The skill that I have paid the most attention to in my role as a trainer, life coach, and self-aware adult is that of perspective. I understand that there are always two sides (or sometimes more) to a story and usually the reality is somewhere in the middle. Conversely I also know that the grass is really never as green as it seems from the “other side.” Changing your perspective is the single best way to successfully change that which you are unhappy with, whether it be your body, a relationship, a job, or just how your emotions respond to stressful situations.
In the sequel to Alice in Wonderland (Through The Looking Glass) everything she knew about life, and even about Wonderland, was upside-down or backwards. But by embracing that different perspective (instead of fighting it), Alice was able to overcome obstacles and get back home with a new and better understanding (i.e., perspective) of her life.
Have you ever noticed that something that causes you great emotional stress doesn’t affect others the same way? Is that because they’re better than you? No, it’s because they simply have a different perspective. Same goes if you handle some stresses easily while your friends rage about. You’re not better, you just have a perspective in this area that differs than theirs and causes less strife.
If you are unhappy with the condition of your body (or any of the other life-issues I mentioned above) and no matter what you’ve tried (working out or dieting), nothing has successfully budged that excess fat, then perhaps it is time you changed your perspective. As an example, in some other countries, women with higher body fat are deemed beautiful and/or a symbol of a successful or wealthy family. These women have a different perspective about their bodies than we do in the U.S., that’s all there is to it.
So how do you change your perspective? One of the best ways is to de-personalize your view of the situation. In other words, take yourself out of the equation and look at it as if you were counseling a friend who was in your place. This allows you to see all aspects of the situation, not just what your emotional state focuses on.
An easy way to do this is to write yourself a letter, assuming the role of a friend. Pretend that the YOU are writing to is a friend who is in need of support and encouragement, but most importantly – CLARITY. Diagnose the situation via the facts, and look at how other situations in this “friend’s” life could contribute to how they’re handling the current situation. You’ll be surprised at how much clarity you find when looking at a problem that isn’t YOUR problem. After all, most of us (especially women) love to offer advice to our friends to solve their issues, yet fail to follow that same advice when it comes to ourselves.
Try this trick the next time you are frustrated or angry that something in your life just isn’t working to your liking. Take a deep breath and help your “friend” feel better and clearer about the situation. In the end, by seeing through the looking glass, I suspect you’ll find that your life is not as bad, or as stuck, as you thought.
Many years ago I posted Maturity, Menopause & Metabolism and it seems a good time to remind us all that aging and our bodies changing is inevitable and we must keep a positive and healthy perspective. I’ve updated it and re-post it as a helpful reminder that we’re all in this together and we’re all doing just fine!
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When I was a very slim 20-something it seemed like every woman who was overweight would say to me “wait until you hit 40, then you won’t be skinny anymore.” Well 40 came and went and I was still underweight. Then it became “ha ha when you hit menopause, then you’ll see!” Menopause abruptly came to call when I was 48 and I’m still not overweight at 56.
But all these forecasts of my physical doom haunted me for years and as I became a fitness professional I looked hard at why age 40, or menopause would automatically trigger weight gain for so many women. What I discovered was that it’s not so much about the age, as it is about what lifestyle you lead, any medical conditions, and your perspective.
Let’s tackle the 40’s first. People say your metabolism slows down by age 40. While there is truth to the fact that metabolism (“the chemical process that results in production of energy and elimination of waste”) does slow down with age, it is not automatic or inevitable. The typical adult slows down their energy output voluntarily, i.e., they work longer hours, drive longer distances, and are more sedentary when home. Also, as we get older we eat more, having more money as well as a wider taste pallet, therefore causing our calories to increase. In the case of an individual who stays consistently physically active and maintains a constant moderate calorie consumption, they will likely not gain any significant weight as they hit a milestone of 40 or 50.
Menopause is a different hurdle. There is no question that with the absence of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (all present in a pre-menopause woman), the body will gain wait and the metabolism will slow down. Women’s bodies gain belly fat as they go through menopause because the mechanical brain knows what our emotions do not – that fat contains estrogen and our bodies need at least a little estrogen. But again, if an individual stays consistently active and maintains a balance between calories in vs. calories out, the weight gain can be slight and manageable (as it’s been in my case).
Medically speaking, often with the onset of menopause, the thyroid will also give out, tending towards the hypo-activity (under active) which definitely causes weight gain and a loss of energy. But with proper medication, the missing thyroid output is restored and that portion of the weight gain can be reduced. Also, if menopause is a result of a full hysterectomy, or induced as a result of cancer treatments, a woman can experience rapid weight gain. This weight is very stubborn to remove. That’s when our last criteria comes into play.
Perspective. We are a society focused upon the hollow ideals that women have to have perfect bodies and look young and fit all the time. My mother used to say it was too bad that the Zoftig bodies of her generation weren’t in vogue any more because that was a more realistic perspective of women’s bodies and the beauty that they possess. I have a client who would be considered over weight by most standards. Despite her roundness, she is super fit and flexible, and loves to salsa dance and take yoga. She eats well, laughs a lot, and feels sexy anyway. Her husband agrees whole heartedly!
As I’ve detailed in numerous other posts in my blog stress and lack of sleep also contributes to weight gain. Often the lives of those in their 40’s to 50’s are at their most stressful – the kids heading towards college, careers being full steam, their parents becoming oilder and often less healthy, as well as the aforementioned menopause, cancer treatemetns, etc. During these 10-20 years stresses are higher, and undoubtedly sound long sleep is lower, both of which contribute to your body holding on to fat.
So if you exercise regularly, eat lean and healthy, and can achieve whatever reasonable physical challenge or goals you desire, then you are perfect the way you are. Your body as it ages is going to change. In some ways I look better than I did when I was 20, and in other ways I don’t. But my perspective is that I can keep up with my 11 year old, I can climb rocks, trees, and lift weights for hours at the gym, and I can sit on my butt and drink wine and eat chocolate and not stress over it. So I’m okay, and life is good. Now if only these hot flashes would go away! Wink wink.
A client asked me the other day if I counted calories. When I told her that I do not, she replied “then how do you control your food intake.” Alas once again I came face-to-face with that common misconception that calories are the way to control your weight. This is not really the case. Sure if you are consuming 12,000 calories a day you might need to count them to learn exactly how many calories foods/meals actually are, but in general calorie counting only serves to stress out people seeking to lose weight (lower fat levels).
After 17 years as a fitness professional, I know what amount of calories I consume in general on a daily basis without having to count them. More importantly, I know that counting calroies is not as important as burning the calroies I consume. So for all of you who sweat over calorie counting, you can relax and still lower your body fat levels if you’ll just follow this simple formula:
FUEL IN VS. FUEL OUT
There’s no need to count calories if you’re eating six small “sensible” meals every day (with allowances for larger meals or less “sensible” treats) and moving enough throughout the day to burn your fuel (or calorie) intake. If your goal is to lower body fat (i.e., lose weight) then you need to burn more fuel than you ingest. Remember, if you ingest more fuel (calories) than you burn, that fuel will be stored in your body as fat. Continue in-taking more than you use and you will continue to store, and gain, fat.
In plainer terms: if you are going to have a pumpkin spice latte on a daily basis, along with pizza, pasta, and a lot of processed carbs, you’d better be working out at least two-hours a day to balance it out. If you’re eating MY way, even if you throw in ONE Starbucks high caloric treat during the week, you don’t need to “count those calories” because you’re consistently burning your fuel source, and building enough lean muscle to burn excess fuel.
I’ve addressed this issue several times through the years that I’ve had this blog, and clearly it needs repeating on a regular basis. Calories and/or carbs are NOT the enemy to our bodies. What is the enemy is the amount of excess calories or processed crap that most Americans put into their bodies. Since the great depression we have evolved into a Nation of super-sized, overly-salted, overly-sugared, overly-processed meals where 90% of the working population do not ride-share (drive alone in their cars), and work highly sedentary 8-hour days in forced air, fake lighting environments.
All of this has left us with a huge obesity problem in both adults AND children. To my perspective, the first way we can reverse this is to instill in everyone the concept that food is for our survival first and foremost. While I am a “foodie” who enjoys the artistry and wide variety of flavorful meals, sweets, and wines I still keep moderation in place by always observing the rule of “fuel in vs. fuel out.”
So stop counting calories if that’s your thing, and shift your focus to acknowledging that your body is a machine. Like a car needs quality gasoline, oil, water, well-kept tires, and regular maintenance, our body needs small amounts of healthy fuel on a consistent basis, while balancing it out with effective fuel-burning movement, followed by adequate rest. In this way your “machine” will stay lean and healthy for a very long time.
Spring is here and along with warmer weather and flowers blooming, I see an onsalught of commercials and social media posts all focusing on weight loss in preparation of summer. It’s a silly marketing ploy that so many fall prey to, you know, “bikini season” and “summer ready body” kind of stuff.
It makes me sad because as you know if you’ve read my blog for any period of time to me fitness is a life-long pursuit to be practiced daily, in moderation, so that life can be lived to it’s fullest. I also strongly advocate that we ALL realize and accept that every BODY is different and what is a sign of beauty or sex appeal today is likely the antithesis of tomorrow, not to mention not everyone’s taste.
So for those of you getting sucked in to the taunting that your summer life just wont be satisfying unless you transform your body right now, I offer these gentle reminders to love yourself, not give up or give in, but be smart about how you prepare for summer.
DO NOT DIET
Dieting simply doesn’t work and it’s a waste of your time and money. Stop eating strange concoctions or restricting calories or fats or sugars. You have probably learned by now that the body fat simply returns once your old way of eating is resumed. Instead, eat 6 small meals every day, composed of healthy lean protein, veggies, fruits, grains, and fats, allow yourself a day or two of higher caloric meals or drinks and remember daily that you love your body and care about what you put inside of it.
VARIETY IS KEY
For those of you who do not love time spent in a gym or in front of a video or class – just remember that an hour here and an hour there WILL make a huge difference, and if you keep your workouts reasonably intense while maintaining a variety of styles, you will see results which in turn will stop making it seem like such drudgery. The key is to keep boredom at bay while maintaining progress. Start by working out 2-3 times a week with weights (ideally with a plan created by a trainer like me), each workout being different from the last. Then add in some fun outdoor activities on the weekends, maybe a dance or body pump class with a friend in the evenings, and/or a DVD at home once in a while. Variety will keep you entertained, and as you see results you will need far less convincing to stay diligent.
REMEMBER TO REST AND SLEEP
Taking a day every 4-5 days to allow your muscles and cardio system to rest is hugely beneficial to your metabolic system becoming more efficient and thereby burning more fat. Sleep, likewise, is essential to the body recovering and allowing a change in composition (i.e., more lean muscle, less fat) to occur within (which then shows up on the outside). So tweak your schedule and make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Your body will thank you.
STOP STRESSFUL THINKING
Clearly stress is not good in any areas of your life, but it’s especially hard on the body. While you may not be able to reduce the stress of your circumstances, you can reduce the stress you place on your body when you fret over your physical condition. Negative thoughts about your body, and beating yourself up for being “fat” or “out of shape” will not help your body relax and embrace the change you seek to make. Emotional stress will also force your body to hold on to fat as fat is an insulator and protector of organs, and has hormonal properties which are ignited when under stress. So lighten up your thought process and your body may just lighten up as well.
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Now get ready to enjoy the warmer weather and the summer vacations, and by following my advice you’ll hopefully be in better shape AND happier at the same time.
Very often when faced with that dreaded moment where you must choose what to eat that will be quick, tasty and healthy, we make assumptions that we know which option is better (i.e., more nutritionally healthy), and that assumption is usually based upon limited knowledge.
For instance, the other day I was pressed for time for lunch (but as always wasn’t going to skip a meal or suffer inferior (fast) nutrition), so I hit my freezer and had two choices: a Trader Joe’s Chicken & Bean Burrito or an Amy’s Organic Mushroom Risotto. My brain riffled through my solid base of nutritional understandings and told me that the burrito was the way to go because it would have more protein, less carbs, and probably be lower in fat and calories as well. After all, Risotto is pasta-ish and rice-ish both of which are high in carbs and sugars, right?
Well then the trainer in me took pause, and decided to read the labels and compare the stats. To my shock I found out that I was not only wrong in my assumption, but really way off on my perceptions. Here’s what I found:
THE RISOTTO: THE BURRITO:
240 calories 400 calories
8 grms fat 12 grms fat
590 sodium 950 sodium
35 grms carbs 51 grms carbs
2 grms sugars 1 grm sugars
7 grms protein 20 grms protein
While clearly I was correct that the burrito had more protein (almost 3x as much), but it also had almost double the carbs and sodium, and 4 grams more fat! Who knew? To help you grasp this further, lets compare a typical Subway sandwich to one of McDonald’s supposedly “healthier” sandwich options than their typical Big Mac:
SUBWAY 6″ COLD-CUT McDONALD’S GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWHICH
350 calories 350 calories
12 grms fat 9 grms fat
1030 sodium 820 sodium
46 grms carbs 42 grms carbs
13 grms sugars 8 grms sugars
7 grms protein 28 grms protein
While I vehemently oppose ever spending a dime in a McDonald’s, when push comes to shove, I have to admit while I (and many of you I suspect) would assume that a deli-style “cold-cut” sandwich from Subway would always out-health anything from McDonald’s, clearly the facts prove otherwise. In case you missed it, Subway’s sandwich while having the same calories, had far less protein, and more fat, carbs, sugars and sodium.
So the next time you make an assumption about what you’re about to eat, stop and get the real facts and then decide. Your body and fitness goals will thank you for it!
Successful fat loss goals are achieved 70% in the kitchen, 20% by how well and often you move your body, and 10% from your mental state. Today I want to focus on the kitchen end of things.
Food prep is where so many well-intentioned fat loss seekers (people who want to “lose weight”) drop the ball. For you to succeed at your fitness goals excuses like I have no time to cook or I didn’t know what to eat and was hungry so I just grabbed something must be removed from your lexicon!
Now I’m not going to give you a meal plan to follow (although [shameless plug here] you can order a customized meal plan from my website www.workouts247.com and I’m not going to reiterate what I’ve stated numerous times herein about eating 6 small meals/snacks a day, and avoiding overly processed, sugary and salty foods. What I am going to address is food prep because that is the most time intensive aspect of nutrition and the area that usually intimidates people the most.
As you embark on the journey to change your nutrition there are four (4) important steps you need to understand. The first step is to have a meal plan in place complete with recipes or “meal concepts” for each day of the week. The second step is to prepare a comprehensive list and then shop for the requisite ingredients. The third step (which I am focusing on today) is to prepare as much of the food in advance so that step four – the eating at regular intervals step – can be easily achieved.
I always advise my clients to set aside one day for grocery shopping (which, if your list is in hand, should only take one hour at most), and a chunk of time for the food prep (can be the same day as shopping or a day or two later).
Food prep can take anywhere from 1-4 hours depending upon how many meals and/or snacks you are preparing. The essential key here is to lock in the time required as a firm appointment you keep with yourself. Using cookbooks, Pinterest pins, or just your imagination, you can create several recipes ahead of time that will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Meals needed for the later in your week can still be made ahead of time and frozen until needed.
The most important aspect to all of your food prep is to enjoy the process (do not see it as drudgery). As you become more comfortable with the planning and preparation process, you can expand your variety and pretty soon you’ll enjoy entire weeks of healthy, lean, flavorful meals and the “I have no time” excuse will be a thing of the past. Also, cooking together as a couple or family is a great way to spend quality time (without any electronics in front of your faces).
Here are a few timesaving tricks to follow, and of course, if you desire more specific advice, direction or a meal plan, contact me directly:
Veggies can be cleaned and sliced and placed in a ziplock bag or food storage container for use later in the week.
Pre-cooked snacks (like my quinoa, black bean, and spinach egg muffins for example), fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, and dried meats (like turkey jerky) can all be individually wrapped in bags or containers that you can “grab ‘n go.”
Breakfast items can be made the night before and simply reheated in the morning when there is less time to cook (i.e., breakfast burrito, overnight oats, etc.).
Crockpot (slow cooker) meals are a great way to easily create enough food to serve several lunches or dinners, and the prep work can be done the night before, then plunk everything into the pot, set it and forget it until you get home for dinner.
Always have a few fast-but-healthy items on hand (fridge, freezer, pantry) such as turkey burgers, salad veggies, cans of tuna or salmon as all of these can be turned into quick meals.
More time intensive items like brown rice, quinoa, or gluten-free pasta can be pre-cooked ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to four days. Then on any given night simply oven-roast or sauté your pre-sliced veggies and protein, sprinkle them with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and any of your favorite herbs and spices, then toss them all in one large pan and roast or sauté until done. Add in the already prepared side (rice, quinoa, etc.) and you’ve a dish that can serve for two family-sized meals (with correct quantity planning).
In the last couple of weeks, at least three people (ranging from acquaintances to friends) have shared their frustrations with me about still “being fat” despite strictness of diets and/or hours of cardio and resistance-based workouts, wearing Fitbits, parking further away, taking the stairs, etc.
I too would be frustrated if I was that diligent with my nutrition and exercise and didn’t see a difference. But (no pun intended) what I know that they do not is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to successful reduction of body fat. Further, there’s more to it in many cases than just restricting and/or burning more calories. One must factor in emotional stress, sleep-deprivation, physical stress, illnesses, food allergies (that you may not be aware of), thyroid malfunctions, etc. etc. etc.
A more important concept to me is that our society on the whole needs to look at fat differently. The World, and especially America, considers FAT unattractive. However, a huge majority of our population is visually fat and many have successful careers, happy marriages, are physically active, and live long lives despite their physical condition so what does that tell us?
Fat in foods is still widely misunderstood by most people – if avocado and peanut butter is okay, what’s wrong with butter and cheese? Sugar is still not really acknowledged as being one of the largest culprits in epidemic obesity, yet it is. Carbs are considered evil, yet I challenge you to get through a workout without them.
Internally, there are obese people who do not have high blood pressure or diabetes. Conversely there are “skinny” people who have dangerously high cholesterol or digestive issues that cause them to not absorb essential vitamins and minerals from their nutrition.
So in answer to everyone who has ever lamented why am I still fat I say look at your life as a whole entity, one in which every nuance plays a part in your physical health and body composition. There are so many negative “life” aspects that can affect your body:
- High stress levels at work
- Emotional stress at home
- Illnesses, injuries, digestive or auto-immune disorders, cancer
- Lack of sleep
- Eating too fast
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not drinking enough water
- Over-exercising (yes that’s a thing)
- Not exercising enough or effectively
- Eating out too much
- Yo-yo dieting
- Worries about money
and the list goes on! Take stock of what’s going on in your life that might truly be sabotaging your efforts to be healthy inside and out. Then try to improve as many of these aspects as you can, or at least improve your perspective.
What ultimately should be your focus is: (1) are you able to do what you want physically (strength and endurance)? and (2) are you surrounded by people who love you and find you beautiful from the inside out? If the answer to both is yes, then who gives a hoot about the fat?! If they’re no, then work on fixing that (i.e., focus on building strength and endurance, not fat loss, and surround yourself with more appreciative and quality people).
In the end you’ll either successfully reduce your fat levels because your life isn’t fighting you on that goal, or at least you’ll realize that you’re healthy and happy so who cares about the rest.
I have been surprised lately to find that there’s still a bit of confusion surrounding how to properly choose and utilize weights when people engage in resistance training to tone muscles and lose body fat. On almost a weekly basis some woman will approach me and say that they only do cardio because they don’t want to bulk up, yet they’re frustrated at the lack of downward movement of the scale.
As I’ve stated many times here in my blog – resistance training (weight lifting) is the key to successful fat reduction. While cardio burns calories, unless you are a career marathon runner, or at the least pay close attention to stay in the fat-burning zone with your cardio as well as what, how, and when you eat, cardio will only trim off a small percentage of fat before you plateau.
Now the confusion about resistance training is in the idea that if a woman lifts heavy weights she’ll turn into “he-man.” Well I’m here to tell you first hand, that it takes a lot of very heavy lifting, and ingesting a massive amount of protein, for most women to really bulk up muscularly. However, if your frame is already large, and there’s a lot of fat surrounding your arm and leg muscles – heavy lifting could definitely make you appear bulky – but once again, its all about understanding how and what to lift.
Most people with any fitness awareness already know that heavy weight + low repetitions = increase in muscle size vs. light weight + high repetitions = toned and trimmed muscles. But there’s a bit more to it. First of all, using only one of these equations can still cause you to plateau (i.e., if you do not switch up your weight levels and lifting patterns you will cease to see results). Secondly, your specific body type and your body’s inherent muscle type (fast twitch or slow twitch) directly affects how your body responds to different types of lifting.
So at the risk of confusing anyone further, let me just state things simply:
Lifting heavy weights will NOT make you bulk up
Lifting light weights a lot of times does not always help you to loose more body fat
“Then what do I do” you ask? The answer is you can either consult a trainer (like ME), or do some experimenting. Change up your routine weekly: lift light, fast and repetitive for one week, followed by heavy, slow and lower in reps the next.
The most important element that makes resistance training actually work is to fatigue and breakdown (not injure) your muscles on a regular basis. No matter how much weight you work with, you’ve got to find the right recipe of repetition vs. intensity vs. weight to successfully exhaust your muscles. Then feed them well (lots of water, protein, and rest), and do it all over again. This is truly the best and most efficient way to lean up your total body.
Please please please believe what I scream to the world almost every day — do not judge your goals by a scale! (You could lose 2 lbs of fat and gain 3 lbs of muscle and if the scale is your focus, you’ll be discouraged at the 1 lb gain!) Remember that muscle weighs more than fat.
Now go lift!
As a personal trainer I am used to my friends and family asking me for fitness and nutritional advice on the one hand, and on the other, knowing that they desperately hope I won’t judge or comment when they don’t eat well or exercise. I make a point of keeping my professional perspective and opinions out of our interactions (unless of course I am asked). That doesn’t mean it’s easy for me to stay silent (though I do) when I hear that they are “experimenting” with a new approach to their nutrition that I know is not a great choice for achieving lasting fat loss.
But lately I’ve noticed just how badly so many people eat while simultaneously thinking they are eating well. I realize this is due to the widespread misunderstanding of nutrition with most Americans. The average person queried on the street could not tell you what the difference is between organic veggies and non-organic; or what’s so bad about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or what GMO’d food is.
There’s a habit for many to blindly accept mainstream advertising when it comes to what’s healthy and what’s not. Let’s take a look at my first meal of the day (one of six): every morning I have a small bowl of bulk-bin organic oatmeal (not Quaker) with a teaspoon of organic peanut butter (just peanuts and salt), a dash of organic cinnamon, and a drizzle of real Vermont maple syrup. A client of mine said she was eating the same thing, but when I dug a little deeper it turned out she was eating Quaker oats (GMO oats), Skippy peanut butter (filled with hydrogenated oils and refined sugar) and a Aunt Jemima Lite syrup (with HFCS and other unpronounceable ingredients).
Here’s where the confusion sets in. My version actually has more calories, carbs and sugars (if I ate their suggested serving size which is 2-4 times more than what I eat), BUT my version is free from high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and refined sugar. My version is also free of GMO’d products. Now comes big question: what’s wrong with all HFCS, hydrogenated vegetable oils, refined sugar, and GMO’d foods?
In a nutshell all food ingredients that have been altered/tampered by humans so that they can be grown and processed at a faster and cheaper rate, are slowly poisoning us all. Without going into great scientific detail, or quoting a myriad of biologically proven ailments that stem from these “poisons” I will simply give you some basic facts about some of these poisons (i.e., the ones stated above).
HFCS: when you alter the chemical compound of fructose (sugar) they way they have in HFCS, our bodies can no longer manage our sugars (how/when we use it and how/when we store it) in the same way we used to. Therefore you see elevated levels of everything from diabetes to obesity and all the “itises” in between (arthritis, bursitis, etc.)
HYDROGENATED OILS: when you shove hydrogen into a vegetable oil simply for the sake of turning it solid, our bodies see these molecules as foreign and cannot process them. If you eat too much HO, your body will store it in your fat reserves, but never activate it for use like healthy fats, leaving you with higher levels of unhealthy fat.
GMO: when you genetically modify the seeds of corn, wheat, soy, and oats so that they grow faster while having a higher resistance to over-ripening you will see (as we are) a rise in intestinal allergies and digestive auto-immune disorders (celiac’s disease, IBS, MS, etc.).
Now don’t take my word for it – read up on all of these rampant food insertions and changes that our Country is embracing, and decide for yourself. However, the next time you find yourself saying that you’re going to eat gluten free while still shoveling commercial pop corn and large Jamba Juices into your digestive tract, be sure about what you’re eating (or not) and why.
Even before I became a Mother, as a personal trainer and life coach I was very passionate about helping women not be martyrs just because they had children (and spouses). Knowing from first hand experience (my childhood) that a women could be a mother and still achieve her career goals and have a personal life too, I always had the perspective that being a mother did not have to end my time as an individual who has interests, hobbies and needs.
Clearly I had (have) a remarkable mother who demonstrated through her actions that you can be a woman and a mother, so in 2005 I wrote and published my first book: Joan of Arc Is Dead. A Wake-Up Call For Women Who Sacrifice Too Much. Now 10 years later I find myself coaching a new crop of clients regarding this same issue. The chronic complaints I hear range from “I have no time to work out,” “my spouse and I haven’t been on a romantic date in months,” “I miss hanging out with my friends or shopping without the kids in tow,” or “there’s no time for me or my needs.”
In answer to all these complaints I say rubbish. YOU have set up your lives to place the needs of the children/spouse before your own. Many life coaches and self-help gurus utilize the analogy of airline safety instructions as an illustration of why this habit is detrimental. They say: place the oxygen mask over your nose and mouth FIRST, then assist your children. The reason for this is that if you pass out from lack of oxygen you’re no good to your children. Well it’s the same in life – if you are over-fat, over-stressed, unhealthy and/or (most-importantly) unhappy, what good are you to your family?
More significantly, what are you teaching your kids (especially daughters)? We tell our children they can be anything, do anything they set their minds to. But our actions as martyring mothers suggest that once you become a parent, those things you had passion for take a back seat to the needs of the child. If I were that child, I would wonder why bother pursuing my goals if once I had a child I had to stop participating in things I enjoy. Clearly there are times and situations that choices made by all parents put our needs last, but if you are consistently harried and/or angry that your needs and wishes are not being met, you must look at yourself for the responsibility.
Now if you’re yelling at your computer screen that there’s absolutely no room in your life for YOU, let me share my Mother’s journey (in brief). She was abandoned by my father and left with two children in a rented house in Los Angeles, her college degree unfinished, in the 1960’s when divorced women were not often welcome in most other women’s homes (for fear she would steal their man). She went on to complete her Master’s degree at UCLA, then obtain Ph.D. from USC (on a full scholarship) all the while working two jobs. On a shoe-string budget, she fed us (healthy choices I might add), clothed us (often sewing our clothes), kept a clean house, was always on time, and still managed to go out once or twice a month on dates. Although my brother and I were “latch-key kids” I always felt my mother was there if I needed her and she taught me how to cook, sew, clean, spent time making arts and crafts with us as well as reading books with me. So I think if she can do it under those circumstances, you can do it!
The easiest and best first step is to begin (or resume) exercising. Choose a time and whether it’s a gym or at home, let the entire family know (including yourself) that this is a non-negotiable appointment for YOU. No matter how tired, you must push yourself to keep this appointment with yourself and trust when I say that after a very short period it will become easier and the rewards are huge. From fat-loss to mood-elevation and stress reduction – you and your family will gain huge benefits from these results. I understand that many of you juggle school-age children with a full-time job, and that you honestly can’t imagine squeezing one minute nonetheless an hour out of your jam-packed schedule. But I promise if you stay open to the concept, and you can find ways to put your needs and wants into the family’s schedule.
So the next time you lament that you didn’t get to do something you really wanted or needed, stop and remind yourself that the quality of YOUR life matters too and it’s all in your capable hands.