Five steps to reduce stress

One of the biggest threats to your health and well-being is unmanaged stress. The great news is that you can learn five steps to reduce your stress load and become more resilient to whatever life throws your way.

Building a stress resilience practice provides you with a secure grounded foundation making you more likely to succeed in changing OTHER THREATS TO YOUR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING.

“Stress is the most common factor that drives people to breathe, drink, and eat in unhealthy ways. We prefer to think of this factor as distress. Times of anxiety, depression, anger, and boredom stress our abilities to cope. These times are like fevers: They signal that something is wrong with our emotional, mental and physical well-being.”
– Janice and James Prochaska, Changing To Thrive

When you don’t have stress resilience skills, you may cope with life stressors in ways that make you feel better in the short term but don’t support your long-term health. You may find yourself spending too much time on the couch, reaching for food for comfort and wine to unwind, sleeping poorly and then waking up exhausted and doing it all over again.

If you identify with any of those behaviors, I’m going to pause for a moment to make sure you’re not berating yourself.

All human behaviors are trying to solve a problem – to feel better. But when those behaviors are your main or only coping strategies, it’s critical that you learn and practice supportive ones.

Even if your stress levels are low right now, I recommend you proactively develop a practice to provide you with a solid base FOR WHEN LIFE INEVITABLY BECOMES CHALLENGING. 

Five steps to reduce stress

So how much time is supportive in reducing your daily stress load?

Reduce stress as a daily practice

The criteria for healthy stress management is intentionally spending 20 MINUTES DAILY to let stress leave your body and mind.

And no, you don’t have to sit for 20 minutes to meditate unless that’s your preference. Taking mini breaks throughout your day to breathe, connect, and move your body is effective.

So often we live our lives like it’s an emergency. We don’t stop to pause and think about the importance of having a strong stress reduction routine. Or maybe we’ve never considered how our lack of stress management tools has led to unwanted lifestyle behaviors.

Shift your mindset about stress resilience

I encourage you to think of stress resilience like your bank account.

Are you only making withdrawals from your account?

You feel wired, tired and burnout.

Or maybe you are making some deposits, but they’re inconsistent or merely equal to your withdrawals. Thus you’re just breaking even.

You’re merely surviving.

A healthy bank account requires more deposits than withdrawals. It requires a positive balance.

The same goes for building a healthy stress resilience account.

To THRIVE, you need more deposits than withdrawals.

And by exploring the five steps to reduce stress, you can build a your stress resilience practice and a robust balance!

If you don’t have a net positive stress resilience practice, it’s time to build one.

It’s FOUNDATIONAL to your health and well-being.

Yet it’s often the critical factor missing from your self-care routine. ♡ Tanya

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Imagine Your Life Without a Diet

(This is the second of two articles on dropping diet mentality. Read part one, “A healthy eating tip for the New Year: Ditch the diet,” here.)

Imagine if you woke up New Year’s Day and weren’t consumed with thoughts of having to fix your body.

Imagine not refusing the brownie because it’s not on your list of approved foods on your “diet” to get thinner.

That doesn’t need to be a dream if you stop believing that food and total body vigilance are the answer.

In the first part of this article, I suggested that if you’re thinking about dieting — that is, using willpower and restriction to control your eating — don’t.

So if not dieting, what can you do to take care of your whole health instead? Try something radically different. Transform how you eat. Transform how you view your body. Move on with your life, the ultimate reward of pushing diet culture off your plate.

Begin by relearning how to eat.

The problem with any diet is that “most people trying to control the size, shape or weight of their bodies have learned to put the rules of the new plan before their body’s actual needs,” according to BeNourished.org, a website focused on healthy eating and body image.

Intuitive eating is the antidote because it’s based on the opposite premise. Instead of restriction, you are guided to tune into internal cues and your body’s needs. That includes learning to honor your individual hunger, fullness, satisfaction and which foods make you feel best.

Essentially, intuitive eating is just … eating.

But because “diet mentality is so deeply ingrained in societal beliefs, that intuitive eating, our natural way of eating, is considered revolutionary,” says the Loving Me Project, which encourages women to live a purpose-driven life.

When we no longer live by external food rules and societal beliefs that our bodies are too much or are not enough, we can get on with our lives.

What are you really “hungering” for? If it wasn’t about controlling your food to transform your body, what would you focus on each new year — and the rest of your life?

“Letting go of the idea of a smaller body, means creating space for a bigger life,” The Loving Me Project says. (You can follow the project on Instagram at @the.lovingmeproject).

Think big, not small, in the new year – without a limited view of “what’s healthy” — where diet culture wants to keep you focused, continuing to spend your time, money and energy, year after year. Instead use your head space to answer these questions:

• What would a life beyond dieting and body worry look like for you?

• What do you really want out of life?

• What really matters most?

• What would make this upcoming year extraordinary?

Envision your future as if it’s already happened. Describe the diet culture-free life you would create for yourself, and email me your answers at tanya@tanyamark.com.

“Diet culture steals your joy, your spark, and your life, which is why I call it, ‘the life thief,’” said Christy Harrison, author of “Anti-Diet.”

Don’t spend your life thinking you’re broken, a project to be fixed. Don’t be the 90-year-old woman refusing the fresh-baked brownie from her granddaughter because she’s “watching her waistline.”

Do something radical in the new year: Don’t diet. Listen to your body and live fully.

Tips for the New Year:

Listen to your body

Ready to learn how to listen to your body’s internal cues?

Transform your body image, not your body. It’s what you think about your body that’s the real challenge.

“I am too fat,” “I’m too skinny,” “I have too many stretch marks,” “I don’t have enough muscle.”

What if we swapped the endless pursuit of fixing or hiding our bodies, believing that our bodies are not enough or too much, to pursue a healthy body image instead?

What if instead of trying to change our physical appearance, we adjusted our mindset, our thoughts?

Focusing on changing your body image verses changing your body, can produce life-changing benefits. This switch can boost your self-esteem, banish persistent body anxiety, promote comfort in personal relationship, improve your relationship with food, reduce unhealthy dieting habits, improve your relationship with exercise, reduce the risk of developing an eating disorder, decrease social isolation due to body worries.

And most of all, changing your body image can improve your overall quality of life. Controlling your body shouldn’t be your life’s work.

Remember: “You are not alive to just pay bills and lose weight,” says Caroline Donner, author of “The F*ck It Diet.”

Read to re-learn how to eat?
Intuitive Eating: Do you need to re-learn how to eat?

Ready to transform how you view your body?
5 Steps to a Healthy Body Image

Weight Shame Hurts Every Body

This is a shout-out to all the women and girls working on liking their bodies. This s— is hard.

Why? Because today’s perfectionist, weight biased body culture feeds our dissatisfaction.

It fuels poor body image by spreading the conventional “wisdom” that healthy equals thin and fat is bad.

“Diet culture leads most women to see themselves as ‘too big’ and makes it difficult for people in larger bodies to feel they don’t need to shrink themselves,” says Christy Harrison author of “Anti-Diet.”

It’s become normal for women and girls to obsessively count carbohydrate grams and to anxiously pursue 10,000 steps on their Fitbits, all to manipulate what we believe are our bad bodies.

And we’re doing this to become … healthier?

We believe we must avoid weight gain or lose weight — at any and all costs — if we want to be happy, loved and have a body that’s accepted by diet culture.

“I truly believe that for the vast majority of the population, managing or losing weight is not about health but about a fear of not being accepted by others,” says body acceptance coach Kristina Bruce.

“A much bigger health concern we have on hand here is the staggering number of people who feel shame about their bodies. The only time I don’t like how my body looks is when I fear what other people will think of it. This tells me once again — my body is not the problem.”

Agreed. Your body isn’t the problem.

The problem is we view our bodies through the lens of a $72 billion diet culture that stigmatizes weight.

Harrison explains that weight stigma “frames larger bodies as a problem and tells people that they need to shrink themselves in order to be okay, which is the very definition of weight stigma.”

Virgie Tovar, an activist, author and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image, explains how weight bias affects us all through what she describes as three levels of weight stigma: intrapersonal, interpersonal and institutional.

Intrapersonal is how much you internalize the negative stereotypes about weight.

“The fact that we pretty much all have some level of intrapersonal weight stigma in our society is one of the hallmarks of living in diet culture,” Tovar says.

Second, interpersonal weight stigma is how you are treated based solely on weight or size — such as body shaming or bullying.

Lastly, institutional fat phobia describes how larger bodies are marginalized in society. For example, if you go to buy a ski jacket and the only color in your size is black or you have to buy a men’s jacket.

Weight stigma makes it difficult to like your body unless you are “lucky” enough to be one of the 5% of women who naturally possess the “ideal” body type. And even many of those women live in fear of weight gain.

Furthermore, evidence-based research shows that not only is weight stigma harmful to our body image, but feeling bad about our bodies is affecting our health, regardless of body size.

“I Think Therefore I Am: Perceived Ideal Weight as a Determinant of Health,” a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that the larger the difference between people’s current weight and their perceived “ideal” weight, the more mental and physical health problems they’d had in the past month, regardless of their body mass index. The study included 170,000 people of a variety of races, education levels and ages.

One major reason weight stigma is so harmful is that it’s so darn stressful for everybody, but especially for those living in larger bodies.

“Stress hormones … can have damaging effects on both physical and mental if they are secreted over a longer period of time called allostatic load,” writes David Levitin in his article “The Neuroscience Behind Why We Feel Stressed — and What to Do About It.”

That leads to a dysregulation in critical body systems — including the immune, digestive, cognitive, reproductive systems — and creates cardiac and mental health problems.

A 2018 study found that “perceived weight discrimination doubles the 10-year risk of high allostatic load. Eliminating weight stigma may reduce physiological dysregulation, improving obesity-related morbidity and mortality.”

Research by Harrison — the “Anti-Diet” author — comes to the same conclusion: “Weight stigma has been linked to an increased risk of mental-health conditions such as disordered eating, emotional distress, negative body image, low self-esteem and depression.”

If you’ve felt “so much better” after weight loss — especially after living in a larger body — could it be the result of no longer experiencing weight stigma and not necessarily the weight loss itself? It’s a question Bruce has asked.

So, ladies, here’s my shout-out to help you like your body: Don’t buy into diet culture’s weight stigmatizing. I’ll stand with you.

I’d also like to leave you with words of wisdom from poet Hollie Holden:

Today I asked my body what she needed,

Which is a big deal

Considering my journey of

Not Really Asking That Much.

I thought she might need more water.

Or protein.

Or greens.

Or yoga.

Or supplements.

Or movement.

But as I stood in the shower

Reflecting on her stretch marks,

Her roundness where I would like flatness,

Her softness where I would like firmness,

All those conditioned wishes

That form a bundle of


She whispered very gently:

Could you just love me like this?

(This article was published in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, February 5, 2020 edition).

What is Body Positive Fitness?

I love fitness. I loved it so much that I made it my career as a former Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

While I still love moving my body, my perspective on fitness has changed.

Fitness has gotten entangled with diet culture. We’re told to:

  • Get a beach body. 
  • Earn and burn your food.

These statements seem benign because we’re so used to hearing them yet they can be incredibly harmful for both men and women. They make us feel ashamed of our bodies unless we have “shredded abs” and X percent body fat.

Needless to say, there’s a lot wrong with this picture.

Shift How You View Fitness

I used to be part of the problem. I used to buy into this harmful messaging. At the beginning of my career as an exercise professional, I believed that if clients just worked harder and smarter, they could achieve the “perfect” body. If they did the “work” and weren’t getting results, then I assumed it must be due to poor nutrition.

But nutrition messaging can prey on our self-worth too, with the terms “good foods” and “bad foods.” It’s no wonder so many of us think healthy eating has to be stressful and restrictive. Many of us don’t know how to eat “normally.”

Every body deserves fitness

After working with hundreds of clients in both fitness and nutrition, I’ve find that both of these strategies are wonderful ways to nourish our bodies.

But they don’t guarantee an “ideal” body.

Did you know that less than 5% of women naturally possess the body type that media portrays as ideal?

Fitness and nutrition are two self-care choices we can choose to engage in to feel good.

Not because our bodies aren’t enough.

Not because we don’t have a flat belly or a thigh gap.

Many of us want to feel better but we’re tired of the seemingly never-ending struggle to maintain or attain this unrealistic ideal body type. We’re tired of having to avoid “forbidden” foods that bring us pleasure in order to change our bodies. We’re tired of trying to live up to culture’s standard of being fit, and what toxic diet and fitness culture has determined all of our bodies should look like.

One way we can create a cultural shift is to take the focus off exercise as a means to change our bodies appearance and instead exercise for the ways it makes our bodies feel.

Boyd positive fitness


Body Positive Fitness

Body positive fitness promotes fitness as one way to care for our bodies. It promotes health, not needing to change your body size or shape. It does not use shame tactics and language that preys on our insecurities.

As a culture, we can shift to a body positive fitness perspective by changing the language around fitness.

Instead of believing we should “shred our abs” or we have to “earn and burn our food,” we can value exercise as something that is adding to the quality of our lives.

If you want to change your body, I want it to be your choice instead of feeling like you must in order to be accepted, by yourself and others.

Interested in supporting a shift to body positive fitness?

3 Tips to Support Body Positive Fitness

  1. Start noticing how toxic fitness messages make you feel. It starts with awareness. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it!
  2. Show your support for fitness businesses that promote with positive health and body messaging – with your wallet and your voice.
  3. Focus on the many benefits of exercise: stress reduction, improved sleep, increased energy, improved mental health, reduced and improved self confidence, brain power, increased strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility, and heart health.

As a Wellness and Personal Growth Coach, I’ve witnessed too many tears and too much stress around how we perceive our own bodies. The messages that we hear and see every single day are producing an epidemic of body dissatisfaction. But, we have the power to change that!

  • Tanya

Stress Relief Tips to Stop Living Life Like It’s an Emergency

Could you use some stress relief tips to rest, recover and relax?

I once was in urgent need of slowing down too.

I had an ah-ha moment at the grocery store one day while I was rushing around like a madwoman. Out of nowhere, I had this moment of clarity and said to myself, “What am I doing!?” I couldn’t believe the tizzy I was in! I thought, “If I just slowed down and it took me one extra minute to get from the parking lot to the produce section, what effect could that have on my overall well-being?”

You see I had been stuck in this chronic cycle of “there’s not enough time.”

From the moment I woke up in the morning to the time I finally calmed down and got to bed, I never stopped living life like an emergency. And I could feel the nasty effects throughout my entire body. I was irritable and burnout.

We all need downtime to let our bodies and minds rest and heal from all the stress we experience daily. Low-level stress accumulates in our bodies over time and compounds to become dis-ease.

So, what can you do about it?

How do you start to slow down and create that sense of “presence” your body and mind needs?

Build in breaks to relieve stress.

Stress relief tips to build stress resilience

1. Create a morning relaxation break

The ultimate game-changer for me was learning to set my mornings up for success.

How you start your day sets the tone for the rest of your day.

Before you get ready for your day, try taking 5 minutes to yourself.

During that short period of time, do some deep breathing, listen to gentle music, or repeat an uplifting mantra. Any of these simple activities will help set the tone of your day.

Are you thinking, “But I don’t have time in the morning for that?”  I hear you. I felt the same way. But then I realized that my poor relationship with time was keeping me stuck in a vicious stress cycle.

What helped me conquer my morning frenzy was going to bed and getting up an extra 15 minutes early.

2. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier to relieve stress

In order to make that happen, I needed to reverse engineer a positive start to my day by going to bed earlier.

Just 15 minutes. That’s not much right? But it can make a huge impact on your day. By getting up 15 minutes early, I was able to have some vital me-time that helped me feel grounded and centered, instead of rushed and stressed out.

Try setting a reminder on your phone to “wind down” to prepare for bed earlier.

And once these two habits become an established part of your routine, then try adding in a mid-day mini breaks to prevent stress from building up…and overflowing.

3. Add in mid-day stress relief breaks

If you sit at a computer day-in, day-out, try setting a timer every 25 minutes.

When that timer goes off, take 5 minutes to stand up, stretch, drink some water, close your office door and listen to some relaxing music and/or take a walk around the building, or get outside and breathe in some fresh air.

Practice these three stress relief tips and take breaks throughout you day for some “me-time” to stop chronic stress in its tracks, and help ward off future dis-ease.

  • Tanya

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