Category Archives: personal history

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Cleanses and Detoxes and Superfoods….and YOU??

What's in your stash?

What’s in your stash?

Where do you fit in with all these trends? Is it all hype to you? Or are you on Day 3 of your please-don’t-mention-food-to-me juice cleanse?

Does your diet have enough color, variety, antioxidants, nutrition, ahem, produce to keep you healthy? It is so hard to know in this age of powders and mega-nutrients packaged affordably and at eye-level, making us question whether we really are getting enough sea vegetables in our daily intake of normal-people food.

I myself have bought into it, to a degree. I mean, I have my shelves of nutritional supplements, including Spirulina, chia seeds and “Power Fuel.” I do feel good about these few add-ins, but in truth, I wonder if I even need to take my daily multivitamin anymore, now that I’m hyperconscious of every bite I take, and now that plants have become the largest slice on the pie chart that is my diet. If I consciously eat bell peppers simply because I haven’t had enough color in my diet yet today, I think it’s likely I’m at a point where my diet doesn’t need supplementing.

But what if it does? The constant barrage of news and findings in the media keeps us wondering, and there’s just something about second-guessing when it comes to your health. You don’t want to do it.

So, what’s my advice? As usual, everything in moderation. That means, if your heart is telling you it’s time for a juice cleanse, then try it. But don’t do 30 days; do 10 days. Take a look at the supplements out there, then take a look at your diet. Know that the supplements are not going to do the work of a good diet. They are not going to keep you healthy if you swallow them and then sit down to a greasy hamburger. My advice is to always eat consciously, aware of the nutrients you are consuming. Only then can you decide if your diet is lacking in something. If you scan the aisles at Whole Foods the sheer number of supplements available can be overwhelming…even enticing. But necessary? I’m not so sure.

Meet a Real Fitness Girl: Chrissy

This girl's on a roll.
This girl’s on a roll.

Chrissy has been working out with me for about a year now. Her workouts range from Jazzercise to Roller Derby, and I’ve watched her lose weight and change hair colors over this time. What follows is her real-life exercise story.

KTFG: When did you start really getting into working out?
CW: I have worked out off and on since high school. I belonged to Gold’s Gym back then. I have had many ups and downs on the scale and in my physical ability. On August 1 2012 I started my latest (and last!) re-start to exercising and eating better.

KTFG: What was your workout of choice?
CW: Early in my workout days I did aerobics and slugged away at the stair climber. My father was a body builder so I have dabbled in weight lifting since I was a kid. I much prefer the aerobics and have always enjoyed the social aspect of fitness classes.

This go round I have been doing Karen’s Core and More Class and Jazzercise. Both are hard but are fun and social. I think the one thing I am missing is I need to add in a once a week yoga class. Oh, and spinning, I was on a spinning kick for a while and miss it. I bet my padded shorts are too big now… ok, sorry. I am addicted to workout gear.

Recently (July 2013) I joined the Roller Derby Rec League. It is an awesome way to burn some calories while having fun. I will roller skate for hours but refuse to run. Ok, well, if some bad guys were chasing me I would run but… only if I had no choice.

KTFG: What do you do when you feel like sitting on the couch, but you know you really should get up and exercise?
CW: This particular scenario is not my issue (right now). I have built my days around exercising. I put my workout clothes on in the morning, drop my daughter off at school and head to Jazzercise. I HATE being out in public in workout clothes IF I am not working out soon. I much prefer real clothes and get super mad at myself if I wear workout clothes and do not work out.
However you do need to build in a day off where you have permission to “sit on the couch” or whatever variation of that recharges you or you will go crazy.

KTFG: How do you self-motivate?
CW: Presents! I buy myself new stuff the MINUTE anything gets too big. I am addicted to buying new workout stuff. I am really looking forward to rewarding myself with some of the nice expensive stuff when I get closer to my goal weight. For now I hit Marshall’s every couple of weeks.

KTFG: Where do you see yourself down the line in terms of physical health?
CW: I am strangely healthy for someone who has so much weight to lose. But I do want to maintain and improve my health. I want to be one of those people that looks like they are getting younger rather than older.

KTFG: What are your goals?
CW: I have long had a “secret” goal of becoming a Weight Watchers leader. But you have to get to and stay at “goal weight” to do that and I have not managed that yet. Also I am working towards becoming a Jazzercise instructor. So I guess my answer is that I want to be healthy and fit enough to be a Weight Watchers leader and Jazzercise instructor so that I can help other people change their lives too.

KTFG: How does weight training fit in with your other workouts?
CW: I do hand weights in various ways to at least 2 – 3 songs per workout.

KTFG: How does it make a difference?
CW: It helps improve my strength in everyday life. I live in a townhouse and lugging groceries up the stairs is much easier when I am working my arms with weights.

KTFG: What advice would you give to someone who knows she needs to be exercising/eating a healthy diet but just can’t imagine how to begin?
CW: 1. Find a way to make it social. Walking with a friend, taking a class, anything that gets you moving AND is fun.
2. Make your workout time concrete on your schedule.
3. Believe that you deserve to be healthy and happy! And when you are, you will be a better you for yourself and everyone around you!

A Good Time for Transformation

The way I see it, life is pretty mundane unless you’re working on some sort of transformation. Giving up smoking, becoming vegetarian, becoming a parent—whether it’s a small or huge change, there’s a reason every year begins with New Year’s resolutions and the excitement about “starting fresh.” Life would be a long walk on a treadmill if we didn’t throw some challenges in its wake every now and again.

We love us a good transformation. It’s my favorite part of a talk show—when they show the grizzly bear of a man in the “before” picture, and then have the Men’s Health cover-ready version walk out on stage in the “after” version. Or the dowdy woman who has never cut her hair or shopped at a mall who walks out in a trendy new ‘do and J. Crew outfit? Forget about it. It makes me tear up. And I just bet it has the same effect on you.

In my world, the transformations I see most often are flabby to tight. Weak to strong. Heavy to much, much lighter. Carnivore to herbivore. Mindless to thoughtful. You see, becoming a healthier being is not just about waking up early to get your 30 minutes in at the gym. It’s also about transforming yourself, mind, body and spirit. Imagine you are going to be the guest on that talk show: what would your “before” picture look like? And what about the “after”? What is it you hope to transform?

I consider myself a constant work in progress. My body—that’s a given. I’m always finding ways to push myself to higher boundaries. But spiraling out of that is the diet transformation, which has gone from vegetarian to mostly vegan, always looking for more ways to be more plant-based and learning, learning, learning…. It’s genuinely a thrill. Then there’s the spiritual, metaphysical part of me that’s goading my transformation from a reluctant successful trainer to allowing myself to ask, what if? What if I do allow my business to blossom? What if things get big? What if?

I do love a good walk on a treadmill, but I can’t imagine being stuck on it for too long. I stay inspired by watching the transformative successes of my clients, and by creating new challenges for myself all the time. What does your “after” picture look like? What small steps can you take now to get yourself from here to there?

Meet a Real Fitness Girl: Cindy P-L

Cindy P-L has been training with me for a couple of years now. I’ve seen her get strong, go vegan, and lose weight. Her progress is worth mentioning, so here is her story, in her words.

Cindy P-L

I have been a serial regular exerciser all of my adult life.  Unfortunately, this was interspersed with bouts (months to years) of time out of the workout routine also. Fortunately, almost 3 years ago, I started working out 5-6 days a week, and this time, it seems to be sticking.

I like the balance of cardio plus weight training because I absolutely know that my body needs both. I always strive for cardio daily to promote weight loss. However, I need to do weight or resistance training and most importantly core work at least 3-4 times per week. Having a strong core has made everything else easier, and the same goes for stronger arms and legs.

When I need to self-motivate, I remember my commitment to myself and my health and how great I feel since I’ve been serious about it.  And I reestablish my health goals in my mind. Truthfully, I also have a strong fear of missing 1 day and that day turning into missing a week, and so on.  It has happened so easily and quickly in my life in the past.

Down the line, I hope to lose 15-20 more pounds (that will be 85-90 total) and then slow down the workout routine just slightly.  I’d like to reach a point where my long-term routine is 4 hard workouts a week, plus active family time.

I know that regular exercise will be a part of my routine for the rest of my life in order to remain healthy, stave off the diabetes that most of my family experiences, and remain comfortably active. My most important goal is to run around with my grandchildren one day!

My advice for someone who knows she needs to be exercising/eating a healthy diet but just can’t imagine how to begin: Start with small goals. When you’re 20 or even 100 pounds overweight and you’re not working out or eating well, it’s hard to get started because it all feels overwhelming. It’s important to know that every meal eaten more healthily and every minute working out is positive motion. You need to accept that it might take years to meet your goals. But, the good news is that during those years, you feel better and better every day, so it’s not lost time at all.

For me, the best advice is that there’s no quick fix, and that’s really OK!