You Won't Be Happier When You're Skinny

Is Weight Loss Distracting You From Real Life?

You Won't Be Happier When You're Skinny

Have you ever heard the term "managing expectations"? It's a big part of a personal trainer's job, since we are responsible, with our clients, for their ability to succeed at their goals. 

Managing expectations means coaching a woman to expect reasonable weight loss at a healthy rate, not 20 pounds before her sister's Caribbean wedding in 2 weeks (yes, this is an actual—and frequentrequest). I know she won't lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks, but if she expects to do so, she will be disappointed and blame herself (and, possibly, me) for failing to reach an impossible goal.

The New Rules Of Weight Loss

Managing expectations also means helping a woman to see that her life will still be her life, and her body will still be her body, and her relationships will still be her relationships, once she has lost that 20 pounds. I know she will be herself, only 20 pounds lighter, but if she expects that weight loss to revolutionize all aspects of her universe, she will be disappointed, discouraged, or even depressed when the new life she envisions doesn't materialize the morning her scale reflects that goal weight. 

Weight loss is a physical effect of stimuli to the body. It is not a rebirth. 

Got a weight loss goal? I'm here to help manage your expectations. The tough news is: you will not be happier when you lose the weight. If you hate yourself, you will still hate yourself when you are thin. If you feel insecure in your job, unloved in your relationship, shy in social situations, awkward in the bedroom, angry at your mother, unsure of your parenting skills, or filled with self-doubt in any other (or every) situation, weight loss will. not. help. you. Quite the opposite—weight loss may accentuate and exacerbate your feelings of self-doubt, depression, or anger.

Why You Need To Lose The "All Or Nothing" Mentality

Research shows a correlation between a successful weight loss, followed by a plateau, and increased symptoms of depression. Why?

1. Weight loss, especially when achieved through typical calorie slashing and an emphasis on cardiovascular exercise, causes a lowering of the body's metabolism, as well as a decrease in thyroid hormones (even with a loss of just 5-10% of previous body weight), leading to low energy levels and feelings of physical and emotional depression.

2. Unrealistic expectations (as discussed above) are not met by weight loss. Simply, when life doesn't change and the world still feels like a cold, hard place, it becomes necessary to accept the fact that other things—not so quickly resolved as a few poundsmight need to be changed in one's life and with one's relationships and self. 

3. Weight loss goals, particularly when set with emotion and whim instead of actual consideration about what is appropriate and achievable for one's body (such as "I want to weigh what I weighed when I ran track in university," or "I want to weigh less than my sister because she is taller than me," or "I want to be a size 4") are usually not met. If the goal is not met, the feeling of failure or desire to "give up" is emotionally degrading. If the goal is, in fact, met, the goal achiever usually finds she does not feel and/or look the way she thought she would (in other words, she does not look like a 21-year-old track star anymore, even at the same weight, or might fit a "size 4," but find her proportions are still her unique proportions, only smaller, and she does not look anything like the magazine "size 4" she imagined), the world can seem to come crashing down.

If being skinnier can't "fix" me, now what can I do? 

There are two possible answers to this question:

1. Try to get even skinnier (this is how anorexia begins, people).

2. Begin to separate health-minded goals about one's body from feelings of worth.

Realize—yes, even you, postmodern liberal womanyour desire to lose weight is not a simple mathematical or health-based goal. It is based on years of programming by media, society, and even our closest family members in some cases, to evaluate your SELF by your SIZE.

When you accept that your SELF and your SIZE are two completely separate, and in no way related, parts of being, you will finally be able to see the forest for the trees. Or the woman for the dress size. 

Then, and only then, will you be able to treat weight loss as a medical/health issue and pursue it reasonably. In other words, you will use smart and healthy solutions to remove excess body fat that is causing risk to your future and affecting your day-to-day life. You will accept and celebrate small progress, enjoy the benefits of weight loss, such as better sleep, reduced joint pain, clearer breathing, better energy, easier range of motion, and better endurance. You will lose weight in a manner that improves your physical outcomes and lengthens your life, and you will do so without consideration of what you weighed in university, or what dress size your favourite actress wears. You will have reasonable expectations, pursue them, and succeed.

When you learn to separate your SELF from your SIZE, you will stop viewing potential weight loss as solution to all of your problems. You will stop using an obsession with your size and shape to distract yourself from TRUE and REAL forms of self-improvement that will make you happier, calmer, more loving, and more loved. 

It is a long journey to self-acceptance. I am still working on it myself, and I speak with women every day who are at different stages of this journey. I don't know what it will feel like when I am there, but I can tell you that the first step lies in examining your expectations, understanding where they come from, and replacing them with realistic, healthy expectations that reflect YOUR individual values.

In other words, be as kind to yourself as I would be if we were discussing your goals, in private, together. Manage your own expectations and be honest with yourself about what you want, and why you want it. Then go and get it! 

When weighing yourself might do more harm than good.

Stop the cycle and boost body image in your daughter.

Be thankful and view yourself in a new light.


Get Arms Like Lupita

Arms? We Got You Covered. Oscar? You're On Your Own.

Get Arms Like Lupita

do you want arms like lupita

I am about to write a blog about Lupita Nyongo's arms, BUT . . . 

I would like to say—for the record—that her performance in 12 Years A Slave, and rare humility during her acceptance speech, should be the real focus of the publicity surrounding Lupita. Do you think for an instant it ever occurred to her on the night before the Oscars, as she worried and prepared and psyched herself up, that the press surrounding her potential win would be largely speculating about what exercises she might be doing to get those sleek arms?  
Anyway, to add to the ridiculous . . . 
Arms are one of our Belly Bootcamp clients' most requested "target" areas. The arm-obsessed have coveted celeb arms for ages, idolizing everyone from Madonna to Michelle Obama. But since Nyong'o is the obsession du jour . . . 
How do you get those Lupita arms? Well, it's more than just a few bicep curls. 
1. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and determine whether you are a candidate for Lupita arms. If you are lean and fit, but still have flab on the back of your arms that could disrupt air currents if you flagged a taxi, you may never have Lupita arms. If you are 35+, you may also begin to see a shift in the way your body stores fat from the typically "female"—boobs, butt, and thighs—to more, shall we say, well-rounded fat storage, including more on the tummy, back, and arms, than ever before. If you do not gain weight, you may not notice this shift as dramatically as a woman who steadily gains weight (or suddenly gains weight) in the 30s, 40s, or beyond. Hormones have a dramatic effect on fat storage, and changing hormone levels can cause fat to be redistributed, as explained above. A person's particular hormone levels can also affect where, specifically, she tends to store fat on her body, and the arms are generally associated with higher levels of estrogen. While you can most certainly decrease the level of fat on your body overall, some pockets will be extra resistant. This all comes back to the old "stop wishing you had someone else's body because it's never going to happen" response. 
2.  Cardio, cardio, cardio. Whether you're in your teens or your sixties, you are a woman (probably, or else you're a man who has a crush on Lupita Nyong'o) and you have arm fat. Try saying it out loud:
"I have arm fat."
It's okay. Women have fat on their limbs because, historically—and I mean 10,000 years ago "historically," not in the 50s "historically"—women had to do less activity than men and could easily store fat on the limbs, where there is PLENTY of room for fat. Men, on the other hand, had to run after mammoths all day and needed their limbs sleek and lean and their fat on their tummies where it wouldn't interfere with swinging their arms and legs and throwing a spear. So, to remove fat from the arms, you must remove it from the body in general. Cardio is the fastest way to torch extra calories. Aim for 30-60 minutes of jogging, cycling, spinning, swimming, power-walking, inline skating, or a fitness class 3-5 times per week. Try to include more than one of those options each week and use interval training once or twice per week.  
3. Diet. I won't go into it at length, since it's technically not my area, but you should follow a moderate diet with lots of lean protein (fish, chicken, lean meats, dairy, and legumes), complex carbohydrates mostly from whole vegetable and fruit sources, plus lots of water, to help your body shed the fat, which might be masking your arm muscles right now. Cutting calories does a body slim, BUT you must eat a well-rounded diet of real foods and get plenty of fluids in order to maximize your metabolism and keep up with the training you need to do to stay healthy and get those Lupita arms.
4.  What do you get when you put cardio + a restricted diet together? SKINNY FAT. You'll never get arms worthy of an Oscar dress without strength training.  The key is to train the entire body. You must perform resistance exercises for all the major muscles of the body—those on the legs, torso, and arms—at least 2-3 times per week to up your metabolism, prevent injury, and give that toned look you're hoping for. Since it is Lupita's arms that you covet, you can devote a few extra minutes to training the arms and shoulders. 
Here are a few exercises I do with clients, which, done together, will provide a very well-rounded shoulder and arm workout.
Hammer Curl: Choose a dumbbell (or full water bottle or anything you can grip) between 3-12 pounds. Stand with back and upper arms against wall and feet a few inches from the wall, with arms at sides and palms facing in. Inhale, then exhale as you curl the weights upward, toward your shoulders, without removing your upper arms from the wall. In other words, no swinging. Palms should stay facing inward, not upward. Repeat 8-20 times, depending on the weight you've chosen, to the point of fatigue.
Triceps Push Up: Stand in front of a staircase and place your hands, shoulder-width apart, on a stair. The higher the stair, the easier.  Keep elbows pinned back, brushing past your sides as you lower yourself toward the stair and inhale. Pause momentarily at the bottom of the push up and exhale as you press up until your arms are straight again. Do not let your elbows swing out to the side. Repeat 8-20 times to the point of fatigue. If you can comfortably perform 15-20 reps, move down a stair to increase the difficulty level.
Bent Over Flye: Choose a light dumbbell (or water bottle or can, etc.) between 3-8 pounds. Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Bend forward, maintaining a flat back with a natural arch at the lower spine (bum sticks back and up into the air). Allow arms to hang down naturally, but keep back flat. Inhale, then exhale as you raise weights out to the side, like wings, as high as possible and forming a T-shape with your torso and arms at the top of the movement. Pause and lower slowly. Repeat 8-20 times, depending on the weight you've chosen, to the point of fatigue.