Earning It

When I was overweight and out of shape, I thought humanity was divided into two groups: People who are hard-wired for fitness & People who simply aren’t.

I didn’t give my fit friends much credit. ‘They’re jocks. I’m just not that. I’m different.’

Failure to give credit where credit was due was just another way of letting myself off the hook. I assumed that for them it was somehow easier. It was natural. It wasn’t the struggle that it was for me.

jim gaffigan

I didn’t realize that the gym rats look strong because they choose their physical fitness every day.

Barring illness or injury we are all physical manifestations of our *consistent* lifestyle choices.

Will you keep your food clean? Or are you fine with the drive-through?

Is hitting the gym or going for a run a mandatory part of your daily rhythm? Or will you shuffle from bed to desk to couch to bed again?

I’m a big fan of Jim Gaffigan, but the quote above makes me a little twitchy, because it’s just wrong. It perpetuates dangerous Diet Culture Mentality – The mythical existence of a finish line.

Your hard work is doomed to fail if your day-by-day relationship with wellness is ever ‘done’.

My fitness begins to slip away as soon as I give up on my choices and opt for comfort over wellness. When I phone it in, sip my wine, lounge around, and eat that slice of cake, my  hard-won form begins to weaken.

But when I choose well, when I eat clean and train mean, I can slay dragons.

You can be whoever you want to be, but you have to choose well. You have to be consistent. You have to earn it.

genetics

Yes, it’s work. But it’s so worth it 🙂

Important Notice

Important Notice

2015 Summer Challenge

out on a limbHappy Exhaustion is kicking off a summer-long fitness project!

Every 2 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day I will be jumping into a new diet and/or exercise plan *with both feet*.

I’m game for ANYTHING. What would you like to see me beta test for you? You name it – raw, vegan, paleo, juice cleanse, barre, yoga, running, boxing, swimming, rock climbing, I’ll give it everything I’ve got! After each 2-week adventure, I’ll blog about any and all changes I experience – the good, the bad & the ugly!

In the name of well-informed health coaching, I am prepared to guinea pig myself – even with approaches that sound about as fun as a root canal. (Let’s not even pretend a juice cleanse doesn’t sound like pure torture. I’ll be calling on my inner She-Ra for that one.)

THE RULES OF THE GAME:

I will commit to complete any workout challenge 6 days a week (one day of recovery is a healthy & strong choice no matter what the adventure!) for two weeks.

Any diet challenge will be all-day-every-day for two full weeks.

I will share changes in weight, energy levels, mood, overall quality of life, and any unexpected side-effects.

Hit me with your challenge – either in the comments section here, or on this Facebook thread! I can take it 🙂

True Beauty

True Beauty is having a moment, and I’m LOVING it!

This week reality flexed it’s muscles, pushed aside all of the plastic noise, and revealed some spectacular truth.

First up, blowing the doors off the place & nearly breaking the internet was one of the most gorgeous women ever to walk the earth – the one and only Cindy Crawford. Her supermodel status is historic. Take notes, Kate Upton. The boss is here.

I’ve aspired to look more like Ms. Crawford ever since a 10-year-old Happy Exhaustion first laid eyes on her in George Michael’s ‘Freedom! ’90’. When I spotted this framed picture in the studio in Miami where we were shooting for PEOPLE I had to snap a pic, because it made me feel like hot stuff. *I* was being photographed in the same space where Cindy Effing Crawford once posed. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends.

Hanging on the wall on location in Miami.

Hanging on the wall on location in Miami.

Because I’m a bit of a pop culture junkie, I’ve known (kind of peripherally) that Cindy is also somebody’s wife & somebody’s mother. I’ve seen pictures of her with her handsome husband. I remember her posing while pregnant. I know she’s not in her early twenties anymore.

But none of theses bits of celebrity trivia ever really registered with me on a human level.

Until this week.

This week – this hit the scene:

True Beauty.

True Beauty.

Cindy Crawford is a human being. She has borne children. She is not bionic.

When I first saw this picture, it was presented in a context that said “Cindy Crawford has chosen to take a stand – to show us that even the most beautiful women in the world are human.” Since then the stories have gotten a bit muddled and it’s no longer clear whether or not she is happy to have this out there, but I HOPE SHE IS!

If she owns this, if she shares this, if she takes this Teachable Moment and stomps it out with her fierce signature strut, she will be my newest hero. She will be armed to the teeth with biblical beauty and unstoppable truth. She can lead the charge against Cultural Toxicity and I will enlist in her army.

Because in our culture, PERFECT is the enemy of TRUE.

Comparing ourselves with people we perceive as somehow ‘better’ is painful. Aspiring to (and desperately chasing!) unblemished perfection is very, very painful. It can feel like personal failure when we’re doing our best, working as hard as we possibly can, and we still can’t look like *we think* supermodels do.

Please, dear friend, dear reader – hear me: You are not failing any more than an honest-to-goodness supermodel!

Cindy Crawford is no less beautiful today than she was a month ago, but now she has single-handedly given untold thousands of women unspoken permission to catch their breath.

Even Cindy Crawford ages. Even Cindy Crawford’s Body After Baby is different than Body Before Baby. And if her reality is not color-corrected, not ‘I Woke Up Like This’ Full Supermodel Glam, then maybe we can all ease up and love ourselves a little bit more. Maybe we can be a bit more gentle when we stare in the mirror.

The next seismic reality drop of the week was ‘I Woke Up Like This’ herself. The great and powerful Queen Bey. And, just like Ms. Crawford – our Queen is also a flesh-and-blood human woman.

True Beauty.

True Beauty.

She is not color-corrected in real life. But she is *so* beautiful. She is stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks beautiful. High-resolution photographs that reveal her humanity do not take away from her beauty. But it does pull back the veil.

She is a carbon-based organism, just like you are. Just like her fellow pop diva, Iggy Azalea.

I was drafting this post when my husband asked if I’d heard about the pictures of Iggy. I hadn’t, but a quick Google search provided images of the third un-airbrushed beauty of the week.

When this picture dropped, the online body-shaming of Ms. Azalea was so intense it drove her off of social media. Her humanity subjected her to scorn, and it absolutely breaks my heart. Unfortunately, it sounds like it broke her heart, too. Her tweets as she shut down her social media accounts revealed her suffering.

True Beauty.

True Beauty.

How painful it must be to be expected to look like a walking painting at all times.

None of us are perfect. Not you, and certainly not me. I have wrinkles. I have cellulite. I have stretch marks. When I saw the high-res picture of myself that PEOPLE selected for their cover, my eyes went straight to my tiger stripes.

I confess – I had secretly hoped they would ‘color-correct’ them out. I wanted the editors to make me look more like an art project and less like my true self. But they didn’t. And as a result, I wrote one of my proudest chapters: the one in which I quickly accepted my greatest source of image-anxiety being on full display.

I earned my stripes when I had my children. They are a part of me, and they’re going to stay that way. So go ahead and look – I’m not ashamed.

Tiger Stripes

Don’t worry – Happy Exhaustion is in no danger of putting herself on a Cindy/Beyonce/Iggy level. But what I need to put out there is this: Less-than-airbrushed qualities are not failures. They do not represent an unwillingness to work hard enough, to hire the right person, or to buy the right product.

We look like this because we are humans.

Cindy Crawford is a beautiful star in our shared universe, but even she can’t stop the aging process. Even Beyonce has human hormones that affect her skin. Even Iggy has cellulite on the bootie lots of women would sell a kidney for. And even the girl whose bikini body was on the cover of PEOPLE Magazine has tiger stripes.

If you’re old enough that your skin is starting to sag and it makes you feel ashamed, I hope you’ll pivot and be grateful for the wisdom of your years. If you have pimples, cellulite, or stretch marks, consider what the body underneath your skin is capable of. Mine grew two little humans. Mine got healthy & strong while shedding 20 dress sizes.

My reality is not air-brushed. I am no one’s walking art project. Neither are Cindy, Beyonce or Iggy. But we’re all – ALL of us – perfectly beautiful.

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.

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.

It’s Not About the Cookie Dough

If you read the article featuring Happy Exhaustion in the August 4th issue of PEOPLE Magazine, you may have noticed a template.

The five of us each had a bikini picture, a ‘Before’ picture, a brief story, an example of what we eat now, and an EXTRA LARGE FONT example of an astonishingly unhealthy food or drink we consumed when dangerously overweight.

DUNKED AN ENTIRE PIZZA IN ONION DIP!

ATE 3 DOUBLE CHEESEBURGERS AT A TIME!

CONSUMED 6 BAGS OF CHIPS IN A DAY!

WENT THROUGH A 24-PACK OF SODA IN TWO DAYS!

When it was my turn to provide an example, I first thought of the dessert buffet I indulged in while pregnant with my daughter.

That wasn’t quite ‘gross’ enough.

After waxing poetic about my hot & heavy love affair with cheese fries dipped in ranch dressing (*cringe*… also, *drool*) I finally struck magazine copy gold. Cookie dough. Not even good, homemade cookie dough. You know those tubes of raw chocolate chip cookie dough found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store? THAT kind of cookie dough.

Now THAT was gross enough. We had found my giant font.

ATE A TUBE OF RAW COOKIE DOUGH FOR A SNACK

(I don’t have the rights to the image of that page, or I would post it here. Just imagine me in a bikini with that giant font next to my face.)

Quite an evocative statement, right?

Can’t you just see me? Size 24, utterly despondent, feeling powerless to improve (so why even bother to try?), ripping open the tube and eating it raw? Heaping fistfuls of dough being shoveled into my big, fat mouth until I pass out in a filthy heap?

raw cookie dough
Yeah.

Here’s the thing…

That happened. It did. My wonderful new friends at PEOPLE did not tell you lies.

But despite the huge-font text, you really shouldn’t blame the cookie dough.

My peak weight wasn’t cookie dough’s fault. My peak weight was the result of my consistent, long-term failure to prioritize my health.

Were there crazy high-calorie binges on deep fried treats and raw dough in the mix?

Yes. There sure were.

But is that all I ate? Of course not!

I did not reach 243 lbs because I was a pathetic slob.

Whenever I ate something I knew was bad for me, I felt guilty about it. I detested my own obesity, and I knew the way I ate was making a bad situation worse. But I ate processed crap anyway. It was quick, it was easy, and it tasted good. It was there, so I ate it.

Because I felt hopeless.

Because I was an emotional eater and comfort foods felt good on a bad day.

Because I simply didn’t care enough.

Not because I was a slob.

If you’re carrying some extra weight, I bet you’re not a slob, either.

You’re probably like me. You move through life like everyone else. You take care of the people you love. You’re good at your job. You’re a good friend, good co-worker, good parent.

You have priorities around which you organize your life, and you tackle them well.

Manifesting your healthiest self just hasn’t made the cut yet. It has fallen behind the other issues that consume your day-to-day.

I was only able to get fit because I made my pursuit of health a higher priority than it had ever been before.

My shift of priorities didn’t change who I am. I’m the same girl, just with a reprioritized lifestyle.

Would I eat an entire tube of cookie dough today? No. Since giving up sugar and processed foods, those kinds of things make me physically ill. The few decadent minutes of yummy flavors aren’t worth the horrible indigestion I’ll suffer for the hours that follow.

But, I DO occasionally release the reins and eat as many calories as you’d find in a tube of cookie dough in a single sitting. Usually it’s a date night with my man.

That doesn’t make me a slob now any more than it did back then. But I know that I live in a culture that equates an overweight woman eating raw cookie dough with a pitiful mess. I also know that such judgment isn’t applied to a fit woman seen eating a gigantic bowl of ice cream. And that’s just stupid fat-shaming.

I celebrated the completion of the PEOPLE photo shoot with a bowl of pasta, a cocktail, and two scoops of ice cream. It wasn’t sloppy of me. It wasn’t something I had to be ashamed of. It was a treat.

2,000 calories all at once is 2,000 calories all at once no matter who you are or what kind of shape you’re in. All that matters is what role those 2,000 calories play in your lifestyle. If it’s a regular event, and it’s not burned off with an active lifestyle, you can’t help but gain weight.

These days I don’t stress the rare calorie-bomb, because now I crave my daily cardio. I am a full-on endorphin-junkie. So, when a celebration or a date night create a major spike in my calorie count, I burn it off within days. Because I prioritize my fitness. Because I need physical activity and clean, whole foods for my healthy and joyful life.

When I avoided physical exertion at all costs, all of those calorie spikes added up and compounded themselves.

What this (often exciting, frequently harrowing) adventure has taught me is that I was never A Fat Girl (although for a while there I was pretty sure that I was) any more than I am now A Thin/Fit Girl.

I was a girl who didn’t prioritize lovingly caring for her own body. That’s what has changed.

It’s not about the cookie dough.

dough

Debunktion Junction: The Lies Of The Machines

I hate when I’m talking fitness with the resident trainer and he gets that “I hate to have to break it to you…” look in his eyes. That look always means I’m about to be disillusioned, and it’s never pretty.

I recently got a dose of this particular brand of fitness reality when I showed him a post-workout picture of the screen on my favorite cardio machine. (I always snap a picture when I’m done, it helps me to keep track of my progress.)

Here’s the pic:

Almost 1000

“Look!” I proudly exclaimed. “If I can only kick it up a half a notch, I’ll burn ONE THOUSAND calories in the 65 minutes that the machine allows! That would be so rad!”

That’s when he got ‘The Look.’

The Look did not say ‘You’re 100% right! Good for you! Get it, girl!’

The Look was kind. It was filled with sympathy. My darling man does not like to bring me down. But, he knows I need truth. So – he broke it to me.

Cardio machines are big, fat liars.

It’s not enough that they make you run, ride, and climb to nowhere. Nooooo…. they also have to sabotage you! Stupid jerk machines.

See – the stupid jerk machines spit out numbers based on an algorithm that was not tailored for you. They were tailored to be in the right ballpark when considering the population as a whole. Depending on your height, weight, and fitness level, the algorithm might be assuming you’re heavier, lighter, stronger, weaker, taller, or shorter than you actually are.

If you’re petite and putting in time on the stair climber or elliptical, you’re working harder than I am, because I’m tall. If you’re 250 lbs, you’re burning a lot more calories than I am when we’re going the same speed. But when we program the machines for the same level of resistance and go the same speed, they tell us we’re burning the same amount of calories.

Pants. On. Fire.

I feel so betrayed.

So, what to do?

First – do your best to keep your workouts in the neighborhood of your target heart rate. If you’re not sure what your target is, subtract your age from 220 and shoot for 60-85% of the resulting number.

Here’s a handy-dandy chart to help:

Heart Rate Targets

Thanks for the math-assist, clevelandclinic.org!

Once you reach your target, you can safely assume that you’re burning approximately 10 calories per minute, or 100 calories per mile.

So, when I did 7 miles in 65 minutes, I should assume a calorie burn of 650-700. Not 940.

Rude.

But, if you’re like me and the hardest part of losing weight (or maintaining your weight) is the calorie control, then you probably want to be able to enjoy as many bites and sips as you can. If you’re assuming that you burned 300 (or however many) calories more than you probably did, and this assumption leads you to feel safe eating 300 more calories every day, then your rate of loss will be a lot slower than you want it to be. You’ll suffer through one of those dreaded “WHY ISN’T IT WORKING?!” episodes.

So, if you are doing everything right and beginning to wonder if maybe you need to get your metabolism tested because the damn scale refuses to budge? Could be the fault of the Lies of the Machines.

And with that, I’m off for a run in the sunshine. I can’t bear to look at a stupid jerk machine.

Lifestyle Change

Go ahead - make friends.

Go ahead – make friends.

Within the community of formerly-obese fitness junkies, there is a common mantra. We tend to go around mumbling about ‘Lifestyle Change’ to anyone who will listen.

I’ve touched on this theme several times in passing, but it deserves its own discussion.

“Lifestyle Change” is code for ‘if you think you can only diet and exercise until you reach your goal, you’re going to gain it all back. The change has to stick… forever.’

We don’t want to scare you off, though. We reference “Lifestyle Change” to soften the blow.

But, what we have learned is this: No one who keeps significant weight off is ever able to return to their comfy-cozy, curled-up-all-day-eating-their-favorite-foods lives.

Know those Biggest Loser contestants who go back home and gain it all back? They didn’t get the memo on Lifestyle Change. They thought a quick fix was possible. I can’t blame them – I yo-yoed for years because I avoided the Lifestyle Change. Lifestyle Change felt way beyond me.

When I got started, I couldn’t even think about tackling forever. When I got started EVERYTHING felt hard, painful, and deserving of my constant animosity. The thought of enduring such torture for the rest of my days was WAY more than I was prepared for.

I didn’t want to be heavy anymore, and I knew something had to change. Beyond that, I couldn’t even process.

I was ready to consider a few months – maybe even a year – of hard work, but I didn’t think I had anything more than that in me. I certainly didn’t think I’d ever actually embrace the hard work that is fitness.

I still wanted to believe the infomercials. CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN 60 DAYS!!

If you’re where I was when I was thinking about getting started, if yo-yo dieting feels normal to you – then you’re the person I am talking to when I hint about the importance of a ‘lifestyle change’.

I don’t want to feed you propaganda about how quick and easy shedding obesity and adopting fitness can be. But I don’t want you to fear that such a change could mean biting off more than you can chew.

The benefits of Healthy & Strong far outweigh the comforts of sloth (oh, I do adore sloth… it’s easily my favorite deadly sin), but you need to feel them for yourself.

None of my sporty friends were ever able to convince me that I’d be happier if I got fit. I hated dieting, and I hated exercise. How could working things that I hate into my daily life POSSIBLY make me happier? Nonsense.

But, of course, they were right.

These days, if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and the children have me wanting to tear my hair out before 8am, I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. As much as I would never have believed it one short year ago, the light at the end of the tunnel lies on the other side of a good workout.

I know that if I work an hour of sweating into my day, I’ll be as right as rain on the other side.

I still find fitness to be hard work, but now I know that it’s worth every struggling minute. It’s worth the full-scale lifestyle change, because this lifestyle is happier, more confident, less stressed-the-eff-out.

Healthy & Strong had to become integral parts of my identity.

So, go ahead. Don’t be afraid. Change your whole identity.

It’s the stuff of superheroes.

Debunktion Junction. Lesson 2: The Fiction of “Spot Training”

“I like my legs exactly the size and shape they are, I just want to tone up my arms.”

“I only need to lose weight in my belly. How many crunches should I do for that?”

Guys… I’m really sorry, but… you’re hoping for things that aren’t technically possible.

After watching untold hours of workout commercials and infomercials, I was pretty well convinced that spot-training oneself was an actual physical possibility.

“Want to get rid of that stubborn belly fat? Buy now!”

“Tone your legs like the stars!”

Please don’t hate me, but I need you to know: Your body is not capable of losing fat in only one spot. It’s just not.

I spent decades 100% convinced that ‘feeling the burn’ in my core meant that calories were being torched from that precise spot.  It took some serious Come To Jesus talks with the resident trainer before I could wrap my head around that not actually being the case.

We have been told (over & over & over & OVER again) that our bodies can work like magic. Want to have the arms of Halle Berry, the butt of JLo & the abs of Cameron Diaz? No problem! Pay here.

But our bodies are not magic. If they were, plastic surgeons would all be out of a job.

Want abs that show AND want to keep your nice, juicy, Beyoncé bootie? I hope you have Beyoncé’s parents, too!

Tragically, it’s all about genetics.

If you have a layer of fat over your belly, doing crunches isn’t going to specifically eliminate your belly fat. It’s going to help eliminate over-all body fat, and it’s going to build your abdominal muscles, but it’s not going to target the fat that’s right on top of the abs.

Calorie burn happens on a systemic level. Losing weight happens to your body as a whole.

I don’t mean to imply that you can’t get the visible abs that we all crave. You can! But, if you think you can keep the boobs and the butt as juicy as ever and just crunch your way to a zero-percent-body-fat core… um… it’s probably not going to happen. Unless you’re genetically blessed, in which case I’m jealous like WHOA.

(Ducking to dodge the things you all want to throw at my head right now.)

Gyms are full of clients who have certain ideals in mind – curvy or straight, muscle-bound or sleek. Go for it! Do your best! Just don’t be too angry at your trainer when they’re unable to rewrite your DNA.

If you have a belly pooch, you’re going to have to lose weight all over if you want to banish the pooch. Crunches won’t do it.

If you want slimmer thighs, you’re going to have to lose weight all over to slim them down. Squats will give you great muscles when you dig them out, but they’re not going to specifically burn the fat that’s right on top of them.

Rude, huh? I know. I’m as pissed about it as you are.

If this is news to you, I feel your pain.

Think I freely sacrificed my boobs? Because I didn’t choose to spot-train my thighs, belly, and arms? I can assure you, I did nothing of the sort. My DNA mandates that if I want to keep my size 4 jeans, I need to make my peace with the death of the DD’s.

We all have our own cross to bear.

*sob*