Last night my daughter asked me the one question that I always refuse to answer when a friend or client asks me: am I fat? I replied do you think you’re fat? She pushed further asking me to choose between whether she was skinny or fat. I responded that I wouldn’t pick either, as those adjectives are negative labels cast about by a society obsessed with perfect bodies – something that doesn’t exist.
In my conversation with my daughter, I took it a step further and pointed out that there are a myriad of body descriptions (labels) in-between skinny and fat, and none of those might fit her body type either. But even still I was not going to be cornered into labeling my child. I said if you feel fat, we can talk about that and I can always instruct you in ways to change your body composition to be healthier. But if you’re just worried that compared to the next girl you’re “fat” then I’m not going to engage in that kind of labeling and neither should you. Remember, every BODY is different!
The idea of placing a descriptive label on a “body” lends itself towards negative views and feelings on the part of both the describer and the describee. Unless you’re giving an eye witness account to a crime where physical descriptions are necessary, I feel that we over-use these negative body labels all the time and this wide-spread habit is an assault on our self-esteem.
If I were to tell you fascinating a story about one woman’s journey, would it matter if she was skinny or fat? I suppose if it was about her climbing a mountain it might come into play about what kind of shape she’s in. But if I’m telling you about a woman confronting a governmental or societal obstacle or battling cancer, it doesn’t matter in the least what her physical shape is. Yet we always seem to embellish our stories with these details.
If I describe a woman as stocky and solid, you will most likely imagine someone akin to an Olympic gymnast or swimmer. But if she’s just an average girl, that description might make you think she was short with a thick torso, which society has labeled as less attractive. If I describe a woman as lean and ripped, most would imagine a track and field star or fitness model. As Society has deemed that body type as one to be coveted, are the rest of us then sub-par?
This matters to boys and men too as society’s labels have suggested that if they’re not “strong and buff” they can’t get the girl of their dreams. I find all these labels to be detrimental on the whole because it’s diminishing the importance of our character, habits, and manners thereby making how we look – or what shape/size our bodies are – the more important factor.
So I ask you now to note how many stories or incidents you tell throughout your week where you interject something about a person’s skin color, size, shape, age – and then assess if those descriptions (or adjectives) were necessary to the story. Also note how many times your children describe people or other children with labels that they either envy or disdain. Perhaps with more awareness we can move away from these labels and get down to the more important facts and issues of life.
For most people, success in life is measured by the job they hold, the money they make, and the possessions they acquire. We raise our children to aim for this trifecta, focusing on school and grades and constant “upward” movement. Unfortunately I feel the most important skill or tool that we can provide our children with to help them “succeed” in life is often the least focused on – relationships.
Relationships are the essence of our lives and without the ability to maintain good relationships, I believe we truly cannot succeed. From home life to the office, if you cannot communicate and work well with people, your forward movement is limited. If you do not have a supportive group of family and friends (co-workers too), all of your challenges and hardships rest solely on your head and shoulders.
But a person who cultivates and cares for relationships above college degrees, money, and acclaim is a person who will get further than just their career/life experience will take them. Did you know that people who were in fraternities or sororities are 60% more likely to have successful careers because they have a network of built-in friends to gain support, leads, and referrals from? Again, it’s about relationships!
Consider two people with the same exact education and experience applying for the same job. Person A has not learned the fine art of conversation, improvisation, and the ability to find something to relate to with everyone they meet. Person B puts relationships and real communication paramount over everything else they do, and they want people to be comfortable around them. Guess who gets the job?
In this age of technology-focused society, the current generation(s) are learning texting instead of talking. We are pushing our youth to stay ahead of the curve with their computer skills and educational goals, which is essential to stay competitive with other countries, but they’re missing out on skills that can really make the difference in the quality of their lives, as well as their careers.
It’s the same for intimate relationships (marriages, partnerships). A person who is content with only their significant other and/or children for company and does not work at maintaining relationships with life-long friends (who often have moved far away) or does not seek to create new friendships is keeping their world (and therefore their growth) very small and limited. This also teaches children that friendships and the work required to maintain them is not as important as having a family and plowing forward.
My mother instilled in me the fine art of conversation, something seriously lacking in so many adults, not to mention children, these days. She said there was always something to talk about with anyone you meet. She taught me to ask questions, and then listen to their answers. While this skill has helped me more times than I can count (garnered me many a job lead or an awesome new friend), I am saddened to see how many adults cannot reciprocate. Often they do not engage in asking questions back – a “get to know you” kind of exchange. Once I’m done “interviewing” and offering a few clever anecdotes of my own, the conversation ceases as they do not know how to communicate back. So many people feel uncomfortable unless they’re only talking about themselves (which is very one-sided). How do you fare where you are forced to mingle with people you do not know?
In the next week as you think upon this post, look at how you communicate with friends and strangers. Look at how they communicate back to you. See if you can find examples of where your relationships with someone benefited your goals, or where not having certain types of relationships have held you back. Then see what you can do to improve the quality of your relationships and communication skills. Remember there is value in having true, honest and reliable relationships in your life, and those relationships start by you being true, honest and reliable.
A current hot catch-phrase in my industry is “are you living an authentic life?” I hear and read that slogan frequently and I always scream in my head what the hell does that mean? Are people running around living false lives? Well in a way, yes. The issue for me is that I think “truth” is a better and more easily applied word than “authentic.”
One of Webster’s dictionary definitions of the word authentic is “representing one’s true nature or beliefs…” While that definition is easy to understand, it can be a hard put into practice. How does one represent their “true nature or beliefs?”
Clearly I do understand the essence of this phrase – that many people choose to not follow their dreams or listen to their instincts, and end up living out circumstances that they never intended or wanted. But my issue is that to live authentically one must first really know and understand who they are and what they want. While some of us enter adulthood already having figured out who we are and what we want (and then spend the rest of our 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s refining that), there is a huge quantity of adults walking around who simply do not know the answers to those questions.
That’s not a criticism mind you, it is a reality that not all personalities are able, or in some cases even willing, to set in stone the life they want to live. There is nothing wrong with going with the wind and currents and just enjoying where life takes you and how it shapes you, if that’s is who you are. So who then, is really living the “authentic” life? Is it people like me who have things all mapped out and goals firmly being adhered to, or is it those who fly by the seat of their pants? I think what it comes down to is if you are happy with the life you’re living. After all, either approach can leave a person feeling unsatisfied and/or lost.
To me, what’s truly important is honesty. Are you honest with yourself and those around you – honest about who you are and what you want? Honesty can be much more easily applied to one’s life than authenticity, don’t you think? Perhaps then, the better way to state the catch-phrase would be “are you living an honest life?“
To that end, I leave you with the true essence behind this posting: if you are not living an honest life, if you are not being honest with yourself, remember that life (or time) seems to zip by very quickly (you know the other old catch-phrase life is short). Now I know how hard it is for many of you to be honest. Honesty is sometimes scary for while it’s freeing for the deliverer, it can be painful for the recipient. But honesty, as we teach our children, is always better than the burden of lying (or in this case, living a lie).
So dig deep, don’t let fear stop you, and start being honest. Remember to take baby steps, and be patient, it will get easier, and that honesty must always be delivered compassionately (that includes to yourself). Honesty is the most powerful tool to altering your life’s course. Take heart in those that live an honest life for they demonstrate that when we live an honest life, we are at the very least, happier and able to breath just a little bit better.
One of the most important aspects of fitness is often the least focused on – that of flexibility. I must confess that even I tend to place the least priority on flexibility – me a former full-time dance student! But in our fast-paced, jam-packed lives, it often seems that all we have time to focus on is exercising (cardio & resistance training) and nutrition (which we know to be the largest part of the fitness pie. But I need to remind us all that flexibility is a major and necessary component of total fitness.
It doesn’t matter how strong your muscles are if you don’t the flexibility to move them in a full range of motion then you will not be able to push past your current fitness levels (i.e., burn more fat). Without good flexibility you’ll not be able to run or even walk the speed and distances you seek, for your muscles will be too tight and too shortened and therefore your legs will simply lock up.
If your job keeps you in a sedentary seated position for long hours, it’s hugely important to stretch and lengthen your muscles and spine (see last week’s blog Respect Your Spine). This will improve circulation which will in turn improve your productivity.
Of course as a Life Coach, I can not ignore the figurative necessity for flexibility in our minds and attitudes as well. Emotional flexibility allows us to embrace change better and affect change in our lives – and our workouts.
So today I’m suggesting that we all commit (myself included) to improving our flexibility over the next month, and then we can compare notes and really testify to the benefits of being more flexible.
First, prioritize and schedule a small chunk of time for stretching (10 mins minimum). It’s important that your body be warmed up so I recommend either right after a shower, or right after a long day but prior to being sedentary for several hours. (In other words, after you’ve come home from work and made dinner, but before you plop down on the sofa to binge watch Netflix for a few hours before bed).
Second, challenge those around you and keep each other accountable and on task. Flexibility is essential and beneficial to everyone around you, whether children or seniors, spouses or co-workers. The more people in your life that will take the time to stretch with you (although it doesn’t have to be at the exact same time), the more likely we will all achieve this goal and reap the rewards.
Third, remember to be flexible in your head and heart. Not only does this reduce the emotional tightening of your muscles (no more stress headaches), but it will likely improve your relationships too. Be more willing to see the other side of things, and be more forgiving of yourself and others.
Lastly, I will leave you with a few specific details about the best way to be flexible, i.e., stretching techniques:
- Never stretch cold muscles.
- Always move slowly into a position that stretches the desired muscles to the point where you want to stop. Then hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, while breathing in a slow and relaxed manner. Then stretch further and repeat the hold and breathing. Do this one more time on that muscle and then you can move on to the next.
- Start at the head/neck and move down towards feet: neck, shoulders, lower back, glutes (butt), hamstrings (back of thighs), feet/ankles. Look on the internet, YouTube or ask me for specific examples of stretches that you can practice.
Now go be flexible and improve the quality of your body and your life!
Here we are again, the first month of a new year. Are you once again making resolutions or commitments to get into better shape? If so, what can you do to make the goals stick this time? Perhaps the first step is to change the goal.
Most of us who set a goal and fail to achieve it in an allotted period of time usually start a new year with the same goal in mind. However, if we do not change our approach to the goal, we will likely see the same results (or lack thereof). But often even you change your approach you still don’t achieve full success and that may be because the goal just doesn’t fit who you are or how you live. Don’t give up on your end goal, but perhaps you need to make a new plan that has a more immediate goal that will lead you ultimately to your end goal.
To make 2017 be the year that you finally achieve your fitness goals you must first assess if you have goals that are achievable. If you are under a lot of stress, have limited free time, and/or limited funds – unless it’s life threatening, 95% of you will not lose fat, tone your muscles, or improve your strength and endurance – period. The reason is that you simply can’t successfully fit consistent and effective workouts into your hectic life as well as meal and snack planning, smart shopping and time intensive food prep and cooking. So rather than lament that your life is too stuck in a hectic hamster wheel and give up on your fitness goals by March, how about if you change the goal to be to get off the hamster wheel?
Did you know that stress and lack of sleep is the number one inhibitor to fat loss? I have a client who eats clean and healthy 4-6 times a day, and works out effectively 3-4 times a week and still cannot reduce her body fat (in fact she’s seen some increase). The clear and only reason behind this is that she has a very demanding and stressful job and home life, feels emotionally “stressed out” daily and averages about 5 hours of sleep per night. I see a lot of you nodding your heads in empathy right now.
When I talk with a new life coaching client and tell them that their first and primary goal is to find a way to reduce their stress by changing or altering their job, reorganizing household chores, rules, and assignments, and carving out (and maintaining) time for themselves, they usually start hyperventilating. But the longer we talk and outline step by step plans to get them from point A to Z the calmer they become and ultimately they get energized by the plan. Then it’s just a matter of holding them accountable, while maintaining fluidity to change the plans as the needs arise, and soon not only do they see a positive change to their bodies, they feel a radical and beneficial change to their entire lives.
With all this said, I assign all of you who have a goal yet achieved (and often failed at on an annual basis) to look at the bigger picture and perhaps pick a new goal – one that will ultimately get you to your old goal – but one that is more important and more achievable at this time and place in your life. As always, I’m here to advise as a personal trainer and life strategies coach if you wish to work with me.
Now go make 2017 different!
2016 was a tough year for a lot of us, and as I look forward into 2017 to formulate my goals and targets I have come to realize that a three-pronged ideal can help us find better physical and emotional health. Therefore, this year I suggest we all adopt the following mantra: “Stand Up. Stand Up Straight. Stand Up Strong.”
These words double as a fitness reminder and a social cue. Anyone with a goal of improved physical shape and health should simply stand up more, walk more and sit less (or at the very least stand up and move every 30-minutes). Likewise we should all stand up for preserving our own personal values as well as America’s tenuous democratic values as we forge into unknown (and for many of us very scary) territory with Trump at our helm.
Stand Up Straight:
I often address the rampant increase of postural distortions in adults and children here in my blog, but this year I am on a personal mission to help everyone improve their health by observing and improving their posture. Your spine is the gateway between your brain and the rest of your body. If you have curved-in shoulders or hips, and knees or ankles that rotate inwards (pronate) you are cutting off and/or shorting out a lot of nerves that bring signals to and from your brain. So set a phone or watch reminder, or buddy up with a friend and remind yourself several times a day to stand up straight and tall, keep your shoulders squared and relaxed, and remember to breathe low and slow.
Stand Up Strong:
This one can be taken both literally and figuratively. First, you must remember no matter how tough your path is currently, this too shall pass. But the key to improving your emotional or circumstantial life is to stay strong emotionally (and physically) and remember how strong you really are. Stand up for yourself and show your strength! Second, we must all stand up in a show of solidarity and strength so we can change that which is not working for all of us. We truly need to stand up strong together against racial, gender, and LGBT discrimination, double-standards of wages and rights, religious persecution, women’s rights, and the general bullying of anyone who disagrees with the “moral majority’s” opinions (that starts with the Oval Office)!
For those of you who find this post a bit too soap-boxy, please indulge me as I am a child of the 60’s and it’s in my nature to stand up for my rights, my health and my peers. So if you agree, repeat after me (and then DO IT): Stand Up. Stand Up Straight. Stand Up Strong!
A few years back I created this post and it seems like a good time to remind you all to embrace the new year, and renew your motivation to change or meet goals you want to achieve. Set yourself up in a positive way and perhaps this time, you’ll accomplish more than any year prior!
Every year thousands of us make New Year’s resolutions that 99% of us break or don’t complete. Most prevalent are goals to lose weight and get in shape. But just like the chronic cigarette smoker who knows that smoking is bad but can’t stop because they’re addicted, losing weight and getting into shape needs more motivation than just your brain saying (along with everyone around you) that you need to do this to be healthy.
When you’re in the thick of it, the last thing you want to do is stop doing something that seemingly makes you feel better (i.e., smoking, eating that pint of ice cream, drinking that bottle of beer). Even though you know that these choices are not in your body’s best interest, your brain is used to these comforts to deal with life’s stresses.
This is why we fail at new years resolutions. They’re made because it’s traditional to make them not because we have complete conviction behind the need to change. So, while the concept of a resolution is good – setting goals and starting them on a pivotal date – there is clearly not enough motivation placed on these goals to sustain our focus, and motivation is key!
So how then do you get and sustain true motivation? That, my friends, comes from within, when you are truly ready to acknowledge how unhappy you feel in the physical condition you’re in. It’s not about needing to get healthier for someone else; it’s not about wanting to feel sexier or more attractive; it’s not about wearing a different clothing size. It’s about YOU wanting to be different. YOU wanting to end the depression that follows you around because you feel unattractive or don’t have the energy to keep up with your kids or friends.
If personal changes are important enough to you, nothing will stop you.
Once you want the change for reasons so strong that nothing can deter you, then it instantly becomes a goal you can achieve. You don’t need a date on the calendar to get your started. You don’t need an extreme diet. You don’t even need a personal trainer (did I just say that?!). All you need to keep your desire for change always in the forefront of your brain. What do you stand to gain by this change. Don’t focus on what you’ll lose (energy, clothes, life) – focus on what you’ll gain. Gaining something is actually a stronger motivator than losing something.
So enjoy the holidays and your New Year’s celebration, but skip the resolutions. Instead contemplate what you want to gain and how badly you want it. Then go get it!
(And of course, if you DO want a trainer, or a tailor-made workout routine created by a professional trainer, give me shout. I’m here to cheer you on and help you stay focused!)
This post first ran last December, but I believe it bears constant repeating, so I gave it a little update and serve it up again. Please read and remember – life can be stressful and intrusive to your goals, so don’t beat yourself up about unrealized dreams – but DON’T GIVE UP either.
As the year winds down and the holidays rear their busy, caloric, stressful heads I want to take a moment to remind you to be accepting and compassionate – OF YOURSELF! Clearly all of us should be accepting and compassionate of others, but I find that so many people can give love and compassion to others but NOT to themselves. Those types are even tougher on themselves this time of year, which leads to more stress and less enjoyment of what should be a wonderful time. Is that you?
The most typical issues that you might beat yourself up about are:
- I didn’t reach my goals
- I didn’t get in shape
- I’m still at the same dead-end job or relationship
- Once again I don’t have enough money to enjoy the holidays
So listen what I am yelling at you right now: STOP IT!
If you didn’t reach your goals because you didn’t try, okay, so know you must see that inactivity and/or indecisiveness clearly doesn’t work. So find stronger motivation and perhaps an easier goal to reach (i.e., the first step towards the total end goal) and come January, get off your ass and start moving towards that goal!
If you didn’t get in shape because you didn’t stick with healthier nutrition and an exercise regiment, again, nothing will change until you do. But you are human and not alone in this – so stop beating yourself up about it. Just follow this blog, join a gym, find a trainer, or whatever it is that will MOVE you (pun intended) toward your fitness goals in the new year.
If your job still sucks the life out of you, and/or a relationship has run itself into the ground with no hope of improvement, then decide if you’d rather be exactly where you are NOW one year from now, or somewhere else. If you can’t bear the thought of still being STUCK this time next year, then again, get off your ass and do something about it. There’s ALWAYS a choice that can be made and implemented.
Lastly, as for the dreaded cost and stress of holiday shopping – I know for a fact that most of us would really rather spend quality time with our friends just sitting around being together, drinking wine, playing cards, watching a movie, having a meal, etc. Same goes for fun or funny homemade or gag gifts that break no one’s bank. A token present or little joke gift to remind someone that they’ve got a friend who cares is really the best gift of all. No one wants a gift when the giver has stressed themselves out over it or incurred debt. The only person who truly demands a certain amount of money spent or certain high quality of gift is usually YOU, the giver. Otherwise, they’re not a person you should be hanging with anyway.
I’ve actually implemented a White Elephant gift exchange with a large group of my friends. Everyone spends a maximum of $25 and then after an hour or so of drinking and laughing over the constant stealing of gifts (look up white elephant parties if you don’t understand) everyone leaves with one nice gift and no one went broke.
So do what you can to be happy and not bah-humbug this holiday season, and get your ducks in a row to hit the ground running come January. Then let the rest of your worries go and just enjoy life as it is. (And remember you’ve got me in your corner – I’m always happy to help keep you motivated too!)
Most fitness websites, articles, and posts are focused on the 25-59 age demographic, as clearly this is the group that cares (or worries) the most about their bodies. But I think we need to pay a little more attention to the “befores” and “afters” if we are to truly reduce the rampant obesity that plagues America for our future generations
First off we’ve got to teach the current (and future) generation of kids to move more, eat better, and specifically make fitness an equal priority to school work and time spent just being a kid. Get them off their electronics and using their muscles, training their cardiovascular systems, and keeping circulation and metabolisms running on high.
Next however, we need to tend to our current crop of seniors (60-85+). For most people in this age rage, fitness was probably not a priority during their youth, and therefore the taste for it, as well as the ability to embrace it, is quite low. However, if we modify our approach to fitness for seniors we can still give them improvements to their deteriorating health and bodies while not trying to turn them into fitness addicts – which they’re never going to be. If we, the 25-59-ers make it our priority to get our parents/grandparents moving and staying active, we will show all generations that physical age can have fewer boundaries than previously set. (Not to mention that keeping the body active stimulates the brain and keeps it active too!)
While many fitness organizations or programs do focus on kids or seniors, there still isn’t enough enticing options to keep those that are young and easily distracted, or old and easily deterred from continuing on fitness as a priority. Sadly schools throughout the U.S. have dropped standard P.E. programs due to budget cutbacks, and senior centers are fewer and less populated, especially outside of major cities.
So what I suggest is that each family design a weekly program or routine for everyone in the family, from 2 to 80. Include as many generations together as possible. Make fitness diverse, fun, satisfying, and easy to do and everyone will keep coming back for more. For kids, make it a game; or a group challenge; or create personal best goal chart.
For the grandfolk, take it slow, but always add a little more to each day/week/month. Include incentives that work for them like a daily/weekly walk to update them on family affairs or discuss current affairs. Take them on a picnic or to the movies while parking a little further away than normal, or conduct a chair workout, etc. If they simply can’t be made more mobile, stimulate their brains with jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, or get them telling stories of their youth that you can document for prosperity and family history.
As our year comes to a close, I charge all of you to think of ways to get your kids and/or your elderly parents more active, document their growth, and share it here. If it takes a village, let this “cosmic” village be the test ground to show that our next generations will be leaner, more active, and live longer than the previous ones.
With society being so focused on enforcing “politically correct” language these days, I’m constantly surprised at how many standard statements are not deemed rude or demeaning. For instance, I saw a woman at my daughter’s school yesterday carrying a 4-week old baby. The woman was slender and in workout clothes. She was surrounded by other women all saying how incredible she looks after only 4 weeks! (Believe me when I say not all of them had sincere tones to their “compliments.”)
The issue I have with this example is that it is implying that women after childbirth (and pregnant women as well) do not look good. Stretched out bodies or extra fat is viewed as “unattractive” and although the majority of women take 6 months or longer to get their bodies back to pre-birth shape (if at all), the idea that a woman who doesn’t look like she just had a baby after only 4 weeks is incredible (i.e., special and/or coveted) bothers me.
Where does that leave the rest of the women, and how they feel about their bodies? This rides tandem to my pet peeve of people asking naturally thin women if they ever eat. You would never walk up to an over-fat woman and ask her if she ever eats less or diets, but you can walk up to a skinny woman and tell her she needs to eat more! We’re constantly judging each other’s bodies.
I’m also surprised by how many women will comment about a woman who clearly has spent a lot of money on her clothes, hair and purse (i.e., appears to have large amounts of discretionary money) as if it’s a put down. Yet we don’t know her story, and the irony is that America loves the idea of working just enough to make lots of money and then spending it as a blatant indication that you HAVE it. But these same women get their panties in a bunch if a clutch of “wealthy” woman looked down on a woman wearing sweat pants and carrying a purse from Target.
The bottom line is that there’s just too much judgment and negativity going around where women are concerned — towards women and BY women. Despite the fact that we almost had a woman as President of this great Nation, women still only hold 4.6% of CEO Positions in S&P Fortune 500 companies (23 out of 500 to be exact). We (women) are still holding each other back with our pettiness and constant need to compare, judge, and find ways to feel superior (or make others feel inferior).
So take a hard look at how, where and why you judge other women and decide for yourself if you can improve your perceptions, and think about what the affects of what you say. Just like last month’s historical election, it takes all of us, one-at-a-time, to make a change!