Monthly Archives: December 2013

Stop the Thigh Gap Madness!

Until a few weeks ago, I was blissfully unaware of the new madness sweeping among some teenage girls. The new fad is the “Thigh Gap.” What is a thigh gap, you ask? (I had to ask, too!) A “thigh gap” occurs when there is a tiny triangle you can see through between the tops of the thighs. In my opinion, most women who have a thigh gap either look skeletal or bowlegged, neither of which is attractive. Having a thigh gap is simply not natural for most women. Women who have one naturally can celebrate that fact. Many who do not have a natural thigh gap are turning to extreme and often dangerous methods to create one. Please note I am not criticizing women who have a natural thigh gap. I am, instead, hoping to encourage women to love their Mannequinsbody as it is and to take a balanced, healthy approach to fitness and wellness.

Here are eight reasons to NOT have a thigh gap if your body does not have one naturally:

  1. It’s a scam:  The thigh gap focus was created by modeling agencies who wished to “guilt” their models into losing weight. They created an absurd focus that had never existed before. The thigh gap had almost been forgotten until social media brought it back. Unfortunately, girls between the ages of 12-21 are spreading the focus and perpetuating the dangerous fixation. Teen girls often learn about the thigh gap from social media, and then use social media to share and perpetuate the misinformation. Parents need to be aware of their daughters’ views on body image and to provide education about good nutrition, healthy eating and normal anatomy.
  2. Most people can never achieve a thigh gap:  Most people, regardless of how thin or fat they are, cannot achieve a thigh gap. The reason is quite simply because the female body is not designed to have a thigh gap. The structure of the pelvis and femur (thigh bone), combined with the natural flesh and muscles of the thighs, do not allow for a gap. The upper thighs are very muscular. Having a thigh gap may be impossible without losing muscle, which is dangerous for a wide variety of reasons. Muscle loss slows metabolism and leads to weaker bones. The methods used to lose muscle, such as starvation and ketoacidosis, negatively affect and weaken other muscles, including the heart muscle. Taking extreme measures to reduce muscle mass in order to create a gap that shouldn’t be there in the first place is dangerous. Period. The desire to lose muscle scares me more than the fixation on having a thigh gap large enough to read the billboard behind you.
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  3. Many of the thigh gaps you see are faked:  It is a simple fact that you can create a thigh gap simply by changing how you stand. Spreading the heels, sticking the buttocks out, or turning the legs a bit, These are all “valid” ways of creating a thigh gap for the camera. For the record, those methods are far safer than eating cotton balls or subsisting on less than 500 calories per day.
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  4. Having a thigh gap doesn’t matter if you’re dead:  Many young women are going to extremes to achieve a thigh gap. Rates of anorexia and bulimia were starting to fall but are now on the rise again. I’ve read stories of young women literally starving themselves in an attempt to gain a thigh gap. Nothing is worth destroying your health. Nothing.
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  5. Diet and exercise won’t change genetics:  Your pelvic width and the angle of your legs are structural commodities which cannot be changed by losing weight. Both of those factors are largely genetic. Although food has the capacity to turn some genes on and off, it does not have the power to change the bone structure you were born with.
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  6. A healthy body image does not focus on a single attribute:  Most women have a very negative perspective about their body. They have been brainwashed to believe someone else’s definition of a perfect body is the only acceptable way to look. This breaks my heart. Body image should be a healthy acceptance of all parts of our body and should not solely focus on a single attribute. Many of the teen girls whose Tumblr pages I reviewed while researching this article were so obsessed with thigh gap that the girls ignored the fact they had sculpted abs, gorgeous arms or other attributes most women crave. Body image needs to be a loving and accepting attitude of our entire body, not a measuring stick that deems all body parts a failure if a single area does not meet an unrealistic goal. ,
  7. It serves no purpose:  Having a thigh gap does not provide any benefit other than being able to say you have one. Most other forms of fitness and exercise improve wellness and have measurable health improvements. Having a thigh gap does not improve the world, will not improve your social life and will not result in living happily ever after. Contrary to what the Tumblr boards say, it also will not guarantee that men will want to get to know you better. Creating a physical attribute that can only be seen when you’re almost naked will not attract the types of people who will support and encourage you in the real world. Trust me.
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  8. If it requires elective surgery, you’d best not elect it:  The recent trend in thigh gap obsession has led more than one plastic surgeon to use “new” procedures to create a thigh gap. Procedures including liposuction, surgical reduction and lipoglazing (a less invasive procedure that melts and then freezes fat cells) are being used. The end result may create a thigh gap, but at what cost? The procedures are all very expensive, and most have a large list of risks. Some create pain and bruising that can last for several weeks. Using invasive and risky procedures to create a thigh gap is an extreme measure I strongly advise against..

Are you aware of this craze? What are your thoughts?

Graphic courtesy of Pierre Nel.

10 Reasons Resolutions Fail and Ways to Succeed

List of Resolutions

According to researcher Richard Weisman, 50% of people in the US create new year resolutions each year, and 88% of those resolutions fail. I’ve seen this in action in my gym. In the days and weeks following the holidays, there are so many people working out the huge venue actually seems crowded. By February 15, attendance settles back into the normal range and the crowd disappears.

Many people have good intentions and resolve to lose weight, improve their health, get six-pack abs and more as the old year ends and the new one begins. Unfortunately, most resolutions rarely last beyond the end of February. The following list shares the top reasons resolutions fail and also provides tips for achieving success in resolutions. If you would like more information about succeeding with new year resolutions, visit Revolving Not to Resolve: Success in New Year Resolutions.

Here are the top ten reasons many resolutions fail:

  1. Failing to Plan:  Many people make resolutions and set goals without really thinking about what is required to achieve and maintain their resolution. If you wish to change your behavior – which is essential to achieving any resolution – it is imperative to PLAN and create a strategy for success. Create a realistic plan (or find someone to help you create one) that will guide you to make the changes required to achieve your goals. Make sure your plan includes dates with specific milestone achievements. Also make sure each milestone is connected to a specific (non-food) reward. Celebrating your success should definitely be part of your plan! Having a detailed plan will help hold you accountable without overwhelming you and will also serve to motivate you. Trying to create change without having a road map to guide you is an exercise in futility. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap.
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  2. Trying to Move Mountains Instead of Mole Hills:  It is my belief that the main reason people’s resolutions fail is that they resolve to make huge changes instead of trying to make several small changes. For example, if someone wishes to lose 50 pounds in a year, that is a realistic goal. However, making a new year resolution to “lose 50 pounds” is overwhelming and unrealistic. A more realistic goal would be to lose 4 pounds in January. The same standards apply to any change. Instead of stating your year’s goal in a single resolution, state January’s goal. Once you achieve January’s goal, celebrate your success and move on to February’s. People who set huge goals without breaking them into milestone achievements often become overwhelmed and quit. Avoid that by creating smaller goals that lead into your ultimate goal.
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  3. Having Unrealistic Expectations:  Another of my firm beliefs is that unrealistic expectations are the largest cause of unhappiness in the world. The same applies to resolutions. Many people fail to achieve or maintain their resolution because they expect too much of themselves, expect to receive different benefits from the resolution than what they actually do, or because they expect the behavior of others to change as a result of their behavior change. Unrealistic expectations can often be avoided by creating a solid plan and by setting realistic goals, but it is also important to identify WHY you are making the resolution. Identify what you wish you achieve by making the resolution, and then very honestly think about whether or not those desires are realistic. Take time to do some soul searching and to identify if you are changing your own behavior because you hope it will change how people treat you or will change how they perceive you. You can only control your own behavior and cannot expect your change to affect how others treat you. Journaling can be very helpful as your begin any journey of change, but may be especially helpful as you make changes.
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  4. Being Too Vague:  Many resolutions fail because they are not specific enough. Resolutions must be specific enough to motivate someone to create true change. For example, resolving to “Eat Better” is very noble, but if you don’t specify what that means, you are setting yourself up for failure. Resolutions need to be very specific and have specific, achievable outcomes in order to be successful.
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  5. Making Too Many Resolutions:  Many people make multiple new year resolutions in an attempt to change many aspects of their life. This is usually unrealistic. Making even one change requires a lot of effort, discipline and dedication. Trying to make multiple changes is almost impossible to maintain long-term. If you have changes you wish to make, I recommend prioritizing them and focusing on them one at a time. As you focus on making one major change, be conscious of the other changes you wish to make and work to make better choices in those areas without distracting you from your focus goal.
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  6. Trying to Do it Alone:  Changing habits is challenging. It is therefore very helpful to get help and seek accountability from others. You can join a support group, ask friends or family to hold you accountable, find a buddy who is trying to make the same change, or any other source of encouragement and accountability. If you are trying to make a significant change that requires guidance, hire a professional. The expense will be worth it when you achieve your goal (or to set more realistic goals) as a result of hiring someone who knows more about the subject than you do.
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  7. Expecting Different Results from What You Receive: Another problem I see frequently is that people make new year resolutions, achieve them successfully, but do not receive the benefits they expected. I once had a client who broke down in tears while sharing that she had successfully stopped eating processed foods. She was depressed and angry because removing processed foods from her diet had not lowered her cholesterol. As we discussed things further, she shared that eliminating processed foods had resulted in higher energy levels, less PMS, weight loss, fewer breakouts and fewer mood swings. She had been focusing so narrowly on lowering her cholesterol that she failed to notice all the other benefits she gained. In addition, she had chosen the wrong solution to meet her goal. I created a plan for her to reduce her carbohydrate intake and exercise more. Her cholesterol dropped 100 points in three months. When making a resolution, be careful to specify a result that pertains to the change you made. Be ready to recognize unexpected benefits and celebrate them!
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  8. Failing to Prepare:  Many resolutions fail because people create a resolution and plan for its success, but fail to make the necessary preparations to allow them to succeed. For example, resolving to stop eating ice cream would be very difficult if the freezer still overflows with it. Resolutions take effort, so begin preparing several weeks in advance to make things easier. If you are resolving to stop doing something, remove anything that will tempt you to do it. If you are resolving to start doing something, make sure you are surrounded by motivators. The pre-work should also include mental and emotional preparation. In the weeks preceding the change, take time to review your reasons for making the change, remind yourself of the benefits you wish you gain. If you find you are not excited by the change or that you wind up expecting to feel deprived, it may be wise to re-evaluate the change and to reconsider your reasons for making it. Being excited about making a change helps ensure success more than anything else.
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  9. Setting a “Should” Goal instead of an “I Want to” Goal:  Many people make resolutions which they don’t really want to achieve. They resolve to start exercising or stop smoking simply because they think they should, not because they truly want to. It is very difficult to maintain change when you’re doing it because you should and not because you want to. Most “should” resolutions are valid and would have definite benefit, but maintaining the change will be impossible without identifying reasons that make you want to change. If you cannot turn a “should” goal into one you wish to achieve, leave it alone until you’re ready to achieve it.
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  10. Making a Resolution for Someone Else:  Similar to the reasons shared in #9, it is difficult to achieve any resolution made simply because you know someone else wants you to. Maintaining change requires motivation fueled by desire. Doing something for someone else may not provide enough motivation, especially if you are making a change you don’t really want to make. Making a resolution for someone else also signals a failure to communicate in the relationship. If you feel you must change to please someone else, it may be time to openly discuss your feelings and theirs. Honesty is always the best policy. Discuss the situation openly and honestly, then try to reach a compromise that works for both of you.

 Here are my top seven ways to succeed when making a resolution:

  1. Resolve to make changes that are “bite sized” and realistic. After you achieve the first one, move on to the next stage.
  2. Reward yourself for success. Celebrate each milestone you achieve! Find rewards which are not food-based and which do not counteract the change you just made. 
  3. Make a list of why you want to make the change and how you will achieve it. Consider the emotional motivators that are driving your desire to change.Hope is not a Strategy for Resolutions
  4. Create a plan for starting and maintaining the change, and then complete any preparations needed to aid your success.
  5. Make a list of everything you hope to gain from making the change you resolve to, and honestly evaluate whether the benefits you listed are realistic. If you listed items that pertain to how people will treat you or view you after you make the change, recognize that you cannot expect to change the behavior or thoughts of others by changing your behavior. Make sure your list contains items that are measurable and which only pertain to yourself.
  6. Get help. Join or start a support group, ask friends and family to support and encourage you, or hire a professional. Do whatever it takes to ensure you won’t feel alone in making the change and that you will receive both accountability and encouragement along the way.
  7. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail. No one is perfect. When (not if) you slip, take time to learn from it and move on without looking back. Try to identify why you failed, and then create a plan to circumvent the failure in the future. Beating yourself up, heaping shame yourself and feeling guilty gains nothing. Don’t let a minor slip become a huge negative. Turn it into a positive!

 Are you making a resolution this year? What tips can you share for succeeding with resolutions? 

 

 All graphics courtesy of One Way Stock.

10 Healthy Time-Saving Holiday Tips

There are about two weeks left in the holiday season. How are you feeling? Tired? Grumpy? Overwhelmed? My hope is that you are enjoying a well-rested, balanced holiday season. If you are not, here are ten holiday tips that may help:

  1. Just Say No:  Seriously … say NO. No to party invitations, no to requests to bring cookies to your children’s school events, no to one more piece of fudge,  and no to the surprise gift exchange request. Any stress you are feeling is your Christmas Clockown creation. Say no and set yourself free from it! Never volunteer to meet a need unless filling that need is appropriate for you and will bring you joy. (Saying “yes” to sex during the holidays is a great way of reducing stress, but that topic doesn’t really fit this post.)
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  2. Buy Holiday Meals and Appetizers:  Most health food retailers offer a pre-cooked holiday meal you can buy. This allows you to eat a whole-food, mostly organic holiday meal without going to the effort of cooking it yourself. It’s ok to let someone else cook. I promise. If buying food pre-made is too much for your pride to handle, take advantage of mixes. Liven them up with your own personal touches and enjoy the time savings.
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  3. Plan and Prioritize:  Sit down a few weeks (or months) before the holidays and map out a strategy. Schedule deadlines for specific tasks and then stick to them. Accomplishing a little bit each week prior to the holidays instead of trying to cram everything into two weeks will help take the pressure off.
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  4. Delegate:  Stop being a martyr. Assign tasks on that list you made in #3 to other people. Involve your children and your spouse in every aspect of holiday preparations. (I guarantee your children are capable of doing far more than you’re asking them to.) Don’t limit delegating to holiday preparations. Host a pitch-in instead of doing everything yourself, Delegate tasks during the party, too. Ask (firmly, if needed) guests to help with dishes, post party clean up, etc. If needed, hire help. Consider it a gift to yourself!
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  5. Shop Online … in Duplicate:  This one is a no-brainer. Do your shopping online. When you find a perfect gift, buy it for more than one person. Take advantage of free gift wrapping offered by some online retailers.
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  6. Re-Write Tradition:  It’s ok to change tradition in favor of simpler options. If there are family traditions that have become a burden, find new ways of celebrating. It may seem a bit strange at first, but the new tradition will soon feel just as cozy as the old one. Having less stress will be a nice benefit.
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  7. Communicate:  Clear, honest and consistent communication during the holidays is imperative. This is possibly the most important of all these holiday tips. It’s truly ok to let Aunt Martha know you can’t eat her annual fruitcake. It’s ok to let acquaintances know you are cutting down your gift list and would rather meet for a cup of coffee than exchange gifts.  It’s also ok to let your extended family know in advance if there are topics you’d rather not discuss during the family get-together. If you’re bringing a guest you know the rest of the family doesn’t care for, communicate that in advance and make it clear you expect your family to be on their best behavior. Be kind and courteous, but be honest and firm. Clear communication can help decrease stress and awkwardness.
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  8. Work Out at Home Instead of at the Gym:  Save time by using a workout video or by taking advantage of your lonely treadmill. Working out at home is a simple way to save time and a bit of stress. After all, you can work out in your jammies and no one will ever know. Notice I did not give permission to stop working out, but provided a simpler alternative.
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  9. Support a Worthy Cause Instead of Giving Gifts:  This is another no-brainer. Instead of buying many different gifts, use the money to make a donation to a worthy organization. Give everyone on your gift list a beautiful card notifying them that you made a donation in their honor to support a worthy organization. Not all of your recipients will appreciate such a gesture. That’s not your problem. Communicating your noble choice in advance may help.
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  10. Give it Up:  Give up your desire for perfection. Give up your unrealistic expectations. Give up any expectations you have of others. Give up your wish that __________ were different. Celebrate the perfection of your imperfection and savor every special moment. They are yours, so make the most of them!

 What are your favorite ways to simplify the holidays?

 

Photo courtesy of Aimee Wray

I Never Moved the Ornaments

I recently overheard a conversation between young mothers who were laughing about how their children decorated their Christmas trees. Each mom commented that she waited until the kids were asleep and then re-decorated the tree to fill in the “dead zone” that existed above the point the kids could reach. The implication was that having an “imperfect” tree would somehow detract from the joys of the holidays. I know this phenomenon is very common, but I don’t understand it. Is having a “perfect” tree so important that it justifies undoing and changing children’s efforts? Why is perfection so important?

As a mother of four, I have very fond memories of letting our children decorate the tree without help. I still remember the pride and excitement that radiated from their faces as they hung each precious ornament and repeatedly commented about Child Decorating the Treehow pretty the tree looked. I remember their “oohs” and “ahhs” when we turned out the lights and lit the lights on the tree.

I never moved the ornaments, garland or tinsel. Never. Each and every ornament was put exactly where the kids wanted it, so it seemed wrong (to me) to change anything. My kids would have noticed. (Trust me.) To me, changing what they created seemed to send the message that their honest handiwork wasn’t good enough. (I’m confident no child ever needed therapy because his mom moved the ornaments, so don’t get too hung up on that thought.) Another benefit is that the pictures of the tree through the years proved to be a great measuring stick of the kids’ growth. You can visibly see the ornaments creep a bit higher every year.

Please note I am not passing judgment on those who re-decorate their tree. I’m simply sharing that it makes no sense to me because having a perfect tree is not a realistic goal for me to have. I also confess I love visiting homes that are perfectly decorated. Kudos to you who are able to achieve that! I have a Pinterest board filled with your creations!

The phenomenon of re-decorating and undoing effort children took great pride in mystifies me. (Reloading the dishwasher mystifies me, too, but that’s a different issue.) My concern is that many people set themselves up for disappointment by trying to create the “Perfect Christmas” year after year. In my mind, a “perfect” holiday is about being with family and creating great memories. The decorations don’t really matter. (When my husband reads that, I’m quite certain he’ll start making plans to donate our twelve crates of Christmas decorations to whomever will take. them.) We always taught our kids to focus on the true Reason for the Season and didn’t put too much focus on the decorations. Decorating was part of the fun, but it had nothing to do with the joy of the holiday. I realized early on that the myth of the Perfect Christmas was just that: A Myth. A myth that could never be achieved with my lack of skills and a house filled with children. I therefore let go of that myth and learned to love and treasure our imperfect version of the perfect holiday. Doing so completely eliminated holiday stress and allowed us to celebrate in our own way. For more ways to reduce holiday stress, read: Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress.

My cousin and his wife also have four children: two older boys and two very active three-year old twin girls. His wife shared they use non-breakable ornaments, never move anything once the kids are done, and allow their girls to move and play with the ornaments throughout the season. What a beautiful way to eliminate stress and increase the kids’ fun! I love that!

So here is my encouragement: Lighten up! Leave the tree exactly the way the kids leave it, take pictures, show it off to guests, and celebrate every moment!

This year will be the last year we have any “children” at home. My stepsons are out on their own, my son is in college and in his own home, and my daughter recently signed a lease on her first apartment. I wasn’t planning on doing much decorating this year. It seemed like a lot of effort that very few people would enjoy. (My hubby’s a minimalist when it comes to Christmas decorating; I am Clark Griswold times twelve.) It then occurred to me that this would be our last Christmas with kids at home. I started thinking minimalism might not be fair to the kids. Then I caught myself and realized I had fallen into the trap of thinking the icing was more important than the cake. Shame on me!

My solution was to ask my daughter what she thought. Her response was that it would be nice to go all-out, but that it wouldn’t be fair since she wouldn’t be home very much to enjoy it. I therefore put up a smaller tree, fully decorated it, and displayed a few of our most treasured decorations. It was a relatively easy solution that created a festive atmosphere. UPDATE:  The following year we went all out and put everything out. It was wonderful and was nice to return to our “old” ways.

So … what do you do? Do you re-decorate or leave everything the way it was?

Photographer: Alec Couros

Holiday Helps to Maintain Peace

It’s that time of year. The time when folks often become overwhelmed with activity, unrealistic expectations and debt. The following posts are holiday tips from the past, but they are still very relevant. Please take time to read them and to help Holiday Bearscalm your holiday stresses. Please share your own tips in the comments!

Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress:  I recommend reading this one first. It contains simple tips to calming the holiday frenzy and to creating peaceful holidays that can truly be enjoyed.

Unusual Approaches to Keeping the Holidays Healthy:  More strong advice and helpful tips on ways to remain healthy during the holidays.

Simple Ways to Cut Carbs from Your Eating Habits:  Helpful tips on eating more healthily even during times of excess. 

Ten Tips for Avoiding Hangovers:  I hope you don’t need this post very often. The tips are helpful, but abstinence is the only sure way of avoiding a hangover. 

Resolving Not to Resolve: Success with New Year Resolutions:  Learn how to commit to change without setting yourself up to fail.

Holiday Gift Certificates:  There’s no easier way to beat holiday stress than to do your shopping online. Give the gift of health this year by blessing friends and family with Good Works Wellness gift certificates that can be redeemed for consultations, classes and webinars or in-office services. 

Graphic courtesy of Guillaume Brialon