What’s in a number?

As I sit here trying to get my first meal of the day down (it’s 10 a.m. and was a long night) I am full of certain wonderings….

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and the fact that I have been forced to slow down has only made that worse. My health has taken a bit of a hit, but that’s not the point of this particular post.

What I have noticed is an extreme fascination with numbers. People who contact me are on a quest for a certain number. It is ALWAYS the scale…..and once I bring up the fact that the scale weight can actually be a bit subjective (you’d be hard pressed to find 2 scales that actually gave the same weight), most women will change the scale number to a clothing size number. Insert eye roll.

Did you know that there is no longer a discernible sizing system? True story. My own closet is full of different sizes and none of them tell me a lick about who I am as a person. You see, the size of the garment depends on who the designer is selling to AND where the garment will be sold. So it’s not your body that determines the size, but rather the designer, store and ultimately consumer. Before you get down on designers, I beg you to put several of the same size women in a lineup…..no 2 will look the same. And that goes for weight as well.

women and weight

Now, I totally get it if you are hefting around 100 extra pounds and feel the NEED to drop some just to be healthy. I have been there! And you’ll get it, just don’t stop moving :)

No, this is more for those obsessed with taking off some poundage. I mean, I have met more women who voice concerns over weight than women who are concerned if they are raising their children to survive in the world….no lie. Women who think if they could just reach that goal weight that life will somehow be magically delicious, to quote a popular leprechaun. Women who are so busy bouncing to the next thing that they don’t realize what they are missing right now. This is a disease of the mind that has to stop.

If my weight can differ by 2-4 pounds on any given scale, then what is it anyway? Is there even a need for weight? Well, certainly. I was weighed yesterday and I’m glad they did. It makes prescribing medications much easier. PLUS. if there is a large spike OR drop in weight it can indicate an illness. On a side note: a sudden drop in weight is almost always worse in the health department. The saddest thing is I also know women who are actually envious of others who have dropped massive amounts of weight due to illness. A diseased mind knows no bounds….

Am I telling you to give up on reaching your elusive weight loss goals?

Well, yes….and no.

There is a better way to see progress. SO, if you can hang with me for just a moment more, I’m giving you the top tips to tracking progress :) and some freebies at the end (WOOHOO!)

  1. Set a physical goal that has nothing to do with numbers. Don’t say you want to lose 20 pounds because then every upscale will send you into a pit. Instead, set some physical goals that have nothing to do with numbers (including lifting!). Stuck doing “girlie” pushups all the time? Aim to do your pushups with great form on your toes, then reverse engineer your way to that goal. You can do the same thing with pull ups, running, squats, lunges, cardio training, etc. Maybe there is an advanced class at your gym you want to try, but realize you could get injured in your current state. Make a plan to increase strength and cardiovascular efficiency. The same can be done for mud runs and adventure races. The options for non-scale goals are truly endless, so pick one.
  2. Take pictures, not measurements. I stopped doing weight and body fat this year. I’m still weaning some clients off of it, but the 2 can both be very subjective to your stress levels as well as water and salt intake. So, I prefer to use tape for clients and I truly encourage everybody to take pictures. I know this can seem like a horrifying suggestion. Even I struggled during my contest prep and that was the leanest I had been in a while. I promise, you will start to see the changes before you even move the scale or have baggy clothes. I use a photo collage app on my phone to place pictures side by side so I can actually see changes…..and I love it! I do this with clients as well and send them the collage while pointing out what I see. It works! And pictures are more honest than a scale will ever be. Try to get your pic in the same place, same lighting, and same clothes each time. How often? Once per month should do it ;) Consider enlisting a trainer (I do this with ALL online clients since I don’t see them very often) to help you out and take a peek at your pics.
  3. Aim to change ONE thing about your nutrition per week. We tend to be all or nothing when trying to reach a goal. The problem with this approach is it is more shocking to our system than anything else. And systems don’t like to be shocked. So, instead of throwing everything out and dieting down the hard way, make one nutrition change per week. This has been shown to help you KEEP those changes for life. I usually have everybody start with water. Then, most of my girls are told to focus on getting protein in since we tend to dig the carbs. Then, we start a food journal and pay attention to what we’re eating. After that, we can start to eliminate what doesn’t serve us and make healthier choices more naturally.

See? All 3 of these things will help you get to your goal without ever having to step on a scale outside of the doctor’s office.

Now, here are a few of my PERSONAL tips for fat loss (especially during the holidays). Take what you like, leave the rest :)

  1. Stop snacking. I know this seems crazy BUT I am totally starting to notice that more and more people are struggling to lose weight (I mean, it’s hard, but it seems like it’s gotten harder). We can trace a lot of this back to the snacking sensation that started heavily in the early 80′s. Your metabolism does NOT burn hotter if you keep eating. Contrary to popular opinion, science doesn’t back this one up. So, set your meal times and enjoy them. Three per day with a post-workout snack has been shown to suffice AND you don’t feel deprived.
  2. Consider closing your eating window. I too am a reforming snack-a-holic (we meet around the clock by the chocolate) and I have had to retrain my brain and body about fuel. One thing that helps is a smaller eating window (referred to as intermittent fasting). I choose to eat for about 8 hours per day and pack my 3 meals into that time. The meals are larger and more satisfying than scrawny snack meals. It’s not for everybody, so check into it first.
  3. Make your workouts count. Don’t be an all or nothing, 2 hours a day in the gym person. This time of year that is just piling unrealistic expectations on yourself and you don’t need any more of those. Opt for circuit training and full body workouts that are about 30 minutes in length. If you were a part of the Slimmer Summer challenge, those circuits are PERFECT for the busy holidays! You can also try YouTube for some ideas or check out some of the streaming workouts offered by Beach Body and the Daily Burn.
  4. Get some sleep. Cortisol levels can get way out of whack this time of year, so commit to a bed time and aim for 7-9 hours per night.
  5. Plan down time. You need a hobby that doesn’t tear you down. Try a new yoga class, have coffee with the girls, check out a book store, take a walk, meander through the mall, etc. Whatever YOU find rejuvenating, plan it into this month.

Have a very Happy Holiday season and I’ll be seeing you with some Christmas cheer very soon!

Michelle

Summertime woes: A realistic look at swimsuit season

It’s June 16th here and if you live anywhere in southeast Texas, then you are probably hunkered down with your bottled water awaiting the ominous sounding Tropical Storm BILL….just the name inflicts fear. ;)

More fearful than any tropical storm is swimsuit season. I think I can speak for us all here right? There are just so many things that can go wrong…

I had my very own little run in with swimsuits a couple of weeks ago. You see, I can’t swim….I’m more of a sink or float kinda gal. Meaning when in a pool of water I usually end up close to the wall canoodling with my hubby :) totally acceptable behavior.

Anyways, I decided that this summer I should branch out. I mean, I just got onstage in the world’s tiniest bikini and was judged for goodness sake! I think I can learn to swim a few laps for sport. So, on we went to Academy to get a slightly larger and much more supportive suit….

Into the lion’s den:

It started off rather innocent enough. I walked in feeling full of confidence and eager to get this party started. I grabbed several suits in several sizes (cause you just don’t know with those things) and catwalked my way to the unisex dressing rooms…because we girls can have secrets no longer. I got the first suit on with a great struggle and looked in the mirror. Not good. Like, really not good. I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that I had just competed. I then promptly wondered what the heck I had been eating. It seemed like whatever wasn’t firmly encapsulated in the suit spilled elsewhere in the most unflattering fashion imaginable…..sort of like sausage which was busting out of its casing. With much effort, I removed the suit, though I did worry I might have to call in assistance. I picked up a larger size in bright red…side note: that’s a LOT of red no matter what your actual size. Though this one was a little easier to put on and the spillage seemed slightly more contained, I still began to question my training and nutrition. I didn’t bother with the third suit and I marched out to put those demons back in the cavern from whence they come, otherwise known as the swimsuit rack. I then perused the bikinis only to decide my fragile ego couldn’t handle that right now.

For the next couple of weeks (weeks, people) I struggled. It felt like my workout pants were tighter (um, they’re spandex). I got sick and had to go to the doctor where the nurse weighed me and I didn’t appreciate the number she wrote down (you’d think we gals could help each other out). I then had to go through old videos where all I could think about was how thin I was and that all my clothes fit then….

Here’s the catch: I work to empower women to forget the scale. I strive to have more women comfortable in their own skin. I love the variety of bodies on the beach and want others to focus on progress, not perfection. So what the heck????

There are many things that can go wrong while swimsuit shopping. Do any of these bring back horrid memories of yesteryear?

  • Swimsuit sizing if really weird! I think if I wear a medium in workout tights then I should wear a medium in swim bottoms. Is this too much to ask??!?!?!? When going through sizes, I always feel as though I have stumbled into the toddlers department and nobody was kind enough to point me to the correct place.
  • Lighting: really people? It seems as though the ONLY lighting available in these places is the large spotlight used for interrogations…..”Did you really log ALL of your food this week?” “Yes, I swear! I’m not guilty!!!!!” The higher end stores splurge on slightly softer lighting which makes me spend more money. I await a swimsuit dressing room lit in carefully placed tea lights and playing smooth jazz to mellow my fear.
  • You have to keep your underwear on while you try on swimsuits. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great rule, BUT it also added like 10 inches of fabric to my hips (OK< maybe not, but it feels like it).
  • Cellulite LOVES swimsuit shopping. You may not even see it in your shorts that morning, but by the time you pull on the plastic lined bottoms you can rest assured it will rear it’s dimpled head.
  • There seems to only be 2 (maybe 3) options when shopping: barely there skimpy OR old lady afraid of sunburn. The possible 3rd is the “fat displacing” ones that really do nothing other than squeeze body fat into even weirder places.

It’s a wonder any of us get out of the dressing room! The attendant smiles sweetly and asks “Did everything work out?” while I stand there with 23 different suits and tears in my eyes….I muster enough courage to smile back and say “Yes.” Like, duh, I like to keep at least 10 different sizes on hand!

To make matters worse, women are held to different standards than men. The men in my life don’t fret over whether or not their abs are flat in their long trunks….they really just want to make sure the trunks are big enough to allow movement and eating. Who eats in a swimsuit?!?!?!? If I ever get in it I certainly don’t want people to see me eating. That might make me relax my abs, which is one of the unforgivable sins. Guys swimwear sends a totally different message! It says “You’re cool man. Captain America trunks make the ladies believe that under that beer gut you actually look like Captain America”. Meanwhile, we slather on firming creams and practice rolling in and out of chairs so visible stomach flab won’t show :/

How do we make it better? Well, first off, we MUST adhere to the truth that we are all a work in progress. Progress denotes change….we are therefore, ever-changing. There is no such thing as the perfect body and I believe variety is a good thing. The second thing to remember is that body fat is normal and to be expected. Now, how much depends on lifestyle choices. There are a lot of lean people, but the only ones who are fat-free suffer from serious medical issues. So be thankful for your health.

I will be embarking upon a swimsuit shopping extravaganza soon and I have a plan that I think may just work. First, I am enlisting my besties to go with me. This sort of thing is better enjoyed in a group. Second, a good lunch with a couple of glasses of wine will be enjoyed beforehand as swimsuit shopping sober should be reserved for the youngsters who have yet to mature into their cellulite. Third, as women we must realize that we are far harder on ourselves than is necessary. We are defined by our character, not by any number.

So, I encourage you to go forth and shop heartily sisters! Show your daughters that we are comfortable with the changes and challenges of life. Be the best example to others of grace while in the dressing room…..and I pray every dressing room door will remain on its hinge during your adventure.

Be bold because you’re already beautiful,

Michelle

mc-7059 Photo by Kendra Harwell Photography