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Accept Your Body Without Abandoning Diet & Exercise

Over the past twenty years as a psychologist specializing in relationships, wellness and women's pssues, I am struck by how many of us have a difficult time accepting our bodies. When I gather with my friends, after we discuss our relationships, the conversation inevitably goes to how we feel about our bodies. One way or another. We joke. We commiserate.

Why it is so hard for us to accept our bodies? Personally, I exercise regularly, and eat healthy. Usually.

Recently I pulled out some of the eating plans and diet books that I have on my shelf, and have tried over the years: Calorie Counters, South Beach Diet, Green Smoothies, Intuitive Eating, Vegan, Eating 10 Fruits/Veggies, Atkins, Low Carb, No Sugar, Iphone “Lose it”, Cleanses, The Zone, Paleo, and so on.

Then I thought about all of the exercise and fitness programs I have tried: running, biking, swimming, gym, aerobics, dance, sculpting, boot camp, spinning, yoga, pilates, hiking, bar method and pilates - just to name a few!

My friends and clients talk about how we want to lose weight. If only we lost weight, we would be happy. Our pants do not fit like they used to. It is harder now that we are older. Hormonal changes, thyroid issues and metabolism slowing down. If we have children, we blame motherhood for the changes in our body. Many of us do not like how we look, and more importantly we just do not feel good in our bodies.

Some people say it is the media’s influence. Women strive to be thinner because of unrealistic standards we see with celebrities. Some say we have unrealistic expectations especially as we age. I know that I do not have body dysmorphic thoughts. When I look in the mirror, I know I am not overweight or fat. I just think I would feel look and feel better if I were a little smaller. If my pants fit better. That’s all.

If you are going to make behavioral changes, you need to use what works for you personally. I know that as both a psychologist, and as a woman striving to live a healthy lifestyle. I have decided it is time to go back to a no-nonsense approach. What has worked for me over the past 25 years: Eating clean and exercising most days. And, I need social support. I am such an extrovert that I am happier and healthier when I share with friends.

Many nutrition experts say that 80% of how our body looks is related to our nutrition. 10% genetics. 10% exercise. The Eat Clean Diet program by Tosca Reno works best for me. Lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, water and limited alcohol. Yes, I can still have my coffee, occasional wine and dark chocolate. Pretty simple.

I know that I am happier when I exercise. A study by the Mayo Clinic found Physical Exercise 3 hours per week reduces stress, fatigue, self doubt, irritability and depression. Fitness Expert, Heather Frey of Smash Fit recommends 3-4 hours per week, but make sure we get our heart rates up. Personally, I know that my mood is so much better when I exercise regularly.

I’m a busy working mom juggling all of the time. I need to remember “When Mom exercises and is happy… the entire family is happy.” It is important to prioritize taking care of myself, especially since I take care of others the rest of the time. A few months ago, I started a new, intense fitness program called Cross Fit. It is really challenging, and always changing. I have the support of a group exercise class with the personalized attention of  wonderful coaches. And, I have re-committed to Eating Clean more often. I do not have to be perfect, but I do need to be more disciplined!

I am also flattered to be the Psychologist Expert in Tosca Reno’s new book coming out September 28th:  Your Best Body Now: Look and Feel Fabulous at Any Age: The Eat Clean Way. Maybe this will help keep me motivated and committed. What about you? Do you eat clean? Exercise? What works for you? We are in this together!

*Dr Michelle Gannon is a Psychologist specializing in Relationships, Wellness and Women's Issues. She is an Individual and Couples Therapist in San Francisco Private Practice, Psychology Media Expert, Writer, Wife, Mom and Health, Fitness and Wellness Enthusiast. Please visit her at Dr Michelle Gannon &


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