Tag Archives: body image

My first shirtless race

Dozens of questions coursed through my mind at mile 6.7 of America’s Finest City Half Marathon. Did I need to take my next GU? How was my knee going to hold up? Was it time to take my shirt off? And that’s when my race got interesting. That’s when it became my first race with no shirt on.runningshirtless

It wasn’t something planned or premeditated. In fact I based my decision primarily on comfort more than anything else. Drenched in my own sweat, my race singlet became sticky and heavy. Like wearing leather pants on a piping hot day. Sweat happens when you’re running in 90% humidity and temps well over 80 degrees.

It was one of those “fuck it” moments after running 6.7 miles completely exposed to the sun. The AFC Half does not afford many opportunities for shade. As I peeled off my leathery shirt it was like a thousand angels sang from above and my skin breathed a deep sigh of relief. This changed the tone of my race from heat and humidity suppression to light and fancy free running through the streets of downtown San Diego … shirtless!

This was not an act to draw attention. This was, as I mentioned before, largely for comfort. And then it turned into so much more. For the rest of my race, the remaining 6.4 miles, I thought about how over my endurance career of nearly 6 years I had not completed a single race shirtless. It’s not that I always wore a more breathable shirt. No, I can recall many a time I wished I could take strip down to just my sports bra and shorts.

The reason I never dared to bare was because I felt so ashamed of my body. Completely and utterly ashamed of my imperfect, puffy belly and the way the bulge gathered right above the waistband of my shorts. Not to mention the armpit bulge. I know – I probably sound like a total asshole to some of you, feeling shameful about my body. But listen – this is something we are conditioned to feel regardless of what we may look like to others. And for me, I simply couldn’t stand the thought of what my race pictures might turn out to look like or what onlookers might think as they saw me jiggling by. (And who says “jiggling” is a bad thing, anyway?)

This year for the first time ever I trained several times with just my sports bra and shorts and while it took a great deal of self-talk to get the point of ditching my shirt, it was the most liberating feeling of all time. I not only trained for the mileage but also the courage to bare my body in a way that was meaningful and powerful to me.

It’s important to me that I walk the talk, put my money where my mouth is, and so forth with everything I am trying to encourage others to do. Loving, even simply accepting our bodies as they are is really challenging work. And there are so many layers that we have each developed over time based on experiences and teachings that we are conditioned to believe without ever questioning – what’s wrong with cellulite anyway? Who made up that rule?? Because, can somebody PLEASE tell me who made up the rule that cellulite is the devil?

I am inspired when people are unapologetically themselves. And maybe that’s why this particular experience was so empowering. Running without a shirt on comes with practical purposes like staying cool but it’s something I have only dreamed of doing. In previous years I would stop myself because I wouldn’t want anyone to be offended by my body. It feels like stepping even more into who I am – and it’s a part of myself that I am still starting to uncover. And it’s insanely cool to continue getting to know this unashamedly bold and brave part of myself that I always knew was somewhere down there in the adorable cushions of my belly.IMG_3697

Still I cringe sometimes when I see the race photos from AFC Half Marathon. But I remind myself that part of the work is going through this process with the ability to start to change perspective. So I then go back to the photos and look at them instead with approval rather than criticism. It doesn’t have to be exuberant love, Just looking at ourselves with acceptance.

If running without a shirt helps me unveil the boldest parts of myself and learn to love my body, then by god I’m sticking with it. (The same holds true for yoga without a shirt on!)

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When Releasing Body Shame Feels Like Letting Go of a Bad Relationship

crouchingcat

Crouching Cat. Photo by Kelsey Finkle.

Sometimes when I feel so disgusted with my body, I am reminded of what it’s like to be in a bad relationship. The kind where you walk on eggshells around each other and forget anything else can possibly exist. It’s the one you just can’t bear to part with because you are afraid. Self-loathing becomes your security blanket, where it’s all you know. It’s your default because it feels safe. Who knows what terrors could happen should you dare to toss the blanket aside and find a new one.

Just like walking away from a bad relationship, turning off the self hatred switch is easier said than done. It will be hard as fuck, will make you scared shitless, totally vulnerable, and naked to the world. At the same time, it is something you never regret and it is one of the best things you will ever do for yourself.

Consider the way you talk to yourself. Be completely honest – what are the kinds of things you say to or about yourself? It is not uncommon for most men and women to verbally self-abuse. Imagine if you started speaking this way to the people in your life. They wouldn’t tolerate it for one second.

We default to negative self-talk because somewhere along the way we learned it is bombastic or pompous to think we are attractive. We learned we are not entitled to have an honest, clear view on ourselves. We have to first go through a filter, after which point it is then appropriate to determine our worth. And even then, we still suck. We are conditioned to act this way because we have gone through years of training and so this paradigm is far easier to exist in than changing our ways.

In the exact same way, it becomes easy to fester in an unhealthy relationship. We get accustomed to the silence that speaks volumes. It is seemingly effortless to tweak who we are for the sake of pleasing someone else, while we know damn well this person is not serving us.

The negative self-talk does not serve us either. Who told you to determine your self worth based on whether or not you have a thigh gap? Or that stilettos are objectively sexier than birkenstocks? It’s time to erase their message from your mind, permanently. The way you would erase a voicemail from an ex-lover on an old answering machine, and then throw away the tape for good measure.

How do we begin to redefine beauty? How do we release old beliefs of what our body should look like? How do we make up our own body beautiful rules?

One thing we can do is choose an empowering modality, such as a postural practice like Bowspring, to connect with the body. Move in a nourishing manner. Whether you select yoga, zumba, running, or hiking, the movement is not for the sake of weight loss and changing who you are but instead to wake up to who you already are. We want to wake up the little light deep inside.

Find a modality to wake up and be present within the body you are given. When you move, embrace the shapes you create. The shapes are beautiful not because anybody else says so, but because you believe so.

If we always try to comply with certain rules and regulations about what we should look like, or a certain way we should behave, we will live in the drone of an unhappy relationship. Only this time the relationship is with ourselves. Changing habits and patterns is hard work, but much like walking away from that stifling relationship, it is worth the pain and the effort.

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BodyLoveCT video with lululemon athletica

Please join me for this very special event.

With Love,

Maggie

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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

2442995055_97a02d8124_z 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.

Read the full piece on Elephant Journal by clicking here.

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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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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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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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