The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible “Fitspiration” Photos

I could not say it better myself. Love, love, LOVE this post

Reembody

The Reembody blog, up to this point, has been a thoughtful exploration of human movement, a subject about which I am extremely passionate.

Today, however, I’m mad and I’m going to tell you why.

I have been planning a blog post for a while on fitness misinformation, and it was originally going to be the same kind of thoughtful deconstruction found in my other installments. But then I read this and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever found in my newsfeed: so beautiful, in fact, that the rest of the health and fitness propaganda floating around Facebook like turds in a pool started to really, really piss me off.

So thoughtful deconstruction has been postponed for another day. Instead, we’re going to take a good look at a few of those turds and get pissed off together because, when someone preys upon your insecurities in an effort…

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Lean body – getting the results you want

I have been transparent about my battles with negative self-perceptions and body-image. These negative thought patterns go in spurts. I started writing this post late at night – unable to sleep and staring into the dark – wondering what it would be like to be ripped, hard, and lean. How would life be different?

What did I come up with? It would be different in no significant nor substantive way!

Media’s role

But wow. Facebook likes to think it knows what we will “like.” For me, it always recommends systems, supplements, and proteins that promise a lean body. I am active in many health and fitness social media networks and groups – so I get it. But they got me all wrong – and they are pushing the wrong buttons.

Triggered thoughts

I began to think, what if I just try it for a bit and see what is different. Will I have that ripped appearance that I want so badly but won’t starve myself to obtain? Will I remain the same? Will I bloat up?

How I would LOVE a lean body like the one advertised in the image. But at what cost?

I know what it takes

For someone with my genetics, it takes more to achieve the extremely lean look than it does for others. I have mentioned before, during times at my most lean, I felt sickly and exhausted. I couldn’t function! Would it be different if I filled my body with chemicals and manufactured ‘energy’?

The bottomline

And my mind goes on and on – all because of the hundreds of hard, lean bodies I see advertised on Facebook and other social media sites each day. I would delete my social media accounts, but it is a way for me to educate the community and cultivate new relationships and clients.

What messages do these ads send us? Don’t we have enough to deal with?

Follow me on Facebook: Better by Becca – where I rarely – if ever – post lean body pictures. There are plenty of other ways to motivate, inspire, and empower women.

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Managing stress and anxiety in a chaotic world

Many of our difficulties originate with stress and anxiety. Packed schedules, competition in the workplace and social circles, pressures to be perfect, and lack of self-care (e.g., sleep, exercise, healthy eating) all play a part in high stress and anxiety levels.

Those who know me well know that I can suffer pretty severe anxiety. Anything that requires numbers – I will need someone to talk me down out of my anxious state. And nothing makes me more anxious than being late – I become light headed and nauseous. The mind is powerful!

Stress is described as “the psycho-physiological responses of the individual to any influence which disturbs homeostasis.” What does this mean? Physical, mental, and emotional changes to your body’s normal balance. These changes depend on a given individual’s tolerance to stress. What might cause a great deal of stress to me may not elicit the same response in you. And vice versa. Stress can be the result of environmental factors, although illness and nutrition can also play a role. An individual’s reaction to stress can involve aggression and anger or inversely, inhibition, regression, and fear (Moran, 2004).

Anxiety involves a feeling of fear or a perception of threat and it may or may not be specific to a particular situation. Possible symptoms are nausea, loss of composure, reduced motor coordination, and aggression (Moran, 2004). The intensity of anxiety can be directly related to the amount of associated stress and more often than not depends on the individual’s perception.

The following tips can help you while learning to manage stress and anxiety.

  1. Be informed. Ask questions and know your expectations, roles, and responsibilities.
  2. Use imagery. Imagine yourself performing the tasks – flawlessly and with ease.
  3. Maintain a strong social support system. Having strong social support can help you cope with the stress, whether by having someone practice scripts with you – for example before a big presentation – or  by watching a movie to distract you for a time.
  4. Practice physical and mental relaxation. Release tension and clear the mind. Progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery are two forms of self-care. Treat yourself to a massage. Learn self-massage or tapping!
  5. Communicate. Let friends, family members, and colleagues know how you are feeling and what you are thinking.
  6. Get plenty of sleep. Inadequate rest can lead to fatigue and poor judgment.
  7. Drink plenty of water. Everything suffers – physically, mentally, and emotionally – when the body is not properly hydrated.
  8. Maintain a positive attitude. And practice self-talk. People with positive attitudes tend to approach problems with more hopeful and optimistic views.
  9. Maintain realistic expectations and goals. Having unrealistic expectations can lead to unnecessary pressure and stres.
  10. Celebrate. Recognize goals and milestones that you have achieved!

The bottomline

Everyone of us faces periods of stress and anxiety. Some of us have more serious experiences, but often times we can manage daily situations by implementing one or a few of the above tips.

What tips do you have for managing stress and anxiety?

References

Koslowsky, M. (1998). Modeling the stress-strain relationship in work settings. New York: Routledge.

Moran, A. P. (2004). Sport and exercise psychology: A critical introduction. New York: Routledge.

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Let your challenges lead to growth

I’d be lying if I said that this last year has been anything but hard. It’s funny how looking back on times that I felt were hard – were nothing in comparison. While in this year, I have grown a great deal and learned the value of me, I stumbled, bruised, and scarred along the way.

With each stumble, it has been difficult to remember my strengths and endearing qualities.

With each bruise, thoughts, “Is pursuing your dream really fruitful?”

With each scar, a memory to go along.

Stumbles

I stepped away from a position in management – and this did not fair well. It is not that I do not attend to direction, it is that my superiors should be more educated and experienced than I am – whether it be in fitness, nutrition, business, or management. And I do not do well with micro-management.

I gained nearly 15 pounds – ignoring my self-care. I refocused and the weight came off.

Income – in 2012, I fell below the poverty line. Humbling!

Bruises

I had bruises from walking into furniture. I had bruises from dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells.

I had bruises on my heart – from haters and opponents who liked to poke and prod.

The good news, bruises are temporary and they all healed on their good time.

Scars

I am left with scars – physical and mental.

The scars on my knuckles – from taking my anger out on the heavy bag without taking the time to adequately wrap them.

The scar to my heart – losing my best friend and mentor.

The scars to my mind – thoughts of failure and disappointment.

The bottomline

I wouldn’t change any of it. It cultivated me into the woman I am today…and amazing things are happening! I look back at each challenge – and I can see how each and everyone of them led me to grow.

How have your challenges led to growth?

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Learning the value of – ME

I am feeling gratitude. I am feeling blessed.

These last few years been rough – but good. I had to throw my plan out the window – the career I was working  for was crumbling under my feet and I had to spread my wings to fly. I took myself across the country to experience the East Coast. I left everything familiar behind. I sold and stored my belongings – packing my life into my car. This experience was priceless.

I met one of my best friends – without her I would be lost.

I met a colleague, with whom I have endless conversations about the demise of our industry and our passions and visions for ourselves. He has been an indispensable resource.

I drove from Wisconsin to New York. Then From New York to Texas. Then Texas to Minnesota. In search of something that I did not know. I ultimately found it in Wisconsin.

Recently, during a discussion with my colleague – who is currently in Ohio, it occurred to me that I was in search of my value. MY value. I had to drive quite a ways, but I found it.

The things I learned

There are countless things that I learned. But there are several that have been ‘life-changing.’ I love how I can look back on my difficult times and see how they are blessings. I can remember dealing with knee pain and surgeries, thinking: why, why, WHY? But today, I am a much better trainer and coach because of that experience. I am much more invested in injury prevention, knowing the struggles of the aftermath. I wouldn’t exchange the years of pain for anything! But, what did my cross-country journey teach me?

I learned how to build and maintain relationships.

I learned to be confident in what I know.

I learned who my true friends are – some of this was very painful.

I learned how to let go.

I learned to enjoy downtime – something that otherwise had made me anxious.

I learned to be slow to talk (ok, so I am still working on this one).

I learned to stand up for what I believe in – this was moreso solidified.

I learned what my dietary needs were – and that I had fine-tuned my body far better than I had realized.

I learned that you can call yourself an expert, and very few will no whether you are or not.

I learned that the people in Texas really ARE the friendliest people you will ever meet.

I learned that I have a strong Wisconsin accent – although most of those telling me this had never met a true midwesterner – so they may be in for a shocker someday.

I learned how to say when enough is enough.

I learned MY VALUE.

The bottomline

I was called back to my home state. The former clients who have been displaced. I could not turn my back to the plethora of opportunities: writing, training, coaching, business development, corporate wellness, and MORE!

What is my value? I cannot quite put it into words. But I know that I offer something that very few do. When asked who my local competition is, I can confidently say: NO ONE. No one else does what I do, how I do it.

And that feels good.

My love affair with peanut butter

I have a problem. I LOVE peanut butter.

The fact is, I am a recovering peanut butter addict.

Many fitness experts promote peanut butter. You can buy shirts that say, “will run for peanut butter.” And while peanut butter is good for you, there is the chance of having too much of a good thing! I often play this game with individuals when I ask “if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, and you didn’t need to worry about it having a negative impact on your weight or health, what would it be?” My answer is peanut butter. Hands down. Without hesitation.

Too much of a good thing?
It started with snacks – mostly an apple and peanut butter. Then celery with peanut butter. And carrots with peanut butter. The occasional ice cream with peanut butter. Or brownies with peanut butter. A pear and peanut butter. Sugar snap peas and peanut butter.

Then meals. A sandwich followed by carrots with peanut butter. An urgent breakfast – a banana with peanut butter. Chocolate peanut butter protein shakes. Chocolate peanut butter cottage cheese. Peanut butter on waffles and pancakes. Peanut butter on a turkey sandwich.

I am pretty sure peanut butter can be paired with anything.

As of a few weeks ago, I was eating peanut butter 2-3 times a day!!! Too much of a good thing.

My body said whoa
My body and digestive tract had been hollering at me for a while – I will spare you the details. I ignored them. I loved peanut butter. All forms – fake and natural, those with sugar, those with eggs, and those with nothing but peanuts. It tastes good! It satiates me and fills me up! And it is good for you!!

Win-win-win.

Elimination diet
In the nutrition world they refer to my recent change as an elimination diet: I gave up peanut butter as of August 12. And my body is thanking me. I did accidentally eat peanut butter while on a recent vacation to Chicago – it didn’t occur to me until I was half way through my sandwich.

I had a strong suspicion that peanut butter was the culprit to my discomfort. And it seems I was right. By eliminating it, I have been feeling 10x better

The bottomline
Regardless of what the food item is, it is not healthy to eat it all the time. This can lead to intolerances and sensitivities. (I seem to be prone to this as I had this occur with shrimp a few years back).

Is there anything that you eat too much of? Be mindful of what your body may be telling you about it!

There will be haters

This is one of the most challenging aspects of adopting and retaining a healthy lifestyle: Nay-sayers. Sabotogers. Haters. Insulters. The filterless.

Remember: This is your journey and no one else’s. No one knows what you know about you, has been through what you have, or has to do what you do. We are each our own. haters

More often than not, those who are negative are in the midst of their own struggle – and the negativity towards you actually has absolutely nothing to do with you!

Shouldn’t we want others to succeed?

Yes, we should. But we have cultivated an egocentric and selfish society. Women – particularly – often want to ‘one-up’ each other. Many individuals have the need to be better than those around them – and anything that threatens this perception elicits default behaviors – or defense mechanisms. Yes, putting others down can be and IS a defense mechanism.

Some of your friends and family will want you to continue to overeat, eat poorly, or skip exercise – because then they will feel better about there own unhealthy behaviors. There is comfort in numbers!

Other individuals simply do not understand. Some have been blessed with genetics that do not allow them to put on an extra 20 pounds. Some have always lived active, healthy lives and continue to do so without hiccups. DO NOT let their lack of understanding tear you down. Their comments can make you feel like your concerns are insignificant – ignore them. And know, that more than likely these particular individuals mean no harm – they just do not know any different.

Remove negative, increase positive

It can be difficult, but sometimes you must cut the negative out of your life. At times, this may mean separating yourself from family members or long-time friends. It might mean quitting a job. It may mean moving. Sounds like it could get financially stressful! I would be lying if I said that it will not be. But what is best for you in the long term? And how does this compare to the expense of treating depression, diabetes, heart disease, etc? Surround yourself with the individuals who will be supportive and positive and your journey will be much more pleasurable!

In other situations, you must ignore the negative. This takes practice – and is incredibly difficult. For example, I have had many sabotagers trying to coherce me into eating foods that were unhealthy. I learned to ignore them. I learned to walk away. Practice saying: Thanks, but no thanks.

Above all, the most important positive voice is your own! Your positive voice can be the best defense against the nay-sayers and sabotagers. When you hear negativity or criticism, you immediately know different with thoughts such as, “I am strong.” “I am on the right track.” “I am taking care of my heart, body, and mind.”

The bottomline

I do not have anything impressive or extraordinary to share on the topic. I just know, that I face negativity from those around me on a daily basis – and I know that you do too!

I know that sometimes the negativity is my misperception of things said – or not said. Knowing this, I can disregard the ‘negative’ and move on.

And yes, YOUR positivity is 10x stronger and more powerful than the negativity of others.

How do YOU manage haters, nay-sayers, or sabotagers?

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Breakfast – MY favorite meal of the day

You need to start your day right by boosting your metabolism with a solid breakfast. Typical breakfasts are carb-laden and protein deficient. I am guilty of this, as I LOVE pancakes! To help you out with that I’ve got a gift for you from me and my buddies over at Prograde Nutrition. It’s a delicious Protein Pancakes recipe. 

Thanks to the protein in the recipe your blood sugar won’t go crazy like it can just by eating a huge stack of pancakes with sugary syrup. Nope, this recipe will fill you up, nourish your body, and give your metabolism just the boost it needs.

Go get the Protein Pancakes recipe!

Be sure to let me know how you like it.

PS – Seriously, have a nutritious breakfast and your body will thank you for it ALL DAY!

http://betterbybecca.getprograde.com/prograde-pancake-recipe.html

Is body awareness important for fitness results?

Last decade’s trends of yoga, tai chi, and pilates heavily emphasize mind-body awareness. Some could argue it is about the mind communicating directly with the physical body.

Body awareness: Body awareness involves an attentional focus on and awareness of internal body sensations. Body awareness, as we define it here, is the subjective, phenomenological aspect of proprioception and interoception that enters conscious awareness, and is modifiable by mental processes including attention, interpretation, appraisal, beliefs, memories, conditioning, attitudes and affect. (Mehling, et. al, 2011).

I argue that body awareness – particularly as described as proprioception – is essential for all human movement. In fact, we KNOW that it is – watch The Man Who Lost His Body. Therefore, it is not a process specific to these specific schools of exercise.

Mirrors or no mirrors

I am opening a small training and coaching studio. I had no idea how stressful little decisions could become – wall colors, window treatments, signage, decorating, and on! I just want to train and empower individuals! One of the most difficult decisions for me has been deciding if I want mirrors or not. I have decided – no mirrors.

One of the most unique aspects of my training style is training body awareness (proprioception) and teaching individuals how to FEEL what proper positions and movements feel like.

Why do I do this?

If you need a mirror to find your proper posture, in daily living you will need a mirror to be reminded to find that proper posture. I want you to know what it FEELS like and know when you are NOT in proper position and need to re-position.

But why?

Proper posture and positioning can increase your daily caloric expenditure up to 30%. Yes, THIRTY percent. When you are in proper position you move better, feel better, and experience fewer aches and pains. As a result, LIFE is better!

A real-life story

I began my fitness career in facilities with mirrors – watching my form and technique. It never occurred to me to connect to my body and to be aware of what movements felt like. I was young. I had yet to suffer from injuries. And I just wanted to move. In time, I had to deal with my share of injuries (knees and back).

I trained without mirrors from 2009-2012. My movement improved. I became stronger. I became more aware. I did not suffer any serious injuries. My own awareness and fitness improved and I taught my clients the same.

I have been training with mirrors for the last 6 months or so – and I am experiencing more aches and pains. I am about to go back to no-mirror training and we will see if this improves.

The bottomline

Knowing what feels good or bad, right or wrong, is critical to an improved quality of life. There is a time and place for mirrors, but they are far from necessary – and who really wants to watch themselves in the mirror anyways????

CrossFit: The good, the bad, and the ugly

I have been avoiding this post. The thought and energy that I have put into this is exhausting. But time and time again:

Is CrossFit a good choice for me?

99% of the time my answer is NO! My intent is to educate and inform – including the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My need for answers and information

I am a person who needs answers. I need to approach a topic from all perspectives and angles before I make a decision. (I come across as highly opinionated, but I am also highly informed and I therefore have great confidence in my opinion.)

Given my need for information, I decided that I needed to seek out scholarly and scientific support for CrossFit – as if I wanted to promote it. I spent endless hours searching for anything peer-reviewed. I was searching for legitimate research for the CrossFit model. I sought the input of colleagues and exercise physiologists – do they know of any research?

Nothing.

I did come across a study that measured the energy expenditure of CrossFit workouts versus other high intensity workouts. I do not question that you expend energy, so this study was less than helpful (not to mention had only 40 participants). Beyond this, there was nothing scholarly. The health and fitness journals will not publish anything that lacks validity and reliability.

My thirst for reliable data and research was unfulfilled.

Been there, done that

I also participate before I draw a conclusion. I have been to a half a dozen CrossFit gyms – some in large metros and others in small town nowhere. Only one had reasonably qualified staff (St. Louis Park, MN). At each location, I was able to experience their ‘introductory’ class. Each class was taught a little different. At one location, we performed rowing, air squats, pushups, situps, and pullups. At another, the same workout but without the pullups. Each facility had large groups of prospects – there was no health history, no experience questionnaire, no technique instruction. You just went at it and completed the workout for time.

THE GOOD

I want to start with the good – because there are some good aspects. CrossFit thrives on building a community. Many joke about CrossFitters who have “drank the Kool-Aid” and the reality is that they have bonded with others. These social bonds – developed during times of vulnerability (most everyone has a certain level of vulnerability when trying to completely, physically exhaust themselves) – are meaningful and difficult to match. The support, accountability, and empowerment cultivated by the group dynamics is the #1 reason many individuals are attracted to CrossFit.

I must commend CrossFit, as many do require fundamental classes prior to graduating to full WODs. The only draw back to something like that is someone like me – new to CrossFit but not new to working out or the exercises – would be forced into those courses without the opportunity to bypass or test out if I can prove I have the ability and know-how.

Another good aspect is the use of workouts to measure improvements. This provides something tangible and quantitative to work towards. It is important to direct individuals away from weight-specific goals, so a goal to improve the time it takes to complete a workout is ideal. I do something similar – but different – for myself and my clients.

THE BAD

Not based on science

CrossFit is not based on the basic scientific principles established and continually tested by exercise physiologists. I did a scholar article search, looking for research that supports CrossFit – and I came up empty. The majority of articles that support CrossFit are written by Greg Glassman – who by the way quotes himself (big no-no).

I have asked CrossFit trainers and enthusiasts time and time again to show me the science from which the CrossFit model was designed – or the science that it follows. No one has been able to do this. Is it new science that has yet to be proven? The human body has not changed in over a hundred years – there is nothing new and the same principles apply today as they did then, and 50 years ago, and 10 years ago.

Wait a minute!

An interesting side note: Glassman – CrossFit founder – does not do CrossFit WODs. (Most say he suffered an injury that prevents him from participating. He does have a limp.)

I could not find a biography for Glassman. As far as the general public knows, he has no education nor credentials. If I had to guess, I would say that he has a marketing degree because he has done well in that respect.

Not ACSM’s Top 20

Here is food for thought, brought to my attention by a fellow exercise physiologists: CrossFit has never made it onto American College of Sports Medicine’s Top 20 Fitness Trends – a list they publish annually.

Why?

Because ACSM would never promote a program that so blatantly contradicts science and research.

THE UGLY

So there is good and there is bad. The same can be said for anything, right? But what is the ugly?

Injuries

SERIOUS and non-serious injuries persists. Yes, there is an inherent risk of injury to all physical activity. Yes, weight lifting has some of the lowest risk of any sport or activity – WHEN DONE PROPERLY. CrossFit is not known for proper form and technique – and watching it makes most professionals cringe.

Watch the CrossFit Games on ESPN – all of the top competitors are wearing kinesiology tape (a tool developed for physical therapist to use with clients through the therapeutic process). Kinesiology tape IS NOT something that makes you look cool. I used kinesiology tape after my knee surgery and through physical therapy to aid with the reduction of inflammation. It worked, I did my therapy, and I stopped wearing it. The use of kinesiology tape is indicative of impaired movement, muscular imbalances and weaknesses, poor quality of movement or mobility, etc.

You could argue that this is not a serious injury. Let’s think critically. How many of these athletes will compete for the rest of their lives? How many will have to give up some exercises completely because they lose mobility in their shoulder after working through this ‘non-serious’ injury?

Pain is NOT good and it is NOT something to work through. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, “STOP.”

Threatens lifelong health and fitness

As mentioned above – how many athletes can sustain this level of training for a year? Two? Twenty? If an exercise causes injuries – whether it be traumatic or overuse – then it does not promote lifelong health and fitness – nor longevity.

Ask yourself, can you sustain this for the long term?

If an activity results in a chronic ailment that prevents you from living pain free – then it has negatively influenced your quality of life. Is that the goal of working out?

The bottomline

CrossFit is a workout for athletes. It claims to build athletes – but it does not train individuals to athletic fitness or using the basic scientific principles known to work – and known to reduce risk of injury along the way.

Is CrossFit all bad? No. Does the good outweigh the bad and the ugly? In my educated opinion – no. Plus, you can get a similar workout – with health and fitness benefits and greater concern for safety – from a functional fitness training facility with qualified trainers and staff.

p.s. Not one of my colleagues – most with master’s degrees, PhDs, and endless certifications – would workout at a CrossFit facility themselves. We are some of the fittest and most athletic individuals I know. We see the scientific flaws and prefer to train in safe, effective, and efficient manners. One has been a CrossFit Competition Champion 3 years running – never training ‘CrossFit.’ Something to think about.

p.p.s. Ask a medical professional – such as a chiropractor or orthopaedic surgeon – if he recommends CrossFit. Most will avoid a direct answer, he knows the inherent risks but it puts more money in his pocket.

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