Category: Children’s Fitness

Playing Card Work Out

Now that we’re clear of the final summer hurdle – the three day Labor Day Weekend – many of you feel it’s time to buckle down and really work hard on leaning up your body composition, especially before the high-caloric holidays hit us between November and December.  So today I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite ways to torture my clients (probably how I got the name “Priestess of Pain”) – the Playing Card Workout.

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This workout is so versatile and customizable it can be used with kids or adults, at a gym, or at home with as little as resistance bands and/or just body weight exercises.  You can also decide whether you’re going to “play” this workout for as little as 10-minutes, up to 30 or 60-minutes, it’s your choice.

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The concept is simple: you assign a type and quantity of exercise to each of the cards Ace Through King (1-13) in a deck of playing cards.  Then you shuffle them up, and take one card at a time, perform the exercise designated for that number (or face card), and then go back and pick another.  I change up my exercises regularly but here’s one I’ve used on beginning fitness clients who have just some basic gear.  Remember it doesn’t matter the suit, just the number of the card:

  • Ace (1)          10 Burpees
  • Two               25 Jumping Jacks
  • Three            15 Push-ups
  • Four              10 Single Leg Touch Downs (each)
  • Five               25 Biceps Curls (dumbbells or resistance bands)
  • Six                 30 Crunches
  • Seven            10 Incline Push Ups (against a bench or chair)
  • Eight              50 Air squats
  • Nine               3  30-second planks
  • Ten                 15 Triceps dips (using bench, chair or counter)
  • Jack (11)        30 Mountain Climbers
  • Queen (12)    20 Crab Walks
  • King (13)       15 Shoulder presses (dumbbells or resistance bands)

It doesn’t matter if you turn over the same numbered card numerous times (i.e., you turn over two 6’s in a row – you’ll be doing 60 crunches).  Keep the pace fast if you’re only working out for a short period (10-20 mins).  For longer (30-60 mins), every 10-minutes take a 2 minute break for water and to slow your heart rate down.

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There’s an even simpler option, assign only 4 exercises, one for each suit, and then perform that exercise for the amount of times of the numbered card you pick (i.e., Clubs = Push ups, a 5 of clubs is 5 push ups).  But either way, you’ll achieve great results and it’s hard to plateau with this workout.

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This workout routine will keep boredom at bay as it stimulates your brain and challenges your body, and it has effective cardio with simultaneous muscle fatigue all built in to one fun routine.  I challenge you to try it with your whole family, and encourage the kids to assign the exercises.  For those of you who are excited that Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks for the season, you’ll need to work of those calories for sure, and this is a quick easy way to do it.  Cheers and good luck!

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Breathing Matters

In 2013 I first addressed how important breathing is to your fitness goals, with specific focus on breathing correctly when exercising.  Lately with all the political unrest in our country, I feel everyone is holding their breath in general and that will only serve to increase our internal stress levels.  So for that reason, I have updated an earlier post to remind us all to BREATHE!

Women in labor know full well the importance of breathing. Deliberate breath control is a natural tool (vs. medicinal) to managing pain. Those studying Martial Arts know it too, same for distance runners.  Actors, singers, dancers must all incorporate breathing into their art. But the importance of breathing for successfully improving your fitness stamina and goals is often overlooked.

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Let’s start with the clinical basics. When you breathe in, you deliver oxygen to your muscles; when you breathe out you remove carbon dioxide from your system. (Carbon dioxide is the waste gas that is produced when carbon is combined with oxygen as part of the body’s energy-making processes.)

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Most runners or cardio-enthusiasts understand the importance of proper breathing to achieve endurance for the length of their run/cardio. It’s kind of automatic. But proper breathing for those performing resistance training (weight lifting) does not happen automatically within the body, and many times the breath is even held during exercise.

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The fact is that successful resistance training must include the proper oxygen delivery and removal of carbon dioxide to the muscles. Not only is this crucial to allow energy to continue throughout your entire workout, but the specific focus of your breathing will allow you to lift more weight, more often, and therefore, burn more calories and exhaust the muscle. Exhausting the muscle is the first step to rebuilding it (through proper nutrition and rest), thereby creating more lean muscle tissue which eats fat.

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When you hold your breath you increase tension throughout your entire body. For proper muscle training, you need to isolate the tension to only the muscle(s) you are seeking to work. In other words, if your back and arms are tightened (tense) while performing a chest press, your chest is sharing the weight load and therefore not benefiting from the targeted exercise.

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So here’s a quick guideline I instruct all my new clients to memorize: when lifting, pushing or pulling (the exertion) breathe OUT. So if you are performing a biceps curl, take a breath in before you start, then exhale on the exertion (the lifting of the weight) and breath IN again as you lower the weight to starting position. If you are performing a leg press, take a breath in before you start, then exhale on the exertion (the pushing of the weight) and breath IN again as you lower the weight to starting position.

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Another aspect of breathing I wish to address is for children. Between the higher demands on their brains in school, the jam-packed schedule of school, homework, sports, etc. that many kids experience, and any tensions at home or in the world at large — breathing is key to keeping their volatile emotions stable.  Spend some time with your children each day teaching/reminding them to breathe slowly and to consciously relax any tension in their bodies.  (This is especially helpful at night before bed.) Perhaps the whole family can share in a 1-minute meditation where everyone can shed some of their internal stresses.  There are smart-phone apps or YouTube videos that can guide you through these easy (and relaxing) short meditations where breathing is emphasized.

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It’s a simple thing but it can make a huge difference in achieving your fitness goals, and as stated at my introduction, breathing through emotional stress is also paramount to keeping our bodies happy and healthy.  So breathe on … especially when watching the news!

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You Really Need To Sleep!

Three years ago I presented the following post and as school has started back up (or is about to) for a large majority of us here in the U.S., I thought it would be beneficial to remind everyone just how important sleep really is.

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What I didn’t address before was how important sleep is for children/teenagers. If your school-aged child has to start school at 7:30 or earlier, it is imperative that you guide them to getting to sleep as early as possible.  Current studies show the detrimental ramifications of too little sleep for children ages 5-17, with issues ranging from lack of concentration, depression, increase in body fat, and mood swings.

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It is up to us parents to enforce earlier bed times especially when transitioning from summer break back to school hours.  If your child has trouble winding down, take away their electronics as they have been proven to be stimulants instead of relaxers, and encourage reading quietly in bed until they fall asleep, etc. It only takes a firm commitment for a week or two until the new routine is firmly in place.

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Now for the rest of you, read (or re-read) this former post and then get some sleep!

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It’s a well-known fact to those of us in the fitness profession that sleep is a key element in achievement of one’s fitness goals to lose fat (lose weight as most of you refer to it). Unfortunately, this fact is little acknowledged, not to mention followed, by most people.  Sleep is a commodity in our fast-paced, over-worked, over-committed society.  While many of is can function quite well with little sleep (especially you Moms), the detrimental effects are huge, yet hugely ignored.

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With too little sleep comes a myriad of issues ranging from depression, elevated stress levels on organs, higher blood pressure, higher risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced sex drive, inability to concentrate, deteriorated memory, etc. But the biggie is obesity. According to studies by medical professionals, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30% more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours. Research has shown a direct link between sleep and the peptides that our brain stimulates to regulate appetite. Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite, it also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods, especially at night when the body is less likely to burn those calories.

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There is also a vicious cycle that occurs in the many obese people who suffer from sleep apnea.  Even if they allow enough time to sleep, their sleep is disrupted multiple times each night which results in less quality sleep time. Thus their bodies retain more fat, increasing the sleep apnea, and the cycle continues until they are on assisted breathing devices.  I have a hard time convincing clients that if they follow my recommended course of exercise, healthy consistent nutrition, and proper sleep habits, they could find themselves off the breathing mask within months (and in many cases off their high blood pressure meds too)!

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So here are a few tips that can help improve the increase amount of time you sleep:
Prioritize: Make sleep as important as all the other responsibilities you have in your life. Schedule at least 8 hours of sleep just like you schedule everything else from getting to work on time to getting to the gym (you do schedule your gym time too, right?).  For children you really need to do the math and get them tucked in early enough to balance out when they have to get up (see chart below).

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Decompress: Many of us need a little while to decompress before we can fall asleep. Schedule about 30-minutes prior to when you want to fall asleep and do some yoga-like stretches, read a book, watch TV (as long as the show is not too dramatic or stimulating), or journaling (as noted below).

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Journaling: If you’re like me, sometimes the issue with falling asleep (or staying asleep) is an over-active brain, sorting and re-sorting tasks needing to be dealt with.  If you spend a few minutes prior to sleep writing down the issues weighting on you, or Journaling about your day and feelings, the brain will relax and sleep will be easier.

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Time your Nutrition: You mustn’t got to bed hungry, but conversely, you need to not have just eaten a meal.  Make sure your last meal/snack is at least one hour prior, but not more than two hours before bedtime.

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More Than Enough

For a long time now I’ve been pondering why so many women have low self-esteem and why even those who seem confident and strong still often feel they’re just not enough. Society as a whole still seems to regard our gender as slightly less valuable than men – look at our pay ratio’s, and the corporate ceilings we’ve yet to break, popularity of movie stars and their box office worth, and even at the idea of having a woman lead our country.

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I believe the primary reason women judge each other with such envy and jealousy stems from the feeling (or worse, their belief), that they’re not enough – not pretty enough, thin enough, young enough, smart enough. It doesn’t help that if you’re not young and/or pretty, society still values you less than even an old, ugly, racist man

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I am desperate to see this change, both for my peers, and my daughter’s generation. We are enough and we need to stop the division. There are valid and specific differences between men and women, but there is no difference in our capabilities as a species to succeed and deserve equal respect. However, until we stop competing on such trivial levels (like weight and breast size) the rest of society will not see us as equal (and enough) – primarily because we’re not demanding it.

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Having a father who abandoned me at age 6, I had long struggled with feelings of not being enough, especially where men were concerned. It’s no wonder … when a parent seemingly rejects a child, the child will always assume that gender doesn’t value them. So in my 20’s and 30’s I made it my mission to be physically strong, emotionally stoic, sexy in that tough, tom-boy with a knife kind of way, and very accomplished in all things “dude.” I rebuilt my car engine, I helped a boyfriend build a house from the ground up, and I was always the best wing-man for my male friends when out at bars.

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Now I look back at that time and laugh – I was trying so hard to be strong and independent so that men would love to have me around, not realizing how intimidating that was to most men. They liked having me as a friend, but not dating me. Once again I was still not “enough.”

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Now that I’m in my 50’s I have found comfort in knowing that I am most certainly enough, but more importantly, that it doesn’t matter to me if anyone else thinks so. Besides, my loving husband, family, and plethora of close quality friends all think I’m awesome and better than enough, and who else matters?

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So how do I impart this wisdom that took me decades to learn to those women and young girls who still suffer from daily bouts of doubt and fear that they are not as special and beautiful as that Barbie at the gym? I guess the first step is today’s post, and the subsequent steps are to keep shouting from my soapbox (aka social media) that WE ARE ENOUGH!

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Stop comparing yourself to anyone else. Love yourself, love your body, do what you can to be healthy inside and out, and remember that there is no one else like you who has lived the life you’ve had, and that makes you unique, special and more than ENOUGH.

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10 Minutes To Smile

The other day I was in a real funk of a mood, dramas with my kid, changes of plans, unexpected bills – you know the drill. In the midst of my moodiness I decided to take a few minutes and hop on the treadmill. I pulled up an uplifting play list of songs from my phone, stuck my earbuds in, and did 30-second sprints with 30-second rests for 10 minutes. The result, I got rid of my blue mood, refocused my perspective towards the positive, and the rest of the day was great.

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After my ten-minute shake-up, I realized how easy that had been and how rewarding on so many levels, and I knew I had to share this reminder with my readers: No matter what’s going on, with as little as five minutes of aggressive movement (that doesn’t mean it has to be high impact mind you), you can lift your mood and re-energize your spirits. Plus you’ll get the added bonus of burning some extra calories or adding to the building of your muscle tone.

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It doesn’t matter if you don’t have gym equipment at home, or even if you’re not at home (i.e., traveling). If the weather is fine, take a fast-paced walk, climb a tree or some rocks. If you’ve got access to a pool, try some impromptu water aerobics (blast fun music and pretend to jazzersize in the pool).

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If you’re stuck inside: trot up and down your stairs (if you’ve got them), or perform a circuit of burpees, push ups, and crunches, or even hula hooping.  There’s always some way to MOVE for 5-10 minutes that can stimulate endorphins wake up your brain, body, and mood.

For those of you who watch Grey’s Anatomy, you’ve no doubt seen that when things get really heavy on their heads and hearts, Meredith and her friends dance their blues away in the living room with mindless music blasting. You can do this too. Your form and style is irrelevant, all that matters is that you move your body and distract your mind.

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This works great for kids too.  If they’re sulky and/or tired from a summer’s day of doing nothing but watching videos, get them up and moving in a drastic but fun way for at least 10 minutes.  Make it fun and youthful and they’ll play along — like jumping on the bed or  having a pillow fight! You’ll all benefit in the long run.

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So the next time you find yourself weighted down by circumstances – turn that frown upside-down by moving and literally shaking things up for at least 5 minutes. Your body, heart, and mind will thank you.

What Can You Still Do?

When we’re kids we’re naturally limber (i.e., flexible) and most children (especially girls) spend a good deal of their childhood jumping, climbing, twisting, back-bending, performing splits or at the very least sitting for long periods of time on their butts with their legs crossed or bent underneath them.

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Then through the process of aging and studying more leading way to working at a desk more, we lose that limberness until we are old people who can’t get themselves off the ground. Most adults can’t touch their toes any more, can you?

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As a personal trainer, one of my goals is to help all my clients reclaim their physical ability to do the things they want to do whether it’s hiking in the mountains, or simply being able to play with the grandchildren on the ground (and then get back up again). Not all clients are seeking to achieve the physique of a Greek God, some simply want to be able to have more stamina, strength, and flexibility.

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A few years back my Mother took a fall and lost her confidence about traveling to Europe (one of her joys in life) because she felt that only my Dad could lift her up if she fell. I refused to have her stop partaking in her passion of travel and urged her to work with a trainer (we live in different States) just to the point where she could get herself up off the floor without help.

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After a lot of persistent nagging on my part, she agreed and I found her a pilates instructor only five minutes away. They worked together twice a week for about six weeks performing exercises to improve my Mother’s balance, strength, and flexibility just enough that she could get herself up off the ground without assistance. The following year we celebrated her 80th birthday in Yosemite and she hiked an slight incline mile with me, barely stopping. Since then she has maintained this fitness level by performing the exercises daily and continues to enjoy travel and hasn’t fallen since.

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Clearly when dealing with seniors or very out of shape teens/adults, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, we’re simply trying to build up the body to the point that satisfies the client’s life goals. We don’t all need to be skinny or “ripped” but we do need to be able to handle whatever physical abilities are required to achieve our goals and passions. (I’ve seen overly-fat people hiking with less difficulty than some younger and/or thinner hikers, so it’s not always about your shape on the outside, it’s about your shape on the inside.)

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So I urge all of you to consider this and find a trainer, take a class, follow a DVD or YouTube video, and push your body just a little more than you’ve been. Figure out what you can’t do physically today that you want to be able to do in the near future and seek out exercises that will assist you in that physical improvement. Sometimes all it takes is gentle but regular stretching. Other times it may require a little more effort and some guidance/instruction in form from an expert or trainer. Either way it doesn’t take much time, money or effort to see improvement, you just have to have enough motivation.

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At the very least, if you want to be able to do the things physically that you can do today when you’re 80 or 90, you should start now! With the warmer “outdoor” months upon us, this is a perfect time to get outside and enjoy being physical, to whatever extent that entails. If you would like a personalized exercise or stretching routine, you can order a customized plan with detailed instructions on form from me.

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Women vs. Woman

Over two years ago I posted Stop Competing, Start Caring which focused on the rampant issue of women putting each other down through mean-spirited acts of unspoken competition.  From the gym to work environments I see women continuing to combat jealousy via negativity and attempts to feel superior. Sadly, I suspect if my gender was more supportive of each other on the whole, if we’d have a woman as president today instead of the misogynist we’re stuck with. But I digress…

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I recently joined a new gym, the kind of gym where everyone is very fit and focused on hard core workouts.  This is no meat-market pick up joint, or Planet Fitness where you cannot grunt or show too much skin.  Despite being a fitness professional I found clientele on the workout floor a bit intimidating, so I decided the best counter-action was to smile sincerely at everyone, especially the women.  Not surprisingly, but too my renewed dismay, only one out of every ten women smiled back.  Even with deliberate eye contact and my broad and welcoming smile, they looked away with down-turned mouths. I even attempted to strike up a conversation with one woman in-between sets and she answered me quite curtly and sauntered off.

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So here is the post again, with slight updates, in my hopes to remind all women that we do not need to compete or be jealous of each other. The grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and only if we work together can we continue the improvements to our role in society that the Suffragettes’s started and the 60’s feminist movement continued.

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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 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 we’re offering your bodies and not our brains, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.

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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 our own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem – and we usually know nothing about this other girl’s character and/or life other than her “cover” which we judge.

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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.

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I know in my youth I did 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 rarely 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.

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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 not only equal, but in some areas might even be superior?  Just food for thought.

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Sugar Isn’t Just Sweet

Three years ago I posted an article All Sugars Are not Equal and now lately I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about sugars and sugar substitutes, so I thought it was time to remind you all that Sugar Isn’t Just Sweet!

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Sugar, in all its forms is highly addicting to our brains via our tastebuds.  Sugar is in so many foods naturally (like all fruit), and then for some reason our commercial food industry has decided to add in more sugar — probably because it makes us crave the items more and therefore boosts their sales.  As any annoying example I cite regularly, several American producers feel the need to ADD refined sugar (or even worse High Fructose Corn Syrup) into their apple sauce or apple juice.  It’s apples for goodness sake – it’s already sweet!

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The real problem is that so many people are unaware of just how much sugar they’re ingesting (or allowing their children to consume) and further, they don’t understand why sugar is so bad for our bodies.  It’s simple, sugar — ESPECIALLY REFINED SUGAR — attacks our immune systems, increases high cholesterol, causes systemic inflammation, confuses our metabolisms and therefore stores as fat (i.e., weight gain) and pushes our blood systems towards diabetes.

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To combat only two of the above-listed issues, once again commercial food entities diddled-about in their labs and came up with sugar substitutes that were “lo-calorie” and safer for diabetics.  Unfortunately, a whole slew of other issues came about with some of these subsitutes, the least of which is cancer.  In case you’re still confused about refined sugar vs. sugar substitues vs. natural sugars, here’s a quick recap:

There’s table sugar – white refined sugar — that we all grew up with, and it’s subsidiaries of powdered sugar and brown sugar (refined white sugar with molasses added).  This comes from the sugar cane plant and/or sugar beets plant. Like all sweet plants (fruits and vegetables), it has a sweetness to it that we have labeled as SUGAR. The Sugar Cane is not a bad plant, but it’s the process we have developed to refine that sweetness is bad.

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The term “refining” means to remove by a purification process, certain coarseness or impurities. Sugar refining is the process of extracting out the sugar (sucrose) from the plant materials and then removing other unwanted materials from the extracted raw sugar. These substances can include remaining stalk fibers, soil, insect parts, molds, bacteria and waxes.

The refined white sugar product is now over 99.9% sucrose and for all practical purposes contains no nutritional elements such as vitamins, minerals, proteins or fibers. What is left consists of pure, refined carbohydrates that the body cannot utilize. Worse yet, refined sugar drains and leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand its digestion, detoxification and elimination makes upon one’s entire system.

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With Refined Sugar being seen as the enemy we began to create foods labeled as “sugar free.” Here is where one of the first misunderstandings comes in. They are NOT sugar free. They are refined sugar free. These “sugar free” foods usually contain one of the following sugar substitutes:

NutraSweet or Equal (aspartame)
Splenda (Sucralose)
Saccharin or Sweet N Low (benzoic sulfilimine)
Stevia
Xylitol
Coconut Sugar

The first three are man-made chemical products, praised for having no calories, but criticized (rightfully so) for being so foreign to the body that they offer no benefit, and in fact can be very harmful. The last three(Stevia, Xylitol and Coconut) come from plants and are less offensive than any other choice of sweetener (real or artificial), but they still put SUGAR into the body.

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Other sweeteners like honey, agave, and maple syrup are “safer” to some esxtent, but the issue still remains that our bodies can really only handle so many grams of sugar per day before our systems are negatively affected. (Remember even alcohol turns into sugar in our bodies.) Even Raw Sugar is better than refined, but you’re still left with one important issue:  too much sugar – of any type – in our blood streams is bad (worse yet for those with allergies, diabetes or autoimmune diseases such as MS).

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So the real question you need to pose to yourself in regards to your nutritional health, is how much SUGAR should you eat per day. In other words, the maximum number of grams of sugar in any shape or form.  The American Medical Association suggests no more than 25 grams of sugar per day (which equals 6 teaspoons). Did you know there are 19 grams of sugar in a medium sized apple? There are 40 grams of sugar in a can of Coke! How many grams are in your latte, your salad, your sandwich? Refer to the chart below to see just how many teaspoons of sugar (1 cube = 1 teaspoon) are actually lurking in some of our foods.  Six teaspoons is VERY easy to achieve and quickly surpass in your daily nutrition, even if you believe you eat “healthy.”

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So take a hard look at what you eat and know how much of any substance you’re consuming, whether it be sugar, sodium, etc.  Keep a balanced diet, and try to keep your sugars (in all their forms) to a moderately low level.

No More Labels

Last night my daughter asked me the one question that I always refuse to answer when a friend or client asks me: am I fat? I replied do you think you’re fat? She pushed further asking me to choose between whether she was skinny or fat. I responded that I wouldn’t pick either, as those adjectives are negative labels cast about by a society obsessed with perfect bodies – something that doesn’t exist.

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In my conversation with my daughter, I took it a step further and pointed out that there are a myriad of body descriptions (labels) in-between skinny and fat, and none of those might fit her body type either. But even still I was not going to be cornered into labeling my child. I said if you feel fat, we can talk about that and I can always instruct you in ways to change your body composition to be healthier. But if you’re just worried that compared to the next girl you’re “fat” then I’m not going to engage in that kind of labeling and neither should you. Remember, every BODY is different!

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The idea of placing a descriptive label on a “body” lends itself towards negative views and feelings on the part of both the describer and the describee. Unless you’re giving an eye witness account to a crime where physical descriptions are necessary, I feel that we over-use these negative body labels all the time and this wide-spread habit is an assault on our self-esteem.

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If I were to tell you fascinating a story about one woman’s journey, would it matter if she was skinny or fat? I suppose if it was about her climbing a mountain it might come into play about what kind of shape she’s in. But if I’m telling you about a woman confronting a governmental or societal obstacle or battling cancer, it doesn’t matter in the least what her physical shape is. Yet we always seem to embellish our stories with these details.

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If I describe a woman as stocky and solid, you will most likely imagine someone akin to an Olympic gymnast or swimmer. But if she’s just an average girl, that description might make you think she was short with a thick torso, which society has labeled as less attractive. If I describe a woman as lean and ripped, most would imagine a track and field star or fitness model. As Society has deemed that body type as one to be coveted, are the rest of us then sub-par?

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This matters to boys and men too as society’s labels have suggested that if they’re not “strong and buff” they can’t get the girl of their dreams.  I find all these labels to be detrimental on the whole because it’s diminishing the importance of our character, habits, and manners thereby making how we look – or what shape/size our bodies are – the more important factor.

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So I ask you now to note how many stories or incidents you tell throughout your week where you interject something about a person’s skin color, size, shape, age – and then assess if those descriptions (or adjectives) were necessary to the story. Also note how many times your children describe people or other children with labels that they either envy or disdain. Perhaps with more awareness we can move away from these labels and get down to the more important facts and issues of life.

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Children Are Still Listening

Two years ago I posted The Children Are Listening and lately I feel strongly that it needs repeating. It is evident that how we talk about our bodies, how we talk about other people’s bodies, and how we handle our nutrition directly impacts how our children – the girls in particular – view themselves. They are listening to what we say and how we still idolize thin, plastic or enhanced women and super buff men.

We MUST make it a priority to teach the latest and future generations to view nutrition and exercise as equal priorities along with the standards like good dental hygiene and a good education. Then, and only then, will we see an entirety of young adults having healthy fat levels, and healthy self-esteems, which in turn will benefit us all (especially as health insurance issues are far from being resolved).  So read and remember, the children are listening.

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I overheard two nine year old girls talking the other day at a friend’s home. One tall, one short, neither thin, neither overweight – but clearly built very differently. The taller one was urging the shorter one to get on the scale to see what she weighed. Finally, reluctantly, she obliged and weighed in four pounds heavier than the taller girl. Said tall girl then replied “ooh, maybe we should run around more at recess.”

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What does this tell me? It tells me that the tall girl has been overhearing her mother lament about her weight. It tells me that by third grade, she’s already decided that what the scale shows defines how you’re seen. It also shows me how much our kids are listening society’s obsession with weight.

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It’s not just the girls mind you, I’ve caught many a group of elementary school boys quickly dismissing a girl based upon her weight, having learned early on that thinner is more attractive. All it takes is one tossed away comment “wow she’s hot” by a Dad watching a Victoria Secret’s commercial to take root his son’s head.

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If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I do not own a scale, and berate my clients who use one to gauge their fitness. You should also know that I am trying to raise awareness with the world at large, as well as in my own home, that body fat vs. scale weight vs. internal health are three different things and should not be lumped together.

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Clearly, being a personal trainer, there’s a lot of discussion in our home about nutrition, body fat, body acceptance, etc. My daughter is built on the short and stocky side, yet she is strong and healthy – not fat. But put her next to her taller and leaner best friends, sure she seems thicker – a perception that to the ignorant child/adult could be referred to as fat.

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I work diligently to maintain her healthy self-esteem so that she will not suffer in middle-school, high- school and beyond. Young girls and boys’ feelings of inadequacy because society has deemed them inferior if they’re not built like models, starts in the home whether you’re aware of it or not.

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My hope today for those of you who read this – and hopefully you’ll pass it on to reach more – is that everyone who worries about their “weight” should stop verbalizing their issues in front of their children. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends – we all need to realize that one little innocuous sentence (“I can’t lose the last ten pounds, I hate the way I look”) can plant a very destructive seed in a little person’s brain. They’ll either see themselves as flawed, or they’ll deem other’s as flawed if they don’t match up to that perfect body expectation.

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So think about what you say around your kids, and what they might internalize about themselves from it. Engage in open discussions about health, nutrition, the differences in body types, and most importantly, that ultimately we must not judge books by their covers – beauty is not just skin deep – and any other words of positive reaffirmation to remind them that life is about being a good person – not being perfect.

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