wellness

Five Tips For Managing Stress And Winning at Fat Loss

Managing stress is hard. And when the hits are piling up on you as the week goes on, it can feel like there’s literally no end in sight. Worse, it can also feel totally hopeless, like theres no way you could possibly manage the barrage of obstacles, work crisis, and relationship issues that are sure to come at you.

But alongside proper sleep, nutrition, and fitness; dealing with this stuff—and handling it all gracefully—is just as important for hitting your fat-loss and muscle-building goals. Not some, but ALL of these factors play a role in balancing our hormones and helping our bodies to run most optimally. And that's really what physique goals are all about: making things run nice.

So, while there’s no real quick fix to dealing with stress; and you’re totally right girl, you cannot control all of the things that the universe has in store for you; there’s definitely some proactive steps you can take that will not only give you quick relief and a little more center, but also help you become more mindful of the relationship between your body and your mind. So that down line, you get learn to get better at responding to the beautiful mess that is life, rather than succumbing to it.

I know, I know. If you’re like me when I’m feeling bratty, trapped, sorry for myself, and even defensive of my stress; you’re already thinking “this is just the way it is right now.” That’s one of my favorite excuses for shirking off the responsibility of self-care as well. You're not alone. The body and mind naturally resist change. 

But trust me. You can change your mind. YOU have the power to make it better in this very moment. And I bet you’ll feel a whole lot less stressed when you start making progress on your fitness goals again.

Uh-huh, girl. I went there. So, save yourself some time and misery. Let’s get to feeling better, so that we may also look better, shall we?  

This particular post is about some quick interventions that can serve as catalysts for turning your thoughts around when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed. So that you have space in your brain for long term improvements that we’ll discuss later on.

Do a Quick Movement Flow

Your brain holds a map of your entire body. And the more you move, the more clear that map is. But when you dont move, that map gets blurry and so does your perspective. All the negative sensations like irritation, pain, and anxiety become amplified and stress can become increased. One of the easiest ways to decrease threat and calm yourself down is to move! And you don’t need a full on workout to send your brain those good vibes it craves. Making some shoulder and neck circles at your desk every hour helps. Getting on the floor for a quick side plank or a shin box can totally turn things around. A little bit of movement here and there will dial down your nervous system and put your body in a more advantageous state to make progress on your goals.

 

Go For a Walk

Walking is one of the best activities for alleviating stress. Walking is movement, so you will absolutely benefit from all those good vibes we talked about in the previous paragraph and improve your mood. But walking also helps improve digestive function. The quality of your thoughts relies heavily on the quality of your gut. If you can improve your metabolism, you can improve your response to stressful situations. Not to mention, you can ensure that you expend as much energy as you absorb, which is key for weight-loss and weight maintenance.

 

Call a Friend

Go for that walk, and call up a friend to go with you. That stress ball gets infinitely larger when we imagine that we are alone or that we are the only ones who have to deal with whatever it is that’s going on. But, the truth is, you’re never alone unless you choose to be. And EVERYONE has their own struggles. Just like we are meant to move, we as humans are also meant to be highly social. Blowing off some steam doing positive activities with someone who knows you and supports you can completely shift your perspective and help you get back to focusing on crushing your life and fitness goals.

 

Zone Out

There’s tons of pressure from your boss and social media hustle culture to be super focused and on your grind all day long. But, there’s a reason you are driven to scroll through instagram or pull up a game window behind your actual work. The brain fatigues just like any other muscle in your body. And while I encourage you to instead use this time to get away from all the screens, make sure it feels just as mindless. I like to grab a book for a few minutes or wash the dishes. For real. But, you can simply use the yoga practice of finding a drishti gaze and literally try to stare off into space as far as you can, even if there’s a wall two feet from you. Look past it. Zone out. And then get back to business when you’re ready with greater productivity.

 

Focus On Your Breath

Breathing is something that happens whether we try or not. But if we can think about it consciously for just a few minutes throughout the day, we can guide the whole unconscious side of it in a better direction. Shallow breathing, mouth breathing, chest breathing—all the ways breath can go wrong—these inefficient strategies can send your thoughts in the wrong direction. But, a few good breaths—with focus on expanding the sides of your ribcage and belly— can bring you back to center, Sit tall, lay on your belly, or throw your feet up the wall. Get your spine nice and long(the surest way to neutral) and try to elongate your exhales, and the pause between the exhale and the inhale, as long as you can. Around 8 seconds is a good goal to shoot for. Be sure to inhale through your nose and blow air out through pursed lips. Two rounds of 5 breaths can calm your body and help you think and act from a more positive place. 

 

Be Proactive

Maybe you have some other strategies that work really well for you already. Maybe only a few of these will resonate with you. The point is, you’ve got to know and trust that you have the power to change your mind at any time, and it's a simple as taking one small action with the decisive intention of feeling better. 

Looking for more advice to look and feel your best? Getting your nutrition and fitness dialed in is one of the most important ways to both manage stress and make progress on your fat-loss goals. Don’t know where to start? Message me today to learn more about distance coaching and how it helps my clients find confidence and clarity. 

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The Easiest Nutrition Fix For Fat Loss

As I discuss in an upcoming vlog (you can peep the latest one here), I've got a few major priorities when it comes to fat loss. You can certainly never underestimate the impact of consistent sleep and workouts, but right now, I'm talking about the easiest nutrition skill you can starting practicing right now!

And that is to simply eat more protein.

Eat More Protein

Eating more protein has multiple benefits. This macronutrient is involved in pretty much every chemical process that your body carries out. Proteins are kind of like the raw material of all your body's projects. Of course, they are first broken down into amino acids and reconstructed into more purposeful combinations that your body can use. But, in any case, they are needed and necessary.

By ensuring our bodies get enough protein, we fulfill an essential requirement of the myriad of processes we commonly refer to as our metabolism, making the whole thing run that much more efficiently . In simple terms, that means that we can make the most of what we've got with the least amount of energy expended.

And that my friends, is what fat-loss is all about: finding the most benefit, with the least amount of cost.

SNAP!

*** BTW You should write that one down in your notes. It's a gem.

Anyways, let's move on to your potential protests regarding this recommendation...

You're Not Eating Enough

Now you might say "But Coach, I heard eating too much protein can damage your organs."

Well, dear I have an answer for that.

Of course, if one eats TOO MUCH protein (which is a very subjective value btw), it's reasonably possible to assume the kidneys can be affected. BUT, it's also very unlikely that you are anywhere close to this very subjective amount. It's also very unlikely that you are anywhere close to consistently hitting the number you need to support fat-loss in the first place, which is typically the lowest benchmark that nutritionists suggest you hit. So, we really don't need to discuss what "too much" is anyway.

And even further, formation of kidney stones and other potential harm to these vital organs (which is really what we're talking about), has much more to do with the amount of water you are drinking. Byproducts of increased protein intake are excreted normally, without any harm done, in the pee of adequately hydrated humans.

"But Miss Ashleigh, I eat enough protein every day."

Oh dear, I've got an answer for that too. I know you came up with that reply way too quickly. You likely scanned the last 24 hours, and the ease with which two to three instances where you ingested some protein came to mind, led you to conclude that you're doing just fine. But, unless you ran some numbers and calculations in your head, I'm going to say this is not really a fact you could know with any kind of certainty.

Not to worry. It's a common human error to highlight the negative possibilities and grossly overestimate the actuals, as demonstrated by both of these complaints.

The Fix

Let's work together to figure out the truth. In the next three days, I want you to plug in what you eat to any macro app. I personally like to use MyMacros+ as it easily connects me to my clients, but choose whatever program suits you. 

Figure out the average amount of protein you eat. You'll find this number represented in terms of grams. And then just try to increase it by about 20 grams. That's as easy as adding one quality Greek yogurt, two eggs, or half a cup of chicken. And since that amounts to an average of less than $2 per serving, it's also way cheaper than that weird skinny tea or the currently trending fat-loss superfood.

Hit that number consistently for a few weeks(I said weeks, not days! And a "few" means at least three. I did not say "a couple"). Forget about why you were practicing this skill in the first place. And then pull on that pair of skinny jeans you reserve for the moments when you feel really good about yourself, and try em' on again. I know you also save these for your greatest self-shaming moments too, but this won't be one of those. See also: stop doing that.

And stand in front of the mirror as long as you like admiring your work. Because real talk: you're most beautiful when you're being the most kind to your body. And giving it the nutrition it needs is part of fulfilling that purpose.

Even More Fat Loss

Increasing your protein intake by 20 grams will make a huge difference. However, you might have even further room for improvement, and by that I mean, more room to create in those sexy, skinny jeans. To find out what that fat-loss benchmark is, plus even more fat loss habits, check out my latest vlog here.

What Would a *blank* Person Do?

January is historically always about optimism.

But February? Well, more often than not, this month is really all about guilt.

We approach our resolutions bright eyed and hopeful. We make a list. We check it off. We pat ourselves on the back for every single small triumph.

Until we slip up.

And then suddenly all of our accomplishments disappear from our memory. We begin to replace them with a new list.

We now have a record of our failures. And they seem to have added up so much faster than the good things we previously tallied.

They shifted our mindset. And our brains silently drew a conclusion from all the data: That we, as people, are just as bad as the decisions we got hung up on.

You might not have even realized this subtle shift. But you've probably operated on it as some point in your life.

Don't worry. You're not alone. It's in our DNA. Our brains are just hard wired to focus on the silly stuff. 

The problem is, when we label ourselves as "bad," we tend to make decisions that are accordingly bad.

And this derails all of our intentions to cultivate real change.

Stop the train before you crash in a fire of anxiety and self-deprication, with a full bag of Tostitos. 

When you find yourself keeping score and you need a little fresh perspective, come back to the present with this simple question: Ask yourself,

"What would a *blank* person do?"

And you can insert any adjective that fits your intention or describes the kind of human you want to be.

Good, smart, mindful, graceful, wise, responsible, enlightened, whatever suits you.

Me? When I don't know what to do next -- when I can't seem to figure out what the right thing is and I've been sweating the small stuff real hard...

How would a real ass, boss bitch, sophisticated lady handle her shit?

And then everything is quite clear.

#sophisticatedladyshit #bossy #sophisticatedstrength

The Four Agreements Of Nutrition: The Third Agreement

Don’t Make Assumptions

For the last two weeks, I’ve been exploring how Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements could be applied to nutrition. The first agreement, “Be impeccable with your word,” relates to self-honesty as well as self-love. “Don’t take anything personally,” the second agreement, teaches us to not internalize the projections of others, which Ruiz calls a “dream.”

This week, we’re going to take a look at the third agreement: “Don’t make assumptions.”

Because duh, that makes you an ass. We all know this.

But in the realm of fitness, it also means you miss the results you work so hard for.

There is perhaps no field of information that has more conflicting information, misinformation, and assumed information than nutrition. It's the wild west out there. These days even previously respected fitness info establishments are lowering their content standards.

So, how do we tangle apart what’s true and what’s not, when we’ve been barraged with other people’s beliefs and social mores about food since we were kids?

The solution, according to Ruiz, is simple. Don’t make assumptions.

The opposite of making an assumption is having the courage to ask questions and having the open-mindedness to accept new information.

Courage

We may think we know how our body works and what it needs. And we very well may have. But sometimes a shift in lifestyle occurs, and we realize that we don’t have all the information. Having a baby, getting a new job, moving, getting injured, or developing an illness can all be incredibly challenging milestones for people.

Shifts can be less dramatic, as well – you may wake up one day, see a picture of yourself, and think, how the fuck did this happen?

Either way, these are times when fitness assumptions are shattered and you know in your heart that your old solutions and band-aids don’t work anymore.

These are the moments when it’s very important to ask questions and get the support that you need.

And that does not mean asking Google.

Think of it this way. If you don't know what the answer to a question looks like, do you think you'll be able to spot it in a pile of different answers that's a mile high?

This is doubtful.

Instead,  it's a real life fitness professional that can give you solid answers to your new questions, and help guide you to a lifestyle that works for you.

To do this, you need courage. It takes bravery to say, “What I’m doing isn’t working anymore. Please help.”

Much like a new relationship, you have to step off the ledge and make a brand new meaningful commitment. And that can be terrifying. To be really vulnerable. It's so much easier to hide behind the keyboard and our preconceived notions.

Especially when you've spent time trolling through all these cheap and unsuccessful meal plan solutions on your late night quests for nutritional enlightenment. They're everywhere. And they require very little real investment.

But much like your Tinder hook-up, the nominally priced cookie-cutter meal plans allow us to hold on to our ambivalence. The entry price is low both financially and emotionally. And because they often don't work very well in the long run, they only further fuel our fear of commitment.

You need real courage to connect with a Fitness Professional and commit to learning the truth. It's money and time, and effort that you put on the table. Those are all big deals.

Open-Mindedness

And so on top of that courage, you will need the flexibility and teach-ability to accept good information when it's truly in front of you.

It's increasingly common for new training and nutrition clients to come into my studio (or into my inbox), saying, “I need help,” only to reject the solution that I give them, because it doesn’t fit their pre-existing assumptions.

My question back to them is always the same. If that advice worked so well for you, what the hell are you doing here? I say it with a lot more love, of course. But that's basically the gist of it.

Don’t make assumptions. Stay open to new ideas. Be ready for transformation.

If you think you are ready to ditch your old assumptions about food, nutrition, and health, you may be ready to start the transformation. Along with training, my one-on-one coaching program will literally teach you how to eat. It will give you an opportunity for three months to build your nutritional house from the ground up, developing new habits that will allow you to easily and naturally eat for your best body.

Be impeccable with your word.

 

Don’t take anything personally.

 

Don’t make assumptions.

 

Get ready for next week’s fourth and last agreement! 

The FOUR Agreements Of Nutrition: The First Agreement

Don Miguel Ruiz and… Diets?

In 1997, Don Miguel Ruiz published a tiny, best-selling book called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Wisdom. In the space of 138 pages, Ruiz distills what he calls “ancient Toltec wisdom” into four concise principles for life. His simple, insightful writing stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for seven years and secured Ruiz a spot as a “National Heirloom” of Mexico.   

But what the hell does Don Miguel Ruiz have to do with fitness coaching or nutrition?

WELL... His Four Agreements are simply ways of living that help people achieve freedom and happiness in life, whether the struggle is with love, purpose, or success. 

But, I can’t help but wonder — when it comes to our relationship with food, couldn’t we all use a little more freedom and happiness?

If you are approaching the lunch counter or your closet with imminent fear on the regular, I know for a fact there is better. If you are commiserating with friends over brunch on this or that area of stubborn fat and marveling at those insta fit chicks who seem to have it all together, I can tell you there is another side.

So, how do we get to that other side? Where does badass confidence, with regard to nutrition and self image, come from? 

Behold. Over the next four posts, I’m going to drop some practical but revolutionary wisdom. 

Let’s take a look at how the Four Agreements can be interpreted as four pretty much renegade principles for achieving a happier and healthier relationship with food:

 

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word

In yoga, we begin class with an intention. It helps us ground to our practice and stand strong in our focus as we ask our bodies to change. Just as you approach flowing movements with implacable grace, you must also set a similar intention for your nutritional changes. And that mantra is impeccability.

Impeccable. What does the word actually mean? While it brings to mind images of faultless perfection, Don Miguel Ruiz chooses to zero in on the sense of integrity introduced by the definition.

When you are impeccable with your word, you speak with an intention to be perfectly real -- to  uphold love and truth.

You step up to the challenge at hand, whatever that may be, with these two motives as your guide.

 

You Should Go and Love Yourself

If you truly seek to change your relationship with food, you’ve got to change your relationship with your self image. And this begins with how we speak about ourselves. You need to talk about yourself with love.

To cultivate love in your speech and your self-talk(we’re not necessarily limiting this dialogue to what you say out loud, as words and thoughts can often conflict), you will agree not to verbally put yourself down, using body image negativity to harm. 

If we are really honest, we know that calling ourselves “fat” or “lazy” does not inspire or motivate us. Self deprecation is definitely not the mantra of choice as you embark on a journey of long-lasting transformation.   

If asked to coach your best friend in the acquisition of any skill you could imagine, you would NEVER speak to her with a derogatory demeanor. You would address her with loving kindness.

This is the way you must also greet yourself every day. Like you’re a white hot goddess with glowing wisdom who's already pretty excellent.

cc: www.thetig.com

cc: www.thetig.com

If you don't believe you are worthy of your own approval now, fake it to make it girl. I wore a necklace strung with 108 beads(that's 108 mantras a day) around my arm for the better part of a year to remind me how worthy I am. And you know the funny thing is... I started to believe it.

As you learn to repeatedly address yourself with respect, you'll find your regard for yourself increases exponentially.

But how do we balance that here and now spiritual swagger, with a genuine need or desire to change? The two intentions seem conflicting.

It’s arguable that the recent rise of body positive culture is a projection of a deeper fear of change, or even dishonoring your self-love by wanting more.

And lovelies, I have to tell you from my behind the filter, real life experience, that these suppositions aren’t completely invalid.

Having goals to eat better, get leaner, and achieve elite fitness goals can be intimidating. Change can incite fear, the opposite of love. And we also cannot ignore that by nature, our bodies are wired to want to stay the same. 

So how do we set out to accomplish these nutritional mileposts while thinking and speaking with the intent to love, rather than hate on ourselves?

 

let's just be fucking real: FoCUS ON THE TRUTH

The other side of the love coin is speaking truth, and when it comes to nutrition, truth also means self-honesty and consistency. A little bit of reflective objectivity(We'll get into the power of not taking things personally next post). Practicality is the truer definition of perfection here.

Being “impeccable with your word” means writing down everything you eat in your food log, and taking a real look at the state of your diet right now. You must know the truth of where you are now to be excited about where you’re going.

The not knowing part is what really instills fear and blocks us from love.  

We need love AND the truth for success.

And so being “impeccable with your word” also means making a real commitment. You must seek the expertise of a coach with real nutrition knowledge. To erase your anxiety of failure.

And being “impeccable with your word” means sticking with it. To eradicate the possibility of missing the mark.

The best-kept secret of the tumultuous and controversial dieting world – in which every diet guru claims that their way is the only way that works – is that most diets do work in the short term… if you stick to them.

Are there best practices? Are some philosophies better than others for your long-term health and happiness? Absolutely. But if you follow any plan with consistency, honesty, and positivity, if you are truly “impeccable with your word,” you will indeed find some kind of success. 

It all comes back to love and the truth. The realness. Be comfortable with where you're at. But know where you're going. 

 

Coaching and Impeccability

I want you to find the most success. This is why I released my new program, “Sophisticate Your Nutrition,” this week. As a personal trainer, I also have to be impeccable with my word, and in my case, that means using my expertise to give my clients the best possible tools to succeed in achieving their fitness goals. It also means being honest about what doesn’t work.

As I wrote in my blog post last week, moderation doesn’t work for most people, because most people don’t have the skills or habits to get moderation to work for them. 

Cookie-cutter plans don’t work for everyone because we are are all inherently too different, from biology to lifestyle. 

Meal plans don’t work in the long term because they are restrictive and lacking in intuitive instruction. 

And you absolutely should not need to play Jedi mind tricks with your brain for the rest of your life, trying to convince yourself that you're super content with where you're at. You are not ever obligated to accept relative mediocrity.

Your love for your body should be inherent and easy, not instructed. 

My new program, “Sophisticate Your Nutrition,” will literally teach you how to eat, so that you can incorporate the principles of impeccability that you need for success, freedom, and happiness… into your eating lifestyle. To be the truly confident body positive badass you can be.

Want to Sophisticate Your Nutrition? Learn how you can work with Ashleigh for less than the cost of two training sessions, PLUS a bonus** 3-month strength and conditioning program. 

The Truth About Moderation

Moderation works for me. 

 

I am a ten year fit pro. I've counted macros. I've leaned out for figure competitions. I've cut weight to be lighter on the track. I've adjusted my eating habits to ensure strength gains on the platform. 

 

I have practiced being lean countless times.

 

Right now, what I say is, I’m "being good" on the weekdays and making a mess on the weekends.

 

There’s an average of three pints of ice cream disappearing from my freezer each week. Every Friday night is a cheeseburger with two patties and a large side of fries. Every Saturday, I toss back a few tequilas or a few ciders. But the rest is on point.

 

Without training for 4 out of 12 weeks, I lost ten pounds in three months. There was never a day I didn’t wake up to the same old six-pack. 

 

I feel great and it’s EASY.

 

But you need to know, that on a certain level, when I tell you I'm not trying, I'm really just LYING.

 

Throughout the day I'm mindlessly making better choices, monitoring what my body feels like, and analyzing what it needs. I'm pooling from my knowledge and experience every time I make a decision about food.

 

Is it effortless at this point? Yeah, it is. I’m not really lying. If you know me, you know I’m really incapable of that kind of crime. 

 

The truth is, I barely realize I'm doing it.

 

But, it was work to come out the other side with this level of intuition about my body’s nutritional needs. I had to learn how to eat.  And I’ve been sharpening this skill for the better part of a decade.

 

I want you to remember this realization when another fit pro tells you they are “taking it easy,” or “just practicing moderation.” All the while posting shredded out selfies and you're over here like "Why doesn't it JUST work like that for me?!?" 

 

DO NOT get frustrated and DO NOT compare yourself. 

 

DO NOT even get angry at these folks. I believe that most of the time, people have the best of intentions and really want to help. The insta fit pros included.

 

Moderation is not for everyone. No need to fuss over that fact.

 

You are probably doing the absolute best you can with what you know. And should you want to know more -- to get to whatever the next level is for you -- to get to the point where it's easy for YOU... Find a coach who's going to tell you the #truth #sophisticated strength

 

Are you ready to know more? 

I've been practicing for ten years and I have finally compiled my experiences and expertise into the definitive course that will teach you HOW TO EAT. Learn all my secrets to effortless eating here ---> SOPHISTICATE YOUR NUTRITION

Why Stress Is the Insidious Enemy of Fat Loss

...And Your Body Is Not

We cut out ALL sugar. We walk past the pastry counter practically drooling. We sign up for as many classes as we possibly can. Even giving up drinks with friends to hit that last spin class on Thursday night. We are tired. We are sore. Bruised even. And we still get to the beach on Saturday and look around, wondering how many of these chicks do we look better than? If it’s at least 50% it’s ok, right?

And we are frustrated. Nothing is changing! Except maybe we can’t sleep. But Instagram told us to go #beastmode with HIIT workouts and the 21-day fix said all we need is 1200 calories.

So we pack up our gym bags Sunday night and vow to leave a little more sweat on the floor and a few more crumbs on the plate than we did last week. And maybe, just maybe, by next weekend we’ll look good enough for that itsy bikini bottom that has yet to make it out the dresser drawer. 

And the cycle continues. Welcome to New York.

We look at fat loss like it’s a war. We strap on our Nikes and go to battle on grounds like Barry’s Bootcamp and Tonehouse. We congratulate ourselves on hitting two workouts in a day. Every meal we go without carbs is a definitive win. Our bodies with their stubborn fat and sharp cravings and exhaustion are rebellious. They must be conquered.

You are in the midst of an all-out war but you are hungry. You are overtired. Your workouts are breaking you. When did this knee pain thing start? You don’t like what you see in the mirror. You’re losing morale.

You cannot win like this. Planning endless attacks day after day, week after week. You’re exhausting your power, battling on too many fronts. Waging guerrilla warfare without strategy. Shooting in the dark.

Fat loss is not a war. 

At least it’s not a war against your body. You’ve chosen the wrong side. You let your evil head sway you. And I don’t mean the intelligent, rational side, I mean the dark side.

The side that reads magazines articles with opposing literature and immediately questions herself. The part of the brain that can look in the mirror and decide she got fat over night. You know this voice. The one that your yoga teacher says makes up stories about how unsatisfactory you are. The one that makes you feel shameful for that late-night slice of pizza at the office yesterday.

Yup that's me, aught on a particularly stressful day in the winter.

Yup that's me, aught on a particularly stressful day in the winter.

This ego of yours has convinced you that stress is your friend and your body is the enemy. This voice is not your ally! She has lied. And you have betrayed your body and become dependent on her shaky approval.

STRESS KILLS! You know this! Your body has been trying to tell you all along! It tried to warn you when it saw the dark side gaining control. That same body that you pummeled with burpees and starved of calories. The body that you rebelled and revolted against. 

It’s always been there trying to communicate with you, sending up smoke signals and transmitting encrypted messages to warn you of the impending harm. When you don’t eat, your body tries to remind you by shaking your focus. When you don’t sleep, it makes you feel slow. When you go too hard at the gym, it tries to grab your attention by creating pain.

The realist truth in the world is this: Stress is the enemy of everything.

If you really want to win, you need a a new strategy. Ask not what your body can do for you, but what you can do for your body. It’s time to join forces against the real enemy of your fat-loss goal, and really health in general. 

You want to combat stubborn fat? You need to listen to your body and declare war on stress.

Stress Is The Enemy of Fat Loss

There are different types of stress. There’s physical stress. There’s mental stress. But your brain interprets them all the same. And it responds with a release of hormones that make it particularly difficult to cut fat. When the body feels threatened, it goes into fight or flight mode. If we live here constantly, our cortisol is chronically increased. This can kill our ability to break down fat and raises our ability to destroy hard won, fat-burning muscle. 

And there are more obstacles. Our leptin sensitivity changes, owing to our inability to put the bag of chips down until the whole thing is gone. We are even more likely to get sick in this state, as the immune system can become suppressed. You cannot battle fat from the convalescence of your couch. You cannot fight fat when you are hormonally compromised.

Prepare For Battle

So minimizing stress… How can we do that? I said listen to your body. Easy for me to say right? You’re correct. It is. I’ve seen the other side. I’ve cultivated that relationship and I can intuitively sense what my next move should be most of the time.

But I also know(from experience), the transmission can be difficult to interpret when you’ve been pummeling that voice with shame and guilt and kettlebell swings. You gotta get back in touch with it somehow. And I’ve got some tips to help you rebuild your relationship with your soul voice.

This is the voice that is always your ally. She is the true caretaker of your body. The one who knows exactly what you need and when you need it. The only one your crazy head can never win against. IF, you let her speak.

But the first thing, the most important thing I want you to consider, is that your body is in fact a fat-burning metabolic machine. It is a an absolute war machine. And it’s loving loyalty is with you alone.

You’ve been scheming up new ways to restrict and limit your body rather than aid it. It’s not your fault. The fitness industry has taught you to think aggressively. I dare you to instead change your perspective and imagine what you can do to fortify your defense. What can you supply your body with to help it function better? 

Fat-loss is the cause. And your body and all of it’s biological systems are the army. To function at it’s best, you’ve got to give it what it needs. Essentially, anything that helps relieve stress can also help rip fat off of your body. Because when the body is less stressed, the fat-loss machine, your metabolism, can run most efficiently. 

So, what can you do to eliminate the impact of stress on your body and soul?

Supply The Right Basic Training

Training is by definition: intended physical stress. You break your body down on purpose, hoping that during recovery, you build yourself up better than you were before. 

But it’s got to be the right dose of stress. We’re all different. We all need to work on building stronger muscles and stronger hearts, yes. But that doesn’t mean we should all be doing the same workouts to achieve these qualities. 

And if the training plan is too stressful for where you are right now? And this could mean many things — it’s not appropriately progressive, or it’s too intense, or the exercise selection is not right for your level of athleticism and skill — It’s not the right dose and you won’t get any of the results you want, fat-loss included.

In yoga, we say that training is all about finding the edge. To push the edge further, you must train within that line. So all of your workouts should be something like comfortably difficult. There should be some amount of ease even on your toughest days. Because when we push past our limits too often, we find dis-ease. Did you read that? You find disease.

And this is why the extreme high intensity competitive bootcamps like CrossFit and Barry’s can be very frustrating for most of us. If every day is game day, and you are constantly disrespecting the sacred edge, you find all kinds of stress in the form of tightness, injury, pre-workout anxiety, post workout exhaustion, and chronic inflammation to name a few.

So I challenge you to accept two big concepts that will help you train smarter. I’m even going to give you some action steps for applying them.

Exercise Your Strength(DOn'T Exhaust it)

The first, is that you should always leave some reps in the tank and some weight on the rack. Constantly going for max lifts and training to failure can fry the nervous system and exacerbate your muscles. This is too much stress on its own.

Also, consider that when you train, you are incurring a certain amount of risk. And the more fatigued you become, the more that risk increases. That gamble isn’t worth the short term success. 

And really, if you leave yourself in a puddle of sweat on the floor today and you wake up so sore that you can barely move in the morning, how do you expect tomorrow’s workout to go? I mean, will you even be able to pull yourself out of bed to do it? You cannot win a war if you can’t get to the battlefield.

My favorite lifting session for fat-loss is 10x3. Lifting relatively heavy weights for a good amount of volume can be a recipe for hormonal happiness that results in the torching of those last couple of pounds.

But I mean it when I say RELATIVELY heavy. You cannot expect to use anything even CLOSE to your 1-rep max here. You should be able to complete 11 rounds if you had to, but you will just choose not to.

Day 1 Superset

Barbell Deadlift

Barbell Bench Press

Day 2 Superset

Barbell Front Squat

Pull-Up

3 bodyweight pull-ups is my prefect 10x3 sets. But you can add bands to remove some resistance.

3 bodyweight pull-ups is my prefect 10x3 sets. But you can add bands to remove some resistance.

*For both workouts, perform the two lifts back to back. That is one set. Rest 90-120 seconds between sets. Repeat for ten rounds.

Here’s the important part: For novice and intermediate lifters, choose a weight that is about 60-65% of your 1-rep max. Expert lifters may play with a weight that is closer to 70% of their 1-rep max. 

Be of Strong Heart

The second, is that you should always include some rhythmic cardio in your training plans. We said you’ve go to train the heart, right? And I mean something like rowing, biking, or sprinting. These exercises allow for a sequential turning on and turning off of muscles that allows blood to flow MORE freely through the body in a way that strength work cannot. 

And restricted blood flow is the chief reason lifting weights for speed, is not true cardio. Weight bearing exercises require too much tension and accordingly slow the blood flow back to the heart. This concept also helps explain why those who lift weights, REALLY need not to ignore cardio training.

Rhythmic cardio is also EXTREMELY therapeutic for mental stress and that is because much like meditation and yoga, you will be challenged to take control of your breath. When you can breathe better, you can deal with all of life’s unexpected but inevitable shit, better.

Longer intervals are a great way to fight stress.

Longer intervals are a great way to fight stress.

And control is the important part here. If you lose control of the weight when you are strength training, you have failed. This is obvious. Much less obvious, if you lose control of your breathing during cardio work, you have lost control of the interval and well, you lost the battle. You will reap no great cardio or fat-loss rewards as a result. 

My favorite workout here is 10x2min. 

Warm-Up

Progressively increase intensity on your chosen appropriate medium(run, bike, row)

Workout

Complete 10 2-minute long intervals at 70-80% perceived intensity, resting 1 minute between each interval.

Here’s the important part: Utilize long slow exhales during the work intervals, blowing air out of pursed lips. No matter how fast you move, the breath should ALWAYS be relatively slow and controlled. Modify speed according to ability to maintain that control. Honor the edge!

This bootcamp protocol should help you make some real visual changes to your body. But more importantly, you should start to make some real philosophical changes in your brain. Pay attention to how you feel after each activity, after training mindfully for a couple weeks. Throw in a yoga session of choice as your fourth session each week and you should start to pick up on some valuable transmissions from your soul voice about what really serves your body and your fat-loss goals. 

Give Your Body The Right Fuel

You have but one concept to adopt here. And as you march yourself down the queue at Dean and Deluca, I want you to remember that your battle cry is no good if you’ve got nothing to back it up with. You cannot fight if you don’t have the energy. Fat-loss takes fuel.

Your body and brain are fueled by two things: oxygen and food. It’s very simple. To function optimally, you need to breathe well(as we already covered) and you need to eat well. This means that starving yourself is not an option. 

I work in NYC and I can tell you that my clients who have the most trouble losing weight are the chicks who don’t eat at all, or don’t eat enough. For one, the lack of satiety causes more mental stress. Anxiety and guilt then become a part of every food experience.

But more importantly, they are lacking the adequate nourishment that is necessary to allow for results. To fuel your workouts, your body needs carbohydrates. Think of carbs as the engine of your metabolism. 

This is my actual breakfast 4 days per week! Packed with protein and carbs!

This is my actual breakfast 4 days per week! Packed with protein and carbs!

To recover from workouts, your body needs protein. Think of protein as the building blocks of your muscles. And having more muscle makes the engine stronger and drives your metabolic capacity up nice and high.

And your body also needs fat. Fat allows protein and carbs to do their jobs efficiently. And it also serves to help you absorb other necessary nutrients like vitamins and minerals. 

As we already outlined, workouts are stressful and sophisticated breakdowns that are contingent on recovery. But they are also only as good as the energy you have to put into them. You need all three of these macronutrients to ensure your success. But we’re going to focus on the first two to get you started here.

Tip #1

Up your protein. To whatever you normally eat, add another chicken breast or another three egg’s worth of whites. Mix up a protein shake. Just get that number up. Take note of how you feel and look over two weeks time.

Tip #2

After you have completed your protein experiment, play with carbs. This one is particularly important if you have been carb-less or very low carb for any significant amount of time. On your tougher lifting days and on your cardio days, add in extra carbs. White or brown rice, regular or sweet potatoes, even oatmeal is a great option here. Add a full extra serving on these days. Take note of how you look and feel over two weeks time.

Don’t skip the instructions to run these tests independently of each other! It’s important to realize how each individual change affects your body. Change one thing at a time to really hear what your soul voice has to say about it.

Keep Morale High 

There are unlimited opportunities for mental stress. I cover relationships in a different blog. But there’s family stress. There’s financial stress. There’s work stress. All of these potential stressors can mess with your hormones and negatively affect your decision-making skills. If you want to focus on fat loss, you’ve got to eliminate outside threats. 

I’m going to focus on tech stress here as it can lead us to multiple problems. Two in particular that are easy to get a handle on.

One, too much tech can scramble your brain. That makes even normal daily tasks more stressful. Increased tech usage late into the day can also make it difficult to sleep. And sleep is a necessary part of the recipe for good results. 

So, look for ways to limit your usage. Trade your google calendar for an actual calendar. Yeah, like a planner. Remember those? Trade your iPhone alarm clock for an actual alarm clock. That way, you can shut the phone off, leave it in another room, anything to get the actual device away from your brain while you catch some z’s. 

And two, quite possibly the more important of the two, get off Instagram! I know you, dear. When you’re frustrated trying to lose weight, you’re on there listening to false fitness idols and comparing yourself to hydroxy-cut hotties. Stop that. Comparison is the enemy of progress. You need confidence here, not questions. And too much doubt will drown that soul voice again. 

So, cut your time on tech. And instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on yourself. Start keeping a diary of how you’re feeling each day. What’s going well? What’s actually getting you down? And you don’t have to limit yourself to just fitness related topics. Keeping track of your personal and professional life in tandem with your fitness tracking will also help you recognize important patterns. (Hint: The way we see ourselves, influences the way we move!)

Take real photos of your body and compare them every six weeks. NOT EVERY DAY! There are natural ups and downs. Progress is not completely linear. So you need to allow a decent amount of time to pass to accurately gauge results. 

I actually keep these tiny notebooks that I journal in throughout the day!   

I actually keep these tiny notebooks that I journal in throughout the day!

 

DECLARE YOUR INDEPENDENCE

This is a manifesto of war on stubborn fat, yes. But it’s also a treaty of peace with your beautiful body. A declaration of independence against the restrictive and punishing way you’ve been fighting for your physique goals. And a vow to be the best ally of your most inner soul voice.

I challenge you in training to exercise your strengths; not to exhaust them. I challenge you in nutrition to nourish your body; not to ration it. And I challenge you to eliminate outside threats to your soul voice; to rally your spirit. Because we’ve got some leaning to do, ok? Life is too short to get caught up in confidence killing conflicts and uphill battles. And that itsy bikini(with you in it!) deserves it’s day in the sun. #fatlossisstressloss #sophisticatedstrength


Hip Flexor Happiness

Tight hip-flexors are a serious problem. They are annoying enough as is, getting super uncomfortable just walking around. But they can also cause you a number of other issues. For instance, they can prevent you from pulling yourself into a squat. They can mess with your stride efficiency when you run or sprint. They can cause your lower back to spasm in pain. And, as Drive client Sheila pointed out yesterday, they can make you look fat. “Is that why my belly sticks out?”

OK, that’s not entirely true. Nor could Sheila ever look fat. Lady must be walking around at 10% body fat. On the average day. At age 40. She’s amazing. But anyway, tight hip flexors can add the appearance of an extra few pounds by altering your standing posture. 

Tight Hip Flexors Affect Your Posture

This is because tight deep hip flexors can pull on your pelvis in such a way that you end up looking like you have what I affectionately call “shelf butt.” Your tail bone points behind you instead of down. Your belly is lengthened (what Sheila was talking about) and your lower back muscles are shortened, giving you a significantly rounder appearance. You got a shelf back there. Not too difficult to understand how this extra stress can also cause you some wicked lower back at the end of a long day of work. Or why you can't seem to develop the lower part of your abs. 

IMG_2407.JPG

And these babies can get tight and unhappy for a number of reasons, starting with common culprit: sitting at a desk all day. Of course, wearing heels all of the time can also mess you up, while doing a lot of distance running can cause repetitive stress. Or maybe all three if you are living in NYC. Tight hip flexors are a common complaint of my hard-working Class Pass chickees.

And the reason why they are tight in the first place matters. Of course you want to know what you can do differently in the future. But you cannot change the past. Much like life, better to focus on the present situation. What’s going to make you happy right now?

Tight Hip Flexors Are Weak Hip Flexors

Well, what we do know is that these muscles are probably not just tight, but also weak. And that’s something you actually can change right now, in fact. And I’m going to show you how.

But first, how do we know they’re weak? Well, my lovelies, we need to talk a little science here. Don’t worry, I hate using big words. I like to keep even the most complicated of concepts simple and sophisticated, you know?

If your peripheral nervous system had a manifesto, it’s mission statement would read something like “on a life-long quest to constantly and accurately determine the level of threat to the body.” Consider it your personal risk management consultant. 

And your brain, the central nervous system CFO, is super intelligent. It wants to protect you from risky moves that could lead to injury. So if the peripheral investigation reports weakness in a certain movement, the brain will limit your freedom of motion there, in order to avoid those dangerous ranges.

Now if only it was so good at assessing emotional risk of certain ex-boyfriends... I digress.

Why Stretching Alone Doesn't Work

Back to my point. You need to give your brain reason to believe that loosening the grip on your hip flexors is OK; that it’s safe. You need to teach them to be strong. But you won’t be able to do so successfully without first getting your pelvis to a neutral position. 

So, yes, you still need to stretch your hip flexors to achieve that. But then you need to consider that this temporary release is nothing more than a magic moment, an opportunity that must be followed up directly with some good targeted strengthening exercises. 

Cause if you don’t, you’ll probably be stretching your hips every day until the end of time. This is the reason you keep stretching them and it never seems to stick. 

Now, mind you, this is not an automatic fix. But if you make a commitment to follow this protocol every day 2x a day for two weeks, or you add it into your warm-up for the next month, you should find that your posture improves, your back pain diminishes, and your squat numbers mysteriously jump 20 lbs. And as Sheila mentioned, you’ll look like you dropped at least a few pounds, easily. 

Stretch Your Hip Flexors First

First, you’re going to stretch your hip flexors. The RKC hip flexor stretch is my fave. You just need a dowel, or a foam roller like I use (see below).

Start in a half-kneeling position with hips squared and the rear toes tucked. Inhale and push the roller into the ground while creating total-body tension. Exhale, releasing all tension except in the glutes, and push hips forward. Repeat for three breaths.

But, if you’ve got some knee issues, you could always use this basic bow stretch, following the same breathing pattern (see below).

Now, don’t stop here! Your hip flexors and back may already be feeling happier, but you must lock in the goodness and strengthen. In a rush? This routine requires but three more minutes to complete!

Then Strengthen Your Hip Flexors Effectively

Use this band hurdle hold exercise to challenge the hip flexors and low abs. Place the band (like this one from Perform Better) around your feet and lie on your back with your hands interlace behind your head. Pull one knee in and exhale as you reach the other foot away to provide resistance. Hold for three seconds. Repeat for eight reps per side.

 

Troubleshooting: Keep your spine flush to the ground. Place a lift like an aired pad or folded up mat underneath your head if your lower back cannot make contact. Keep in mind, the extended leg does not need to be locked out to create an adequate challenge. Just reach as far as you can comfortably.

Next, practice this slider exercise to challenge the psaos(one of the flexors). Start in a push-up position with the slider (like this Valslide) under the foot and out on 30 degrees. Exhale as you grind the slider into the floor and pull towards the midline on that diagonal. Reset on the inhale. Repeat for eight reps per side.

Troubleshooting: Push the slider into the floor as hard as you can! Keep you your shoulders and hips square. 

Real Magic

As perviously stated, you can practice this five minute routine twice per day for two weeks to realize noticeable change. Or you can add the sequence to your daily routine for a few more weeks for equal success. Either way, you will be well on your way to #hipflexorhappiness without constant stretching. #sophistocatedstrength