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“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” – Marilyn Monroe

I’m sure you’ve had at least one of those days when you’re feeling absolutely awesome about yourself. The kind of day where you strut down the street like John Travolta at the beginning of Saturday Night Fever. Suddenly, someone walks by who embodies your idea of perfection and your self-esteem instantly evaporates out of your body. You are crushed and must stop strutting to go crawl into a hole and nurse your poor battered ego.

The truth is, there will always be someone “better” than you. How you or I choose to handle that reality is what matters. Do I look at some of the cute perky little women at the gym and fell bad about myself despite the fact that in most other people’s eyes I AM the cute perky little woman at the gym? Absolutely. Could I weigh less? Yes. After reaching a certain baseline for health purposes, am I willing to give up the balance I have in my life between leisure activities, eating out, and simply living to do that? No.

Instead I strive to embrace my imperfections, realizing that if I was perfect I’d have nothing to strive for. Then I think about John Travola again but this time as the exuberant Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. He/She is absolutely ridiculous. Which is absolutely perfect.

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Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it. ~Salvador Dali

I was talking to one of my favorite class participants today about body image and self esteem. Her take as she nears 50 is that at some point you have to just say, ‘This is who I am. I may not be perfect but I can still be perfectly happy.’ Unfortunately, she pointed out that we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by images and reminders of what it means to be attractive and we’re forced to feel less than in a multitude of ways. We’re too old, too big, too thick, too thin, too small up top, too large on the bottom, too pale, too dark, etc, ad nauseum. In this sort of cultural milieu, when is good enough good enough?

What’s infinitely sad is that this woman’s mother is in her 80s and I see her in the locker room weighing herself. It’s usually followed by a sigh and some negative comment about the results. Although I want to say “Shoot me if I get to 80 plus years old and still care about the number on the scale!” I can’t help but wonder why I don’t have the same reaction right now as someone who has made it to her mid-30s and has a great life. What age will I have to be before I can say good enough? Is there a magic threshold I have to look forward to?

I don’t know about you but I’m going to make an effort to be a little more perfectly happy now than potentially perfect later. In the immortal words of Stuart Smalley – I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

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Tivo and Netflix your way to health?

I’ve recently discovered a number of TV shows that focus on people’s journeys to get healthy and lose weight. I’ve been watching them because not only are they entertaining but they really focus on the mental side of weight gain and loss. As a trainer, this is not something I can learn from a book. Becoming a certified personal trainer was not all that hard for me. I already had a degree in Biology and had created my own success story. However, what happened once I was on the job was discovering that working out isn’t just the physical “I lift stuff up and put it down” but is 85-95% mental.

The shows I’ve been following are:

Ruby: Style Network. I found her on Netflix Watch Instantly. The show is about her and her struggles.

The Biggest Loser: NBC – I watch it On Demand but it looks like you can watch it on the website.

 

Heavy: A&E – Each episode follows 2 people’s journey. You can watch on their website or On Demand

I Used to Be Fat: MTV – This one is about teens trying to lose weight before they head off to college. Again, on their website or On Demand

Too Fat for 15: Style Network. This follows kids at Wellspring Academy which is a school and weight loss program in one. These were On Demand but I don’t see them there now. It appears they may be on Hulu.

What I like about these shows is that none of them, not even The Biggest Loser, maintain that it’s easy to lose weight. In fact, many of them show just how hard and uncomfortable it is. If it were easy, we’d all look like Jillian and Bob (but then we’d find something else about ourselves to complain about.) I use these shows to remind myself that outside the hour a client spends with me there are a whole lot of hours they spend with themselves. And we both have to be prepared for all that that entails.

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And they lived happily ever after?

Pierre Auguste Renoir, The Bathers

Once upon a time, it was okay, and in fact desirable to have a healthy amount of body fat. Somewhere along the way that became a fairy tale and the ideal body became skin and bones.

One thing about working at a gym is that I see women of all shapes and sizes changing their clothes in the locker room. I probably see more women in their skivvies than most doctors do. What I see is an incredible array of body types but not a single one that would fall into the cover model category. You know why? Because that body type doesn’t exist. As my Mom likes to say, “Giselle is an alien. I could fit inside her torso!”

Look at the painting above. I’d venture to guess that Renoir didn’t even think about removing those torso wrinkles or the little ab pooch he saw on his models. No, he painted those “flaws” as beautifully as any other part.  And yet I can’t help thinking that if I were enjoying a day of nude sunbathing at a beautiful park with my friends, I’d fall into a mini-depression if I saw those “rolls” on my person. Nothing like a little “friggin’ back fat” to ruin a good time.

I’d like to work on having a happier ending than that.

[If you’d like to read a little more about how our idea of female beauty has changed over the years and the effects it has had on our self image, check out this site where I found these images. It appears to be someone’s college project but it gives some history and facts about our changing views.]

 

 

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Practicing what I preach.

For the last 2 years I’ve been trying to lose the 10 pounds I gained on a 3 week vacation Down Under. When I use the word “trying” what I really mean is I look at the scale and say, “Why the heck aren’t you going down?” and then proceed to eat ice cream while watching the Biggest Loser. As we all know, but don’t want to admit, there are no results without effort. It’s painful to acknowledge but it’s true.

In an attempt to finally get results and be inspired to put in some effort, a group of friends and I gave ourselves a 6 week challenge starting on Valentines Day and ending on April Fools. We each put $15 in the pot and the top 3 people who lose the greatest percentage of weight win the money. For the first 2 and a half weeks of this challenge I was knocked on my butt by some sort of cold. I felt just well enough to do my job (sort of) but I would have preferred to have been on my couch. There was no extra energy to do anything so I didn’t (twist my arm).

Now, however, I am back to my old self, including the weight I want to lose. In addition to this group challenge my added incentive is a Florida vacation where I will most likely need to don a bathing suit after months of New Hampshire winter. If translucent were a color that would be me. So, the idea of my pasty white slightly plumpish body is motivating me like nothing else in the last 2 years has. As a result I finally get to the point of this post: practicing what I preach. What I generally preach is the need to get moving, try new things, and push yourself so, for the first time in probably 2 years I went to a Spinning class. On a Sunday morning. I have to admit that this probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t planned to meet a friend there. My presence did not go unnoticed by the other people in the class who either come to my non-Spinning classes or just know me as a trainer. I got a lot of, “Whoa, what are you doing here?” and “I didn’t know you took Spinning!” I pretty much had to announce to the class that I hadn’t done it in a long time and it would probably kill me. I’m sure it was very motivational for them to see me, an instructor, sweating my buns off, breathing heavy and getting out of my comfort zone. I have to admit it was motivational for me to see them doing the same.

Now that we’ve done it once my friend and I have marked our calendars to do it again for the next 2 weeks. We have a goal, we’ve written it down, and we have each other to rely on – all the things I tell my clients to do to get them motivated. If, no WHEN, I stick to this, I’m going to discover that I actually know what I’m talking about.