Our brains do not work with words per say, our brains interpret images. We do not recognize words written in another language not because they are not words, but because we were taught to interpret the images from our first language.

The image that we see as “ourselves” is also an interpretation which we were taught by our care takers. The particular interpretation we take on is impacted by countless factors. Our particular genetic wiring, our level of sensitivity, every single interaction with our environment from before we were even born sets in place how our image of ourselves will be formed. We then reinforce these images throughout our lives.

It is vital, if we want to make a significant change in our behavior, to recognize the image we have of ourselves. Without this there can be no permanent change. This is the missing link in weight loss, in quitting smoking, in our general health and self-care.

How is it that you see yourself? This is the most important question you can ask yourself when embarking on any new lifestyle plan. Honestly, how do you see yourself? The image is often not a pretty sight when we are brutally honest. It is sometimes extremely painful to see what we have done to ourselves through neglect, bad habits and downright self-abuse.

This negative self-image then becomes the problem, which is why most people choose not to look at themselves, and just continue to be the victims of this deadly wiring. We love to blame. We say things like “I have no will power” or “I tried and cannot lose weight no matter how many diets I have tried” or “I have bad genetics.” We point to our failures, and then live into them. When we see others who have had success, we wave it off as that they were just lucky. No responsibility is taken or given.

Where do you begin to take responsibility? The answer is to look at your self image honestly, but with compassion. You may ask how is it possible to have compassion for something you detest? Maybe it is not.

But if that is where you are, that is a starting point. See if you can just imagine the possibility of having compassion for yourself; see what that would look like. Imagine holding yourself responsible for your choices and having compassion for how hard that is for you. Then breathe into that. Feel what that feels like. Breathing opens you up to a life. One deep breath rewires your system, and a new image is available out of that.

Judgment never works. Feel how you close down around yourself when you judge. There is no life available there. By judging you, are just reinforcing the old wiring. This locks it in place. If all there is is judgment, as is sometimes the case in people with challenged self-images, just notice that and breathe. See if you can find a positive image of yourself that is true for you and focus on that. See if you can grow that image.

It is most important not to lie to yourself, to make promises to yourself and then break them. Rather, bring consciousness to the truth you feel about yourself by looking at it honestly and with even the smallest amount of love, kindness and compassion. This will slowly begin the process of developing a new image.

Real change does not happen overnight. Real change takes creating, sometimes from nothing, a possibility to live into.

There is no magic pill, but there is magic in creating yourself anew.

From Knowing to Knowingness

By Joann Brickley, Owner, Hydration Health and Fitness

Research has shown that the more knowledge a person has on a subject, the more difficult it can be to apply that knowledge to themselves. Across the board, my clients are well educated, successful and self- reflective. And yet, they have their sticking points when it comes to health and exercise. I do not teach them much that they do not already know (in fact some know much more than I do about how the human body functions). The question is not one of knowing, it is one of knowingness.

What has a person continue to smoke, overeat, not take up exercise or indulge in any number of unhealthy activities? We are the best informed consumers in history and we continue to make the same mistakes over and over. We are the least healthy of any generation in history, despite remarkable health discoveries. Health-related products abound, and yet the majority of our population is, at best, overweight.

People, again very intelligent people, fall for the latest craze, the latest gimmick, the latest magic pill that  will “fix” them. And then, when this fails, they blame the product and claim to have tried, but the product did not work.

What does work is to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and drink water. It really is that simple. We all know that. You know that. But, what takes you to knowingness? What takes us to the place where we can actually do the right thing consistently?

Knowingness comes from an internal strength. It cannot be purchased form a vendor; it can only be grown with practice. Knowingness is an inside job. It takes being completely responsible for how our behavior, our choices, impact our lives. Knowingness is an acknowledgment of who we really are at the core of our being.  We cannot know ourselves well and deeply if we live from a place of reactivity, responding to each and every whim and fancy.

The problem can be, when we first stop and reflect, we are sometimes horrified to acknowledge our behavior. It can be embarrassing, shaming and painful to see what we do to ourselves. This keeps the negative behavior locked in place. We rationalize, point to all of the reasons why “you would drink, smoke, eat too if you lived in my shoes.” We point to how hard we have to work, so who has the time and energy to exercise? We point to how very hard we “tried.” And then judge the hell out of ourselves for failing. The judging puts the nail in the coffin. The more we “know,” the more harshly we judge.

While I know a tremendous amount about health, I believe the main reason my clients come to me, and stay with me as long as they do, is because I help them access their knowingness, which allows them to take better care of themselves.

Knowingness has no judgment. Knowingness is freedom to choose powerfully from a place beyond our conditions. Knowingness is a deep well inside of ourselves to which we can go back over and over throughout our day to replenish our souls. Knowingness is a breath of fresh air during a moment of stress.  Knowingness is not bound by any rules, or limited to being in a particular place. All there is to do is to take a deep breath and allow it, and there it is, without fail. The wisdom that we all have to make life-giving decisions lives here, right inside of ourselves, and it only takes one deep breath to access. The cost? Being willing to be with ourselves just as we are, and without judgment. One breath at a time.

Commitment Is a Function of Integrity

As a personal trainer, what I sell is “commitment.”

I also teach people how to lift weights safely and effectively, educate them about posture and healthy food choices and encourage them to drink water rather than soft drinks.

But that is the easy part for me. What is challenging is to find where it is that my clients lack integrity. Because when you lack integrity, it shows up with a lack of commitment. In defense of this, many people would point to all of the commitments they keep. Just the fact that a client walks through my door is proof of a level of commitment, accomplishment and productivity that an untrained eye would find difficult to find faulty.

People would be deeply offended by my questioning their integrity. We think that people who lack integrity are liars and criminals.

What I’m talking about is more insidious than blatant integrity issues. Two examples:

Suppose I tell you I’ll call you this afternoon. Now it’s 8:00 p.m. and I didn’t, either because I didn’t want to, or I forgot, or an emergency occurred (it doesn’t matter WHY, forgetting and emergencies don’t change the fact that I didn’t do what I said I’d do). Even if you’d let me off the hook, part of ME would still have attention on that. When I wake up from my coma, I’m going to remember I said I’d call you and didn’t. It’s going to be in my space.

Suppose you borrow a rake from me at the very end of the fall. Now it’s winter and you still have it. I don’t need it, but every once in a while I wonder if and when you’re going to return it. Meanwhile, every time you pass my rake in your garage you think, “I need to return that to JoAnn.” And these things fester. It starts with, “Oh, he probably just forgot,” and escalates to “I think that’s really inconsiderate” and eventually to, “He’s just a really inconsiderate person.”

No horrible crimes were committed. But in both cases, neither of us are “whole” and “complete.” And rather than being fully present, we’re spending some of our mental energies on these relatively trivial items. And that’s the point.

Moreover, any integrity issue for one person is an integrity issue FOR BOTH PEOPLE! If I’m getting irritable because you didn’t return the rake, that’s me getting irritable at you, rather than me being balanced and whole. So, I can be responsible to myself by handling it with you. By being the one to come to you and asking for my rake back, I’m doing both of us a favor.

And these things add up. The book you didn’t return. The angry words you regret. The messy desk. The time you were kidding but maybe you offended. The unpaid medical bill. The room you’ve been meaning to paint for years. The time you didn’t get acknowledged and resented that. It’s a wonder if we have the ability to be present at all! (Maybe we don’t!)

(The ultimate prescription, not for the faint of heart, is to make a list of every single instance where you have negative energy toward another and then identify what is the integrity issue that’s present, and a date by when you’ll clean it up. There may be 100 or more of them. Then spend the week calling everyone and cleaning it up, apologizing, and getting back into relationship. At the end of that week, you’ll be walking six feet off the ground.)

The truth is that virtually every one of us wrestles with integrity at some level, and many, many people have very low integrity, have little commitment and act like victims. If you find yourself reading this and thinking, “How dare she!” you are probably one of us.

Yes, I count myself among those who struggle with integrity and commitment. And I have spent more years digging deep inside to resolve these issues (mostly successfully!) than I have spent in the gym.

These issues separate the people for whom my program works from those who will go from diet to diet, trainer to trainer and gym to bariatric surgeon with the same results. None! But at least they “tried” and they get to point to all of the things that did not work. Best of all, they get to remain victims.

Integrity is “complete sincerity and honesty, the state of being unimpaired.” “Complete?!” That sounds virtually unattainable. But what would your life look like if you lived from this principle? I can tell you from the times I’ve experienced it in my own life, it is miraculous.

The invitation is to just look and see where it is that you are not telling the truth to yourself and/or others. What happens when you make promises to yourself and to others and then do not follow through? How do you feel when you ignore responsibilities and pretend it doesn’t matter? What message are you sending to yourself and those in your life when you do not show up for appointments or return phone calls? What relationships are unresolved, and, rather than getting into communication, you stay “right” about how you were wronged? Who are you kidding when you tell yourself that living on fast food and spending your evenings in front of the television is the American dream?

Where, deep inside of you, are you telling yourself that you do not matter? Because by doing any of the above, this is the message you are transmitting. My invitation is to live as if you do matter. Even if you do not yet feel like you do.

One day, you will look in the mirror and see that you are the only thing in your life that does matter. Your loved ones will thank you. Your commitment to yourself will enrich the lives of every single person you meet.

Next Time: What I mean by: “You are the only thing in your life that does matter.”

How Toxic is Sugar? NYT Article

The following is cribbed from the NYT. Read the full article.

According to a study in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal PLoS One, it’s not just obesity that can cause diabetes: sugar can cause it, too.

From the article, “Each 150 kilocalories/person/day increase in total calorie availability related to a 0.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence (not significant), whereas a 150 kilocalories/person/day rise in sugar availability (one 12-ounce can of soft drink) was associated with a 1.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence.” Thus: for every 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverage introduced per person per day into a country’s food system, the rate of diabetes goes up 1 percent.”

and recently

“… a coalition of scientists and health advocates led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the F.D.A. to both set safe limits for sugar consumption and acknowledge that added sugars, rather than lingering on the “safe” list, should be declared unsafe at the levels at which they’re typically consumed.”

The point: “By definition, all calories give off the same amount of energy when burned, but your body treats sugar calories differently, and that difference is damaging.”

Mindful Eating – Better than Dieting!

Which would you prefer to do, focus restricting your portions and what you eat, or enjoy whatever food you are eating?  According to a new research study, simply being mindful of what you eat is better than dieting.  Being mindful means to be very present. So you don’t just take that first bite, think “Yum!” and then unconsciously shovel in food until the last bite.  Rather, you would savor the flavor with every bite. You would be conscious of chewing sufficiently.  You would focus on the now, and not “what’s next.”

Read all about it here.

Here is a great 2-minute video on mindfulness.

How Exercise Can Change Your DNA

From TIME: Unlike the aberrations and genetic mutations caused by carcinogens and toxins, exercise-induced alterations to DNA are more like tune-ups, helping muscles to work better and more efficiently. What’s more, these changes occur even after a single 20-minute workout.

Read the full article here.

Thanks to Sandy C. for suggesting this article!

Fitness Pays Off – Not Just for Healthy People

GUEST POST –  By: David Haas, Writer for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

You may currently be undergoing treatment for cancer, were just diagnosed or are in remission. Whatever the case may be, do not neglect your fitness level as you move towards healing. It is becoming increasingly obvious through scientific research that exercise can improve the mood, energy levels, pain levels, and ability to sleep of cancer patients- even in difficult cases like mesothelioma.

Humans have evolved the ability to produce certain brain chemicals that help us when times are stressful. One of these is a class of neurotransmitters called endorphins. These important brain chemicals are released when a certain threshold of physical exertion is reached. You may have heard of the phenomena of “runners high.” This feeling of elevated mood is produced by the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s own painkillers.

Many cancer patients have even been able to reduce their reliance on narcotic pain killers from exercise alone. And one great aspect of this form of pain reduction is there is no dependency (except in a good way) or side effects involved. The effect can last for hours and not only helps with pain, but with sleep. Many cancer patients find they sleep much better on days they’ve exercised.

Cancer treatment can also create anxiety through cortisol release. Cortisol is a body chemical associated with high levels of stress. It can be helpful at times, but elevated levels on a continuing basis are not good. By getting enough exercise, you will reduce cortisol levels in your body and experience less stress and anxiety in your life. This alone will lift your spirits and provide you with the motivation to continue increasing your fitness level.

Some scientists feel elevated cortisol levels may be as damaging to health as elevated blood sugar or cholesterol. High cortisol can also lead to low testosterone, which can lead to muscle atrophy and an inability to recover properly from exercise.

Exercise is also known to increase energy levels over time. These benefits may take a few days or weeks to become apparent, but once you feel that energy boost, you won’t want to return to a sedentary lifestyle. And when you have more energy, you are generally in a better mood, easier to be around, and less anxious.

If you feel motivated to try exercise so that you can experience its many benefits for yourself, be sure to start slowly at a pace that your body can handle. You can gradually increase the intensity, pace, and duration of your exercise program as you increase your stamina, energy levels and strength. You don’t need to become an Olympic athlete to quickly begin seeing results that will increase your quality of life.

Sharing is Healthy

Here’s a cool article on how sharing makes you happy and contributes to overall health.

From the good people at

One silver lining in dark economic times is that as people learn to make do with less, they are discovering the many benefits of sharing. New psychological research suggests that sharing fosters trust and cooperation in the community and contributes to personal well-being. Researchers are finding that sharing impacts people in the very specific ways that are closely linked to increased happiness. These include effects such as improved physical health, increased levels of trust, causes for gratitude, opportunities for cooperation, and more. Here are 7 ways sharing can make you happy.

Read the full article here.

Exercise as Medicine

Cindy Gerstner, 42, strapped her feet into a rowing machine and began gliding back and forth with all the energy she could muster. This wasn’t just a workout for Gerstner, whose stage 4 breast cancer has spread to her brain, lungs, bones and liver. It was a 40-minute dose of medicine.

“It’s part of my treatment plan,” said Gerstner, a member of Recovery on Water, a crew team made up of breast cancer patients and survivors who believe exercise is a powerful tool to help keep cancer at bay. “It’s almost as important as chemotherapy in helping me stay on this earth as long as possible.”

Read the rest of this great article from Life Extension.

Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter

Past studies from the University of Illinois found that “just 20 minutes of walking” before a test raised children’s scores, even if the children were otherwise unfit or overweight, says Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology at the university and the senior author of many of the recent studies.  But it’s the neurological impact of sustained aerobic fitness in young people that is especially compelling….

Read more of this interesting article from the NY Times

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