Looking Good (for a mom)

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking Good (for a mom) is moving!

I know I've been rather quiet lately, but I've been busy getting my new Wordpress site all polished up and ready for visitors! Thanks to Milan of Kombustion Media (@Matrix2Pyro on Twitter) for your excellent assistance developing the banner and getting the site working properly!

As for my followers, I hope you'll join me at the new site and continue to read and comment on my posts.

The address is http://www.lookinggoodmom.com

I look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weekend Roundup: Excess candy, breakfast cereals, kettlebells, more

I don't do round-up posts as often as I'd like, but as we've reached the end of another month, I thought it was about time I put another one together. So here are some of my favorite (and timely) posts of the past few weeks:

If you took my advice in my Halloween Candy post (How to avoid Halloween candy nightmares), you should now have a big bag of candy that you need to get out of your house. If taking it to work isn't your thing, and the financial side of you can't justify throwing it in the trash, here's an alternative idea from Fairly Odd Mother: Got Candy? Here's how to get rid of it.

And since we're on the topic of sugar-laden treats, let me share a great post from "Food Sociologist" Dina Rose. In A Spoonful of Sugar, Dina shares the results of new report by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity (Yale University) that shows not only how frequently cereals are marketed to kids, but just how sugar-laden most of those cereals are. If you aren't familiar with my thoughts on breakfast cereals, read an oldie but goodie from my own blog in Breakfast Cereals: Healthy or not? And then go eat some eggs.

On the Kettlebell front, there are two posts I wanted to feature. The first is from Josh Hillis of Lose Stubborn Fat. His post Beware of Dangerous Kettlebell DVDs talks about how some of the brand DVDs and kettlebells we find in our local store may NOT be the best way to learn about using kettlebells. Good commentary! The other is actually not that recent, but I was reminded of it when Josh Hanagarne posted a complete list of his recent guest posts. It's called "Stay Away! Four Reasons Kettlebells are NOT for you." In his normal sarcastic style, Josh explains why he wants you to leave kettlebells alone and just lie down and eat candy instead.

And since I'm a huge fan of Josh, let me also share his guest post, "Do You Want It? Prove It!" If you are someone who WANTS to be thin, but just can't seem to get the motivation to do it, this post might just be the kick in the rear that you need.

Well, those are my latest favorites. If you have a favorite post that you've read or written recently, please share it with me. I'd love to hear what you're reading!

Friday, October 30, 2009

How to avoid Halloween candy nightmares

Halloween Candy
It's one of the scariest times of year...no, not because of the ghosts and the goblins...because of the Twix and the Reese's peanut butter cups, of course! Yes, it's nearly Halloween, and where there's Halloween, there's candy. And where there's candy, there's (usually) a tendency to overindulge. Last year, I was sucked into the vortex that is created by having my favorite candy in the house. I was tempted again at Easter (see "Escaping from a cycle of bad eating"). This year I'm determined to avoid it, and I'm going to share five strategies I am going to use, in hopes that they will help you do the same.
  1. Limit it. Look, I get it. Your favorite candy is in the house, and you feel like you've worked hard enough to "earn it." And everything is fine, in moderation. So set reasonable limits. For example, allow yourself to have one piece of your favorite candy during each of the next three weeks. After that, we're close to Thanksgiving (and desserts), so it's best to pick just three pieces and move on to #2.

  2. Purge it. If it was a particularly light year for trick-or-treaters, you might have candy leftover from your handouts. This can be a dangerous thing, especially if you, like many people, buy your favorite candy to distribute. So get rid of it. Throw it out, take it to work, do whatever you want. Just don't keep it in the house.

  3. Trade it. If you have kids, throwing out the candy gets more complicated. Once they're old enough to understand what's happening, in fact, you might as well forget it! One strategy that worked for us was to trade candy for something else they like. I've used money ($0.25 per piece of candy), and my kids like to have something to put in their piggy banks, so this works great for us. Some of my friends let their kids pick a small number of candies (1-2 per year of age) and then trade the rest for a toy, an ice cream outing, or a fun activity like going to the movies or bowling. Plus, if your kids know exactly how many pieces of candy they have left, you will not be tempted to eat a piece and incur their wrath!

  4. Limit it (again). This time, the limits are for the OTHER people in your house. It's easy to get into the candy when everyone else it eating it all of the time. In our house we have a two-treat limit per day. My kids usually have a treat at lunch, and then one more treat at home, either after school or after dinner. Halloween candy counts, so if they're only eating one piece a day in my presence, I can handle that.

  5. Hide it. Those three pieces of your favorite candy you held on to (in #1)? Don't leave them in a bowl on the counter. Just seeing them will make you more likely to eat, even if it's not the candy. Instead, hide them in a brown paper bag on the top shelf of a pantry or cabinet. When it's your scheduled treat day, you'll be able to find them, but the rest of the week, you won't have to look at them and salivate.

Since Halloween is just a day away, I'll leave you with just one parting thought. When you're sorting through the candy, if you find yourself tempted to set aside the "healthy" treats for yourself, STOP. Don't kid yourself. Peppermint patties are lowfat. Reese's peanut butter cups are trans-fat free. Dark chocolate has antioxidants. Guess what? That doesn't mean you get a free pass to eat them all day long. I've already said you can eat them IN MODERATION. But don't eat a piece of candy because you think it's better for you than something else. Eat the one you like best on your scheduled day and move on. Don't be fooled by good marketing.

Hope you have a happy (and healthy) Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Redefine yourself

One of the challenges of transforming your body and life is that it takes some time for your mental image and perception of yourself to catch up with your physical reality. Just like it took looking at myself in a picture, instead of in the mirror, to see how fat and out of shape I'd become, it's taking time for me to see myself positively in the mirror now that I'm fit. Likewise, it's taking time for me to think of myself positively.

I still find myself in front of the mirror, turning and spinning, pushing on my belly and wondering if it should be flatter, and wishing I could see some more muscle definition in my legs. When I see other people who work out, I can appreciate the positive changes in their bodies, but it's hard for me to notice it in my own. Even when I'm achieving a new personal record on an exercise, I wonder whether that's actually a "good number," even if it's a good number for me. I think women, especially, can be so hard on ourselves in this way.

I was reminded of this the other evening. My daughter was sick, and I'd taken her in to be seen by a doctor. As the nurse checked her pulse, I asked what the normal range was for a child her age. The nurse answered, "well it's a bit elevated because of her fever." I agreed that would be the case and then said, "but what's the normal range? I mean, my resting heart rate is around 62." The nurse looked at me and said, "well, you're athletic."

Me? Athletic? Let me assure you that no one has ever referred to me as athletic in my entire life. I'm the girl who played right field in little league and batted 9th, because I could do the least amount of damage that way. I'm the one who was always picked last for teams, and who never played field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, or soccer. I'm the girl who took weightlifting two out of every four marking periods in gym, because I would not be expected to run and no one would hit me on the head with a basketball.

So while I was pleased by her offhand comment, I was also confused. Was she right? WAS I now athletic? It had never occurred to me to think of myself this way. But at the same time, perhaps she was had a point. After all, doesn't it take an athletic woman to do four chin-ups, two sets of thirty push-ups, and complete 170 16kg kettlebell swings in five minutes?

I thought I'd share this experience as a good reminder that as we change our lives, people who have never met us will perceive us differently than the way we see ourselves. And that should be a clue that we HAVE changed, and old labels may no longer apply. So as you change your body, your health, and your life, don't forget to redefine the kind of person you are, and what things are important to you.

Athletic? Let me look in this mirror a little longer and maybe...just maybe...I'll be able to see myself that way too.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Set a good example

So clearly, I'm a mom. And as a parent, I want my kids to grow up enjoying exercise and having a healthy relationship with food. It's a constant struggle to find the balance and decide how I should react when the kids want to binge on snacks instead of eating healthy food. What I've learned is that the best way to help your kids adopt healthy behaviors is by setting a good example.

If you're enthusiastic about eating healthy foods, they'll notice. If your eyes only light up for that triple-chocolate cake, they'll notice that too. If you stand at the pantry eating cookies from the bag, believe me, that will be perceived as normal behavior.

Ever since I started making healthy changes in my life, I've seen a change in my kids as well. Don't get me wrong, we still struggle over the typical "kid diet" issues, and my kids absolutely enjoy their treats. But they've been much more interested in physical activity, and talk much more frequently about eating "growing foods." Lately, my daughter has even taken to doing ten push-ups each morning and evening. And both my kids have tried picking up my kettlebells. Even more shocking...my 35lb 3-year old actually managed to lift my 20lb kettlebell off the ground! Talk about strong!

One of the best ways to get an insight into what your children are learning from your example is to ask them about healthy living. I asked some of my friends to talk to their kids about what people need to do to stay healthy and see what they had to say. Here's a few excerpts:

Julie's Son: Try different foods and blow your nose.

Skyler: Wash my hands, take your medicine, rest and stay at home.

Sally: Eat healthy foods. Chicken is the healthiest. And get lots of rest, exercise and if you are allergic to an animal don't get that animal for a pet.

Alexa: It's important to eat broccoli.
Kane (her brother): It's more important to eat chicken.
Alexa: No, broccoli is more important!

Garrett: You must eat your greens, lift weights (60 - 400 lbs), and watch your muscles get big w/the veins sticking out.

And of course, I had to interview my own kids. Here's a video with some of their comments...forgive my sloppy editing. I clearly need more practice!

So what does all this tell us? Kids pay quite a lot of attention to what we do, even when we think they don't notice. That's just another reason to pay attention to the example that you are setting for your children. What are you teaching them about what you value? When it's a beautiful day outside, do you go for a run, a bike ride, or play baseball with your friends? Or do you sit inside and play Wii Sports?

If that gives you some motivation to take a step back and evaluate your behavior, then great! Think twice before you finish your kids meals, or eat cookies while standing in front of the pantry, or spend the weekend on the couch watching TV. Not only will you be healthier, but you'll raise kids with healthier behaviors and attitudes as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Five Reasons Why Strong Women Are Sexy

As I've delved into the world of blogging, I've met a number of fantastic fitness-minded folks. Among them is Josh Hanagarne, a Russian Kettlebell Certified strength enthusiast who is a librarian by trade, and whose blog, World's Strongest Librarian is an eclectic combination of literary insights, personal reflections, and tales of strength. Josh recently offered to write guest posts for his fellow bloggers. I couldn't resist the opportunity to get a man's perspective on strong women. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Five Reasons Why Strong Women Are Sexy
By Josh Hanagarne, World’s Strongest Librarian

1. Strength implies dedication

I grew up with a Tongan friend who could bench a million pounds (more or less) without ever having lifted a weight in his life. But that’s not the case with most people.

Dedication and commitment are attractive qualities in any person. If you are strong, it means you have put in the time and paid your dues and you have earned it. Most people can’t commit to eating well for a week, much less gaining real strength.

When I see a woman who values strength, I see someone who knows the value of perseverance and commitment.

2. Strength implies a healthy sense of priorities

The current portrayal of how women’s bodies should look is pure poison. I’m hearing more about sexy “clavicles” these days, of all things

I grew up with two attractive sisters and a million attractive cousins who all hated the way they looked, even though they were gorgeous and thin. I’m sure they’re wondering how to bring out their clavicles this very minute.

Spending three hours a day on a treadmill does not make you strong and it does not imply that you have a healthy body image.

Spending half an hour getting strong implies that you have better things to think about than how many calories you can get rid of in the next hour. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that serious strength training makes your body look better than a treadmill ever could.

Take a look at some female kettlebellers and you’ll know what I mean.

3. Strength defies society’s portrayal of how women should be

Society does not value physical strength in women. The women in vogue are emaciated and bug-eyed, without any muscle tone. They are bony clothes hangers and I don’t know how that appeals to anyone.

The physically strong woman resists the siren song of the anorexic crackhead look and makes her body do what feels good. And again, if you give your body what it needs, it’s going to look good.

4. Strength leads to confidence

As you gain strength, you can confidence. It’s impossible not to. Very few things in our lives challenge us to test ourselves physically anymore. So most strong people have to proactively test themselves.

When you choose to do something as difficult as real strength training with demonstrable results, it changes your body and your mind at the same time.

Confidence is very attractive.

5. Strength training helps you age gracefully

Most elderly people who shuffle around hunched over are not doing so because they’re old—they’re doing so because they are weak. If you work out consistently for the purpose of gaining strength—particularly with kettlebells—you will retain the mobility of your psoas, shoulders, and hips.

With disuse and years, those muscles and joints tighten up, pull you forward and down, and then it’s too late.

Weak young women become weak old women. Strong young women become elegant, strong, confident women.

In short, there’s no downside to being strong. People that are attracted to weakness are normally attracted to vulnerability and there’s not much potential upside to that.

About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog with advice about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, kettlebells, and much more. Please subscribe to Josh’s RSS Updates to stay in touch.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend Round-Up: Kettlebells, Loving your body

It's been a while since I shared some of my favorite posts from around the web, so I've accumulated quite a few. I've retweeted a few of them, so if you follow me on tweeter, you may have seen a few already. I love getting inspiration from others, and I hope you do too!

First, a stop at my neighbor to the south, Sandy Sommer of CharmCityKettlebells. Sandy wrote an amazing and fair critique of Jillian Michaels new kettlebell workout program in Why Jillian Michaels is Bad for Kettlebells. If you, like me, are a fan of Jillian's, you owe it to yourself to read this. Unfortunately, as great as Jillian is, she's gotten into kettlebells without proper training. So please learn from experienced and certified kettlebell trainers like Sandy - he'll show you what Jillian does wrong so that you can avoid it at home.

Next, I've been loving this all month long, but I Love My Legs! is an inspired post from Rachel Cosgrove's online journal. (Rachel is an accomplished trainer and fitness competitor who runs a gym with her husband, author Alwyn Cosgrove, and is an author in her own right as well.) Rachel hits the nail on the head for women who are overly-critical of themselves and helps to teach us all a lesson about appreciating our bodies.

On the nutrition front, I have a few great selections for you. At the Precision Nutrition blog, a recent post on Research, Big Food, and Science: Cooking up a Conspiracy caught my eye. Anything that helps you take food claims with a huge amount of skepticism is well worth your time to read, and this certainly fits the bill!

And I've found a new blog that I absolutely adore. The blog is It's Not About Nutrition, and is a great resource for parents struggling with helping their kids eat healthy. As someone who gets stressed about what my kids are eating, I find the common sense and educated posts of Dina Rose, PhD to be a breath of fresh air. My selection to share is The Potato Chip Challenge: How we decide what snacks to give our kids. In this piece, Dina shoots holes in the idea that crackers, granola bars, and (sweetened) yogurt are substantially healthier snacks than potato chips. It's a good lesson for snackers of any age!

Finally, on a personal note, I'm very proud of two "friends" that I've met through the on-line fitness community who recently were certified to train kettlebells. Sarah, of StrongSarah was among the first to become Hardstyle Kettlebell Certified. You can read about her experiences in Happy to be Hardstyle Kettlebell Certified, parts I and II. And Anna, of Path to Fat Loss shared her RKC Experience after accomplishing the extremely difficult task of achieving the the status of a Russian Kettlebell Certified trainer! So please read about what these women did and what it means to them and join me in being inspired!

If you've written a post you think my readers would enjoy, please email me and let me know! I'd love to post more round-ups and feature more great blogs and authors!