SMARTer bodies

Category: Everyday Life

The Fighting Foodie- my journey towards healthy body image

For those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram (FOR SHAME! By the way, it’s @kimlienkendall), I’ve been deeply immersed in the world of competitive Brazilian jiu jitsu which I have to admit, makes very little sense for a 35 year-old, self-employed single mom. Trying to murder people in pajamas, aside from being literally the most fun thing I can think of, plays a pivotal role in my mental health and more importantly, my idea of self worth. Like most women, unfortunately, my “value” has always been measured in inches and pounds and having to compete in a sport with weight classes hasn’t helped. I’ve finally developed a healthy relationship with my body image and I’m here to share my journey with you in hopes that you find some relatable piece of information.

So without further ado, here is my story of all the fucked up things I’ve done to my body in the name of vanity:

This story begins in the late 90s, when 24 inch waists and thigh gaps were fashionable. I tried just about every crash diet there was- master cleanse, atkins, I was even RAW VEGAN (basically I ate rabbit food) for 2 whole years. All I wanted was a skinny body, but all I got was a ton of problems. Not only did my weight fluctuate in an unpredictable fashion, but I was experiencing highs and lows in energy, my hair was falling out, I stopped getting my period and I was pretty much constantly bloated. I was so focused on what NOT to put in my body that I ended up developing an eating disorder. Aside from all that, I wasted SO MUCH money on daily $25 yoga classes and organic vegan food that I would end up barfing into a fancy restaurant bathroom anyway (fun times!).

I could have held the handstand longer if I weren't sucking my belly in for the pic
I could have held the handstand longer if I weren’t sucking my belly in for the pic

Then I got knocked up (it happens). All of the focus on my body now shifted from what it looked like to how well it could grow and nourish another human being (which is some crazy ass shit if you really think about it). This was cool for a while until I decided that my body should be more than just an udder. After my maternity leave, I was fortunate to be hired by a facility with a beautiful gym. I worked with some very talented strength coaches (big shout out to Ben Shear aka the angriest thumb I know!) and I started to focus on strength training.

Don't worry, I didn't actually surf while pregnant, no matter how badly I wanted to...
Don’t worry, I didn’t actually surf while pregnant, no matter how badly I wanted to…

Lifting weights provided a welcome break from this vicious cycle of body dysmorphia. I started to focus on feeling strong and PRs (if you don’t know what that is, do you even lift, bruh?) rather than fitting into jean sizes that I wore in high school. I actually ended up putting on a significant amount of muscle mass (thank goodness for awesome genetics!) and I was able to eventually deadlift almost 2 times my own body weight!

Screenshot_2018-12-13-17-00-29-1

While this seems like a much healthier mentality than obsessing about being thin, this new mindset came with its own set of problems. At the time, Ashley Graham was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and #bodypositivity was the new trend for women’s bodies. Although this campaign should have translated to “your body is perfectly fine the way it is”, that message isn’t as profitable as telling young girls they should look like Kim Kardashian. Yes, this created a shift in the fitness industry and it became more common to see women deadlifting and squatting, but it didn’t free us from the socially imposed norms of what our bodies should look like. It just meant that big butts were in style and that’s what was now being sold to us.

Did you buy tickets to the gun show?
Did you buy tickets to the gun show?

So, in the spirit of being fashionable, I became obsessed with appearing thick. This allowed me to eat as much food as I wanted (#winning!). I had just started training jiu jitsu, so between training, lifting weights and riding my bike, I was putting in 15-18 hours a week of moderate to intense exercise. My appetite was voracious and I was eating whatever I wanted (ice cream for breakfast, anyone?). I stopped routinely weighing myself and taking circumference measurements of my waist and instead measured my ass and tits- you know, the trendy parts. I even wrote a blog post about how I had finally overcome the oppressive body image issues that have become the social norm for women (hurrah!). But alas, this was also a ruse.

The next time I stepped on the scale was before my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament. I weighed 139 lbs at 5’2”. All of my teammates and other competitors were cutting weight but in my naivety, I thought surely my strength and power would help me overcome my opponent even if she was slightly taller than me. Well… “slightly” ended up being an average of 5 inches for my first few tournaments. It didn’t take me long to realize that all the women in my division were MUCH larger than me, and relying on my strength wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to continue to compete, which I did.

Shout out to Dan Behr (@Behr_Dan) for these dope pics!
Shout out to Dan Behr (@Behr_Dan) for these dope pics!

I knew that adding in MORE activity wasn’t physically possible, so that meant I would have to *sigh* go on a diet. Now, if you’ve ever tried dieting and you like food, you’ve probably noticed that shit doesn’t work. Or if it does, it works for a very limited amount of time. Most of this is because of the evolution of our limbic system; our brains are hardwired to consume as much as possible and preserve as much energy as possible, which is how our species survived. Even the word DIET reminds me of misery and failure. So, what did I do? I procrastinated my weight cut of course! I kept telling myself I would do it the next tournament and I kept losing matches to giants (to be clear- a lot of it was failure in executing proper technique and timing BUT it doesn’t help when you come up to your opponent’s collarbone!)

the enemy...
the enemy…

This went on for a while until, praise the fitness lords, intermittent fasting became a thing. Which meant I didn’t have to change WHAT I ate, just WHEN I ate! I lost 17 lbs in 6 weeks and I entered Masters Worlds 2017 as a featherweight! Don’t rejoice yet, I still lost my first match BUT it was pretty close and the women were definitely my size. This was my new competition weight and I didn’t want to stray too far from it considering how long it took for me to lose the weight and how annoying it was to plan all my “feeding” times.

photo cred @behr_dan
photo cred @behr_dan

I wasn’t used to being this size and it felt oddly vulnerable. Although I was much faster at this weight and I hadn’t lost much strength, I had to come to terms with the fact that I am, in fact, a small person. I was also a fitness professional who promoted body positivity and eating what makes you happy… but now I had to keep track of my weight and go on a diet! I felt like a fraud and a hypocrite! It didn’t help that I was going through a lot of major life changes. I guess you could call it an existential crisis of sorts that forced me to really investigate who I am and what my core values are, which ended up being a blessing in disguise.

During this process I realized that there is a fine line between self-care and self-sabotage. I realized that a lot of my attachments to food were emotional and even though I deserved to eat things that I wanted, I didn’t deserve stepping on the scale the next day and hating myself. A lot of the foods I desired weren’t foods that my body needed, but foods that my mind craved. I was rebelling against the idea that in order to be healthy, I had to deprive myself. But what I was missing was balance. There had to be a way to eat enjoyable food, nourish my body with what it needs and still make weight.

11% body fat and ripped as fuck right before Masters Worlds and before Cesar's Buffet
11% body fat and ripped as fuck right before Masters Worlds and before Cesar’s Buffet

So, I did a lot of research (and watched a LOT of Food Network), experimented with recipes and products. With the help of some awesome and smart friends, I found a new love in cooking! I realized that food is nourishment and that what you eat determines how well your body functions (so basically super obvious shit that took me a decade to figure out). Cooking food for yourself is a form of self love. I learned to trust myself more and trust that my body is asking for what it needs. More importantly I learned how to listen to cues my body was giving me. I started picking ingredients that appealed to my senses and taking time to perfect the taste of what I was making. It not only made my food more enjoyable, but more satiating! I was able to taste and smell certain nuances of flavors and over time I didn’t need as much guidance in the process. I didn’t have to eat as much and I was more inclined to make better choices.

Screenshot_2018-12-13-17-24-01-1 Screenshot_2018-12-13-17-23-40-1



I started to feel better a few weeks into this new journey and those effects have lasted. I’m not as achy, I have more energy, I’m not as bloated and my hair, skin and nails are healthier. It has also had a pretty significant impact on my performance and my recovery. I find myself getting sick less and I’m not concerned about when I can have my next “cheat” meal because I don’t feel like I need one. This doesn’t feel like deprivation.

Instead of focusing on eliminating certain foods from my diet, I started focusing on specific nutrients like good fats, B vitamins, calcium rich foods, probiotic foods and quality proteins. By the way, if you believe it’s easier for you to supplement your nutrition, Naked Nutrition has really great products that don’t have any crap in them- just grass fed proteins! It took a lot of experimentation to find a product I actually like- so you’re welcome! I’ve been using their whey protein for shakes and collagen protein for soups and overnight oats. (www.nkdnutrition.com)

Screenshot_2018-12-13-17-26-38-1

Now comes the shameless self promotion part of this blog…

Along this journey I began to document what I ate during weight cuts. I got a lot of inquiries about what I was eating/cooking and what kinds of products and supplements I use. So I decided to write a(nother) book! I am combining forces with a nutritionist (www.laurencadillac.com) and an MMA fighter (follow RoccoGmma on Instagram) to write a guide/ cookbook for athletes who care about how their food tastes but still have to make weight.

The goal is to educate readers about what their bodies need for optimal function and show them how they can find these nutrients in familiar, tasty dishes while honoring their time constraints. Hopefully this will help shift us away from the “diet” era of depriving our bodies and into a mindset where we see food as nourishment.

In conclusion, our time here on earth is limited and we can get so much more out of our bodies than making them look a certain way, but we have to treat our bodies well!

If you found this blog helpful, feel free to share! Or sign up for our newsletter. You can always email me (kim@smarterbodies.com) if you have any questions or ideas that I haven’t shared here.

Blue Print for Stress Reduction: Four Main Points

Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash
Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

In the never-ending quest for balance and total well-being, I went to another workshop about stress relief. Taught by 2 women I feel blessed just to be able to hear speak on any movement/body subject. Irene Dowd (dancer and movement teacher extraordinaire) led us through visualizations and somatic explorations to release stress from our physical bodies while Rebecca Deitzal (bio-chemical/nutritional information powerhouse) explained the physiology of stress and how to use food to mitigate any negative side effects.

The mind/body connection was confirmed again and further illuminated in the workshop.

To be clear about how we relate to stress: Stress is neither good nor bad. It is our relationship to it that dictates how we will be affected by it. In my blog post about telomere health you saw that having a less fearful/anxious`outlook when confronting challenge is the make or break for biological health and the quality of our aging.

Let’s all get on the same page and define what stress is. In this context, stress is a stimulus that creates a nervous system reaction. (This is a bit of a mixed definition borrowing from the workshop, the dictionary and Tom Myers). In fact, a webinar I watched by Tom Myers states that for every 7 sympathetic responses we have (fight or flight response) we should engage the parasympathetic response (rest/digest/relax). Past and current research continues to make the path to achieving total health clear and it is paved with practices that keep us aware of what we’re feeling and how to support ourselves in moving physiological stress responses out of the body.

Examples:

If you work out and engage in beneficial stress (being aware of what you can properly handle, experiencing successful outcomes from some physical challenge) it’s still important to cool down properly. All the cooling down and stretching that happens after a rigorous workout is there, in part, to help regulate your nervous system. You don’t want to leave your workout as revved up as when you successfully deadlifted your heaviest weight. It doesn’t always have to be a 20-minutes stretching routine. It can be regulating your breath in order to leave the vigorous work behind as you engage with the world in another way.

If you had a really tiresome and stressful day that involved running around and you feel zapped/toasted/busted by the time you get home, that’s your body telling you that you need a break from the stress responses that engaged your flight/fight mechanism (perhaps more than 7x in that day). Finding a few minutes to shift your emotional and mental energy to a more relaxed place can take time and practice (and a ritual or 2), but will mitigate the unhealthy effect that kind of stress can have on the physical self.

If you had a nasty conversation that involved hurt feelings that you don’t know how to manage or if you are carrying emotional stress/baggage that is unresolved it can have the same negative cumulative effect on your physical body that other physical stressors can have (I.e. Weakened immune system, unwanted weight gain/loss, shortened telomeres, etc.).

Continuous small stressors and emotional stressors can have the same cumulative effects as chronic stress does that is related to more dramatic events, such as PTSD from a violent trauma.

So what do you do about it?

Here’s your stress reduction and achieve total health blueprint:

#1) Find a practice that helps you to move stress out of the body (every blog post of ours is basically this same message over and over. There’s a reason. Start paying attention.)

Move your body. Irene shared amazing humming practices, bouncing movements and visualizations that helped everyone in the room to relax. If that is too weird for you start moving your body in any way you can with consistency:

Yoga

Breathing Practices

Dance

Any physical activity that allows you to lose sense of time and is enjoyable

#2) Emotionally start addressing your baggage, negative thought patterns or whatever internal demons are driving you nuts. Get a therapist, a support group or some teacher that can show you how to develop the skills necessary to navigate life without sacrificing your wellbeing.

In essence, take responsibility for how you experience the world/your environment/people. Sounds a little preachy, right? Well, it is. So suck it and start taking care of yourself emotionally just like you would invest in your physical wellbeing. Your emotional self is the key to your physical health. #psychoneuroimmmunobiologyanyone?

I’m telling you this not to criticize or shame you. It took me a while to get it too. This is a statement meant to empower you. YAAAAAS, Kween!!!!!

yaskween

#3) Feed yourself well. This means different food habits for different people. If you can’t afford a nutritionist yet just try to listen to the voice of your body and feel how different foods affect you. It doesn’t have to get complicated. If you can invest in a nutritionist it could change your life. My well being and health feels much more secure because of what Rebecca has taught me. I’m very grateful to her.

General rule: Eat more whole and unprocessed foods than you do processed ones. Natural foods like fresh fruits and vegetables have the power to defend your system against harmful stress. But so do spices and herbs and different methods used to prepare foods. But don’t get overwhelmed. Just start educating yourself a little about food. A little knowledge goes a long way.
#4) Sleep/restore more if you can. Obviously a huge subject here, so if this is difficult for you just know you are not alone. Start by taking baby steps that calm your nervous system from being over stimulated.  Take breaks of quietness throughout the day to quiet your brain. Making this a habit can make quieting the mind to fall asleep easier. Definitely include giving your electronics a break especially before bed. So step away from computers and your phone about an hour before bed. Fall asleep reading a print book instead of a tablet.

relax-you-got-this-meme

Actual Anti-aging Information: Telomeres and Cellular Age

The internet is, unfortunately, full of misinformation regarding the aging process. We all want to know how to age gracefully or, ideally, not at all. Let’s just get that out of the way.

*Deep breath*

We will all age.

We will all die.

*Deep breath*

That being said, we do, as conscious human beings, have the ability to influence our physical aging experience. Let’s start by understanding telomere length as a potential marker of health.

(All information in this post comes from the book The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel One of the authors made the groundbreaking discovery of a biological indicator called telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes telomeres.)

What the heck are telomeres?

telomeres

(one of many Google images of telomeric representation)

See the red caps on the end of the DNA segments in the above photo? These are repeating segments of noncoding DNA that live at the end of chromosomes. Every time your cells divide (and they do A LOT throughout our lifetimes) the telomeres shorten. This shortening is a determining factor for how quickly your cells age and when they die. Before you freak out and invest in dangerous products that claim to keep your telomeres long or even restore lost length, take a moment to grasp that cells must divide and they must die. To prettily sum up a complex cellular principle: It is the balance and speed of this division of cells and death of cells that keep us healthy.

If your cells divide normally, but dead cells are sticking around in your body, this can create a weakened immune system and chronic inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle. The faster your cells die and the less efficient your body is at removing dead cellular matter, the worse the inflammation gets. On the other hand, if your cells divide and do so quickly without telomere shortening (i.e., cellular death), then cancer is the most likely outcome. So stay away from products, both external and internal, that claim to keep telomeres long.

Ideally, we want to support our bodies in keeping cellular balance as we age. The authors refer to the spectrum of a health-span and a disease-span. As we age, the physical self can experience discomfort and chronic health problems of varying degrees of severity. This is a state known as the disease-span. Healthy life choices can help us remain in the health-span for as long as possible and enter the disease-span (as influenced by the above and other cellular processes) later in life; imagine remaining in the healthspan into your 80s and 90s versus experiencing the disease span in your 40s and 50s.

(Of course, the above statement refers to what is within our control. We cannot control every environmental or genetic influence over our health or disease-span.)

What are those healthy life choices? Clichés turn out to be true; it’s all about good quality:

Food

Sleep

Exercise

These three factors affect telomere length as well as physiological health all over your body. We already knew that, though. Telomere length as it relates to cellular health is just one of the many biometrics that reveal how well we are treating our bodies and how well our bodies are reacting to our environments.

In the face of seemingly obvious information, the authors take their findings a step further to present their most inspiring (to me) information. Our response to emotional and mental stress has a profound and undeniable impact on our telomeric state of being. The doctors are not referring only to the usual cascade of nervous system, adrenal gland, catecholamine, flight or flight responses. We can now chart changes in our cells and DNA that reveal our resilience in the face of life’s challenges.

The authors recommend mindfulness practices. Conscious breathing, meditation, and other various forms of stress reduction/management practices are now believed to be as important as the food/exercise/sleep trifecta effect on our physical selves. This quadrant of lifestyles choices can make it much easier for all of us to make sure we are reaching the standards necessary to support our bodies to live long in our health-spans. The proof of these choices is now measurable in ways we hadn’t previously imagined possible!

As the book claims, “Genes load the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.”

Scientifically verifiable findings continue to evince the undeniable mind/body/emotion connection. It is our individual responsibility to make the choices that feed our minds, bodies, and spirits.

How do you plan to replenish your total well-being? Do you meditate? Have a routine workout throughout the week? Abby prefers the moving meditation of yoga. Our friend José prefers to suck the blood out of virgins, which are getting harder to find. What about an activity that creates a sense of ease and play?

Here are two sources that you might find helpful:

https://www.amazon.com/Why-Zebras-Dont-Get-Ulcers/dp/0716732106

A book about stress management.

https://smarterbodies.com/videos/reducing-stress-with-mel/

A quick movement practice to reduce stress at the end of the day.

Let us know what you plan to do!

How to not fail your resolutions Part 2

Following our first post about failing New Year’s resolutions featuring general advice about creating reasonable resolutions, this post talks about pitfalls to avoid and steps you can take to achieve those goals. Here are 4 tips to help you reach your fitness goals and maintain the results!

1) Don’t buy into gimmicks!!!

Here is the sad truth: the ONLY proven method of obtaining and maintaining a “better” body (whatever that means to you) is hard work, manageable dietary changes and maybe some mental changes/ attitude adjustment!!!

There is no magic tea, no juice cleanse, no ab product, no waist trainer, no cream, no pill and no app that will give you what you seek for any reasonable amount of time. Most likely the companies selling you these products are preying upon your insecurity, desperation or gullibility. They are interested in your money and are not invested in your well-being. Don’t trust testimonials or before/ after pictures. Aside from these pictures being most-likely photoshopped, they only capture a moment in time (figure competitors and fitness models, for instance, have an “off” season and those pictures are rarely ever circulated). A lot of the product testimonials you will see are scripted and for fitness programs specifically, the testees are often put on a very strict and unsustainable diet that isn’t mentioned to make you believe that their 21 day workout can completely transform your body all by itself. Unfortunately, there aren’t any magical shortcuts and each body and circumstance is different. What worked for someone else may not work for you (more about this in our next blog post).

The good news: If you build it, they will come. The results, that is. HAVE PATIENCE. When starting a new fitness program, sometimes it can take 4 to 6 weeks before your body starts showing results. I won’t even take measurements with new clients until after at least 2 weeks and I still have to explain that the graph towards body change (if there were to be such a thing, which there isn’t!) is NOT linear and there are also annoying plateaus on the way and times that you will back-track! Slow and steady wins the race, remember?

2) The way you measure makes a difference

Are you trying to lose/gain weight or are you trying to change your clothing size? If you are trying to gain muscle mass or drop pants size, measuring your progress on the scale may not be beneficial. The number on the scale may not accurately reflect progress. Try circumference measurements instead. I usually tell people to pick 3 places (often times waist, hips and thighs, but it doesn’t have to be) and make sure you measure from the same place each time and the same time of day. Also don’t measure too often (once every 2 weeks is fine). For women who are still menstruating, you may want to measure at the same time of each cycle because there will be some fluctuations due to bloating and water retention (oh they joys of not having an sRY gene!).

Now, if you are competing in a sport that involves a weight class, or you have a bet with someone at work about losing actual pounds, then by all means, measure by the scale. Just make sure you understand that there are lots of factors that affect your scale weight. You can measure more frequently as a way to experimentally determine what changes this number as long as you don’t obsess over it.

3) Feel the burn, but don’t feel burned

Failure is more likely to occur if you hate your workouts and loathe your diet. You need to be able to pick something sustainable. Remember, our bodies want to ensure our survival and if we do something that feels like death, the brain will find a way to make you “safe” again by convincing you to stop. This might be the time to recognize any emotional aversions you have towards exercise and/or emotional reliance on food. These things can be changed, but they first need to be addressed. It’s important that you enjoy your workouts and that your diet doesn’t feel like torture.

Also, good to remember, if you are doing a 30 day program (or whatever arbitrary amount of time), don’t expect your results to last longer than the program itself! Again, in order to ensure your results will stick, you need to find something you can do consistently that won’t make you burn out. Be reasonable about your time constraints, your tolerance levels and your preferences. Space out your workouts so that you can keep up a schedule.

If an exercise routine isn’t working for you, change it! If a diet isn’t working for you, try something else! It’s your life so enjoy it!

4) Don’t give up if you slip up!

Oops, you ate a piece of cake. F*** it! Now you have to eat the whole thing, right? And order some pizza! WRONG! (I mean, I’m not personally against either of those things, but if your goal is to slim down, this won’t help…)

You’re going to make mistakes, it’s human. Don’t let one slip up destroy your resolve. If you are having a really hard time, you may need to adjust your goals to be more realistic. Give yourself permission to fail and then pick yourself back up. The road to success is never linear, you are going to hit bumps or get a flat tire. Shake it off! You got this, homie!

 

Sweat SMARTer For Haiti: An upcoming charity event in NYC to benefit those who were hit worst by Hurricane Matthew

Date: December 17th, 2016

Time: 9am to 1pm, Ripley Grier Studios, 520 8th Avenue

            2pm to 7pm, Vitor Shaolin Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy, 780 8th Avenue

In the midst of this current political climate, it may surprise you to know that we are holding a fitness charity event to help Haiti recover from it’s most recent natural disaster. The media’s predominant focus is on the DAPL, social injustice, post-election concerns and women’s rights- ALL worthy of our attention and issues that we, at SMARTer Bodies, care about and continuously advocate. It’s easy to forget, however, that our neighbors in the Caribbean are still struggling to find loved ones and rebuild their homes. The small country continues to struggle from the earthquake that devastated its land 6 years ago. But in October, Hurricane Matthew aggressively swept through Haiti wreaking havoc on the fragile land and civil infrastructure that Haitians worked so hard to rebuild. Aside from the 1000+ people that have died during the storm there is now the spread of disease, like cholera, taking lives. To read more about the most recent tragedies this click here.

haiti      

We know it’s difficult to not succumb to the inertia of global-issue overwhelm. Many of us feel powerless to help ourselves, let alone extend help to others so far away. We feel that in times like these, it is important not to lose sight of those who are in desperate need. Kim, our co-founder, has done the research and made the connections to find a charitable association that you can trust to help the Caribbean’s forgotten. The Haiti Development Project has a specific mission

Haiti Development Project (HDP) speaks for thousands of invisible children in rural Northwest Haiti who are growing up illiterate and without the necessary resources to succeed in life.

For this important reason, Haiti Development Project (HDP) is championing the cause for universal primary education enrollment for thousands of unschooled children in rural Haiti.

We are one of a small number of NGOs operating and planting seeds in a region that is mostly isolated, poverty-stricken, underdeveloped and neglected.

It’s difficult to be charitable even when you want to given all the corruption that happens in non-profits. Kim has taken the time to personally speak with the founder of HDP, an employee of the UN, Nionese Prudent, who was more than happy to answer all of Kim’s questions and make herself personally available to help with this project.

We can assure you that this non-profit is a aware of and committed to negating the corruption that makes people hesitant to send financial assistance. Here’s an organization that will continue to rebuild the lives of the students who have been once-again impacted by uncontrollable forces.

You can give by clicking this link http://www.haitidevelopmentproject.org/ or by going to our charity event. It’ll be a day of fitness and fun! Teachers are volunteering to teach classes that you can enjoy while giving to people who are in need. Classes will be held at 2 different locations in midtown Manhattan. Classes will be $25 each and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Haiti Development Project. Class descriptions and schedule as well as teacher bios can be found below. Also, for the months of November and December our book, Exposing Yoga Myths will donate 50% of our profits towards the cause. You can find our book on Amazon or the e-book on https://smarterbodies.com/exposing-yoga-myths/

Here’s our class line-up. Please note that the link to sign up for the class is in the class description below the schedule:

Class time Instructor Class Type Location
9:00 AM Marcus SMARTer Strength and Cardio Ripley Grier
10:00 AM Kim SMARTer Interval training Ripley Grier
11:00 AM Abby SMARTer Flow Yoga Ripley Grier
12:00 PM Christopher ConBody Bootcamp Ripley Grier
2:00 PM Mario kickboxing vsbjj
3:00 PM Alvaro No Gi BJJ vsbjj
4:00 PM Julio “Fighting Dirty” vsbjj
5:00 PM Rafael Women’s self defense vsbjj
6:00 PM Kim Yoga for grapplers vsbjj

Class descriptions:

SMARTer Strength and Cardio with Marcus:

A 60 minute workout using nothing but your own body weight. We will incorporate full body strength and cardio moves to build a great sweat and some muscle as well! This class requires a moderate amount of effort and is better suited to those who are used to more moderate training. Open to all ages (18+).

Sign up here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sweat-smarter-for-haiti-at-ripley-grier-tickets-29709429704

SMARTer Interval training with Kim:

This class is sure to get your heart pumping and sweat dripping, no matter what fitness level or age (18+). Appropriate modifications will be shown for every movement. This class requires no equipment, but will cover balance movement patterns in all 3 planes of motion and integrate the whole body. Since this class is based on timed work to rest periods with active rest in between, you can be sure that no matter which modification you choose, you will getting a great workout!

Sign up here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sweat-smarter-for-haiti-at-ripley-grier-tickets-29709429704

SMARTer Flow Yoga with Abby:

Take the principles of SMARTer Bodies (evidence based training built on techniques proven to be reliable) and bring them into a flowing Yoga class! This is a great opportunity to see how we take the Yoga Myths and bring them to what you might typically see in your Yoga classes. Take this class so you can know better what kinds of modifications will work for you! This class is open to all levels and all ages (18+).

Sign up here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sweat-smarter-for-haiti-at-ripley-grier-tickets-29709429704

ConBody Bootcamp:

You my have heard about ConBody as one of the hottest fitness trends in NYC right now! This military/prison cell bootcamp class requires no equipment and integrates calisthenics, cardio, endurance training and strength training. For more information visit www.conbody.com

Sign up here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sweat-smarter-for-haiti-at-ripley-grier-tickets-29709429704

Kickboxing with Mario Hernandez:

This class is an excellent way to burn some calories while learning effective striking techniques! Open to all levels, but be prepared for a challenge. Note: If you have your own boxing gloves, please bring them.

Sign up and reserve a spot here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sweat-smarter-for-haiti-at-vsbjj-tickets-29708581166

No Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Alvaro Tautiva:

This no gi class is open to all belt ranks and will include a warm up, a couple of techniques and some live rolling. No gi apparel is appreciated, but not necessary.

Sign up and reserve a spot here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sweat-smarter-for-haiti-at-vsbjj-tickets-29708581166

“Fighting Dirty” with Julio Rivera:

This class will cover simple attacks to sensitive areas (groin, eyes, throat, etc.) that anyone can use for self protection. No prior training experience needed and open to all ages (18+)

Sign up and reserve a spot here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sweat-smarter-for-haiti-at-vsbjj-tickets-29708581166

Women’s Self Defense with Rafael Santana:

This class will use simple, yet practical techniques that anyone can use to get themselves out of dangerous situations. These techniques can be used on opponents that are physically larger and stronger and are ideal for women.

Sign up and reserve a spot here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sweat-smarter-for-haiti-at-vsbjj-tickets-29708581166

Yoga for Grapplers with Kim:

This class will address asymmetries, imbalances and compensation patterns found in grapplers and work to improve flexibility needed for difficult techniques and positions.

Sign up and reserve a spot here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sweat-smarter-for-haiti-at-vsbjj-tickets-29708581166

We hope you’ll be able to join us for this exhilarating day of celebrating what we do best, moving and helping those who need it.

PICS AND BIOS TO FOLLOW

Abby Kaufmann – Yoga Teacher with SMARTer Bodies

abby

Abby’s desire for in-depth knowledge of the physical body’s experience in yoga has led her to teach with SMARTer Bodies. Her diverse education includes a Bachelor’s degree in social work and certifications as a Health Coach, Pilates teacher and Karuna Reiki master.

Marcus Hudnell – Personal Trainer with SMARTer Bodies

marcus

Heavily involved in sports and athletics for the better part of 25 years, Marcus developed an appreciation and fascination with the human body. “Health” and “Fitness” are terms that apply to both the physical and mental/spiritual nature of a person.

Christopher Kennedy- trainer at ConBody

img_20161106_192613-1

Freelance model, military veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division and trainer at ConBody.
Recovering from alcoholism. I am an individual who has concern for others in the midst of disaster. My concern for others is legitimate, sincere and I am eager to do this for #Haiti.

Kim-lien Kendall – Yoga Teacher, Personal Trainer and Co-Founder of SMARTer Bodies

me

After obtaining a degree in Biochemistry and deciding that her talents would be better spent helping people one on one rather than in a lab, she started working with bodies in 2005. Kim’s experience in gymnastics, sports and martial arts combined with her studies in somatics, kinesiology and biomechanics have equipped her with the knowledge and skill set to work with a wide range of clientele. She started SMARTer Bodies with Melissa in order to teach upcoming body workers from their combined experience and give back to the community by working with various organizations that benefit disenfranchised populations. She is a co-author of the book Exposing Yoga Myths and Co-founder of SMARTer Bodies.

Julio Rivera – Founder of Omni Martial Arts

julio

Sensei Julio Rivera has been involved in health and fitness for twenty years as a bodybuilding competitor, personal trainer and journalist.  He currently holds 3 black belts in Judo, Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has trained in HAGANAH (a no nonsense Israeli Self Defense style) and boxing. Sensei Julio has trained students who are agents and officers from the NYPD, Customs and Border Patrol, Secret Service and private security agencies.  He has also helped train and corner MMA fighters.

  Alvaro Tautiva – Assistant Instructor

alvaro

Alvaro Tautiva is a Brown belt in both Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Sensei Julio Rivera. Before joining the Omni family in 2010, Alvaro trained in Muay Thai and was a certified trainer with N.A.S.M. An active competitor in the BJJ scene, Alvaro has competed and medaled in several tournaments in the United States. In 2015, as a purple belt, Alvaro was runner up in the IBJJF Masters Worlds championship and soon after took 1st place in the no gi Pan-Ams championship. As an assistant instructor, Alvaro implements his background in speech and language pathology, from LaGCC and Brooklyn College, to help with the instruction of the children’s programs at Omni Martial Arts.

Mario Hernandez – Assistant Teacher

mario

Mario Hernandez is a purple belt in BJJ under Professor Vitor Shaolin and  Sensei Julio Rivera.  He is an active competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and amateur Mixed Martial Arts fighter having trained under Bellator MMA standout Marcos Loro Galvao.  Mario has been training since 2009 in various martial arts, (BJJ, Kickboxing, Boxing)  In 2013, Mario scored his first MMA victory as well as a silver medal at the Big Apple BJJ tournament.  He gained experience early on working with children as a camp counselor and now assists with teaching kids and adults at Omni Martial Arts.

 Rafael Santana – Assistant Teacher                                          

rafael

Rafael Santana is a brown belt in Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Sensei Julio Rivera. He has also studied self defense techniques under World renowned BJJ and MMA Champion, Vitor Shaolin Ribeiro. Rafael earned a Masters in Criminal Justice from John Jay.  He began training in Judo and BJJ at Omni shortly after.  He has earned medals at several competitions, including the IBJJF Boston Open, New York International Judo Cup, Big Apple BJJ tournament, LI Pride and Tech Judo.  He uses his six years of teaching experience from City University to teach children and adult classes.             

(My) Truth About Yoga and Body Image

Screenshot_2016-04-22-11-59-13-1

There’s a popular idea people seem to have that once they obtain the body they want, they will all of a sudden be happy. Both women and men are constantly exposed to advertisements with images of scantily clad, tanned bodies with tips and tricks on how to achieve rock hard abs, tight butts, sculpted arms and impossibly thin waistlines, as if to say “Hey asshole, you look like shit and no one will ever love you, unless you resemble these fucks!” Ok, so maybe that’s a bit harsh, but not far from reality. Despite it being common knowledge that these images are photoshopped to oblivion, people still aim to achieve the impossible. So much so that they focus their entire lives on it, not realizing it is a never-ending wild goose chase!

In most cases you will never attain the body you want, because you will never like what you see in the mirror until you are happy with what you see. Happiness precedes having the body you want, not the other way around! I work in the fitness industry and am surrounded by colleagues who have bodies people would literally be willing to die for. The unfortunate truth is, most of these people are never happy with what they have. There is always someone with a rounder butt, more of a washboard on their tummies, bigger biceps, etc. This is a realm where eating disorders (disguised as “cleansing”), exercise addiction, illegal substances, and complete and total insecurity (think the emotional maturity of a middle schooler) run wild and free. The behavior I have seen from these fitness professionals is NOT healthy!

I wish I could tell you that yoga was a safe haven from this insanity, but it’s not. I’m here to tell you my personal story about body image, hoping it will help you have a healthier practice and help you transcend the bullshit.

I have to preface this by saying that I grew up in the eighties, but not in a typical household that promoted gender roles in children. My immigrant mother was raised to value education more than social experience and my hippie feminist father never placed any emphasis on the way that I looked. Neither of them ever spoke to me about body image, because it wasn’t important to them, but it seemed to be the only thing that my middle school peers cared about. At the time, my source of female body inspiration was shitty magazines targeted at teens (this was before the internet). Most of the popular girls in my school were blonde, white and thin. I was not. I’d always been fairly athletic and muscular, but that look wasn’t “in” back then. I would often shy away from pool parties and the like because I was thicker and darker than the ideal “pretty girl”. Boys were interested in me, probably because I had boobs, but that’s not what I cared about. I wanted to look like them.

Enter body dysmorphia, which at the time seemed so normal for a teenage girl that it was overlooked. One summer, I got my tonsils removed and the surgeon botched the surgery. I ended up not being able to eat solid foods for about 3 weeks. I lost so much weight that I had to be re-hospitalized. However, when I went to the beach that summer, everyone kept telling me how awesome I looked. I remember starving myself and hiding food from my parents, desperately trying to cling to my thin-ness and becoming terribly depressed when all the FAT came back. This led to drugs (lots of drugs…) so that I could emotionally cope with the feelings of being a fucking loser (the girls at my high school were really mean- but I forgive all you hoes in case you are reading this…).

The first couple years of college, I was able to pull my shit together because I became really interested in academics. Turned out I was really good at school and being an intellectual badass. I also got into martial arts, which was fun and healthy. But then came yoga… and not the yoga (you know, the real hippie shit) that my dad had been teaching me since I was 8… these people were doing headstands and other cool shit. I wanted to do cool shit too! Yet again, the popular yogis were so, so thin… clearly if I wanted to be good at this, I had to be thinner. I had to have a “yoga body”!

Along came exercise addiction. I used to make myself run 4 miles every morning before school (I FUCKING HATE RUNNING). I started biking, kayaking, rock climbing every weekend… but not because I loved to do those things, because I wanted to burn more calories. Then I became vegan, because, you know I didn’t want to hurt animals and shit… only later to realize that my veganism was a disguised eating disorder (as I, unfortunately, think is the case for a lot of yogis). This was hard, and my body fought all of this like crazy. It is literally written in our DNA that our bodies will try to force us to expend as little energy as possible while eating as much as we can (it was a survival mechanism for our species at one point).

My weight fluctuated constantly. I used to buy weight loss supplements and do “cleanses” to try to keep the fat off. During this time I landed a pretty sweet job at the University and I started traveling a lot, going on yoga retreats. Somehow I ended up in New York City and I immediately fell in love. Once I moved here, I started hanging out with a bunch of raw vegan yogis. I adopted this diet and the pounds immediately started shedding off! This was mostly because your body doesn’t absorb too many nutrients from raw foods because, you know, we aren’t fucking rabbits. You pretty much just shit everything out, but who cares! I was a size mother fucking 2! For once in my life I WAS THIN!

But alas, this didn’t last… I became bloated. My weight started fluctuating again. I started suffering from various health disorders like irritable bowel, athletic dysmenorrhea, migraines… oh and my fucking hair was falling out. But I was so convinced that I could be thin again, I stuck with it. I started counting calories. I literally limited my calorie intake to 1,200 a day. I was starving ALL. OF. THE. TIME. Enter bulimia. By this time, I was teaching yoga. Yes, I was trying to teach people how to find inner peace while sneaking sugary snacks in the wee hours of the night and puking my brains out. The fucked up part? I wasn’t the only one. I have heard horror stories of other yoga teachers teaching their students aggressive vomiting techniques as kriya (cleansing practices). Teachers telling their students that if they lost some weight, they would be able to perform certain poses better. Teachers encouraging students to go on liquid diets. NO, NO, NO, NO! This is beyond wrong! How has a practice that is supposed to build inner peace and self love turned into this???

Now, the yoga hustle in NY is real and the pay for classes is shit. I was getting turned down left and right for gigs. Two very well known studios flat out told me I didn’t have the “body” they wanted a teacher to have. I wasn’t thin enough and I wasn’t white enough (by the way, this is a thing and if you don’t believe me, ask any person of color who has ever stepped foot in a yoga studio). Well, as I mentioned before, I was really great at studying and so I started to go back to becoming an anatomy nerd so that I could differentiate myself from other teachers. If I couldn’t get by with my looks, might as well use my brain. That and I started personal training. Turns out this was a place that welcomed muscular bitches such as myself.

So I started eating meat. I stopped counting calories. I started lifting. I started dancing. I started biking. I started judo-ing. I started jiu-jistu-ing. I started kickboxing…ing. I stopped going to yoga classes. Then something incredible happened. I felt fucking strong as hell. All of a sudden that became WAY more important than being thin. I started focusing on how fast my mile was on a bike, how much my 1 rep max was on a dead lift and how many chokes I had in my repertoire. I started feeling amazing! I’m a fucking sexy, badass fireball of muscle and sarcasm and I. ABSOLUTELY. LOVE. MY. BODY! I used to stand in front of a mirror, assessing every part of my body and crying over how much I hated it! Now when I look at a mirror, I wonder how that shit doesn’t break from handling all this sexiness!

This is what happy looks like.
This is what happy looks like.

Now when I return to MY yoga practice, it feels more authentic. It feels more like home. MY body is my home. It’s comfortable because it’s me and not someone else. It’s incredible because of what it can do. It’s perfect because there is nothing else it can be. This is, I think, what yoga is supposed to feel like. Finally… I have a yoga body. My fucking body.

My advice? Stop obsessing over fat. Don’t let it control you. There are way more important things in life…

Podcast #42 – Exposing Yoga Myths (part 4)

Podcast #42 – Exposing Yoga Myths (part 4)

Oh, so much more we discuss. Listen here for:

  • Some things that we love about yoga in our personal practice and how we use it as a tool with students and clients.
  • Yes, our book criticizes concepts often taught in yoga teacher trainings. Being critical doesn’t mean that we’re being negative. We’re criticizing something we love because we want to make it better.
  • Some thoughts on the importance of critical thinking.

Click here for Ariana’s article for Mind Body Green.

Hit us up and share your thoughts 🙂

#complimentsandwich

 

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, in a Mindful Way- 5 tips to stay centered in your healthy eating habits

Avoid this awful feeling.
Avoid this awful feeling.

 

Even the most “disciplined” of us can fall off the healthy eating habit bandwagon during the holiday season. Whether we are going to holiday parties and are fully into the holidays, or if we can’t stand them and are comforting ourselves by over-indulging, there are a few tricks that we can use to keep the “damage” to our waistlines to a minimum.

 

1. Don’t go to a party, gathering or supermarket HUNGRY!! Make sure that you have had some healthy snacks before you head out to the festivities. That way you won’t eat every goody that you come across. Great snacks to stave off cravings include almonds, Brazil nuts, or a goat milk kefir drink.

2. When going to the home of others, offer to bring a veggie dish- like sautéed Lacinato Kale, roasted broccoli and cauliflower so that you are sure to get ONE addition that is delicious, simple, satisfying and nutritious.

3. Try to eat the processed foods as early in the day as possible- the stuffing, the cakes and cookies- so that you have as much time as possible to digest them. Going to bed with a lot of undigested processed carbs can leave you sluggish and foggy the next day- not to mention make you crave MORE of the evil, but delectable treats. If you are throwing the party try substituting some less processed items to your menu. Add some goat cheese options, crunchy seeded crackers, try brown rice and quinoa instead of potatoes.

4. STAY HYDRATED! Let the first and last thing you do everyday be taking a nice big glass of not too cold water. If you drink alcohol, try to drink at least a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you imbibe.

5. Finally- REST!!! Before you go out, plan a target time to get home so that you can still get enough rest so you don’t feel wiped out. If you know you have a late night ahead, try to get a little nap in before getting ready to party!.

Try not to fall into the, “well, I screwed up my diet, so I may as well go for broke,” and help yourself to ANOTHER piece of pecan pie a la mode. Take pauses between bites, listen to your body. You can always have more later! Try never to eat past the 3/4ths full rule.

8 Reasons Why Martial Arts Will Make Your Kid a Better Person

mmaAs a general statement, I think that movement (especially learning skilled movement) is important for young children. While there are arguments for and against specializations in sports at a young age, it seems that a variety of movement and skills can be more transferable to everyday life and can provide more options for movement choices later in life as we age. It’s also important that kids have fun and enjoy whatever activity they are doing, so that they are more likely to stick with a healthier lifestyle. Considering all of this, I decided to enroll my (at the time) 3 year old daughter in martial arts classes. I’ve seen her benefit in so many ways! Here’s a few I wanted to share:

1. Straight up self defense: Although it is always best to avoid confrontation and to tell a trusted adult, there will be times when your child may be in physical danger with no one to help him or her. Knowing how to defend oneself is a useful skill to have just in case.

2. Cultivating empathy: While it would seem that introducing your child to potentially violent techniques might entice them to physically bully other children, with a good instructor, the opposite is usually true. In classes that allow sparring, children will be faced with opponents that they may not be able to overcome at the moment. This humbling experience often teaches an aggressive student not to underestimate their opponent. They also learn what it feels like to be on the receiving end of physical oppression and this can help them create compassion and empathy. Some children may even speak out about violence they see in school or elsewhere.

3. Athletic ability: Many martial arts require varied movement and skill sets which will help your child create useful athletic adaptations such as increased speed, strength, power, coordination and cardiovascular output.

4. Transferable skills: A lot of the athletic adaptations above are learned through skills that can easily be adapted to other sports. Running, jumping, kicking, punching (throwing) and learning how to fall and tumble are skills that can help in other sports and in everyday activities.

 

5. Self confidence: In the same way that (with a good instructor) an aggressive child can be humbled through physically oppressive situations, a timid student can be encouraged to overcome adversity with appropriate challenges. If a smaller student develops good technique and is able to overcome a larger and more physically imposing student, this can be a huge confidence builder and may teach the student to take on bigger and bigger challenges in life.

 

6. Respect: In most martial arts, there is a system of hierarchy or a belt system. Students are required to show respect to their teachers and other students who are higher up on the ladder than they are. The higher belt students are not always the biggest and the strongest or oldest, so this system teaches children a more sophisticated form of respect. They are also often asked to help newer students to learn. I have personally seen children learning to become more helpful to their parents and of younger children and to become more respectful of their elders outside of their classes.

7. Focus: Not to take away from the value of play, but it is important for school age children to appropriately discern time to play and time to focus. A good martial arts instructor will implement both in their classes to teach their students to focus when necessary. Being more skillful always leads to more options.

8. Teamwork and relationships: Many martial arts require a partner to learn various techniques. Working with a partner in such an integrated way requires the student to be able to assess and adapt to the other person’s mood, energy level, physical ability and personality. This can teach the student patience, tolerance, acceptance and many other valuable  characteristics to help build strong friendships and relationships.

How to Stay Centered While Hurtling Toward the End of the Year

Inegativespace-14 may sound like a grumpy grouch, but truth be told, while many love this time of the year, I find it destabilizing. All the activity, along with Duane Reade’s unnecessarily early displays, emphasizes how the end of the year is looming upon us. Basically, once Halloween ends, the deluge of Christmas/Holidays decorations, songs and general vibration is overstimulating to my senses and triggers all kinds of stressful thoughts. Like? Allow me to share:

  • The true meaning of any holiday seems to be lost on us and is replaced by violent over-consumption.
  • Nobody really knows how these holidays came to be and that’s annoying.
  • Can we enjoy the introspective quiet that accompanies the Fall and Winter? No, because of increased crowds and obnoxious ecologically-unsound light displays.

This sense of speed and frenetic excitement can be fun. For those of us that don’t enjoy it, the importance of a centering practice or ritual cannot be overestimated. Here are a few I enjoy:

  1. Essential Oils on Demand – keep a few scents on hand, so that in the middle of your day or a crowd you can take one out that you find soothing. Get time to slow down by breathing in the scent and taking a moment of stillness.
  2. Embrace the darkness – light a candle and use it’s light to illuminate dinners, meditation, or television binging. They add warmth and low-key cheer to any environment. My favorite candles are beeswax, which give off a beautiful light and are non-toxic.
  3. Tea, bitches – Yes, you can make a ritual out of making yourself a lovely cup of tea. I find Lemon Balm calming in the evening. A great choice for anyone dealing with depression or S.A.D. I prefer loose leaf, so I can really take my time and focus on the preparation again creating a time out from the surrounding chaos.
  4. Abhangya – This one comes from Ayurveda. It’s a massage you give yourself using sesame oil. The purpose is to ground and protect yourself. You can totally think that’s a load of crap, but still just enjoy the moment of self-care. Pick an oil you like and pamper yourself a little. I do practice with the Ayurvedic intent and start the morning by rubbing on the sesame oil and then taking a quick shower, so that I feel warmed and moisturized.

      You need something to get your through 5am when you aren’t a morning person!

5.  Enjoy quiet activities – Time to de-stimulate, so no, playing with your phone doesn’t       count. Read a book, magazine, graphic novel or craft something. Basically, give yourself       a break from electronics. It won’t kill you. I swear.

                                             Good luck and let me know if any of this helps.