It used to be that eating disorders was something that happened to teenagers and women in the 20's. It rarely happened in poor neighborhoods. And certainly not to women in 40's or 50s. By then, women would have worked on all their body issues and learned to live in their healthy skin as they approached middle age. Not so. A new phenomenon is taking hold. More and more women in the 50's are showing up at eating disorder clinics battling anorexia, bulimia ad laxative abuse. When does hating our bodies stop? At what age, do we women have Aha moments and learn to love ourselves one muffin top, or chicho at a time?
In the last two months I have noticed a beautiful change in me and a more loving attitude toward my body. It started with hot yoga. I completed a 30-day self imposed hot yoga challenge and have seen all aspects of my life improve. Hot Yoga or Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 poses that stretch you from head to toe practiced for 90 minutes in a studio heated 105 degrees. It sounds worse that it really is and I get it's not for everyone. It is for me. I went to the yoga practice to help heal an achy back and what I have learned in the process has been transcendental.
I have a new relationship to my body. I listen to it more closely and I respect it more. During the stretches--I am not super flexi, so I feel them--I learned that my body tells me when it's reached it's limit. I don't judge it, I accept it. I work to stretch it a little more at a time, next time. I learned that our bodies have the capacity to heal. I also learned that what you put into it--food, drink, drugs--can be poison. If I have two beers, the next day I feel it during practice. It's all moderation, it really is. The other thing that has happened is more patience with myself and a more open heart. This patience and open heart has trickled to the people I love too. I am more patient with my kids, and those I love. And it's done wonders for my creativity. I am inspired more than ever.
Last night my instructor was walking the class through one of the most difficult poses and she advised us to choose our thoughts carefully. Thoughts become deeds, deeds become actions, actions become your destiny. Only you can control your thoughts. It was a beautiful way to end my day.
And even though today's news is that in the twilight years many women still struggling to be this perfect self, I know that at least today, this practice that has allowed me to be less judgmental about my body and my self. It has helped me. Maybe it can help you.
There are other practices that I have infused my life with to help me stay strong, positive and healthy:
Stay away from negative people: You know who they are and they always have one drama after another and see the world as highly unfair and ugly as opposed to bountiful and filled with limitless possibilities. Yes the world can't be horrid, and very unfair, but it doesn't serve anyone to dwell in its negativity.
Watch the media you watch: Is your brain being fed right? Do you feel good after reading your favorite magazine or do you want to rush to a plastic surgeon? Do you feel uplifted by a book or a show, or do you feel like, what was that? I am a geek, one of the shows besides "Oprah," that I Tivo is "Nova" and just the other day I learned about Watson, the super computer who beat humans in Jeapardy! I watch TED.com a lot. I also read voraciously, I especially love biographies of people who did great things. Inspiration is everywhere and it can be contagious.
Exercise: That means dancing, running, yoga, biking, hiking, walking. Move that body but find joy in the movement. I don't do well with high impact sports -- aerobics, jogging -- so I practice yoga. Learn what you love and get into it.
Eat: Less sugar, fat, junk food and more fruits, veggies, fish. I don't like veggies and prefer to drink them that eat them so I've been making a lot of soups lately and they are super yummy. Hint: if the recipe calls for milk, use almond milk, vanilla low fat. Yummylicious aftertaste.
Friends & family: Make sure that you spend quality time with those you love.
Me time: I treat myself everyday to something free: quiet time with my very own best friend, me. Meditation has changed my outlook on life. I was introduced to it by a friend last summer. And David Jii, an amazing instructor has helped me embrace it. Being still is an amazing way to reconnect and reenergize a lethargic or unfocused mind.
Learn to say no: An Oprah lesson: learn to say "that doesn't work for me." When something doesn't work for you, be fearless in calling it out. Leave guilt where it belongs, in the trash.
Have regular sex: A healthy sex life means a healthy life. Not being in a relationship should not keep you from finding pleasure. Pleasure can be had all by yourself.
Laugh: Watch comedies, rent movies or read books that make you laugh.
Smile: To yourself in the mirror, to your neighbors and random strangers. Smiling does the body and mind good.