Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Catherine's Transformation Tips

Tomorrow marks six weeks 'till my Zumba re-certification with Beto Perez, and it's time to get practical with two crucial tips for figure transformation.

First, if you haven't done a before picture and measurements, get on it!  No one has to see or know.  I've never done it myself, but I think you can take your own picture pretty well with a mirror and a cel phone camera.  The point isn't to get a great- or even good- picture.  The point is that you accept what you look like right now, and you have the courage to record it.  The before picture frees you to get in the gym, go to class, or just head to the garage if that's where you train saying,  "I believe that I can take what I see in that picture, and change it for the better."

The Before Picture is Physical Evidence of Your Belief in Yourself.

Second, decide how you're going to eat, and commit to that every day, and at every meal.  Here's how.  When I'm accelerating toward a specific body transformation goal, as I am now, I plan and record my daily menu in the morning.  Fitday.com and Sparkpeople.com have free trackers you can use.  Even if you don't want to decide your entire daily menu, you can use this commitment technique at every meal:

Prepare your meal, and fix your plate ( yes, I want you to eat all of your meals and snacks at a table) then Stop before you take your first bite.  Pause and commit to the amount of food you have chosen.  Make a promise to yourself that you will eat your meal, and then you will get up and do something else for at least 30 minutes.  If, after that time, you're not satisfied, your may eat something more that is within the boundaries you have set for yourself.  This does not mean you get to go back and eat a trigger food!

Here's how I want you to think about this technique.  We all know that good fitness training requires us to follow a plan in the gym.  I want you to think of your meals for the next six weeks as Nutrition Training.  You are literally training yourself to find and follow an eating plan that gets you to goal.  This is a period where you focus on great behavior, and you get the pleasure of seeing where it takes you.

Even if you forget to eat this way, or you have a sudden bout of stubbornness, I hope you don't but it could happen, you will get vital self- knowledge from this behavior.  Believe me, you can learn a lot from asking yourself why you eat outside the boundaries you set for yourself.  I have learned that my eating habits are an intricate dance between physical hunger, physiological hunger, and emotional hunger.  Triggers can be biological, emotional, or both, and the more you know about how you personally respond to food, the more likely you are to create your authentic ideal body.

So here are the two tips:

1. Take a Picture
2. Decide What and How Much You Will Eat Before Your First Bite.

This stuff works.  I mean it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Your Eating Plan: A Sacrifice, Or A Bargain?

The Lucky Seven Challenge started last Wednesday, but my mental negotiations over what I was going to eat started much earlier.  To create your authentic body, and to keep it, you have to find a way of eating that gets you to goal.  Then you have to adjust that way of eating to let in a little more pleasure and variety, without turning on your body's fat storage system.

Let's face it.  Some of us are a lot more gifted at storing fat than burning it.  If we could apply the energy conserving abilities of the average American female to our power grid, we'd never have a blackout in this country.  I like to look at the bright side though.  It is through our challenges and our apparent handicaps that we learn to strive, persist, and overcome resistance.  

Do I Feel Sorry For Myself Because I'm Not Naturally Slender?

You bet I do: some of the time.  Last Monday and Tuesday, I had some pretty bitter thoughts about what I was going to be giving up for the next seven weeks.  Wine, sugar, flour, chocolate, pasta, oh the list goes on, I won't trouble you with the rest of it.  Now, I admit that there is a significant portion of the fat burning population that is able to eat all foods in moderation and still get leaner.  These individuals, bless them, do get lean and stay lean through the miracle of portion control.  I'm not one of them.  Call me weak, childish, flawed, I just can't control myself after even a bite or two of my trigger foods.  When I want to burn fat and get lean, I eliminate them.  Here's the problem with that scenario:

Self Denial Leads Straight To Self Pity.

And where does self pity lead?  That's right- straight to the snack cupboard, or the refrigerator, or the drive through.  Denial, self pity, thoughts of how unfair it is that other people can eat what they like whenever they like, these bring out the spoiled child in me.  That spoiled chid throws fits, has tantrums, and she very often gets what she wants... except when she doesn't.  Do you now, or have you ever had, small children?  If you do, you know that it is highly challenging to negotiate with them in the heat of the moment.  You have to set the ground rules, for example,
"We don't ever buy anything in line at the checkout counter" before you even walk into the grocery store.

Is This A Sacrifice?

Indeed it is if you want to think of it that way.  Sacrifice, self- denial, long suffering- these are not pleasant concepts or feelings.  To succeed long term we have to replace them with something else.

Would you like to get leaner, stronger, more vital, happier?  How about achieving mastery over your impulsiveness when it comes to food?  Would you like to get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, "Yes, that's who I really am, and in this body, I have no fear of going out and serving my purpose in the world."

I Call That A Bargain: The Best I Ever Had.

So let's get practical with this concept.  Make your decisions, and your plan, before you get anywhere near a kitchen, restaurant, party, or grocery store.  Make the deal with your hungry inner- teenager.  Set the boundaries with the certainty that you are making a wonderful bargain with with yourself.  What will you eat for the next six and a half weeks, if like me, you're acting to get leaner?  Then establish non- food rewards for taking action.  I suggest rewarding what you do (sticking to your eating plan, doing your fitness routines) as opposed to what the scale says, by the way.  You can manage what you do better than you can manage what a scale will say, believe me.

I do need to address the lifestyle question.  I know that the goal is to find your "forever menu", but be aware that the eating plan that makes you leaner is going to be a bit different form the plan that keeps your weight the same.

This is what I'd like you to do.  Every time the impulse to eat outside the boundaries you've set comes up, remind yourself that sticking to your plan is a Bargain that promises wonderful rewards, not a Sacrifice that denies you fun and pleasure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Seven Week Body Lift- Day One

What does it take to make a real difference in your health and appearance in a specific period of time?  Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Time Bound: That's the SMART Goal formula, so how should we apply it to figure transformation?

In 2011, I kept stepping up to the plate to continue to improve my health and fitness, but I kept striking out when it came to losing the last ten pounds that still stand between my and my aspirational body.  All of the diet and fitness plans I tried did work- as long as I followed them.  I just couldn't seem to follow them long enough to get where I wanted to go.

What threw me off track?  Looking back the biggest barrier to my success was impatience.  I cut and restricted my food intake so sharply that I ended up seriously overeating again and again.  I tried to work out at such a high intensity that I ended up hurting my knee- sprinting on flat asphalt of all things.  Activity I would never recommend to a client brought me down.

Then I got an idea.  What if I followed the kind of plan that I could recommend with a clear conscience?  What if I dialed back the intensity, turned up my commitment, and resolved to mix a little patience and self acceptance into my plan?  Sounds like a good idea.

For the next seven weeks, I will stay within my points and follow the good health guidelines, (Yes, I'm doing Weight Watchers) avoid my trigger foods, and teach my three Zumba classes a week.  I will also add three resistance training sessions per week, including a total body warm up, and a total body stretch at the end.  I'll post those workouts here.

Last year, the "I want it yesterday, all or nothing" attitude didn't serve me very well.  Let's see if a more balanced approach will.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lucky Seven Fat Loss Countdown

Trainer: Shape Thyself 

I have to warm up the dance studio before I teach Zumba this morning, so I'll be somewhat brief.  I tell my coaching clients that the one thing all of the successful figure transformers I know have in common is:

The Reason Behind The Reason

In other words, when it comes to the permanent changes that are required to make fat loss last vanity is not enough, and good health, although it is a wise and noble goal, just isn't specific enough to help you when the chips are down.  Or when the chocolate chips are down for that matter.

What Do You Want That Permanent Fat Loss Will Help You Get?

I know what I want. I want to live, work, and create in the physical body that gives me the freedom and the energy to train, dance, play, and inspire my clients to the best of my ability.  But like Glinda in 'The Wizard of OZ', I know that I have to let you find your own reason in your own way.  I can tell you everything I've discovered on my transformation journey Dear Reader, but in order to find your reason, you have to take the Yellow Brick Road Yourself.

What's The Destination?

Today, my destination is Zumba training with founder Beto Perez in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 14th.  That's exactly seven weeks from tomorrow.  The pictures you see on the right?  Well, my sister gave me that cute blue fitness outfit for Christmas.  I told her, "Oh yes, it fits" that is if you don't count the tummy bulge and the roll at the waist.  I'd like to wear this outfit at the training, (we sweat so much I'll have to bring more than one) so the bulge and the roll need to go.  By the way, I'm not letting my tummy hang out in these pictures, really!  I do admit that in the afters I'll be sucking it in as hard as I can though.  I encourage you to take before and after pictures and do the same.  You have to give yourself every shot at feeling successful as you can.  Why?  Simple.

Success Is Motivation

So the countdown starts tomorrow, and the key to success in seven weeks is to creatively blend the four pillars of physical transformation:
Thinking, Eating, Allies, and Movement
in such a way that we never have to over-reach in one area and risk discouragement, unmanageable hunger, disappointment, or injury.

Tomrrow: Finding Goals That are Realistic Enough To Be Reachable and Exciting Enough to Be Powerful.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Beauty of Madame X

Here we see Sargeant's portrait of Virginie Gautreau that caused a scandal at the Paris Salon of 1884.  The history of the painting is fascinating in and of itself, but I want to write about the portrait from the point of view of the feminine figure, and its relationship to self esteem.

Why was this painting more scandalous than the nudes that were also shown at the exhibition?  Viewers reacted negatively to the haughtiness of the pose, and the shocking paleness of Madame Gautreu's skin, with she achieved with a lavender powder.  Also, in the original, the jeweled strap had fallen off of her  right shoulder.  That and the sheer size of the paining, ( I read that it is seven feet tall), gave it a kind of overwhelming sensuality that a significant number of the viewers objected to.

I have never seen the portrait in person, but my reaction, even to the photographs I have seen of it, is always one of profound admiration.  "Yes!" I exclaim inside when I see this image.  "That is what I mean by beauty!"  Years ago, I first heard the phrase, "Beauty is contrast", and The Portrait of Madame X is an excellent example of this claim.  Her white skin against the black dress, her body confidently turned toward us, while her face is turned deliberately away, and most strikingly from my point of view, the broad sweep of her glowing shoulders in contrast to her narrow waist which then flares into hips that many modern women would want to cardio right off.  What draws my eye the most though, is the curving strength of her right arm.  It reminds me of Adam's arm in Michelangelo's painting in the Sistene Chapel.  I don't want to be harsh, but consider the current state of Angelina Jolie's arms, and ask yourself if our slender fetish has gone to far.

In my work as a trainer and coach I always encourage my clients to find their own unique expression of the physical ideal they are after.  Our culture, media, and society have been severely limiting the definition of feminine beauty ever since the late sixties.  Something seemed to happen after the advent of television that has led to the promotion of a "status figure" that is almost impossibly lean.  I have to be careful not to allow my distrust of extreme thinness to become a prejudice that I hold.  Besides, some of my best friends are naturally slender.  No, what I am calling for is the broadest definition of beauty we can find.  First person accounts of Madame Gautreau's allure are just as likely to mention her physical grace as her striking appearance when trying to describe her glamour.  In other words it wasn't just about the way she looked, it was about how she moved.  Virginee was considered to be a professional beauty who was expected to represent the very hight of fashion wherever she appeared.  The third of the viewers who reacted so negatively at the Paris Salon of 1884 claimed that the portrait went to far, that it was vulgar.  I suggest that Viginiee was celebrating herself while giving the people what they said they wanted.  I think that her appearance was so powerful that it inevitably incited the kind of envy that brings out the sharpest, cruelest tongues.

What might Madame X say to you about your fitness journey?  If  you do believe that beauty is a desirable expression of health, at what point does your physical appearance, and your understandable pride in it, leave you open to criticism?  Plenty of people smile and say, "If you've got it flaunt it" but do they really mean it?  I do believe that so many women are turning away from the personal expression of their own beauty and style because they fear criticism.  Why in the world should "Skinny Girls" (sorry Bethenny) be the only one's who can strut their stuff without too much concern for the consequences?  Consider the loss to the economy when the majority of women are afraid to celebrate themselves with fashion.

Ever since my first post on this blog I've been asking myself, at what point does my quest for fat loss become a kind of slavish pandering to current fashion?  The truth is that the "X" shaped body that we see in this portrait has always been my ideal.  Perhaps it's time to stand up for it instead of struggling to make myself into an "H" instead.  It is time to make this a year of living honestly.  A time to eat well in terms of health and satisfaction, move joyfully whenever possible, and let the body that represents genuine physical well being reveal itself.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fat Loss: It's as Individual as You Are

What an odyssey this fat loss quest is becoming.  I seem to respond to the siren call of any new plan that promises rapid change.  I have learned over and over that rapid change requires a plan that fires on all cylinders as far as exercise, nutrition, and motivation are concerned.  That's all fine, but the mistake I have been making is that when a plan offers rapid change the techniques involved usually end up running counter to what has worked in my own experience and observation.

I still get seduced by the promise of almost immediate rewards if I can just be perfect for a brief period of time.  There is a part of me that just wants to hand over my will and check my instincts at the door so that I can get what I want.  Now.  Or tomorrow at the latest.

On Wednesday night I went to jazz class after a long hiatus, and one of the young women I used to dance with had lost what looked like at least 40 pounds.  She blogs about her transformation as well at:
www.healthyfitforlife.wordpress.com.  What astonished me when I read her post was that her thinking on fitness is so different than mine, but it has been equally effective.

It really made me stop and think.  The goal is to find your way of eating and moving over time.  Your way of getting to goal and staying there.  No one can think, eat, or move for you. Yes, it helps to learn new techniques and take direction, but you are the one who has to lift that barbell, or that fork.

This week, I started teaching Zumba again.  I have my very own classes now in studio space that I rent from a friend.  Last year I was trying so hard to figure out what the people who were attending my class wanted, that I forgot to use what I had learned in my training, relax, and have a good time.  What a difference.  How many times have I said that one of the main keys to maintenance is to find a way of moving that you truly enjoy?  I was so stressed about not training wrong and increasing my cortisol production, that I stopped having fun in my training: thereby increasing cortisol production, and my appetite for that matter.  Last year, while I was stretching after a resistance training session, it occurred to me that we trainers have to find a way to make exercise as fun as eating.

Now I admit, you may not be able to "Play" your way to less than 18% body fat if you're female, but there are thousands of trainers who could run circles around me when it comes to getting clients to fitness model levels of body fat anyway.

What if I finally started to listen to my own internal wisdom by integrating what I've learned from my A.C.E. and Zumba certifications, with my real life experience and observations?  What if I took a deep breath, and returned to an eating plan of real, healthy whole foods, with an occasional indulgence in treats that haven't triggered "eating out of bounds" in the past.  Ultimately, we all have to grow up that last little bit, and choose how we'll handle our health and fitness.

So let me ask you.  What has worked in the past?  At what point were you eating and moving in a way that made you feel great, and truly enhanced your life?  It is time to stand up for what I have learned on this odyssey.  I have to accept that my way won't be right for everyone, but if I don't stand up for my genuine convictions then my training won't be right for anyone.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The End of Overeating- In Action

Here is the "After"
that goes with the "Before" seen above.
Last June, I wrote a post on Dr. David Kessler's book, "The End of Overeating."  The link is below if you want to check it out.

I remember reading the reviews on Amazon before I bought the book, and they were extremely positive.  So much so, that the few negative reviews stuck out like a sore thumb.  The negative review that made me laugh in rueful agreement said that the answer to the question of how to stop overeating is simply to stop eating anything that tastes good.  Another disappointed review follows:

This book can be summarized in one sentence: 

"Tasty foods tend to make us eat too much, so stop eating delicious foods and you won't overeat."

The book's title promises too much in light of this unworkable "solution." 


Now I personally enjoyed Dr. Kessler's book, and I agree with him about the power of processed, highly manipulated foods to trigger overeating.  What these two negative reviews appear to be seeking is a workable solution to replace the unworkable one mentioned above.  Dr. Kessler advocates structure, planning, and exercise, but many people are bewildered as to how to implement a plan for getting away from the foods that trigger, "conditioned hyper eating" (Dr. Kessler's phrase).

Back in 2008, as I was starting my transformation journey, I ran across London personal trainer Dax 
Moy's Elimination Diet.  I did some research on it and I thought, "No way am I eliminating
 all these things 
I love from my diet.  I'd go crazy!"  It's nearly four years later, and those last ten pounds that stand 
between me and my dream body are still hanging around.  So now I'm doing his MAP 2012 plan, 
and it is 
intense and involved.  The link is:
 http://daxmoypersonaltrainingstudios.com/   (This is not an affiliate link.  
Dax offered the program to 
his e-mail list in order to test it's effectiveness in the real world.)

There is now a pretty big group of people who are giving up all of the processed, chemically altered,
stimulating foods you can think of.  The big ones for me?  All sweeteners, natural and artificial, caffeine
and sugar free gum.  I know, I know, it's not wine and chocolate, but Splenda and Trident have kept me 
sane for some time now, and now I have to feel the emotions that they were covering.  But that's a story 
for another post.

So there it is.  My latest plan to conquer the overeating demon for good.  If I can keep this up for the 
entire 30 day program, amazing changes will result.  At the very least, I will be astonished by what I can
actually do without.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Yes, You Can Escape The Fat Trap

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

The link above will take you to "The Fat Trap" article that appeared in the New York Times on Dec. 28th.  There has been a strong reaction on the internet, and even among my real live friends, to the article's exploration of the serious challenge that keeping lost fat lost can pose.  Does fat loss in and of itself awaken powerful hormonal impulses that urge the successful dieter to gain it all back?  According to a few small studies and a load of anecdotal evidence, yes, fat loss does prime the hormonal pump for regain.

What a number of readers may have missed alongside that article  was the story of the Bridges, a couple who successfully lost a substantial amount of fat, and who are keeping it off.  The Bridges' story was told in words and pictures that illustrated the level of commitment it takes in both fitness and nutrition to keep desired figure changes permanently.  They exercise a lot, and they are serious about tracking, recording, and being vigilant where food is concerned.  The underlying question is,

"If it's this hard to keep it off, is it worth it to burn fat off in the first place?"

If you can't guess which side of the argument I come down on, I'll tell you.

Yes, it is so very worth it.  Yes.

May I briefly tell you why?  Thank you.

The life you live in your authentic healthy body, and yes, you get to choose what that means for you, is a life of physical liberty.  By learning how to think, eat, and move in such a way that you are at peace in your own skin, you free yourself to create, work, serve, play, worship, rest, love, nurture, and just be in the way that is best for you.

 As Sting wrote, we are spirits in the material world, and our personal material is the physical body.  You know, I could be eating right now, but it's really hard to eat and blog at the same time.  The ideas I'm putting down may be little more than tiny trees falling in an empty forest with no one to hear them, but personal physical freedom is deeply important to me, so I write them anyway.  If at this moment I was still chowing down on holiday treats, I would not be here typing deep thoughts.

I also have a theory on why researchers believe that weight maintenance is so terribly hard.  Typically, not always, but most of the time, studies examine one aspect of fat loss.  It could be mindset, diet, exercise, social support, or stress management that is the subject of the day, and that's fine.

 But trying to maintain a figure transformation with one tool is like trying to play a symphony with one instrument.

The secret to permanent figure transformation is to find ways of moving, eating, thinking, relaxing, and playing that keep you within the right physical boundaries for good.  Here is how you turn the key to make it work for you:

Understand that from now on, much of the pleasure you used to get from "sport eating" is going to have to come from somewhere else.  I teach Zumba.  There may be other forms of exercise that would get me ripped quicker, but dancing to techno/hip/hop/salsa fusion music is fun for me.

More fun than eating sugar/flour/fat and salt?  Oh yes.

Finally, for the next 30 days I'm on Dax Moy's Elimination Diet/MAP plan, which cuts out all of the above.