Ask Amanda: Size Me Up

I meant to write this entry weeks ago when the whole Lady Gaga body shaming thing came out, but other #AskAmanda inquiries came up, and I had to save my little soapbox for a while.

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ZING!

But now, I’ve been thinking about my dear Lady as well as some other recent body-related posts I’ve seen (female boxer Alicia Napoleon on what being “beautiful” means; H&M’s new body positive advertising) and I just feel like it’s the right time to talk about an issue that underlies so much of the communication, presentation, and function of the fitness industry – especially as it applies to women*.

(*Male readers, by the way, don’t think you’re “excused” from the conversation – if you choose to leave, you’re just part of the problem.)

“The problem,” by the way, is this: the true definition of fitness as an ideal should be a strong, healthy body, mind and spirit – but the working definition of fitness in our culture is a muscled yet somehow miraculously lean body without much attention to the whole “mind and spirit” thing and even less to the whole “life in balance” thing.  Throw in the fact that many female representations of “fitness” are often just regular (underweight) models wearing sports bras, and I think the issue is quite clear.

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Not hating on how she lives her life, but it probably doesn’t involve a lot of exercise – or food.

Think of how fitness companies sell their products – whether it’s gym memberships, vitamins, group classes, fancy equipment, clothing, whatever – it’s usually by showcasing these impossibly “fit” bodies (and again, if we’re talking about women, usually “fit” and “skinny” are frustratingly and inaccurately interchangeable, since visible muscles can actually have the opposite effect on sales) and promising that the product/apparel/supplement will deliver them as quickly as possible.

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She has no muscles; he has a bunch; somehow they both got the same result from 6 minutes with a hand-held vibrator?  Let’s use our brains here, people.

In a word: wrong.  And in another word: misleading.  And allow me one more: destructive.

Even if these companies have the best of intentions, they’re still delivering the age-old message that the only reason to get fit is to have a hot (thin/muscled, again, depending on gender) body, and if a certain method doesn’t guarantee a hot (thin/muscled) body, it’s not worth pursuing.  Screw you, tai chi.  Forget it, low-impact cardio.  Sayonara, stretching.  Our fitness culture screams push, starve, sweat, burn – rarely if ever, balance; and nearly never, fitness at any size.

Furthermore, advertising and communicating this message does double damage in that it negates the actual reality of achieving hot (thin/muscled) bodies, which is that it often takes much more sacrifice and social isolation than the average person is willing to commit, and that a hot body is no more a symbol of true health than a Louis Vuitton bag is a symbol of true wealth – it’s just an easily identifiable status symbol, and just as shallow.

I once had a client tell me that she would not have signed up to train with me if she didn’t “want my body” – how I interpreted that was, if my body shape and size didn’t meet her ideal of what a fit body should look like, she would negate the decade-plus experience I’ve had professionally training clients and hire someone who “looked the part” better than me.

I’ve had it with that type of bullsh*t.

Because I specialise as a weight loss coach, you may think it’s a bit hypocritical for me to harp on the hyperfocus on body size and shape as a problem, since it’s exactly that “problem” that keeps me in business.  But I counter with this: I specialise in helping people get to their healthy weights, with lots of lean muscle, functional mobility, clean nutrition, and personal growth along the way.

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Mmmm, I’ll have an extra large serving of downtime please.

Not a single one of my clients is encouraged to take supplements, go below normal recommended calorie targets, slog away hours of cardio, or even give much credence to the raw number on the scale (I emphasise the importance of body fat percentage and body measurements as the appropriate progress metrics for fat loss).  No one in my gym gets by calling themselves “weak” or “fat,” and I really try to discourage (particularly female) clients from pointing out singular body parts as “problem areas” and rather encourage a full-body fabulous approach to training.

I refuse to accommodate women who tell me they don’t want to get “too muscular” (for the record, it’s never one happened, because gaining muscle is not an easy feat for most of us) from training with weights, and I absolutely have no patience for clients who choose to starve themselves or do hours of cardio to “lose weight” rather than do it the right way.

Before I lose focus (and I know, I’m almost there), I want to leave you guys with the summary point of all this: how you look on the outside is only one (often misleading) indicator of how you’re functioning on the inside, and no one – not even your doctor, not even your trainer – can assess your health and fitness just by looking at your body shape or size.  You control your real health outcomes with attention to clean eating, resistance training, and proper sleep and stress management, and when you do those things well, you’ll see exactly what your healthy body is supposed to look like.

Have you ever had comments about your body, fitness, or size that hit a nerve?  How do you – did you – deal?

Ask Amanda: Slim, Shady

I was in an Uber yesterday when the driver (a homeopathic-remedy enthusiast and roughly 70-year old Sikh man) was regaling me with his detailed and lifelong fitness regimen, including everything from jogging around the block every day to taking “two mugs of warm water” upon waking to rubbing saliva in his eyes to relieve conjunctivitis (again, I said he was enthusiastic, if not a bit senile).

When he mentioned that his wife had the propensity to fall ill at a much higher rate than himself, I asked what her fitness practices were, to which he simply replied: “Oh, she’s very slim, she doesn’t need to exercise.”

I don’t think there’s a sentence in the world (regarding health and fitness, at least) that can make my blood boil more than that exact sentiment, although as an aside, these are close:

  • “I want to lose weight but I don’t want to change my diet”
  • “I want to look ‘toned’ but don’t want to get big manly muscles”
  • “I have to cut down a few pounds fast, so I guess I’ll just do some extra cardio”
  • “But foods high in fat will make me fat!”
  • “The elliptical machine is my favorite”
  • “I won’t try yoga because I’m not very flexible”

And honestly, I could probably go on for pages if only I’d kept a running list of every piece of fitness and health-related misinformation I’ve heard in my 11 years in the business.

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But, I digress.

The issue at hand is this: everyone needs to exercise.  Everyone.  You.  Me.  Your grandpa. Your pregnant wife.  Your uncle with the knee replacements.  Your parents.  Your best friend that doesn’t put on a pound no matter how much she eats.  Your boss. Everyone.

What bothers me the most about this sentiment is the implication that just because someone is not overweight, he or she is “spared” the burden of exercise; the idea that the only feasible reason that a human being would ever want to move their body in a manner outside of the basic activities of daily life is to achieve a particular weight, shape, or body type.  For the record, this is bullsh*t – solid, wretched, bullsh*t – and I hate it.

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The benefits of exercise far outweigh (zing!) the empty vanity of being thin.  Exercise is a key component in longevity (assuming, hey, you might wanna stay on this Earth for a while), heart health, bone density (don’t wanna be that grandma with the ol’ broken hip, do you?), diabetes control, and injury and chronic pain prevention.  It reduces stress and anxiety as effectively as many medications, helps you sleep better and longer, gives you more energy during your waking hours, and improves your mood.

I’ll go one step further and say that it’s not just exercise, but weight-bearing and resistance exercise, that is most crucial for people of any size.  Without strong muscle support, your joints become weak and more susceptible to impact and overuse problems, especially as you get older.  Being frail is not a good look for aging – and in fact, studies have shown that people with a slightly overweight BMI actually live longer than those who are “slim.”

Furthermore, lean muscle boosts metabolism and burns more calories even at rest, meaning that you can afford the occasional indulgence without stressing about weight gain because your body becomes more efficient at burning off the excess fuel.

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Both of these women weigh 150# (68KG).  On the left is lean muscle, due to exercise.

And yes, there’s more to my soapbox before I step down.

At the ripe old age of 33, I have plenty of friends and acquaintances that “used to be” skinny.  “Used to be” fit.  And sure as hell “used to” eat a lot worse, drink a lot more, and exercise a lot less than they do now (on this point, I will include myself, haha).  But many of these are the folks that, at age 18-22, I now call “future fat.”  They’re the ones that didn’t establish healthy eating and exercise patterns because they “didn’t need to,” relied on crash diets and skipping meals to trim down every now and then, and are now facing the worsening effects of a permanently damaged yo-yo metabolism, higher-than-desired body fat, and the uphill battle of trying to go back in time while stuck with a body that is situated firmly in the present – and in its mid-30s (spoiler alert: NOT AN EASY PROCESS).

Perhaps living in Asia has heightened my sensitivity to the “don’t need to exercise” remarks because many Asians here in Singapore, particularly women, are genetically slim and actually do believe that they don’t need exercise to stay healthy (since, again, the prevailing measure of “health” is simply “size”).  I’ve heard from many of my Asian clients here that they’re the only one in their household that “has to” exercise, or that they won’t bring their wife or daughter to train with me because “they’re already skinny” – and each time, I have to bite my tongue nearly off to avoid making a scene.

When will we dissociate the holistic idea of “health” from the vapid ideal of thinness?  And how?

Ask Amanda: Real Talk About Cellulite

At one point or another, almost every female client of mine has asked me about cellulite.

Why is it there?  How can I get rid of it?  What in the holy hell is it?  And why does it seem to plague some of us more than others?

First of all, I’ve never seen an issue so universally shared by women than the fight against cellulite.  It’s a selling point for endless books, online manuals, and even one of the companies I work for (Aquaspin, by the way, and I’ll tell you in a bit how doing underwater cycling can actually help in this effort!) – and as a trainer, just uttering the words “cellulite reduction” is bound to get you at least a couple hits/views/likes on your social media.

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But let’s be real.  Cellulite is body fat, and just like any other excess fat on the body, it takes overall calorie reduction and lean muscle gains to disappear (or simply reduce in prominence).  Sure, it’s not super attractive (comparisons to cottage cheese or an orange peel are common, both ew) but it’s also not fatal.  As a health professional, I wish more people were concerned with their blood pressure, glucose levels, or sugar intake rather than a few bumps on a thigh, but I promised I’d write about cellulite so I digress.

The basic concept of cellulite is that it’s the outline of the compartments that separate fat cells, forming a round-shaped pattern.  Imagine overstuffing a mattress (in this case, the fat cell) and seeing the excess bulge out around the edges – that’s what cellulite looks like in the human body. cellulite

And in case you’re wondering why you don’t see it as much in men (lucky bastards), it’s because their “compartment outlines” run horizontally, in a cross-cross pattern rather than a rounded one, preventing the bulge visibility – plus their skin is naturally thicker so the cellulite they may have is less visible beneath it.  Again, jerks.

Remember that no matter the gender, fat is soft (versus muscle, which is hard) and doesn’t lie flat under the skin – it puffs out, takes up more space, and is more visible than lean muscle.  This leads to my first point – that reducing overall body fat and increasing lean muscle, especially in women over 30 (we lose muscle at an alarming rate after this age), is your first and best defense against cellulite.

Movements like side lunges, donkey kicks, and squat-lifts target the common “sitting” areas where cellulite lies (thighs, hips, and glutes) and allow for easy progressions in difficulty from bodyweight-only to versions using dumbbells or barbells.

Second, cellulite is often a symptom of poor circulation, and I’ve seen clients actually derive great results from simply incorporating dry brushing (or self-massage, whatever floats your boat) into their morning routines.  Using a dry brush to stroke the body in the natural patterns of the lymphatic system can help increase fluid drainage, move toxins away from the body, and yes – decrease the surface-level appearance of cellulite.

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If you want to take your circulation game to the next level, consider coffee scrubs after your dry brushing routine – just combine 1/4 cup of coffee grounds with 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and massage it into affected areas with an anti-cellulite brush for about 2 minutes per area, per day.  The caffeine can actually help tighten and rejuvenate the skin by removing dead cells and improving appearance.

Finally, consider your diet and hydration patterns when you’re trying to work on cellulite reduction.  Simply being dehydrated can make the skin look deflated and loose against already-fatty areas, and diets high in white starch (yep, that includes sugar), saturated fat, and sodium only make it worse.  Structure your diet around the cornerstones of high-water-content fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and nuts to help lean out all over (and boost energy to boot!).

The main point of me telling you all this great stuff about cellulite is to emphasize that despite its fancy name, at the end of the day cellulite is just fat.  Plain and simple.  To reduce fat you must reduce caloric intake, build lean muscle, and stay active.  Boom – no secrets.

What have you tried to reduce cellulite – or body fat?  Have you had success?

 

Ask Amanda: Getting Older Is A Bear

A lovely client/friend of mine (and definite hot mama!) asked me the tough question the other day – why, even though I’ve been working out for years and keeping the diet in check, is it harder and harder to keep the weight off?

Mind you, this is a fit, healthy-weight woman with good muscle tone and great cardiovascular endurance.  She does not have to worry about her weight, however, she found in the past that it was easy to lose 5 or 10 pounds here or there simply by amping up the workouts and/or cutting down the carbs – and nowadays, not so much.

Sound familiar?

Especially for us ladies, the metabolic reality of aging is grim.  Our insulin-resisting (read: skinny-keeping) hormones decrease after 30, our muscle mass (read: natural fat-burning stuff) decreases at a rate of about 3-5% per decade, and even our calorie needs decrease (bummer).

Men, you’re not immune either – after 30, your testosterone starts to drop (meaning no more “I worked out once this week but I’m still swole” delusions) and your DHEA (the hormone that makes you feel like a beast in the gym…and in bed, tee hee) drops right beside it.

Le sigh.  So what DO we do?

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Listen up, and listen well: to stay fit well into older age, you must be open to change.  I can’t tell you how many clients tell me they had “no problem staying fit” when they were 20 years old, or “used to have so much more energy,” or “could eat anything in college and not gain an ounce.”

But guys, let’s face it: you’re not 20 years old anymore, you lack energy because you don’t work out enough or eat right, and yes we ALL could get face-deep in a pizza at age 18 with relatively zero consequences.  #realtalk

The crucial point of aging healthfully is that you must adapt to your body’s changing activity, fuel, and sleep needs and adjust your wellness program accordingly.  Make small changes incrementally so that it doesn’t feel like everything’s crashing down on you all at once – growing up is still supposed to be fun, remember?  Consider these 5 starting points:

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The only thing we all have in common is that none of us are getting any younger, so the sooner you come to terms with the fact that you are aging – and the fact that you CAN take control of your health at any age – the happier you’ll be.

What strategies do you use to stay healthy as you age?  What’s your best tip?

On the Red Carpet: Oscars 2016

You guys, it kills me that I am too far away and too time-zoned out to watch the Oscars live.  Some of my fave memories of this time of year contain scrambling to get through all the screeners from Nick’s work, powering through some short films and documentaries online, and then heading over to my friend Andy’s house to fill out our predictions ballot and watch it all play out in real time.

That said, due to the amazing Snapchat skills of a few good friends (cough…Lilly!), I was able to get some of the red carpet highlights as they happened – and it got me really excited to sit down and write this post.

So excited, in fact, that I totally blanked on doing it until being kicked in the butt by a loyal reader this morning (thanks, Terri).  Without further ado, let’s get to the nitty gritty:

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Rachael McAdams, you sexy beast.  Are you aware of your perfection?  Do you know that I have a deep-down longing for women who choose dark jewel tones over black?  Can you teach me how to wear a long tassel without looking like a stripper?  And can you kiss your stylist on the lips for pairing the look with those simple metallic strappies?  I love you.  And I love your August Getty creation, despite not knowing who that designer actually is.

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And while I’m on a love high, let’s talk about the always-impeccable J.Law (here in Dior).  Girlfriend, you took the peroxide plunge without looking trashy and paired that masterpiece of a lob with peekaboo lace and a beautiful V-cut bodice.  WERK, girl.  Just werk.

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Charlize.  CHAR.  LIZE.  Like, can you not?  Can you not defeat the sands of time that weather the rest of our faces into wrinkled, filthy messes and look better than you ever have before?  The plunge.  The Dior.  The color.  The diamonds.  Just go on with your bad self.  Ain’t no one gonna touch you.

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The internet told me that Cate Blanchett was getting some negative feedback for her g*ddamn amazing Armani Prive dress, and I honestly can’t imagine what the haters are seeing in her utter divinity.  The cut is so flatting, styled so well, and complements both her body and her general way of being so amazingly that I want Mr. Armani to cease production of any further couture should Cate not be the one to wear it.  So let it be written, so let it be done.

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I am usually a huge fan of people dressing like gold statues to go to the Oscars (see Stacy Keibler on the Oscar Red Carpet 2012, still one of my all-time faves), and Margot Robbie‘s choice of Tom Ford this year is no exception.  Sure, it’s not the most interesting dress out there, but the cut is impeccable, the color is eye-catching, and she paired it with a dramatic minaudière like a BAWS.  Well done you.

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Rooney Mara, I am so sick and tired of you being 1990s heroin-chic that I’m tempted to delete this entire paragraph.  But I won’t, because yet again you nailed it in Givenchy, and yet again I am forced to eat my words about how I hate that “emo chick” look with the slicked-back black hair and emaciated poor posture.  But know I’m not happy about it.

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I go back and forth on the issue of boobs.  I tend to like them on the smaller side if you’re gonna hang ’em out to dry, and on the bigger side if you’re trying to rock a form-fitting but more modest style.  Olivia Wilde’s Valentino look kind of teeters between the two, but the pleats save it from looking totally whorish, and the choker anchors it down to the cool zone rather than sending it off to slutville, so I applaud her careful choice.

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My final shout-out for the night goes to the always-lovely Maria Menounos who did the right thing and went with my all-time favorite designer, Christian Siriano, to make her an all-time memorable look.  The cut, the beading, the wavy hair, the shimmer and shine, it was all on point, and all came together beautifully to make her look like a living goddess.  Much applause.

And now for the not-so-much looks of the evening…

Amy Poehler, I can’t with all this – those wizard sleeves, the red hair, the weird appliques – like girl, I can’t.  Kate Winslet, is it because you’re so beautiful (or because your boy Leo FINALLY got his statue) that you’ve decided to stop trying and just wear Hefty garbage bags to the show now?  Pregnant Emily Blunt, I was gonna  call you out big time for wearing both spaghetti straps AND a dress that is nearly your exact skin color, but because you’re preggo and typically knocking it out of the park, I’m gonna let you off with a warning.  Kerry Washington, you are basically the naturally prettiest person on Earth and you show up to the OSCARS looking ratchet?  But why?

And we are not even starting on Heidi Klum.  Not.  Starting.  Because I have to think she had a severe head injury just before the show, causing her to temporarily believe that she was Honey Boo Boo all grownsed up and headed off to prom night with her hillbilly boyfriend.  Because that is the one and only excuse for showing up looking like this.

What were your picks and pans, friends?  Any that you LOVED that I missed?

On the Red Carpet: Golden Globes 2016

Oh, readers, it’s that most glorious time of year that makes even the post-Christmas blues seem liveable – it’s awards season!

Typically the hubs and I are much more aware of what’s going on in Hollywood (living in L.A., it’s basically the closest we have to a neighborhood culture), but since moving to Singapore, our connection to what’s “hip” and “current” in the entertainment industry has become increasingly tenuous.

That said, we are at least up to date with most of the blockbuster films out there (hey, we saw Hunger Games on opening weekend, that HAS to count for something?) and likewise, I am determined to keep this blog up to date with my oh-so-crucial red carpet fashion reviews.

So let’s go ahead and get started.  Some overarching trends included shades of gold/nude (see Kate Hudson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (who did it best, IMO), Rooney Mara, Brie Larson) and old-Hollywood glamour makeup looks (a la Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Amber Heard, Emmy Rossum and Sophia Bush), along with some taking the bold-yellow risk (again J.Lo, as well as America Ferrera and Lola Kirke).

As for individual winners of the night, here are my humble assessments:

Julianne Moore, you are always a wonder to behold and your GG look was no exception:

Julianne-Moore

OMG J-Law, you are flawless.  FLAW.  LESS.  I can’t even look at this photo for an extended period of time for it makes me question whether I am even fit to share the living era with such a perfect and inspiring creature:

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Always surprising (and almost always spot-on) Cate Blanchett turned up in something creative, beautiful, and haute couture, all at the same time – proving for the zillionth time that she absolutely kills the ingenues when it comes to fashion, without even showing an ounce of skin save for her delicate and lovely English wrists:

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As for Kirsten Dunst, whose face I absolutely detest and whose acting is hit-or-miss at best – your boobs looked amazing, black on blondes is always a win, your makeup was on point, and I will give you your deserved props (just this once):

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Let’s also all agree on the fact that Laverne Cox in a white dress looks better than 90% of brides on their wedding day, and even that is probably a lowballing (pun intended) it:

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Natalie Dormer, I miss your half-shaved head (a la Hunger Games, randomly the second HG reference in this post today), but I’m gonna tell you what – the neckline on your dress had me mesmerized, the fact that you found a non-whorish shade of red to wear blows my mind, and the half-messy styling that would make lesser females look like junk only serves to make you look like an amazing goddess of style:

Natalie-Dormer

And finally, last but surely not least – let us all hail the Queen (Latifah), for she is beautiful, she is strong, and she is the only actress (ok, the only other actress, because I will totally shout out to Lupita Nyong’O for her 2014 Oscars look in the same hue) that can pull off baby blue and crystal embellishments without looking like prom gone wrong:

Queen-Latifah

You got the picks – now it’s time for you to witness the wrath of my pans.

Kate Winslet, I love you girl but that dress sent me straight back to my junior-year homecoming dance in 1998 (and even that is being generous – maybe 1995?).  Miss Katy Perry, I am unsure why you chose to show up in the muslin mock-up of what could have maybe been an elegant and classic dress, but kick your stylist to the curb after that one.

The still-adorable Rachel MacAdams decided to revive the perennial trend of wearing couch upholstery to a red carpet event (see Lucy Liu at the 2013 Globes), while my wife Amy Schumer, of whom I refuse to speak ill, did NOT kill it as I would have hoped.

The taste of the Globes has me rabid for what lies ahead (Oscars and Grammys especially) – so stay tuned for more red carpet reports as the season moves forward…

What were your favorite looks?  Do you take issue with any of my picks or pans?

Weekend Roundup

I feel like every day I discover a new amazing blog – but I never have time to commit to reading everything I want to read in a remotely timely fashion.  Do you guys feel the same way?  Hopefully I’m doing you guys a service with this week’s links-around-the-world:

I am constantly on the hunt for glowy skin – but I hate BS tips on how to get it.  Here’s some real talk.

No more getting nude in public!  I mean, unless you want to.

I love when I have time to get all dolled up and put my face on, but that’s about once a month for me.  Here are some shortcuts for every other day.

As much as I consider myself ultimately gangsta, I could never pull off using rap lyrics in real life with a straight face.

You put bacon in a salad and I assure you I am going to want to eat that salad.

If you guys know me, you know that shelter dogs have about 97% of my heart – and here are some of the wonderful reasons why.

Don’t act like you don’t want this, and furthermore, don’t act surprised when you get one from me for Christmas.

This is a perfectly legitimate workout presented in a completely illegitimate fashion.  And I support that.

Did you see that video about catcalling in NYC?  And then did you see Tosh.0’s version set in L.A.?  Oh, the hilarity – and also, the bitter truth.

I am 5000% obsessed with trying out this fitness trend – who wants to bounce with me?

What are you guys checking out this week?  Which blogs do you think I should read?

The Five Rules of Perinatal Fitness

Almost two years ago now I became a certified perinatal trainer, meaning I can now work safely and effectively with women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, and are postpartum.

This is not my first such “specialty” certification.  A while back I got Silver Sneakers certified, which helps me work with seniors and the elderly population, and before that I took a special course in working with the obese and morbidly obese (even bed-ridden).

Working with mommies; however, is truly a passion for me.

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My amazing client at nearly 9 months!

As a woman who has never had kids (but assuredly wants to when the time is right!), it is an absolute privilege to watch my clients transition from their former bodies into new, powerful, transformative ones – bodies that are giving life.  And if I can offer some sort of strength, comfort, and guidance during that time, I am honored to do so.

So what have I learned over the past two years, working with nine different prenatal and two recently postpartum clients?

5)  Never underestimate the reparative power of a body that has given (or is giving!) life.  A lot of my first-time postpartum moms are scared to come back to exercise because of the enormity of the task their bodies have just performed.  That said, it is exactly that task (birth) that has prepared you for the relatively simple challenge of rediscovering fitness.  What’s a daily walk with your baby after you’ve spent 32 hours in labor?  How hard is picking up a 5-pound dumbbell when you haul around a 10-pound baby 20 hours out of the day?  My new moms are strong, unrelenting, and adaptable – and I try to remind them that as much as possible.

4) Do the best you can with the time, body, and sanity that you have.  Before you got pregnant, maybe you were the type that hit 3 Spin classes per week in addition to running 20 miles and taking yoga on the weekends.  Now you are pregnant, or have an infant, or God help you have twins, and you’re noticing that you just can’t maintain that level of exercise.  That’s okay.  It’s more than okay.  Because we are all trying to do the best we can with the time, ability, and mental clarity that we have, and if that “best” is simply 10 minutes of push-ups and planks, or a walk down the street to get groceries, or just a nap – that’s ok.  Fitness comes back in pieces, not all at once.

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Rock that core, girl!

3) Your abs may or may not “come back,” but there’s more to core than abs.  Speaking of coming back, there’s this odd perception that in order to have really achieved an “ideal” birth, you will have somehow morphed your postpartum body back into its former shape, including tight, six-pack abs.  And for some moms that is possible.  But for many moms, maintaing a strong “deep core” (transverse abdominus and lower back) is more important, because it is these muscles that actually help you carry your baby, pick your baby up, stand up for hours without back pain, and support overall healing.  I advise my mommies to forget about the visibility of their abs for the first 6-12 months and focus on building the actual muscles that will help them stay strong and pain-free as they recover.

2) Having a baby is not a free pass.  OK, now for a moment of tough love.  You have had a baby (or two!  or many!).  You’ve done serious work.  You’ve been pregnant, then birthed, then recovered.  But all of this being said (and a hearty congrats to you!), it does not entitle you to forget about exercise and nutrition.  In fact, there is no time more crucial to pay attention to your health than during the early throes of motherhood, when you need to be healthy, awake, alert, and present for your child.  Exercise keeps you sane.  Eating healthfully keeps you energized and enhances the quality of breast milk (if you are nursing).  Establishing a pattern of proper diet and exercise now means you are modeling those behaviors for your kids as they grow – and isn’t that something you’d want for any child?

mommies1

Teaching postpartum fitness in Culver City

1) You don’t have to do it alone.  Finally, my favorite point as a trainer – in short, it takes a village!  Ask your partner (or a family member) to watch the baby for 30 minutes so you can get your run in.  Organize a healthy food exchange with mommies in your area so you can cook once but swap meals all week.  Join a mommy group or FIT4MOM program that encourages fitness and allows you to work out with your little one.  Find a certified perinatal trainer that can come to your home and work with you privately on your pre-and-postpartum health.  Even if fitness is already a priority for you, finding a support group of like-minded folks can make it feel like you’re not alone out there – and that’s crucial.

My fit mommies out there – what are your favorite pre-or-postpartum fitness tips? 

Sunday Special: Love Your Body 2014

So let’s chat about something we all deal with, shall we?  Body image.  Do you love your body?  Do you loathe your body?  Are you somewhere in between?

On my best days, I feel like a strong, athletic goddess.  On my worst, I feel like a squishy pile of lifeless marshmallow fluff.  On the average day, I feel like an average person – decephoto 1 (1)ntly fit, unremarkable, normal-looking.  But can I truly say I love my body?

Today I was invited to an empowerment event called Love Your Body, held in L.A. at the Luxe Sunset Hotel.  The creators of the event, Karen (of Karen Michelle designs, on Robertson) and Mia, emphasize developing healthy body image, wellness at all sizes, and positive interactions among and between all women (stuff TFB definitely stands for, too, by the way).

The day started with a showcase of amazing products presented by predominantly female entrepreneurs, including the awesome and utilitarian Sash Bags (onephoto 2 (1) of which I am dying to have for my upcoming travels – so functional and cute!), Runway Kids boutique (some of the most fashion-forward yet age-appropriate kidswear I’ve ever seen), and Papa Ben’s Kitchen (the fanciest, tastiest biscotti you’ve ever tried).

From there, we sat down in the forum area to hear from Elise Joan of Red Diamond Yoga (which just so happens to be right by my house -score!) about her struggles with body image, and she shared one of the best quotes I’d heard in a long time about dealing with adversity:photo 5

“The barn’s burnt down, but now I can see the moon.”

I have to remember to use that one for particularly frustrating times (like right this second, when my barely two-year old Macbook Air has gone on the fritz – AGAIN – and this time the repair costs are almost as much as a new computer would cost…sigh).  But I digress – back to the event!

After Elise, we heard from plus-size model (and real-life food addict, who was so candid and honest about her struggles with 6000+ calorie binges, bulimia, and yo-yo diets) Danika Brysha – and girlfriend was laying it down.

She’s seephoto 4n/done it all – the anorexic size-zero fashion industry pressure, the binge-drinking coke-snorting party days  – and emerged instead as a positive body-image role model and owner of a clean eating delivery service in NYC (Model Meals, check it out) who goes around the nation speaking about nutrition and fuel.  Awesome, right?

After the speakers, we sat down (front row, b*tches) for the fashion show – the main event, if you will, showcasing models of all ages, sizes, and body types, in clothing designed and made by women.

photo 3Some of my fave looks came from a brand called Cali Free, a California-style fashion emporium with affordable clothes and laid-back vibes (yep, designer stuff that I can actually afford to purchase), although there were tons of cute, new designs

Watching everyone from the sweetest little girls to
the most bodacious and self-confident sassy ladies walk down the runway with flair was definitely the best part of the day.  I kept thinking back to when I was a little girl and how excited I would have been to participate in an event like this (and let’s be honest, I would’ve probably asked them if I could do a back flip down the runway).  What a truly great opportunity for young girls and women to connect through the universal language of (self) love.

photo 5 (1)Major thanks to my friend and fellow blogger over at Pugs & Pearls for inviting me (and hooking me up as “press”) to this event – I will definitely be back again next year.

That said, the event got me thinking about my question above: do I really love my body?  Do I treat it with respect?  Can I remember the compliments and forget the critics?  Should I make food choices based on how I want to feel or just how I want to look?  These are the tough ones.  And these are the reasons that events like this, that help us silence the critical voices in our heads and focus on the positive, need to keep happening.

What motivates you to self-love?  What activities/rituals/thoughts help you love your body?