Friday, January 30, 2015

Three Reasons to Throw Your Rule Book Out the Window and Do Whatever the Hell You Want

Last weekend Sibe, a few friends, and I went to a music festival. With every intention of enjoying a relaxed day and getting home in time to get 7 hours of sleep, we headed to Pittsburgh’s Strip District around 3 in the afternoon. I definitely didn’t plan on arriving home twelve hours later, full of too many beers, a meal that would make Paula Deen cringe--and completely happy.

Usually when I go out, I keep drinking to a minimum and eat as healthily as I can. While I rarely wake up hungover, sometimes a different funky after-feeling hovers the next day: my Inner Badass scolding me, “You’re too good. You’re missing out.”

So this past weekend I let my Inner Badass lead. For one night, I decided to forget about being good, moderation, and acting like my ideal health coach role model. Not only did it feel great, it totally re-energized the way I’ve been thinking about my life and my business.

Here are 3 reasons to throw out the rule book and do whatever the hell you want.

1.          It’s fun. Down and dirty, no guilt, fun.

“You’re no fun anymore,” my Inner Badass says. When did fun become such a guilty pleasure anyway? I used to love to go out all night dancing, talking to friends and meeting new people.

“What do you do for fun?” has become the most challenging question I ask my clients. Most don’t know because we don’t do enough of it. Why is fun something that has to wait until all of our chores are done?

Nowadays-late nights are a rarity. Luckily, I’m married to a Dutch man with a zest for life and a love for the club where his friend deejays, and last weekend, there was no way I was getting home at midnight. Result: we drank and danced all night like we did when we first met. It was totally magical and awesome to be transported back in time to those first awesome moments in our relationship. Let’s make having fun a priority.

 2. Everything in moderation, including moderation.

While I love living and eating in a healthy balanced way, I sometimes lose my balance by being too strict. I’m not saying that you have to drink all day and smash an entire pizza at 3 a.m. (although, ahem, I’m not not saying that). 

The further we shift from an all or nothing mentality, the less activity and food outside of our routine will derail us. Health is about more than eating exactly the right foods in exactly the right amounts and doing the perfect workout routines. It’s about living in a way that supports your body, so you can enjoy what really makes you feel alive. Sometimes that’s kale and sometimes it’s pizza and it’s important to know the difference.

3. When you let go of your rules, you step outside of your comfort zone. When you step outside your comfort zone, you grow.

Although I woke up with three pounds of pizza in my stomach, my Inner Badass was glowing. It felt great to break my own rules, and it made me realize how much I believe in listening to my inner voice and living as authentically as possible. As my Inner Badass would put it, “What do you want, not what should you want?” When I embraced that attitude last weekend, Sibe and I bumped into tons of our friends. It was no coincidence. We were living in our authenticity at that moment, so we attracted the people we love to join us.

The following days, I looked at the places in my life that could use more guidance from my inner rule-breaking rebel. A few areas, including my business, stood out. Keep your eyes open for some awesome changes coming up in the next few months that reflect a little more edge, rule breaking and fun. Shit just got real. 

What restrictions and rules to you impose on yourself? How might that be holding you back in areas that may seem unrelated? To reframe - if you're holding tightly onto a belief that you need to work 60 hours per week, but your inner badass doesn't want to, how does that affect other areas in your life?  In other words, what does your Inner Badass have to teach you?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What is it like to work with Vanessa - Inside Kalin's Program

Kalin is a gorgeous young woman with energy that could match a packed football stadium. You feel it instantly. She vibrates on an awesome frequency. But when Kalin sat down with me for the first time, she was feeling dark, distant and grey. Kalin approached me apprehensivey in November. She had been stuck in a rut for the past year emotionally, and physically for many years longer. She told me she was frustrated because she had been telling herself for so long that she wanted to change, and wanted certain things for her life, but her constant lack of ability to follow through had her questioning if she even knew what she wanted at all. She  had doubts in her ability to follow through with diet, exercise and just about everything else and wanted a change. She set New Years Day as a goal: not for a certain weight or distinct acheivement, but to start the first year in as long as she could remember NOT thinking about weight. She wanted to feel energized, excited and confident in herself and in her life. Here's what happened, in her own words, from her heart...

We all have a moment where we look at our lives and think, "I can do better..."

I remember lying in bed thinking to myself: HOW will I ever come out of this?

I had left school in Philadelphia right before finals (an already stressful time) to come back to Pittsburgh. My dad was in the ICU recovering from a stroke and my family and I were practically living at the hospital... My life (and everything I owned) was still in Philadelphia, but packing up my apartment and wrapping it up there was impossible at the time. Sleep was low, stress was high, and life SUCKED. Major changes were happening faster than I could cope with and because I didn't know what to do - I did nothing...

Life. completely. knocked. me. down.
I wasn't eating right, barely sleeping and I sure as hell wasn't working out. My life was completely out of balance. Needless to say, it took a few months of doing nothing before I had 'my moment.' When I did, it finally occurred to me that things were going to keep happening that were out of my control - but not taking care of myself could no longer be one of them.

You might be wondering how those events led me to Vanessa of Sweat and Butter. I didn't roll out of bed one day and think, "I wish I practiced yoga and drank green smoothies!" I rolled out of bed and thought, "I wish I was happier."

I knew I needed help getting myself back on track - and I knew I had to try something I had never tried before. The hope of potential happiness is what led me to Sweat and Butter.

If you take a look at my 'Kalinspiration' posts, you'll see how much Sweat and Butter taught me. I learned that the food I put into my body does impact my energy levels, how I feel and how I function. I learned about vitamins and what they can do for your mind. I learned how to do hot yoga, barre fitness, kickboxing, TRX and boot camp workouts. I learned that being 'healthy' is so much more than green smoothies and salmon for dinner; it's how you approach your life. Most of all, I learned that living a healthy lifestyle and being balanced is more about shifting your mentality from thinking you can't to believing you can - and committing yourself to that belief. 

Before I started working with Vanessa, I was always living in extremes. I either took on way too much or nothing at all. No matter which extreme I was in at the time, I never made time for what is most important: my health. Working with a Health Coach helped me recognize my unhealthy patterns. Having another person to hold me accountable - helped me correct them.

When I started my 'Challenge,' I was approaching it like a finishline - a deadline I would reach and become healthy. The truth is, it's a never-ending journey - and one that I am eager to continue! Throughout my '50 Day Sweat and Butter Challenge,' I learned more about health than I ever thought I would know. I strengthened muscles and qualities in myself that have changed me as a person. With Vanessa's help, I was able to escape a really dark place in my life and regain my balance.

Most people gauge success stories in measurements: pounds lost, inches shed, muscles built. But it's really not about the changes in the 'after' photo at all. In fact, what makes a story a 'success' has nothing to do with what you lose, and everything to do with what you gain.

 Kalin Alberts, Pittsburgh, PA

I graciously thank you Kalin: for the opportunity to work together, and for you having the courage to share your story to insprire others. You can reach Kalin to hear more about her experience or ask her your questions at and check out her entire program photo journal on instagram @kalinspiration.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Why Prioritizing Your Relationship is Actually Hurting It

Break-up Bucket Lists were going viral this week, listing the top 50 things to do after a break up or divorce. Alongside the obvious suggestions like speed dating, dating people outside of your type and one night stands are some other items that concerned me. They include ideas like: take a trip alone, buy flowers for myself, meditate, get a massage, swim in the ocean naked, learn to say no, learn to say yes and many more. 

The lists suggest a very true and unhealthy common relationship behavior. In an attempt to prioritze the relationship or our partner, we stop doing things for ourselves and by ourselves. Instead, we absorb into the relationship and sort of merge into one person. In doing so, we leave behind the little mini passions and interests that we had at the start. 

My husband travels for work two weeks at a time, spending a week at home in between. When he's home, I try to rearrange my schedule so that I have maximum time for him. ​On his most recent trip home, we got into a bit of an argument over a comment he made about me not spending enough time working. Unaware that I had rearranged my schedule for him, he assumed our week of lounging and eating out was my norm. I was hurt and offended that he didn't appreciate my hard work or efforts to make time for him. Feeling unappreciated, it dawned on me, though, that we all clear our schedules for our partners in little ways all the time. While we do it out of love, it often goes unnoticed by ourslves and our loved ones. 

Whether it's waking up early to pack everyone's​ lunches instead of meditate, or saying​ 'no' to some much needed alone time when your partner is off of work, we regularly make small sacrifices to our own growth and life for the benefit of our relationships. Even deciding just a few nights a week to bask in the comfort of your loved ones and your couch instead of going to that book club or yoga class compiles over the years to mute our passions and stifle our own personal growth. 

Years go by and we realize that somewhere along the way, we lost ourselves. Whether or not that leads to the end of your relationship with your partner or your kids, it certainly leads to a damaged relationship with yourself. We wake up bored, overweight and unfulfilled and wonder where the excitement disappeared to.

Relationships, marriage and parenthood aren't destinations at which we arrive and hang up our personalities and personal growth for a rainy day when you're single. They are partnerships we must enter into with the agreement to cultivate three relationships at a time​:​ y​our own, your partner's and your relationship as a couple. Though compromises are inevitable, there must always be room for your your needs as an individual. You must cultivate your own passions and relationships so you feel as energized in the relationship as you did when you started it.  Keep the mystery of having two lives alive, the way it was when you first met. 

This week, make your own Bucket List--the 5 or 10 or 50 things you have been pushing aside because of your relationship. Do you really need to be single to pursue most of them? Probably not. Choose one or two that you can easily accomplish this week or this month, and go for it. Notice how pursuing your passions--whether they're cooking a meal, meeting up with a friend, or trying something bigger--deepens your sense of self. How does that change what you offer your relationship with your partner? I bet you have a friend that should read this: pass it on!

Monday, December 22, 2014

3 Reasons Why Restricting Junk Food is Actually Bad For Your Health

Have I finally lost it? Have Christmas cookies taken over my brain (I wish!)?

With the holidays in full swing the treats are a'plenty and the preparation for reluctant New Year's resolutions will be in full swing a week from now. (read here about how to set killer resolutions)

I want to challenge you to shift your thinking when it comes to junk food. Abandon the 'all or nothing' mentality and just eat the food, and enjoy it. 

Here are the top 3 reasons why deprivation and restriction ruin your health and 8 steps to eat junk without derailing and gaining weight

1) Deprivation increases your brain's reward response to food

This means that if you restrict food from your diet, your brain will actually react more strongly (pleasurably) when you finally do eat it than it did when you cut it out in the first place. A study by the Oregon Research Institute found that "abstaining from food intake for longer durations of time increases the reward value of food, which may lead to poor food choices when the individual eventually does eat." Though this study specifically evaluates overall calorie restriction, many attempts to restrict a particular food, like sugar, coincide with an overall restriction of food in an attempt to lose weight. Bad move. Restriction is almost impossible to keep up (thanks to our Amygdala) and will likely cause you to overeat when you finally cave. And you will cave.

2) You likely eat more junk than you believe you do

Most of us have a pretty poor memory when it comes to what we eat. What did you eat for breakfast today? How about yesterday? What about lunch four days ago? We think that we're keeping good mental track of our food intake, but in reality, we remember very little about what we eat day to day. We do remember the feelings and emotions we associate with food. For  example, if you are always telling yourself that you shouldn't eat sugar, you're more likely to believe that you don't eat very much sugar. So when you come face to face with that snowman cupcake, you're more likely to indulge because you honestly believe that "you never do this." The best way to find out how true that really is, is to keep a food journal for three weeks. You'll likely be surprised at how often you really do indulge. Which leads to reason three.

3) Restriction leads to all or nothing/binge cycles 

The game looks a little like this: You stress often about not eating junk and so you tell yourself and believe that you rarely indulge. So when you finally do allow yourself, you eat
 way more than you otherwise would because "you never do this" and aren't "going to do it again any time soon." So instead of eating one bowl of ice cream, you eat the entire pint so it's not there tomorrow. Wouldn't want to eat it two days in a row, now would you? While you're at it, why bother working out? No amount of reps at the gym tonight are going to burn that off. We'll call this day a loss. But shit, now you've eaten the entire pint of ice cream and skipped the gym, so you feel guilt and shame. Enter the new motivation and self loathing. You're not going to do that anymore, are you? From now on, no more ice cream. Do not pass GO, do not collect two hundred dollars, go right back to the beginning and get your ass back into body jail. Sometimes these cycles can last days and some can last for months, gaining tens of pounds in the binge/nothing phase.

So if you want to lose weight and you're not supposed to deprive yourself of the foods that make you fat, how are you supposed to eat junk and still lose weight?

Here are 8 tips to eat whatever you want without going overboard and gaining weight:

1. Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want

Much of our desire to eat crap comes from telling ourselves that we're never allowed to do it. Our inner rebel wants to eat it just because we're not supposed to. Let up a little on your tight grip and watch the desire diminish.

2. Eliminate the concept of "cheating" and "rewards"

Similarly to number one, "cheating" and "rewarding" yourself with the same food is a big of a mind mess. Instead of cheat days, just eat the food if you want it so badly. Just make sure you enjoy it. Instead of rewarding yourself with junk, reward yourself with healthy habits, like a massage or manicure. Indulge when you want, reward yourself with some great non-food treats and you will eliminate the confusion.

3. Cultivate a relationship of caring for your body, not fighting it

Despite how it may feel, your stomach fat isn't out to ruin your life. Your body is a physical manifestation of the choices you make and belief system that you hold. Your current form is your body's best efforts to maintain itself despite crash diets, binge drinking and constant bad mouthing from your brain. Cut your gut a little slack. Instead, try to work in partnership with your body. If you're not feeling your best, take a step back and evaluate what you can do to better care for your soul's temple. Your body craves nutrients, and responds well when it gets them on the regular.

4. When you do indulge, really indulge

Upgrade your junk food. You can indulge in chips, ice cream and beer without eating Doritos, Little Debbie and Miller Lite. Try exploring the aisles of Whole Foods and make the switch to gourmet, hand made ice cream sandwiches, baked chips and organic craft beers. The price tag is usually higher, which means you'll buy less of them and probably less often. If your ice cream sandwich is five dollars, you'll probably just buy one, which means you can't eat the whole box. But holy crap are they delicious and worth every single calorie, bite and penny.

5. Add healthy foods in before or after, even if you're full

Eat more?! Junk food doesn't provide your body with any nutrients. Eating high sugar and salt foods that lack nutrients sends your body into crave-mode. Your body has to communicate that it isn't getting what it needs but can't tell you that it's time for a dose of magnesium. So you begin to crave in hopes that you'll eventually eat something with nutrients. So even if you've already had pizza and ice cream, choke down a green smoothie or a salad so that your body still gets what it needs. This will prevent you from continuing to eat junk for three more days. 

Bonus tip: do this before you eat the junk and you'll eat even less.

6. Continue with other healthy habits after, instead of deciding that you've failed

Accept gourmet indulgences as part of your routine. Deciding that these foods are just as much a part of your life as the healthy ones can be transformational. When you accept indulgence as reality, you eliminate the feeling of the need to be constantly starting your diet over. This is critical for breaking the all or nothing/binge cycle. After indulging, keep going on your merry, healthy way. Take out the trash and hit the gym. Business as usual here, folks.

7. Add some luxury non food indulgences

Binge on luxury indulgences instead of food from time to time. Get a massage with a friend, buy a $50 candle, organic body products or shower balls. Work a little more pampering and self-care into your routine and your need to binge on junk food will depreciate accordingly. A hot shower with a lavender shower ball trumps a pint of Ben and Jerry's any day. Ok that's a flat out lie, but it definitely does from time to time.

8. Maintain some non-negotiables

Junk or no junk, binge or not, add these ingredients to your "Non-negotiable, I will never eat" list. Hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners and artificial coloring. These foods are 100% toxic crap. In fact, they're not even food. Hydrogenated oils interfere with your body's ability to control hunger, metabolism and weight regulation. Each type of artificial sweetener comes packaged with its own toxic aftershock and artificial colors carry numerous health impacts. See a comprehensive list and health affects here.

When it comes down to it, eating junk is a part of life. Parties will always have sugary snacks and not all of your friends will be down to go to Whole Foods for lunch. The sooner you can make peace with this reality, the faster you will be on your way to joyfully accepting the balance of indulgence without derailing and losing weight for good. Turns out, you can have your cake and eat it too, just maybe not the whole thing.

Happy Holidays!

With love,


Monday, December 1, 2014

3 Steps to Owning Your Resolutions This Year

The New Year always feels like a fresh start. When that ball drops, anything seems possible. That energized, “I can tackle anything,” mentality is like a high you know you’ll ride to all the way to your happiest, fittest self. For those first few sweet weeks, 5am doesn’t seem too early for the gym, sugar doesn’t even taste as sweet and those old bad habits seem to have stayed in hibernation.

Enter February. That jerk knocks you right off that pretty little high you’ve been riding and stomps your goals into the frozen mud under a grey Pittsburgh sky. “Four weeks in this year,” you think. “Not bad. Next year for sure.”

It’s time to break the cycle. 2015 is the year that you’re going reach your goals. It took you a lifetime to build the habits that you have. The decision and will to change are a great start, but they likely won’t carry you all the way to the finish line. To make sure you reach your goals this year, follow these three simple steps. Let’s use weight loss as the example.

1.      Identify the what – then figure out the why
The motivation to change can make or break your commitment to your goal. Weight loss will only motivate you for so long. The underlying reason you want to lose weight is the prize you win for reaching your goal. The goal itself is usually not enough to motivate you to make long term sacrifices to your sleep, or to step away from unhealthier foods and habits that you’re comfortable with. To find your underlying reason for change, state your goal and then ask yourself why you want to achieve it three times. The progression might look something like this:

Goal (what): I want to lose ten pounds.
Why 1: I want to feel better in my clothes and out of them.
Why 2: I want to feel more confident about the way I look.
Why 3: So that when I’m out with friends, I can focus more on what I’m doing than how I look when I do it.

The outward goal is to lose ten pounds but the real motivation and true desire is to feel self expressed in every interaction without the distraction of worrying about your outward appearance.

2.      Once you have the ‘why,’ work backwards to discover the ‘how’
Once you know what you want, it’s easy to make the decision to change everything in order to get there. In doing this, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s incredibly difficult to change many things at once and stick with it. Instead, once you’ve identified where you’d like to ultimately be, identify one or two things that you can do in the next two weeks to get you closer. Going back to the example of losing ten pounds, assuming you aren’t currently exercising, a reasonable change in the next two weeks might be to exercise once or twice each week. Once you feel comfortable with one step, you can increase it, or add another. The aim is to build a foundation of small changes that will get you closer to your goal without completely overhauling your life in the short term. This method is unnerving to some, as making small changes over time may mean delaying the instant gratification of greater change in the short term. Making small changes over a longer period of time however, is more effective in creating habits that will enable you to reach your goals and maintain your new lifestyle habits in the long term. 

3.      Forget failure
The only way to fail is to quit trying. Abandon the idea of failure, forget cheat days and ditch deprivation. Although change requires discipline, it requires even more flexibility. There are going to be weeks where everything works out and you get closer to your goal by the minute. There will also be many days where nothing goes right and you feel like you’ll never get there. The key is to shift your mentality around the latter. If you view each messy day as a failure, you’re much more likely to abandon your efforts. When you adopt the mentality of flexibility, the off days aren’t as big a deal because you know you can do better your next meal and that tomorrow is another day to hit the gym. The more you allow yourself room to mess up without the mental beating you’re used to, the more likely you are to keep going. 

Remember that the decision to make changes to your lifestyle can be intimidating and sometimes isolating. Making smaller changes and having patience with your progress can help reduce the stress around making these changes. Feel the fear and keep going. 

How will you make your goals work for you this year?

Follow me on Twitter @BeyondtheMD