But I saw this quote a few times last week and thought it was the universe’s way of letting me know I had to at the very least think about it.
The more I thought about it, the more I thought about how my mind wanted to read it as, “new ways can’t open old doors.”
When I wholeheartedly decide to make a change in my life – commit to it full-throttle – I find that I can’t go back.
Sure, I could go back, but something inside of me always reroutes my urge.
For example, when I decided to give up alcohol for good, I took it one day at a time and made a pact with myself that I would not allow the overwhelm of saying, “I’m never going to drink again.”
I know that I don’t want to and for the first six months that was enough for me to stick with my commitment.
Now, 19 months in, I find that I no longer have the impulse to have a drink when I’m stressed or upset. The thought of it seems so absurd that it is incredible to me that for so long that was my go-to way of coping.
My default now when I’m upset or feeling unravelled is to honestly sit with the discomfort and work my way through it by breathing, meditating, exercising, writing, talking to a friend, or looking at pictures of otters (highly recommend this one, by the way!).
As I allow myself the time to feel all the feelings and I take new actions to work through my stress and sadness, I find that I can’t even fathom how I ever thought delaying my feelings was the right way to cope.
What I am saying now is nothing more than the development of new habits in place of old habits. And I realise now that the quote I’ve been living by is not that old ways won’t open new doors – which is absolutely true – but that my new ways can’t lead me to try and open old doors. I’m not even in the same building I used to be.
My new building’s keys won’t work in my old buildings’ doors.
What is a habit? The programming of your subconscious mind that keeps you in alignment with the idea of yourself that your conscious mind is operating with, right?
If you want to create a new personal reality, a new life, then you would have to start thinking about what you’ve been thinking about and changing. You would have to become aware of your unconscious thoughts and observe them. You would have to pay attention to your automatic habits and behaviours and modify them. You would have to look at emotions you live by every single day – connected to your past – and decide whether those emotions belong in your future. Most people try to create a new personal reality with the same personality, and it doesn’t work. You literally have to become someone else. Your brain is organised to reflect everything you know in your life. Your brain is a record of the past. It’s an artefact of all the things you’ve learned and experienced up to this moment. There is a saying in neuroscience that goes, ‘Nerve cells that fire together, wire together.’ If you’re thinking the same thoughts, making the same choices, demonstrating the same behaviours – and reproducing the same experiences that stamp the same networks of neurons into the same patterns – you’re going to hardwire your brain into a very finite signature. Because as you fire and wire the same circuits, in the same way, those circuits begin to become more connected. If you do something over and over again, the repetition of actions conditions your body to do it better than your mind. A habit is when your body knows better than your mind. You’ve done something so many times that the body now knows how to do it better than the brain. 95% of most people’s behaviours, attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, emotional reactions are subconscious programmes.
When you stop a habit and begin to reprogramme your reality, it will feel super uncomfortable. The reason you’re uncomfortable has less to do with the absence of the coping mechanism and more with your true self communicating to you. It’s communicating that you’re doing the right thing. These moments are when you should keep going.
So often we throw in the towel or convince ourselves that it’s not so bad, it’s manageable, and this time it will be different. That’s when I believe the saying, ‘old ways won’t open new doors’ to be true. That is the definition of insanity; trying the same thing and expecting different results.
When you reprogramme your emotions and personal reality, you will find that there is no going back, because you are no longer the same person, coping in the same ways or living in the same reality.
Depression. It’s not a word that is much of a secret anymore. You hear it thrown around social media or magazines, and you hear all about it when it comes to Mental Health Week. The media make it look beautiful and sad, delicate – like glass. The thing is, it’s those who suffer from depression that know it for what it is – crushing. Difficult. Challenging. Scary. All of the words that make you feel out of control and worried surround depression, and it’s something that can be so debilitating. It can stop you from feeling any form of happiness, and even when you can’t figure out the source of your depression, it’s still there. It still hangs over your head like a fog that won’t go.
Depression stops you from living. It can stop you from leaving your house, and it can fuel anxiety. It can make you feel physical symptoms, to the point that when you decide to go ahead and get some help, you use an online doctor service because the idea of leaving the house and having to face people is just too hard to bear. It’s not just like feeling sad when you miss the bus. It’s a horrible, crushing sadness that you can’t identify or understand. Hope is nowhere to be found, and everything feels like a chore.
Fixing depression is not easy, it is not straightforward, and there is an excellent chance that your depression cannot be fixed at all. However, there are things that you can to alleviate the pressure of depression symptoms. It won’t be easy, of course, but it is worth trying anything to move away from the fog and embrace living a little – at least once. Let’s take a look.
The first thing that you have to do if you want to help your symptoms of depression is, I’m sorry to say, have a little patience. Your mental state is not as it should be. People say it’s okay not to be okay, well it’s not. You deserve to be okay. You SHOULD be okay. But your brain isn’t balanced that way. Would you be angry with yourself if you broke a leg? Would you be frustrated that your broken leg wouldn’t bear your weight? Of course, you wouldn’t. You would watch your broken leg, and you would wait patiently before carrying weight on it again. Your brain is no different; it needs time to heal, is all. And you need to give yourself time.
Add-In Some Distractions
Distraction is such a good idea. Overthinking is your worst enemy when you are feeling depressed, and your thoughts can be your downfall. You can’t control the thoughts all the time; it’s exhausting. So, you want to control other things. Get a dog to force yourself out of the house and on walks – the fresh air can change your life. Read a book and dive into the thoughts of someone else. Do whatever it takes to get your mind off your fear and your sadness.
Light It Up
SAD – seasonal affective disorder – is a condition whereby you feel a low mood when the winter months draw in, and the sunlight is weak and goes away for most of the time. Investing in a sunlamp can help you to alleviate a dark mood, and it can stem irritability, fatigue and even loss of libido.
CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one of the most useful tools that you could use when it comes to counteracting your depression. Appointments with a therapist who can teach you tools to redirect your thoughts and avoid your triggers can help. It’s worth looking into if you have the courage to go.
Keep A Diary
It can help to let your thoughts come out, and when you don’t want to tell a friend or family member what you’re thinking, a diary can be an excellent therapy tool. It’s an outlet for your emotions, the things you don’t want to say out loud but the things you need to get out. Not only can you use it for the thoughts that make you sad, but you can use it as a way to write down the things that make you happy, too.
Practice Being Mindful
Depression can numb the mind. It can make you put your sad thoughts and unhappy feelings in a cycle in your head with no room for happiness. Practice engaging your emotions and your worries. Focus on your senses and how things look, smell, taste and touch. Think about how your mind can work without the pain and focus on that.
Movement is wonderful. Getting the body moving can release happy hormones that make you feel like smiling. Playfully alter brain chemistry by ramping up the music and dancing like crazy.
8. See People
Connecting with friends and family that you pushed away when your depression was diagnosed is hard, even scary. It’s probably the toughest thing to do. However, you need to go and see people. We all need human connection, and it’s perhaps the most critical part of the process of healing while dealing with depression.
Depression is exhausting, but insomnia is a common issue. Speaking to a doctor about your lack of sleep is essential, as healthy sleep can improve your wellbeing. There are plenty of studies to show that a lack of sleep affects your moods and your happiness, so don’t let it. Get some sleep.
Lightening your emotional load can help you to combat the feelings of depression. When you choose to forgive someone, you do not forgive them for them. It’s not about their happiness or growth, but it’s about you and how it makes you feel. Forgiving those who have hurt you is about you – not them. It allows you to let go of a grudge and drops the grief so that it no longer affects your heart.
11. Touch Therapy
They say when we hug people, oxytocin is released to make us feel happy and light. When you are massaged, sitting through reiki or even acupuncture, you are being touched, and this human touch can mean so much when the depression has made you shrink within yourself. Use contact to help you to feel something bigger than yourself. It can take time, but it will eventually help you to want to be around people.
12. Balance Your Diet
Eating a balanced diet can make a big difference to your health in general, but depression is no different here! You can feel great and balance out the suicidal thoughts, sadness, cardiovascular health and your general wellbeing, too. Balancing your diet also means that you are doing something to proactively help your health, which can make you feel positive about your depression outlook. Take the time to learn how you can eat better foods for brain health, and you’ll be doing more activity with your health.
13. Let Go Of Negative Talk
How many times have you told yourself that you’re not good enough? How many ways have you said that you aren’t doing enough for other people? That negative self-talk is going to be one of the best ways to continue to feel low about yourself. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, and you don’t intend to think bad things about yourself. Don’t take these thoughts seriously and try any number of the twelve techniques above to help.
*This is a collaborative post.
How do you combat depression? Have you ever tried any of these strategies?
It doesn’t have to be that way (and spoiler alert: it’s not!).
For me, every month is a sober month. But for others, Sober October is a month to hit pause on the booze and explore life without hangovers for 31 days.
What is Sober in October?
Sober October is a charity event where people agree to go alcohol-free for the 31 days of October while raising money for organisations such as MacMillan Cancer Support.
The challenge isn’t about giving up drinking for life (although, some people ultimately choose to!). The Sober October challenge encourages a change in drinking habits and to explore how the behavioural lifestyle change could reap long term health benefits.
I may be a bit biased (ahem), but life without alcohol is pretty enjoyable. I highly encourage giving it a try.
And believe me, when I say this; if I could give up drinking alcohol for the past 576 days, ANYONE could give it up for 31!
I’ve decided to dedicate the month of October to offering support to those looking to change their relationship with alcohol.
This October, we’re going to dig deeper into alcohol-free living. And I’m looking forward to handing you a shovel. But if you’re interested in reading some of my posts about alcohol-free life here is a list to get started:
Why shouldn’t you try to do that thing that you say you want to do?
Well, let me ask you first, do you really, honestly want it?
If the answer is a resounding yes, please do not TRY to do it.
There was once this little guy in this big film franchise who said, “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”
And to quote Elizabeth Gilbert, “When a man who looks like Yoda hands you a prophecy, you have to respond.”
In this case, I am directly quoting Yoda, so, naturally, you should listen.
In my experience, when a person says, “I’m gonna try” or “I will try to finish” it means that they will make a lacklustre attempt at something, without having the full intention of completing the task.
I have seen it with personal training clients, nutrition clients, and I have said it myself. Over and over. So, I know that when I want to do something I settle down and DO it.
Why you shouldn’t try
When I try, 90% of the time, I quit.
When I buckle down and put 150% of my effort and intentions into doing what I want, I succeed.
Are you all in when you try?
Most of the time, no, you’re not. You’re thinking in conditional, black and white terms, and it communicates that you don’t have complete faith in your ability to succeed.
You’re all in when you are doing — regardless of whether you win or lose.
When you decide to try, you have already decided it’s no big deal whether you do the thing or not.
It’s easier to say you’re going to try than to set the intention of doing the thing.
It’s easier to create a plan to try and accomplish something than it is to commit to saying “I’m going to DO x, y or z.”
**I am making a disclaimer front and centre so that there are no noncontextual assessments made of this post. I can’t entirely agree with fat-shaming or body shaming of any kind. I do not think that any person should be treated poorly because of the package they come in. I believe in recovering wellness from any point in a person’s life – in making the most of the health that each of us is capable of attaining. Most importantly, I don’t think any person’s opinions should be ignored just because of the package they come in. While I agree with many views of the Health At Every Size movement, I disagree with the participants of the movement who have become so insular and unwilling to accept facts over extreme feelings I am not speaking to every member of the HAES community. This post is about individuals refusing to engage outside of their echo chamber and my experience within the community.**
Every ‘journey’ takes its detours, and this one is about one of mine.
It was a detour down the rabbit hole that is anti-diet culture and radical body positivity.
Let me start at the beginning. My previous blog, BeetsPerMinute, was about health and fitness. I launched that blog in 2013 after beginning a process of healing my health and becoming a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist through NASM. I started the blog to talk about workouts, recipes and my experiences, both personal and professional.
Right around the corner from 2013 came the boom of ‘body positivity’ which I loved. As someone who struggled with multiple eating disorders throughout my teens and twenties, I loved the concept of people accepting bodies of different sizes, abilities, colours – all of it.
I am not ignorant to the fact that the modern body positivity movement was born from the radical fat acceptance movement which has roots going back to the 1960s.
Over the years, many fat activists believe the current body positivity movement has devolved into a party where size 12, white, (mostly) white, hourglass-figured women are predominantly represented over larger, less conventional (yet, more prevalent), and diverse bodies.
Essentially, what we are left with now is a movement which attempts to include the radical sentiment of the fat acceptance crowd packaged into mainstream body positivity which has caused anger and infighting within this ‘community’. Many fat positive people feel as though body acceptance has been co-opted by corporations and influencers to now package body positivity to be less inclusive to the fat community. Fat activists see their fatness as a political act. And I want to be clear, I think people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their size, colour, religion, ability, and more. However, I believe that this respect for all bodies should be a two-way street and I no longer believe it is.
I want to talk about the anger and drive to change society by telling people they are no longer in the driver’s seat of their body and that it will do as it will, regardless of their attempt to change themselves. That intentional weight loss – even in the name of health – is NOT positive, but internalised fatphobia and an exercise in succumbing to an oppressive capitalist system.
A glimpse into fat activism online
Recently, I read multiple social media posts and articles by the self-proclaimed, “fat sex therapist”, Sonalee Rashatwar.
Rashatwar has made some bold claims about health, fat, and fitness. Some of the claims include:
I find much of what Rashatwar says to be problematic, with the exception that all people are deserving of respect and humility. What I am discussing in this post is where I feel that the expression of such extreme beliefs is convincing people who are damaging their health (and people who work to help them) that everything science has discovered is manipulation and there is no practical use for such advice.
Where my HAES journey began
I am now going to share something that I’ve only touched on in other posts. About two years ago, I received an email from someone who read my previous blog, BeetsPerMinute about my fitness plans for brides. Without reposting the email in its entirety I will share an excerpt:
“Erin, as a person who claims to have struggled with eating disorders and body image issue for so many years, I find it appalling that you think it’s okay to tell women that they should be thin for their wedding. As if being fat on their wedding day is such a problem. Your views are extremely fatphobic as is your internalized self-hate, which is oozing, from this blog. Please do better.”
At the time I received this email, I was personal training a woman who was getting in shape for her wedding and thought brides would be a great demographic to help. I never got into personal training and nutritional therapy to capitalise on making people feel bad about themselves. Was I wrong for offering this service? Should I take the words of a perfect stranger to heart?
And I did take that message to heart. I am human. I still struggle with things, and one of the biggest reasons I got certified in fitness and nutrition is because of how many years I struggled.
So, I tried to ‘do better’ as I felt that maybe, somewhere in that email, there was a kernel or two of truth. I bought both of Dr Linda Bacon’s books and started to follow the work of the anti-diet brigade. And I began to think that I was maybe part of the problem.
I consider myself to be very open-minded. I feel my deep sense of empathy causes me to continually evaluate how my words and actions make other people feel. I truly started to believe that what I had spent years doing, talking about exercise and nutrition, was harming others. I began to evaluate how much of my interest in this subject was fueled by my experience struggling with body image. Somewhere in the books, blogs, and podcasts, I was consuming; I decided that I was going to stop pushing myself and turn my back on what society wanted.
So, I registered as a HAES personal trainer back in 2016. HAES is Health At Every Size. I still stand behind the belief that healthy lifestyles should be inclusive regardless of size, age, race, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, class, religion and other human attributes. I understand that ‘health’ can and does look different on everyone. I also believe that people should be encouraged to engage in a healthy lifestyle without a focus on weight loss or aesthetics. I will always support any person if they approach me about recovering their wellness with dignity, respect, and compassion.
Where I now disagree is that you can be genuinely healthy at any size. Are there some people whose weight will not impact their overall health? Perhaps, but I’d like to see how that weight has impacted them by the age of 45 or 50. I have seen far too many cases of this not being so in my personal and professional life. When people start advocating that exercise and weight loss for the purpose of overall health are ‘toxic behaviours,’ I can no longer support that aspect of the movement. I understand that weight is a symptom of so much more than any of the lazy stereotypes associated with it. It’s tied up in so many systems. However, there is a fine line between encouraging someone to love themselves and going around calling people who choose to determine how that self-love manifests (i.e. exercise, weight loss,etc.), ‘toxic’.
I spent nearly two years in this space. I stopped training clients regularly and started to drink and eat more than ever. At first, it felt good to take that ‘pressure’ off of myself. Instead of working out for 60-90 minutes per day, I whittled it down to 30 minutes, then 20 and some days (consecutively) 0 minutes.
Eventually, I started to struggle with motivation at all. I was always angry. I had let my blog and coaching fall by the wayside. I sincerely lost a part of my identity.
Deep down, though, something never felt right, and even in this alleged ‘inclusive’ space, I was still never allowed to have thoughts or feelings about what was said. I had thin privilege and my ‘feelings’ were invalidating someone in a bigger body’s existence.
I was overweight for the first time in years, and I didn’t find it liberating or a radical act. I felt lethargic and fed up. My drinking had increased because I felt so depressed from not exercising regularly and ‘intuitively’ eating far too much food.
You see, I had gained 25 pounds – and at 5′ 1″ that was a significant amount. In fact, my BMI registered as overweight. My period began to come less frequently. I went from a size 2 to a size 10 (UK 4 & 12). I physically felt like shit.
During this time Amy Schumer’s film, “I Feel Pretty“, was released and I watched social media explode about how insulting the film’s message is because Schumer is the ‘beauty ideal’. Honestly, it was around this time that I started to feel like I had heard that comment hundreds of times. I have seen Schumer repeatedly get torn apart for being ugly, fat and many other descriptors. She has to have thick skin to continue to thrive in the public eye. But I also felt annoyed by the ridicule she was receiving from the online critics, because I could relate. Even with my weight gain, I was still labelled ‘thin’ and conventionally fit the beauty ideal. The struggle I was having with my body was treated with the same disdain by members of the very community I was trying to appease that Schumer’s was. I had surrendered my passion for fitness and nutrition, walked the anti-diet walk, changed my body and mindset, and at the end of the day, my struggles were still being invalidated. Where was the positivity? The support? I then realised; I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.
So the new Amy Schumer movie is about a woman who is half an inch from being conventionally Hollywood attractive (but rest-of-the-world attractive) who thinks she’s rest-of-the-world-attractive? I have never been more confused in my life.
The cracks had started to form, and all of a sudden I began to think, ‘I’ve only gained 25 pounds, and I feel terrible, and my hormones are whacked out how the hell does a person carrying 2-5 times that amount not feel terrible too? How can they be truly healthy that way? Is it worth it to do this to myself just because I think that somehow I was a cog in the oppression wheel? Am I losing my marbles?!
On March 5, 2018, I woke up and pulled my head out of my ass and took a long look in the mirror. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. So much of the work the anti-diet brigade does is used to make people who care about weight loss for health, and fitness feel like self-righteous challengers.
From that date forward, I quit drinking, cleaned up my diet and busted out my personal trainer cap. Within four months of filling my life with nutritionally balanced portions of food and daily exercise guess what happened? I lost nearly 30 pounds and felt like my old self again and I have kept it off for over 14 months.
The experience was what led me to further my education and start this new blog and to renew my love of holistic wellness and spreading helpful information about nutrition, emotional eating, fitness, and the struggles of finding where you fit in. I will not allow outside assessments of who I am cloud what I already know is real ever again.
The final points of this post were a bit long-winded to get to (apologies). However, I needed to go through this experience to know myself better. Having taken my life and my health towards the edge and back gave me valuable insight and what I believe to be a considered opinion on the subject of health at every size and my core issues with the extreme side of the HAES community on both a personal and professional level. And as a final disclaimer, I want to say: people have the right to exist in whatever body they are in – without hate or prejudice. But I also believe that people have the right to care for themselves; however, they see fit – without judgment or unfair criticism. Nobody has to lose weight if they don’t want to, but they don’t get to invalidate anybody else’s decision to do so or to be proud of it.
I am certain that this post will be picked apart and challenged and that’s okay. I can also say that this post could be turned into a 500-page book filled with more of my personal experiences, experiences of others, and accompanied by facts and statistics, but people set in their ways will continue to believe what suits their narrative. Perhaps this post suits mine. I don’t believe people should be treated poorly for the body they live in, but I also believe that it goes both ways. If someone had the right to judge and tell me that what I was putting out into the world is toxic, then I have a right to address it and discuss what I find wrong with their criticisms.
How do you feel about the HAES movement? Have you had an experience similar to (or different) from mine? Let’s discuss!