January 27, 2015

Breaking the Mirror: Why “Body Checking” is Wrecking our Self-Awareness.

woman mirror lipstick

“One step forward and two steps back” seems like my motto on days when things don’t go as smoothly as I’d like them to.

Last week my brand new love seat arrived in five pieces with nothing but a socket wrench and about a thousand screws to put it all together. It would only make sense that, once fully assembled, I would back right up into my full length mirror, causing it to crash into what seemed like a million little pieces covering every inch of my 200 square foot studio.

After an entire year with no furniture, I had purchased and assembled a love seat only to back into another piece of furniture and have it destroyed.

My normal reaction to such an event would be to scream a profanity, throw my fists to the heavens and breakdown in tears, but for whatever reason a calm came over me and I actually chuckled over my unlucky stumble.

I cleaned up every shard of glass (which was tedious—believe me).

I realized how incredibly bare the wall was. There was no longer anything staring back at me. It was literally just a blank wall with ten holes in it, from where I had attempted (apparently not very successfully) to hang my now demolished mirror.

As the week went on I must have checked my reflection on that blank wall filled with holes about a hundred times.

I became filled with an awareness of how much I actually examined myself on a daily basis. “Body checking” and searching for an external confirmation of how I was feeling was something I found myself doing far more often than I realized.

So I decided to do an experiment.

I would refrain from purchasing a full-length mirror for exactly one week to see how it made me feel about my body.

I’m not sure if this is related, but last week something inside of me said, “ Take the week off from the weights. Stop your training program and see what your body feels like doing, and then do that thing.”

As a personal trainer, I try to impart these lessons onto my clients, so I know it is important to check in with myself regularly. Mindfulness is an active pursuit, even for the most experienced trainers and wellness experts, and if we don’t routinely check in with our minds and our bodies, it is easy to become distracted with day-to-day demands and stressors.

Every time I found myself with the breaks in my day which were ordinarily slotted for workouts, I listened to see what my body wanted. Whatever by body told me it needed—including rest—I listened.

As it turned out, that week my heart thumped “Yoga and Walk, Walk and Yoga.” So, I spent my week trying new classes and studios all over the city, as well as walking to all of my clients and appointments instead of taking the subway or catching the bus.

Some yoga classes were restorative, some vigorous. Suddenly close friends were reaching out to me and asking if I had time to take a class with them, something that they rarely do, because my schedule often does not allow it. The social aspect of exercising and sharing a joyful challenge with a friend brought a whole different dimension to my workouts, which I had truthfully been lacking. As the week went on I began craving green juice, and so I drank it.

At the end of seven days, I was actually feeling tighter and lighter.

The anxiety of going off of a program (be diet or exercise) can be frightening and daunting.

The insecure thoughts of not “burning enough calories” or “not consuming enough protein in a meal” can derail individuals from listening to their body and checking in with what they feel their body needs or wants.

Leading up to the week I broke the mirror, I had been putting an immense amount of pressure on myself and my body as a professional and as an athlete. It is so easy to slip into the comfortable panic of over restricting and overworking our bodies. But pulling back the reins can often have the exact opposite effect: once I let go of my routine, I felt that the universe was presenting me with opportunities to try new modes of movement. This inspired both my own workouts as well as my personal training and wellness practice.

What I took away from that week was the reminder to not neglect the strive for balance that we all crave.

I continued to devote my time to my body, but leaned in and listened a bit more.

There were definitely times I had the pangs of “Oh crap, I should be doing this or that,” but I let those thoughts pass over with the reassurance, the proof and the knowing that all acts of wellness are just as beneficial to your body as exercise.

Nutrition, movement and self-awareness work together to create the symphony of health.

As I move into the upcoming weeks, I plan on taking this lesson to heart. Knowing that I have a plan and a program to follow, but also that I am in control and can choose to make a change at any point if that is what my body tells me when I tune in and take a moment to really listen.



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Author: Holly Goodwin

Editor: Emma Ruffin

Photo: fedewild/flickr


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