Joanne Papadopoulos of Teenacers: “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”
Walk it out. Take a soul walk. Smell something. Touch something. Make eye contact with someone. Say hello. Pet a Dog. Sit on a bench. Avoid music or podcasts for a first half. Listen to your thoughts. Feel your body. Notice your pace. It’s not a race.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing (Yanna) Joanne Papadopoulos with Teenacers.
Yanna has been a teacher for the public board, in Calgary, for 15 years, she is a college instructor, a professional development workshop facilitator for educators, the Vice president of Seeds Connections Organization, and founder and owner of Teenacers, where she offers academic and leadership coaching for teens and young adults moving through their academic careers and entering the workforce. Yanna holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts, a Bachelors of Education, and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Gonzaga University and teaches teens the leadership strategies that have been successful among leaders in becoming resilient and empowered change-makers in their lives; she inspires them to have an impact in their schools and communities.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
I am not a personal trainer, in the sense that I don’t design workout plans for individuals. I am a teacher and a coach. My niche is in identifying talent and getting teens and young adults to recognize their uniqueness, showing them how to showcase and maximize their abilities, and offering them the skills to take charge of their lives. One would say I am a personal trainer for the mind and soul. Self-esteem is a verb, not a noun. Motivation is an action, not a feeling. I came to this realization well into my late 30s. I struggled with eating disorders and disordered eating for most of my life. From anorexia, to bulimia, to binge eating, and to over exercising. Looking back at my teen years, and having spent half of my life working with teens and young adults, I realized that wellness is more than being physically fit and controlling your portions. I was the most unhappy when I was at my lowest weight, and yet, to this day, I struggle with the idea that, if I were thinner, things would be easier, or that, when I gain weight, I have lost control and it shows. For those who struggle with the ups and downs of weight loss, it is a sign that the underlying reasons are more important than counting calories and steps. There is a reason we do this stop and go thing. Also, there is a reason we armour ourselves with the extra lbs. Our bodies are highly intelligent. They are protecting us because we are telling ourselves that we are in danger. We are in crisis mode. We have come to despise our actual process of survival. Also, we use food, or the lack of, to fill voids and to numb feelings. These habits begin early on in life. The stories we tell ourselves have formed in adolescence, or earlier. Knowing how much body image and self-esteem are connected, I realized how much our mental blocks and fears are underlining factors to creating a healthy relationship with both. Working with teens, I can see how the connection between body-image, negative self-talk, and lack of self-esteem can become paralyzing during the most crucial and formative years of their lives. It impedes our self-acceptance. Coaching teens and young adults, in taking charge and becoming strong leaders does not happen in isolation. Everything is connected, mind, body, emotions, and sprit. I work on all 4 areas, as my Teenacers method is based on the Indigenous ways of knowing and being that encompass all those elements. If one element is out of balance, so is everything else.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
As a beginning teacher, I was offered a temporary substitute teaching contract in the same middle school I had completed my teaching practicum. I knew most of the staff from the year prior. As a matter of fact, the assistant principal of that school was my former high school English teacher. I was over the moon to accept a temporary teaching position in my first year out. The only caveat, I was a Fine Arts Major. Along with the Social Studies class I was assigned to teach, I was also offered a Physical Education class. As a beginning teacher, I replied in the one way I was told to when offered temporary contracts, with a flat out “YES.” I showed up to my first gym class with my Diesel shoes and yoga jeans. The partner teacher asked me if I owned proper running shoes, to which I replied, “What do you mean?” I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I knew I had made a big mistake when I agreed to pretend I know how to teach sports. Then my eyes landed on Natasha. The other P.E. teacher I was going to be working with. She knew I was a fake right when she saw my shoes. I had to come clean. I said to her, “If you help me get through this year, I will take you to Greece next summer on a vacation of a lifetime!” Luckily, she agreed! For the next 10 months, I went to her house, after school everyday, and she showed me how to teach the next day’s lesson to kids, who clearly knew I was not a P.E. teacher, but didn’t say anything because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. You are wondering what happened after? We did go to Greece together in 2007, and we had the most amazing summer vacation, ever! Always keep your promises.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
Since I was a fake P.E. teacher, and since I had full trust in Natasha, I agreed to go along on a sailing trip with her and our students. She said it will be great for my resume as a fist year teacher. And, she was right. Along we went to take students sailing along the BC coast, Georgia Strait, and Gulf Islands. My main job was to count kids, and make sure we bring them back alive a week later. The day I feared the most had arrived. The kayaks came out. These students were experts at everything! As the “P.E.” teacher, I agreed to go along this guided tour with the captain and the other P.E. teachers. I managed to fake my way into the kayak. At some point, the weather changed and it got quite windy. I remember it as gust winds, but Natasha claimed it was simply overcast. I started crying and screaming for help, worried that my kayak would flip over and I would drown. I still remember the kids looking at me and wondering “what is happening to her?” A few minutes later, I heard a sound I’ve never heard before. The other captain was on his way, with kids in toe, in a zodiac, to “rescue” me. I was so panicked, I couldn’t get out of the kayak. I remember the kids trying to tell me how to move my body, but I was having none of it. I just wanted to get out and be saved. Once I managed to get in the zodiac, the kids asked me, “what’s wrong, Ms P? Don’t be scared, you’re a professional swimmer!” to which I responded, “huh?” Turns out Natasha had to tell the kids that I swam on the National Olympic Greek team. She had to lie, since the kids realized, early on, that I don’t know what I am doing. She never imagined we would be in a situation where I would be close to water. But here we were. Meanwhile, the whole incident was being recorded by another P.E. teacher, and in the midst of my screaming and crying, the narration reverberated as follows: “I used to be a Greek Goddess, and now, all I am is a God Damn Greek.” The video played on the last day of school during a school wide assembly and the kids loved it, and I loved them even more for that. My take away: When you fake it till you make it, it shows.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
With over 15 years of teaching, coaching leadership skills for teens, and supporting parents, I have learned that lifestyle choices are formed during adolescence and can take a lifetime to reverse habits and routines. The tweaks that we can make don’t have to be epic, monumental, or take hours out of our day. It is in the simple agreements and promises that we make, and keep with ourselves, that can enhance our self-esteem, give us energy to do more, and correct mental traps we find ourselves later in life. We need to investigate the cultural narratives that have become our “spells,” and obstacles. We can’t move past this stage and set our vision if we lack this awareness. We must find out what areas of our lives contribute to “leaking” energy. Where do we feel disempowered or wiped out. What contributes to this?
My only solace in life is that I have been good to children. And I have learned to apologize to them and take ownership of my mistakes. A soul coach, Dara Rabal, once told me, “kids like you, because you see their truth and their goodness,” and those were the best words to describe how I feel. My contribution to wellness is in helping children and their parents see in their truth and goodness too. Wellness begins in a child’s healthy self-concept, self-esteem, and ability to recognize their potential to develop this, and to get them where they want to be. This is true for adults. We have come to think of fitness and wellness as not only in our physical appearance. Makeovers are not long-term solutions. Inner wellness is often overlooked until it starts to impact our health and our relationships, in spite of what our fit bits tells us.
The Indigenous Peoples were highly evolved in so many aspects. They not only had developed ingenuity in survival on this land, formed inclusive governing systems, held Elders, two spirited, and women in high regard, they lived their lives based on the medicine wheel. They believed, and still advocate, for our emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental interconnectedness. The medicine wheel also represented the 4 seasons of our lives, and how important adolescence, “spring,” is in forming our visions. Most of all, children were guided, not taught. They were mentored. Elders shared stories that communicated life lessons about how to treat Mother Nature, the same way we treat our bodies, with respect and compassion. After studying the Indigenous ways of knowing and being, during my Masters in Leadership, I’d come to understand that we are in a state of turmoil when we disrupt this equilibrium. In order to experience wellness, we need to trust in our intuition and listen to our bodies.
During the same year as my master’s work, I was the supervising teacher of a yoga class. I attended a high school yoga class that was facilitated by a beautiful instructor, Heather. It couldn’t have become clearer to me how our emotional wellness affects our ability to perform certain movements. The emotions arising in that class of teens, during certain poses, was heartwarming. It was an inclusive, accepting, and safe space for everyone. It was healing. My journey of understanding triggers caused by body movements, the need to belong and feel accepted, body image and self-critical thoughts, solidified my belief that only if we heal the inside, we can heal the outside.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s never one person. It’s a handful of people who believe in you, see the light in you, and become your biggest fans. They are not all “yes” people, and they’re not all “no” people, they are a mix of both. For me it was a principal I worked with. What made Carol Hall special is that she had the ability to form meaningful relationships with teachers, students, parents, and the community. Carol had a vision, set the example, was clear with her expectations, saw the true nature in people, and was not afraid to be vulnerable and courageous. Carol not only taught me how to navigate my teaching career, by helping me make the right moves, but always reinforced that it is “always about relationships,” and that is what a good leader does. On one of my adventures with Carol in India, we both learned the power of giving someone the most powerful tool they have in creating change, their voice. It took me many years to find mine, but I will forever be grateful to her.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
- Disheartenment. Diet culture, fads, and trends. The culture of “programs,” lose 30 lbs in 30 days” and the culture of “shedding for the wedding,” “biggest loser,” and all other messages that we are inundated with regarding “thin is always in.” The insidious messages that are bodies are broken and we need to fix them. Or that they are “projects” that we need to keep a constant eye on. Goals have become deadlines. Exercise has become a means to an end. Rather than seeing movement as natural and enjoyable, we have associated it with calorie burns, plateau breakers, routines, etc. We have lost touch with our inherit nature and beauty; that our bodies know when we need to eat, move, and rest. Many of us are locked in a cycle of regiments, even though we know that we can’t sustain it. We get disheartened, and then fall back to old destructive habits, out of shame or feeling like we have lost the game, once again. Solution? Listen to your body. If there is one relationship we need to rebuilt, is the one we have with ourselves. They have been through a lot and we need to regain our own trust.
- Time. Life events and transitions require us to shift focus. Sometimes, work requires more of our attention. Sometimes, it’s our family. Sometimes it’s our health. We struggle to find balance, and when we don’t, these elements start to fall apart with emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual ramifications. We also feel guilty, if we prioritize our wellbeing over others, failing to realize that when we aren’t “good” we can’t do “good.” Some of these narratives are cultural and are deeply engrained in us. When we struggle to find a way to integrate some basic health, it is a good point to meet ourselves where we are and ask “why?” Do you like the way you nurture yourself? Do you like how you feel? What are some basic changes you can make to feel good about how you take care of your body? What is something you can do now, and sustain over time?
- Extremes. Black and white type thinking, or all or nothing type of thinking. We want results and we feel like if something is not extreme, or removes entire food groups out of our diet, or is limited to simple tweaks, it won’t work. “It can’t be that easy,” we tell ourselves. So then, we embark, on yet another journey of extreme dieting, some that actually restrict fruits and vegetables, in order to get us to our arbitrary “goal.” We end up feeling deprived, depressed, confused, and mad at out bodies, saying things like, “why isn’t this working?” The truth is, our bodies are working on overdrive in order to save our life and not starve to death, hence why they slow down all metabolic actions. With this type of thinking, our world becomes smaller; we avoid gatherings, dates, or any food triggers. We limit our entire being. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we all need to binge all day long. Even if you were to do that, you’ll soon come to realize that you simply can’t! When we give ourselves permission to eat, we will soon start to actually get in tune with what our body needs. Sometimes that is pizza, and sometimes that is a fresh, perfectly ripened peach. There is not one food that makes anyone unhealthy, or healthy, for that matter. We need to avoid extremes and regiments that makes us abdicate our ability to nurture our bodies to others.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
Experiencing wellbeing is not directly correlated to how many hours we spend in the gym or the calories we intake. Weight loss and physical fitness is also an emotional and spiritual journey. We can’t separate the two. Wellbeing is holistic and we will discover that our obstacles to being where we want to be, physically, are connected to other areas of our life. Our bodies are a reflection of what is happening to our minds and souls.
- Find the difference between your purpose and your passion. Purpose is to help others grow. Passion is to help yourself grow. When we are not living our lives in alignment, with either one, purpose or passion, we will experience imbalance that will manifest in emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical drawbacks. For example, if you are working a job that is serving others, but not necessarily allowing you to pursue your passion, make an effort to either look at your work as a way to fund your next career move, or find a side gig that will fuel your passion. This type of thinking will empower you to make a change, or lift your spirits, because you now have an outlet, or a platform, or an inspiration to express who you are.
- Narrow down your goals. Focus on the top 5, most meaningful, important, fulfilling goals. If we spread ourselves too thin, we end up putting less and less energy in more and more goals. This only results in burnout and us feeling disempowered or out of steam. If your goal is to work on improving your business, work on your fitness, eat better, publish that book, and spend more time with your partner, then rank these from 1–5, with 1 being your top priority, and 5 being your 5th priority, and then break up the time in your day based on your energy levels. If publishing that book is number 1 on your list, wake up early and spend your best writing time on that book. If fitness is number 1 on your list, spend your early hours working on that. We naturally have more energy during the early hours, so, spend your best energy hours on the things you have prioritized.
- Investigate when you say ‘no’. This can take some time. When I started investigating my “nos” I soon came to realize that most of my “nos” were around social gatherings that involved food, alcohol, dressing up, and being photographed and seen. Over the years, my disheartenment around my body and my failed diets, left me isolated. I was two people, one whom my students and friends adored and admired, and another that came home in shame about not looking like they do. The impact this has on our relationships is immense. It leaves us, and others, feeling helpless. It also distorts our reality, thinking that life was “easier” when we looked a certain way, when it clearly wasn’t. It can take a long time to figure out what do we say ‘no’ to because of the way we feel about ourselves. How can we reconcile this? How can you still live parts of your life without feeling like you are being scrutinized, when you’re clearly not? How can you still experience love and intimacy when you feel that you are unworthy of being seen, literally and metaphorically? Spend some time looking at all these patterns in your life. Do you date when you’re not “ready” body-wise? Do you feel like you need to look a certain way to feel worthy of love and acceptance? Where do you say “no”? Do you feel alone in your struggles, when you’re clearly not? How many of your life goals are on hold by the “if only mind?” Work towards changing the images you are inundated by and focus on reading about how we can decolonize our body; who are you comparing yourself to? How do you correlate your body to your self-worth? Does this impact how you treat yourself and your relationships? Investigate your “nos”.
- Select people you surround yourself with very carefully. Your energy is very precious. Who leaves you feeling wiped out? What conversations trigger you? Where do you “leak” energy? When do you walk away from a conversation feeling like you didn’t grow, felt heard, respected, or acknowledge? Is it an opportunity to act? Ways of acting can include, having a conversation where you have a chance to express how you feel, without placing blame or judgement, setting boundaries, or ending that relationship. Sometimes we might feel like we “overshared,” because our concerns or thoughts were not reciprocated or validated. These are all opportunities to engage in a conversation with important people in our life. When you spend some time reflecting and finding your voice, you’ll feel in control of how you are allowing others to treat you. This self-compassion and self-respect will move into other areas of your life.
- Learn how to apologize and how to accept an apology. First of all, apologize to yourself. Apologize if you’ve allowed yourself to be mistreated, disrespected, and for the negative self-talk. Then, make an effort to learn how to apologize to others. It is fascinating how much of our wellbeing is held in these feelings we have been holding on; the heavy burden we feel is literally holding us back and used are armour. Also, learn how to accept an apology from others who have hurt you. This is healing. It is also healing for others to find the courage to apologize and be acknowledge for this act. Say things like, “Thank you, I appreciate your apology, and I receive it.” This doesn’t mean instant forgiveness. Forgiveness, takes time and compassion, whether that is towards others, or yourself. The effect of this is not about letting go. Some people in your life will never apologize to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t express how you feel. There is a difference between expressing your hurt and demanding an apology. Your peace is found in expressing where you are at, in finding your voice.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
I learned this the hard way. I always used exercise for weight loss. This belief is quite damaging as we can get into patterns of chronic exercise. This makes us prone to injury, as we tend to go full force into our new regiment, eating plans, 3 week programs, etc. We not only run out of steam before the 3 weeks are up, we tend to only associate moving our bodies with burning calories, rather than the mental benefits that come along with everyday movement. When we feel discouraged with our new plan for transforming our bodies, we throw the baby out with the bath water. These are the benefits of daily exercise:
- It moves your emotions. New Age, or “New Cage,” as Jeff Brown has coined the term, has placed emphasis on stillness and medication. Although there are benefits to meditating and stillness, we tend to use it as a means to bypass what we feel. If you’re like me, certain yoga poses, or meditations, can trigger emotions. Sometimes, we need to be still or practice yoga, but sometimes we need to move our stuff. We need to work out our wiggles, like a student of mine says. When we get up for a dance, walk, stretch, house work, we notice that our energy has changed. That is what our goal needs to be. To use movement to manage emotions. Become aware of what arises. Our bodies store memories and trauma, particularly in the lower back and hips. This negative energy can have an impact on our wellbeing. We also need to let these emotions rise to the surface, not bypass them. Begin with movement that feels natural to you, whether that is walking, swimming, running, or dancing. As long as it helps you connect to your body and helps you heal, you will begin to see the mental benefits that will support other areas of your life.
- Connect with your body. I have felt so disconnected from my body that I had come to feel like it is a vehicle that moves my brain from point A to point B. Our lifestyles require so much of our mental focus that we tend to feel disconnected with the rest of our body. Even if it is breathing exercises, gentle core strengthening, stretching and flexibility, or light weight lifting, it helps our bodies reconnect with our brains. It creates new neuropathways and helps support our physical and mental health. Exercise your mind. Sometimes your mind is hungry, or your soul is hungry, or your heart is hungry. It needs nourishment. Aside from moving your body, listen to music, talk to yourself, perform what Jeff Brown calls, “barking dog yoga,” shout out when you need to. Be yourself. Love yourself.
- Self-esteem. If we are working on self-esteem, the shortest, most effective route is to do something physical. Self-esteem is a verb. We can say we are going for a 30 minute walk, or a 30 minute dance off, or a 30 minute stretch, to esteem ourselves. What you are doing, as Caroline Myss states, is you are spending 30 minutes a day feeling good about yourself. If you feel good, you get more energy, you do more, then you move that energy into another area of your life, and you go from there. We don’t have to exercise for hours during the day. We start with something we can manage, sustain, and enjoy. Self-esteem comes from you keeping your word to yourself. It is the relationship you have with yourself you are working on here. That is how we cultivate a cycle of wellness.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
- Walk it out. Take a soul walk. Smell something. Touch something. Make eye contact with someone. Say hello. Pet a Dog. Sit on a bench. Avoid music or podcasts for a first half. Listen to your thoughts. Feel your body. Notice your pace. It’s not a race.
- Work out your wiggles. Focus on natural, everyday movements. We are not made, nor have evolved for extreme exercise. Our ancestors lived pretty low key lives, besides walking, try running, swimming, and lifting weights, but maintain natural embodied movements.
- Stretch it out. Work on core and flexibility. This need not be extreme core workouts. Yoga instructors will attest to this. A physiotherapist can suggest movements that support your core and back, that don’t even require you to get out of bed. They require concentration. Especially if you have old injuries.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
Individuals who have a strict work out regiment know how to answer this question. They know what days are dedicated to certain workouts. They spend a lot of time studying their plans. They have trainers that help them reach their fullest potential, and they monitor for injury. The issue is, when individuals get into chronic exercise patterns, they tend to think that “more is more.” The problem with this thinking is that we go full force, we don’t scaffold our plans, because we want fast results, we get sore, or worse off, injured, and then we take a break, or quit all together. Then we start again when we feel like we need to “get into shape” for a special occasion, or summer time. My advice is:
- Baby steps. 15–20 minutes spurts are the best way to improve your movement and reap the benefits of in increased heartrate, if you are to implement a morning and mid afternoon routine.
- Learn from the best. Hire a trainer. They know how bodies work. They watch you move and they know when and how to challenge you when you’re ready. They know how to space out plans.
- Listen to your body. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to listen to your body as well. You, and only you, know your history, your injuries, your weaknesses, and how it feels when you have pushed yourself to the limit. You will know when you can go for that extra rep. Have faith in your body and what it’s telling you. Workout culture has engrained in us that we can’t trust our bodies and can’t be left at our own devices, and we need to keep pushing through. Our bodies will signal us when we need to recover, and good workout plans will have this built in.
- Less is more. In order to get started, and feel confident in what you are doing, begin with embodied natural movements, when you are starting out or taking a break. If you don’t treat an injury, you are going to suffer from it as you age.
- Set realistic goals. Become aware of predominant body types and respect your own beauty and shape. Try to make your goal something other that extreme weight loss. Weight cycling has been proven to be more harmful than living in a bigger body. Consider this a lifestyle shift, rather than a short lived program. Keeping these points in mind will help you stay the course and prevent injury.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
For someone who has struggled with eating disorders and extreme dieting for most of my life, I would strongly suggest avoiding trends and fads. Some of these trends can lead to orthorexia and disordered eating. These require you to eliminate foods from your diet, that aren’t necessarily harmful to all of us, like gluten, or limited in fruits and vegetables. Unless you have been diagnosed with an intolerance, eliminating food groups as a lifestyle might lead to other issues.
One thing I avoid is alcohol. Mostly because I don’t like the effect it has on my mental state, mood, and energy levels. I give myself permission to eat whatever I want during the day, as long as I eat fruits and vegetables after 6 pm. This has helped me get more plant based foods in my day, and I look forward to snacking on something cool and refreshing before bed. This is a strategy that has helped me overcome many eating triggers.
Food restrictions, or magical eating as coined by Jenna Hollenstein, can trigger cravings and binge eating because they are so restrictive. If we make agreements with ourselves, that we can maintain, we are more likely to stick with them. We need to keep it simple and intuitive.
If you are embarking on a 3 or 12 week “diet” be prepared to regain the weight you have lost, and then some, because this way of living is not sustainable. If you give permission to eat what you love, you’ll soon come to realize that you are paying attention to your body, and what it needs to feel nourished and nurtured in a compassionate way.
My advice to everyone who is struggling with chronic dieting is: give yourself some time to find your own intuitive ways of eating. What foods are you struggling to incorporate in your day? Can you find creative ways of sneaking in some of those healthy options? Give yourself permission to eat your favorite foods, daily, and avoid cheat days. This is a lifestyle approach, not an exam. It will take some time, but you will find your own way of compassionate eating, not dieting.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Eat to Love by Jenna Hollenstein. This book will not help you lose weight, nor get fit, but it will transform the relationship you have with your body, food, and exercise. Hollenstein unpacks magical eating, diet culture, body image, and its connections to history, power, politics, and the economy. It is a journey one needs to be ready to take. It discusses the body-spirit divide, and how we have come to realize our bodies as experiments and separate from ourselves. I realized, after reading this book, that even the way I would talk about my body was as if I was talking about someone else. Working with teens, I am surrounded by a demographic that is living through a very crucial phase in their lives. Confidence, self-esteem, and body-image are the top 3 concerns for teens. Most eating disorders develop during adolescence, as did mine. Although schools do an amazing job teaching students about daily physical activity, proper nutrition, health, etc., it does not eliminate the way teens scrutinize their bodies and compare themselves to their friends, or prevalent images on social media. Having conversations about the impact that diet culture, chronic exercise, and the power this industry holds is very eye opening for teens and adults. This book does not promote unhealthy living, it promotes wellness, balance, mindfulness, and acceptance.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Make healthy self-esteem an epidemic. Teenagers are our most valuable asset. Make self-esteem, wellness, mindfulness, mental health, positive body image, and positive self-concept part of the curriculum. Teens have so much insight and so many questions. Adults recognize the importance of these concepts in our lives, mostly because we have suffered from the lack of them. If we were to make these concepts part of mandatory education, we would be raising awareness on resilience and mental health; fundamental aspects of our wellbeing. My movement is to make this a course in school taught by educators, social workers, or coaches, who value relationships and having difficult conversations. A movement where “leadership” is not a career, but a life skill, where educators, and those involved with youth, are committed to empowering young individuals by bringing to the surface the obstacles and mental roadblocks that hold us back from becoming and valuing who we are.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“You can’t hate yourself into a version of yourself you can love” –Lori Deschene
My little sister, Sia, told me this during one of my countless rants about my body, my weight loss struggles, weight gain struggles, frustrations, and confusions about how to handle my countless diets, as if my body was some broken tool that needed to be fixed. I know I am not alone when I speak of how diet culture has instilled in men and women that we need to ‘manage’ our bodies. That if we don’t follow a regiment, we will lose control. We will let ourselves go. We will be undesirable, loveless, and alone. I know I am not alone when I speak of how we have little faith in our bodies knowing what is best of us to be healthy, balanced, and well nurtured. How did I get to the point where my self-worth was attached to my lbs rather than my accomplishments, education, thousands of people I taught and had an impact on? So, I promised myself that I will never “diet” again. The war is over. At 41, I decided that I will practice kindness towards my body, trust what it needs, whenever it needs it. I am not as thin as I used to be when I lived on 500 to 1000 calories a day, but besides that, I am more forgiving, more aware, and more compassionate with my self and others. The best part, I am becoming more and more aware of others feeling the same. I now realize I am not alone. I am not ashamed. I am what I am. If we don’t attend to the deeper issues we have about our bodies, and how cultural standards have shaped how we need to look in order to be accepted, we will be caught in a stop and go cycle for our entire lives. Once this relationship is mended, we will appreciate an active lifestyle, way of eating, and a healthy relationship with ourselves.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Brene Brown. I, like many of her followers, feel like she knows me so well. We never met, but I would love to have a conversation with someone who is not only highly aware of our human nature, gender norms, cultural standards, but someone who has gone through the same struggles as many of us have in order to “belong.” I admire what she offers to the world in regards to speaking with courage and vulnerability. Her insights into shame and secrecy have been so eye opening for my growth, even the ability to talk about my relationship with my body, how it has impacted my relationships with others, how it is so deeply rooted to a sense of self-worth, shame, self-armour, etc. I would love to ask about her spirituality and how she has learned to love herself. Also, I would love to learn how we can help teens and young adults, early in life, in schools, by coaching, or in workshops, on self-esteem, shame, and self-worth. Unless self-esteem becomes an epidemic, the world is in trouble.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!