Ask Amanda: (Don’t) Fall Into the Gap

In honour of today being Valentine’s Day, I figured I’d do a little piece on self-love, with a side of ranting (because come on, that’s what I do best).

I was on a Skype call recently with a remote client that I train online (you can do that with me, by the way, should you not be local to Singapore), and I was trying to demonstrate something – so I stood on a chair so she could clearly see my legs.

Before I could get into the explanation of the thing itself, she stopped and said – “your thighs – they don’t touch!”

I’d heard of the so-called “thigh gap” before, of course – but it caught me by surprise that it was worthy of being called out over Skype.

thigh gap

Thigh gap vs. no gap.  Scintillating stuff, I know.

For those of you who aren’t in the know (and believe me, when it comes to this trend, consider yourself lucky to be out of the loop), the “thigh gap” for many women is the ultimate expression of thinness, fitness, desirability, physical perfection – it’s like the six-pack for men, but perhaps more unattainable (and stupid, IMO).

But what bothers me most about the thigh gap, more so than its association with the above ideas, is its association with being FEMININE and FRAGILE, or as Wikipedia says:

“…the thigh gap had become an aspect of physical attractiveness in the Western world and has been associated with fragility and femininity, although it is also seen as desirable by some men as a sign of fitness.”

A sign of fragility (um…not so great for hip-breakin’ in your elder years?).  A sign of femininity (let me hike up my 1950s hoop skirt and see…)? And a sign of FITNESS?!?  ABSOLUTELY untrue.

Having a thigh gap is a sign of one of three things: you have very thin (often NOT fit) legs, you are bowlegged or have a wide-set pelvic structure, or you stand a certain way to “roll back” your legs into a thigh gap a la Instagram models.


Many athletic-bodied women actually have NARROW hips, meaning fit women may be LESS likely to have a thigh gap.

My point in all this is that ALL a “thigh gap” is telling you is whether or not you can feel the cool breeze between your upper legs – and not a thing more.

Just like the “thighbrow” (don’t fall down this rabbit hole, guys, unless you really want to) or what my pre-social media generation used to call “gratuitous cleavage,” the thigh gap is nothing more than positioning parts of your body in such as a way as to be perceived more attractive or desirable to the (small; IMO irrelevant) component of the population who actually notices and/or values that load of sh*t.

Which brings me to my actual point.

I train and work with women (and men) every day, and what I notice most about how women (versus men) self-talk in the gym, it’s this: they’re we’re almost always commenting on the way their bodies look (rather than how they feel or function). 

If we lift something heavy, we want to make sure it’ll “pay off” in visible leanness.  If we run, we might notice certain areas “bouncing around” and we assume they shouldn’t be.  If we stretch, we turn away from the mirror so we don’t have to see our (perfectly normal) skin folded over our waistbands as we bend.

It’s a whole can of worms, folks.  And the GD “thigh gap” is just one symptom of it.

As women, we have to call ourselves on the default habit of bringing everything back to our physical bodies – particularly while we’re doing something healthy for those fabulous bodies (like exercising, or getting a massage, or dancing with friends).

If your thighs touch when you stand up, it’s not a sign of poor fitness.  If your belly flops over a bit when you BEND OVER, that’s a completely normal effect of human movement.  If you notice that your butt bounces a few moments behind you when you’re running on the treadmill, it’s probably because you have some nice muscles back there flexing to help you stride – not because you have too much “junk the trunk.”

I challenge my clients to focus on the intrinsic benefits of exercise and clean eating, even if it doesn’t seem natural at first.  Instead of obsessing over getting into a certain dress or wearing a bikini at whatever vacation or seeing a magical number pop up on the scale, why not consider:

  • how much better you sleep when you’re being consistently active
  • how much more energy you have when you’re not eating crapola
  • how much better sex is when you’re in good physical shape (cough, er ah, just sayin’)
  • how much your kids appreciate when you have energy/ability to keep up with them
  • how great it feels to accomplish a solid, write-it-down-in-numbers fitness goal (like running your first full mile, or lifting a new PR on the weights floor)
  • how much less stress you have when you drop the body loathing and celebrate the body doing

Especially as a fitness professional, where my body IS part of my business no matter how much I’d pretend or hope it wouldn’t be, I know I can work harder to change the body focus for myself – and encourage that among the women that I train.

We can all take a few moments to appreciate the things our bodies can do, the humans our bodies have produced, the memories our bodies have walked us through, and the adventures our bodies have yet to experience – without saying a single bad word about ’em.


So let’s.  And this Valentine’s (or GALentine’s, as I’ve noticed the cool kids are starting to celebrate) Day, I hope you can incorporate some beautiful self-love rituals that do not have a damn thing to do with the way your body looks (my plan? holding hands with my adorable man all night, eating a fine meat-filled dinner, and getting a little buzz off some overpriced craft beer).

What’s your favourite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day – or celebrate your healthy bod?

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.



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.


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.


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.


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?

The Lost Art of Saying “Yes”

This post is distinctly not about health and fitness, but in a lot of ways, it’s the best wellness lesson I’ve learned in a long time.

Just about two months ago my husband and I decided to move to Singapore for his job, and a month ago he left to start working there.

For the past month, I’ve been alone in L.A. and I’ll admit it – for the first week or so, I moped a bit.  I missed my man.  I felt lonely.  Nights that used to be full of movies, meals, and cuddles were just…empty.

I mentioned this to a coworker, who looked at me and said: YOLO.  And we laughed.

But then I thought about it a bit longer, and I realized something – she was right.  So completely right.  You only live once.  And what is the point of moping around L.A. – the city that has literally witnessed the entirety of my coming-of-age experience – when I could be getting out there, loving on L.A., meeting new people, and just killing it?

Since that moment of realization that my 16 years in L.A. were coming to an end and I had a finite amount of time to see a finite amount of people that I love, I’ve been determined to say “yes” to as many invitations/suggestions as possible – big or small, frivolous or important, old friend or new – and here’s an abbreviated list of where those “yes-es” have already taken me:


My friend and I (I’m the one with orange shoes!) at the NTC Tour

And here’s some upcoming stuff I’ve already committed to in hopes of more YOLO moments:

The excitement and “newness” in my life – magnified by new friends, new experiences, and the generally new attitude of just saying YES has been completely reinvigorating – I’ve been getting less sleep than ever but feeling more energized than I have in years.

It’s wonderful – and at the same time, sad.  Why now?  Why not every single day?  Why did I wait?

I am trying so hard to live in the moment and not think a month ahead to the inevitable goodbye.  I am trying to make the “yes” my focus and not consider the consequences.  I am living my best life and feeling my most joyful. And I know that I will always have this (albeit short) memory of a time in my life when I was truly, honestly free – and happy.

What are you saying “yes” to right now in your life?

BMI vs. Body Fat Percentage: A Primer

[First of all, I heard the word “primer” on the radio today and the host pronounced it like “PRIMM-er” rather than “PRIME-r,” which is how I’d always imagined it was said.  Does anyone have the authoritative last word on this?]

Anyhoo, I had a client head over to my #AskAmanda page on Facebook today (every Wednesday, BTW) and ask me a great – and often confusing – question:

How is muscle tone accounted for in BMI readings?

BMI, for those of you who haven’t caught on to this medical buzzword, stands for Body Mass Index.  This measure is easily calculated using a formula with two variables – your height and weight.

BMI is useful in medical settings because it helps establish a range – an estimate, if you will – of categories that help medical professionals zero in on potential risk factors.  For example, a BMI of over 40 (this would look like a woman who is 5’2″ but weighs 220 pounds) means you are categorized as morbidly obese, which is correlated with several health problems including ventilatory disorders, circulatory congestion, and unexplained sudden death (!).

Here’s the problem with BMI, though – let’s say you’re a bodybuilder.  You are 5’7″ tall and weigh 200 pounds (completely possible on a frame with a lot of muscle!) – this puts your BMI at 31.3, which reads as “obese.”  That said, you may have so little body fat that you are not remotely at risk for excess-fat-related health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes – but on paper, you fall into that same unhealthy category due to your BMI.

This is why I am always harping on clients to get their body fat measured.

Body fat percentages are exactly what they sound like – a ratio of the fat you carry on your body relative to the lean mass (muscle, bone, and fluid).  They can be measured using hydrostatic weighing (the best choice – if you’re ballin’ and have access to a water displacement tank), calipers (available at most gyms, and very reliable), bioelectrical impedance (the quickest, easiest method), and even good old-fashioned measuring tape.

As you can imagine, two people can have the same BMI but vastly different body fat percentages and overall appearances – the pictures below make it clear that the number on the scale (and thus, the number in your BMI calculation) doesn’t matter at all if your body fat is in a healthy range – and for most people, they’d prefer a higher number if it means more lean mass.

The reason I get on such a soapbox about this is because clients come to me with either one or two numbers on their mind – their body weight, almost always, and their BMI, if they’ve been told it’s “high” or “obese” or “at risk” – and they lose focus on the actual changes that need to take place in their bodies for better health.

Long story short, whether you are someone worrying about your weight on the scale, or someone who has always had a “healthy” weight but lacks lean muscle (the “skinny fat” issue, which I’ve written a whole post about in the past), it’s time to put BMI behind you and get a solid measure of your body fat percentage (below is an example of a body fat chart so you can evaluate your progress) for a true, meaningful read of your physical fitness.

What’s your opinion on BMI*?  Is it useful at all or do you rely more on BF%?

*a quick note – I actually wrote my Master’s thesis using BMI as a central variable because it is useful in policy recommendation due to estimating power.  That said, for individual case-by-case clients, I broadly favor BF% for the reasons I outlined above.

A Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self

My dear (and very funny) friend over at This Is Why You’re Single recently posted a letter to her younger self on her blog – and it got me thinking I should do the same.  So, with absolutely no apologies for blatantly stealing her creative idea, I was inspired to copy her.

Dear Manda (enjoy that cute little nickname for now; soon you will have to revert to your actual full name “Amanda” for grown-up professional reasons):

It’s me!  Well, it’s you! Surprised?  Well, you shouldn’t be.  A lot of cool stuff happens in the future, mostly computer and technology-related, but also some other neat stuff like dark chocolate peanut butter and these cool running shoes that glow in the dark.  I mean, mostly you’ll care about your smartphone and your laptop (both of which, by the way, are about a decade away for you, so don’t hold your breath), but the future is full of amazing conveniences and improvements (invest in Amazon now.)

Speaking of a decade away, this might shock you, but in less than four years you are going to meet your husband.  YOUR HUSBAND!  Is that some crazy sh*t or what?  I know you haven’t even had one single boyfriend yet (sigh), but don’t distress – sow your wild oats and have your drunken shenanigans and wake up wondering where you left your (awful, platform-soled, regrettable) flip flops – and he will be waiting at the end of that hot mess parade, just for you.  You are not destined to be alone.

(Oh yeah, there’s one other guy before you get there.  Dump him as soon as you can.)

Love life aside, I know you’re wondering how college is going to turn out, and if you’re going to get a job right after you graduate.  Good news on both accounts – you graduate magna cum laude, on time, and are fully employed upon return from your postgrad Europe trip (make sure to thank Mom & Dad profusely).  Life is pretty rad so far, right?

Did I mention you are about to get a dog?  I know, I know – you’re still in college and can barely take care of yourself, much less another living thing.  But you visit a shelter next year and fall in love with one special little pooch – and he will be by your side for over a decade.  Don’t think about how it all will end.  Just make sure you never take any of his little licks, barks, snuggles, even his little poops for granted.  You will miss him every single day when he is gone.

You’re going to spend the better part of the next decade doing grunt work in grad school (yeah, you go back – twice –  even though you swore you were done with school), and by the end of it all, you’ll be five digits deep in debt with two semi-useful Masters degrees – it’s up to you if you want to go through all that, but if I were you, I might just shortcut to what you’re actually DOING at my age…

...which is personal training.  You’re good at it, really good – remember when you used to be an athlete?  That part of your life becomes relevant again.  Don’t worry about your current state of physical disarray; you’re at your heaviest weight of your adult life, so it only gets better from here (stop putting half and half on your cereal and dumping cheese and ranch on your “salads,” by the way).  You end up pretty darn fit, strong, and happy in your career – so if you want to just get your certification NOW and skip the whole grad school thing, I won’t complain.

By the way, you should probably start running (another thing which I know you’ve never tried, but listen, you’re gonna be good at that, too).  You’re going to run the Boston Marathon – and I won’t offer any spoilers on that, but know it’s not exactly what you’re expecting.  You just need to be there.

Despite owning your own business and running all these marathons and getting married and all that, what’s weird about being me now is that I was so much more confident when I was you.  I suppose when you’re young, you’re so hopeful about the possibilities that lie ahead, but when you’re my age, you start to just settle into established, easy patterns.  Remind me (you) to break free!  Stay excited!  Be crazy!  You’re going to jump out of a plane in a couple of years, so harness those balls and bring ’em over to me.

You know what else is crazy?  You’re gonna want kids.  YOU HEARD ME.  Don’t tell me how awesome you are and how you’re going to grow up without being tied down and get tattoos that say “fearless” and “freedom” and all sorts of other stupid mantra sh*t (you didn’t, thank God).  I mean, that’s fine for now, but when you get here, you’ll realize that you do want a tiny little human(s), you want it/them with your aforementioned adorable husband, and you’re actually kind of excited about being a (hopefully kick-ass) mom.

As far as moms go, yours is the best.  So is your dad.  Value your time with them and get home to see them as much as your budget allows – but worry not, they’ll eventually retire in California, near you, and you have years of amazing Oktoberfests, Disneylands, and all sorts of other shenanigans waiting.  Don’t forget that family time means everything.

And finally – I know you’ve only been out of the country twice (really, once – Cancun barely counts), but travel is going to become a really big deal for you.  You’re headed to Australia sooner than you realize, studying abroad in Scotland, watching a vow renewal in Ireland, and will have jaunted all over Asia by the time you’re me (including one very special trip to India – uh, spoiler alert?).  Your mind is going to expand and your tastes are going to change, and with it, your stubborn heart will open.  It’s a good thing.  Embrace it.

That’s about it for now, little one – just a few minor things to make the next few years a bit easier.  Watch the drinking.  Save your money.  Go to Sephora and learn how to apply makeup properly.  Stop buying cheap clothes.  As said, get outside and run.  The best of everything is yet to come.



Five (Healthy) Things I Worry About – And Five I Don’t

After writing Wednesday’s post about the whole skinny vs. fat debate, I started having thoughts about some of the other things in my life that either a) drive me bananas, or b) I let completely go in favor of peace and serenity.

Unfortunately, the former list is longer, but still I try to maintain that there are some things in a healthy life that are worth the trouble – but many that just aren’t crucial enough to sacrifice even short-term happiness.  Like what, you ask?


5) Getting enough sleep.  If I don’t get six-and-a-half hours of sleep, I’m a monster.  I forget things.  I’m cranky.  All I can think about is when I can sleep again.  I’m starving.  It’s like the worst possible version of myself, all because I didn’t sleep well. I make it a huge priority in my life to sleep early, sleep well, and sleep often.

4) Getting my sweat on.  In addition to the above, I make sure to exercise six out of the seven days of the week (see below).  Exercising is a non-negotiable in my life; even if I am the aforementioned sleep-deprived monster, I can always make myself feel better with a workout – and I truly believe in the now-cheesy line that “exercise is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant.”

3) Getting my rest on.  Just as sacred as my workouts are my rest days.  I plan my rest day ahead of time, treating it like a special event that I look forward to all week.  On rest days, I get massages, take long baths, lay supine on the couch, and just chill.  My body thanks me for it, and the workouts on the day after rest days are always the best ones.

2) Eating enough vegetables.  Rather than count calories, I worry more about nutrient balance (my “macros,” if you will) and how to get the 7-9 recommended servings of produce into my life.  If I am eating vegetables, I am well – my body functions efficiently, my sleep is better, my skin looks amazing, and yes – I poop.  If I am not, it all goes to pot – starting usually with a breakout and ending with weight gain.  Boo.  Veggies 4 life.

1) Staying lean.  Don’t get it twisted – this is definitely not a skinny thing.  I keep my body fat under 20 percent because that is where I feel my best – my most powerful, my most fit, and my most attractive.  My clothes look their best.  My abs look their flattest.  When I am lean, I can see my muscles and muscles make me happy.  I couldn’t give half a crap about the number on the scale (again, see below) but I monitor my body fat like a doctor.


5) Body weight.  I am a person with a “medically normal” body weight and BMI (if you aren’t sure where you fall, check out this easy calculator), and I don’t stress over the scale.  If your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, resting heart rate, and glucose levels are in order, you shouldn’t either.  Body weight is a relatively useless measure for healthy people; rather, check your body fat percentage, get a blood panel, or simply try running a mile to check on your actual health markers.  It’s liberating to step away from the scale and find out which numbers actually mean something for your overall health.

4) Being perfect.  If you know me, you know I like beer.  Beer and fine food.  Ok, beer and fine food and the occasional bowl of ice cream.  But what I mean by not caring about perfection is that I don’t strive for it – I know that I will eventually order a pizza, or cave in to a fro-yo craving, or eat to explosion on Thanksgiving – and I have already forgiven myself for it.  No person is truly healthy that eats and behaves like an ascetic 100% of the time; I’d rather live my life than wonder what it might feel like.  So I do.  And I’m happy.

3) Getting older.  Especially in L.A., there is a horrible stigma attached to getting older.  Not only the apperance of age; no, people here freak out about the absolutely normal signs of aging (OMG!  my knees crack when I wake up!) and outright refuse to acknowledge either a) their harmlessness or b) their inevitability.  I’m 31, and so far, each year has been better than the last.  I look forward to each and every birthday because I am so confident that the years ahead will bring even greater gifts – I don’t even have kids yet! -and I really do believe that with age comes wisdom – and we could all use more of that.

2) Other people.  As my absolute favorite meme of all time reads, haters gonna hate.  I’ve had people tell me I am too muscular (shoot me), too fat (nope), too tall (hmm, maybe they’re too short?), too happy (seriously!), too smart for my own good (what, exactly, is the good in being dumb?), and too “into” fitness (hi, it’s my job).  And to each and every one of them, I have a four-letter word for the level of interest I have in those critiques.  Live your life, make yourself happy, never harm other people, and do your best.  It works.

1) Money.  Of course I care about money – it makes the world go ’round, right?  But unlike some people, I don’t let it rule my life, make my choices, or most of all, determine my worth.  I am lucky enough to have a fantastic job where I call the shots, I control how much income I make versus how much time I work, and I actually love what I do. The sacrifices I would have to make in the face of cold, hard cash just don’t justify losing the happiness, security, balance, and passion that I have now.  So I do the best with what I earn and remind myself, when the wallet gets thin, that what I have going in my life is all the stuff money can’t buy – and I will never be poor because of it.

What do you worry about?  What things have you learned to just let go?

The Skinny on Fat

Let’s have a chat.  A chat about fat.

All day long, I hear (primarily) women (though also some men) go on and on about being fat.  “I’m fat,” they’ll say, and they’ll point to someone across the gym, “and look at her, she’s so skinny.”  Then, almost like clockwork, she’ll sigh and say:

“I just wish I was skinny.”

There are so many things about this statement that drive me nuts, as a trainer of course, but also as a woman and as a health professional.  The (wrongheaded) idea that thin is in and fat is bad is so deeply ingrained in our culture that I don’t know if we (again, as health professionals but also human beings living in a reasonable society) will ever be able to fully reverse the black-and-white nature of that message.

But today, I’ll try.

Let’s start with the idea of fat.  What does it mean to be fat?  For a lot of women, especially women in L.A., being fat means having anything more than the medically necessary bone and skin layer to sustain life.  I’m not joking.  It does not matter if the “skinny” person in question is bone-thin, greying under the eyes, losing her hair, yellow of tooth, and bent-over in a pre-osteoporotic hunch – if she’s thin, she’s idolized.  That’s it.

I have a client that is a dead-honest size zero who has pinched some part of her skin in front of me, and claimed that she, indeed, is fat.  A strong, fit client of mine that can bench press over 100 pounds and leg press over 400 has a BMI that is above the normal range, which makes her “fat” by certain standards.  One client of mine was a full eight months pregnant (!) and honestly lamenting the fact that she had “gotten fat.”

I am not having this.  Any of this.

What matters to your overall health, and what should matter to your overall psyche, is not some weird, ambiguous definition of fat – or skinny, for that matter.  What matters is that you have a strong body composition – i.e. ratio of fat to muscle – and that you attain and maintain that composition in a healthy way (i.e. no starvation diets, cleanses, hypergymnasia, orthorexia, or any of those other “health trends” that are actually mental-health problems in disguise).

Moreover, being skinny in and of itself is not something to be idolized unless it is the naturally occurring shape of a body that is also muscular, well-fed, calcium-rich (since the thinner you are, the more at-risk you are for osteoporosis), and happy.  Nothing drives me crazier in the gym than seeing someone who is conventionally “skinny” listlessly working out on the elliptical for 20 minutes, hitting that weird and pointless abductor machine for a hot second, and then maybe throwing in a few crunches for good measure – all the while not being able to do a single bodyweight push-up, pull-up, or run a single mile.

Being healthy isn’t something that can be discerned from observing someone’s weight or body type – in fact, people who are overweight (BMI 25-30) actually have longer lifespans than people who are normal weight (and much longer than the obese or underweight).  And don’t even get me started on skinny-fat (people whose BMI is in a normal range, but whose body fat is dangerously and unhealthily high).

What, then, does it mean to be skinny?  First of all, I reject the word skinny.  In my opinion, It’s not a compliment for women who work out – it simply means you aren’t building visible muscle, and you just look weak.  If you’re trying to describe someone’s body type in a positive way, let’s be more accurate.  How about good old-fashioned thin? Better yet, fit?  Can I get a muscular?  Lean?  Healthy?  Strong?

Or how about we stop commenting on the shape of women’s bodies entirely?

I always tell my clients to focus less on numbers on a scale (although numbers from a body fat read can definitely be helpful – for more on how to do that, click here) and more on how they feel after we’ve been training together.  Do you feel more powerful when you work out?  Do you sleep better when you’re exercising?  Do you have more energy when you eat clean foods?  Do you love yourself more when you take care of your body?

If the answers to the above questions are yes – maybe the numbers on the scale and/or the labels you slap on your own body don’t matter so much anymore.

What terms do you use to describe yourself – and your body – to others?  

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?