“I had been trying to do things for everyone else without taking care of me first. I owned six [McDonald’s] franchises and had a good husband. In society’s view, I had it all. I thought if I kept going, giving and doing, then one day I’d feel happy and what I had would matter. It never happened,” says Barb Schmidt, founder of Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life and author of The Practice.
Exhaustion, irritation, and stress didn’t leave enough of her to go around. For years, Schmidt used food to disconnect from her feelings until she sought help for her struggle with bulimia. As a Type-A woman with successful restaurants to run, she was baffled when her treatment plan included a daily…bath. But retraining her focus became transformative practice. Also see The Truth About Yoga and Eating Disorders
“I thought if I kept going, giving and doing, then one day I’d feel happy and what I had would matter. It never happened.”
“Your perspective shifts as you spend more time with yourself. You realize this is the only way to be,” says Schmidt, who sold her businesses and embarked on a 30-year journey, studying with iconic leaders like Deepak Chopra and Thich Nhat Hanh. Now Schmidt has forged a mega-mission to help spiritual seekers find happiness within. (And, NBD, it’s part of her plan to foster world peace.)
Over Valentine’s Day weekend at the W Union Square in New York City, Schmidt spearheaded her first I Love Me Workshop. The daylong event featured meditations, yoga sessions, practical tips, and inspirational stories with other gladiators of the mindfulness movement: Kathryn Budig, Tara Stiles, Yahoo! Health Editor-in-Chief Michele Promaulayko, celebrity nutritionist Keri Glassman, and Pure Bar founder Veronica Bosgraaf. Despite single-degree temperatures and a squall, more than 150 yogis arrived to learn how to ignite a love affair with themselves. Here, YJ’s takeaways.
1. Set the tone for your day
- Wind chime phone alarm sounds.
- Scroll through Facebo–STOP.
“We’re at the mercy of the external world when we launch into the day without plugging into ourselves first. Before getting out of bed every morning, I ask myself, ‘How are you feeling today, Barb?’ I talk to myself like I’m my own best friend,” says Schmidt. “If I’m feeling a little off, I ask myself how to get back on track. Maybe I need to cancel a meeting or spend more time on my personal life. Whatever it is, I know what’s going on with me.”
2. Take five minutes in the morning for meditation
Stop saying you’ll start meditating once you have a better handle on your schedule. Just taking five minutes in the morning benefits you all day. “When we meditate, we’re never hanging out in fear, anxiety or hatred because we can always access this place of love, strength, and power,” says Schmidt.
3. Be honest with yourself—and listen to what you’re saying
Meditation creates a space for honesty in all its beautiful (and brutal) forms. That means we accept responsibility for our own decisions and how they aid and abet relationship issues and frustrations. “Stop saying yes when we want to say no, and quit running around doing things that don’t matter to us because we don’t feel complete. When we say no to someone, we can explain that it’s because they’re not going to have all of us—and let go of the fear that they won’t like us,” says Schmidt.
4. Post a Sharpie selfie
Ever roll out of bed, take a look in a mirror and run through all the “improvements” you need to perform before you’re presentable? “When we first hit the yoga mat, we stand in Tadasana, bring our hands to Anjali Mudra and set an intention. By the time we’re in Savasana, we feel better,” says Budig, who recommends starting each day with an intention just as you’d start a yoga practice. “My friend suggested getting a Sharpie and writing a self-affirmation on the bathroom mirror. That way, when you’re about to engage repetitive negative dialogue in your reflection, you see your message instead.
5. Add a positive filter to friendships
Body bashing is a great way to bond with friends. —no one ever
“Women are especially guilty of making jokes about how fat or how bad we look, but when we do that, we empower other women (or men) to do the same,” says Budig, founder of AIM TRUE. On the other hand, articulating something we love about ourselves gives a friend permission to feel good too.
6. Quit trying to hack others’ belief systems
In a social media culture, we often post, tweet or ping inspirational words and images that we feel help or define us. But there’s a fine line between sharing and foisting a philosophy on those who didn’t ask for one, just to ride a fleeting ego buzz.
“When we’re on a path of feeling better, eating better and becoming a leader, we often have a desire to change the lives of the people around us. But something is dramatically missing there,” says Stiles, founder of Strala Yoga, who shared a story of her (failed) attempt to trade her family’s SnackWells for green juice when she first launched her health career. Focus on connecting with yourself, and it will radiate and inspire others authentically.
7. Slow your dinner roll
Are you eating what you want to eat or did someone throw down a deep-dish and make the choice for you? Give yourself the space to consider how to nourish and fuel your body, and you’ll leave the table feeling good about yourself. “Meditating for a few minutes before mealtime makes our food far more satisfying because it slows us down. We’re then tapped into how we’re feeling, which can help prevent overeating or eating too quickly,” says Glassman, founder of NutritiousLife.
The sweet upside? When we do enjoy a “conscious indulgence,” we won’t beat ourselves up over it—and we’ll probably eat less of it, says Promaulayko, author of 20 Pounds Younger.
8. Handle food frenemies strategically
Have a pal who always ropes you into splitting nachos and chocolate cake derailing your diet and sense of wellbeing in the process? You’re not alone: In a 2012 Stanford University study, 90% of women who started a weight loss journey did not feel supported by their friends when they tried eating healthfully.
If it isn’t possible to schedule an activity away from a dinner menu, Glassman suggests preparing a set response to shut down any second-guessing. A simple “That’s right, I am not having the dessert again” may do the trick.
Meanwhile, Promaulayko has a different approach. “I make sure I’m the first person to order at the table. That way I can set the tone for everyone else and perhaps be a good influence, but I know I won’t be swayed by other people’s choices,” she says.
9. Choose mood-boosting foods
Feeling low on self-love may be solved with food science. Diets rich with Omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon, flaxseeds, and hemp) reduce inflammation in our brain and help improve our moods. Similarly, spinach, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are bursting with folate, a nutrient linked to lower depression rates, says Glassman.
Of course, the wrong foods can wreak havoc on our self-image. Processed, packaged foods crammed with sugars and trans fats increase inflammation in our brain, our mood and stress levels take a hit.
10. Repeat 100X: “Me time” is not a guilty pleasure
Just because work, friends, and family place large demands on us, carving out time for ourselves isn’t selfish: Ultimately, it’s an investment in those around us. “I want to be everything I can possibly be for my daughter, family, and friends—and be in this life for the long haul,” says Schmidt. “I couldn’t do it without nourishing myself with love, good food, and good company.”
by Deanna Michalopoulos