Today’s guest is one of the coolest chicks I know (and you too, soon!), and a conversation that’s a LONG time coming: scholar/writer/teacher/activist Natalia Mehlman Petrzela.
Natalia is a historian of contemporary American politics and culture and is currently writing a book on American fitness culture. She is the author of Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture, and the co-host of Past Present Podcast, a show that turns hindsight into foresight by examining what’s going on in America today through a historical lens. Natalia is Associate Professor of History at The New School, a co-founder of wellness education program Healthclass 2.0and a Premiere Leader of intenSati, a fitness class that combines cardio with positive affirmations to make the ultimate uplifting workout.
In this episode we talk about talking to kids about what’s going on in our country/world in an “appropriate” way, where our quest for happiness and “following your bliss” really came from and if it’s actually serving us, making wokeness more than a gimmick, locker room talk (no, not in THAT way), feminism/activism’s place in the wellness industry, and so, SO much more.
All year, I’ve been running. Literally and metaphorically. Running into my career, running into my 30s, running into huge life changes, new habits, new routines, new purpose, standing my ground with people I love, and holding my own when it comes to my worth.
Running, running, running.
Not ever running away – running toward and running through – but nevertheless, running.
Last week, as I slipped on my shoes for yet another run that felt as if it might be lackluster, just like the runs I’ve been running for the last couple weeks, I realized – I do not want to run any more.
At least right now.
It’s pre-winter in NYC, which means that the weather’s pulling bi-polar stunts all over the place. One day it’s 65 and gorgeous, the next it’s in the 30s and so cold I can’t feel my hands crammed into my own pockets. I’m throw for a loop: I don’t know what to wear, my skin doesn’t know what’s going on, and my routine gets thrown completely out of whack without me even realizing what’s happening.
And my exercise regimen – one of my favorite forms of self-care – suddenly feels useless.
Seasonal shifts can do a number on you when you live in a culture that doesn’t honor (or even talk about!) the ways our bodies and minds subtly shift throughout the year.
According to the magazines and trends, we’re supposed to act, eat, and yes, exercise the same way January through December: with intensity, with drive, with an all-or-nothing mentality that promises slimmer thighs!, better sex!, and brighter moods! 365 days a year.
So when days like these seemingly lovely cool-and-crisp ones roll around and I can’t muster up that intensity and drive – I’ve gotta tell you, I feel like a real asshole.
Everything about this time of year is about slowing down, being thankful, and cozying up with the ones we love.
So why do we still think that high-impact, fast-paced, quick-fix workouts are the only way to go, when the rest of the season encourages slowing down and shifting gears?
I agree that a high-impact workout can be a great way to blow off steam. I understand that it can help de-puff after too many pie slices (been there, done that). But for someone like me, who is highly sensitive to the energetic shifts around her, adding stress to an already stressful time almost seems like fighting fire with fire.
I didn’t realize this until the other day, when slipping into my workout clothes I realized I had ZERO DESIRE to run. I usually love to run, and for the past year, it’s been my fitness form of choice. Running, and big group classes packed with familiar faces.
But lately, I’ve had zero desire for either. It’s crazily out of character. It’s unexpected. And it goes completely against my heath credo: I am a firm believer that there are way too many kinds of fitness formats for all kinds of personality types for a workout to ever feel “forced.”
And yet I realized that I’ve been trying to force myself through my routine for the sake of routine – hopping onto the treadmill and feeling no different afterwards, or going into my usual much-loved, jam-packed yoga class and getting major performance anxiety from the lack of space. Doing it not because it brought me joy or made me feel good in the now, but because it brought me joy and made me feel good at some other point in time.
We’re all dealing with a lot – year-round. The way we exercise should compliment what we’re missing, what we’re craving, and what we want to create in our lives each season of the year.
I realized that all year, I’ve been running toward the person I want to be and the world I want to create. Running toward, fighting for. Eleven-plus whole months of RUNNING.
It gave me solace, it gave me ideas, it gave me energy.
It gave me fight.
And after all that running, that soul-opening, spirit-gratifying running – my body doesn’t want to run right now.
It wants to ground down, plant roots, and reflect on the solid foundation that I’ve built and want to build from here on out.
My body is in its winter, and to my dismay, I realized I’ve been trying to fight that.
No matter your goals, you don’t need to prescribe to one certain type of exercise year-round in order to feel good in your body year-round. Even when it comes to cross-training and mixing your week up – sometimes the run-lift-yoga, or crossfit-pilates-spin, or whatever-you-usually-do combo isn’t the combo that’s going to be the best one in every moment.
For right now, for my body to be its best, I’m realizing I need to cross-train in a different way. I need to listen to how my body is changing with the seasons.
There is no one right way to exercise this season. Because the right way is the way that works for you, and for you alone.
Need some help? Here are 3 fitness “tips” (I use the term loosely) to follow this month and beyond:
1.) Feed your cravings, not your addictions.
Ever notice how the more you do something extreme, the more your body wants the next hit? Stress is like that. And not just the kind of emotional stress we associate with bad stuff: the kind of physical stress that gets our heart rate up in the gym, feels thrilling, and/or works our body to its edge. It’s why going super-super fast on a spin bike is trendy, even though it’s not efficient or effective: it’s an easy hit for a stress junkie.
Similarly, if you’re feeling cabin fever, extremely “restorative’ or more steady-state exercises might not be the best for you right now. You might need a run, or a boxing class, or ViPR or something like that to get your blood pumping and shake things up if they’re feeling stagnant.
Net-net, you want to feed what your body is craving (in this case – actually wants), not what it’s addicted to (in this case – what it’s simply used to wanting).
2.) Enlist a friend…or not.
Maybe you’re not around family during this time of year, or you live in a new city. Working out solo can be hard, for an unexpected reason: it reinforces the feeling of being lonely-alone.
On the flipside, if you’ve got party after shindig after obligation after whatever on your schedule, you might need some alone time.
If you’re getting a little too much solo time this season, you might need to put yourself in a community-type scenario, whether that means calling up a friendly acquaintance for a gym date or popping into that team-vibey class.
On the other hand, if you’re stretched thin on the social front – don’t force yourself into a class if you don’t want to (even if it’s your normal routine), and don’t wait around for someone else to be ready for the gym (just because it’s how you always roll). This is how I’m feeling right now, and while I usually use the gym as a way to feel a sense of community, I’m currently feeling the urge to keep to myself, go solo, and use my workout time to do some introspection (my best epiphanies come when I move, after all).
3.) All hail the rest day(s)…but also, don’t blindly follow them.
There was a time in my life that I thought rest days were a sign of weakness, low willpower, and lost athleticism. Boy was I wrong. REST DAYS ARE AMAZING YOU GUYS!!!!!
But something interesting happened along the way to discovering this: I found that when I planned my rest days, they ended up being the days I wanted to exercise the most, even if I’d technically taken a “rest day” the day before. Basically, I became so tied to the idea of certain days “needing” to be rest days and certain days “needing” to be workout days that it became really hard to listen to what my body actually wanted in the moment.
What I found works for me is to “nothing” rest days. I take them when I take them. Sometimes once a week, sometimes twice or three times. But always, always when I’m feeling the need to rejuvenate.
Of course, if you’re killin’ it in the gym every single day, working through injuries, etc, it’s very important to break the addiction and de-vilify the Rest Day. Your physical health depends on it. But as a former listmaking addict – a person addicted to planning her weeks down to the minutes she’d be brushing her teeth (fact; I still have the notebooks filled with the lists) – I’ve found that planning out my rest days works against all the hard work I’ve done over the years to listen to my body and honor its needs. Granted, I did need to plan rest days along the way just to get used to them…but after that? I became able to enjoy rest days and “sweat” days equally.
So how am I exercising right now if I’m not doing my normal run-lift-yoga combo? I’m doing the exercises that make me feel grounded.
I’m going into the spin room at the gym during non-class hours, plugging in my headphones, and doing a class all for myself. It’s low impact, which means my bones aren’t absorbing force that would come from, say, striking my foot down on the ground in a sprint. Each pedalstroke grounds me and reminds me that this is my body, and it’s the only one I’ve got (in this lifetime, at least, I don’t know what comes next!). Sometimes I’ll hop into the class of a teacher I know and trust, because with so much newness this year, my body isn’t in a phase of exploration and chance. It feels good to use the music to guide me or have the teacher tell me what to do, because all year long I’ve been making decisions that sort of scare me. I’m trading my box jumps and caterpillar crawls for machine-based exercises and mat classes.
And sometimes, I just roll out my mat, close my eyes, and BE.
Yes. THAT COUNTS.
I’m feeling a need to be nurtured and supported, held up while I do the work. What that looks like? I get to decide, over and over again, every single day.
I’m sure in the new year, or even in the new month, all this will change.
But that is the beauty of fitness, and what drew me to it in the first place: it moves with you.
WANT YOURSELF: In the comments, tell me: do you also find that your body craves different forms of movement as the seasons change? How do you plan on taking care of yourself this winter? What’s one thing you can do today to honor what your body truly WANTs?
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I’m no stranger to sweat therapy: I hit the gym on the regular. My running shoes are practically a second set of feet. I’ve never been one to turn down a chance to get down (dog) – heck, I’ve been teaching spin classes since people thought it meant you go to a class and turn around in circles for 45 minutes on end (for real. people used to ask me if that was what a spin class was).
I’m well aware of both the physical and mental benefits of getting my heart rate up on the regular, and consider fitness more of a lifestyle habit than a to-do to get to-done.
So why, then, do I wake up some mornings feeling like the last thing I want to do is get moving?
According to catchy headlines and fly-by-night trends, we’re supposed to sweat it out the same way no matter the season: with intensity, with drive, and with an all-or-nothing mentality that promises slimmer thighs!, better sex!, and brighter moods! 365 days a year. We force ourselves into routines for the sake of routines, not taking into account that we are living, breathing, changing beings who experience enough physical, emotional, and spiritual shifts in a mere day to fill up a week’s worth of SoulCycle classes by 12:01pm on a Monday afternoon.
Study after study shows us that exercise can boost our mood, help our bodies clear out toxins, and make even the most everyday of activities seem a whole lot easier (hello, five-story walk up apartment). But when you’re feeling fatigued, uninspired, or just plaindown-in-the-slumps, scientific facts don’t help all that much. And the “accountability” factor of having a class to make or a trainer to see isn’t always a surefire recipe to get amped up.
The solution: You’ve got to make your workout work out for you.
I’ve definitely struggled with this sincemoving across the country. Not only was I not used to the seasonal shifts, but I had to completely restructure my schedule, top to bottom. This definitely included the way I moved. I loved exercising outside, which I didn’t have many opportunities to do in LA – one point, NYC! The gym was also a huge part of my community on the west coast, and I found that the NYC gyms where I felt that were NOT the ones that were the closest to my house. And then there was rain, there was snow, and there was that huge dramatic shift in early November when I didn’t even want to leave the house let alone break a sweat. Thankfully, ten months in, I’ve figured out my roadblocks and how to move through them in order to get moving.
Feeling blah? I feel you – and there’s no need to letnegative self-talk stand in your way. Here are five ways to set yourself up for success and motivate yourself to exercise, no matter how you feel:
1) Give yourself options. Ever notice that the more often you do something extreme, the more your body starts to want its next hit? It’s kind of like that with fitness. When it comes to working out on a down day, it’s important to feed your cravings, not your addictions. That could mean foregoing your usual five-mile run for a meditative walk in the park. That could mean modifying your burpees in your HIIT sesh so there’s no push-up involved. That could mean trading in plank for child’s pose. Knowing you have options within the workout you choose removes that all-or-nothing feeling and gives your body what it actually wants (feeds the craving) vs. what you think it SHOULD be wanting (feeding the addiction).
2) Have a Plan A…Plan B…Plan C….Plan D… I love to run outside. But I know myself, and there are certain situations in which even the most persuasive person I know (hi mom) wouldn’t be able to convince me to haul you-know-what out in the open air. If you’ve learned how to psych yourself to run in brutal heat, icky rain, or I-can’t-feel-my-face cold, more power to you. Me? That’s a big NOPE in my book.
In the past, I’d either force myself to brave the elements or skip out altogether. Not only was the former potentially dangerous and the latter a surefire way to make me a crankypants for the rest of the day, but neither of those options had to be the solutions! Now I know to always have a Plan A, B, C, even a Plan D for making my workout work for me. Running outside not an option? Use the treadmill. All the treads already taken at the gym? Hop on an elliptical. No cardio equipment available whatsoever – or it’s just too miserable to leave the house in the first place? Say hello to my fave,customizable self-confidence boosting workout. Having multiple options at the ready, I’ve found, ensures I can make a decision that’s right for me no matter the circumstance.
3) Wear what makes you feel good. Many fitness pros and motivational coaches will recommend that a surefire way to get amped to work out is wear a rockin’ piece of fitnesswear. And that’s solid advice. Heck, a whole activewear revolution is happening because of that exact school of thought!
The problem is, sometimes that’s not what actually makes us feel our best – especially if we’re feeling uncomfortable in our own skin. When I’m feeling down on myself and physically uncomfortable, I wear clothes that have a little more “give” to them. Sometimes, I throw on my fiancé’s old t-shirt and call it a day. Point is: if your fitnesswear best makes you feel rockin’, rock on! But if an old concert tee and stretchy pants from 2008 make you feel great, that’s great too. It’s much easier to get in a productive – and pleasant – workout when you’re less concerned with the way you look and more invested in the way you feel.
4) Make playlist presents for yourself. When I find music I love, I become borderline obsessed. So muchso, in fact, that I’ll listen to an entire album or playlist on repeat for weeks, then move onto another set of songs for another few weeks after that. And so on, and so on. That first time I listen is always the most exciting – so what I’ve learned to do is create a playlist for myself (or download an entire album on Spotify) and promise myself not to listen until my next workout. This works with playlists, genre “stations” on Spotify or Pandora (I’m all about the “90s Smash Hits” right now), even podcasts. Giving yourself something to look forward to within the workout setting is a great way to trick yourself into putting the work in and having a blast in the moment.
5) Give it a REST. Okay, so this one might seem counter-intuitive…rest to motivate yourself to exercise? Isn’t this a recipe for a negative talk spiral? Actually, it’s the exact opposite. I’m not talking about resting when you’ve got adrenal fatigue or are overtraining – which, obviously, require rest. I’m talking about letting yourself off the hook. If you’re constantly pressuring yourself to “be motivated,” how will you ever get there? Just like with food, your decision to exercise (or not exercise) is not good or bad – it just IS. Yes, sometimes it’s necessary to just get up and do it even when you’d rather be binge watching Orange Is The New Black on your couch. But at the same time, it’s necessary to train yourself to cut yourself some slack. How can we ever develop a healthy relationship with our body if we’re constantly putting the pressure on it to look, act, and do things a certain way? In my experience, this is a breeding ground for guilt and exercise addiction. Give yourself the space to breathe – you might be surprised by what happens when you start to approach exercise as one of many opportunities to feel good, not one sole chance or obligation to do things the “right” way.
WANT YOURSELF: Now, you: I’d love to hear how you motivate yourself to exercise when you’re just not feeling it. Is there a specific trick you’ve got up your sleeve? Is there a song or playlist you’ve go that gets you going no matter what? Leave a comment below – your sweat-positive strategy might be exactly what someone else needs to get them spinning in the right direction. Literally or figuratively ;)
Do you ever feel like everyone else is running circles around you while you’re walking through quicksand toward success?
If you’re like me, you’re probably nodding your head vigorously, right? I thought so. Whether it’s business success, achieving that ever-elusive “healthy lifestyle,” or making an impact in the world, the pressure to perform is real.
A lot of times I find myself all tied up in mixed messages: one day someone’s telling me to do what works for me, the next day they’re telling me a $500 supplement is the answer to all my problems. One day I’m encouraged to go slow and steady, the next I’m being sold a recipe for overnight success. My life naturally ebbs and flows – sometimes I’m in periods of fast growth and rapid success, but most of the time it’s about those small shifts or baby steps.
So when websites, blogs, celebrities, influencers, etc etc etc etc tell me one thing but show me another, it can begin to feel like there’s this pressure to keep up. Especially in the “health and wellness” space.
The one site I have always turned to for no-bs advice that actually works for me and respects who I am isGreatist. It’s a website and media company that truly talks the walk and walks the talk of living a healthy, happy life in a realistic, authentic, true-to-you way. Have a little too much to drink this weekend? That’s cool, we’ll help you feel better. No time for a workout today – like, really, no time? Don’t stress about it. Having trouble at work or making friends as an adult? We feel you. Greatist never judges, has always “been there too,” and never pretends like we need to overhaul our life to make it what we want it to be.
I’ve been die-hard obsessed with Greatist since they launched in 2011 – you’ll hear more about why in today’s episode. I know a lot of brands say they’re all about balance and staying true to yourself…but Greatist is one of the only ones that actually means what they say. It’s not about being the healthiest all the time, it’s about being healthy-ish. And as today’s WANTcast guest told me, it’s not about being the greatest all the time. It’s about working on greatness like an artist works on art. It’s about being a great-ist.
Derek Flanzraich is an entrepreneur on a mission to give everyone a healthyish attitude. He is the CEO & Founder of Greatist, a next-generation media startup working to make healthy living cool and build the first truly trusted healthy living brand for this generation. Derek’s been building brands and organizations that last since his dog-walking business at 10 years old, so he knows a thing or two about what it takes to create something with long-term value and meaning.
I love our conversation so much. In this episode, Derek and I talk about building a brand that lasts, taking hits and making compromises, and the gaping hole in the health and wellness industry that led Derek to found Greatist. We also talk about the state of masculinity, the future of gender neutrality, the three things anyone can do to live a “healthy-ish” life, and why health and wellness can’t just begin and end with food or exercise.
We had a blast together – he is truly a WANT Man through and through. So down to earth, so genuine, and so the embodiment of this brand he’s created. I mean, anyone that can play Drake-related games with me and not think I’m a crazy person is an A+ human being in my book. Don’t ask. Just take a listen.
Like this episode? Shoot me a comment below, leave a review on iTunes (the more reviews, the more Derek’s message is spread), share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years of building a career, birthing a business, quitting a job, moving across the country, and getting engaged (it’s been a busy few years.), it’s that no matter HOW far you think you’ve gotten, there is still so much more to learn. And moreover, you don’t have to go at it alone.
I recently started working with a coach to help gain clarity around a few big-time goals of mine (more on that in the future – both the coach part and the goals part). After unpacking stuff like my alternative definition of “accomplishments” and my love affair with structure, she asked me about role models. And after listing people like Jenny Lewis and Glennon Doyle Melton, I told her about one of my first friends to truly show me what I was capable of. That friend is today’s WANT Woman: Nicole Sciacca.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, you’ve probably at least heard of Nicole if not experienced her Force Of Nature-ness firsthand. Nicole Sciaccais a yoga teacher, professional dancer, actress, host, personal trainer, and (most importantly) a mother to her three year-old son Beau. She is currently the Chief Yoga Officer of Playlist Yoga in West Hollywood, where she spearheads their programming and works with teachers to turn each class into the kind of unique, music-driven experiences that have earned Playlist the nickname “The SoulCycle Of Yoga.”
Backstory: Nicole moved to Los Angeles from Birmingham, Alabama over sixteen years ago. After suffering a horrible back injury in 2006 that changed the trajectory of her dance career, she needed to find an outlet for her energy and genetic disposition for sweat. What originally seemed like her biggest roadblock ultimately introduced her to her greatest passion. Nicole simultaneously began yoga while recovering…and knew she was onto something. Although she had swam and danced professionally her entire life, it was yoga that transformed her mind, body and spirit all at once.
Nicole has always believed in the power of “the journey, not the destination,” so when her Venice Beach studio Hustle and Flow was forced to close, she knew something big was bound to be on the horizon. Days later, she met Playlist owners Jorden Cohen and Rob Rubano. The timing could not have been more perfect – and Nicole found her new path as the face of Playlist.
nicole + i at the one year WANTiversary party in 2016
Our story? Well, I need to preface this by saying that I have spot-on friendtuition. I don’t know how, but I can so much as hear about someone from someone else and have a gut feeling that we’re going to be friends. I’ve learned this about myself in time, but when I met Nicole eight years ago in her spin class and had that friendtuition feeling right off the bat, I was so confused because I was also ridiculouslyintimidated by her.
It wasn’t that Nicole was actually intimidating or scary in the least. It was that I was in the midst of figuring myself out.I was just finding my voice as a writer and fitness instructor, was battling self-doubt when it came to calling myself a leader…and here was this woman who freaking OWNED THE ROOM the second she walked in.
I’d never seen anyone foster such a deep sense of community (“a following,” if you will) like Nicole did. She made people work hard without even realizing it was hard work. She made people laugh but never at the expense of anyone or anything else. She looked you in the eye and listened to what you had to say, even if she’d met you three seconds beforehand. And she didn’t apologize for being herself.
She was badass. She was soulful. She was exactly what I wanted to be like but didn’t know I could become.
Fast forward to the Now, and she’s one of those “lifer” friends of mine. We’ve seen each other through some high highs and low lows, and I can say on my end that I’m not only a better person to have had her cheering me on, but am a bolder person for bearing witness as her story unfolds and seeing her move forward fearlessly through it all. Injuries. Relationships. Speed bumps. Successes. She’s the definition of fearless: when the fear is less than the faith.
I realized the other day that I hadn’t spotlighted a WANT Woman on the site since last year – crazy, right? Especially since one of the things I value most is connection. This means not only introducing you to WANT Women around the globe, but helping you connect with women who can ultimately help you find a deeper connection with YOURSELF.And so I thought, who better to get back into the flow of things than one of the WANTiest women I know. I love our WANT community so much, it was crazy to me I hadn’t introduced you to Nicole yet. So. Here. Done and done.
They (whoever “they” are) say that you need to see it to be it. And for me, Nicole was one of the first people to show me the kind of person I could become if I was brave enough to go there. Our story is never finished, our practice is never perfected, and if we just hold the mirror up and reflect our light onto one another, we’re able to surpass our wildest expectations.
Name: Nicole Sciacca
How you’d know me (occupation or role): I have been teaching yoga, group fitness, and indoor cycling as well as private training for almost a decade in Los Angeles, California. I formally owned a cycling and yoga studio called Hustle & Flow Fitness on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice. Currently I am the Chief Yoga Officer (CYO) at PLAYLIST. Yoga in West Hollywood.
What I love about myself (and why): One of the things I love about myself is my sense of humor, because what are we doing, you guys? This LIFE business is crazy. And awesome. And scary. And beautiful. And unnerving. So please…let’s just laugh. Also, my resilience. I’m pretty sure that is a new found quality over the last 4-5 years but I can tell you I see the importance in resiliency now more than ever.
What is your definition of “positivity?” The energy that is extended when the deepest motivation is love, compassion, joy, and kindness. Or Katie Horwitch. I’m not saying that because this is your site. I honestly would define you as “positivity personified.” True story. (note from katie: omg.)
When did you start to love yourself – did you have a self-love “turning point?” Oddly I don’t remember this “turning point” but I do recall my mother and father really establishing my self worth and the value of my individuality at a very young age. They let me wear the same self chosen outfit 4 days in a row to kindergarten (thankfully my mom washed it every night!). There was a prominent shift when I began to dedicate my life to helping others through fitness and yoga but I was certainly raised with an awareness of “self love.”
How/where negative talk shows up in my life: Paying off debt. Debt that I incurred from taking big risks. Strange thing is that I don’t necessarily regret those choices because the lessons are plentiful. Negativity shows up at least once a month when I feel bloated or hormonal. Sometimes as a mother I find my inner critic beating me up as I compare my parenting to other mamas.
When I talk negatively about myself, it’s usually… If I feel a lack of energy or physically lethargic, I blame my diet and for not having the discipline to eat more carefully. If I get a piece of mail that worries me, I doubt my capabilities to run my business. If I’m struggling on my mat, I tell myself my priorities are out of whack… There is a great deal of personal critique on my end and that has been a voice that I’ve battled my entire life.
When others talk negatively about themselves… I have a completely different reaction. I listen and immediately drum up all the reasons they are shining, glorious, star fairies!!
It baffles me that women still… make less than men dollar to dollar. Seems like we should just cut that shit out now.
I wish that more women… would praise, support, nurture and enable one another. I surround myself with some incredibly strong and driven ladies which makes me proud to be a woman in this industry, at this point in history. We are a great force for good and the world NEEDS us. Our children need us.
The coolest thing about women is… we can bring life into the world. Cliche? I don’t care. I have been blessed to do this and it is the coolest thing I’ve ever been privileged to experience. Also, we can multi-task like a BOSS.
My favorite way to shift a negative into a positive: Pray or meditate or sweat. Nearly all my problems can shift when I do one (or all) of these 3 things. Also, I call my mom.
My top female role models: This is a random list here…. I’d say Elizabeth Lesser. Her life’s work and exceptional use of language as seen in her books is just incredible. Johanna Gaines from the HGTV show Fixer Upper. I only know what I see and read but from the dynamic she shares with her husband, her 4 children, their farm, and businesses, I’m constantly inspired.
Favorite negativity-busting activity: Spending quality time with my son. He fuels my heart in ways that I can barely explain. He reminds me of where I’ve been and that no matter what, the future is based in my reaction. I can shift energy by actively loving him.
Fave self-love ritual: beauty upkeep. Hair cut, a facial, a nice manicure and pedicure. IS THIS SHALLOW? My non-shallow answer is getting a good night’s sleep. Actual rest.
Favorite feel-good food(s): My mom’s cooking. Specifically her homemade red velvet cake or her German sourkraut, potato, and pork recipe. It has a name but I don’t know it.
Favorite movie(s) to watch when I’m feeling down: This is 40 or Deadpool. (sorry.) Strangely, I don’t really re-watch movies. THIS HAS BEEN A POINT OF CONTENTION BEFORE. I think it makes me an oddball…so I don’t have an answer. Outside of Love Actually and All About Eve. Those are my all-time Favs!!
My feel-good playlist: Like That – Memphis Bleek How Do You Want It – Tupac Lemonade (the entire album) – Beyonce Rock and Roll or Ramble On – Led Zeppelin Stand Back – Fleetwood Mac Sweater Weather – The Neighbourhood River – Leon Bridges
Advice I would give my… …4 year old self: It’s okay that you like micro machines and dirt. And maybe eat less Velveeta cheese. …14 year-old self: You’re not too tall. You’re perfect. Don’t worry about boys and take more ballet classes. …24 year old self: A partner should compliment your life, not fill the holes. GO TO YOGA RIGHT NOW.
5 Things, personal or professional, on my bucket list: A trip or yoga retreat to New Zealand or Iceland. Go on safari in South Africa. Maybe another child. Build a house. Ride in a hot air balloon.
When I truly love all of myself… I feel enamored and in the presence of God.
Right now, I am most excited about… my haircut and color this Wednesday. Also, the rest of 2017!! I have a couple big things in the works and am excited to get the ball rolling on my potential collaborations.
My body is: a freaking temple. I am shocked that it puts up with me. haha. We stay healthy 98% of the year, we breakdance at weddings and we operate on less than the desired amount of sleep.
Three words to describe me: goofy, hard-working, and compassionate
Current mantra: The more comfortable I am BEING uncomfortable the better prepared I am for any and all surprises. Or: I am becoming my best self and living my most fulfilled life here and now.
When I was twenty one, I made one of the best decisions of my life – a decision I can trace almost everything good in my life back to, from my friendships to my career to my fiancé to my self image. I got certified to teach indoor cycling.
My decision wasn’t so much about my love of fitness as it was my love of how fitness fit into my life at the time. I decided to get my indoor cycling instructor certification for three reasons: One, as a musical theatre actor, I knew I could have a side job wherever my “real” job took me. Two, I wanted to curate a stellar experience I felt was lacking. The classes at my gym played EDM remixes of Broadway musicals, and that was just not okay on so many levels.
And three? I was struggling. I was struggling to learn to love myself, to make peace with a world that seemed to tell me that investing in self-love was selfish and crude. It wasn’t cool yet to become a fitness instructor, and spouting off terms like “athleisure” and “reishi” might as well have been speaking Klingon. The fact that I stuffed spinach into my smoothies was weird enough as is. Now I was venturing into the even weirder world of self-improvement.
ButI was fiercely determined to love myself and sort my mess out – and slowly started to notice that I wasn’t the only one. I would side-glance at the people around me, both in and out of the gym, and could tell they were struggling too. How was it that we were so devoted to this idea of “health and wellness,” yet none of us looked like we were healthy or well in any respect?
The dance club remixes kept thumping, the aggressive cueing kept coming, and I knew in my heart the conversation needed to change.
The world has changed a lot since 2007, and so has the wellness industry. No longer is it “weird” to stuff your smoothies with mushrooms and herbs; no longer is it taboo to wear workout clothes to a brunch date. Being a yoga teacher has been named one of the top 100 job opportunities in America. Flower crowns – do I need to say more? It’s now officially hip to be green.
One thing stays the same, though: when asked, almost anyone who is anyone in the wellness industry will say their goal is to inspire others and help change lives for the better.
So here we are. A time in which so many are feeling legitimately terrified for their lives or the lives of their loved ones. For them, it’s not just about job security or economics. It’s not just about the environment (although I do suggest watching Before The Flood, like, ASAP.). This is about the actual safety – and go figure, health and wellness – of human beings. As a woman, as a religious minority, as a citizen of this country, made up of such a diverse quilt of cultures and races and religions and gender identities and backgrounds – I am horribly, borderline-irrevocably, afraid.
Sometimes my fear makes me want to stay inside all day and ignore anything going on outside the walls of my tiny, inviting apartment complex.And yet I, along with so many of my incredible and inspirational colleagues, still get up every morning and do the work we have done every single day we’ve been in this profession. We show up. We witness struggle. We show people how to love – not just others, but themselves.
I’m really lucky in that most of the people I know are empathetic to their core and unafraid to dance around the details. But I’ve noticed something interesting: some of the people who are the most peace-promoting in profession are glossing over peace-threatening issues in practice. They focus on proclaiming that now more than ever is the time to be the “kindest people we know” and just wait it out. “This too shall pass,” people have told me.This too shall pass. The words hit me like a kettlebell in the stomach.
Of course I agree that now more than ever is the time to be the “kindest people we know.” But I’d like to suggest that times like these call for way more than just the standard human decency we should all be striving for day after day. Times like these call for us to make actual, tangible changes in our day-to-day lives – seemingly small changes that make a huge impact in the long run. Kind of like diet or fitness. Kind of likeany wellness practice.
We can encourage people to meditate. We can educate them on the benefits of sleep and yoga, even methods like bullet journaling and affirmations to manage their feelings. But beyond emotional healing and stress mitigation and telling people to be the kindest people they know, what else is there?
Turns out, a whole freaking lot.
As leaders in the wellness industry, we have a rare and vital opportunity to reach people at their most vulnerable. In fitness, that opportunity comes during moments of hard exertion, or sometimes in the moments of standing firm and staying still. In nutrition, it comes while helping people with one of the most personal things they can do: eat. In holistic and functional medicine, the opportunity lies in exploring the literal aches and pains of the mind and body. And the list goes on: crystal healing, dosha balancing, sensory depravation, etc etc etc. Wellness is about so much more than images of flower crowns and yoga poses (and don’t get me wrong, I love a good flower crown and yoga pose): people come to us to sort through their struggles, tame their anxieties, and just generally feel better in a consumerist and reactive world that would rather they feel worse.Our jobs are more important now, in this politically charged and divisive time, than they’ve ever been.
We’re lucky that the people who are seeking out wellness-related products, services, communities, or “influencers” are already halfway there when it comes to an inclusive, bold, and proactive mindset. They already know they can be the change they wish to see in the world, and they already know that it’s those tiny-but-mighty tweaks to routine that are the gateway to being that change. Whether it’s meditation or movement, a cardio class or crystals, wellness-minded folks come to us ready to strip themselves of their pretenses and shed what they don’t need anymore in order to start anew. That requires an immense level of vulnerability, which is something we cannot take lightly. Not ever, but particularly not now.
Here’s where I propose we start…
• We must be cognizant of the language we use right now more than ever. Our words can be triggering – shameful even. In fitness, for example, creating a “beginner vs. advanced” mentality between students instead of meeting them where they’re at can make someone feel ashamed of their abilities, or resentful of their body’s limitations. Our students, readers, clients, and followers come to us baring their most vulnerable selves in the heat of the moment. Things like sweating at a high intensity, lying still with closed eyes, being open to alternative ways of living…those are vulnerable things to do!The language we use during these vulnerable moments – which are made even more fragile by the current political climate – can close someone off, open someone up, or even change the course of someone’s life.
We have a responsibility to use language that not only uplifts – that should be a given – but softly urges people to be proactive way after they leave their class, complete their session, end their meal, or finish their daily reads. We must urge them to be proactive, not reactive in their choices. We must not only help them feel powerful, but help them realize that feeling power is only productive if you DO something meaningful with it. We must remind them that even though they might have come into the room alone, they are surrounded by a team that has got their back – and they have the opportunity to do the same for others in turn.
• We must show a wide range of images of what it physically looks like to live well. Wellness has been popularized by the image of a lithe, privileged, upper-class white woman. I remember speaking to an editorial team about this once and urging them to publish more diverse images on their channels. They argued that mostly white women ran their platforms, so it only made sense these would be the images they gravitated toward. It “wasn’t ideal,” but it was “just the way things were.”
THIS IS NOT A SUFFICIENT ANSWER.
We must, must, MUST NOT loop wellness into a bubble of white privilege for only the size-2-and-under set. We must, must, MUST show more diverse images in our publications and use more diverse models as the face of our products. And we must, must, MUST not bill these instances as special occasions or campaigns, because the second we do that is the second we reinforce the idea of “the other.” From body image to skin color, men and women now more than ever need to actually see that wellness is for everyone and know that they are part of the rule, not the exception.
• We must provide people with a wide variety of ways to live well that can work for any lifestyle – not just the wealthy and socially/culturally privileged. Most of us aren’t living the life of the “wellness high society,” as I like to call them: people who can afford multiple holistic treatments per week, buy thousands of dollars of special powders and supplements to live their best life, and have transformed their backyards into what are basically small farms (or even have backyards to begin with!). I’m not against any of these things, for the record – they’re just not realistic for the majority of people out there, whether in a big city in Los Angeles or a small town almost entirely off the grid. In our practices and preachings (although I’m using that term figuratively; hopefully no one’s “preaching at” anyone), we’ve got to take into account the entirety of the human experience and not just the bubbles that look like the ones in which we live. We must use not only the words and the images that are inclusive and encouraging, but the call-to-ACTIONS that not only take all kinds of high highs and low lows into account, but above all else promote being proactive, not reactive; inclusive, not exclusive. We must seek out, actively seek out, viewpoints other than our own, because we all know that living truly WELL in body, mind, and spirit means not assuming that one way is the right way for all times and for all people. Living well is about finding what works for you. And in order to help people find what works for them, we must show, time and time again, that there is more than one option.
• We must use our art as activism. If you’re in the wellness industry, chances are you’re using some sort of artistry to build your business. Writing. Cooking. Speaking. Healing. Teaching. So many ways in which wellness and creativity intersect – and so many ways you can get creative when it comes to promoting change. Behind the scenes, you can be writing letters and making calls to your government officials. Or better yet, why not host a letter writing evening and mix in whatever you do – yoga, bootcamp-style fitness class, meditation, natural beauty demos – to give the night a personal touch and fun flair, then donate proceeds to a cause you care about? Maybe you can publicly use/promote businesses led by women and minorities. If you’re a writer, you can be writing poetry or op-eds or interviews or essays and and share them on social media or your blog or even Medium if you’re a bit shy about posting personal things directly on your platform. You can listen to podcasts that talk about diverse issues, and use them as inspiration for your next project. Maybe it’s as simple as admitting you don’t know about certain issues or experiences, and then seeking out another artist or person in your field to help educate your community on those issues or experiences. Both art and activism are made even more powerful when there’s collaboration involved.
Contrary to popular belief, activism isn’t always loud and in-your-face. Activism isn’t always protests or rallies. And if your brand of activism doesn’t fall into one of those two categories – or makes its impact on the mat instead of in the street – I am here to reassure you: it is still activism.
Some environments will allow for more “activism” than others. Sometimes special events are the way to go (for fitness classes, perhaps), sometimes the topics at hand call for immediate and direct attention on the regular (meditation, maybe), sometimes it’s best to choose one issue and hone in (say, when you’re devising an editorial calendar or working with other companies). It’s all about the brand you’re choosing to build. Everyone and every avenue is different. The important thing to remember is that if we stand for everything, we stand for nothing. Seeing all sides of a situation is important and is one thing, but not standing up for the values you hold to be true is another – no matter who you are or what you value. I’m not suggesting we ridicule our readers or force our political opinions on our followers. None of that ever works – and probably isn’t the best idea when part of our job description is to help people (anyone) live well. We can, however, actively seek out ways to speak inclusively and build empathy. Most of us already do. Now it’s time to kick it into overdrive. When we help others tap into (and act upon) their very human, but oft ignored, innate empathetic sensors – we all win.
Whether you are a writer, an instructor, a teacher, a healer, a doula, a nutritionist, a designer, a marketing whiz, a CFO, a juice company, a minimalist guru, a wellness center staff member, a yoga studio owner, a chef, a sound bath master, a meditation guide, an actor, a “personality,” or simply just someone who preaches the wellness gospel to your own inner circle – this too shall not pass.
Right now is the time to take action.
Right now is the time to do things differently.
We say that our goal is to inspire others, to help change people’s lives for the better so they can truly live well. Right now, more than ever, is the time to make that happen.
These are only a few thoughts on how we can be of service in the wellness industry. But what about you?
Whether you’re a teacher/professional or a devotee, what are some ways you’ve found your brand of activism under the umbrella of wellness? Share this post, or leave a comment below – I would LOVE to hear. You might inspire another reader to make change happen in their own way.