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.