In Case of Fitness Emergency…

In preparation for the Great Snowpocalypse That Wasn’t, I asked the resident trainer to help me put together a workout that anyone can do – even if they’re snowed in, the gym is closed, they lose power, and the sky is falling.

Well, the storm never came – but I’ll give you the workout anyway. Pin now, sweat later :-)

Sweat!

Sweat!

Happy SECOND Anniversary, Happy Exhaustion!

I know my right hand looks like dinosaur talons (can you tell I have a young son?) but I wanted to sneak a TWO into my pose-replication!

I know my right hand looks like dinosaur talons (can you tell I have a young son?) but I wanted to sneak a TWO into my pose-replication!

 Happy Exhaustion is officially two years old!

Look how little change there is in those after-after-after pictures! SCORE!

Guys, I maintained! I really, really did! Happy dances all up in this piece.

On December 6th, 2012 I stepped on that scale and the goal that once felt so out of reach had become my reality.

On that day I set up this blog with no intent to become a blogger. I just needed some extra online space to answer all of the questions that came flooding in when I announced my success to my social media circle with my very first Before & After picture. (The first two of the four seen above)

Two years later, Happy Exhaustion is an essential part of who I am.

As I considered what I wanted to say in this anniversary post, I thought of my Healthy & Strong lifestyle like a 2-year-old child.

On my first anniversary,  my Healthy & Strong self was only a one-year -old. It was barely past it’s infancy, just learning to stand on it’s own two feet. I could hardly believe I had kept the weight off, which made me feel a bit unsteady. I was still afraid I was going to fall and lose it all.

Now that Healthy & Strong is a 2-year-old, it’s running all over everywhere. It’s pretty sure it’s the boss of the household. But it still slips and falls, has temper tantrums, and has a lot to learn.

This year has been one for the books. No danger of forgetting the year I was on the cover of PEOPLE Magazine!

I wanted to pose with this week's edition of PEOPLE as proof that this pic was taken today, but the current cover is just WAY too depressing for this celebration post. Luckily, Sexiest Man Alive is still on the stands. That'll do.  Sexiest Man Alive is allowed to pose with me :-)

I wanted to pose with this week’s edition of PEOPLE as proof that this pic was taken today, but the current cover is just WAY too depressing for this celebration post. Luckily, Sexiest Man Alive is still on the stands. That’ll do.
Sexiest Man Alive is allowed to pose with me :-)

PEOPLE was the hands-down highlight of this Happy Exhaustion year. It still feels like a full-on out-of-body experience. I’m grateful for the new friends I made at the shoot for reminding me it was real.

Happy Exhaustion even kicked off a new career for me this year!

A few months ago, I became a goal coach. I have the privilege of working with people in pursuit of their own Happy Exhaustion. I get to blog in person!

With all of the precious lessons I have learned along the way, I’m able to help others to tailor their own approach. It’s a dream job for me, and I feel very lucky to have it.

If you could use the support of a cheerleader who understands *all* of the excuses and obstacles on the road to fitness, reach out to me over at the Happy Exhaustion Facebook page! I have yet to meet a  roadblock that I  can’t wrestle into submission ;-)

Now… my Proof of Maintenance picture. I gotta tell ya – I contemplated not posting this part.

But, as my brother pointed out – I have already ‘primed the pump’.

I have stated publicly & repeatedly that this picture will be here, and I don’t want to appear to be hiding anything when the rubber hits the road!

I toyed with the idea of only posting the Red Dress pictures. Because, really – that’s so much more important than a number on a scale.

Every single one of my clients is married to the number on the scale. *I* am married to the number on the scale.

I don’t want to be. I don’t want my clients to be, either. I want us all to use the way our bodies feel & the way our jeans fit as our guides.

Some day I hope to occupy that head space. I thought leaving out this picture would help to make that statement.

But, since I tied myself to the tracks… Maybe next year will be Red Dress Only. Today, you get some proof :-)

It’s not the number from the scale in my Miami hotel room during the PEOPLE shoot. It’s better than that – it’s my happy place. It’s where I reached my goal. It’s where I was this time last year. And despite the way the scale can drag me down, you know I enjoy when it lands where I like it to!

Proof!

Happy Exhaustion’s Holiday Survival Guide

It is upon us. The season all dieters/fitness enthusiasts dread most: The Holidays.

Oh, God give me strength. No use pretending the holidays aren’t challenging.

On this day 2 years ago, I was not The Girl Who Lost 100 lbs. I was the girl who lost 96 lbs. My 100 lbs goal was so close I could taste it. There was no WAY I was letting Thanksgiving put any extra distance between me and my declaration of success with my very first Before & After picture.

That year I began developing Holiday Survival Strategies.

If you’re closing in on your own goal – or just don’t want some holiday event to send you completely off the rails – then this one’s for you.

All Eyes-On-On-The-Prize, Goal Chasing, I-WILL-Fit-Into-That-Dress-On-New-Years-Eve fitness friends quaking at the thought of a table loaded with trigger foods, never fear! Happy Exhaustion is here to help.

(Note: If your goal is further in the distance and a few lbs don’t matter much in the Here & Now, then dig in! By no means do I believe Healthy & Strong means NEVER INDULGING AGAIN. If a day of “sometimes foods” is just what the doctor ordered, then enjoy the pie! Just don’t forget to get back on track the next day…)

For my friends who need an assist – I feel your struggle. The struggle is real.

Ready to fight?

Here we go!

Ready to Holiday Like A Boss?

Ready to Holiday Like A Boss?

1: Start The Day With a Workout

Your gym will probably be closed, and you might not have any equipment at home. NO EXCUSES! Get that metabolism up & running before your brain has a chance to catch up.

Start the day with a sweat – feel thankful for a body capable of a working out!

Here is a freebie, courtesy of the trainer I’m married to:

In descending reps 15-1 (15 of each, then 14 of each, etc. until the last set is only 1 of each)

15-1: Squats

15-1: Mountain Climbers

15-1: Push-ups

15-1: High Knees

15-1: Abs of your choice.

(I’ll be doing oblique twists, but if you prefer sit-ups, go with it!)

2: Mentally Prepare For Your Trigger Foods.

We all have foods that light up the pleasure centers of our brains and make us act like junkies chasing a fix. For me, it’s sugar. One taste and I lose all control.

What’s yours? Sugar? Buttery carbs? Fried saltiness?

Psych yourself up to avoid your triggers. I mean COMPLETELY. Best way to avoid falling off a cliff? Don’t dance on the ledge.

I will not be having any pie tomorrow. It won’t be fun, but I’ll go to bed proud.

3: If You Didn’t Make It, You Don’t Know What’s In It.

This tip is for my fellow calorie-trackers. If you think you can guess-timate how many calories are in Aunt Mae’s famously delicious green bean casserole, round up! Chances are good that her casserole is so delicious because it’s prepared with a cubic ton of butter.

To survive this hurdle, be the one who brings the low-cal options. If you made it, you know *exactly* how many calories to track when you eat it. This is why I’ll be the one bringing steamed asparagus and a dark green salad. That way I know there will be foods that will satisfy me without hitting my tracking with a giant question mark.

4: Beware of Hidden Sugars

Holiday foods can sneak sugar into unexpected places. Keep an eye out for cranberries, pumpkin, squash, and other naturally high-sugar bites. For the holidays they’ll probably be roasted, boiled & reduced with extra sugar and butter just for good measure.

Can’t imagine Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce? “That’s not even Thanksgiving!” Ok. Go ahead. But instead of slathering it all over everything, take a tablespoon-worth and enjoy the bites with a touch of sauce. Let them feel like indulgences.

5: Don’t Drink Your Calories.

Just a sampling of why this one’s important: The average cup of eggnog (ONE CUP!) has 225 calories. Mulled wine: 210. Cider: 175. Know what your body will love you for? Water.

(Don’t hate me.)

6: Eyes On the Prize

Whatever your fitness goal may be, keep it in the front of your brain. Think how far you’ve already come, how hard you’ve worked. Remember how much you want what your goal looks like. You’ve overcome difficult moments on this road. You know you can do it. You’ve done it before. Now do it again.

7: Is It Worth It?

Do a little math. How many minutes will you spend enjoying those calorie-bombs? Now, how many minutes do you imagine you’ll spend kicking yourself for unhealthy choices?

Know how many calories you burn running a mile? About 100. Is that single cup of eggnog really worth an extra 2.5 mile run?

8: Rise Above Peer Pressure

This one’s hard. Especially because it means I’m saying mean things about your loved ones. But the girl at the holiday table who isn’t cheating on her diet is rarely the most popular girl in the room. She might be doing what those around her wish they had the willpower to pull off. This can make her the target of saboteurs.

“Surely you’re going to take today off! It’s Thanksgiving!”

“Seriously, one day won’t make a difference.”

“You have GOT to taste this! I made it just because I know it’s your favorite!”

Diet Derailment: Dead Ahead! RED FLASHING LIGHTS!

No matter what the motivation of your loved ones, they’re not the ones who have to walk in your shoes. They don’t have to burn off your calories. Don’t let them drive your choices.

9: Say No to Left-Overs!

If you’re not hosting, politely decline to take any left-overs home with you (unless it’s those healthy, yummy steamed veggies you came with!). Leave with nothing more than an epic sense of pride.

If you’re hosting, encourage everyone who brought food to take home their own left-overs (as well as anything else less-than-wholesome that you can unload! Unless your guests are on paths like yours… give them props and let them leave with their pride alone.)

Deliver the rest to the nearest soup kitchen without delay.

10: It’s Just One Day

Even if you have to white-knuckle it through the perilous waters of the holiday, you’ve survived hard days before. Regular old Tuesdays when your co-worker had a giant bowl of pasta and eating your baked chicken made you full-on ‘hangry’. Stupid Fridays when your buddies were out pounding beers while you stayed in.

You killed it then, you’ll kill it now. Your pride at the end of the day is worth so much more than buttery gravy with a side of pie.

Enjoy the beautiful parts of the holidays. Enjoy your family, your friends, your health.

You don’t need to sabotage yourself to enjoy a special day.

Good luck! I’m with you!

When Five Pounds Feels Like Five Million OR: Gaining Weight On Purpose

“You can never be too rich or too thin.”

- Wallis Simpson

I used to take Ms. Simpson’s world view for granted.

Sure, I clucked with concern at the sight of models whose obvious eating disorders were on full display. But as long as you were certifiably thin (and just this side of a walking skeleton), I thought I should look more like you.

When PEOPLE came calling, I was already thin. I was in my happy place – the 140-142 lbs. zone, wearing a size 4. I felt good. I was content.

But the specter of posing in a bikini for the whole wide world to see convinced me that my happy place was too big. I began to pick myself apart for the many ways in which Katey is not Giselle. This belly pooch has to go, those thighs need to slim down, these arms should be more defined.

I set my sights on thinner, and Mama knows how to do thinner. It wasn’t for Healthy & Strong – it was because I didn’t want the internet to eat me alive. I pushed myself to my outer limits by imagining what the trolls would say if my bikini bottom cut into hips that were too soft.

I worked and I sweat and I ran and I cut calories, and I worked and I worked and I WORKED.

It paid off. I went to the shoot in Miami with these abs:

Who cares if my eyes are half-closed? Check my abs!

Who cares if my eyes are half-closed? Check my abs!

It was grueling. But, to be honest, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I needed to feel confident on that photo shoot, and I did. I wanted to be my leanest self, and I was.

But it wasn’t all sunshine.

Pushing my body as hard as I possibly could was full-on painful. It was punishing. It was Me Against My Body instead of Me and My Healthy & Strong Body.

As I reached my lowest weight, people who love me began to express concern. “Are you ok? Are you eating?” Had Happy Exhaustion lost the Happy part and fallen off a cliff into the darkness of an eating disorder?

It was intense.

I promised everyone that I was fine – this insanity was only temporary. It was just for the photo shoot, then I’d go back to normal.

But once the shoot was in my rearview, making good on my promise required some soul-searching. I was thinner than I had ever been. You could see my abs through my tight gym shirts! And you can never be too skinny, right? Shouldn’t I be trying to stay in this skinny body? Shouldn’t I fight *hard* to keep it?

No. Absolutely not.

Thank goodness I’ve been working on my Happy Exhaustion lifestyle for almost three years. That time brought me wisdom. I have learned so much about personal fitness, but the most important lesson is this: None of it is worth anything if you can’t enjoy your life.

None of it is worth feeling fragile.

My husband took this picture of me and my son the weekend after the shoot. I love this picture; except for one thing. It’s a picture of Fragile Me.

Skinny enough to fit into a 100% backless dress isn't worth feeling fragile.

Skinny enough to fit into a 100% backless dress isn’t worth feeling fragile.

I had a thigh gap. I had a bikini bridge. I had abs for days. And I was a woman on the verge of collapse – both emotionally and physically.

I was skinny as hell, but I was punishing myself every single day. 136 lbs might not seem much lower than 142, but keeping my body as thin as I could physically manage was exacting. It’s not a happy place for my system. My body doesn’t want to be that lean.

Maintaining 136 not only meant 75+ minutes at the gym every day, it also means zero – and I mean ZERO caloric wiggle room. No sugar of any kind, no cocktails, not so much as a touch of creamy salad dressing. Strictly raw vegetables and baked lean proteins.

Maintaining 136 made me really cranky. Really, really, really cranky. I was snapping at people who didn’t deserve it, I was spending less time snuggling my kids and more time praying to reach the end of the day without going full-on Mean Mommy at the drop of a hat.

I was too exhausted to be happy.

So, I chose to let 136 go. Skinny was NOT worth it.

I’m afraid I need to call Ms. Simpson out. Sorry Wallis, but you were one very rich, very thin, Liar Liar Pants On Fire. I found Too Thin, and it was real.

It took some courage, but I released the reins. I went back to my Healthy & Strong lifestyle. I still work out 6 days a week, but now I take a day off to let my body rest. I still watch my calories and mind the way my jeans fit, but now I enjoy my occasional glass of wine.

I gained weight. I did it on purpose. And it was one of the happiest and healthiest choices that I’ve made since this journey began.

Fitness is only wellness when you can be happy. No diet, no size, no number on the scale is worth sacrificing your joy.

Make healthy choices. Run in the sunshine. Choose to have a salad instead of a sundae. But drive your wellness with love for your body and your life. Don’t let self-loathing or body image steal your smile. It’s all about finding your own happy place.

Welcome back, 140-142. I missed you.

Raising The Reinforcements

family fun run

My poor, innocent offspring. They don’t know they’re being studied.

My children are the pioneering subjects of an ever-so-slightly off-the-wall social experiment, courtesy of an adoring mother.

Like most kids, they’ve got A Mama On A Mission: I’m bound and determined to raise the happiest, healthiest, kindest, strongest, most brave, curious & well-adjusted kids this world has ever seen.

Sound familiar? If you’re a parent, you’re probably on the same quest.

In our house (thanks in no small part to the loving example set by my own parents), the major check-boxes take care of themselves: Tell them they’re special and important. Be there. Make sure they feel loved. Keep them as safe as any parent can. Etc, etc, etc.

But I also have a *minor* preoccupation with my children’s inner monologues.

In a perfect world, not only do people around them tell them they’re wonderful – they tell themselves they’re wonderful.

Enter: Operation Secret Cheerleaders.

Wanna play? Here are the rules:

Step 1: When in public, keep an eye out for people making strides towards personal wellness. Whether it’s the 80-something man slowly shuffling around the track, the heavyset girl grimacing and sweating bullets as she jogs, or the super-athlete busting out a marathon like it’s no big thing. Find them, and point them out.

Step 2: Cheer for them. Out loud.

“Go, girl! Go, dude! HEALTHY AND STRONG! WOOHOO! YAY, YOU!”

You might look, sound & feel like a psychopath.

Do it anyway.

A stranger running along the side of the road? A stranger biking to work? A whole team of strangers on a field practicing with a team?

Cheer out loud.

The idea is not for the strangers to actually hear it. (Though I hope they smile if they do!)

The idea is for the children to hear it. All the way down to the darkest corners of their young, developing minds.

The goal is the development of a world-view that conceptualizes strangers as potential cheerleaders, rather than potential Mean Girls.

I developed Operation Secret Cheerleaders as a Happy Exhaustion response to my own toxic, Pre-Happy Exhaustion inner monologue. That inner monologue had a few tracks in heavy rotation: Self Flagellation & I’m Not Good Enough.

I have a fully pathological habit of taking it for granted that you’re better at (insert just about anything here) than I am.

That habit reads judgment in the eyes of strangers, assuming they are silently, persistently tearing me down.

That assumption kept me on the couch. My insecurities about my physical condition held me back.

“I like the idea of running, but if I go running people will see me. People will judge me.

I had to actively create a mental space where I could allow myself to be a beginner.

I spent decades believing that I should never be a beginner in public. I never went out for sports, because I was sure that everyone else was a superstar and I would be the only unskilled player.

Now I know better. The true beginner is the truest rockstar!

I still have to bust my ass every day to maintain Happy Exhaustion, but the physical effort of today’s got NOTHING on the physical *and psychological* effort that was required to get going in the first place.

To turn it all around, I had to first conquer my fear of the judgment of others.

It was hard work. It was not fun times.

I do NOT want that for my little ones.

Operation Secret Cheerleaders is this mama’s attempt to throw up a few road blocks and detour signs. I will happily cheer for strangers like a maniac if there’s a chance I could steer my kids’ brains away from toxic assumptions.

Whether you have kids or not, I invite you to join Operation Secret Cheerleaders.

And the next time you’re prioritizing your health – out in the world, where strangers may gaze – I hope you will think of me and my super-sexy minivan, driving by with my kids, shrieking about how cool you are.

At the top of our lungs.

Wearing Makeup At The Gym

mascara

A few months ago, I saw one of those ‘health’ articles with an attention-grabbing headline – something like ’10 Gym Laws You’re Probably Breaking!’

I’m always interested in articles like these, so I clicked straight through.

There were one or two good points on the list – things like ‘Always wipe down your equipment after you’ve drenched it in sweat’ and ‘2 earbuds in means Do Not Disturb’.

But most of the ‘Laws’ were silly and cosmetic, and left me feeling frustrated.

The author was heavy-handed as he asserted Gym Bossiness. “No makeup or jewelry at the gym! Where do you think you are, princess? A nightclub? Leave that ish at home – this is where we SWEAT!”

Fear of such Unwritten Gym Laws handed me an unpleasant dose of mortification last week, when I noticed the glint of a swinging sparkle reflected in the screen of my cardio machine. I had forgotten to remove my earrings when I changed into my gym clothes.

My face instantly flushed hot. I snatched out the offending accessories so fast my earbuds came out, too. I was mortified, scanning the gym to see if anyone was looking at me – judging my faux pas.

I was doing it wrong! I broke the “Gym Rules”!

Were people laughing at me??

Of course, no one was looking. No one was laughing. In 0.2 seconds I went from cross-eyed mortification to laughing at my own absurdity.

“Gym rules” are so stupid. Like we need a few more silly inhibitions getting between us and our goals!

Before I conquered my fear of the gym (and the bossy gym rats occasionally found there), I was afraid that the operative word in ‘Health Club’ was not ‘Health’ but ‘Club’. Gyms seemed like places with secret handshakes, codes I couldn’t crack, and rules I didn’t know how to follow.

As if the machines aren’t intimidating enough, there’s the scary gym-culture.

I didn’t grow up in a gym. I didn’t know the rites & rituals. Fear of doing the gym ‘wrong’ felt so potentially embarrassing, I let it hold me back.

Now I’m taking a stand for anyone who is intimidated by gym culture: JUST. DO. YOU. If you’re sweating, you’re doing it right.

My husband thinks it’s hilarious that I wear makeup when I work out.

One day not long ago, as I pulled the super-sexy minivan into the gym parking lot, I reached for the center console where I keep my lip gloss. I didn’t give it a second thought as I dabbed on just a hint of color. As I was replacing the cap, my better half burst out laughing.

“Did you just put on lip gloss to go do cardio?!” He couldn’t contain his amusement.

As I parked the car, I looked at the man I married a decade ago and asked “Um… have we met?”

Of course I was wearing lip gloss to do cardio. I was out of the house, wasn’t I?

I’m a very girly girl, and I don’t care to pretend otherwise. I have worn a small amount of makeup every day since I was 14. You think a change of venue is going to change that pattern?

I don’t wear *a lot* of makeup, but my ultra-femme side enjoys a little bit every day. Lip gloss, mascara & a dab of powder are in place whenever I leave the house. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to a formal function or making a run to the grocery store, I’m going to default to cosmetics.

Why should I make an exception for the gym? My waterproof mascara and lip gloss aren’t hurting anybody, and I’m happier with them. If I have to be panting and dripping with sweat, I can at least have pretty lashes!

Sure, you probably don’t want to cake on heavy foundation before a workout, because your pores will clog like nobody’s business. But – if your skin makes you self-conscious, don’t allow silly ‘rules’ about your cosmetics keep you from sweating yourself healthy.

There are gym rules that are in place for your safety, and those rules should always be followed. But the gym rules that are superficial? Take them if you like them, leave them if you don’t.

If you want to do Pretty Fitness, do Pretty Fitness! Mister Bossy Gym Rat is not the boss of you.