You Should be Dancing!

This month, I am sharing about ways to rekindle joy and fun in movement. So, if you are looking for a great way to move your body, dancing is a fun (and my absolute favorite) way to get your body moving. Dancing can be done no matter your age or ability level. One can dance standing, from a chair, or even lying down in bed! All you need is your idea of good music and space to move safely. From finger dancing in the car to a dance party in your living room, dancing enables you to move and express yourself without rules or restriction!

Here are some amazing benefits of dancing that will inspire you to get moving:

  • Dancing increases your heart rate, which is great for cardiovascular health
  • Dancing causes serotonin levels to increase (nature’s mood stabilizers)
  • Dancing is aerobic and can burn calories while you’re having fun
  • Dancing builds muscle and fine motor skills, improving agility and stamina
  • Dancing is a form of expression that transcends differences and creates common ground in groups
  • Dancing is a great escape from stress or anxiety and can help revive the spirit
  • Dancing is a form of worship and restoration of the soul

Dancing comes in many styles and is a true form of self-expression. From formalized dancing to freestyle, unbridled movement, dancing can be experienced by anyone anywhere. It is universally understood and undeniably a way to unite all ages, genders, and affiliations. 

There is no wrong way to dance. Your preference might be taking classes or participating in a group setting. You may love dancing alone or in the club. Your favorite way to dance might be with your kids or under the stars with your spouse. There is no limit to where, when, and how you can dance.
Some possible dance options are:

  • Taking Zumba or U-Jam Fitness classes
  • Community College courses in dance
  • Organized dance troops for tap, jazz, modern dance, or others
  • Watching dance videos
  • Dancing at a concert
  • Creating a playlist for at-home dance parties
  • Playing dance-based video games

The options truly are limitless, and there is no way you can go wrong. Here are some ideas to get you excited about creating a personalized dance plan:

  • Create a playlist of your favorite songs. Consider multiple lists for different moods or occasions. Choose your list based on what feels right in the moment and dance away.
  • Join a group that meets regularly. Build new relationships and social experiences through dance.
  • Watch street performers dance for entertainment and be inspired by their passion.
  • Attend a ballet or dance competition and expand your exposure to multiple dance genres.

Being a dancer requires no skill, nearly zero financial investment, and can only bring you positive outcomes. No matter what sort of music you love, your body can benefit from moving with the beat – so turn up the music and start dancing!

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Tin and Marriage

This week, my husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage. That is no small feat. There is so much give and take and often we individuals don’t want to compromise. After ten years, I can say that me and my husband did not know each other that well when we got married! But, at this point, in for a penny, in for a pound and with lots of gratitude, we not only made it this far, but are happy in our marriage.

Any one married knows how much work a marriage can be. We were a blended family when we married and now have a daughter together. He did not speak very English and we mostly conversed in Spanish. Looking back, there were quite a few miscommunications and bouts of silence to avoid upsetting the other person. These are things that make us laugh now.

In the United States, the traditional gift for the tenth anniversary is tin. I think this is so appropriate! A soft, silvery metal, tin is pliable but resists corrosion from everyday things like tap water. But it can be damaged with strong abrasives or acids. If that doesn’t sum up a ten-year marriage, I don’t what does!

Together, we have become more pliable as a couple but also as individuals. I remember wanting to start a fight one time because he bathed our daughter in the backyard and snapped her onesie on the outside of her pants. Really? He had seen his child properly dressed hundreds of times at that point! But to him, that just wasn’t important. He’s been frustrated at me for things that I thought were inconsequential too and so it goes. We both learned early on that acidic or stinging words and attitudes were only useful on the way to unhappiness so we dug our heels into respect and communication when we both could handle it.

Ten Tips

Relationships are hard work. Anyone who’s been in a relationship for more than six months knows this. There’s plenty of advice out there that you’ve heard at least 100 times.

However, there are probably a few things you’ve either never heard of or you’ve forgotten about. One of these forgotten items might make a huge difference in your relationship.

Consider these 10 relationship tips:

  1. Choosing a partner is a serious matter. Most people fail to appreciate the gravity of choosing a partner. This is especially true when it comes to marriage. Consider the amount of time and energy a partner requires. Now, consider the damage done to your life by divorce. Make your decision with care.
  2. Learn from your past. Look back on your past relationships for guidance in your current and future relationships.

● What do you want to change about yourself to be more successful in the future in your love life?

● What type of people are you regularly attracted to? Do you have a type? Is it a type that’s good for you? What does your relationship past suggest?

● What were the challenges in your past relationships? What can you do to avoid them in the future? Are you better equipped to deal with those challenges if they happen again?

  1. It takes years to REALLY know someone. Be careful about jumping in with both feet. While it’s not necessary to wait 10 years, keep in mind that you’ll still be learning new things about the other person for at least a decade. There’s more there than you can learn in just a year or two.
  2. No one can read your mind. Avoid saying the classic, “I shouldn’t have to tell you what’s wrong.” This is unreasonable. Take responsibility for helping others to satisfy your needs. It only makes sense to make it as easy as possible for someone else to make you happy.
  3. No one can fulfill all of your needs. There is no person that can satisfy every need you have. You’re going to have to rely on yourself and others to pick up the slack. No single person is a one-stop solution to your life.
  4. No one is perfect. If you want someone perfect, you’re either going to be disappointed or alone. You’ll have to accept some flaws in your partner. If you’ve chosen the right person, their positive qualities will far outweigh their bad.
  5. Avoid getting into a relationship to solve your problems. A relationship shouldn’t be based on solving your challenges. Get your life under control before getting involved with someone else.
  6. It’s hard to take back unkind words and actions. Think before you speak. There are things you can say in the heat of the moment that will never be completely forgotten.
  7. Your partner’s friends and family matter. You might not like the other important people in your partner’s life, but it’s important to make an effort to get along with them. Your relationship will suffer if you treat them badly or attempt to avoid them altogether.
  8. Always remember to treat your partner like they’re the most important person in your life. Because they may well be. The day-to-day grind can cause us to forget to treat our partner well.

● In fact, many of us ignore the niceties altogether and treat our partner worse than how we would treat a stranger. This is a mistake!

● Show your love in your thoughts, words, and actions. Even when you disagree, make your opinion known in a loving and respectful fashion.

Neglecting your relationship can have catastrophic consequences. Relationships require monitoring and maintenance to survive and thrive. Dust off these forgotten tips and put them to good use. Your relationship will be stronger and more satisfying for both of you.

I could go on and on, but Number 4 could have been my downfall! Traditionally, the third anniversary is leather (another material symbolizing ruggedness!) and the modern one is crystal. This year we did our leather gifts but I also gave him a crystal ball as that year was really tough in terms of developing a better communication rhythm. He got the joke and now it is a source of laughter. Either of us can just glance at it and we will immediately know that communication is faltering so we can regroup and communicate clearly! It keeps things light and always gets a laugh or funny story. That laughter–that is a bonus tip–always find a way to share a smile or laugh. Definitely softens the heart and fosters closeness!

Stop Stress Before It Stops You

We are all familiar with stress. Most of us even know that prolonged bouts of negative stress, or chronic stress, can be harmful to our emotional and physical health. But can it be avoided?

Stress is likely something everyone experiences, but that doesn’t mean that it has to get the best of you. Our bodies are essentially designed to make the most of a stress reaction, be catapulted into life-preserving action, so to speak. Chemicals flood our bodies and we get to the task at hand. From being jolted out of sleep by a crying baby (feeding it so it survives is preserving the species) to fighting off a wild animal, we react with more power, focus, agility, or quickness than our day-to-day activities require. Our bodies are also designed to completely recover from the stress episode. Here lies the rub.

Sources and Types of Stress

Modern life presents us with stressful events all day, every day. Traffic, noise, the barrage of violence on TV; we are almost at the tipping point all the time. Imagine if your life had other situations that created stress. Things like an illness, an impending birth, unemployment, or the stress of racism. The pressure could seem insurmountable.

Before you can find effective ways to cope and manage stress (READ: a stress management plan), you need to know the source of the stress. There are many different types of stress in your life, from financial to relationship stress. And to put it plainly, dealing with situations head-on and early on will always be the best policy!

Acute and Chronic Stress

First of all, two common types of stress are acute and chronic stress. All other types of stress will fit into one of these categories. Acute stress is more about individual situations that will lead to you feeling stressed out, such as your car breaking down or a relationship ending. With chronic stress, it is something you experience on a regular basis. This might be from work, finances, or other problems in your life that tend to keep happening over and over again. Chronic stress can also be related to a simple overwhelming feeling that you can’t quite keep up with everything in your life and are so overwhelmed on a regular basis that you experience stress almost constantly.

Personal and Relationship Stress

A very common reason to be stressed is due to your personal life, particularly with a relationship, family, or children. This type of stress can be acute, but is often related to chronic stress. You want your kids to be safe and grow up healthy, so this leads to being stressed about them almost constantly. Then acute forms of stress might be going through a divorce or feeling like your personal life is not quite what you would like it to be.

Work and Financial Stress

Another very common area of stress in your life might be related to your job or your finances, or a little of both. This can be from having a great job but not having enough time for anything but work, to where you bring your work home with you. Another way your job can stress you out is if you simply don’t enjoy it or you don’t get along well with co-workers. You might have financial stress like struggling to pay your bills, not advancing enough in your career, or being faced with last-minute expenses and no clue how to take care of them.

Seeking Professional Help

Getting professional help might seem like something only people with major relationship problems or mental health disorders get, but just about everyone can benefit from it. If your stress is getting to where you can’t take control of it and it is severely affecting your life, now is the time to seek help.

Why You May Need Help

First of all, it helps to know exactly why someone might need to seek a counselor or therapist for their stress. While it is true that there are many natural and healthy ways to relieve stress on your own, sometimes it tends to be a bit much. For example, if you are going through a major life event, such as a divorce, the emotional and financial stress can be overwhelming to where you can barely take care of yourself, let alone your kids. In this situation, seeking professional help is ideal.

Signs You Should Seek Additional Help

You should also know that stress can have a large impact on your overall health. It can cause mental and emotional health issues, including anger, resentment, depression, and anxiety. It also increases your risk of abusing drugs and alcohol. In addition, some physical effects include migraines, stomach pains, increased or decreased appetite, and insomnia. If you are struggling with any of these effects, it is a good reason to get professional help.

How a Helping Pro Can Help You

There are many ways a therapist, coach, counselor, or mentor can help you with your stress. Here are just a few of the different methods they use:

Family counseling – When your stress is the result of home or family issues, therapy with your entire family is highly recommended. The professional can work with you each individually, with you and your significant other, and with the entire family. This is often combined with talk therapy, where you can release some of the feelings or thoughts you have been holding back.

Pain coping therapy – If your stress is due to suffering from physical pain, especially chronic pain, then a therapist can help with that as well. While you should still see a medical doctor, the mental health professional helps you cope on a daily basis with the pain, instead of giving you options to relieve that pain. They help with the stress that often comes from physical ailments.

General Stress Management Plan– Everyone has different levels and sources of stress, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t severe enough for help. Therapists can also help with general stress, whether you are having a hard time with your kids leaving the nest, you are struggling with a career choice, or you have more serious problems that are causing your stress.

Life/Wellness Coaching – In my business, I offer a course on stress and assist my clients with identifying and balancing three key areas in their life so that they can experience some quick relief. I teach and practice practical, easy to incorporate methods and strategies that can de-escalate an immediate event or stress attack and others that help decrease the stress severity and longevity of stress reactions in the body.

The Truth About Harmless Lies and Your Health

A typewriter with a page that reads “truth” and below the image it reads, “Lies and your health. Can and should small fibs be avoided?”

To tell the truth 100% of the time may seem possible at first glance. But what about those little lies that are common in daily life? Like the ones we tell to protect someone’s feelings, or not revealing the real reason we ran 5 minutes to work. My personal favorite is now a reel on Instagram: your precious kid hands you a drawing that you could not identify to save your life and with eyes a-gleaming, “Can you guess what it is?” Are you really going to dim the light in that child’s face? Hopefully, you can come up with something clever to dodge lying in these instances but how easy is it to just tell a small fib?

Now, it is a lot easier to rationalize those big lies are the ones that count. After all, so many of those are actual crimes! So, naturally, there have been studies and research about it. What personalities are most likely to lie, lie detectors and their accuracy, even examining the body language of honesty, have all been studied to some extent. The verdict? Lying could be interfering with your physical and mental health. A recent study suggests that honesty really is the best policy.

A “Science of Honesty” project at the University of Notre Dame asked people to give up telling major and minor lies for 10 weeks. At the conclusion of the experiment, the test subjects reported that they felt less tension and sadness when they refrained from lying. They also reported that they had fewer physical symptoms, such as headaches and sore throats.

Incorporating complete honesty into your life can be difficult. But the rewards are amazing. Try these strategies to make it easier to avoid those “inconsequential” lies.

Guidelines for Being More Honest in Everyday Life:

  1. Be realistic. It’s estimated that the average person tells 10 or more lies per week. Becoming more candid will require a good deal of effort. Give yourself credit each time you dare to be forthcoming instead of hiding behind a fib.

  2. Stop making excuses. Becoming more accountable is a great place to start. When you show up late for an appointment, just apologize for running late instead of pretending there was a traffic jam.

  3. Fulfill your promises. There will be less temptation to make up stories if you keep your word in the first place. Accept your limitations and take on only what you can handle.

  4. Ask directly. Direct approaches work better than manipulation. Invite a friend on a weekend getaway instead of trying to convince her that she looks tired and needs a break.

  5. Deal with conflicts. We sometimes keep quiet because it seems easier than dealing with conflict. Examine whether you’re accommodating others to be kind or if it would be better to work out your differences.

  6. Present yourself accurately. Take risks and open up to others. Express your true feelings. State your opinions even when they’re different than the majority.

  7. Think like a nurse. A Gallup poll found that nurses were especially straightforward. That makes sense considering that a person’s health is often at stake. Consider your impact on the world when you’re feeling inclined to sidestep the truth.

  8. Speak tactfully. Uncomfortable subjects and situations are easier to face when you choose your words carefully. It’s also helpful to select an appropriate time and place. Think about how you’d want someone to talk to you about a difficult topic and give them the same courtesy.

Guidelines for Being More Honest in Specific Situations:

  1. Evaluate your parenting. Your kids provide a lot of motivation for becoming a worthy role model. If you embrace honesty in your life, your children will follow suit. Help them develop solid communication skills and emotional intelligence. They’ll grow up to be more resilient and resourceful.

  2. Deepen your intimate relationships. The courage to be honest will strengthen your connection with your partner. You’ll feel accepted for who you are and give them the chance to experience the same joy.

  3. Be more honest at work. Find a line of work that allows you to operate according to your values. Figure out how to be honest with your boss and coworkers in a respectful way.
  • Engage in self-reflection. Set aside time on a regular basis to review how you’re doing by incorporating honesty into your life. Think in terms of progress rather than perfection.

Honesty is good for your mind and body. Telling lies and keeping track of them can be stressful. Truthfulness, combined with sensitivity, will strengthen your relationships and help you feel better about yourself.

Walk, Stroll, or Roll in the Park Day!

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com A white man in a wheelchair with outstretched arms enjoying a stroll while being pushed by a white woman outdoors.

A walk might seem like child’s play compared to running a marathon or competing in crossfit, but a walk can be a very healthy alternative if you lack the time or interest in exercising intensely. In fact, for most people, the maximum benefit from movement can be achieved in about 30 minutes 4 times a week.

Most humans were built for walking, and even people with challenged mobility can enjoy a smooth path with adaptative equipment.

If you are not able to get outdoors, there are many virtual walks available to enjoy and sitting by a window with air and sunshine can help replicate some of the mood boosting benefits of getting outdoors for a walk, stroll, or roll. Your overall health, brain, waistline, and mental health are all enhanced by walking of any kind!

Walk or roll your way to improved health:

  1. Control blood glucose levels. A 15-minute walk after a meal has been shown to lower blood sugar in those with glucose control issues. The risk of type-2 diabetes is lowered by 60% in those that walk daily regardless of size or weight.

  2. Enhance brain health. Walking has been shown to boost grades, memory, and creativity. Who knew you could get smarter, slimmer, and healthier from the simple act of taking a walk?

  3. Walking is a great opportunity to think and make decisions. A brisk walk takes you out of your home or office. A change in scenery can clear your mind and provide the mental space necessary to make a wise decision.

  4. Strengthen your heart. Even a modest pace is enough to keep your heart in good shape. Low Impact movement has been shown to lower levels of bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol. Walking is also good for your blood pressure. Walking reduces your risk of heart attacks and stroke. Thirty minutes a day is all it takes.
  • Control weight. A walk won’t undo the ravages of a triple bacon cheeseburger, but it does burn a few calories. More importantly, walking helps to keep your metabolism in shape. Excess calories are dealt with more effectively.

  • Walking is cheap and easy. Aside from a pair of shoes, and even shoes are optional, you don’t need anything to go for a walk. There’s no complex skill to learn or expensive equipment to purchase. Walking or similar adapted movement is an option for nearly anyone, regardless of age or current fitness level. It’s easy on your joints and carries a minimal risk of injury.

  • Lift your mood. If you’re feeling a little blue, a short walk can give a needed boost to your morale. Those that walk regularly report having a better mood than those that don’t.

  • Reduce stress. Take a stroll the next time you’re feeling stressed. Walking attacks stress in two ways. It can take your mind off your challenges. It also metabolizes the biochemical and neurotransmitters that create the physiological feelings and symptoms of stress.

  • Increase your lifespan. The number of years you can expect to gain from 2.5 hours of walking each week is at least 3-4. Not bad for results from an activity that most people find enjoyable.

Spring is here! Imagine how much you could strengthen your health with a resolution to walk for 30 minutes at least four times each week. Let go of your belief that you need to sweat and strain at the gym to be healthy. Exercise can be more comfortable than that and should be enjoyed in order to become a daily habit!

Bring in Spring Like a Boss!

Pink Tulips in bloom in a field. Caption reads “What will you spring forward towards?”

Spring is officially here! I, like others, are feeling this spring a little more deeply and with greater excitement. This year, there is the promise of mingling and socializing more after surviving a pandemic. It is not totally over, but it seems like this Omicron has been declining without another deadly variant on its heels. I am grateful to be able to figuratively and literally breathe and enjoy the respite!

When you think of spring cleaning, you may have an image in your mind of family members gathering around with brooms, mops, storage containers, and trash bags. That’s because spring is a good time to make your home and workspaces sparkling clean and clutter free. It goes right along with the breeziness of the season and nature’s timing of making room for what is to come.

In places that are driven by development and technology, there can be a disconnect from the rhythm of nature. Buildings, schedules, and practices make some seasonal alignment less necessary. Food storage, transportation of goods, access to foods and places, highly mobile work practices, and year-round productivity are a few reasons why we may not pay attention to the seasons as much. In other places, however, strong and deep connection to the cycles of nature are the only way of life and Mother Nature reigns supreme as she dictates the pace and schedule of everyday living.

Both ways are valuable. Although I am excited about the possibilities of spring, I find myself in some ways reluctant to just give up the slower pace of living that I enjoyed as a result of the pandemic. I am speaking from a place of some privilege in that I was able to shelter-in-place safely, work from home, and still have access to the conveniences of urban life. My family is emerging untouched by illness and loss and for that I am more than grateful. So, I don’t make the comment that I enjoyed it lightly–I am acutely aware that is not the case for others. The forced change of pace was enlightening.

I shifted from working for the non-profit sector to full-time entrepreneurship and as I struggle and work to make that a successful endeavor, I have learned that my needs and abilities are in a constant ebb and flow. This spring, I am deeply feeling the need to purge and release in many areas of my life this spring.

This spring, I am tackling five major areas that will help support my goals and well-being overall.

  • Consciously practicing Gentle Nutrition. There are some habits I need to stop and there are some I would like to add to support on-going improvement in my wellness overall.
  • Leveling Up my Physical Self-care. I do self-care, but it is almost all directed towards my mental health only. I would like to have some more comprehensive self-care tools in my tool-kit. If you looking to move a little more, check this out!
  • Controlling Chaos and Clutter of all kinds. Look out–bout to take Marie Kondo to whole new level!
  • Cleansing and Expanding My Thoughts. When you open yourself to new situations and ideas, you’ll bring a new freshness and more opportunities into your life. It might feel safe to stay closed off, but eventually you’ll feel that things have become stale.
  • Clean up Relationships Across all Dimensions. I know I have been a little lax in many of my relationships socially and professionally. I am going to use this spring to reconnect and release those where we are not in service to each other!

I am going to run a mini-series on these five areas over on Instagram! Follow along here! Also, I offer a Spring Cleaning Coaching Program to those who want more guidance and personalized coaching to set themselves up for awesome success for the second half of the year! Contact me here if interested in using a coach to fast-track your clarity and growth!

Self-esteem and Acceptance for a More Satisfied Life

Black and white photo of Black woman in leotard smiling and moving around.

This week in March, there are some quirky and fun days of observance this week. There is a day for “everything that you think is wrong” (March 15), “everything that you think is right” (March 16), “absolutely incredible kid” (March 17), “awkward moments day” (March 18), and “let’s laugh day” (March 19).

I enjoy these lighthearted days and try to use them as a way to connect my holistic coaching business to our lives. Improving your well-being is improving your life. And life does not happen in some neat and tidy vacuum; it’s filled with days, moments, and choices.

As I was brainstorming, mind-mapping, and jotting notes about these days and what I thought I could share about them, I noticed that a common thread was self-esteem. Everything you think is wrong is a day to reflect on the imperfections of all of us. This makes us each unique and is one thing that we all have in common in with others. That is followed by a day to realize that those imperfections are okay and so many other things are right or can go right for you. Boosting the self-esteem of a special kid is a no-brainer! On to a day to make sure those awkward or embarrassing moments do not sting too badly, self-esteem is needed. And a day for laughing–well you should be able to laugh at yourself and that definitely takes self-esteem!

Acceptance is Key

When you accept yourself with all of your flaws and unique talents, the world seems to become a more accommodating place. You’ll find that some of the causes of your stress disappear and you can gain more joy on a daily basis.

Accepting yourself completely entails courage, wisdom and compassion. If you’re plagued by negative emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, shame, anger, envy, or guilt, these may be signs of low self-esteem. To counter this, you can learn radical self-acceptance.

If you find yourself equating your worth with your achievements, love life or social status, what happens if these are someday diminished? After all, these are temporary conditions. Life has its ups and downs. Practicing self-acceptance will help prevent your self-worth from hinging on your current situation.

How Low Self-Esteem Can Hinder Self-Acceptance

If you have low self-esteem, you can get mired in refusal to accept your own uniqueness and capability for transformation. You may be a perfectionist, and when things don’t go well, you often tell yourself that you’re not good enough. It becomes a vicious cycle of negative self-fulfilling prophecies.

So, what can you do to turn this around?

Suppose you start to appreciate the world around you. Then you’re aware of your place. You realize that just as others are important to your well-being, your existence supports others, too. Since appreciation is a prerequisite for self-esteem, you’re now well on your way to self-acceptance.

How to Develop Self-Acceptance

To develop self-acceptance, you must believe in your intrinsic worth and uniqueness. There’s no one else in the world quite like you and you’re constantly changing and developing. Your value cannot be measured by how others perceive you.

You’re also aware of the fallibility of human nature. No one is perfect. Even enlightened souls such as Christ and The Buddha had to struggle to achieve their goals. Likewise, you must also work to improve yourself. Let this be your joy.

When you make a mistake, refrain from judging yourself. Resist labeling yourself as a failure or a bad person because of past errors. You wouldn’t label your child a failure or a loser because he failed a test. Be compassionate with yourself too.

Accept Your Mistakes and Move On

When you review your mistakes, you may feel remorse and disappointment, but these are healthy reactions. They’ll help you to change your behavior to something you like better.

Remorse and disappointment are different from self-condemnation, which can lead to depression, guilt and shame. These unhealthy emotions may cause you to give up or avoid facing your mistakes. Instead, look toward what you can do to change your actions next time.

Raise the Self-Esteem Bar

Keep reading so you’ll learn the following:

  • How raising your self-esteem can help establish your independence
  • How raising your self-esteem can help ensure you retain your independence
  • How to raise your self-esteem – basic practices to get you started

Raising Self-Esteem Boosts Your Confidence

The major way that raising self-esteem can make you independent is by boosting your confidence. The more confident you are, the more independent you’re going to want to be. It will inspire you to not only insist on your independence but demand you get it.

As you boost your self-esteem and you become more confident, you’ll find that you have more of a command over your independence.

Raising Self-Esteem Establishes What You Deserve

With higher self-esteem, you’ll find that you have a better understanding of what it is that you deserve. You’ll find yourself settling less and less and truly going after what it is you want in life. You won’t let others control you, treat you poorly, or take advantage you.

Understanding what it is you deserve in life will help you become more independent. You deserve to make your own decisions, live your life how you want to, and enjoy your independence. When you have higher self-esteem and a better understanding of what you deserve, you don’t settle for anything less.

Having Higher Self-Esteem and More Confidence Helps You Retain Your Independence

When you have higher self-esteem and the influx of confidence that comes along with that, you demand that you retain your independence. You don’t stand for people taking control over what you want, what you do, or any part of your life. You demand the independence you worked so hard to gain.

Being independent means more than paying your own bills; it is about minimizing outside influence. Working to raise your self-esteem helps to not only affirm your independence but also ensure that it doesn’t go anywhere and no one infringes upon yours.

How to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Now that you know what raising your self-esteem can do for you, it’s time to put the work in to actually raise it. The following are great starter practices to turn into a routine that will boost your self-esteem in no time:

Affirming Your Worth

Throughout your day, give yourself a pep talk in the mirror. Tell yourself what you’re worth, who you are, and what you deserve. Remind yourself that you are strong, incredible, and valuable. You’re a unique person with great, unique things to offer this world; remind yourself that regularly.

Refusing to Settle

You deserve nothing but the best in life. You don’t deserve to be treated worse, have less, or be in any way lesser. You must absolutely refuse to settle for anything less than you deserve if you ever hope to affect a change in your self-esteem, confidence, and independence.

Sticking to Your Guns

You have to stick with these efforts and routines for a longer period of time if you ever hope to accomplish your goals in raising your self-esteem and claiming your independence once and for all. Don’t let yourself back-petal. Maintain the progress you’ve made and continue pushing forward.

Raising your self-esteem can most certainly help you boost your confidence, claim your independence, and retain it. Through the efforts made to improve your self-esteem, you will see a vast improvement in your quality of life and mental health. So, what are you waiting for? Get started today.

Try the Daily Top 4

This week, I will be sharing a few tips to go along with the observance day! Follow along on Instagram here and try to put them into practice!

  • Tuesday, March 15: Affirmations for Self-Acceptance
  • Wednesday, March 16: Practical Tips to Boost Self-Esteem
  • Thursday, March 17: Kid-approved Confidence Builders
  • Friday, March 18: Level-up your Self-talk
  • Saturday, March 19: Affirmations for More Laughs

Jumpstart to Mindful Eating

Smiling Asian woman with bowl of food.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is a type of awareness you have during the moment of eating your food. Similar to other forms of mindfulness, you enter a place of non-judgment, and instead appreciate the current moment, from what you are eating and whether you are enjoying it, to details like the taste and temperature of your food.

Is it the Same as Mindfulness?

Mindful eating is a type of mindfulness that uses the same principles. The main difference is that it is a specific task you perform where you are mindful, as opposed to more general mindfulness throughout the day. But as a definition, yes, mindful eating is using mindfulness tools and techniques.

Why Mindful Eating is so Beneficial

You are going to benefit in many different ways by becoming more mindful.

Heal your relationship with food – If you tend to feel guilty or try to control your food, you might not have a great relationship with food. Mindful eating is going to ease these stresses and help you allow all food and understand that it is not something o fear.

Learn to eat slower – Eating slower helps you focus more on your food and how it makes you feel, gives you time to notice when you are feeling full, and helps a lot with your digestion.

Have a better understanding of hunger and fullness – You will also start noticing your own body’s cues when it comes to when you are truly hungry or emotionally hungry, and when your body is full.

Know what food satisfies you and makes you feel good – Beyond neutralizing all food and putting a stop to the food labels, mindful eating also helps you figure out what foods your body does and doesn’t like. For some people, they discover a lactose intolerance they didn’t know they had, others just prefer certain foods at specific times of the day.

What Mindful Eating Isn’t

Mindful eating is not meant to be a way to restrict food, diet, or intentionally lose weight. You are not trying to be mindful in order to eat as little as possible. While you might end up losing weight naturally from mindful eating, when it becomes your intention, it gets in the way of the other benefits of being more mindful when you eat.

Easy Ways to Get Started

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by making the switch to becoming a mindful eater, here are a few things you can start with.

Choose One Meal or Time of the Day to Practice

This is often the first thing people do when they begin mindful eating. Don’t try to be mindful during every meal right off the bat, or you will feel overwhelmed and be more likely to give up on it. It is really hard to change multiple habits all at once. Start small with a meal or snack when you tend to be alone.

This might be your afternoon snack that you eat on the drive home to pick up your kids, or your breakfast if you eat early in the morning. Take that time to shut off distractions and just focus on the experience of eating.

Turn Off All Distractions and Sit Quietly with Your Meal

During that one meal or snack a day, remove all distractions. Turn your phone upside down and on silent, turn the TV off, don’t open your laptop. Let this be a time to just enjoy your food, savor it, and really be delighted in the fact that you got to eat something you truly enjoy eating.

It might be a hard transition at first if you are used to always eating while watching something or listening to a podcast, but you get used to it in time. This is also why we recommend you start with just one meal or snack a day, then gradually doing it more often.

Pay Attention to All Your Senses During Your Meal

Before and during your meal, start activating and focusing on each sense. Again, you might want to start with just one sense at a time, then begin focusing on others when you feel ready for it. Or during each meal, go through each sense, including sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.

When you use your senses, you ground yourself and allow yourself to enjoy the moment and not think about much else. Even without distractions, minds tend to wander. It’s ok if that happens, as long as you keep coming back to your food and try to really pay attention to how your body feels and what about the food you are loving. You can also keep a journal nearby to jot down anything you notice during your meal.

Enjoy the Process

When I first started, I entered into it just like a diet; I had all or nothing thinking involving mindful eating–which defeated the whole purpose! But I kept at it, with one meal a day until I could do it two meals a day. I learned to be patient with myself. And although I am not able to stipulate mindful eating at the family meals, the practice helped me savor and enjoy those meals in a different way!

Developing a practice of mindful eating may not come easily or quickly. Schedules are jam-packed and it may take a while to find the time to just eat. Keep at it! Try to remove the rules of eating and of mindful eating and take it one meal or snack at a time. Keep steady and before you know it, eating more mindfully will feel natural!

How My Honduran Spouse Helped Me Honor My Blackness

You know, I never really thought my Blackness. I mean, it is one thing that is with me wherever I go. It is immutable. I have always been proud of my cultural heritage as far as I knew it. Most of my cultural identity was largely influenced by family traditions and our oral history. At some point you realize that part of being Black is to not to know things about your ancestors. That mystery has fueled my curiosity and dives into the family lines and the African diaspora as a whole. I thought that I was as connected to my culture as I could be. Little did I know how marrying a Latino would prove me wrong.

My husband and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary in April and it only occurred to me now how our cultural differences really impact me personally. Ha! I thought I would write about him as a part of our anniversary celebrations, but this is really about me!

Being Honduran

When we met, he didn’t really speak English. My Spanish was better than his English and even it was pretty basic (like present tense and limited past and future tenses so making plans was tricky). We met in an Afro-Caribbean after-hours night club. Naturally. Dancing is my language. Not that I am an exceptional dancer in any way, but I have rhythm and musicality; it’s joyful and I can argue that it did the trick! The same goes for him, although he certainly thinks he leans towards the exceptional!

Obviously, enough was said and understood. We married the next year and we welcomed our youngest daughter as we both had one when married. Together, we intentionally tackled each culture clash as a way to communicate, share, and learn. Thank goodness. It has been good times and tough times, but we have been happy. The other day, while making plans to celebrate our anniversary, I asked him if he remembered how his friends felt when we got married. He laughed and said there were quite a few that did not think we would make it two years because I wasn’t from Honduras. Back then I immediately thought they were crazy to feel that way. Like, I am American. That is an asset in and of itself. I am the catch here. This time, I laughed too. Because it was funny to me that I had ever thought I was a catch simply because I was American.

Being American

I thought that me being an American was what every non-American in this country wanted to be. Needless to say, that just isn’t the case for everyone. If I know 50 of my husband’s Honduran friends here in the US who have become coupled since we did, there are only two that I can think of whose partner is American. And one is truly a Honduran-American. I did not even know she could speak English for at least three years. Assimilation is not the ultimate goal. AT ALL. In a word, he is proud of his culture and being married to me has not dented his cultural identity at all.

Over the years, I have researched and learned more about my cultural heritage but more about what it means to me. Assimilation is such a big concept for Black people like me–those are American and have been for generations but still have yet to realize the full experience of that American-ness. For me, he modeled how to live a full, meaningful life with a cultural identity that is not the dominant culture.

Now, I am American and proud as anyone. But it has become increasingly difficult to reconcile how Blacks are treated in this country-our native land. It has prompted me to really embrace those cultural traditions and connections. It has provided a way for me to expand my family and friends and lovingly protects those shared experiences that make being Black so special to me.

Creating and Maintaining Cultural Connections

Here are the four things that I did and still do to create and strengthen my cultural identity! They are things that my husband has always done and I can see why!

  1. Socialize with those who share and/or respect your culture. This is self-explanatory and really important for sharing and expressing yourself. If you are of different cultures, this allows you to explain or ask questions in a way that will foster understanding and build affinity without judgment.
  2. Practice cultural rituals. These can be centered on faith practices or can be fun. Right off the top of my head, I think of “Soul Train” style dance lines at reunions or family gatherings as a fun ritual in Black culture. One thing that my mom always did was burn our hair when cleaning the combs and brushes. Everyone in my family does it. I was surprised to learn how many other families, especially those with hoodoo or conjuring traditions. Even my husband, who is of the African diaspora as well, could recall the women in his family doing this.
  3. Eat your cultural foods. We can most likely agree that food can be foundational to our relationships. We gather because of feed, with food, and around food. We can connect to and through those special recipes passed down several generations or enjoy those foods in restaurants that celebrate our culture and share it with all people. I love learning about the foodways of my culture and ancestors.
  4. Stay tapped into through literature and music. The internet reigns supreme! There are so many resources that are now at our fingertips. My husband starts his day every day with news from Honduras. I have followed his lead by staying connected with magazines, books, and of course music of the culture-past and present. I am not a big TV watcher but documentaries are always being made and thanks to my husband, I have watched Afro-Latin programs from around the world. I have truly marveled at the influence of the African diaspora across the globe.

Being Together

Standing firm in our individuality and our cultures has contributed to our being together. It is funny. We have not lost ourselves in our marriage, which honestly has kept us from likely being bored or worse, becoming resentful. Ten years in, we are still learning nuances of ourselves and each other and while sometimes there are a few sparks (I cannot help being more hot-tempered than him) they lose heat quickly and we both seek out common ground. I have given up holding him to my American sense of punctuality. He has stopped describing things with vague words like a few in English because it doesn’t mean the same contextually in Spanish.

Thankfully, love and respect are languages we are both able to understand and it is used liberally in our home!

Soul Food February

Photo of a plate of soul food: beef tips and gravy, white rice, green beans, with the words Soul Food is Healthy

This month where Black History is observed, learned, taught, and made (Erin Johnson!) is also a time where the cultural markers are fondly discussed. For me, there are so many things that add so much to this month (and all year) but none so near and dear to me and my business as soul food.

In my holistic coaching practice, relationships with food are often a center focus. And no wonder: food provides more than just fuel and nourishment for the body. Food is wonderfully delicious; it is a focal point for gatherings and memory-making events. It soothes our minds, bodies, and, of course, souls.

Which brings me to soul food–that comforting, rich, food of my culture and upbringing. These cultural foods have brought laughter, joy, and healing to me and my kin for as long as I can remember. I am aware that most think of southern soul food as unhealthy “slave food”. This is in no small part to the effects of diet culture; it’s demonization of certain foods and practices that do not uphold white body supremacy (more on this later). It has purported that soul food is unhealthy and sadly, quite a lot of people have believed the hype! But to those of us who know, soul food is so much more than fried foods and sugared-up side dishes. It is a food that sustains, fortifies, and nourishes.

Foods of the African diaspora have influenced cuisine the world over. Africans brought grains like sorghum and millet, cooking styles like stews and simmered greens, and an affinity for plant-based diets that used animals as sides and not the features of meals. What has happened, however, is partly the loss of dietary diversity and partly the negative, colonized thoughts about soul food that have resulted in loss of recipes, families wanting to ditch the foods that remind of enslavement, poverty, and wrongly blamed for the bad health of Black people.

The foods of my childhood, family, and culture included so much more. My mother and father often told stories of dishes of fresh veggies from family gardens, seasoned with herbs and love. Both of my parents were from large families and one thing that was common was the small amounts of meat they ate, due to price or availability. As I grew up with my sister, my father maintained a substantial garden and we had some pigs and chickens. I daresay we grew up more on a modified SAD diet but thanks to my parents we had veggies year-round. Both of my parents enjoyed growing food, raising animals, and other self-sufficiency practices. Today, these skills and passions have served me well once I returned to them!

Soul foods, as I feel about any cultural foods, should be a part of a balanced diet. Those cultural practices that have served our predecessors should be honored, preserved, and if possible, practiced. I garden, can veggies, and enjoy my cultural foods like greens, cornbread, succotash, and yams. While preparation of these foods can vary widely and affect the nutrition, they cannot receive the blame for the diseases that affect Black people at a disproportionate rate. Other factors including but not limited to the environment, systemic effects of racism (stress, subpar care, physiological effects), and behavioral patterns all affect one’s health and well-being.

There is a current movement of activists and advocates to decolonize spaces and concepts that have prohibited the free and sovereign of peoples; where colonial views and practices have settlers have occupied land, dictate social, political, and economic systems, and exploit people and their resources in the support of the colonists’ viewpoint and benefit. So this February, I challenge you to decolonize your plate–enjoy yours or the cultural foods of others. Become aware of your thoughts and opinions of the foods you have demonized and consider why and where the influence for those thoughts have originated.

As for me and my house, we will enjoy chicken and gravy, simmered greens (with hot sauce), beans and rice, and drink red luscious brews like sorrel or jamaica (depending on where you are from!) Embracing our cultural foods is one way that we eat free and live free every day. For truly, soul food is good for the mind, body, and soul.

Add Activism to Your Life

Do Your Beliefs and Actions Align?

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks taught the world a valuable lesson: we can fight for our beliefs by not tolerating everyday acts of injustice and oppression. If you look into her life, like those of other Civil Rights Leaders then and now, then you may understand the motivations and frustrations that prompted her civil disobedience. To summarize, but please research for yourself if you need to, she believed that the segregation policies, Jim Crow Laws, and dehumanization of Blacks was unjust so she put that belief into action by peacefully protesting the laws that supported that treatment.

Today, February 4, is Rosa Parks Day, an observance to honor her integrity, assertiveness, and activism throughout her lifetime. It is a good time to check in with yourself and commit to practicing the courage to stand up for what you believe in.

Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash. Rosa Parks at a podium.

What Do Your Actions Say About You?

The world is unjust. This is a plain fact. Somewhere, there is some kind of marginalization, exploitation, or blatant denial of rights. And everyone is taking action. You are either actively trying to make a difference through your thoughts and actions or you are choosing to uphold the injustice through silent approval. That is the hard truth. And, the thing is, that we all have this opportunity multiple times daily to decide how to act in accordance with our own beliefs.

Being an activist is not easy at times. It can be tiring, disappointing, and open you up to criticism and insult from those who oppose your perspective. Moving past the fear of these worries will be necessary at some point to help bring about the change you desire.

This day also falls within the greater observation of Black History Month. During this month, I am committing to sharing the justice issues where I exert my professional and personal beliefs and act most frequently! I hope that you take some time to align your actions with your beliefs for the greater good of all!

4 Tips for Standing Up for Your Beliefs

Here are my top four tips for ramping your activism and standing up for what you believe in:

  1. Align your values and your causes. We all believe in something. Alignment with your values will keep you motivated to keep acting in tough times and also help bolster your courage to act and speak out. This will serve as the foundation for your platform as well. You know the adage: if you don’t believe in something, you will fall for anything!
  2. Do your research. Do it. For yourself. You should not allow others to tell what about the issues. For me, I always research policy and practices, as well as the stance of the opposing viewpoint. Old habits from debate have served me well! Things can change quickly, and honestly, I do not want to look or sound unknowledgeable.
  3. Engage in conversations and share info about the issues. Be careful when sharing online or in public forums, even those who are “invisible” on the net can have trolls (and they can be mean so be prepared). Also, keep an open mind and an attitude of learning!
  4. Step up and find ways to act. There are organizations, affinity groups, and non-profits that you can join with like-minded individuals. Often, it is easier (and safer) to act in groups and there is strength in numbers!

I hope that this day and the spirit of Rosa Parks can bolster your resolve to act and stand up for yourself or others!

Weight-Neutral Wellness Coach in a Thin-Obsessed Culture

Woman with Tape measure around torso. Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

Today, I would like to share my thoughts about being a weight-neutral wellness coach in a thin-obsessed culture.

Without taking us through a historical review of culturally acceptable body image trends over the last couple centuries, suffice it to say that at one time a more voluptuous figure was en vogue. The rounded bellies and ample curves of the models of the Renaissance artists were the thing, dare I say, typical bodies of folks. Fast forward to about the 1920’s (the Cigarette Diet–look it up!) when things like appetite suppressants and smaller frames of the urbanized upper class (think Zelda Fitzgerald and the flapper look) became fashionable and an entire industry based on losing weight started to become popular. Health was not the reason–no one could say smoking instead of eating was healthy–it was purely for aesthetics. Read that again: the desire for smaller bodies was not based on health.

Several diet trends later, in the 1950s, some doctors and insurance companies started using the BMI as a standard to help with insurance underwriting. And just like that health was now tied to a (very arbitrary and inaccurate) size. And like all things in the Western World, the standards were based on and set by white men so there is a decidedly Eurocentric/colonial influence here. More on that another time…

Now in the past 60 years or so, dieting and health have been inextricably linked and learned about simultaneously, both implicitly and explicitly. Only in about the last 25 years have reputable, sound studies been conducted enough to determine one thing: size is not an accurate determinant for health status. This is hard to swallow for a lot. We are so conditioned to fight this “war on obesity”; we are taught that being in a larger body is quite literally a death sentence of sorts- (hello, fat shaming and weight stigma!)-with preventable diseases like diabetes (type 2), hypertension, and heart disease looming to attack at any time. But alas, science has not borne this out–not even a little bit.

What science has learned is that weight, exercise, willpower, and diet is about 1/4 of the health equation. The other 3/4 is comprised of things like environment, genetics, stress, trauma, income, access to nutrition and healthcare, education, stress, sleep and job status to name a few factors. Diet culture, however, places a moral judgement on bodies based on size and then equates that body size to the moral turpitude of the person. The current healthcare system is set up to support this culture because they are two sides of the same coin. Instead of addressing the systemic issues like income disparities, access to food, access to healthcare, or education, a person is simply made to feel bad for not being able to bootstrap their way out of bad health.

So, why be a health coach? I am a holistic wellness coach and in my biz I address many dimensions of wellness that are traditionally ignored for the number on the scale. I work a whole-person across all areas that are out of balance. I do it without taking weight or measuring waist circumference or calculating BMI. I do measure heart rates, blood pressure as well as any lab work (like A1C) to determine progress and improved health. These are numbers that matter.

At this point in history, there is tremendous momentum being gained for professionals like me. As people become weary of the yo-yo dieting, weight gain, and the increasing evidence that diets (restricting what or when you eat) do not work in the long-run, AND are seeing larger bodies as capable, beautiful, and worthy of respect, the tides are a-changing. Right now, in the diet industry’s banner month (January), people are reaching out to ask questions and learn more. Most of the people I talk to have been on at least 3 different diets. If they worked, they would only need one.

Top 3 FAQs

Let’s take a quick look at the top three questions (misconceptions or myths) about being a HAES-aligned/weight-neutral wellness coach. Please comment with any other questions you may have!

  1. Does HAES (Health at Every Size) or weight-neutral mean you never want to lose weight or shouldn’t lose weight? (Sometimes phrased as how can I focus on eating and exercising without focusing on weight loss?) This by far is the most common question I get. NOT AT ALL. HAES is not anti-weight loss. It just means that I am not going to promote weight loss for the sake of weight loss as a health-promoting strategy, which only perpetuates weight stigma. To put it another way, I coach on behavior changes and there are other acceptable outcomes that are not about weight loss. If a person wanted to lose 20 lbs., I would dig a little deeper as to why and then we would work on the behaviors that improve health. For example, a client states they have low energy and feels like losing 20 lbs. would boost their energy. After reviewing their eating habits, a pattern of low consumption of nutrient-dense foods emerges and they eat only once a day. I would suggest eating more nutrient-dense foods and definitely more often. This may result in the weight-loss (a neutral occurrence), but it is not focus or strategy because for some this may result in weight gain (a neutral occurrence).
  2. Does HAES-aligned mean you believe that you can be healthy at every size? Health At Every Size is not the same as being healthy at every size. There are large healthy bodies and there are thin unhealthy bodies. Health is not a SIZE. What it means for me and my approach is that I believe that anyone, regardless of size, can practice or develop behaviors that will improve their health. I believe that wellness is a journey and while no one “owes” health to anyone else, you can improve it with behaviors that have a positive effect on health. I believe that regardless, all people are deserving of respect and that includes autonomy to live how they wish (without harming others).
  3. How does the HAES Framework help with body image? This is a process. There is no switch that I, or any other coach can flip to impart a positive body image. What I feel, and have seen, is that when working within a framework that validates the worthiness of all bodies, it decreases the influence of thin-obsessed voices and shifts you to a place of acceptance of your body and of others. It is usually the value/beauty/acceptance of others first, and then yourself. HAES-aligned professionals include more than just wellness/health coaches. When people are no longer stigmatized for weight, then the worldview changes.

As a wellness professional in a culture that stigmatizes larger bodies and equates thinness with health, it is tough to hear the push for weight loss or witness diet culture co-opting terms like “intuitive” (intuitive fasting? Come on, Gwenyth Paltrow) or fat liberation and changing it to body positivity (so thin folks were no longer excluded but left the hard work to fat liberators). It is tough because as a $90 billion a year industry the pockets are deep and influence is widespread. And it is a little sad to see how damaging the diet culture is to self-esteem, mental health, and to health overall. I know from experience of battling binge eating as a way to control my body–to force my body to conform in one way I thought it could. I could not change being Black, so I struggled with weight for years. After getting help and reconnecting with my body and unlearning diet culture, I am at a lower weight that I had been before (although still thick). I am much happier and I live unafraid of foods, or a number on a scale. That is the kind of radical living I want to help other women find!