My 'Love Your Body' Challenge

Each year in February, the lead up to Valentine's Day leaves me a little befuddled.

As a health and wellness coach, I have lots of tools to teach my clients how to incorporate healthy habits into their lives and how to make real food eating easier. I know a ton about how to heal your gut and why that's important. And I know how to support my clients in developing healthier relationships with food.

All of these things contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

But want to know a secret?

If you don't have loving, nurturing relationships in your life and, most importantly, don't have a loving nurturing relationship with yourself, no amount of broccoli or sauerkraut can truly get you to a well-rounded, healthy life.

It might sound harsh, but it's true. Relationships and connection play such an important role in how we view the world, how we view ourselves, our mental health, our physical health, and how we want to show up for ourselves.

In fact, researchers have discovered that one of the handful of pillars in the Blue Zones, the places in the world that have the densest population of centenarians (people that live to be 100+), is their daily connection with their community. These cultures make get togethers and dinners a ritual that is long, slow, deep, meaningful, and happens daily. They are constantly connecting with their people, which does so much for their health and longevity.

But how can we show up and love others when we struggle with loving ourselves?

With Valentine's Day approaching, and the subsequent excitement or dread you might be experiencing, I thought I would change the narrative a little. Instead of being consumed with how you are going to show your loved one how much they mean to you, or feeling disappointed and left-out because you don't have a significant other, how about focusing on loving yourself?

Instead of making this holiday purely about a romantic love, let's focus on loving ourselves.

And once we have really focused on loving ourselves, and if we have space to do so, how about we show our love and appreciation for one other person that makes us feel valued.

Focusing on loving ourselves first (body, strengths, and imperfections) and others second, just might lead us to a healthier body and mind, and most definitely more love.

This week on Instagram I have been doing a "Love Your Body" challenge, and I'd love for you to join. It's a way to quiet the negative narrative you might replay in your mind about you and your body, and do things to nourish and uplift it.

Couldn't all of our bodies use a little more love?

Here are a handful of ways I'm showing my body some love and working toward a more positive, loving relationship with myself~

Show Your Mind Some Love~

Let's start right at the top of our body with our brain. It's important that we nurture it and keep it active every day so that it continues to work properly. There are also lot's of real foods to consume to help keep it firing.

Here are a couple of tips to show your brain some love~

  • Learn something new- take the online course you've been considering, learn a new language, tryout a new game with your family (If you need some motivation, watch the Queen's Gambit on Netflix- it made me want to try to learn chess!), or try a weekly dance routine on YouTube. The new learning curve is great to get different parts of your brain working- it's kind of like a workout!

  • Eat brain food- Things like fatty fish, blueberries, broccoli, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate are all considered brain food and would serve you best by having them as a part of your regular food routine.

  • Daily meditation or breathing exercises- Both deep breathing and meditation are great for the brain, helping get fresh oxygen to it and helping to quiet thoughts. Give it a try over the next week and see how it feels! I love doing the 4-7-8 breathing exercise each morning. Take a deep breath in for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and out for 8 seconds. Do that 4 times!

Show Your Gut Some Love~

Ok, you know by now I'm REALLY into the gut and how it can improve nearly every system in our body. So let's show it some love. And let's not just focus on the gut on the inside. Let's dig a little deeper and love the gut on the outside; our stomach, specifically.

This area of the body can hold so much baggage. It tends to be the place that holds extra weight, thus making it an area that many are most self conscious of when looking in the mirror.

But if we think about all of the remarkable things our stomach and gut do for us, from absorb nutrients, provide us with energy, and for some even grow babies, it's pretty incredible.

Let's show it some love! Here is how~

  • Consume gut healing foods- We want prebiotics (high fiber foods) and probiotics (fermented foods and supplements) in our daily routine. Make sure you are getting in your raw sauerkraut or apple cider vinegar regularly, and your diet is brimming with plants and you should be good to go!

  • Love on your stomach- If you are someone that ever looks in the mirror and feels down, cursing your body or wondering why you have never gotten that six pack, let's change the narrative. Below are a few phrases you can say to yourself when you look in the mirror to start showing your body some love.

Show Your Heart Some Love~

The heart is pretty incredible, right? Not only does it pump blood through your body, circulate hormones through your system, and maintain your blood pressure, it also gently guides us through our lives when we listen to it.

Here are a a few tips to show your heart some love-

  • Eat Beets- Try out my Healthy Heart Beet Salad as beets have an abundance of nitrates, helping to lower blood pressure, and are known to help support healthy oxygen levels.

  • Lot's of leafy greens- Greens also contain nitrates, again, helping with blood pressure, as well as vitamin K which helps with healthy arteries and blood clotting.

  • Try a HIIT dance class or workout- Cardio is great for exercising the heart and keeping it healthy. Try a new HIIT Dance class (Meagan Kong on YouTube has some of my favorite videos) or do another HIIT cardio workout to get your ticker pumping! Dance is one of my favorite cardio because you focus so much on what's coming next, you don't have time to think about how hard the workout is. And, for me, it's fun to laugh at myself.

  • Journal- I have to admit that I’m a sporadic journaler. But whenever I’ve gone through difficult life situations or changes, journaling has helped. And not the journaling that follows prompts or writes what I’m grateful for (though that can be helpful). Instead, I just sit down and listen to my heart, writing whatever it is feeling. I can’t tell you how cathartic this is and what a release my heart feels from the practice.

Show Your Imperfections Some Love~

Ok, this one is hard. But I truly believe our imperfections teach us things, help us grow, and add spice and color to our lives.

Let me share a couple of mine...

Over the last handful of years I've grown more and more self conscious in social settings. I love seeing people and being social, but I find that I often get tongue tied and forget common, every day verbiage. It drives me crazy! I've grown more and more self conscious of it, beating myself up about it after an outing with others.

I realized that getting down on myself won't help me. Instead, I have worked really hard over the last year to change my go-to de-stressor to reading. It used to be plopping down in front of the TV or scrolling through social media at the end of a hard day, but slowly I've started making changes, and now I long for a book to read after a long work day. I also have started learning Spanish this year, just to keep my brain juices pumping even more.

Is this a fool proof plan to improve my cognition? No, but I believe it could help, so I'm giving it a shot.

Another imperfection of mine is something physical. My teeth have become more and more crooked over the years and I'm pretty self conscious about it. It might be something I change in the future, but for now I'm doing my best to change the narrative. I look for the things I love about my teeth, and when I need it, I remind myself of the compliments or sweet things my friends have pointed out about them when I have opened up about disliking them.

So, what are a few imperfections of yours, physical or not? Write them down and sit with them for a second. How can you use those "imperfections" as learning experiences, or how can they help you grow? What's one step you can start taking today to change the narrative or work on them?

I sincerely hope that my Love Your Body Challenge this week helps you to focus on showing your body more love. Whether you focus on loving the physical attributes or the person you are deep down, loving yourself and doing things daily to nurture that love is so important.

The truth is, if you don't love yourself, it makes it pretty hard for others to. Take the time, focus on self-love, and I can assure you it will only multiply the love in your life.