FullSizeRender (3)I like to read when I do my morning 30 minutes of cardio. Usually I read articles on health and fitness. This morning was no exception. One of the statements I read brought back a flood of memories from my “former life” as an obese and very unhealthy mom. It was describing how it feels when you don’t fit airline seats, and the sad pathetic look people give you at a restaurant as you devour a hamburger. It’s been about 7 years since I’ve had one of those intense emotions, but I still remember exactly how that feels.

It’s interesting how people treat me today. Most have no clue that at some point I was a size 22. If you look at me now, the only visible signs would be the stretch marks on my abdomen and thighs. I like to call those war wounds. I get plenty of jealous looks and tons of remarks about how they wish they could look like me. I understand. I used to have those thoughts and feelings. As soon as those people find out I used to weigh 210 lbs (I’m 5’3″) their whole attitude towards me changes. Annoying? Somewhat yes. I’m now used to it. But I don’t miss the way people treated me when I was obese.

After that, I sat and made a list of the things I definitely don’t miss about my unhealthy days. I think sometimes it’s good to go back and remember. It keeps me in tune with my clients and reminds me why I do the work….even when I don’t feel like it.

I don’t miss:

  • Shopping at the Plus Size Stores – dressing a smaller body is easier. The proportions fit right. At size 22 it’s just big. I didn’t need wider, I needed longer. I have a long torso.
  • Having my feet hurt everyday. They were carrying much more weight. My feet were also a half size larger from the load.
  • Avoiding a bathing suit. Enough said?
  • Guilt. Eat to feel better. Feel horrible and guilty. Rinse and repeat….
  • Hiding food and eating when no one was looking. I may still hide some goodies for after show. But it’s a whole different reason. And I don’t sneak….ever.
  • Thinking I’m Big Boned. My wrists say I’m absolutely not.
  • Never putting myself in photos. It’s very difficult to find “Before” pictures. I’m not in any.
  • Knowing that my kids’ friends and their parents talk about me. Oh, they still do. Just for totally different reasons. And I have to admit, now I don’t really care.
  • Having very low self esteem. Wondering why I can’t control myself. Trying to figure out how I got to that point. Amazingly, I have figured it out. I educated myself.
  • Thinking exercise is torture. I like exercise. I like the way I feel when I’ve done something I’ve never done before.
  • Wondering if my kids would end up like me.

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Maybe you resonate with some of these things. Maybe, like I did, you think there is no hope. If only one thing comes from the choice I made to make myself healthy, I truly hope that people are inspired to change their own lives. You can do it. It’s never too late. Start now, put one foot in front of the other. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. I do what I do to help others live better, healthier lives.

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green_road_wallpaper_43ffdNow, I don’t know how it is for you. But even my kids have been discussing how fast time seems to fly. Remember when every day was like an eternity? I find that lately my focus has been so much on the next goal, the next event, the next job, that I’m not stopping long enough to see if I can be happy and enjoy every day. Maybe I’m too focused on how reaching the next goal will feel, or that only the highlights in life will be the moments remembered.

A very wise friend recently told me that he concentrates on the things that used to thrill and amaze us as children. The smell in the air, the feel of the different seasons and the sounds that we might hear in the background can calm us from stress and take us momentarily back to a time when even an ice cream cone was a world event. I think he is undoubtedly on to something.

Not that I’m old, (depending on who you are talking to), but I’ve noticed that how I feel and what I remember has become more important than what I’ve accomplished. Especially on a daily basis. With so much negativity in the world, I have been purposely avoiding things that make me feel down and engrossing myself in the positive. Words like balance, tranquil, breathe and reflect have become part of my daily self talk. My “New Years Resolutions” include things like treating myself better and taking time for myself to recuperate and relax.

I used to disregard the saying “stop and smell the roses.” Now my motto is “enjoy the journey.” Life feels fuller and has more meaning if we slow down and appreciate each and every day. We should feel blessed that amid the problems and despair worldwide, we are still breathing, we can still make someone feel good and we can still do our small part to change the world. And it can start at right this moment……..

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MTLrazGTaI guess I thought that when we hit adulthood we would all lose the desire to cause drama and difficulty in each other’s lives. Boy, was I wrong. I find that there are those that thrive on making other people miserable. Whether or not they realize they are doing it, I find that the negativity and even hostility it brings to others is unfounded and ridiculous. Why anyone would want to take the time and energy to make others feel bad and insecure is beyond me.

I bring this up because over the last couple weeks, I have seen evidence on multiple occasions, that those silly high school girls that go out of their way to hurt feelings…..those girls (and yes, guys do the same garbage) still exist long past the teenage years. The destructive comments some post on other’s social media, the conversations I overhear in public, and the stories many of my clients tell me frustrate and baffle me. Life is hard enough as it is without persecuting others. Whether it’s an insecurity they have or whether it’s some morbid game they play, it’s just not necessary.

So as Valentine’s Day approaches, I ask for us all not to focus solely on the love for one wonderful person in our lives. Lets find a way to show love for all mankind. Smile at everyone you see. Go out of your way to compliment others including those you don’t know. Cheer people on in their goals and aspirations, even if those goals aren’t important to you. I think you will find that you will not only affect each person you come in contact with, you will feel better about yourself, and happier as well.

Be good to each other.  Live on purpose. Live well.

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I’m the first to admit when I can’t control myself. Put an open bag of coconut m&ms in front of me and watch out. So when people tell me that they can’t help themselves when it comes to eating junk food they have in the house, the first rule of thumb is “If you know you shouldn’t eat it, don’t bring it home!”

Grocery shopping with the ability to have better options at home may seem complicated. Especially when you walk through isles of endless choices that scream “healthy” through labeling and gimmicks. But if you can follow a couple simple strategies, you can be sure to have food on hand that will support your goals and healthy lifestyle.

1. Go with a list. Having a list and sticking to it can help you avoid unplanned purchases. Better yet, know your menu for the next couple days when you make that list. It will save time and cut down on the daily need to hit the store thereby cutting out the lure of convenient junk food.

2. Don’t shop when you are hungry. You are more likely to grab those foods that are calling to you because they sound good at the moment. Even a snack in your car before running in can help avoid cravings and keep you focused on your list.

3. Shop the outside isles of the store. That is where all the fresh (and clean) foods are. Think about it. Meat, fruits, veggies and whole grains tend to be stocked around the outer walls. The boxed and frozen are on the inside as they can sit longer without spoiling. Those are the foods that contain additives, preservatives and usually lots of sodium.

4. Put your blinders on. The stores merchandise checkout lines with a purpose. They are designed for last minute impulse purchases. Focus instead on how proud of yourself you are with a cart full of healthy options.

Don’t make it complicated. Keep it simple. Small things done everyday make big changes. One day at a time.

 

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“I wish there were more hours in a day.” I hear this statement so often it has become extremely cliche. Yesterday I asked a question on my Facebook page about what people believed to be their greatest obstacles in living a healthy lifestyle. The hurdle I hear most often is that we just don’t have enough time.

While I sympathize, I can’t help but notice how much time we all waste doing things that don’t really matter. The average American watches 35 hours of TV a week, spends more than an hour a day on Smartphones and internet usage is now a gray area considering how many of us do this from our Smartphones.

So my answer to where you may find the time to get healthy is this:

TURN IT OFF!!!

At what point did watching TV become the only recreational option available? If you substituted just one hour of TV a day to dedicate to exercise, prepping healthy food, or even adding a short nap (for those of us who ultimately don’t rest enough), what would you be able to accomplish? Just by eliminating TV in the morning, I have been able to finish 3 mini classes for Trainer Certification, add a blog once a week :-) , and feel better about myself by putting makeup on everyday instead of going to work in a discombobulated rush…. and that’s just in January!

When people give me excuses about why they can’t do this or that I remind them that there is always a solution. That solution just might not be what they want to hear. So my response is…….which do you want more?

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Seriously. Who doesn’t at least want a flatter stomach? I don’t know anyone who thinks “wow, I’d like to have a beer belly.” Although not everybody wants a “Six Pack”, most guys would like to feel good taking their shirts off all summer, and most girls are interested in feeling good in a bikini.

I’ve heard the statement recently that abs are made in the kitchen. That is partially true. What you eat has a lot to do with it. But I’ve know some very thin people that still have a little bit of pooch sticking out there. I teach my clients that its a 3 step process. To have better abs (whether its a six pack, bikini abs or whatever):

1. First you must actually build some muscle. It’s not muscle that has to show, but having the ability to tighten your transverse abdominus muscle (think “sucking it in”) is necessary to keep a taut tummy. You can have great shape in your midsection but if you slouch or relax and let it all hang out, you will not have reached your goal.

2. You must burn the fat from the abdomen area. Here is where nutrition is important. Many people store fat in the abdominal area. While exercise can help burn off the fat, eating right will make a bigger difference in a shorter amount of time. Hours of cardio will only go so far to help burn off this stubborn area. If you like to eat a lot of junk food, your body will want to store the excess in an “inactive area.” Cutting out processed food, sugar and extra calories will ensure your cardio time is effective.

3. It is necessary to train your abs to always be in a semi-contracted state. Back to the first step, once you build those muscles, you have to learn to keep them tight. We all know what it looks like when we poke out our belly to be funny. Just like building the muscle, it takes time to train those muscles to stay in…keeping that tummy flat.

I want to put in a shout out for core training in general. Most people don’t realize how important core strength is. It’s not just for show, building a strong core can benefit our posture, support our balance, help us avoid lower back pain and ensure that we remain independent later in life. And believe it or not, when your core is stable, it helps every other exercise you perform.

Building great abs is not a guessing game. Like any other goal it takes time and focus.  A little bit of consistency is really all that’s required. Spring is around the corner. You have the time. Start now….

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weight-lossMaking a lifestyle change is not easy. It requires commitment to change habits and choices that are comfortable for us. It means introducing new activities to our schedule and new and probably “bland to you” foods into our diet. While exercise is obviously important, your nutrition will make a quicker and more noticeable change to your body composition. And while you don’t have to always deny yourself the foods you love, you have to pay attention to what you are eating daily and cut out the foods that are causing you to gain and retain weight and fat.

One of the services I offer my clients is monitoring of their nutrition. While I can’t prescribe a food plan (I am not a registered dietician), I can see what they are eating and make suggestions for change. The hardest part of doing this service is that I cannot, as I tell my clients: “come home with you and slap that donut out of your hand.” That is never the job that I would want anyway. I am their coach, trainer and biggest fan! And while I sometimes get frustrated when I see consistently poor choices on their part, I maintain this service as I believe that everyone can make a change in their life. That being said, I want to offer a few tips for success when it comes to weight loss and body composition change.

Before you think that eating right comes extremely easy to me, you must remember that I started where the majority of my clients start….with unhealthy, convenient driven eating habits. And I ate because I mentally and emotionally felt compelled to eat foods high in sugar and fat. It’s not that those things have completely changed. I still feel those needs. I still have cravings for foods that I know will sabatage my goals. The difference is, I have learned to control it.

So here are my tips:

1. YOU MUST KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL! As one client told me the other day, “it’s not as much about letting you see it, it’s about being honest and accountable with myself.” More often than not clients tell me they think they are eating healthy. But as they enter their food in their phone app they start to see a pattern. Foods high in sugar and very little healthy nutritional value are daily staples.MyFitnessPal

2. Don’t bring it home. If its in front of you, you are more likely to cave to foods that you know aren’t the best choice. Make it a family commitment. The rule at my house is that I don’t want to see it. Make cookies while I’m gone, eat one, and give the rest away. If I see them when I get home….someone is in trouble.

3. Avoid fast food. I know that we are all busy. Listen! If it were easy, everybody would do it!! But if you have to eat out, at least make better choices. Because we are a nation fighting an obesity epidemic, many restaurants offer healthier options. When you go to McDonalds, don’t get the Big Mac, get the grilled chicken wrap minus the high fat dressing. You will find, however, that if you consistently eat out (I’ve seen clients eat out 3 meals in a day, several days in a row) that you will not reach your goals of healthy living or weight loss.

4. Fruit is not a freebie. Even though fruit is a healthier option than processed foods, fruit still contains natural sugars, which will spike your insulin and tell your body to store fat. If you do eat fruit, pick options that contain the most fiber , such as berries, and eat protein alongside it to slow down the digestion process.

5. Limits are there to help you…..not make you feel denied. Don’t just look at calories, pay attention to fats, sugars, and carbohydrates. You should even have minimums on some of your nutrients such as protein. Knowing what your limits are is important. It’s not going to help you if you are under your calories, but consistently over your sugar maximum. As a matter of fact, a new study has now had the effect on government recommendations, lowering the daily sugar guideline from 10% of your diet, to 5%.

6. Weigh and measure your food. Eyeballing it is not useful and can cause an error in your guestimation of calories into the hundreds of calories. Get a food scale and some measuring cups. They aren’t expensive and can help you control your portions. And remember, even that lick of a spoon has calories.

7. Eat more often. When people tell me they don’t eat breakfast I ask them why they don’t want a metabolism. Contrary to what most people believe, not eating doesn’t make you lose weight, it slows your metabolism because it has no fuel to burn. Eating smaller portions more often throughout the day raises your metabolism and can prevent you from making unhealthy choices when you are “starving” or having an energy low.

Do you have to deny yourself the foods you love in order to become healthy? Well, yes and no. Save your most favorite foods for a very special occasions. Eat your favorite candy once every couple of weeks not everyday. Make yourself earn it. One thing I can promise you, the more you eat healthy food on a regular basis, the less you will miss the regular unhealthy foods you currently crave. You can do this….because if I could do it, so can you. I believe in you.photo (13) photo (2)

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sparkleOne of the things I find funny (and completely ridiculous) is how people perceive you when you are fit. When I was bigger I found that some looked at me with sympathy and even a little bit of disrespect; like maybe I might steal the Snickers out of their purse. Now that I am living a healthy lifestyle and have a much healthier self esteem, I get a different but not necessarily positive response. Whether it be jealousy, intimidation or just a flat out lack of manners, I’ve had to grow some thicker skin over the last couple of years.

A gym member came to me the other day and told me how the people in her life were being fairly negative towards her after she had lost some weight and had started strength training. Now this incredible woman was by no means unhealthy when she decided to tighten up her regime. But even the little bit of change she made was met by pessimism and unsupportive comments from the people in her life that should have been cheering for her.

Have you noticed that no matter what stage of life you are in there are people who will “hate” or put you down? Well here is my exact thoughts on this:

Why would you let others have control of you?! Why would you let their lack of confidence, laziness and inability to make a commitment determine whether or not you reach your goals? I find that people put you down when they are unwilling to make the change and sacrifice to reach their own goals. In other words, they are just flat out jealous. And I am here to tell you TOO BAD, SO SAD FOR THEM!!!

Some of the closest people to me who should support me and love me unconditionally have been the ones to be invalidating and pass judgement. I don’t think they do it conciously. In fact, I believe they think they are helping me. But it helps no one to hide your own talents and success to help others think better about themselves. But I also think it is important to support your decisions even though they don’t always deserve a reason or comment.

Some of the comments that have been heard:

  • “Wow. You’ve gotten so skinny.”
  • “I can’t wait til you get big again.”
  • “Don’t get too skinny.”
  • “When are you going to start eating REAL food again.”
  • “You can’t be healthy looking like that.”

My response to comments like these:

  • “Skinny? I’ll never be skinny, but I sure enjoy being lean (or healthy)”
  • “I know, muscle is awesome isn’t it.”
  • “I’ll never be skinny, muscle is too solid for that.”
  • “When did I start eating fake food?”

That last one I just ignore. It’s just seriously too ridiculous.

There is a reason that the majority of Americans are unhealthy and that we have an extremely obese nation. I believe in part that it is because we have convinced ourselves that it is okay to behave the way we do, and because there is very little health education as we grow up. We believe whatever the going trend is and whatever the media teaches us. If being healthy was easy, everybody would do it. The drive-through at McDonalds is so much easier…..until we have a heart attack, get diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes or have to live on medication for the rest of our lives.

So the next time someone puts you down for your healthy choices, remember: Sticks and Stones may break my bones but I take so much calcium that will never happen…….

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scaleHaving been obese in my past, I have a unique outlook on health and wellness. Someone recently asked me how much weight I had gained back. Now that I’m bulking (gaining muscle during the off season), I’m not nearly as small as I was on stage. But gaining weight “back” implies I’ve put back on what I had before. What I have put on my body this season is not fat. It’s muscle.

Which leads me to a point I try to teach all my clients early on. Stay off the scale! For some reason, we have been conditioned to take what the scale says as the only guide to our health. While the scale can be an important tool, it does not tell you the full story. It does not tell you how hydrated you are. It doesn’t tell you if your hormones are fluctuating. It does not tell you what your BMI (body mass index) is.

Muscle weighs more than fat. Therefore, you can weigh a certain amount but actually be several sizes smaller when that density is related to muscle not fat. I have a consistent problem with clients wanting to lose weight but aren’t willing to change their nutrition. Most still lose a size or 2 but unfortunately get stuck on the fact that they haven’t lost the weight they were looking to lose. Isn’t the point to look leaner and smaller? See what the stupid scale does to people?

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I’ve also seen what the scale does to people mentally and emotionally. I have even been a victim of those feelings as well. I have had more than one client who weigh themselves daily. If the number is down, they feel they can allow themselves something extra for a job well done. If the number is up, they binge, feel emotionally horrible and start over again day after day. How can that even be healthy on your self esteem? Not to mention when weighing daily, most of us fail to take into account the natural fluctuations our bodies go through.

My recommendation, if you absolutely must step on the scale, is to do so only once a week. Do it the same day every week, same time of day (I prefer first thing in the morning before I eat), with nothing on thereby cutting out all variables or the temptation to say “Was I wearing socks last time? I wonder how much they weigh.”

The scale can be a valuable tool. But it can’t tell you what a great person you are, how much you deserve the best things in life, or how amazing everyone else thinks you are. Use it wisely…..

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Heavier-weights-or-more-repsThere is some entertainment value in watching guys lift at the gym. Some seem to know what they are doing. Others pick some weights up and then put them down. There are, however, those instances, where I am very sure that any minute, some idiot is going to severely hurt himself. It begs the question: “How heavy should a person lift?”

That can be a tricky question. But lets answer it from two directions. First of all, what is your goal? While there needs to be some progression throughout your series of lifting (in other words, each time you work with that muscle group you should be getting a little bit stronger), how quickly you gain strength is determined by the load you put on those muscles. If strength is your goal, you should be lifting heavier than if you are just looking to tone and tighten your existing muscle.

That being said, I feel it’s very important to educate my clients both male and female, on the importance of something I call “Mind-Muscle Connection.” How heavy you go is not nearly as important as how hard you contract (or squeeze) the muscle. When you choose to lift heavy there are a couple of important considerations that should be thought through:

  • Am I able to keep form?
  • Do I have a spotter to help me if I “fail”?
  • Do I risk damaging muscle if I am not able to lift properly or the weights are too heavy for my current ability?
  • Am I really reaching my goals by lifting heavy or am I just showing off?

Lifting heavy can promote both strength and size depending on repetitions and sets. Yet quality of the lift is a better predictor of the outcome. Isometric contractions (a tensing or contracting of the muscle without actually moving any part of the body) can be very effective. Put together with a type of resistance, it makes for a very efficient workout. Why not get the most out of the time you put in at the gym?

So the next time you see someone throw their whole body into a bicep curl, you’ll know that dude has no right to be telling his buddy how to lift. I personally use him as an example of exactly what NOT to do. Be smart, lift wisely.

Not sure if you’re getting the most out of your workouts? Feel free to email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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