Soundtrack For My Daughter’s Brain

Fat shaming hurts no matter how old you are or what shape you’re in.

But when it starts early, it can be especially hard.

Kids should be running, climbing and skinning their knees.

They should not have to worry that cruel gazes may find those knees ‘a bit too chubby’.

I was recently devastated to hear about the tears of an elementary school student (the daughter of a dear friend) who had been called ‘fat’ by some bullies in her class.

The fat-shamed little girl I used to be (who lives inside me still) cried out in a visceral understanding of her pain.

My heartbreak for the superstar girl in question prompted me to finally do something I’ve been meaning to do for years – create a Playlist of Empowerment for my daughter and little girls everywhere.

If I could create a soundtrack to play on a loop through my daughter’s brain, these would be the tracks.

So, for my precious girl, for your daughters, and especially for the wonderful girl who inspired me - play these songs and remember that you are beautiful, inside and out.


Please feel free to leave any and all suggestions for additions to this soundtrack!

Beware: Shallow Waters

Have you noticed? Happy Exhaustion has been in hiding.

I’m sure you have been tearing your hair and gnashing your teeth, cursing the heavens and calling out “WHY?!?

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to abandon you. I’m back now. Dry your tears.

Why now? Well, it dawned on me last night that my rockstar readers might think I stopped blogging about fitness because I threw in the sweaty towel, fell off of the wagon, and landed mouth-first in an enormous vat of ice cream.

I can’t have that! I’d rather make my embarrassing confession than give the impression that I’ve bailed on the journey.

My current fitness adventure is a whole ‘nother thing. I’m brimming with enthusiasm about it and DYING to share – but the desperately undignified lack of nobility in what I’m up to has me holding back.

I’m chasing a goal that is all about (*cringe*) vanity.

I’m sorry.

When I began Happy Exhaustion, I had one guiding principle: This Is Not A Blog About Skinny. This blog is not designed to contribute to the horrifying, *LOUD*, “Thinspo”, Get-Skinny-Or-Develop-An-Eating-Disorder-Trying NOISE.

So, when I found a new motivator (at a time when – I gotta be honest – I was hurting for a fresh motivator) and it wasn’t strictly about health and strength, but vanity-driven self-confidence, I didn’t know how to admit it.

But, it’s time to come clean. I am – for the first time in my life - engaging in the act of Preparing For Bathing Suit Season.

Yikes, stripes!

Yikes, stripes!

I have long avoided public displays of skin. Swimwear is so rude. It does precisely NOTHING to conceal the jiggly bits!

Fear of Swimsuit Judgment holds me back from activities that look like a lot of fun.

Are there any activities that have always looked like fun to you, but something holds you back from participating? You’d totally love to sky-dive if it wasn’t for that pesky fear of heights?

That’s how I am about water. I love to swim and grew up spending my summers on sailboats. But ever since my body issues kicked in (at a frightfully early age) I’ve let my body image hang-ups stand in my way.

I can’t get past my insecurities.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hate this superficial side of myself – but there it is.

Hello, my name is Katey, and my post-childbearing torso and soft thighs have kept me out of the swimwear department.

This summer I want something different. I don’t want the nagging demons of vanity to get between me and a summer spent splashing in the pool with my kids. I don’t want to dive for a towel whenever a camera appears. My sights are set on eliminating the things that make me feel self-conscious.

I wish I was here to say “I banished my personal psychology and decided to change!” But I’m not -  I don’t know how. What I DO know how to do is to achieve my goals through hard work.

Once again, I am gearing up to get what I want the way I know how: With rivers of sweat.

Heads up “Problem Areas” – I’m coming for ya!

I am sweating in the direction of ‘toning’. (Sidebar: WTF is ‘toning’ anyway? I think we all have an image in our heads of what we mean when we say we want to ‘tone up’ but what does it really mean? The best way I can define it is developing muscles with a small enough amount of fat on top to make the muscles visible… right?)

I am trying to make my muscles *look* a certain way. Yes – they naturally are becoming stronger as I build them, but this time I’m building them to change their appearance. It’s a whole new thing.

I’m dropping some body fat as I burn extra calories with all the added abs & hamstrings workouts, but that’s not the goal nearly as much as changing my body composition from soft spots to something firmer.

And guys – with the guidance of the resident trainer – it’s working!! Operation Abs & Hamstrings is in full effect and (if you have any interest in my little vanity project) I can’t wait to tell you about it!

If I can pull off a beach body, I’ll let you know – and maybe even see! That is… if the resident trainer doesn’t mind :-)


On Sunday night, my paternal grandmother passed away.

Today, I’m struggling to navigate a confusing tangle of emotions. I’m caught in a state of emotional déjà vu. Because, in truth, I lost her once before – 20 years ago.

That’s when she had the stroke.

I was in middle school when a massive stroke stole my grandmother’s voice, and with it her ability to share her stories, her lessons, her self. She was paralyzed on her right side, and could no longer speak more than a handful of repetitive phrases.

She could not articulate her wishes, but her eyes would plead with you to guess what she was thinking. If you were on the right track, she would say ‘So good, honey.’ If she wanted you to keep trying to figure it out, she would say ‘You can say it?’

It was heartbreaking. And it went on for twenty years.

Her experience motivated and fueled my quest for fitness. I fight against that future with every workout and every drop of sweat.

Today I can think of no better way to honor the grandmother I lost than to encourage you to educate yourself about stroke risk. Learn the signs. Consciously engage in prevention.

“The American Heart Association reports 800,000 Americans suffer from stroke each year. Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the US and the fourth leading cause of death. Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable, because for the most part, strokes are the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Recent research published in the journal Stroke1 found that, if you’re inactive, you have a 20 percent higher risk for having a stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack) than people who exercise enough to break a sweat at least four times a week.”

Stroke Prevention Infographic

I even made you an infographic! (Play along – pretend I’m good at this kind of thing)

“[R]egular exercise affects your veins and arteries… physical activity keeps your larger arteries flexible, meaning that they will be elastic enough to stretch and allow more blood to flow when it’s needed, a little like a fire hose. As a result, your blood pressure is more likely to be sitting at normal levels during times of stress on the body instead of at dangerously elevated levels, easing the pressure on your heart and respiratory system.” – Livestrong

Take care of yourself. Use your healthy days to prevent untold suffering.

Sweat yourself healthy. Push your blood around. Make your heart beat strong. Work those elastic veins and arteries.

Absolutely NO excuses.

This morning, I was tired. I was sad. I wanted to curl up in bed and cry. But I didn’t. Instead, I laced up my running shoes and focused on my grandmother as I dripped with sweat.

This one’s for you, Grammy. Fly high.

Blood pumping.

Blood pumping.

A Hard Core Workout Just For You

Every weekend, the resident personal trainer (and combat veteran) leads a boot camp. When he showed me the program of pain he hit his clients with today, I begged him to let me share it here.

Luckily for us, he’s a generous man.

So – if you’re in the mood for a hard core sweat, here you go! A little present from us to you. Pin it for those days when you can’t make it to the gym – you can do it all in the comfort of your own home!


(insert evil laugh *here*)


February Challenge Demos

I asked very nicely, and the resident trainer (AKA He-Man) agreed to demonstrate how to do the workouts for the February Challenge. Here they are! Hope they help!

We’re happy to answer any questions, so post here or on the Facebook page and we’ll be there to help you reach your goals.

Work it out!

February Fitness Challenge

: a definite and serious decision to do something

Roll call! Who is still committed to those Healthy & Strong resolutions they made this year?

By now all of that vim and vigor might be starting to wane. I mean… we’re in the middle of a Polar Vortex, here! How can we be expected to pull off anything beyond basic survival?

I hear ya.

But you know what? I’m not going to let you forget your Resolution! Not this time! THIS IS YOUR YEAR! If I can lose 100 lbs in a year, you can accomplish any resolution.

To help you stay on track, the resident trainer and I put together a February Challenge. You can follow along on the calendar below, or join us over at the Happy Exhaustion Facebook page where I will be posting daily workouts and providing support and encouragement to anyone who wants to participate.

This is your chance to recommit! Grab that resolution with both hands and do not give up. You can move mountains – but only if you do the work. Earn your strength. Make yourself proud. You deserve it.
Save it, Pin it, Sweat it out!

Save it, Pin it, Sweat it out!

Step Away From The Take-Out Menu And Nobody Gets Hurt.

It has been brought to my attention that I should write about food more often.

After all – how can the girl who preaches “Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym” neglect to discuss what she eats?

*Cue blogger breaking out in hives*

As I said in The Food Part – I suffer from a profound deficit in confidence when it comes to food. Food is my bugaboo. Food kills me. If I was an alcoholic, food would be my vodka tonic.

When my grip on fitness starts slipping, it’s never because I couldn’t bear to work out anymore. It’s always because of a plate of brownies, or an open bar, or a mountain of cheese fries… *drool…*

But when I’m on the right track, I have strict food rules, and I should tell you what they are.

Today’s lesson is this: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS – MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD.

Imma give it to you straight.

No sudden moves… Back away from the processed foods, nice and easy…

It’s so important to start with raw ingredients and go from there. When we eat things we can’t pronounce, we sacrifice our knowledge of what’s fueling our systems. How can we manage our nutrition when we don’t have our arms all the way around our understanding of what we’re consuming? Achieving and maintaining fitness is hard enough without any extra elements of mystery.

Controlling my fitness generated a fixation on foods made from scratch. When I make an exception, it’s because there’s a special occasion involved. Never more than once a week.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no raw-foods-vegan or anything. I have tons of variety in my diet, I just don’t generally eat anything that comes out of a box. I take pride in preparing all of my family’s meals from whole foods. I can name every ingredient, and tell you why I used it.

It hasn’t always been this way.

For 20 years, I was technically a vegetarian, but it would have been more accurate to call me a junk-food-itarian. I lived primarily on processed carbs. I was very… fluffy in those days.

When I got married, I couldn’t cook my way out of a paper bag. While getting my MA in Budapest, my BFF and I often ate something we called ‘veggie mush’ – mashed canned veggies in a pot. It was a hot mess.

Committing to nutrition inspired me learn how to cook.

If you don’t know how to cook yet, you can use your fitness goals as your excuse to learn! It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to prepare whatever you might be in the mood for.

The trick is to add a step between your mood and your consumption.

When a craving creeps into my brain and my kitchen is stocked with easy-access processed foods, it’s WAY too easy to snack. When these options are not available, I have the chance to assess whether or not I’m really hungry.

Whenever I think I might want to nibble on something, I know I can either eat something whole (say, carrot sticks – not exactly crave-worthy) or I have to take the time to prepare something. If I’m not really hungry, I won’t have the motivation to go through the motions of prep. If I’m motivated enough to prep, then I’m hungry enough to eat.

Making your food slows you down. It makes you think about what you’re eating and why you’re choosing to eat it. When I was heavy, I ate without much thought. Now that I cook, food is no longer about instant gratification.

Your food doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be gourmet. But it really should be actual food.

Holiday Cheats

The House That Sugar Built

The House That Sugar Built

Over the holidays I was a bad, bad girl.

I betrayed my true love with my hot little fling. I committed the crime of infidelity.

That’s right - I cheated on my diet.

I made out with Christmas cookies. I sipped mint chocolate martinis in dark corners. I nibbled the ear of a gingerbread man. It was downright scandalous.

I gained 6 lbs. SIX! Oh my… that’s one hell of a lot of sugar.

As I crawled back to the produce department with my tail between my legs, I thought of the confession I had to make to my readers at Happy Exhaustion. How could I betray your trust by relapsing into my sugar addiction? I mean – I fell off of the wagon HARD. I kept up with my workouts, but my food journal sat around collecting dust.

I imagined myself as the little girl peeking out from behind her mother’s skirt, whispering “I’m sorry… I was bad.”

But, as I stood on my cardio machine, dripping with sweat, it occurred to me – Don’t be ‘ashamed to admit’ – be real! It’s all about sharing humanity.

I might be The Girl Who Blogs About Fitness, but I’m also The Girl Who Nibbles On Licorice While Her Daughter Decorates Cookies – because dammit, that licorice was all that stood between me and a head-first swan dive into the giant bowl of frosting.

I spent a bit of time allowing myself to be indulgent, and that’s ok. I’m not about to turn my back on Healthy & Strong. But I confess that even as I pass my health-iversary, I still have demons in my head whispering maybe that single cookie could be the tipping point when I lose it all.

I need to chill the eff out.

Who wants to be the skinny beeyotch who can’t relate to the occasional binge, anyway? Not me. Ew. That chick is not my friend. I don’t think she’s anyone’s friend. She’s plastic. She’s no fun at parties.

*Deep breath*

Getting my party on is tons of fun, but every time I over-indulged, my whole body felt like crap. In gaining 6 lbs, my body has felt like crap a lot lately. My system is so much happier when fueled by plants and lean proteins than it is when it’s fueled by gumdrops and peppermint schnapps. Have you ever had a peppermint schnapps hangover? I do NOT recommend it.

I’m in no danger of forgetting that sweat is the key to strength, confidence, and the release of anxiety.

Back into the saddle I go.

Heads up, newly-jiggly bits – I’m comin’ for ya.

A New Fitness Adventure to Start the Year Strong!

I think it’s time for a new challenge.

Starting tomorrow (January 2, 2014)  and ending on January 31st, I’ll be doing these three plans simultaneously.

The Plank Challenge.
If I can actually hold 5 minutes by the end, I will be declaring myself Master of the Universe.

The Abs & Squats Challenge. I'm loving the variety - should help to stave off soul-crushing boredom.

The Abs & Squats Challenge.
I’m loving the variety – should help to stave off soul-crushing boredom.

The Jump Rope Challenge. I'm doing this one because my husband gave me a fancy, big-girl jump rope for Christmas. I'm all about super-cheap cardio aids!

The Jump Rope Challenge.
I’m doing this one because my husband gave me a fancy, big-girl jump rope for Christmas. Ain’t nothing wrong with some super-cheap cardio aids!

Anyone want to join me in doing one, two, or all three? Come on, misery loves company!

Leave a comment or send me a message if you’re in and we can cheer each other on/moan and groan out loud in unison as we go.


Edit To Add: I’ve created a Happy Exhaustion page on Facebook where you can share this challenge with me. Come by and join us!