Wednesday Bubble: Goal Weight: Charlize Theron. Guest post by Nina Perez

Posted by on Aug 15, 2012 in appearance, weight | 0 comments

Have you heard of VaginaCon? If not, you need to click your way over to the site, which as co-founded by the amazing Nina Perez. VaginaCon is a safe place for women to connect with one another and build relationships. Sort of like Flashfree but on a broader scale. But I digress because this post is really about Nina. I was fortunate to meet Nina via the Interwebz when were were members of the same Facebook group. She is an astonishingly creative, intelligent go-getter who is redefining the meaning of ‘hawt.’ More importantly, however, is that last week, Nina posted a raw and honest piece about her weight loss journey and self-acceptance. Frankly, the post resonated so deeply that I asked if I could repost it here.

The next time you start criticizing yourself about your weight, beating yourself up about falling short of impossible goals or creating a standard that is a bit out of the realm of possibilities, step back. Carve those goals into smaller pieces. And take a look back in the mirror. Bet you’ll see what others are seeing; the beauty that is you.

Yeah, sounds cheesy but Nina has shared a journey that demonstrates that it’s really true. And by the way Nina? You are one hot gorgeous woman inside and out.

Show some love, eh?


When I started my weight loss journey on January 2, 2012I was 238lbs. The healthy weight for my height falls between 143lbs and 179lbs.

Even if I were aiming for the high end, 179lbs seemed far, far away and losing 59lbs seemed like something that would take a long ass time. I gave myself a year. But still, a year? Holy hell.

Like most people fed up with being overweight, I wanted the pounds to melt away. I knew almost immediately that I’d have to set mini-goals to keep my head in the game. Luckily, Weight Watchers sets your first two goals for you: First, you strive to lose 5% of your starting weight. For me, that was 11.5lbs. I hit that by January 25th. Next, it was 10%.

But to keep it interesting, and to keep myself motivated, I gave myself goals that had nothing to do with the number on the scale along with a few that did. For instance:

  • I wanted to be 214lbs by March 23rd when I had the first VaginaCon at my house. (Did it.)
  • I wanted to be less than 200lbs by my birthday, August 18th. (Done.)
  • I wanted to fit into a size 16 jeans. (Been there, did that.)
  • I wanted to fit into a size 14 jeans. (In them now.)
  • I wanted to wear my sexy shoes again without feeling like I was asking way too much of my impossibly high heels – they have their limits, too.
  • I wanted smaller panties.
  • I wanted to stop wearing XL t-shirts.
Then I had silly goals, but goals all the same, like: I can’t wait to be in the 220s, the 2-teens, 2 and single digits, under 200!

Me at 204lbs.

There was one mini-goal I didn’t give much thought to, until I hit it, and it was the first one I achieved. One day, after losing about 8-11lbs, I was walking down the stairs wearing nothing but a short nightgown. As I hit the first floor, I realized something was different. To test that it wasn’t a fluke, I began to briskly pace in my kitchen. My husband came downstairs and asked, “What the hell are you doing?”

“My thighs aren’t rubbing together!”

I was thrilled.

But what about my overall goal? What should I shoot for between 143-179? I’m not very good at looking at someone and judging their height and weight. I couldn’t tell you what 175lbs looks like on a person who is 6-feet-tall or someone who’s 5’5″. In that picture above, I wouldn’t be able to guess that was 204lbs.

After some thought, I decided that 180lbs would be my look-and-see weight. I’ll get to 180 and then look and see if I like it.

Me at 180lbs

How do I look in my jeans? Can I wear a bathing suit again without wanting to cry in shame? For as much as this is about being healthy and making sure I’m around to see my kids grow up, it’s also about, for me, how I look. I don’t want fat hanging over the waistline of my jeans, and I like my ass to look firm in them. I had a vague memory of what 180 looked like on me (see above), but more importantly, I know how I want to look and feel in my clothes.

I’m always looking at other women who are my height and (in my opinion) in great shape, wondering how much they weigh. While I want to be thinner, I don’t want to lose curves. So, that’s why when Donny and I went to see Prometheus – a horrible movie despite starring two of my Freebie Five: Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba – back in June, and I saw Charlize Theron, I whispered to my husband, “New goal weight: Charlize Theron!”



I went home and did a Google search: How much does Charlize Theron weigh? Granted, I’m not sure this information is entirely accurate, but word on the internet streets is that she is my height and weighs 135lbs.

Um, no.

I am never going to be 135lbs again. That’s just not happening. That’s below my supposed healthy weight range! If I were younger, and perhaps easily swayed by what celebrities do, I might try to hit 135lbs, but thankfully I am neither of those things. While I still feel like I would love to look like this in my clothes:


… I’m just gonna have to rock that at about 170′ish…and with a little more curve.


What is your ultimate weight goal? Do you have mini-goals that are not determined by the scale? What about weight loss milestones like an upcoming party or other special event?


About Nina Perez…

Nina Perez is the author of The Twin Prophecies: Rebirth, Blog It Out, B*tch, and The Twin Prophecies: Origins (Summer 2012). She is co-founder of VaginaCon.com,  a contributor to Milk & Ink: A Mosaic of MotherhoodChoose or DieElephant Words and one of the merry band of independent authors rocking it hard at the Literary Underground. Her short story, Amongst the Tulips, was published in Foliate Oaks online literary magazine and their editors voted it one of the best short stories of 2009. She also runs the book review site for independent authors, Nina’s Nightstand.


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Motivating Women…Part 2: Be Yourself

Posted by on Feb 15, 2012 in aging, appearance, diet, exercise, Inspiration, weight | 4 comments

We’re taking a break from our regular Wednesday Bubble and talking with three amazing women, Shonali Burke, Kami Watson Huyse and Julie Pippert. These women are graciously sharing their stories about  the turn that their lives have taken with regard to health and fitness. Change is never easy, but neither is aging. That’s why I have been so intrigued by the upsurge I’m witnessing in the number of women in their 40s who seem to be committed to changing bad habits before those bad habits change them.

Last Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report outlining a trend among the medical community to increase its efforts to recommend that adults participate in exercise and other forms of physical activity. Since 2000, there has been a 40% increase in the number of adults who have been advised to incorporate exercise into their routines. Importantly, however, at each time point measured in the National Health Interview Survey, women were much more likely than men to have been advised to exercise. While this aspect of the Survey doesn’t elaborate on these data, studies have shown that gender does influence obesity rates and that worldwide, more women than men are obese. Not only are women challenged to run household and care for children, but many also work outside the home. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for meal planning and even less, for exercise. Nevertheless, both are essential for good health and wellbeing.

A few years ago, my friend, cookbook author Mollie Katzen suggested to me during our interview that even if women do nothing differently, as they age their bodies become less efficient metabolic machines, adding that one of the most consistent things she’s observed amongst her friends is the “oh my god, what happened to my body” moment. The ‘I’m minding my business, doing the same things I’ve always done and all of a sudden, I’ve got this spare tire, I’ve got the fat” epiphany. The answer?


Trial and Error

Health is trial and error. What works for one woman might not be exactly what works for another. We all need to forge our dietary paths and strategies that work for both our individual metabolism and our bodies. And if it isn’t working? Change it up and aim higher. Or differently.

Shonali explains that her trainer introduced her to two dietary strategies: The Primal Blueprint (aka, the Paleo diet, which focuses on balancing insulin levels in your body) and Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat‘ (again, focusing on insulin regulation). She says that while “there have been lapses,” I typically eat no grains, legumes or processed foods/foods high in sugar.” What strikes me as the most important thing in Shonali’s incorporation of a new way of eating into her life is that she tries to cook a meal every day consisting of a healthy salad and an entree that is protein-rich but also, she is “careful not to let myself feel hungry; if I am hungry, I eat…I just eat the foods I know are good for me.”

Kami says that while she may eventually go on a specific plan, like Body for Life , she prefers easing “into any dietary restrictions slowly. So far, I am just trying to back off on portions,” she explains, adding that “I have always eaten lots of vegetables and fruits but I am upping that.”  Julie is also relying on portion control and is “eating very little meat, mostly fish,” and “as much fresh food as I can instead of processed food.” As a working mom of two and with a husband who has a long commute, Julie says that it can be hard to do regular family dinners but that she worked with a nutritionist who helped her “identify ‘eat this/not that’ convenience type [healthy] foods, such as flash frozen veggies and fruit but not packaged meals.” She adds that she ‘also attends free cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma to get easy and quick recipe ideas.


Set Goals 

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed accountability and how answering to another person, e.g. a trainer, can help you get into a groove. However, it’s important that that groove is yours’ and your’s alone. Moreover, setting goals is part of that accountability but rigidity is not the aim; instead, goals need to be fluid and evolutionary.

Julie says that her “initial goal was to lose weight and get out of the overweight category. I wanted to eat right and get active. Once I achieved that, I wanted to work out a long-term health maintenance plan.” She adds that that entails tweaking portions and working on body toning. Kami’s goal is more specific: she wants to lose 10 to 15 pounds (minimum) to improve the pressure on her bad knee. After that, however, she says that “it would be great to reduce my waistline by 2 to 3 inches to get off some of the belly fat, which is, by far, worst for your health.” Shonali also says that her goals had to do with “losing a certain amount of weight and fitting into a particular dress size,” but now, she’s considering aiming even higher and is considering running and possibly training for a 5K.


To thine own self, be true

Guess what? It’s all about you. I’m serious. Don’t believe me?

All three of these women say that the primary outcome of the changes that they’ve made in their lives is that not only do they feel better, but they also feel better about themselves. Wow! Since Shonali has started last August, she has lost almost 20 pounds and 15″, reduced her BMI from 25.3 to 22.4 and lowered her body fat percentage from 31.6% to 24.3%. She’s also come down one dress size. However, here’s the rub: she says that “the numbers are great  but what I really love is that I have more energy and stamina. I am much stronger than I used to be; I sleep better, I’m more focused with my work and my confidence has increased greatly.”

Kami’s journey has just begun (or as she describes it “just restarted”) and yet, her primary outcome echoes Shonali’s. “I feel better about myself and that is priceless.”

Julie, too, expresses a similar experience. “I lost 50 lbs initally,” she says, although this is at the low end of the weight range for her size and she’s not been able [rightly so] to maintain that. Still, She is at a healthy weight and at an average BMI. And most importantly, she explains “I have a lot more energy, huge improvements on stress and mood and I look better. That’s led me to dress better, feel better and achieve more.”

The lessons inherent in these outcomes are essential:  aging can be bumpy and sometimes, our bodies don’t behave quite as we expect them to. Dress size, body fat, weight loss are simply keys that help to unlock the door to the  most important outcome we can achieve: self-love. And when you feel good, that radiates out in unbelievably beautiful, gorgeous ways. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true. Honestly? Be kind to yourself and to thine own self, be true. Like Kami says, the gift is priceless.

I hope that you’ll stay the course and tune in again on Friday for Part 3.

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Want to change the quality of your life? Bust a move

Posted by on Jan 27, 2012 in aging, exercise, menopause, weight | 4 comments

The next time you place blame on hormones as the reason for things not going so well in your life, you may want to step back and move. I’m not talking about locale, but rather, moving your body. And researchers are saying that physical activity may actually be one of the most important things you can do to maintain or improve the quality of your life when hormones are wreaking havoc on your body, your mood and your outlook.

Granted, part of the reason for the improved life quality may have to do with amelioration of symptoms as a result of exercise. Indeed, you may recall a post from last month discussing the value of setting aside a precious hour for yourself for some sort of brisk activity. This new study adds fodder to the discussion, and suggests that even moderate increases in physical activity can improve overall life quality.

Importantly, this study, which involved over 1,100 women who were followed via questionnaire over 8 years, showed that a change in menopausal status acted as prompter to increase physical activity, and these women tended to experience greater improvements in their life quality than their peers who didn’t exercise or whose physical activity decreased over the time period. What’s more, as a side note, women in the study who never used hormone replacement therapy reported having a better quality of life than women who did use it, and even had 1.26 greater odds for improved life quality.

While the reasons for this are unclear, the researchers say that exercise may increase the production of endorphins, which in turn, work on symptoms, stabilize the body’s temperature regulation system and smooth out the flashes, sweats and other symptoms. However, most important is the point that the implications are far greater than feeling good: menopause may actually be a ‘window of opportunity’ to start improving your life by making healthier lifestyle choices.

But what do they mean by “exercise?” In this particular research, participants were asked to characterize their activity levels by:

  1. The time spent on heavy physical activity on the days they exercise at least 10 minutes
  2. The time spent on moderate physical activity on days they exercise for at least 10 minutes
  3. Time spent on brisk walking on days they walk for at least 10 minutes

This information was then translated into metabolic equivalent (MET) hours per week, which measures basal metabolism and the amount of oxygen the body uses during exercise. You can find more information on MET as it relates to specific activities here.

The sum of all parts equals one thing: move. It’s important for symptoms, it’s critical for weight and it’s essential for health. And it appears to be the gold ring when it comes to life quality.

What are you waiting for?


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Wednesday Bubble: not for naught, brown fat

Posted by on Jan 25, 2012 in exercise, weight | 10 comments

Okay, so it doesn’t quite rhyme. But brown fat is rearing it’s head again and this time, it’s the New York Times. I love the New York Times, don’t get me wrong. But the headline of a piece on brown fat, coupled with the information that follows, is a perfect example of raising hopes before dashing them.

Let’s start with the headline:

Feel a Chill? Brown Fat’s Busy Slimming You Down

And the second paragraph:

“It is brown fat, actually brown in color, and its great appeal is that it burns calories like a furnace. A new study finds that one form of it, which is turned on when people get cold, sucks fat out from the rest of the body to fuel itself. Another new study finds that a second form of brown fat can be created from ordinary white fat by exercise.”

Let’s step back and take a look at brown fat. And then I can share the details of the research that the writer is referring to, and where her reporting is a wee bit misleading.

As I wrote about a year or so ago:

In mammals, fat (known among the medical set as “adipose tissue”) comes in two varieties: white and brown.

* White adipose tissue (or “WAT”)  is used for energy storage and to provide warmth. It also protects the organs by acting as a cushion. Most of the fat in our bodies is white.
* Brown adipose tissue (or “BAT”), is mostly found in newborns and tends to diminish as a person ages.  Brown fat is used by the body to regulate temperature and quickly burns sugar to keep infants warm, meaning that exposure to cold activates brown fat cells. This last point may be important when it comes to weight loss.

For decades, brown fat was believed to significantly decline as we grew older, mainly because as we become more able to regulate our body temperatures, we no longer solely rely on biology.  However, PET scanning has shown that healthy adults actually have stores of brown fat  scattered throughout the front and back of the neck and chest areas.

So, is brown fat an equal opportunist? NO!

In fact:

* Women with lean body mass have at least twice the ratio of brown fat compared to men.
* Exposure to temperatures of around 61º F appears to kick off brown fat cell activity, at least in leaner people.
* The higher your body mass index (BMI), the lower the amount of brown fat in your body.

Turning down the thermostat can help lose weight, right?  Well yes. And no.

In controlled situations, volunteers left “chilling” for at least two hours were shown to have a surge in brown fat activity. However, keep in mind that the body is fine-tuned to maintain equilibrium, so, what goes out often goes right back in. In other words, expend more energy, eat more food. And the “chill factor” hasn’t been extensively tested in people under normal, everyday conditions. Still, based on what researchers are able to learn from animal studies, they believe that having as little as 1 to 2 ounces of brown fat in your body could potentially burn about 20% of the average daily caloric intake, that is, if brown fat cells were properly activated.

In the current study (published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and referred to by New York Times writer Gina Kolata), researchers exposed six men between the ages of 23 to 42 of normal weight, to simulated cold conditions (using a thermal conditioned suit that enabled them to perfuse chilled, 32 degree F water, through it). The men were exposed to the room temperatures for 120 minutes and then cold temperatures for 180 minutes, cold enough to lower skin temperature but not cold enough to induce shivering, which burns calories. During these conditions, the researchers measured the metabolism of the fat using a PET scan. The results? They were able to show for the first time that while metabolism increased by as much as 80% (which is equivalent to around 250 calories burned during exposure to cold for three hours), there were clear differences in results between the men; this suggests that there are individual distinctions in brown fat volume. They also mention in the published study that they cannot exclude how or if other tissues might contribute, tissues that are not captured during the PET scan of this nature, such as the heart and other deep internal organs.

In the second study, which appears in Nature journal, researchers identified a protein in mice that enhances particular gene expression in muscle. In turn, this releases a hormone – iricin – that appears to convert white fat cells into brown cells. If the same were proven true in humans, it might mean that calories burned during exercise was due, at least in part,  to this phenomenon. And if there was a way to enhance it, it might lead to more effective fat burning during exercise.

Notice that there area lot of ‘ifs’ in that sentence.

So, let’s go back to the original statement:

“…brown fat burns calories like a furnace. A new study finds that one form of it, which is turned on when people get cold, sucks fat out from the rest of the body to fuel itself. Another new study finds that a second form of brown fat can be created from ordinary white fat by exercise.”

Yeah, not so fast. When it comes to brown fat, you may want to consider all the facts before you turn down that thermostat and turn up the internal furnace., such as, there’s not enough data…yet.

Not for naught, or nothing.


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Stress eating? Spare Tummy Tire? Try a little mindfulness…

Posted by on Nov 21, 2011 in aging, anxiety, stress, weight, weight gain | 2 comments


Mindfulness. It keeps popping up in different areas of health. Last time I posted about mindfulness training, it was within the context of hot flashes and how training your mind to reduce stress can influence how hot flashes are experienced. But what about stress eating?

Many women (and men) turn to emotional eating when they are stressed. And unfortunately, when it comes to weight gain, many of the most serious health affects of excess weight tend to be linked to that roll around the tummy area. In fact, abdominal (or visceral) obesity produces inflammation in the body that can increase the risk for diabetes and heart disease. In women in particular, who may be prone to weight gain in their abdominal area due in part to hormone fluctuations, it’s a double-edged sword. Add the fact that chronic stress increases levels of cortisol, which in turn, mobilizes the migration of fat cells to the midsection, and well, it’s a disaster in the waiting.

As I have written previously,  cortisol is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands. Its primary role in the body is to regulate energy (by producing blood sugar or metabolizing carbohydrates, protein and fats) and mobilize it to areas where is it most needed so, cortisol levels tend to peak in the early morning and then gradually decline throughout the day. Research has shown, however, that  women have higher cortisol levels than men, and that certain women –especially those with greater amounts of abdominal fat — may be reacting to a large disruption in the release of cortisol that causes a greater than normal difference between morning and evening levels of the hormone. This disruption is believed to be related, at least in part, to exposure to prolonged physical and mental stress. This psychological component is huge, because it tends to trigger the desire to consumption of food that is high in fat and/or sugar, which also tends to promote abdominal weight gain.

How do you break the cycle?

Researchers are now saying that mindfulness may be an important strategy to beat the bulge and the stress. In fact, whey they looked at the effects of a program that focused on interrupting habitual thoughts, emotions and behaviors, that is exactly what they found.

In this small exercise, 24 overweight and obese women not yet in menopause learned to use guided meditation as a way to introduce mindful eating (i.e. paying attention to their physical sensations of hunger, stomach fullness, taste satisfaction and food cravings). They were also taught to be more aware of emotional eating triggers and negative emotions as well as to be more loving and accepting of both themselves. Over nine weeks, they were able to share their challenges, concerns and experiences and then learned new meditations to overcome what they felt were roadblocks in their progress. During the same four week period, 23 women were placed on a waiting list for comparison purposes.

Regularly engaging in mindfulness training set these women off on the right foot upon awakening and in fact, lowered their cortisol levels in the early am hours. What’s more, women who reported having the greatest improvements in their response to stress and emotional eating triggers tended to have the largest reductions in abdominal fat.  Additionally, reductions in waking cortisol levels were related to reductions in abdominal fat as well.

Mind you, the women in this particular study were premenopausal, namely because the researchers say that hormonal declines naturally lead to deposits of fat in the midsection. However, if psychological stress compounds weight gain in this area as much as it affects overall wellbeing and menopausal symptoms, it might be worthwhile considering if incorporating ‘a little mindfulness’ into one’s life could help shift fat away from the abdomen as well. It’s an interesting idea and definitely worth exploring…especially as we move into what many regard to be the most stressful and eating laden season of the year: the holidays!

Try a little mindfulness. Not only can it benefit your brain but your tummy might reap the benefits as well.

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Diet? Exercise? Or both?

Posted by on Apr 25, 2011 in diet, exercise, weight | 3 comments

novel study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center shows that combining dietary changes with exercise yields the best the results. While this isn’t necessarily surprising, it is important, especially as the metabolism starts to slow as we grow older.

So what’s the 4-11 on this study?

Previous studies have shown that moving your body is important, not only for maintaining weight but also for preventing conditions like osteoporosis, which is a huge problem for both men and women as they age.  Other studies suggest that watching what you eat, both in terms of calories and content, are key. You can check out those posts here.  But how do the two strategies differ when it comes to weight loss?

To find the answer, researchers separated 439 overweight or obese (by body mass index > 25) postmenopausal women (average age 58 years) into four groups:

  1. > 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, 5 days a week (225 min/week), including walking/hiking, aerobics and biking with the goal to reach 75% to 80% of target heart rate and 45 min/daily exercise
  2. A weight loss strategy based on a daily intake of 1,200 to 2,000 calories comprising <30% from fat coupled with individual and group dietary counseling, diet journaling and weekly weigh-ins, with the goal to achieve a 10% weight loss
  3. A combination of exercise and weight loss per above
  4. No intervention

Over the course of the 1-year study, women in the diet group lost 8.5% of their total body weight (a mean 15.8 lbs) while those in the exercise only group lost 2.4% of their overall weight (mean 4.4 pounds). However, women who participated in both diet and exercise strategies lost 10.8% of their overall weight (mean 19.6 lbs). Moreover, although all women who had some active intervention lost inches off their waistlines, the greatest decline — almost 3 inches –was in women who watched their diet and exercised regularly. The same pattern was observed for the overall percentage of body fat that the women lost over the course of the study: 4.2% for diet alone, 1.6% for exercise alone and 5.9% for a combined strategy.

Importantly? The researchers say that when women added the 5 days weekly of exercise to a diet program, however tedious and time consuming, the majority were able to attain the 10% weight loss goal.  They add that both the American College of Sports Medicine and the US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines Committee suggest that current activity level recommendations (which are roughly 30 minutes daily) be upped to as much as 60 minutes per day.

Granted, this is a hard pill to swallow. It’s difficult to find time in daily schedules to exercise as much as an hour a day AND eat properly. And lord knows, it’s not easy. Can you do one or the other? You can, but the best strategy is both.

A few tips to get you started:

  • Start slowly and build up over time.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or cheat on your diet goals. While moderation is key and diligence is important, so is the occasional cheating! Deprivation is not a rule, ever!
  • The same goes for missing a day of exercise. And remember, a little is better than none at all.

So the skinny (pun unintended) is that the greatest potential lies in doing the greatest amount possible. The only thing at risk is your health. And that’s a pretty big deal.

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