Why YOU Should Feel Good


Even as I continue to see the body love movement grow in the fitness field, I am reminded daily that this is still the case.  Women are still counting calories and skipping meals.  Our culture is trapped in the cycle of what they shouldn’t eat and how much they should abuse themselves in the gym this week.  Yoga students come to their mat and are disappointed when they leave feeling like they didn’t just finish a spin class.

When did your body feel its absolute best?  Not its skinniest or your strongest…but most vibrant and alive.  When did you last feel GOOD??  My hope for you is that you can say right NOW.  And if that is not the case — what can you do today to make that happen?

Sometimes that means drinking green juice and going for a run… seeking out a good hug and taking a nap…taking a walk and a juicy yoga class.  With so many ways to feel good, why seek out ways to feel drained and deprived?

Up until a few weeks ago when an amazing coach reminded me of this, I was spending an awful lot of time making sure I felt worked…instead of feeling good.  My gratitude and love goes out to him (if you’re in Seattle, find this guy!) because in my last weeks of SFG re-certification preparation, I feel GOOD.  Strong.  Balanced.  Well rested and vibrant.

SO … what are you going to do TODAY.  RIGHT NOW.  to learn just how good your body is designed to feel?


Why I’m Not a “Positive Thinker”

birds“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing. (136-137)”

~ Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

I’m not a member of the positive thinking camp. I certainly don’t recommend wallowing in the depths and depressions, but without space for everything that arises we stifle parts of ourselves that are dear and precious. My darkest hours create beautiful art and prose.

The valleys in my life initiate ascension. My “worst” self gives me the nutrient rich compost in which I am able to grow a garden of awareness and contemplative practice. My teacher offers the invitation to “include and transcend” as we change, a phrase that continues to echo in my mind as I read and re-read this Sutra…

Read the full article here on Elephant Journal!

YouAreBeautiful-HEADLINEI have a friend who is breathtaking; her thighs are smooth, her arms are toned, and her abs are sculpted.  Her silky hair and flawless makeup are picture-perfect every single day. She photographs beautifully and she’s funny, talented, intelligent, and driven.  She eludes a strong sense of confidence and is truly lovely in every way.  She also struggles with low self-esteem…

We, as women, have been steeped in a culture of dissatisfaction with our inner and outer selves. We are told, “You’re beautiful just as you are,” yet we are inundated with ads for diet pills and books on fad diets.  We are told, “Get strong, not skinny!” as we watch TV shows about how to get thinner faster and movies featuring waif-like women in size zero jeans.  We are told, “Stand up for yourself!” but are far too often represented as shrew-like and demanding when angry or afraid.

So how do we begin to build a strong foundation of self-love, self-care, and healthy self-image?…

Read the full article here!

SFG Prep (and a little yoga)

Goofing around earlier this week because the snow was making me crazy — rest periods rapidly devolved into a dance party and I got a few quick shots of my workout/yoga groove to play with in my editing software.  This is one of my freaking FAVORITE yoga jams and is great for grind days.

For those of you who wonder what on EARTH I do with my time … here you go:

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

The perfect snack!

The perfect snack!

We needed some healthy “snacky” cookies to have around the house, so I took this recipe and made a few changes to create something that would be sweet and satisfying without breaking the bloodsugar bank!  Just a few reasons why these are better than Chips Ahoy  ;)

  • Flax Meal: Omega 3′s
  • Coconut Oil: Healthy Skin
  • Whole Wheat Flour: Fiber
  • Oatmeal: Anti-Inflammatory
  • Dark Chocolate: too many to name…

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies (makes 16 or so):

Could easily make Gluten Free by using GF Baking Mix in place of flour and GF Oats

  • 1 1/4 C Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/3 C Ground Flax Meal
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • Dash of sea salt
  • 1/2 C Coconut Oil, softened
  • 1/2 C Raw Honey
  • 1 Tbs Ground Flax Meal mixed in 3 Tbs Warm Water (or one egg)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 C Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 C Dark Chocolate Chips or Carob Chips
  • 1/4 C Unsweetened Coconut Shreds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Combine flour, flax seed meal, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, beat coconut oil and honey until smooth; add egg replacer or egg and vanilla.
  4. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until dough is just combined. Fold oats, chocolate chips and coconut into dough.
  5. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls or drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

The Power of Exercise (de)Programming

(THANK YOU! To everyone who read and shared my post on The Biggest Loser.  We saw more than 800 visitors that day! Please feel free join us on Facebook or sign up for our newsletter over there to the right if you want to stay in touch.)

A few months ago, I was talking to my teacher about my kettlebell practice, and how I felt that it was in direct opposition to the mindful, intuitive approach I take with my yoga practice.

In a Strong First practice, things are done “the right way” and there are specific things “to be done.”  In my yoga practice, things are done in a way that feels resonant and vibrant and there are things “to be experienced.”  I was – honestly – starting to dread my bell work because it was triggering old feelings of frantic-ness and rigidity.

He gave me some wise – and pretty obvious – advice.  Why not approach workouts the way you approach yoga?

Be without expectations.  Approach with curiosity.  Commit to wakefulness. 

So – until 3 weeks ago – my workouts were just that.  Some days I did swings and pull ups, other days I went for a jog or rode my bike, some days I just did yoga.  No set time or schedule – just moved when I felt like moving (which was pretty much every day.)  MUCH to my surprise, I lost a pants size in 3 months without dieting.  Without an exercise program.  Without stress.  In fact – I was enjoying myself so much that I only noticed the weight had fallen off when my favorite jeans almost did the same.

SO!  Here’s a VERY CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET in the Fitness Industry.  HERE is the weight loss panacea…the GUARANTEED TO WORK diet for this year!! :


That’s it.  JUST LISTEN. Your body will tell you if you’re tired and need a day off, a yoga class, a hill sprint workout (although you have to be really committed to listening to pick up on that one.)  It will tell you if you need a kale salad, a smoothie or some simple carbohydrates and fat.  The most simple and challenging thing in the world: attentive listening.  (Anyone who’s in any kind of relationship can attest to that.)

Here’s where things get tricky.  Exercise programs and protocols are also important.  Discipline and structure serve a very important purpose for meeting athletic and physical goals.

The KEY is — discipline and structure also serve a very important purpose in learning to let go.

I’m currently back on a strict training program, getting ready for my SFG Recertification weekend in April, which is programmed at 5 days/week of training at a no-joke level of focus and dedication. And I had a lot of very legitimate fear that it would send me down the vortex of verbal self-abuse, exhaustion and anger…that the increase appetite associated with metabolic training would trigger my eating disorder symptoms.

But my teacher also says that “Practice makes you accident prone.”  And the past couple weeks of structured training, I’ve had a lot of accidents.  Accidental wakefulness inside discipline.  Accidental release of expectations (which creates an amazing way to surprise yourself.)  Accidental curiosity.  All those months of practicing mindful exercise and listening to my body had conditioned me to operate within a strict discipline WHILE being present!

I’ve struggled a little with listening to my body when it comes to food…but mostly because it wants ALL THE FOOD.  ALL THE TIME. thanks to the increased training.  But I’m doing my best, and despite a lot of whole milk and peanut butter – I can see my abs for the first time ever.  I didn’t even have abs when I was “skinny.”  Ha!

So here’s the takeaway (because who the hell cares about jeans size and abs):

Take 6 weeks, or maybe you’ll need 6 days or 6 months, to practice mindful exercise. Go to the gym or the park or the trail with an attitude of playfulness.  Not sure how to do that?  Start here:

Picture an exercise and notice your physical (below the neck) response.  Clenching?  Opening?  Excitement?  Do this until you find an exercise that you really freakin’ want to do and do it until you don’t “feel like it” any more.  Then repeat the process.  No stress about how much you get done that day, as long as you are openly curious to what your body says.  Journal each workout with a note on what you did, how you felt and what your response was – resistance? fear? hopefulness?  (I experienced euphoric sprinting at one point…)

One caveat/caution to this practice:  Your brain saying “I’M TIIIIIRED.  I DON’T WAAAAAANNA” is not the same as your body saying, “OK.  Thank you so much for listening.  We’re done here for now.”

If the idea of chucking your program and/or diet out the window for a while is scary (terrifying?) – you’re not alone.  Especially if you struggle with exercise addition or disordered eating, the idea of releasing control can bring up a lot of visceral fear.  And I would say that fear is a very important piece of information about yourself, so notice it and welcome it to the gym.  Then allow it to head over to the StairClimber for an hour while you play.  Because – honestly – you might lose a little conditioning.  You might temporarily set down a little bit of strength.

But I can guarantee you.  GUARANTEE.  that if you do the practice and allow your body to truly call the shots for a while (again — your body, not your head) that emotional peace and physical contentment will follow.  

The Biggest Loser … Winner?

Photo Credit: Zap2It

Photo Credit: Zap2It

I’ve been training full time since 2008, and have had the shadow of The Biggest Loser hanging over my profession for its entirety.  

I remember telling one of my first clients, “I’m not going to ‘Jillian Michaels’ you,” because I refused to verbally abuse her to initiate change and trying to find a way to respond to another client’s request for Biggest Loser-Style Workouts when she desperately needed support and love, not an hour of misery.  (Full disclosure: at the time, I was struggling hard with my bulimia and body dysmorphia.  But even if I couldn’t stop abusing myself, I wasn’t going to help others do it.)

I haven’t watched the show since its first season, but couldn’t miss the backlash online today as Rachel Frederickson appeared – emaciated – at the finale to claim her $250,000 prize.  All I could think was “I’m embarrassed to be a part of the fitness industry.”

I pride myself to be among the ranks of the Strong First community, who teach and practice intelligent strength.  I am grateful to be a registered yoga teacher, working with beautiful spirits who teach grace is a way of life.

I am embarrassed – however – to be part of an industry that tells women that a thigh gap is not only achievable, but admirable….and since strong is the new skinny, be sure to top it off with a 6-pack.

I am frustrated to be a trainer in an environment where self-abuse in the form of over-exercise is encouraged and only tempered with “be sure to take a rest day.”

I am angry at the thousands of under-qualified, overly-charismatic fitness “professionals” that sell their clients on body shame and unrealistic expectations.  (I was told once, by a personal training manager, to ask clients, “What part of yourself do you hate the most when you look in the mirror?  How much would you pay to get rid of that fat?”  All I could do was stare at him.)

More than anything – I am sorry, legitimately full of sorrow, for all the women who have fallen prey to the idea that because a diet didn’t work, they are somehow flawed.  For all the women who have stood in the locker room and cried because the number on the scale left them feeling so desperately unworthy that they couldn’t even step out into the gym to do something good for themselves.  For all the beautiful human beings who watch shows like the Biggest Loser and wonder “What’s wrong with me that I  can’t do that?”

So maybe join this guy and Boycott The Biggest Loser?

Maybe take a deep breath, look in the mirror and make the commitment to accept the radiant beauty that is You, moment to moment, fat cells and all.

Maybe reach out to someone who is hurting or hurting themselves and remind them that self-abusive dieting isn’t the only way?

Or maybe just take a deep breath and send Rachel Frederickson a whole lot of compassion.


Staying Fit in Winter

snowy street with vignette (1 of 1)First off – I’m going to redefine “fit” for the purpose of this article.

Fit (n) : vibrant, having access to free-flowing energy in the body, well and healthy

This winter has been INSANE (Polar Vortex is not, apparently, a specialty blended cocktail featuring peppermint schnapps) and many well-meaning people have joked “Well!  you picked the wrong year to move to Wisconsin!” Cute.  Speciality cocktails and well-meaning  Wisconsinites in 5 layers of smart wool aside:

It can be really challenging to feel vibrant and healthy this time of year and I have actually been pleasantly surprised with the lack of SAD and 5# of hot chocolate gain I was – honestly – expecting.  Drum roll, please?

Top 5 Things that Have Kept Me Fit This Winterice on tree2 with vignette (1 of 1)

1. Exercise

You were expecting naps?  But seriously – I have made a concerted and sometimes not super perky effort to make sure I exercise every. single. day.  Some days are hard core training days at the gym or in my basement, hauling kettlebells and my bodyweight around with vigor.  Other days I make it to a yoga class.  Over Christmas, I went snow shoeing and walked on the dread mill.  But there have been VERY few days where I haven’t moved in some way and it has made ALL the difference in the world.

2. Green Food

I am vata-pitta dosha, so raw food and I just really don’t get along in winter.  Salads?  Forget about it.  I’ve had to make the conscious decision to get green veggies into my life because I lean so heavily toward winter veggies like sweet potatoes this time of year.

  • Drink a green smoothie every day or so
  • Put a scoop of Ormus Greens in my water bottle
  • Sautee kale or spinach as a side dish

3. Fat

After spending so many years on the diet train, the idea of purposefully adding significant amounts of fat to my diet was -frankly – terrifying.  But with my excema flaring up and my hair falling out… I went ahead and tried it.  BAM. Skin cleared up, brain fog went down, sugar cravings decreased.

  • Switch to whole milk for coffee
  • Add Coconut Oil to my a.m. coffee or smoothie
  • Take HIGH QUALITY Omega-3 Fatty Acids (take my advice: don’t buy the cheap stuff.  $30/bottle is worth it to not…ahem…”repeat” sardine oil all day)
  • Eat nuts for snacks

4. Vitamin D

This is going to sound ridiculous, but the best day of this winter, it was -15.  I had just finished a kettlebell class with a friend and was sitting at Chipotle nomming a salad in front of a giant picture window.  SUN!!!!!

  • Sit by the window at the coffee shop
  • Go outside for a walk if it’s at or above your cold threshold (25 for me)
  • Take a Vitamin D supplement. Sunshine in a bottle : Trust me on that one.
  • Sun lamp or lights — I use full spectrum lights in the basement for my videos, so I just pop those on when I’m working out down there!

5. Radical Self Awareness and Acceptance

There are “those days” — when I think I’m going to tear my hear out because it’s blowing snow AGAIN.  The trick is knowing what you need, and I’ve stopped judging myself when I realize what that is on any given day.

  • Do a few burpees or jog your stairs if you need to expend energy
  • Wrap up in a blanket with a  book if you need comfort
  • Watch a movie or take a nap if you just need to check out
  • Get on Pinterest and visualize yourself in the beautiful places you want to be

I really really really don’t like winter.  But I really really really like feeling pretty damn good most of the time and don’t see any reason why the weather should get to interfere with that.


Crockpot and Freezer Hacks

This will be quick.  But so are these hacks.

PROBLEM:  Canned Beans.

I got really tired of using canned beans because of the BPA in the lining, the icky feeling every time I used a can and tossed it (in the recycle bin, but still) and the $1.89/can for Organic Chickpeas.

HACK:  Cook dry beans in the crock pot.

Soak beans overnight.  Rinse and dump in crockpot.  Cover with water or stock and add a bay leaf, garlic, whatever.  Cook on low for 4+ hours.  Cool them and store in 1.5 cup servings in your freezer.  Thaw when you need them!  Black beans are great cooked with salsa, chickpeas with garlic and lemon for hummus and kidney beans are a chili staple around here.


PROBLEM: Chicken stock — also in cans or tetra packs, also expensive. 

HACK: 5 min DIY Stock

When you cook a chicken, save the bones (they freeze super easily.)  Throw them in the crockpot with 8 cups water, a carrot, the leafy tops of celery, large chunks of onion and a bay leaf or two.  (I save my veggie odds and ends also in the freezer for this purpose.)  Cook for 8 hours on low.  Freeze in old peanut butter jars that you’ve saved and rinsed!


PROBLEM: Wasted Kale.

My kale gets wilty before I can use it all in salads or sautés sometimes…and it’s not cheap this time of year!

HACK: Frozen Kale.

Curly kale freezes *beautifully!*  Rinse, dry well, tear the leaves off the stems and store in a zip lock bag in the freezer.  Seriously perfect to add to a smoothie!


PROBLEM: Need a perfectly cooked chicken at 4 pm.

I use a whole chicken to use for a couple of recipes and some stock…but because of my evening training schedule, I don’t always have time to wait while he roasts up golden brown.

HACK: Stick that bad boy in the crock pot.

Breast down.  Rubbed with anything you want.  I’ve done:

  • Curry = thai chicken curry, chutney chicken salad with apricots, and chicken + rice
  • Salsa = chicken tacos, burrito bowls, southwestern chicken salad
  • Lemon and garlic = chicken stir fry, chicken noodle soup, yummy right off the bone


PROBLEM: I don’t want to do the dishes.

HACK: Leave them for tomorrow morning.

What are your kitchen quick-fixes to save time, money and sanity??

GIVEAWAY: New England Retreat!

EDITED: OUR WINNER HAS BEEN CHOSEN (at random by Rafflecopter) !!! : Congratulations Irene!!!

I 1riversidefarmmorningwas contacted recently by the awesome people at Perfect Vermont Retreat at Riverside Farms and offered the opportunity to visit their beautiful retreat center in Pittsfield, Vermont.

Unfortunately for me and VERY fortunately for you, I’m not able to take advantage of this awesome get away.  So they’ve asked me to give it away to you!!

Here’s what you’ll get:

1 night stay at Amee Farm Lodge
Deluxe Continental Breakfast.

Possible activities/dining during your visit:

30+ miles of hiking and biking on the Green Mountain Trails, we offer yoga classes, snowshoeing right out our back door, skiing at Killington and Pico, tubing on the Tweed River, kayaking and fishing at Kent Pond and Tweed River, on-site massages, tours of the Amee Farm with Sweet Georgia P’s, and of course, just relaxing by the fire or on the porch at the lodge. Killington offers great restaurants and nightlife, just 15 minutes up the road. Enjoy wonderful live music during the winter months.

*Please note that space is limited and will be booked on a first come first served basis. This giveaway will cover you and a partner. (If you have kids, you may bring them along as well). No deposit or any funds will be required upon reservation or checkin. The prize expiration date is January 31, 2015 based on availability. The total value is $205-$350. This giveaway is non-transferable. Reservations are based on availability and given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Here’s all you have to do!

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