Monday, January 21, 2013

How to Find a Gym: A Guide for Your Average Lazy Person

So, you’re twenty something days into your resolution and you have started thinking about finding a gym.  That’s great, but where do you go?  The sheer number of available programs can seem pretty daunting, especially to someone who has never had a gym membership (or never used one).  Well, as it turns out, I have some experience in that area and am willing to take you through the tips that I think will help you to choose the right gym.  
Keep in mind, I am your average lazy person.  I want to make things work with as little disruption to my life as possible.  If you think that you'll drive thirty minutes out of your way five times a week to get buffed up for bikini season, feel free to disregard everything I am about to say.  However, chances are, if you're reading this blog, you're not that guy.  You've probably already tried and failed before and that's okay.  I'm here to help narrow the margin for failure by making this process easier by getting you to ask yourself the following questions...

1.     How much do you have to spend each month on fitness?
The average fitness professional will answer this question with “How much is your health worth?”  Well, I get what they are saying, but I have a budget to keep.  My rule of how much I can spend on a gym membership is simple.

Your gym membership should cost no more than your average nice night out.

Now, this doesn’t count special occasions like anniversaries and such where you’re sure to spend more than usual.  This is your fun night out with friends or a small scale date night.  For me, that’s something to the effect of dinner and a movie which is somewhere in the $30-$40 range.  I live on a small budget, so anything I add to that budget usually means sacrificing something else.  I can sacrifice one night out a month for a month’s worth of health. 
 Whether you use my model or your own, make sure that what you are paying is worth it to you.  If having a gym membership means you can no longer afford to do the things you love, you’ll come to resent the gym and that’s a recipe for failure.
Now that you know what you’re willing to spend…

2.       Proximity.  Where is this place and how do you get there?
If you are like me, other than price, your location in proximity to the gym is the most important aspect of being successful.  It is more important than what the gym has, what classes it offers, how trendy it is.  Your gym should be really easy to get to because, if it’s not, you’re going to find excuses.
Your gym should either be on the way to your most visited location or ridiculously close to your house.  For me, anything that is more than a ten minute drive from my house means that I have to consider the price of gas to get there and the time commitment of driving back and forth.  Some of you are probably saying that that just shows how lazy I am.  Well, maybe.  I am not writing a gym finding guide for the non-lazy person.  But, before you get all judgy, I’d like to ask you a question:
When was the last time you decided to push going to grocery store to “tomorrow” because you didn't feel like driving out? 

The average person can get to their grocery store in well under ten minutes.  I can find plenty of excuses not to exercise without adding distance to the gym to the list.
I chose a gym that was five minutes from my house instead of the one that has a ton of classes.  I get to my Gold’s Gym 3-6 times a week without stretching myself.  The shorter distance means that I can talk myself into working out at the last minute even if I’m already in my pajamas.

3.      Do you know what you like to do?
This might seem like a silly question, but it makes sense.  So many people join gyms before finding out whether they even like the activities that gym offers.  I had a friend sign up for a membership at a yoga studio because yoga was supposed to be such a good workout.  She promptly discovered that she hated yoga.  She hated the quiet.  She hated picturing her feet becoming roots into the floor and her body twisting out impurities.  But, most of all, she hated paying $50 a month for something she wasn’t going to use.
Choosing a gym isn’t the first step in your exercise health.  You have to rock a little Socrates and know thyself.  Most gyms require at least a year commitment, so figure out what you like first.  Sites like Living Social often offer packages that give you several classes and sometimes even personal training for a pittance; so, you can try lots of new things to figure out if you like bootcamp or boxing, Zumba or zombie runs.  Also, remember that you can usually try out a gym for a week or two for free to figure out if you like the people who work there, the classes, etc.  So, don’t feel pressured into making a commitment until you’re sure you like the place.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Keep Being Healthy

Keep being healthy.  

Weight is an indicator of trends, not success.  Keep being healthy.  

You might lose a ton of weight just by working at being healthier.  

You might not lose a single pound by being healthier.

But you will be healthier.

If you're only doing it for a dress, or the after picture, or a pat on the back, you'll fail.  They might be short-term motivators, but they aren't the big time.  There will always be another dress to fit into and the pats on the back will subside as other people's after pictures get noticed.  Those things don't matter.  They feel good and, by God, those things should, but they don't matter.  Those things are byproducts.  Who buys a cow for its byproducts?  Keep being healthy.

A year and I half ago, I leveled off with weight loss.  I was still losing inches and gaining a few in places where I’ve become more muscular, but I didn’t lose a pound from the end of 2011 until August of 2012.  I didn’t gain any weight, either.  I kept being healthy.

I could have quit, as I have done in the past, but I didn’t.  I kept being healthy and I am satisfied in knowing that I’m succeeding on my own terms. 

You see, the industry tries to put requirements on your success.  They tell you that if you haven’t lost a pound this week, you’ve failed.  Don’t worry, though, they also have something for you to try and it will only cost you a little.

Don’t let the people who want your money set the requirements for your success. 

When the new fad surfaces and all of your friends are eating only monk-blessed freeze-dried kale and are touting behind jaundiced eyes how they’ve lost 30 pounds this month and it only cost them $250, you can do something the industry doesn’t expect.

You can keep being healthy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why You're Resolving to Fail and Other New Year's Tips

I’m seeing a lot of people out there talking about their resolutions.  They have resolved to be on a strict new diet plan.  They’ve resolved to be hardcore at the gym every single day.  I have to say it aloud:  most of these people have the same New Year’s Resolution every year and that is to fail.  Before you decide on an all-or-nothing approach to health for the New Year, I would like to say to you a few things:

How many times have you adhered to a strict diet or exercise program before and how many times has it worked?  By worked, I mean are you still on that path or did you quit a few days or weeks in?  If every other time failed, what is different today than from a year ago?

Let me be clear.  I do not say these things to discourage folks from making positive changes in their lives, but to steer those changes into navigable waters.  Make smaller changes better and permanent. 

If you are looking for a workout program, start smaller and be consistent.  Go to classes at the gym and learn new ways to accomplish old goals. 

You don’t start working out for the first time with P90X for the same reason that you don’t start reading for the first time with Dostoevsky:  if it starts out too hard, you’ll never keep going.  You’ll be more successful by walking three times a week than doing Insanity once a month.

Don’t let jealousy drive you to make stupid decisions regarding your health.  Five percent of your friends may lose twenty pounds in a month doing something stupid. Ninety percent of them will gain back thirty.  I’d rather be getting healthier for good over a lifetime than dropping fast and failing in a month and a half.

Everyone has a friend who is thinner than them who talks about how fat they are.  That friend doesn't realize that she’s being an inconsiderate narcissist.  Now that you know how rude that is, you can resolve not to be that friend.

Find better ways to talk about yourself.  It’s okay to say, “I’m working on making my abs more toned.”  It’s not okay to say, “ I've got to get my fat @&$ to the gym.”

Don’t let one moment on the scale be your guide.  I hop on the scale every morning.  One day to the next can be a difference of five pounds.  Let the scale show you how you’re trending, not whether you’re succeeding or failing.

Finally, enjoy your infrequent binges.  I loved every moment of not thinking about my Christmas feasts.  I also enjoyed the salad I ate two days ago.  Both were my choice.  I never felt out of control because I chose to eat a piece of rum cake.  I didn’t succumb to a temptation.  I chose to eat it because I wanted it.  Making choice a part of your health plan is the difference between joy and misery and often the difference between success and failure.

Let this year be one of joy and success.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It Just Might Be Your Fault: Menfolk Edition

Here is the second part in my "Whose Fault?" series. It took me no time to write and two weeks to decide to publish. I spent a lot of time wondering what authority I had to tell men how to look at women. I felt a little hypocritical. Heck, I have had more than a few conversations about how attractive people are with men and women alike; what gives me the right to narrow that field of discussion to only things I deem empowering?! The answer is: no one. The only authority I have is one of a woman who has heard men talk about women as if their value is based solely upon their proximity to visual perfection. I wish to impress that one should simply be aware of what he says about women. It does not mean that you can never say a woman is gorgeous or gaze longingly at a magazine cover. That would be silly. It just means that you can do such things in moderation and with awareness as to who is listening. That said...

To all my fathers, boyfriends, big brothers, little brothers, friends who happen to be boys, and general menfolk:

Are you tired of hearing women constantly complain about their bodies? Do you cringe when your lady friend asks you if she looks fat in a dress? Is the constant yo-yo dieting in your general vicinity making you believe that all women are completely insane?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, guess what? You, also, might be the problem.*

Seriously, guys, I’m not trying to come down on all of you. This is an issue that’s been around for a long time. At some point, you unwittingly learned some behaviors that sabotage the girls and women in your life. It’s not your fault, but you can improve things if you only think about why women have such difficulty dealing with their bodies.

We are constantly bombarded by images of women that are simply unattainable for most of us. Then, someone takes these already unattainable images and airbrushes away anything that could be conceived as an imperfection. This includes things like removing any signs that the woman has pores, removing pimples (because the model is likely an adolescent) and getting rid of dark circles. They’ve also been known to use the computer to reposition eyes to be more symmetrical or lighten darker skin to make women of non-white lineage have a “more accessible beauty” to white people. Want proof? Here’s an image of Jennifer Lopez from the nineties (before we really cared who J-lo was) beside a more recent one.

It’s a little sick, isn’t it? She’s a gorgeous woman, but they still feel the need to modify her. And this is what we deal with every day.

By now, some of you are probably asking what you could do to fix this situation. You don’t put those images out there. You didn’t start the fire (enjoy the ear-worm, by the way). What could you possibly do to help?

Well, you can stop staring at twenty year olds whose bodies haven’t fully exited adolescence, yet. Don’t ogle over the paintings in magazines that are disguised as actual women. Stop talking about how hot Megan Fox is and start talking about the things that you like about the women you’re around. When a full-figured or mature woman disrobes for film (a la Kathy Bates), don't let her become a punchline.

Fathers, make sure that the things that you say about other women are things that you would feel comfortable hearing said about your own daughters. How you look at women is how your daughters will assume all men look at women. How you talk about women is how your sons learn whether to value a full bust or a full brain.

Men, we don't like to admit it, but you hold some power over how we ladies feel about ourselves during out lifetimes. As little girls, we look to the older men in our lives to show us what men expect from women. As we get older, we listen to who you talk about as desirable. If you laud a porn star and call Hillary Clinton a b*tch, you cannot be surprised when your daughters/girlfriends/sisters learn to shut their mouths and open their blouses.

I am lucky. The Richmond men in my life are enormously supportive and forward-thinking fellas. If I had a dime for every time Lucas said that he thought an actress needed to be fed or wear less makeup, we would-well...we would have a lot of dimes. But a lot of women aren't as lucky as I am. They don't have a Lucas in their corner. They need to be told to be proud of who they are and what they look like.

If they chronically self-deprecate, encourage them to only say things about themselves that they would say to someone else.

Let them know that you know what is presented to us in the media is a false sense of "perfection".

Finally, and most importantly, never hold them to a visual standard that you could not conform to yourself. By doing so, you restrict the value of a person to that which inevitably fades instead of embracing the beauty of spirit that can grow infinitely with each passing year.

This is Actress Geek saying to give someone a chance to be wonderful who you may never have considered before. They may not fit the "standard", but you just might be surprised at the awesome they will bring to your life.

*I really want to emphasize that I understand that women are not the only gender with body issues. Though I think that it is safe to argue that, for the most part, women have a higher number of impossible standards of beauty placed upon them, I understand that men deal with these things, too. I’m not speaking to that issue today. I’m talking ‘bout the ladies. If any gentlemen would like to talk about men's body issues, I would be glad to post it here.

-Be sure to follow Actress Geek on a Facebook

Location:My house

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hello From the Farm

It is 8AM and I am sitting in a cabin by the Pocomoke River. The sun is sparkling on the water and birds are swooping in for their morning catch. Three of my best friends (one being my husband) are curled up on a giant floor palette after a night of Catchphrase and Apples to Apples and I can smell a hint of smoky vanilla in my hair where some really good whisky was spilled by the campfire last night.

If you can't tell, I am on vacation and it feels great.

I had every intention of posting my blog to the boys before we left and now I don't have the pictures I need, so I am posting this instead:

I am on vacation and I am not counting points.

Now some of you are thinking that I have gone insane, that this is not the Actress Geek you've come to know and love. I understand your trepidation and I feel it myself. This will be the first time that I have not tracked my food intake since starting Weight Watchers in January and I admit that I feel a little naked. For four days, I am flying without a net and it was a little scary...which is interesting because I had been looking forward to the great binge weekend for months now.

Who am I kidding? I was terrified that I would damage everything I worked for in four days. Yes, it was ridiculous to think that, but, quite frankly, I didn't get a weight problem without a few extremes in my life. Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, there was someone telling me that I would gain 30.8 pounds back in four days and I kind of believed it. I had a moment where I freaked out right before I left.

Then, it all went away when I realized that I have been eating pretty healthily on this vacation.

Yes, I have indulged, but I have made some wise decisions, too. I got the waffle cone at Island Creamery, but only one scoop. I spent thirty minutes playing in the ocean for exercise and I have been eating the farm's fresh produce like it is going out of style.

The thing is, I am not doing these things because I fear the gain anymore. I realized yesterday that I am making these better choices because that is what I now prefer and that makes this the best vacation ever.

Well, my cohorts are now stirring, so I am going to cut this short, but before I do, I want to thank you for the outpouring of support that I am receiving from this blog. I never expected so many people would be touched by what I am doing and I am honored by that. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Until next time, this is your Actress Geek saying that you should forgive any mistakes that bloggers make as they post from their iPads whilst on vacation.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The Farm

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It Just Might Be Your Fault, Part One

To my mothers, big sisters, girlfriends, aunts, and other role models out there:

Have you ever complained about how we are constantly bombarded with images of women with bodies that are unreachable by most humans? How you’re tired of the gold standard of beauty being the fake, sliced, botox-filled, airbrushed tartlets posed contrapposto across the covers of various magazines with a certain lack of expression that can only indicate that they are too hungry to feel? Are you appalled that girls have started dieting and thinking about their weight in a negative way at younger and younger ages?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, then you deserve to know the truth of the matter. You might be the problem.

Yeah, I know. Stacie, you’re usually about the empowerment and the feel-good. Well, we’ll get to that, but sometimes you have to lay down a lot of manure before a plant can grow. The fact of the matter is that we all are to blame for the distorted standard of beauty running rampant and we’re teaching it to our daughters, cousins, godchildren, friends, and it has to stop. Now I know that some of you are saying right now,

“Hey, I am as ticked about this stuff as you are and I tell folks about it!”

And I’m sure you are, but are you practicing what you preach? How many of you chuckled a couple of years ago because Jessica Simpson looked so “fat” in her size 8 jeans? Do you applaud every time Beyonce goes from size thin to size skinnier? Don’t even get me started on the one thousand and one diets for celebrities who can afford a personal chef. What do you say about celebrities and their bodies and who is listening?

More importantly, what are you saying about yourself? I’ve known too many women and heard their negative self-talk.

“Oh, I’m not getting in a swimsuit this year. People will think I’m a beached whale.”

“I’m so tired of being fat.”

“I used to be so hot before I had my child.”

“Oh, she’s so thin. I just hate her.”

You aren’t just sabotaging yourself, you’re sabotaging your daughters and sons. You are telling your daughters that self-deprecation and insecurity is a desirable trait and how not to find themselves beautiful. You’re telling your sons that a woman’s worth is directly correlated to whether or not she has stretch marks from the act of giving him life. You’re telling them these things because they are listening. And they learn far quicker than you can possibly imagine. If you don’t believe me, look at the proof. I was in eighth grade the first time I tried a crash diet.

Listen, there are two things your child knows without question. They know that Mommy is always beautiful and they know that Mommy is always right. So what are you telling them when you hate your own body? Don’t worry, I’ll answer for you. You are telling them that they are wrong to think you are beautiful. You are teaching them to hate the pieces of you that they see in the mirror. You are redefining their image of beauty to fit a standard that they cannot hope to achieve. That is unfair and we all owe them an apology.

I am not saying this to make you feel like crap. I’m saying it because someone has to break the cycle and it might as well be us. It’s not too late to go from “uh oh, you got Gramma’s birthing hips” to “I bet you’d look great in a pencil skirt.” Instead of asking “does this make me look fat”, maybe try “how do you like this dress on me?” If you are going through a lifestyle change, learn how to tell the children in your lives about it without it being a display of what you currently hate about you. Tell them about how eating differently and exercising is a means to improve your quality of life so that you can live longer and enjoy yourself more in the process.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world for us to be kind to ourselves, but if it means that just one of my baby cousins or nieces never has to sob in a fitting room because she had to “go up a size”, it’s worth every effort.

Until next time (when the menfolk will get an ear full), this is Stacie, your friendly neighborhood Actress Geek, saying love yourself. Do it for the children.

Also, if you enjoy reading this blog, you might enjoy following me on Facebook.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Actress Geek in a Two-Piece...maybe

This is a fantastic problem to have.

My bras are too big in the band while staying the same in the boob and the bottom of last year’s tankini falls off like I’m auditioning to be the new Coppertone baby. Most of my dresses look like I’ve raided mom’s closet for a tea party with beanie babies and don’t even get me started on my pants. None of my clothes fit.

I repeat: this is a fantastic problem to have…but it’s still a problem. See, as it turns out, clothing is not free and I am not rich. I also am going to the beach in two weeks. My first priority has to be a new swimsuit, but what do I buy? I’ve been fairly married to the tankini since its introduction into society about a decade ago, but I’m also a busty lass which means that halters tend to be the most flattering. I also can’t spend much on the swimsuit because it will likely only get one or two uses before the summer’s out and next summer will be a completely different ballgame.

Finally, and most poignantly, there’s the simple truth that I have always had a distorted image of my midsection.

Maybe it was the magazines with the tiny models. Maybe it is the echo of my grandmother’s voice whispering about a random girl on the beach who was wearing a bikini when she “ought’nt”. Maybe it is remembering my girlfriends from high school struggling to pinch an inch of flesh to complain about their own “fatness”. I don’t know.

Likely, it stems from the fact that I have always been my worst critic when it comes to my body.

I have currently lost 29.8 pounds. My waist is only three inches away from the smallest I’ve ever been and I still haven’t gotten up the guts to publicly wear the pair of black shorts I bought in June. I usually feel great in clothes. I wear my clothes like a champ. It’s where the clothes aren’t that’s the problem. Thus, the terror of shorts: I fear them. I fear them like they have giant zipper teeth, waiting to rip my flesh.

I swear I don’t need a therapist.

The most honest thing that I can say is that, quite simply, I have absolutely no idea what my midsection looks like. I mean, I know what it looks like, but I don’t understand where it scales with the rest of the tummy world. I could look at just about any other person and say whether their best look would be a string bikini or a strategically placed tent, but me, I’m a complete mystery. Am I still a tankini girl or can I venture into some more revealing territory?

Quite frankly, it was while writing this particular blog entry that I realized I probably have some sort of mental disorder regarding my body image. An anorexic girl looks in the mirror and sees fat. I’m not there, but I certainly don’t see me accurately. If I were a therapist, I’d probably tell myself to buy a modest suit that displays some of my midsection, go into public, and suffer through the fear. Maybe then I would learn that nobody else cares if I have a little extra on my tummy. Maybe that would help me with any tendencies of narcissism.

Then again, if I dealt with my narcissism, I probably wouldn’t write a blog about my weight loss for the world to read.

I’ve already figured out the solution to my problem and it’s not spending money on therapy or purchasing my very own tent. I am passing the buck. Since I don’t know what my tummy looks like, I’m taking a friend with me who does…and, since she’s personal shopper, I know I can trust her to tell me the truth and help me find something that works. But, before I do, here are some truths that I know in my head, even if I can’t convince my heart:

1. No one owns the exclusive rights to wear a bikini. If you want to wear one, by God, wear one. Whatever your body type, I respect the fact that you can do something with ease that I fear like nobody’s business.

2. Whatever style you’re wearing, wear it in your size. We’ll only notice the size of what you’re wearing if you’re wearing it a size too small.

3. Confidence is the sexiest thing you can ever wear. It never goes out of style and pairs well with a cocktail and a great pair of shoes.

Until next time, I’m Stacie, the Actress Geek (in a two-piece) (maybe)