The Secret to This Summer's Bikini Bod (RELAX - It's not what you think!)

Written By: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

les-anderson-173146-unsplash.jpg

‘Tis the season in North America for the annual barrage of messages about getting our bodies “beach ready,” or reminding us that, “bikini season is just around the corner!” There’s a reason this messaging is so common: it resonates with consumers. Gyms, diets, coaches—there is no fitness niche that is immune, because so many people want to look better and feel better in their bodies!

I tell my clients that it is one thing to have fitness and performance goals, and it is another thing to connect your body image and weight to your self-worth. I support fitness goals, but I work diligently with clients to loosen the death grip of body shame and judgment.

Compulsive habits like over-exercising, calorie restricting, withdrawing from social gatherings, obsessing with how our body looks, stepping on the scale multiple times a day, constantly looking in the mirror to nitpick every imperfect detail (or, on the flip side: avoiding mirrors and cameras) develop. What folks with body issue challenges may not know is that this way of thinking can have an even bigger impact in terms of managing their health.

In addition to excess weight, my clients often experience a variety of other symptoms and body functioning they wish was different, like hair loss, acne, joint inflammation, bloating, fatigue, and mood swings, to name a few. It’s all too easy to feel frustrated, believing that our body is damaged or working against us. But even though the experience of physical symptoms is real, negative self-talk is a 100% mental game—and we get to decide how we talk to ourselves. We become what we think! If our inner critic is saying we look disgusting in a swimsuit and our hair looks awful, well, then, that’s our reality. Have you ever seen a full figured person on the beach wearing a revealing swimsuit and they appear super confident and content with themselves, like they are owning all they have? I’ve noticed! And, I usually say, “I want what they have!" 

We are drawn to and inspired by people who can own their worth, beauty, and body and carry themselves with love and acceptance. It isn’t the body we typically want….it’s the confidence, love, worthiness, and happiness we yearn for. The thin model “sells” those attributes as if those ways of being are living in that body—but most of us know that weight and body size are not connected to contentment. Contentment is an inner job.

Beyond boosting our self esteem, we should understand that taming our inner critic has a powerful impact on our body’s ability to cope with disease. The connection between self-perception and physical symptoms is very real.

A harsh inner critic, that insists reality be different, triggers the autonomic nervous system—our fight or flight (stress) response. This can lead to being in a chronic state of stress in which cortisol is constantly being pumped into our body and wreaking havoc on our immune system, microbial profile, cardiovascular system, and hormonal balance. You name it, stress impacts it! The Centers for Disease Control agree, claiming that 90% of illness is caused by stress. Some experts even say that stress is America’s number one health problem. If your body is already up against any kind of disease, a loud inner critic is only going to exacerbate your symptoms, and set you up for further disease in the long haul. So, what can we do? 

Tame the inner critic
Give your inner critic a name—choose someone you can’t take seriously. Whether it’s a celebrity or someone you know in real life, the more ridiculous the better! This will help you separate your negative thoughts and perceptions from the truth. When I picture my inner critic as an annoying, outrageous caricature that I can easily picture, I can hardly take anything it says seriously. 

Check yourself before you wreck yourself
Stop and ask yourself: is this thought really true? Sure, I might think I should have a thinner, fitter body, but is the statement, “I should have a thinner, fitter body” really true? Then, try turning it around and see if it doesn’t allow you to accept yourself better: “I shouldn’t have a thinner, fitter body right now.” Because, whatever is happening now, is okay. It’s right, because it is. You still get to have performance and fitness goals, but you can also accept where you are right now.  The Work of Byron Katie has been a helpful method for me to learn how to change my thoughts and perceptions and to actually accept what is–instead of fighting against reality. Change your thoughts and perceptions and you will literally change your world! 

Get clear about your motivation
The motivation behind your health goals matters! We naturally gravitate toward a model of thinking in which believes if I have “x,” and I do “y,” then I will be “z.” In the case of weight loss: “I need a hot bod that looks amazing in a bathing suit. I will cut out fats, sugar, and anything that tastes good for like 6-8 weeks to get there. Then, I will be content, free, confident, and lovable—marry a sexy beast with a fancy house and live happily ever after!” The problem is, and we know this deep down, what we have (whether it is physical weight or material things like cars, houses, lots of money), doesn’t make us content, lovable, enough, worthy, confident, etc. So, we get swooped into a never ending cycle of pushing ourselves to “have” something that actually never translates into the thing we are truly yearning for. This is why we yo-yo diet. When we zero in on our true motivation, we get to see that who we are, how we are, is an inner job and isn’t reliant on what we have (or what we look like). Here’s the amazing thing: when we align ourselves with who we want to be, what we do and what we have shifts. We start to treat our bodies differently, making healthier food choices and not coping and numbing through unhealthy behaviors. Ultimately, our bodies follow suit and we can see and feel the shift in our shape, performance and overall wellness. So when we shift our internal being, what we have often changes and shifts to be in alignment.

Focus on whole health
It is ingrained in us from a young age that if  you look thin, you are healthy. It’s important to question this cultural value. As someone who spent many years as an unhealthy thin person, I can attest to this firsthand! I often work with clients who come to me for weight loss, and it’s amazing to witness the shift as they learn to become aware of health and healing on a deeper level. Consequently, their tunnel vision on weight loss alone dissolves. Focus on health as a whole—and don’t forget to nourish yourself with fulfilling relationships, spiritual practice, satisfying work, restorative sleep, and physical activity.

Feed your body well
Body image issues often come with a strained relationship with food—have you ever told yourself any of the following? “Fats are the enemy.” “Food is not on my side.” “I’m allergic or sensitive to everything!” “I shouldn’t eat this, it will make me fat.” Being in this mental tailspin distracts us from nourishing our body with healthy, whole foods. Many of my clients see food from the lens of…”this food will turn into fat in my body, unless I burn off all the calories.” Food is so much more than calories—food is fuel and it has the power to heal! Choose foods that are fresh, high quality, and local if possible, and try to eat with a mindset of gratitude and mindfulness. Avoid highly processed foods that cause inflammation and poor body functioning. Feeding ourselves well also supports a healthy mental state, and it looks different for everyone. My ideal diet might not work for you, and vice versa. Sure, get some advice from the external world (media, the internet, a friend, or neighbor), but ultimately listen to your inner wisdom and pay attention to your body to know what it needs. Fueling your body with healthy food is a much more likely way to support contentment and joy than the magic bikini bod.

With these tools in mind, relax in your body with more confidence and love this summer—embracing your body for what it is, imperfections and all.

Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC is the mom of three boys, a Registered Nurse, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and has a master's degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Her private practice as a health coach blends her experience and career as a nurse with her passion for nutrition and holistic wellness. She is the author of Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family's Whole Health in a Busy World. Learn more at www.this-one-life.com.

You Are What You Believe

Written by: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

780A6070.jpg

We humans are meaning making machines. We go through our days experiencing any number of events and connecting emotions and story to what we observe. The meaning that we attribute to our experiences can impact our entire lives—for better or worse.

As an autoimmune community, we’re just beginning to understand the impact that our brains can have on our physical symptoms. We’ve chatted before about the agency we have in that process. Today I want to explore the interplay between neuroscience and healing a little more deeply. Read more!

Improve Your Sleep, Naturally!

Written by: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

alexander-possingham-282185.jpg

It's one thing when we don’t prioritize sleep, allowing other responsibilities and tasks to take precedence. However, it's another thing when we struggle to fall asleep and/or stay asleep, in which case sleep disturbances interfere with meeting our sleep need. Remember, our sleep need is between seven to nine hours per night. A good general rule is to aim for eight hours of sleep every night.

Many Americans try to resolve their sleep disturbances in ways that can actually make poor sleep worse. Here are three common sleep aid mistakes people make:

  1. Consuming alcohol to fall asleep: Alcohol may help people fall asleep quicker but it has been shown to disturb REM sleep and be particularly disruptive to sleep in the second half of the night.
  2. Taking over-the-counter sleep aids: Many people use sleep aids with antihistamines to help them sleep. However, the use of antihistamines for the purpose of sleep presents potential complications. While antihistamines may help you fall asleep, overall sleep quality is compromised. Many people also develop a tolerance very quickly.
  3. Watching television to fall asleep: The light in televisions and computer screens tricks your brain into thinking it is still daylight, affecting melatonin production, which has a direct correlation with our ability to fall asleep. Laptops, tablets, and phones are just as harmful as television. Avoid electronics for 2 hours before bed.

To successfully start improving sleep try the following ways to counter sleep disturbances and best support sleep:

  1. Sleep in a dark room. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for creating your circadian rhythm, or biological clock. Cover your windows and turn off night-lights if you are able. If you need a light, install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb. 
  2. Get some sun. Your circadian rhythm needs light. Ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight exposure in the morning will let your internal clock know that daylight has arrived, making it less confused by weaker light signals during the night. Do your best to get outdoors daily for thirty to sixty minutes during the brightest portion of the day. 
  3. Take a hot bath 1.5-2 hours before bed. Baths increase your core temperature and when you get out of the bathtub the resulting rapid drop in body temperature can signal to your body that you are ready for sleep. 
  4. Know your biological clock. Most people’s melatonin begins releasing around seven to ten at night. Falling asleep is easiest when we start feeling the affects of the melatonin. When melatonin is released into the body we usually feel a rush of fatigue and start feeling ready for bed. If we go to bed after we feel this rush of tiredness, it is harder to fall asleep and get into deep levels of sleep. Pay attention to your own biological sleep clock, which is probably in tune with going to bed anywhere between eight and ten o’clock. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. 
  5. Cool down your room. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 and 68 degrees. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. 
  6. Identify physiological barriers. Some common physiological factors that affect sleep are hormone imbalances—especially in perimenopausal and menopausal women—thyroid problems, uncontrolled stress and anxiety, poor diet, food sensitivities, and imbalances in the intestinal flora, to name a few. It is a good idea to seek the help of a trusted naturopath or medical doctor versed in non-pharmaceutical sleep interventions to identify and address the root cause.
  7. Consume foods that support sleep. Believe it or not the food we eat before bed as well as throughout the day has a significant impact on our sleep. I had a client who could not sleep more than four hours a night until she ditched sugar and processed foods and increased her intake of vegetables and minimally processed food. She also identified that a dairy sensitivity was a major contributor to her poor sleep (and depression). She now sleeps 7 to 8 hours a night consistently.
  8. Avoid caffeine in the evening (or all together). This isn’t news, right? Some individuals can’t even have caffeine in the morning without being affected in the evening hours.
  9. Exercise. The 2013 Sleep in America® poll concluded that exercise, or physical activity in general, is good for sleep, regardless of the time of day the activity is performed.
Sarah head shot.jpg

Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC is the mom of three boys, a Registered Nurse, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and has a master's degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Her private practice as a health coach blends her experience and career as a nurse with her passion for nutrition and holistic wellness. She is the author of Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family's Whole Health in a Busy World. Learn more at www.this-one-life.com.

Change the Channel, Change Your Life

Written By: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

Has someone ever made a remark that hit you the wrong way, and you held onto it far longer than you should? I know it’s happened to me. For whatever reason, I’ve had folks who have made offhand comments to me through the years that have echoed in my head for weeks and months afterward — and the reason is that they resonate with the messages my inner critic is telling me.

All of us have an inner critic. It’s the voice that confirms all our limiting beliefs about ourselves and even seeks evidence to back them up — I’m not enough, I’m unlovable, I’m not attractive, I’m not smart, I’m untrustworthy and unreliable… I call this radio station in my own brain “K-BULL radio” (because everything on it is bull) and when I have the volume turned up, look out! I can’t find an optimistic thought about myself if you pay me! We’ve talked already about how mindset can impact our ability to heal from autoimmune disease. In this article I dig into the details of these beliefs that hold us back and keep us from living rich, full, healthy lives. Read more at Autoimmune Wellness.

3 Ways That Thinking Outside the Box Can Improve Your Family's Health

Written By: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC

Sarah the Brave-1-0172.jpg

It’s not exactly news that the way in which we address health as a nation isn’t working. With cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, infections, and dementia on the rise, America is in an obvious health crisis. We are spending more money on healthcare than any other developed nation yet our health outcomes are among the worst.1 With a healthcare system that is designed to treat “illness,” rather than create “wellness” or “health,” we are clearly falling short.

People continue to feel sick because what they are doing isn’t working. To get different results we need to do something different. In my health coaching practice, I teach clients to “think outside the box” in order to ditch their chronic ailments, start feeling good, and finally live their best lives. 

Here are 3 ways in which I help people “think outside the box” when it comes to health.

  1. Consume foods that are outside of a box, bag, or package whenever possible. You’ll find that “outside-the-box” foods likely come directly from the earth rather than a manufacturing plant. Simply put, foods that consist of plants and quality animal products have the ability to nourish and heal our families. Eat foods similar to what we used to eat before we had factories and the ability to process and package our food. Many people experience that eating “real” food has the power to heal long-standing health problems and significantly improve quality of life.
     
  2. Don’t forget to look inward for dietary advice. What works for me might not work for you. One person’s medicine might be another’s poison when it comes to health. Understanding overarching principles of health is no doubt a critical first step (like, eat real foods that are minimally processed and increase vegetables), but self-awareness and self-trust will help us identify what specifically nourishes our individual bodies best. This is a paradigm shift in our culture because we tend to look externally for direction and answers. 

    In my family, we have a spectrum of egg tolerances. I used to be a total egg pusher for breakfast everyday. I figured that eggs were a perfect real food protein—so we dumped cereal and got on the egg bandwagon. After we invested in 6 hens to keep up with our supply we learned that all three of my children have egg sensitivities. Each of my kids is affected very differently by eggs—from emotional sensitivity to sleep disturbance to eczema. Meat consumption is another example of how we can be different. Some individuals thrive on meat for protein; others require very little to no meat to feel their best. It is crucial to look inward to assess a food’s impact on our personal health versus merely looking externally for hard and fast rules about what is “supposed to” fuel and nourish us. 
     
  3. Recognize that the true path to health is much deeper than diet alone. Eating healthy food isn’t enough, because a good diet is only part of the health picture. Although what we eat is important, we don’t always realize that there are widespread factors that impact our health equally as much as diet. In addition to nutrition, we must also look at our relationships, career satisfaction, sleep habits, movement, stress levels, and connection to our spirit. When anyone of these factors is neglected it is hard to be healthy. A toxic relationship or a high stress job can nullify the benefits of a pristine diet. It is critical to look at the big picture—and put together the whole health puzzle.

We had to think outside of the box when addressing my middle son’s health. For the first two years of his life he never had a solid stool. He had extreme emotional outbursts, passed out from screaming regularly, woke frequently at night, and was hypersensitive to light touch. When mainstream medicine couldn’t help us with answers we looked to naturopaths for help. We were able to identify the root problem that involved food sensitivities and an imbalance of bacteria and yeast in his gut. After a few months of dietary modifications we saw big results—his digestive issues were resolved and a completely different kid emerged—calm, content, emotionally regulated, and….a good sleeper. 

How we thought outside the box to heal our middle son:

  1. We found a Naturopath Doctor to guide us when mainstream medicine wasn’t giving us the answers and support we needed. The naturopath helped us balance his intestinal flora.
  2. We discovered that he had food sensitivities to dairy, glute, corn, eggs, and almonds and removed those foods from his diet. We learned what foods were medicine to him and what foods were poison.
  3. We began to refine his (and our whole family’s) diet to a cleaner, less processed diet—focusing on eating real foods that were largely outside of boxes, bags, and packages.
  4. Over the last year we have expanded our understanding of good health to go beyond the focus of food alone. We try to get our daily dose of oxytocin through connecting with each other and filling our plates with meaningful activities while limiting/avoiding the depleting ones. We strive to carve out time to slow down and not always be so rushed. We talk about how important it is to breathe and connect with our spirits. We even talk about stress and poor sleep and how they negatively impact the body. 

If we wouldn’t have done something different with our son’s health it is possible that he would be living with diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder and irritable bowel syndrome—and we would continue to be a stressed family. I am grateful that we were able to address the root cause of his health needs and help him to thrive. I encourage you to think outside the box as a way to improve your family’s health. Learn more about how to do so in my book Full Plate—get a free digital copy of the first three chapters here

References

1) Ashley Allen, “Countries Spending the Most on Healthcare,” USA Today, accessed 3 Sept 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/07/07/countries-spending-most-health-care/12282577/