Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why am I testing out TSFL?

If you've known me as a trainer, you've heard me say that eating foods as close to natural form as possible is a great way to stay healthy and to lose or maintain weight.  You've heard me criticize magic pills, meal replacement bars, cookie diets, and the like.  You've heard me write my concerns, based on reading legitimate fitness source material (i.e. textbooks in my field, not supermarket tabloids) that quick weight loss diets can even be defeating in the long run because (a) the weight you lose is muscle, not fat, and (b) when you lose muscle, it screws up your metabolism making it even harder to keep weight off and (c) super-low-calorie diets don't teach you how to live real life.

Wow, I summarized in just a few sentences what I've been preaching for years!

So, now I'm eating pre-packaged, low-calorie meals on a "5 and 1" plan.  Am I crazy?  I must be crazy.  Or at the very least, inconsistent.  Bear with me a bit as I try to explain why I'm doing something I vowed never to do.  It took a huge leap for me to get here and I'm still mid-air, but this is what got me to jump.

There are three different places where I work, and I enjoy them all for different reasons.  The underlying common factor of them, however, is that I believe in my management teams.  Who I work with / for matters.  I have worked for management teams I don't respect and shall never do so again.

Last January, I started working for a company called Tri-D Fitness.  It's a high-end personal training and therapy facility with state of the art functional training equipment and amazing trainers.  I'd admired them from afar for several years, but never had the guts to apply there until Bally went out of business and I wanted to find a home for my classes and clients.  When I met the owners, Brad and Scott (brothers), we clicked in many ways.  They're both passionate about their business, about helping people, and people I'm proud to know.  They trusted me very shortly after hiring me with an equipment investment and a training investment that's been beneficial to all of us and to their staff.

In late 2012, Tri-D merged with another of its businesses, Bootcamp RDFT, a business specializing in large group bootcamp fitness.  The united team is now RDFT, Results Driven Fitness Training.  The business model is to have a smooth-flowing team of professionals providing client service.  It's an elegant business model; I won't bore you with more details except to say that I trust the individuals behind the model and I believe in the model itself.

Wasn't I going to talk about TSFL at some point?  

Part of the new business model of RDFT is to bring in some of the successful facets of both Tri-D and Bootcamp RDFT.  That's where Take Shape For Life comes in.  The folks up at bootcamp have been using TSFL to help their clients for a couple of years.  I was isolated from that part of the business.

Now that we're all RDFT, we will be offering TSFL as an option to clients for whom it may benefit.  It's a tool in the toolbox.  It doesn't suit every client's needs, and it won't be on every client's roadmap.  But for this who it could help, RDFT will be offering it.  We aren't all required to be coaches.  No one's making me eat it.  But all of our trainers are required to have the same base product knowledge about the program so we can refer clients to trainers who are coaches.  That's it.  That's all I was required to do.  Attend a training to learn about the program.

There's a lot I didn't know about TSFL

Yes, they're low calorie, pre-packaged meals.  You eat 5 of their "meals" (bars, shakes, soups, oatmeals, pancakes, eggs) a day and one of your own "lean and green" meals.  That much, I already knew.  Super-low-calorie diet, ends up being about 1,200 calories a day, depending on what you eat for your lean and green meal.  And what happens when you stop eating 1,200 calories a day?!?  Poof, you gain it all back.  That's why I have been against these plans.

BUT, they're also a coaching program.  This is what I didn't know.  The meals are a "catalyst," a way to get people started on a program that will lead to their overall health.  Sometimes you have to give people what they want first (a jump-start at weight loss) so they'll trust you enough to teach them what they really need.  So as I'm munching away at the decent-tasting bars and choking down the horrible tasting faux-pamesan puffs, I've also got a health coach.  The purpose of the health coach is to guide the individual through their lifestyle change, gradually transitioning from the pre-packaged meals to normal foods, by adopting small lifestyle changes one at a time.  Healthy habits.

Coaching healthy habits, that I can possibly get behind.  But what kind of healthy habits?  How much coaching and support?  Does it really work?  Will what I learn make a long term difference in my eating habits?  And am I losing fat like I intend, of will it be just muscle and mess me up further?

The only way I can answer these questions is to try it for myself.  The only way I can stand behind a product is to try it.  I'm not going to sell or support something I don't believe in.  So, here I am eating  bars, shakes and parmesan puffs.  Note to self: omit parmesan puffs from next order.

The kicker

I didn't become a believer in this overnight.  Quite the contrary.  I almost left a job I loved.  Two things kept me from quitting.  (1) Learning that there is a habit coaching piece behind the food and (2) Scott's telling me that his mother has lost over 100 pounds on the program.  If you recall a while earlier, I wrote that who I work for matters, and that I trust my management teams or I don't work for them.

Scott and Brad took a leap with me in January 2012.  I'm taking a leap with them in 2013.  I hope to lose 20-25 pounds through the coaching process.  I may, or may not, become a coach myself.  But I have to at least give TSFL enough of a chance to learn about it and get some experience with it.

Whether it works or not, you can bet I'll be blogging about it.  I've got my first week's results in, but that's a subject of another post.

Monday, January 14, 2013

When I dance, no one gives a damn what I weigh

It's the time of year where many people make resolutions for change.  This year, the only resolution that I wanted to make for myself was increased self appreciation.  Sometimes the shortest way to a happy life is wanting what you have instead of having what you want.  Self acceptance, inside and out, imperfections and all, is part of overall wellness.  We are all, intrinsically, OK.  Sure, we have unique talents, interests, weakness and imperfections, but that's part of the beauty of humanity.

It's my ability to assume goodness in others, regardless of size, shape, or fitness level that makes me a compassionate and capable personal trainer.  I meet clients where they're at, respectfully.  I listen to their goals and provide feedback on how to make them measurable / accountable, and how they will map the road to success.  My mission in fitness is to make everyone feel welcome in my class.  And that's what I've been doing for 22 years.

I teach a fantastic group exercise class.  Don't take my word for it.  Look at my attendance record at every club where I teach, and look at the retention of my group-ex members and personal training clients.  Or look at my endorsements on professional fitness sites...  When you're good, you tell others; when you're great, others speak for you; others speak for me.

Here's the kicker, the elephant in the room, the dirty little secret.  I'm 20-25 pounds overweight.

Let me tell you this....

When I dance, nobody gives a damn about how much I weigh!

No matter what's been going on in my life, I've been able to carve out a place of joy for my fitness classes and clients and put my heart into them.  People have told me that the joy I express when I teach is palpable, contagious.

Back to my weight....

My battle with my weight is tied to depression and stress, and they started in late 2003 and early 2004 when my mom was dying.  Working 60+ hour weeks, very little gym time, running up and down I-5 corridor to the hospital and back, screaming toddler in tow, stopping at the Centralia Burgerville more often than not.  While I would change what I ate, I wouldn't change the time I spent with my mom, may she rest in peace.  The bad habits I gained during her demise added 25 pounds to my weight.  I'll highlight my other scars, but I won't detail them.  Let's just say that between 2004 and 2011, there were 5 family deaths, a boatload of issues with secondary infertility (not to mention weight gain with every round of IVF), major job turmoil, and a dramatic and stressful birth.  Everyone has crosses to bear, and I'm not saying mine are more or less than anyone else's.  But I survived mine by making poor food choices.  Grief, depression, stress, food.

No matter what has gone on in my personal life, I've kept teaching fitness.  It's an oasis to dance, to sing, to feel shared rhythm with others.  Sometimes, it was my sanity, the very best part of my day.  And as I said before, when I dance, nobody gives a damn how much I weigh.  I teach from my eyes, from my smile, from my hands.  My weight hasn't affected my ability to teach, to dance, to train.  I've created and earned more amazing opportunities for myself while weighing in excess of 150 pounds than under.

That's not to say it's been all roses and unicorns...

1)  Three people in the last 8 years have declined to hire me, and though they didn't say it, I'm sure the issue was that it was weight, age, or both.  If you look at the demographics of who got hired, they were all young, attractive-looking, thin, and most of them had less experience than me.

2)  There was that gorgeous physical specimen who looked at me like rotting meat when we were partnered together at a convention last year for a Rip Training seminar.  He sized me up and he judged me wrongly.  I won a medal in that session of over 100 people, and the presenter said, "This girl, now this girl kicks ass!"  Triumph, but still the sting of being the last girl picked, and looked at like a person of little worth.

3)  FYI, if you don't see legs sticking out from her crotch, do not ask a woman if she is pregnant.  Period.  Enough said.

Defensiveness, rationale, excuses...

So here's this instructor who's good at what she does, but she's chunky.  Does this make her a bad instructor?  No.  Does this make her a bad example to her clients?  Yes and no.  You could argue that I'm a poor example because I'm not within a healthy weight range (I'm overweight, but not obese).  You could judge me on appearance alone and say that I shouldn't be in front of people acting like I know fitness.  You could say that there's a standard of fitness that professionals ought to uphold and anything less is hypocrisy.  There are lots of appearance and example-based reasons why you could argue that I don't have a place in the fitness industry, and I've probably heard most of them.  Here are a few reasons, excuses, defensive utterings about why I think I offer a good example to my clients.

1)  I understand where they're coming from.  My struggles are the same as many of their struggles.  While I don't advertise my issues to my clients, my weight is visible and I can't hide it; sometimes it spurs discussions that are teachable moments for them.  There is no contempt or judgment from me towards my clients, and people can feel that.  There are people who have told me they came to me because they were intimidated by uber-fit trainers and they liked how I treated my clients.

2)  Struggles aside, I'm a great example of someone who doesn't give up.  Not quitting the gym or the job that I love.  Fighting depression instead of sinking under it.  Going to the gym as an imperfect person, yet standing in front of the room with an earnest smile.

3)  And, always, if someone doesn't like me, I was taught to accept that.  I probably wouldn't like them, either!  So to the people who didn't hire me, so what?  To the rotten meat guy, so what?  My strengths exceed my weaknesses.

Whether they're excuses, rationale, defensiveness, or self-protective armor, I've worn my reasons for years.

And now it's time to get rid of some of them, not so I'm easier to hire, to avoid being last pick at fitness conventions, or to look better in a staff shirt.  For my own health.

My.  Own.  Health.

Losing the weight is a very small part of what I'm doing.  There's a bigger picture that includes healing some scars and shedding some old beliefs.  But in the short term, this chunky little instructor is trying to lose 20 to 25 pounds, and keep it off.  I believe the only way to truly be successful at the latter is to deal with the issues that made me overweight in the first place.  Nutritious low calorie meal replacements are just one piece of it all.