7 Truly Scary Things

Happy Halloween! Today may be full of haunted houses and tales of ghosts and ghouls, but we want to take this opportunity to address some much scarier things that have become a part of our thoughts, our perceptions, and our everyday lives.

1. Zero calories.
Here’s a list of things we consume that should be zero calories: water. The end. If something has color, flavor, and substance and is zero calories, that’s terrifying. Food has calories. If it doesn’t have calories, then it has chemicals, and if you’re looking for a food-related word that starts with the letter ‘C’ to fear, it should be chemicals. Not calories.

(Also: skim milk. Why is it scary? Well, let’s just say that when they make it skim, it’s not white anymore. But it’s white when you buy it. )

2. “Guilty pleasures.”
We now live in a world where the term “guilty pleasure” is used to describe pretty much anything we enjoy. Wine? Guilty pleasure. Chocolate? Guilty pleasure. Potato chips? Guilty pleasure. Here’s what we think: STOP FEELING GUILTY ABOUT PLEASURE. By pegging these things as “indulgences” or things we should feel “guilty” about, we buy into this moronic idea that our perfect selves are lightly jogging on a treadmill 18 hours a day as we munch daintily on lettuce, and any deviation from this is a failure on our parts. This is ridiculous. Sure, some things (most things) are better consumed in moderation, but life is about balance, and it’s about happiness. So stop thinking of things, especially food, as something to be indulged in or to later feel guilty about, and start thinking of them as delicious happiness that you have every right to enjoy.

3. The words we use to describe women’s bodies.
We popped onto Pinterest for some inspiration the other day and typed “fitness” into the search bar. Vague, yes, but we were hoping to be motivated by cool new sayings and awesome pictures of muscles. Here’s what we found instead:

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 4.49.12 PM

SEXIEST LEGS EVER. THUNDER THIGHS NO MORE. THE PERFECT BUBBLE BUTT. Nearly 100% of fitness targeted at woman references their looks, reinforcing the idea that women should exercise so that they can look the way society wants them to look. Muffin top. Bat wings. Thunder thighs. STOP. Stop using these terms to describe other people’s bodies, and stop using them to describe your own.

4. The idea that a workout can give you a TOTALLY DIFFERENT BODY.
We’re not talking about normal exercise-and-healthy-eating-driven results here. Yes, you can change your body. You can make it stronger and leaner, you can make your muscles more defined. But you CAN’T actually make your muscles longer. You can’t become taller. You can’t rearrange the placement of your bones. When you’re looking for a workout or a new program, think about how it makes you feel and how it’s strengthening you and what new skills or abilities you are gaining, instead of thinking it will make you look like the model/dancer/bodybuilder demonstrating the moves.

5. The idea that you can “work off” a weekend.
Or a meal. Or a vacation. The understanding that people have of the relationship between food and exercise can be really frightening. How many times have you heard a woman say something like, “Oh I need to do an extra workout today, I had a huge dinner last night,” or “I signed up for a class tomorrow morning, so I can really splurge tonight.”? Calories in vs. calories out is not a direct correlation, and we need to be thinking about food as necessary nourishment as well as an enjoyable pasttime, and exercise as necessary movement, as well as — you guessed it — an enjoyable pasttime. One does not cancel out the other.

6. Photoshop.
Look, Photoshop is amazing when you want to see what you would look like with purple hair or put yourself into a photo you found of all your favorite baseball players hanging out together (JK, what kind of lunatic would do that? Oh, me.), but when it’s being used to take already thin models and make them even thinner, and thus spreading even more images of even more unattainable beauty around, Photoshop is scary. Surely we all remember this Photoshop fiasco, where a Target ad featured a girl with a mysteriously cut out crotch? The moral here is: Don’t believe what you see, especially in magazine ads. It’s enough to just look like a person, and it means you can have your whole crotch.

7. What we pass on.
Our actions, our words, and our beliefs affect others. We can inspire others, we can tear others down, and when it comes to children, we can truly have wonderful or devastating long-lasting effects. If you haven’t seen this amazing video from Dove, Legacy, please check it out and share it. Moms, your negative body image becomes your daughter’s negative body image. Your obsession with counting calories or feeling guilty over a bar of chocolate becomes your daughter’s guilt. And your love for your body and living a healthy, happy life — that becomes her love. Think about your legacy, and leave an amazing one.

Stand Inside Your Fear

It’s the time of year to talk about fear — ghosts and zombies and monsters, oh my! This year, however, fear has a different meaning for me, because this year, for the first time in a very long time, I was scared.

Let’s be honest – there’s not that much to legitimately fear these days. Our lives are comfortable, and those things that don’t fit into that comfort are mostly easy to ignore or avoid, to push into the far recesses of the mind. My fears are all vague and cushy, things like not achieving my full potential. I get nervous before speaking in public and could do without the dread that accompanies a Brazilian wax, but true fear? Heart-stopping, breath-stopping, absolutely-can’t-be-ignored fear? Foreign, a far-away idea, a country I’d read about in a multitude of true crime novels but never bothered to visit.

scuba

What happened this year is that I decided my husband and I were going to learn how to scuba dive. Not just learn, actually – we were going to get REALLY INTO scuba diving and start taking regular dive trips all over the world. We were going to swim with humpback whales in the Tonga, explore wrecks in the Red Sea, come face-to-face with great white sharks off the South African coast. Adventure called to me; the more dangerous the better. Scuba diving would only be the beginning, I thought – the gateway to base jumping and hang gliding and skydiving. I couldn’t wait. We signed up for a certification program, booked a trip to Belize, and bought all our equipment. My plan was set in motion and everything was good.

Then my plan, along with my adventurous spirit, crashed spectacularly in a 12-foot deep pool in a rec center in suburban Chicago.

I discovered in that pool, all suited up with my new fins and new snorkel and mask, thrilled to be getting certified at last, that I was too scared to breathe underwater. I got to the bottom of the pool and just flipped out. I could breathe but I felt like I couldn’t. I felt crushed under there, like the surface was unreachable, like the world was closing in on me from every side. I closed my eyes and tried to engage the calming breaths I used in yoga, but I couldn’t breathe through my nose. Panic. I opened my eyes and saw the instructor watching me, indicating with hand gestures that I should lift my mask away from my face and allow some water to get in and then clear it out. At that moment, it felt like he was asking me to die. With water now in my eyes on top of everything else, the panic rose until I lost my sense. Shaking my head violently at the instructor (no no no no no no NO), I started frantically kicking my way up. At the surface, I ripped my snorkel and mask out, gulping in the air like I might never be able to get enough into my lungs. I was crying hysterically, and my dreams of the adventurous scuba life were dead.

Because I had only made it about an hour into a 4-hour training, I then had the pleasure of de-suiting, discarding all my equipment, and waiting wet-haired and soaked in failure for my husband in the lobby of said suburban rec center for several hours. I stared blankly at the moms dropping their small sons off for hockey practice and let the reality of the situation sink in. For the first time in my adult life, I couldn’t do something that I really wanted to do – not because I was physically incapable, not because somebody else was stopping me, but because I was too afraid.

When you’re merely nervous about something, a good pep talk is often enough to get you past your apprehensions to where you need to be. I have clichés ready for myself when I’m feeling jittery about teaching a class or giving a presentation. You can do it, I say, and I believe myself. This was a different situation altogether. Deep in fear, I could only think, I can’t. I can’t. I absolutely can’t. True fear takes away your ability to reason, to step outside yourself and rationally consider your options. And for me, that was the scariest thing — that my mind wasn’t strong enough to control my body, that it could be paralyzed and rendered useless, trapped in a white padded room screaming I can’t I can’t I can’t.

Back on dry land, I grew to accept my failure. I had expected on some level that once I had gained some distance from the situation and my fear, I would be ready to gear up and try again, but this was not the case. The panic, the dread – they remained easily accessible and fresh in my mind. I made a lot of jokes about it and was objectively disappointed that I would never scuba dive, but truth was that I was relieved. Yes, I had wanted to scuba dive, but that want had been replaced by a bigger, deeper, and more demanding desire – to never ever feel so afraid again.

A couple of months after the Terrible Suburban Pool Incident, we arrived in Belize. My husband had made plans to finish his certification at a dive center there, and I accompanied him to confirm the plans. The woman working at the front desk verified that he was all set and then turned to me. “And what are you doing?” she asked. “Oh,” I said. “I can’t. I’m too scared.”

The woman — her name was Shelley — refused to accept this. “Just come,” she said. “We’ll work with you one-on-one. You’ll get it.”

I’ll spare you all the gruesome details, but the essence was this: I got it. I hated it, at first. I tried to quit dozens of times in my mind and at least 5 times out loud. Each time, Shelley, who had left the front desk to be my personal underwater savior, told me to stop and breathe. Each time, she told me that I couldn’t quit. Each time, she told me it would be worth it. And over the course of two days underwater, I learned this about fear: conquering it is not about getting rid of it. It’s not about ceasing to be afraid. It’s about standing in the middle of your fear and learning how to breathe. Learning how to see outside of it, beyond it. On my final certification dive, I opened my eyes underwater and for the first time, really saw where I was — and it was beautiful. Schools of fish, every color brighter than the last. A moray eel, terrifying and pulsing, weaving its way along the reef. An entire world available, once I learned how to breathe.

A lot of times, the thing that keeps us from making a lifestyle change is fear. We’re afraid to start a new workout program because we might not be good at it. We’re afraid to attempt to put our health first because we might fail. We might look weak. We might be unable to lift weights as heavy as we would like, or run as fast as we think we ought to be able to; we might look foolish, we might mess up. We might try and then have to admit we were unable to do it. It’s easier and more comfortable to stay on the couch — that is undoubtedly true. But if we stand in the middle of our fear and breathe, we open up the possiblity of another world — one filled with new strengths, new abilities, and new power.

If you know what I am talking about, please hear this: Try. Try again. Find your Shelley, someone who will hold your hand underwater and remind you to breathe. One of my favorite quotes, which came to life for me after this experience, is from Anais Nin: “Life expands or contracts in direct proportion to one’s courage.” It’s hard, but oh, when you are standing in the center of your fear, eyes wide and seeing your expanded world; I promise, you’ll know it’s worth it.

8 Things That Make Us Feel Powerful

Earlier this week, we talked about POWER and how we can feel capable of anything when we learn how to execute our strength with control. We’re heading into the weekend with 8 things that make us feel powerful and ultimately happy in our lives.

1. Pull-ups. Learning how to do them is a challenging journey, but nothing makes you feel more powerful than pulling your own dangling body up.

IMG_1513

2. Not letting food guilt run our lives. It’s just food, not an evil fat-making monster. It’s so empowering when you start calling the shots. Yes, we focus on eating healthfully because it makes our bodies feel good, but we also absolutely enjoy eating. And when we “indulge”, it’s because we CHOOSE to, and there is ZERO guilt allowed. Now that’s power!

3. Self-defense training. This is such a great way to expand your awareness of your environment and learn how you can use your body as a tool to stay safe no matter what your strength or size.

4. Honoring our commitment to work/life balance. Although we can be Type A yes-girls who leap at every opportunity to do more and learn more for our careers, there is something really powerful about setting boundaries. Especially when you are Type A and especially when you are passionate about your career, it’s difficult to maintain balance. Creating no-email time, not allowing ourselves to stay glued to our phones, honoring “me” time, and really making time for friends and family have helped us to feel calmer and happier — which helps us work harder, better, and with more joy.

5. Tossing out the scale. Those silly numbers do NOT rule us anymore.

6. Getting all dolled up for a night on the town. Though day-to-day we live in sweaty yoga pants and track jackets (and love every second of it), it’s really nice to get all dressed up and appreciate other aspects of our personality. It’s nice to know you don’t have to be an athlete OR a yogi OR a Warrior OR a girly girl. You get to be all of the above if you want to (and more), and sometimes it feels really powerful to embrace our more glamorous and feminine side.

7. Not being afraid of failure. If we only get stronger by discovering and working through our weaknesses, then we only achieve success by experiencing failure. Bring it on!

8. Carrying in all of your groceries in one trip. There is nothing that makes us feel tougher than loading up our arms with multiple bags as we battle with doors, keys, and stairs in the sweaty endeavor to only make one trip.

Have a POWERFUL weekend! What things make YOU feel powerful?

“I am powerful, so anything is possible.”

IMG_3745

 

Here at Size Strong, we are obviously all about strength and being strong, but there is another word that we’ve been playing around with a lot, that carries a lot of weight and strength behind it: POWER.

 

Part of what I love to do with my clients in class is provide them with a fresh perspective and unique motivation each and every time I teach. A couple of weeks ago, I introduced the phrase “I am powerful, so anything is possible,” and something weird happened. It gave me the chills, it made me scared, and it made me feel, well… invincible.

 

At this point in my fitness life, I feel comfortable talking about strength and considering myself strong, but powerful? In order to start feeling comfortable with that idea, I needed to take a closer look at what power actually means to me. Here’s our non-Webster’s-Dictorionary, Size Strong definition of power: strength executed with control. Power is knowing deep down that you have the strength to do something and executing that strength with precision, accuracy, and heart. Power is standing tall and facing the challenges thrown at you with confidence, grace, guts, and calm.

 

Power is definitely an idea we will explore more here at Size Strong. But this week, today, this moment, start repeating this mantra in your head: “I am powerful, so anything is possible.” Feel your shoulders roll back and away from your ears, feel your breath steady, and feel yourself dig even deeper to live every part of your life with strength and control.

Friday Fit Fashion: Patterned Leggings and Hidden Treasures in the Juniors Department

The joke within my circle of friends is that there’s no place I won’t wear workout clothes to. This is sad but true — when you spend most of your days in yoga pants, the idea of pants that button and zip is nothing short of horrifying (I refer to them as “leg prisons”). While I certainly don’t advocate that you adopt my m.o. of showing up sweaty to nice restaurants, I do think there’s a lot of fun, great “crossover” clothes out there right now, perfect for running from yoga to the bar. In honor of these final precious days of “summer” here in NYC, here’s one of my favorite looks. (To transition it to fall, I’ll swap the sandals for boots, throw on a long sweater, and call it a day.)

SizeStrong_FFF10.17.14

Sparta Leggings from Dona Jo Fitwear
I love love love Dona Jo Fitwear and their amazing leggings. This Pittsburgh-based company manufactures their clothes in Brazil and releases new prints on a regular basis. Prints are rarely brought back once they’ve sold out, which gives you the incentive to grab them up while you can! Purchase online and follow them on Instagram (@donajofitwear) for great outfit ideas and new print releases. I own many many pairs of their leggings, but so far this Sparta print is my favorite — bold, colorful, and ready to make a statement.

Owl Tank from Rebellious One
I’ll tell you a secret — I love to shop in the juniors’ department. I’m not particularly small or anything, but I can usually find tanks and tees that fit, and why should the teens have all the fun with prints and graphics?! I snagged this owl tank in the juniors’ department at Macy’s and love it. I also love that this is something I can throw in my bag to change into after a workout that fits the outift and keeps me from being the one who smells terrible at the bar.

BP Heart-shaped Sunglasses 
The juniors’ department strikes again! In my over 30 years of being alive, NOTHING I have owned has gotten me as many compliments as these $12 sunglasses from Nordstrom. I actually have 3 or 4 pairs in reserve in case they break or get lost. They add a little fun to any outfit I put on, and you can bet I’m rocking them as long as the sun is shining. I’ve also seen similar ones at Urban Outfitters.

Emily’s Size Strong Story

As Lina said last week, we feel that it’s important at the start of Size Strong that you get an idea of who we are, where we’ve been, and how we got to where we are now. While our personal stories are varied and unique, there are common threads in all of them — relatable bits, parts that make us nod and say, “I’ve been there too,” which are vital to building any community.

2014-07-06 13.04.48

I don’t have a background in fitness or a dramatic weight loss story. I was a quiet kid who mostly just liked to read, but my parents were invested in my well-rounded-ness, so I participated in sports in high school and was relatively active. As I got older and started reading more and more terrible magazines like Cosmopolitan and Seventeen, my relationship with “fitness” began to evolve into the one that so many women have — I saw a body type that I wanted to achieve, and with no knowledge or understanding of my body, I went about “achieving” it. By gleaning information from the aforementioned terrible magazines and other various dubious resources, I began counting calories, occasionally skipping meals, and spending a lot of time doing a set of Claudia Schiffer exercise tapes (yes, these actually exist). I weighed myself regularly and adjusted my feelings about how I looked and what I would eat that day based on it.

All of it — the silly workout tapes, the food control, the gazing at Photoshopped bodies and wishingly vaguely for them —  never got particularly out of control. I remained relatively active and relatively healthy, but the thoughts were always there. The seeds were planted, and these ideas became a part of my everyday life. Like so many girls and women, I started to think of my body as something that needed to look a certain way, and of food and exercise as the opposing forces that controlled how it looked. Exercise = good; food = bad. As a result, I exercised reluctantly and out of obligation, and ate under varying degrees of guilt. I was never overweight, but I lived under the belief that my body should look different, even if I wasn’t necessarily willing to put in the work to get it there.

Throughout college and in the many years after graduation, I approached my “health” — or my faulty understanding of health — in a cyclical manner. Every few months or so, I would go on a “health kick”, which usually involved signing up for some kind of introductory gym deal and adopting some kind of trendy diet or juice cleanse at the same time. I would stick with both diligently for a few weeks, give or take, and then lose interest. Rinse, repeat. I did bikram. I took muay thai. I tried spin. I (sort of) danced. I hired a personal trainer. I “took up running”. Nothing stuck.

Then, in 2011, something stuck: I found The Barre Code. Back then, it was called Barre Bee Fit, and it was a small new studio in a basement space across the street from my apartment in downtown Chicago. I signed up for a month, and something weird happened. I signed up for another month. And another. And one day, I looked around, and my life had changed.

What had changed was not just my body, but my mind. At The Barre Code, I learned for the first time that my body was strong. That my body likes to move. That my body is capable, that my body can be defined by what it can do, rather than what it looks like. For the first time, I stopped viewing exercise as means for looking a certain way and started realizing that it was a way to become stronger. To be able to do more things. I stopped viewing food as something I should feel guilty about and started seeing it as fuel, as energy, and as joy. I love to eat, and I was finally done feeling bad about it. Now, I try to eat more things that I know are good for my body and feel good in my body — at long last, that’s what it’s all become about for me. Feeling good. Being happy. Living well.

In the last three-plus years, that’s exactly what I’ve done — lived better, more happily, and more fully. The improvement comes from no longer approaching the business of existing in my own skin with a precarious mix of obligation, guilt, and dread. Now I work out because I love it, and I’m always trying new things to keep it interesting, to keep learning. I’m currently doing my 200-hour yoga teacher certification, gaining a deeper understanding of anatomy and alignment and discovering new ways to strengthen and restore my body. I train several times a week in krav maga, in an effort to build the specific strength and skills that allow me to feel safe as a woman in this world. I take classes all over New York City to stay connected to what’s happening in this ever-growing, ever-fascinating industry, and to meet as many like-minded and inspirational people as I can. My goals these days have nothing to do with fitting into clothes or hitting some arbitrary number on the scale. Back in those days, I thought I needed to weigh 120 pounds to be happy. Now I want to run an 8-minute mile. Do pull-ups. Fight someone and win.

I never thought I would be super into fitness or work in fitness, and I think there’s a general perception that fitness is something that’s only for a certain type of person who is willing to be a certain way and do certain things. But the truth is that fitness is for bodies, which we all have and we all need to invest in and take care of. I’m so excited to be a part of Size Strong and to have these discussions with all of you about finding that peace, that strength, that beauty and joy in our own ways.

Friday Fit Fashion: An Outfit from Fabletics

Let’s be honest: when we look good, we feel good! And while we’re certainly driven to get to the gym because we love to move and love to sweat, sometimes it’s putting on a great outfit that motivates a workout.

One of our favorite fitness apparel brands right now is Fabletics, a web-based fitness apparel company that’s all about fashion, function, and fit. (Bonus: It’s also incredibly affordable.) We love this brand so much that I actually rep the brand as a Fabletics Master, and here is one of my absolute favorite outfits.

SizeStrong_FableticsOutfit

Switch Back Tee in black
A new item this month and perfect for fall. After a particularly hard class, I love peeling off my sweaty tank and putting this on — it’s a great item to walk out of the studio in so I can get on with my day in style.

Vaasa Sports Bra in mulberry
Another new item this month! I love the details on this bra. It’s not super compressive, but it’s great for yoga, barre, or other low-impact workouts. The mulberry color is such a great pop as well.

Salar Capri in camo
These are a favorite from the Fabletics summer line, and I’m particularly obsessed with the camo print. All the Salar leggings are amazing, though — they fit true to size, are comfortably compressive, and the patterns are so fun!