Category Archives: mental health

New Strength Training for Beginners Class! Saturdays at 9:30.

You know you’re supposed to be lifting weights, but need help getting started? This class is for you. I’ll make sure you know basic exercise names and that you’re using proper form, and introduce you to different types of gym equipment. As the weeks progress, you’ll find your coordination will improve, and you’ll be able to use different muscle groups within a single exercise to make your workouts more interesting and challenging!

Contact me for details, or sign up via the Classes tab on this website. Can’t wait to get you STRONG!

Fat. And Happy?

Lindy West has decided to “come out” as a fat person. She told the world about it on This American Life last week, so she’s sticking by it. Rather than feeling like “a thin person who has been failing her entire life,” she’s just fat. Not overweight—just fat. And she’s okay with it.

I really do get that on a certain level. It must be some kind of difficult to feel anxious about your body and diet every single day of your life. Yet, as a fitness professional, I can’t help but think, “But I can help put you on the right path! Don’t give up!”

I have heavy clients with the energy and enthusiasm of thin people. I also have heavy clients who talk more than they (literally) walk, which is frustrating for both of us. Some say they don’t care how they look, just want more energy to do normal daily activities. Some really, really care how they look. Everyone is different, with different motivations, and yet, I wonder, what must it be like for someone who is overweight (sorry, I’m just not ready to say “fat”) to really truly give up the fight? Or maybe I’m asking, is it really truly possible to give up—for real?? To just ignore the extra weight?

I’m going to go on doing what I do, because my passion is helping people learn to live a healthier lifestyle—whether it’s initially for weight loss or not doesn’t even matter because a healthier lifestyle leads to weight loss in the end. I really do see overweight people turn into smaller versions of themselves in my work, and that always pleases both me and my client. But I’m open to listening to people like Lindy West, and trying to be less judge-y, and learning from those who fight that fight every day. I can’t imagine what it must be like. I might be able to understand why a person would want to find peace with who she is right now rather than always striving to be someone else, saving that peace for a time that, honestly, might never come.

Is That a Sunbeam on Your Face?

Man, I’ve been putting in some major hours. Waking up early, making strict lists, doing a lot of reading. I didn’t get a new job. I’m working on my happiness.

My 8-year-old just made this. Hopefully this means I'm being a good role model!

My 8-year-old just made this. Hopefully this means I’m being a good role model!

Recently I made the startling realization that I do A LOT of things in a day to keep me happy. Not just to keep me alive—but to keep me happy. When I made an off-the-top-of-my-head list of things I do on a daily basis…well, it was shocking. Staying happy—really happy, not just content—is sort of like a job.

Here’s some of my list:

  • Doing yoga/stretching
  • Meditating
  • Reading (fiction, motivational, educational, news)
  • Watching (informative shows, staying up-to-date shows)
  • Reading Notes from the Universe email
  • Eating super consciously (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, parsley, veggies, vitamins, probiotics, oh my)
  • Drinking water
  • Keeping a one-line journal
  • Noting moments of gratitude
  • Drinking tea
  • Keeping everything in moderation (exercise, fun, food)
  • Getting good sleep
  • Balancing work-life
  • Exercising
  • Spending focused time with the kids
  • Having a conversation or two with my husband

The thing is, it’s a heavy world we’re living in. It would be very easy to give in and let cynicism and depression take over. But there’s a lot of beauty in the world, too, and I choose that side. But like an arm-wrestling match, many days the gloomy side is pushing awfully hard against the sunny side, and it takes great effort to keep sunny in the game.

What do you do to stay happy?

My list works for me—you can’t just copy it, because drinking lots of water and knowing you’re healthier for it might not make you feel happy like it does me. So where you might need a chat with your mom or best friend, I might choose a quiet 30 minutes curled up with my book. Either way, both of us will have boosted our happiness chemicals (e.g., serotonin and dopamine). The neurochemicals are a real thing, as fluffy as this subject sounds, and just as insulin is necessary to regulate blood sugar, dopamine and serotonin are necessary to regulate our happiness, motivation and feelings of self-worth.

If the idea of making your own list and introducing a few new happiness-inducing action items into your daily life makes you feel—well—unhappy, try to add just one new habit at a time. “Start exercising” might be too big, too vague. So maybe you can start with a gratitude journal, and I give you permission to make just a bullet list of 3 things you are grateful for each day. Try that for 2 weeks and see how it makes you feel. If you’re enjoying it, add in another action item. Maybe it will be to sign up for a once weekly yoga class. See there? Happiness is creeping in.

It takes effort to keep our minds peaceful, our attitudes playful. In fact, if you just go about your daily existence giving no thought to your happiness, you are pretty much guaranteed to be less than a happy person. Try to see the list you create as an antidote to a ho-hum life. Positivity is empowering. It makes you walk taller. As Roald Dahl said, If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

May you always look lovely.

 

 

 

 

The Skin You’re In

You know how you start worrying that your brand-new house will one day start showing its age the moment you move in? Of course not! You revel in the new-house smells, the extra space, the tiny quirks…because it’s yours, all yours.

So why would you behave differently about your new body? If you’re just starting on your weight loss journey and seeing some progress, you might be noticing that there’s skin hanging where there used to be more “filling.” So it’s natural that you are going to start worrying about the saggy skin. But don’t jump the gun. It’s not necessary or useful to worry about the next phase of the game yet. Continue to focus on your weight loss, and look at the loose skin as a badge of honor. Who made that fat disappear? You did!

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s much healthier to lose weight slowly. When you lose slowly, say 1 pound a week, maybe 2 some weeks, your skin has an easier time adapting, and you are much likelier to keep the weight off long-term. Slow weight loss means you’ve changed lifestyle behaviors, like reducing sugar, beef, processed foods, fast-food, etc., instead of trying a fad diet like juicing for a week. It takes patience to lose the right way, but it’s worth it because it will last.

When it’s been a while and you’re still keeping up with your new healthy lifestyle, okay, maybe you can think about what to do next to tighten up the skin. Our skin is elastic, full of cells, and grows and shrinks over time to fit our body size(s). Given time, maybe a couple of years, your skin will begin to shrink back over your new body. The older we get and the longer you’ve been heavy, however, the less elasticity the skin has. You can help the process along by drinking plenty of water and eating a proper diet, and also—very important—strength training to continue developing lean muscle. So far it’s still all in your control, and you’ll still be seeing that healthy slow progress.

Surgery is an option if you get all the way to this point and you’re still carrying too much loose skin. But please keep in mind that while you’re recovering from this intense procedure, you won’t be able to exercise, and you can easily lapse into those old, poor behaviors. Think about how much better you look now, loose skin and all. See what you’ve accomplished already? Don’t worry about the next step until there’s something to worry about. Use that energy to go grab another workout!

How Deep Is Your Love?

You’re a really great person. You do everything you can for your family. You work hard at whatever you do, you are there for your spouse and your kids, you know they know how much you love them.

But if you aren’t taking care of YOU, you’re not doing enough.

I could end this right here by saying: What good are you to your family if you drop dead of a heart attack that you absolutely could have prevented?

If you really, truly love your spouse and your kids, your parents and your friends, you will get up out of that chair and go take a walk. You will quit that smoking nonsense. You will eat more spinach and less fried chicken. You will just say no to soda. If you don’t, you’re just plain selfish. Yes, selfish—because if you don’t take these simple measures seriously, you are basically telling your loved ones that you care just a tiny bit less than 100% about them. You don’t care quite enough to ensure you stick around—without being a burden on them—as long as possible.

It’s February, not too late to get your resolutions in gear, and also the month when we celebrate love. Think hard about the people you love (hopefully you’re including yourself here), and think about all you do for them. You would do anything for them, wouldn’t you? So get the help you need to make yourself a healthier parent, spouse and friend. Show them how deep your love is.

Go ahead. Be lured by the clean slate.

This is the time of year when you should feel motivated and energized, pumped up by the promise of a fresh start and all the sweet wonderfulness that your resolution successes will bring. If you don’t feel that, you might want to take a look at why.

I know resolutions aren’t for everyone—and actually I think that’s a good thing. I always say that resolutions can be made any day of the year. But you can’t deny that clean slate that January 1 offers. There’s just something about starting a new year that makes even the non-resolution-makers feel like making a fresh start.

If you aren’t moved by that feeling, aren’t remotely inclined to try a little harder, then ask yourself what’s going on inside. What’s dragging you down and allowing you to live the Groundhog Day kind of life?

If it’s the drudgery of your job, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new one, or maybe take a class to learn a new (and hopefully marketable) skill. If it’s the morning routine of getting your kids up and out the door (I don’t choose that one randomly), do some research or have a family pow-wow and come up with ways the morning can be made more enjoyable (or least less horrible!).

And wait for it: Try adding exercise to your life. The hamster wheel you feel like you’re on might release you if you have the bounce in your step, the extra burst of confidence and energy that can only come from 30 minutes of exercise every day. I am so confident that you will be a happier—more resolute—person, I’d be willing to bet you on it. You will never, not ever, regret exercising. And it truly might be that one thing that will make aiming higher in a new year seem like a great idea.

Back to School Time, Back to YOU Time

With the kids back in school, you can finally think a complete thought start to finish again. And maybe one of your thoughts involves getting back into an exercise routine. That’s a good thought, and you should act on it, because as we tell our kids, when we exercise, it makes us better parents.

Search for something new if you need more motivation than a gym membership. Look for an activity that you’ve always thought you might like to try, and see if it fits into your schedule. “Date around” and try a few different classes or activities without commitment. Eventually you’ll land on one that might stick!

If you’re nervous about getting back to the gym because it’s been a while and equipment (or your body) has changed, do a few private sessions with a trainer, who can get you up to speed, so you’ll be better prepared to go solo.

Hopefully you’ve been looking forward to this time—this little bit of YOU time. You deserve it, you need it, and you owe it to yourself and your family to stay in shape. So get out there and find a new workout routine…and then stick to it!

For a Tighter Body, Open Your Mind

Funny how often I talk and write about headspace when my work revolves around the body. The more I work on bodies, though, the more I learn just how symbiotic the relationship is between the head and the heart.

Whether you’re a metaphysical thinker or not, there are few who will deny that a positive attitude helps the body behave the way you want it to behave. Thinking about getting well helps your body overcome a cold much faster than dwelling on the sickness; imagining your body as light and fast makes a run fly by with some enjoyment, whereas focusing on being heavy and sluggish makes each step a burden.

Peel it back another layer. Are there barriers to your physical health that a deeper dive into your mind might help bring down? One thing I didn’t expect as a trainer was how much of my job would be acting as a therapist. I’ve come to cherish this aspect of my work. Not every trainer will go there, of course. And not every client wants to go there. To me, though, talking through a workout can mean chatting to keep your mind off the hard work you’re doing, or—and often—having epiphanies every now and again about why you can’t stop eating the chips, or why you don’t like to run, or even why you got overweight in the first place. Sometimes figuring some of these things out leads to spillover epiphanies, like “My friend’s strange behavior might be a reaction to my successful loss of weight. It’s her problem! It’s not me!” This happens a lot, because changing your lifestyle by adding more exercise can equate to a more positive overall attitude—and the people who were attracted to your old, woe-is-me personality won’t always be the same people you’ll attract to your new and improved, happier personality. There’s a lot of psychology going on there… and it’s important to talk about it.

Sometimes I even recommend that people who embark on a particularly huge lifestyle-changing exercise routine see a true therapist at the same time. Your head and your heart depend on each other, so it’s important to keep them in simultaneous working order. Don’t take the head stuff lightly—taking a closer look at what’s going on in there could be just the thing to get you to the next level in your physical fitness.

Down, but SO Not Out

It’s not easy to admit that my body is getting older. I subscribe fully to the truth that age is only a number, otherwise meaningless. I put my body through workouts now that are possibly tougher than some of the ones I did 20 years ago. And yet, I am learning I am not invincible. To be fair, I wasn’t invincible 20 years ago either. But at least back then I wasn’t expected to realize that.

Last week I strained my back—that’s where this is stemming from. It wasn’t too terrible—I could still walk and drive, I wasn’t confined to the sofa—but I was debilitated. I couldn’t pick up my son, or the cat fur I saw on the floor. Worse, I couldn’t work out. It was highly frustrating. I felt like I could see my body changing before my eyes, and then realized it had only been 2 days since I’d last exercised.

The very first thing I did when it happened was some light but consistent (hourly) stretching so my back wouldn’t just stiffen up. Getting into the stretches hurt a bit, but the stretches themselves felt wonderful. I used a cold pack and tried to lie still a while. Then I went to see an RN who’s also a personal trainer. She said, “You know why they sent you to me? Because I’m going to tell you to take the advice you give your clients every single day!” I really don’t know why I paid for the visit. I dish it out all the time:
1. Rest and ice. Just for a couple of days! Come on!
2. Ibuprofen for the inflammation—regular doses, don’t be afraid to take the meds.
3. Stretch, stretch, stretch! One yoga class a week will not suffice!
4. Vary your workouts. Too much of any one thing will almost certainly result in injury of some variety.

Just days before my strain I had been noting to myself that I had been doing almost exclusively high-impact exercise of late. My schedule has been keeping me from my usual lower-impact choices, like spinning, and we’ve been doing lots and lots of extra walking with this beautiful weather—to the point that my feet have been hurting a little. So I actually rode the bike at the gym one day—something I never do because I think it’s boring, and used the elliptical-style machine—ditto about the boring—and then, bang! The next day I bent over and my muscle spasmed and my body said, “too little too late.”

I am so grateful that my injury wasn’t as bad as I know some back injuries can be. Three days after it happened I ran in a neighborhood race. I attribute my quick recovery to all the work I do to stay strong in my legs and my core—they came to my rescue! And I took this surprise pain as a clear sign that I need to start treating my body with even more care. I don’t plan to ease up on my workouts, but I absolutely need to balance the running with the spinning and swimming and strength work, laying off from all the pounding of running to challenge my body in other ways to give my back a break. I think I’ll also take this as a sign that it’s time to start getting regular massages!

I’m an active person, always have been, and sharing the passion is what I live for. But that doesn’t mean I’m above routine aches and pains. It’s time to admit that I’m only human, and that while exercise fixes most body issues, it can also cause some—if we’re not careful.

Are You Brave Enough to Be a B Student?

My right quad is a little trembly but I’m holding my triangle pose patiently as my yoga teacher takes a moment to adjust a new person in class. I take my eyes off myself in the mirror for just a second, glance around the room at some other nearby triangle poses. It’s funny—I’m impressed, but it’s not the poses of the seasoned yogis that catch my eye. What I like to see is someone who knows when to hold back.

It is in our nature to want to please the teacher, or at least follow the herd, and by this I am referring to all those times when the instructor says, “Don’t continue to the next part of the exercise until your body is ready for it,” yet five people who are clearly not ready for it continue on anyway because everyone else is doing it. The person who impresses me, who I want to send a secret smile, is the one who doesn’t move on past her current level—who is working very hard at the level she is now, and knows that when she is ready, she’ll know it, and will try to move forward then.

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This is a digression but I promise it will make sense in a minute: I am so into Neil deGrasse Tyson right now—the brilliant and multitalented astrophysicist who is hosting the new series “Cosmos.” I like him because he’s smart and passionate about his interests, but I really like his insights into how to be a better person. For example, he says to teachers: Don’t take credit for your straight-A students—straight-A students were going to get all As with or without you. But if you have a B student and lifted him up to an A student, then you can be proud of that accomplishment. In other words, pay closer attention to those B and C students, because they need encouragement where the A kids already have it.

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If you’re a “B student” in your weight-lifting class, hold your teacher’s attention by trying your hardest as the B student you are. Let those heavy-lifting, perfect-form A students do their thing—admire only long enough to know that it’s in your power to get there, too, with hard work and consistent progress. But a good teacher will see your efforts, and encourage with gentle tips, or nudges to push harder when you might otherwise be nervous. Be proud to be a B student, determined and working at the level appropriate for you. It’s safer, it’s likely to pay off, and it’s impressive.