Finding the Beauty in Nature

“The good man is the friend of all living things.”- Mahatma Gandhi

Spring Tree

The other day I was on a nature walk and came across this beautiful tree.  I had to stop and take a picture, as I knew it was something I would want to look at again.  In Florida, I would see trees and flowers all of the time but not like how it is in the Springtime in Pennsylvania.  It takes on a whole new beauty to see the sharp blooming colors.  As a child, my mom used to ask me daily, “What is it you noticed in creation that you could appreciate?”  I would respond by saying the ocean, or a butterfly, or a cool cloud formation that I happen to come across.  Recently, I seem to notice the blooming colors.

It is so important to notice the beauty in nature.  Not for me, not for you (in that moment), but if you can see the beauty in nature on a regular basis, what else are you noticing the beauty in?  So I ask you… What did you notice today in nature that caught your attention that you appreciated?

 

New Office & New Look

I am so excited that I have a new office!  I have been decorating it and making sure it is comfortable, cozy, and calming for clients to feel that they are in a safe environment.  Today, I finally found the wall art I have been looking for and an area rug, and the place is coming together.  With the new office and new company name, I had to give my website a new look as well.  I have been non stop in front of the computer but I think it has been worth it.  It has been hard work to start up a new company  but so refreshing.

2601 mansion

Daily Motivation: Dreams & Actions and how it applies to US

“To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.”- Anatole France

I am going to do my best to post daily quotes of inspiration and motivation.  I think it helps people to think about what they need to set forth for the day, week, or any time of the near future and reflect on themselves.

When I was looking for books of motivation, it is amazing on how many religious books and theological books were around and less neutral about overall well-being.  I think this quote was perfect for me this week as I have been preparing to open my new office.  I have purchased furniture, have been working on making the office cozy and comfortable, and getting all of the details in order for a running business.  Now, it’s time to connect with others to network and spread the word for the services I provide.

In order to have great things, you need to plan, you need to reach for your goals, don’t sell yourself short and finish what you set out to do.  What do you dream about?  What are you preparing for yourself?  How can you dream bigger but have realistic goals for yourself?

 

My Four Month Struggle

I have been a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in Florida for awhile now, however I relocated to Pennsylvania and my licensure has been a difficult process. I had reciprocity in Pennsylvania, with my license, and sent all of my documents but it seemed that I frequently needed to have other things completed for the full process.  I’m not putting the blame on me, on Florida, or on Pennsylvania, but it was an undertaking that I wasn’t expecting to take so long.  I think as a therapist, we don’t discuss our feelings openly but I am a person with real emotions and feelings.  This was a difficult emotional struggle as I felt like things were out of my hands, out of my control, and a constant frustration.  I’m happy to say, my frustrations have come to an end, I finally received my license and it’s a relief that I can move forward and open my own practice.  I am officially a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Pennsylvania.

True Life | My Struggle with an Eating Disorder

When people think of eating disorders, they typically think of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.  However, many people struggle with compulsive overeating and/or binge eating.  Mandy is a beautiful woman who is sharing her story and struggles of how she got help and thrived.  I met her on Instagram and feel like we have become friends, even though we never met in person.  Mandy identifies in her story when she needed help and appropriate coping skills, and knows what works for her and what does not.  She is inspiring for all.

Hey Everyone,

My name is Mandy and what you read below is my story and journey to a healthier me.  It started my freshmen year of high school; I was cheerleader and played soccer. I loved it, but after some dramatic events I was no longer allowed to be a cheerleader and I gave up my love for soccer, out of fear that they would not let be on the team. I ate my feelings and by the end of the year gained 15-20 pounds and went from a size 6 to a size 12. Hence, in high school life I was overweight, and was nicknamed “butterface,” as in everything is ugly but-her-face. I was never asked to a dance, or prom, and had to retreat to asking friends from church. On some occasions I had a boyfriend who would take me to their school’s dance or come with me to mine and was lucky enough to have two high-school sweethearts that saw past my image. However, the drama of high school life naturally occurred and we broke up.

Going into college I felt pretty despite all the drama of high school life, but again noticed that it was all my roommates that were getting asked to date parties with fraternity guys, and not being in a sorority at the time I didn’t have the luxury of asking friends to date parties of my own. Into the middle of my freshmen year I met a college love, who again was able to look past my image and see me for who I was. I got comfortable with him and over the three years we were together I gained twenty pounds. Although he was a sweetheart we split our ways and I went off to graduate school.

While pursing my masters I was in a long-distance relationship (I was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and he was in Washington, DC) and stressed I ate my way through the pain of being over a thousand miles apart, a whole twenty pounds worth. Needless to say the distance got to us, and we broke up.

During the summer of my Masters degree I met an amazing man who would change my life for forever, my fiancé. Again I got comfortable, and ate my way through another fifteen pounds and while I would love to tell you all of the details of my fairy tale romance this posting is how I got healthy and so I will leave the rest to just that!

So what lead to my ultimate decision to start a lifestyle change? It was a Monday morning in October and it was the day I tried on wedding dresses for the first time. It was suppose to be one of the best days ever, you know, the Kodak moment that a majority of girls grow up dreaming about. I had asked my two role models, my mom and my grandma, to come with me to be part of the experience. We made an appointment, I met with the bridal consultant, and she began by taking my measurements. She informed me that I was a size 22 and that they only carried a “few” gowns in my size. Not wanting to break down in front of my family, I put on the dresses they had in my size and walked out saddened, as they were the farthest things away from what I had dreamed! I put my clothes back on, we walked out of the store and laughed about the dresses I tried on, while inside I dreaded every going back to a bridal store.

Later that night was the Monday Night football game, and as always they present the statistics of the starting lineup. My mouth dropped as I realized I weighed more than a professional linebacker, but again I hid behind my true feelings. During the halftime show I wanted to work on a paper and when I went to sit on the couch my computer cable broke from my weight. I couldn’t take it anymore and I dropped to my knees crying at how I got so unhealthy.

My fiancé being the Prince he is, wiped away my tears and told me I was beautiful. When I told him I didn’t have money for surgery, or diet pills he said I didn’t need those. So we talked it through and decided that I would sign up for Weight Watchers. I can honestly say that I had no idea that a year from that day I would have lost 63 pounds, 14 dress sizes, 10 jean sizes, 3 shirt sizes, have to get my ring taken in 2.5 sizes, and even lose 1.5 shoe sizes. While the physical successes are amazing what I was not prepared for was the emotional journey that would also take place.

While Weight Watchers and exercise helped manage my weight I had to realize that I put personal love for others, heartbreak, pain and food into the same basket, thus when I was in love and comfortable or in pain due to a heartbreak or high school drama I ate…A LOT! This was by far my biggest challenge.

Being in a relationship it is fun to go out on dates to restaurants and splurge and get appetizers, entrees, and dessert and sometimes it still is fun, but now I do so in moderation. Being in relationship it is also fun to bake, eat ice cream bed, or order pizza and power watch shows on Netflix. Breaking these habits was and still is my biggest challenge. If I had a bad day at school (got a bad grade, received bad feedback, got rejected from a journal or conference) I would change my attitude by comforting myself with eating something delicious, such as candy, a pint of ice cream, and/or a batch of cookies.

Learning to break these habits when they felt so natural was, and has been an incredible challenge. However, it is something I had to cope with as I realized that these things aren’t going to go away. I will always want to go on fancy dates with my future husband, and I will always have bad days at school/work. I needed to learn techniques on how to handle these so I self-taught myself a few tricks. I learned that if I was going to enjoy a night out, that it meant I was going to be splitting a meal with my prince, therefore eating the right size portions, and if I had a bad day there were other methods to decrease my stress/improve my attitude which included working out, watching a show on Netflix, playing the guitar or reading a book for pleasure.

While I still get tempted to order dessert or my own entrée I realize that the small choices add up to mountains of success (scale and non-scale victories), and that working out, watching a show, playing the guitar or reading a book provided several more benefits than a pint of ice-cream ever could! Thus, my suggestion for breaking bad habits is replacing them with better habits. If you are a stress eater, find something that relaxes you, for instance taking a bubble bath, playing a video game, playing dress up with your children, writing poetry, and/or making picture collages. One thing I recently thought of that I plan on doing myself is creating a relax jar, where you write a bunch of activities that relax you, and when you are stressed you go to the jar and randomly select an activity to relax you. Sometimes when you are stressed, you are even too stressed to think of something to do that relaxes you, however, if you have a relax jar with activities already thought out, all you have to do is go and pull one out, and you are off to doing something that is more relaxing!

Another challenge I have had to overcome in this journey to a healthier me is realizing I am no longer fat. For so long (15 years to be exact) I have thought of myself as ugly, fat, overweight, chunky, thick, big-boned, and a “butterface.” Sometimes I look at pictures of me now and have to do a double take to realize that the girl in the picture is actually ME. I went from a dress size 22 to a size 6/8 and in some stores/brands even a size 4. That is a dramatic difference and one that every morning I have to come to terms with. I have to take the time and realize that I am beautiful, healthy, active, unique, and that while I may have been unhealthy all those years, I never was fat or ugly. Those were terms I associated with myself due to low self-esteem. So yes, I have days when I get on the scale, try on clothes, or look in the mirror and look fat, but I slowly notice that the number on the scale doesn’t matter, that my clothes look good on me, and that I am by no means “fat.”  I have to tell my “fat brain” to stop talking and let my “healthy brain” take over!

As I began gaining confidence in myself, I wanted to share my success with others. I began posting before and current pictures (I say current as we are constantly a work in progress) on Facebook and I received mixed feedback. I would get lots of “likes” as well as positive comments, but I also received unwelcomed feedback about me posting pictures in my sports bras. So I decided to go another avenue and try Instagram. I already had an account but I rarely used it as I was not quite sure how to. After following a couple of inspirational individuals, and getting the hang of it, I realized that I wanted to inspire other women and men so I decided to use my account as a way to share my journey to a healthier me.

I remember waking up to a comment one morning from my friend Katie that said “Transformation Tuesday” while I was familiar with the hashtag (#) and phrase I never thought of myself as someone who had transformed, it was the biggest compliment I have ever received at the time and tears fell from my eyes. While I have heard praises and compliments from friends and family regarding my weight loss, at the time no one had ever told me that I have completely transformed myself, and looked like a new person. Since then I have received numerous compliments from friends, family members, peers, colleagues and total strangers that it is hard to pinpoint which one was the biggest, or most powerful. However, the one Katie said that morning, is one that will always stick out to me as a moment of my own transformation into the realization that I am a new, healthier, me!

To those of you reading this who share similarities, or have stories that are completely different than my own but still have struggles related to stress and heartbreak that has lead to problems associated to poor eating habits, please know that all we can do is take it one day at a time. Some days and weeks will be great and powerful, while others will be hard and brutal, but remember it is not a bad life, it is only a bad moment, you will get past this, move on, and you too will be a success!

With my greatest love and sentiments,

Mandy

You can follow Mandy on Instagram.

Halloween Safety

Happy Halloween!  This time of the year people dress cute, friendly, sexy, and scary. It’s the time for you to act wild and crazy and have fun but most of all- collect lots of candy.  As a child, I remember the thrill was to see who could collect the most candy in their bag.  However, being outside going door to door can be a safety risk as well. Here are some safety tips to follow.  Remember… HAVE FUN & BE SAFE!

Alphabet letter S Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.
Alphabet letter A Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
Alphabet letter F Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
Alphabet letter E Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.
Alphabet letter H Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you. Always WALK and don’t run from house to house.
Alphabet letter A Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.
Alphabet letter L Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.
Alphabet letter L Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.
Alphabet letter O Only walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
Alphabet letter W Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.
Alphabet letter E Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.
Alphabet letter E Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult. Only visit well-lit houses. Don’t stop at dark houses. Never accept rides from strangers.
Alphabet letter N Never walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

* Safety tips provided by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Bears Support Mental Health

For those who know me, know I am a big fan of Chicago.  I have to say, after this play, I am an even bigger fan.  Brandon Marshall, of the Chicago Bear’s, supported Mental Health Awareness Week by playing in green cleats.  Despite the NFL’s possibilities of fines, Marshall stated he will match the fines and make a donation to cancer research.  He is supporting both Mental Health Awareness and Breast Cancer Awareness.  What a quality guy!

For more information. 

Bears Support Mental Health