By Brandy Black
I met her in a diner on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. We flirted in a bar a few weeks later. We first kissed in my bungalow. We had long talks in the car outside of my apartment. We ate ice cream cones on the curb of Fairfax. She dragged me to yoga. I dragged her to dance clubs. We moved in together a year later and shared a 500 square foot apartment. We went to Palm Springs on a whim and learned to aim at a shooting range. We mastered craps in Vegas and stayed in a suite on the strip. She wore sunglasses at night. We ran a marathon and dreamt of our future. We mapped it out. It came true. We bought a condo in a less cooler place than West Hollywood. We planned a wedding when it wasn’t legal. We were engaged for two years. We were married on an island with 80 of our closest friends. Everything went wrong. The wedding was perfect. The honeymoon even better. I learned esposa means wife in Spanish and used it while at Maroma in Mexico. We sold our condo, made some money and bought a house. We dreamt of babies but couldn’t make them, we tried everything. We got a dog. We loved him. I was still sad. We went to Italy and hiked Cinque Terrre. We were still sad. We did IVF. A couple times. When we were about to give up, I got pregnant. It was a miracle. Life was perfect again. We got pregnant again, this time with twins. We sold our house and moved into a bigger one. We got an au pair. We said goodbye to my Audi and got a bigger car. We juggled twin babies and a 3-year-old, it was tough. We muddled our way through. We started date night. That helped. Our twins are 2, our oldest 5, on Friday it will be sixteen years since that first kiss.
By Susan Howard
A client of mine having great success in both fitness and weight loss, goes to a Weight Watchers meeting once a week to weigh in and to hear words of inspiration. Although she has maintained her weight loss for over two years, she goes to be reminded of good habits and to support a friend in his weight loss endeavor. At one meeting, her leader explained that every meal you eat doesn’t have to be sexy. To those of you that are foodies this may ring a bell. To my client, who is an excellent gourmet cook, this idea floored her. No amuse-bouche? No farm to table? No burrata pizza with a balsamic reduction?
As the Food Network has transformed food into porn, we tend to obsess about our next meal or feel the need to try the newest snout to tail eatery. To maintain a healthy weight, it’s easier to just come up with some nutritious choices and push repeat. That’s why I say on Sunday night get yourself set up for the week by hard boiling a dozen eggs, sautéing some chicken breasts and make a yummy grain, quinoa or brown rice. So you are ready with quick easy fix ups when you are hungry. Sometimes for a meal you just got to get it done. Success favors the prepared. At any given time I have on hand string cheese, Greek yogurt, raw almonds, chopped greens, and various fruits.
Sometimes I don’t have the extra time to make a whole meal, but I can grab a string cheese and an apple and off I go. Don’t expect every meal to be the most delicious fried crispy saucy morsel you may crave, remember you are feeding your body. Think protein, carbs, and fat, some of which should be in most meals and snacks, the less processed the better. If you find a meal that is fairly good tasting and healthy, push repeat.
Let me take this notion a step further and say every workout doesn’t have to be sexy. I used to think if I didn’t max out weight training or run it wasn’t worth doing it at all. Now my goal is consistency over intensity. Which isn’t to say a hard ass session isn’t useful, merely that it’s better to make it to the gym than to worry you only have thirty minutes to workout. Just go and turn in the best workout you can do that day.
Above all be kind to yourself. You’re all you got.
By: Susan Howard
This is my tater tot series part two, furthering the inquiry about how to keep your child at a healthy weight and give them habits for years to come.
Never tell your child to eat everything on their plate.
Teach them to listen to their body’s natural cues of hunger and fullness. Let them be in charge of taking inventory as much as possible.
Fill their plates with tons of colorful nutritious options and then let them decide how much of what they eat. Our pediatrician, Dr. Liddy, told us kids will self regulate if given the chance. Isn’t that what you ultimately want?
When they are out of the house you aren’t going to be there telling them to finish their veggies. (Unless they are still in the house after college, which seems common these days, but is a different story.)
Teach them about what food does. Brandy is tireless in explaining that protein builds your muscles, milk helps your bones get strong, carbohydrates gives you energy and veggies help give you vitamins to see, and keep you feeling good. It doesn’t have to be too complex simple stuff like that broccoli has fiber in it so you can poop. Then they understand what a balanced diet is and why they need it.
Take them to local farmers markets, farms, and berry picking spots. Teach them that food doesn’t come from a package, it comes from the ground or a pasture. Allow your children to have a connection with what real food is. No it’s not in a Twinkie wrapper.
Plant a garden, herbs is an easy one to start with, and let them help. My daughter loves dirt and worms and being a little pioneer toddler, she’s a regular Laura Engles. She also now loves basil, parsley, and rosemary, and can pick it right off the vine.
Cook with your kids. Start with something easy that involves a lot of stirring and pouring. There is a fun recipe that is basically penne pasta, veggies and cheese in a muffin tin, super easy pasta muffins.
Make healthy foods flavorful. Take a cooking class, buy a new cookbook, watch the Food Network. If your kids aren’t eating it, up your game.
Limit excessive television watching. One of my clients just told me her house rule, if the sun is out no television. I like that because it seems to encourage kids to take on the day be active.
Inquire about the hot lunch program at your school. Be involved and try link fresh produce with the cafeteria. It is a battle worth fighting for.
By: Susan Howard
A blog by Brandy’s wife
Heather Has Two Mommies is a black and white book put out in the 80’s, one of the first, (if not the first) books of it’s kind to help children understand that all families are different. A girl is starting her preschool and she gets upset as she tells the class she doesn’t have a Dad, she has two moms and so the story goes that each kid talks about their family. Each kid draws a picture of what their family looks like, one being the child of stepparents, one being the child of a single mother and one being adopted. It shows the transition from feeling different to being apart of the class.
The book feels a bit simplistic, but we bought it long ago to give Sophia something to refer to that reflects her family.
My oldest daughter has always been able to take care of herself. She mothers herself constantly. When I get frustrated with her misbehaving she says, “Mom, you should take away T.V. from me tonight.” Or on the rare occasion we keep her up late she puts on her own PJ’S and demands “Someone needs to put me to bed.” She is very much like my wife Brandy in that way, in charge of what she needs and not afraid to get it. “Sophia, you’re going to a real school tomorrow.” “Why are you so upset Mom?” she asks. “I am not upset, it’s just a big deal. It’s school.”
The night before her first day of kindergarten she gets to pick two books before bed and one of them was Heather Has Two Moms. I knew in that moment my Sophia was ready for big girl school.
Good luck Soph. You’ll teach them a thing o
By Susan Howard
Instead of my usual blog about health and fitness, I wanted to take this moment to honor one of my clients who in the past 6 months has melted away over 40 pounds. My clients are constantly inspiring me to do better and I thought it would be nice to highlight her journey. She is, I must let you know a busy mom of 2, a full time doctor, as well as a women that goes out on girls weekends and dinner dates with her husband. I’ve heard about these profound weight losses and have watched the shows where someone drops half their body weight, but I want to give the regular busy Joe or Jane an insight to how it’s really done. She asked to remain anonymous, but here it is in her words.
Me: “What is the most significant thing you’ve changed?”
Her: It is impossible to isolate one, single change. So, I will take a minute to ramble on about a few key differences in my attitude towards food and exercise, and in my daily habits.
1) I think I’ve had significant weight loss success because I made important changes to both my eating habits and exercise routine. I know people who go to the gym religiously, but do not change what or how much they are eating, and then act surprised when they don’t lose weight. Conversely, some people calorie restrict but remain completely sedentary, again without achieving significant results. I felt it was important for me to approach this as a complete lifestyle overhaul and to make healthy changes both in my eating AND exercise habits simultaneously.
2) I did not immediately over-restrict, but gradually decreased my food intake over time. I started out by cutting back to 1700 kcal/day, which is actually still quite a bit of food, and was able to loose a good deal of weight without feeling deprived or hungry. After a few months of eating 1700 calories and feeling quite satisfied with this regimen, I cut back to 1500 kcal/day by making just a few small changes (dropped 1 yogurt and 1 serving of almonds), easy. A few months later, I dropped down to 1200 kcal/day on most days, and 1500 kcal/day on days when I exercise, which is the routine that I maintain today. I like the variation and the idea of a little reward for exercising (a frozen yogurt and a serving of rosemary and sea salt marcona almonds.)
3) I found ways to keep eating my favorite foods, just in smaller portions. For instance, having a large latte with low fat milk (not skim!) is something that I enjoy immensely and look forward to each morning. I have easily incorporated it into my diet such that I have one every single day. Likewise, I have a 150 kcal dessert every day – Cadbury cream egg? Why not? Handful of goldfish (55 to be exact)? Of course! Small wedge of decadent cheese? Absolutely. I’ve come to a place in my thinking about food where I am satisfied having 1 cream egg, and no longer feel a compulsion to eat 5 or 6. I can have 3 bites of Trader Joe’s chocolate pudding and feel content. I never thought I would be the person who could stop eating after 1 or 2 bites, but that is exactly who I’ve become. I have complete control over my intake of food now. I’m not sure how I was able to make this profound attitude change it just came gradually over time with lots and lots of practice.
4) I threw out the “must do a solid 45 minutes of cardio” mentality, and replaced it with a love for and understanding of the importance of strength training. This is where you, Susan Howard, have been an invaluable and completely integral part of my weight loss journey. My body feels and looks different because for the first time in my life, I have lost weight by routinely engaging in light to moderate strength/resistance training in combination with moderate cardiovascular exercise. My husband has commented several times on how I seem more fit and look different/better than I have after previous weight losses. He maintains that my overall body composition is different/more toned/healthier looking than it has been in the past, even when I weighed less than I do now.
5) I gave up my gym membership! Susan told me, “The best gym is the one that you use.” Well, I wasn’t using mine at all, due to a serious time crunch with a full time job and 2 kids. So, for the first time in 25 years, I gave up my gym membership and started working out at home, this was the best fitness change I’ve ever made. I now know that I can achieve better results at home with a spin bike (for 10-30 minutes of cardio) plus a mat, a set of 5, 8, 10 and 12 pound weights, a 4 pound medicine ball and a resistance band than I ever achieved pounding away for 45 minutes on an elliptical machine at the gym. By working out at home I am able to take advantage of golden opportunities for exercise (do it while the baby is napping! Or while the kids are gardening with dad), prefect for a 30-60 minute home workout, but would not have allowed for a time-sucking trip to the gym. I also vary my workout every time I exercise, so as to avoid boredom and to be challenging different muscle groups. This is where having a regular meeting with Susan has been invaluable, because it allows me to constantly be adding new exercises and to be tweaking old ones as I grow stronger. My years of extreme gym boredom and monotony are forever gone!
Summary: Eat 1200-1500 kcal/day
Exercise 30-60 min, 3-4 times per week
20 min cardio + 30 min strength
Typical day’s food:
Morning: Large low fat latte
200 kcal breakfast muffin/bar
Lunch: 250 kcal Lean Cuisine
1 string cheese
Afternoon snack: 110 kcal Fiber one bar + 1 fruit
Late afternoon snack: Carrots + Light Laughing Cow cheese (35 kcal)
Dinner: 250 kcal Lean Cuisine
Spinach/Arugula Salad with 1 Tbl Girard’s Light Champagne Dressing
Dessert: 100 kcal Trader Joe’s milk chocolate bar
Optional (if exercised): 130 kcal yogurt (frozen or regular) OR 1 oz goat cheese on salad and 10 almonds
That’s all folks, not too confusing. That was her trail and she travels on to this day. Right on!
By Susan Howard, Personal Trainer
Habits are often thought of in a negative way. Something to be kicked…smoking, nail biting, boozing, getting that sugar fix…the list goes on and on.
We poor mortals are victims of our habits. Unconnected to our repetitive behaviors, we simply must continue acting them out. How did it all begin?
Well let’s break it down. At one point way back when, you felt anxious (or tired or bored) and you turned to sugar, which relaxed you, or gave you a momentary burst of energy. Now that action has imprinted itself as something to help you fulfill that void. Then you become addicted to the substance, and at this point you don’t even really need a reason to turn to the habit. The habit becomes the cue.
Our brains are so overwhelmed, sifting through constant stimuli to decipher what is important and what isn’t. Once something becomes a true habit our brain goes into cruise control and doesn’t even need to think; it just repeats itself.
Knowing that we like patterns, that familiarity is comfortable to us…why not use this to our advantage? Create a routine to workout everyday (if possible the same time of day). Put out your shoes and clothes the night before, get your same water bottle ready, all of it.
At first it will take thought. But ultimately it will become such a ritual that you may not even remember doing it. Your brain goes into autopilot. Then when you miss it, you will crave it. Like a junkie.
So….I want you to have a nasty habit, a dark little secret you partake in at the crack of dawn, something that makes you jittery if you skip using it even once.
By Susan Howard, Fitness Ghuru
Often I hear clients complain about not having time to workout, which translates to not wanting to workout. I have been training long enough to know that people are only going to do what they want to do.
Why don’t people want to workout? Why not? It’s because they forget how awesome it feels. How incredible it is when your body burns through that ATP, lungs take in oxygen, the adrenal glands release epinephrine, endorphins kick in, the heart rate raises up and the blood is pumping.
When I am at my best I feel strong. Being static makes me feel lazy and like there are no possibilities. Energy equals more energy. Kind of like you get what you pay for, or you reap what you sow.
So why don’t people want to workout? Because they haven’t found the thing they love. Here are a couple photos from a hike and a run I took last week. Embracing my true spirit up in the mountains. I stand in awe of these moments in that I wonder why do I have to beg people to get moving, to commune with nature, to be who they truly are? WE ARE MOVERS! We are supposed to move. It shouldn’t be that big of a bummer to run in beauty and feel powerful. It’s amazing. It’s out there. It’s your day. Take it.
By Susan Howard
Crouched down by the bedroom closet I am hiding from my one-year-old twins. I hear them crawling and screaming; they are inside the house, coming closer and closer. My dog betrays my trust by bounding beside me loudly and noisily wagging his tail, basically giving me away. Both children have ear infections and both are certain to let me know how miserable they are by yelling, rubbing their snotty faces into my shirt, and needing to be held incessantly.
All I want to do is change clothes. The fantasy of a glass of water is a distant dream. I have to pick up their sister from school and I refused to go in slopped on sweatpants. It’s after 2 and I have not had lunch. After suffering multiple stomach issues I made it a goal not to eat meals during stressful situations. At this rate I am on the Gandhi diet.
Let’s face it. I am not good with babies. I don’t get them. They don’t get me. We agree to disagree. For the next three days we have no Au Pair, so I am trying to pitch in and take on the front lines. I had no idea how relentless the enemy was. The enemy is abound.
They come in one behind the next, invading on all fours like a pack of mini wolves. “I need to get changed. You gotta give me a second,” I plead. But my voice is drowned out by their wails. These guys are professionals.
I do have a new shirt and jeans on so perhaps I have triumphed, good over evil. In a moment, a slobbery sweet potato snot face is embedded in my new shirt and I smile, really I cry.
By: Susan Howard
A client of mine lost about ten pounds last year and is holding strong to her new fighting weight. “I am done,” she exclaimed. “I am tired of gaining and losing the same ten pounds. This time is the last.” There was something very definitive about how she pronounced the end of the games she plays with her weight. She is tossing away that habit. Gone.
Another client who is now down a full clothes size was going through her closet realizing a bunch of stuff doesn’t fit -it’s too baggy. “Give it away,” I tell her. “I know,” she laments. “But what if I gain it back, then I’ll have nothing to wear?” Exactly. First of all, the old stuff is probably out of style, and either way it fits the old you -not the one you are becoming. Also, if you are frugal like I am and hate to spend money, then it could serve as an extra incentive to keep the pounds off.
Allow yourself to change, make changes, and then step into the new version of who you’ve become.
Creating new habits takes effort, making little decisions each day that culminate into a larger metamorphosis. Only by exorcising your old self can you clear a space for the new you to be born. Can I get a Hallelujah?
Let’s stay open and also take charge of 2013. It is all inside you to have -whatever year you decide. Make a choice and stick to it, be unwavering, be fierce. You got this. Now go get a garbage bag and throw out your old stuff or, even better, donate it.
A question to you the reader: have you been successful at losing weight and keeping it off? If you have, let me know what worked in your transformation by commenting below.