You don’t want to get older and look back wondering why you didn’t enjoy your body. You have to learn how to feel safe in your body. When your body feels uncomfortable, listen to it. If you’re struggling to meditate or do breathwork, take a break. If your body feels irritated, check your diet. You have to start practicing self-love, which also means not discriminating against other people’s bodies. Be body inclusive today!
Join Whitney Lauritsen as she talks to certified food + body coach and trauma-informed breathwork facilitator Heather Graham Murphy about being at peace with your body. Learn how to be your authentic self and let go of all your trauma. Discover how to hold space for yourself and others during meditation. Know how to listen to your body and find the right diets that fit you. Return to loving yourself and start making room for that today!
This episode is sponsored by Athletic Greens and Zencastr.
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Feeling Safe In Your Body With Heather Graham Murphy
When I first was in touch with this episode’s guest, Heather, I noticed her authenticity and I have witnessed that in real-time. Heather, I find you so mindful. It’s so easy to connect with you, which is lovely. I can’t wait to talk about some of these passions of yours, which include breathwork, food, body image and trauma. These are all things I’m interested in learning more about myself.
I felt excited to explore that with you because I feel like I have been developing new a relationship with my body and food. I’m becoming more trauma-informed. I want to learn more about that and I love breathwork. Whenever I see the phrase or the word breathwork, I have taken a lot of breathwork classes and I feel it in my chest thinking about it.
My brain goes, “Breathwork time,” and my chest changes. I become more aware. I want to start paying very close attention to my breathing and all the nuances of it. I’m thrilled to go in all these different directions with you, Heather. I’m curious about all those topics and passions. At this moment, what do you feel most excited to discuss?
I wanted to thank you for the nice things that you said about me because at the core of what I do is I only want to help people, humans in general to come back to their most authentic selves. We do that through self-love and putting ourselves first, which we’re often told is selfish. There might be a lot of layers of trauma. In the work that I do, the top layer is like, “I’m a certified food and body coach. I help women heal their relationship with food and body.”
At a deeper level, for me, love is what I’m passionate about. Also, helping women to feel that in an embodied way because it’s one thing to know or try to affirm your self-love and tell yourself, “I shouldn’t say any negative things about myself. I do love myself.” You’re playing this mind game. Mindset work is so important but it’s crazy magic when you feel it in your whole body.
Breathwork is such a beautiful way to do that because you can feel it on a deeper level and it helps you feel more in tune with yourself. Sometimes, that brings up a lot of pain and I imagine for others, trauma as well. I’m not sure that I have felt trauma come up but I’ve been next to people in breathwork classes that have started sobbing, wailing and letting out these extreme sounds.
You can feel it. It’s almost as if when my eyes are closed, laying down on the floor in that practice, I can visualize each of those people around me and all of these things coming out of their bodies like energy. That to me is fascinating. It’s hard to do that type of class though. I’ve found it a bit distracting at times, part of that practice.
When I was doing it a lot in person, it was challenging to focus on yourself when other people are making a lot of noise or exerting a lot of energy that may be picked up on if you’re a sensitive person. I’m curious if that comes up for you and your work. How do you navigate through your things when you’re distracted by what other people are going through?
As empaths, which I feel you are and probably so many of your readers are, we go into these spaces and there’s an ego coming up to where we’re like, “I don’t know. I feel weird making that noise, even though I feel this urge to make this noise.” It can feel so uncomfortable. That’s why we’re building a community around breathwork, finding a space that you feel comfortable enough in and finding people that you feel comfortable with to practice breathwork in a way that allows you to fully export these layers of the trauma of our bodies. You can do it in a way where you feel so held.
Something that I like to teach people when I work with them is how to hold space. You can feel that from other people when you come in so that you know in your body that it’s okay for me to let this be and for me to be in the fullest expression of myself through this breathwork process. A lot of that also comes back to when you asked me about what’s top of mind or whatever it was that you specifically said. The first thing I teach is safety in the body.
For the people in the world, all of us, including me, ground and begin establishing a regulated nervous system to the point where your monkey mind doesn’t come in and say, “This person’s making a lot of noise that’s overly stimulating me.” Come back to your body and ground into your safe space so that you can let the process unfold naturally.Love is what I’m passionate about. Click To Tweet
That feels like part of the process and one of the things I wished that was spoken about more when it comes to breathwork. In my experience, I have seen how I’ve felt and how people I’ve brought to a class have felt. I had an experience with breathwork after not doing in-person classes for years. At this moment, reflecting on that, I hadn’t even taken it in during the time this was happening.
I was on a retreat in Costa Rica and that was the first time I had done any type of in-person movement or mindfulness classes in years. At the moment, I was not even thinking about that, which was great but in hindsight, I’m like, “That is so interesting.” One of the things we did was a breathwork class and it was one of the best that I’ve ever been to because of the environment.
In the past, I have done breathwork at a few different yoga studios and a great meditation center in Los Angeles. The latter was my favorite. The teacher was so great at creating the space for it. I got into the zone. I would go to his classes so regularly. I knew his pacing. He would have music cues and was like, “This is when this part happens.” I would have to work on not overly anticipating what was next.
In a way, for someone like me having some expectations helped me relax because I knew, “We’re going to be doing this for a short amount of time and then this phase. This is what happens next,” versus someone that goes into that experience, it can feel like an eternity in doing breathwork because it’s so intense and different.
It sounds like you had a great teacher too. For me, talking about safety and the body, part of it is anticipating what is going to happen. As a breathwork facilitator, it’s important that I say, “We’re going to do this breath pattern. This is how you do it.” We’re going to do a hold. I tell them, “Here’s the plan.” I have to prepare myself before doing these sessions so that I can intuitively feel what this person might need. I usually do one-on-ones but I will check in with what’s coming up for them at that moment because it’s different when they scheduled the appointment compared to what’s happening. It’s a very intuitive process and that can be a little tricky when you’re in a group session.
That is the trauma-informed aspect. My training is tuning into the group or the individual nervous system and trying to attune to what it is that the collective needs so that you can help everyone feel safe together. It might mean that some people don’t go as deep into the transformational experience as others would because some people are further along in their journey but it’s still regulating your nervous system and helping you establish that safety in the body. It’s all good and transformative.
Sometimes people go into these experiences thinking that it’s going to be this mind-blowing experience and sometimes it is. It’s always amazing, in my opinion, but sometimes it’s relaxing and that’s great too. When you mentioned going to Costa Rica, did you notice at all that you had maybe been craving the in-person experience?
That’s a good question and I have to sit with that because off the top of my head, I would say no, but a lot of that has been my experience of COVID and how I found that doing classes in person did not feel comfortable or safe for me but in Costa Rica, we were outside. All of our classes were outdoors and I felt comfortable with that. That was an option for some classes that I was taking in Los Angeles but I didn’t have the motivation. Whereas, going to a retreat was a big motivation.
Along those lines, because it was outside, that’s what made the breathwork so different. Two layers that are worth mentioning based on some things you said is one, for me, it was unbelievable. Maybe it was because I hadn’t done it for so long and I needed it on a level that I didn’t quite realize. I’m experienced with breathwork. I feel that I know usually how it’s going to go and how my body’s going to react. I felt prepared for that.
This was a whole new teacher in a new environment and the people that I was with. Those nuances can shift it. What was so cool about this is it started to downpour and we were in this covered space but there were no walls. We were on this platform with a roof above us but it was all open around us. I happened to be in a spot in that area where I didn’t get rained on at all. There was no wind. I could feel little specks of water hitting me but it felt incredible.
It was warm. I love the rain, the rain sounds and the feeling. To me, that was the ultimate experience. I was on cloud nine but at the end of class, we all in this group, there are about ten of us, sat with the facilitator. She asked if we had any questions and had a little discussion. I come to find out that two of the girls that were in that class were on the opposite side of the space as me and there was wind hitting them and were being rained on for the entire 90-minute class.
They said it was the most awful experience but what made it extra interesting as neither one of them chose to leave. They both felt determined to stay, even though they were deeply physically uncomfortable and didn’t feel like they could get into the flow of the breathwork. I found that so fascinating. I wondered what I would have done if it had been raining. Would I have found a way to embrace the discomfort and enjoy it? Would I have grinned and bear it? Would I have gotten up and left or moved? I’m curious if you’ve ever been in a situation like that where either you were faced with that type of challenge or someone that you’ve worked with was. How did you move through that?
In that situation, I have not been in with the weather. Typically, I’m dealing with interrupting children. I work with a lot of moms and it’s a little bit different in terms of that situation. Everyone is in a different space in terms of what they’re comfortable with. I like to think that everything is happening for us and a lot of spiritual people do. That can be annoying to hear sometimes when you’re like, “My five-year-old won’t leave me alone when I’m trying to do the session. Where is my partner? Why aren’t they helping me?”
I try to talk about being the observer of your experience. How is this serving me? How is this helping me grow? The situation that you’re describing is so interesting because I’m like, “What’s the metaphor of the rain and it washing away me?” We’re such meaning-making machines but no matter what, especially with the trauma-informed aspect, as a facilitator, I would say, “Get up and leave if you feel like your nervous system is out of control and needs to be regulated.” Maybe you go somewhere else.
That’s a very unique situation because I did my certification with breathwork during this whole COVID thing so I haven’t done a lot of in-person stuff except my small mom group friends and stuff like that. To me, that’s a beautiful experience in that. One thing with breathwork is that we think, “I’m going to go into this one-hour session or group session. I’m going to do it. It’s going to be amazing. I’m going to have a huge transformation. I’m going to have total clarity on my entire life and have it all figured out.”
That’s not always the case. Sometimes you go in and the whole session is so uncomfortable. You hate it. You come out of it feeling maybe even more irritable but then over the next 24 hours, you notice some things. Maybe you have some realizations or you feel differently in your body. It’s happening over a period but it’s not going to happen in that one-hour period where you’re going to have this huge transformation. It’s all part of the process of regulating our nervous system.It's one thing to affirm yourself; it's another to feel it. It’s crazy magic. Click To Tweet
It’s so easy to go into a mindfulness practice with a specific outcome in mind. Even when it comes to working through trauma, that eagerness to get to the root of it is something that I’ve experienced. That’s another thing that came up in my life. I started working with a therapist and I show up for the first session. I got notes. I’m ready to dig into things and he was like, “This is how it’s going to go.”
He told me that we wouldn’t start getting into deeper things until the 3rd or 4th session. I’m going to have to be patient but there’s a process to this. I’m grateful that there is because it’s setting me up for success and allowing things to unfold mindfully versus trying to force something to come out faster than maybe we’re ready for it emotionally.
With us, living in a society that loves quick fixes and has short attention spans, it’s possible that many people are not used to slowing down and getting something as quickly as they want it. I’m curious about what you’ve observed in your training and practice. Do you find that a lot of people come in with frenzied energy, high expectations or looking for a quick fix? Is that not common?
I haven’t experienced that a lot per se. It’s funny because there is one person that popped up in my mind that came into the session. When I did a breathwork session, this one person had that. I could feel that she was in a hurry to get this emotion that she was experiencing gone and away. I guided this intentional breathwork session with her where I was like, “Let’s be with it and let it be there.”
Slowly, she got regulated by the end of it but for most of it, she was having to be frazzled. “Hurry this up. Let’s figure out what the problem is and we’ll get it resolved.” This is also a close friend of mine so she’d be okay with me talking about this but she’s a problem solver. We all have these amazing brains where we can problem solve and that’s what we do as human beings but you don’t need to be fixed. There’s no problem here.
You’re only a human being having an experience. You have these layers that have been laid upon you through the years that you get to uncover. It’s this journey of discovery. If you can be curious and be the observer of that, then you learn so much about yourself and you can begin to even detach from the stories, which is mindfulness, a very Eastern philosophy of detachment from these layers that have been placed upon us.
If you grew up in a different environment with different parents, you’d be somebody else. A lot of that is because we learned from the modeling, the environment and everything. We know this from psychology and it takes time to uncover that stuff. It’s about loving yourself where you’re at. This is a big reason why I talk about love. If you can love yourself to say, “I’m a hot mess. I have dad issues,” and that was my story, but whatever it is that you have down there, it’s holding space for yourself. It’s what it is.
That is filled with so much compassion. A lot of us get used to having compassion for others and we forget to have compassion for ourselves. We spend so much time commonly focusing and fixating on what we want to fix. When you’re sharing about your friend, I can identify with that. That’s something that I’ve been working on being less of a fixer and a problem solver. It’s something I identified within myself and took a lot of pride in but I found a lot of ways in which that wasn’t serving me.
I’m trying to release that grip. When I was in Costa Rica at one of my yoga classes, that was a huge takeaway because the teacher shared something about releasing the grip and I thought, “That resonates with me.” I was gripping my yoga mat. I looked down at my hands and could see that they weren’t relaxed. I start thinking, “How do I emotionally hold a grip? How can I be in more of a flow state?” To your point, be accepting and have more self-love through the tough times and the not-so-tough times, even the easy times.
There are opportunities for more love there. That leads me to something I want to talk about with you, which is our bodies. We’ve talked about how our bodies play out in terms of a breathwork class or yoga but it’s easy to become a bit detached and think, “I can feel myself breathing. This feels good.” We can look in the mirror a ton during yoga. If there’s a mirror there, we can fixate on how our body looks while we’re doing yoga.
Maybe we leave a class and we’re feeling good. We catch a glance at ourselves in a car window or we’re passing by a store and we see our reflection. For me, it can easily put me into this place of judgment. I’m curious where you’re at with your relationship with your body and how is breathwork and the other work that you’re doing around food helping you move through any challenges that you’ve had personally and helping other people that you’re working with.
I resonate with what you’re saying. First, I’ll say what’s coming to the top of my mind is how we are so inundated daily with how our bodies should look. It can feel a little bit like an uphill battle. I want to acknowledge that. I also want to acknowledge the lack of inclusivity in terms of the exposure of what the right body is and how hard that is for certain groups of people that are not being included in that image exposure or communication about bodies. I don’t want to sound pessimistic or anything but it can feel that way at first that it is an uphill battle in terms of body acceptance.
It’s the ongoing work of having a dialogue with yourself, the relationship in terms of the embodied side of the work where we are using breathwork, meditation and meeting yourself where you’re at. It’s funny because I was one of the people that put weight on COVID like so many people did. That’s where all of my training got tested because I didn’t expect that to happen and that I would be concerned with it as soon as it started to become noticeable that it had happened.
I had to walk the walk and that felt scary for me because I had all these months of training on how to access safety in the body, how to identify the stories and the narratives and meet myself where I was at. It’s so easy to think, “My old body.” I don’t know if you can relate to this at all but back when I was thirteen, my best friends and I would sit by the pool and read SELF Magazine and think, “Let’s do this six-week ab challenge.” I’m still friends with my best friends. When we look back at photos, I’m like, “Can you believe we thought we were fat? That makes me want to cry for that little girl.”
I don’t want to get to 60, look back at myself when I was in my 30s and think, “Why didn’t I enjoy my body?” It’s this process of developing love with your body. It’s easy to start with things like, “My body can do this.” I know not everyone is able to walk but if you can walk, look at that. That’s pretty amazing for those that are not fully able-bodied. There are so many tools that they have to be able to go throughout the world and easier way and find ways to be with the body.
I don’t tend to work with a lot of disabled people but there is that sector of people with a wide range of issues that people are dealing with like skin color, hair color, trans and non-binary. Everyone that’s showing up is being judged in some way for their body. It’s not just an issue of weight. It’s every aspect of your body.You don't need to be fixed. You're just a human being having an experience. Click To Tweet
I’m right there with you. Thank you for bringing up inclusivity, disabilities and all these ways in which someone may be judged. It’s timely because I was putting out a post at one of the podcast groups that I’m in looking for new guests. I was thinking, “What are some topics I want to address more?” Discrimination is a huge one. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of it. It doesn’t feel like it’s brought up enough in the wellness circles or mindfulness.
A huge part of that is at least for me as a White woman, I live in Los Angeles. A lot of people here in the wellness spaces and the classes I take are also White people. They’re able-bodied. If I start going through all these different areas or different types of people, I recognize that a very small percentage seem to be represented in classes, in person, online, podcasts and a lot of places. I feel that I have to seek them out. I’m sure they’re there but they have been as obvious to me.
I wrote up a list of different ways in which people were discriminated against. It could be political affiliation, gender identity, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality, appearance, occupation, wealth, education and criminality, on and on. These things don’t get brought up but I look at that list in regards to what you’re sharing.
When it comes to mindfulness, I can see so many opportunities here in which somebody that is experiencing something in one of those categories I mentioned may not feel included and represented. That’s something worth focusing more on, especially when it comes to body acceptance and that point you made about it being an uphill battle. If you don’t feel accepted for any of those factors, it’s hard to love yourself because you can spend that time internally.
If you go and socialize, step outside of your home and you don’t feel safe and you feel that you’re getting judged a lot, it’s challenging to continue feeling good about yourself. Some people start to be afraid to be around others. They develop fear and lack of trust. Those emotions make all of this challenging too. Your point about there being all these layers is incredibly important but acknowledging privilege when you have it. Also to your point, being grateful that you can walk if you can walk or breathe. These basic human body functions are things that most of us don’t focus on and that in itself is a privilege.
I always like to invite people to look around. I’ve had the privilege to go to Hawaii and look around. There wasn’t a lot of diversity where I was. That was on my mind. I think, “Why is that?” I would like to hear from more people about where they’re at with getting out in public. It goes much deeper than bodies. It’s money and accessibility.
I also think about me, where I live in Northern California, it’s predominantly White. When I see one of the very few Native Americans or one of the few Black people that live in my area, I’m like, “I wonder how that feels for them to live here. Do they feel excluded or okay with it?” I don’t know. I want to invite people to start thinking about that. It’s easy to not think about it, go on with your life and be like, “I’m comfortable going into town and picking up my groceries.” Not everybody is. That’s one element and a little bit off-track from body image but thinking about existing in a body and not feeling safe to simply go to the store is a crazy concept to me.
That in itself can become a mindfulness practice and a compassion practice because if you can pay attention to who’s around you, pause and wonder what would life be like for this person, you could try to start a conversation or use it as a practice like, “I wonder what life is like for them.” Noticing them, making eye contact with people and acknowledging people, which some of us don’t do that often, we start to become in our bubble, especially in a big city for me.
It’s very different than parts of the country or even the world. When I was traveling internationally, noticing what it feels like to be in a different culture. Also in places where I was the only White person, that’s a very interesting experience because I’ve had the privilege of being the opposite. For most of my life, in most places, I’m in the majority of skin color and not the minority. Being in the opposite situation, I find that kind of exposure and getting outside of our bubbles is incredibly helpful for me.
If we don’t have that opportunity, can we consider it and think about it? Can we lean into those conversations that might be uncomfortable there? One little side note. When you were sharing that wonderful point about, “I don’t want to be 60, look back and wonder why I didn’t enjoy my body,” what a beautiful statement. Age is a big issue for me.
Ageism drives me crazy. The older I get, I’m like, “This is so bizarre that we have so much ageism but also equally bizarre that as young women, it’s seen in our culture as being the best thing ever.” Young women are treated in so many weird sexual ways and fetish. It’s bizarre but when you said thirteen, I started thinking about my experiences being around that age, being with my friends, reading the magazines. I was doing the same things of obsessing over everything.
I would read those women’s magazines and look forward to the exercises they would have. They would always have a tip for getting in shape. For some of them, I even remember what the pages look like and what some of the advice was from celebrities. I would strive to do it myself. It’s that obsession and I look back thinking that even then, I didn’t even recognize my privilege of being young because I was so distracted with my body and trying to change it that I wasn’t present with the experience of being that age.
The sadness that you were sharing comes up to me like, “Much of our lives are taken away from us because society has this condition to focus so much on what we should change, how we don’t fit in and what’s wrong with us.” It’s only through hindsight that we can see that there was nothing wrong with us at all. We probably might desire to be that age again and be in that body as you were describing but then we can use that as a lesson.
Thinking about what our bodies used to look like is also a common experience but what if at that moment we say, “I don’t have the ability to go backward and be back at that age and body but what I can do is practice appreciating, accepting and loving my body because maybe when I’m 60 or whatever age in the future, I’ll be thinking about this time. This is what I’ll be wishing that I could go back to.”
We tend to romanticize the past a lot too that we forget that it wasn’t what it seemed. We can begin that mindfulness aspect where it’s like, “I’m going to meet myself where I’m at and listen.” In my practice, it’s about not being on a specific diet or doing a specific routine. It’s about every single moment, listening to the body and honoring its truth.
We get to uncover the layers through all this transformational work. It doesn’t mean you’re going to stay stuck in healing forever. It can be a little hard at first but it can feel like an uphill battle initially. You’re uncovering years of conditioning, fighting the advertisement, on Instagram and sometimes taking a break from those things. I believe in taking a break from social media. I sometimes have to do that too because it can make me feel worse about my body.I don't want to get older and look back, wondering why I didn't enjoy my body. Click To Tweet
It’s having enough self-awareness that there’s this information coming at me all the time. The other thing that I was battling since I was about nine was anxiety and depression. You had mentioned therapy. I’ve done a lot of therapy. Sometimes, this process of talking about everything can seem so draining for people at times. I want to encourage people to stick with it for a decent amount of time and incorporate it with some somatic healing which is the embodiment of work. Somatic healing does the work of your nervous system.
Also, incorporating it so that you can regulate yourself when you start to notice like, “Why am I feeling so weird after I was on social media?” Be like, “I’m going to do breathwork for five minutes.” It doesn’t have to be like, “I’m going to go sign up for this hour-long session.” As a mom, I posted this little reel that I was like, “Whenever I’m having a hard day and I can’t deal with my kid, I hide in the bathroom and do breathwork for five minutes.” It gets me through. The further you get along in this work, you develop this beautiful relationship with yourself where you’re like, “It’s not that I am fat. I have fat on my body and that doesn’t mean anything. It is what it is.”
If you want to go from an evolutionary standpoint, having fat on your body is a good survival thing and that’s what your body is supposed to be doing. It’s healthy and normal. It’s okay. You can sit with it and sit with the discomfort of it too. Be like, “Yes, I might have that on my body and I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable with that.” Also, to hold space. Have compassion for yourself. It’s okay to feel angry or sad about it. What does your body need to get through that? A lot of women that I’ve worked with struggle with binge eating as well, including myself.
I’ve done every diet in the past. I was into worrying about my fitness, having the right macros and all that stuff. It got to a point where I was like, “I’m exhausted worrying about my body. I want to be and enjoy.” Now, I’m into swimming and I love that. Next week, I might go lift some weights. I don’t need to follow the twelve-week plan to get in the best shape ever this summer. I can enjoy the movement of my body and the foods that I get to eat. Sometimes I’m going to eat Cheetos but I’m not going to eat the whole bag because I don’t need to engage in emotional eating. I know how to regulate my emotions.
For me, that’s the road to healing my relationship with my body and teaching other people to do that. I wanted to say one thing too before I forget. You had mentioned talking about different bodies when you were traveling and stuff, noticing your experience when we were talking about that. My father-in-law is a retired physician. He was talking about how several patients of his had been deemed obese. One of the things that people had brought up was that people wouldn’t look them in the eye.
It’s heartbreaking to hear that because I’ve noticed it too with people that I know who have body fat. It’s not inside of the acceptable norms, whatever that may be. Having experiences where people say weird things about how they’re being in their body and what they’re eating. We refer to it as technically overweight or morbidly obese. I wanted to bring that to the point because when I had learned that from him, I wanted to make an effort to look and smile at people.
I had been curious if had I done that before and I don’t know. After that, I was instantly like, “I’m going to start practicing this.” There are certain things in our culture that when we’re not doing the social norm, whether that’s through eating or we have a certain body type, it can make other people uncomfortable and not look people in the eye or acknowledge them as human beings.
Heather, I’m so glad you brought that up because it’s interesting. The more that you can notice how you’re feeling and behaving if you go a layer deeper and try to understand why and where it comes from, then you start to notice how other people act and the influences of others on you. You can also start to play a role in being more positive and less judgmental. I’m right there with you. It is amazing how many people still feel like it’s appropriate to make comments or treat people poorly based on how they look. As you pointed out, there are times I catch myself doing it in subtle ways that I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I was aware.
Those are such great learning opportunities because, at the end of the day, people want to be treated with love and kindness not based on their external qualities. Even if somebody feels like they’re being rude, that’s another opportunity too. It’s like, “What if they’re being rude or behaving in a way you perceive as rude because they’re hurt, scared and have been treated poorly themselves?”
You look at all these ripple effects in which we impact one another and how extending and practicing that mindful compassion for ourselves and others can create this deep impact. There is something else I want to come back to because I want to hear more about your work in food. That’s been a big journey for me. I have a history of disordered eating. Like you, I’ve tried a lot of different diets. I even started trying diets within veganism and learned about intuitive eating. That’s something I’ve been practicing for years. It’s challenging in a culture that emphasizes dieting and smaller bodies.
No matter how much we’re seeing more inclusivity and body acceptance, the priority or the emphasis on smaller and younger bodies is still there. I see it constantly. If you tune in, that messaging is all over the place and it’s tough as we’ve been talking about. I’d love to hear more about that. As a lead-in, I wanted to reference a video. It was a compilation probably on TikTok where I see most videos.
It was a compilation of Oprah showing how she used to be so fixated on losing weight. There’s a famous episode of her show where she wheels out a wagon full of fat and reveals her small body. She’s super small, which was interesting. I don’t know if I saw that episode or had seen references to it enough over my life that seeing it now, I’m like, “I don’t remember Oprah ever being that small.”
She was small and then fluctuated so much over time. This compilation revealed how much pressure Oprah was under to be small. There’s a newer interview with her. I don’t remember how old she is off the top of my head but she said something similar to you where she’s like, “Now that I’m this age, I’m less concerned about it or I’m embracing myself more for who I am.”
I hope that’s true because if so, then it’s such an important example of how she was able to move out of that way of approaching life. There’s even a clip in there of her talking about how much he loves bread. When I saw that, I’m thinking, “It’s crazy how much something like bread has been seen as negative.” I wonder how many people are walking around in life thinking, “I want a piece of bread but I can’t because it’s going to ruin my diet.
It’s sad because pasta and bread are so nice sometimes and it feels so nourishing to the body. We need carbohydrates, people. Carbs are not bad. When you practice and learn intuitive eating, you start to become so aware of this visceral experience of eating certain foods. Every body is so different and what they need. No one diet will make everything all better. Being a different body type isn’t going to take away the emotional pain from whatever you’ve experienced in your life. I thought, “If I lose 10 more pounds, I’ll be lovable.” That’s what it was. When I finally let myself enjoy food, life became more fun.
I could focus on other things like making art and enjoying friends with food. You travel quite a bit. Sometimes that means having to go off of a plan that you might’ve had. I want to acknowledge people too that do have certain food restrictions due to inflammatory diseases. It’s amazing what we have learned about certain foods to help with those issues. My husband has an autoimmune disease. There are certain times when he might get flared up and we have to bring in certain foods to help detox essentially to flush out his colon and calm down. It’s simple things.Having fat on your body is for survival. Click To Tweet
Sometimes he has to eat what you might call boring foods but it feels nourishing for him at that time because it’s what his body needs. Part of what I teach is I say to people, “We got to establish safety in the body.” Part of that is practicing visceral intelligence. When you become attuned to these little blips on the screen like when you have your heart monitor, sometimes I’ll take one bite or something and I’m like, “Nope. My body does not want that.” It’s a thing that you practice so much that you become more aware.
It takes time to practice intuitive eating. Your body is not going to feel the same every day. I don’t eat pasta once a week even because my body doesn’t digest that very well or certain things. It can be your snacks because I have a kid who has all these kids’ snacks. I can’t eat that stuff all the time but it’s every moment tuning in on what I need like the proteins, fats and carbs. It’s all good to also eat junk food sometimes or whatever your struggle is. I’m only sharing my perspective because it was more on the binge side.
I’d go workout for one hour and a half in the gym and I’d come home starving. I’d be like, “While that’s cooking, I’m going to eat this whole bag of chips because I’m starving.” That’s not the idea here. There’s nothing wrong with eating a whole bag of chips but I don’t think it’s what our bodies want. It’s like any other relationship.
It’s complicated too. It seems so simple but it depends. Since everybody is different, for me, it’s been frustrating because I have a ton of food sensitivities and I don’t know why. I haven’t had a lot of doctors understand it. It’s something I’ve learned to manage but when I was in Costa Rica, I had some bad flare-ups. It was incredibly frustrating because sometimes I can’t even eat the things that I want.
Here I am trying to embrace intuitive eating but I still need to learn to listen to my body because certain foods give me flare-ups and I have awful symptoms. When I was traveling, I was on the airplane wearing a mask and couldn’t stop sniffling. I felt so awful and I’m wondering are people around me thinking I’m sick but I know it was my food sensitivities. Constantly blowing my nose around people was so embarrassing.
Also like, “What now?” That’s been my experience for so many years and like you, as much as I love bread, unfortunately, I have a gluten sensitivity. Sometimes, I’ll eat bread anyways and think, “I’m doing this because it looks good. My body is saying it wants this bread.” It’ll feel good for fifteen minutes and then suddenly, the sensitivities will start to creep in. That’s tough because, with a history of disordered eating, I spent so much time looking at food as good or bad, right or wrong. “If I eat this, I’m going to have to pay these consequences.”
It’s this whole mental struggle but over time through mindfulness, I have learned that it’s a constant work in progress. It’s not about ever getting to a point where you feel fully fixed or resolved. We’re never quite at a level of peace that we think we’ll get to. I don’t know anyone who has constantly felt at peace with their life. They might have a steadiness to them but there are the ups and downs, the highs and lows and the shifts. I imagine that as a mother, you experienced this a lot because it’s something that I’ve noticed in my friends that are mothers. I feel in awe of them. How do they manage the constant unexpected things raising the child?
First of all, I want to go back real quick before I answer that. I want to acknowledge you for sharing your history of disordered eating. It’s great that people are talking about this. It’s important. I want to say I’m sorry that you’ve had to experience the journey of that and what that has been like for you. It’s common in the field that I work in to come across women who have struggled with that as well. The safety and the body thing is huge for people who have a history of disordered eating.When I finally let myself enjoy food, life became more fun, and I could focus on other things. Click To Tweet
There’s such extreme discomfort in the body that it’s difficult to begin the process of practicing visceral intelligence sometimes. We have to stay in a state of constant grounding and safety in the body first before we can even acknowledge any opportunity for practicing intuitive eating. I want anyone out there who’s struggling with disordered eating to keep that in mind and keep practicing your safety first because it is painful to be in the body sometimes when you have that as a part of your history.
The other part is it’s a process. I have these days where I’m like, “That was weird that I had that reaction to that food.” When you were describing that experience of being on the plane, it’s coming back to safety where you’re like, “I’m feeling so uncomfortable in my body. This sucks. How can I be with this? How can I ground?”
When I started learning about safety in the body, I could only feel it in my toes so I still always focus on my toes. I’m giving that tip in case anybody wants it but it’s about finding that place in your body where you’re like, “I feel okay here. My toes aren’t irritated. My tummy is irritated. My face feels itchy or whatever the thing is but I’m going to let it all be here as a part of my human experience. I’m not going to judge it and worry about what it’s going to mean for the people around me. I’m going to choose that.” When you can do that, then you can begin to regulate through that experience of acceptance, observation and safety.
That point you made about the toes is so interesting. I’m like, “What a great mindfulness practice.” When we finished this episode, let’s think, “What if we practice feeling safe on our toes?” I don’t think anyone’s ever mentioned that before. Your point was that that’s where you felt safe but that’s interesting because things like our toes, we become so unaware of what’s going on with our toes. I broke my toe and I was like, “This is interesting. I’ve never spent so much time thinking about how my toe feels but here I am.” I wanted to acknowledge that. I’d love to hear about your experience as a mother and how you regulate yourself and find peace. Do you agree that life never stays stable?
Yes. It’s a rollercoaster ride. I’m not sure what it’s like to die but I always imagined being on my death bed and being like, “I did my best. That was good.” Being at peace with it where it’s like, “I did okay.” I believe in reincarnation so I was like, “I’ll try that again. Next time, I’ll adjust it.” I imagined being at the end and being like, “That was wild. That was up and down and all around.” Through the ups and downs, we get to learn and grow from all of the things that are coming at us. That’s life in general and not only being a mom.
Add parenthood to it and all of your insecurities. All things come up when you’re a parent because at least, in my experience, you’re like, “I’m trying to do everything that I wanted my parents to do for me.” I’m projecting onto my kid all the time what I would have wanted. It’s this constant returning to myself and who I authentically am so that my child can be her authentic self. A lot of the time, I’ve tried to practice some of these mindful techniques with her, teaching her how to regulate herself, her emotions and feeling her feelings. I teach her that it’s safe to feel them and it’s normal to be angry and sad.
It’s interesting having a six-year-old because their prefrontal cortex is beginning development. She’s only beginning to understand the logical objective reality that we live in. She gets angry sometimes and that can be activating to me because I don’t like anger. I have to go deal with that. That’s my problem. I have to help her find a healthy way to express the anger and frustration that she’s experiencing. I tell her to go punch a pillow, go color or whatever it is in the moment that she needs. I have to intuitively guess sometimes and make suggestions.
A common thing for me is I’m very easily overly stimulated by things like different noises and people’s moods. Being a parent is stimulating and it brings up a lot of your baggage. It’s a perfect opportunity to work on yourself because then you get to be hopefully, moving towards the best version of yourself providing the best modeling that you can. Also, recognizing that you don’t have to show up perfectly at all. You can be like, “I get angry too.” I also feel these different feelings or I make mistakes.I imagine being on my death bed and saying, 'I did my best.' Click To Tweet
That’s a big one that we’ve been working through with my daughter. It’s okay to be mad about it. It’s okay to know that you move on and try again. It doesn’t mean anything about you. I’m a human being. I make mistakes. I say the wrong things sometimes. I learn and grow. I want her to know that she can do that too. That’s okay and it’s safe for her to do that. It’s also okay for her little full wackadoodle self, which childhood is a perfect time to do that. Usually, kids aren’t as self-conscious as adults are until around age nine and that’s what I noticed in me, at least.
What a beautiful example of how to be a mindful parent and address some of these challenges, the specifics that you gave. I’m sure so many mothers and other parents or parental figures can relate to that. I don’t have kids and I don’t know if I will have them. I also get overstimulated easily. That’s given me some pause, yet I find myself thinking, “What a cool opportunity to learn more about myself, support another being and practice things.”
It sounds like a roller coaster but a delightful one. I have the utmost respect for mindful parents like yourself. Acknowledge that it’s got to be even more challenging than I could imagine at times. I want to acknowledge you as somebody who seems to be doing your best to be present and aware. Practice the things that you’re teaching others through your work. Your mission to help people find their authentic selves and feel more love for themselves is one of the most incredible things you could do for another human being.
To do that for both the child and the lucky clients that work with you is so amazing. With that, Heather, I’d love for you to share with anyone interested in working with you or getting more resources from you. You have a free course I believe that you offer. Can you tell us more about what it is?
I have a mini course. It’s an email course. You get an email for six days straight plus a bonus day. It’s a self-love 101 course. It’s called Authentically YOU. It’s for anybody that’s wanting to start their self-love journey. If they’re like, “How do I even start?” Sometimes it’s hard to remember where you were in your journey but I’m like, “Now that I’m tapping into this, I can remember being like, ‘I’m a hot mess. What do I do?’” Sometimes people are like, “I should meditate. You’re pushing all over yourself.” I want to give people this little email course where they can get started with some ideas.
It does come with two meditations that are only ten minutes or less. It’s about 10 or 15 minutes of an opportunity to take time for yourself. In each email, I’ll talk about different things. One of them is around boundaries. The first one is on self-awareness if I remember right and beginning the opportunity to understand some of these concepts, not only intellectually but to use the meditation practice as an opportunity to feel that in your body.
I include some journal prompts in the emails. I wanted to make it easy. It’s fifteen minutes a day for anyone that’s wanting to begin this journey. The bonus day is a total life assessment, rating the thirteen areas of your life. I don’t know if Tony Robbins came up with that but it was one of those personal development things I learned early on where you can get in there and look at everything. It helps that self-awareness part where you’re like, “I don’t know why I spend so much time on this. I’d rather spend time on that,” or whatever it is.
You are working on a podcast. Is that available for people to listen to yet? Where is that journey?
My podcast is launching on August 8th, 2022. It’s called For the Love of Self. It’s going to be for women and mothers who want to begin hearing these conversations and ideas around self-love. Also, how to begin your love journey. I also am going to be inviting guests who can talk about not always specifically self-love but anything that would be an addition or an opportunity to educate and work on their personal growth. I’m excited and nervous but I want the core message to return to love for ourselves and keep making time and space for our love. It’s available on Apple and Spotify. I’m using Anchor and I’m like, “Do people listen through Anchor?” I don’t know if that’s a thing but I’ve never used it.You don't have to show up perfectly as a parent. Click To Tweet
They can and in all different players too. They’ll probably find your show on some random podcast site one day. That’s what’s happened with mine and you’re like, “I’ve never even heard of this site but somehow my show is here.”
The last thing I’ll mention in terms of offers is I try to keep my breathwork sessions accessible. If you’re making minimum wage, you should be able to afford it. I do the first session for $15. I try to make it so people can at least get in there and try it out. You can schedule and then try it out. You can see if it’s something that’s for you. If you like it, you can try it with me more or maybe you’ll want to go out to one of the yoga studios or whatever in your community and try it with other people.
That’s so incredible that you do that. That’s incredibly important to acknowledge that many mindful instructions can be out of reach. To have the ability to offer it at a price that’s affordable for more people is such an incredible gift. Also, acknowledging that everybody does deserve access to that. Thank you for doing that. I hope you, as the reader, do go there to check it out. Heather, thank you once again. This has been a nourishing conversation. I am very grateful that you’re doing the work that you’re doing because it’s incredibly important. Thanks for spending time with me and the audience. I’m so excited about your podcast. Congratulations on getting that going.
Thank you so much. It was so nice to spend time with you. I’ve been following your show. It’s so crazy to be here seeing you face to face virtually. Thank you everyone for reading. I hope that you get out there, keep loving your body and yourself and do the work.
- Heather Graham Murphy – Instagram
- Authentically YOU
- For the Love of Self – Apple Podcasts
- Anchor – For the Love of Self
About Heather Graham Murphy
Heather Graham Murphy is a certified food + body coach and trauma-informed breathwork facilitator. She is also a mother and an artist. She teaches women to heal their relationship with food + body through eating and moving intuitively. Her mission is to help humans love themselves more deeply so they can become the most authentic, creative expression that they came here to be. She believes that with self-love and authenticity the world would be a much more peaceful place.
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