Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Second Life

I am not much into television. With the exception of the show Parenthood, to which I am addicted, there is not much that I'll plop in front of the t.v. to watch.

However, there is one other show that's on my short list, a new show on Bravo called 9 by Design. It's a reality (really? ever?) show that follows around Bob and Cortney Novogratz, a couple that scoops up property, guts it, then rebuilds it, makes it fabulous, and sells it. Oh, and they have seven children, thus the "9" in 9 by Design.

My first exposure to this couple's work was about a year ago when Ward and I visited a boutique hotel in Long Branch, NJ called Bungalow. It was the first hotel that Sixx Design (the name of the Novogratz's design company) actually created, and it was amazing. It was clever in that it was very modern and hip, but also surprisingly comfortable.

When I saw previews for the show, my interest was piqued. As I've watched the first five episode, I've become more aware of my surroundings. I currently tend to lean towards a cottage style, with a hint of french country. I began purging the things that no longer served me, deciding to have a garage sale to find homes for my old favorites, and to make room for in my house for new finds.

While I've always scoured garage sales for old pieces of furniture (gems in the rough), I've been more prone to find good pieces at antique stores and the like. I'd noticed, over the past month or so, a new store that popped up in the neighboring town of Boonton. Savannah Hope Vintage. I loved the name, and the storefront had an inviting appeal, so I decided to check it out. I'd been looking to replace some new light fixtures with old chandeliers anyway, so this was a good enough reason to check out the store.

Pushing through the front door just days before Mother's Day, I was overcome by piece after piece of furniture. Actually, calling it furniture is not doing it justice. I don't really know how to refer to these pieces. Sideboards, armoires, end tables, headboards, all beautifully cared for and displayed. Much of it was repainted, given a second life. I wanted all of it. My modest Cape Cod is well-furnished, and I have little room for new pieces. However, with the garage sale coming up, I began thinking that there might be a few pieces I could swap out.

Out from the back of the store emerged a thin blonde woman, hair pulled off her face, her slim glasses perched on her nose. She was pretty and looked creative, and were it not for her easy smile, she might have seemed intimidating. I mentioned to her that I was looking for a chandelier, and told her about the space it would be illuminating. She pointed to a few chandeliers that were hanging in the window, and they almost seemed too small for the space. Both were the exact style I wanted, though, and they were priced to sell. I chose one, and mentioned that there was a light beside it that would need to be swapped out to match. She began showing me pendant lights, but I wasn't sure how they would look in my hall. The current light was flush to the ceiling. Andrea (this is her name) talked to me about it, addressing my questions and concerns. I walked the store thinking about the lights, trying to see them hanging in my mind's eye.

While walking, I kept returning to a piece that I just loved. It was big, probably too big for any space I could make available. But you know how sometimes something just calls to you? Well, it was calling. I told Andrea that I was very interested, and asked her if she'd get the measurements for me. At this point, after only ten minutes in the store, I was in love with this piece of furniture. I decided to run home, measure my space, and if it fit, return to Savannah Hope Vintage to buy it. Oh, and I also decided that the pendant light would be lovely hanging just across the hall from my chandelier. Just like that.

As luck would have it, the piece fit in my kitchen. I am not sure of it's intended purpose, but I am sure it was meant for my kitchen. It's been here for just under a week, and still, I look forward to coming home to it. This is not common for me. I am very attached to my loved ones, and sentimental pieces of furniture and jewelry, but random furniture? No. Not usually. But this is elegant and strong, with amazing detail and lots of storage. I'm in love.

The piece, as pictured with this blog (and the pic doesn't do it justice), looks like something out of an Anthropologie catalog. I mean, really, it's art. You need to see it in person, up close. I swear, I feel blessed having it. And the chandelier and pendant lamp - which have been installed - are also quite fabulous. I made very good choices.

I almost forgot to mention an end table that I picked up while I was there. It doesn't demand the same amount of attention as the others, but it's brightened up my living room quite a bit, and every time I see it, I smile.

Savannah Hope Vintage is a place you must visit. Trust me on this one. It's located at 418 Main Street in Boonton, NJ. The store has furniture of all types, beautiful glassware, paintings (I bought one today) and art, all sorts of home goods. They also carry homemade soaps, jewelry, purses, and more. Seriously, go right away and visit the store. If you are on facebook, search Savannah Hope Vintage and "Like" the page. If you aren't local, you can shop Savannah Hope Vintage through etsy, at

Thursday, April 29, 2010


If I were to ask you what the path to good health is, what would you say? People usually say things like, "Eat right and exercise." And while this is true, there are other important factors to consider.

Recently, I was working with a client who felt bad about not having done something we'd discussed and decided she'd do. Her life was full, overwhelming even, and she didn't have time to focus on what she was planning on doing. For her, it's important that she maintain her health, if nothing more. Drink lots of water, eat good grounding foods, and get plenty of sleep.

Sleep? Yes, sleep. Sleep is super important, yet we never talk about it. I just read an article on the importance of sleep. It regenerates us, allows our body to heal and grow, and allows our mind to work through the events of the day. Without sleep, we cannot live.

Yet, in today's society, sleep is considered so unimportant. When people say they need to leave a party to go home to sleep, they hear things like, "Noooo! Stay a bit longer" or when they get an early phone call that wakes them, they may hear, "Oh my God. Are you really still asleep?" Why is sleep so frowned upon?

Sleeping doesn't make you lazy, it makes you smart. Napping, too, is a great way to quickly regenerate your body, and your energy. We don't nap enough. We need to do it more often. And most of us need to get much more sleep than we already do. We need to re-prioritize our day so that sleep gets scheduled in.

Today, I decided to take a 30 minute nap. I don't often get an afternoon nap, and today's nap was amazing. It was comforting, and afterward, I felt amazing. It taught me never to underestimate the power of a nap, and perhaps, to nap a little more often.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Getting There

We've all got something to do, some place to be. An appointment to make, a meal to eat. Something. We rush through our lives without taking time to enjoy each moment.

I was reminded of this message today, during Christy's yoga class. Early on in the class, she was talking about getting deeper into a position, not by force but by way of surrender. With each exhalation, we were to surrender deeper into the pose. The goal, she mentioned, was not the perfect pose, but enjoying getting into that pose. She'd lived in Hawaii, and said that visitors used to always want to visit Hana, Maui. They'd talk, talk, talk about going to Hana. And the whole ride there, they'd be waiting to discover Hana. On arrival, they'd notice a grocery store, a couple of restaurants, and not much else. You see, the glory wasn't in arriving at Hana, but was instead the magnificent, scenic ride to Hana.

She mentioned that we often look to the goal, rather than enjoying the journey. We do this all the time. We plod through the workout to have a better body, when really, we should be enjoying the feeling of our bodies working and sweating it out. When we eat, we choke down food in large quantities, instead of savoring each small bite. We work "for" or "toward" something, when we should be focusing on what's good now.

This is what I love most about yoga. It's not just about stretching, or building strength. It's about understanding life, and motivation, and focusing the mind and the breath. It's taking our bodies to the edge, and noticing where that is, when to push and when to hold back.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Oooh, yoga yoga

It's been a while since I've written, or frankly, done much of anything related to fitness in the past two months. I've been working with clients, and though my mind has been in fitness, my body has been on a sabbatical of sorts. I returned just a week or two ago, to yoga, if nothing else. I was nervous walking back into my old Thursday class, thinking (with the ego as my guide) that people would have noticed I'd gone missing and ask where I'd been. They hadn't.

Upon my return, my first yoga class found me on the mat with a disquieted mind. I was early and couldn't decide how to occupy my time. What did I usually do while waiting for class to begin? Child's pose? Twists? I couldn't remember. So I sat there, rather uncomfortably, until I remembered to let go of my ego and breathe. The class was incredible, and reminded me that not only did my body need yoga, but my mind did, too. I vowed to keep my yoga classes on my schedule at (nearly) all cost.

I had signed up to take Anusara Yoga with Bruce Bowditch at the yoga studio, Prana Yoga. I was nervous, not sure that I was up to it. Bowditch is a visiting yogi, coming for a weekend workshop of classes. His photo showed him in a seemingly impossible plastic man pose, and I was nervous that being in the studio with him for two hours just might make me feel like a yoga dunce. But deeper inside, I knew that the opportunity to take a class with him would offer something even greater - inner growth.

I went to bed last night, after a relatively wonderful evening with Ward, both exhausted and nervous. Exhausted from the events of the day, and nervous for the Bowditch class that was the next morning. I decided to breathe through the feelings and trust that I could handle the class.

Class was this morning. I went in, and told Bowditch that I wasn't sure I was advanced enough to handle the class. He asked about injuries (I have none), and what my experience was, then said I'd be fine, and he'd watch and help me, if needed. The class began with a small intro about who he is and how he'd come to find yoga, and then went into a series of communial Oms and chanting. I got lost in it all. Hands in Anjali mudra, the warm room, and all the voices Om-ing in unison. Unbelievable.

After some down dogs and a few other asanas, he went into handstands. For those who hadn't done them before (me), we went to a wall together and Bowditch showed us the prep pose for handstands (think down dog but with your feet at hip height up all wall. It was amazing. Going up, there was the strength challenge, followed by the feeling that I might topple over. The entire body has to be activated to maintain a solid position. Mostly, though, I found that I needed to say to myself, over and over, Trust yourself. You can do this.

As the (two hour) class wound down, I became a bit sad. I didn't want it to end. I liked feeling challenged, and I liked feeling powerful. I knew that there were more classes being offered this weekend, but not sure if my schedule allowed for another two hours away. If I can, I thought, will be heading back this weekend. Tomorrow's class is back bends, my favorite.

I realize that I need yoga for many reasons. Aside from the obvious, I found that challenging myself, pushing to my edge, helps my inner strength. Focusing on my breath, and the position of my muscles, takes my mind away from the non-important crap that exists in my life. The greatest gift that I receive from yoga is that, when I am practicing, I am honoring myself in ways I've never done before.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Three Years Ago Today...

Today is the third official anniversary of Bella Fitness. I went out on my own a couple of months before then, and began training clients, but my LLC became official on that day.

When Bella Fitness began, I had just finished months of pre- and post-natal continuing education, so my focus fell heavily on working with pregnant women and new moms. We worked on maintaining and gaining muscle, while being careful not to overstretch the body (as flexibility is greater during pregnancy). We also worked on strengthening the Kegel muscles, and supporting the abdominals, so that diastasis recti could be avoided or, at least, repaired with ease.

At that time, I did have the opportunity to work with a couple of high risk clients, women entering menopause, and two women with eating disorders. It was a great time, and the experiences I had with these women were priceless.

Last summer, however, I took a sabbatical, and did so for a couple of reasons. Mostly, I had a health matter to deal with that, while it turned out to be nothing notable, made training clients difficult. There were some other things, too, but basically that time away was important for me. It gave me the chance to re-evaluate what I was doing, who I was helping, and how. I realized that, for me, expanding my practice to include holistic aspects of fitness was important. I knew all that I needed to know about body sculpting, burning calories, and cardio, but all of that, without flexibility and a mind-body connection, felt incomplete. I studied and practiced, working to receive my certification in Holistic Fitness through the Academy of Holistic Fitness.

I also did continuing education in Lifestyle Fitness coaching, which provided me with the tools to help clients work through challenges and resistance that they might face. I learned about the importance of mindful eating and self-love, and how dieting (and labeling foods "good" and "bad") won't help a client reach their goal weight or body shape. Empowering each client to trust their bodies is the first step toward positive change.

I was raised with a strong background in meditation, and every aspect of what I do is based in that. I use my breath when lifting weights, allowing a deep exhale with every tough lift. I focus on the muscle contracting and find a gaze point to help me get through the burn. It made sense for me to educate myself more in the practice of holistic fitness, learning what asanas created what sorts of feelings; poses for depression, poses to energize. I learned different breathing techniques, and the uses for them.

The difference in my training between now and then is obvious. Though I still practice similar methods for body sculpting, I incorporate body awareness more that I did, and I also work with my clients in a more personally focused way. I always created programs exactly to suit my clients needs, and while I still do so, I am now more trained to help them navigate the hurdles that may have held them back.

I want to thank you all so much for being supportive friends, committed clients, and readers of this blog. It's been three great years, and I look forward to many, many more.

Yours, in good health,

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Deprive Reward

Winter's been pulling hard on my patience lately. My son's was home sick, then as soon as he got better we got snowed in, and then he was sick again. It's been two weeks since I've been to the gym on a regular basis, or frankly, done much else.

I've been working with clients, and doing a lot of reading, specifically, on weight loss. Most of my clients come to me because they'd like to lose weight, so it only makes sense that I read about the principals of weight loss.

If you are on a diet, I will guess that you've probably been on one hundred before this. It's not at all surprising, because studies have proven that diets are only temporary fixes for weight loss. People gain that lost weight back (or as Kathryn would say, they find the weight they lost), and then some. Fat-free foods leaving us feeling hungry and unsatisfied, and we tend to eat more of them because they are fat-free. If given the choice, would you prefer 16 oz. of fat-free yogurt, or 8 oz. of creamy, full-fat yogurt? If we listen to our bodies, and taste what we are eating, eat mindfully, then we will notice that we aren't ravenously hungry (at least not most of the time). Better to have one piece of whole milk cheese, than five pieces of fat-free cheese that's flavorless and pumped with salt.

Here's what works: making permanent changes to your nutrition plan, and your mind. Learning to eat for life, and without labeling food, feelings, or actions as good or bad. If we reward a two pound loss one week, do we shame ourselves if we gain those pounds back (or even maintain)? How disrespectful. You aren't a bad girl for gaining, or a good girl for losing. This kind of mentality has you attacking yourself to lose weight. That just doesn't feel like a healthy thing? Your good life doesn't begin when you lose those unwanted pounds, it begins now.

There are guidelines for a healthy eating plan that include lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins (check out for the current recommend plan). However, veering off the path for a slice of birthday cake, or cookies with milk is also part of eating for life.

On death row, prisoners are given a last meal of their choice. This speaks volumes as to the importance of food in our lives. They can have pretty much anything they desire (but usually no alcohol), which got me wondering, What would you choose for your last meal? Their choices listed here.

The thing about that death row meal that the prisoner gets to pick what s/he'd most like to eat, not what is best (or worst) for her/him. I know some people who'd take that deal, just to eat whatever they'd like, once, without guilt.

On any given day my choice would be different. Yesterday, all I wanted was a mixed field green salad. I wanted it because it's cold, fresh, watery, and has bitter dressing. (Mine came with fresh slices of mozzarella, which made it even better). Other days, I crave a slice of pizza, a hamburger, a yogurt parfait. Though I am not particularly fond of desserts, there are times when I'd like nothing more than a Tiger's Milk bar. What would you choose?

When we have a nutrition plan for life, all of these options are available to us. We learn to eat foods that give us nutrients, energy, and fiber, and use those foods as the backbone of our plan. We also allow for a burger and fries, cookies with milk. This means that losing and maintaining a weight that is healthy and comfortable for us is more about listening to our bodies and less about deprivation and reward. We eat when we are hungry, and stop when we are satisfied, even if it means leaving half a plate of food on the table. We deserve to not stuff ourselves even when food is paid for or sitting in front of us. Our bodies tend to lead us towards food that support and strong and healthy body. We just need to start trusting our bodies and listening to them.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

You Eatin' That?

Lately, I've been noticing that many of my clients are having problems with leaving their kids' and husbands' leftovers on their plates. Feeling guilty for seeing food go to waste, they choose to eat the leftovers of their loved ones. For some, it seems financially irresponsible to see food get thrown out. Others think about the starving people around the world who would be grateful for that half a grilled cheese, and just can't throw out perfectly good food.

I get that. But let me tell you something. If you eat someone else's food, and you are not hungry, it is still wasted. It's not in the garbage pail, but it is in your body. And if your body doesn't need it, not only is it wasted, but you've shown more respect to the food (and the garbage pail) than you have to your body.

As women, we sometimes martyr ourselves for, what we believe to be, the greater good. The extra chicken tenders, or the uneaten half of the sandwich. As Teri Hatcher once said, if the bread burned in the toaster, her mother would eat it rather than serve it to someone else, or to waste it. Eating miserably burnt toast is not doing any good to those who are hungry, nor is it thrifty. It's believing that we aren't worth a good piece of toast. It is about our respect for ourselves and our sense of self-worth.

I love the idea of ordering one meal and sharing it with my boyfriend. He doesn't, though, so we order separately, but I'd be happy to eat off his plate. Not out of any sense of savings, but because I love him and we eat the same foods. Portion sizes are double anyway, so it makes sense. However, if he were eating something that I didn't like or want, eating what he left behind wouldn't make sense.

Eating should be both nourishing and comfortable. We should eat foods that we enjoy and that are good for us. Eating half of my son's french fries just because they are there and uneaten is not the best choice. I have done it, too many times to count. So when I share this advice with you, trust that I have been there and know from where I speak.

I was raised with the "starving children" backdrop, and the "clean plate club" was often praised in my friends' homes. Sadly, both cause overeating, stuffing, and disrespect for the signs our bodies are giving us like, Enough. Put the fork down. It's not about being thin, or being fat. It's about listening to our bodies, and loving ourselves enough to follow through with what our bodies are telling us to do.

When you eat, you control what happens. Making a conscious choice to ingest what nourishes you, and tastes good, and to stop eating when you feel satisfied, is a respectful way to eat. When we see food on the plates of others, or even ours, that is soon to be "going to waste", we can let it go and be thankful that we trusted our bodies enough to stop when we felt ready to stop, and chose not to take the "waste" into our bodies.