I am a detox junkie. As the owner of a juice company, I definitely have tried and tested my fare share of cleanses, detox programs and wellness retreats. About a year and half ago, I traveled to India to do some work with traditional medicine doctors and at the end of the six weeks, I scheduled a week of cleansing at a lovely beachside center in a quiet area of Goa.
As I have done many cleanses and detoxes in the past, I was pretty sure I knew what I was in for. Wake up, yoga, nap, meditate and massage with juicing in between each. Five days later, you leave feeling lighter and happier. And while the experience began exactly as I had predicted, I was not prepared for the intense emotional work that would also go on during my time at the retreat.
You see, it’s very easy to get caught up in thinking that because you know all about nutrition and health, your health will automatically flourish and you will drop all the extra weight you want. Of course, we all have struggles, but I always blame those extra 5 lbs on my inability to get it together and work out 5 days a week instead of 3, or for eating dessert one too many times in a week. You know, the normal beating-up of ourselves that we are all guilty of.
After doing bloodwork and other tests during my stay, however, what the nutritional consultants found was that all of the roadblocks on my journey were caused by one thing and one thing only: STRESS. Nothing could have made me feel LESS in control and more confused than that dose of information because, to be honest, that is not just something you can decide to change.
At least that’s what I thought. What I learned, however, is that there are many coping mechanisms we can use to reduce stress in our lives, and they all start with one idea: live in the present moment. When you are under duress – be it from work or family obligations, emotional issues, moving, relationship changes – your body reacts. It may not react in ways you notice automatically, but it reacts. It sends out little signals that often times we all just mask with an advil or a big meal and never really get to the root of the issue. Our bodies are trying to warn us and get our immune system into action and we just interject with our invasive pills and negative thoughts.
What also starts happening during stress is that your body begins to store fat, especially in your midsection. Our bodies have not caught up with the kind of stress we are under in our daily lives, so when it senses stress, it assumes we are about to go hungry like cavemen centuries ago. In reality, our bodies are trying to take care of us, and we continue to just beat them up and get angry when we don’t lose the extra weight.
While I was working on an inventory of stressors in my life, I thought back on this year and all of the thoughts and feelings I had been holding on to and not even realizing it – some which was out of my hands and others, however difficult it is for me to admit, I created and perpetuated for myself. In any case, it was time to be done with letting stress rule my life. I did a lot of work on the retreat letting go of emotional blocks which, once I worked them out of my system, have changed the way I view my life and the possibilities for myself. Much to my surprise, the extra pounds just started to melt away.
Here are some beginners mechanisms for releasing, to be used as a bridge to starting the deeper work.
1. Keep a journal: Write a few pages of free thoughts each morning upon waking up and just get out all of the blocks that might be hindering you during the day.
2. Take 2 minutes to just sit up in bed and breathe in and out slowly before you get up in the morning: You do not have to be a yogi to do this. We were all given lungs – let’s use them!
3. After getting up, make yourself a cup of warm water with lemon with a teaspoon each of raw honey and apple cider vinegar. This will alkalize your body and bring balance to the start of your day.
4. Start waking up on a positive note: Say this affirmation either in your head – or, if you are willing to really go for it, out loud in the mirror: I love and accept myself just the way I am. Try to keep repeating it to yourself throughout the day until you really believe it and feel it with your heart. You can tailor this to whatever works for you and it really makes a big difference. It is about practicing gratitude and taking a positive attitude towards the person that you are. What is the point of narrating our lives if we don’t root for ourselves?
5. Don’t let yourself get hungry: Always keep snacks on hand that don’t take your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride. Carrots and celery with hummus, almond butter, raw goat cheddar, raisins, apples, greek yogurt with raw honey, almonds and walnuts are all good choices. These will not make you fat – you need sustenance in order to burn calories.
6. Make lists! Each week, write out your goals for the week with deadlines next to them. List one goal per page, think about the steps it will take to make each one happen and write them down underneath. Go back to your goals notebook and check off items as you go. Be present- don’t freak out if you miss a deadline or if you have been slacking, just feel good about what you are capable of doing in this moment.
7. Give yourself a treat each evening. Whether this be a bubble bath and a trashy magazine, a big piece of dark chocolate (preferably raw!), a peaceful walk after dinner, meeting up with a friend or listening to your favorite music – just enjoy the moment and keep life fun.
8. Meditate a couple of times a week at the end of the night. This is similar to your breathing in the morning. I find that people are so scared of meditation because they think they need to know something that they dont. In reality, what I mean by meditation is simply just being, lying down and relaxing in one spot and just thinking nothing. Try saying the words “relax” or “I am” over and over in your mind. Put on some good meditative music if you like and just chill out.
9. Take the word “try” out of your vocabulary. Seriously. Your subconscious mind does not recognize this word. It has no idea what it means, so when you say you are going to try to work out tomorrow or try to finish that presentation, you are setting yourself up to fail. Start thinking in the affirmative – “I will work out tomorrow” – and see what follows. You’ll surprise yourself at what you can accomplish.
This is your life, and you really only need to be accountable to yourself. Trust yourself that you can get these things done and just go for them. Once you release the small stresses from your life, you will be able to see more clearly to start to do something about the bigger ones. There is no reason our lives should be ruled by stress and misery – this is just our egos bringing us down. Once you get the real person underneath to live in the present and believe in their own possibilities, the little negative voice that used to nag at us just… disappears.
It’s amazing what we are capable of. The key is not being hard on ourselves and working with what we have – right here, right now.