Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Move your body

I’m going to come right out and say it: I don’t like to exercise.

I’m not exactly the fittest person in the world. I don’t enjoy running and I loathe going to the gym (I can’t think of anything more absurd than driving to the gym to walk on the treadmill).

But that doesn’t mean that I hate moving my body. I’ve found ways to do so that I enjoy.

move your bodyIt took me a while to get to this place, though. Because I used to be so focused on losing weight, I exercising solely for this purpose. It was all about burning the most calories, regardless of how much I might have hated every second of it. Exercise was simply a chore that needed to be ticked off the list to remove a little more guilt for being bigger.

Funnily enough, I’ve never really managed to maintain a regular exercise routine. I guess that’s because I kept forcing myself to do things I didn’t enjoy.

At around the same time I quit dieting, I also quit forcing myself to do exercise I didn’t enjoy. Now, I move my body only in ways that bring me joy.

Does that mean I’m not burning the most possible calories? Yep.

Does that mean I’m not the slimmest, fittest person ever? Uh, yeah.

But does that mean I enjoy the exercise I do? You bet!

So instead of pushing myself to go to the gym and run on the treadmill, I now go walking outside, in nature – with my pup. I do yoga using an app on my phone/computer. And when I have the time, I go cycling – outdoors. (Note – I have nothing against the gym. If you love the gym then that’s awesome. I just have something against forcing yourself to do exercise you don’t enjoy, which, for me, is the gym.)

How nice to finally give myself permission to enjoy exercise.

>>> Prompt:

What ways do you choose to move your body?

How do you exercise for pleasure, and how for other reasons?

Is exercise an enjoyable thing for you, or is it associated with negative feelings such as guilt or punishment?

What are some forms of exercise that you actually enjoy? What ways can you move your body that bring pleasure rather than pain? What would you like to do more of?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

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Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Dealing with dieting

This is a bit of a controversial topic, and I’m talking about it with the understanding that some people will disagree and possibly even get angry.

I’ve touched on this before, and I can’t possibly cover the entire topic in one post, but it is definitely one of my most important lessons.

dietingIn my personal experience over 20 years, dieting has never, ever worked. Oh sure, it gets the weight off, and usually pretty quickly. But it never stays off. Even when I’ve attempted so-called ‘lifestyle changes’ – for example with something like Weight Watchers, which seems pretty healthy and reasonable.

But over the course of my 20 years of dieting and hating my body (yes, it was around age 10 that I realised I was bigger than others and it wasn’t a good thing) I’ve learnt that it’s pointless.

It’s the same old cliche – lose some weight, gain back more. Steadily, over this time, I have gotten bigger and bigger.

You may be thinking, and indeed my thinking was similar for a long time – that it is my own fault, obviously, because if I’d just stuck with it, then the weight would’ve stayed off.

Maybe.

But given how much I have loathed being bigger, I can’t help but think that if it was just that simple, then I would’ve kept it off. I mean, it’s not a matter of being ill-informed; I know how many calories I should be eating, how many steps I should be doing, what foods to avoid, what foods to increase, what exercise is best, etc. I think most of us do.

The issue is not with a lack of education (although there are many conflicting and often confusing dietary guidelines out there, such as less carbs or less fat, 3 big meals or 6 smaller meals, etc).

You could argue it’s a lack of willpower. But honestly, having to force myself to eat less than my body seems to need forever, well… that’s doomed to fail.

Anyway, I’m not writing this to justify why I am overweight.

From my journal:

We are taught that we must try to be smaller to be good enough – we are not taught to question this. I had to find the idea and the permission to question it on my own. I had to dare to consider that I am not flawed – the whole system is.

You see, I simply decided to stop dieting. I decided to stop looking around the corner for the next diet, the one that would finally work. We are taught that if diets aren’t working, then it’s a problem with us – we just need to try a little harder, want it a little bit more.

I call bullshit. image

Dieting itself is the problem. Instead, I’ve chosen to love my body and stop punishing it for being imperfect. Does that mean I eat junk food? Sometimes, although after learning about intuitive eating, I’m eating less of it. Does that mean I’m fatter than I ‘should’ be? Yes. Is my health at risk? Well, I’ve had blood tests and they all seem to be fine. Not to mention I usually exercise several times a week.

And exercise is another thing – I now actually just do exercise I actually love, which is usually walks in nature, yoga or sometimes cycling. Gone is the guilt for not pushing myself to the point of almost throwing up – instead is the pleasure of moving my body in ways that really feel good.

I would like like to lose weight, I’m not going to deny that. But I just plan to do it gently, from a place of love, and if I don’t lose much weight when doing things I consider to be reasonable and sustainable, then that’s that. I won’t be pushing myself further.

I choose to love myself as I am, even if it’s bigger than I’d like. I believe I can love and accept who I am, but still work towards positive changes in a (mentally and emotionally) healthy way.

I once did lose a lot of weight and got down to a size smaller than I had ever previously thought possible. But I was so miserable, questioning and regretting every bite, and so insecure. I felt fatter then that I do now. Even though I am bigger now, I have more love and acceptance for myself than I did at my smallest size.

I have nothing against those of you that choose to diet, or to exercise for weight-loss reasons. Please don’t be offended by what I have said, this is simply a lesson I have had to learn for myself, about my own life.

To quote one of my favourite health at every size bloggers:

You are the expert on you.  You do not need to pay someone to tell you how to live your life.  You do not need to follow a blogger or weight loss success story to know what to eat or how to exercise.  There is no point in any of it unless it is something you personally are willing to continue for life.  What that is is necessarily different for each person.

I’ll leave you with that.

>>> Prompt:

What does the word ‘diet’ mean to you? Have you ever dieted? Did you manage to keep the weight off? If so, how? If not, why not?

If you were to reject the idea of dieting and perfecting your body, what else could you spend that energy on? How might your life look different if you chose to accept your body as it is, and focus on other things?

In what ways do you treat your body poorly? How could you do this less?

In what ways do you show your body that you love it? How could you do this more?

If you’re interested in learning more about some of the things I’ve discussed, I recommend the following resources:

Online:

Books:

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

How do you use your creative energy?

How do you use your creative energy?

I used to squander mine.

I have always been perpetually on a diet. And if I wasn’t actually on a diet, I was planning which diet was going to be next. Because, as every good dieter knows, the next diet will be the one that works. The next diet will always be the last one. Except, of course, that it isn’t.

It’s exhausting constantly going through this cycle.

So exhausting that, with work and relationships and money problems and everything else thrown in, there isn’t much energy left for anything else. Especially new and scary creative ventures.

About a year ago I started exploring dieting alternatives, without realising that was what I was doing. Actually at the time I thought I was looking for the next diet – although of course I didn’t think of it as a diet, because everyone knows that diets don’t work; I was looking for my next ‘lifestyle change’ (read: diet). The two things that really spoke to me and slowly started to make more and more sense were this woman and this group.

After a while I started to realise that what I had been doing all along was never going to work. I’m not going to list all the diets I tried, or thought about trying, or researched, or contemplated last thing at night before falling asleep and first thing in the morning after waking. Suffice it to say, I was very busy using a lot of my energy on this whole weight-loss venture, as I pretty much had been, on and off since about the age of 10.

So when I eventually made the conscious decision to quit dieting at the start of this year, I freed up a lot of my creative energy without realising it. It wasn’t until I started journaling daily and creating regularly that I realised what had happened.

I had harnessed all of the energy I used to spend obsessing about my weight, diet and exercise for my creativity!

Now I find that the more I create, the more I want to create. The way I’m using my creative energy now is so productive – it fills me with joy and inspiration, leading to more creative energy. When I was using my energy to obsess about dieting, it got me nothing (not even weight-loss, or at least not for very long).

As someone who has spent their whole life worrying about their weight, there is something so liberating about channelling that energy to something that fills me up.

The irony is that expressing my creativity does fill me up in a way that food can’t.

So in the end, it’s really more productive for my health, anyway.

I will say this: I’m not totally happy with my body. I still look in the mirror and sometimes feel unhappy, or disappointed, or even disgusted. But I’m actively practising self-love, self-acceptance and trying to make peace with my body. Dieting never helped me to lose weight – long term I’ve ended up bigger than before I started (a total cliche, but of course it’s spot on) so it’s not the solution. Maybe loving myself and nourishing myself creatively, eating what I feel like in moderation and doing exercise I actually like will make me happier, whether I’m thinner or not.

So that’s my plan from here on out.

Creativity

Journal prompt: Letter to your son or daughter

Last weekend when I was playing around in my altered book journal, I made a two page spread that looked a little like old paper. I didn’t want to put lots of images and colours on there like I usually do, so I decided to do a bit of writing.

altered-book-07As it’s not my normal written journal (but rather a place that is a little more playful) I decided to do something a little bit different: a letter to my (future) daughter.

I don’t have kids yet, but my partner and I talk about how we want to raise our kids when we do have them. I think a lot about the things I value in my life and some of the more conscious decisions I’ve made for myself over the past year (to avoid mainstream media/advertising, quit dieting, downsize and focus on what’s really important, etc). I often think about what I want to teach my kids, when I have them, and especially my daughter(s), because I think it is so hard growing up in this day and age for young women.

So that is what I did – I wrote a letter to my future daughter, with all the lessons I’ve learned so far. The funny thing is, all the advice I seemed to be offering was indeed advice I needed to hear too!

>>> Prompt:

Take a fresh page in your journal. If you like you could do this in an art journal and include images and colour too.

Now, from the heart and as honestly as you can, write a letter to your future (or current!) children. If you don’t have children or don’t plan to/want to have children, write the letter to a niece or nephew, or someone younger you care about.

Your letter may take the form of advice, as mine has, or it may be about your story, something personal you want to share. There is no right or wrong way to do this.

travel

I just wanted to share with my future daughter the lessons that most stand out to me at this stage in my life. I’m sure if I wrote the same letter in 5 years time, some lessons would be the same and there would hopefully be others to add!

Some of my advice included the following:

  • Trust your intuition
  • Be bold – have courage
  • Dream big and don’t listen to those who say you can’t
  • Travel and see the world
  • Find a creative outlet you love and create often
  • Love yourself unconditionally. You’re good enough – imperfections and all
  • Find others you love and cherish them

What would you write to your (future) son or daughter?

Creativity

Journal prompt: I am…

Today I want to share a simple journal prompti-am I found in Marlene Schiwy’s A Voice of Her Own. This is a great book with lots of journaling tips, techniques, prompts and ideas. I’m really enjoying reading it at the moment.

The prompt is fairly simple, but it got me thinking about different aspects of my life, and myself, on quite a deep level.

It doesn’t take very long, and your answers could serve as a base to give you more to write about in detail in later journal entries.

>>> Prompt:

Take three pages in your journal. At the top of page one, write ‘I am’, at the top of page two write ‘I am not’ and on the last page write ‘I would like to be’.

Then, doing one page at a time, fill it with whatever comes to mind. You could do your pages as mindmaps, you could freewrite, or you could list your answers.

My answers were in list form, some were single words and others phrases. Here is a some from my own journal entry:

I am…

  • Creative
  • Ambitious
  • Tired
  • Hopeful
  • Learning to express myself creatively
  • Changing my life
  • Developing courage
  • Passionate about many things
  • Loving

I am not…i-would-like-to-be

  • Prepared to put my dreams on hold for any longer
  • Going to keep hiding parts of myself
  • Dieting
  • Prepared to settle
  • Going to limit my dreams and desires
  • Satisfied

I would like to be…

  • Fearless
  • At peace
  • Free
  • More focused and less scattered
  • An inspiration and role model to others
  • More willing to take risks
  • More creative

These are just a few things from my own lists. These lists are quite simple but there is a lot here that I could explore in later journal entries. I was even surprised by a few things that came up – for example, ‘I am not going to keep hiding parts of myself’. This has highlighted to me that there are times when I feel like I can’t truly be myself, which is something I would like to explore further.

If you have 15 minutes this weekend, take the time to try this prompt!

Creativity

Journal prompt: The journey

I was thinking tonight on the drive home from work how much I’ve changed over the past few years.

In particular, the past six months of consistent journaling have seen me reconnect with myself. This is a strange thing to say, but it’s true.

I feel more like myself than I have in a long time – possibly ever.

hot-air-balloonsIt’s like I was going through the motions, feeling like my life was a little off, not quite what I wanted – but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that was wrong.

Now I know what was wrong. I was afraid (there’s that word again!). Afraid to listen to the little voice inside me – that’s when I could hear it – and afraid to make the changes I so craved to make.

I was afraid of failure, of what people would think, of having regrets, of not doing what I ‘should’ do.

And you know what? Fuck it. Life is too damn short.

I’m not afraid anymore.

The world is mine for the taking. I’m leaving behind the things that make me unhappy, the fears that people will judge me, or that I will make a mistake.

I’m creating an unconventional and exceptional life. I’m building a tiny house. I’m starting my own creative business so that I can work for myself, helping others and doing work I love. I’m creating regularly. I’ve quit dieting. These are just the first few steps towards a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life.

journey-quote

Here is possibly my most favourite poem, ever. It summarises my journey, and I’m sure, the journey of many others.

‘The Journey’ by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

>>> Prompts:

What is your journey? Can you describe it in a few sentences or paragraphs or a poem? If you’re stuck, try to write it in the second person as Oliver has done in her poem.

How have you changed?

Is there a journey you would like to take (either metaphorical or literal)? What is stopping you?

Do you feel like yourself? If so, how do you know? If not, why not?