I have to admit, sometimes I'm embarrassed to work in the fitness world. Many of the messages put out there by other fitness professionals although well intended are quite frankly fucking with people. It's a slippery slope because we're here to help people and in order to let them know we can help, we point out their flaws and play to their fears. Often we make the mistake of assuming that clients want/need to lose weight. As I've trained more and more people and reflected on my own struggles I've come to realize most people want to FEEL better and that may or may not mean dropping body fat. Recently I saw an Instagram post from a local gym that got me all fired up.
It was an infographic titled "WHY DROP 10-15 POUNDS". Reasons included:
1. You'll move better
2. You'll feel more confident about yourself
3. You'll have more energy to do the things you like
4. It's better for your joints and bones
5. You'll have better skin
6. You'll sleep better
7. Lower the risk of getting sick
8. It reduces stress and anxiety
9. It improves creativity and productivity
10. You might live longer
Perhaps at first glance this all makes great sense and maybe you agree with all of these statements.
I see it and I want to go all Xena Warrior Princess on whoever thought this was a productive message to put out into the world.
So many of the women I know and clients I train are in a CONSTANT struggle to lose 10-15 lbs. They get on the scale every week if not every day in the hopes of getting to a magical number that they have deemed low enough. They cry, they stress, they grab the rolls of their stomachs and dismay at the back fat folding over the top of their bras. They kill themselves in the gym, fight hunger all day, and spend hours if not days feeling guilty if they miss a gym session or overeat.
Maybe the author of this infographic ASSUMED that the people that didn't need to lose 10-15lbs would realize this message wasn't meant for them. He/she must've assumed that whoever they were speaking to would pursue weight loss in a healthy fashion. The reality is, if done without overall healthy and wellness in mind, weight loss isn't always positive. This message says to EVERYONE "You should lose 10-15 lbs" and then it doesn't provide any productive advice for how that is to be done. If you starve yourself, over exercise, deprive yourself of rest you may lose weight but you will not reap the benefits promised.
I have one suggestion that can unfuck the infographic: change the title.
"Why Prioritize Your Health"
This way we can focus on the actions that will help people thrive. Let's put our attention to practices that have a positive effect on our lives such as moving our bodies, sleeping, eating nourishing foods and doing things that bring us joy. Let's stop pushing fat loss as a solution to our problems and instead help people care for themselves.
Agree? Disagree? Please contribute to the discussion and post in the comments.
Have you ever felt like you've spent most of your adult life trying to lose weight (maybe part of your adolescence too)? This article struck a chord with me and I'd like to share how it reminds me of my own story as well as offer some tips that have helped me stop obsessing about my body and start paying attention to some important/neglected areas of my life.
The first diet that I ever tried was Atkins back in 2001. I was lured in by the idea that I could eat all of the butter AND lose weight. Of course it worked......while I stayed on it but eventually potato chips and beer called to me. Since then there have been a series of diets, food rules, progress photos and food journals to mark my 15 years of dieting efforts. For most of that time I was also in a long term relationship. I was constantly working on my physical self but it never occurred to me that I was creating a mental and emotional deficit.
I've always been fairly even keeled, independent and strong so I figured I didn't need to work on other aspects of my wellness. Instead it was all about the weight and a near obsessive mission to eradicate my love handles. It wasn't until my marriage ended that I realized I had been neglecting myself and that my inner growth had been stunted for the sake of external goals. Looking back on it now I realize some of my more obsessive behavior started when my ex got sober about 6 years in to our relationship. It was a challenging time for both of us but I considered the alcoholism his problem and I was there to support him. It didn't occur to me that I needed support of my own and that I could use some self development. The dieting, boot camps and half marathons were a distraction from other issues that could've used my attention.
I see it often with my clients as they stress over their weight and appearance. They're overworked, overtired, and unfulfilled in their relationships yet they continue to focus on their bodies rather than pay attention to other aspects of their lives. It's as if they're putting off improving their situations or living their lives until they reach a subjective aesthetic goal.
B.D. (Before Divorce) I was a passenger in my life not really driving or making decisions, except deciding whether or not to have a "cheat" meal. The split pushed me to acknowledge my emotions, consider my career choices and think about what I really want from my life. Here are a few things that helped me both assess and enjoy my life beyond my fat loss goals.
Get A Hobby
Remember how I said I was a passenger in my life? Sometimes my husband was driving, other times circumstances were behind the wheel. I never took time to ask what I really wanted. In January I did my first year in review (this is the article I pulled it from). I realized that rather than finding a more traditional job I wanted to continue training because I love it and I vowed to take steps to increase my business. It's been simultaneously frightening, challenging and rewarding. Assessing what I really want has lit a fire under my ass and I'm so glad that I did it.
I will never forget a drunken fight I had with my best friend in college coming home from the bar one night. I must've been ruminating about my bad luck with men and she looked at me and said "Oh Jen, just get over yourself!" Any time I find myself feeling like a victim or in need of pity I think about those words. One way to get over yourself and stop stressing about your weight is to help others. This could mean helping a friend move, being a Big Brother/Big Sister or holding space for someone in your life who's having a tough time. Hopefully it will help you remember that your value as a human being on this planet is not tied to what the scale says.
The Secret Side Effect
Ironically, putting more attention in to your quality of life and less in to your body could actually help you achieve your aesthetic goals. Eating better and exercising are sooooo much easier when you're well rested and content with your life. If you've been obsessing over your weight/appearance for a long time (as I have) it may take time to refocus your attention. I still have moments when I think "I should do X diet, just for a few months to drop that extra 10 lbs" but I tend to have those thoughts less and less.
And anytime you're struggling you can turn to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson :) I never knew he played the ukulele but now I know that we are totally meant for each other!
Today I'd like to talk about breakfast and maybe even touch on the subject of snacks. I jokingly tell my clients that "Muffins are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast" but there is some truth there. The first meal of your day could be sabotaging your good intentions. Before I get up on my soap box and offend all of the oatmeal/granola loving folks out there, if you enjoy your breakfast AND it's working for you, then feel free to continue with your morning sugar infusion. Food is a matter of taste and you should never force yourself to eat something that you don't like. That being said if it is broken, it's time to fix it.
Most of us know that "Eating the Rainbow" does not mean scarf down a bowl of sugary food colored cereal however many folks are still treating their first meal of the day like a high sugar buffet. Bacon and sausage aside, many breakfast favorites are carbohydrate rich: granola, oatmeal, fruit flavored yogurt, juice, toast, English muffins, and cereal. I'm not saying carbohydrates are bad and I'm not saying don't eat them, however a typical breakfast usually combines several servings of carbs, very little protein and very little fat. I'm going to provide you some ways to upgrade your breakfast as well as posit a completely different way to look at your first meal. Waking up can be a jarring experience and if you need the warm hug of carbohydrates to usher you in to the day then here are few tips to keep it sweet AND achieve your goals.
#1 Add Protein
Whatever it is that you enjoy for breakfast, add eggs. Notice the "s" at the end of egg, that means plural please. We're trying to get that meal up to at least 15g of protein and one egg isn't going to cut it. If you're worried about cholesterol, the US government has acknowledged that dietary cholesterol does not lead to higher levels of blood cholesterol. Live a little, have some yolks folks! Sometimes I crack a few eggs into my stove top oats for the last minute of cooking. I simply stir as the eggs cook in and it makes for a hearty breakfast. Greek yogurt is rich in protein, but go for the plain and add your own fruit and a little sweetener if you need it. Some cinnamon will also bring out a sweeter flavor. You can also add protein powder to your breakfast; it goes well in oats or make some high protein pancakes and of course you can always start your day with a smoothie.
#2 Budget Your Carbs
As I said before, carbohydrates are not the devil. They're a great source of energy, especially if you have a very active day ahead of you. If you're going to sit in your car then sit at a desk for 6-8 hours, chances are you don't need multiple servings of carbs to fuel a fairly sedentary day. Choose high fiber carbohydrates such as berries, apples, whole grain breads and oats. Rather than having granola, sweetened yogurt, berries and a glass of orange juice, ditch the juice, swap the flavored yogurt out for plain and buy or make a lightly sweetened granola.
In fact, I may eat something like that any time of the day. People often ask what I eat for snacks, once again under the impression that snacks need to be sweet or small. I don't generally snack, I sit down and eat a moderately sized meal 4-5 times a day and it works for me. I enjoy a full-ish stomach and 6 almonds isn't going to cut it. If I eat something like this at 3pm, I won't inhale everything in my kitchen when I get home at night. Do you struggle with evening snacking? Maybe it's time for a mid-afternoon meal, or "Second Lunch" as I like to call it.
People have success with many styles of eating. If you're trying to lower your body fat you can keep your traditional breakfast with a few upgrades or you can take a walk on the savory side and try out last night's left overs. Breakfast tacos anyone?
Several years ago I had a serious conversation with my mother. I told her that although I appreciated the sentiment, I no longer wanted to receive cookies from her for Christmas. I know, I'm a cookie hating asshole. Actually I just don't like to have super tempting foods at my house and I don' t need a reason to have a chocolate chip brownie for breakfast. I try to make it as easy as possible to make good food decisions at home, it's a "safe" zone from temptation, minus the wine of course. This did not initially go over well with Mary Weiss, obviously if I didn't want her cookies it meant I didn't love her, maybe even hated her. And if she couldn't express her love for me through delicious baked goods, how would I know that she loved me? Being the resourceful woman that she is, my mom has found other ways to show she cares. Now my stocking (yes I'm 39 and I still get a Christmas stocking) is full of dark chocolate, spice rubs and Justin's Almond Butter. My mom is still the Cookie Lady for other family members, friends and co-workers but she doesn't have to be the Cookie Lady for me. There are two lessons here: it's okay to have a tough conversation with your loved ones about food and your goals AND you don't have to share your love through butter and sugar. Here are a few ways to change your holiday giving identity from Cookie Lady or Cookie Guy to Healthy Gift Giving Genius
Bring Protein to the Holiday Potluck
Inevitably there will be many social obligations between now and New Year's. You may even be required to bring food to said festivities. Vegetables and protein will be hard to find at these gatherings and you may find yourself wondering how you're going to keep up with your healthy habits with so many temptations. Be part of the solution instead of part of the problem; bring a satiating protein dish. This week I'm going to the holiday party at the pub where I work part time. We have a sign-up sheet for the potluck and it's full of cheesy dips and sweets. I'm sure I'll hit up the buffalo chicken dip and have a cookie or two but I'm going to make damn sure there are some protein and veggies available. I've braised chicken thighs and made a batch of homemade coleslaw for tacos. I'll enjoy some tacos and fill myself up a little in order to keep from over-indulging on the rest of the buffet. PS - the buffalo chicken dip didn't disappoint.
Share Your Recipes
This idea actually comes from my Cookie Lady Mom. She put together a binder of family favorites for my brothers and I. It's a project you could slowly add to throughout the year. My mom put hers in a binder but you could even have a book made or go paperless and send it as a PDF.
You're In Charge
It may seem like you're going to let everyone down if you don't bake 6 million cookies for Christmas but the truth is, you can become the Healthy Gift Giving Genius, you don't HAVE to be the Cookie Lady. There are other ways to share your love of food with friends and family. Hopefully this post will inspire you to step out of your traditional role and try a new one where you're the healthy role model that everyone strives to be. Who knows, maybe you'll inspire others in your gift giving circles to do the same.
Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.
- Salvador Dali
It could be argued that we often fail at our New Year's Resolutions because we're striving for perfection in our actions/habits/goals and when we don't achieve it we give up, believing that we've failed. Some people won't even try because they know they can't do as well as they'd like to, so they quit before they even get started. What if you started with a resolution and had really really low expectations of yourself?
Try Something You Suck At
It may seem as if there are only 2 ways to go here: all or nothing. I propose a different kind of resolution, one where the journey is the goal and the destination doesn't matter. I'm not going to lie, it's going to be uncomfortable, maybe even scary at times but I promise you'll learn something about yourself and your efforts may cause a ripple effect to other areas of your life. This year I challenge you to do something you suck at.
Recently I've been learning to play the ukulele. I have no experience playing a musical instrument and have yet to find any deeply buried natural talent (I can still hope). I hired an instructor because I was overwhelmed by trying on my own. Every Wednesday I carry that baby blue ukulele up the narrow stairs to my instructor Colin's studio. I sit on his little piano bench and I sweat profusely as I try to play the Beatle's tunes that he's taught me. I'm not kidding about the sweat either, when I get up to leave, I'm paranoid there will be an Iron Bunny shaped ass print on his bench. I really do suck at playing the ukulele, BUT I suck a lot less than I did when I started!
Unlike a traditional New Year's Resolution where I'd be striving for 6-pack abs or to be fluent in Italian, I have no end goal in mind for my ukulele playing. I may eventually achieve mediocrity and that's fine with me. It was more about getting started, challenging myself and being uncomfortable then it is about succeeding. I've learned a few things in the process. I can relate to my clients better when they stand in front of me, shakily attempting their first squat during our fitness assessment. I know what it's like to feel the pressure of expert eyes on you as your perform your novice reps. I know about the sweating. I've always been self conscious about sharing my exercise videos, worried I don't look the part of a trainer or that my form will be critiqued in a very public way. Since braving through those ukulele lessons I've become more willing to take a chance and post more videos. I can even sing along with one of the songs! I have a new found respect for musicians that sing, dance and play at the same time. No one ever needs to hear me sing, but it makes me happy to chirp along while I strum. Here's a clip of me playing "Hide Your Love Away". Even the actual video is lacking in perfection. My hat got tucked behind my ear, the sound is bad, the top of my head is cut off. (Oz makes a cameo, but he is perfect and can do no wrong).
As January 1st approaches, take another look at your resolutions or lack thereof. It may seem unambitious, expecting to aspire to be bad at something, or you might not want to exit your comfy sweatpants and try something new, but one venture into something you suck at could be just what you need to kick ass at 2018.
Fear holds us back from reaching our potential so often in life (which I will touch on in another blog). For the "Do Something You Suck At Resolution" you'll be facing fears of being embarrassed, not doing something perfectly and failing. You'll do it, you'll suck at it and you'll realize "Hey, that wasn't so bad".
What my clients are saying about me:
"Now that I've worked with Jen I see the value of having a trainer. She helps keep me on track and focused. I'm a busy mom and it's nice to have someone I trust give me my work outs. No more researching workouts in magazines or instagram. I get my own personalized program that works with my schedule and helps me achieve my goals faster."