Your Body, Your Mind A blog about exercise, diet and mind health. 2017-12-24T14:10:17Z Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Welcome Back to Healthy Living!]]> 2016-05-11T19:13:24Z 2016-05-11T19:13:24Z resist-persist

Welcome back, sweet readers!

Or…welcome back, me?

Better yet, welcome back, healthy living.

As you may or may not have noticed (depending on how familiar you are with this blog), Your Body, Your Mind has been on hiatus since around September (not too long after I posted the poll asking whether you take a break from exercising during a vacation…hmm…).

The hiatus wasn’t planned; it sort of crept up on me as my lifestyle began changing. After that vacation, it was difficult for me to get back into the swing of working out and eating (for the most part) healthy foods. I managed to post a couple of times after returning from vacation, but the more my lifestyle changed (for the worse, mind you), the less frequently I posted until, finally, the blog came to a standstill.


Frankly, I felt like a fraud.

I stopped going to the gym. I stopped practicing yoga. I stopped cooking healthy meals. I stopped outdoor activities that weren’t directly related to my dog.

Basically, my life became all about work and deciding the next show to binge on.

Because my lifestyle changed so drastically, it became extremely difficult to write authentic posts. Who was I to offer tips on how to work through the anxiety of joining a gym when I couldn’t even drag myself back to the weight stack?

However, this sob story does have a happy ending. Over the past month or so, I’ve been to the gym a few times, am sampling some yoga classes at a new studio (with friends — yay!), and started eating healthier.

Sure, I have a long way to go to get back to — and surpass — where I was; however, that’s okay, isn’t it?


I started this blog in 2012 because I wanted to connect with other people who use healthy foods and exercising as ways to help manage their mental health. Even before I started the blog — and, obviously, after — I’ve had some setbacks.

Haven’t we all, though?

Sometimes, other parts of our lives get in the way. We get consumed by work deadlines, family responsibilities, and even our own heads. Maybe depression and anxiety becomes too overwhelming. Maybe a mood disorder stops responding to medicine. Maybe seasonal affective disorder keeps you chained inside the house until the sun starts shining again.

Whatever the reason, setbacks happen, and after some reflection I decided to return to Your Body, Your Mind to share my setback story and my journey back to success (which has, of course, a different definition for everyone) because, you know what…

…if you’re interested in this blog, chances are high you’ve had some setbacks, too. Chances are high you want to get tips on how someone else is overcoming or has overcome his or her struggles. Chances are high you have your own comeback story to share.

Chances are high we can work on this together.

So, welcome back to working our way toward a healthier lifestyle.

P.S. If you’re currently struggling, too, feel free to share your story in the comments below. Or, if you’ve struggled in the past and can offer some tips on how to get back at it, share your story, too!

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[3 Things You Can Lose at the Gym (That AREN’T Body Weight!)]]> 2015-09-18T15:20:24Z 2015-09-18T12:27:15Z nataliej | CC

nataliej | CC

A few days ago, while I was riding a stationary bike at the gym, an older gentleman we’ll call Greg walked up to me and said, “You know you can lose a lot more calories on the elliptical or treadmill, right?”

Lose a lot more calories? I thought. I’m not trying to lose calories. I’m trying to gain leg strength and endurance…

I just smiled and thanked him, and told him I was winding down after a pretty intense weightlifting session (which was true, too).

After the exchange, I started thinking. So many people assume we’re at the gym to lose weight (especially us girls — sorry y’all, but you know it’s true). Sure, I wanted to drop a few pounds when I joined, but I’ve since learned there’s so much more to gain at the gym — and I’m not just talking about muscles and strength.

However, I realized Greg had an unintentional point: There are things to lose at the gym — they just go way beyond weight.

Top 5 Fitness Myths (And the Facts That Crush Them!)

1. Depression Symptoms

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help knock out depression by:

  • Releasing the brain’s feel-good chemicals (such as endorphins).
  • Reducing the body’s immune system chemicals (that can contribute to depression).
  • Boosting the body’s temperature (which can have a calming effect).

2. Anxiety and Panic

Do I want to leave the house today? Can I face traffic? What will I do if people want to talk to me?

These are the kinds of thoughts someone dealing with panic and anxiety might have when it’s time to leave for the gym; however, once you get to the gym, even just the first few minutes of your workout can squash these troubling thoughts.

I made it out the door! I handled traffic! I said hello to my gym-mates!

Think about how good those accomplishments feel!

Feeling a Little Unfit? 13 Reasons NOT to Get in Shape

3. Self-Doubt and Loathing

Many people avoid working out because they suffer from self-doubt and self-loathing. Unfortunately, the two can form a vicious cycle.

For example, some people loathe themselves for being out of shape or inactive or lacking ambition, but they doubt they have the power to do anything about it. By not doing anything about it, they loathe themselves for not even trying.

If this sounds like you, know that you CAN get off the couch and get to the gym (or even workout at home or get a run in at the park). You DO have the power. You just have to take the first step (standing up!) and all that self-doubt and loathing will begin to fade. You’ll succeed, and the pride you feel won’t leave room for anything but self-confidence.

How about YOU, readers? Besides weight, what do YOU try to lose when you workout?

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[5 Resources to Learn About Body Dysmorphic Disorder]]> 2015-09-03T14:15:41Z 2015-09-03T14:15:41Z photolupi | CC

photolupi | CC

I was recently asked to write a short, informational fictional story about someone with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

How did it go?

Let’s just say my screen stayed blank for longer than I would’ve liked.

Sure, I write a blog about how our minds and bodies mesh when it comes to mental health, but I don’t know everything…and I don’t pretend to know it all.

I imagine you don’t, either, especially considering body dysmorphic disorder affects only about one percent of the U.S. population.

Because of this, I thought it’s high time to point to some body dysmorphic disorder resources.

1. Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation

The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation is a sort of one-stop shop for everything BDD. Find information about the disorder, helpful resources, and even ways you can help by volunteering.

2. International OCD Foundation

The International OCD Foundation dedicates an entire website to body dysmorphic disorder, including information about the symptoms and treatments.

3. Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Let the ADAA teach you about how body dysmorphic disorder symptoms go way beyond just having something you don’t like about your physical self.

4. World Psychiatry

This World Psychiatry article, provided by the National Institutes of Health, covers everything from quality of life to the cultural aspects of BDD.

5. Teens Health

Like several mental health issues, body dysmorphic disorder doesn’t affect just adults. Let the Teens Health section of Kids Health help you learn more about how BDD affects the younger population, too.

How about YOU, readers? Do you or someone you know deal with body dysmorphic disorder? How do you manage it? What advice would offer someone who’s just been diagnosed? Let’s hear your suggestions in the comments below!

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[POLL: Should You Take a Vacation From Exercising?]]> 2015-08-18T15:17:38Z 2015-08-26T15:00:13Z beach-chairs

I’m on vacation at the beach this week, and I have to admit: I don’t plan on exercising.

Like, at all.

Seriously, as you’re reading this I’m lying in the sand doing absolutely nothing but soaking up some rays and listening to the waves crash against the shore.

So, imagine my surprise when I found out one of my friends is hunting for a nearby gym, and my beau is trying to find time to run each day.

I mean, really?! We’re on vacation!

After some thinking, I realized not everyone gives it up to absolute leisure during vacation. For some, it’s hard to get back into the groove of working out after a week off; for others, they just don’t want a break from everything (i.e., the healthy aspects of their lives).

Still, for me, vacation is about taking it easy and I promise I won’t return with stories about how I saw the light.

Now, I’m wondering: How many of you keep up with your workout routine while on vacation? Do you find time for running, practicing yoga, or hitting the weights while the beach or mountains are calling your name? Or, do you take it easy and pick it back up once your home?

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Men and Body Image: Are Their Reasons the Same as Women’s?]]> 2015-08-18T15:06:59Z 2015-08-18T15:06:59Z ManScale

Guess what, ladies: When it comes to issues with body image, it seems we’re not alone.

According to a recent HuffPost Women project, some men deal with some of the same body image issues we women deal with…

…however, their reasons might be a bit different from ours.

Rather than trying to attain the ever-elusive perfectly thin body for society’s sake (“People will accept me/love me/admire me more if I’m skinny”), some studies suggest men see their bodies as reflections of who they are and who they can be as men.

For example:

One study found that men linked being fat with “weakness of will,” while being lean and muscular was associated with “feelings of confidence and power in social situations.”

So, I’m interested in hearing from Your Body, Your Mind’s male readers on this one.

If you struggle with body issues, why? Do you strive to meet society’s standards, or is it a more personal reason?

Chime in down below in the comments! Let’s get a conversation going!

(Topic Source: 19 Men Go Shirtless and Share Their Body Image Struggles)

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[“All You Had to Do Was Ask”]]> 2015-08-03T16:16:22Z 2015-08-03T16:16:22Z Helga Weber | CC

Helga Weber | CC

As many of you know, I joined a gym earlier this year, and one of the perks I listed for joining my particular gym was the manager’s promise to personally assist me whenever I asked.

Well, because my beau is a bit of a workout junkie and set up a few fairly awesome routines for me, I never had any questions.

Until a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago, I decided a certain body part needed extra attention. The exercises I was doing just weren’t focusing on that area. I was neglecting it, and didn’t know how to remedy that.

But…did I ask the gym manager (who happens to be a physical therapist and therefore highly educated on how body parts work) for help?

No. No I did not.


Well, frankly I was embarrassed. I mean, OK, let me just be honest: We’re talking about my butt. I was embarrassed to ask this mere acquaintance for butt exercises.

So, I went on neglecting my butt, until one day he overheard me talking (rather, complaining) to my sister about my butt exercise ignorance. He approached me and showed me not one, not two, but three different exercises for glutes.

“Wow, thank you!” I said. “These are exactly what I needed!”

“All you had to do was ask,” he replied, walking off.

He was right. All I had to do was ask. I needed help in an area I was neglecting, I had someone in my circle I could ask, and I didn’t.

I won’t make that mistake again.

The whole situation made me stop and think even further, though. How many times in life do we have areas we’re neglecting because we don’t really know how to address them? How long do we continue to neglect those areas, simply because we’re too embarrassed to ask for help?

So, my question to you, sweet readers, is this: What are YOU neglecting in your life, simply because you aren’t sure how to approach it? What questions could YOU ask someone with more experience? Do YOU feel comfortable asking them, and if not, what WOULD make you feel more comfortable?

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over Yet]]> 2015-07-09T13:34:57Z 2015-07-09T13:34:57Z Kate Elizabeth | CC

Kate Elizabeth | CC

A while back, I wrote a post about tattoos and personality, and although most readers were excited to share stories about their own ink and what their tattoos say about them, there were a couple of unfavorable reviews…

…and now I wonder what those with negative opinions about tattoos think about the new “semicolon tattoo” trend.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the semicolon tattoo — at least, you probably have if you’ve used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or — oh, I don’t know, Google — in the last couple of weeks.

According to Project Semicolon, the mastermind behind the semicolon tattoo:

A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.

Wow…how powerful a statement is that?

Of course, Project Semicolon goes on to explain that it’s not a helpline or composed of mental health professionals, and encourages people to seek professional help or contact the suicide hotline (1-800-SUICIDE) if they’re contemplating ending their lives.

Yet, for me, ending the sentence doesn’t have to represent ending one’s life, as in committing suicide, necessarily. Maybe it could refer to simply giving up; however, the semicolon shows that you can move forward and even change direction completely.

Check out Project Semicolon’s promotional video, and let us know what you think of this movement in the comments below. Would you get the semicolon tattoo? If so, why?

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[#ThrowbackThursday: 5 Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice]]> 2015-06-18T12:09:43Z 2015-06-18T12:09:43Z BeFunky_Summer_Loading.jpg

The Summer Solstice is soon upon us, sweet readers (Sunday, June 21, 2015, to be exact), and I thought now would be a great time to throwback to last year’s post about all the things you can do to celebrate the longest day of the year — and the first day of summer, of course.

After all, it’s not all about performing the 108 Sun Salutations (though, that’s definitely an immensely meaningful, challenging, and even event!).

So, before you make any weekend plans, head over to 5 Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice and grab some ideas on how you’ll spend the weekend energizing your body and mind?

On that note, how do YOU plan to celebrate the Summer Solstice this year?

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[5 Ways to Make Exercise as Painless as Possible]]> 2015-06-09T12:43:59Z 2015-06-09T12:43:59Z Dumbbell.jpg

As a fitness writer and coach who has been training consistently for over a decade, I can confidently say that I don’t like exercising, and that’s okay. — Dick Talens

Bet you that’s not a statement you’d ever expect to hear from a fitness writer and coach, but that’s exactly the message Dick Talens sends in his latest Lifehacker piece, “You Might Never Love Exercise (But Do It Anyway).”

Well, that and the “do it anyway” part, of course.

You see, Talens sympathizes with the hell some people associate with working out, and that feels good, doesn’t it? The reality is that some folks just flat hate working out, and it probably feels nice to know they’re not alone — especially when they’re in the company of someone who writes and coaches fitness.

However (and this is a BIG however), Talens also points out the positives of exercising, including the mental health benefits —

Various meta-analyses have found evidence to suggest that both resistance training and cardio can be just as good as medication in treating mild to moderate depression, and can be immensely helpful for decreasing stress anxiety.

— as well as the physical benefits:

With consistent exposure to exercise, your cells strengthen themselves against damage by increasing its production of antioxidant enzymes (i.e. their cells defense to the free radical’s offense), which continue to protect your body at rest. This may help protect your body from certain cancers, heart disease and various neurodegenerative diseases.

If those important facts aren’t enough to get you to the gym, Talens offers five ways you can motivate yourself a little more by making exercise as painless as possible. Head on over to “You Might Never Love Exercise (But Do It Anyway)” to read about keeping workouts short, changing “should” to “will,” looking for “non-exercise,” and more.

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Never Miss an Opportunity to Encourage Others]]> 2015-05-28T12:23:00Z 2015-05-28T12:23:00Z Werner Moser | CC

Werner Moser | CC

I had the MOST fun yesterday!

My favorite yoga studio started its summer pass package (all the yoga you can stand for one discounted price), so of course I had to sign up.

However, I didn’t venture into the studio alone yesterday.

When I saw there was a beginner yoga class scheduled for yesterday evening, I had to talk a friend of mine – who’s never tried yoga, not even using a video or yoga app – into going with me.

I figured because it was a beginner class, she’d be less intimidated.

Boy, was I WRONG.

3 Crucial Factors You MUST Look for in a Yoga Studio

Naturally, she had some basic questions anyone who’s never been to a yoga studio would have (Do I need my own mat? Do I wear shoes or socks or do we practice barefoot? What about payment – who takes it?).

Yet, she also had some more specific newbie yogi concerns, too (I don’t have a yoga body. Everyone but me will know what they’re doing. I won’t have any idea what the names of the poses mean!)

She even went so far as to drop the dreaded yoga F-Bomb (What if I’m not FLEXIBLE enough?!).

So, if she was so worried, why did I have so much fun?

Because I got to encourage her.

Ahimsa: My First and Favorite Yoga Lesson

By encouraging her, I got to watch her grow more confident in herself. I introduced her to a couple of instructors (one even admitted she still considered herself a beginner, too – after all, yoga is a practice), helped her gather and explained all the equipment she needed, and – afterward – praised her for stepping out of her comfort zone and taking steps toward trying something new.

The takeaway?

Never miss an opportunity to encourage someone. Most – if not all – people are nervous about something—especially things they’ve never tried – and you never know when you’re the person who can help calm their nerves and walk them through it. Sometimes, you won’t even know that person needs encouragement, so make it a practice to encourage others whenever they show even an inkling of self-doubt.

When was the last time YOU encouraged another person? Share your story with us in the comments below. Hey, you never know if your story might just encourage someone, too!