Guest post from Catherine Garceau
“If I could just recommit to regular exercise, get to sleep before 10pm every night, do the master cleanse for 10 days, and stop bingeing, I’d get my body back,” I thought again and again. But the more I aimed for perfection, the more I found myself plunging into a bag of M&Ms or Doritos (or both!). My dedicated weeks of “perfection” came back to haunt me every time, leading to humiliating binges, chronic fatigue, and depression.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, I hope you can find, as I did, a whole new way to approach weight loss and exercise. For me, this turn-around started when a naturopathic friend gave me a gift: a Qigong DVD. “Qigong…for weight loss?” my athletically obsessed and skeptic mind chattered. But at that point, I was desperate and willing to try anything. So I began the daily practice of this Qigong (wuyijiehe.com). And to my surprise, little by little, my days became more peaceful and my body calmer. Qigong started to fill me with increased energy from within. Still I wondered: Could I ever get my strong and toned body again? And was it even necessary? I decided I’d only commit if I could do so without imposing harsh and regimented training routines on myself. I flew out into the cosmos my intention to find a ‘whole new way’ of experiencing weight loss, exercise and healing.
Gradually I lost weight as I accepted and embraced my body’s needs for rest, balanced nutrition, and a spiritual foundation of faith. Above all, I followed a ‘no rushing‘ rule—I was in this for the long-term– no more quick-fix.
Synchronicities kept showing me the way. For instance, I’d think of a question I had about one aspect of digestion, and ‘poof’ someone would hand me a book addressing this very issue. I’d follow my love for dolphins and ‘poof’ be offered a job to perform as a Mermaid in Vegas. Just short of one year later, after I had decided to move back with my family to rebuild my life and career, my mother kept telling me about a nearby phys-ed teacher who was attracting up to eighty women per night to dance it up in a neighborhood school gym. Never would I have guessed that Zumba Fitness would be this ‘whole new way’ of exercise for me… but that day, after one hour of Latin inspired aerobics, I came home smiling, sweaty, energized and full of hope!
And just as Qigong had become my body-mind practice to foster deep energy generation and rejuvenation, Zumba classes became my time to forget about my worries, loosen up, and have fun. What was most transformative for me wasn’t the great sweat and cardio I got out of each class, but most importantly, I learned to exercise without the cruel energy of punishment featured by my Olympic training workouts in the past.
Even Dr. Daniel Amen, whom I interviewed for my Wellness Olympiad expert library, confirmed the benefits I was getting out of Zumba: “Few activities stimulate as wide a variety of brain systems as dancing does,” says Dr. Amen. And he was right! Much more than weight loss and toning, my organizational skills got better, my memory improved, my body felt lighter and I refound my zest for life! Everything I had studied for so long and seen manifest in others became my reality too.
Now, in addition to coaching privately and teaching 360 Degrees Of Nourishment, a 6-week course I teach online, I now teach both Qigong and Zumba in my local community. This is all great practice for an exciting future ahead, involving dancing and public speaking.
My greatest hope is that YOU find YOUR ‘whole new way’ to exercise and LOVE your body. Five keys to help you:
Please visit www.wellnessolympiad.com/free for some of the freebies I now offer. Also, look out for my book, Heart of Bronze. Until then, keep it light!
Olympic Bronze Medalist,
Founder of the Wellness Olympiad
Kymberly: Research now proves that exercisers are happier. Did you know that similar to exercise, laughter activates the pleasure pathways of the brain? Laughter acts a lot like a cardio workout, as they both enhance the immune system, increase longevity, help the heart, and build the lungs. Laughter also breaks up facial muscle tension. As well, according to Dr. William Sears in his book, Prime-Time Health, optimists outlive pessimists.
K: Brain hormone Fit Fact — The stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine actually decrease during and following laughter. Guess what other times stress hormone levels drop? Yup, post exercise. Coincidence or brilliance built into our bodies?
A: Whether I exercise OR laugh, there is definitely a LOT of brilliance built into my body. Actually, there’s so much, I think I got Kymberly’s share. Coincidence? I think not!
K: Can you imagine the double whammy benefit of combining a workout with a laugh or two? Laugh stat — children laugh an average of more than 400 times a day. Adults have toned that down to logging about one dozen laughs daily. Except the adults who tweet with @AlexandraFunFit, of course! They laugh more.
A: Oh, crap! Those are adults I’ve been tweeting with? Now you tell me. I might have to adjust my maturity level. Or my exercise routine.
K: So to increase both your fitness level and overall happiness, include humor in your daily exercise plan. Or find people to work out with who crack you up.
A: Can I just do 200 push-ups and laugh once on the way down (from feeling so buff) and once on the way up (because I can’t actually get back up from a push-up 200 times – my body is brilliant, not bionic!)?
Happy Readers: What’s your favorite fun exercise routine? Family-friendly answers only please (okay, it’s actually up to you).
Photo credits: Creative Commons
Guest post by Shannon Hammer
I came by my extra 100 pounds honestly—too much bad food and too little exercise. Early in my life, I’d developed a “diet/binge” pattern, meaning I’d go on the latest fad diet until I couldn’t stand it anymore and then break out in a binge, consuming every “forbidden” high-fat, high-calorie, and just-plain-bad-for-you food as quickly as possible. In addition, I got no exercise whatsoever. I sat in front of a computer by day and then in front of the TV at night.
After I saw that photo, I started doing two simple things that literally changed my life: I started writing down my food and I began exercising. Keeping a food journal empowered me to plan healthy, balanced meals and curb impulsive eating. I stopped eating the food I was addicted to—mainly sugar and flour—and started eating healthy protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables.
At 230 pounds, my ankles hurt when I walked across my small apartment so I needed to find an activity that I (1) liked and (2) could do safely. Walking turned into my perfect exercise. Every day after work, I’d put on my headphones, turn up my favorite music, and head out the door. At first I could walk for 20 minutes before I had to head home, sweaty and exhausted. Before long, my legs grew stronger and I could walk longer and faster. After awhile I added ankle weights to make my daily walks more challenging. The weight started coming off, I had more energy, and I just felt overall happier.
I also got bored. Walking—even with ankle weights and fun music—just got too easy. I needed more of a challenge. The problem was I didn’t have the time, money, or confidence to join a gym. The perfect solution turned out to be exercise videos. They were affordable—I could even rent them at my local video store—as well as being private and fun. Videos allowed me to fit exercise into my schedule, stay motivated by providing a wide selection of workout types and levels, and create a balanced routine that incorporated strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular benefits. In addition, I was able to customize workouts to fit my needs; I could fast-forward or rewind through sections (to add extra cardio or abdominal work, for example), do a partial workout if I ran out of time, and multi-task by washing clothes or running the dishwasher while I exercised.
By keeping a food journal and exercising five to six days a week, over a three-year period, I lost over 100 pounds. In 2004 I felt comfortable enough to join a gym, where I still work out six days a week, participating in group classes and lifting weights. Last year I realized I needed to focus more on flexibility, so I added yoga to my routine—the kind of yoga that’s done in a 105-degree studio!
Even though I’ve been maintaining my weight loss for almost eight years, I still write down my food every day. It helps me maintain my weight loss and keeps me accountable so I don’t slip back into old patterns. Several years ago, I got tired of writing down my food in notebooks and Post-It Notes. I wanted a journal that would allow me keep my food plan in one place and also provide daily inspirations to keep me motivated. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it—the book I wanted didn’t exist. So I figured I’d write it! That book became The Positive Portions Food & Fitness Journal, which was published in 2009.
My life has so completely transformed since that awful January day ten years ago. I now wear a size six instead of a size twenty-four. I went back to college and earned my Bachelor’s Degree, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. I work at a job I love. In 2007 I married the man of my dreams (who’s never seen me fat but he has seen the pictures). I never dreamed my life could be this good.
Adored Readers who are Overweight, Underweight, On-Targetweight: Shannon would love to hear from you and have you visit her site. If you are in Redondo Beach, join her for a workout!
More about Shannon:
Location: Redondo Beach, CA
Occupation: Editor in chief of seven national magazines for a global automotive brand and author of The Positive Portions Food & Fitness Journal (Fairview Press)
Current weight: 123—125 lbs.
Height: 5’5 1/2
Highest weight ever: 230 lbs.
Last date at this highest weight: 2001
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
This blog is mine, all mine. (Insert maniacal laughter here) as A-twin is off on vacation. She’s probably upping her serotonin and dopamine levels, which is a brain balancing good thing! So you all get to hear about my fave topic these days (ok, my “obsession”) –– how can we achieve the healthiest brain possible?
That’s enough sitting and reading for now, eh? Time to get a move on. She’s a brainiac, brainiac, on the floor, and she’s dancing like she’s never danced before!
For the record, the rumors of twins being half-wits are not true! I got all the brains! Alexandra got the
looks, personality, inheritance, sympathy cards.
Readers: What would you do to get smarter with age and be the most intelligent 100 year old around?
Brain Graphic courtesy of the talented Heather Frey, aka SmashFit, a fitness pro par excellence AND a graphic designer! Did I mention that exercise also increases creativity?
Guest post from Suzanne Andrews
I developed bursitis in my hips creating an inflammation so severe that I couldn’t walk without flinching. I suffered through two miscarriages and eventual gall bladder surgery. My condition had gotten so severe I couldn’t even play with my newborn without becoming winded. Exercise was out of the question. I could barely see my toes; being able to touch them was a fantasy.
Every day was another dose of my harsh reality. Commuting to work on the bus was a humiliating experience, as I had to endure the cruel snickers when I couldn’t fit into the seat. My wake-up call came two years later, at my son’s birthday party. When I saw the videotape of the celebration, I didn’t even recognize myself. Staring me in the face, right there on the screen was the reason my hips and back ached so terribly. I had enough. It was time for a change.
A guest panelist and psychologist on the CBS Geraldo show where I worked, told me meditation could help. I was skeptical, but desperate to try anything that would make me feel whole again. I needed to be there for my son. At first I didn’t understand how a sedentary activity like meditation could help me to lose weight. It was not long before I discovered the secret—during meditation your mind is the CEO and your body the dutiful employee. You tell your body what it needs to do and it follows suit.
The ritual of meditation was the spark that jump-started my weight loss plan. I felt energized to exercise daily, choose healthier options and control my portion sizes. The meditation motivated me in ways I never thought imaginable, helping me lose the excuses and get on the track to better health. I started with gentle yoga combined with low impact exercises, which not only helped me to start shedding pounds, but also made my day-to-day tasks more manageable.
Meditation saved my life and prevented my son from becoming motherless at 10 years old. I credit my success to the incorporation of mind, body and spirit that meditation encourages. The same breathing techniques that controlled my appetite and regulated my stress also helped encourage me to exercise enough to develop my lungs and give them power. It was those same healthy, powerful lungs that delivered me from the brink of death when a medical miscalculation caused my heart to stop on an operating table. As doctors frantically fought to revive my lifeless body with CPR, my body started to shut down, turning my lips, hands and feet a chilling blue. Near death, I was transported by ambulance to the intensive care unit. My body was on the verge of giving up. My kidneys shut down and my veins constricted so tightly that doctors could not administer a lifesaving intravenous line.
My body and my spirit were determined to live. I would not die; I would live; I would see my son again. I started to meditate. After five minutes of willing myself to survive and using my meditation skills, my body started its journey back from the edge. My kidneys started functioning again. My pulse strengthened and my veins opened up. Later, my cardiologist would proclaim in amazement, “I’m an Indian doctor and my patient is teaching me how great meditation is!”
After that near death experience, I had a renewed sense of purpose: motivate others and help those struggling with weight find their purpose. My weight could have been a death sentence, but meditation and determination were my pardon. I went from being introverted and soft spoken to a confident, capable and dynamic woman ready to embrace life.
Dear Readers: Join 45 million in the PBS family and catch Suzanne in action on her PBS tv show, Functional Fitness. If her show does not air in your area, get bizzzeeee and email and request that they broadcast the show where you can work out with her. To learn more about Suzanne’s program, Functional Fitness; to work out with doctor-recommended DVDs; and to see a free preview go to www.healthwiseexercise.com
She says you are also welcome to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. How friendly is that from a tv star?
Alexandra: Well Debbie, you have hit (or kicked) upon a topic that is getting lots of attention lately, mostly because of the 5-finger shoes! (And I don’t get why they’re called 5 “fingers” when they go on your toes. Unless they think calling them “5-toe shoes” makes us comparable to sloths)
When I first started teaching aerobics, we all wore running shoes (and leg warmers) because that’s all there was. And we all got shinsplints (and bad 80s hair). So naturally we blamed them on the running shoes, never realizing that the cement floors might have been part of the problem.
Now, after many years espousing cardio shoes for cardio, and cross-trainers for cross training, biomechanists and podiatrists are saying it’s more important to match the shoes to your foot style than to the exercise. Some of them also say that our feet have gotten lazy from shoes that do too much for us! Better our feet should be happy:
Kymberly: The current thought is that most exercise shoes are over-engineered and that people are relying too much on the shoe and not allowing their feet and sensory receptors to do what they are designed to do. Sometimes injuries come when we finally ask our feet to do their own work. If the movement patterns or biomechanics are off, a different, better, worse, or no shoe can throw the body into pain. Personally I’d look first at Jan’s movement patterns and see if her biomechanics are exacerbating the tendon problem. Then I’d get the footwear and nagging in place to address that.
And, I still suggest a workout shoe for workouts, though with as few bells and whistles as possible. Alexandra wrote an extensive article about choosing the right (or no) shoe, which you’ll find helpful (if you like research and all that).
A: When Jan is all healed up and ready once again to kick it up a notch , have her read this 10-step program for suggestions about easing into her new lightweight shoes. Get it? Ten steps? That’s just how we roll! Or run. Okay, walk slowly…more like a mosey or meander really.
Dear readers: What has been your experience with lightweight, flexible or “barefoot” shoes? And do you have an urge to put on some toe socks?
Photo Credits: Creative Commons – Chris Happel, Morag Casey, Le Melody
Guest post by Toneka Pires
Until my mid-twenties, I listened to negative voices that told me I was fat and ugly; I believed I was not worthy. While some of those negative voices came from well-meaning family and friends, many came from my own heart. I didn’t think I could achieve much of anything; I didn’t believe that I deserved to try to achieve more; I didn’t believe that I was a beautiful human being at all. I simply did what others thought I ought to and managed to stay on a course of misery and mediocrity. This was my normal: avoiding thinking too much about who I was, not setting goals for myself, not loving myself nor desiring for more in my life and my well-being. I internalized these negative voices and allowed my self-esteem to plummet.
In 2001, some small piece of me had enough. I took a couple of simple steps; I began to lose a few pounds and channeled the disparaging voices into positive fuel for me to change my life. I set the goal of entering my first fitness show at the end of 2002, not knowing that I would be derailed even before I got on that stage. Two weeks before my first show, a drunk driver hit me. I found myself in the hospital, bedridden and immobile for months, facing more months of physical therapy, wanting to crumble into depression and self-loathing because this body was broken and ugly once again. An entire year of hard work and progress had been taken away from me. I wanted to give up. I did not have the strength to begin this process all over again. A year of progress had been wasted by someone else’s poor and wasted judgment. However I had learned a year of life lessons. Two other peoples’ lives had been lost in that accident, but I realized that I had my life and I held it in my own hands; I could do anything I wanted to with it. I had a second chance to get my life right.
After therapy concluded, I began to truly transform my physique, losing almost twenty-five pounds and gaining in every other aspect of my life. At every crossroad, when I achieved a goal or lost another pound, I found that my determination grew, my focus intensified, and my energy blossomed. I began to look inside myself and saw increasing amounts of self-esteem, love and healing.
Not every day was fueled by a positive cycle. The negative voices that I was able to shut out were not truly silent: you are too curvy; you are not tough enough; you are not pretty enough, you will never have what it takes to make it. In fact, I realized that the higher you climb and the more public accolades you achieve, the more direct people will be in expressing their desire to tear you down. I learned to use others’ negativity to fuel my fire. Over the next six years I faced these challenges, embracing the wellness that my bodily transformation was creating. There were times when I worked so hard I forgot to look to see what I was accomplishing. Sometimes I stopped being mindful of my self-worth and the goals I had already achieved. I didn’t always take ownership of my successes but was quick to own my failures. To this day I have to acknowledge and be aware of what I have accomplished: winning thirteen fitness championships, establishing a successful company, co-authoring my first book, mentoring and tutoring children who are less fortunate (than I), and giving back to the world by actively supporting charities.
Following a path without mindfulness is not a path to success. I believe that we all deserve more. More challenges, more passion, more movement. Enthusiasm, progress, and the embrace of total wellness did not only change my life. They are my life.
My hope for you is that you can embrace obstacles with ease and learn from them; build strength through experience; and know that your defeats provide the seeds of great accomplishments.
Toneka Pires, Los Angeles, CA
Motivated readers: Hie thee hence to Toneka’s websites. Get fitness, competition, and nutritional info at http://www.bwellfit.com/ Check out more about Toneka, who is genuinely one of the most positive, loving people we’ve met: http://www.tonekapires.com/ She has even invited you to email her at email@example.com.
It doesn’t really matter (okay, it does a bit) if you look like this:
It does matter if you look like this, as this will put you off your appetite for hot dogs and hamburgers:
What’s important is your health, right? Not what you wear:
or what you do to stay cool on the 4th
So in honor of July 4th and all it stands for, let your Freak Flag fly:
And let your rockets red glare.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…and a Healthy Body.
Happy July Fourth: Stay safe. Stay Healthy. Love all thy neighbors – they want love and good health too!
Photo credits: Creative Commons – BrianBPhoto, ginnerobot, snigl3t, yowza yowza yowza, brianinsanfran, jonpon3, Patrick Griffiths, angelia, The Granger Collection.