It’s no coincidence that a stretch metaphor comes to mind today as I’m well into my month of daily yoga. So far, so good with the yoga -I think I can honestly say it will finally become part of my fitness routine. But stretching is about much more than a downward dog, it’s about extending yourself. Some days our fitness goals are as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or ordering a salad instead of a slice of pizza, but generally we’ve got a more elaborate plan. Many of us regularly hit a favorite spin class or are following some type of progressive strength training plan. We also have specific goals in mind: lose 20 pounds, fit into that dress, or run a 5K. These are all well and good and they keep us chipping away every day, bit by bit at something bigger for ourselves. But you know what else you need? A goal that stretches you. If you’ve run a 5K, up the ante and run a half marathon. If you regularly sweat away at spin class, get on a real bike and learn to ride the road. If you shy away from free weights, sticking to the machines, get under the squat rack and lift some big girl weights! And if you clam up instead of talking about your body image issues, start yammering away. Now I’m not advocating you bare your soul on a blog like I did – honestly, it’s not for the faint of heart…but if you’re so inclined – do it! I am however encouraging you to openly talk with people you trust about the yucks, ughs and blehs you feel about your body. The quieter we are about these issues the more power the have over us. The more stifled our issues are the more they fester inside us and stop us from having the bodies and health we really want. It’s like telling a little kid there’s no monster behind their closet door. Tell them all you want, but letting them leave the closet door open and turn on a little nightlight helps them see the closet door isn’t so scary. It’s time we shine a little light on our issues and institute an open door policy. Sound simple? Well in theory it is, but how many times have you been totally open with someone else about what you see when you look in the mirror? And why not? Because being that vulnerable is very uncomfortable! And very scary – I mean, what will people think? Stretching out of your comfort zone and being very honest about your body image struggles will allow you to break their hold on you, help you get support and realize that much of it is just nonsense – real feelings, but nonsense just the same. And you know what else? It will allow the person you share with to do the same, freeing both of you up to move past the body image demons in your head. For me, sharing my story and struggle has helped me move past much of my own BS – because I’ve been forced to deal with it. There is no hiding on the internet. Having to take an honest look at who we are and what we really think is scary, but it’s the only way to stop a nagging issue from simmering in your mind, quietly sabotaging your efforts in a moment of weakness and keeping you always reaching for a body you’re comfortable in. Set a goal that stretches you, one that you wonder if you can complete. There’s been many a day during this project when I didn’t think I could find the time to write, didn’t know what talk about, wondered if it was worth it, and worried that I’d said too much already. It stretched me to my limits and then past them. Moving past my comfortable limitations where the crazy just stayed safely in my head, laid it all on the table where I was forced to take a very honest look. Only when it’s all laid before you can you see what you’re dealing with and clean up the mess. So stretch! Do something you don’t think you can, be unreasonable and be open.