Change and Self-Love: Is it Love/Hate?

I think part of the reason that health and health promoting behaviors have taken on a negative context in many of our minds is because of an approach that was popular beginning in the 80s to push past our limits in pursuit of “something better”. We adopted this inner voice that was angry and condescending: “pain is weakness leaving the body”, “just do it”, “no pain, no gain”. We picked up this posture that we had to fight against ourselves to make changes because our defaults were bad. The world told us that we were not ok as we were and that if we weren’t pursuing a stronger, smaller, better, faster version of ourselves, what were we even doing?

The conversation is FINALLY starting to shift – and rightfully so. Research shows that self-love can lead to higher self-esteem, more motivation, stronger determination, increased self-awareness, less anxiety, and better sleep – all essential to successful health behavior change. So, how can you cultivate more self-love? These are some things that continue to help me (and I say continue because self-love is definitely an on-going practice).

  1. Separate your self-worth from external things. What the heck does that mean? Often we equate our worth with our appearance, our achievements, or our talents. The truth is, though, that our worth as people is fixed. It does not increase or decrease with body size/shape, steps forward or backward in our careers, or abilities gained or lost. It is static, no matter what. Understanding that is foundational to loving yourself.
  2. Shut down negative self-talk. I’ve told y’all this is a hill I will die on, and I mean it. Your inner dialog with yourself matters SO much. When you switch Negative Nancy off, and instead approach yourself with compassion and curiosity, and dare I say it, positivity, it makes it much easier to build a better relationship with yourself.
  3. Listen to yourself. Listening to your internal cues and honoring what you need is a great way to build trust with yourself. If you’re feeling exhausted, get curious about why that is and try to give yourself what you need, instead of being annoyed that you’re tired and trying to push yourself through.
  4. Practice gratitude. Take a minute or two each day to acknowledge the things you have and the things you can do. Focus on the things that are abundant rather than lacking.
  5. Cultivate your strengths. Take time to get to know what you’re good at, and position yourself to be able to do those things on a regular basis. While it’s good to work on weaknesses too, putting yourself in a place where you are constantly having to work ONLY with your weaknesses can be incredibly demoralizing. Make sure you spending time cultivating your strengths, and using them often.

I had a conversation with a client last week where she said, “I’m at a good place right now. I feel like I appreciate myself exactly as I am right now. I still have this goal I want to meet, but I’m also ok in the space that I’m currently in.” I asked her how that felt. “It feels easy” she said. And that’s the trick to change – reaching the place with yourself where you separate loving yourself from meeting your goal.

So, here are three questions for you to consider: What if I just loved myself for who I am right now? How would things change? If I’m feeling resistant to loving myself as I currently am, where is that resistance coming from?

I invite you to sit with those questions this week and think about your responses. What insights do they give you? What could you apply from those insights right now to move to a more loving place?

If you’re curious about more self-love content, I’ll have more on my Instagram all throughout the month. Looking forward to a great February and I hope it’s full of more self-love!

MB

 


My Biggest Take-Aways from 2022

2022 has been a rollercoaster of a year, personally and professionally. Many of y’all don’t know this, but I started this year started with a cancer diagnosis. On January 3, I was literally in the middle of working on my goals for the year when my plastic surgeon called and said the cyst they removed from my neck wasn’t actually a cyst but head and neck cancer. Long story short, that initial diagnosis was wrong and what I actually had was a rare type of benign tumor, but I spent the first week of January thinking my year was going to look VERY different from the goals I’d been in the middle of writing.

The silver lining of that experience (other than the fact that I didn’t actually have cancer) is that it really put some things in perspective for me. If I had to put a fine point on it, I’d define 2022 as the year of quitting: leaving a job that offered security but didn’t serve my long-term goals, no longer defining my next moves by what everyone around me was doing, stepping away from drawing confidence from external sources and learning how to build it from within, and letting go of the fear of not being “the most”. Here are my biggest takeaways from a crazy year:

Put your blinders on more often.

When I first started MB Wellness, I spent a lot of time looking to others to shape my coaching style: how did they frame questions, what worked best for them, who was their target market, what were they charging. While all of that is important and valid information to have as you build a business, I was letting it get too inside my head. I felt like if I didn’t do things the way my colleagues in the industry were, I was doing something wrong. But I saw holes in the process that didn’t address some key things I was hearing from the clients I was coaching: the impact of negative self-talk, perfectionism, embracing “selfish”, and learning to change from a place of self-love. So, I decided I was going to stop paying attention to what everyone else was doing and start shaping a coaching practice and style that was more attuned to what I felt as a professional was right. As soon as I made this shift, I immediately felt more comfortable and confident as a coach. Being truer to myself made me a much better coach to my clients. I still check in with my colleagues and update myself on industry standards, but I also have a much better sense of when to put my blinders on and worry less about what everyone else is doing.

Setting Boundaries and Saying No Does Not Make You a Bad Person.

It will surprise no one when I say I’m a people pleaser. I’ve said this before, but I have always derived a lot of satisfaction from helping people. I’ve spent most of my career in service-related fields. Working jobs that require me to give a lot of emotional energy to others means I also need more down time than I’ve allotted myself in the past. I used to feel like I needed to say yes to everything: helping a coworker with a project even if it meant putting my work on the back burner, being a listening ear even when I needed to spend that time doing something else, going to dinner on Friday night even when I’m completely exhausted. I’m slowly learning that there has to be a balance – sometimes I should say yes to these things, but there are also times when I should say no. I also am still working on not feeling guilt over it, but the more I practice this, the easier it gets. It certainly feels easier to let ourselves down in the moment, but we generally pay more for it in the long run. Finding ways to gently enforce my boundaries and protect my time has been a tricky lesson, but it’s one I’m looking forward to continuing in 2023.

You Don’t Have to Know Everything to Be Great.

Oh, perfectionism! Quite possibly my greatest enemy and the thing that holds me back the most. I have worked VERY hard to back away from my perfectionist tendencies this year. I also came to the realization that my perfectionistic tendencies show up in feeling like I am never qualified enough to do what I do (group fitness/training, coaching, you name it). I am great at what I do – something I would literally have cringed to say/write out loud a year ago – but I’m ok saying that now because I know it to be true. I know where I excel, and I also know where I don’t. I am always learning and as a former supervisor put it, I am a “prolific consumer of professional development” because I never want to plateau. Sometimes that drive makes me feel like I shouldn’t be doing something until I’m an expert, but the reality is I already know everything I need to know to be great at what I do. Will I always keep learning and evolving – yes! But being great while still continuing to learn and growth can co-exist.

Ditching the Scale is the Best Thing I’ve Ever Done for My Mindset (and My Fitness Routine)!

This one is a little different from the others but its impact has been no less significant. On December 31, 2020, I decided 2021 would be the year I said goodbye to my at-home scale. Not weighing myself regularly did wonders for my mindset throughout 2021 and that continued in 2022. Now almost two years later I can say I will never go back to having a scale in my house. I don’t check my weight at the doctor’s office. Walking away from the scale helped me shift my mindset away from listening to a number instead of listening to my body. I stopped worrying about exercise as a way to burn calories and instead I do the workouts and exercises I love. I take rest days when I need to and I don’t worry about it when I miss a workout. It has taken so much pressure off and helped me realize I don’t need to weigh myself to stay healthy.

 Confidence and Self-Love Don’t Come from External Changes.

Of all the things that have come into focus for me in 2022, this is the most important one. Like many of us, I’ve spent most of my life seeking confidence from external validation – accomplishments in sports, academia, or my career, new PRs in races or on the weight rack, looking a certain way. For years, no matter how many goals I hit that I thought would make me more confident, they never did. This year I have focused a lot more on what makes me feel good, and what surprised me is how much this has translated into a lot more confidence. Now that I type that out, I realize how obvious it sounds, but it wasn’t obvious to me before. Tuning external data points out and really zeroing in on what makes me feel like my most authentic, energized, happy, fulfilled self has resulted in naturally boosting my confidence. And those things that make me feel good have nothing to do with my appearance or accomplishments. I’ve been focusing on the things I mentioned in the previous paragraphs: putting my blinders on and worrying less about what others are doing, setting boundaries and protecting my time, working through my perfectionist tendencies, and removing things from my life that cost me peace (looking at you, bathroom scale). I’m going to continue focusing on confidence in 2023, and I can’t wait to see what else I learn.

2022 was a year full of change and challenge for me, but I think it’s also been my biggest year of personal growth in a long time. I am so excited to see what 2023 brings!

What are your biggest take-aways from 2022? Take a minute to reflect on them and how you can carry them forward into 2023!

Rooting for you!

MB


What Does the New Taylor Swift Album Have to do with Coaching?

It’s been almost a month since Taylor Swift released her newest album, Midnights. I binge-listened to it repeatedly on a drive back to FL from NC after visiting my family there, and as I was listening the second time through, I started thinking, “why does this feel like I’m listening to months’ worth of work with clients in an album?”

I think part of the reason this album grabbed people the way it did is how deeply personal Swift gets. I found myself hearing the lyrics and thinking, “oh my gosh, me too” so many times. For me, the line “Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby, and I’m a monster on the hill” in “Anti-Hero” really struck me because I spent a lot of my youth feeling that way (if you read my last blog post, this makes more sense). Around the time I started to become very aware of my body was also the time my height really began to make me stand out (no pun intended). I often felt like a towering monster in a crowd of small, cute girls. And this isn’t the only lyric that grabbed me: “He wanted a bride, I was making my own name”, “Everything you lose is a step you take”, and “Didn't notice you walking all over my peace of mind in the shoes I gave you as a present. Putting someone first only works when you're in their top five” to name a few. I’m sure there were quite a few lines in the album that made y’all feel the same way.

So, what the heck does this have to do with coaching? Well, a lot actually.

Taylor Swift is very open about her insecurities and flaws in the album. The coaching process asks that level of awareness from anyone who goes through it.

People often tell me that some coaching sessions feel like therapy. And while coaching is definitely NOT therapy (and shouldn’t be treated that way), there is a serious level of self-awareness that is part of the process. You do have to be open about your vulnerabilities, strengths, and behavior patterns in order to understand how to make the changes you’d like to see. Building habits involves a level of deconstruction and un-learning as much as it does learning new things. The way Taylor deconstructs herself throughout the album and takes us through lessons she’s learned in her life really made me feel like I was going through several months’ of client work in one sitting. The highs of gaining confidence, the lows of failure, the struggle of acknowledging things you don’t do well, and the strength and power you gain from confronting it all – it’s all there.

Swift acknowledges quite a few ways she self-sabotages in Midnights, and in the change process this is something that must be confronted.

Ooooo this is a tough one for people to acknowledge at times, but self-sabotage plays a big role in coaching and behavior change. Swift calls her self-sabotaging tendencies out a lot throughout the whole album, but “Anti-Hero” is probably the most notable example. She calls herself out for being “the problem”, and it’s a mix of insecurity and acknowledging a level of self-sabotage in her life. In the coaching process, this is something everyone must balance – where are you self-sabotaging and what’s not in your control. One of the most common examples of self-sabotage is when you’re having a day (or week) where you aren’t hitting your goals perfectly and so you just say “F it, I’ll just pick it back up next week”. There’s no reason to do that – you can course correct at any time without going off the rails, and an “imperfect” week with a few wins is way better than just throwing in the towel. However, for some reason, we often opt to throw in the towel instead. It’s learning to fight against this sabotage that can really help you move forward.

Specifically, in “You’re on Your Own, Kid”, Swift describes a list of things she thought would “fix” her, but ultimately comes to the realization that this list of external things isn’t it.

This song has quickly become one of my favorites on the album because I relate to it SO much – and it’s something I see people work through in coaching all the time. Many people come to coaching because they want to make a change that is generally related to something they are insecure about. By the end of the coaching process, many people realize, however, that releasing insecurities doesn’t always come from physical changes. Most often, it’s from an internal shift. It’s from realizing that all of the things you thought would make you more confident may make you feel a little better, but confidence is not external – it’s internal. It isn’t specifically weight loss, or nailing your gym routine, or crushing your race, or quitting smoking, or knocking out a big professional milestone. It’s the way all of these little successes accumulate to make you see that you have what it takes.

I’ll close this newsletter with the lyrics she uses to close the song:

 

Everything you lose is a step you take

So make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it

You've got no reason to be afraid

You're on your own, kid

Yeah, you can face this

You're on your own, kid

You always have been

 

You have no reason to be afraid, feel down on yourself, or feel less than. You’ve always had everything you need within yourself.

And I’m here rooting for you!

MB


This is a Story All About How....I Became a Health Coach

I knew at some point I would share my own health journey. It comes with the territory of doing what I do. I think it’s important for my clients and anyone else who interacts with my content to understand where I’m coming from – why I coach the way I do, which is built in part from my own experience, in part from what I’ve learned over the past several years coaching others, and in part from my education. Before I get into it, I do need to add a quick note about some sensitive material in this post. I will be referencing disordered eating and bullying. If either of these things are triggering to you, you can skip down to paragraph 7 (I’m going to number them for easy navigation). That said, I’m not going to go into the details of my disordered eating behaviors because I don’t even want to put those ideas out there for someone to read or reference. Please also know that this is not intended to be a directive or recommendation for how to handle disordered eating or other behaviors. This is just my own experience and background.

1

So, let’s start at the beginning. I grew up in a rural area of Central Virginia. We didn’t have cable TV or a computer in the house until I was about 9 or 10 years old, so most of our time was spent playing outside, putting on plays with our American Girl dolls, creating elaborate Barbie games, and digging through my mom’s old clothes for dress-up. My sisters and I all three played sports each season, first in rec leagues and then for school teams. My mom didn’t keep a lot of “junk” food in the house. We knew the importance of eating your veggies, reading, thinking creatively, playing and interacting with each other. I didn’t really understand “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” for much of this time, but a lot of our upbringing was what most would consider a traditionally healthy approach. We didn’t consciously talk much about health or health behaviors in the house, beyond that we knew we had to eat veggies because they were good for us and that we should take our Flintstones multivitamins (#nostalgia).

2

I don’t remember when exactly I started consciously thinking about my weight and body, but on a recent trip home to Virginia I found an old journal of mine. It was from 1999, and there was an entry prompt for who you wanted to be in Y2K (#morenostalgia). The very first thing I wrote at the top of that prompt was “lose weight”. I was 11.

3

11 was the start of my middle school years, and to put it simply: they were ROUGH. I transferred to a very small school with only one class per grade and sadly during the 3 years I was there, I was bullied. Taller and bigger than the other girls in my class, I felt incredibly uncomfortable in my skin. I heard comments like “she’s a chubby hunchback of Notre Dame” and my height made me a spectacle to many (“how’s the weather up there?”). I became hyper-aware of my body, but I didn’t know anything about calories, nutrition, or really even what dieting was, except that I thought it was “healthy” because smaller was better. I didn’t start to change my eating patterns then, but I do remember starting to feel a sense of guilt and embarrassment around eating, which was devastating because I always loved food, cooking, and baking (thankfully, I still do). Something that brought me joy quickly morphed into something shameful instead.

4

The summer before 9th grade, I had a big growth spurt and as part of that, I leaned out. I remember at basketball try-outs getting so many comments on how skinny I’d gotten and how good I looked. After 3 years of feeling like I didn’t belong and like my body was “bad”, getting this kind of feedback was a salve. My height became slightly less awkward thanks to sports, and that’s where I found some confidence, but unfortunately this also meant that how I felt about myself was very connected to my body and physical appearance. Being tall and skinny became my superpower. All of this was reinforced by the magazines my friends and I coveted at the time with bright headlines telling us “Get Toned for Summer”, “How to Keep from Gaining Those Holiday Pounds”, and “Make Your New Year’s Weight Loss Stick”. The South Beach Diet and MasterCleanse were all the rage. The documentary Super-Size Me was part of our health class curriculum.

5

The external conditioning combined with the bullying I experienced were a perfect storm for creating disordered eating patterns, which continued throughout high school, college, and my early 20s. Sadly, I didn’t understand or want to listen to my body’s needs then, but I wish I had. I know my mental health seriously suffered because of it (and so did my athletic performance), but it wasn’t something I ever wanted or really knew how to communicate to anyone. Through this experience with disordered eating and body image, I viewed “healthy” as a “sacrifice” – to achieve it I needed to be rigid and give up things I loved (or do things I didn’t want to do).

6

In my 20s, I started training for longer distance races. Running and training this way helped me develop a better connection with my body. If I hadn’t had enough to eat or enough water, I could feel it in my run. Same thing with sleep, or if I was stressed. I started researching what optimal nutrition for training should look like and learning more about nutrition in general. I was still way too critical about my body and how I chose to fuel it, but I began to see the connection between performance and eating appropriately. At this point I had a lot of cognitive dissonance over what I knew I should be doing to take care of myself and the fear of my body changing because of it. I still had a lot of my self-worth tied up in the way I looked – specifically staying skinny.

7

Before getting to run my first half, I ended up with a stress fracture in my right heel. Around this time, I had also started traveling a lot for work and needed a better routine. I decided I’d take a break from race training and instead focus on “toning up” (LOL CRINGE). I had some free personal training sessions as part of joining a local gym, so I decided to take advantage of them - and this is where I fell in love with strength training. I got paired with an amazing trainer (shoutout Jess Norby!) and worked with her for almost 2 years, and she truly changed my life. I started to gain confidence for the first time. I started to feel, and get, strong. I could lift more than I ever had at any point in my life – and it was SO empowering. Jess introduced me to split squats and RDLs (still two favs), and to eccentric pull-ups (still mixed feelings). She helped me learn how to focus less on the amount of time I was in the gym and more on the amount of effort I put into each session. I stopped thinking I needed to work out for 2 hours for it to “count”. And, thanks to a lot of PT and my new love for lifting, my running got better. Strength training helped me learn to appreciate my body for what it could do, instead of always focusing on what was “wrong” with it.

8

The confidence I gained from strength training spilled over into other areas of my life. I started challenging some of my old ideas of what it meant to be “healthy”. I did a lot of reading and self-exploration to understand why I treated myself and my body the way I did. I went to therapy. I finally gained positive associations with being “healthy” and found ways to do it that didn’t wreck my mental health along the way. Then, in 2018 I took the leap I’d be contemplating for over a year: I started teaching group fitness.

9

My first teaching job was in northern Virginia at a locally owned strength and conditioning/cycling studio, and I loved it. But I also heard the same feelings of self-doubt, frustration, self-blame, and confusion about what it meant to be “healthy” that I experienced from our class participants. I started to wonder what it would look like to be able to help people outside of the studio, too. One afternoon after class, I was chatting about this with another instructor, and she asked if I had ever heard of health coaching. At the time, I hadn’t, so of course I immediately started researching the profession.

10

I remember the first few articles I read about the health coaching profession and feeling something click, like “Wow, this is it. This is the career I was meant for.” However, I also knew it would mean that I needed to do more work on myself to be in the right headspace to be a coach. So, as a pursued my own training through Duke University, I also started working with my own health coach. I did more self-exploration and thought work. I dove into the Health-At-Every-Size movement, Intuitive Eating, and body neutrality. I spent a lot of time perusing PubMed for research about behavior change, positive mindset, and the power of self-talk. As I began coaching my own clients, I started slowing finding the right way to bring these things into my coaching style and programs.

11

And that brings us to today, and where I am now. I got my personal training certification and found a gym I adore and made it part of my career. I still love strength training, and I still love running. I also love yoga, which is the wild card I did not see coming. I love salads and ice cream and I don’t feel guilty about either of them most days, or when I do I know how to handle it. I don’t love my body every day, but I also know that my worth isn’t tied to it and every day doesn’t have to be a great body image day to still be good. I know that being healthy doesn’t mean feeling deprived and it doesn’t have to be perfect. I know that a key part of health is mental health, not just physical health. I know that health does not have a size or an aesthetic. I know that there’s more to health than just nutrition and physical activity – your environment, sleep, stress, relationships, professional development, and spirituality all play a key role. I know that confidence and self-worth are a practice, and you have to actively cultivate them daily. I did not learn these things overnight – it has taken me the better part of a decade to unlearn the prior 20ish years of negative thought patterns and conditioning. I still fight these things daily.

12

As I think about myself through all these different phases of my life and see the way “health” evolved for me – I’m proud. While a lot of this evolution was difficult and painful, I would not have the approach I have now without it. When I hear clients mention how hard they are on themselves, how challenging it can be to balance goals with feeling good, when I hear the self-doubt and the confusion, the feelings of needing to force yourself into “health”, I can truly say that I understand – because I do. No situation is the same, but I have felt what so many of my clients do. I know where they’re coming from and empathize with them fully.

13

When you see my content and my coaching, you will see a lot about changing from a place of self-love and managing negative self-talk and thoughts. This story – my story – is the reason why this is a cornerstone of my practice, and coaching people for the last 3 years has only reiterated that it’s necessary. It’s so important to me that anyone I work with understands that you don’t have to – and you honestly shouldn’t – hate yourself into change.

14

If you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s this: healthy looks and feels different for everyone, and it takes time and self-compassion to be where you want to be. I coach the way I do because I think it’s so important to know that if trying to be “healthy” is costing you any fraction of your mental health - your joy, your confidence, your sense of peace – it’s not “healthy”. I also hope you know that while I talk a lot about change because that is what clients seek me out to help with, please never feel like changing is something you must do. You are wonderful just as you are right now.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I appreciate you so much.


The Importance of Letting Go

People often associate change with adding something: starting a new diet, picking up a fitness routine, finding 10 extra minutes in the morning for meditation, taking on extra at work for that promotion. One thing we often get wrong about change, however, is that another very important part of the process is what we let go of.

When my clients are considering starting a new goal, I try to always ask the question, “what can you let go of to make space for this new goal?”. Often, we find ourselves in situations where we keep adding because we think we need to – we feel a sense of guilt associated with letting something go. But to maintain balance and prevent burnout, I would suggest using the rule of letting one thing go when you add something new.

Another aspect of letting go that is so important to the change process is releasing limiting beliefs. I’ve talked about this a few times on my Instagram, but another of my favorite questions to ask is, “what limiting beliefs about yourself are you ready to release?”. Limiting beliefs are often born out of one or several experiences you had in which you couldn’t do something, and then you end up apply those handful of experiences across the full spectrum of your life. For example, math always felt really hard for me as a kid, and so I developed the blanket statement that “I’m not good at math” and applied it to everything moving forward. When I got a copy of my transcript at the end of one semester in undergrad and it had calculus listed as an elective instead of fulfilling my math requirement, I called my advisor confused. What happened was I had scored high enough on my AP Calc exam that it counted toward my math credits, and I didn’t need to take that calculus class, but I never checked my AP Calc score because I just assumed I didn’t do well since “I’m bad at math”. It turns out I’m not as bad at math as I told myself I was.

Releasing limiting beliefs is so important to change because holding on to them can cause us to throw up barriers when we don’t need to. Instead of trying something, you may tell yourself preemptively that you can’t do it because of some past experience you’ve applied more broadly, and this can make progress very challenging. It can make you feel stuck and powerless.

Give this exercise a try: write down the things you may think of as limiting beliefs. Then, once you have them on paper, really take stock of them. As yourself what evidence you have to make them true. Then, challenge those reasons. Play devil’s advocate for yourself. Examine the potential downsides of leaning further into those beliefs. Ask yourself what might happen if those beliefs weren’t actually true – what would you do? What could you accomplish? Consider a new “belief” you’d like to replace the old one with. How could you put that into practice this week?

This is a busy time of year – the summer is ending, school starts again, work picks up heading into the fall (and let’s face it, the last big stretch before everything relaxes for the holidays). Whether you decide to address a limiting belief, or remove one or two things from your to-do list, try this week to check in with yourself a few times and ask, “what can I let go of?” as we begin moving into this new season.

Rooting for you!

-MB

 


In Defense of Selfishness

If you’re anything like me, you might think one of the worst things someone could call you is “selfish”.

From the time we’re small, we are conditioned against anything that may result in us being labeled that way. We must share everything, we must not draw attention to ourselves, we must relinquish the spotlight to others, we must prioritize others’ time and needs before our own. I know women especially are often pushed into the coveted “selfless” space. It’s a word you commonly hear being used to describe mothers and/or caregivers and it’s generally spoken as a high form of praise.

I used to strive for that – to be called selfless. I am innately a “helper”. I draw a lot of joy and personal satisfaction from helping people. I have always worked in a service-based career field: from restaurant management to event planning, to relationship management, to consulting, and now coaching and personal training. What I’ve learned the hard way, however, is that sometimes in the pursuit of selflessness, you do just that: lose yourself. So, now I am striving for the opposite.

At the end of this month, I turn 34. What I hope to work on in my 35th trip around the sun is on being more selfish. Not in a way that is rude to others or consistently disregards their needs/feelings, but rather in a way that makes more space for my own. This does not need to be absolute and to the detriment of the other relationships in your life. What I’m striving for, and what I’d encourage you to strive for, is a balance. Have days where you put yourself above everything else and have days where you don’t.

This balance is so important in the coaching space. Something I have recently surmised is that on occasion the struggle to complete steps toward a goal is the result of not prioritizing, but often it’s more about a lack of selfishness. People will put their action steps at the top of the to-do list, but if there’s an unexpected need from someone else, we are often quick to disappoint ourselves before we’ll disappoint someone else.

So, for this month, I’d encourage you to try to focus on that point: consider how often you disappoint yourself to avoid disappointing someone else. What would change if you did that less? How would things look and feel different if you got just a bit more selfish?

Rooting for you, and for myself!

MB


The Importance of Lizzo in Health Coaching

Perhaps a lesser-known fact about me is my love for Lizzo. I constantly find myself playing her songs when I need a pick-me-up or confidence boost. I cook dinner, clean, workout, drive, walk the dog, you name it to Lizzo.

The overarching theme in Lizzo’s music is self-love. Gritty, raw, unapologetic self-love. I don’t know about y’all, but my gosh could I have used more of that in my middle school through early adulthood years. Even prior to the social media age of constant filtering and voyeurism through rose-colored glasses, it was easy to feel “less than”. Before it was social media, it was bylines in Cosmo, Teen Vogue, and Seventeen Magazine marketing Five Tips to Turn Heads and Top Ten Exercises for Toned Summer Abs. We’ve been conditioned for years to believe that we aren’t good enough by some metric or another. There weren’t a lot of celebrities or role models in those years pushing the message that we were great, no exceptions, period.

Lizzo doesn’t just sing about it, either – she lives it. It’s in her social media, it comes through in her shows and performances, in her interviews. I don’t mean the kind of self-love that insists you love every single part of yourself, all the time. Lizzo shows us a “yes, and” way of self-love: yes, I am flawed AND I love myself. These things can co-exist – they must. You don’t have to love every aspect of yourself to feel good and know that you are worthy of love and great things. She also shows us that you don’t have to fit a standard definition of anything – beauty, femineity/masculinity, maturity, etc. You get to define your own parameters for what makes you feel good about yourself.

My job is a bit of a paradox at first blush: a core role of a health coach is to help facilitate changes in behavior to help clients meet goals. The center of what I do is helping people change. Isn’t that contrary to self-love? How can I help people change and also help them love themselves regardless of that change? That’s a great question, and one that I ask myself often.

The reality is, you can’t hate yourself into a change and if you’re seeking to change something about yourself because you say it will make you feel more confident, or it will make loving yourself easier, I have an unfortunate truth for you: it won’t. Confidence and self-love don’t come from making external changes. They are strictly internal, and they take work. It takes fighting the negative self-talk, reframing self-deprecating thoughts, learning to accept parts of yourself and knowing that these things don’t change your worth. Loving yourself can be hard if you’re not used to it. Hating yourself into changing is harder, though, I promise.

Think about how much easier it feels to take care of yourself (to do anything, really) when you’re feeling good. It’s often easier said than done but doing the work to love yourself more before you start trying to tackle a health goal or behavior change is worth it in the long run. When in doubt, look to Lizzo and ask yourself: do I want to feel Good as Hell? Hell yes, you do. And it starts with radical self-love. Curious about what that could look like for you? Let’s talk.

Rooting for you!

MB


A Fresh Start

Well, you can consider my career path officially shifted. That's right friends, as of 5:00pm yesterday, I am full-time in the health and wellness space.

I’ve been wanting this for several years, but I was unsure when I’d be able to take the leap. Since I started this coaching practice in 2019, the question of how to make this my full-time job has been on my mind. The last 6 months have been especially challenging, as I’ve been balancing coaching, teaching at two studios, 40+ hours a week in consulting, and still just trying to have a life outside of all of that. I have admittedly NOT been practicing the balance I preach to clients. I’ve known for a while that I needed to find a way to cut back and focus my time more, but I didn’t see a path to do that without sacrificing something I loved and I was not willing to do that. Then one Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, I had a phone call that laid that path out for me exactly. I got off the phone feeling more optimistic than I had in months. 

Moving forward, I’m still going to be wearing multiple hats - taking on a larger role in addition to teaching at TitanUp Fitness, an incredible local studio in Jacksonville, FL; running my coaching practice; and still doing a little consulting work in the local community. But this will allow me to grow in the areas I truly want to grow with an incredible team and awesome mentors on all sides. 

This decision was easy in some respects and a little tougher than others. The path to getting here was tricky and tiring. The reason I know it was the right one to take, and the reason I am certain that coaching and training is the right career path for me, is because it forces me to grow and be a better person - not just a better employee. To figure out these next steps, I had to do a lot of soul searching and reflecting on exactly how I want my professional (and personal) life to look and feel. Coaching and teaching has also forced me to work on myself and challenge some past beliefs and opinions. It’s changed my perspective in the best way, and to celebrate that and my new career I’d like to offer two things:

  1. I’ll be re-opening the MB Wellness coaching programs on April 4. I’ll be talking more about these as we progress through March, but the last day to sign up will be March 31. 
  2. Throughout the month of March, I’m going to be doing a daily mini-video series on my Instagram taking you through some of the questions that helped me prepare myself for this new career shift, and questions I ask many of my coaching clients when they’re working toward a big change. 

Now that I’ll have more time to dedicate to this coaching practice, you all can also expect the re-launch of the MBW newsletter, and new workshops throughout the year. 

It’s going to be an exciting remainder of 2022. I can’t wait to grow, learn, and connect with more of you in this space. Want to grow and learn with me? Let’s chat.

As always, sending you happy, healthy vibes!

MB


And Now That You Don't Have to be Perfect...

Two years ago this January, I took my first class in Duke Integrative Medicine's health coaching program.

Since then, I’ve coached many fellow coaches and individuals, and something I’ve pulled out of those conversations is that one of the keys to sustainable change is your relationship with yourself. If you are constantly putting yourself last, beating yourself up, or pushing yourself to achieve something that truly is not attainable, it makes behavior change and meeting your goals so much harder. Or, you may reach the goal you’re chasing but put yourself in a position that’s incredibly difficult to maintain long-term because it’s too extreme.

So, I want to spend February focusing my content on self love, and how it affects our ability to reach our goals or change behaviors. The first topic I want to talk about is perfectionism and the perfectionist mindset. This is something I struggle with a lot personally, so I’m excited to dig into what I’ve learned (and what I’m still learning) with y’all. Funny enough, this was just supposed to be an Instagram post, but true to my verbose form I had a lot more to say about this than should be in an Instagram caption. So, here we are.

We all know what perfectionism is: striving for flawlessness (or the appearance of it). And it can wreak havoc on your opinion of yourself because you are always reaching for an unattainable standard. It can push you to an all or nothing mindset - “If I don’t do this perfectly, there’s no point in doing it at all” - or make you feel like a failure because you’re never achieving the ideal result in your mind. It can cause anxiety and even prevent you from starting to work on your goal. It can keep you from ever feeling satisfied. And when you’re trying to make a change, these things can be a major impediment.

But, let’s try this on for size: none of my clients do things perfectly - literally none - and they are still seeing progress. 

I know for some this statement can be hard to align with reaching your goals. For many people, myself included, the imperfections can make you feel like you’re losing control and you’ll never get where you want to be. My first piece of advice to you is this: make space for the gray areas, because that is where long-term progress lives. Read that one more time. Why did I say that? Because the “gray areas” are often where balance is. For example, pizza every night is probably not the best way to eat, but that does not mean that pizza is always off limits. Learning balance and what it means in your life is where you will find sustainable change. And perfectionism and balance are often at odds with each other. Perfectionism likes black and white: pizza is not ok and I can’t eat it and still reach my goals. Balance likes gray: I can have a slice of pizza on the weekend and still meet my goals.

Where this gets hard is retraining your brain away from this perfectionist mentality. You are not a failure because you didn’t do something perfectly. I know this is a difficult mindset to get out of - I fight it daily. Here is what I’ve found helpful:

Lower the bar. A perfectionist’s worst nightmare. Did you cringe or think “what?!” when you read that? I have thought the same thing, too. But part of the struggle with perfectionism is we create such huge goals for ourselves that we feel dwarfed by them and what it will take to accomplish them, leaving us overwhelmed from the start. And then once we do start, if every step isn’t perfect we get frustrated. There are two ways I try to fight this. The first is to lean on the SMART framework (especially the “A”, which stands for “attainable), which helps me set up my goals in a manageable way. The second is to break my goals down into tiny steps (by tiny I mean if your goal is to start exercising, start with 10 minutes a day). This makes the things that need to be done to meet your goals feel so much more achievable and helps you better see how they will fit into your existing routine. 

Start adding the phrase “and that’s ok” when you find your inner critic showing up. One of the biggest things we perfectionists fight is ourselves and our instinct to be overly self-critical. I wish I could remember where I read about the idea to start adding the phrase “and that’s ok” to the end of sentences when my inner critic is out of control, but it has really helped my mindset. When I catch myself thinking, “ugh, you skipped your workout today” or “yikes, you overate at dinner”, I add “and that’s ok” to the end of it. This helps me put things in perspective and stops the self criticism almost immediately so I can get back on track without endlessly chastising myself or feeling like I need to overcompensate in some way.

Consider the big picture. When you think about the end result you’re trying to achieve, what will be the most important pieces in getting there? When you catch yourself going down the perfection rabbit hole, pause and ask “what impact will doing this perfectly have on my end goal? Will it materially impact my ability to achieve it?”. Now, this does not mean every time you want to skip your workout or have that post-work cigarette you should say to yourself, “well, this won’t materially impact meeting my goal”, because over time those things will add up. The point I’m trying to make here is, with every goal there will be pieces that are more important than others to achieving the end result, so try to understand what those things are, focus on them, and let the rest go. A.K.A. “don’t sweat the small stuff” or “choose your battles”.

Remind yourself of the progress you’ve already made. Or if it’s a new goal, think about times in the past when you’ve been successful. Perfectionism can send us into some really negative spaces to the point that we feel like we are never making progress, but that is simply untrue. There is always a small (or big) win, or something to be proud of yourself for. Sometimes, that’s just finally admitting to yourself that you need a change. Sometimes, it's nailing your action plans for the day. And sometimes, it’s realizing that you didn’t perfectly accomplish your goal, but you’re really happy with where you are - and that’s (more than) ok! <- See what I did there :) ?

There is a quote from John Steinbeck’s book East of Eden that I love: “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good”. If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this. Perfection is not attainable - it’s just not. If you’re striving for it, I’m sorry but you are fighting a losing battle. Because our perfectionist brains are like Lucy with the football: every time you think you might be getting close to achieving perfection, that b*tch is going to snatch the football away. When you remove the idea that you can’t be healthy and happy without being perfect, you will be surprised how much happier and healthier you become. When you give yourself the grace mentally to just be good - work toward your goals, learn from your setbacks, and keep moving forward even as things shift - you can get out of your own way and make progress. And that’s what we want long-term: progress, not perfection.

As always, sending you lots of happy, healthy vibes!

MB


New Year, New You? No, thanks.

I am not a fan of New Year's resolutions.

This may seem surprising, given my line of work, but hear me out. I'm going to explain to you why and the mindset I prefer instead. 

Before I dive in, I want to preface this by saying that this is not meant as a criticism. If you have a New Year’s resolution (or several), I am not trying to call you out for it. Everyone should approach their health and lifestyle in a way that works best for them. 

That said, here are some reasons why I’m really not a fan.

New Year’s resolutions are often filled with broad, sweeping statements with very far off end-dates. If you’ve worked with me, you can probably guess what I’m going to say about why these sweeping statements are problematic. They are problematic because they don’t tell you anything. Let’s use the example “I want to get in shape”. If this is your goal, how will you start? What do you mean by “get in shape”? What does that look like to you? How will you know when you’ve accomplished it? 

You are making things much harder on yourself chasing a resolution like this because you aren’t leaving yourself with any directions on what to do. Starting this resolution probably feels overwhelming, which makes it difficult to translate your intentions into action. Action needs direction, and sweeping statements don’t give you that.

Resolutions also encourage the idea that we can neglect our health at the end of the year because we’ll get it together on January 1st. How many times have you heard someone say, or said to yourself, “Whatever, I’ll start eating better/exercising/quitting smoking/mediating in the New Year” in November/December? I take issue with this because it puts people in the mindset that: a) they can neglect their health now and deal with it later and b) have to wait until the New Year to get started. 

To the first point, if anything you should really be trying to prioritize your health more not less at the end of the year. It is one of the most stressful times of the year due to the holiday season, which is really not the time to ignore the things your body needs to stay in good condition. Not prioritizing your health can also make holiday stress more exaggerated. 

To the second point, any time is the right time to start working on your health. As a type A person, I totally understand that it just feels good to start working on your health at a beginning: the start of the week, the start of the month, the start of the year. But you don’t have to wait until the perfect time. You can start working on your health in the middle of the day on Thursday if you want. Don’t let the perfect start time delay you from making it a priority.

I also think sometimes the idea of waiting until the New Year can cause us to go a little wild during the holidays, because we’re going to really cut out all of the good (bad) stuff on January 1st, so we feel the need to pack it in while we still can. You're just setting yourself up for failure with that mindset, because after an extended period of time of ignoring your health goals, it's going to be that much harder to make them a priority again.

So, what can you do instead of the traditional New Year’s resolution: set SMART goals and aim for incremental change.

Let’s start with SMART goals. The SMART framework is an approach to goal setting that helps you get more clear on what you’re trying to achieve. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. 

Specific: The goal is detailed and clear

Measurable: The goal can be tracked to show progress or success

Attainable: The goal is doable given your resources and current life circumstance

Relevant: The goal is meaningful and aligns with what is important to you 

Time-based: The goal has an end-date by which it should be accomplished

To use our earlier example of “I want to get in shape”, we’re going to use the SMART framework to make accomplishing this easier on ourselves.

Specific: I want to start strength training

Measurable: I want to start strength training three times per week

Attainable: ask yourself, “Is strength training three times per week” reasonable to me right now? If not, what would make it more attainable? Once per week? Twice?

Relevant: ask yourself, “Will starting to strength train three times per week help me achieve what I really want to get from this goal?” 

Time-based: I want to start strength training three times per week by the end of March

Using the SMART framework, we’ve moved from “I want to get in shape” to “I want to start strength training three times per week by the end of March”. That’s a BIG difference, and that second statement feels much more clear and easy to start, doesn’t it? Like I said, action needs direction, and this second statement provides much more direction.

Now, let’s work in the incremental change piece of this. With our SMART goal, we know where we want to go and by when. But the devil is in the details, so let’s think about how we’re going to get there. 

Any time you’re introducing a new habit, behavior, or routine into your life, the key to making it both achievable and sustainable is to approach it incrementally. What I encourage clients to do is to action plan - think through every step you’ll need to take to accomplish your goal (no matter how small). Then consider what obstacles might get in your way and set plans for how you might handle those obstacles. Once you have the action plans listed, think through the order in which you’ll need to complete those steps. Then, map out when you’ll begin and when you’ll complete each step. I like to do this weekly, as it allows me to reassess progress each week and make adjustments to my action steps and timeline, as needed.

How is all of this different than a resolution? This might just be semantics, but to me resolutions are talking about a big idea or change you want to make that spans the whole year. What I’ve laid out as the alternative is to think critically about your goals (health-related or not) and don’t stretch the timeframe over the full year. Make yourself get specific about what you want and be honest about the amount of time it will take to get there. Be clear about what your end result will look like. Once you accomplish your goal, you can start this process all over again for a new one if you want! And you don’t need to wait until the start of the next year to build out a new goal - you can do it any time using this approach. To me, the way we work on our goals should be iterative and evolve as our lives evolve. 

How does all of this sound to you? Feel like you might need a little help in upgrading those resolutions? Well, you’re in luck! Over the holidays, I created the MB Wellness Healthy Habits Guide, which will take you through the process of setting your goals, planning for action, handling set-backs, and more! Subscribe to our newsletter (link at the bottom of the page) and I’ll send you a free copy! I promise I won’t spam you - the newsletter is once a month and will have more coaching, health, and wellness content in a short, digestible format. 

As always, feel free to shoot me a message if you have questions! 

Sending you happy, healthy vibes!

MB