The danger in assuming love will conquer all.

The danger in assuming love will conquer all.

When Zach and I were getting married I wanted to engrave “Love conquers all” on our wedding bands. Like most unmarried 20-year-olds, I had no idea what it took to stay married but I had a whole lot of love for words and Zach and I assumed those would be enough to get us through our decades together.

This year we’ll have been married for 14 years which, truth be told, made me a little nauseous just writing that. One of the biggest things I’ve learned in our years together is that love actually has very little to do with a mostly healthy marriage. Sure, it’s what initially propels him to get down on his knee and ask for your hand in marriage and it’s probably also mostly why you say yes (although mine was also because Zach’s damn eyelashes are something I still can’t quite figure out how to say no to.) But at some point in your relationship you’ll have to invest your time in more than just love.

Because when you’re in the delivery room and there are sights and sounds that are a miracle, yes, but also really quite gross love will not sustain you. A desire to welcome this new life into the world together because of a shared commitment will be the key. When the last grunt happens and the baby gushes out into the world along with other various fluids, you’re going to need more than love of each other to feel hopeful about the birth of a new family.

When there’s a screaming 3-year-old in your kitchen who has lived with you for all of 2 weeks and nothing you do will calm him down, love doesn’t even enter the room. Because adoption was mostly your idea and your husband is looking at you like maybe this wasn’t entirely thought out? You’re a little bit angry that he’s looking at you that way and he’s a little bit frustrated that the child won’t stop screaming and the three of you are all just a little bit scared that this will be the rest of your life. Forever. Love isn’t what causes you to wrap your arms and legs around the screaming child until he calms himself, giving you just enough time to reach a hand out to your husband as a peace offering. In that moment you hardly even like either of them and yet you look at both of them and are reminded why you entered into the relationships to begin with. A promise, sure, but also the knowledge that you’re willing to work the hardest you’ve ever worked on building a foundation so strong even a 3-year-old screaming in an uncommon language can’t shake it.

In sickness and in health sounds all well and good until one of you is literally puking and pooping simultaneously in a worn down hotel room in Ethiopia. When your betrothed enters the bathroom to that horror there is no way love enters with him and so it’s something else entirely that makes him turn on the shower, lift you up and help you clean yourself off. After he wraps you in a towel and lays you on the bed, puts on your clothes for you and gets to the messy business of cleaning up the bathroom you better hope you’ve built your marriage on way more than love. Because love leaves when you’re elbow deep in excrement and vomit, it’s the years spent doing tedious things to make life easier for one another that propels him to take care of you in this rather extravagant way.

Love and sex? Great. But after a decade or so of being together you’ll start to notice the reasons you have sex often have very little to do with love. Sure, you still love each other fully and completely but more often than not you’ll have sex because he’s felt a little distant lately and you know he becomes an open book afterwards. Or she steps out of the room dressed for your date and you can’t believe how beautiful she looks despite being devastated over losing two of her pets. You’ll do anything to make her feel good so you take her into the bedroom before the movie the kids are watching finishes. Maybe you’ve had a little too much wine or maybe it’s just because you’re bored. I remember when love and lust were bigger parts of the sex equation but the longer you live with someone the more in tuned you become with the rhythms of their entire bodies and so the less it becomes about love and the more it becomes about the physical expression of the known rhythms. It doesn’t sound as sexy but the sex can still be hot as hell. Do not fear.

And when something big does shake the foundation: a colossal mistake or painful words uttered in anger or fear-love will be gone. That’s the thing about marriage that no one tells you, love leaves from time to time. Of course you will continue to love each other every day but the emotional manifestation of love is fleeting at times. Sometimes the only thing left is the determination to not have wasted so much time, energy, communication and kleenex on the same person. Stubbornness can be a detriment if used against another person but if you can harness that energy for another person then stubbornness can often be the thing that gets you through the bumps in the road.

Sure, “love conquers all” sounds a lot sexier than “stubbornness, commitment, communication, devotion and forgiveness conquer most” but the latter is infinitely truer. It’s true I love Zach more than anyone else on the planet but it’s also true that sometimes I don’t like him very much. I know he loves me more than anyone else and yet I can once in awhile slip into being the most unloveable human there is. Yet there he is, making room for himself next to me on the couch and snuggling up until I’m forced to forgive myself too.

I often wonder if the causes of so many divorces aren’t what we think: money, affairs, loss but of the assumption that love would conquer all. I think as a society we’ve placed too much focus on love and not enough on the stuff that actually carries a marriage. We’ve put all the emphasis on a feeling and have forgotten that feelings are shit when it comes to the dark days of a marriage. Action is the metaphorical bridge over the river of doubt in a marriage. If the foundation crumbles a bit and you’re both just waiting around for love to swoop in to clean up the pieces you’ll be waiting forever. At some point you’ve got to forget about love and pick up your stones of forgiveness, responsibility, devotedness and get to rebuilding. Love might have you sending flowers on Valentine’s Day but it’s not going to come to you in the middle of the night after harsh words and heavy silence with an apology and a promise to do better next time. For that you’ll need constant acts of sacrifice, time spent in the trenches and relentless proof of commitment to small things that actually add up to big things.

Love certainly brought us together and continues to be a thread weaving through our life and our marriage but I’m incredibly grateful that I never engraved “love conquers all” on our wedding bands because sometimes it doesn’t. And when love left, Zach stayed. Which we all know is far more powerful.

Love can be as slippery and fickle as sand, dear ones. Let’s build our lives and relationships on something a little more sustainable. I hope you’ve found those willing to enter the trenches with you even when love has left the building. A love like ours may never top the box office but it sure will be a fun story to tell our great grandkids. I’m totally ok with that.

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Dr. King’s Dream UNrealized…

Dr. King’s Dream UNrealized…

I think one of the more frustrating things about celebrating Martin Luther King Jr day is watching as many white people who had terrible things to say about the protestors in Baltimore and Chicago share some of Dr. King’s more famous quotes on social media. It’s always the more comfortable ones, the ones that don’t push or pull at any of their preconceived notions about what it’s like to be black in America. “The time is always right to do what is right.”  “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

I haven’t seen anyone post some more controversial but ultimately more timely of his quotes. Allow me.

It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

I think it is good and right that we are celebrating the life and legacy of a man who disrupted the national language on race. He was not the first and he won’t be the last but he is certainly the most widely acknowledged and for that, I am forever grateful. Of course my current life and roll as mom to my five humans wouldn’t have been possible without his and so many others who sacrificed. And yet…

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

I can’t help but believe there is no way Martin Luther King Jr would have been okay with the current status of our racial relations in this country. I can’t believe that when he penned his Letter from Birmingham Jail (excerpts in italicized bold throughout this post) that he would see a boy like Donald Trump who openly espouses racist ideology leading the polls of an entire party as progress. And what of the confederate flag still waving above state capitals? Would he not see the unjust irony in the same state capitals waving the confederate flag taking the day off of work to commemorate his life?

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

And yet people point to having a black President of the United States and many other black Americans in positions of power. Steps forward, to be sure, but Dr. King never talked about allowing a few African Americans to be let in to the benefits of society that white Americans were naturally allowed because of the color of their skin, he was talking about all Americans being afforded the opportunity. I’m sure King would’ve celebrated Obama’s victory but also challenged Americans who believed it was a symbol of the death of racism. Particularly when faced with the reality that in 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks were still stuck in the airtight cage of poverty, compared to just 9 percent of non-hispanic whites.

A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law… Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

53 years after King wrote the above, there are states in America that are passing Voter ID laws that place an undue burden on mostly poor and disproportionally black and latino Americans. Every bit of research proves election fraud is a nonissue and in that rare case that it happens, it’s mostly by mail-in absentee ballots (and thus not weeded out by the Voter ID law). 53 years and and the call to lift the obstacles in the way for black Americans and their right to vote remains.

I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys…

And what of the incarceration rate of black men in America in 2016? Can we honestly say King’s dream has been realized when African Americans are imprisoned at nearly six times the rate of whites? Even though 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites. 53 years later and black Americans are still being slapped, kicked and killed by police with impunity. How do we celebrate the man but okay the status quo?

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice… Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I admit to being for many years one of those moderates to which King references. I had no idea what white privilege meant or how I could possess it without ever having asked for it. I think because of that I find myself not in a position of pointing fingers and accusing other moderate whites of being terrible people or outright racists because they aren’t out joining protests. What I am saying is that I understand how the moderate whites who say nothing do more harm than the outright racists who spout such terrible rhetoric only other terrible people will agree. We whites who are kind, thoughtful, smart, considerate, community and business leaders who are not doing our part to educate ourselves and the people we love about what America is actually like for people of color hurt the cause more by turning a blind eye and encouraging others to do the same. We can no longer claim we are ignorant of the plight of people of color because we have access to their stories at our fingertips. Our ignorance is no longer bliss it’s poison and I believe King knew that even then-years before the Internet.

I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; an too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

The church. King writes in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that he has wept for the laxity of the church. “But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church.” Man do those words hit home for me as well. I’ve blogged before about my issues with the church and it seems King’s words are more prophetic than ever in that regard. It turns out I’m not nearly as forgiving as Dr. King because the church’s silence on matters of race is one big reason I still haven’t walked through the hollowed doors of a church in awhile. The deafening silence of my fellow christian when black life after black life is taken is enough to make me wonder if God is listening at all. And yet, I believe He is and I believe in the church-that she will come again to walk alongside the oppressed as Jesus once did. I know enough church leaders who are doing their part to call their congregation to come alongside their African American peers and to fight the injustice that pulses through the veins of our country to have hope. Dr. King taught me that.

Why I celebrate Dr. King today is because he is proof that a completely fallible human can carry out a revolution. Anyone who has done their homework knows that Dr. King wasn’t a perfect man and yet he became the voice of a generation who had been oppressed for too long. He is proof that you can do big things with your one big life no matter your past and no matter your current shortcomings.

Let today be a reminder of how far we’ve come, thanks in part to Dr. King, for sure. But let it also be a reminder of just how far we have to go.

Let it remind you that our current justice system is the exact same justice system that was in place in Dr. King’s time. It is currently working exactly how it was intended. This means we don’t need an updated justice system, we need to tear the current one completely down and start from scratch. We cannot possibly expect equality in our prison system when the system began on the backs of African Americans.

Let it remind you that current housing policies and racial bias in the workforce continue to keep people of color smothering in the airtight cage of poverty at far greater rates than whites just as they did 53 years ago.

Let it remind you that the school to prison pipeline is taking our children of color and setting them on the same paths of imprisonment that Dr. King abhorred. We can claim to have come so far but when we are stacking the cards from such a young age we can longer be surprised when the lives of people of color crumble under such weight.

And let today remind you that you are capable and have the moral obligation to act on behalf of those still oppressed. That you have a moral obligation to listen to their stories and not count them as false just because they differ from your own. Yes, the moral arc of the universe is long and bends towards justice but we have to be the ones to bend it. Let today remind you that no matter who you are, how little you think you matter or how many mistakes you make that you can make a difference. That your voice matters. It’s time we stop whitewashing Dr. King’s legacy and start taking up the cross that burdened him and continues to burden America. Because even though part of Dr. King’s dream has been realized there is far more that has been unrealized and it is that part that needs your voice. Lend it.

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Female friendships and the power they have at making you forget you’ve got broken ribs (and pneumonia).

Female friendships and the power they have at making you forget you’ve got broken ribs (and pneumonia).

There is currently a stranger in my house. This very sweet woman came with her husband to care for me while I’m on forced bedrest due to the very unpleasant combination of pneumonia/cracked ribs. I hear the woman scrubbing my toilet, God bless her, while her husband shovels our front steps. She’s singing to herself, undoubtedly to distract for the godforsaken things she has witnessed in and around our toilets (boys. Bless), and I’m stifling tears of gratitude.

These strangers are caring for me because a few of my friends sprang into action when they heard I was sick. They live in other parts of the country-Colorado, Seattle, Portland-and yet they managed to show me their love. This time in the form of an older woman who is not only cleaning and doing laundry but also brought over dinner.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been carried by women I love. I’m reminded of the text I sent just a few weeks prior, “It’s been 7 years, I don’t think he loves me. I’m so scared he never will.” And the immediate response, “Being taken for granted is not the same as not being loved. He loves you. He just doesn’t connect his actions to your feelings to the overall meaning of it all. Love continues to be work, every single day.” When you’re in the emotional isolation chamber sometimes it just takes an outstretched hand with similar scars beneath the door to remind you that you aren’t alone and that no matter what you’ve done or how badly you’ve messed up they will be there. Not with a hand to point fingers and judge but a hand to offer a cup of coffee and a kleenex instead.

Yesterday was a bit of a low day. I realized that, counting the time I was sick in Ethiopia-I’ve been mostly sick for 2 straight months. As a person who hasn’t really been sick for years I’ve been driven slightly mad by two months of foggy headedness, coughing, pain and lack of exercise. I’m sure I’m not the only one who when physically uncomfortable tends to devolve into some nightmarish emotional and spiritual discomforts as well. Feelings of ineptitude and unworthiness, reminder of all of my past mistakes. This all happens so much quicker when I’m metaphorically chained to the bed and allowed too much time in my own head.

And then a stranger shows up at my door reminding me of these women I love. And I can feel them prop me up on their shoulders, helping me place one foot in front of the other. Because they are both the most loving and sarcastic creatures, I can also hear their jokes about the ineffectiveness of my natural deodorant and the visible stains on my matching sweatpants/sweatshirt combination.

I don’t often feel brave but I’ve witnessed bravery in my friends who could choose to love a woman with more of her shit together but roll with me instead. It’s far safer to love me and encourage me from an emotional distance but these friends choose instead to jump all in and go with me, having my back in every failure and (sometimes more remarkably) every success. I don’t always feel like a good friend but I’ve witnessed true friendship in women who don’t just say they love me but show it every day in their texts, their random book recommendations, their scheduled dates to come visit or the stranger at the door with her cleaning supplies.

I think one of life’s true mercies is feeling so completely understood by someone else. The last handful of years since I stopped expecting Zach to meet all of my emotional needs and started opening up to fellow women for that have been some of the best. Zach is the greatest husband there ever was but he still will never be able to sympathize with my devastation at Alan Rickman’s death or make eye contact when the speaker in the room is saying something subliminally sexist.

I’ve no idea how I got so lucky to be friends with so many remarkable women who are moving mountains with their love but I’m so thankful I get to pick up my rock and join them. Even on days or weeks like today when I’m bedridden, the mountain gets moved because they are willing to carry one on my behalf no matter the cost to themselves.

It’s an amazing thing, to be loved as I am. If someone as busted and broken as I can be than you most certainly are. Hope you’re feeling that as strongly as I am today.

Much love,

Tesi

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Top 12 things to do in the New Year to get you healthier and fitter that don’t include depravation or hours in the gym.

Top 12 things to do in the New Year to get you healthier and fitter that don’t include depravation or hours in the gym.

As a personal trainer and group fitness instructor I get excited for January. Every year I see new faces and meet great new people excited about taking their health into their own hands. The energy in the gym is palpable, even the annoyance of the veteran gym goers can’t overpower it.

And then April comes, or sometimes even March and the energy has died. Most of the January rush has disappeared with only a few strong willed health seekers continuing on. On social media my new clients or participants in my classes have gone from posting their accomplishments in the gym or in the kitchen to posting pictures of their nightly cocktail or their Netflix binge.

Having been in the industry for well over a decade none of this surprises me. Even in high school and college when I didn’t know any of this academically but just had a legit metabolism and participated in year ’round sports, I would have friends come to me for advice on how to get active and lose weight. I’ve wrestled with getting healthy, eating healthy and losing weight just like everyone else on planet Earth it seems so some of this advice is stuff I’ve learned personally and others are what I’ve observed from being in the fitness industry.

So here are some secrets to getting healthy in the new year. Some of these you’ve heard and some of these you haven’t because personal trainers keep them to themselves unless you pay the premium to work with us. None of these tips will seem like rocket science and that’s because finding health that’s sustainable is actually not rocket science (training for a fitness competition-rocket science. Training for professional sports-rocket science. Learning how to find and sustain a healthy weight-NOT rocket science.) So here you go. Accept these with the no judgement and no expectations with which they were written.

  1. Learn self love. There’s a reason this is #1 y’all. If you’re starting the new year in the gym because you hate your belly or you hate your flabby arms you will never, ever, ever make it to April. Very few people hate parts of their bodies enough to push through the pain and discomfort that comes with a new exercise routine. If, however, you are starting the new year in the gym because you realize your life is worth more than getting winded going up stairs or sitting on the couch while your kids play basketball outside-you will stick with it. I promise. This rule might require you seeing a therapist or developing a daily journal reminding you of what you mean to the world but it’s essential if you want to genuinely find health in the new year. Even if I don’t know you personally I’m here to tell you that you are loved beyond reason. And that anytime spent exercising or cooking healthier foods is not selfish. I can guarantee you, your family will get more from you when you feel good mind, body and spirit than when you don’t. You are worth it, promise.
  2. Develop a mindfulness routine. I’ve already lost some of you, right? I don’t mean this has to involve you sitting on a meditation pillow for 20 minutes in the morning (but take it from me-that’s the very best way to start your day!) This can be taking 2 minutes while your coffee is made to just sit in silence and breathe. You don’t have to chant or block out mental distractions if you don’t want to but just become aware of your breath for a few minutes. Try to do it first thing in the morning otherwise it’ll continue to be pushed back to make room for seemingly more pressing to-do items. How does this little few minutes make you healthier? It’s scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, boost immune function, decrease pain and decrease inflammation at the cellular level, amongst many other reasons. Go here for some of the studies. The biggest thing that has come from my meditation practice is compassion for myself and for those around me. Remember #1? Meditation has been the biggest thing to teach me how to do #1 relatively effortlessly. Try it. (If you’re looking for help, try the app Headspace. It’s a 10 minute daily practice but I love the guy’s voice and his direct approach to mindfulness.)
  3. Eat more fiber. Want to lose weight? There you go. This is a little secret I usually reserve for clients. There has been some push back on the benefits of fiber but for me the proof is in the pudding-or in this case-the weight loss. All of my clients who make a pointed effort to incorporate more fiber in their diets lose more weight than the ones who don’t make such a concerted effort. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in the gut in a way that carbs, proteins and fats can’t because they are absorbed by the bloodstream before making it to the large intestines. Changing gut flora is a big deal, one in which I’ll go into next, but for now focus on fiber. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes is where you’ll find your fiber. Try to go by the 1, 2, 3 rule if you can. 1 fruit and veg for breakfast, 2 for lunch and 3 for dinner. Most days I add a few for my morning and evening snack just for good measure.
  4. Gut flora. Perhaps the least sexiest thing to discuss when talking about weight loss and health for the new year but more and more science is coming out on this so it’s got me all kinds of excited. First, I want to urge you to listen to this podcast about gut flora with Doctor Robynne Chutkan, MD. Or check out her book at your local library. There was a study that took the feces from an overweight mouse and deposited it in a normal weight mouse and vice versa. Changing nothing else, the overweight mouse became normal weight and the normal weight mouse became overweight. Why? The gut flora. You may think that your brain controls your sugar cravings and your salt cravings but science proves it’s actually your gut flora. If you want to lose weight-you need to start with changing that. How do you do it? By feeding the gut flora nutrient dense foods as often as you can. The more you feed it healthy, nutrient rich foods the more it craves those and not foods that are bad for you. This doesn’t require you to stop eating sugar or salty foods altogether-though that would make the gut flora change quicker to be sure-this just requires small adjustments on your plate. A quick personal note: I used to be a huge sugar addict. Since learning about the gut flora and making small adjustments to our meals-I no longer crave the stuff at all. And since I cook the majority of the meals, that means I’ve changed the gut flora in my kids and guess what? We made batches and batches of cookies and breads for Christmas and I currently have a few bags left in the pantry as well as chocolates people had gifted to us. My kids don’t even ask for it. Gut flora may be unsexy to talk about but their ain’t nothin sexier than healthy gut flora. You heard it here first.
  5. Move. If your goal is to get a six pack and deltoids like LeBron it’s going to require more movement than if your goal is to get down to a healthy weight and be able to play with your kids on the regular. Let’s first address movement for health. Start with walking 15 minutes every day. I live in Michigan where the temps can get down to single digits so I understand how you might think this isn’t possible. Well it is. Bundle up and do it. Make it a family event and go after dinner to stimulate digestion. Also, stop making your house so convenient. If you’re enjoying coffee on the porch or at the table, don’t bring the pot to you. Make yourself get up to grab another cup. Same thing for dinner. Don’t bring everything to the table where you can help yourselves to seconds and thirds, keep it at the stove so that you have to physically get up. This small act can be enough to make you realize you aren’t actually hungry for another round. The reason so many of the fitness trackers (FitBit, Jawbone, etc) have a programmable alarm to remind you to get up is because it’s been proven that the people who live the longest just move more. Most of the time these people aren’t doing any kind of exercise routine but they live in areas that require them to get up and out to the garden to bring in their meals. They’ve de-covienienced their lives. We Americans could take a lessen from them.
  6. Find a workout that you like doing. This is for those of you who might want to find some kind of muscle definition in 2016. I’ve put this at 6 because if you don’t do the previous 5, I can almost guarantee that you won’t find any abs or triceps by the end of 2016. Harsh? Maybe. But if you’ve ever had me as a trainer, a friend, a partner or a mother you know that I’m not great at holding back knowledge when you’ve come to me for advice. You will read articles in the coming weeks that tell you CrossFit is the only way to get fit in 2016, you will also read articles that tell you that running will be the key to unveiling the abs you’ve always desired. You have heard me go on and on about Les Mills fitness classes and how they’ve gotten me in the best shape of my life (which is true). None of that matters if you don’t like doing it. Les Mills classes have gotten me in the best shape of my life because I freaking love doing them. I love the music, I love the moves and I love the people I’ve met through the classes who do them all the time too. This is why CrossFit works for some folks and why people will talk your ear off about their run group. But do not listen to anyone. You need to find what works for you which means trying everything under the damn sun. Spend a little money and time to discover it. And give them time, a few weeks a least to grow on you. You’ll need to push past the soreness and the awkwardness that comes with developing muscle memory to be able to actually gauge if you like the activity or not. NOTHING will be 100% fun at first because it will probably hurt and be too confusing initially. Give yourself a little grace and get back in the saddle as quickly as possible. Once you find what you love doing, stopping no longer really feels like an option.
  7. Be patient. For God’s sake be patient. Nothing is harder to hear than “I don’t think it’s working, I haven’t seen results.” after 2 weeks of trying something. You guys, it can take 8-12 weeks. You might feel your jeans loosen by week 2 or get a few comments by week 3 but for the real “ah ha” kind of physical results, settle in for a grip. Here’s what I want you to do differently in 2016 than you ever have before. Notice how you feel. You will feel differently right away. The first day you feed your body nourishing foods instead of pre-packaged shit you will feel so good. Check your energy levels, do you notice how easily you got up and out of bed? Notice how much easier it was to go to sleep? What’s going on with your poop? Yup, check that too. Maybe you’ll notice your constipation is gone and your BMs take that ever-lusted after S shape. Good on ya buddy, that right there is results. This is another secret to sustainable weight loss and health-if you can start to feel good mentally and emotionally, the physical takes care of itself. Why? Because you have the energy to try new things and for longer. Plus, you start to notice that when you don’t exercise or move-you feel pretty dumpy mentally too. Once you’ve hooked into that mind/body connection you are good as gold. Welcome to the healthiest you have ever been.
  8. Stare at yourself in the mirror. Naked. The first time I told a client to do this she started crying. She told me that it was her very worst nightmare. And look, I get it. I spent far too many years avoiding the mirror myself. But you know when you’re laying in bed and have this weird fear that you left the door unlocked and are convinced someone is going to come in and do something terrible to your family? You know how if you continue to stay in bed because the sheets are warm and it’s bedtime how you can’t go to sleep because you convince yourself it’s legit going to happen and then you’re going to never forgive yourself because you knew it and did nothing to stop it? But if you go and check the door you’ll realize that 1) it’s locked or 2) it’s not locked but hasn’t been all week and you’ve all been just fine. It’s the same with the mirror. You need to just face the music, sister. I promise if you do you’ll notice your belly isn’t nearly as big as you imagined it was in your head. You’ll also probably notice your breasts are quite beautiful and that you actually have a pretty well defined quad. So just do it today after your shower. Take 5 minutes to just check every inch of you out. I will no longer allow you to be your own monster lurking in the corner. If you tell me you want to lose belly fat I want you to be able to describe in vivid detail what your belly looks like because if you don’t know then you’re just running from the imaginary monster. Running from anything won’t get you the health you seek, running towards something will. So instead of losing fat around our triceps we are going to chase arms that allow us to throw up our grandkids when we’re well into our 60s. Instead of losing weight in your thighs so that they stop rubbing together (thighs are meant to rub together. Just enough already with that nonsense.) we’re going to chase legs that have us going on hikes or walking the streets of Paris for hours without complaint. We’re going to face who we are head on so that we can have a better picture of what we actually want to change and not what we think needs to change just because we’ve been too scared to look.
  9. Stop dieting. I have no earthly understanding of why we are still doing this when every bit of science and anecdotal evidence proves it does nothing in the way of sustainable health and weight loss. Here’s what you do instead: throw away all the shit in your cupboards. Commit to not buying chips, cookies or processed food for 1 week. Your kids do not need macaroni and cheese. Your kids do not need chicken nuggets. There is not a human on earth who needs that so just get rid of it. Buy bread for sandwiches (Ezekiel bread is my personal recommendation. My kids eat it too. Don’t make excuses for your kids. Have them eat it and change their gut flora too. Soon enough they won’t like the sugary, processed breads they were used to eating. Promise.) and as much fruit as you possible can fit in your cart. This way when you’re tempted for something quick and easy the only thing at your disposal is fruit and sandwiches. Once you’ve successfully made it to one week without processed foods in the house stretch it to two weeks and so on. I don’t care how dedicated you are-we all have days when we’ve been working, the kids are crazy and we’ve been fighting with our spouse and the last thing we want to do is cook a healthy, nutritious meal for us all so we throw in a few frozen pizzas and call it a day. This doesn’t make you weak or lazy it makes you human. If you don’t have access to frozen pizzas, however, you have no choice but to make something healthier. Want to know what I do? I make large batches of rice and quinoa and keep them in the fridge. On days when I have 0 effs to give I make it a “Chipotle” night and throw some black beans in a pan and some cilantro in the rice. I grab our salsa and guacamole and done. It takes me all of 4 minutes which if you’re keeping track is actually quicker than frozen pizzas anyway. Don’t buy the crap food and you can’t eat the crap food. See? Not rocket science.
  10. Make the commitment for your whole family. Here’s a little secret I’ve learned in my time as a personal trainer-I can tell you with 100% certainty whether you’ll reach your goals or not with one question- I ask how your family feels about you getting healthier. If the significant other “is supportive but wants no part of it him/herself” Nope. If the kids “will keep eating what they always do and I’ll make myself the healthier meals.” Nope. I don’t know how else to say this-if getting healthier is important to you this year then you need to make it important to your significant others as well. Because otherwise no matter how sweet, caring and kind your family is they will end up becoming saboteurs. They will take a family vote one night and go out for pizza. And then the night after that they’ll all decide that what you cooked just wasn’t enough and they’ll go out for ice cream. This doesn’t make them terrible people, it makes them human. But I know you, mama, because you are me and I am you. You want your kids to outlive you and you want to be doing fun and adventurous stuff with your husband well into your 80s. You cannot do that if you’re all unhealthy. Oh. Heartbreaking words to hear. But true words. So have a family meeting or sit down with your husband. Don’t make the conversation about weight because who gives an eff about the weight on your scale. Tell them your goals for the future and ask them theirs. Really evaluate if those are possible with the way you’re currently going. If they are-awesome, if not-time to change as a family. This generation of kids is the first generation predicted to have a shorter life span than their parent’s generation because of obesity. What a horrifying truth. You getting healthy isn’t selfish anymore-it’s a gift to your family and to your friends. We can do hard things. And for our families? We can do seemingly impossible things. I believe in you.
  11. Engulf yourself in the health and wellness community. Don’t buy Shape magazine or any magazine that even hints that your self worth is at all tied to your waistline. Instead invest in magazines and books that encourage you to learn more about your passion or your mindfulness practice. My husband is obsessed with Outside magazine. He went on his own health journey in 2015 and I’m so proud of him. His excitement about Outside magazine is one of the things to which I attribute his success. There are so many great articles on movement and health in general that have peaked his curiosity and led him to try new and different ways of getting healthy. I’m a big podcast listener and I’ve found that when I’m feeling “eh” about eating healthy or exercising, listening to one of my health and wellness podcasts always re-inspires me. The reason I like magazines is because it’s a monthly dose of inspiration that often comes just when you need it. Most libraries have a decent amount of magazines you can peruse before you commit to the monthly subscription so try a few out first. Or even better, once you’ve found the workout that’s got you feeling some kind of way-google “magazines great for runners, weight lifters, cyclers, dancers”, etc and go from there. Even though my day job is literally to exercise, I still have days or weeks that I just don’t feel up to it-cough, all of November-cough. Immersing myself in these knowledge-based communities is easily the best way to re-invigorate me.
  12. Don’t wait until you find a “workout buddy” to start. I guarantee this is a piece of advice you will hear every day for the next few months but I’ve found it to be wholly untrue. Here’s more typically what happens: a few women or men come to the gym together. Typically one is more passionate about being there than the other. After a few weeks, the less passionate one stops coming and a few weeks after that so does the one who was so ready for a change. Here’s what you do instead: just begin. If you’re joining a new gym just head on into that weight room or group fitness room. If you’re wanting to try running, try joining an already established running group. Every run group I know has runners from novice to expert so you won’t be the only newbie. Instead of starting with a gym buddy, just start! Your workout buddy will be found when you are doing what you love doing. They will hold you accountable and be there to encourage you when you feel like giving up. The people you find once you’ve already started are also already committed so you won’t have to be convincing yourself and your best friend. This way you can just focus on you-the rest takes care of itself. I just did some quick math in my head and realized that every great friend I’ve made after college has been made in the gym. There might be a few exceptions to that but not many. We aren’t some hulking, roided out group of protein shakin women-we come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. You will find your people when you start to get healthy. And they will be awesome. Just like you.

A quick hard truth about your health journey-not all of your friends or family members are going to be supportive. Man, this is tough. If you continue to allow negative thought patterns and negative friends to have a say in your life your life will be exactly the same as it is now. This doesn’t mean you have to write nasty notes or say hurtful things to any friends that don’t support you. The further you get in your journey, the more you will see there’s nothing wrong with them, they are just at a different place. If you are serious about your health, make sure you evaluate who you are letting into your heart space just as much as you are evaluating what you are letting onto your plate. It can have an even bigger impact so this little piece is a vital step. It’s a hard step and will feel impossible at times. But anyone who doesn’t embrace, support and encourage you when you’re trying to be better than you were yesterday just isn’t ready to handle your light. Find the ones who are wielding their own light instead of hiding in the darkness, they’ll be the ones who will celebrate your success and remind you that your failures don’t define you. That’s exactly what you need always, but now even more so.

I come to you as someone who vividly remembers being unhealthy and unmotivated. I can’t believe how much better of a mom, wife, friend and human I am when I’m healthy (still acknowledging I muck it up on the daily). At times I’ve been fit enough to see my abs and quads but I can tell you honestly that it didn’t make me any happier than I am when I’m simply at a healthy weight eating healthy food and associating with positive people. I totally get it if your goal is shredded arms but my hope is that you hook into health first. Because being in the fitness industry I’ve seen my fair share of shredded arms and abs on people who are just unhappy and unhealthy.

My wish for you in 2016 is that you find that sweet spot where you like how you look in your jeans but you love how you feel even more. Get in touch if you have any questions or just need someone to give you that initial “You can do it!” Because you can, and you will. I totally believe in you.

Les Mills Bodystep 100 release. Fitness, health, wellness.

Pic taken after a particularly fun sweat sesh with some of my Phoenix Fitness friends.