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You’re a Real Woman & Why Strong is NOT the New Skinny

I’m not sure when exactly it was that I realized that instead of inspiring and motivating me, so called “fitspo” or “fitspiration” was mostly making me feel really bad about myself.

At first, I was so excited that strength was finally cool! When I started lifting weights, being strong was not cool. In fact, I would say most people thought it was a weird and obscure goal to have and even more weird that I was a woman. It was like, “that chick is strange and intense”… (I’m not sure that the assessment is actually wrong, ha). Like, it was okay that I was working out to be hot, but it was strange that I liked and cared about being strong. For me, I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be strong! I went through a phase where I thought once I explained myself, everyone would see the light and join my bandwagon, but they didn’t. They still thought it was a weird and obscure obsession, and questionably worthwhile. So when all this “strong is the new skinny” stuff started trending, I was so happy! Everyone was finally “getting it” and I was really excited… at first.

From the sea of headless ab shots, sexualized, sweaty women with heaving cleavage and perfect round butts, the unrelenting captions telling me to not to stop and that pain was my fat cells dying or whatever BS… somewhere along the way, it became all about being sexy, objectification and defining another narrow and rigid aesthetic for us all to scramble to fit into.

This is also why “strong is the new skinny” is really just another crock of shit being spoonfed to us. Same old wolf, new disguise. The message really seems to be “strong is awesome only if you are small and ripped and, of course, sexy“… after all girls, we have to be sexy! We are nothing and nobody if we are not sexy, are we? And God forbid strong means you have big, powerful muscles. Strong is not sexy if it’s “too bulky” or “too much”… girls, you can only be strong if you stay small and cute, preferably in a push up sports bra with your boobs hiked up to your chin.

The sarcasm is oozing from pretty much the entire above paragraph, in case you missed it!

And that’s never what strength is or should be about. You get strong to be strong. Because strong is awesome. Thats the only reason and justification you need. Being strong literally makes you better at everything else in life that you do. It’ll make you a better runner, a better dancer, better and more powerful in any sport that you play. Better at your household chores and activities, better at just being. No lie. I mean, if you train right, training will improve and correct your posture. So literally, just standing there and “being” you are better. Your strong muscles hold up your bones and spine and pin your shoulders back more efficiently. Hence, you are better “just being”, get it?

You don’t get strong because its sexy, or because its the new cool thing and not because its going to help you fit into a new, oppressive paradigm for how you are supposed to look.

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I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I think all bodies are beautiful when they’re fit and strong, within a healthy weight range and the individual is happy and enjoying their life. And whatever that looks like for each person, pretty much always looks some shade of great!

Short limbs, long limbs, boxy torso, long torso, naturally lean, naturally curvy, naturally thin… we ALL have our strengths and weaknesses, we don’t have to look exactly alike to look beautiful; and in order to be inspiring, it doesn’t matter how you look. To be inspiring in fitness, athletics and sport you have to have a great attitude, perseverance and the ability to do cool shit, like maybe squat 100kg, or run a marathon in under 3 hours, or do the splits or a backflip! All that stuff is pretty damn cool, but I admire anyone who is healthy and works hard to excel in a particular skill, overcome physical and mental limitations and takes care of their body and mind. People like that are cool. People like that are the real fitspo. Not some headless, nameless chick with abs wearing co-ordinated workout gear. What’s cool about that?

And, another thing: we’re ALL “real” women! Do you have a vagina? Well guess what? You’re a real woman. THE END.

Just because “thin is in” doesn’t mean we get to trash and degrade women who are thin by saying stupid crap like “real women have curves”… Do you know how dumb you sound? Stop saying that. Some women really struggle to gain weight and certainly covet fuller hips and thighs and bums, and it’s no easier for them to attain those than it is for someone significantly overweight to lose fat. Can you imagine how heartbreaking and hurtful it is to be someone who is naturally very thin and doesn’t want to be, to have the message thrown in her face that she is fundamentally inadequate as a woman because of her shape? The bold is wrong no matter what body type we’re talking about. That is a harsh and unkind message to put out there to people, lacking in compassion or understanding. You can’t expect to come out smelling like roses when you’re down in the dirt slinging mud at everyone else.

What inspires you towards your fitness goals every day? What is that you most like about your body? I’d love to hear about it n the comments!

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The New Years Resolution Post: Four Tips To Smashing Your Fitness Goals This Year

So, you know it’s a cliche. And you know you made the same resolution last year and for whatever reason you didn’t keep it.

But again, in for 2014, you want to make your health and fitness a top priority. Congratulations, that’s a brilliant a very rewarding goal. After all, without our health, what do we have?

Ask yourself, why is it going to be different this year? Why will this year be the one you actually make a permanent lifestyle change?

I don’t believe it’s “wanting it badly enough”, I think that’s BS. If you earnestly tried very hard to lose weight and get fit, and someone smugly responds that you obviously don’t want it badly enough, you have my permission to tell them to go fuck themselves. That’s right. Flipping them the bird is optional, but I recommend doing that too.

I think when we express a deep desire to be healthier, to lose weight, to be better, we certainly do want it badly enough. But often, we’re just not well-equipped with the knowledge, with a strategy and with the “how” to make it happen. So I’m going to share with you a few simple ways you can make sure your 2014 resolution to be fitter and healthier is one that is going to stick with you the entire year and beyond.

  1. Set a nutritional goal that won’t leave you feeling punished, deprived and starved.
    If you eat fries, pasta and ice cream every day and declare that January 1st, you’ll eat nothing but salad, grilled fish and broccoli, I can almost guarantee that by January 31st, you’ll be back to eating those same burgers and ice cream and whatever else – and probably with a vengeance!
    What to do instead: Choose a more moderate approach. That might mean eating “normally” every day, but committing to having a salad for lunch or dinner. Initially, you might want to simply commit to cutting out soft drinks and hot chips every day. Have ice cream only once or twice per week, in a reasonable portion. You’d be astounded at what a huge impact these simple changes can have on your health and waistline. As time goes by and this becomes routine for you, you can step up your game and make further changes to improve your daily eating habits.
    perfect is bullshit
  2. Set a reasonable and very doable exercise goal. 
    Deciding that, as of January 1st, from doing no exercise per day, you’re going to be in the gym 2 hours a day and do a thousand crunches and a  zillion squats, because you read that’s what your favourite movie star did to get ready for her recent action flick (or your favourite fitspo girl on IG does this, or your friend, or whoever), is naive and unrealistic. We both know this is a pie in the sky strategy and isn’t going to work long term, if at all.
    What to do instead: Choose a  reasonable activity goal. For a beginner, that might mean 20 – 30 minutes a day of activity. That’s more than enough for someone who was previously sedentary. After a month or two of consistency, you can step up your efforts. Exercise is extremely important for good health, but too much can be counter-productive and unsustainable. Anything too time consuming and elaborate is probably going to last a month or two maximum. Adopt an approach you can turn into a lifestyle, doing things that make you feel energised and that you enjoy with a reasonable time commitment. As you get fitter, you can and should up the intensity.
  3. Find a support network.
    A support network might be a friend that has similar goals to you that you can begin your journey with, it can be starting a blog or online journal in a weight loss community filled with likeminded individuals, or it might be hiring a trainer than you stay accountable to and helps you design a good strategy. There are lots of ways to find support these days, you might try one option, or you might want to try them all to give yourself every advantage to success. Try everything and keep the stuff that works and you find helpful. Certainly in the first month or two, having a friend in the gym can help with the intimidation some people feel when they start going to the gym. If you don’t have someone, pay a trainer. It’s worth it if it gets you in there and has you doing the right things.
  4. If you fall off the wagon, get right back on!
    Don’t stop. We all have our ups and downs, but the difference between people that get fit and make it a lifestyle and those that don’t is quitting. Don’t be a quitter. There will be days that you ate too much or you missed a workout, but who cares? Pick yourself up and try again. This isn’t a pass or fail, one shot exam. Fitness is a way of life. It’s a journey. It’s always a work in progress no matter what level you’re at. In case you missed it, perfection is bullshit. Some days you’ll have more energy than others, some days you won’t be motivated to work out, some days you are just dying to have that piece of cake and whether you have it or not, ultimately doesn’t matter as long as you keep going in the right direction.

Remember, the successful strategy is not the “perfect” strategy, rather it’s the one you can  stick to long term and incorporate into your lifestyle. Stop trying for perfect. Perfect is bullshit.

My goals for this year are to achieve a 300lbs deadlift. I’d like to be more kind, gracious and patient in all matters. To stop dropping F-bombs… gah! So uncouth and unladylike! And drink less expensive cocktails… they’re a wallet and a fat loss killer and they have got to GO!!! I’d also like to get serious about yoga this year and incorporate that into my routine. And meditate.

What are your goals for 2014?

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Ditching the ‘All or Nothing’ Attitude in Fitness

My European adventure is drawing to a close and with 7 days ‘til I arrive in Sydney, I have been contemplating my fitness goals.

Part of that is thinking about how I want to evolve and what things I need to let go of, that may have held me back in the past. One of those is an all-or-nothing attitude.

I used to be like that about dieting.

I still struggle a little with it in training. I hate deload weeks and I have been known to get agitated when things don’t go as planned in the gym. I like intense workouts. I like to struggle and triumph. When the latter doesn’t happen, I can get pissed and take my ball and go home… sometimes funny, but never productive!

True fitness is a lifestyle and life has it’s ups and downs. One of the key qualities to being happy, fulfilled and successful is resilience, and you can’t be resilient when you’re rigid, afraid to make mistakes, or get upset when things don’t go 100% your way.

Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for excellence!

Strive to develop good habits and consistency. Strive to be better than you were yesterday. Strive to challenge yourself in some way, every day. Step outside of your comfort zone. Forgive yourself mistakes. They happen.

Those of us prone to an all-or-nothing attitude often end up with just the latter… nothing.

We’re prone to overtraining, because we try to push hard and train hard every single day, thinking more is more. It certainly isn’t.

We’re prone to struggling with our diets because we expect perfection from ourselves, with nary a calorie or macronutrient out of place. And when we can’t achieve that, we fall right off the wagon and binge… guess what? 100% diet adherence is overrated… and not possible without an adjunct obsessive-compulsive disorder. Certainly, eating well 90% of the time is necessary to looking your best, but perfection is a myth and unnecessary.

We’re prone to being competitive, which personally, I tend to find a friendly competitive streak in a person kind of cute 🙂 HOWEVER, not everything is a competition! Not everything is so serious. And no one said you had to be the best at everything or the most of something. Just be you and strive for constant improvement. Stay humble. Keep your ego in check.

Some of us never even get started because we think we have to be “dedicated” and “disciplined” and “train hard” to make any of it worthwhile and it’s all just too intense and overwhelming. So we do nothing. We sit on the couch instead. Well guess what? MOVING YOUR BODY in some way every single day is certainly worthwhile and good for your health, even if you don’t approach things with the razor focus of a professional athlete. Just move! Pick something you like doing and just go with it.

Do something. Walk for 20 minutes a day. Eat a serving of vegetables at dinner every night. Who told you that you had to eat perfectly and train like an Olympic Athlete for it to be worthwhile? Hey, they lied. Eat your veges and move a little each day. Baby steps. Will you look like a fitness model? No. Will you feel better and look better, and be glad you made those small changes? Yes! You will.

Something always trumps nothing.

The people you admire the most in sports and fitness, they have off-seasons, they have intelligently periodized training protocols (i.e: not pushing at 100% capacity all the time), they have diet slip-ups and off-plan meals. They have bad days at training, days where they feel tired. But guess what? They do things MOSTLY right and properly, and stick to their plans the vast majority of the time.

Getting it right over 90% of the time is what gets results and what is important.

Earnest effort is everything. Perfection is a myth. A fitness unicorn! You wanna go chasing unicorns? Be my guest. Have fun with that. Getting great results and maintaining them is a balance between consistent, intelligent training, good nutrition and incorporating all of that into your every day, real life.

Have you had an all or nothing attitude to your fitness? Have you been far too intense in the past or has your attitude kept you on the couch? How have you managed to find YOUR balance?

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TRUTH: you honour yourself with a healthy diet and daily exercise.

Have you ever thought about what it means to eat a diet of junk food and live a sedentary life,  when you know that fatty processed foods are bad for you and sitting around on your arse is doing you no favours?

It means you neither value, nor respect yourself. 

honour yourself with a healthy diet and exercise

I’m a  big believer in the saying “actions speak louder than words” and when you are engaging in behaviour you know to be bad for you, possibly with immediate negative outcomes and maybe you even complain regularly that you’d like to lose weight or “get healthy”, but you never really make a serious attempt at doing so…

(my definition of a “serious attempt” is striving to eat better and workout regularly – no shortcuts, wacky diet pills, crazy protocols, GTFOH with that shit)

That means you a) don’t think you’re worth effort b) don’t love and respect yourself enough to make a change.

You may say otherwise, but I’m a big believer in looking at what people do, not what they say. Mind you, this post isn’t about being “skinny” or “sexy”, or “hot”. It’s about eating better and moving more to achieve at least good, if not optimal health.

Think about somebody you love the most in the world. Maybe it’s your spouse, maybe your child, a sibling, best friend… whoever that person is to you, picture them in your mind. Now imagine that they were sick and only you could help them. And the only way you could help them was to eat better and exercise, and in this hypothetical world, the benefits would magically transfer to them and heal them.

Do you think you would hesitate for a second or begrudge them ONE healthy meal or exercise session if it meant that you could help them be healthy and the best that they can be?

Not for a second!

If you love someone, it would be NOTHING to do so! You would surely be honoured to do all that you can to give them the gifts of good health and wellness.

Why isn’t it the same when it comes to yourself? Why aren’t YOU that important to YOU?

As we know, the situation described above is completely hypothetical. No one can do your exercise for you or change your diet for the better but you.

All the power lies with you.

So if you love yourself, you’ll make a change.

If you love those around you, you will take care of yourself so that you can be around to love and care for them.

If you respect yourself, you’ll take the time to do the things that will help you feel better, move better, function better in every possible way

Remember, the first step may just be taking a 20 minute walk every day. You don’t have to eat like a bird and you don’t have to train like a fiend, but you do need to DO SOMETHING.

You can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself first. It all starts with you.

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New Years Resolutions Part II, Staying Motivated!

Yesterday, we talked about how important it is to “pick up the ball and keep playing”, even after we lose focus and get sidetracked in some way from our primary goals. Then I gave you guys a few simple strategies to remind yourself of what you really want and who you really want to be.

If you’re reading my blog, you probably want to be “fitter” – this usually means being physically capable, faster, stronger, more endurance, better general health and whether you want to admit it or not, you probably want to look better naked!

So let’s focus on that.

You have to adopt the mindset of a physically fit person.

The strategies out lined in my previous post all serve to help you develop that – visual and verbal cues that keep the person you want to become fresh in your mind.

The mind is your most powerful muscle.

What usually happens when we set out on a diet or fitness regime is that we are all fired up and motivated for the first week or two and then we fizzle out and revert back to our old, self-defeating habits.

It’s beyond the scope of this post to go into “why” in great detail, but very basically, you’re going to default back very quickly to whatever it is that you believe and think about yourself.

Please re-read that paragraph. Let it sink in.

So what we’re doing with our visual and verbal cues, our affirmations and vision boards is changing what you think about yourself.

It isn’t new age, airy fairy fluff – it is science. It is how our minds work.

I am a very positive and happy person, but sometimes I still struggle with being kind to myself and believing nice things about myself; it’s a work in progress for all of us. But it truly is the first step you can take to changing your mindset and changing your behaviour and it’s as crucial to your success as getting in your training and eating correctly.

To help you get started, here are a few gems I have used in the past to set my goals for the day and keep me focused on eating right, training hard and staying positive:

I am fit, healthy, happy and strong.

Each day, I eat the correct foods to fuel my body, I drink all my water and I train hard to build my best body ever!

I love eating healthy food. Eating good food makes me feel great.

You have to start thinking like a fit and healthy person. Fake it til you make it! Act as if! When you think like a fit and healthy person, you will start acting like a fit and healthy person… and it will be your default response. Meaning, you aren’t going to have to consciously think and force yourself to make the right choices at lunch… and then pat yourself on the back for being good on your diet. That’s what an unhealthy person who is on a temprorary diet does. A truly fit and healthy person chooses the right foods to eat because that is just how they eat, and furthermore, they enjoy it.

It’s a process and a huge part of that process is changing your thinking and changing what you believe about yourself. One supports the other. You make a small effort, work on changing your thoughts, your mindset shifts into more positive territory, another small effort re-inforces all the positive changes you are making, you think happy thoughts, more mindset shift… The sum total is a new you.

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New Years Resolutions… Make Them & Stick To Them!

It’s that time again, where the year is young and we have a fresh slate with which we can start anew!

It is exciting! 2013 is here, what are your plans?

Mine include smashing my strength goals, hitting new PR’s, continuous improvement in all things health and fitness, as well as becoming conversational and confident in speaking Italian and maintaining my blogs. They’re all doable, but they are also things that require focus, consistency and for me to make them each a priority week in and week out.

This is what it takes to make things happen. Action. Focus. Doing your best, and doing it all consistently.

Don’t drop the ball! And if you do, pick it back up and keep playing!

The biggest thing is, whether it’s a diet, or an exercise program, or learning a language is that if you fall off the wagon, don’t give up. Just get back on the path. Refocus. Don’t dwell on the mistake you made or how you “weren’t good”, just restart by taking a small step and doing that small action each day that you may have let go of and get back on the path towards your goal.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Things That Help:

1. Pictures of your goal. Words of affirmation on your desk or fridge. Remind yourself of what you want and what you’re working to achieve, remind yourself WHY you want to achieve it.

2. Create a Vision Board. This is similar to Step 1, but on a much grander scale. This is lots of fun.

3. Write down your 3 or 4 of your most important goals in a positive format EVERY NIGHT in a little notebook you keep beside your bed. Review what you write down and think about it and visualize it as reality. This will take you maybe 5 minutes each night. Then go to bed. Repeat the review process in the morning and go about your day. This is a really powerful exercise that will get you focused on what you want to achieve.

Tomorrow, I’ll elaborate on these 4 important and helpful strategies to help you go after and achieve your fitness goals, but really, you can apply them towards ANYTHING.

I hope you each get everything you dream of in 2013 and so much more!