There’s no other way to say it: Being a twentysomething is hard. You feel like you should have it all figured out—your education, career, your eating and fitness habits, who you are. But the fact is, nobody does! No matter how savvy and self-possessed a woman in her twenties is, underneath it all she’s usually churning with some level of uncertainty and anxiety. Add negative body image, weight struggles, and unhealthy or even disordered eating habits, and she can feel even more stuck and unsure.
At Green Mountain at Fox Run, we’ve been helping women of all ages learn new ways to connect with and take care of their bodies for more than 45 years. Our special Young Women’s Program is available from now until August. Here’s a taste of what participants learn.
What’s Under All the Weight Struggles? Stress, Pain, Worry
Although women usually come to Green Mountain to improve their eating and fitness habits or address emotional or binge eating, our weekly discussion groups for young women almost never end up focusing on nutrition or exercise. Instead participants tend to talk about life—the family dynamics, stress, relationships, past traumas, financial pressure, parents’ expectations, and other issues that fuel their tendencies to numb out with or obsess about food.
What draws most women to Green Mountain is feeling out of control in their relationship with food and their bodies. What they end up learning is that weight and wellness has much more to do with coping with life than with willpower, calories, or carbs.
Mindfulness Gets to the Root of the Problem
Anxiety, worry, and other strong emotions can be desperately uncomfortable. Ignoring the thoughts and feelings fuels unhealthy behaviors because it propels us into survival mode. When we’re in survival mode, doing what is in our long-term best interest is not high on the priority list! What is? Immediate self-soothing, doing whatever ‘works’ to make us feel safe or comforted in the moment, such as bingeing on ice cream, over-exercising, isolating, or zoning out for hours on the TV.
However, avoiding suffering only prolongs suffering, which is why it’s important to lean into—not avoid—what feels stressful or uncomfortable. That’s part of what we teach young women to do during the Young Women’s Program. Leaning into and managing our thoughts and emotions in a healthy way requires cultivating body/mind awareness, developing stress management skills, and practicing healthier coping mechanisms. These skills are the fundamentals for overcoming emotional overeating or binge eating and other unhealthy behaviors.
We can’t honor what we aren’t aware of, so the first step becomes learning how to tune into and honor our physical and emotional cues—not override them.
Empowering Young Women to Make Healthy Change
Young women may already know a lot about nutrition, meditation, psychology, or exercise. But knowledge doesn’t automatically turn into action! Having the support of fellow participants and an on-site coach at Green Mountain while developing these skills provides the link between insight and action for participants in our Young Women’s Program. While at Green Mountain women learn about and practice (and practice and practice) optimal self-care based on self-compassion. They leave with a sense of empowerment and strength that they can manage whatever comes their way.
This is how self-esteem develops: stumbling yet facing the challenges head-on and coming out the other side stronger, wiser, and with more clarity around how to approach life on one’s own terms—not the terms set by your families, peers, or by the greater culture at large.