Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Only Good Reason to Change Your Body

The "After" that goes with the
"Before" seen in the banner above
Here we go ladies and gentlemen.  It's nearly time for the New Year,  New You,  New Goal resolutions to come surging to the surface of your consciousness.  It's almost time for the Ball, the Other Shoe, and your Defenses to drop.  For a large percentage of the population of the so called developed world, it's nearly time to:

Change Your Body.

Why?  This is my blog, so I get to say why.

The only good reason to change your body, is so that your physical body can better serve your life purpose.

Oh yeah, I went there.  It's really not a very esoteric point of view.  It's rational.  Losing weight, or better still losing fat and developing muscle takes skill, effort, and persistence.  Please believe me, on the journey to your authentic healthy body, vanity will not be enough.  Vanity will be helpful at times, but it will not serve you when everyone around you is enjoying your favorite intoxicating foods, and you are feeling bitter, put upon, and deprived.  Telling yourself,

"I'll look hotter tomorrow if I don't eat that" may not serve to keep you away from the crazy food.

What will keep you away from the crazy food?  Ask yourself what purpose a vital, healthy, energetic body will have in your life, and then dedicate yourself to that service.  For example, there is a very good reason why so many actors and models have the "Abdominal Fortitude" to stay really lean.  99.9% of the time if they're not lean they won't work.  Even if they are endowed with extraordinary talent (in the case of actors, especially female) they won't get a chance to express it on the word stage unless they match the expected physical image required today.  The best example I've read recently came from Tina Fey who lost 30 pounds on Weight Watchers and went from writer on Saturday Night Live to on-camera star of  Saturday Night Live.  Now I admit that the physical standards of female beauty in American media drive me nuts.  I think that they are ridiculously narrow, and shockingly difficult to achieve if you weren't born naturally slender, but there's nothing like the burning desire to act to inspire weight loss.

The Burning Desire to Act.

So, is there some action, some activity, some purpose you feel compelled to serve that is inhibited by the current state of your physical body?

Form wanting to fit in an airline seat, all the way to wanting to fit into a size zero,  if you find the reason behind the reason: whether you want to travel the world, or whether you want to be a race horse jockey, (a very legit reason to want to be a size zero) you will find a force that pulls you toward your hearts desire with a powerful and consistent kind of energy.

Go ahead and ask yourself the big question:
How can I best serve humanity?  Go ahead, ask yourself, no one has to know you're risking grandiosity.  From being a fantastic teacher, to running for public office, to being a great and happy mom, developing a fit,vital body will serve your life purpose, and this life purpose will inspire you to eat well and move well over time.

Eating Well and Moving Well Over Time.

This is what it takes.  As I come up on the fourth anniversary of my physical transformation it always comes down to this.  Eating and moving: I can't simplify it any more.  You are going to have to find your personal way of eating and moving that gets you to your goal and keeps you there over time.  Your life purpose is your inspiration for perspiration.  This is an odd time of year in this hemisphere when the days are, short, the nights are long, and we sometimes feel at loose ends.  Take some time, perhaps during one of these long nights, to consider your heart's desire.  Then when you're ready, decide what personal physical reality would serve that longing.  With this awareness in place you are ready to find your plan for eating and moving, not just for the new year, but for good.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Photo Shoot Tomorrow

The "After"
that goes with the "Before" above
It has been a very good week for getting my head back on straight.  First, I joined Weight Watchers on line of all things.  Back in 2007 I joined and went to meetings for about six weeks.  I lost five pounds, but I couldn't stick to the plan and quickly gained it back.  As soon as I started to struggle, I found that I was too embarrassed to go a meeting when I knew I hadn't lost weight that week.  A case of my ego keeping me from what I really wanted.  About a year later I started Turbulence Training, and I found that the key to my transformation, the foundation for change, was actually exercise.

What's Been Holding Me Back

It bears repeating that the fatal flaw in all of my figure recomposition plans is always impatience.  Again and again I have to relearn the lesson that moderate exercise with the right amount of intensity and reasonable progression works over time.  If I push to hard and get hurt I can't train at all.  Anyone who is gearing up for a new training program in the New Year would be wise to start slowly and train safe.  I know from experience that if you focus and commit to a balanced training program, and a sensible eating plan that puts you in a reasonable deficit, your body will improve, sometimes with gratifying speed.

Weight Watcher's?  Really?

Yes really.  I'm doing points plus and I feel full.  You you know how insanely fabulous it feels to be comfortably full after so long?  Since May my appetite has had two settings:  Starving and Stuffed.  It's as if I would go into a huge state and have no memory of the eating sensations in--between.  Ok, I'm a little scared I'll over eat on the fruit, but by weighing and measuring myself once a week I should have the feedback I need.  I haven't had any sugar or flour, and for now I'll just continue to leave them out.  Besides, after the way I had been eating, having oat bran hot cereal with sugar free maple syrup is like having an elegant dessert: with no guilt!

That being said, picture are tomorrow so I didn't eat the oat bran, and I got in plenty of water.  I did have lemon juice in hot water as well, but no flashy tricks.  The pictures are for the flyers for the Four Week Body Lift.  I won't be using any bikini photos for those.  I'm off right now to help my son with a video game puzzle, but I'll be back with more on the shoot, and my new sense of calm.  One day I'm going to get this transformation process right for more than a week at a time.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Easy on the Knees

The "After"
To Go With the "Before" Above
Just a brief post to put in today's fitness routine.

My knee is almost 100%, no weird sensation, no weakness, healed, but this fitness session is still intended to baby the knees by eliminating impact as much as possible.  If the squats irritate the back of my knee I'll go ahead and skip them.

Warm up:

10 Body Weight Squats
10 Stick Ups
10 Push Ups
10 leg Swings Each Leg
Psoas/Quadricep Stretch
Rest 30 Seconds and Repeat 1 Time

Superset A
Squats With 12lb. Body Bar:  8 Reps
Curtsey Lunge 8 Reps
Rest 1 Minute and Repeat 2 Times

Superset B
Strap Assisted Pistol Squats 8 Reps
Plie Squats With 12 lb Body Bar
Rest 1 Minute and Repeat 2 Times

Superset C
Romanian Dead Lift With Body Bar: 12 Reps
Reverse Lunge With Body Bar: 6 Each Leg
Rest 1 Minute and Repeat 2 Times

Interval Training
5 minute walk to warm up
"Baby" Burpees: 30 Seconds
"Easy" Get Ups: 30 Seconds
Repeat For a Total of Six Rounds

Baby burpees are something I've come up with that takes the hop back and the jump out of burpees.  I'll be posting a You Tube video soon.

Easy Get Ups consist of lowering myself to the floor and lying down flat- first by bending the right leg and supporting myself with the right hand to get down, then leading with the right leg to stand back up.  Then I switch sides by bending the left leg and putting the left hand down.

These are practically no impact exercises that will allow me to work back up to Burpees and Turkish Get ups.

My eating is back on track!  I went ahead an bought a 3 month membership to Weight Watchers on line, and after 2 days on Points Plus I feel fantastic.  I'm personalizing the plan by leaving out sugar and all grains except for 1/3 cup of oat bran in the morning.  I got more points than I expected, and it feels great to feel full again.  (But not stuffed!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Give Me Patience: Right Now

Here is the "After" that goes with
the "Before" in the banner above
If eating right and exercise lead to a great figure, why don't more people do it?  What's more, once you have started to see some success form healthy eating and exercise, why do you stop?

By the way, it's now six days to the photo shoot and counting, and yesterday, well... it wasn't a great day as far as eating and moving go.

What happened?  I tried to cut my calories down too hard.  One taste of the leg of lamb I served for dinner, and I just broke.  It probably didn't help that there was some chardonnay in the house, and that I thought, "A little won't hurt."  It hurt.  My resolve was broken, and I ended up over-eating.  How many times do I have to learn this lesson?  For me, severe under-eating just leads to crazy over eating.

Abdominal Fortitude

We all have different gifts.  I can sing the C above the staff, but I still can't do an unassisted pull up.  Some fitness enthusiasts can fast or cut calories hard without breaking and bingeing, but I just can't seem to.  So I guess that means reasonable calorie deficits, intense workouts that last 45 minutes or less, and lots of patience, are going to be the foundation of my continuing transformation.  "Sigh".  It's not new, or exciting, or some kind of revelation, but there is a pretty big silver lining.

If I'm Not in Such a Darn Hurry, I Can Enjoy Eating and Training Again.

I can eat pretty luxuriously on about 1400 calories a day, and if I'm not trying to kill it in the gym, I can focus on form and enjoy my training again.  What a relief.  Looking back over the past few months, I've been asking myself to do things that I would never recommend to a client.  I think I need to treat my body and mind with a little more respect, and maybe even give myself a break every once in a while.

I just finished my 4 Week Body Lift training session and I feel exhilarated, not at all wiped out.  I am not a natural endurance athlete.  I love to walk but running just hurts.  I've never experienced an endorphin rush from a long endurance workout, but I did get one just 20 minutes ago when I finished my intervals.  I'm beginning to believe that a great deal of the conventional wisdom that we learn about fitness is based on what we know about natural endurance athletes.  It could be that we need to spend more time figuring out what kind of exercise feels good, and then incorporate that into our routines.  It's the same with eating.  Nobody wants to follow an eating plan full of unsatisfying food.

At any rate.  Pictures are six days away, but instead of freaking out, I think I'll go back and re-read "Be Beautiful Now," take a deep breath, and have a little patience.

Monday, December 12, 2011

One Week Until the Photo Shoot- Help!

I can't believe I'm in this position.  Let me tell you what happened last night.  A little beef stew, one slice of apple pie, and I gained three pounds.  I know it's not three pounds of fat, but you know how demoralizing it is to "Be Good" all week and have your work apparently wiped out by a couple of carbs and a few spoon-fulls of sugar.  Sure sure, I know all of the positive things I'm supposed to tell myself right now, but the hard reality is that I'm having pictures taken for my book, and for the first of the year fitness advertising I need to do, in one week.

This Means Fat War

I've got to pull out all the stops.  The good angel sitting on my right shoulder is whispering words of wisdom about shunning crash diets, and the little devil on my left is whispering about ketosis, water depletion, and fasting.  I, meaning my rational self, am forming a plan.  Here's what I'm going to do.

Eating Is 80% of the Battle

When it comes to dieting, and yes I will be dieting for the next seven days, "Know Thyself" is my best advice.  I know for a fact that if I combine low carb eating with intermittent fasting I can shed those pounds by Monday the 19th.  Be aware this is not nutritional advice!  Let's face it though, sometimes push comes to shove and you want to shove the scale in the right direction instead of slowly coaxing your weight down.  This means that for the next seven days I will be eating lots of green leafy vegetables, healthy protein, and not a whole lot of other stuff.  Almond milk will replace cream in my coffee, and sugar and grains will be nowhere to be seen.  I think I'll start my days with hot lemon water as well.

I've Got To Move

My knee gets better every day, but walking a little and yard work isn't going to cut it.  When I look back at this week, the most valuable skill I may have learned is how to put together a fitness routine that lights up my metabolism and pumps up my muscles while protecting my knees.  Here goes.

Warm Up

10 body weight squats
10 Stick Ups
10 Push Ups
10 leg Swings Each Leg
Psoas Stretch- 20 seconds each side
Rest 30 Seconds and Repeat

Superset #1
Strap Assisted Pull Ups- 1 less than failure
1 Arm Shoulder Press- 8 each Side
Rest One Minute And Repeat 2 Times for a Total of 3 sets

Superset #2
Dumb Bell Row- 8 Reps
DB Chest Press- 8 Reps
Rest One Minute and Repeat for a Total of 3 Sets

Superset #3
Decline Push Up- 10 reps
Standing Dumb Bell Curls- 10 Reps
Rest One Minute and Repeat 2 Times for a Total of 3 Sets.

Here's the tricky part.  I need very low impact intervals to keep sparing my knee, which is healing up nicely so,

Warm up- easy 5 minute walk
30 Seconds Standing Cross Crawl, alternate with
5 Turkish Get Ups without weight.

I'll be checking in to let you know how it goes.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Are You Afraid to Rest?

Here is the "After"
to go with the "Before" in the banner above.
I believe that the biggest barrier to permanent fat loss and transformation may be impatience.  It makes me cut calories down too low, ignore form in favor of faster progression, and rush into cardio sessions I haven't properly warmed up and prepared for.

Are you like me?  Do you want results now?

Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself and my perceived lack of progress that I make poor choices.  About a week ago, I was gearing up to start writing the Four Week Bodylift program.  I wanted to see a certain number on the scale to use as my starting point, and I decided that cranking up my cardio intervals by sprinting would be a good shock to my system, and that I might get some more rapid fat loss as a result.  What I got instead was pain behind my knee from a strained popliteal tendon.

Here is some information on knee pain from Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Knee pain usually results from:
  • Overuse
  • Poor form during physical activity
  • Not warming up or cooling down
  • Not enough stretching

For knee pain that has just started:
  • Rest and avoid activities that aggravate your pain, especially weight bearing activities.
  • Apply ice. First, apply it every hour for up to 15 minutes. After the first day, apply it at least four times per day.
  • Keep your knee raised as much as possible to bring any swelling down.
  • Wear an ace bandage or elastic sleeve, which you can buy at most pharmacies. This may reduce swelling and provide support.
  • Take acetaminophen for pain or ibuprofen for pain and swelling.
  • Sleep with a pillow underneath or between your knees.
For knee pain related to overuse or physical activity:
  • Always warm up before exercising and cool down afterward. Stretch your quadriceps and hamstrings.
  • Avoid running straight down hills -- walk down instead.
  • Bicycle or swim instead of run.
  • Reduce the amount of exercise you do.
  • Run on a smooth, soft surface, such as a track, instead of on cement.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Every pound that you are overweight puts about 5 extra pounds of pressure on your knee cap when you go up and down stairs. Ask your health care provider for help losing weight.
  • If you have flat feet, try special shoe inserts and arch supports (orthotics).
  • Make sure your running shoes are made well, fit well, and have good cushioning.
Wow, reading that is like getting 50 lashes with a wet noodle.  Overuse?  Yep.  Poor form?  Probably.  Running on cement?  Guilty.

The biggest drag was that I was eager to get started on the Four Week Body Lift, but that meant I would have to violate rule #1:

Rest and avoid activities that aggravate your pain, especially weight bearing activities.

Rats.  So what did I do?  I actually followed the good advice I got, and as of today my knee is completely pain free.  I can hardly believe it.  I listened to the experts and they were right.  There is still a mild sensation behind my knee, so I will be very conservative as I restart my fitness routine.

The most important point of this post is that patience, rest, and recovery will help you reach your fitness goals in the long term, and even in the short term.  I did some more research and it turns out that trying to work through my strain could have resulted in permanent pain.  Yikes.

The silver lining to my minor strain is a renewed sense of gratitude for the physical health that allows me to move, exercise, dance, play, and just enjoy life.  I promise not to take it for granted.

So don't be afraid to rest and recover.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Four Week Body Lift

Body transformation may be 80% diet, but there's one major problem with dieting.  You can't trust it.

Yesterday, I ended the day in a calorie deficit.  I mean I know for a fact that I ate fewer calories than I burned yesterday.  Even by overestimating my calories by 25% and underestimating how much I moved, I should have been burning fat.  Not only that, but I earned a reward for self control by going to a party yesterday, and having nothing but three cups of tea.

Even so, when I got on the scale this morning my weight was up slightly.  One thing I have had to accept on this transformation journey is that the longer you stay committed to permanent weight change the more often you will experience the deficit paradox.

The Deficit Paradox

Notwithstanding the laws of thermodynamics, some days, no matter what you do, the scale will move in the wrong direction.  Especially if you're female. For me, and perhaps for you too, this is the time when when it's tempting to throw in the towel and just eat anything, because what's the point of being good if it doesn't make any difference?  I know, I know, it's probably just water or even muscle making me weigh more, but I don't care.  I want that digital, numerical, mathematical validation that I only seem to get from weighing less.  Talk about diminishing returns.

Exercise Won't Let You Down.

Thank goodness diet isn't the only tool in my bag of tricks.  Not matter what the scale says, if I train, walk, dance, lift, or practice yoga, nothing can erase the benefits of the moving I do in pursuit of my goals.  I see plenty of people who change their weight through diet, but the people who maintain those changes for years and more are the ones who commit to moving more.  Very often this involves getting to the gym on a regular basis, but there are plenty of walkers, swimmers, cyclists, and gardeners who keep their transformations if they just keep moving.

The Four Week Body Lift

To celebrate the power of movement, and to get ready for resolution season, I'm designing the Four Week Body Lift.  This program is a combination of commitment to eating and moving optimally for four weeks, in order to establish new daily habits, and to discover just what can be achieved with total enthusiasm over a manageable period of time.  I am the test subject, and I will put my musings here before I try the program with my clients.  The idea isn't to go all out for four weeks and then indulge in a free for all of sloth and over feeding.  The goal is to give the program your all, and then come in for a soft landing by having a celebration meal, Valentine's Day?, and then talking a maintenance week.  It's a work in progress.

Here's today's fitness routine:

Warm Up:
15 bodyweight squats
10 pushups
10 Stick Ups
10 Leg Swings Each Side
Psoas Stretch 20 seconds Each Side
Rest 30 Seconds and Repeat Entire Sequence

Workout Using 12 Pound Weighted Bar:
Superset 1:
10 Squats With Bar
10 Bent Over Bar Rows
Rest 1 minute and Repeat 2 Times

Superset 2:
Curtsey Lunge- 10 Reps.
Overhead Bar Press- 10 Reps.
Rest 1 Minute and Repeat 2 times

Superset 3:
Good Mornings: 10 Reps
Dips: 10 Reps
Rest 1 Minute and Repeat 2 Times.

Heavy Hoop 1 Minute
20 Jumping Jacks
Repeat 5 Times for a total of six rounds


Later, I'll write more on my eating plan, but for now I'll just say that I'll be eating in a deficit (Under 1,400 calories for me), and avoiding all trigger foods.

Let the fitness begin.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Compassion and Fat Loss

Here is the "After" photo
that goes with the "Before" seen above.

Yesterday I read about the eight year old boy who was placed in foster care because his weight had reached 200 pounds.  His mother had sought medical help for the boy's breathing problems, and it was later determined that it would be in the boy's best interest to remove him from his home.

I don't know what the eight year old was eating, or what foods were made available to him by his mother, but I do know what it's like to be eight years old, and completely unable to get full or satisfied for very long.

Ever since I can remember, I have eaten more food more quickly than anyone around me.  Some of my earliest clear memories are from my fourth birthday when I happened to have the mumps.  I vividly remember the bowl of alphabet soup that I ate instead of a special dinner followed by cake and ice cream. For the first time in my young life I was indifferent to food.  For one brief shining moment I was free of the compulsion to eat until I was more than stuffed on bread and sweets.  By the way, that is what I constantly craved, bread, cookies, chips, and cake.  I vividly recall climbing up on the kitchen counter to reach the cupboard that held the Wonder Bread.  I can still see myself tearing away the crusts and balling the bread up in my fist before cramming it in my mouth.  If I wasn't so afraid of getting caught, I would have eaten the whole loaf on several occasions.

I was good at not getting caught.  Imagine if you will, becoming a thief in your own home at six years old.  I craved time alone so that I could sneak food.  By age six I was trying to slow down and eat less.  I was beginning to be embarrassed by my behavior.  Why was I done with dinner  when everyone else was just getting started?  Why was I the only one who wanted seconds... always?

I was officially put on a diet by a medical doctor wen I was eight years old, just like the boy in the news story.  The doctor was a fit, handsome young man with a kind smile.  I remember him very well.  I think moments of deep shame take on a special vivid clarity that lasts and lasts, especially for children.  He looked me in the eye, smiled and said,

"How would you like to count calories?'

And so it began, my long miserable career as a failure at dieting.  My misery didn't end until I finally discovered that there were foods I could eat that didn't make me insane with hunger.  I could eat these foods until I was satisfied, and not gain weight.  What was even better was the fact that if I took part in exercise that I enjoyed and that made me feel good, not too much, but a little under an hour most days of the week, I could actually lose weight without succumbing to a binge every other day.

The vital point is that until I found the foods that didn't trigger my binges, there was no stopping me. Only constant, jail-like vigilance would have kept me from overeating.  Probably the worst thing was that trying to eat moderate amounts of things like whole grain bread, cereals, rice,  pasta, and bananas made me insane with hunger.

Today, most of my menu consists of leafy and fibrous vegetables, high quality protein, and pure fats like olive oil, and butter from grass fed cows.  I can eat fruit, plain yogurt, and cheese if I'm careful as well.  I have some cream in my coffee too.  There's probably only a handful of medical doctors who would approve of the way I eat.  I shudder when I think of what the standard American diet might have been doing to that boy's appetite.

If he was anything like me, he felt desperate and ravenous all the time.  Am I being a drama queen?  Probably, but that may be what's needed.  I'm crying so hard i can hardly see my keyboard right now.

Ok, better now.  I will close with this.  Now that I am at normal weight people who have never had a weight problem will sometimes make statements that surprise me.  They usually boil down to, "Those people just eat too much, and they hardly move!"  This comes from educated, generous, community minded people who I respect, and when I hear this my heart breaks.  They simply don't understand the horrible urge to overeat combined with the fatigue and body shame that keeps us sedentary.

How many medical doctors do you know who have overcome obesity themselves?  How many P.E. teachers?  How many nutrition educators?  How many celebrity trainers?  (Here I do know a few, Jillian Michaels and Jim Karas are two I can name right now.)

I had to accept myself and my limitations before I could transform.  It all started with compassion.  To the mom and the eight year old boy who are at the center of this story, may I offer my compassion.  I am working on solutions too.  They just take a lot more time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Catherine's Thanksgiving Survival Guide

This is so typical of me but, if you look at the banner right above this, you'll notice that it only shows the "Before" picture. Funny, yet awkward.  Here's the "After."

A Great Thanksgiving Starts Today

Argh, yesterday was not a great day for fat loss, or maybe I should say weight loss.  Van and Colin and I drove to Merced to have lunch with Van's sister and her husband.  We had a delicious Indian buffet (the Indian restaurant in Sonora burned and never re-opened).  I knew to avoid the naan, but I made a mistake that you'll want to avoid if you're eating away from home on T-Day.

Hey, That Orange Stuff Looks Like a Vegetable

So there was this very bright red/orange dish on the buffet, and when I looked at it I thought,

"Oh look, beets,  or maybe very bright carrots."  So I put a nice big scoop on my plate along with some other mixed veg, chicken, and lamb.  I went easy on the sauce, and I thought I was cool.  I sat down across from Colin, and he was happily munching away on the red/orange stuff.  He smiled and said, "This is really good!"  I said, "What is it, carrots?"  He replied,

"Oh no, it's sweet rice- try it."

Sweet rice.  Sugar and carbs, and from the looks of it, butter or ghee, or something that made it nice and shiny.  Did I eat it?  Oh yes I did.  You know I did.  That's me, living on the culinary edge.  It wasn't that big a deal, but it led to some weirdness which I'll relate:  kind of a food issue cascade.  Here's how it went.

1. Ate freak out mystery food, and overate at lunch, at 11:30 AM.
2. Resolved not to eat the rest of the day to make up for freak out mystery food
3. Ate nothing then found Quest bar in my car on my way to 5:30 yoga class, ate half.
4. Ate other half on the way home.
5. Resolved to eat nothing else.
6. Ravenous at 8PM, ate 2 pieces of El Pollo Loco, a salad, and about 3oz. of cheese.

Woke up this morning so bloated I couldn't get my rings off.

The Point, The Takeaway, and The Moral of the Story Is:

At least know what you're eating before you put it on your plate.  It's Thanksgiving, no one will judge what you eat, but for heaven's sake it's going in your mouth- make an informed decision.  This is a time for eating the very best.  Go for real quality and satisfaction.  Don't settle for less than what's best for you.  If it's truly an anything goes meal- fine, but make that choice before you start filling your plate.
So have a plan.

I have set some boundaries for my day, and for the holiday meal.

Imagine that you're single and you're going on a date with someone who is outrageously attractive and desirable.  Yes, you want to have fun but you don't want to wreck the budding relationship, and end up full of regret the next day, because you threw caution to the wind and went too far.  Don't be a food hussy.  Be discerning, a lady, wear something nice too: no elastic.

Don't Try for Absurd Levels of Self Denial

Within your reasonable boundaries arrange for some real eating pleasure.  Some traditional foods are good for you as well as being tasty.  I've got turkey, green beans, sweet potato, two very good glasses wine, and even a sugar free pumpkin cheesecake that I'm making myself on the menu.  (There are major advantages to being the head cook!  Don't worry, there will be real pumpkin pie and cornbread stuffing on the table, I just don't choose to eat them.)

I've Got a High Volume Healthy Breakfast Planned

I'll share my secret weapon breakfast with you:
2 Organic Eggs on a bed of sautéed spinach, mushrooms, onion, and cabbage with 2T salsa.  You will be full, and full of energy if you start the day with this.  Um, if you don't normally eat a lot of vegetables and fiber, maybe go easy on the amount, especially if you have guests.

At any rate, some people have the abdominal fortitude to seriously restrict their eating before the event meal, but I'm not one of them.  And please, drink a lot of water all through the day.  There is a great deal of sodium in the traditional holiday dishes, and you don't want to be thrown into a funk the day after over what amounts to water weight.

Bottom Line

I have already planned my eating for the day and my calorie count comes in at:
This is a little higher than maintenance, so I'll be making sure to move during the day- extra walks for me, Tippy, and anyone who wants to join me.
I have a plan.  It's full of enjoyment, including the 49er/Raven's game:  The Harbaugh Bowl should be exciting.  I'm looking forward to laughter, fun, pictures, gratitude, and yes, food.  I will survive, and so will you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dieting Is Like Marriage...

Dieting is like marriage.  It works just fine until somebody cheats.

So I've been pursuing figure transformation  for almost four years now, and one thing I can say from experience is that:

Diets Do Work.

 How do I know this?  Let me count the ways.

Atkins, South Beach, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Dukan Diet,  Sugar Addicts, Slow Carb, Low Fat, High Volume,  Low Glycemic, Beverly Hills Diet, and the beat goes on.

Every one of them, every single one, worked... until I Cheated.

Sometimes I only lost five pounds, sometimes as much as twenty, but sooner or later I gave in to temptation.  It started with fantasizing, then a little fooling around with a little taste here or there.  Perhaps I'd let go with a full on cheat, but then I'd hide the evidence, sleep it off and promise to be good in the morning.  Some relationships were good.  There are times even today when I think I could give up sugar and flour and chocolate for ever, if I could just keep eating bacon.  (Uncured nitrite free bacon of course)

But then I start to think about what I want instead, then to crave it, then to seek it out.  Then finally, alone in the dark, I give in to the fleeting pleasure, the lasting guilt, and another diet bites the dust.

This is Catherine writing, so I promise not to leave you without hope, or a solution.  Forgive me for stealing imagery from Occupy Wall Street, but I have been able to become a member of:

The Five Percent   (As opposed to the 1%, or the 99%- make sense?)

Who are the five percent?  We're people who have been able to lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off for more than a year.  Now I'll be honest, I read a lot of conflicting evidence about whether the ciche' about 95% of dieters gaining all the weight back is legit, but just for the sake of drama let's pretend it's true.  Even if the odds of long term success are only one in twenty, that's better than Vegas baby so lets get in the game shall we?  Allow me to do my best to help you stack the odds.

Be a Fat Loss Vixen

How dare any diet try to tie you down and claim that it's the only way to change your body for good?  Of course a good diet is like a good man: healthy, authentic, interesting, and satisfying.  (Oh dear, I could follow this analogy into dangerous waters, so I'll just let you use your imagination.)  But you don't have to marry one menu and promise to eat that way forever.  I advocate serial monogamy for eating plans.  Let me explain.

How to Keep the Wholesome Foods From Getting Boring

For me, any diet that works even short term has been able to satisfy my appetite for fewer calories than I burn.  Yes, this is classic calories in calories out,  energy balance focused, deficit eating- but look closer.  At different times different foods are satisfying.  I think all of us who have struggled with our weight understand that certain foods are incredibly hard for us to eat in moderation, so during fat loss phases we eliminate or manage them.  (If you know that you have trigger foods I totally understand if you don't want to touch them at all.)  But now it's time to think about how we manage the "good" foods, the "Legal Foods," the foods that are "On the Plan."  From day to day, week to week, and on over time, we do need to remain faithful to the quantity and quality of our eating, but who says we can't play with the composition a little bit?

To be more specific, the Atkins diet does work for me, but I have a hard time sticking with it for more than about ten days.  So I simply transition into an eating plan that brings fruit and yogurt, yes fat free yogurt, back to the menu.  I'll use less olive oil on my salads in order to make room for the calories in the fruit and the oat bran I want to eat.  I can also keep an eye on my calories during the week so I can have a variety meal on the weekend.  Does this make sense?  When one set of healthy foods gets dull, switch it for a different set of healthy foods.

The key is to make sure you don't squeeze your calorie allowance so hard that you have a blowout the minute you have two bites of banana.  Hyper-vigilance over every calorie and macro nutrient is no way to live.  Engaged awareness on the other hand is the effort that's required to change over time.

Know yourself.  Trust yourself.  Diets do work until you cheat.  So be honest with yourself and find out how far you can go and which foods are worth the risk, and then... take it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Three More Weeks of Transformation

In exactly three more weeks, I'll be at the finish line for Turbulence Training Transformation Contest #12..

It's been an interesting journey from obese, to overweight, to normal, and on into the place that I like to call aspirational.  You all know that I spend a lot of time agitating my brain over what the ideal body is in this mixed up world.  Just last night I was watching Anderson Cooper's report on the Ridiculist that covered Adriana Lima's pre Victoria's Secret Show diet.  Here's a quote from E's website:

 Adriana Lima wants us all to know she doesn't stick to her pre-show liquid diet and twice-daily workouts routine year-round.
"Everybody is talking about my crazy diet," she told me backstage this morning as she got glammed for tonight's catwalk.
The supermodel and hot mom recently admitted she sticks to liquids only nine days before the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show and stops drinking water for 12 hours before she hits the runway to drop the most weight.
But she defended the drastic measures, comparing herself to an athlete in training:

"I know it's very intense but...I just have an athlete's mind and I appreciate doing this thing," she told me. "It's not that I do crazy diets throughout the year. I just do it for this particular thing. After this show, I become normal again!"

Read more:

Personally, I'm a bigger fan of the Frederick's catalogs look.   What Adriana represents is the outer edge of beauty.  The challenge for us Beauty Builders is to find our ideal somewhere on this side of that outrageous extreme.  When I look at modern ideals of beauty in the media, my heart sinks a little, because I know that even if I had the abdominal fortitude to try a nine day fast drinking nothing but protein shakes and doing two workouts a day, I simply wouldn't get there, not only because I don't have that kind of capacity for self imposed hunger and pain, but because I really don't think that look is beautiful.

What a relief.  I just have to turn back to what I decided almost a year ago.  Beauty is the visible manifestation of well being.  So that means that with a focus on what we can do, and how we feel, we can let go of frustration and become more vital outside of the kitchen and the gym.  I really should be grateful to the Victoria's Secret Angels.  By pushing the standard of beauty to such an outrageous extreme, they demonstrate how absurd it is.  Now I can smile, and shake my head, and return to the serious and yet playful pursuit of genuine well being.

Suddenly three 45 minute resistance and metabolic training sessions a week seem a small amount of time and energy to spend, and an average of around 1350 calories a day for somebody who's only 5'1" seems like enough for a feast.  So here is the challenge to myself, and anyone who wants to join me for the next three weeks.  Let's stand up for a sensible plan of eating and moving, and see what it can do.

I'll begin.
Today's Workout is:  TT Resistance Evil C

A Full Body Warm- Up Followed By:
1A) Kettle bell Snatch (10-15) per side
2A) Dumb Bell Romanian Deadlift- (10)
2B) Triple Stop Push Up (To one less than failure)
3A) One- Leg Squat (6-10/side)
3B) Renegade Row with 1 sec pause at top (10/side)
4. Triple shoulder raise (10 per move)
5 A) DB incline curl
5 B) DB 1-arm overhead triceps extension (10/side)
5A)  Db Hammer curl- alternating 10/side
Up to three sets of each - oh boy.  Really, I actually love this workout.  Makes me feel pumped and powerful, especially those hammer curls at the end.

Today's Menu:
2 organic eggs,  on a bed of spinach with peach mango salsa (Yum) 2 strips uncured nitrite free bacon.
Large romaine lettuce salad with olive oil dressing, 4 oz chicken breast, I cup cauliflower with 1t butter
4 oz pork chop with romaine lettuce salad w/olive oil dressing,  1 cup cauliflower, 1/2 cup cooked carrot, 2T salsa
snacks- 1 apple, 1 pear
Sugar free jello
2 T half and half for coffee.

Sunday night is a celebration meal, and I will post my menu for Thanksgiving soon as well.

Let's see how effective a sensible plan can be- especially if I'm faithful to it.

To get the total fitness plan I'm following, 
Click Here!
(Yes, this is an affiliate link.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Celebrate Thanksgiving without Sacrificing Fat Loss

American Thanksgiving is a little more than two  weeks away, so this is a very good time to make some plans for enjoying it to the fullest without regret.  Is this possible?  Of course it is.  Fat loss, like romance, begins in the mind, at least it always has for me.  So here are some ways to think about this holiday that will enhance its meaning and enjoyment beyond what happens at the dinner table.

Thanksgiving is another Word for Gratitude

Please forgive me for stating the obvious, and then hitting the bold button, but gratitude has been like a life preserver that holds me up above envy and self pity.  Ever since I can remember, my hunger at special occasion meals has outstripped what's appropriate for someone my size.  I'm not saying that my family judged what I ate at the holidays, but ever since I was a teenager I regarded this time of year with concern.  Would I lose control and devour a fruitcake out in the garage again this year?  Would I end up in tears because all of my clothes were too tight on Christmas morning?

For the past three years, the answer to both of those questions has been "no" because of a little bit of planning and a whole lot of gratitude.  I've said before that it is so easy to look around and imagine that everyone else in your family, your circle of friends, ok everybody else in the country, is eating and drinking whatever they want from October 31st on, and that you're the only person within miles that's put up any boundaries between what is and isn't on the menu.  This isn't true.  Even if it was, there are ways of thinking that will bring peace and enjoyment to the choices you make.

Of course you'll be expressing gratitude for the big blessings of, love, life, and liberty, but by bringing your attention to your smaller personal choices, you can gently keep your eating in check.

 Here's how.  Focus your attention and thanks on what you can have within your healthy boundaries, instead of longing for what's on someone else's plate.  Think now about what dishes are special and delicious, and that still work with your goals.  As a specific example, I am confident that I can eat 1700 calories worth of food and drink on any given day without gaining fat, as long as I'm physically active.  With a little planning and creativity, I can have an abundantly delicious Thanksgiving dinner without going over that amount.

Get this, I just googled "700 Calorie Thanksgiving Menu," and got 536,000 results.  The resources for making a great meal are definitely out there. Not only that, but you will get such a rush of self love as you turn out the light on Thanksgiving night when you stay true to your plans.  Trust me, the feeling is golden, and you can have it if you make a plan and follow it.

You may not be able to eat as much as most of the other people at the table, but here is anther way to feel good about your choices.  I used to think in terms of what I was sacrificing in order to lose fat.  Lately I've realized that "Sacrifice" is the wrong word and the wrong concept for what I'm doing.

It Isn't a Sacrifice.  It's a Trade.

Imagine that you're kid with a bag full of marbles.
 You may have agates, and swirls, and shooters aplenty,  but your friend has a simple marble that's crystal clear.  Your friend picks a fancy marble from your bag, but it's no sacrifice to give it up as far as you're concerned.  You've had that marble and plenty like it in the past.  You trade gladly because the simple clear marble is just what's been missing from your bag.

This Thanksgiving make the trade.

Haven't you had enough of over indulgent foods in excessive amounts?  Make some choices based on what will feel special and festive without hurting your well being. If you're reading this, that means you have time to think and plan a little now.  Your time will be a small trade for a lasting reward.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy, Healthy, and dare I say- Hot for the Holidays

Recently I had a client share with me that she has great success sticking to her eating and exercise program when she has a specific event to shoot for, but she loses her resolve and slowly gains fat back when it's passed.  Her dilemma got me thinking about the holiday season, and the fact that this is the time of year when so many of us experience weight re-gain, and it occurred to me that we could find a way to think about the holidays that would support our goals.

When it comes to the Holiday Season, the Barriers to Change and Maintenance Get Higher.

Let's take a look at two barriers to making and keeping positive changes right now.

The Holidays are a time when we think of others, and when we make an extra effort to make them happy.  You don't have to be a mom to have plenty of people to please this time of year.  Family, lovers, friends, co-workers, and the community all want a piece of you- those demanding, oblivious, hard to please... oops. I mean, you're a good person and you want to do your part for the people and the community you care about.

This Leads to Barrier Number one: Stress

I promise, I wouldn't bring up the obvious without offering a solution, and here it is.  If you already exercise regularly you must not stop, and if you don't you simply must add some movement you enjoy to your busy, scary, over packed and overwhelming schedule.  Um, no really I didn't mean it that way- there is room-really.

In all seriousness though, if you're reading this you mean business, so I'll be honest.  This will be my third holiday season in a fit healthy body, and the basis of my ongoing success is regular moderate exercise that incorporates enough intensity and progression to keep me in the maintenance zone.
I happen to be participating in the 12 Turbulence Training Transformation Contest right now, so I am going for progression in the gym, and a reasonable calorie deficit in the kitchen as well. If I was in maintenance mode right now that would mean three scheduled resistance/interval workouts per week, with at least a half an hour of enjoyable physical activity on three other days.  Yes gardening and housework count if you do them with the awareness that the point is to keep moving.  Yoga, dance, swimming, dog walking, these are all ideal activities.  You've got to pick one, or several, and do them.

Why:   It works.  The time you spend moving will make you feel better, sleep better when you do get to bed, and it will ease stress.  Last year I wrote about self-selected intensity and a study that showed that it reliably reduced anxiety.  The fabulous news is that self-selected intensity means working as hard as you want to.  Yes, whether you go to the gym, the park, or walking in the neighborhood, you get to decide how much effort you put in.  But you must move.

Barrier Number Two: Extraordinary Culinary Temptation

Look at the picture from my last post if you want a visual.  The sweets, the drinks, the party platters, and the heavy meals are lining up for your approval.  Worse, the people who made them are lining up for your approval.  Add to that the fact that indulgence will briefly quiet the anxiety you're currently experiencing over all the people you have to please this time of year.  Not only that, but you remember your misspent youth, and you think it would be fun to party up, raise your glass like Ke$ha and Pink and get a little tipsy at your holiday open house.

Oh, right, that's me again, not you.  Sorry.

Don't worry, I won't leave you hanging without an answer.  Here it is again, the same old answer.  Have a plan.  Get out a calendar and have a look at it right now.  There are 58 days between now and January 2nd.  I'll round that number up to 60, you'll see why in a minute.  I have learned from my experience that you can reach new figure goals, or maintain your current figure, if you stick to your standard plan 90% of the time.  That leaves six days when you can have more calories and let in some pure pleasure food or drink.  Please be aware that these pure pleasure foods do not include binge or trigger foods.  If you're lucky enough to have no idea what I mean by this I'm genuinely happy for you.  If however, you know that Christmas cookies will send you on a three day sugar bender, I am asking you to admit that and avoid them.

I hear you- you're saying how Catherine how do I do that?  You need a planned substitute.  You need something you enjoy to take the place of treats that could put you into a food trance.  (Food trance- when you eat something and your free will gets hijacked until the entire plate, bag, or platter is gone, and you're left wondering what the heck happened)

Now is the time, in these weeks before Thanksgiving (in the US), to figure out what you'll eat, and how much on your special days.  Maybe these foods won't even be sweets or typical holiday foods.  Maybe they'll be special because they contain finer ingredients, or because they're especially appealing to the eye.  You choose!  It's your body, your time, your celebration.  You get to decide.  What a gift you'll be giving yourself by planning a beautiful season.

P.S.  Remember the client who said she needed an event to help her stick to her resolve?  Why not use your planned celebrations as goals and events themselves?  Make feeling and looking wonderful on these days part of what makes them special.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chased Out of the House by the Great Pumpkin

"On Monday October 31st, I took my son Colin to the Halloween carnival at his school.  All the kids dress up and play games to win candy, and the highlight of the party is something called The Cakewalk.  Parents bake and bring indulgent treats and display them on a big table.  The game runs all evening, and in each round about ten children go up on the stage in the Gym, and walk in a circle until the music stops.  When it stops, each child is standing on a number, and if their number is called, they get to choose anything they would like from the table.  Musical snacks you could call it.

Every year there is some kind of treat on that table that really stands out.  It could be a tower of cupcakes or a gingerbread haunted house.  This year, it was the Great Pumpkin.  It was big, round, and covered in creamy orange frosting.  The stem was curved and green, and the eyes, nose, and grinning mouth were black icing.  It was a beautiful and awful tribute to to holiday overindulgence, and as the music played I whispered inside my head:

"Please don't let my kid win."

He won.

 I was happy for him.  Truly.  Now it would be my job to guard and protect The Great Pumpkin: to see it safely home without smearing the icing, and to display it proudly on the big cake plate that usually sits empty on the kitchen counter.

My son and my husband are blessed with one of the greatest gifts that modern life can offer: an indifference  to sweets.  It's not that they don't like them, they do, but that cake sat on the counter, untouched, inviolate, un-cut  all through the evening and all through the day yesterday.

Good heavens, was that cake going to sit on the counter for ever?  The cake that was smiling, grinning, leering at me every time I walked by?  It seemed to call out to me,

"Come here girlie.  Go get that knife.  Cut me.  Eat me!  You know you want to.  I'm special, and there's never been another cake like me.  Eating me won't count.  Colin won me in a game so you have an obligation to show your pride and approval by eating me now!"

I wanted to eat that cake, and I would have, if it hadn't been for the pledge.

I had posted my goal, and a promise not to cheat, on the refrigerator.  The penalty for cheating?  I would have to pay Colin $100.00.  Ok, so now that I read that in black and white I have to wonder if using my son as the food police is such a good idea...  I just asked him and he said, "Mom, I love  helping you. " That eases my guilt a bit.

Back to last night.  I wasn't even in the same room with the cake, but it kept calling me and calling me, until I walked into the kitchen and fell on my knees in front of the horrible grinning orange head.  A head so large my husband had to cut off the stem to get to to fit under the glass of the cake plate.  I cried out like a cat in labor,

"I waaant caaaake!"

Van rushed in from the family room and said,  "If you want cake, have some!"  My son rushed in from his bedroom and said,  "You owe me a hundred dollars!"

I ran to the hall closet, grabbed my jacket, and rushed out the door saying, "I'm sorry... it's not you guys' fault,  it's me.  Tippy the dog followed me out into the dusk.  The moon was up, and there were just a few pink clouds still hanging in the western sky.  The night was quiet and almost warm, and as I walked I thought about how silly it all was.  The farther I got from the cake, the more my anger and self pity eased.  This time of year I feel like all the world is enjoying candy and cake, and I envy them.  Boy do I envy them.  By the time I reached the road and Tippy and I turned back toward the house, I knew that my promise to myself (and the hundred dollars) was safe.  When I got back to the house, Van had hidden the cake in that mysterious place where he hides foods that put my psyche in a twist.

Turns out I really am still a child at the holidays.  I get scared on Halloween, and even though I know I'm old enough to face my fears, feel my feelings, and let them pass through me, sometimes it's better to just run away, and let somebody who loves me hide the cake.

So this holiday season if a giant marshmallow turkey starts leering at you, take a page out of my book.  Grab your coat, or your purse, or your keys, and run.

 Let someone else hide the turkey.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hunger Management

How to use up the protective coating of fat that is living between you and your authentic self.

If I had to pick the one skill that you simply must have to effect and keep your physical transformation, it would have to be the ability to manage appetite.  There are many different hungers that manifest as an immediate desire for food.  You know the feelings.  There is straightforward physical hunger.  The kind you feel early in the afternoon after a productive morning of work or errands when the subtle hollowness in your tummy tugs at your mind saying, "look at the clock, it's time for food."

Then there is the hunger of avoidance, one of my personal favorites.  This hunger kindly gets between you and vaguely unpleasant tasks like bills and overdue phone calls.  This itch to eat gets you up and away from the chore of the moment and into the kitchen where a brief kind of peace is to be found.

Recently, I learned about "Limbic Hunger"  which is a kind of primitive response to eating tasty food.  The theory is that the basic primitive part of the brain responds to eating by signaling the impulse to eat more, eat it all, before someone else does!"

There are so many feelings, events, and circumstances that call up our hunger, how are we to manage?  Especially when we want to put the body into a state where it will use fat stores as fuel, instead of calling to us to top off the tank with more food.

I have a very simple technique for you.

Simply plan and record what you will eat sometime before the first bite of the day.  Really?  It's that simple?  Yes, or at least it will become so, and I'll tell you why.

If you've taken more than a brief stab at learning about fat burning, you've probably heard that people who write down what they eat lose twice as much weight as those who don't.  In a study sponsored by Kaiser Permanente that appeared in the August 2008 issue of the American Journal of PreventiveMedicine,  two-thirds of the study subjects lost nine pounds or more during the six-month study. But those who kept a food diary every day of the week dropped up to 20 pounds, more than twice as much as those who didn't record their every bite.  

Twenty pounds.  Nice, but I think we can upgrade this technique to make it even more effective.  There are free websites such as Spark People and Fitday that will let you easily record what you eat each day.  They have huge searchable databases of all kinds of foods, and once you establish a pattern of typical foods it's quick and easy to hop on one of these websites before you go to bed or when you first get up to make your choices about what you're going to eat that day.  By recording your daily menu before you eat you establish your intention to follow a plan.  When you stick to that plan, you don't have to make food choices on the fly, you establish boundaries around what you will eat, and you become aware of the impulses that try to draw you away from your plan.  Even if you give in to the impulse to eat more than you've written down you're still ahead of the game because now you can examine why you chose to eat more.  Did you try to cut your calories too much?  Was there a food on your menu that you just couldn't resist having a bit more of?  Did you get behind schedule and end up ravenous?

Learn the Skill of Awareness
If you're anything like me, your hungry subconscious would like nothing more than to see you take a free-form approach to eating.  Just last night, we had an early dinner and I wasn't all that hungry, so I didn't eat much of my salad or my grass fed steak.  I drank a planned glass of wine while my husband and I watched the World Series, and then, around 8:30, I got seriously hungry.  Did I eat?  Yes I did.  I ate the rest of the steak  which was cool because it was planned.  But I also got into the cheddar.  Oops.  What did I learn?  The combination of alcohol and an unusually early dinner is likely to lead me astray, and I need to plan for that.

If you adopt this habit will you need to use it for the rest of your life?  That depends.  I see the periods of strong commitment to pre-planning eating and exercise as times of being "In Training".  When I did my first transformation contest it lasted 12 weeks, and that was a period of clear and intense commitment to changing my habits.  I have been able to maintain the changes in my body by returning to the techniques that work both when I find my size creeping up, and when I want to go further along the road to the figure I really want.  I agree that we need to develop a lifestyle of healthy satisfying eating, but I also believe that periods of physical change require an extra effort.  Planning what you eat before you eat it can help you make sure those efforts pay off.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beyond Normal

Back in 2001, I let my body blow up.  Literally. 

  Ok, ok, I was pregnant, but I used the fact that I had quit smoking, stopped drinking, and given up a single life of utter self absorption,as an excuse to eat anything I wanted in any amount I desired.  So I gained weight, and gained, and...  Maybe I shouldn't have started closing my eyes when I got on the scale at the doctor's office.  I finally woke up to the incredible stupidity of my behavior (yes still self absorbed in spite of my delicate condition) when I had to take the glucose tolerance test for gestational diabetes.  I didn't have it, my fasting glucose level came back pretty low, at 70, but I was shaken by the thought that my overeating was impacting the health of my baby.  I grabbed my copy of "What to Expect While You're Expecting", and followed the eating plan in earnest from there on out.  Even so, the morning I went home from the hospital with Colin, our healthy baby boy,  I weighed 185 pounds on a medium framed, five foot one inch tall body.

What Had I Done?

And how in the world was I going to get back to the 127 I weighed only 14 months before on my wedding day, or even better to the 122 I weighed when I met my husband?  Because lets face it, being at a healthy weight makes a big difference in having the energy and confidence to be a good mother, and just as importantly a happy wife.  Moms, I know you know exactly what I mean, 'cause let's face it turning off the the lights doesn't make you feel any less shlumpy, let alone any more sexy.

That's When I started Going to the Gym to Lose Fat. 

I will always be grateful to Kelly and Tammy, the trainers who got me moving again, and to Ellie and Sandra, who were on the child care staff at Sonora Sports and Fitness, where I still work out today.  As I've said before, when you're 50 pounds overweight, by this time I tipped the scales at 170 pounds, losing fat is kind of like hitting the side of a barn with buckshot.  Grab a rifle, and take general aim, and you're going to hit something; Success!  Until…

Stuck at 155

Go google a BMI chart, I'll wait.  Yep, at 61 inches 155 pounds is barely under the threshold of obesity.  Holy cow, as late as 2008 and seven years after the birth of our son, I was still nearly obese.  Now what?  I'd been working out and dieting on and off for seven years.  Sometimes, as with the Atkins diet or South Beach, or weight watchers, I could get down as low as 145, but I couldn't stick to the diets I tried, and my weight would always inch, ok bounce right back up.
This is the point where I came in on this blog.  I got the Turbulence Training  program, entered the transformation contest, and got down to 133 pounds in 12 weeks.

Beyond Normal

Over the past three years, I've continued to bring my muscles out and my weight down, stabilizing right around 123 pounds.  That's just above a BMI of 23.  Nicely normal.  Much better than pleasantly plump, and yet...
There is another level of fitness and appearance I just have to reach in order to have the chance to live in the body that feels the most real and true to me.  Since I earned my ACE certification I have been coaching clients, and I've had the gratifying experience of seeing a number of them get all the way to goal.  (To join this happy group, e-mail me at: I'll be giving  a free 20 minute coaching consultation to the first 25 e-mail requests.)  Now it's time to go beyond normal, and discover what exactly what it takes in terms of eating, exercise, and attitude to get there and stay there for good.  Normal: it's a safe, comfortable, familiar place, but it's time to move on.

For the the program that Catherine will be using to get beyond normal: Click Here!  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Master Class with Sigourney Weaver and Jim Simpson of New York City's Flea Theatre

"I used to get so enthusiastic, they'd ask me to leave the room."  Sigourney Weaver

When  I got the e-mail informing me that St. Mary's College theatre alumni we're invited to attend a master acting class with Sigourney Weaver and her husband Jim Simpson, artistic director of the Flea Theatre, there was no question that I would do whatever it took to get to Notre Dame, Indiana that day.  What would she be like?  Would she be brilliant, funny, kind?  Really tall?

She was all of those things, and what's more she and Mr. Simpson share the graciousness and humility that are often found in the extraordinarily talented.

So what was it like, and what wisdom did they share?  Well, the class went like this.  We were in a small acting studio in the basement of Regina Hall, just down the hall from the dance studio where I used to take Modern and study Alexander technique, and four floors down from my freshman dorm room.

 Class began with four senior Theatre majors doing their audition monologues twice.  All of them were good, often surprisingly so as several of the choices were quite unique.  When they were done, Ms. Weaver did something that surprised me but shouldn't have.  Instead of speaking with wit and eloquence about each of the pieces, she immediately asked all four actors to lie down on the floor, and yes... she joined them.

I should have known.

Once they were all comfortably lying on their backs on the linoleum, she told them all to rest a hand on their stomachs and just... breathe.

All of a sudden I was back on the floor of the dance studio 25 years ago blowing Fs at the ceiling.  It all comes back to the breath.

No breath, no voice, no acting.  If you want actors to let go of tension so that they can reveal themselves through their characters, you've got to get them to breathe.  Put yourself in the place of these young actors.  How would you feel standing alone in front of a major Hollywood star, and an Obie award winning director, and delivering a two minute monologue?  Terrified?  Yes, but also wonderfully exhilarated.

 What Sigourney was leading them to do, was relax, and allow their natural voices to come out.  One of the greatest challenges for an actor is to harness and use the amazing energy that comes from an audience, while still remaining true to believable human behavior.  The breathing exercise also revealed one of the things that gives Ms. Weaver so much of her power as an actor: her voice.

 I suspect that if you stop and listen with your mind right now, you can conjure up a line from one of her films.  Here's an easy one, "Get away from her you bitch!" from Aliens.  But she doesn't need to shout to touch you with the power of her voice, no not at all.  Jim Simpson also pointed up the power of the authentic voice to make an actor stand out in a good way at an audition.  All four actors who gave their monologues in the morning class were young women, and he noted that most of them would be auditioning to play ingenues.  He said that the temptation is to speak in a voice that is higher and more lyrical than the natural voice, but that it is much more effective to relax, use the voice you were born with, and:

"Blow them away with your womanhood." Jim Simpson

"Our job is transformation."

Twice I heard Sigourney say this to Jim as they worked together to get the most helpful direction across to the actors.  Transformation.  Funny, I thought, here I am in an acting class, and it comes down to what's been practically obsessing me for the past three years.  How do you take the raw material that is your very self, and turn it into the self that you have envisioned?

What became clear from their direction is that you start by accepting and using your authentic self.

 More great advice was the idea of "getting out of the way of the words", and "letting the piece play you."  The more adept we become as actors, the more we want to control every aspect of what we do on stage.  If we step back and let the words take the wheel again, "let them tumble" as Sigourney said, we can discover fresh new ways of playing.  Of course, you have to be well prepared before any of this good stuff can happen!

"You are running a show, make it a good one."  Jim Simpson

Mr. Simpson had recently wrapped up a big round of auditions for the Flea Theatre.  I'm pretty sure he said that they auditioned 600 people, although I could be exaggerating, then again I remember open calls in Hollywood that would easily bring in that many actors.  He spoke about how much it would surprise him, and not in a good way, when actors weren't completely prepared to deliver their monologues well.  He said that one of the best things an actor can do with a prepared audition piece is to go in with the attitude,

"I wonder what it's going to be today?"

Now the only way you can let go like this and be completely free within your work, is to be 100 per cent prepared.  No, 200 per cent prepared!  In the afternoon session, after the current students had all done their monologues, and after Sigourney had left to prepare for her speech that night, Jim looked around the room and asked if there was anyone else who would like to work.  I raised my hand and asked, "Would you like to hear from an alumni?"  He immediately said yes, and I was off on an experience that that was similar to, and probably better than, the best thrill ride you can imagine.  As Mr. Simpson had already said, "It's fun isn't it?  It feels really good to do your monologue."  He was so right.  For an actor there is nothing like getting an opportunity to do your work for a new and exciting audience.  It's been more than a year since I've done an audition monologue, and the rush was palpable.  My heart was beating so loud I thought the audience might be able to hear it over my words!

When I was done, Jim gave me direction that was dead on, and a complement that came out of a mistake I made.  In my extreme nervousness I fluffed a line, but I covered it and recovered deftly, and he pointed this out to the class.  In a teaching situation, remember that you will often get the most out of exploring the mistakes you make, so be willing to take a risk.  Great teachers inspire us to be well prepared, but they are happy to turn our mistakes into opportunities.

Be Ready When Your Chance Comes

The most important lesson I want to share from this experience, is the idea that, although we all spend a lot of time preparing for the worst, it's just as important to spend time preparing for the best!  This blog is about fitness, transformation, and freeing the authentic self to go out and do good things in the world.  We have to spend time getting ready for the moments when wonderful things show up in our lives.  Whether they have to do with work, romance, health, wealth, personal or spiritual growth.

My passion is understanding how we stay engaged with our fitness goals for life.  One of the main reasons we get and stay fit is so that we can be fit for opportunity.  So eat well, move well, and think well today, because tomorrow may bring adventure.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Economy Of Experience

Time to think beyond the state of my abs for a moment.

2008 was certainly a transformational year.  I discovered that my weight and waistline could go down- permanently, and the nation discovered that stocks, home values, but apparently not banks could go down. I googled around for some numbers on the size of the bank bailout.  Remember when congress approved $700 Billion?  Well, some estimates say that the total bailout package could go as high as 4 Trillion dollars.  Right now, I'm hearing Mike Myers as Dr. Evil saying "Four Trillion Dollars" in my head.  Pardon the understatement but gosh that's a lot of cash.  And the banks?  They survived, most of them, by just holding on to the money.  The economy?  It hasn't recovered because our economy is driven by consumption, and people without jobs, cash, or credit find it very difficult to consume.

So now what do we do?

Dear readers, we cannot consume our way out of our dilemma, we have to create our way out of it.  "Create you say?  How can we create our way out of this mess if there's no one to buy what we make?"  Simple, we shift from an economy of ever growing consumption to an Economy of Experience.

What is The Economy of Experience?

Years ago my world history teacher made a statement that went something like this:

"The grandfather is a soldier
so that the son can be a merchant
so that the grandson can be an artist."

We were taught that the whole purpose of technology was to give us the freedom and leisure time to develop our culture.

Now culture is the central world in my argument for an economy of experience.  The reason  our economy is moving back into recession is that nothing congress or the Fed does has been able to support and sustain its growth.  Culture is more than art and architecture, music and dress, language and entertainment.

Culture is Another Word for Growth 

I believe that the consumer economy has been driven by discontent ever since the advent of advertising, and especially since the arrival of television in our homes.  We were taught to compare ourselves to others, to their level of wealth, beauty, power, and happiness.  The images presented to us are always meant to look better than what we already possess, in order to urge us to want to have more.  Our economy found it's growth in our relentlesss pursuit of more goods and services that would make us happy, worthy, complete.  Now we've hit the wall.  There's no more room to consume like this.  The resources dwindle, there's no place left to store our excesses, whether in our homes, or in the landfills.

So what do we do?  Simply retreat from consumerism and live with less?  Won't that damage the economy even more?  Yes, that would be like driving another nail in the coffin, but there is another way.  There will always be an economy that is based on our need for food, clothing, and shelter, but I'm writing about a major expansion in our cultural economy.  How do we expand our cultural economy?

The Return of the Amateur

Recently I read an article in our local paper about how people used to flock to our little community to dance at the pavilion at Phoenix Lake.  Sometimes 3,000 people would drive in from San Francisco and even farther away to dance under the stars on a warm night.  Today, no one dances but the stars, or the pros, and everyone else seems to leave dance, behind even the little girls who started ballet class at age six,  by the time high school is over.  It's the same with singing, acting, painting.  When was the last time you made a clay pot?  High school I'll bet, if you even had the chance to take pottery then.

It's time for us all to think in terms of what we want to do with our lives, insead of what we want to have in them.  I envision an entire new economy of people who teach and lead and provide the experiences of culture to people who directly participate instead of simply looking on.  Of course we will always pay to see people who are great innovators in culture do their thing, and we will buy their creations.  But at the same time we will create experiences ourselves.

I have to close because it's time to go teach Zumba.  Maybe the move toward the economy of experience has already started.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pardon Me While I Contradict Myself

They say that pride goeth before a fall, but now I see that pride also goeth before a jump... on my bathroom scale.

How did I fool myself?  Let me count the ways.  Here are some past statements made by... oh yeah, that was me.

"I'm never working out again."
"Fitness should be recreational!"
"I can eat unlimited amounts of the right foods."
"I lost five pounds without breaking a sweat."
"This is Atkins, I don't have to track calories."
"Hey, why is everybody working so hard?"

And finally,

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

Wait, that wasn't me.  That was Ralph Waldo Emerson.

All this time, ever since I figured out that by putting right thinking, eating, and moving together I could change my body for the better, I thought that the fuel for my transformation would always be enthusiasm.  It didn't occur to me, or maybe I refused to believe that it would take so much... effort.

I should have known.  How many times have I choreographed or directed a young performer and thought, "How good she could be if she would just work a little bit instead of coasting on the talent she was born with."  Or, "If he was willing to take a risk and dig a little deeper we might get some subtext here."  I guess figure transformation is just like talent for anything else, you may have a gift, but without work you'll never get it open.

How many times have I said that acceptance was the key to transformation?  For too long I have been unwilling to accept  this bit of wisdom:

Fat loss is easy once you accept how hard it is.

I love going to the gym.  I really do.  I love the iron and the bars and the sweat, and yes the music and the mirror too.  There is a strong element of vanity in the way I feel about the gym, and that is a fault, but intend to mine my faults for gold and use them to show me how to change, as much as I can.  What I don't love so much is curtailing how much I eat.

Back when I was using the Venus Index workout, I got pretty judgmental at the end.  I told myself that the winners had cut calories too hard and worked too long.  What I didn't want to look at was the fact that I had turned away from what I wanted to achieve because I didn't want to work as hard as they had.

Maybe my expectations of myself are unreasonable now.  Perhaps I do want to be leaner only so that I can reflect the current ideal,  and grab whatever perks come along with that particular brand of triumph over biology.  I have to know if I can do it, what it feels like once I do, and I must answer this burning question:

When I get to my goal, will it all have been worth it?

Only then will I feel really free to call myself a coach.  Last year I wrote, "Leave the pain to the professionals."  That was before I became a professional trainer myself.  I still don't believe that pain is required, but effort, discipline, perseverance, and good old garden variety planning and organization are.

Its just like Jaquelyn Rodgers wrote in her book,  "You can quit smoking":

"You're going to have to grow up that last little bit."

Later, I'll write about what this commitment means from a practical point of view.  The eating, the exercise, the mentality that's needed.  Right now, I just know that I won't be eating any more almonds today.