Monthly Archives: September 2010

Seeing my body for the first time

Sometime in early 2010, I looked in the mirror and really saw my body for the first time.

Of course, it’s not like I’d never looked in a mirror before. In fact, I’ve probably done more than my fair share of that, sitting in front of the mirror scrutinizing every bulge and dimple and zit <insert woeful body flaw here>. But finally, one day stopped in front of the mirror and really saw my body for what it was. I don’t believe I am my body. I’m not a body with a soul inside, but a soul with a body and I finally realized how the two are connected. In that imperfect image of myself, I didn’t see a couple skin blemishes or full thighs, the soft stomach or wide hips. I saw everything I’d been going through reflected in the mirror. I saw the anxiety and stress I’d been carrying around, the lack of rest and the harsh judgment I’d been inflicting on myself.

This body is a manifestation of my life. If I have dark circles under my eyes, it’s because I neglected to get enough sleep. If I’m carrying extra weight, it’s because I didn’t listen to what my body wanted. My poor body is completely at my mercy, a dear friend whom I’ve neglected. It’s my job to take care of it the way it’s taken care of me.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Stress busting toolkit

I feel kind of stupid writing a post about stress relief when I spend half my time on the verge of exploding. I’m surprised my cortisol levels aren’t shooting out my ears. Obviously, this is something I need to work on, so why not write a post?

As a bona fide type A personality, I like to write lists and set goals. If you don’t believe me, check out my Happiness Project and my Handprint List.

I’ve been an emotional eater all my life, and though I’m getting better stress is the one emotion that causes me to hunt down the nearest chocolate bar while practically foaming at the mouth. Today was just one of those days, so now I’m collapsed on my couch with my laptop perched on top of my food baby. Time to find a better plan.

I compiled a list of simple techniques to try instead of causing a world chocolate shortage:

  • Listen to music (Dave Matthews seems to work pretty well.)
  • Do some Ujjayi breathing. Preferably when I’m alone so I don’t scare anyone.
  • Sneak into an empty room and do some stretches
  • Journal
  • Talk to someone
  • Go for a walk, or a furious run. If I can’t leave maybe hop on the stationary bike and pretend I’m riding away to a sunny beach somewhere.
  • Stick my face in a pillow and scream (I haven’t done this for awhile, but I remember it feeling pretty good) then I can pound on it if I want.
  • Watch an episode of the Muppet Show. If I don’t have time, watch that clip of Beaker, Swedish Chef and Animal singing Danny Boy. (Yes, this is the kind of stuff that makes me laugh. Don’t knock it.)
  • Clean or organize something. Better yet, get rid of something.
  • Play with Louka or Meeko (my calm kitty and my cousin’s psycho kitty)
  • Take a bath
  • Sing.

I taped this to the back of my notebook in high school. I might have actually used it once.


I must still be stressed. I can tell because my writing gets really snarky, but I’m not in a bad mood or anything. Hopefully when this posts in the morning, I’ll be refreshed and calm.

Do you have any tricks to manage your stress?

Spending out


Hi, I’m McKella and I am a tightwad.

Not that that’s a bad thing. I’m very frugal and it’s helped me a lot over the years, but sometimes I toe the line between frugal and downright cheap.

For example, I don’t have health insurance. I’m four months overdue for my annual checkup, I haven’t been to the dentist in three years and I use each pair of contacts much longer than recommended.

Spend out is another rule borrowed from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. I didn’t include it in my original happiness rules because…well, I really don’t know. Maybe I was afraid, or I didn’t think I had a problem. So I’ve decided to spend out and just cough it up for the things I need that I’ve been putting off.

  • Go to the freaking doctor.
  • Replace my running shoes
  • Look into getting health insurance.
  • Get a few new shirts- a bunch of mine are getting holey and threadbare.
  • Razor cartridges
  • Order new contacts
  • Get a dental exam

Also, yesterday I purchased something I’ve never had before: real workout clothes. We’re talking that nice DryWic stuff and clothes that were made for actually exercising instead of ratty t shirts and cutoff sweats. And you know what? I think I worked out harder, I felt stronger.

Buy the things you need .You’re worth it. However, recognize the difference between wants and needs. My wants list:

  • iPhone- would be awesome and practical, but I have a perfectly functional Samsung Solstice
  • Nicer Camera- the one I have isn’t great. Actually, it’s pretty lousy, but funds don’t allow right now, and I’m not a food blogger or anything so I don’t actually need it right now.
  • A mountain bike- don’t have time to use it like I’d like to, and winter’s on the way.

Don’t be cheap. Take care of yourself first. You deserve to be healthy, secure, and happy, so use good judgment and put your money into those areas.

Happiness Project: Mindfulness

Wow, it’s Monday already! I hope everyone had an awesome weekend, because I sure did.

This past week, I worked on being more mindful as part of my Happiness Project. If you’re a new reader, check out these links:

Learning to be Happy parts 1, 2, and 3

My Happiness Project: Health

My mindful guidelines:

  • Be here now: I think everyone who isn’t a Buddhist monk has a hard time with this, because our minds are spinning out of control and we’re always thinking about everything except where we are and what we’re doing right now. For me, this usually means worrying about the future and wishing for the past. This week, I made an effort to rein in my thoughts. When I started to stress out about money, I pulled my mind back to the present and focused on what I was reading. I tried to pay attention to each bite of food I put in my mouth and describe it to myself. What does the sky look like today? How warm is it? Are the leaves any redder than they were yesterday?
  • Sing like I mean it- To be honest, I kind of forgot about this one. I took voice lessons for years, but I quit and now my voice is in pretty bad shape, but singing is such a freeing thing. However, last night at my family’s house, I did decide to play my little brother’s guitar and sing Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic” at the top of my lungs. By the way, I’ve never played guitar in my life. My husband was pretty amused and there’s probably a video on the internet somewhere.
  • Keep better track of spending- Also, still need to work on this. I  check my account every day and keep a general total in my head, but I really need to write everything down. I used to be a stickler for checkbook balancing, budgeting and coupon clipping. No need to be extreme, but I need a little more discipline.
  • Honor my emotions- By this, I mean not using food to handle emotions, but to embrace them. Also, not feeling bad about the way I feel (wrap your brain around that one for a second, but that’s what I do) I stopped to think about what I was doing before I dove into the M&M bowl I hide in our room.  I write about what I’m feeling, gush to my aunt and cousin, and take breaks when I need them. Surprisingly, I don’t feel anywhere near as overwhelmed as I did a week ago.
  • Limit screen time- I started off trying to limit computer time to 45 minutes a day, but I realized I don’t waste much time on the internet watching videos or playing games. I spend a lot of time researching and reading useful information, writing, promoting my blog, networking, etc. I did limit the idle time watching videos and stuff like that, but now I’m much more mindful off what I’m doing on the computer and I realize it’s not a bad thing.

Though I wasn’t perfect, I feel I made significant progress this week, at least with managing my emotions and living now. Now just for managing my money…

Next week: Attitude


Decide to have fun

-Dress nicely. And shower every day.

-Don’t let myself off the hook

Act the way I want to feel

Looking forward, living now

Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought “If only I could look like I did in high school…” or “I was happy when…”

I love to remember. I’ve kept journals for years and my entire life is documented in carefully crafted scrapbooks created by either me or my mother, and I look at them often. I reminisce about how great life was back then and how hard it is now. I’ve always thought that way, even during those times upon which I now remember with fondness. In the future, I’ll probably look back on my current life and think “Those were the days. Life sucks now.”

Part of living authentically is to accept you current self instead of longing for another time or place; your body the way it is now. Your living situation today. This doesn’t mean you’re life is perfect now or that you can change or improve. It means to learn to be happy now instead of waiting for things to change or for a time to return.

Even though I love my body the way it is, I still look at pictures of myself when I was 19 and think “I felt so great at that weight. I want to feel like that again.”

I have a lot in common with this girl, but I don’t think like she did. My body doesn’t look the same. I just retired that tank top because I wore the crud. I still climb trees, but this girl is my past.

This girl is my present. I probably look exactly the same to you, but I see a huge difference. Different struggles, experiences, two years married and 20 pounds heavier.

Work with what you have now. Be your best now, because what worked for you last year may not work today. You may not be the same person you were in college. I’ll never be the girl in the first picture again, but that’s ok. I’m just as great as she was, and I’m only getting better.

Learn from the past, but look to the future and focus on now. These are the good old days.


How to Move with Joy

Forget everything you know about exercise for a minute. I know the word “workout” strikes fear into the heart of many and conjures up images of clanking metal weight machines and seconds ticking down on a treadmill, misery and the like, but it does have to be that way. Unless you want it to, of course.


Moving your body is meant to feel good. How do you like to move? Do you love kayaking, or hiking, or riding your bike around town to save gas money? Perfect, do that. The idea of “joyful movement” is foreign to many, so here’s how to love moving.

In my experience, it boils down to three things: Motivation, finding a form of movement you love, and making sure you have time to do it. Those first two can be reversed if you want; moving just because is great, but I like knowing how it’s helping me too, because that helps a little more with #3.

1- Finding movement you love. What did you love to do as a child? What do you dream of doing now? Make a list of active things that sound fun to you, and try them all until you find something you can do regularly, or just keep trying new things. This doesn’t have to be things like rock climbing or white water rafting (though it could be) it could be something as simple as walking, hiking, and playing tag with your kids. For me, I prefer walking, hiking, and yoga. I have a list of more adventurous stuff, but these are the three that require the least money and equipment and I can do them regularly.

2-Find time to do it– You’ve heard the advice to “schedule” a “workout” like you would any other appointment, but  that just feels like another thing I have to do and that makes me want to do it less. I find routine works best, so I take a walk or hike first thing every morning, and I try to do yoga before bed. Find a routine that harmonizes with you day, so you’ll start looking forward to it, and your family will also get used to the routine and hopefully respect it.

3-Motivation– sometimes, the weather is awful or I just don’t feel like working out. There’s a difference between feeling ill and feeling lazy. If I’m lazy or the weather is awful, sometimes I just go to a gym or do a workout video. It’s never my first choice, but I know if I don’t exercise, I get cranky and just feel “off”, so I usually do it even if I don’t want to. Acknowledge what exercise does for you, and go above the “It keeps me skinny” crap. Instead, focus on how movement gives you alone time, or helps you manage stress and anxiety, or how you have so much more energy when you take your morning bike ride.

Let you exercise be fluid to suit you. Some weeks, I like intense cardio and even throw in some weight lifting and others, I just want a brisk walk followed by some stretching. If you’re going through a stressful time like getting married or moving, now is not the time to train for a marathon. Let exercise complement and improve your life, not take over it. The last thing you want to do is stress over something that’s meant to be enjoyed.

What sort of movement brings you joy?

8 Things to do on a bad body day

You’ve coming a long way in learning to love your body with all it’s beautiful imperfections and quirks, but those days, the ones where you feel like hiding in bed all day so you don’t have to face the mirror, are bound to happen once in a while. We all have them. I do all the time. Here’s  what I do to turn it around:

  1. Exercise…or not. Exercise helps you sweat out toxins and stress while releasing calming hormones called endorphins. You’ll raise your energy level all day and possibly strike a truce with your body during you’re run, but exercise may not do it for you today. If you’ve been pushing your body through killer workouts or if you’re starting to develop a negative view of exercise, you might need a break. Go for a calm walk or just skip the workout all together and read a book instead. Listen to your body and your soul to know what you need today.
  2. Wear something flattering and comfortable: Ideally, your wardrobe should make you feel confident and comfortable, but if you have a favorite pair of jeans or a cute dress you’ve been waiting to wear, today’s the day to do it. No tight waistbands, pinchy shoes, or ill-fitting pants. You’ll never feel comfortable in your skin if you’re uncomfortable in your clothes.
  3. Do something you enjoy and excel at: confidence in your abilities helps breed confidence of your body.
  4. Avoid damaging media: stay away from magazines, movies and tv today. Bodies are portrayed unrealistically in the media, and looking at them might trigger comparision thinking, which never helps you.
  5. Instead, read an inspiring book: read Hunger by Crystal Renn, or another book that celebrates all kinds of beauty, or that emphasizes other virtues.
  6. Don’t starve and don’t stuff: Nothing makes me feel worse about my body than feelings stuffed and bloated after eating too much. You may be susceptible to emotional eating today, so be careful to pay extra attention to your hunger and fullness signals.
  7. Stay busy…or not. Use your judgement to decide what you need: to rest, or to keep occupied so you have less time to dwell on the negative. You know yourself best.
  8. Write, if it helps you. List the parts of your body and personality that you love and why, or try finding something you like about your least favorite parts.

What do you do when you feel bad about your body?

Unschooling myself

College graduation wasn’t as delightful as I’d hoped. I didn’t expect much and looking back I probably should have just had them mail my diploma, but I think I wanted some sort of recognition for the four years and thousands of dollars I sunk into this degree that left me with little in the way of actual life skills. Earlier that semester, I got bored in an art history class so I made a list of useful things I knew. I then highlighted the ones I’d learned in school.

Not many.

Feeling “Ripped off” doesn’t cover it.

Soon after graduation, I discovered the concept of unschooling. It’s hard to define, but basically unschooling is letting our natural learning instincts drive our education. Instead of forcing ourselves through school, we can let interests naturally develop and we will learn what we need in order to accomplish our goals. The heavens open and a ray of sunlight fell across my computer screen and I knew I’d struck gold.

I decided to give this unschooling thing a try and let my intuitive drive to learn lead the way. What did I do?

I read a ton of blogs.

Went for a lot of walks.

Read books.

Watched a season of Supernatural.

Freaked out because I was supposed to be a learning machine now, but I was just wasting time!

Or was I?

My unschooling resources mentioned “deschooling”, which is basically a recovery period. My brain was taking a much-needed rest, but even though I didn’t seem to be doing much, I later realized that I was learning!

Learning doesn’t always look like it does in a classroom. It doesn’t require textbooks or three-ring binders or hard metal desks. I learned all kinds of things from blogs and I researched topics that interested me. My brain sucked up info from everything around me whether it was books, tv, things I observed on my walks, and things I noticed happening in my mind and body now that I allowed them to run free.

So I urge you to take some time and let your mind loose. See the value in everything you do, even if it feels like you’re wasting time.

My Happiness Project: Health

Continued from Learning to be Happy: Part 3

Happy Monday everyone!

I’ve spent the last week on part one of my personal happiness project, and I’ve focused on improving my health through a short list of guidelines I made for myself.

Here’s how I did:

–          Do a little yoga each day– Didn’t happen every day, but most days. I’ve noticed on the days I did practice, I had more energy and I felt all loosey-goosesy instead of my usual achey upper-back and tight hips. I’ll keep working on this one.

–          Learn to move more– Being a full-time nanny is draining sometimes, so instead of sneaking out for a cookie-dough shake in the evenings or diving into my hidden pint of chocolate hazelnut fudge ice cream, I took walks in the evenings, which helped me unwind and calm down much better than a sugar jolt.

–          Take my vitamins– I remembered about 70% of the time. Whole food vitamins are usually multiple pills taken several times a day. I remembered in the  mornings, most of the time at lunch and only a few times in the evenings. I didn’t used to believe in supplements because I reasoned that good food should have all the nutrition we need, but healthy food isn’t what it used to be and I’d have to eat a ton to get everything I need. I currently take a women’s  multi, herbal iron, fish oil, and an herbal complex called MindTrac to help with anxiety. Also an herbal tincture when I feel overwhelmed or panicky. I plan to add a B complex soon and D3 during the winter.

–          Honor my hunger and fullness– this one is always hard for me, and I’m still working on it. Most of the problem is that I rarely feel hungry. I’m a snacker, so when I feel a glimmer of hunger, I eat and don’t get hungry for awhile. Sometimes I just nibble throughout the day without giving myself a chance to get obviously hungry. I can’t decide if this is a good thing or not. Also, I’m a textbook emotional eater. If I’m stressed out, you can bet I’m searching for the nearest chocolate bar. I’ve been trying to take walks instead.

–          Treats should stay treats– I’m the kind of person who loves dessert every day, so I try to stick to a couple pieces of dark chocolate or a scoop of chocolate hazelnut butter when I want something sweet and then have a real dessert twice a week or so and really pay attention to it.

–          Spend time outside every day– Also hard sometimes, because when I get a break, I usually plop down on the couch to write or read and only go outside to dump the compost bucket, feed the dogs or throw away dirty diapers. I take walks outside though and try to enjoy the time I do spend out there. Maybe I’ll throw in a few park visits with the kids this week.

Nobody’s perfect, but progress is much more important than perfection. I’ll continue to work on my health.

Next week: mindfulness

-Be here now

– Sing like I mean it

-Keep better track of spending

-Honor my emotions

-Limit screen time

PS: if you’d like to join me in the Happiness Project, leave me a comment and/or post it on your blog!

Emotions aren’t emergencies

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn about intuitive eating is that while it’s important to honor your hunger, hunger isn’t an emergency. Food is available everywhere and I’m in no danger of starving even if I’m not able to eat at the moment.

A lesson I learned today is that like hunger, emotions aren’t emergencies either. They may feel immediate and like the most important thing in the world, but they pass. Sadness, anger, or boredom isn’t the end of the world. While it’s important to acknowledge our feelings, we don’t have to scramble for a distraction or a solution if we’re uncomfortable. Sometimes, you just have to wait it out. Take a walk, do something with your hands, read something uplifting, but all you can really do sometimes is wait. Also, don’t make the mistake I did today and compound garden-variety melancholy with guilt. Everyone feels that way sometimes, even if it’s totally unreasonable.

It passes. Feel it, embrace it, don’t worry about it.