Happy In The Skin You’re In? Improving Body Image With Regular Massage

Massage has several clinically proven mental and physical health benefits, but one that most people aren’t aware of is how massage can improve body image. Our culture is full of toxic influences with regards to the way we see our bodies. Some of these sources include:

People of every sex, size and shape can suffer from poor body image.
People of every sex, size and shape can suffer from poor body image.
  • Media Ideals: While the media is often called out collectively for promoting impossible ideals for the human shape, especially for women, there’s no conspiracy at work here. Everyone likes to see a pretty face or body, and in our technological age, media outlets are using ever-more sensational and exploitative tactics to grab a bit of our over-taxed attention spans. Shouting about the unfairness of media ideals doesn’t seem to be moving the needle in terms of changing the culture, but as consumers we can remember that not all media reflects what’s realistic or healthy.
  • Family Culture: Unfortunately, insecurity about body image is not only toxic, it can be contagious. Well-meaning parents or other family members may have created insecurity or a poor sense of self-image with critical comments or by modeling body-hating behaviors and self-talk.
  • Kids Are Cruel: If something about your appearance made you stand out as a child, chances are someone teased you about it in school. Perhaps that teasing turned into a pattern of bullying, shaming, and shunning. Sure, “sticks and stones,” but those toxic feelings can easily follow us into adulthood.
  • Injury or Illness: Suffering trauma or serious illness can cause unwanted body changes that can’t be helped. These changes can have a lasting impact, even long after bones have mended and tissues have healed.
  • Childbirth: While having a baby can be a happy event, the dramatic and permanent changes that take place in a woman’s body after childbirth can definitely have an impact on self-image.

All these factors can combine and make the task of improving our own body image seem daunting, if not impossible. But we weren’t born with shame for our bodies. It was taught or conditioned in us in small stages. Unlearning that perspective can take time.

A plan of action
The good news is that body image is not a fixed state of mind. Your body image has changed before and it can change again–this time for the better.

A strategy to improve body image is more likely to be successful if it involves several methods to change your thought patterns. These might include talk therapy with a psychologist or licensed family therapist, a program of exercise, and regular massage treatment.

That’s right–massage
Studies have shown that massage has benefits for body image one might not expect. Upon closer examination, though, massage’s benefits regarding body image make perfect sense.

The power of touchCouple holding hands toward the sun
Our success as a species can be attributed to our ability to work together to solve the problems of survival. In short, we need each other whether we like it or not. We’re social creatures by nature.

Lack of touch and affection in early childhood development has been shown to cause irreversible psychological harm. Solitary confinement has been shown to be debilitating and damaging to mental health, even for those confined for relatively short periods of time.

Touch is literally the most tangible form of love and approval we can experience. When you’re touched with care by a fellow human being, the most primal parts of you are reassured that everything will be fine, that you’ll survive, that you deserve to survive, and that life will continue.

When you’re regularly touched in a therapeutic setting like massage, your body and mind get all those signals and more. Your mind/body connection is strengthened. Regular massage can nourish these feelings and help them become a natural part of your daily thinking process.

Naked with strangers
Massage as a form of self-care and as a way of enhancing wellness has been studied and proven for years, but many aren’t yet aware of it. Those coming in for the first time may be fighting feelings of anxiety, especially for those with body image issues. After all, massage is being naked (although strategically covered with a sheet) in a room with someone you’ve just met. Although the kind of massage we practice at GLM is not sexual in any way, touch therapy can be an intimate experience. Some clients experience an emotional release on the table as tension is eased throughout the body.

Further, some clients are afraid their bodies are being judged or evaluated when they come in for a session.

This isn’t so.

Massage therapists are trained to have a professional and caring mind-set when working with their clients. Our therapists don’t see a lump of biological imperfection, disesase or illness, or a collection of unhealthy habits: they see a whole person with fears, desires, needs, flaws, and virtues, all in one. We see each person as inherently valuable and wholly unique.

You should feel comfortable with your therapist so that you can keep an open dialog with them over what is working for you and what isn’t. While our massage therapists are trained professionals, they need to hear from you to know how your experience could be improved.

Wellness from the inside out
We want all our clients to be as healthy as possible, both inside and out. While external solutions like cosmetic surgery, hiring a personal trainer, improving your eating habits, and other strategies may help your body image to some extent, looks aren’t everything.

Health is one thing. How you see yourself is something else. There’s only so much that a personal trainer and plastic surgery can accomplish. A positive self-image that lasts comes from the inside out. Strengthening your mind/body connection through regular massage can be key in helping you rebuild a positive body image and loving the skin you’re in.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and official blogger at The Good Life Massage. You can follow him on Twitter @goodliferenton.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and official blogger at The Good Life Massage. You can follow him on Twitter @goodliferenton.

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Know Your Therapist–Amy Gunn

Know Your Therapist is your chance to become more familiar and comfortable with your massage therapist. If you aren’t sure which of our talented therapists would be best for you to come back to regularly, this is a great way to meet them and get to know who they are both personally and professionally. This is part 2 of a series of posts. Click here to read Part 1.

Amy Gunn has been a massage therapist since 2000 and is one of our most experienced employees. She’s the co-founder of our clinic, and is as passionate about business as she is about massage. She’s built a loyal following over the years, so she can be hard to schedule on short notice, but her clients will tell you her massages are well worth the wait.

We sat down with her and asked her a few questions about her life, her work, and what makes her particular brand of massage unique.

Tell us a little something about your personal life. Hobbies, interests, family, friends, etc.

Amy Gunn, LMP, Co-Founder of The Good Life Massage
Amy Gunn, LMP, Co-Founder of The Good Life Massage

I’ve been married almost 11 years. We have a superhero-obsessed son who is 3 going on 18. He definitely keeps me busy when I’m not at work, and I love it.

I’m a little embarrassed by my number of different hobbies. I really love to write novels (nothing published yet), and knit (always have a project or two in the works) I’ve also dabbled in several different musical instruments. I used to be a decent cellist, but I sound pretty rusty now.

I also did martial arts for several years and really enjoyed it. Lately, I’ve been getting my aggression out at the gym running on a treadmill and doing strength training.

Tell us about your career in massage. How did you get started? What events lead to you working here?

I was actually getting ready to go back to school on scholarship for business marketing back in 1998-99 when I suddenly realized that I didn’t really love the things I was doing and couldn’t imagine doing them for the rest of my career (I mean seriously – I still can’t understand why people enjoy working at a desk all day long!).

I took a break from school instead, and I guess heard one too many commercials for a local massage program. I thought “Hey, I could do that…” Yeah, honestly–that was about all the thought I put into it at first.

I happened to live a few miles away from the Utah College of Massage Therapy, which had such a great program that many people regularly came from out of state, and even out of the country, to study there. I had some great teachers and learned a lot of different modalities, but especially loved my training in deep tissue and other treatment work.

After I graduated, I hung up my shingle with a massage room out of my home. I did that for a few years, and then moved to only outcall sessions for awhile.

Most of my early career, though, was spent doing additional work with hospice agencies, which was rewarding, but stressful. I drove a lot. By the time I left Utah in 2009 I had put over 120,000 miles on my 4 year-old car, and I was pretty burned out too.

I took a few years to go work for someone else at a local franchise. I actually enjoyed a lot of it: mostly the fact that I was working with a team of other LMPs for the first time in my life. But I missed being in the driver’s seat and feeling like I had control over the direction of the business. When I started working there, I’d actually thought that I was just winding down my massage career before doing something else completely. Instead, I found it got me excited to get back out on my own again, this time with even more knowledge under my belt.

I started my own practice called This Side of Paradise in early 2013 and initially just rented space from Kylee and her business, The Good Life Massage. We were technically completely separate businesses. But because we were sharing a single treatment room, we ended up making a lot of business decisions together.

This pretty naturally morphed into an official business merger a year later, though we had no idea that would happen when we first started sharing the space. It’s been awesome to see all the growth we’ve had in the past year since we merged.

What’s your favorite part of this job? What gets you excited to come to work?

I love working one on one with my clients. The most rewarding moments are when someone walks out of the treatment room with a completely different outlook on life because they finally found relief from something they thought was going to plague them forever.

What is it about your massage that keeps your clients coming back? What makes you stand out from the other GLM therapists?

I enjoy giving serious treatment work, partly because the body is a puzzle and I’m trying to work out how to put it back together. I love a challenge! I can go deeper than many therapists do, but in a controlled way. Don’t ask me to go as deep as I can unless you know what you’re really asking for.

Pick a superpower: flying or turning invisible. Explain your answer.

I would probably have to pick flying. Which is maybe ridiculous considering that my ears hurt like crazy when I get on a plane.

We’re all about wellness here. What’s your favorite health habit? This can be something that you’re working on, have mastered, or just feel like our clients should be doing.

I’ve been into having vegetables with every meal lately. I’m not perfect at it, but I work at it. What I like about trying to live this habit is that it has challenged my creativity and sense of adventure.

I’ve gotten very good at sneaking spinach into things like protein shakes and pancakes–where my family and I get the benefit, but they don’t feel like they’re just eating rabbit food.

Finish this statement: I wish my clients knew …

… that I don’t judge their bodies nearly as harshly as they judge themselves. They may look in the mirror and see flabby this or saggy that–imperfections they see above all else.

To me, the human body is a sacred thing–a miracle of nature. And I think that, no matter how the bodies of real people measure up to the ideal body images that are in the media.

I honestly don’t remember those things my clients may hate most about their bodies. What really stays with me is who they are as a whole person. My hope with every massage is that my clients come away feeling more complete, more comfortable in their own skin–more in harmony with the world around them.

Thanks, Amy!

Click here to book a massage with Amy today!

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

To stay up-to-date on last minute openings in the schedule and blog posts, follow us on twitter!

@goodliferenton

You can also follow our Facebook page: facebook.com/thegoodlifemassage

Tom Gunn is the official blogger and social media marketer for The Good Life Massage. You can follow him on twitter @tomgunnpoet. 

5 Hydration Myths

If you’ve been in to see us, there’s one thing all our therapists recommend after a massage session:

“Drink plenty of water.”

But just how much is “plenty”? How much do you need, anyway?Gold fish jumping to big fishbowl

The Internet is full of information on hydration, but it turns out that the Internet is as good at spreading myths and misconceptions as it is at spreading facts.

Here are 7 myths about water to watch out for, and the facts you need to maximize your self care.

1. Drinking a glass of water before taking a bath helps lower blood pressure.

This simply isn’t true. According to the University of Washington, blood pressure is controlled by hormones, not your water intake. Decreasing the salt and sodium in your diet and increasing physical activity is the best way to lower your blood pressure.

2. Everyone should drink at least eight glasses of water per day.

This oft-repeated rule of thumb is just a starting point. Every body is different, and fluid intake should increase with heat and exercise to stay hydrated. But there’s no need to force-feed yourself water if your urine is a pale yellow and odorless and you’re not thirsty.

3. Caffeine dehydrates you. It’s like drinking negative water.

Caffeine is a dihurettic, which means it makes you need to urinate more often. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, caffeine poses no real risk of dehydration. While cafeinnated beverages like coffee and soda can be considered part of your fluid intake, water is still best. Water has no extra calories and doesn’t cause headaches or insomnia the way cafeinne does. Water, in fact, has been shown to reduce headaches and staying hydrated generally improves sleep.

4. Water keeps your skin looking young.

According to UW, your skin is about 30% water, so it naturally follows that staying hydrated is key for healthy skin. It should be remembered, however, that a number of other factors determine the health and longevity of your skin including genetics, age, sun exposure, diet, and more.

Hydrating may make a visible difference in someone who’s usually dehydrated, but you can’t expect that drinking your eight-a-day will keep you looking twenty forever. While water is not a magical youth potion, it is essential for maintaining health and that goes for your skin as much as any other part of you.

5. Drinking cold water helps you lose weight.

The logic goes like this: your body burns approximately 8 extra calories warming up a glass of ice water in your stomach so your body can process it. You do that ten times, and that’s a total of 80 calories.

That sounds pretty good, right? It might even help you burn off that stick of string-cheese you binged on or that small handful of grapes. Yep, that’s it. You can’t expect dramatic weight loss results from drinking ice-cold water.

Staying generally hydrated is essential to weight loss, but the primary proven method is a combination of increasing physical activity while decreasing calorie intake.

Drinking plenty of water may not offer all the magical benefits some Facebook memes may promise, but the real health benefits are well worth remembering this important aspect of health.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

For more tips on wellness, you can keep up with us on social media including:

Facebook: facebook.com/TheGoodLifeMassage
Twitter: @goodliferenton