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Event: Womentum March Onward, March 7, 2024

Womentum March Onward 2024!

The evening before International Women’s Day and during Women’s History Month, join Womentum as four local healthcare professionals share their stories that highlight the need for a paradigm shift in our approach to women’s wellbeing: separating wellness and our worth from weight, food, and our bodies.

Thursday, March 7, 6:30-8 pm (doors open at 6), The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole

$40, purchase here. Scholarships available, complete request form here.

The pursuit of health and wellness for women in our society too often leads to diminished personal power in the form of negative body image and a preoccupation with food, exercise, and weight.

This event will arm attendees with the knowledge to make educated choices for how we spend our time, attention, and money on our physical appearance and health. We envision a shift towards celebrating what our bodies can do in the world and also developing our potential beyond our physical self!

About Dr. Kelly Baxter, Family Medicine Physician

Dr. Kelly Baxter is deeply passionate about improving healthcare for those who are at greatest risk of experiencing medical and societal bias based on age, body type, sexual preference, gender identity, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and other forms of discrimination that contribute to worse health outcomes.

Kelly has a special interest in women’s health at all ages. She follows the evolving science of hormone replacement therapy and strives to support women through the menopausal transition. Kelly recognizes the harms of diet culture on mental and physical health. After 15 years in premedical, medical, and residency training, Kelly was shocked to find a complete lack of education around eating disorders and a general lack of understanding and compassion around body image and weight. She has independently pursued training and mentorship in these areas, but she has found the most meaningful education has come from her patients directly. Kelly is humbled and honored to share the sacred space of the patient-provider relationship and feels that all people deserve unbiased and individualized care.

Dr. Kelly Baxter is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She is certified in Integrative Medicine through the University of Arizona. She earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Wyoming and her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington. She completed her family medicine residency at Saint Anthony North Hospital in Denver, Colorado.

About Mary Ryan, Licensed Clinical Social Worker & Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Mary Ryan’s practice, Beyond Broccoli LLC, welcomes adults and adolescents struggling with a wide range of issues, with a special focus on problems with food, eating, exercise, and body image. She began her professional journey as a dietitian more than two decades ago. Her interest in the many links between nutrition and mental health, and her passion for empowering clients to improve their relationship with food and their bodies, led her to pursue additional education, training, and licensure as a psychotherapist to help clients move beyond the “what” and towards the “why” of eating and other struggles. Integrating nutrition and psychotherapy is particularly important when there are issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, or difficult childhood experiences that impact every aspect of how we function later in life.

About Tanya Mark, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach

With over 20 years of experience in the field of wellness, Tanya Mark, started her career as a massage therapist and shifted to fitness coaching (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) and then became a Nutrition Therapy Practitioner (NTP). After witnessing client frustration from failed diets and body dissatisfaction Tanya pursued additional education as a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and a Licensed Be Body Positive Facilitator to support her clients in disentangling from diet culture and the false belief that there’s a “right” way to have a body.

Recently, Tanya completed her studies as a Master Level II Health Coach (PN2-MHC) and Certified Sleep, Stress Management & Recovery Coach (SSR). She coaches clients on whole health, beyond nutrition, including physical activity, sleep, stress resilience skills, and help them gain clarity on their personal values, priorities and what they really want out of life — what matters most. Tanya works with clients virtually, 1-1 or in her group Intuitive Eating and Be Body Positive coaching programs.

About Eden Morris, Registered Dietitian & Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

Eden Morris is a former collegiate softball player turned mountain biker and skier who loves pocket snacks, tacos, playing outside, hanging with her Australian cattle dog, and camping in new places. Eden internalized so many of diet culture’s messages when she was a young girl. She didn’t understand that dieting would damage her body and hinder her performance in sports until she was diagnosed with Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport at age 22. 3 stress fractures in her left foot, osteopenia, and an absent menstrual cycle for 3+ years were the wakeup calls that showed her that health had to be about more than eating “clean” and weighing as little as possible.

Eden has spent the last 12 years immersing herself in the Intuitive Eating framework, making peace with food, her body, and movement. Healing her relationship with food was the healthiest thing she’s ever done for her physical and mental health. She’s a huge fan of mantras and affirmations–she often states, “A well-fed body is a resilient body.” Eden aims to live a life to show you that a fueled body performs better. No matter what phase of life we’re in, no matter what kind of movement we enjoy, our bodies deserve nourishment from foods that give us energy and bring us joy!

Eden works with active individuals of all ages who are looking to learn how to fuel their bodies without restriction, who are ready to appreciate their body for what it does for them vs how it looks, and who want to find a peaceful, accepting relationship toward themselves in order to live a life of empowerment.

Join us for Womentum March Onward 2024!

Normalize bodies to obtain overall health

There’s no “right” way to have a human body.

Yet “we’ve reached a point in history where nearly every person is in some way affected by society’s heightened focus on beauty, health and weight,” says co-founder of The Body Positive, Connie Sobczak.

The “emphasis on how we look and what we weigh has influenced the way most people perceive and care for their bodies.”

Girls as young as 3 years old report body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization and self-objectification. Teens worry about the natural body weight increases during puberty while parents struggle to feed them in a “healthy” way.

Body image experts and authors of More Than a Body, Lindsay Kite and Lexie Kite gave up competitive swimming, a beloved piece of their childhood identity when they observed their bodies didn’t fit a swimmer’s body “ideal.”

Consider how many women prior to their weddings stress over every morsel of food and exercise obsessively to fit into a dress size smaller than their actual body. Or maybe you’re attending a 25-year high school reunion and you’re worried about how others will judge you. And how about the pressure that post-partum women feel to get their pre-baby body back or men being mocked for having “dad bods.”

A changing body is only a problem if we believe that our bodies aren’t supposed to change.

There's no right way to have a body

Many of us believe that self-care means engaging in the latest food plan or exercise craze. Yet what’s perceived as normal “health” behaviors, may be disordered and lead to dangerous eating disorders that affect people of all sizes, ages and genders. Women “diet” or “eat clean” while men “bio-hack,” diet culture’s masculine equivalent.

In the New York Time’s opinion piece, “Welcome to the bro-y world of extreme dieting. Or is it disordered eating?” author Thomas Stackpole describes how he ate almost nothing but lean ground turkey and broccoli over greens for two months as part of a YouTube bodybuilder’s plan and cycled through wellness trends like ingesting metabolism-boosting mushrooms.

And midlife women, be aware. Diet culture is taking advantage of the “lucrative menopause market” targeting perimenopausal and menopausal women for any and all signs of aging such as weight gain and body fat redistribution. Of course, “diets” are the solution.

The belief that there’s a “right” way to have a body may burden us for a lifetime. Grandma refuses a homemade brownie from her granddaughter choosing a pleasureless low-fat, sugar-free, 100-calorie Weight Watchers bar instead.

Those human experiences not only break my heart, but they’re also not making us mentally nor physically healthier.

We must come together, in community, as teachers, coaches, peers, parents, and healthcare professionals to change the conversation around bodies, weight, health and self-worth.

We weren’t born hating our bodies. It’s learned. Those three-year-old girls observed their mother’s body dissatisfaction. And if you’re a parent struggling to feed your kids “healthfully,” author, Virginia Sole-Smith shares advice in her book, “Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture.”

“We’re programming kids to grow up and turn to diets. They need to learn how to trust themselves, intuitively” shared Sole-Smith on Dan Harris’s Ten Percent Happier podcast episode “How to Stop Obsessing Over Your Body and Eat Sanely in a Toxic Culture.”

One way to start untangling from diet culture says Sole-Smith is to explore Intuitive Eating, a self-care eating framework developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. We’re recognizing the critical need to redevelop eating as a skill. We were born knowing how to eat, but over time, we lose it, living in our “there’s a right way to have a body” culture.

Dan Harris fell prey to the male version of diet culture like Stackpole. He entered calories and macros into MyFitnessPal, wore the ring to track his sleep and ate no carbs or sugars. But he “dropped all that other stuff” after a life-changing interview with Tribole about Intuitive Eating.

“Why are you torturing yourself trying to get a body you had in your thirties or for some aesthetic ideal? There’s no correlation between the ideal body and actual underlying health and why are you giving these messages to your son about some foods being sinful like carbs and sugar,” says Tribole.

“And I was like, yeah. Yes. I was a hard core, idiot” says Harris.

Yet, initially, Harris was skeptical about Tribole’s non-diet approach to nutrition and health. Harris describes himself as judgmental and dismissive, something he says as a mindfulness practitioner, he’s working on. If this perspective on nutrition seems radical, I recommend listening to “The Anti-Diet” episode.

More than four years later, Harris admits he’s still a work in progress. Freeing ourselves from culture’s harmful messages about food and our bodies takes time and commitment. It takes far more than reading the Intuitive Eating book and briefly exploring the exercises. It requires examining deeply ingrained beliefs with critical thinking.

I suggest reading “Anti-Diet” by Registered Dietitian, Christy Harrison. Harrison unpacks the history of the BMI (body mass index) and diet culture, which she calls “the life thief,” and explains why obsessing over what you eat is bad for your health.

And if you’ve ever been told “You Just Need To Lose Weight,” consider reading Aubrey Gordon’s book with this same title. Gordon tackles, with in-depth research, 19 ingrained myths about weight. Or for something lighter (and funnier), listen to her podcast, Maintenance Phase, where she and co-host Michael Hobbes debunk the junk science behind health and wellness fads.

Liberate yourself from the false and disempowering belief that there’s a right way to have a body.

Explore your relationship with food and your body and take a gentle approach to nutrition.

Shift from striving to achieve an aesthetic or “normal” BMI to moving your body because it feels good, supports your mental and metabolic health and your functionality.

Value your sleep, social connections, and mental fitness skills as equally important.

Explore who you are, what you want, your values and priorities, and what makes life meaningful to you.

Be a part of an empowered generation that speaks kind and loving things about your body in front of your three-year-old and that one day, happily accepts the homemade brownie from your grandchild.

For however long we’re on this planet, our bodies are where we live. Feeling connected to and at peace with them is crucial to your health, happiness, and wellbeing.

(This article was originally published in Hole Health, a special section of the Jackson Hole News and Guide, February 21, 2024).

Normalizing Body Changes in Midlife

It’s time for empowering conversations, normalizing body changes in midlife.

The fact that many women in perimenopause, menopause and beyond feel dissatisfied with their bodies has more to do with the cultural expectations we’ve been taught than any real problem with our health and wellness.

Diet culture drives the narrative that midlife women’s bodies are a “problem” that need fixing; that any and all weight gain or increase in abdominal fat as we age is always bad – unhealthy and unattractive which is the meaning that diet culture has assigned to those body changes.

This messaging is harmful because it can lead women into disordered behaviors with food that are normalized such as “diets” that claim they’re not diets, excessive exercise, eating disorders, and stress our physical, mental, and relational health.

Midlife weight, body changes and our health are complex and individual and aren’t easily explained by just one thing, such as hormones.

Midlife is a time to have empowering conversations in community about menopause, a natural biological event.

It’s a time to support women in caring for their whole selves by listening to our bodies and eating nourishing food for the most part (gentle nutrition), moving our bodies in ways that build us up versus break us down, getting the best possible sleep, rest and recovery that you can and building in stress resilience practices – as midlife can be a particularly challenging time period.

In midlife we can bond by openly discussing the normal and natural body changes as we age instead of connecting over negative body and self-talk.

And it’s a time for us to reflect on what’s most important in our lives now, what makes life meaningful and aligns with our values and priorities.

When you feel drawn to blame yourself or your body, remember that it’s not you or your body that’s the problem.

Normalizing body changes in midlife and ditch diet culture

It’s diet culture. Diet culture has tapped into the global menopause market – projected to reach $24.4 billion by 2030.

Join me Mon. Jan. 8, 12-1pm MST at The Mental Wellness Collaborative in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (in person or Zoom) for an empowering conversation with Yvette Warner, LCSW and her Thriving Through Midlife community. Free and Open to the public. Please RSVP to yvette@yvettewarner.com to attend in person or receive the Zoom link. Hope to see you, Tanya

Taming Negative Self-Talk: Neuroscience and Your Wellness

You’ve likely encountered that nagging voice inside your head saying, “I can’t do this” when you’ve tried to improve some aspect of your wellness: eating more veggies, moving more, getting more sleep, or maybe meditating. Or maybe you’re critical of yourself when you look in the mirror. But don’t get disheartened. There’s some exciting neuroscience research that can help you understand and counteract that voice.

Tame Your Brain and Negative Self-Talk

The brain’s adaptability is one of its strongest features. However, with repeated negative thoughts, our brain strengthens specific neural pathways, making such thoughts occur more frequently. Think of this like a hiking trail: the more it’s traveled, the clearer it becomes.

Now, this isn’t just a metaphor. A study published in Nature Neuroscience found that neurons in our brains that fire together (think thoughts or behaviors) wire together, solidifying certain patterns and responses.

Moreover, when we entertain negative thoughts, parts of our brain, especially the amygdala, get into overdrive, releasing stress hormones. Prolonged exposure to these hormones can lead to complications like heightened anxiety levels and mood disorders.

Strategies to Harness Your Brain’s Potential

1. Positive Affirmations: A study from the Journal of Positive Psychology highlighted that individuals who practiced positive self-affirmations were more open to behavioral change. So, try to start your day with a positive statement about your health journey, such as “I am taking action to make today a great day.”

Taming negative self-talk with neuroscience

 

2. Mindfulness and Meditation: A comprehensive review in JAMA Internal Medicine suggested that meditation can improve anxiety, depression, and pain. By recognizing negative thoughts early, you can prevent them from taking control. There are tons of ways to be mindful. Try pausing to take a few breaths, or focusing on your senses – what you can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, or listening to a guided visualization. Find what works best for YOU!

Mindfulness to retrain your brain

 

3. Reframe and Challenge: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, which revolve around challenging negative patterns of thought and reframing them, have been shown to be effective in various conditions, including anxiety and depression. Next time you think, “I always give up,” try reframing it as, “Each attempt brings me closer to my goal.”

 

4. Neurofeedback:  Also known as EEG (electroencephalogram) biofeedback, neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback therapy focused on the brain. The core idea behind neurofeedback is to provide real-time data about brainwave activity, allowing individuals to learn how to modify their own brain waves. Research from the Journal of Neural Engineering has shown positive results, especially concerning mood regulation.

5. Get Moving: A review in Health Psychology Review indicated that movement can have a positive effect on mood by releasing neurotransmitters like endorphins. The next time you feel stuck in a loop of negative thoughts, consider taking a short walk or doing a quick workout.

Use neuroscience to tame negative self-talk

Along your health journey, remember that evidence-based techniques are at your fingertips to combat negative self-talk – whether you have a perfectionist personality or tend to focus on what you don’t like about your perfectly imperfect body. Start with one and let the momentum build. Embrace the intersection of your own determination and the wonders of neuroscience, and trust that every step forward is progress backed by science.

Want some support to take your mind body health to the next level (no matter where you’re starting at)? Shoot me an email and tell me about yourself and your vision for your Best Self. ✨ Coach Tanya

Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty

What if you could declare your own authentic beauty and experience beauty as a creative, dynamic process?

What if you could inhabit your body with more joy and confidence?

These are the two goals of “Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty,” the 4th competency of The Be Body Positive Model.

The Be Body Positive Model was created by Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, founders of The Body Positive. It’s a comprehensive framework that aims to promote self-acceptance, healthy body image, and overall well-being.

The model comprises five interrelated competencies, each addressing a fundamental aspect of fostering a healthy relationship with oneself and one’s body.

The 5 Be Body Positive Competencies

  1. Reclaim Health
  2. Practice Intuitive Self-Care
  3. Cultivate Self-Love
  4. Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty
  5. Build Community

These are the fundamental skills I teach in my role as a licensed Be Body Positive Facilitator. When you practice these on a daily basis, you can learn to live peacefully and healthfully in your body.

Proficiency with these skills allows you to care for yourself from a place of self-love and appreciation, leading to alignment with your purpose and life goals. 

Rather than dictating a restrictive or prescriptive set of rules to follow, The Be Body Positive Model uses practical tools, inspiration, and support to empower you to find your own way to lasting health and greater happiness.

Furthermore, research reports empowering benefits.

A Stanford University pilot study showed that The 5 Competencies of the Be Body Positive Model had a positive effect on participants’ self-reported guilt, beliefs of thin ideal, body satisfaction, and social determinants of body image. Among these, “Declaring Your Own Authentic Beauty” stands as a pivotal milestone in the journey towards genuine self-love and acceptance.

Click here to watch THIS IS BEAUTY, a one-minute youtube video of empowering messages from participants in my recent “Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty” workshop.

The Four Benefits – Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty

Declaring your own authentic beauty goes beyond mere appearance. It is an empowering process that encourages you to acknowledge and embrace your true self, beyond the external façade.

It involves recognizing and accepting your inherent worth, strengths, and uniqueness, while shedding societal judgments and unrealistic expectations. By encouraging you to look beyond the superficial, The Body Positive inspires a profound connection to the essence of who you are.

1. Break Free from Societal Norms

In a world obsessed with the “perfect” body, declaring your authentic beauty is an act of rebellion against society’s narrow beauty standards. By acknowledging that beauty is diverse and not confined to a specific mold, you can liberate yourself from the shackles of comparison and self-doubt. This newfound freedom allows you to celebrate your individuality and embrace the beauty within yourself, irrespective of societal norms.

My Beauty Is...Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty

2. Build Resilience and Self-Confidence

When you declare their authentic beauty, you cultivate a sense of resilience that shields you from the harsh criticisms and judgments of others. By finding value in your unique attributes and recognizing that your worth is not tied to external validation, you can develop a profound self-confidence. This newfound self-assurance allows you to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and grace.

My Beauty is My Monster Thighs. Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty

3. Enhance Your Mental and Emotional Well-Being

The journey of embracing one’s authentic beauty is inherently transformative, leading to improved mental and emotional well-being. The Body Positive’s approach nurtures a positive self-image, which can help reduce the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders that often result from negative body image issues. By embracing your authentic self, you foster self-compassion, self-acceptance, and a deeper appreciation for life.

4. Cultivate Positive Relationships

The process of declaring one’s authentic beauty not only transforms you as an individual but also enriches your relationships with others. As you become more accepting of yourself, you extend the same compassion and understanding to those around you. This creates a ripple effect, fostering a supportive and nurturing community that celebrates diversity and individuality.

Expand your imagination to behold authentic beauty in yourself and others. ♡ Tanya

Five Transformative Benefits of the Body Positive Approach to Health and Wellbeing

Maybe you’re curious about the benefits of the body positive approach to health. But let’s be honest. The pursuit of health and wellbeing has become intertwined with the pursuit of a perfect body. From social media influencers to glossy magazine covers, the pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, there is a powerful movement that challenges this narrative – the body positive approach. Rather than fixating on achieving one specific “ideal” shape or size, the body positive movement advocates for being the healthiest version of your unique self, in both mind and body.

So let’s dive into why it’s critical to shift away from striving for one specific size or “ideal” image of health and well-being. I hope you find it empowering.

Five Benefits of the Body Positive Approach to Health and Wellbeing

1. Cultivates a Positive Mindset

At the core of the body positive approach lies the concept of self-acceptance and self-compassion.

Instead of berating yourself if you don’t fit into societal’s perfectionist ideals, a body positive mindset encourages you to appreciate and celebrate your body for all that it does. This shift in perspective fosters a positive relationship with yourself, leading you to improved mental wellbeing and reduced stress levels.

When you learn to be more accepting of your body, especially as you move through life stages, you can free yourself from the shackles of comparison and self-criticism, allowing space for self-growth and personal development. 🔥

2. Encourages Health as a Holistic Concept

The body positive approach doesn’t dismiss the importance of health and wellbeing.

Instead, it redefines the concept of health beyond mere physical appearance.

Health is seen as a holistic state, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, existential and social well-being.

This inclusive view promotes balanced and sustainable lifestyle choices that prioritize overall wellness rather than obsessing over numbers on a scale or clothing size.

By recognizing that health is multi-dimensional, you are more likely to adopt habits that nourish both your body and mind.

3. Break Free from Diet Culture

Current approaches to health often revolve around restrictive diets and intense workout regimens, perpetuating a harmful cycle of yo-yo dieting and disordered eating behaviors.

The body positive approach advocates for intuitive eating and listening to our body’s needs. You learn to trust your instincts and respect your body’s cues. This liberated relationship with food fosters a healthier attitude towards eating, reduces the risk of developing eating disorders, and promotes a sustainable and enjoyable way of nourishing our bodies.

4. Boost Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

In a world that often equates beauty with self-worth, adopting a body positive approach can be incredibly empowering. When you embrace your body and celebrate your uniqueness, you cultivate a strong sense of self-confidence and self-esteem.

This newfound self-assurance radiates into all aspects of your life, from personal relationships to professional pursuits.

By rejecting the notion that your worth is contingent on your appearance, you liberate yourself to pursue your passions and dreams without the burden of body-related insecurities holding you back.

5. Foster a Supportive Body Positive Community

The body positive movement thrives on the idea of inclusivity and support. By embracing this approach, you become part of a larger community that champions body diversity and challenges harmful societal norms.

Engaging with like-minded people who prioritize self-love can provide a valuable support network, allowing you to share your experiences, seek guidance, and together we can celebrate our collective victories.

In a world that perpetuates perfectionist health and beauty standards, the body positive approach to health and wellbeing emerges as a refreshing, empowering and transformative perspective.

By redefining health as holistic well-being, you can break free from the harmful grips of diet culture and body shaming. You can lead a fulfilling life with compassion, joy, and gratitude for the incredible vessel that carries you through this beautiful journey called life.

Ultimately, that’s my goal as your coach, to partner with you to be your healthiest self in mind and body.

Want to reap the many benefits of the body positive approach to health? If so, let’s have a conversation. ♡ Tanya

How can I improve my body image?

Positive role models shape a healthy body image

Maybe you’re wondering “how can I improve my body image” in our body perfectionist culture?

Well, what if you knew when you were younger that all bodies aren’t the same?

Every body is different

That’s what 26-year-old pop singer and former “American Idol” contestant, Jax, wished somebody had told her.

This summer she posted “Victoria’s Secret,” a song she wrote about toxic body ideals. And clearly, it resonated – boosting her TikTok followers to over 11.9 million.

The song, inspired by a 14-year-old girl that Jax babysits, fights back against the body shame the teenager experienced while shopping at Victoria’s Secret for a swimsuit. When Jax picked her up from the mall the girl was crying. Her friends had told her that she was “too fat and flat” to wear a bikini, she shared on TikTok. And Jax could relate.

Comparing her body to photoshopped images of false ideals of health, fitness and beauty and “itty bitty models on magazine covers,” led to disordered behaviors with food.

“Can’t have carbs and a hot girl summer. The f—ing pressure I was under to lose my appetite, and fight the cellulite, with Hunger Games like every night” are lyrics from her song.

How can I improve my body image? Know that normal bodies have body fat, cellulite, stretch marks, any signs of being human and living your one precision life.
How can I improve my body image? Know that normal bodies have body fat, cellulite, stretch marks, any signs of being human and living your one precision life.

So, what would Jax go back and tell her younger self?

“I know Victoria’s ‘secret,’” she sings. “She was made up by a dude. She’s an old man who lives in Ohio, making money off of girls like me, cashing in on body issues, selling skin and bones and big boobs.”

Body appreciation shaped in youth

Boy did I need this song some four decades ago. I grew up in Victoria’s Secret culture.

Lamenting my cellulite and lack of “thigh gap,” I sunbathed slathered in Hawaiian Tropic oil, lounging on a plastic lawn chair in my backyard. My 16-year-old self thought being thin and baking in a tanning bed was the answer to my self-worth.

I bought padded bras and bikini tops. I ate my mom’s fat-free Snackwell cookies and Baked Lays potato chips, leaving me hungry too — for pasta with Parmesan and butter sauce. All my behaviors driven by wanting to fit in, belong and feel good in my skin.

How I wish I’d been exposed to diverse role models – real people representing health, fitness, and beauty. Instead, I would spend far too many years trying to attain one “ideal” look.

Role models crucial to body appreciation

Role models matter. They can shape a healthy body image. And body image is broader than just how we think and feel about our physique. It influences our sense of self, says Charlotte Markey, author of “The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless.”

So how can you improve your body image?

Seek out diverse health and beauty role models to create a positive shift for the next generation. Furthermore, it can help us all heal from toxic body messaging.

Heal from toxic body messaging

In addition to Jax, consider Melisa Raouf, 20, who will be the first to completely forgo makeup while competing for Miss England next month. The event introduced a “Bare Face” round in the competition in 2019. Why? Because most contestants were submitting highly edited images of themselves wearing lots of makeup. Organizers wanted women to “show us who they really are without the need to hide behind makeup and filters on social media,” said Angie Beasley in a New York Post article.

Raouf, who hopes to promote inner beauty and challenge the beauty ideals perpetuated on social media, says she been inundated with messages from other young women expressing how much confidence Raouf has given them.

Or how about 37-year-old, Molly Galbraith, co-founder of Girls Gone Strong? Her worldwide health and fitness movement focuses on helping women feel strong, confident and empowered in their lives and bodies.

In addition, we can also learn from Ali Stoker, the first wheelchair-using actor to appear on a Broadway stage and the first to be nominated for and win a Tony Award.

“We’ve been convinced to be more concerned with others’ experience of looking at our bodies than our own experience in living in our bodies” says Stoker in an Everyday Health article titled “Celebrities Who’ve Spoken Out About Body Image.”

And one of my favorite role models in athletics is 41-year-old mom and greatest of all time tennis star Serena Williams, who’s been outspoken about her body throughout her career.

“I look like a normal athlete,” Williams told the Miami Herald in 2015.

We’ve been taught for decades that all bodies can and should be the same shape to be worthy, healthy or beautiful. So William’s message can’t be shared enough.

Normalize normal bodies for body confidence

Consider how you might think and feel about your whole self if you grew up with role models who looked like you — without makeup, wearing a swimsuit or playing your favorite sport.

And let’s remember that the people who influence how we feel and think about our bodies the most are those we encounter everyday — teachers, doctors, coaches, parents.

Read more: Mom’s body attitude shape’s daughters

Jax says that “Victoria’s Secret” was her way to share her personal story with people of all ages and genders. Never compare your body to what you see on media. The song was intended as a message to all corporations, not just Victoria’s Secret, marketing toward people’s insecurities she told PopSugar.

“I hate the idea of anybody losing their sense of self-worth while someone else gets rich off of it” Jax says.

How can I improve my body image? Know your body's worth is infinite.
How can I improve my body image? Know your body’s worth is infinite.

Ultimately, the whole point of her song is to normalize diversity in body types. And it’s working. She’s seeing a “million different shapes and sizes and colors and stories rocking out” to her song and feeling super confident in their skin.

We all can, because now we know Victoria’s real secret is, “She was never made for [real bodies like] me and you.”

Improve your body image by seeking out healthy role models. ♡ Tanya

[Originally published in the September 28, 2022 edition of the Jackson Hole News and Guide.]

Make peace with your summer body

Summertime calls for shorts, tanks and swimsuits. If you love or like your body, no matter what it looks like, terrific. But if you don’t, baring more skin can produce body insecurities. You might find it hard to make peace with your summer body.

Over 91% of women report struggling with some aspect of their appearance. It makes sense when women compare their bodies to perfectionist images that less than 5% of women naturally possess. So that means most of our bodies don’t “measure up.” It’s a frustrating statistic to face when bodies are supposed to be diverse, as our uniqueness is what makes us human.

To address this reality, body positive messages such as “love your body, flaws and all” or “every body is a swimsuit body,” are wonderful, yet it’s understandable if you just can’t relate. Despite seeing progress with body diversity in women’s clothing brands, you’ll still be bombarded with “perfect” images in advertising because creating body insecurities sells — cellulite creams, anti-aging potions or quick- fix weight diets. It’s a multibillion-dollar business that’s not going anywhere.

Because of this unfortunate truth, it’s important to build your body image resilience muscle. To be clear, having a healthy body image isn’t about what your body looks like but how you think and feel about your own body.

Benefits include:

Benefits of healthy body image, make peace with your body
Benefits of healthy body image, make peace with your body

So how can you make peace with your summer body?

Consider the practice of body neutrality.

What is body neutrality?

It’s establishing a neutral relationship with your body. It’s taking the focus off your body’s appearance and placing it on its purpose — as a vessel for living your life, a home for expressing your true self — your spirit, your soul, like you once did when you were a kid.

Kids are body neutral. They simply enjoy their bodies. They use their bodies as a vehicle to live and express themselves instead of defining them by appearance, that is, until they observe that our culture sadly values some bodies over others.

But you can return to valuing your body for its true purpose (and teach your kids, too). You can reap the benefits of having the healthy relationship with your body by practicing these three body neutral skills:

First, if you feel a little (or a lot) “meh” toward your body, shower yourself with self-compassion. What’s self-compassion? It’s the same kindness you would share with your best friend, daughter, or anyone who feels challenged, acknowledging that the lack of body diversity and perfectionist body ideals is one that most women face.

So, practice getting out of your head and back into your body. Humans have a natural tendency toward the negative: What’s wrong with me? You can begin by noticing and naming these thoughts and actively choose to see your body as you once did as a child.

Yes, your brain can be retrained. Mindfulness skills such as meditation and breathing exercises are great practices to break the chain of negative body focus. While it may seem like a simple practice, neuroscience research proves that it works. So make a conscious effort to redirect your brain toward body purpose not appearance.

Second, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take care of your body, no matter how it appears. We often judge our own health and fitness by our body size. But that’s not true health. A thin body may be healthy or not; a larger body may be healthy or not.

And third, your health is multi-faceted.  If you’re viewing it based solely on the number on the scale, you’re missing critical key factors that affect your wellbeing. These factors, known as your “deep health,” include your physical health as well as your mental and emotional health, the quality of your connection with others, the environment that you live in and existential health: Are you living your life with purpose?

And what brings meaning to your life isn’t the pursuit of body “ideals.”

My intention in writing this article for my column in the Jackson Hole News and Guide has been to shine a light on our limited view on what it means to be healthy, and in particular, how it’s often confused with the “look” of health.

So that’s why my focus as a wellness coach isn’t about you achieving one magical number on the scale but instead on teaching you to build healthy behaviors with your food (not a diet), movement, sleep and stress management skills, while considering all the factors that influence your ability to take care of yourself. And ultimately success is allowing your body to be where it healthiest, instead of focusing on the “look” — the supposed aesthetic of health.

As Dr. Kara Mohr of “Girls Gone Strong” says, “We may have attachment to an ideal body weight, despite powerful evidence that our bodies may be stronger, fitter, faster, healthier at a different weight.”

And finally, I want to leave you with one more critical body neutral practice.

Feel good about yourself in whatever body you have. Wear summer clothes that suit your unique body. And if you’re not comfortable revealing certain body parts with shorts or sleeveless tops, it’s OK.

Wave the white flag. Our hearts our craving more — to be more than our bodies. Let your spirit, your soul, the real you shine through whatever body you were gifted. Be kind to your body. Be compassionate with yourself. Show yourself true self-care. Make peace with your body by practicing body neutrality this summer.

Want to learn how to make peace with your (summer) body? Let’s set up a time to chat so you can share you personal wellness story with me and I can share my deep health approach to your whole health. I’d love be your guide. ♡ Tanya

Women Weigh in on Aging Bodies

Wrinkles. Waistlines. Rippled thighs.

It feels strange to look in the mirror at my 53-year-old body and no longer see my younger self. I’ll be honest, aging isn’t easy when 20-somethings Botox “wrinkles” and Instagram influencers filter and perfect their images and instruct midlife women to “just skip the carbs” to flatten our rounded bellies. (No thanks).

And while I’m certainly not immune to our fix it, fight it, “anti-aging” culture, deep in my heart I simply want to be me and accept and allow my body to age naturally.

I wondered how other women are thinking and feeling about aging and their bodies.

So, I reached out and asked. Here’s what those women, aged 45-87, had to say:

Our 40s:

My thoughts and feelings about my body have been a big obstacle to my happiness and well-being for most of my life. It’s amplified now that I’m seeing the first real signs of aging. There’s resistance to that process and some fear. It feels strange to see extra fat on my abdomen. I still want to be thin and toned. It is very much a mental game that I struggle with.

Our 50s:

It seems like everything went downhill when I turned 50. Menopause is awful — brain fog along with perpetual exhaustion, saggy skin, hot flashes. I’m always looking at serums and creams and medical services. I started Lexapro to help me sleep and find my old self. Pandemic stress hasn’t made it any easier — political division, teenagers missing prom, graduation. I have some “additional COVID me to love” that I can’t lose. I learning to embrace graying hair, wrinkles, and I’m trying to embrace my body.

Our 60s:

I’m sorry I wasted so much of my life worrying about my weight. I think my body is an amazing machine. I feel like I owe it to my body to treat her well.

Our 70s:

I feel better about my body and aging than I ever thought possible. I practice mindfulness meditation, and that has taken me to a deep appreciation for my body. I treat myself as a dear friend and a deep appreciation for all of life.

Our 80s:

I can’t stop my body from aging but do my best by taking daily walks up and down hills. I enjoy it. I think that it is more important than ever to stay active. I feel better and sleep better. So I do not focus much on how old I am. It is just a number.

So, what wisdom can we gain from these women and their experiences with body image and aging?

Aging can take us by surprise. Yet with education it doesn’t have to, and women can shift self-care to focus on a healthy functioning body while softening how they see themselves in the mirror. And overall, women want to see aging normalized and not make women feel wrong if they choose to age naturally. Education matters

“There needs to be more discussion and transparency about women in their 40s and moving toward menopause and the changes that happen and what to expect,” says one 45-year-old woman surveyed, “so it doesn’t feel so scary and wrong.”

Life isn’t about your dress size

When I asked what advice women would give to their younger self, they said:

Put yourself first. Be kinder to yourself. Listen to your body and fuel it with what it wants and needs, not what the current diet fad says you should eat. Body diversity is normal and OK. No one will stop being your friend because you gained weight. Stay active, move your body to feel good mentally and physically not to burn calories or lose weight. Rest. Get more sleep. Wear sunscreen. Play more!

Focus on finding what makes you happy and confident. Living a full life is more important than stressing about your dress size. Give up perfection in appearance. Stop worrying what everyone else thinks of you. You are enough. Have more confidence. Confidence is beautiful.

And ultimately, honor, appreciate and befriend your body because life is precious.

♡ Tanya

Want to read more about how to have a healthy body image as you age? Check out:

How to Embrace Your Aging Body

Body Appreciation is Key to Healthful Aging

(This article was originally published in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, April 13, 2022.

3 Steps to Banish Body Comparison

Do you struggle with body comparison, your body image? What if you could live your best life in whatever body you have?

I’m reading Brene Brown’s new book Atlas of the Heart and was struck by her research on comparison. Brown says that humans are hardwired to default to comparison and that it seems to happen to us rather than be our choice.

She shared a story about her love for swimming and how she used to shift her attention to the person in the next lane which had the potential to ruin her swim. She compared herself to a twentysomething triathlete. (We’ll return to her story below.)

“If we don’t want this constant automatic ranking to negatively shape our lives, our relationships, and our future, we need to stay aware enough to know when it’s happening and what emotions it’s driving” says Brown.

Brown says that the goal is to raise our awareness about how and why comparison happens so we can name them, think about them, and make choices that reflect our values and our heart.

Here’s Brown’s definition of comparison:

Comparison is the crush of conformity from one side and competition from the other – it’s trying to simultaneously fit and stand out. Comparison says, be like everyone else, but better.

Comparison drives big feelings that affect our relationships, self-worth and feelings of well-being.

The good news, she says, is that you get to choose how you’re going to let it affect you. Instead, you can be yourself and respect others for being authentic.

3 Steps to Banish Body Comparison

1. Embrace imperfection.

How did we get to this place where we compare ourselves against perfection? Well, we live in a perfectionist body culture that portrays an “ideal” body type as only looking one way: thin, young and pretty (or muscular, young and handsome). Less than 5% of people naturally possess this body type and of course bodies change as we live, nobody is getting younger and at some point (if ever) we will no longer fit ideal beauty standards.

2. Focus on the positive.

Focus on something you do like about yourself to prevent your mind from automatically hyper focusing on what you don’t (*what I like to call “going down the rabbit hole of sht). For example, if you’ve been hard on your body weight, focus on a feature that you do like. I personally choose to focus on my green eyes.

Be positive. What you focus on expands.

3. See your whole self.

We tend to see ourselves as a bunch of body parts that are judged and scrutinized. We think that others are focusing on and judging the body parts that we don’t like about ourselves but they aren’t (and if they do it’s often because they have their own body insecurities). So, let’s send them kindness and compassion.

Remember, that when you compare yourself to somebody that you feel “looks perfect” that you don’t know how this person feels about themselves on the inside. Body image isn’t about appearance. It’s about how we think and feel about our bodies.

Practice seeing yourself as a whole person, not a sum of body parts. This includes seeing yourself beyond your physical body because you are more than a body.

Let’s show ourselves kindness and self-compassion.

You can retrain your brain to shift away from comparison with awareness and make new choices. And research shows that it works!

So let’s return to Brown’s swimming story. Her new strategy is “to look at the person in the lane next to me, and say to myself, as if I’m talking to them, ‘Have a great swim.’ That way I acknowledge the inevitable and make conscious decision to wish them well and return to my swim. So far, it’s working pretty well,” she says.

Instead of comparing bodies, look for the joy

The more we know, the more we can choose connection over comparison.

– Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart

How does comparison shows up in your life? Shoot me an email and let me know or share a comment or question! I’d love to hear from you. ♡ T

P.S. Looking for body image support? Send me an email to get on the waitlist for my next Be Body Positive Group Coaching class. Get the details here.