The True Cost of Health

How much does a healthy meal truly cost? I have heard on the news and from friends that eating fresh healthy foods costs much more than processed “fast” foods. I’ve also thought this myself, so the other day I had the idea to calculate the cost of one of my favorite meals: Shine On Be.U.tiful’s Lemon Cheesecake Smoothie:

This most delicious and filling smoothie has four ingredients. I made sure I bought organic items where I could. Here’s the cost breakdown:

½ banana                                             .13

3 organic mejdool dates                                1.14

1 c. almond milk                                .37

3 TBSP raw cashews                        .75

1 large lemon                                     .79

Total Cost: $3.18

Cheaper than a latte at Starbucks. Cheaper than a hamburger and fries at McDonalds (I’m a vegetarian so I’m just using that example for comparison purposes). Cheaper than a Jamba Juice. Cheaper than so many “fast” meals.  But what is fast anyways? It takes me 5 minutes max to make this smoothie in my Vitamix and clean up takes maybe another minute.

I could likely make the lemon cheesecake smoothie for less if I didn’t buy organic produce or if I had a friend with a lemon tree!  Also, dates at the Farmer’s Market cost less, but I didn’t have a chance to make it there last week.

Not only is this meal cheaper than so many processed meals, it’s far healthier and leaves me with a bounce in my step! I challenge you to calculate the cost of some of your favorite meals—if they turn out to be costlier than you like, save them for a special treat! Healthy foods don’t have to be cost prohibitive—it’s quite possible to treat your body well while on a budget!

Check out more of ShineOnBeUtiful’s awesome recipes:

Me Drinking a Lemon Cheesecake Smoothie!

Me Drinking a Lemon Cheesecake Smoothie!

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Being Me

It’s hard to explain. I’ve spent my whole life being somebody else. Anybody else but me. How do I express that? That’s how I got to be well over 400 pounds. I never thought it was enough to be me. I had to be what others expected me to be. Or. Or. Or. Or I wouldn’t be loved.

But what exactly does that mean. It means I didn’t love myself. It means I put myself last. It means that if I had just eaten lunch and someone called me up and said let’s do lunch, I’d say “okay” and then go eat again. Because I didn’t have it in me to say no. To say I’d just eaten. Why did I do that? I felt so desperate to be loved that I feared the consequences of saying no. I literally felt like I wouldn’t be loved if I said no.

That’s a simple story. Other examples are more complex. And defy explanation. I did so many things I didn’t want to do because I felt I wouldn’t be loved. If I saw a movie with someone and they didn’t like the movie but I did, I’d say I didn’t like it because I didn’t want to disagree about something so simple because I didn’t feel like my opinion had validity. It’s nuts when I think about it, think about my behavior.

But look at it this way: there’s a reason why obesity is an epidemic. Those reasons are mostly emotional. Mine are. They just are. People who lose weight gain it back because they don’t look at the WHY!

I don’t mind looking at why. It’s the only way out. I’m afraid that if I don’t do what people want they won’t love me. Sadly, sometimes that turns out to be truthful. I clearly remember when I first started working on my weight some people would tell me I wasn’t fun anymore because I started being more particular about the food I’d eat and the restaurants I’d be willing to eat at.

There seems to be so much in my head about this. It’s a battle I fight on a daily basis. How do I be me in  a world that, at times, doesn’t seem to want that? It means that sometimes I have to make choices that might and probably will disappoint some.

The thing is my desire to feel loved outweighs (yes, I’m using the present tense) all else. That’s why it’s a constant battle. Most days I still don’t feel loved.

BUT that’s a part of my growth process, this growth process. I always took refuge in food. That’s where I felt/feel love, so it’s natural that I experience sadness and loneliness as I transform my life into a healthier existence.

Do you know why I love Bikram Yoga? It’s not easy. It’s d*mn hard in fact. But when I’m there, in that hot room I feel happy. Some people have told me that they think it’s a bit much, but some of these same people offer me food with processed sugars, and that’s much more harmful. Why? Let’s say I’ve had a few days away from processed sugar and someone says to me “Here, have this cookie (or whatever).” And I say “no”. Then they say,” but it’s only one.”  Well let me tell you what will happen—I’ll have that cookie and then want to buy a whole package on the way home and eating a whole package of cookies is way more dangerous than doing Bikram Yoga.

I wish I could explain it more or better. The good news is that there is a way out of the mess that’s in my mind and heart. And I’m finding it one day at a time. One moment at a time I’m seeing the wondrous beauty that’s around me. And I’m learning to delight in me. 

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Workout Clothing: Not Just for Skinny People

Over the course of the past few months people have asked me where I buy my clothes, more specifically they ask where I purchase my workout gear. There’s more to the question than a simple answer. At my heaviest, deciding what to wear while working out meant that I had to find clothes that would fit my body. Fortunately, companies exist that sell clothes I could wear.

Back in the day I would buy bike shorts from Roaman’s/Lane Bryant/Woman Within/Making It Big Online and a few others. I usually get a 5x, I think, as my stomach has always been the biggest part of my body and I need to accommodate that. I don’t remember if I ever ordered a 6x but it’s possible.  I’d normally order the tops from Making It Big online because they would cover my belly, and I HAD to hide that!

That was my gym/yoga wear. While walking/hiking, then and now, I’d wear whatever. I’ve gone hiking in fancy cocktail wear. As long as my legs can move in it, I can go for a walk in it. To say anything else is an excuse.

Lifting weights, working on gym machines, doing squats—now that’s another story! As I started to lose weight, I found it difficult to find clothing that would last and make me feel good while working out. (As a side note the bike shorts from Lane Bryant/Roaman’s aren’t the greatest quality.) Feeling good while working out—that’s important!  Exercise clothes matter. Clothes that look good on me, that fit me, help me feel more confident and strong and inspire me to workout harder, longer and with more gusto.

A few months ago I decided to make an investment in myself and buy some outfits from Junonia, an online company that specializes in plus size active wear. They sell bike shorts and sports bras in bright and colorful clothing: pink, bright blue, etc. As an aside, I don’t care for pants or leggings because I think they accentuate my stomach and I can’t stand that. I ordered a 1x in the bike shorts and an XL in the sports bra. It’s turned out to be one of the best investments I’ve made.

Their bike shorts FIT my body. They way they are made accommodates the variations in my stomach and legs. When I wear these bike shorts they hold me in so that I can see and feel my body, my core at work. Plus I feel more confident in my self, so I work harder.

Their sports bras also fit well and hold me in. This helps me to see my sides as I flex them. Most importantly, I feel pretty in the clothing I buy from Junonia. Because my top is significantly smaller than my body, I’ve also been able to buy sports bras at regular stores. I’ve gotten some nice quality Champion sports bras. I’ve had to try on more than a few styles because some just don’t provide a level of coverage I prefer.

There’s more to my workout wardrobe than bike shorts and a sports bra! That’s all I wear in a Bikram yoga class, but when I’m in a place where  I need more coverage I prefer to wear tank tops over my sports bra and I buy those at………………………………….DISNEYLAND!!!!! I have a couple of pretty princess shirts.  It’s one of the greatest pleasures of my life to be able to by workout wear at my happy place. It makes me happy to be one with Mickey!

So that’s a little bit about me and workout clothes. The real moral of the story: wear clothing that puts a spring in your step. You’ll work harder and YOU’RE WORTH IT!!!

Here’s a pic of me in my favorite outfit from Junonia:

Nancy Does the Camel!

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Posted in Bikram Yoga, Body Image, Transformation, Weight Loss | 1 Comment

More on Entrances and Exits: More on My Real Yoga Body and My Real Yoga Practice

Since I wrote the blog several days ago on entrances and exits in the yoga room, I’ve been thinking about my practice as a whole and how it’s changed me. I have so many hopes and dreams, so many aspirations, more than I can list here, more than you want to know!

I used to spend a lot of time wishing, hoping, praying but not creating much movement. I never changed much, if at all.

I’m not sure where I’m really going with this entry. I seem to be having random, non-linear thoughts. I suppose I want to share with the world that I have this passion for yoga because every time I’m in the room I’m working for what I want. Every time I’m in the room I’m living life. I’m creating change. And that’s scary to a huge degree. I’ve never coped well with change: positive or negative change.

I seek to change that though and, indeed, have been changing that. Part of changing my body is accepting where it is right now. That’s what I want to share with all of you—yoga really is for EVERY BODY. When I hear people tell me that they can’t do yoga because they’re not flexible, it’s not their body that’s not flexible, it’s their mind.

This body, my body, does yoga now. It did yoga when it was much heavier. It’ll keep doing it as it becomes skinnier and stronger.  Strength takes work and practice!

That leads me to my original premise with this entry. Entrances and Exits and My Real Yoga Body. I decided to spend some time Saturday morning making a video of me going through the postures in Bikram’s Standing Series. In this video, I emphasize keeping a calm effort when entering and exiting each posture. I don’t claim to have perfect form. I’m working with the form I have. But I’ve realized lately that the calmer I am during class, the more that translates into maintaining inner calmness 24/7.

Achieving that calmness takes practice. It actually helps me to work on entrances and exits to postures outside of class. I’ve found it allows me to have greater awareness during class without having to think too much.

I also encourage you to share this video with anyone who thinks they can’t do yoga. If this body can do it……………………if someone can breathe they can do yoga………………..

P.S. In the video a couple of the poses are out of sequence! Oops! 

Here’s the link to the YouTube video of MY Real Yoga Body doing Bikram’s Standing Series:

Here’s the link to my original blog on entrances and exits:

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Entrances and Exits: Anatomy of a Life-Altering Practice

The other day I found myself reading Bikram’s book, Bikram Yoga. I came across a passage that struck a chord within me. When practicing the postures Bikram says “it’s very important to know how to get out of the postures too.” Reading those words made me realize I need to have a conscious awareness of how I exit my postures.

In yoga, as in life, I have often felt I need to prove a point, prove my worth. I need to demonstrate my strength and worthiness, so I’ll go as deeply into a pose as possible. That’s okay as long as I consciously maintain awareness of my breath. If I hold my breath as I’m prone to doing, then it may be that I’ve too far into a pose. If I’m not breathing then I’m not really alive, I’m not really in the pose. At that point maybe I need to come out of the pose just a bit, if my ego will allow me.

If I maintain awareness of breath going into the pose and staying in the pose then I have a greater chance of consciously controlling my exit from the pose. This takes effort. Doesn’t everything worth doing?

I recall many times in class, and in life, going into a pose, into a situation, with such gusto that I didn’t have the energy to exit with grace. Reading Bikram’s words makes me realize that I can create better balance in my practice and in my life. In this moment my life shifts out of balance when my thoughts run amuck.

When it comes to the actual poses, lately I’ve made more of an effort to enter and exit with grace, balance and stillness. I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s a YouTube clip showing me entering and exiting Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose without conscious awareness. Done this way, I’m not receiving the full benefit of the pose, a pose designed partially to trim the abdomen. As that’s an area I’m working on, it makes sense to make a more determined effort with this posture:

After watching the link above, compare it to the YouTube clip below where I demonstrate a careful and conscious entrance and exit to the pose:

See the difference?

Awareness brings life. Life brings hope. Hope brings balance.

The next time you’re in a yoga class observe, without judgment, how you enter and exit poses. The next time you’re in any life situation where you feel an extreme emotion: stop, breathe, observe. Find breath. Find balance. And if the balance isn’t there, then find a way to maintain your sanity until you can exit gracefully and return to a normal breathing pattern. When you’re calm, your heart will never lead you astray.

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Tricks Triangle (Trikanasana) Teaches Me Part 2

It’s true. The more time passes, the more I fall in love with triangle. While some dread this pose, I never have. This pose epitomizes the heart, mind, and body being in alignment with the soul. That alignment is off-whack in this body, and my body size reflects that.

I’m an emotional creature, one who longs to feel loved—the kind of love that comes from within, but that love doesn’t come easily. I work every day, every moment to heal my heart from the inside out.

Triangle heals me every time I’m in the pose. When I look in the mirror I can see when my torso leans forward too much, and when I do that I’m taking the easy way out of the pose, out of life, and I want more out of this life. More than anything I want happiness, the kind of happy that makes my heart sing and dance without hesitation, without depending on others and without worrying about what others think.

When I stand tall, I feel so much happier, so much stronger, so much more present. That’s the feeling that working at triangle gives me, and that’s what it can give you too, if you allow………

Here’s a link to a pic of me doing a TWO-MINUTE triangle:

Here’s an artistic shot of me in triangle pose:


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Bored with Bikram?? Bored with Breath??

Lately, I’ve heard whispers of conversations. People tiring of routines. People wondering how I don’t feel burnout from doing the same postures every time I go to a Bikram class. They’ve asked me about the magic motivating key.

The truth is, they’re not the same postures. Not for me. Every day, every class provides an opportunity to explore a new portion of my body, of my breath, of my personality, of my spirit.

This is one of those blog entries that sounds better in my head than on the computer screen!

I’d like to share my thoughts on breath. If you find yourself bored with whatever your fitness/workout routine is, look at and observe your breath. Each Bikram class starts and ends with a breathing sequence. I think every exercise routine ought to do the same. Why? Breath/Prana gives life, gives you the chance to workout to the fullest potential. How do you breathe?

In the opening sequence of Bikram “Standing Deep Breathing” students perform two sets of breathing. This breath when performed consciously will allow you to go deeper into your practice and, indeed, deeper into your life. I know this from experience. I love meditating and I realized recently that I could feel my whole spine while I inhaled and exhaled. Before Bikram I did not have that level of body awareness.

Back to breathing. For longer than I care to remember I engaged in unconscious breathing. I didn’t come from my core. I just breathed and moved my arms. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. I’d follow instructions and then relax. I don’t think I fully grasped just how much proper breath would add to my practice, add to my life.

My frustration over the size of my belly got me to really pay attention to my breathing, to my core. It’s the part of my body that is shrinking at the slowest pace, or it feels that way. So I have to do what I can go work on it.

Standing Deep Breathing when done properly engages the core. Brings me life. Done properly sweat will be coming out of your pores before you finish the first set of 10. The breath I bring to my body then allows me to go deeper into each of the poses during class. Think about it. If you don’t breath then you’d be going into half-moon stiffer than a piece of wood, but with oxygen flowing through the body you’ll be able to move more smoothly into each element of the pose and into your heart and mind.

Concentrating on my breathing brings me greater awareness of my self, my soul, my emotions. It brings me closer to me. Engaging my core means I’m becoming more engaged in my life. I feel more alive. I feel my cells awakening. My muscles. My hopes. My dreams.

When I breathe, I let go of expectations and live in the now. In the moment. And in that glorious oxygenated moment I am ME. And that’s all I ever want to be. That’s all I’m working toward being.

So, if you’re bored with your Bikram (or whatever your fitness routine consists of), take a look at your breath and breathe new life into YOU!

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