The Problem with a Great Life
Everyone wants to believe that expat women have it all. Awesome careers, fabulous family adventures…and a maid. This is an image you do not have to strive for…it is automatic, no matter where you’re from, no matter where you live now: When you go to your home country and gather with friends and family, no matter how much you try to downplay it, lest they feel badly about their own circumstances (which we all know THEY SHOULDN’T!), the assumption about your life as an expat woman is set in stone.
You are a lady of luxury – even if you have the lead career in your expat family life. Your life is expedited for you by local government officials, you can park anywhere you want, but don’t have to because you have a driver, and you and your family are free from financial strain, child-rearing and house-chores.
You know better, don’t you. Sure there may be little whispers of truth in some of these points, but pretty much…its not as carefree as your home-community believes.
The life of a global nomad is disruptive and unpredictable. Often one partner relinquishes a career to support the other’s career. This is only one path of many that expat women follow, but for many, this is true: child rearing years spent packing up the household effects and unpacking into a new home in a new country can leave you in a constant, unsettled limbo, supporting the navigation into and out of vibrant expat communities while leaving little energy for self care.
Global Health Coach is a community of expat women from anywhere, living anywhere – so we should acknowledge that there are as many varieties of life circumstances as there are members of the community.
The goal behind Global Health Coach is to help expat women (and recently repatriated women) find time for self care every day. We encourage you to do what you need to do to bring balance to your life, but we are primarily focused on nutrition and exercise, which can be a huge obstacle for many. Finding great foods, experimenting with new foods, getting ahold of cravings that don’t serve your goals, and meeting the minimum target for exercise every day will help you maximize your time and experience whether you’re overseas, traveling or home for a while.
We have great things in store for you! We have group sessions and personal training, fitness coaching, nutrition counseling and body transformation opportunities. We can tailor programs that fit your needs an circumstances. We also help groups in the work environment and support the professional development of budding fitness professionals.
Sure. Things aren’t so bad as an expat woman. You are walking a special path that almost always leads back home. There are challenging hills and isolating deserts along your path, for sure…but at the Global Health Coach community – you have us!
Welcome to the tribe!
The Short & Intense workout
What is the RIGHT way to work out? Is a 90 minute yoga class good? How about a stroll in the park? Heavy weight lifting, focussing on legs today and arms tomorrow? Spinning®? Zumba®? Boxing? Is there one best way to work out?
First – a disclaimer.
At Global Health Coach, our stance is that for most people who have vague goals of maintaining their current fitness and body composition – following the American College of Sports Medicine Exercise Guidelines is best. Basically, ACSM states that exercise is good for most people and that the minimum amount of exercise necessary includes cardiovascular conditioning training several times per week, muscular strength training several times per week, as well as flexibility and neuromuscular (reactive, coordination, balance) training. (Click here for specific details on the ACSM exercise guidelines.)
It is important to consult with a physician before beginning a new and significantly increased exercise program if you are unsure if increased exercise is right for you. When you engage in online training with a fitness professional it is important to stay safe. It is generally understood in the Fitness Industry that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) should not be done prior to 6-8 weeks of lower-intensity and progressive conditioning. This will prepare the cardiovascular system as well as the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles of the body to perform physically rigorous exercises required for HIIT.
The popularity of HIITraining is that it is not only effective for improving athletic performance and weight loss, it is also efficient – athletes and fitness enthusiasts meet their goals faster, using less, but more intense time. Here is one example of a HIIT workout that doesn’t require any equipment. Here is another example of a HIIT workout.
There is a lot to be said for this kind of training, but we never want to dismiss how great it is to take a whole hour or more, doing yoga, or walking on the beach. All exercise is good for most people. People with very specific athletic performance goals will benefit from HIIT – as will regular fitness seeking people, as long as they’ve prepared their bodies for the intensity by conditioning for 6-8 weeks.
It comes out of nowhere.
Like bubbles that seemingly form from nothing at the bottom of a boiling pot of water, performance anxiety forms in deep, untouchable places in the very base of you and well up in strange and unpredictable ways. It is an energy of excess (excess thought, excess worry, excess sense of helplessness) that will not be suppressed and cannot be ignored. I’m not talking about major league ball players, first chair violinists and comedians who put it all out there, masterfully harnessing that energy for masterful performance, riding that wave of stress with a magnificent outcome.
I’m talking about walking into a gym.
To be clear – it is not necessary to have a gym membership to meet your weekly minimums for exercise. It is also not necessary to look like a Sports Illustrated model, or perform like an olympic level athlete to be healthy. You can adequately meet the recommended levels of activity to maintain fitness with at home equipment and an active lifestyle.
Your feelings are real, make no mistake.
As a nearly 6′ tall woman with sturdy Iowa farm-stock genetics, I have lived for a half century with sometimes near debilitating self-consciousness about my size. As early as Kindergarten, I recollect being the month-after-month tallest student marked on the wall. I remember a child in a dressing room looking under the door that I had just closed telling his mom, “Mom! There’s a man next to us.” Trying to find shoes and clothing while residing in South East Asia has not helped, but there is one thing that has kept me from truly being eclipsed by self consciousness.
Acknowledge and leverage those feelings
Early on in my career as an ACE certified personal trainer I attended a fitness convention for professionals and I remember thinking, “I’m the fattest person in this room.”
I have no idea if this was true or not, but it doesn’t really matter.
The thought eclipsed my experience in that session. During the break a random woman, whom I’ll surely never meet again, asked me if I was enjoying the convention. Overcome with staggering emotion, I couldn’t answer her as I began to cry. In a very brief exchange I told her how I was feeling. This woman took my hand and said, “Listen. Do you think you could ever show compassion to your clients if you had no idea what it is like to feel like the fattest person in the room? Do you think someone who has never smoked and quit can really help smokers quit? Do you think that people who are born rich can ever really help those struggling with finances? Are you kidding me? Your empathy will go a lot farther than skinny genetics will when you find who you want to work with.” Then she let go of my hand, stood up and said “I have to get to my next session, but,” I looked up at her and dried my tears. “…by the way, stop judging the skinny girls. Everyone struggles with something.”
No One Really Cares
Really, they don’t. Let me tell you exactly how I feel when I see an obese person in the gym. I think… nothing. Let me tell you how I feel when I see a skinny dude lifting less weight than I can lift. I think…nothing. Sure – I’ll be thinking things if they’re talking loudly on their phone or not putting their weights away after using them. I’ll be thinking things if they are hostile to the gym staff or irresponsible with the equipment. But of their bodies and their performance? Nothing. And, my guess is they’re not thinking much about me. We are just sharing a space.
You’re already perfect. Get over it.
I understand. This is not helpful. It is not enough for me to tell you to put your feelings aside and get yourself to the gym. You are going to have to come to this realization yourself. Those fit people in there…with their rippling muscles and zero detectable fat…their coordination and precision when executing complicated exercises…their perfectly fitting clothes and faint whiff of Axe body spray…? They had their early days too.
While this might not be enough to get you into the gym today, this is the frame of mind I am hoping you come away with eventually. You are perfect right now – with your belly edging over the waistband of your tights, your confusion over how to use the machines and your really real fear of being judged…you are okay.
Re-read the note from Ram Dass about looking at trees and just allowing them to be. Start with the tree in the mirror. You and your body are perfect. Train it more and nourish it differently and you will change – 100% guaranteed or your body back.
“Everyone struggles with something…”
(Random fit chick at an IDEA Fitness Convention in San Diego, California, mid 1990’s)
Eat, drink and be wary!
I know it is only August, but we’re staring into the headlights of the on-coming freight train, called The Holiday Season. Let’s get ready…let’s get real.
From the end of November (and for some it starts with Halloween at the end of October!) through until the first week of the New Year, when the rush of guilt, panic and/or depression set in – many people from all over the world – many cultures, many religions, both Northern & Southern Hemispheres and that hot band that ties them together around the middle of the planet, celebrate with food-centered days, that often go into evenings and on across weekends and months.
The problem of obesity around the whole world is so prevalent it has earned it’s own term: Globesity.
There are ample books to read on the subject, Fat Planet is one place to start.
Expat women get an extra wave of the holiday food tsunami because there are all the celebrations leading up to the mass migration home, where the food continues to swirl in dizzying speeds from meal to meal.
There is a great debate in the health and fitness industry where personal trainers and nutrition counselors support clients on a quest to amp up their fitness game as much as take control of their body composition – the number one reason most people say they are at the gym is to lose weight. We now know that exercise compliments fat loss, and fat loss is assisted with caloric expenditure, but food consumption, which is not a gym thing, it’s a kitchen thing, is what has to be tackled for fat-loss to occur.
*Side note: I say ‘body-composition’ and ‘fat-loss’ and not ‘losing weight’ because the scale is not very reliable in marking progress. Increased muscle mass with simultaneous fat loss is a source of much frustration – just ask me…I know…and it is the stuff of another blog.
But you can’t NOT eat…
A friend of mine is on a mission to get fitness trainers to pay attention to our language surrounding holiday pig-outs. It is a lively discussion. Here is some of it:
With his permission to share, he writes:
Folks are trippin’ over my comments about over eating and holidays.
All I’m saying is that you can enjoy the holidays and indulge without over eating. If weight-loss is your struggle, then indulge without over eating.
The average holiday meal is 3000-4500 calories.
You cannot work that off.
“holy sh*t – it’s just food, LOL!” is my favorite response so far…
“No sh*t..!” is my response to that one…
The pain is real.
The resentment is real.
The sabotage is real.
The guilt is real.
The depression is real.
The struggle is real.
If it’s your struggle – stay strong, focused, and disciplined.
If it’s not – STFU.
Group fitness instructors, personal trainers, gym management messaging, industry magazines go a little crazy at this time of year linking the balance game of calorie consumption and calorie burn.
“Yes, Zumba is on through the holidays! Come burn that ham off your butt in our best class of the year!”
“Go ahead, indulge. We’ve got your back…but you have to come back to the gym.”
“One piece of fruit cake = 2.5 Spinning® classes.”
Physiologically the calorie burn (depending on a lot of factors regarding your age and metabolism, your muscle mass and more) in physical activity does not cover a lot of excess calories. It just doesn’t. But this is not entirely the point.
As my friend points out, “If this is your struggle…” you are better off not consuming the calories in the first place. You are not fit enough, nor do you have the time to crank out the excess calories on a treadmill or a CrossFit WOD (Workout of the Day).
Trainers (and the fitness industry at large) who do not struggle with the metabolism issues that obese people struggle with are stuck in simple math mode which is not applicable to all people. It is irresponsible to link overindulgence of food (and specifically calories) with a simplistic remedy to “burn it off.”
The food on the table is not the problem
I could argue that the food on your fork is not even the problem. The biggest challenge for people who wish to avoid unnecessary (but seemingly inevitable) weight gain across the holiday seasons is this ingrained permission we give ourselves for “cheat day,” – a concept like releasing the stress valve…you’ve worked so hard…if you don’t indulge a little you’re going to indulge a lot. Along with “cheat day” is a closely related “specialness” of the holiday and the abundance of food.
You can be grateful for water and not drink from a fire hydrant at full release.
You can be grateful for electricity without sticking a fork in a socket.
You can be grateful for toothpaste without sucking down the whole tube.
(Side note: Gag.)
Taking in more than you need is not a treat. It is harmful and thwarts even the best of intentions.
Acknowledge and Appreciate
At Global Health Coach, we operate from a place of contentedness and gratitude.
When it comes to the bounty of food, take a moment to stop, breathe and contemplate.
Acknowledge the time and effort it took to prepare the food. Acknowledge the family history and love that comes with that food – the connection we feel over sharing a meal. Appreciate the aroma in the room – detect the different smells. Let the aroma of home cooking fill you. Notice the colors. Take a moment of gratitude for the farmers who keep us fed.
This slowing down to Acknowledge and Appreciate – indulge in this.
Need help with portion control? Check out this info-graphic by our friends at Precision Nutrition.
Need help shifting toward a healthier, fitter you? Do not wait for Monday. Do not wait for the New Year. Our motto at Global Health Coach is “You know you should and I know you can!”
We, Mia and Cori, can get you through the season – content and on track. We don’t diet or restrict calories. We help you determine what “enough” is, relax in the abundance without having to indulge in the abundance and help keep you accountable to your scale, measuring tape and vital energy.
“Do you train kids?”
This is one of the most common questions I hear as a personal trainer.
Do you train kids?
I get it. Not every kid makes the school sports teams. Not every kid has a safe setting to just be outside playing with others. Not every kid can just jump on a bike and ride around for the fun of it. Not every kid even cares.
Between school demands and social media and all the many things that mentally engage kids these days, it is easy for pre-teens and teens alike to spend day after day, sitting, with little or no physical activity. Parents complain that schools are cutting PE hours, and that sports teams are too exclusive and rigged for only the best of the best players.
But – I think it is fair to ask parents to hold a mirror up and ask – “What are you doing to help your child develop fitness as a way of life?”
Facebook reminded me of one reason I tried so hard to stay fit while my kids were young. Believe me – it wasn’t always (ever!) easy, but I was committed to making sure they could at least see that I was willing to work for…even struggle for my health and fitness. Parenting is no different for personal trainers and fitness freaks. Our kids are also drawn to the sedentary temptations of our digital age. We all are! We have to struggle to help our kids find the balance of physical activity and sedentary activities – but the struggle has been worth it.
I had forgotten about it until Facebook just popped up a little video memory I posted 6 years ago this morning. Here I am with my daughter, running our first 10k together – promising each other not to stop or walk – rewarding ourselves with a foot massage if we did it.
And we did it!
Check out our video.
You don’t have to be super fit. You just have to be willing. Train with your child for a 5k race. Sign up for it and train for it. Reward yourselves with a special treat, like a fitbit, or massage, tickets to a play, or new running shoes. You both will benefit from the exercise, and the deepening of your relationship as you learn to struggle together for the benefit of each other.
I will train your kids…
…but you have to have sessions too. If kids are given personal training sessions to develop fitness in place of having an active childhood, they are training in isolation of the big picture of life. When they stop going to personal training sessions, their muscles will atrophy as their interest wanes and fitness won’t seem like a worthy pursuit. But if the training sessions are leading to an outcome, like family weight control, family finish lines, an awesome, active family vacation etc…they can sink their hearts into it, not because they are expected to, but because they want to.
I barely remember that run with my daughter…but I remember the foot massage like it was yesterday.
Struggle is the stuff of bonding.