Ask Amanda: Total Recall

The timing on this legit reader-request #AskAmanda could not be more perfect as I’ve just returned from a wonderfully indulgent vacation in Japan.  She asked me how I get myself back on track after a weekend (week…month…year…life….) of too much food, too little exercise, and a general lack of health and fitness habits.

To give you an idea of what I mean when I’m talking about overdoing it, take a peek below. Over the five glorious days I spent in northern Japan, a typical day of eating looked a lot like this:

As you can imagine, upon my arrival back to Singapore, I solemnly and quietly slid my bathroom scale away under the sink, vowing to give myself a week to “recover,” and devised a plan on how to get back to my fit, firm self after a weekend of overindulgence.

Step one: food.  Whenever I need to clean myself out, I don’t go for the typical quick fixes (think juice cleanses, starvation diets, or some protein-shake regimen).  I simply buy the clean, healthy foods I enjoy and commit to eating them – and only them – for about a week.  For me that looks like:

  • breakfast: none; I return to my intermittent fasting program
  • fast breaker meal: banana or apple with natural chunky peanut butter
  • lunch: can of water-packed tuna mixed with plain hummus and 1/2 avocado
  • snack: a cup of full-fat Greek yogurt with blueberries and nuts
  • dinner: 1/2 avocado and 3 eggs over German bread with a side spinach salad

Sure, it’s not super exciting, but it definitely works – and that’s what matters to me.  The ingredients are cheap and simple, there’s barely any cooking involved, and I like all the food listed here.  I pair every meal/snack with 1/2 liter (16 ounces) of water and make sure I drink at least one container of coconut water (especially important in the Singapore climate) per day to offset all the dehydration of the (black) coffee I tend to gulp by the gallon.

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Step two: workouts.  When I’m coming back from an inconsistent or nonexistent workout schedule, I like to come back with a week of two-a-days – either an endurance cardio workout in the morning and superset weights in the afternoon, or a HIIT workout early and a slower weights program later.  I don’t overdo it in either workout session, but I do like to make up for lost time a bit and recommit my body and mind fully to exercise.

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Step three: sleep and skin.  After even one weekend of indulging, especially at age 33, I can see the effects of too much alcohol and sleep deprivation all over my (bloated, dull, patchy) face.  I like to use the first week back to do some serious rehab on my skin (think exfoliating scrubs, hydration mask, and heavy-duty eye cream every night, plus a scheduled facial as soon as I can make time for one), and get tons of sleep (for me “tons” is anything above 7 hours, and I cherish every second of it) until I no longer resemble the walking dead.

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If the Korean girls do it, I’m doing it – cleanse, tone, eye cream, face mask – ALL OF IT!

Finally, a wonderful step four: massage.  Sure, I was just on vacation, surrounded by leisure time and onsens aplenty, but I was also crammed into an economy-size airplane seat for about 10 hours each way and traveled two red-eye flights to make the trip happen. When I got  back, my neck felt like it had been strangled and my sore legs (from two days of snowboarding after an 18-year hiatus from the sport, sigh) felt like they were radiating pain.  I like to get a nice, deep, almost-painful massage to work out the travel tension and body aches from a whirlwind trip and help me get back in the mindset of work, business, and responsibilities again.

What are your best post-vacay rituals?  How do you get back to your healthy routine?

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Ask Amanda: Armed & Ready

My grandmother once told me that it’s your hands that show your true age – so many women are concerned enough about sun damage and wrinkles to put expensive products on their faces and decolletage, but the hands bear the brunt of years of constant sun, water, and daily-life activities that can’t be hidden or faked.

Similarly, I have a lot of (mostly) women remarking on the fact that while their legs stay somewhat toned as they age, and their stomachs can be corralled into Spanx, it’s the arms that really start to show the telltale signs of getting older – floppy underarms, a lack of muscle tone, and that squishy chest-shoulder area are common concerns I hear from ladies “of a certain age.”

swoll.jpgSo what can we do here, people?

The single most crucial solution for flabby, loose upper bodies is exactly what you think it is: exercise.  So many women lack adequate upper body strength (and resultantly, muscle in the upper body) due to a hyperfocus on abs, thighs, and rear ends, which makes for a rather unbalanced bod and disproportionate weakness from undertraining.

When I train women with upper body weakness, the first thing I do is help them get a proper push-up.  Push-ups are the do-anywhere, go-everywhere exercise that you need zero equipment to perform and that attack the chest, biceps, triceps, and shoulders in one beautiful movement.  A few weeks ago I wrote a full primer on how to get the perfect push-up, so if you’re one of the folks that needs this skill – go check it out!

In addition to push-ups, weight training the upper body is crucial – and I don’t just mean tossing in a few triceps kickbacks with 5-pound weights every now and then.  Bench presses, chest flys, shoulder presses, shoulder raises, biceps curls, overhead triceps presses, pull-ups, bent-over rows, rear flys, plank-rows, and lat pull-downs are a few of my favorite exercises to build upper body strength in clients – and they should all be performed toward maximum weight, for 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, twice weekly.

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Other than weight training, there are some more superficial strategies to help reduce the appearance of loose skin, dark veins, and generally “older” looking features of the arms.  I personally like to use a self tanner to enhance where my natural triceps “cuts” would be (see pics below for how this works) and spray a luminescent body oil on my arms (this bronze-tone NARS one from Sephora is great) to make them look tighter.

triceps

And finally – perhaps it goes without saying – but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander – so take those fancy products you save for your face and commit to using them on your arms (especially upper arms), too.  Retinoids, emollient moisturizers, sunscreen, and exfoliators work wonders on rough, loose, or otherwise tired-looking skin, and they shouldn’t be contained to one specific part of the body.  Try going half-half on your regular lotion with a dollop of Retinol, or use a dose of your face scrub to smooth out bumpy rear arms.  Treat your arms with the respect those hard-working guns deserve!

bae

I live in a place where “tank top season” is year-round, so having great arms is on my (and my clients’) mind all the time – so we don’t mess around with building strong upper bodies, and you shouldn’t either.  Pick up those weights and never look back…

What are your favorite upper-body exercises?  Do you like to show off your guns?

Crazy Sh*t I’ve Done to Prep for My Wedding

If you’ve been following me on almost any social media outlet, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I am getting married soon.  Like, real soon.  Like, a week from tomorrow soon (!!!).

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a wedding, not the least of which pertains to the specifics of the bride’s body, face, and hair.  Lucky for me I work hard to maintain a healthy weight and body fat percentage, so I didn’t feel the pressure to drop pounds and “tone up.”

That said, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have a sh*tton of fine tuning to do on this here bod.

I went back and forth about actually posting this entry, because I didn’t want to come off like a bridezilla, a vain idiot, or an absolute sucker – and I think, to some degree, you might think I’m all three if you stick around to read the whole thing.

But I also wanted to be completely transparent about what lengths I personally have gone to in order to feel like my best self on my wedding day and heck – some of you might even empathize (or at least get a hearty laugh).

So here we go:

About six months ago I started zapping my face.  No, not zit-zapping, more like wrinkle-zapping, with the NuFace by Carol Cole system.  My sister-in-law uses and swears by it, and she bought me one for my bridal shower – turns out, the thing’s addicting.  Once you get used to the tiny but somewhat painful microcurrents shooting into your face, it’s actually kind of relaxing, and it leaves your skin feeling tighter, softer, and yes – younger-looking.  You do have to commit to using the thing – I didn’t start noticing results until about two weeks in – but I really like it and will continue with it long after the wedding is over.

Around the same time I decided to fry my face off, I also got into waist training.  Yep, you head me, Kardashian-style waist training – the thing where you wear an increasingly tight corset to help shrink your waist (and note: although I am not overly concerned about my weight, I am concerned about my proportions, which I often find bordering on masculine due in part to my lack of waist-hip ratio).  Did it work?  Well, despite being a huge pain in the ass and completely uncomfortable, yes – my waist went from 28 inches at my first dress fitting to 26 inches at my last.  Win!

Speaking of being strapped and tightened, I also started wearing a back brace to help straighten out my posture.  Sure, I lift weights, do yoga, and generally maintain proper posture, but I also have scoliosis, which means I never really look “right” from a side view (which, if you guys have been to weddings, is often the sustained view you get of the bride when she’s saying her vows).  Please note if you are actually attending my wedding that I busted my ass to stand up straight so if it looks like I am slouching, you know I’m doing my best.

Not crazy enough for you yet?  How about the $40 custom spray tan that I (along with many of my bridesmaids and my own dear mother) am getting?  If you’re wondering what  a custom spray tan is, well, listen up: they customize a color for your skin tone.  They spray and contour your “trouble zones” (I always ask for double triceps and triple abs).  They sometimes apply a light fragrance so you don’t smell like stink tan.  And best of all, they spray into all the little nooks and crannies a misting bed will miss, resulting in a super smooth, even, and amazing-looking tan.  Badda bing.

The spray tan, though, wouldn’t mean nuthin’ if I wasn’t already trying to “up my cuts” by lifting weights and working out, a regime which for the past two months has also included sessions in the hot Pilates pod known as Iobella.  It is exactly what I just said – they put you in a plastic pod, photo 4 (2)crank the heat up to 103 degrees, and make you do Pilates-inspired movements (in excruciating sets of 40) inside.  Despite sounding hellish, it’s actually quite wonderful, and has done a ton for any outstanding pockets of cellulite I was not so thrilled to show off.

Ah yes, speaking of cellulite….most women hate it; I tolerate it, knowing that the places it usually falls are the ones I can hide out of sight most of the time.  Except when your wedding involves a pool party.  And except when that pool party involves wearing a bathing suit in front of all your wedding guests (who just saw you look like a pretty pretty princess in the warm and comforting confines of a boned, fitted wedding gown).  So I bit the bullet and added an element to my cellulite-fighting bath routine (which already includes dry brushing and exfoliating massage): fatgirlslim products.  Yep, the caffeine-jacked, peptide-potent gel products from the bliss line of beauty supplies now line my bathroom shelves, and I massage those bad boys into my arms, butt, abs, and legs on a daily basis – and again, believe it or not, I swear it’s helping.  The skin’s appearance is taut, firm, and smooth – and even feels tighter to the touch.

Speaking of products, a client of mine gave me Beautycounter products for Christmas and whoa – are they ever spectacular!  The standouts for me – again, used in conjunction with the Clarisonic I already commit to religiously and the Nu Face mentioned above – are the face oils, which have literally transformed the way makeup goes on my face as well as the way my skin looks without makeup.  They smell divine, last a long time (thank God, since they’re expensive as all get-out), and will literally retexture your face.  No joke.

You know what else isn’t a joke?  How seriously I take my dental hygiene.  I have never missed a 6-month checkup in my entire adult life, I floss daily, brush twice, use Listerine, and don’t f*ck around with cavities (never had one).

But what I do do is drink coffee and red wine, both of which are horrific for the enamel and coloration of the teeth – and I know it.  So the last step in my pre-wedding beauty regimen has been using a combination of baking soda and peroxide paste (homemade) and Crest Pro Whitening Strips to help restore my natural whiteness and address some of those pesky stains.

Whew.  Just typing that wore me out; I am surprised I was actually able to do all this crap over the past 6-12 months leading up to the big day!  I didn’t voyage too far into what I perceive to be the “crazy” stuff brides these days do – Botox, liposuction, surgery, bleaching/dying of various body parts, and so on – but I feel like I definitely went above and beyond my normal routine (which is, let’s be honest: wash face.  bathe.  apply makeup.  leave house.) to try and be my best bridal self for February 14th.

Married readers – how did you prep for your big day?  Single ladies and gents – what do you plan to add to your “glam squad” routine when wedding bells are ringing?