On kindness, punishment and paper bags…

On a sunny afternoon at Westmont College I strolled into my favorite class, surrounded by my best friends and slid into my seat. It was a day just like any other day…breezy, beautiful and for the most part carefree. This particular professor was known for his unique, inspiring and sometimes intimidating teaching style. On this particular afternoon he started class in silence a passed out brown paper bags, one for each student. I can’t quite remember the details of what came next but what I can remember is that soon enough the entire class was sitting silently with paper bags over our heads.

He then instructed us to state out loud what thoughts go on in our head that no one else can hear…in other words, what truths we believe about ourselves that we keep hidden.

The murmurs started quietly and within seconds loud statements were being shared freely, all at the same time, the classroom became a sort of confessional, the paper bags providing just enough safety for honesty to come forth.

Amidst the murmur, I said one sentence.

“I believe I have to be skinny to be worth loving.”

I’d never said that sentence before. In fact, it surprised me. I hadn’t realized that this belief had become one of my biggest truths.

Up until this point in my life I had an on-again off-again relationship with fitness.  My perspective had always been very black or white.

girl with running shoes

Exercise was about calorie burn.

Exercise was about weight loss.

Food had two categories: “good” and “bad.”

And if I’m honest, I used both food and exercise as a form of punishment.

If I ate too much I definitely had to workout to make up for it.

If I didn’t workout then I had to watch my calories and definitely couldn’t eat anything “unhealthy.”

And if the equation didn’t add up I would ruminate on the feelings of guilt and engage in an endless conversation with myself about how I screwed up, how I’m so fat, how I’m going to get more fat, how I NEED to do better.


The thing is, I never, EVER felt like I had to be skinny to be loved within my family or during my upbringing. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I (like so many young women) started absorbing messages from the media about what it means to be beautiful that I started realizing I was not “that” (a skinny, airbrushed model in a magazine).

From the paper bag day forward, I began to change. When I made that declaration out loud, for the first time it sounded ridiculous. For the first time I was able to recognize that I was believing a lie.

And I began to change. Day by day, decision by decision, new thought by new thought.

I stopped working out. And it was awesome. And I didn’t get fat (!).

And then a friend asked me to train for a half-marathon and I felt like it was time. It was time to get back into exercise, but this time for the right reasons. And it was so much fun. Yes, exercise was (*gasp*) fun!


Sunday afternoon runs with my friends became a time for conversation, laughter and bonding.

Coming home exhausted but accomplished was the best feeling ever.

A year later I added another love into my newfound relationship with exercise…Pilates.

Pilates took me one step further on my journey. During class I learned to listen to my body, to respect my body and to work WITH it, not against it.

And ultimately, Pilates began to change my body and my mind for the better.

Pilates instructor menlo park

Exercise became less and less about calorie burn and punishment and more and more about kindness.

Other practical changes I made included cutting out gossip magazines, tossing my scale, purposely staying silent when friends talked about feeling fat/needing to exercise/wanting to lose weight, and journaling to change my self-talk.

It’s been a long journey and it’s one that I’m still on today. It’s why I do what I do. It’s why I’ve literally dedicated my life and career to the purpose of inviting others along on this journey with me. It’s what this space is about.

Because it’s too easy to give in as a consumer and sell out as a professional.

It’s too easy to listen to the lies and fall back into the ways of the world.

Because life is so much better when decisions are made out of kindness instead of punishment.

I eat well because it makes me feel better.

I take care of myself because when I do I am a happier human.

I exercise because my body was MADE to move.

I exercise because it gets me away from the computer, in tune with my spirit and makes the world feel a little brighter.

Beauties, if you can relate to this struggle…doing nothing is not an option. Doing nothing will lead you backwards every time. We must commit to breaking the cycle…one thought/purchase/comment at a time.

So I challenge you today to take a close look at your relationship with your body and exercise. Are you currently using exercise or your diet as a form of punishment or as an act of kindness?







 skinny dip society blog tour

This post is a part of the Skinny Dip Society blog tour hosted by the lovely Katie Den Ouden. Katie has brought together 25 incredible bloggers from around the country who are dedicated to living happy, brave, free and ALIVE and asked us to share our stories.

Continue the tour…

Be sure to check out yesterday’s post by Natalie of Thoughts By Natalie and the new Nellie Mag (I just love her stuff).


Website: www.thoughtsbynatalie.com
Facebook: Thoughts By Natalie
Instagram: @natalieborton
Twitter: @natalieborton

And tomorrow you can continue the tour with Erin over at Sewbon.


Website: www.sewbon.com
Facebook: Sewbon
Instagram: @sewbon
Twitter: @sewbonblog

Enjoy the tour!

PS – have you seen this sneak peek yet? Hint: free Pilates on my blog for the entire month of February! More details coming soon…

Ready to finally stay consistent with exercise – even when you’re short on time & energy?
Join me for the FREE Creating Healthy Routines Workshop & walk away with an exercise routine you can put into action immediately!

  1. Robin Hallett 7 years ago

    Hi Robin,

    I was so moved reading this post. The paper bags were such a cool thing for your prof to do! I imagine the freedom it gave you and wow how freeing to wake up to that story you’d been carrying.

    What blows me away is seeing again how much more we have in common – that story in our heads can be so similar, but we usually believe we’re the only one. I want to thank you for sharing your story so more of us can know we’re not alone!

    thank you!


    • Robin Long 7 years ago

      Thanks, Robin! It’s great to hear from you and good to know others can relate 🙂

  2. Audrey Michel 7 years ago

    I love it! So many women can identify with believing you have to be skinny to be loved. I know I can!


  3. Maddie 7 years ago

    I 100% remember doing the paper bag thing in Spencer’s class! And I’m pretty sure I mumbled something along the same lines as you.
    Love what you are doing here!

    • Robin Long 7 years ago

      Yes, Maddie! Oh, Spencer. Wish I could go back in time…. 🙂

  4. Catherine 7 years ago

    i loved this post and have been mulling it around in my mind all week. i keep catching myself thinking ” i need to run/go to the gym/workout b/c i just ate a big meal and i have to balance it out” Or something along those lines. it’s a hard habit to cut out that frame of mind and really exercise for the love of exercise and health. Gonna work on this one:)

  5. Marianne 7 years ago

    Such a great realization and what an amazing exercise to do to learn the lies we tell ourselves. This story blows me away. I’ve never thought of exercise as being kind to yourself, it’s always been something I dread but know I have to do to stay in shape and sometimes I just won’t exercise for months at a time.
    But keeping it in the back of my mind that it’s being kind to ME, makes me look at it in a whole different light. Thank you.

    • Robin Long 7 years ago

      Hi Marianne, I’m so glad it resonated with you. It took me a long time to realize this difference and change my mindset but it’s SO much better now. No guilt, no shame. Just doing what I can to be kind to myself 🙂

  6. Enya 7 years ago

    I admire your braveness to share your journey and how you came to love Pilates so much. I recently found this class called Willpower & Grace and I am in love, I do not feel like I HAVE to work out and it makes my body to happy to move. I am happy I found your blog, your exercises are a great inspiration as well 🙂

    • Robin Long 7 years ago

      Thanks Enya! I’ve heard of Willpower & Grace but haven’t had a chance to check it out myself yet. I’ll have to do that. I’m so glad to hear that it’s been a healthy option of you 🙂

  7. Lissa 7 years ago

    “I eat well because it makes me feel better.
    I take care of myself because when I do I am a happier human.
    I exercise because my body was MADE to move.
    I exercise because it gets me away from the computer, in tune with my spirit and makes the world feel a little brighter.”

    So in love with this! I can absolutely identify with this. It’s the biggest reason I love Katie and everything she does. It’s not about limiting myself…it’s about taking care of myself, acknowledging that I’m awesome and living a life that is fun and fulfilling. Thanks for this post Robin!

    • Robin Long 7 years ago

      Thank you Lissa! I’m glad this post resonated with you in some way 🙂

  8. Megan 7 years ago

    When did you go to Westmont? I graduated in ’06! I am really enjoying getting to know you through your blog, and I love your perspective for healthy living!

    • Robin Long 7 years ago

      We were there at the same time! So funny! I love small world connections like that.

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