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 🙂

Size Happy

There’s an awesome new narrative brewing in the public square.

Female celebrities, recently body-shamed for *minor* weight gains have chosen to push back; to drop the veil at the intersection of body image & happiness.

“[My daughter] Willow said to me the other day whilst grabbing my belly — ‘mama-why r u so squishy?’ And I said..’b/cuz I’m happy baby,'” – Pink

Who also said “I am perfectly fine, perfectly happy, and my healthy, voluptuous and crazy strong body is having some much deserved time off.”

“I am not pregnant, I am just happy.” – Tia Mowry

Do those statements make the sonic boom in your head that they do in mine?

These are women in the business of Flawless Public Image. And look! They not only chose happiness over ‘Flawless’, they stood up and said so!

‘There is nothing wrong. I’m not pregnant. I have not Let Myself Go. I’m happy.’

Subtext: Don’t let the radiant red carpet smile fool you. Skinniest Me Is Unhappy.

As I learned when I first stepped away from my lowest Goal Weight and intentionally gained weight, a pin thin Goal Weight can be the enemy of happiness.

The struggle to reach my Goal Weight attacked my happiness every bit as much as my struggles with obesity.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for goal weights. They’re valuable tools in the fight for Healthy & Strong. Defeating obesity is always a good idea.

But I hope you’ll give your goals some room to breathe.

I often look at especially slender female celebrities and just want to hug them. Their bodies are under such heavy, loud, unyielding scrutiny. When they gain any weight at all, people notice. People comment. So, *generally speaking* they don’t let that happen. They fight every day to maintain a very narrow margin.

And that just hurts. That kind of pain needs a hug. It needs a break.

Tia Mowry and Pink probably knew they would hear about their sizes. But they chose happiness in their private lives over the pain of public opinion.

Their courage made them role models under a beautiful flag:

Assert your courage.

Share your truth.

Believe in the power of your light to pull others out of the darkness.

With that pep talk in the air, I will share these pictures of myself.

On the left, my ‘Goal Weight’ – the thinnest I have ever been.

On the right, pre-Happy Exhaustion days. I’m guessing probably around a size 12.

back

A different kind of Before & After

I fought hard for the size on the left. It’s what I thought I wanted, when I thought skinny meant happy. I was so wrong. I hope that picture doesn’t look like #Goals to you. I hope you see that it’s a picture of pain. My vice grip on skinny was strangling my happiness.

If you learn anything from my journey, I hope it will be this: No image is worth more than your happiness.

Care for your body. Care for your heart.

Run in the sunshine, and always aim for Size Happy.

 

Role Models Worth Having

This is admittedly a non-standard Happy Exhaustion post, but when I found myself down a magical rabbit hole of Jennifer Lawrence Body Positive statements, I had to share. I am grateful beyond measure for superstars who choose to raise this flag high: CHOOSE … Continue reading

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 🙂

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!

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.