All About the “S” Tuesday, Mar 29 2011 

Slim. Slender. Skinny. Streamlined. Svelte.

No Secret that “S” is a powerful letter when it comes to body image. Interestingly enough, the key to achieving the above “S” adjectives, can be found by Surrounding yourself with more “S” words.

To really kick my bridal and Summer-prep workout into high gear in the coming months, I’m following a Strict regiment of “S”-inspired Steps to Stay in Shape. This is what has worked for me in the past to help me feel better about myself. Of course, when starting any diet or fitness regimen, consult your doctor if you don’t feel right, and listen to your body. I’ve adapted from dozens of books, nutritionists, health experts, and magazines, and gleaned my own little Scenario. That’s the real Secret.

(photo courtesy of kelloggcereal.com)

I’m calling it the “S” diet: Overdose on Smart Start cereal, Soup, Salad. Cut out Sugar, Salt, and Soda.

The fiber-rich Smart Start is loaded with antioxidants and tons of other good-for-you nutrients, so you really can’t go wrong. This isn’t a cardboard cereal, either- the little clusters of crunch are Super Satisfying. My personal fave is the kind with the strawberries on the cover, but this seems to be increasingly difficult to locate, and there really isn’t a huge taste variation between the two flavors.

Soup- the key here is variety. I’m in love with Progresso’s 80 calorie options. Alternate between a ton of different flavors, and you won’t get bored. Remember to stock up on veggies and go easy on egg noodles.

Salad- the obvious choice. I never thought salad should count as food, because they can be so bland and boring it’s almost more fun to just chew some Spearmint gum. However, it’s a great go-to Safety choice when you’re out at a restaurant. Curb the gnocchi or cheeseburger temptation by incorporating little treats into your salad. Beets are phenomenal, and they do wonders for you. Fruit also becomes popular in the summer months, but be careful not to go crazy with Strawberries or orange slices in salad- they’re loaded with Sugar and often Smothered in dressing. I always ask for dressing on the side (and I indulge in the fruity tastes in my dressing choice- Strawberry poppyseed anyone?) Lettuce choice also should reflect the “S” devotion- Spinach gets stuck in your teeth, so as long as you’re not on a first date, it should be your primary lettuce player.

Of course, another major aspect of weight loss and health is the biggest “S” of them all: Sweat. Exercise, specifically at least 30 minutes of cardio a day, is key to maintain a healthy body. I alternate with Pilates, yoga, Zumba, weight lifting, but the elliptical is always a Staple in my workout plan. If you’re lucky enough to be a runner (Sprinter or otherwise), or better yet, a Swimmer, you’re already getting a great dose of cardio and most likely, Sweating like crazy. Not only does Sweat indicate an elevated heart rate, but you can also flush out toxins that can be harmful to your health plan.

So there’s my Secret- it’s all about the “S”. Stay Strong, Smile, Sing to yourself mid-workout, Sign up for group exercise classes, and Shimmy all the way into those new Skinny jeans.

Hmmm my future last name also starts with an “S”….could this be a Sign? J

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Je Regrette Monday, Mar 21 2011 

This French term for “I’m sorry” has been waylaid since Madonna’s popularization of “je suis desolee”. But I think this sums up my feelings perfectly at the moment. All the Black Swan press has contributed to, and brought to the forefront, a feeling I have had for a while now. I’m only 22, and I’ve been lucky enough in life not to have any major regrets thus far, but I can honestly say I have one biggie.

(photo courtesy of dancedepot.com)

I dreadfully regret quitting ballet. Watching movies like Black Swan and Center Stage zero in on the unique world of ballet dancers and their universe has stirred up old feelings that have been quietly telling me for years that I never should have stopped dancing ballet.

I was five when I started. My sister and I started together in the youngest classes, but she was soon released from the tutus and tights by sheer lung volume used to vocalize her displeasure. I remained, however, and studied at a local ballet studio for the next six years, before moving on to a more prestigious “academy” of sorts- a school for the performing arts. I also took piano lessons here, but I really looked forward my ballet sessions. The leotards fit me, I liked the legwarmers, and my hair looked really cute in chignons (I NEVER had a ponytail or messy bun). But I really like what my body was learning to do. I could lift my leg higher each time, stretch a little straighter, spin a little faster, plie a little deeper. I loved the sensation so much that I actually wore ballet slipper to school in the winter under my snow boots. I was actually good at something.

This “natural” ability was somewhat rare in my non-academic life. My world was dominated by after-school activities, from piano lesions at the house from the age of six, to forced, embarrassing participation in softball, volleyball, and then soccer, to a brief flirtation with gymnastics. The only thing that really meant anything to me, though, was ballet. There, I didn’t feel awkward or different. In soccer, I was painfully aware that my knees were wider than my legs, and that my ears stuck out profusely from my head when I put a headband on. My only strong point rested in my long legs- which I demonstrated by sprinting right off the field toward my mom and sister on the playground during games.

But in ballet class, I was proud that I could stretch my neck and press my shoulders down to execute a beautiful spinal posture, and that I could float my fingers gracefully from a rond-de-jambe without thinking too much about it. My weird body type seemed to be working for me, as opposed to against me, like I had become accustomed to. I even loved the elegant French language of ballet.

Below the ankles, however, life became a bit trickier. I had never been allowed to desist partaking in outdoor soccer in elementary school, but with seventh grade came a transition to Ursuline Academy, thirty minutes away, with a school end time that would make arriving to ballet class on time a challenge. I tried out for the soccer team, only to be cut the very first day. I was upset, of course, but looking back, this was really a blessing (and perhaps the sports gods telling me to quit trying to barge in)- I was free to keep pursuing ballet without distraction. I even wore white tights under my uniform on Wednesdays, so my mom could chaffeur me to ballet right away, without requiring too much of a wardrobe change. I increased ballet practice steadily, upgrading from two to three classes a week.

But eighth grade, I made the Junior High soccer team. I resolved to keep doing both- but at this point, I was being prepared to go en pointe. The physical toll of working toe and foot muscles previously never discovered at ballet class for hours a week, preparing these delicate muscles to sustain my entire body weight, and then shoving my tender, sore feet into tight soccer cleats and kicking a ball for an hour every day proved too much. The time had come to make a decision. The social aspect of soccer, coupled with puberty attacking my lean body and sprouting apples on my chest under my leotard, made me lean more toward running suicides in the rain and long bus rides with the team. This wasn’t to last past the fall sports season, of course, and came to an abrupt and excruciatingly painful halt in my Junior year of high school, when I was cut from the varsity team and left to captain the JV team. Senior year consisted of a substantial display of bench-warming, that had nothing but a negative impact on any physical or social aspect of my life.

A few years ago, I discovered Pilates and immediately was re-introduced to my “ballet” muscles I had forgotten about. I felt my body working for me again, albeit in a different sense thanks to the ample female endowments I had grown since leaving the ballet world. I felt useful again, and that I was actually accomplishing something more than running around aimlessly on a cold, damp soccer field waiting for game action that would never come.

I’ve been lucky enough to pursue any dream I can envision, and I have no one to blame but myself. If I could do one thing over in my life, however, it would be the choice to quit ballet. I wonder what my life would be like now- would it even be any different? I’m sure I would be thinner, leaner, more flexible. Maybe I’d still involved with dance or yoga, but maybe not. If nothing else, I would be able to watch ballet movies without that twinge in my stomach. Je regrette, mais c’est la vie.

(photo courtesy of I09.com)

The Art of Negotiation Tuesday, Mar 1 2011 

Wedding plans are in full swing! But with the fabulous meetings, initial consultations and delicious tastings, comes the payoff. Literally. Deposit time. You fall in love with a vendor, their work is amazing, they’re complimenting you and making a big deal about your day. You decide you want them- you MUST HAVE them- and you are ready to commit. Then they bring out the big, fat, ugly contract. And you see all their little charges.

(photo courtesy of flickr.com)

The buzz wears off quickly, and you’re on the defensive. You scan the list, make a checklist of those unacceptable items that simply have to go before you sign anything. All of a sudden, you become painfully and instantly aware of the second word of the term the wedding business. It’s business. Yes, it’s about love, and flowers, and cake, and happiness and a beautiful day of family celebration. But it’s business. It’s your money for their services. You need to prioritize, weigh what you want against what you want to spend, and be brutally honest with your wallet. Talk about taking the glamour out of the day.

We always hear about negotiating prices at flea markets, street fairs, and other transactions where haggling is deemed acceptable. Various vendors will be open to your ideas about how much they should get paid to drive 60 miles, and some will all of a sudden close down shop. Where do you draw the line? How far do you go? What do we use for inspiration in terms of price negotiation?

Some quick tips from a very inexperienced negotiating bride: Be polite, but firm. Let them know from the very beginning what your priorities and concerns about various charges. Be honest without giving up too much of your inner plan. Don’t insult or burn any bridges, because that’s just cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Keep yourself in the best position to get what you want. If you never ask, you’ll never know.

At the end of the day, it’s verbal skills vs. verbal skills. Communicate your point clearly, don’t give room for backing down or say “I don’t know”. Remain in control and in charge of the situation. You know what you want, and you can get it.