the author


Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

post categories

nourishing body image awards

Nourishing Body Image Awards Badge

Tag: exercise

14 Mar

Healthy apps that could change your life

Current Events, Education 14 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Recently I was minding my own business, browsing facebook – to read up on the latest news from eating disorder centers and body image blogs, of course – and what do I get but an invitation to learn… wait for it… “How sexy is your name?”

I immediately dismissed the invitation as junk, until I found myself thinking back to the the application and the question it posed a few moments later. How sexy is my name? I wondered. Does it sound sexier if I put “Doctor” in front of it? And more importantly, Why does anyone care enough to create a program to provide an answer?

After that, I decided to browse the app store to see what other philosophical questions creators were posing and what I found was, well, disheartening. From apps based on the concept of “Hot or Not” to ones in which you could remove blemishes from your profile picture (I guess I need to add facebook airbrushing to my media literacy curriculum. Sigh…), there were tons of applications that just felt icky. And yes, icky is a technical term in my field.

My mind started mulling over the post that I would write on this topic, when I thought, Hey, there have got to be some really positive, healthy apps out there too. Check me out – always looking for the positive! Or something.

What I found was that there truly are some awesome apps out there for your smartphone that can make living a life balanced in body, mind, and spirit a bit easier. Who says technology has to be the end of healthy civilization as we know it?

Here are some of the best that I found. Please be advised that some of these do have a cost attached, but no more than $1.99. I got your back, right?


Daily Affirmation:

If you have trouble coming up with your own affirmations, let your iPhone do it for you. This app offers inspirational phrases and positive self-statements, a strategy that many therapists encourage clients to use to boost self-esteem and body image. This app even lets you select a category, such as “Career” or “Anxiety.”


Zen Timer

It can be difficult to be deep in a meditative state and watch the clock. This app takes care of that by signaling when your time has elapsed with the high-quality ringing of a Tibetan singing bowl. Set your phone to Airplane mode to prevent interruptions and you’re set!


A.D.A.M. Symptom Navigator

Curious about that mole on your neck or have an unexplained headache? This app allows you to search your symptoms based on your gender, age, body type and more to find out if your ailments might require medical attention. It’s based on the A.D.A.M. Health Illustrated Encyclopedia, so this is legit, people.


eCBT Mood

So I don’t want to put myself or my colleagues out of business here, but this app is pretty darn cool. Based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy, it allows you to assess your stress, log and explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and challenge your automatic thoughts and core beliefs. It’s like a therapist in your purse. That’s a weird visual.


Authentic Yoga with Deepak Chopra

Whether you’re a certified yogi or a total yoga beginner, this app will help you learn various poses and customize routines, as well as connect you to others to ask questions. It’s a beautifully done application and now you have no excuse to not keep up with your practice while traveling!



To expand your mind and potentially even your heart, download the free TED app. This simple tool brings you ideas worth spreading via your own phone or iPad. You can watch incredible speeches by the best of the best and learn a little something instead of playing that silly Angry Birds game. (A personal TED favorite is Dr. Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability. Go watch it now!)


Have you ever used an app to enhance your mind, body, or soul? What are you favorites?


02 Feb

Mindful Exercise

Exercise 27 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul


{Image Credit :: Josh Janesen}

I often hear fitness experts promoting various ways of distracting ourselves from the pain that many believe to be inherent in exercise. I’m not talking about mantras or visualizing yourself crossing the finish line, both tools that can be very positive and body-affirming; I’m talking about tips I’ve heard such as “mentally prepare your grocery list” or “listen to an engaging audiobook.”

The problem with thinking about milk and eggs while engaging in exercise is that, like worrying about tomorrow’s budget meeting while having sex, it takes us out of the moment and into our minds. And our minds, amazingly enough, are not always the best places to be.

I would venture to say that the vast majority of us are not present during 99 percent of our lives. Being present means approaching our thoughts, feelings, and actions with awareness and intention. When it comes to mindful eating, it means attending to the full range of sensations in the experience of an orange.

But what is mindful exercise all about?

Mindful exercise involves being aware of our bodies and minds during physical activity. It means tuning in rather than tuning out, and allowing ourselves to be fully present, even in moments of discomfort.

Why the heck would we want to do that?

Great question! There are numerous benefits of practicing mindful exercise. Consider a few of them:

  • Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer and her student found that making women more aware during physical activity resulted in lowering their blood pressure, decreasing their body weight and body fat, and improving waist to hip ratios. The women in the study did not change their behavior, they simply became more aware that they were engaging in physical activity.
  • Mindful exercise serves as a great practice of mindfulness in our daily lives. If we exercise daily – whether it’s more formally by going to a gym or simply by playing with our children or shoveling the snow – we have a built in time to practice being more present in our lives. And we know that this practice can lead to decreased depression and anxiety, decreased stress, improved immune functioning, stronger relationships, and better sleep. It’s like a magic pill!
  • Mindful exercise also tunes us in to our bodies. If we stay focused and aware of the various points of tension and stress, we can detect problems more quickly and potentially avoid more serious injury. Personally, I blame too many treadmill workouts watching the Today Show for my late-in-the-game marathon training injury a few years back. Had I been focusing more on the signals my body was sending me sooner, I may have been able to resolve the issue and avoid being sidelined.
  • Mindful exercise can make us better athletes. When we’re able to tune in to the way that our bodies move and flow, as well as increase our awareness of our surroundings, our performance improves. To be on top of our game, we have to be operating with intention and focus. In competitive sports, mindfulness gives athletes an edge by increasing perception and reaction time.

So, how do I do “mindful exercise”?

If you tend to be an on-the-go runner, like me, it may help to supplement your more intense aerobic workouts with a lower-intensity, mindfulness-based practice, such as yoga. A recent study found that even a single session of yoga or Feldenkrais produced mood-enhancement in participants. Stepping off the elliptical and into a class such as these will help you learn to focus your awareness and stay more present as your body moves.

While anywhere your mind goes is okay (You’re not doing anything wrong if you do start planning your grocery list. It’s a judgment-free zone!), it might be helpful to start by becoming aware of the following:

  • Breathing – Notice the rate of your breathing, the feeling as your chest rises and falls, and even the sound.
  • Heart Rate – Notice how your heart feels as it pumps blood to the rest of your body.
  • Muscle Pangs – Observe all the little twinges, and make sure to stop if you the twinges are actually pain.
  • Areas of tension – Notice where your body feels tighter and looser. Focus on what it feels like to have your muscles contract and release.
  • Joints – Observe the feeling as your body moves at your joints. Is it smooth? Creaky?
  • Thoughts – Notice any thoughts that come into your mind. If they are critical, observe them and come back to your breath.

Just like everything related to mindfulness, mindful exercise takes practice. You’re likely to find your mind in all sorts of different places and tied up in all different ways, and that’s okay. Stay aware that even by engaging in a few moments of mindfulness per day, you’re treating your mind, body, and spirit in a whole new way.

Do you ever turn off the iPod and focus on your body during exercise?


24 Jan

When Exercise Becomes Unhealthy {Guest Post + Giveaway, Oh My!}

Exercise, Guest Post 97 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Let’s all give a hardy welcome to the fantastic Charlotte Hilton Anderson, bloggess (that’s blogger and goddess combined, in case my stellar word creating abilities are not so… stellar) and author of the blog-made-book, The Great Fitness Experiment! Charlotte has been a total inspiration to me as I delved into the world of social media and blogging. She’s not only a devoted mother, enthusiastic fitness expert, and brilliant writer (seriously, if you suffer from urinary incontinence, watch out), but she’s also someone who’s been there. While it’s not the focus of the book, Charlotte talks extensively and in poignant detail about suffering from compulsive over-exercise, which for her developed into an eating disorder.

In today’s guest post, Charlotte shares with us her journey through this disorder. Please be advised that some of the details of this post may be triggering for those struggling with eating and exercise issues. Got it? Once you’ve read the post, make sure to enter the giveaway for a free copy of Charlotte’s book!

It wasn’t the runs in the dark in the middle of winter at 4 a.m and again at 10 p.m. It wasn’t leaving my son’s hospital bed to go do a high-intensity interval class instead of showering for the first time in three days or sleep. It wasn’t when I fainted after running a marathon followed by an hour of kickboxing – can’t miss a workout! – without drinking or eating anything and then being carried down the gym stairs by a friend who tried to make me drink a Vitamin Water which I refused because it had 50 calories. It wasn’t even when my heart started doing this weird sick jumping in my chest and I briefly wondered if I was going to die on the floor in front of my young children.

No, the thing that made me finally take a break from exercising was when I gained ten pounds in one month because all my over-training (fancy codeword for compulsive over-exercise) had suppressed my thyroid. Those 10 pounds completely unhinged me. That is how deeply ill I was.

I know how it began. Right after my third child was born, still reeling from the trauma of the protracted court case against the ex-boyfriend who had sexually assaulted me (and many others), I was looking for a way to heal myself. All of my guilt, pain, self-doubt, fear and anger found a focus in my goal of “losing the baby weight.” To tell you the truth I didn’t gain much during the pregnancy- I was too depressed and anxious to eat – but I still had a few lingering pounds and thighs that I hated and a tummy that looked like an uncooked bagel. So I took up exercise. Exercise can be a fantastic way to deal with emotional stuff but when you’re using it to run away from (literally!) rather than work through your problems, you will never be able to run fast enough or far enough to fix yourself.

Unchained from rational thought, the exercise took on a life of its own, slowly growing until after my 4th baby was born I was totally addicted to it. Exercise became my #1 priority. Everything else in my day was organized around my workouts. I never rested, never took days off. I was always trying to sneak in more exercise by doing everything from endless fidgeting to refusing to sit down to making myself do push-ups every time I had to get up with a baby in the night. In addition I was also heavily restricting my food. I became a vegetarian and then a vegan and then a vegan who didn’t do grains or soy until I finally ended up with a safe list of 5 foods and that was it. I remember people telling me then how skinny I was – some with concern, others with envy – but I didn’t see it. I still thought I looked fat. Moreover, I didn’t really care anymore. Fat, thin, whatever – all I wanted was my next high.

If I wasn’t exercising I was consumed with anxiety about my next workout (Would the baby get sick and make me miss the gym? What if the car doesn’t start? What if they cancel my class? What if my husband doesn’t get home on time?). Anxiety that would get so intense I’d be shaking, heart racing. The only way to calm myself was to workout. And I’d feel really awesome as long as I was exercising – it was the only time of day I felt good about myself – but no sooner had the sweat had dried but the whole cycle started over again. It was all I thought about.

So when did I finally realize I had a problem with exercising too much? People ask me a lot of questions about my very public battle with exercise addiction – I blogged through the whole saga – but this is one I still don’t have an answer for. The thing is, I never did know. It took my family stepping in – my sister saying she’s worried about me, my friends forcing me to leave the gym, my readers e-mailing me their concern, my doctor threatening me with death, my husband literally taking away my keys and my shoes so that I couldn’t leave to exercise. It took them lovingly but firmly telling me that I needed to get treatment for my eating disorder. Even then I told my therapist I was fine. I refused to talk to the nutritionist beyond the initial required visit because I didn’t think my disorder had anything to do with food. Turns out, I learned later, no eating disorder is really about the food.

After nearly a year of treatment and the worst of it being two years in the past, I can finally see it for the pernicious disease that it was. There is a certain inherent denial that is part of every eating disorder but I think that compulsive over-exercise is unique in that the denial is sanctioned by society. Anorexics are often told to their face that they’re too skinny and overly thin models and actresses are dissected all over the internet, even while they are perversely praised and idolized. Bulimics with their overabundance of bodily fluids are gross-out spectacles or punchlines. Binge eaters are either woefully ignored or publicly taunted. (All of which are completely unkind and inhumane ways to treat eating disorder sufferers.) But over exercising ends up being the eating disorder everyone wishes they had.

“I wish I had your discipline!” “You’re so strong!” and even “You’re an inspiration!” People often mistook my manic exercise for passion – and don’t get me wrong, I am definitely passionate about fitness! – but my punishing 2-a-day workouts, sometimes adding up to 6 or more hours per day, were based off of one thing: fear. And that’s the main difference between an athlete and an exercise addict: the former exercises out of love for her sport while the latter exercises for fear of what happens if she doesn’t.

I’m not going to lie to you – I’m not perfectly recovered, there are many days I still walk that line between obsession and passion and those voices of never being enough still scream in my head more often than I’d like but now I have a system set up to check me. I build in breaks and rest periods into my Experiment schedules. I also seek feedback from my friends, family and readers and really listen to them if they are concerned. And sometimes I just grit my teeth and try to breathe deeply until the scary feelings pass. But whatever I have to do is worth it because I refuse to leave an eating disorder as my legacy to my kids.

If you think you are an exercise addict, know that it can kill you and it will not get better on its own. And then know that you are not alone in your fears and that there is help. Getting this message out there is one of the main reasons I wrote my book and I’m so grateful to Ashley for helping me do that!




For a chance to win a copy of Charlotte’s book, leave a comment answering, “Where do you draw the line between passion and obsession?” OR simply share your reactions to Charlotte’s experience. For additional chances to win, tweet about this post and leave a comment telling me you did! All entries are due by midnight on Sunday, January 30th.

{Image Credit :: Charlotte Hilton Anderson}
27 Sep

Running on empty

Exercise 11 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

As those of you who have been following NTS for a while hopefully know, I’ve spent the last several months in training for a race to support Girls on the Run, my absolute favorite organization to date. In case you’re not yet part of the cool club, check out my post on the GOTR organization or my guest post on Healthy Tipping Point to learn more about why you should become involved with helping girls succeed too.

I actually had the wonderful fortune to have lunch with two of the staff of the Cincinnati chapter of Girls on the Run recently. Erin and Mary were absolutely fabulous and shared with us (yes, I dragged Justin along – and he earned a new name – Husband on the Run!) about the mission and day-to-day operation of this organization. Did you know that every single girl that participates in this chapter gets a brand new pair of New Balance shoes, so that no girl is without proper footwear and no girl has to be singled out? Can you imagine?! The enormity of this part of the program (which is only a tiny part, mind you) made me literally tear up. GOTR is what dreams are made of…

But back to training.

Despite my newfound passion for GOTR, my training has not been all sunshine and cherry pies. It’s been tough, rough work. Which I suppose is what training for something is all about – pushing yourself harder and further than you thought you could. I’ve seen progress in my running that is still incredible to me, thanks to the support of a good friend (i.e. coach), a commitment to a good cause, and maybe a dash of my own perfectionism.

I’ve also seen progress because I’ve taken rest seriously and I haven’t pushed myself farther than I should go.

According to Jack Raglin of Indiana University’s department of kinesiology (that’s the science of human movement, says Wikipedia), approximately 10% of endurance athletes train too hard. Others estimate this number to be much higher, citing that most athletes are actually over-trained and chronically injured. The obvious risk is injury and becoming sidelined (potentially permanently) from the entire event. A recent Wall Street Journal article cited that 25% of people who sign up for marathons don’t make it to the start line. (I’m doubting their cars ALL broke down.) Having once been forced to give up marathon dreams due to pushing myself too hard, too fast, I’m a firm believer in the power of rest.

Animals like my cat have absolutely no problem with this idea. So why do we?


While you may think that pushing yourself to new heights requires daily grueling work-outs, quite the opposite is true. The body needs (and longs for) rest days in order to repair and strengthen muscles and replenish your energy stores. In fact, the recovery period is when the real effects of the training occur (a bit counterintuitive, I realize…).

Overtraining is a serious liability. Besides the risk of muscle and joint damage, training too hard can cause exhaustion, an eating disorder, depression, and decreased performance. And who in the world, after months of giving it your all, wants to wind up tired, sad, and in a brace? Not this girl.

Experts (like Lyle McDonald at Bodyrecomposition) recommend that those who are exercising intensely get both active rest and passive rest. Active rest refers to doing something physical or training related, but usually for a shorter period and at less intensity. This is all based on what you typically do, but if you’re a runner, you might actively rest by doing a short jog at pace significantly slower than you would on a training day. Or cross-train to give the muscles you’re normally using a break.

Passive rest is just like it sounds. Plant your butt on the couch and read a book. Or watch t.v. Or read Nourishing the Soul. Just don’t do jumping jacks or cycle fifty miles. Your body needs at least one day completely off per week. Having training-free days is vital to ensuring your muscles stay strong and you don’t get a divorce. Plus, when else are you going to catch up on Project Runway?

Another form of rest that some experts recommend is taking a more extended rest once in a while. Does the thought of taking a week completely off make you cringe? Probably all the more reason you should. If you worry that there’s no way you could meet your goals by taking extended time off, consider Deana Kastor, the Chicago and London marathon champ. She takes two months off from running a year. This isn’t to say she sits around eating Oreos during the breaks, but she stops running. Studies indicate that taking a week off does not result in significant losses of aerobic fitness or strength.

It’s all about… wait for it… listening to your body. Seriously, people. How often do I have to say this!? It’s amazing how the human body really has all the answers. If your body is craving rest or more sleep, respect your own wisdom and comply.

Have you over over-trained and gotten injured? How adept are you at listening to your body’s signals for rest?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...