How to be Kinder to Your Body During the Summer and Live with Intuition

Are you listening to the multi-trillion dollar diet industry that’s rooted in self-control? Are you feeling tired or just fed up with trying to fit into diet culture’s messages around what bodies “should” look like—especially during the summertime? Wouldn’t you rather listen and learn the non-diet mentality that is rooted in self-compassion? This blog post is written to encourage you, the reader, to fill your life with compassion and awareness of your intuition.

In our society, we are trained to be competitive, better, and to aim for above-average in order to be deemed “successful”. We are always told the message that higher self-esteem is better. What happens when we don’t meet our ideal standards and expectations? What happens when we oppress or put down other body types?

Some bitter facts about dieting:

  • Research shows that the number one thing women invest in is their self-esteem on their appearance.

  • On average, body image concerns for girls start in grade 3.

  • 80% of 10 year old girls have already been on a diet.

  • 33–35% of 6–8 year old boys indicate their ideal body is thinner than their current body.

  • The measurements of the male action figures young boys play with exceed even those of the

    biggest bodybuilders. Talk about unrealistic.

    Diet mentality and weight stigma. People in larger bodies often experience hurtful, shaming messages around their body and have higher chronic stress. Research shows that internalized weight stigma from our culture, rather than weight itself is responsible for most if not all of the excess health risks seen in people with larger bodies such as high rates of chronic diseases, heart disease or diabetes.

    Diet culture disguised as wellness culture.

    ‘Wellness’ is just another way of teaching and attempting people to control their body with demands on how to eat healthy, prioritize exercising and control weight for ‘aesthetics’ instead of living with peace and being fine with the body you’re in.

    Messages from diet culture are all around us: from the products we buy, food we label as ‘clean’ or ‘junk’, the ‘wellness diets’ that detoxes, cleanses, carb restricts... Diet culture thrives to shame and oppress people who don’t match its image of health. The consequence is the massive amount of time, energy, and money spent trying to shrink our bodies. Diet culture WORSHIPS thinness, as if thin bodies automatically equate to better health and higher power status. The "bikini body" in particular is an oppressive concept that seeks to squeeze women into a specific mold.

    95% of diets fail us.

    Yup, you heard that right: diets have a 95% fail rate (some say it’s close to 98%). Research follow-ups of ‘successful’ diet participants (those who lost weight significantly for a specific program or product) are only up to a year after their diet program is complete. What is not reported is that approximately two-thirds of people who lose weight will regain it within 1 year, and almost all of them will regain it within 5 years. While weight loss could trigger positive (short-term) outcomes, it is usually followed by weight regain.

    Diet culture has engulfed quite a large chunk of my teenage life and mental wellbeing. Growing up, most if not all of my friends around me were in some form of a diet or complained about their body shape or size. Self-sabotaging language around why our bodies are not thin enough, pretty enough, explaining why they aren’t ready for Summer echoed through the media, family, friends, school or work—it seems so hard to find self-compassion in this mess. 

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False Self versus the True Self

The “Self” is not the only physical part! Why do we often neglect the intellectual, emotional and spiritual parts of the “Self”? All these parts are equally as important in understanding self- image.

The false self is like a shell, attempting to be molded into or shaped to achieve world ‘ideals’. This never-ending criticism of the false mind sees the body as an implication that we are not good enough, not thin enough, not perfect enough, not pretty enough...The false mind ignores feedback from the body, avoids awareness of emotions, and imposes harmful behaviours which could create social isolation, disordered eating, or body dysmorphia. Are you connecting to this false self by shaming how you look and hurting your self?


You may be currently seeking for external validation, and that’s okay. This is only the very beginning to getting closer to who you really are! External validations are opinions towards our self-image and our self-worth, but they do not define the true self.

So what is the true self? Well, the true self is looking within to determine who you really are. Instead of being outer directed of “who should I be?”, the true self looks to find the hidden self from your heart and soul where one’s true identity lies. To interact with the world, the true self is inner guided from the soul (where intuition lies), to the heart (where passion lies), to the mind (where intention lies) and goes outwards to the body (where action lies). Below are some topics for you to look into so that you can start practicing intuitive living and connect with your true self today!

Get to know the differences between self-esteem & self-compassion

Kristen Neffs’ definition of self-esteem is that it is a global evaluation of one’s self-worth. For the longest time, psychological research has been putting ‘self-esteem’ as the main marker of psychological health where low self-esteem was linked with higher levels of anxiety, higher risk of depression, and other psychological concerns.

The biggest obstacle to self-esteem is self-criticism.

Self-Compassion
“Self-compassion involves being touched by and open to one’s own suffering, not avoiding, or disconnecting from it, generating the desire to alleviate one’s suffering and to heal oneself with kindness.”—Ann Saffi Biasetti in Befriending Your Body

Instead of reacting to that destructive inner-critic voice that compares yourself to others or evaluating what you do at every step, start challenging it by practicing self-compassion. The 3 key components of self-compassion are self-kindness, common humanity (how am I the same as others instead of how am I different from others) and mindfulness.

Self-compassion acts as a buffer between difficult emotions and behaviours, helping you acknowledge and accept the pain. The practice of self-compassion actually allows you to move closer towards your suffering rather than away from it. Acknowledge how you are feeling, and take note of your struggles. Respond in a caring manner towards suffering. Don’t forget that imperfection and suffering are human experiences that all human beings connect with! You are not alone in this suffering.

Facing your pain, suffering, and what you are truly feeling in your current state is actually a very self-compassionate action!

Notice how you talk to yourself. Remember: you don’t have to be in a diet to be caught up in the culture of diet. Notice your own language and how you think of your body. Dismantle and challenge the way you speak about your body and see if you could talk to your body as you would to a good friend. Treat yourself the way you treat others! You’re allowed to be compassionate to yourself. You are allowed to embrace body diversity and move away from diet mentality.

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Reaching inwards for self-acceptance

Self-acceptance is unconditional positive regard as would the view of your therapist or a good friend have towards you. It’s the journey to accepting your imperfections, and start embracing what makes you human.


Here is a mindfulness activity you can practice to invite in more kindness and acknowledge your pain: (adapted meditation from Ann Saffi Biasetti)

Come up with 3 phrases that you can remind yourself like a mantra to offer support to yourself each day. At this point, you don’t have to believe them: you are attempting to comfort your mind and your nervous system. You are learning and building the ground for self-compassion to develop.

  1. Close your eyes and imagine someone you love, or a good friend who is suffering in some way. It can be the same thing you are dealing with or something different. Imagine this friend by calling the image into your mind.

  2. Imagine your friend asking you for help, support and advice. Notice what their suffering feels like in your body, paying attention to the emotions that are coming up for you as you image what they are enduring.

  3. What are 3 things you would say to him or her right now?

Open your eyes and write these 3 statements down. You will work with these words daily, especially when you are waking up and going to bed, since it is important to begin and end your day with helpful thoughts. Learning to be a friend to yourself is the first step in the continued development of a self-compassionate recovery.

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Let your creativity connect to your intuition!

Intuitive drawings are courageous marks of one’s inner voice. A valuable lesson I have learned as an art therapist is to trust in myself, to create a reflection of what I feel and what I’m thinking about in the moment. Learning to step aside my critical mind and invite in my beginner’s mind. This is my intuitive drawing I drew after a short mindfulness exercise. While drawing this art piece, I was thinking of what a visualization of ‘inspiration’ would look like to me. I often get inspired by things I see in nature, in space (especially!), people who do art on the gram and this is a fused representation of all of that! I would like to invite you to close your eyes for a minute, take a few deep breaths and begin to visualize where you get your inspiration. Once you are ready, come back into the room and create your intuitive drawing from what you have experienced.

What intuitive eating is about

Another big component towards living more intuitively is your relationship with food. What was your relationship with food growing up? What is your current relationship with food?
If you are on a diet or have been on diets, you probably know what it is like to restrict. Restricting or disconnecting from hunger makes us think more about food, which leads to binging. Intuitive eating is a concept that is all about slowing down from your normal routine and checking in with yourself. You can start incorporating small but consistent check-ins throughout the day to practice mindfulness.

How you can rebel against diet culture to live intuitively, free from disordered eating, fat phobia, and body politics:
• listen to your intuition around food: try to eat when you’re hungry to make peace with food

• setting intentions along the path and journey you’re on: from anxiety around food, self-care in a holistic multifactorial way instead of just looking at body and weight. 


• social media detoxing

• listen to podcast: Food Psych by Christy Harrison
So how do you see yourself? How would you like to invite in more compassion to help you start accepting all of you?

TLDR:
The quick answer is: live intuitively and practice self-compassion. Search up and learn more about the Health At Every Size Movement, find out how to be more compassionate with your body, and find freedom with your body.

Further Readings and Podcasts about this topic:

Video: 

• Kristen Neff explains Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion

Blog post:
• Read 10 principles of intuitive eating by Evelyn Tribole

Books:
Befriending Your Body by Ann Saffi Biasetti PhD, LCSW
Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight by Linda Bacon

Podcast:
Food Psych with Christy Harrison

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Linda Lin
Decluttering Sparks Healthy Self Care
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Spring cleaning is just around the corner! Some of you may have watched "Tidying up with Marie Kondo "on Netflix. This post will explore ways to de-clutter not only the things around us, but also looking intuitively to understand why we feel cluttered. If you are becoming inspired to de-clutter or would like some healthy tips as ways to spark your joy (as Marie would say), keep reading!

Surroundings.
Why do we associate Spring with de-cluttering? After thinking about your new year’s resolutions, spring is a brand new season, and for many, it is a fresh start to embark on new habits. How will you make THIS season different? See if you could create a vision of what you would like you and your space to feel like. 

We can start with our environment and the people we surround ourselves with. Do the people around you love you unconditionally, encourage you to be the best version of yourself? Are you excited when you spend time with them? Do you feel content after making memories with them? You are worthy of this kind of love even when you are still learning to love yourself.

 

Ask yourself: How am I feeling? What am I needing? What can I do to meet my needs?
Notice what your work environment looks like. Maybe adding a plant, a diffuser, or even changing your desktop background to an image of a safe space could help spark some joy. A clean surface could also bring about a content feeling.

Setting Boundaries.
As Brené Brown puts it, boundaries can be defined as what is okay to you and what is not okay. Boundaries are the key to self-compassion but it can be tricky. 

Be careful of over-scheduling and burnout: saying no to things that don’t spark your joy. A key trick is to listen to your heart and your gut on this one. They say we have 3 brains: the head, heart and gut. We are often listening and believing what our mind tells us. But the mind can be complicated when thoughts are mostly around ‘what-ifs’ scenarios. When something doesn’t feel quite right, your heart and your gut will be the first to let you know. 

 Here are some ways to say ‘no’:

  • “I can’t take this on right now.”

  • “That doesn’t work on my end, thanks for thinking of me.”

  • “That’s not within my budget, but thanks for the invite.”

  • “That sounds like fun, but I am going to pass this time”

  • “Not today, thank you.” 

Feel free to find creative ways that fit with how you would like to get across your boundaries!

Recharge!

If you are feeling cluttered, reflect on how you best recharge or reset. Do you allow me-time in the day or the week? Take yourself out on that walk, or take a minute to transition between rooms—by stepping outside after a meeting even for a minute to get some fresh air.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”—Aristotle

Are you setting routines in your day? What would you like your school/work, self-care, morning or night routines to look like? Practicing structure through a routine can help us feel more in control and organized.

 It’s not a race.
Slow down! There’s no need to do everything on high speed. Notice your pace, even the way you walk. Are you rushing through those escalator stairs to catch the next train? Answer truthfully to yourself: do you drive within the speed limit? Doing tasks and living our life at high speed or the need to maintain a high degree of ‘productivity’ can often lead to higher stress levels and even more mistakes.

Many open tabs and screen time.
How many tabs do you have open on your internet? Count them. How does this number make you feel? Having a lot of tabs open or having a cluttered computer screen can overstimulate our brain, making it hard to focus on our tasks. 

How much time do you spend behind your screen? With the feature on our phones telling us how much time we have dedicated to being on our screens, you may be surprised by the number. 

Are you following accounts that do not spark self-compassion, or joy? You are in control of what you want to see on your feed so be selective of your social media consumption. Organize it by scrolling down your feed and looking out for particular ones that do not promote values that you find to be important. Unfollowing those accounts can help you feel more congruent with yourself.

Emotions.
Now we are going to go inward, expanding our mindfulness on how we are feeling. Think of your emotions like the weather pattern. What is the emotion or internal weather that is visiting you at this moment? See if you can notice it without reacting to it in a judgemental way (e.g. anger is not good). In Hellenistic philosophy, it was believed that emotions visit us. See if you can recognize that the emotion, like anger, as visiting you right now. Like weather patterns, emotions come and they go. What is the underlying message of the emotion and what can we do with that message? 

Celebrate yourself!
Celebrate yourself, all that you have went through. What does resiliency look like from your experiences? Make as many gratitude lists and affirmations as you want. Affirmations do not always need to start with “I can” and “I am” before the statement. If you have feeling like this is a huge expectation and seems daunting, see if you can start off by adding “I am learning to…” or “I am learning that…” in the beginning of the statement. Find ways to create affirmations or develop mantras that you resonate with—ones that are most genuine to you! Repeat it and learn to believe it.

“The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”— Brother David Steindl-Rast

Practicing gratitude helps to invite and ‘spark' joy into our lives. Think about it: How do you thank your hardworking mind and body? If you don't usually do this, what are ways you can start by becoming more aware of things you do have, or strengths you embody already?  

On the contrary, become more aware of where stress and worry stores in your body. Practice doing body scans, even if it is only for a minute or two. There are many types of body scans you could do, but the progressive muscle relaxation is a good one, by tensing up areas in my body, holding it for a few seconds and letting go. This exercise could help you notice what tension feels like versus how relaxation feels in your body. 

What does your de-cluttering checklist look like?
We named elements that are important to us on our de-cluttering checklist, but what are some things we might have missed? Leave a comment down below, we would love to hear from you!

Resources and further reading: 

  • Search up Brené Brown and go down that rabbit hole to cultivate self-growth and setting boundaries!

  • Read this article on open tabs and how it can impact on your level of focus!

Thank you for reading!

Linda Lin MCP-AT RCC CCC

The Tea inside the Teapot

Where do you store possessions? 
Valuables that you want to keep but also hope they are safe.

Where do you store memories? 
Special snippets of experiences you have felt and moments of becoming.

Where do you store fears?
Perceptions that hurt you and makes you want to run the other way. 

What about worries?
Thoughts that could impede you from moving on or taking action to live with possibilities. 

How do you store away an incomplete, unresolved or painful side of reality?

We all need proper closure — a proper fitting lid for our teapot.
A transition object or even a metaphor image that can help you let go of the past.

Whether you have held onto this for a short while or for a long, long time, 
You are the one who has control of how you can let go of this past that no longer serves you.

With adequate guidance and support, the teapot can pour out tea with care without spilling it and tipping it over.

The teapot comes with the acknowledgement that you are honest with yourself, 

that you have grieved, 

that you have made up your mind, 

that there is support around you in this here and now, 

and that you are aware that there is a future bigger than this.

This teapot is an image I came up with for a proper closure that works for me.

What does your containment or transitional image look like?

A Lost Soul

“What am I doing?”


This question and feeling of being lost comes up far too many times as we go about this journey called life.

It can show up when we are in transit,
mid-day during work/classes,
when we get a moment to ourselves,
or when we are trying to get some shut eye.

Listen to that question and stay with it for a moment.
Tune into what it actually wants.
What values and needs is your soul seeking for?
How can your soul be nurtured?

And think about how far you have come to where you are.

Your current position is only a point in life that will lead you to be where you will be.

Keep on swimming through the currents.