UPDATE: This contest is now closed. However Green Mountain has extended the 20% discount through July 31. This gives you some time to consider if you want to (and can) invest in a stay there. Just call 1-800-448-8106 and mention that you heard about the discount here at Already Pretty if you decide you’d like to use the discount. (Not to be combined with any other offers.)
When I was in sixth grade, my then-boyfriend turned to me and said “Tom and all those guys say you’re really big, but it doesn’t matter to me.” And instead of hearing the part about his acceptance of me, all I heard was that people thought I was fat. This was absolutely news to me, as I’d never thought about my size, weight, or shape in any way before that moment. Never considered that other people were looking at me and judging me. It was an absolute revelation. And although I give him credit for trying to soften the blow and explain that he could care less, it still changed me. For the worse.
I don’t believe that single incident to be the sole source of my body image woes, but it set off some alarm bells and alerted me to ideas about body size and shape that I hadn’t previously pondered. And when I realized that I was bigger than my peers and that they knew it, I decided to change my body. And diets were all I could see.
So I started dieting around age 12, and continued on and off for around 16 years. And I lost some weight on a few of those diets, and gained most of it back over time. And I learned a little about nutrition and eating by implementing various diet plans, but I also learned about equating hunger and deprivation with accomplishment, about the anxiety produced by strict eating rules and the consequential rebellious eating, about dividing foods into “good” and “bad” categories. I dieted on and off for 16 years and I believe that it did me more harm than good.
So when the folks at Green Mountain at Fox Run contacted me about visiting their facility, I was intrigued. I’d first heard about Green Mountain via Medicinal Marzipan, a dedicated body image blogger and supporter of self-love for all bodies of all sizes. Mara’s endorsement meant a lot to me, so I did a bit of my own research, and agreed to visit.*
Green Mountain is an all-women’s health retreat in Vermont that takes a body-loving, non-diet approach to help women repair their relationships with food, their bodies, and themselves. They’ve been teaching the tenets of self love and mindful eating for more than 40 years and garnered a stellar reputation in the process. The program has nutrition and fitness components, but perhaps more importantly, the Green Mountain staff helps women end their struggles with eating and weight by working with them to identify issues around emotional and binge eating, change the self-defeating cycle of body hatred, and address stress management (one of the most important predictors of successful long-term health).
To me, that all sounded amazing but also a bit daunting. The first time I heard someone talk about having a “relationship with food,” I chuckled. People don’t have relationships with inanimate objects! Bah! Woo-woo nonsense! But over time I came to see that food and eating are among the most charged things that humans deal with on a daily basis. How we handle food and eating influences how we feel about our own judgment and self-control, how other people may view us, how our bodies function and feel, and what may happen to those bodies long-term. I don’t talk about food here on the blog because I just don’t know that much about it, and I’ll admit to being nervous about exploring my own relationship with food. I swore off diets almost seven years ago, but that doesn’t mean I’ve done much to understand my eating patterns. I don’t diet but I still struggle to eat healthy and feel satisfied, I still continually eat foods that don’t agree with me, and I still eat little during the week and loads on the weekends.
I learned so much at Green Mountain, and I want to share it all with you. But before I dig into some of the granular details, I want to share the most life-altering thing that I learned: Feeding your body is integral to self care. We eat for so many reasons. Food and eating are woven into our social structure and our emotional lives, which is marvelous and good. But if we lose sight of food as fuel, if we treat food as reward or punishment only, if we fail to provide our bodies with adequate and satisfying nourishment, we are missing a key piece of the self-care puzzle. How we feed ourselves impacts how we feel about ourselves.
The Green Mountain program is very focused on self care, and one of the first things I heard from Program Director Barbara Meyer, PhD, was that many women give away all their care-taking energy to others and reserve none for themselves. Over the course of my week there, nutritionists, fitness experts, psychologists, chefs, and staff all over the building drove home ideas of self care and nurturing. On the surface is food, eating, fitness, wellness, but underneath is body image, respect, and self care.
And what’s amazing is that they meet you right where you are. Exercise and fitness classes are all tailored to fit those with physical challenges, injuries, or specific needs. “Your pace is THE pace,” was a phrase I heard over and over again, and it helped participants feel valued, included, and motivated. Nutrition classes acknowledge that lifelong dieters already have loads of information about food, calories, fat, strategic eating, and related topics. But these classes offered eye-opening information about the importance of real satiety, of choosing whole foods over manufactured diet foods, of listening to what your body is asking for, of feeding yourself well. Body image and behavior classes delved into the seldom-asked questions surrounding eating: Why do we eat when we do? How do we make our food-related choices? What has years of functioning under the deprivation-based diet mentality done to our emotional cores? How can we be mindful when we do eat, and enjoy the experience to the fullest? Do we know what being hungry feels like? How else could we help ourselves feel supported, nourished, and whole?
No diet I’ve ever tried gave me this kind of insight.
Green Mountain will help any woman find her way to a healthier self. Weight loss, fitness, and related buzz words litter their website, and given the amount of activity engaged and (truly delicious) healthy food consumed, weight loss is a likely byproduct of a stay there. But having interviewed the owners and staff extensively, I can assure you that their main goal is to help the women who have come to Green Mountain feel better about themselves, to learn to care for and love their bodies regardless of size or shape. These folks know that focus on weight loss, scales, and numbers can often lead to impatience, disappointment, and even returning to cycles of bingeing and dieting. They want the women who have invested time, money, and trust in these retreats to leave their facility equipped with knowledge, renewed dedication to self care, and solid tools for healthy living outside the bubble of the Green Mountain world.
Now that I’ve waxed poetic for a billion words, allow me to tell you what a stay at Green Mountain is like. First off, it’s in Vermont. So, ya know, gorgeous.
The building is the same one they’ve used for the past 40 years, and the exterior looks a bit dated. But the rooms are clean, modern and lovely. This is what my room looked like:
Every week, participants get a schedule of classes and activities. The schedule is packed but varied, and during nearly all time slots you can choose between two possible options, frequently a nutrition or behavior class versus a physical activity class. All meals and snacks are included, and you are encouraged to eat only provided food in the group dining areas to increase mindfulness. The food portions are smaller than what you’d get at a typical restaurant, but bear in mind that most restaurants over-serve. The meals are tasty and satisfying, but healthy snacks are also available for nearly the entire day.
The first week of programming is designed to impart the basics of the Green Mountain philosophy: Healthy and sane nutrition, an understanding of the emotional and psychological reasons behind eating, and the fundamentals of do-able movement and fitness. You can opt out of any class at any time to sleep, hike in the beautiful surrounding woods, or meet one-on-one with professional staff for guidance or counseling. Although programming runs on a four-week cycle, you can opt to stay for as little as one week.
Which brings me to the unfortunate downside: Green Mountain is expensive. Especially if you’re considering a multi-week stay. There is a scholarship program and the Green Mountain blog is an amazing resource for those not inclined to visit, but funding a retreat on your own may be challenging. The cost covers meals, lodging, materials, intensive programming, and select one-on-one sessions with professional staff. For those who have struggled for ages and need an intensive, personal, carefully designed program that will help them heal from years of self-loathing, this program will feel worth the investment. All the participants I spoke with felt they’d spent wisely, and knew that what they learned about themselves during their time at Green Mountain would impact their lives forever.
That said, I am thrilled to have partnered with Green Mountain in two ways: The organization has very generously offered to give Already Pretty readers 20% off booking fees if you arrange for your retreat between now and June 30, 2012. Call 1-800-448-8106 and mention that you heard about the discount here at Already Pretty.
I am also excited to be partnering with Green Mountain to give away a week’s stay at the retreat center to one of you amazing readers. Please read the terms carefully before you consider entering. We are giving away:
- A one-week stay in a private accommodation at Green Mountain at Fox Run.
- Valid between now and July 1, 2013. (SEE UPDATE ABOVE.)
- Approval of requested dates contingent upon availability.
- Travel is NOT included. Please review this information about getting to Green Mountain. It is in a somewhat remote location.
- This giveaway is open to all readers, including international, but again, you are responsible for your own travel costs.
In order to enter, you must:
- Like Green Mountain on Facebook
- Sign up for their e-newsletter (scroll to box at right that says “Sign up for our Weight, Women & Wellness newsletter”)
- E-mail me. Tell me why you think you would benefit from a stay at Green Mountain and/or what excites you about this program. You must e-mail me to qualify. Comments on this post will not qualify you for entry.
I will select a winner at random on June 27 and notify the winner privately via e-mail.
Body image and self image crises can stem from infinite sources. But for anyone whose poor body image may be tied to eating and food, Green Mountain at Fox Run is a supportive, safe, loving environment in which to puzzle out and begin to work on those issues. I honestly can’t imagine a better program for those who struggle to feel good about eating, movement, and their own beautiful bodies.
I learned so much about my own behaviors, needs, and patterns during my week there and can say for certain that I’m changed forever. There’s no guilt or nagging as I move through my life post-retreat, no scolding voices in my head telling me what I can and cannot eat, do, and want. I feel enlightened and empowered, excited and well-equipped to think about my body, my eating habits, and my commitment to wellness in an entirely new way. This program is absolutely incredible, I’m honored to have had the chance to experience it. I encourage you to check it out if you feel like you might benefit from the Green Mountain way.
**Disclosure: Green Mountain at Fox Run funded my travel and stay at their facility. They did not pay me to write this post, and all opinions contained herein are entirely my own.