Here’s How You Can Prepare for “Bikini Body” Season

bikinibodyIn case you haven’t already been reminded, bikini season is almost upon us. And chances are you have seen a multitude of messages letting you know the various methods to obtain your perfect bikini body through detoxes, yoga, and bootcamps.

Before signing up for that Bikini Body Bootcamp – take a beat – and listen. Listen to yourself and what your intentions are for obtaining the so-called “bikini body.”

Read the full piece on Elephant Journal by clicking here. 

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Rolls, Thigh Gaps, and Spare Tires

6097785133_02db3aeb1bWhen did we learn that having “rolls” (on our stomach) is a bad thing? Furthermore, when did we learn that having these rolls makes us inherently bad?

I asked this of a dear friend and mentor of mine after reading her very moving piece pertaining to her own body image struggles and her reply was:

Society’s image: stick thin is so ingrained on our psyches that we can’t see ampleness as beauty. In Rueben’s day I’d be on the cover of Vogue.

I couldn’t agree more.

But then as I was driving to meet a client later in the day I thought to myself: wait a minute, what about the girls who ARE stick thin and are STILL unhappy with their bodies and themselves? I can think of a few friends off the top of my head who I look at and think wow they must not have any body image issues, but then they open up to me and all the self-hatred leaks out so effortlessly.

What I think this comes down to is a scarcity issue in our society. It’s a much bigger issue than I can sometimes wrap my head around. I know that people often look at me, or even read my blogs about struggling with my own body image, and think to themselves “what does she have to worry about?”

But from a young age I can remember comparing myself to the other girls who were smaller, thinner, prettier, smarter, more talented, getting into better colleges, and so forth. The comparing and subsequent self-loathing seemed endless.

I allowed myself to believe that, despite my parents best efforts in trying to reassure I was doing enough – that I was gorgeous, smart, and talented – I still firmly believed that I just wasn’t cutting it. Something had to be wrong the very makeup of me. And nevermind my little belly that I discovered at a very early age and have had a love/hate relationship with every since (mostly hate until recent years).

The conversation isn’t over. An answer has not yet been found as to how we are going to cure this illness we have in our society. I aim to continue thinking about it, writing about it, discussing it, and sharing it. And in my own small community I hope to show women and men how they can use yoga as a modality toward self-acceptance. It certainly does not happen overnight but through regular practice.

I don’t care if you can do a handstand, touch your toes, or twist into a pretzel …. what I care about is how do you take the yoga with you? How does it infiltrate your self-worth? Therein lies the true practice. When you can be standing in line at the grocery store, and look down at your legs – regardless of their shape or size – and think how grateful you are that they are holding you. Rather than ripping into how lumpy they may look, or wondering why you were one of the unlucky ones born without a thigh gap.

Or it happens when you are getting dressed in the morning. And you stop and see yourself in the mirror, and while your first inclination might be to drown in the squishiness of your belly and just plain hate yourself, instead you start to see your roundness and fullness as a representation or how full and grand your heart is.

Why can’t it all be beauty? Ampleness, thin, slim, round, full, slender, skinny minny… as long as our bodies and our souls are healthy – isn’t that true beauty?

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Crushing It, Softly

I did a yoga photoshoot yesterday. I was asked to be the subject in a local photographer’s shoot entitled “Crushing It: Portraits of Women Athletes.” My first reaction to even being asked was “Wait, what? You think I’m an athlete? You think I’m crushing it??” Hello gremlins!

In the days leading up to the shoot I was sure I would nail it. And not nail it in the sense that the photographer would get a great shot – I knew she was talented and would get the shot she wanted. I mean nail it in the sense that I would feel like a million bucks, comfortable in my own skin, as if I would all of a sudden magically transform into a total yoga babe.

But as the day of the shoot arrived, I started doubting myself, again. I still can’t hold a handstand in the middle of the room. Nor can I run very far or fast at the moment thanks to a knee/hip injury I am trying to heal. And I have to take at least one of the races I’m signed up for this year off my calendar due to said injury…

So … let’s get the straight … you still think I’m Crushing It? You still think I’m an athlete? Okay…

And then of course I had to analyze my body. No, wait, I had to deeply criticize my body.

I do not have the defined muscles like some of the other incredible subjects in the project. Even as I changed into my outfit for the shoot – a sports bra (suggested item) and yoga pants that I tried on that I picked out believing yeah I can totally rock this – I started to doubt. No, I went further than doubt – I started to really tear myself apart.

I started to see the softness around my belly button. My familiar pooch – it’s definitely still there, and probably always will be. Thought to myself why won’t it just disappear? To me the sports bra dug in and created even more softness around my chest, arms, and back. I thought to myself “is she really going to want this in her photograph?”

I could feel myself sinking and slipping deeper into that bottomless pit of self hatred.

As I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror at the studio where we were doing the shoot, I felt that familiar lump in my throat and the tears started to swell. Tears of shame about my body. That somehow the fact that I have a softness to me means that I am bad, that I am a failure, that I cannot possibly be an athlete who is crushing it. You can’t crush it with softness. Right?

But the tears were also a sadness that I could beat myself up in such a way. That I have been conditioned to criticize. To constantly look for my flaws even when at first glance I don’t even see them! I fast forward past “You look great!!!” to “What the fuck were you thinking Maggie picking a SPORTS BRA for this photoshoot??? You can’t pull this shit off.”

As I gathered my things and started to leave the bathroom, I gave myself one last glance in the mirror, I saw where my underwear cut into the softness around my hips leaving a dent, and said to myself “It doesn’t matter what you look like. That’s not what they see, that’s not what they care about.” And if I’m being totally truthful here, it’s not what I want to care about.

And then I started to do the yoga. I started to do the poses. I started to wash away the bullshit…. almost immediately. It felt like I was coming home in my body. I loved the softness of my belly that lengthened as I curled into a backbend. Conversely the strength in my back that supported me while being soft enough as if it were uttering “I love you.”

It was like all the mindfuckery had vanished. Just like that, it was gone.

The next day I put on my clothes to go or a run. There was that familiar puffiness around the top of my waist band. I took a moment to look at myself in the mirror, then felt, palpated the puffiness. I thought to myself, it is what it is. It’s me and it’s beautiful.

I know through this work that I need mantras. I need positive self-talk to pull me out of my own bullshit and shame. And the cherry on top is the yoga asana practice. Somehow it just seals the deal. It eases me into a perspective on my body and my self that allows me to really believe “hell yeah, I am crushing it.”

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Bowspring in action. Letting my belly be! Photo by Alley Maher. Another very talented local photographer.

Why can’t we see ourselves in the same light that others see us? Why oh why is it so terribly challenging? And why do we habitually resort to the self-criticism and judgement? It’s second nature to us.

Can you imagine if we talked to our friends and loved ones in the same manner we talk to ourselves?

I will say that through years of working on this I recognize the struggle may never fully go away. That I will have those moments where I define myself and my worthiness based on my appearance. Where I find myself slipping into ripping myself apart. But the work of practicing self-love comes and sweeps me up like a good friend picks you up from a bad breakup.

And I begin to turn off the negative self-talk and turn on …. believing. Believing that I am worthy, I am capable, that I am a hell of a lot more than enough. And believing that I am crushing it … softly.

If you’d like to see Irene Penny’s photo that was selected for the show (and all the other subjects she features), it will be on display Thursday May 21 6-8pm at Athleta – Westport, CT, 103 Main Street.

 

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4 Weeks Migraine-free!

gratitude-quotes-03I want to shout something from the rooftops: 4 WEEKS MIGRAINE FREE!! I have been holding my breath and waiting for today to come because it marks a pretty monumental thing for me: 4 weeks without a full blown migraine attack. I have had headache days and days when it felt like I was in the early stages of a migraine but … NOPE! Not a single fucking migraine. I remember what it felt like to live this kind of life. Where I can make plans, and keep them (well, most of the time).

I have been struggling with the fact that this improvement is likely due to the fact that I am participating in a trial study for a new migraine drug. I wish I could tell you “I am healing myself 100%” … A part of me absolutely HATES that I get an injection of this drug every month … but then there is the part of me that recognizes and is eternally grateful for advances such as this in modern medicine.

I do make sure that I eat well, sleep well, move my body, and feed my soul – all things necessary for a healthy life.

So instead of feeling guilty that I am on this new drug, I will feel indefinitely grateful that I am starting to see the light. Migraines are no joke, it has been a rough few years and I can hardly begin to explain what a relief it is to know that I can possibly live this way again. Even if it is temporary, I am grateful. INSANELY grateful.

What are you grateful for today?

So instead of feeling guilty that I am on this new drug, I will feel indefinitely grateful that I am starting to see the light. Migraines are no joke, it has been a rough few years and I can hardly begin to explain what a relief it is to know that I can possibly live this way again. Even if it is temporary, I am grateful. INSANELY grateful.

What are you grateful for today?

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Why We Need to Acknowledge Our Progress

It’s those little things. All those small steps. They add up and then you look back and you’re like “WOW – I’ve come so far!”

I hear my clients and students talking a lot about how far they feel from where they want to be. How far they are from their goals. And I find myself reminding them often that they need to remember where they came from. That they need to keep acknowledging their progress.

We live today in a culture where we are taught that we are never enough. Not good enough, tall enough, thin enough, fast enough, pretty enough, lean enough, muscular enough, liked enough … I’m sure you can think of plenty “enoughs” to add to this list.

Whether we have a family, career, children, or all of the above, we feel this sense of lacking. Of never being or doing enough.

We see only what we wish we could be, have, or become. And don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to dream and go for those dreams. But the issue lies in fixating on that and comparing where we stand to where we wish we stood.

I think about this a lot when I’m coaching and teaching but it hit me personally when I was skiing last week.

IMG_6813Let me just say that I am a total fair-weather skier. There is nothing about the way that I ski that shouts daring, adventurous, or “advanced.” But it occurred to me when I was breezing down a blue run (that’s about as advanced as I get – a nice wide open blue square run) that I’ve actually come pretty far from the days as a kid when I tumbled out of the chair lift with my dad and spent the next 15 years convinced I would never be a “winter sports” person, let alone put on another pair of skis ever again.

I’m still not your typical “winter sports” kind of person – I take it easy on the slopes, choosing the “fun” runs over the super challenging ones –  but I have developed enough confidence in my skiing ability where I can now ski with some pretty badass skiers and snowboarders, or accidentally make my way down a black diamond without screaming in fear all the way down. To top it all off – I won’t hesitate to brag about the fact that I NEVER fall.

I had a moment of total frustration last weekend when I was with a group of three snowboarders – all very near and dear people to me. On every run I was behind them and it just felt like I couldn’t catch up hard as I may try. I decided I needed to take a run on my own (go figure it was called “Easy Street”) and as I glided down Easy Street I couldn’t help but smile as I gave myself some credit.

I gave myself credit for getting out there, for putting skis on, and for making it down the hill. I could be in awe of those I was skiing/boarding with. Plus they taught me all the cool snowboarding jargon like “Shredding the Nard” – gnarly!

I could also be in awe of how far I had come – and my mish-mosh of ski instruction over the last 10 years, all of it informal and a lot of figuring shit out on my own.

So, I’m glad I had this experience of being in a position where I first felt completely lacking to then making an effort to acknowledge my progress. And as soon as I did, I felt completely full. I felt like I was enough.

 

 

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3 Reasons Endurance Athletes Benefit from Health Coaching

Why Do Endurance Athletes Need Health Coaching?

Ironman Lake Placid 2012 – just before the finish!

I have been fortunate to coach some pretty incredible endurance athletes over the last few years. And we aren’t talking professional endurance athletes: we are talking the athlete who has a family, a career, hobbies, and somehow manages to integrate a training schedule with enough hours to constitute a part-time job.

I love working with these people because of their intense drive and motivation – and also because I speak their language. I understand feeling like the “crazy” one who leaves a dinner party at 8:30PM because you have a 5AM training session.

So I was thinking about this – why DO endurance athletes need coaching? There are a myriad of reasons so I’ll start with three that really stick out in my mind:

Don’t ignore the basics: food and hydration.

Are you feeling drowsy every afternoon because of that 5AM brick workout, or because you are low on your water intake? Or could it be that skipping lunch because you are “too busy with work” is finally starting to catch up on your energy level during evening hill repeats? Proper hydration and nutrition seem simple enough but when we are juggling training for an endurance event PLUS everything life throws our way, we need to make sure we don’t ignore the basics.

It’s training for your mind and soul.

We spend so many hours every week fine tuning our body in preparation for race day. But what about preparing your mind? In coaching we confront all of the fears … the “what if’s?” of race day. One of my biggest fears around Ironman Lake Placid (and this is probably a popular one for many of you) was “What if I don’t finish?” I worked with MY coach and confronted this fear and came up with a mental game plan for how I might feel or react if I didn’t finish. And when I explored the what if’s instead of ignoring them, it felt like I got all my worrying out of the way. Like I had just “cleansed” myself of worries and had an (almost) worry-free race day!

It makes race day that much more meaningful.

One big reason I love coaching endurance athletes is that these folks have giant hearts and they aren’t afraid to dream big. They have an internal drive that pushes the envelope and is constantly curious what the human spirit is capable of. When you find tune your intention and reason for racing it’s like giving yourself an unlimited stash of mental GU gel. It’s a natural burst of energy that keeps you going through challenging training days and culminates in that final push on race day. Every race, every year, the reasons may change – they shift because we go through different obstacles in our lives. But when we cross the finish line, it’s so much more than just a PR or just a race – it’s a celebration. And that race can become one of the greatest learning experiences you’ll endure.

 

If you are interested in health coaching in preparation for an endurance event, or have any questions about what coaching might be like for you, please don’t hesitate to email me at maggie@maggieconverse.com. Your first 30-minute session is on me!

 

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Adios by Naomi Shihab Nye

IMG_6674I read this poem, fittingly, on my last day in Colorado. It was a part of a piece of artwork created by one of my hosts. When I was feeling sentimental about my vacation and adventure time coming to an end. It made so much sense to me, so beautifully soft and eloquent. I can’t help but want to share it.

Adios

It is a good word, rolling off the tongue
no matter what language you were born with,
Use it. Learn where it begins,
the small alphabet of departure,
how long it takes to think of it,
then say, then be heard.

Marry it. More than any golden ring,
it shines, it shines.
Wear it on every finger
till your hands dance,
touching everything easily,
letting everything, easily, go.

Strap it to your back like wings.
Or a kite-tail. The stream of air behind a jet.
If you are known for anything,
let it be the way you rise out of sight
when your work is finished.

Think of things that linger: leaves,
cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.

Something that said adios to you
before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.

Explain little, the word explains itself.
Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,
like silence following sound.

~Naomi Shihab Nye
from Words Under the Words

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Kale Hempseed Pesto Recipe

KALEPESTOOne frigid Friday night I sifted through my cupboards and the refrigerator, determined to come up with a delicious meal for dinner that did not require me to make a trip out in the cold for more ingredients. I happily discovered I still had an entire head of kale, plenty of garlic, and some delicious specialty pasta.

My Cuisinart had been sitting on the shelf for WAY too long so it was decided: I would improvise a kale pesto using hempseeds as substitute for the traditional pinenuts. Suffice it to say the pesto turned out delicious, although a little heavy on the garlic so tread lightly if you tend to shy away from this flavor.

Kale Hempseed Pesto
1 head of kale chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic peeled
1/3 cup hempseeds
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1/3 to 1/2 cup of EVO
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375F. Toss kale with EVO and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake kale for 3-5 minutes. When kale is finished, let cool for a couple minutes. While kale is cooling, add garlic to mixer and grind. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. You can add additional EVO to desired consistency. Add to your favorite pasta, spread on fresh bread, and enjoy!

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Letting My Belly Be

image1I have a confession. I have spent most of my life trying desperately to conceal or minimize my belly.

Even as a child, I had this little “pooch” that stuck out. I always took ballet and the leotards and tights dug their way into that pooch that wouldn’t budge. I wished on eyelashes that I would wake up with a perfectly flat, no, perfectly concave stomach. I would stare at myself in the mirror, sticking it out, sucking it in, pulling it in, flattening and spreading it with my hands as best I could – then I’d pinch all the belly I could muster. Oh, how I hated that thing.

As a teen I learned about sit-ups and crunches and ab-work and pilates and when I would put on my leotards I would hope in vain that the 25 sit-ups I had done the night before might have made a difference. More and more I started taking things into my own hands to rid myself of this abomination. I was taught, over and over again, that this belly just needs to go away. I so strongly felt that I needed to make it disappear, and then everything would be alright.

I went through periods in my twenties where I felt skinny and the belly was a little less of a problem. On those days I felt happier, more confident. But then I would wake up the next morning with it protruding over my pajama bottoms. What pants could I possibly wear that were both cute AND would hide my body? What could I wear that would make me appear different? What would make me appear better?

Now in my early thirties my relationship with my body has changed, mostly for the good. I have bad days and I have good days – the good days mostly outweigh the bad. But still I sometimes see my reflection in the mirror in an exercise class and all I notice is that darn belly trying to peek out of my lululemon pants that were supposed to be so slimming, they were supposed to make it disappear, at least for a brief moment. The deep-set belief of belly being bad as a child still rears its ugly head as an adult.

Five months ago I kind of fell into a new yoga studio with brand new teachers and a brand new practice. I fell into this studio during a period where a lot of change was happening in my life – everything felt like it was uprooted and of course this made me go back to old patterns of disliking my body. I almost didn’t go to my first class there because I thought to myself “No Maggie, you’re dealing with enough change right now, why add more fuel to the fire?”

Fast forward to class last week when our teacher Mitchel instructed for the umpteenth time for everyone to let our bellies be long, to let them hang out. When we are on all fours or in crouching cat (think downward dog with very bent knees) he often instructs us to imagine our bellies swaying side to side like a cat. And whenever he does this I can’t help but smile and think of my cat Milo who flaunts his belly like it’s his job. If he’s flaunting his belly, why shouldn’t I?

But the point is that for these five months I have been instructed to just let my belly be. To let it freaking hang out. To forget about the sucking in, the flattening, the diminishing, the shortening, the crunching. I can let my belly be itself – that little pucker toward the bottom of my torso that has held on to so much guilt, shame, and pain for most of my life. And the more I allow myself to let my belly be, the more confident I feel and the more solid I feel within the structure of my own body.

I am discovering a part of my body, my belly, for the very first time. With fresh eyes and a loving and wholly accepting heart. I know that my belly journey will have its ups and downs but what a great sense of relief to put my hand on my belly and say to myself, for the first time ever, “Hell yeah!”

 

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Homemade Hummus – easy as 1, 2, 3, 4 ingredients!

You will almost always find this item in my fridge.

I love making hummus because it never fails to shock me how incredibly easy and inexpensive AND delicious it is to make it at home. I know hummus typically contains tahini (and lots of salt) but I’ve grown to really love this very simple recipe – you taste each and every ingredient!

homemadehummus

 

Simply Homemade Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of water (or reserve the water from chickpeas)
  • My toppings of choice: fresh parsley, pinch of cayenne pepper

Add all ingredients into a Cuisinart or blender and mix until smooth. If you prefer a chunkier hummus, mix until slightly chunky. Top with parsley, cayenne, or anything that sounds good to you!

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