A few weeks ago there was quite a stink about a billboard advertising campaign that aimed to decrease child obesity by pasting billboard-sized photos of overweight children with harsh messages using words like "chubby" and "fat" to scare parents into action.
Yikes. It's hard enough to be an adult woman dealing with the pressure to look a certain way in our 21st century culture. I can't imagine being a child and seeing/hearing public affirmations that there is something "wrong" with you if you are not at a healthy body weight.
Oh wait. Yes I can. I mean, kids have been called "fat," "chunky," "chubby," "portly," "heavy," "big boned," and the like for a long time. I had my ugly duckling phase in late elementary school and grew a little bit horizontally before I grew vertically, if you know what I mean. Kids are harsh to one another. I experienced that harshness briefly. Many of us did, whether it was a matter of weight, height, ability, colour, religion, income level. God, I even remember—to this day—being made fun of because my running shoes were not cool enough.
As if schoolyard cruelty isn't enough, movies, TV, magazines and other pop culture images don't offer a variety of body images. They don't even offer a variety of HEALTHY body images. I'm all for modeling healthy images, in the family and in the media, but it should include a spectrum of body types. I don't think an anorexic woman strutting down a runway is any more in the public interest than a morbidly obese man hawking junk food on a late-night commercial. Anyone who believes these people and their body types are not chosen specifically for their marketing purposes is living in a magical fantasy world. What happened to the spectrum of healthy body image? Can't one feel good about herself and represented culturally whether she is a 5'2" 150-lb roller derby gal or a 5'11" 150-lb ballet dancer? *sigh*
I at least like to have faith that parents are reinforcing the beauty of diversity (while still emphasizing that there is danger and ill-health on both far ends of the spectrum). Home is supposed to be the island a child can come home to—the place of acceptance and solace they can retreat to when the big, cruel, judgemental world is just too much.
Then, this week, I read this article about a Vogue writer, Dara-Lynn Weiss, who wrote a "poor me, I struggle with the challenges of parenting and sometimes I make the wrong call" piece about her overweight daughter in the April 2012 Shape Issue of Vogue. She admitted to publicly shaming her daughter, arguing with her in front of other children as well as adults, friends and strangers alike, and even depriving her of an evening meal because she disapproved of her daytime consumption. Here's an excerpt:
I once reproachfully deprived Bea of her dinner after learning that her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate. I stopped letting her enjoy Pizza Fridays when she admitted to adding a corn salad as a side dish one week. I dressed down a Starbucks barista when he professed ignorance of the nutrition content of the kids' hot chocolate whose calories are listed as "120-210" on the menu board: Well, which is it? When he couldn't provide an answer, I dramatically grabbed the drink out of my daughter's hands, poured it into the garbage, and stormed out.
I cringe when I recall the many times I had it out with Bea over a snack given to her by a friend's parent or caregiver … rather than direct my irritation at the grown-up, I often derided Bea for not refusing the inappropriate snack. And there have been many awkward moments at parties, when Bea has wanted to eat, say, both cookies and cake, and I've engaged in a heated public discussion about why she can't.
Her daughter is 7 years old.
My first thought is, take this child away from this woman. She will be an anorexic, bulimic or otherwise compulsive woman one day. She will hate herself, hate her mother and never trust another human being. She will let men take advantage of her in order to feel loved and accepted. She will never know her true value.
Shame on you, Dara-Lynn Weiss. I can't believe of the 8 Daras in the entire world I have to share a name with, you're one of them.
Shame on you, Vogue. There is a place for everything. I don't believe in censorship. I do believe there is a venue for every inner thought and desire, if you are the type of person who needs to share every thought and desire. I do not think an admission of abusing an overweight 7-year-old belongs amid glossy spreads of underweight models. There is no way, ever, no matter what, if you were the last magazine on this earth and I was trapped in the airport waiting lounge from Hell, that I would ever pick up an issue of Vogue again.
Now, due to her controversial Vogue essary, Weiss has scored a book deal from Random House for a memoir tentatively titled "The Heavy."
And barf again.
I hope your daughter's sanity was worth it, lady.
A lot of my clients keep food journals for me, and we review them weekly (or more frequently, if needed) to strategize ways they can cut down on extras and eat more in alignment with their fitness goals.
I don't prescribe diets or tell them what to eat. That's what a dietitian or nutritionist is for. But I am in the business of women's fitness, and a large part of fitness involves the fuel that goes into the body you are trying to sculpt and strengthen. You can hit the gym and kick your own ass around the block five days each week, but if you are eating processed foods and/or overeating on a regular basis, you'll never see the results you deserve.
You deserve those results!
One of the biggest challenges I find my female clients have is how to eat lower-calorie and lower-carbohydrate in order to support their fitness and fat loss goals while still feeding their husbands and kids in a way that keeps everyone satisfied, healthy and not secretly ordering pizza after mommy goes to bed.
Chances are, hubby & kids don't want to sacrifice potatoes, rice, pasta and bread at dinner every night just because you went a little too crazy over the holidays and need to take off a few pounds before swimsuit season.
1. Prepare those healthy family meals that everyone loves, with lots of vegetables and salad on the side so you can round out your plate with plenty of lean meats and produce, and a smaller serving of the starch which is likely responsible for that muffin top you're fighting with lately. I'm not a low-carb freak, but few people ever went overboard on chicken breasts and broccoli...
2. Cut back on unnecessary extras—like starches and sugars—at lunch, when you are likely eating alone at home or at work! This is such a simple strategy and it TRULY works. In a recent email with a personal training client, I provided some of my go-to lunch solutions when I need to keep carbohydrates and calories in check (which is, let's face it, always in my line of work...):
1/3 package of extra firm tofu, stir fried with garlic, onion, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, mushroom, or greens of choice—use low-sodium soy & curry powder & chili or sriracha for some flavouring
2-3 egg omelette with light feta cheese & spinach, dried oregano. Serve with salsa
Canned soups that contain 4-8 g protein per serving, with salad or a bit of meat or dairy on the side
Spinach, arugula or greens of choice with ¼ avocado, 2 hard boiled eggs and veggies of choice—sprinkled with red wine vinegar & olive oil
¼ cup cooked quinoa tossed with arugula, tomato, cucumber, ¼ avocado—sprinkled with lemon juice & olive oil
Turkey Italian sausage or breakfast sausage fried with brussel sprouts (halved), kale or other greens, garlic, onion & coconut or olive oil
½ English muffin with sliced tomato, 2 scrambled eggs on top and sprinkled with light feta cheese
The point is not to torture yourself. These meals are filling, satisfying, nutritious and easy to prepare! I challenge you to eat any of these meals and still have room to snack through the afternoon. They will hold you until dinner time, keep you within your dietary and fitness goals, and help get you out of that turkey sandwich and tuna on salad drudgery. You know what I'm talking about...
Today, I missed breakfast. I was working at home, enjoying some time on my laptop to catch up because I had a rare morning free of clients. I drank six thousand cups of coffee and then it was time to go teach Belly Bootcamp! On my way home I contemplated swinging into the grocery store to pick up one of those pre-packaged dirty grocery store sushi rolls...spicy salmon, probably. I resisted. Then I came home & invented this instead...and stayed on track.
Spicy Salmon Lettuce Wrap (serves 1)
1. Combine fish, cucumber, onion, yogourt, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper.
2. Distribute among lettuce leaves.
3. Top with sriracha, if using.
Yum. I'm full. I recommend following with 47 cups of coffee.
Got a go-to figure-friendly meal? Do you try to balance your day's meals to reach your fitness goals?
This week we have been ravaged with viruses and infection in our house. It's honestly been a little turn-of-the-19th-century plague around here. Sweaty Baby came down with the flu on the weekend, then Sweaty Kid picked it up, then Sweaty Hubby. I spent 3 days trying to turn my head and hold my breath as I was relentlessly vomited upon, again...and again. I lost count somewhere around 15, I think. It was just a 24-hour kind of bug that made its rounds, and somehow I managed not to be infected, thank God!
Then Sweaty Baby developed a cough, fever, lethargy, sore throat. We finally took him to the clinic yesterday. Foot hand & mouth disease, they said. Then they called today: Oh, and—by the way—also strep throat.
If it weren't my job to teach our Belly Bootcamp classes 5-6 days per week I'm not sure I would have got in a single "official" workout this week. I have had a toddler hanging off of me, sleeping on me, vomiting on me... you get the picture. By the time 8 p.m. rolls around the last thing on my mind is going out in the dark for a jog. I'm ok with the dark thing. It's the jogging that's the problem. If I could jog in front of Iron Chef with a cup of tea and my jammies on, I'd be all over it. Can I also add, while laying in my bed with the blankets pulled up?
So what do you do when you really, legitimately cannot get in a structured workout?
My first tip is to R-E-L-A-X. Whatever you're going through that is keeping you from exercise, as long as it's relatively short-lived, can take priority for a few days. Maybe it should, if it is health or relationship related. Maybe it just has to, if it involves work or school. Whatever the issue, no one ever woke up 50 pounds heavier or suddenly developed diabetes because they missed the gym for a week.
Beyond that, here are a few general tips for just keeping yourself active while you can't squeeze in your usual run/DVD/class/training session:
Above all, where weight maintenance is concerned, my top tip is to be careful how you EAT when you are not able to be active. Some of us are stress eaters, others are stress starvers—I'm more the latter. This week I've had a bit too much coffee and missed a few meals with all the drama around here. When I have eaten I've shied away from junk and stuck with quick meals I can pull together that are light on calories and carbohydrates. If you're not doing as much exercise, you just don't need as much fuel. If a hectic day turns into a hectic week turns into a hectic fortnight (what is this, 1412?), you could stand the chance of gaining a pound or two from inactivity if you don't moderate your food accordingly. Plan your usual family treats, like Friday night pizza or Sunday brunch, but keep healthy snacks and easy meals on hand to resist last-minute temptations like the fast food drive-thru or the pastries at your morning coffee joint.
A few of my go-to quickie meals this week have been:
... you get the idea. Good luck!
Do you have a strategy for staying active and fit when you are unable to exercise as much as you'd like? Share it below! I'm always looking for great tips to share with clients and readers.