SMARTer bodies

Category: Health and Fitness

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.

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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.
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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!

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

We recently shared a post about the possible benefits one can receive when drinking apple cider vinegar. Helen Sanders from HealthAmbition.com also a post about ACV and it is much more extensive. We think Helen’s post is valuable, because it sites much of the research behind this practice (which some do daily!) and some of these valuable studies are about the positive effects of vinegars in general.

Exciting as this content can be we ask that our readers put on their critical-thinking-helmets and remember that no article can tell you what to do for your health or prescribe the correct amount of any traditional substance in the name of wellbeing. While some use ACV several times a day others ingest it only a couple of times a week. You’ll have to be the judge of what feels best for you! Remember, when it comes to the whole ph conversation you don’t know how this or any other rememdy will effect your body unless you’re testing your ph levels on a daily basis. So read up and take advantage of this well-gathered information and think about how it can be tailored for your needs.

Thanks to Helen for letting us share, Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar:

acv-benefits-1

Vinegar is thought to have a ten thousand year history, having been used for hundreds of different purposes. It was a key ingredient in many remedies and used to flavor and preserve foods in ancient civilizations.

Records show the use of vinegar by the Babylonians in 5000 BC. Traces of vinegar have been found in ancient Egyptian urns dated to 300 BC. It is mentioned in texts of ancient Greece and China, and was even used by Hannibal to crumble rocks to aid his passage through the Alps!

Even today, people use apple cider vinegar not only for the obvious purpose in a variety of different culinary dishes, but also for all kinds of cleaning, removing stains on clothes, carpets and teeth, restoring leather products and even as a weed killer (source).

Recently, apple cider vinegar has become very popular, and has been the subject of much speculation. It is thought to have many important health benefits, including lowering blood sugar levels and decreasing the symptoms of diabetes.

It has also been suggested that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss, and some some scientific studies have been carried out to investigate this. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at apple cider vinegar – what it is, what’s special about it, and what the research says.

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Vinegar is made by a similar fermentation process to alcohol. In fact, alcohol will turn into vinegar if exposed to the bacteria naturally present in the air.

To make apple cider vinegar, apples are pulverized to release the juice. The juice is mixed with yeast and bacteria, which convert the sugars in the liquid to alcohol.

The mixture then goes through a second fermentation process which

converts the alcohol into many different acids, including acetic acid. And voilà – we have apple cider vinegar (source).

Apple cider vinegar contains potassium, magnesium, antioxidants and amino acids – the building block for protein. High quality, unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains good bacteria, enzymes and proteins which are thought to impart extra health benefits.

Apple Cider Vinegar Kills Bacteria

Scientific research has now proven what moms and grandmas all over the world have known for decades: vinegar kills bacteria.

In one study, vinegar proved just as effective as many commercial products at eliminating bacteria such as E. Coli and staphylococcus aureus.

These bacteria busting properties are the reason why vinegar is used to preserve food and can decrease the risk of food poisoning (source).

One study showed that vinegar wiped out an impressive 95 per cent of viruses present in food, proving that vinegar is an effective natural way to preserve food and decrease health risks (source).

Apple Cider Vinegar Lowers Blood Sugar And Helps Diabetes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that nearly 30 million people in the US currently have diabetes.

Even if you don’t have diabetes, there are significant health risks if you have high blood sugar. There are two main factors that need to be controlled to maintain normal blood sugar levels – what we consume and how much insulin we produce.

Controlling blood sugar to keep it within normal range has health benefits for everyone. It is well known that a healthy diet with a limited amount of sugar and few unhealthy carbohydrates is the key to controlling blood sugar.

When we take in refined sugars and carbs, it causes a rapid spike in the level of sugar in the blood. This increases the amount of insulin we produce as the body attempts to get blood sugar level back down to within normal range as quickly as possible.

This can result in a roller coaster effect on your blood sugar, and carries many health risks.

Studies have proven that apple cider vinegar reduces fasting blood sugar by 4 per cent. When we consume vinegar with refined carbs it can reduce blood sugar levels by over 31 per cent (source).

Research also shows that apple cider vinegar can help to increase sensitivity to insulin. Increased insulin sensitivity reduces the amount of insulin the body needs to effectively manage blood sugar.

Insulin resistance, or decreased sensitivity to insulin, is a major risk factor for developing type II diabetes. Results of some studies have proven that apple cider vinegar can increase insulin sensitivity by between 19 and 34 per cent (source).

Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, two out of three people in the US are overweight or obese. Obesity carries a considerable amount of health risks, including increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, stroke, some types of cancer and osteoarthritis (source)

Many studies have researched the effect of vinegar on satiety – the feeling of being full after eating. They found that it can reduce our appetite and reduce calorie intake by up to 275 calories (source).

In terms of carrying extra pounds, one of the most significant risks to health is excess abdominal fat. One study found that vinegar significantly reduces body mass, waist circumference and abdominal fat (source).

Apple Cider Vinegar Reduces Cholesterol and Risk Of Heart Disease

The importance of a healthy heart is well known. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease accounts for one in every three deaths in the US.

One of the biggest dangers to heart health is a high level of certain types of cholesterol in the body. Scientific research using non-human subjects observed a significant decrease in total cholesterol level and triglycerides – another type of fat in the blood – with use of apple cider vinegar (source).

Lowers Blood Pressure

There is scientific evidence that the acetic acid in vinegar reduces blood pressure.

In one study using non-human subjects, acetic acid significantly reduced blood pressure when subjects received the same diet without acetic acid (source).

Apple Cider Vinegar Is An Antioxidant

Antioxidants are substances which help to prevent cell damage by absorbing harmful chemicals – also known as free radicals.

Experts believe that antioxidants prevent or limit damage to blood vessels, and can decrease the risk of or may even help to prevent a variety of different medical conditions. These include atherosclerosis, some cancers, muscle degeneration, some types of arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Apple cider vinegar has been shown to contain chlorogenic acid, a phytochemical also found in coffee.

Chlorogenic acid has been proven to act as an antioxidant by binding to

cholesterol molecules and preventing oxidation. This is an extremely important factor in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke (source).

Apple Cider Vinegar Has Anti-Fungal Properties

Fungi and yeasts are present naturally in our bodies and on our skin. When they are given favorable conditions, they can multiply uncontrollably and cause health problems.

Apple cider vinegar has been shown to be effective against various types of yeast, such as Candida Albicans, the type of yeast responsible for the uncomfortable symptoms of thrush (source).

Vinegar and Cancer

Many claims have been made on various websites that apple cider vinegar can positively affect some types of cancer.

Certainly, many studies have shown that some types of vinegar can reduce the size of tumors and kill cancer cells. However, the majority of the research has been conducted in test tubes. In addition, most of the research used Japanese rice vinegar, cane sugar vinegar and red wine vinegar.

While it may be true that the components of apple cider vinegar can affect cancer cells, at present it’s not possible to back this up scientifically. More research into this subject is needed (source).

Reported Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

In recent years, apple cider vinegar has attracted a lot of attention in health and fitness communities. As a result there is a considerable amount of speculation and anecdotal evidence regarding its potential health benefits.

Some people use it to improve the condition of hair and skin, to soothe sunburn, repel insects, relieve allergies, as a cure for colds and acid reflux, to reduce the size of warts and heal injuries from poison ivy.

Apple cider vinegar may well be effective for some people for many of these conditions. There isn’t enough evidence to state categorically that apple cider vinegar is useful in these instances – but it may be worth a try.

If you want confirmation to say whether or not apple cider vinegar is effective for these conditions is likely to be a long wait, as natural products are not often the subject of extensive research unless it’s for a specific reason.

Apple cider vinegar is certainly an option for people who like to enjoy a natural, organic, chemical-free lifestyle.

How To Use Apple Cider Vinegar

The research regarding apple cider vinegar suggests it is a worthy addition to most daily routines. There are no side effects and it’s easy to add it to sauces, soups and salad dressings. Some people prefer to take it straight up, but most dilute it with water.

Selecting a high quality, organic, filtered apple cider vinegar is likely to have the best results, since these include those added extras – the good bacteria, enzymes and proteins which are thought to be particularly beneficial for health.

Most of the research on apple cider vinegar used a daily dose of between 15 and 30ml. Because of the acid content, doses above this level are not recommended and may have a negative effect on some conditions.

Apple Vinegar Supplements

There are a wide range of apple cider vinegar tablets and capsules currently available on the market.

However, some research studies have evaluated various different apple cider vinegar tablets for their content, and found that there was considerable variation between different brands.

The research even questioned whether or not apple cider vinegar was an ingredient in the products (source).

Will Apple Cider Vinegar Cure Me?

Apple cider vinegar has some important health benefits as an antioxidant, an antibacterial and antifungal treatment. It can help to lower blood sugar and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. It’s a naturally chemical-free product.

Apple cider can help as part of a weight loss program. It may also have numerous other health benefits and uses that have yet to be scientifically proven. What it is not is a one size, fits all, miracle cure for everything.

Is apple cider vinegar going to get you down to your target weight if it’s the only change to your routine? Will it completely cut your risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and stroke if you continue to eat unhealthy foods, smoke and take no exercise? Will it reduce the risk of diabetes if you drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before drinking a liter of regular soda?

The answer, unfortunately, is no. Whether you are trying to lose weight in general, decrease the amount of abdominal fat or you are trying to reduce blood pressure and cut the risk of heart disease and stroke, what is always needed is a combined approach of several changes to lifestyle.

A sensible, healthy eating plan and regular exercise are probably going to more effective in reducing your health risks than just adding apple cider vinegar to your current lifestyle. However, with its reported health benefits, apple cider vinegar seem like an added bonus which will help you to achieve the results you want.

Here’s an interesting infographic I found at diyremedies.org

Tea and Yoga to Cleanse for This Spring

*A review of a workshop Mel taught with trainer and tea sommelier Natasha Nesic. How are you supporting yourself this Spring? First scene on teamuse.com as written by Natasha.

“I want to debunk the myth that spinal twists wring out the organs. I’ve been seeing that in a lot of yoga journals lately.”

Melissa demonstrated, rotating her torso. “The organs are mostly on the front of the body. They don’t move.”

This was only the beginning of the Spring Cleanse Tea & Yoga Workshop at West End Health & Fitness, held on March 26th, 2017.

“See? Here they are on the front of my body.” She reversed the rotation. “Still on the front of my body.”

Free stock photo of healthy, woman, relaxation, girl

The studio mirrors created multiple reflections of her flexing like a cat, as the workshop attendees and I watched from our mats and folded blankets.

Then we followed suit, pulling knees to chests, tapping into the intimate capabilities of our musculoskeletal system. Who knew that a spine could rotate like that?

With each stretch and bend, Melissa encouraged us to go deeper within ourselves. Breathe, listen to the funny inhabitants of our bellies. And as organs are wont to do, they responded appreciatively.

“Excuse me, that was a burp. That’s an expression of organ function.”

One of the founders of SMARTerBodies, Melissa is an expert at marrying functional physiology with classic asana. Rather than leading us through a flow of up-down-cat-cow-bird-dog-horse-narwhal-etc, she explained each pose as a way of getting to know one’s body, to listen and provide assistance to its needs.

As important are they are, we often ignore our bellies. When was the last time you had the chance to say hello to your digestive system?

I won’t go into the effect on my own digestive system—please use your imagination—but when paired with her calm voice and breathing techniques, those gentle twists released my spine from countless hours spent training, typing, and tea-ing.

For a moment, all was still.

This was the theme of the day’s workshop: release.

Tea in Cup

Melissa and I had partnered for this event to create an experience of cleansing the self from winter blahs and unwanted negativity. “Detox” is a popular catchword at this time of the year, but the human body is capable of cleansing itself in its own way—no organ-wringing necessary.

For us, a little tea and yoga would help prepare for brighter months ahead. Hence, Adagio’s Sunlit Blooms were perfect for this workshop. They embodied the light, invigorating qualities needed for a sense of rejuvenation. Floral and citrus? Yes, please.

Starting with A Bushel And A Peck, this black and green blend sailed into your mouth on chamomile wings. Steeped for a bare two-three minutes, the base teas of hardy black and sensitive green harmonized like a team of professional opera singers. This is quite a feat for a black-green blend, as these tea types have different steeping times as could possibly go bitter against one another.

Yet luck was with us! Luck, plus the blend’s hidden jasmine, which quietly linked the major tea-voices together. The fact that jasmine symbolizes purity made it all the more fitting.

We transitioned into the next tea, A Tisket A Tasket, for more sweetness and citrus. At first sip, there was the delicate orange scent that accompanied A Bushel And A Peck, but this time it came with a stately green base.

Future blenders, pay attention: the base tea makes the difference. Having that slight edge of vegetal goodness from the green tea allowed the citrus to explode delightfully in your mouth, while a hint of vanilla flavor and lemongrass turned the whole sip into a tropical creamsicle.

Our third and final tea was A Pocketful Of Posies. This caffeine-free blend contained the now-familiar flavor of chamomile from the previous tea, yet here it was set up with lavender, rose, hibiscus, and blackberry leaves for a total bouquet of soothing sensation. People remarked on how calming it was, and we discussed how certain herbs—chamomile, lavender, etc—have anti-inflammatory properties.

And taking care of inflammation is important. Being that the workshop took place at a gym, part of the “spring cleanse” meant thinking about how to apply tea to one’s own health and fitness practice. Whether it’s arthritis, sore muscles or dry skin, you want to be able to treat that inflammation of tissue. Drinking anti-inflammatory tea—and due to the antioxidants present in plant matter, this means that every type of tea is anti-inflammatory—is a great way of reducing and preventing inflammation.

The biggest question, however, was calorie count.

Does tea have calories?

Yes. Everything edible contains calories.

But being that tea is thermogenic, the calories consumed by drinking it are going towards boosting your metabolism, to burn more significant calories from the food you ingested during the day. (Of course, by the time you’ve drunk enough tea to really kickstart your system, the sensationalized “weight loss” is usually water. Let no one forget the diuretic action of tea drinking!)

Yet at the end of the workshop, in the bliss of lavender and yoga-endorphins, calories didn’t really matter.

Spring was here. We breathed and sipped for warmer days.

Quick Fix for Weight Loss

THERE IS NO QUICK FIX to losing weight or looking slimmer. However, I seem to keep wanting to challenge that fact.

apple cider vinegar

The day after Easter when I pigged out, I decided to try something I was suggested to do. I drank a shot of apple cider vinegar. I nearly gagged and almost threw up. I was willing to experiment because a friend, whom I respect, said I should drink a little apple cider vinegar to get rid of this pesky belly fat I can’t seem to eliminate. Now that I tried, I decided to do a little research. This article from WebMd can shed a little light on the realities of shooting apple cider vinegar when you wake up. Apple cider vinegar article from WebMd.

As you can see, there is no PROVEN science behind losing weight by drinking apple cider vinegar in the morning. However, it seems that there has been scientific evidence that the vinegar helps with joint issues. OK, but I am still stuck with this middle age belly!

Here are a few things I have decided to do recently, that have helped.

  1. Keep a food journal. You can do it the old fashioned way, or use a app. I have been using this one
  2. Drink more water, with or without lemon. Lemon, like the vinegar will not make you lose weight, but it will help you eliminate more efficiently. More on lemons
  3. Prepare some meals for your week so that you have healthy foods, that you LIKE ready at home.
  4. Make sure you are getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night. Increased cortisol makes weight loss difficult
  5. Don’t deny yourself, invite yourself to enjoy food, as you add in healthy and delicious choices, you will see your cravings for crap lift.

There are many other things that can help. These previous suggestions are a start. Stay tuned for more!!!

lemons

Hey, what’s YOUR Dosha? Ayurveda in Your Life.

ayurveda

It’s totally normal to have spring like temperatures in February right?

No, obviously not. So, try to enjoy the respite from cold weather while managing your environmental anxiety (and your angst against climate-change deniers).

But these swiftly fluctuating temperatures can really mess with our immune systems and our general sense of being. In this article, Abby will explain how the model of Indian medicine, Ayurveda, can help you regain balance:

While doing my certification with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition For more about INN click here, I learned about Ayurveda. Simply stated, Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga.
Webster’s definition of Ayurveda
If you know about Yoga and have a practice, that statement might connect for you. However, to be more clear, Ayurveda is a practice of keeping the physical body in balance through diet.
Ayurveda sees food, plants, herbs as medicine. Where Yoga seeks to create and maintain balance through movement, Ayurveda is considered the “medicine”, using food and herbs to support and balance the body.
One of the key tools that Ayurvedic practitioners use is the assessment of the doshas.
Before the explanation of the doshas, try taking this assessment. Be as honest as you can be, and it should reveal your general dosha.
Most of these quizzes on the internet are connected to a product that is being sold. I have picked the test I think is most thorough and least commercial. Give it a try!
http://www.mapi.com/doshas/dosha-test/index.html#gsc.tab=0

For now, don’t get caught up with what appears to be your dosha. Doshas are not fixed. So, this is why it is suggested to take the quiz a few times a year. In the fall you might feel more scattered, less focused. In the summer you might feel more lazy. In the winter you might feel more aggravated. You might feel the total opposite of those. No matter what your reaction to the changes of the seasons, insight into your dosha can point you in the right direction to balancing. If you are the type who feels a little “lost in space” in the fall, you can try eating and drinking foods that will bring you “back to earth”. In the current marketplace, we can eat foods that once were out-of-season, like raspberries, pretty much anytime. If you are willing to pay, raspberries are available all year long. However, in North America, raspberries are normally only available mid-summer. Eating with the seasons follows a pattern that reflects the changes in nature. For example, in the winter we tend to eat more root vegetables like sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts. In the summer, more juicy fruits like peaches and nectarines. Ayurveda follows the path of nature so we live in more harmony with the seasons and therefore in our bodies. If we are in balance with  our dosha, we may  feel more in balance with nature.

doshas
I am intentionally not giving much detail about the definition of each of the three doshas. I find that people often look at the doshas as if one were favorable over another.  What is more significant is creating balance between the doshas. If you are a fiery spirit, you might benefit from balancing with something that will cool those fires. If you are an earth bound type, perhaps something to lift you up a little. One dosha isn’t better than another. In addition, we have a dominant dosha, but we are often a mix of all three. So, as you are learning about the doshas, make it a fun experiment!

Here are two of my favorite resources for ideas of what to eat in the seasons:

https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/seasonal-guides/autumn-guide/

October Seasonal Guide

Come to my Yoga classes to learn more about how your Yoga practice can also help to bring more balance to your dosha!

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!

 

(My) Truth About Yoga and Body Image

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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…