(This is the ninth in a series of interviews with the top women fitness bloggers I could find!)
Sally Parrott Ashbrook writes at Aprovechar where she’s decided to “take the full measure of my life to live it the best I can”.
Sally answered some questions about her blog recently:
1) Why did you decide to start your blog or how did you start it?
I had always tried to force myself into habits that I thought would lead me to weight loss and better fitness. A variety of influences converged to flip my way of thinking around in January 2007; I had this epiphany that if I focused on self-care as a whole, the weight could come off naturally and I’d be a happier, more self-actualized person in general. I felt giddy with the idea that I could reach goals I had long struggled with if I just took good care of myself. I started a private blog (one without my name and identifiers attached) to keep myself accountable, to give myself shared space to work through some of my emotional issues concerning weight, and to share my basic philosophy with others. By the summer of 2007, my worldview was pretty revolutionized by living out that concept of self-care. After I was diagnosed with food allergies and then celiac disease, I decided to out myself and write publicly about those issues in addition to fitness, food, and weight loss. Even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal now, for me to publish my full name along with my weight was a big deal for me initially! I talk about the concepts underlying my blog more in my first post on my blog.
2) What do you think is the biggest obstacle that keeps women from engaging in a regular fitness routine and/or from living a more healthy lifestyle in general?
I think the biggest obstacle probably varies from woman to woman. For me, there have been a few basic obstacles that I had to surmount.
One was that I had a long-held belief that weight loss and fitness were all-or-nothing/success-or-failure activities when that just isn’t true. My usual way of dealing with exercise and weight loss was to jump headfirst into a program, get mad at myself for small failures, and then give up on it eventually. With my self-care, I took what was for me a radically new approach. From a diet perspective, I changed my diet gradually to a focus on fresh, local, organic vegetables, whole grains, and generally lean proteins. I didn’t (and don’t) count anything or specifically restrict anything, and I let myself have indulgences while I was (and am) still getting the maximum pleasure from them (which truly is usually just the first 1-4 bites). Exercise-wise, I started out walking daily after work; then a couple of months later, I started doing Couch to 5k 3-4 days a week. Now I usually work out 4-6 days a week for about an hour at a time—and I usually really enjoy it, but there’s no way I could have sustained that many work-outs at the beginning. Taking a gradual approach and letting my comfort level be my guide—but reminding myself that I was doing it for my own well-being—has kept me motivated and engaged in a way that none of my previous efforts did.
On the flip side, another obstacle I had to overcome was the idea that engaging in my own health was always going to be easy and pleasurable. I’ve written a good bit about finding the joy in what life has to offer you, and I do think that’s important. But I also think it’s important to recognize the opportunity cost of whatever you choose to focus on in your life. The fact is that our resources (money, time, energy, etc.) are finite. We really can’t have it all, and we will run ourselves ragged if we try. If we choose to focus on making health—and not just weight loss, which can come at the expense of health, but an overall healthy lifestyle—a priority, it will take time that we then cannot use for other activities. If we take an hour to make a homemade, healthy, tasty meal, that hour can’t be spent on cleaning house or watching tv or whatever else. If we take time to go work out, that means we may have a bit less time for our spouses or friends. I think finding support in that effort is important—for example, someone insisting she’ll make one healthy meal for the family instead of one for herself and one for others. (I heartily believe that if a mom is working on a lifestyle makeover, the family could probably use one, too!) But changing habits requires enormous reserves of energy (if not time as well), and I think it’s important for our overall health to recognize if the time and energy just aren’t there at the moment. I had a reader write to me and ask for advice about how she could eat healthier and exercise while she was coping with raising two kids alone and caring for a parent who had terminal cancer. In that case, while she could certainly work to make some small changes in the right direction, her energy was really already divided up into elements of her life that were very important, and it may just not have been the right time for her to try to divvy up her energy further to put a lot of it into being serious about weight loss.
And that brings me to my last primary obstacle, which was a huge one: I had to learn to take care of myself emotionally in order to live a healthier life. I used to mentally abuse myself about my lack of willpower, my lack of natural athletic ability, etc. I also used to eat, blindly, when I had emotional needs that were going unmet for some reason. I’ve discovered that when I treat myself empathetically, my life goes much more smoothly. I’ve cut out the negative self-talk, and if it starts up, I stop myself and remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and that I have much to be proud of—and I mean it. When I get a craving for food at a strange time or place, I stop, close my eyes, and ask myself what it is I really want. If it really is a cupcake I want, I might get one later that day. But more often than not, what I really want is a good night’s sleep, or a hug from my husband, or a friend who will listen while I rant. These days, when I stop and focus on what I need, I then try to figure out ways to fulfill that need. Sometimes that can be hard (like if I am at work and am craving a nap), but I talk to myself about getting what I need and remind myself that I will give myself what I need as soon as possible. (And I have left work a couple of times to go home and sleep when that is what I was desperate for!) When I am making sure my life is more emotionally fulfilled, the craving to overeat largely dissipates.
3) What do you consider to be the most unique or helpful thing about your blog?
My blog is an unusual combination of self-care issues, including weight loss, fitness, locavore eating, food allergies, and other things. The undercurrent of it is how to embrace your life to find or create joy, pleasure, comfort, and meaning within it. Readers tell me that they value that I’m willing to express what’s going on in my head and heart openly while also working to keep a focus on the positive. My goal is to be a support system for people in general but specifically for women who are working to take control of their health and their lives to create and maintain good lives for themselves. And, of course, as someone who maintains a gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free, dairy/casein-free diet, I want to be a resource for people who are seeking out how to have healthy, engaged, pleasurable lives as they cope with celiac disease and food allergies.
Thanks for interviewing me!
Thank you Sally for taking the time to answer my questions!
Please take some time and visit Sally’s blog: Aprovechar !
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