In one way or another, I believe we should all be on a journey towards healing; body, soul, and spirit. Grueling exercise regimens and strict diets have never been my cup of tea. Beating myself up, being harsh to my body and my own heart have never worked. I have found that the more simple, graceful, and realistic the routine, the more likely I am to stick with it. It’s my hope that these humble words of advice will help you move towards a grace-filled path to self improvement.
I’m a reader. Reading has improved my life in more ways than I can possibly count. The following three books have helped me on my journey towards self improvement: Captivating, Women Food and God, and Simple Abundance. These books will help you realize your worth as a woman. They will help you stop relying on both over-eating & total deprivation. And these books will help you to start enjoying the simple pleasures of life. In essence, they will help you become a more balanced person. Each book helped me realize that health is not just physical. If you are heart sick, it will certainly affect your physical health as well. We are three parts in one! It’s all connected. I highly recommend these books as some of the first steps on the path to self improvement.
A European State of Mind
In my travels to Europe, (I’ve been several times, including living a year in Germany) I have found that the European people have such a different way of looking at food and physical activity. I love it. Here are some of my favorite ways I witnessed the way Europeans experience meals and movement.
They eat smaller portions of richer food. There was no such thing as a sandwich with two slices of bread. There were, however, open-faced sandwiches with a good layer of butter before you put on the meat and cheese. Less bread and more good fats to make you feel satisfied. Not to mention way more organic vegetables daily! Restaurants also serve much smaller portions. It may not be enough to take home leftovers, but the ingredients were probably locally sourced and the fats were all natural. It’s basically quality over quantity. You don’t go away hungry.
They know how to enjoy food without guilt. Why do we feel guilty for eating a treat? I have heard that our British heritage is partly to blame. Something about Oliver Cromwell and his religious fanaticism that made the pleasure of eating (especially sweets, like cake) “sinful”. Or maybe it’s because we don’t eat very healthy when we make room for “treats” in our diet? But what about eating something as a treat that isn’t totally full of bad ingredients? Like a homemade apple pie in the fall? Or a piece of good chocolate once or twice a week?
When I lived in Germany, there were cakes, cookies, or chocolates almost every day for coffee hour. No one was hating themselves for it. The portions were small and the treats were typically homemade. No overindulgence, just a simple pleasure to be enjoyed.
They love nature and taking walks. And riding bikes! Europeans have a real appreciation for getting outside to enjoy the beauty of nature and taking in some fresh air. It wasn’t unusual to take a long walk after a meal several times a week when I lived in Germany. Europeans don’t always have the space or need to drive cars, so they quite frequently walk or ride bikes to get around. This extra activity may also explain why having small treats, as mentioned above, isn’t such a big deal!
Carving out Time for Some Simple Pleasures
I find that I function better throughout my day when I feel good about myself. For me, that means putting on some makeup, or wearing a pretty outfit or pretty shoes. Maybe a splash of perfume as well. Here are some other little ideas that may help build confidence on your self improvement journey.
Paint your nails and toenails. Something about having that little extra color on my nails helps me feel more feminine. My favorite color for my nails is red. It makes me feel French for some reason. Which makes me feel chic. Haha!
Enjoy a cup of tea and a book while having a bath. I know it sounds a little cliche, but it really is the most relaxing and simple luxury. Sometimes after a long day at work that’s all I want to do!
Put lotion or coconut oil on after your bath. Adding some nice essential oils makes it a little extra special as well. Having your skin feel smooth and smell lovely is such a boost! Look in the mirror and give yourself a compliment while you’re at it.
Wear nice underwear. I know that sounds funny, but it really does positively affect your psyche (compare how you feel wearing nice undies, as opposed to old, holey cotton ones!) I once read this in an interview with famous supermodel, Miranda Kerr. This was one of her suggestions–wear pretty/sexy underwear to make yourself feel confident. I have never forgotten that advice. No one else has to know, of course! But you will! And it feels pretty fabulous.
Don’t miss out on celebration. I believe that celebration is a real discipline. Have some fun! Sing in the car! Dance with your friends at the wedding reception! Have a glass of wine with your husband! If you are going to your niece’s birthday party, have a piece of cake! There is something beautiful and sacred about sharing a meal with the people you love. Jesus did it.
Find Fun Ways to be Active
I should also say find fun and *free* ways to be active. This is a blog about frugality after all. If you need the accountability of the gym membership, I totally respect that! But for those of us that don’t want to spend the time or money with a gym membership, here are the ways that I like to stay active on my self improvement journey.
Try yoga. One of the first consistent forms of exercise I ever tried as an adult was yoga. It was something I could try on my own, right on the living room floor, which appealed to me. In case you wonder if it’s challenging enough, believe me, it is! There are many different kinds and it can kick your butt if you want it to. Plus, it’s nice to be able to learn the basic moves and make up your own flows so you can practice yoga anywhere (like in a cramped hotel room or the airport). If you are interested in trying yoga and would like a really kind teacher, I highly recommend Yoga With Adriene on Youtube. She has all different levels, from beginners to advanced. And it’s free.
Dance! Throw on some music and just start moving and having a good time! No one needs to see you. Do it in your bedroom if you want! But dancing is such a fun way to be active. We have taken a belly dancing class, and have had several different dance exercise videos that we have tried over the years. I just like to incorporate all of the different dance moves together, and typically try to dance 30 minutes at a time.
Take walks. Walking in nature is so good for your body, soul, and spirit. Hearing the birds sing and seeing creation come into bloom just does something good to your heart. Sometimes in the summer, I will walk 2 miles after lunch and 2 miles in the evening after dinner. Eventually you may even start to incorporate some jogging, when you feel ready. Challenge yourself in small steps.
Get your hands dirty. Yard and garden work are no joke! There have been many days that I have been sore after a day of hard yard work. Plus, it’s killing two birds with one stone–a lovely garden and flowers, and a great workout!
Power hour. A friend once told me that at the top of the hour, he would stop what he was doing at work and do 20 pushups. Sometimes when I am alone at work, I will stop what I’m doing and do squats, lunges or pushups. You can even mix it up and do squats while you do house work, like folding clothes or cooking! Check out Diary of A Fit Mommy. She also has tons of free work out ideas that you can do from the comfort of your own home. There are literally tons of free exercising resources on Youtube, so don’t be afraid to look around!
I find that if I’m having fun or experiencing beauty, I look forward to working out! So have a good time and enjoy your body! It is a gift.
I don’t believe the importance of rest can be overstated. Dr Eric Berg talks specifically about the body’s need for rest and that much of your body’s fat burning actually happens during sleep. Physical rest is extremely important, but so is mental and emotional rest. Stress on the heart and mind can literally make your body produce high levels of cortisol, which prevents weight loss. In fact, it does the opposite- it makes your body hold onto weight. Toxic relationships that bring you down emotionally? A workload at your job that is exhausting and preventing you from spending time with your loved ones? Running the roads to take your kids to a million places each week? These things are causing your body to go into fight or flight and build your cortisol levels. Take some time to evaluate where you can start having boundaries and start saying no.
Keeping your adrenals healthy will prevent your cortisol levels from rising. Bone broth, gelatin, vitamin C, raw apple cider vinegar, and lacto-fermented foods all help keep your adrenals healthy. Avoiding stress and getting plenty of rest also promote adrenal health. For more on adrenal health and building your immune system, click here.
All things in balance. When I say that learning to celebrate is important, what I do NOT mean is eating 3 pieces of cake. When I say that finding fun ways to exercise helps you get active, I do NOT mean working out 2 or 3 hours a day. If you struggle with overeating, maybe learn to skip treats all together for a short season. If you have to sleep 3 hours the afternoon after a hard workout, you may need to reevaluate the amount of activity your body can handle right now. Do not be slave to food or to harsh regimens. Find your balance on your self improvement journey. Try setting attainable goals that you can realistically work towards.
Disclaimer: We are not physicians. We are simply women who are trying to take responsibility for our health by using common sense and research. We encourage you to do the same on your self improvement journey. Please check for any contraindications by using a reliable source. If you have serious health concerns please seek the guidance of a qualified physician.