incidence eating disorders among middle-aged women are also increasing. Cases of CHILDREN experiencing symptoms of ED are also becoming more prevalent. Anecdotal in terms of evidence, but a real truth in my work, is that I also see more and more women walking through the doors of the yoga & fitness studios where I teach with clear signs of ED or disordered thoughts about food and exercise – restriction, obsessive with calorie burn, negative thought patterns, over-exercising … the list goes on.
Looking great in yoga pants is a fleeting satisfaction if deep down the motivation to look great is self-loathing, insecurity or outrageous expectations. Workout to be strong. Workout because you love your body, not because you hate it. Eat healthy food to nourish your body. Indulge on occasion to excite your senses and embrace celebration. Trust me; the calories of your cookies don’t have feelings. They can’t hate you back. But, the person that baked the cookies, mashed the potatoes, poured the wine probably loves you a whole lot and wants you to love yourself. Your yoga teacher probably wants you to love yourself more as well.
Weight loss goals can be healthy. Making healthy food choices is a great thing. But it’s equally important that these goals are rooted in a positive, nurturing, forward-moving intention. Stop worrying about what you ate yesterday. Don’t go crazy over the size of your pants. Resist the urge to blame or condemn a feast with friends. Enjoy the spoils of the holidays. Move forward with joy, peace and love (especially self-love). Take your next steps forward.
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