What Makes You Feel Good?

In a life where so often we have to ignore or postpone those things that give us the most joy, today I want to suggest that perhaps we all need to do a few more things that make us feel good.  I’m not talking about selfish-joys that are detrimental to others or negate your responsibilities (and I also am not referring to adult-fun either). I’m talking about hobbies, passions, and pursuits that bring you personal pleasure (like artistic endeavors, being outdoors for fitness or sports, reading, seeing movies with friends, etc.).  With lives so full, and martyrdom often prevalent (women in particular),  many people consistently negate caring for their creative/fun sides.

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Remember, life is short and the things that give us joy in life, the passions and hobbies we pursue, the moments of fun and happiness we share and experience, are essential to living a long and healthy life. Too often we isolate those moments into rare and even accidental instances, as our priorities lean heavily on jobs, family needs, and mundane chores that keep our lives chugging forward.

If you do not plan, schedule, and commit to decent chunks of time for you to do what makes you feel good, then you will not spend much time in that happy zone. It’s been well documented that people who maintain elevated levels of stress without a constant and regular outlet for their creative juices (the “happy zone”), suffer serious detriment to their bodies and minds.

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When stress levels stay high, muscles and organs do not get enough tension release, which causes reduction in your immune system (more illnesses), increase in inflammation to tendons and muscles (tendonitis, arthritis, and muscle spasms), and your mood will be and stay suppressed (depressed). Life is meant to have a balance between hard work and playtime. Our bodies and spirits require the “peaks” to balance out the “valleys.”

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Now if you tell me you have no hobbies or passions (as some of my clients have attempted to do), I will call bull on you (everyone has at least one thing that gives them that personal inner-joy, even if it’s just relaxing with a good book). The excuses most often cited are time and money. Well time is not the enemy, it’s your management (or mismanagement) of it. As for money, while some hobbies are clearly expensive to pursue, there are ample simple joys that everyone can partake in.

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So start by figuring out what it is that you find enjoyment from while simultaneously stimulating your imagination and/or body (i.e., reading, arts & crafts, walking, hiking, dancing, playing games with the kids, etc.), then schedule in your calendar (and with your family) WEEKLY time where you will do just that thing (or those things). Make it important enough … see the importance to you … and then it will be a priority just like all the other necessities of life that you pay attention to.

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Give it one month, and I know you will see and feel a difference in your life and your outlook.  As always, I welcome your comments and feedback about what made you feel better.

Stop Competing, Start Caring.

Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.

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I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see nighttime parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that you’re offering your bodies and not your brains or hearts, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.

The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match your own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem.  Our value should not be tied into how we match up with the next girl, or whether a boy finds us attractive.

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It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.

I know I’ve done my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.

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So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other.  Stop competing, start caring about each other and that karma will reward us all.

If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are the superior gender! (Wink.)

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Oh The Stress Of It All – Part 2 Again

Last week I reposted a blog from two years ago as stress and it’s damaging affects on one’s body appears to be enjoying a renewed rampage on many of my friends and clients. In continuation of my “summer vacation” series, this week I offer (reprint) some suggestions to help you manage your stress.

As I discussed last week, stress – chronic long-term stress, can wreak havoc on your body in a myriad of internally detrimental ways. I reminded you that there’s always a way to change a situation or circumstance, or at least change how you deal with a negative problem, when you want it badly enough. I asked you to think about what’s stopping you from making that much needed change in your life.

Well I guarantee it boils down to fear. Fear is the main culprit behind most people’s inability to change a situation, thus removing detrimental levels of stress from their lives. But fear can be faced and overcome – IF you’re willing.  So here are some steps you can take to reduce or remove chronic stress:

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1. Diagnose the core problem – the person, place, job, or situation that is the root issue to your stress. You may feel there are multiple issues, but usually there is a core issue, i.e., worries about money, poor communication, being spread too thin.

2. Acknowledge and name the fear that holds you captive. There are only four (4) fears that exist to us humans (all fears can be boiled down to one of these or a hybrid of two of them):

Fear of Failure

Fear of Rejection

Fear of Pain (physical or emotional)

Fear of the unknown

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3. Tear apart that fear by looking deeply at what is the worst possible outcome if you face that fear. Death or serious physical harm are about the only outcomes that you clearly cannot recover from. Otherwise, all obstacles, with proper planning, can be overcome (and they won’t kill you).

4. Assess your support systems. Who is truly a supportive force in your life. Not a “yes” person, not an enabler. Someone whom you can trust with your intimate emotions, who will not judge you, and will tell you the truth. Someone reliable and consistent in your life. The more of these the better – then lean on them, not wholly, but just enough to get you through the really tough stuff. The rest you must do on your own to truly succeed.

5. Make a plan. Detail the steps and map them out on a calendar.

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6. Commit to the plan.  Have someone hold you accountable, and then take each step in constant forward movement until you are where you want to be.

To some these ideas may seem obvious and easy; to others, daunting. However you perceive it, the task is to take positive steps towards a change. Stress does not have to rule your life. The key to getting rid of your stress lies in your very capable hands (and head).

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SO GO AND EMBRACE CHANGE! Happy summer.

Oh The Stress Of It All – Part 1 Again

Two years ago I posted this blog, and recently I’ve had a slew of clients dealing with the physically debilitating results of stress. So I thought since many people tend to take a summer vacation around this time of year, it might be some helpful food for thought to those of you who are “stressing out.”

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By now you should all know that negative effects of prolonged stress on the body. I’ve written about it frequently, it’s discussed regularly on Oprah, Dr. Oz, and the like. But for those of you living in a constant state of stress, I thought it time to revisit the issue, remind you of a few important stress-facts.

The kind of stress I’m addressing – that of situational, circumstantial, environmental and relationships – starts in the head (it’s emotional). If not dealt with quickly and thoroughly, it moves into the body where if left unreleased, ricochets around your insides like a pinball! A mind/body under stress releases Cortisol. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have numerous negative effects, such as:

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  • Impaired cognitive performance
  • Suppressed thyroid function
  • Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
  • Decreased bone density
  • Decrease in muscle tissue
  • Chronic digestive and intestinal issues
  • Repeat muscle spasms (lock of the muscles) in the neck and back
  • Weight gain
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
  • Increased abdominal fat, which can in turn result in higher cholesterol, heart attacks, and strokes

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s quite a list of ailments that I would actively seek to avoid!

For those of you that reply there’s no way to change my current situation or circumstances to alleviate the stress, I say think again. I know it’s trite, but where there’s a will there’s a way. If you have enough motivation, you can overcome – and change – anything.

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So what’s stopping you? Think about this while on vacation this week, or during what little down time you allow yourself to have (like the drive home from work). Next week I’ll address (or reiterate) some tricks for handling your stress.

Take This With You.

Summer vacation time is upon us and many of will head out for relaxing tropical times, scene mountain retreats, or whirlwind city tours. Regardless of where you vacation, exercise is still essential. Ideally you will keep your muscles toned and calories burning through hiking, swimming, and miles of exploratory walking, but if you still desire a muscle training kind of workout, I herein offer my do it anywhere workout.

This workout relies solely on body weight so no equipment is necessary, and can be done in a small amount of space, indoor or outdoor, and is about 20 minutes long. Perfect for your vacation needs. So print it out, take it with you, and enjoy!

DLF’S DO IT ANYWHERE WORKOUT

   ROUND ONE:

10 Burpees w/push ups

15 Incline push ups (against a desk or wall)

20 Air squats

Rest for 1 minute – then repeat x 3

   ROUND TWO:

10 Triceps push ups (from knees)

15 Jump Squats

20 Mountain Climbers

Rest for 1 minute – then repeat x 3

   ROUND THREE:

10 Prone Alternating Arm & Leg lifts (palms & feet on ground in push up start position)

15 Prones to Planks

20 Stationary forward Lunges

3 30-second Prone-Iso-Abs (planks)

Rest for 1 minute – then repeat x 3

Below are photo examples of all the exercises listed.  Have a great summer vacation!

BURPEES:

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INCLINE PUSH UPS:

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AIR SQUATS:

Air-Squats

TRICEPS PUSH UPS:

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JUMP SQUATS:

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MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS:

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PRONE ALT ARM & LEG:

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PLANKS TO PRONES:

Plank-Pushup

STATIONARY LUNGES:

Stationary-Lunge_Exercise

PRONE ISO ABS:

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Accept it, or Fix it.

In our ever-increasing attempts to be politically correct in this Country, we have started utilizing colorful adjectives to describe someone who is what we used to call “fat.” Over-weight, big-boned, large, hefty, heavy, full-figured, thick, heavy-set, etc. are now the less insulting ways to describe someone who has a larger percentage of body fat.

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But I think we’re wrong to do so. It’s simple, you are either proportioned evenly (regardless of your height, weight, and build) or you have too much body fat. The body (and what it weighs) consists of muscle, bone, fat, organs and water. None of us are shaped perfectly and none of us ever stay exactly the same shape as we age. There are healthy fat people and internally-fat skinny people. I only care that an individual can perform anything they wish physically (like dancing or simply walking up stairs) and that they suffer from as little stress as possible in their lives, while enjoying a mix of healthy and fun foods and experiences.

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With this said, my point today is that I hear many clients and people on social media lamenting that they are fat, over-weight, uncomfortable in their size and clothes, or worse yet, have physical limitations and/or illnesses due to their increased body fat. What irritates me about this is that a predominant amount of people complain repeatedly, yet do little to nothing about it.

Sure they’ll attempt a diet, a new exercise routine, or hiring a trainer such as myself. But within a matter of months, their willingness to do the work – and I know it’s hard work for most – dissipates. Pretty soon, they’re eating less often again, more high-caloric fattening foods, and the workouts trail off to once a week or none.

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My personal philosophy on ADULTS is that as long as you’re happy, and not achieving that happiness at the detrimental expense of someone else, then just be happy. If you’re not in imminent danger of dying, if you are okay with being less able to do certain things physically, then I say accept your condition and enjoy your life. There’s nothing wrong with being over-fat outside of your shortened life span and inability to experience certain life joys. There are plenty of people who find an over-fat mate sexy and attractive. There are plenty of over-fat people who are not suffering from health related issues, and can dance all night long. Right on, I say!

But the chronic complainers who chronically will do nothing long-term to fix their issues should – well to be blunt – fix up, or shut up. Yes it’s a huge commitment to change the way you shop, cook and eat food. Yes, it can be inconvenient to your schedule to work out for 30-60 minutes 3-5 times a week. But the results can change what you’re complaining about, and in a relatively short period of time in the grand scheme of things.

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So if you really want to change – and make it a permanent one – then do it. I have faith in all humans to achieve anything they set their minds to, and I support anyone who earnestly tries. If you prefer fast food diets and couch-potato lifestyle, do so with all the lust for life that life deserves – and enjoy!

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A Little Bit Is Better Than Nada.

Lately I’ve been receiving the same client excuse for skipping workouts from almost all my clients and friends. This particular excuse has increased in usage undoubtedly due to the change in everyone’s schedules when school’s out and kids are requiring more attention (or for those without kids, the idea that the sun is up longer so they’d rather be out playing after work).

So what is this over-used alibi for not working out? “I didn’t really have enough time or energy to do my full workout, so I just didn’t bother.” Well to all of you who have enlisted this reasoning to assuage your guilt for missing your gym-time I say: a little bit is better than nada (Spanish for “nothing”).

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20-minutes of effective total-body exercise can definitely stimulate your metabolism and cause your muscles to burn calories for the rest of the day or night, while skipping 20-minutes will do NOTHING.

15-minutes of focused resistance training is so much more beneficial to your body, brain, and energy than NONE. You’d be surprised how much more energy you will have after 15-minutes, no matter how tired you felt before you started.

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10-minutes of cardio stimulates blood flow and circulation in a way that 10-minutes of sitting could NEVER achieve. If you run cold, have poor circulation, stiff muscles or lethargic intestinal tract, even a few minutes of low-impact cardio can make a huge difference to all those body issues.

I’ve capitalized nothing, none, and never to make a point. Choosing to skip exercise completely just because you cannot do your full routine (assuming that it’s 30-60 minutes) will not get you anywhere!  After all, half, or even a quarter is still better than none.

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I will admit that even those of us in the fitness profession (personal trainers, class instructors, etc.) often find our time and energy spread too thin and contemplate skipping a workout or two. But my own guilt over not practicing what I preach always kicks in and I enthusiastically attack a 5-20 minute workout, knowing that I’m better off than having skipped completely.

I also have an advantage in that I know exactly what to do to get the most benefit out of a small period of exercise (i.e., effective usage of cardio combined with resistance training, or rapid-fire combo moves). But for the rest of you, between Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube there are plenty of options for quick workouts, and of course, you’re always welcome to contact me!

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So the next time you hesitate to go to gym or perform your at-home workout – remember that even five minutes benefits you more than none.

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What Difference Can One Change Make?

So you want to change your body, or become more healthy inside and out, but the idea of radically altering your nutrition, and squeezing non-existent time out of your schedule to exercise has you feeling defeated before you start? Well, you are not alone. This is probably the most common reason that periodically renewed commitments to achieving fitness fails for some many (along with those silly summer diets).

Well allow me to suggest something novel: make just ONE change. That’s not so hard, eh? But what difference can that make? you ask. My answer: you’d be surprised.

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My nephew, who is not known for being a healthy eater (hates vegetables), and who has very limited time for exercise, took it upon himself to stop eating sugar (sodas, sweets, etc.) and add in 12 minutes of exercise on the weekdays. Within two weeks he’d seen and felt a difference in how his clothes fit (i.e., he lost “weight”, but you as you know I call that losing “fat”).

Now you might note that this constitutes two changes. But I believe he would have seen a difference with just the one change (nixing the sugar). The speed with which he lost body fat was a tad faster for adding in the second change (exercising).

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Almost anyone can commit to and maintain a change of one thing being eliminated or added. If you do not choose to change your calorie intake — but do ad in a minimum, yet effective amount of exercise – you will lose a little body fat, at least initially. Same goes for eliminating one higher-caloric food category (i.e., sugar, bread, starches – whatever you seem to overdue the most). (Note: you can also opt to significantly reduce said food, so that you do not binge later because you’ve abstained completely from something you love and crave.)

I stated that you would only initially see a reduction because eventually you will plateau and no longer lose fat. My recommendation therefore is that after four weeks of the first change, you increase said change or add another. Example: 12 minutes of exercise should be increased to 15-20 minutes; or keep the sugar out but now reduce the quantity of starchy high-glycemic foods (like white bread, white rice, white pasta).

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So take heart if you feel frustrated that “dieting” or attempting to stick with an exercise routine are just not cutting it for you. Try this single elimination or addition and you will undoubtedly achieve some success – and success is the best motivator for continued change which begets more success. Before you know it you can achieve your goals!

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Love Doesn’t Always Work.

Despite all the sappy love songs and common sayings like love is all you need, love is the answer, or love concurs all, love does NOT always work. I’ve studied, analyzed, and introspected a lot of problematic relationships from my family to clients, to my own journey of trial and error relationships (until I got it right with the man I married).  What I’ve found is that no matter how strong the love and attraction to another is, if they are not the right fit for who you are, then the relationship at best will be filled with strife for many years, and at worst will be doomed. This is especially true for that annoying adage opposites attract. While opposites may be attracted to each other, the fundamental differences in how those “opposites” communicate, relate, and view life often makes for a very dysfunctional relationship.

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Clearly I am slightly generalizing, and there are many relationships that do succeed despite having vast differences.  But there’s no denying that two people on the “same page” about important life and family issues will have a higher likelihood of long-lasting success, or at the very least, less stress and strife (which is what we all want).

The biggest relationship road block is that of your “inherent personality.” There are two types of inherent personalities in humans – the “generous” type who wakes up and thinks about pleasing those around them; and the “self-focused” type who wakes up and thinks about what they need to make themselves happy first. Obviously some of us, either by nature, or life’s lessons, evolve to balance their generous vs. self-focused tendencies, which is the goal in my opinion.

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But when a couple is together with one person being the “generous type” and the other being the “self-focused” type, you will likely have one person always feeling disappointed and underappreciated, and the other always feeling that they can’t ever please their partner, that nothing they do is good enough. Either way resentment blossoms for both and poisons good communication and intimate feelings.

I have come up with a list of seven issues/items that I have feel are critical for a couple to have in common if they are looking for a solid, happy, “till death do you part” partnership. They are (in no particular order of importance):

1. Communication Style.

Example: if one is a talker and the other never wants to discuss anything, you will have a huge communication problem, and likely lots of hurt and annoyed feelings.

2. Family Background.

Example: when one is from a large and very close family and the other is an only child — resentment can rise up due to a seemingly intrusive amount of time spent with their family.

3. Views of Children.

Example: you want 2, they want 6. You believe in strict discipline with specified manners, and they like it spontaneous with no apparent boundaries.

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4. Religion/Spirituality.

Example: you’re a weekly “Christian” church-goer, and they’re Jewish and/or non-practicing or non-believing. Faith is huge to some and not sharing it with their mate can cause heated debates.

5. Humor & Joy.

Example: they laugh everything off with their dry wit, and you are serious in most things and don’t handle teasing well. You LOVE small intimate dinner parties, they LOVE going out and having loud tailgate parties. Once again, passion and humor for life is best when shared.

6. Approach to Money.

Example: you make it then spend it, they impose unrealistic budgets and/or want to save it all. This is one of the top two reasons couples break up. The other reason…

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7. Sex.

Example: One of you prefers frequent spontaneous interactions, while the other needs the lights off, and only when you’re feeling completely ready (which often doesn’t happen). Remember that the top three issues couples fight about are sex, money, children!

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Hopefully you have several of these in common with your mate – but most dysfunctional relationships have only one or two, or even none. The more of these issues that you two agree upon, the less likely you are to have chronic fights, or major incompatibility.

Of course I’m not saying dump the person you’re with just because you do not meet eye-to-eye on a majority of these issues, I’m just saying that if you are hanging on to a detrimental union where you’re not likely to ever find common ground on important life matters, then perhaps you should realize that love doesn’t always work – it isn’t always enough. Love yourself enough to know when it’s time to stop torturing each other. Remember this too, no one is WRONG, they may just be wrong for you.

Girl Vs. Girl

I have been preparing my 9 year old daughter for several years now for one of the less favorable rites of passage that elementary girls encounter as they grow towards teen years … that of mean girls. Sadly the inherent competitiveness of females towards each other starts this early and I have recently realized that for some, the feelings of petty jealousy do not stop at any age.

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I see signs of this girl vs. girl competitiveness from the playground to the workforce and at parties and social gatherings. It starts with the physical assessment – are they prettier than me, is their body in better shape, are they dressed too provocatively? Then it progresses into a fevered quest to find out some personal information that will prove their life is not better than yours, or that they are NOT as good as you – commonly known as gossip. Lastly communication breaks down into a series of anecdotal recounts of one’s life to one up the other – often using voice inflections heavy with condescension and superiority.

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I watch this in action frequently at the gym and restaurants. A 20-something “hottie” will saunter past a group of over-weight “mom” types. First come the glares, then the whispers, and finally loud encouragement from the “pack” that they’re each doing great. Of course, this dynamic happens in the reverse too. Often it’s the heavier girl at a nightclub who is subjected to a gaggle of anorexic Barbies walking past with their noses in the air, and their I’m so pretty hair flips. (Yes I’m generalizing and stereotyping, but I’ve seen it happen repeatedly enough to use it here.)

This constant competition between women has saddened me for years. I get that it feels like we’re all in competition for the few good men, but we’re really not. Men have just as much at stake when searching for true love, and they receive just as much rejection as we do. But the difference is that men (and boys) don’t seek to tear each other down the same way women (and girls) do.

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The feelings of jealousy and inadequacy that you feel when you see someone you think is better looking or happier than you is not their fault. You should all know by now that the grass is NOT always greener on the other side. That “beautiful” person may in fact be miserable on the inside, or maybe battled cancer, or was abused by someone. Your life is your life – your body is your body. It’s up to you to make your life and body be the most it can be and then be happy (and satisfied) with it all. When you’re not up to snuff – fix it – don’t make yourself feel better by enjoying the knowledge that someone else isn’t perfect too.  Bringing someone down doesn’t lift you up. These are the lessons I’m sharing with my daughter.

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I have more than once met women who were absolutely beautiful on the outside only to find that their insides were shallow or mean, and that their lives were not as envious as I had thought. But this knowledge never made me feel better – it made me sad that someone with such gifts wasn’t all that I had admired initially. It made me strive even harder to be happy with what and who I am and to appreciate all that I have, and go after all that I want.

Women we shouldn’t compete – we should complement each other. My many girlfriends and I do just that. If you are missing this kind of support in your life, perhaps it’s time you got better friends – or became a better friend yourself.

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