living intuitively

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Posts tagged healthy living
W O R K it I N not just O U T
Photos taken by Abbey Armstrong Photography, edited by me

Photos taken by Abbey Armstrong Photography, edited by me

The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.
— Thomas Edison

Tell me if one or more of these thoughts have ever crossed your mind:

  • I need to lose weight
  • I need to tighten up
  • Why am I not seeing results? I've been careful with my eating yet...no change
  • Okay, so I've been exercising consistently annndddd still nothing
  • If I'm not seeing results, that must mean I'm clearly not hitting it hard enough. Time to really drill down with my workouts and my eating
  • Carbs are enemy #1. I'll cut them out completely and get crazy shredded
  • I was up studying/with the baby/sick all night, but I need to be consistent with my early-morning workouts. Gym time for sleep is a sacrifice I gotta make
  • Pain is gain. Exercise and "clean" nutrition aren't meant to be easy/enjoyable

As Dwight from The Office would assert: FALSE. As The Grinch would aver: WRONG-O. As the...okay, you get the idea.

Health isn’t about being ‘perfect’ with food or exercise or herbs. Health is about balancing those things with your desires. It’s about nourishing your spirit as well as your body
— Golda Poretsky

It's so easy to get trapped in the mentality that if you aren't seeing results, that means you need to work harder in the gym/be more disciplined in the kitchen. 

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Some truths to consider:

  • What's happening internally is more important than what's happening externally

You can kill yourself in the gym and eat as "cleanly" as possible, but if you're stressed/sleep deprived/hormonally imbalanced, you won't see results. Moreover, the stress you place on your body through intense workouts/calorie (or carb or fat) restriction could actually be CAUSING weight gain. Real talk. Your body's job is to keep you alive and functioning optimally, so if it feels like its wellbeing is threatened in any way (excessive energetic output, insufficient nutrients/calories) it will spring into shutdown mode. 

  • Hormones reign supreme

Hormones are sneaky little bastards and can wreak havoc on your metabolic health. If you've been exercising regularly and honing your nutrition, yet still feel you're fighting an uphill battle, start side eyeing dem hormones. Consult your doc about running some tests to ensure all is well on the hormonal front. And don't go jacking up your hormones by ignoring your body's cries for help. Hormones are affected by multiple factors: lack of sleep, stress, excessive exercise, improper nutrition (inadequate caloric intake, insufficient fat/carbs/protein, etc). Do right by your body and it'll do right by you.

Piggybacking off of these first two points:

  • Stress is ew and sleep is BAE

This is where working IN is paramount. More important than working those bunz is minimizing your stress. Your physical health reflects your mental health. Your results depend on being solid mentally. Trust me when I say you'll reap a much larger reward when you prioritize your mind over your body. Get your mind right, and your body will follow. Sleep is a crucial component of this. Sleep restores and heals the body from the daily stresses it faces. Fight the urge to skimp on ZZZs. Your time is much better spent ensuring a full 8 hours than rising early to work out. Rather than compromising sleep to get an hour workout, try sleeping in later and then doing a 15-minute full-body HIIT strength and cardio combo. Honestly, if you hit it hard enough, 15 minutes are plenty to rev up the metabolism and keep you fit, and you have more time for life/rest. 

Shift your thinking from weight to self care. “I need to lose weight” becomes “How can I pay attention to what my body needs?”
  • Every body is different

Some respond to lower carb grub (and maintain optimal energy). Some thrive on a vegan/vegetarian subsistence. Some do best on high fat nourishment. It's all about finding YOUR sweet spot. You'll be able to *feel* when you find it.

Listen to your body. It’s smarter than you.

The same goes for exercise. Some people can run a marathon a day and be totally functional, or work out for two hours six days a week and still have energy to spare. Not moi. I love high-intensity workouts but my body does not. It does much better with mostly low- to moderate intensity workouts, with one or two harder ones sprinkled in per week. When I do two back-to-back intense workouts, I'm down for the count the rest of the week. My sleep takes a hit, my concentration suffers, and it's Zombie Whitney. Also (but less important) my muscle definition decreases. What have YOU noticed with your body? Experiment to find out.

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Lately, what I've been doing is setting my timer for 23.5 minutes (random, I know - that's just what the interval time app I use defaulted to) and perform various exercises for a minute nonstop. This works for me, and my body responds exceptionally well to it. It keeps me from mentally and physically burning out. It feels doable (less than 30 minutes - easy peasy lemon squeezy!) and keeps me on track. Shockingly, I've still maintained my strength and stamina despite giving up the longer, more intense cardio and strength workouts.  Again, it's all about honoring your body's cues and finding your fitness and nutritional sweet spots.


Nature gets it right. Human intervention gets it wrong.
— Dr. Libby Weaver

Working out/eating well doesn't have to suck! Explore your options to find what jazzes you up.  You truly do have so many, so don't feel like you have to resign yourself to the dreadmill (I personally can't stand the treadmill - I get so bored!). 

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Mindful eating means trusting your body, not a calculator.

The same goes for nutrition. Healthy eating doesn't mean bland food or bust. There are SOOO MANY delicious natural flavor choices out there! Play around with natural seasonings and spices to find what gets you going. It may require an upfront investment of time and energy to experiment, but then you'll get the hang of it and that investment will pay off. And lucky us, living in the world of social media inspo. Delectable recipes at our fingertips! All those social media influencers did the hard work for us. I personally recommend simply eating intuitively and listening to your body, rather than following a specific protocol, but it's totally up to you! It might help to use a structured regimen as a guide (emphasis on guide - try not to get obsessive and rigid!) while you get your feet wet if you're not following a certain protocol. A good place to start is the Whole 30 protocol. The best rule of thumb is to eat food as close to its natural form as possible.

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Mindful eating is very pleasant.
We sit beautifully. We are aware of the people surrounding us. We are aware of the food on our plates. This is a deep practice.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

I've never agreed with the saying, "Live to eat, not eat to live." Food/eating can and should still be enjoyable! Sure, if you're emotionally eating and ignoring your body's satiety cues, that could be problematic. But why not derive joy from a biological necessity, something we do multiple times daily? Mindful eating - really relishing the food and making that mind-body connection - can really transform the experience and ensure you are on the same page with your body and heeding its needs.

Remember when your body is hungry, it wants nutrients, not calories.
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Create healthy habits, not restrictions.

xx,

-w-

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I N T O the S H A D O W S
Images by Whitney Richardson Photography  Modeled by Nicole Spinnler  Assisted by Cari Spinnler

Images by Whitney Richardson Photography

Modeled by Nicole Spinnler

Assisted by Cari Spinnler

How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.
— Carl Jung

 

Where there is lightness, there is darkness. Yin and yang. The blazing sun casts a deep shadow. Put simply, it is N A T U R A L. Therefore, it is natural for even the lightest souls to also contain shades of darkness. It is within every single one of us. We all have a shadow. 

When it becomes problematic is when we deny this shadow. We pretend it's not there, or even actively reject it. Why is this problematic? The shadow doesn't easily take a hint, then take a hike. No, it lingers. It lingers and it gets its due by seeping into our thoughts, our actions, and our words, whether we're aware of it or not. Ultimately, it blocks true happiness, authenticity, and evolution. 

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So what is the shadow? The shadow is a concept discovered by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. The shadow is the “dark side” of our personality because it consists mainly of primitive, negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the desire for power. 

Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we will keep trying to slay them in the outer world. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there we must do our work.
— Marianne Willamson

The personal shadow is the disowned self. This shadow self represents the parts of us we no longer claim to be our own, including inherent positive qualities.

As I mentioned, these unexamined or disowned parts of our personality don’t go anywhere. As if. Although we deny them in our attempt to cast them out, we don’t eliminate them. They're stillll there.

We repress them; they are part of our unconscious. Put simply, the unconscious is everything of which we are not conscious. 

These emotions are part of our shared humanity. We're all in this together. But as we grow up, something happens.

Traits associated with “being good” are accepted, while others associated with “being bad” are rejected. We all have basic human needs. These needs include physiological needs, safety and security needs, and needs for belonging. These needs are biological and instinctual.

As humans, we are motivated by our needs. So when we perceive an aspect of ourselves as threatening one of our needs (typically the needs for safety, love, and belonging) we shove those aspects into the shadows. We pick up cues from our environment, so if we experience/witness a trait being condemned by others (especially our caretakers), we repress and deny, baby. Repress and deny.

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I mean, think about it. If you go deep and consider this from an evolutionary standpoint, our very safety and existence depends on our caretakers' (parents - biological or otherwise) acceptance and approval. We ain't tryna repel them, leaving us to fend for ourselves. We need them to feed and protect us. And even socially speaking - generally, to be "successful" (personally and professionally) and happy and fulfilled in life, we need social connection. So we will do our damndest to hide any trait we've perceived as socially unacceptable. We want to be liked and accepted by our friends/colleagues/bosses.

Let’s say you realize your need to take better care of yourself (especially you moms and dads!). You create a self-care routine and are feeling psyched about it.

A few days in, though, you start receiving blowback from the people in your life. Maybe your kids are banging on the door while you're working out/meditating, or your boss guilt trips you when you ask to leave work early (or on time!).

Your doubts and fears creep in about this whole self-care thing. You worry you are being regarded as "selfish" and decide to bail on the self care. Before you know it, you’ve taken yourself off your priority list and might even secretly take pride in your selflessness. That’s what “good” people do, after all. Right?

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In your quest to be good (likable, lovable, worthy, enough), your ability to focus on yourself has been pushed into the shadows.

In the above example, the shadow is the desire (or need) for self-care. But, somewhere along the way, you were convinced that focusing on your own needs was wrong or bad (aka selfish) so you rejected those desires by denying their existence. You designed your life so it would always appear you were doing “right” by others.

Our egos use this mechanism to defend itself—to defend how it perceives itself. Our false identities of being “good” keep us from connecting to our shadow, which then keeps us from freedom and true acceptance (internal and external).

All we deny in ourselves—whatever we perceive as inferior, evil, or unacceptable—become part of the shadow. Anything incompatible with our chosen conscious attitude about ourselves moves to this dark side.

Trouble pops up when we fail to see it. 

Get this: The shadow can operate on its own without our full awareness. It’s as if our conscious self goes on autopilot while the unconscious takes the wheel. Remaining unaware of the shadow harms our relationships with our spouses, family, and friends. It will also impact our professional relationships, as well as our leadership abilities.

When we deny ourselves a safe outlet to express our dark side - or refuse to even acknowledge its existence - it builds up and becomes a powerful force capable of destroying our life as well as the lives of those around us.
— Debbie Ford

And those parts of ourselves we slide out of view? We then see them in others.

Whatever qualities we deny in ourselves, we see in others.

In psychology, this is called projection. We project onto others anything we conceal within us.

If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.
— Hermann Hesse

For example: Let's say you're pissed at someone for selfishly taking two cookies instead of one, or for interrupting you. This doesn't mean those actions aren't rude. It just means deep down, you recognize those in your shadow self. It should be noted we usually aren't aware of these projections (hopefully you will be after reading this).

These projections distort reality, creating a solid boundary between how we view ourselves and how we behave in reality. 

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Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change.

This is something I'm constantly working on. And you know what? It's not a process from which one ever fully graduates. Sure, it can become easier and more rewarding and enlightening, depending on how you frame it. I've trained myself to appreciate and be grateful for glimpses of my shadow; I now view it as an opportunity to progress and improve myself. But as I indicated with the yin and yang: it's the natural balance of things. Lightness and darkness go hand in hand. It's natural. That darkness has a purpose. Don't let it control you. Accept yourself and accept others. View it with love. Own your darkness and liberate yourself! That will help your light shine even BRIGHTER. 

xx,

-w-

Sometimes someone isn’t ready to see the bright side. Sometimes they need to sit with the shadow first. So be a friend and sit with them. Make the darkness beautiful.
— Victoria Erickson.
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FAT is P H A T
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

For much of our lives, we were advised to avoid dietary fat if we wanted to stay svelte and healthy. It was drilled into us that fat makes you fat. Not PHAT (aka pretty hot and tempting, for those of you not up on early-2000 pop culture - who even are you), but f a t. The no bueno kind. Well guess freaking what?! That guidance is WRONG-O. 

Current studies show fat is actually ESSENTIAL to your health. Imagine that. In a powerful article by Dr. Dwight Lundell, a heart surgeon with 25 years' experience and over 5,000 open-heart surgeries under his belt, he admits he was wrong all those years. Here are some key takeaways from his article (which I will link below):

  • Inflammation is the real culprit
  • This has prompted a paradigm shift in the treatment of heart disease and other chronic ailments
  • Inflammation causes cholesterol to become trapped, causing heart disease and strokes. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended.
  • Inflammation is your body's natural defense to a foreign invader, such as bacteria, toxins, or viruses
  • If we chronically expose our bodies to injury by toxins or foods the human body was never designed to process (looking at you, McD's "chicken" nuggets), a condition occurs called chronic inflammation.
  • We have simply followed the recommended mainstream low-fat diet, unknowingly causing repeated injury to our blood vessels. Yikes! This repeated injury creates chronic inflammation leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes (aka DIABEETUS), and obesity.
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  • The biggest culprits of chronic inflammation are, quite simply, the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour, and all products made from them) and the excessive consumption of omega-6 veggie oils like soybean, corn, and sunflower found in many processed foods
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  • (This is a gnarly analogy) Take a moment to visualize rubbing a stiff brush repeatedly over soft skin until it becomes extremely red and nearly bleeding. Imagine you repeated this several times a day, every day for five years. If you could  even tolerate this painful brushing, you would have a bleeding, swollen infected area that worsened with each repeated injury. This is a good way to visualize the inflammatory process that could be going on in your body right now. JIGGA WHAT?!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • A diseased artery looks like someone took a brush and scrubbed repeatedly against its wall
  • SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, EVERY DAY, the foods we eat create small injuries compounding into even MORE injuries, causing the body to RESPOND CONTINUOUSLY and appropriately WITH INFLAMMATION
  • In case you didn't get the point: "While we savor the tantalizing taste of a sweet roll, our bodies respond alarmingly as if a foreign invader arrived declaring war. Foods loaded with sugars and simple carbohydrates, or processed with omega-6 oils for long shelf life have been the mainstay of the American diet for six decades. These foods have been slowly poisoning everyone" 
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Bananas, right?! Really makes you re-think what you put in your piehole, when you visualize the effects. Another argument for eating foods as close to their natural state as possible (future post on this).


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Back to the benefits of fat. Here are some solid reasons to embrace fat:

  1. Better body composition 
  2. More muscle
  3. Easier fat loss
  4. Improved reproductive health
  5. Better brain function and mood with less risk of depression
  6. Stronger bones and decreased risk of osteoporosis
  7. Reduced cancer risk (suck it, cancer)
  8. Better cholesterol ratio and reduced heart disease risk
  9. Stronger immune system
  10. Better SKIN and eye health (yassss! the better to see that glowing skin with, my dear)
  11. MORE ENERGY!!!!!!!!

So don't shy away from that fat, mis amigos! The closer a food is to its natural form, the better, so avoid anything that's been messed with, i.e. items labeled "low fat" or "low sugar." Real butter is much better than margarine (margarine is straight chemicals, yo), whole milk is preferable to skim, etc. And no more dry salads, puh lease!! Fun fact: Full-fat dressing actually ENHANCES nutrient absorption and bioavailability. So you're actually missing out if you pass on the fat. Good news, right?! Happy eating, PHATties!!!!

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xx,

-w-

Links:

https://www.sott.net/article/242516-Heart-Surgeon-Speaks-Out-On-What-Really-Causes-Heart-Disease

http://main.poliquingroup.com/articlesmultimedia/articles/article/1069/ten_amazing_benefits_of_eating_fat.aspx

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I ACCEPT YOU
Images by Whitney Richardson Photography  Model: Jennifer Servais

Images by Whitney Richardson Photography

Model: Jennifer Servais

Watch carefully, the magic that occurs when you give a person just enough comfort to be themselves.
— Atticus
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Let's start this post with an informal poll: Have you ever been irritated by someone? How about intimidated by someone? Angered by someone?

Call me presumptuous, but I'm going to go ahead and say we've all been there. Just hazarding a guess here.

If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all.
— Yogi Bhajan

Feeling those feelings is part of the human experience. It's natural. It's what we do with them that matters. And I don't know about you, but I'd like to keep riding my high vibes. Don't get me wrong, those "negative" emotions - while not fun to feel -  really are absolutely necessary. Here's why: 

  • They balance us out
  • They enhance the "positive" feelings, making them that much sweeter
  • They reveal areas of potential growth and self-evolution
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Love people for who they are and not for who you want them to be. That’s where the disconnection starts.

However, we never want those feelings to control us. So how do we handle those feelings and still feel good, without crossing over into the land of denial, delusion, and insincerity? How do we reclaim our power from those power-leaching feelings when they arise? It can be really friggin' aggravating when an acquaintance keeps the conversation focused on them, or the guy in line behind you keeps hawking a loogie, or a family member keeps leaving a mess for you to clean up, or someone does something SO NOT COOL. Right?! And this isn't limited to feelings of ire: It can be unnerving to be intimated by someone. That's not fun to feel, either.

Remember, people are the least lovable when they need love the most.

So here's what you do: think "I accept you." Really mentally and emotionally commit to that sentiment. Accept that person, despite their annoying habits, or selfish ways. Connect to their humanity. Embrace them in all their flawed glory, just as you'd hope others would do for you. We all screw up. It's not a question of if, it's a question of how. We're still all diamonds, baby.

People do not need to be fixed, they need to be loved.
— Robert Tew

This doesn't mean you should become a pushover and toss all boundaries. If someone does something truly unacceptable, or at least something you feeling strongly enough about to address, then communicate this to the person tactfully. Do it early and do it kindly. However, ideally you'd do it from a place of acceptance and love, not fire and vexation. At the very least, it allows you peace of mind and freedom from those gnarly emotions.

Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.
— Pema Chodron
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Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.
— Wes Angelozzi

This tactic also works brilliantly in times when you're feeling insecure in someone's presence. Simply thinking, "I accept you" shifts the focus from your insecurity to your capacity. From passivity to activity. It allows you to reclaim your power by stripping the other person of their control over you [whether intentional on their end or not]. Moreover, it does so in a way that is loving and good-vibe inducing [told you, all 'bout dem good vibes]. "I accept you." So the next time you find yourself in the same room as Gigi Hadid [seriously, am I the only one this keeps happening to?], you can tell her how to stop being intimidated by you. Poor girl. But seriously, it's a useful tool for when you're interviewing for a job, or meeting new people, or delivering a speech. Try it!

xx,

-w-

Be the type of person who makes everyone they encounter feel perfectly okay with being exactly who they are.
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THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Nobody is superior, nobody is inferior, but nobody is equal either. People are simply unique, incomparable. You are you, I am I.

This world has some incredible people in it. People with impressive achievements and accolades. People with seemingly endless talent, drive, energy, resources, skill, courage. 

When you encounter people like this, sometimes you can't help but reflect on your own achievements. You start comparing yourself, which we all know can be the kiss of death to contentment and gratitude. That comparison shiz ain't good. 

Here's an angle for your consideration. Something to ponder when you're feeling down, unaccomplished...you know, like a lahuuu-suh-herrrr (translation: loser). It's not about what you've achieved/accomplished/acquired. IT'S ABOUT THE EFFECT YOU HAVE ON OTHERS.

Think about the greatest, most valuable and meaningful people in your life. The MVPs in your life. I'm willing to bet the criteria you used to determine their value in your life had nada to do with their yearly income, or Instagram followers, or degrees, or bad ass trips to China (hopefully...). 

No matter how educated, talented, rich, or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything.

The most impactful people are the ones who lift you up/inspire you/support you. Or just friggin' MAKE YOU LAUGH. Let's say you're out with some friends and meet two people. One is a zillionaire, owns real estate all over the world, travels internationally on the monthly, has a Harvard degree, wrote five New York Times bestsellers, and runs a thriving non-profit to halt human trafficking. This person is nice enough, but more interested in telling you allll about how cool they are, with no interest in hearing about you. Cool story, bro. The other individual works in IT, has never traveled outside the US, yet is engaging, funny, kind, and genuinely interested in what you have to say. Which one are you going to want to keep talking to? The latter one, right?

Same with other people in your life. The people you want to hang around with and invite to a party are those who make you feel good, not inferior/bored/bummed/betrayed/etc. It matters far more how you treat people, than how accomplished/cool/successful you are. Besides - success is subjective! My definition of success may be different than yours. 

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Charisma is the transference of enthusiasm.
— Ralph Archibold

And charisma isn't about always having the right thing to say at the right time, or being the life of the party. It's about being genuine and kind. It matters less what you say than how well you listen. I'm more appreciative of the people who are there when I need them, with a helping hand or listening ear, than I am of those who are always ready with a witty comment. 

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
— Toni Morrison

So stay on those good vibes and know you are a bad ass.

xx,

-w-

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