Category Archives: Fitness

A New York Times Critic Body-Shamed a Broadway Actress, and Fans Are Not Happy

The spirit of musical theater has always been one of acceptance, a place where people from all walks of life can come together and enjoy. Which is why many are calling out a New York Times theater critic who body-shamed talented theater actress Alysha Umphress in a recent review.

In her review for the Off-Broadway show Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Laura Collins-Hughes described many elements of the show — including costume design. This, in turn, led her to write, “Ms. Umphress, by the way, is bigger than the other women onstage, and the costume designer, Alejo Vietti, doesn’t seem to have known how to work with that, dressing her in an unflattering way. He does better with the skimpy, yet not overly revealing, pink fringe outfit Emma Degerstedt wears, and jiggles in, for the leering number ‘Teach Me How To Shimmy.’”

Bringing up a performer’s body size — especially when it has zero relevance to the plot — has no place in a professional theater review, and completely undermines the important aspects of the show (as in actual performances and the cast’s incredible talent). Not only that, but it reduces Umphress to nothing but a body, and reeks of regressive and sexist attitudes about what female performers should and shouldn’t be.

The comments also imply that women need to “dress their size,” which is a micro-aggression often used to control women and tear them down. The fact that these lines made it into a New York Time review (which was undoubtedly reviewed by an editor before being published) illustrates just how prevalent body shaming still is in our culture.

Umphress released a statement regarding the review on her Twitter account.

Meanwhile, Collins-Hughes has since doubled down on her statements via Twitter.

While speaking to HelloGiggles, Umphress said,

“In this business women are constantly scrutinized for how they look. This woman replied to a few (other people’s) tweets saying that she wasn’t criticizing me but rather the costume designer. But I have to think the way she phrased it was intentionally rude. She could have phrased her distaste for his costumes a million other ways. But she instead chose to single me out for being bigger. Like it’s relevant to the show at all…it’s not. It’s truly shocking, I was floored.”

Swolemates

A post shared by Alysha Umphress (@alyshaumphress) on Mar 4, 2018 at 10:54am PST

We have to agree. And many fellow Broadway and Hollywood artists agree, too.

Zoe Kazan tweeted her support of Alysha, saying,

And Emmy-nominated GLOW actress Betty Gilpin threw in her own two cents.

Umphress is a beloved member of the New York theater community. She’s an immense talent and one of the most powerful singers working today. Let that be what we take away from this incident. Check her out slaying a tune from Smokey Joe’s Cafe below.

We think Umphress says it best when she sings, “Don’t mess around with me.”

Fitness Expert Anna Victoria Shares Photo of Her Arm Cellulite: ‘Stop Thinking You’re the Only One’

This article originally appeared on People.com. 

Fitness influencer Anna Victoria is known to speak honestly about her body, and now she’s opening up about her cellulite.

Victoria, co-founder of the Fit Body Guide, took to Instagram earlier this week to post side-by-side photos of herself, one in “the best possible lighting” and the other in lighting that highlighted cellulite on her arm.

Lighting. Is. Everything. 99% of pictures you see on social media are taken in the best possible lighting and that ain’t no accident ? so when I got into the elevator with the lighting on the right, I zoned in on the cellulite on the back of my arms. Yes, cellulite on your arms is a thing! I’ve had it since the beginning of my journey and while it’s lightened up since then, it’s still not totally gone… because I’m human. Seriously, girls, stop thinking you’re the only one with cellulite and that it’s some kind of disease! Yes, it absolutely can be reduced through healthy diet, exercise and proper water intake, but another component which you can’t control is genetics, and just being human. It’s not bad to want to reduce the sight of cellulite just like it’s not bad to want to lose weight and feel more confident overall, but don’t set out to lose weight JUST to have less cellulite. It can be a cherry on top of all the other amazing benefits. If you ask me how to reduce the appearance of cellulite, my answer will be: healthy diet, regular exercise and proper water intake – that’s it. I will not suggest creams or wraps or whatever else the current fad is because those are only short term fixes (IF that..) and perpetuate the idea that health/results can be found in a bottle/package. So, do I love the look of my arms on the right? No, but I don’t hate it or myself for it, either. And you shouldn’t either ❤️ #fbggirls #realtalk #cellulite www.annavictoria.com/guides

A post shared by Snapchat: AnnaVictoriaFit (@annavictoria) on Feb 19, 2017 at 12:34pm PST

“Lighting. Is. Everything. 99% of pictures you see on social media are taken in the best possible lighting and that ain’t no accident,” Victoria wrote alongside the photos.

“When I got into the elevator with the lighting on the right, I zoned in on the cellulite on the back of my arms,” she continued. “Yes, cellulite on your arms is a thing! I’ve had it since the beginning of my journey and while it’s lightened up since then, it’s still not totally gone … because I’m human.”

The lengthy post has garnered a lot of attention, amassing more than 30,000 Likes in just one day, along with several comments.

Victoria noted alongside the photo that although the appearance of cellulite can be reduced through a “healthy diet, regular exercise and proper water intake,” genetics also play a part in dimpling skin.

“Seriously, girls, stop thinking you’re the only one with cellulite and that it’s some kind of disease,” the trainer said. “Do I love the look of my arms on the right? No, but I don’t hate it or hate myself for it, either. And you shouldn’t either.”

 

These Influencers Are Posing in Swimsuits That Show Off Their Scars and Cellulite—and It’s the Message We Need for Summer

With summer in full swing, a lot of us are still on the hunt for the perfect swimsuit. But even when we find a suit we think is flattering, we’re not always confident wearing it on the beach, at the pool, or even in our own backyards—afraid that it doesn’t conceal what we view as our body flaws.

RELATED: These 13 Women Prove Every Body Is a Bikini Body

Instagram influencer and body positivity advocate Callie Thorpe, however, is here to change our minds. She recently posted a photo with a diverse group of friends and fellow influencers in Mykonos, Greece. In the photo, the women are in bathing suits sporting their cellulite, scars, bruises, and back rolls—and she can’t get enough of it. (Neither can we!)

“When I saw the image, I loved how different all our bodies looked together, which inspired my post,” Thorpe tells Health.

“Diversity is beautiful and important and representation matters,” she continues. “Sharing these kinds of images allows people to see bodies like theirs that aren’t airbrushed and photoshopped. It reminds people that it’s okay to embrace the things we are told to dislike, like cellulite, spots, and scars.”

In the post, Thorpe urged her followers to enjoy the best things summer has to offer—eat ice cream, head to the beach, or relax on giant pool floaties—without feeling the need to cover up or worry about what they look like in a photo. 

RELATED: These Models Have Completely Different Bodies—but 3 of Them Are Wearing the Same Size Swimsuit

What started out as a sweet shot with close friends soon turned into a viral post that resonated with so many. Fans thanked the Instagram star for her inspiring message of body acceptance, and many said it serves as a constant reminder that the skin they’re in is beautiful, just the way it is.

“Body positivity is an important message to share, and it means having respect for all kinds of bodies regardless of beauty, size, abilities or genders,” she says.

This Influencer Just Showed How Different Reality and Social Media Are—by Pulling Down Her Pants

Need more proof that the so-called “real” images you see on social media show anything but reality? Look no further than a before-and-after Instagram post from Monday by 28-year-old psychologist and influencer Stacey Lee.

“Instagram is a place where we see people’s best selves,” wrote Lee, who has struggled with disordered eating. “People don’t like to freely share the parts of themselves that don’t measure up to society’s standards of beauty and acceptability and we like to put up a front that shows us in the light we choose.”

To demonstrate her point, Lee took two photos in a pair of high-waisted leggings. On the left, Lee showed herself with the leggings pulled up to cover most of her stomach. On the right, she pulled the leggings down to her hips. The takeaway? Same woman, same leggings…but her body looked totally different in each image.

RELATED: These High-Waisted Workout Leggings Flatter Every Shape—and Never, Ever Fall Down

“Don’t compare your bloopers to someone [else’s] highlight reel,” Lee wrote, commenting on the way so many of us scroll through photos of “perfect” bodies in our social feeds and feel like we just don’t measure up. 

DONT COMPARE YOUR BLOOPERS TO SOMEONE ELSES HIGHLIGHT REEL ▪️I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again ▫️Instagram is a place where we see people’s BEST selves ▪️It’s basically a never ending first date and job interview rolled into one ▫️People don’t like to freely share the parts of themselves that don’t ‘measure up’ to societies standards of beauty and acceptability and we like to put up a front which shows us in the light we choose ▪️I’m well aware that I am of a smaller build, and have what some people label the ‘acceptable’ body and I have been shamed for trying to promote body positivity and confidence ▫️People have told me I should stop talking about such things as I couldn’t possibly understand what feeling insecure about my appearance feels like… ▪️What people don’t understand is that thoughts, fears, insecurities and negative self evaluations do not discriminate against body composition, size and shape. They can affect everyone ▫️My bloopers which I compare to others are my own, and it’s taken a long time for me to combat the fears which come along with them, they are not up for debate or discussion with people who have not lived a day in my shoes ▪️I do not minimize anyone’s feelings, because no one deserves that kind of treatment and lack of tolerance and understanding ▫️This is the body I own, it’s the body I have worked for, it’s the body that has helped me through every difficult day, it’s the body that has survived all of my mistreatment ▪️And regardless of if I am making it look like the left, or letting it hang free on the right, it’s mine. Bloopers and all ▫️Stop comparing yourself to others ▪️Start learning to accept yourself ▫️▪️▫️▪️▫️▪️▫️▪️▫️▪️▫️▪️▫️▪️ #edrecovery #bodypositivity #mentalhealth #psychstace #exercise #strongwomen #healthylifestyle #selflove #active #bbg #psychology #bodypositive #bodybuilding

A post shared by Stace (@psychandsquats) on Jul 16, 2018 at 2:04pm PDT

Lee tells Health she’s been sharing Instagram versus reality and Photoshop versus non-Photoshop posts for a couple of years.

“I hope it helps [my followers] foster some self acceptance and begin to challenge what they see on social media,” she says. “I hope it helps them be kinder to themselves, and I hope it helps strengthen the message that our body’s job is not to look good. Our body’s job is to keep us alive. And our job is to give it the fuel and tools it needs to do so.”

RELATED: The 7 Best Workout Leggings With Pockets

Lee is a strong proponent of intuitive eating and self-love. While she admitted to having insecurities in the past, she said it took a long time to overcome them. She added that people often criticize her for having an “acceptable” body, telling her she can’t relate to those who feel insecure about their bodies.

“What people don’t understand is that thoughts, fears, insecurities and negative self evaluations do not discriminate against body composition, size and shape,” she continued in her post. “They can affect everyone.” In other words, her body may have fit the parameters of what a woman’s body should look like…but she was unhappy and felt bad about herself anyway.

These days, Lee embraces her body—and she wants other women to do the same.

“This is the body I own, it’s the body I have worked for, it’s the body that has helped me through every difficult day, it’s the body that has survived all of my mistreatment,” she wrote. “And regardless of if I am making it look like the left, or letting it hang free on the right, it’s mine. Bloopers and all.”

Lee wants people—particularly young women—to see their Explore page for what it really is: a “highlight reel.” 

Tess Holliday’s Son Hopped in Her Bathtub While She Was Trying to Get Some Self-Care Time—and Her Reaction Is Priceless

Tess Holliday has earned lots of fans as a model and body positive activist who speaks her mind when it comes to beauty standards and body peace. But she’s also a mom, and she’s just as unfiltered when she comments on the joy and chaos of motherhood.

Her latest so-relatable share is her new Instagram post. Holliday wrote that she was trying to score a little me time by taking a bath…when her 2-year-old son, Bowie, decided to join in. 

RELATED: The Best Self-Care Tips for Summer

“When you have meetings & filming at your house all day, & decide to take a nice, relaxing bath before the chaos starts… but then your toddler sees you trying to sneak into the bathroom & screams until you let him take a bath with you,” she captioning a black-and-white photo of the mother-son duo.

To make room in the tub for Bowie, Holliday had to put in some additional legwork. She has a tattoo on her leg that can’t get wet, and the photo shows her lifted right leg and toes clutching the shower niche. (“Hey, I might be fat, but I’m flexible AF,” she wrote.) 

As she continued to make light of her disrupted R&R session, Holliday got real about the not-so-tranquil time spent with her little one. While the two seem fairly relaxed in the photo, she was sure to set the record straight.

RELATED: How to Add Self-Care to Your Workout Routine

“Also he screamed for 5 mins after this was taken because I wouldn’t let him play with the razor you see him grabbing,” she said.

And no Tess Holliday post would be complete without a message about self-love and having a positive body image. The founder of the platform @effyourbeautystandards ended her Instagram with a note about her body.

“This photo isn’t ‘flattering’, but I don’t care,” she wrote. “I’m proud of my body, & what it’s capable of & how funny & ridiculous my life/motherhood is.”

Holliday has provided us with a space to see what motherhood really looks like. While so many are wondering how influencers keep up their “perfect” lives, Holliday’s unedited stories and photos remind us to accept and enjoy the chaos.

Heart Health Step-by-Step

Nearly a half-million women die of cardiovascular disease every year, but they don’t have to—the condition is largely preventable and treatable. Here’s how to reduce your lifestyle hazards as well as your medical and genetic risks:

Lifestyle factors
Risk: Sedentary lifestyle.
Rx: 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking), meaning you can carry on a conversation as you work out. To lose weight, the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend 60 to 90 minutes on most, and preferably all, days of the week. Activity can be broken up into 15-minute chunks throughout the day.

Risk: A body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher. Plug your height and weight into this calculator, or use this equation:

BMI=[weight divided by (height x height)] x 703

Rx: Regular exercise (see above) and a healthy diet, including two servings of fish per week, one serving of nuts or legumes daily, five to nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, and one to two servings of whole grains daily. No more than one drink per day. Limit intake of saturated fat, and nix trans fats like hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening.

Risk: Smoking (it triples the risk of heart attacks in women).
Rx: Quit; ask your doc about new smoking-cessation programs and medications. And ban smoking at home and work, too. (An hour in a smoky bar has the same effect as smoking two or three cigarettes yourself.)

Medical factors
Risk: Cholesterol level (total, over 200; bad [LDL], over 100; good [HDL], under 50 for women).
Rx: Regular exercise. A healthy diet. Cholesterol-lowering medications called statins (Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor), which lower bad cholesterol. Niacin (vitamin B3), which raises good cholesterol.

Risk: Hypertension (blood pressure higher than 140 over 90) or prehypertension (blood pressure higher than 130 over 80, especially systolic pressure—the first number); it increases risk by 25 percent.
Rx: Regular exercise. A healthy diet. Weight loss. A prescription drug (vasodilator) that opens blood vessels for improved blood flow. Diuretics to reduce water and salt retention. Low-dose aspirin therapy may also be recommended by your doctor.

Risk: Triglyceride (fat) level over 150.
Rx: Fibrates (triglyceride-lowering drugs such as Clofibrate). Fish oil. Niacin.

Risk: Diabetes (it increases the chances of heart disease five to seven times in women).
Rx: Routine checkups. Control weight, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Avoid inactivity.

Risk: Inflammation (a defensive response of the immune system, implicated in the buildup of fat in arteries).
Rx: Intermediate-risk patients may benefit from having their blood tested for C-reactive protein (CRP), which increases with inflammation; it may help in predicting a heart attack or stroke and in directing therapy.

Inherited factors
Risk: Family history of cardiovascular disease. If either (or both) of your parents had a heart attack—or symptoms of or treatments for heart disease—under the age of 55 (father) or 65 (mother), your chances of a similar incident at that age increase 25% to 50%.
Rx: Inform doctors of family history. Get regular checkups. Avoid inactivity. Control other risk factors, such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

Risk: An apple-shaped body (a waist measurement greater than 35 inches).
Rx: Exercise and diet.

Risk: Type A personality (angry) or Type D (depressed).
Rx: Exercise (try yoga). Seven hours or more of sleep a night. Socializing. Hobbies. Therapy. Avoid stressful situations like driving in rush hour traffic.

7 Things to Know Before You Donate Blood

In the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday night, at least 58 people were killed, and more than 400 others were transported to hospitals. Early this morning, the Las Vegas Police Department tweeted about the need for local blood donors, reminding us that in the wake of this tragedy—as well as the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey—helping out can be as simple as rolling up a sleeve. Last summer, Health spoke with Justin Kreuter, MD, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Here’s what he wants potential donors to know:

Eligibility is always changing

The Red Cross maintains an alphabetical list of eligibility criteria for potential donors—from acupuncture (thumbs up) to Zika (thumbs down)—and can give you the latest information on whether or not you’re good to give.

RELATED: 4 Unexpected Benefits of Donating Blood

The FDA regulates donor blood just as aggressively as it regulates drugs

“It takes a lot of money to do the infectious-disease testing that we do [on donor blood], and when we create blood products out of the donation, that’s done to the same standards as any drug manufactured in this country. The FDA holds us to those same standards, so it’s a very high level of quality and also resources that are invested,” Dr. Kreuter explains. “These tests and high standards are what’s keeping the blood supply safe, so that if my wife or one of my daughters needs a blood transfusion, I can feel assured that I can just sit at their bedside and hold their hand rather than worry about what that might result [in] for them later down the road.”  

You’ll get a mini-physical before you donate

The flip side of donor blood screening (which ensures that it’s safe for the eventual recipient) is confirming the donor’s health (which ensures that the blood draw won’t have a negative effect on them). “We check blood pressure and pulse, we do a pinprick to check red blood cells to make sure they’re safe—we don’t want to make our donors iron deficient,” Dr. Kreuter says. He makes no specific suggestions about what you eat and drink prior to donation; just be sure you have breakfast and lunch under your belt, and take it easy on caffeine. “We all live on our daily espressos and whatnot, but we see donors who show up and haven’t eaten [meals] and they’ve only been drinking coffee, and they’re quite dehydrated. When you donate you’re losing circulating fluid, so the water that you drink before and after your donation is important.”

RELATED: 15 Signs You May Have an Iron Deficiency

You’ll hardly feel a thing—seriously

The needles used to collect blood are a bit larger than those you’d encounter when, say, receiving a flu shot, but the so-called ‘small pinch’ you feel at insertion is, truly, no big deal. “What we feel [at the start of a blood draw] is just on the surface of our skin. These needles have silicone on them, they’re made to glide and be quite comfortable. After that initial stick, you’re not going to feel anything,” Dr. Kreuter says. If needles give you the shivers, look away for the quarter-second in which yours is placed; then ask a staffer to cover up the insertion site for you. Since the “tough” part is already over, you can lie back and spend the next eight to 10 minutes zoning out.

It’s okay to have a cookie after you donate

“What’s healthy is to keep a balanced diet as you go forward in the day [after your donation],” Dr. Kreuter says. “We tend to stock our canteen area with things like water and juice and then salty snacks, because salt helps you retain a little more of the [water] volume that you’ve lost through donation. The cookies are there because [they’re] something the donor culture has grown up in—maybe not the healthiest option, but certainly an expectation. Believe it or not, I have meetings about cookies. I’ve seen shirts before that say ‘I donate for the cookies.’” Bottom line: Rewarding yourself with a treat isn’t going to do any harm, provided that you indulge in moderation.

Your blood could save patients who haven’t even entered the world yet

Though many of us are reminded of the importance of blood donation when tragedies happen, much of what we give does the quiet work of saving people who’ll never show up on the news. Since the need for blood doesn’t go away, the best way to save lives is to contribute regularly. “At Mayo, about 15% to 20% of our blood is going to trauma patients and being used in our ER; a lot of our blood gets used supporting patients through life-saving cardiac or cancer surgeries. Cancer patients [also need blood]—chemotherapy knocks down their ability to make their own red blood cells and platelets—and folks who have medical conditions like autoimmune diseases also need transfusions.”

Donations flow to delivery rooms, too: “If anemia is significant enough in utero we transfuse during pregnancy and sometimes immediately after delivery,” Dr. Kreuter explains. “A lot of kids need blood in the first couple of minutes of life. Sometimes with newborn babies an emergency platelet transfusion in the first few moments of life is absolutely necessary; in their situation the newborn brain is so delicate and fragile that having these platelets immediately available is the name of the game in order to prevent bleeding into their brains, which results in long-term disabilities.”

Note that platelets have a shelf life of just five days, while whole blood can be stored for up to six weeks. The immediate need for platelets—and platelet donors—is constant.

RELATED: 6 Iron-Rich Food CombosNo Meat Required

Donating your voice is vital, too

Those “Be nice to me, I gave blood today!” stickers aren’t merely a cute (and justified) humblebrag: They’re also a benevolent form of peer pressure, not unlike the “I voted” stickers we earn and wear on election days. “Hearing about blood donation from a friend or colleague is very motivating in getting [potential first-timers] to think about taking that next step,” Dr. Kreuter says. “Our donor population [in Rochester] has an older average age, and we’re trying to reach out to the younger generation to start having the same blood donation habits.”

Think about it this way: Taking your kids to see you strengthen your community’s heartbeat at a blood center is just as important as bringing them with you to the voting booth. Donate visibly, donate vocally, and donate as often as you can.

How Emily Skye Overcame Body Image Issues and Learned to Love Her Body Even More After Childbirth

Emily Skye is a body positivity icon. She doesn’t shy away from showing off her loose skin and stretch marks since giving birth to her 6-month-old daughter Mia. In fact, she tells Health she doesn’t even think of them as flaws that need fixing.

“I just have so much more respect and appreciation for what my body is capable of,” she says. “I had no understanding of it before, but I literally grew a life, which is amazing. So the little things that before might have gotten to me don’t anymore. I don’t care about the stretch marks; I have flabby skin and cellulite. I also love the way I look now.”

RELATED: 11 Fitness Influencers Get Real About How Their Bodies Changed After Giving Birth

When she was younger, Skye says she dealt with body image issues. Now, she uses her platform to serve as the role model she never had. “I decided to be that for other people,” she says. “To be honest with them and hopefully help people embrace themselves and love their bodies.”

It wasn’t easy for her at first. Once Mia was born, Skye says she almost didn’t recognize herself when she looked in the mirror.

“But I had to remind myself of what I’d just been through,” she explains. “It’s not permanent, either. You have the power to get fit again and get healthy—and let go of the thing that you can’t [change].” She tells herself, “If you’re looking in the mirror and don’t like what you see, remember you have a beautiful baby and don’t get too caught up in what you don’t have.”

RELATED: 8 Things You Need to Stop Saying to Pregnant Women

With her newfound body gratitude, Skye says she started working her way back into a fitness regimen.

“I started walking and just focusing on my posture,” she says. “When you have a baby and you grow a human inside you, your core isn’t as engaged or as strong as it used to be. You have to retrain it to switch back again and work your pelvic floor.”

For Skye, that means standing tall and keeping her core tight, her shoulders back and down. She also incorporated low-impact exercises and used weights for squats, deadlifts, bicep curls, shoulder presses, and other basic moves. But as she’s shown on Instagram, this hasn’t been an overnight transformation.

“You’re not going to snap back straight away,” she says. “Keep being consistent and patient as well. Take it easy and look after yourself.”

With her candor and encouragement, it’s safe to say Skye is new mom goals. And whether you’ve welcomed a little one into your home or are just trying to get back into a fitness routine, her realistic advice is important to keep in mind.

‘Perfect Body’ Campaign Sparks Backlash Against Victoria’s Secret

Critics of a recent Victoria’s Secret ad campaign are finding it anything but “perfect.”


Critics of a recent Victoria’s Secret ad campaign are finding it anything but “perfect.”

Through a petition on the website Change.org, British students Frances Black, Gabriella Kountourides and Laura Ferris are demanding the company amend and apologize for the use of the phrase “Perfect Body” in ads for its new Body bra line, claiming the two-word phrase promotes negative body image.

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“We would like Victoria’s Secret to apologise and take responsibility for the unhealthy and damaging message that their ‘Perfect Body’ campaign is sending out about women’s bodies and how they should be judged,” reads the first paragraph of the petition.

Read more at Today.com.

This article originally appeared on www.today.com

 

 8 Empowering Life Lessons I Wish Every Woman Knew

One morning a few years ago, I was in a yoga class that the instructor dedicated to “the pursuit of potential.” As she guided us through the practice, she talked about the notion of inviting your best self forward, to live in the possibilities of your own potential. By the time we reached Savasana, I had reached an epiphany.

It occurred to me that my entire life, I had been working to “fix” myself, to correct all that I believed was wrong with me: Every step I took in my quest to be healthier and happier—whether it was running half-marathons, investing in a life coach, or religiously drinking green juice—was motivated by a deep-seated fear that I wasn’t good enough as is. I wasn’t pursuing my potential; I was trying desperately to feel worthy.

This thought struck me like a lightning bolt: How happy and healthy will I ever be if I don’t love myself?

My epiphany led me to challenge myself to become my own best friend, after years of struggling with eating disorders, drug addiction, and depression. Rather than focusing on the parts of myself I didn’t like, I committed to nurturing the parts I did. And this radical concept changed everything for me. (I wrote about the experience in my new book, The Self-Love Experiment.)

Over the next three years, I had many epiphanies like that first one. These moments of instant clarity were what inspired me to adjust the aspects of my life that were less than fulfilling. Some of my realizations were very personal, but others felt more universal—and a few were so powerful, I wish them for every woman. Below are eight such life-altering lessons:

You aren’t what people say you are

I used to spend so much time worrying about what people thought of me, without ever really asking myself how I felt about them. As a result, I wasted precious time and energy trying to please people who didn’t actually care about me.

I realized all that time and energy could be spent in more valuable ways—like taking care of myself, my family, and my true friends.

The shift for me came when I recognized that what matters most isn’t how others view you, but how you view yourself.

RELATED: 6 Things That Happen When You Turn 40

And you aren’t the number on the scale

At the end of your life, the weight struggles, the endless food wars you wage in your mind, and the shame and guilt you harbor about your body and habits will have absolutely no relevance. The only thing that will matter is what is in your heart. How you feel is essential to your self-worth; but how you look is not.

Plan B is often better than Plan A

The most freeing moment of your life will be when you let go of the plan you have for yourself, and accept the plan that is unfolding for you.

I spent years hating my body; I thought I needed to change my shape in order to like myself, or be liked. I would occasionally lose the weight, but my inner critic was never satisfied. I eventually realized that my weight wasn’t the issue—my attention on the weight was the problem. That’s what was keeping my stuck. 

So I changed my plan. Instead of needing to lose weight to be happy, I learned how to be happy no matter what size my body is.

RELATED: 9 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic

The journey is more important than the goal

Yes, reaching goals is important. But the process of pursuing what you want is just as important. When I stopped obsessing about getting to the elusive “there,” I was able to relax into my present life, and enjoy who I was becoming, every single moment.

Being alone doesn’t mean you are lonely

When you learn to love yourself, you’ll see you actually enjoy your own company. And being by yourself doesn’t have to feel lonely.

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It will never be all done … ever

The list of things you “need” to do is endless. You will never check off everything. It’s called life.

Instead of always focusing on the end results, recognize that your life is always unfolding, so new lessons and opportunities are always occurring. The challenge is to stay present enough to see them, and appreciate them.

Emotional pain shows up to help us know what we need to change

Instead of running from the pain in my life, I decided to try something radically new. I dove headfirst into it, and embraced it. What I took away from the experience is that our emotions are always guiding us, if we let them. When you pay attention to your feelings (especially the scary ones), you learn what needs to be healed.

Look at your own life and be honest: What is not working for you? Then repeat the mantra, “I am willing to live my life in new ways.”

RELATED: 5 Powerful Mantras to Help You Quiet Anxiety, Beat Self-Doubt, Manage Stress, and More

You don’t have to find purpose; it will find you

I used to struggle so much with trying to identify my purpose in life. And in my relentless search, I felt even more stuck. Instead of trying to find the meaning in your life, invest your energy in living it. Follow your curiosity, and honor the pull from your heart. When I first left my corporate job in advertising, I had no idea what I wanted to do next. But I was drawn to writing and traveling, so I followed that instinct, and soon it became my fulfilling career.

Adapted from The Self-Love Experiment: Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate, and Accepting of Yourself by Shannon Kaiser, an international life coach and speaker.

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