Why you don't want to use another person as the standard for what YOU should be

"After all that, I'm just ready to be me." -Lauryn Hill

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I'm work fitness. 
I help women stretch beyond their comfort zones and grow. 
I help them find time in their days and space in their lives to care for their bodies with movement and training. 
I help them crush goals, change how they feel in their bodies and even change aspects of their physique. 

I do NOT tell them that they have to be like me. 
I do NOT encourage them to look to Pinterest boards and fitness models as inspiration for whom they should become. 

I have an online presence that features me working out, sharing my accomplishments, challenging others to do more in their lives. 
I follow other women that are crushing online. 
I look to them and their accomplishments with admiration. 
I use them to challenge me. 

I work HARD to make sure that I refrain from EMULATING them or believing that I have to do exactly what they are doing to be successful, to be happy. 
 



You see, I am 100% in opposition of is the idea that we should EVER make another individual human being the standard for what WE SHOULD BE. 



I spent from age 13 to 19 suffering chronic whiplash from always looking around at what EVERYONE else was doing and using that as a measure of what I needed to be. 

Consequently I had NO direction. 
I felt like a failure and a fraud. 
I pretty much hated my life. 


At 19 years old I had two amazing faculty members at the University of New Hampshire, that changed my life. 
They saw me. 
They saw my talents and my potential for the successful achievement of goals. 
They believed in me. 
They weren't confused about who I was. 
They weren't comparing me to anyone else. 
They weren't telling me to become something else. 
They simply let me know that I was capable and that I could cultivate a life for myself beyond what I was doing now. 
I could do better. 

And never in a "you don't measure up" sort of manner, but in a, "I see you. You got this," sort of way. 

And suddenly I wanted to change EVERYTHING. 
I wanted to invest in myself. 
I wanted to expand my comfort zone and pursue all the things that I wanted out of life. 

I saw fellow students buckling down and succeeding in school and I went after MY OWN version of that. 

I saw my friends enjoying their hobbies and academic pursuits and I wanted to figure out how to do that for myself too!

I took a hard look at the habits, relationships and activities in my life that WERE NOT working and I changed them. 

I took another job. 
I moved. 
I studied like I had NEVER studied before. 
I set goals. 
I wrote them down. 
I changed who I spent time with. 
I found new tasks and activities that actually nourished me. 

My life suddenly looked like no one else's around me and you know what. 
It was good. 

 

And so now, you know, I understand that it was because I was measuring myself or trying to compare myself to a standard that wasn’t reality. It wasn’t the standard at all, you know. There’s a scripture in the Bible that we, what does it say, it says ‘We compare ourselves amongst ourselves’ you know. That’s not the standard. You already are the standard. What are you trying to fit into a standard for? We were each created to be individual standards, you know. And we’re trying to fit into a standard? It doesn’t make any sense, you know....After all that, I’m just ready to be me.
— Lauryn Hill, Unplugged
  Click the image to listen to and read these lyrics about why we shouldn't compare ourselves to others!!

Click the image to listen to and read these lyrics about why we shouldn't compare ourselves to others!!



Of course this took place over a couple of years and while I learned this incredibly important lesson early in life, I have had to re-learn it and grow it and build upon it time and time again. 
BUT the foundation that nineteen year old Sarah Smith laid has FOREVER impacted my life and helped me to stop chasing everyone else and invest in my own life. 


And this is why I feel so passionately about speaking out against the MANY messages in fitness, social media and popular culture that tell you, 
"Be this_______[insert snapshot of popular, fit, successful person]."

Especially for pre and postnatal women, women struggling with their body image, confidence, self respect and a sense of place in this world. 
Because when we are in theses states we are vulnerable. 
We can be more susceptible to harmful messaging. 
We can do ourselves harm chasing standards set for us by the culture EVEN when we don't know that we are doing it. 


That nineteen year old young woman that was affected by what everyone else around her was doing, she came out again during my third pregnancy and postpartum period. 


I found myself being affected by what fitness culture was telling me pregnant and early postpartum women should be doing, looking like, be capable of. 

I didn't even know that I was doing it!

I was working my ass off. 
Training, lifting, chasing kiddos, not always eating enough, exhausted, a little fried...

Why?
Because I thought that's what you did. 

And then I injured my body. 


The good thing about my injury is that it taught me that I could no longer copy what anyone else was doing. 

NO one readily accessible to me rehabbing pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse AND training with kettlebells. 

I had to look to my own body. 
I had to pay attention to my own life. 
I had to work around my own restrictions and capitalize on my own strength.  
Once again I had to stop using what others were doing as my meter stick for success and fitness. 

And it was good!
I now am SUPER outspoken about the fact that pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse and other injuries shouldn't stop you from living your life and crushing your goals. 

But I the way that I train and the messages that I share are always based on the idea that we need to learn what works for us as individuals. 
We need to challenge ourselves to grow. 
But trying to keep up with other people and do exactly what they are doing is both an empty, dangerous and unsatisfying pursuit. 

At the end of the day, we are 100% responsible for shifting our focus and our mindset from looking to other people to learn "What we should be."

But I also know how impactful it was to have two very successful intelligent people in my life say, "I see you. You can do more. Dig in and grow. "

And so that's what I do with my coaching and my online community. 

I see you. 
You can do it!
It doesn't have to look like what anyone else is doing to be good, valuable...to be a success. 


 

When it comes to fitness, vagina and vulva health matters and yes we can talk about it!

I first began to work with female athletes in 2004, they were high school track athletes. 

Two days into the job, I realized how much our fitness and athletic performance is tied to our unique female anatomy and how being one of the only female coaches was going to mean I better have some tampons and pads handy 24/7.

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So what's the deal with pubic hair removal????

Well, pubic hair is basically like eyebrows and eyelashes for your vagina. 
Like the eye, the vaginal canal is a sensitive part of the body open to the outside world!
It is susceptible to invasion and infection by bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoans. 
As a moist environment with mucosa-lined membranes, it can provide the exact niche preferred by some of these foreign invaders. 

The coarseness and shape of the hair makes it easier to trap foreign particles like dust, pollen, pathogenic bacteria....


So if you're like me, you might be thinking, "Ok, but is that still necessary in the modern era? How likely is it that foreign particles are going to get into my Lululemon leggings that I can barely get into myself?"

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Microbiology, diarrhea, constipation, the pelvic floor and whole body strength: Things you have to know about getting stronger!

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Greetings from snowy Raleigh, North Carolina!

We woke up to a wintery wonderland this morning and while this former New Englander isn't a huge fan of wintery weather, I secretly think the snow today is rather beautiful. 
 


This winter I've been taking more time to write. 
In fact, I'm going back to my microbiology roots and talking about the gut microbiome and its influence on metabolism and whole body strength. 
My new project is called "Strong butts and guts: increasing whole body strength with microbiology and natural daily movement"...or something like that..



For those of you that don't know, before I was a trainer, I worked in microbiology, first on the health front at the National Institutes of Health, then as environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona and finally finished with a masters in soil and agricultural science at North Carolina State University. 
I. LOVE. MICROBES. 


My husband has been a pest management professional  and self-proclaimed "bug geek" for close to 15 years now and the other day I realized,
"Oh my goodness, I'm totally a bug geek too!" 
Just a different kind of bug....the microscopic kind!

The amazing thing is that I never ever ever would have thought that my love for microbiology would be SO RELATED to my job as a trainer and lifestyle coach. 


But we are learning more every day about the far-reaching influence of the trillions of microbes that live in our gastrointestinal system (the gut). 



Nutrient absorption, to metabolic regulation, cravings, energy, sleep, muscle synthesis, hormonal regulation (very important for both metabolism and building lean muscle) the gut is an INTEGRAL part of all of these functions of the body. 
 


One of the biggest issues that we are facing in modern life is that lack of movement, little time outdoors and the Standard American Diet are all killing the ancestral strains of microbes that have been evolving with us since the beginning. 
These strains are designed to keep us alive and well and fully functioning, because we are engaged in a symbiotic relationship that is mutually beneficial!


They keep our bodies running like a top, we provide them with a safe place to live, aka, food and shelter. 

BUT these strains of bacteria (many of which derived from the soil, we inoculated ourselves by being outside and eating foods that were grown in the dirt) are not happy. 
In fact, they are dead (or close to it) in many a gut!

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Herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, many prescription medications, loads of processed sugar, food additives (like guar and xanthan gums), and artificial sweeteners (Splenda!) are killing off the good guys (dubbed "Gut Guardians" by Dr. Grace Liu) in our gut microbiome,  and leaving room for nasty ones that historically were kept in check by the guardians. 


Consequently we are seeing more and more food sensitivities,  autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel syndromes and diseases (which by the way are symptoms, not medical conditions), chronic fatigue, inefficient metabolisms, mental emotional health conditions....and the list goes on. 

 

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My interest was peaked when I realized that the pelvic floor is strongly impacted by the gut, makes perfect sense since they are neighbors!

So I have launched a whole research project into better understanding how our lifestyle, and nutrition habits are impacting our guts and how our guts are impacting our abilities to build strong bodies!


AND logically, I'm writing an ebook on the topic. 

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I'm not totally out of depth here, I am a published author in a bunch of other super obscure topics (look to the right!)
But never have I ever written something about which I feel so much passion. 

So, e-book is coming. 
As part of my Inner Circle you will be learning about how your gut is impacting your body and ways to get it on board with you and your personal goals. 

Today I am sharing a link to a recent blogpost that I wrote on the interactions between the gut and the pelvic floor. 
 

 

 


It's written to coaches and trainers, and I know that some of you are that!
BUT it's about all of us, so don't skip it if you don't work in fitness. 
YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS STUFF in order to protect yourself and possibly even get to the bottom of some chronic health issues that you've been ignoring!

The post is mostly about diarrhea, constipation, bloating and how irregular digestion is negatively impacting our pelvic floor, potentially causing pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence of ALL kinds. 

I'd love for you to check it out here and leave comments!

This effects us all!

This is what happens when we reject the pressure to be perfect

" I actually made a great change, I decided that diet soda is a non negotiable for me. 
So bad for you, but I love it.  I use to drink it all day, constantly.  Over the years it has decreased and now I have stopped drinking it Mon-Thurs and have one diet soda, Fri-Sun.....That is huge for me!


-Dana, Cultivate for Life 2016 client who has lost 60 lbs in the past year!!!!!!

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