Confession Time

I need to make a confession.

I like the Biggest Loser.

There, I said it. Although the trainer in me rebels against how unrealistic it is since we can’t all live on ranches with personal trainers at our beck and call every day, I do appreciate the difficulties, both physical and mental, that the participants have to overcome, the inspiration that comes from it and, let’s face it, the entertainment value. [Side note: I could do with out the beeping scale. I really, really could.]

Because the dramatically quick weight loss that we see on the screen is so impossible to achieve in real life I’ve been glad to see the show going back and revisiting former contestants who have regained the weight. I feel truly sad for these people but it is an unfortunate reality that after the ranch, unless you make changes in your own life for yourself, nothing is going to change. And because the ranch lifestyle is so drastic, when you return home and can’t make the same drastic changes, and don’t live with a group of people competing to lose weight to win prizes, old habits are going to creep right on in.

In a previous post I talked about moderation and modification. The Biggest Loser has nothing to do with moderation. There is very little gray area. It’s either/or, not sometimes/maybe. It certainly modifies people’s lives but many of those modifications are unsustainable or even unattainable in the real world. Does that mean weight loss can’t be achieved? No. It means realistic habit changes are necessary.

One good thing about the Biggest Loser is that they do give you tips about making those changes. They also show people working out really hard. Really, really hard. This is the best part of the show and should be used as inspiration (I totally steal exercises from Bob and Jillian to torture my clients with). If you go to the gym and aren’t challenging yourself to get faster, stronger, and for goodness sakes sweatier, you aren’t going to achieve the results you want. Change is hard but if you want to lose big you have to make some of those changes.


A Commercial Conundrum

I like these ridiculous commercials for The Ladders (despite the fact that they also disturb me.)

You know why? Because they highlight just how obnoxious fashion shoots and modeling are. No one who looks anything like a real person looks anything but crazy writhing around on the floor. I’m not sure why we think supermodels don’t.


The MOD Squad

In keeping with my recent theme to help us all stay motivated toward our goals – fitness and otherwise – I thought I’d talk about The Mod squad, aka Moderation and Modification.

They say that anything worth doing is worth doing well. “They” are sometimes a pain in the neck. They may be right, but, at the same time, anything worth doing has to be started or it’s never going to be done, well or otherwise. In order to start something – in our case, working toward a goal – we have to know how to start.

Starting is often the hardest part. We see our goal sitting there in front of us (weight loss, better fitness, a clean garage, no credit debt) and we aren’t able to fathom how in the world we’re going to get there. We don’t see the steps in between now and the final result so we feel overwhelmed and simply stop before we even get started.

To get started, let’s look at those four goals I mentioned above: Lose weight, get fit, clean the garage, and get out of debt. All of them are the result of you looking at your situation and saying “I’d like to change that.” How do you change it? By modifying and moderating our behavior.

Let’s face it, those goals are pretty universal. We eat too much, move too little, buy too much stuff and spend more than we have, right? To go in the other direction we have to eat less, move more, get rid of stuff, and spend less. Some people will say you have to go cold turkey to get any results. Eat only grapefruit and cabbage soup! Sign up for a marathon! Throw everything away! Cut up or freeze your credit cards! For some people with serious issues this might be necessary but the majority of us live in a more moderate (another MOD) world where it isn’t all or nothing. Instead of going to the extreme ask yourself, what can I  MODify about my habits to make a change? What can I do in MODeration (not deprivation) to turn things around?

Here are some examples for each of the goals I mentioned. I’m sure you can come up with at least a handful more that will work specifically for you:

Lose Weight:

  • If you don’t eat breakfast, start.
  • Get rid of your biggest cheat food or replace it with a healthier version. (I’ve replaced my after dinner dessert with a decaf coffee. I still get the sweet but have cut out a ton of calories.)
  • Eat out less
  • Plan your meals

Get Fit:

  • Schedule your workouts
  • Change your routine
  • Put your workout clothes in your car
  • Just start moving (that’s the hardest part)

Clean out garage:

  • Figure out what you have
  • Borrow instead of buy
  • Toss, toss, toss – spend just 15 minutes at first
  • Make sure you have space to easily put things away. It’s not about storage, it’s about retrieval.

Get out of debt:

  • Track your finances. (Mint.com is a good place to start.)
  • Pay with cash
  • Stay away from places where you are likely to buy things (this also works for weight loss if you avoid certain fast food chains)
  • Create a budget

You need to figure out what you need to modify to make progress. There is no one size fits all and no one can do it for you. But before you get discouraged, remember that sometimes it’s a simple change that leads to big results.


Motivation to stay motivated

We’re heading into the end of January and if you are anything like 95% of people out there you’ve probably given up on your New Year’s resolutions already. Although I have mentioned that I like resolutions as a guideline for the coming year, it isn’t easy to keep momentum toward a goal going once all the champagne has been drunk and the Christmas decorations have finally been put away.

Many of you probably started diets and/or a fitness routine. You went gung ho for about 2 weeks. You changed your routine, you emptied your fridge of bad foods, you bought new sneakers, joined a gym, dug out the juicer you bought yourself 3 years ago when last you tried to lose weight, etc…

You said, “This time, it’s going to be different!”

And yet it is not. How do I know this? Because I do the same thing. Just because I work at a gym doesn’t mean I don’t have to work at working out and being healthy. As a matter of fact, I find it harder now to work out than when I worked in an office because the last thing I want to do is stay at work longer. Sure, I teach classes and am technically paid to work out, but my body is pretty used to that now and doesn’t burn any more calories than it has to. I’m also not above using the excuse of having taught a class to overeat when I get home. Remember, I did not start out as an athlete, I started out as a couch potato, and if there is one thing couch potatoes like to do it is sit and eat. If I didn’t have the threat of having to wear spandex in front of a class full of people I’d probably be doing that even more often.

That being said, I would like to (re)lose about 10 pounds – or at least look like I have. I’ve been lazy of late and things that were once tight have become jiggly and spread out. As a matter of fact, I had to buy a bigger size jeans just to make it through the holidays. This is not the trajectory I want to be on.

So how does one get back on the wagon and keep going?

You have to start at the very beginning and ask yourself four questions.

First, ask yourself, “What do I want?” You may have already defined this via your New Years resolution. This should be something specific, measurable, realistic and with a deadline.

Next, you need to ask, “What am I currently doing to get what I want?” The answer may be ‘absolutely nothing’ or possibly ‘a whole lot of thinking’ or you may actually have an entire list of things you are already doing toward that goal. No matter what the answer, it’s good to assess the current situation.

Third, you have to be brutally honest with yourself and answer this question: “Is what I’m doing helping me get what I want?” Generally speaking, answering “nothing” to question 2 means that your answer to this question is going to be “no”. Acknowledging that is important. A lot of people do a lot of thinking about goals but don’t actually do anything. It’s why Oprah has an empire. If we didn’t need motivation and ideas and tips to keep us going toward our goals she wouldn’t have her own network right now.

Finally, depending on your answers to the first three questions you must figure out “What am I going to do to get what I want?” You may have already defined exactly what you need to do. Now you have to do it. For the rest of us, taking pen to paper and writing down what we are willing to do to reach that goal is an important first step.

As you reach each goal, or more likely, an obstacle toward that goal, ask yourself those 4 questions again. They will help you identify the issue, determine if you are actually working toward your goal, and if not, help you create a plan to continue working toward that goal.

Here is what my 4 questions looks like at the moment.

1) What do I want? I want to be able to stand up in front of my classes and look the part. I don’t want to worry that my rolls are showing or that people are thinking my classes aren’t good because they obviously aren’t working for me.

2) What am I doing to get what I want? A month ago I would have said nothing. Now however I have challenged myself and my clients to do 30 Thirty minute workouts in 30 days. I have been buying more vegetables and eating less sugary food. I’ve also challenged my brother to run a 4 mile race with me in June.

3) Is what I’m doing helping me get what I want? Sort of. I’ve fallen off the bandwagon foodwise but the challenge is helping motivate me to work out more. The reason I’m so bad with the food is that I don’t plan ahead enough. All of a sudden we have no food in the house so we get take-out or I eat whatever I can find.

4) What am I going to do to get what I want? I’m going to continue with the 30/30/30 workout challenge. I’m going to regroup re: food. Whenever I have had success in the past it was because I had planned ahead. I need a few ‘go to’ recipes, a grocery list, and a specific day that I’m going to go shopping and chop everything up ahead of time.


My genes are making me buy bigger jeans.

Oh genetics, how we love thee. Thank you for my thin hair, my propensity to gain weight in my mid-section, and a tendency to get a little OCD about things. To be fair, I also thank you (in a non-snarky way now) for my good singing voice, my perfect teeth (although neither of my parents know where those came from), and my artistic talents.

Now, thanks to the progress of science,  I can add another thing to the list (the snarky one):

According to Australia’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, healthy people (that’s me – knock on wood) with a family history of type 2 diabetes (also me – type 1 AND type 2 on both sides. Awesome.) gained 35% more weight after a month of overeating than those without relatives with the disease. Thirty-five percent. Three. Five.

Apparently, certain people may be prone to short-term insulin resistance which leads to them to feel less full after eating (I can pack it in, let me tell you) and also to stockpile more calories as fat. Fabulous.

It all makes sense now. No WONDER I gain 2.5 – 5 pounds per week if I go on vacation! Ironically, I still have the 10 pounds I gained 2 years ago while visiting Australia, home of the research institute who discovered this particular statistic. It was a great vacation, really great, except none of my pants fit when I got home.

Knowing this little tidbit of information is not going to stop me from splurging while on vacation. Life is too short and if the threat of 2 – 5 extra pounds doesn’t already stop me, let’s face it, it’s not going to. However, maybe I’ll be a little more aware of what might happen if I do over do it and rein it in a little. Maybe.


Ten Gym Commandments

Many of you may have joined a gym as part of your New Year’s Resolution. Most people, such as yourself, have enough common sense to figure out how to act in a gym. (Hint: It’s pretty much the way you’d act anywhere else only sweatier). If, however, you are unsure, here is my set of Ten Gym Commandments.

  1. Thou shalt not talk on the cell phone while working out. (If you are able to breath well enough to carry on a conversation you are not working hard enough.)
  2. Thou shalt return your weights to their proper home when you are done with them. (If you can lift them in the first place, you can lift them back to where they belong.)
  3. Though shalt not sit on the equipment unless you are actively in the process of using it. (If you were just going to sit around, you could have done so much more comfortably in your living room.)
  4. Thou shalt not drop your weights (except by accident, which I’d also discourage if at all possible.)
  5. Thou shalt not sing along to whatever is on your iPod. (Understated lip syncing is fine but if you look and/or sound like you are auditioning for American Idol you need to tone it down.)
  6. Thou shalt wipe off your equipment when you are done with it. (If you’re not sure of your gym’s procedure for this – wipes, spray bottle – ask someone.)
  7. Thou shalt not take up more space than necessary in the locker room. (You can spread out as much as you like in your own bedroom. Sub-commandment: Don’t give me an annoyed look when I have to climb over you and your acre of stuff to get to my locker.)
  8. Thou shalt not sit on the benches in the locker room in the nude. (Ew.)
  9. Thou shalt let the gym’s employees know if there is a problem (such as someone doing, or not doing, one of the above), something is broken, or you need assistance. (Don’t be afraid. We’re really nice people. And if someone isn’t nice to you, tell that person’s supervisor.)
  10. Thou shalt remember that you are not the only person in the gym and respect other people’s experience (see all of the above for how to do so.)

There are lots of others I could add but these were the first that popped into my head. If I had one of those “Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten” posters those rules would probably also apply. Feel free to add your favorite in the comments.


Yuck. Thanks for the visual.

This is what I discovered the other day as I was unloading the dishwasher.

These are what should be clean, perfectly normal kitchen goods. However, as I hope you can see, there is a white chalky looking residue all over them. The chalky stuff actually feels waxy/fatty, not chalky. It took me awhile to figure out what these three items had in common since nothing else in the dishwasher looked like this. Turns out, they had all been used to prepare or contain a frozen  P.F. Chang’s General Chang’s chicken.

Although I try to avoid frozen processed foods, I was suckered in by my need for speed this week and my love of General Tso’s chicken (I know, I know, it’s the absolute worst thing I could get at a Chinese restaurant  – which is why I don’t get it. Often.) Seeing this waxy, fatty, nasty residue on my supposedly clean dishes makes me wonder what my internal organs now look like. Talk about driving home a point. Blech.