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Permission Happiness: Granted

27 Apr
Jane Austin and homemade chili? I don't mind if I do!

Jane Austen and homemade chili? I don’t mind if I do!

I’ve been noticing in my own life that it’s really hard to do something kind for myself without justifying it, or to allow myself to feel moments of happiness and joy without feeling guilty or shameful about it. Maybe you can relate.

It’s sad and fascinating and frustrating all at the same time. Why can’t I spend an hour–candles lit and hot tea ready to drink–reading a good book without justifying “I’m not being lazy, it’s for work?” And why am I waiting for the hands of judgment to punish me for enjoying chocolate truffles and snuggles with my man?

Logical Me wants to know why I do it and how can I fix it. Emotional Me wants to fully indulge myself, then mentally punish myself for weeks to come.

…And then there is this small, steady voice. It is barely audible, but when I breathe–just breathe–I can hear it. It’s stronger than I think. It reminds me that when I give myself permission to be kind to myself, to discover what makes me happy, to engage in simple moments of pleasure, that I in turn give my mother, my niece, my friends, all men and women, permission to do the same.

Accepting and loving ourselves gives others permission and strength to do the same.

I call that voice Loving Me.

Hold the Shame, Pass the Sweet Potato Fries

23 Feb
The day I decided to nourish and accept myself. It was a good day.

The day I decided to nourish and accept myself. It was a good day.

I don’t think we ever plan on ordering a side of shame with our sweet potato fries. I know I didn’t, but it happened. There I was, standing by the sweet potatoes in the grocery aisle, having a full-on guilt-trip about whether I should buy them or not.

I picked up the sweet potato. “No, it’s a starch.” I put the sweet potato back. “I don’t want to make my stomach issues any worse.”

“But my body needs carbohydrates.” I picked up the sweet potato again. Anxiety swept through my body. “I shouldn’t.” I put the sweet potato back. “I’ll just buy a butternut squash instead.”

Have you ever experienced the constant chatter of “shoulds” and “should nots” running through your mind about food? It’s exhausting, and believe me, you aren’t alone.

In 2008 my stress levels were at an all-time high, which turned into my health’s all-time low. I was diagnosed with low hormones, stage III adrenal fatigue, gluten intolerance and a parasite. Yippee. Part of my health restoration included cleaning up my nutrition, so I did. I felt physically fantastic and I was quickly healing… but emotionally, I began to get anxious around food.

Throughout this time, I continued my studies with nutrition and the psychology behind it to better help my clients. It was through this journey that I finally saw the disconnect between the valuable health coaching I was giving my clients, and the fact that I wasn’t listening to any of it in my own life.

I realized that I was using food to “fix” everything I thought was wrong with my life and me. This awareness lead me to read Marianne Williamson’s book “A Course in Weight Loss,” where I was introduced to the concept of mindful eating. A concept that stated I could truly enjoy food without judgment AND use it to nourish my body. Umm, yes please! It was the Cat’s Meow and I had to learn more, so I did. And I practiced. A lot. And I realized that food is not only a great source of enjoyment, but also an opportunity to nourish our body and respect our inner wisdom.

Thankfully, I also realized that food isn’t the only source of pleasure in our lives. Our heart is hungry for a lot of things: companionship, laughter, gratification, acceptance. Maybe that sweet craving isn’t for our favorite sweet treat, but maybe it’s for more sweetness in our life. More smiles. More bubble baths. And I’m pretty sure more hugs, which I have plenty to share… along with my sweet potato fries.

 

If you are holding yourself back from fully living life until you lose weight or have the perfect body, or you struggle with food anxiety, fatigue, cravings and digestive upset, please join me for Truly Nourished. This eight-week journey will help you move through negative self-talk, build a supportive environment, teach you to listen to your body and awaken your natural ability to support your health and well-being. Classes begin soon. Please contact me at stephsbell@yahoo.com for more information and to register.

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

12 Jan

ghost-crab_w725_h476Have you ever heard of the Crab Theory? It’s pretty interesting. Here it goes: if you place one crab in a pot, it will easily crawl out, but if you put multiple crabs in a pot, they will pull anyone down who tries to escape to ensure they all meet the same fate.

There are many theories on the why: jealousy, resentment, equal the playing field, feel better about themselves… kinda sounds like human nature, huh? Have you ever attempted to make a positive change, like cutting down on cookie consumption, only to have your spouse restock the cookie stash (after you asked him/her not to) or your best friend telling you you’re “no fun” since you don’t want to go to the coffee shop that sells your favorite cookies? Yep, that sucks and makes doing something good for yourself feel like a drag.

Social support is critical when making positive change. So until your new change has become a habit, try spending a bit more time with people who build you up and a little less time with those that tear you down. While you build your new power posse (the friends and family that will go on a walk with you and enjoy eating healthier foods), try communicating the importance of why you are changing to your other friends and family and how much you’d appreciate their support. You can even assure them that while you want to be healthier for your grandkids, you will not guilt or pressure them to do the same. Who knows, if they don’t feel judged or feel scared that you’ll leave them behind, they may even warm up to ditching those cookies too.

The 10-Minute Workout

5 Jan

We’re throwing a party for your body! New year, new you, new outlook.

Will 10 minutes give you the healthy, strong body you seek? Yes… eventually, because 10 minutes will turn into 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, then… you get the point. Ten minutes make a difference if you are doing big bang exercises, giving it your all, eating quality whole foods and doing it 4-5 days per week. Health has a whole lot to do with building positive habits rather than willpower. Cross my heart.

Everyone has 10 minutes in their day. You really do. So let’s unleash the awesomeness within and get your health on! (And make sure it is cool with your doctor, keep good form and never do anything that hurts–joint pain and muscle fatigue are very different things.)

10-Minute Exercise Programs***

Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday Resistance Training Workout

Perform as a circuit, moving from one exercise into the next until you are finished. Perform as many sets of circuits as you can in the 10-minute time frame. Alternate between A and B days. Keep the core activated during each exercise (think belly button to spine.)

Day A

Warm Up: Jog in place or do jumping jacks for 30 seconds.

1. Push Up

Start in a neutral spine position with your wrists under your shoulders and elbows straight; hands on wall, stable surface or floor. Inhale, bend your elbows to lower yourself towards the ground, elbows pointing back at a 45 degree angle from your sides (Fig. 1). Lower as one unit, staying in a plank position (Fig. 2). Once your arms are level with your torso, exhale and push up to start position. Perform 10 reps.

2. Split Squat

Using bodyweight or holding dumbbells by your side for added resistance, start in a split stance with right leg in front and left leg back, legs hip width apart. Inhale, bend knees to lower your body, leading with the left knee towards the ground (but don’t touch the knee to ground) (Fig. 3). Exhale, squeeze the glutes and push with the right heel to start position. Keep the spine neutral the entire time. Perform 10 reps, then switch to the other side. If this is too difficult, perform squats instead.

3. Plank

Start in a neutral spine position with your elbows under your shoulders and your weight back in your heels (Fig. 4). Hold this for 30-60 seconds. Keep breathing.

 

Day B

Warm Up: Jog in place or do jumping jacks for 30 seconds.

1. Renegade Row

Start in a push up position on the floor, except you’ll be holding onto dumbbells. Feet hip width apart. Inhale, bend your right arm, pulling the weight up to your torso without shifting your hips, then lower down to the ground. Switch sides. Perform 5-10 reps each arm.

2. Squat (or Jump Squat)

Using bodyweight or holding weight (dumbbells, kettlebell, etc.) by your side for added resistance, stand with feet hip width apart. Inhale, sit back like you are going to sit in a chair, keeping knees behind and in line with second toe (Fig. 5). Exhale, squeeze the butt and push through the heels as though you are pushing the ground away from you to return to start (or Jump Squat: push through the heels and jump) (Note: my arms are in a prisoner’s squat position. This is not the best position for those with shoulder issues, tight pecs, etc. Please keep hands on hips or folded at your chest. I simply posed like this because it was the best view to demonstrate proper technique in the photograph without blocking my lower body.)

3. Side Plank

Same as the plank, but you’ll start on your side with the elbow underneath the shoulder. You can keep the knees on the ground (recommended for beginners or those with back issues) or be on your toes. Lift hips and keep your body in one straight line. Hold this for 30-60 seconds each side. Keep breathing.

 

Tuesday/Thursday Metabolic Workout

Warm Up: Jog in place or do jumping jacks for 30 seconds.

Choose one cardio activity (walk, jog or run up stairs or on the ground, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, burpees or a combo of any three). Perform at a high intensity for you (while keeping proper form) for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat until you’ve reached 9 minutes, then cool down and walk slowly for the remaining final minute. Take a longer rest between sets if needed.

***This program is designed for healthy individuals with no medical concerns. Always speak with your doctor before performing any exercise program. If you are new to exercise or haven’t exercised in a while (but your doctor has given you the A-OK), start with one set and build your endurance and strength from there. Optimal results can only be obtained with a customized exercise and nutrition program.

For an effective, efficient and longer workout, try the 30-Minute Workout, the Jungle (Gym) Fever workout or contact me at stephsbell@yahoo.com for a customized exercise, nutrition and life coaching program.

Figure 4

Figure 1: Push Up Start Position

Figure 5

Figure 2: Push Up Lower Position

Figure 3 Split Squat (you can use the chair for balance if you are a new exerciser)

Figure 3: Split Squat (you can use the chair for balance if you are a new exerciser)

Plank-tastic!

Figure 4: Plank

Figure 1: Bodyweight Squats

Figure 5: Squat

Slow Down… and Push Up

27 Oct

Oh, the push up. Love it or hate it, this exercise is pure gold. It strengthens many muscles at once, is extremely efficient when time is limited, can be easily modified for various injuries or strength levels and requires no equipment. Hooray!

In order to create the magical win-win for your body, it is muy importante to slow down, engage the abdominals and focus on bending the elbows to lower the body as opposed to collapsing into the shoulder blades. Shall we have a run at it?

1. Place your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders (or place hands on the wall or railing for a modified version). Shift weight back into your heels, draw your belly button towards your spine, tuck your tailbone and keep your shoulder blades wide and head in neutral (see Figure 1). This is your starting position.

Figure 4

Figure 1: Start position

2. Inhale and slowly lower (2 counts) your entire body towards the ground as one unit by bending the elbows (the elbows will point back at a 45 degree angle away from your torso). Keep the shoulders wide and head neutral. Stop once your chest is about a fist distance away from the ground (see Figure 2).

Figure 5

Figure 2: Lowering position

3. Exhale and slowly push your body up as one unit to the start position.

4. Perform 10 reps or as many as you can do with proper form.

Using a secure wall, railing or table works well to modify the exercise (see Figure 3). If you would like to increase difficulty, you may slow the tempo down even more, increase reps to 20 or place your feet on an elevated surface.

Figure 2: Modified Push Up

Figure 3: Modified push up on secure desk

Regardless of what you do, be certain you have proper form and stop the exercise if you feel any pain. It is always ideal to have the expertise of a certified personal trainer to ensure proper form and programming are achieved for your unique needs and goals. And remember, before you start any exercise program, please get the A-OK from your physician.

 

For your customized exercise and nutrition program, please contact me at 402-819-8970 or stephsbell@yahoo.com.

How to Throw a Halloween Hootenanny 101

20 Oct
Austin Powers needs his teeth back! Check out the apple and almond butter recipe here: http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/green-meanies-recipe.htm#

Austin Powers needs his teeth back! Check out the apple and almond butter recipe here: http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/green-meanies-recipe.htm#

Let it be said: I am from the generation that slayed vampires as opposed to falling in love with them and letting them sparkle (it must be noted that Buffy the Vampire Slayer did produce some enjoyable vampires in Angel and Spike). So there’s that. Now, let’s enjoy Halloween minus the guilt, shame, upset stomachs and sugar comas!

 

Here are 2014’s Tips for a Halloween Hootenanny to Remember…

1. Bring Nature In. Rather than decorating with candy corn, use acorns, apples, or leaves to add a homey vibe to your fall decor… or (un)lively things like mummies, zombies and spiders. Whatever…

2. Let it Glow! Swap the spider cupcakes and bloody cookie fingers in your gift bags for a G-rated Rave and hand out some glow sticks.

3. Work Your Thang. Build special memories with your kids and show them (and yourself) that play is fun and important for a healthy body. Start the night with a Mini-Monster’s Ball before your dinner. Play the Monster Mash and other fun Halloween tunes and dance your little vampire heart out. After dinner, join the kiddos and walk house-to-house with them while they trick-or-treat. Take turns thinking of different ways to get to the next house… maybe you do the Igor Foot Slide, the Boogie Man Boogie or the Headless Horseman Trot.

4. Bat Wings, Brains and Barf. Doesn’t that menu just scream “Eat Me!?” Plan a fun Halloween dinner that will actually excite the kids to sit down and eat a healthy meal before trick-or-treating. Think chicken “bat” wings, scrambled “brains,” carrot “fingers” with almond “fingernails” (stick the slivered almonds on the carrots with a little hummus), or guacamole vomit (bonus points for extra chunky and having it come out of a pumpkin or other figure) with vegetable dippers.

5. Savor Your Sweets with Enjoyment and Pleasure. It is Halloween, have your favorite candy or cookie or dark-chocolate dipped carameled apple and enjoy it in the company of your family or friends. The key is to not just devour it, but savor it. Eat it slowly, taking time to notice all of the flavors, colors, textures and feelings. Make it a game and see who can eat the slowest. The more we enjoy food, the less power it has over us and the better we realize that one actually is enough.

6. Spread the Love. Allow your kids to choose 10 pieces of their favorite bite-size candy (a month supply at two pieces per week). Allow them (and yourself) to have one or two pieces of candy that night. Place the remainder in the freezer, picking one night during the week when they may have two more pieces of candy. This will give all of you something to look forward to and know that you aren’t depriving yourself of your favorite sweet treat. After they choose their candy, bag the rest and donate it or throw it away. Many organizations and dentist offices will collect the candy (and some will pay you for it) and donate it to troops overseas. Go to http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com for a list of participating businesses.

Whatever you decide to do this Halloween, laugh often, be safe and enjoy the little moments in life.

How to Flourish In Your Body

6 Oct
Enjoy every experience and be present in the moment... even when you are grocery shopping.

Enjoy every experience and be present in the moment… even when you are grocery shopping.

There is no need to

shame,

beat,

punish or

diet our body to good health.

 

Rather, let us

ACCEPT (that we are perfectly imperfect)

RESPECT (our body and know we deserve to feel amazing)

LISTEN (to our body and what it truly needs)

FEEL (that our self-worth is not in our appearance)

and LOVE our body. (that’s it–just love)

 

Then, true health will SHINE throughout us.

We Never See Our True Beauty

29 Sep
Are you ready to feel amazing?

Are you ready to feel amazing?

I was 17, the summer before senior year, watching a PBS documentary on ballet dancers. I, a dancer myself, was in awe of their beauty and grace. About 10 minutes into the documentary, I had an awakening.  Let me back up…

Like many females, I have wrestled with body image issues since I was young. I was called a “dog” more times than I care to admit and have been ridiculed for being too skinny, too flat-chested, too dorky, too everything! Unfortunately, I chose to believe those comments and soon found myself staring at my body and face in the mirror with hatred and disgust. All I could see was a homely girl with frizzy hair, glasses, a flat chest and a big butt. I even created a mantra in high school, “I’m glad I’m not pretty, because I actually had to develop a personality.” I used that mantra a lot.

But then came that PBS documentary. As I was watching the ballerinas, I realized they were small-chested like me; had a muscular butt and thighs like me. I went numb processing that discovery. For once in my life, I felt like I belonged. I felt like it was finally okay to have the body I have, regardless of what anybody else said.

We never see our true beauty…

I’m not over my body issues. I’ve used food to cope with loneliness and to “fix” me; and I’ve believed that when I’m prettier with a better body, I will finally deserve happiness. I worry because I work in the fitness industry—an industry notorious for placing emphasis on how an individual looks, rather than how healthy and happy they feel—and who wants to train with a fitness coach who has a (gasp!) flawed body?! Through a lot of practice, I’ve become more mindful, more aware that I don’t have to wait until I’m “fixed” to live my life fully. There’s nothing to fix.

Breathe that in… there is nothing to fix.

Whether we’ve been teased for being too fat or too thin; too tall or too short; red hair or blond hair—it hurts all the same. I work with amazing people who struggle daily with losing weight, feeling energetic and healthy, knowing what to eat and thinking that their life would be better if only they looked like this month’s magazine cover girl. I can relate. So, here’s a thought, let’s work on loving ourselves, on embracing our beauty, showing compassion towards others, being mindful of our own needs and celebrating each other for our intelligence, humor and grace. Let’s encourage each other to have strong, healthy bodies; let’s compliment each other; let’s be ridiculously gorgeous without apology; let’s cook healthy amazing food and feed it to our friends and family; let’s be the person our loved ones can be proud of—that we can be proud of. Let us just BE… and embrace all that that is.

If you would like to feel truly nourished and create self-acceptance and body freedom, join me for a 6-week course beginning October 21st, 2014. Please email or call for more details. 402-819-8970 or stephsbell@yahoo.com.

Negative Self Talk: A Love Story

18 Aug
IMG_1126

Sometimes you feel like you are struggling to get to the top, until you realize just how beautiful the journey is.

One day Negative Nancy met Negative Ned at the grocery store. Which, of course, never really happened because they were both so caught up in their own head that they couldn’t even acknowledge each other. Thus Negative Nancy and Negative Ned continued being negative.

Then one day Negative Nancy was checking out the strawberries because, as she told herself, “I’m so fat. I need to eat better, because this,” she grabbed her stomach, “is so disgusting.” Negative Ned was two feet away at the supplements aisle checking out the protein powder because he thought, “I need to get ripped. No woman wants to date some scrawny loser.”

Negative Nancy placed her strawberries in her cart and glanced to see an attractive man looking at supplements. That same man she saw two weeks ago. They made eye contact. She immediately looked down, slouched her posture and thought, “He’s so handsome. He can’t see me–I look horrible. Get out of here!”

As Negative Ned turned towards the fruit stand to buy some berries for his protein smoothie, he made eye contact with a beautiful woman. That same beautiful woman he saw two weeks ago. “Say something, smile. No,” he told himself, “she’d never talk to you.”

Negative Nancy and Negative Ned stole glances from time to time as they continued shopping. Finally, Negative Nancy stopped in an aisle and took a few deep breaths. “Okay. You can do this. You are a smart and caring person. Any man would be lucky to have you. Now stand up straight, and if you are lucky enough to run into him again, smile. You can do this.”

One aisle over, Negative Ned was doing the same thing, “C’mon man. You’re funny, you’re a good guy,” he told himself, “say hello and ask her a question. You got this.”

Once again, Negative Nancy and Negative Ned met… well… their carts crashed into each other.

“Whoa! I’m sorry! I should NOT drink while driving,” Ned said, holding up his water bottle and smiling.

Nancy laughed. They continued chatting and laughing, and then they realized that being Nancy and being Ned felt really good–no–it felt amazing… and Ned totally got her number. Way to go, Ned!

Aww… love stories. Now I want to hear from you. When you notice the negative self talk going on in your head, try these three tips, because you never know what you could be missing around the corner.

  1. Congratulate yourself because you are aware.
  2. Notice how your body is reacting (what is your posture like, how does your stomach feel, etc.).
  3. Take four deep breaths and think of two positive qualities about yourself.

How do you feel now? What is helpful about these three tips? What other strategies do you use that are helpful? Sharing is caring, so leave a comment below.

Go get ’em, Tiger!

Why is Stillness So Dang Hard to Do?

28 Jul
Lauritzen Botanical Gardens, Omaha, NE. I find peace in nature.

Lauritzen Botanical Gardens, Omaha, NE. I find peace in nature.

It’s scary to be still.

Our brain can be such a nasty thing when we want to be present. “Hey lazy,” it will shout, “how about you get off your butt and do something for once! Try losing a few pounds, loser. You aren’t going to get that promotion–you’re not good enough. Ya sure, they’d go out with you–if you were the last person on Earth.”

Ouch.

It’s a blessing that we aren’t our thoughts. In fact, sometimes they desire a verbal Kung Fu chop back to reality with factual examples of all the times you’ve experienced success–big or small. “Hey Brain. Actually, I just finished a 30-minute workout and replaced my daily soda with this awesome herbal tea–I feel great! And even though I’m nervous waiting to find out about the promotion, that’s okay. I’ve increased my productivity and I’m proud of it. And… I really want to get to know this person and the only way I can know for sure is to ask. Plus, if I was actually the loser person you say I am, then I wouldn’t have such great friends.”

Ka Pow! Kung Fu chopped.

Turn your attention inward again. Listen to your breathing for 10 deep breaths. Listen to your body, not your brain. What is it telling you?

And smile… always smile.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you ever find your monkey mind trash talking yourself with negativity? If so, what do you do or say to silence it?