Bodybuilding & Grieving – How the gym can help you heal

Heartbreak can come in many forms.

From the end of a relationship to the loss of a member of the family, even losing a family pet can bring heartbreak.

When we experience an event that breaks our heart we go through what’s known as The Five Stages of Grief.

Grieving in 5 stages

The 5 stages are described below, and during this period you may find that you manage each emotion differently. Some emotionally eat, others use the gym as a way to manage their feelings. I’ll explore this further on.

Denial

This helps us survive the event, we just simply don’t believe it’s actually happened. We go into a state of shock and numbness as we digest what’s actually happened. This is actually the start of the healing process.

Anger

Stage 2 is anger, this can be a tricky one to handle when it’s associated with death. You may find yourself angry at them for no reason, or just angry at people around you. You may find yourself lashing out and not really understanding why. It’s important to not suppress this, just let it out but be aware that’s it’s a natural part of the grieving process.

Bargaining

This is an interesting time during the process, you are likely to find yourself asking ‘what if’ questions. ‘What if I had gone round maybe this wouldn’t have happened.’ ‘What if I hadn’t done X maybe Y would’ve happened’. ‘What if I change, will X happen?’ This again is perfectly normal, although you may wonder where your thoughts are coming from in this stage.

Depression

The point where we feel the emptiness of space, the sadness kicks in. Wondering what the point of it all is. Again it’s important to let these feelings out, and not to suppress them. Suppressing them and trying to ‘get on with it’ is what often causes issues later on and it has even been suggested that suppressed emotions manifest as illness later in life. So allow the feelings to flow.

It’s important to note that these stages aren’t necessarily linear. One emotion could last moments and then you find yourself in another stage, but eventually, you get to the acceptance stage and that’s when you know you’re finally coming through your grief.

Acceptance

You don’t have to be ‘ok’ with the situation but you accept it’s happened and find a way to move on with your life. We re-assess relationships, our role in the world, how we manage things going forward but the important things is we have learnt something from the grief and carry on with our lives no matter how tough the event was.

So where does Bodybuilding Come in?

How exactly do you manage your emotions whilst you’re going through this process? Many of us are emotional eaters for instance, making ourselves feel better by eating food that makes us temporarily feel good. Unfortunately what tends to happen is that is then followed by a stage of feeling guilty for having eaten something we probably shouldn’t have, and then the response is to eat again and repeat the cycle of eating and guilt!

Obviously not where you want to be ideally! However, I believe that if that’s how we deal with emotions, then for a short period of time it is ok to do this. To not beat yourself up for eating badly during tough times in life, but to simply accept where we are and how we are coping, be conscious of it and move on when we are ready.

The other way to deal with grief is through pain. Bizarre as it may sound, many bodybuilders enjoy the feeling of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) – that ache you get in your muscles after you train, because it’s a sign you have trained hard enough. By focusing on the physical pain it actually helps the brain to temporarily ignore the emotional pain during the grieving process, it’s a distraction with a huge beneficial result at the end.

Training as a healer

Whilst you’re in the gym, training, temporarily distracting yourself from the emotional pain, what inevitably happens is the exercise actually also produces endorphins too – so a happy chemical gets released into your brain during a tough time, surely that’s only a good thing!

And of course the more you show up, train and start to take care of your physical body and feel physically better, it begins to impact your mood and your body. Within a short period of time you may find yourself having lost excess weight, or gained strength, sleeping better, able to deal with issues better, having more mental clarity and a more positive outlook on life.

Personal experience

I am both an emotional eater and a bodybuilder. I often find my default is to emotionally eat or drink, but a few years ago after a particularly stressful breakup I said to myself ‘enough is enough’ with the emotional eating and instead found myself in the gym at midnight training instead. Now, this may sound extreme, but it was my coping mechanism for my grief. The outcome, I lost 40lbs in fat and was ready to compete in my first bikini competition. My ex-wanted me to come back and whilst I would’ve done anything for him just a few months before, I was proud that I no longer needed him and was pursuing a lifelong dream instead. And had attention from men who were far more suited to me.

Needless to say this was an experience that became a turning point in my life, and whilst I cannot guarantee that when the next heartbreaking event happens in my life I will be hitting the gym, I hope that the memory of how happy I was at the end of my grief will spur me to the dumbbell rather than the doughnuts!

This post is written in memory to one of the girls in my Group who recently suffered a heartbreaking event.

Female Empowerment on the rise – But what exactly is it?

Female Empowerment is everywhere.

You can’t escape it, it’s increasingly being talked about in our media, literature, books and online. Female empowerment is most certainly on the rise but what exactly does it mean?

I ran a quick and dirty poll on my Facebook page and the feedback was surprising. Some people reacted really badly to the term, believing it was a just a BS statement that meant nothing. Others saw it as a term for women becoming equal to men in all areas of life. Others still saw female empowerment as a rallying call to live the best lives they could.

I was honestly surprised at how divisive 2 words could be. And the mix of responses came from both men and women. Which led me to question, what exactly IS Female Empowerment?

The United Nations

According to the United Nations, who call it ‘Women’s Empowerment’ they state the following:

Women’s Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social or economic strength of women.

Having decision-making power of their own
Having access to information and resources for taking proper decision
Having a range of options from which you can make choices (not just yes/no, either/or.)
Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making
Having positive thinking on the ability to make change
Ability to learn skills for improving one’s personal or group power.
Ability to change others’ perceptions by democratic means.
Involving in the growth process and changes that are never-ending and self-initiated
Increasing one’s positive self-image and overcoming the stigma

Mind and Body

Personally, I would also add mental and physical to the criteria! Everything stems from the mind and mindset is important regardless of gender to be able to perform at the highest level and lead the lives we want to lead. Why physical? Because for too long women have been told that being ‘skinny’ is perfection. We have had years of being made to feel ‘less than’ or being told to be so small in our physical size that we almost disappear. But ironically, when women workout and train their bodies and yes put on weight (heaven forbid!) their confidence, self-esteem and outlook on life is massively improved. From the standpoint of both mental and physical improvement, I believe all else will follow.

Men and Women’s Empowerment

So in a nutshell, it’s anything that helps women to improve their lives. I don’t see that as excluding men either. I believe both men and women should be empowered, but we are different genders with different issues.  So there is a distinct difference, even though the UN guidelines could apply to both genders!

Either way, giving women the option to improve their mental and physical wellbeing is an absolute passion of mine which I have been working on for decades! Come and join my FREE Facebook group for women and learn more here.

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The power of Gratitude – How to transform your life

Gratitude – Love it or Hate it?

We all know that gratitude is something that we should be practicing, but so many of us aren’t entirely sure how to do it, and those of us that do often give up as it becomes a chore or life gets in the way.

So why bother?

There’s actually alot of fascinating research into the science behind gratitude and the massive improvements that it seems to be able to make to literally every area of your life. The website www.happierhuman.com has a host of science facts if you want to get more. Just take a look at this chart below courtesy of Happier Human.

Have you got 5 minutes

One of the things that fascinated me when I read through the findings is that it literally only takes 5 minutes a day to make a difference! That’s crazy, everyone can find 5 minutes. I don’t care how busy you are, how big your family commitments are, every single one of us must be able to find 5 minutes a day.

Now interestingly if you’re one of those people who is scratching their head trying to work out how on earth you’re going to find 5 minutes in between cooking, taking the kids to school, work, throwing down your lunch and blah blah blah… you already have times where you can be grateful.

Simply put, you don’t necessarily have to have a full on gratitude journal that you religiously write in every day. But you could for instance, think about what you’re grateful for when you brush your teeth twice a day, or how about when you’re in the shower and shampooing your hair? Hell even if you decided to think about something you’re grateful for whenever you go to the toilet would work!

Try it you might like it

The idea is that you just give it a go, if the daily journaling for 5 minutes becomes a chore, stop and try something else. Either way, you’re getting into the habit of retraining your brain. Regardless of what life throws at you in the year, this re-wiring will make your life feel so much more special than it currently does.

Learning to love

The main thing to remember is no matter how you go about it, your gratitude practice shouldn’t become a chore. It should ideally become a regular part of your day like brushing your teeth. But of course this, much like yoga is called a practice for a reason. It’s going to take time, regularly showing up before it becomes a part of your life. Just don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon. Simply acknowledge it and get back into some form of practice.

2018 and beyond

I hope this message strikes a chord and you begin to implement some form of gratitude practice into your life, be it, thankfulness when brushing your teeth or a daily photo you love on instagram or even the traditional gratitude journal each day. It truly is a remarkable way to rewire your brain and totally transform your life.

And finally, I would like to say I am grateful for you reading my words. Thank you!