Category Archives: Body Image

From foundation, finding freedom in the body

How is it that we can be so cruel to ourselves that we wish we could chop off a handful of body fat?

I shot a short video this week for my upcoming workshops on body image. Lee, the videographer, had it all organized and planned out, she told me exactly what I needed to do. It couldn’t have gone smoother in that regard.

She prompted me to write down the good and the bad about my body. Both of which caused a different kind of dis-ease: I felt deeply saddened to see how easily I could conjure what I dislike and on the other hand slightly embarrassed or pompous for what I did like. Am I being bombastic by saying I’m damn sexy?FullSizeRender

Lee suggested we do a shot with me just in yoga pants and a bra. Sure thing! I’m comfortable practicing this way, so why not?

Before we shot I changed into a “better bra” – it made no difference but as I was pulling the black bra over my shoulders I realized I was doing this in an attempt to look slimmer. Oh my god. I stopped myself. I realized it made no difference which bra I chose or how I looked – what mattered was this internal dialog. This manipulation of my mind that I could care SO MUCH about which bra I wore for the shoot. Which bra would be more flattering to my tummy? Which bra would dig in the least on my back? This was what I was really looking for.

Now there were practical purposes: I wanted a black bra since the shoot was black & white and I thought that would read clearer on camera.

As I stood against the blank wall, holding my #BodyLove sign, belly exposed, Lee with camera in hand – I felt terribly uncomfortable. Lee asked me to smile. I thought “from where?” I felt like a lump standing in front of the camera. I felt like a TOTAL JOKE. I didn’t have this body image shit down at all!

But this is the reality of our relationships with our bodies: we are always going to have those moments, days even, where we can be really down on ourselves.

The last thing Lee had me do was a very brief yoga practice to get some movement shots. As I angled into side chair I could feel the little side rolls where my tummy and back meet. These rolls have been a sore spot for me. As a child I would look at myself in the mirror, tilt sideways and see how much fat I could gather in one hand. I wished I could cut it all off.

This time though, instead of hatred for the rolls, I had nothing but love and support.

It’s difficult to describe but this part of my body that I have tried for so long to make disappear is now one of my most favorite things about me. My perspective has completely shifted so that when in a side bend I feel the rolls building one on top of the other and like a solid foundation beneath a house, they hold my heart up. From foundation I find freedom.

When I stepped into my yoga practice during the shoot, I reconnected with my body. It felt like “Phew, OK, this is me. I am home.” I disconnected from the self-loathing thoughts and was able to transport myself to reveling in the shapes my body created. These shapes are unique to my body and mine alone.

The contrast is remarkable: between the judgement over the image I see in the mirror and that of feeling love for my body radiating from the inside out. It is such a full feeling that even the nastiest thought about my body can’t ever compete. A learning moment came from this video shoot which was to reinforce how powerful a yoga practice can be for appreciation and acceptance of our bodies.

When approached with an open mind and an open heart, the practice connects you with your body. This connection is pure and free from criticism, judgment, or hate. This connection is about love.

A deep thank you to Lee Tripler for her time and talent on the video shoot.
If you are local please check out my events page for information on the lululemon launch class & party (July 17) and a workshop at Catch a Healthy Habit (July 30).
#SummerofBodyLove

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It’s Safe to Feel What You Feel

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It was my second class this week at the eating disorder treatment center.  There was already a palpable tension as I walked in, like the feeling of seeing a someone hold a knife over someone’s chest the moment before a major surgery…you just don’t know what might happen.

A soft sobbing shape quietly whimpered.  Women filtered in to do yoga with heads hung low. The crook in their torsos and abdomens hinted at a deep dark secret concealed below the layers of uncomfortable skin and shame.

Arranging the women so everyone had their space, pillows, blocks, etc., I placed a kind hand on the shoulder of the crying woman. A gesture to ask “are you alright?”, and let her know “you’re going to be okay”. As I settled in to teach, I had an urge to spill my guts to these these women. I felt they were suffering today especially. I wasn’t sure exactly what occurred, and no one said anything, but they could barely crack a smile.  I felt a familiar suffering as I settled in to teach.  It came over me with the urge to spill my guts to these women.

Inside I was overflowing. I so wanted to reassume them, “It’s going to be ok! Yoga saved ME! It saved me from an eating disorder. It will save YOU too!” It took a strength I found somehow to hold back the urge, and the tears fighting their way into my eyes.  The familiar knot in my throat telling me to scream out and then blocking the air as I try to just fucking let go.  I so wanted to solve and fix everything for them. But today was not the day. Instead I pulled another tool from my arsenal:  a study on trauma I recently read about.

Psychiatrist and traumatic stress expert Bessel van der Kolk was interviewed about childhood trauma and how it leads to brains wired for fear.

When asked, “are there effective solutions to childhood trauma?” I was ecstatic when van der Kolk mentioned a study on yoga for  PTSD.

He explains:

It’s about becoming safe to feel what you feel. When you’re traumatized you’re afraid of what you’re feeling, because your feeling is always terror, or fear or helplessness.  I think these body-based techniques help you to feel what’s happening in your body, and to breathe into it and not run away from it. So you learn to befriend your experience.

It’s about becoming safe to feel what you feel. This is what I experience and witness in my own healing through developing a yoga practice.

Yoga saved me from the self-inflicted trauma of an eating disorder. Yoga made it safe for me to feel and not distract; not brush under the rug or ignore. Instead I learned to feel.

I noticed what had happened to my body. I could physically feel the damage imposed each time I made myself vomit. I could feel the veil of self-loathing I coated myself in day after day, like a disgusting wet blanket.  I slept and woke with it.  Every inch of my body needed improvement. Nothing was beautiful, nothing was ever good enough..

Even with a strong yoga practice in place, healing was no easy task. I wrestled with countless gremlins. Deep, damaging, dangerous and persistent, they convinced me I deserve the pain as penance for some karmic wrongdoing.

Consistency prevailed. Consistent yoga practice, consistent emotional practice. I allowed the laughter  falling out of poses and tears in the middle of class when I felt my heart swell up like a bruise.. One step at a time, each day, reminding myself I wasn’t going to solve everything at once. This was where I would really begin to understand what it meant to go through a process.

This class challenges me on an entirely new level.  Many of the women I teach are not even past the first exercise level, meaning it is highly recommended they remain lying down or sometimes seated. It has thrown me through a loop and  forced me to question what yoga IS and how can it serve these women?

During our time together we make our way through some simple movements that are derived from what I am now teaching, the Bowspring Practice. Bowspring encourages truthfulness with ourselves and others. It inhibits  the “I give up!” posture, shoulder shrug and head tilt.

The last 15 minutes of class we sat on our blocks.  My eyes were closed but I peaked and saw it again so clearly: the slumping, the diminishing, the lack of confidence, glazed, empty eyes.

Slowly, I talked them through how to sit from the pelvis up. Together, we sculpted our postures into the radiating, exuberant beings that we are. I noticed corners of mouths slightly turned up (smiles!) and ribcages becoming fuller as the women started to beam in their seats.

A small step to practice sitting with fullness but immediately the energy in the room shifted. Carving our Bowspring posture held us in such a way that made room for sensitivity, for the vast spectrum of emotions, to flow freely. It was a communal, deep sigh of relief – with little effort.

It was a reprieve from the concealing and diminishing, and an exploration into what it means to stay big. An exploration, an invitation to FEEL like they were worth so much more than they allowed credit for.

I’m not anticipating saving these women’s lives from their eating disorders by teaching them yoga. But I hope they will get a glimmer of light from an hour of respite. I hope they will receive a reminder to be kinder.

It’s a learning process for me as well that I need to take this process with them, one day at a time. Some days are fantastic – everyone grinning ear to ear, able to participate fully in all the poses – and some days are just going to feel like wrangling a fucking mess, but at least we are wrangling it together.

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Webinar Series: Release Body Shame

I’m excited to announce a brand new webinar series I am launching this summer – beginning June 16!

Release Body Shame

Experience freedom from the entrapment of body shame.

Why Release Body Shame? And, what is it anyway?
I spent the bulk of my early twenties battling an eating disorder. It was primarily through yoga and a mindfulness practice that I was able to heal myself. My journey continues to this day as I work toward releasing my own body shame (buried deep within my own trenches) through developing a more rich practice that supports me as I get older.

Release Body Shame will be an experience that allows you to begin the self-inquiry pertaining to your own relationship with your body. We will open the conversation about body image as it pertains to our culture and ourselves as human beings.

Throughout the webinar series we will work with the 5 A’s: Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, and Allowing – to better understand how we can change the story that we tell ourselves and how we can begin to better release the shame we hold onto about our bodies.

Click here to learn more and sign up today! XO

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Give yourself a break

My 2nd video blog – it’s up!

And I have a confession: I’m watching The Bachelorette tonight. There, I said it! And I’m letting myself off the hook for this one. No guilt. I’m focusing on the ‘wants,’ not the ‘shoulds.’

What are you going to give yourself a break for? How can you let yourself off the hook? Give yourself permission?

Write it in the comments: what are you letting yourself off the hook for tonight or today?

Because honey you rock.

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Triggers: Our Bodies Speak Volumes

Chin up! Photo credit: Ellie Tonev

Chin up! Photo credit: Ellie Tonev

When I hear the word triggers I automatically think of my migraine triggers: stress, the weather, excessive heat, excessive cold, tomatoes, eggs, pork, nitrates, msg, to name a few.

But I never truly considered triggers in that the way in which I hold my body has profound affects on my emotional and psychological health. That when I spend my day with my chin down, shoulders slumped – let’s call it the “I GIVE UP” posture – well, I feel like fucking giving up.

I never considered these triggers until my teacher Tracy really took us down that path Saturday afternoon in Bowspring class. When we meditated on our triggers.

Bowspring (for me at least) is all about holding a steady posture where you feel both solid and light, sturdy and at ease, confident and at home in your own body. We hold the Bowspring posture during a class so that we can find it with greater ease during life.

The triggers we notice are things such as:

  • Do I drop my chin and always look to the ground?
  • Do my shoulders curl forward?
  • Do I draw in my belly so as to feel smaller?

For most of my life, my answer to pretty much all of the above has been a resounding YES. Yoga and especially Bowspring Practice though have slowly helped me find my way out of these patterns and triggers. This path out has not only helped me feel stronger and eliminate pain, but also has given me a newfound sense of confidence – where I feel more at home in my body.

Growing up I was taller than a lot of the kids in school. I would wish every night to wake up skinnier and shorter. My tallness and gargantuan feet were a travesty at the time. While classmates were still shopping at Gap Kids, my mom started bringing me to Eddie Bauer and The Limited.

To say that I did not embrace my tallness and size would be an understatement. All I wanted was to feel small. I was desperate to fix:

  • my tummy so that it would quit sticking out (before I learned about the birds & the bees there was a period where I questioned “am I pregnant?”)
  • my feet to stop growing already (I’ve been a size 10 since about 5th grade – there, it’s out there, I have big feet!)
  • my thighs to not rub together when I wore dresses or shorts (they still rub together somewhat and when I run long distances, they chafe, ah well!)
  • my boobs to disappear (I wore baggy tops to conceal them until some of the other girls caught up)
  • and somehow I thought if I slouched enough, I would be shorter like the cute short girls.

I notice that even now, as I make my way into my early 30s, I still hold onto some of these beliefs that have manifested as triggers in my body.

Like the tummy trigger – oh the amount of time I have spent trying to suck that darn thing in! I spent years in high school and college perfecting a posture that would make my tummy appear concave or hollow. And I wonder why my back started spasming…

At the time the only part of my body I probably loved were my shoulders because there I noticed – bony protrusions! Ah-ha!

I’m not going to say that I have fully addressed all of my triggers. I’m not sure I ever will. But I notice them, oh do I ever notice them.

For instance when I was running the other day, I spotted my reflection in a window and immediately said to myself “EW, GROSS!” I said it out loud, right there on Knight Street. Why? Because I noticed my belly was sticking out.

So what did I do? I first tried with all my might to suck my belly in to make it go away. As I did this I started feeling totally uncomfortable in my body, realized “there’s a trigger for ya!”, and decided fuck it, who cares, I’m going to let my belly be free. Breathing feels better that way anyway and – cool fact – I have also noticed that when I let my belly be free and stop trying to suck it in when running, it is MUCH easier to lean into the run and to keep a faster, steady pace.

The greatest gift is that when I pay attention to my triggers, I feel a greater sense of “I’m at home” in my own body rather than wanting to fix or escape it. I give myself permission to be exactly as I am and to honor the very shape of me.

I encourage you to notice how you are sitting, standing, walking right now. How are you HOLDING your own body? Do you feel empowered in your own body or do you feel diminished and small? Perhaps simply try this cue: keep your chin up. And just see what happens when you make that your mantra throughout one day.

With Love,

Maggie

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Video Blogs and Getting Weighed at The Doctor’s Office…

Hey guys!

Today marks a monumental moment for me: my first video blog. Or does one call it a “Vlog”?

I know, there’s loads of these out there. But this is something that has been brewing in the back of my mind for months. Ok, maybe years. It took me 3 takes to get something that was sort of what I hoped for and then I just had to say to myself …

Screw it. I’m posting this.

Because the bottom line: it comes from my heart and it comes from my own experience. And I would be hard pressed to learn that not one of you can relate to what I felt this morning. Please take a look and post your comments. Happy Weekend!

PS. It is REALLY hard for me to watch and listen to myself. But I want to get these messages out – I want to keep this conversation going!

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You are so deserving

What happens when we get stuck in belief systems where we think we are not deserving of love, success, wealth, abundance, joy, health, or amazingdeserving 2 relationships?

Well I’m starting to see a pattern.

Whenever I am firmly set in a belief of “I am not worthy” or “I am not deserving” of something, it becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. What do I mean by that?

I self-sabotage. I self-sabotage like a motherfucker.

I am in a (relatively) new relationship and, without going into any detail I will just say that it’s going really well. But despite my intense joy and fulfillment (MOST of the time) I sometimes find myself in a state of unworthiness, of feeling undeserving of this great relationship.

And it doesn’t hit me as obviously as you would expect. No, instead that feeling of being unworthy creeps in from behind and stops me in my tracks. It shows itself when I question intentions, start to lose trust, and become full of doubt.

Do I have good reason for this? Is this person I am involved with causing me alarm? Nope. Absolutely not. In fact, they are SO rock solid and trustworthy that I am constantly blown away that a person like this exists.

So what is to be done here? There’s got to be a way to shift this, to turn it around.

There is.

I actually expressed these sentiments to my new partner and he simply replied “You are so deserving.” I almost cried when I read them. I needed to hear those exact words so badly and it has become a mantra for me whenever I begin to doubt.

When I start to believe and live this mantra out loud I begin to see its manifestation not only in my relationship, but it starts to become easier to believe that I am deserving of other things in life such as abundance, financial success, professional success, emotional availability. My list continues to grow.

I’m not talking about wishful thinking here but instead building up on what already exists that is real and true. What is real is that I’ve got a guy who thinks the world of me – so I’m going to keep falling into this wonderful journey we have started.

What is true is that I am pouring my heart and soul into a career that is meaningful and empowering and therefor I have no reason not to create all sorts of abundance in this life.

What are some things that you feel undeserving of? Is it health? (I have struggled with this one as well with my migraines.)

Or maybe it’s feeling loved for the very person that you are.

Sometimes we need to hear those words over and over. Sometimes just saying them to ourselves doesn’t always do it. Seek out those people who are going to remind you that You Are So Deserving.

And I am here to remind you that, if you are reading this, you are so deserving.

I’m going to make you a promise right here, right now. That when you start to open up about this stuff, you start to heal, and you will start to grow and notice change. If you are fearful of sharing in an open forum then my inbox is always open.

With Love,

Maggie

PS. Book your FREE 30 minute coaching call with me today by clicking here. XOXO

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A Letter to The Haters

healthybellyselfie

In celebration of this letter I present to you my #healthybellyselfie – something I have been terrified of sharing/posting for months. I’m free!

Are you ever on the brink of saying, sharing, posting, shouting something very brave that puts you in a very vulnerable position? Where you are ready to hit send, post, publish, or whatever and then …

… then you think of all the possible “haters” and how they might react?

I kid you not, it happens to me almost every time. And I have a running list of haters – who will be offended, who will unfollow me, who will unfriend me, who will unsubscribe from my newsletter … sometimes it’s different haters for different venues, sometimes there are haters across the board.

But then do you ultimately decide to put yourself out there? To share with the world that which is the most frightening for you to share? To release all your shame. To make your mess your story…

I ultimately and consistently decide to continue to put myself out there. In a social media, virtual kind of way … and the more I do that, I do it in a face-to-face, real life kind of way.

And what happens when I do?

Hugs. Tears. Laughter. Sharing. Support. Community. And feedback in the most beautiful and honest way.

I forget about the haters – they seem to dissolve into thin air – because I see who all the likers … no all the lovers … are.

And I will tell you that I have been unsubscribed from, de-friended, unfollowed, and so forth by some of my penned “haters.” Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe it’s instincts, but regardless I’m learning that it doesn’t matter. That as I make my mess my story and my mission, I’m going to offend, annoy, and piss off a few folks along the way.

But I have to tell you that it’s so worth it when I start to see a community of brave and heart-filled souls building around me. It’s a slow and steady build and one brave soul is worth losing 1000 hater/followers on any social media platform.

As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it:

Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.

I will NEVER win over the haters, so I’m making a promise to myself (and to you) that I’m going to quit trying and quit worrying about them. Who knows, maybe they will make their way back to me someday? Either way, I wish them well.

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We Are in the midst of a body shaming epidemic. Let’s change that.

Our society is in the midst of an epidemic of body shaming and self-loathing. There is a scarcity of self-acceptance.  6097785133_02db3aeb1b

Many of us learn, from a young age, that we are not alright just as we are. That our bellies could be flatter, our teeth whiter, our houses bigger, or our hair straighter. We struggle to look in the mirror and simply accept what we see, let alone love what we see.

I spent my late teens and early twenties battling bulimia. My self-loathing reached a point that I was creating physical harm to my body. I will say that the one thing that pulled me out of a lot of darkness was a regular yoga practice that helped me shift my belief system. I went from believing that my thighs were too chunky to feeling grateful for all that they were capable of. It is a work in progress, that I still struggle with from time to time to this day, but I now have the tools and capabilities to shift my thinking from body shaming to self-acceptance.

Imagine what life would be like if you could look at yourself in the mirror and notice each and every part of you as something that is beautiful. Imagine if you could recognize your “flaws” as the greatest parts of yourself. Imagine if you talked to yourself the way you talk to those you love the most – with words of utmost encouragement, kindness, and love.

This is what I work with people on through the modalities of Health Coaching and Bowspring Yoga.

Let’s start to make our own rules so that we see the rolls, spare tires, cellulite, dimples as markers of beauty rather than shunning them. All the while being more efficient in the way we move our bodies and treating ourselves better as we are getting healthier.

I invite you to join me this spring to start to see yourself through a fresh pair of eyes and with a more loving heart. I am offering a special to you as well as anyone you refer to experience Health Coaching with me:

3 Health Coaching sessions for $200 (phone, valued at $375)

OR

6 Health Coaching sessions for $385 (phone, valued at $750)

All sessions are for one-hour duration.
Click here to read about what you can expect from Health Coaching.

If you’re considering health coaching but are on the fence, I offer a 30 minute complimentary sample session. Click here to schedule your session.

Please email me maggie@maggieconverse.com or comment below with ANY questions. 

With Love and Gratitude,

Maggie

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When my dentist suggests I whiten my teeth & consider fixing the crowding…

I love my dentist but, it makes me want to run for the hills when they start talking to me about whitening my teeth a couple shades.

How is it that a regular cleaning turns into a pitch for brightening (read: changing) your smile? What if I was just getting acquainted with the newly coffee/wine-stained tint of my teeth? Is it going to cause any health issues further down the road?

Nope. The real kicker is when they tell me “it’s purely for cosmetic purposes.”

I understand they are only doing their job and they mean no harm by suggesting this.

It’s merely a representation of the way that our society has been permeated by a firm belief that we SHOULD change our appearance. That we really SHOULD look a certain way.

Don’t even get me started on what they said about my “crowding” on my lower teeth…

Really, I love my dentist. And I had a better experience at the dentist today than I have ever had in my adult life. No pain, no new cavities, no sensitivity. But it was disheartening that I couldn’t escape the need to change our appearance, even at the dentist. It’s something I’m almost used to at the dermatologist (“thinking about botox?”) – but I guess I’m not spared at the dentist any more…

All that said, I’m learning to love the tint of my teeth and the crowding on my bottom teeth that is a result of braces taken off too early and losing my retainer at age 14. Like, really, it’s OK. I love my coffee and tea and red wine. Maybe down the road when it’s in my budget, I’ll see what this whole whitening thing is about, but for now I’m all set.

Have you ever had someone suggest you change something about your appearance? How do you deal with it? I want to hear from you! Feel free to post in the comments below. XO

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