Saying Yes or No?

Why is it so difficult to say no?

One of the biggest fears many of us have is the fear of rejection. It is inevitable we think if we say no, we will disappoint someone, make them angry, hurt their feelings, or appear unkind or rude. Often as kids we said no and were disciplined for it. Sometimes our self-esteem is wrapped up in saying yes to as many people and opportunities as we can.

We think we are being kind and open hearted and sharing of our abundance, being a caring giver is all positive, whereas saying no is being stingy and harsh.

Saying no should be something we can do at our own discretion. We know that sometimes saying yes can be worse than saying no. Sometimes it is even more kind to say no than to say yes. Occasionally it’s worth a little rejection if saying yes will lead to resentment. Nevertheless, some of us fear saying no will leave us feeling humiliated, guilty, ashamed and worse, alone, rejected and abandoned. Having others think negatively of us is a pretty big form of rejection.

One of the beautiful and freeing things about aging is many of us tend to care less and less what others think as we become more experienced at saying no and we have learned over time that saying yes, only later to feel resentful about the things we said no to by saying yes is actually worse. We also begin to accept that nobody is perfect (despite facebook photos which indicate otherwise) as we age. Sometimes saying NO to one thing is often saying YES to something else of greater value.

For instance, my neighbor assumed we host Shabbos guests all- the- time.  She said that she feels guilty if she has to say no but she feels so burnt out. For clarity sake, I actually do not host Shabbos guests all-the-time, specifically because it would totally burn me out; but it was never about me in the first place. My neighbor just used me symbolically to represent her own needs and feelings about whatever she thought about hosting every single Shabbat.

I remember many years ago, once making a fancy meal for someone who just had a baby, and serving fish sticks to my own family that night (which nobody here likes). This is all because I wanted to do “kindness.”  Is it a kindness to my family that they have to eat fish sticks and deal with a stressed out mommy? What is really going on here? I was a slave to the misguided notion that I needed to appear to be of value for my own gratification.

How about when we exercise… What are we saying yes to and what are we saying no to? Do we exercise so hard that we can’t work out another day? Do we only go hard and not take time to unwind and do the slow workouts because of some internal need to be “strong.” [The irony is that we often pack on pounds from the increase in cortisol and inflammation caused by going hard and we risk injury by not slowing down to stretch and restore.]

When we eat sugary, salty, starchy foods. Is it self-care or self harm? It could be either one depending on the time and the mood and a plethora of other factors. We need to tune in and stop and reflect every so often.

These are big questions. Too big for a blog post. But I am thinking that an important step in being able to say no has to do with knowing our own worth is independent of what others think of us and based on far more than a singular decision. Our self-worth can’t be totally dependent on how much we do for other people. Does that even sound healthy? If saying yes makes you feel trapped, resentful or guilty, perhaps it is time to say no!?!

I love feeling useful helping people become comfortable in their bodies and love what exercise adds to their feeling of accomplishment, mood, and their physical health. B”H” my client load was full before Passover, really full. Saying yes to new clients or more sessions had reached a point where it had come to mean saying no to recharging my own battery or being the sharpest happiest Mommy I could be and more. To remedy this, I decided not to take on any new private training clients. Scary decision, but very worthwhile. I finally feel like I have re-charged and have more balance.

In the meantime, if you are ready to get started right NOW, there is space for new or returning clients to join the small group training class Monday mornings at 9:30 in Pico Robertson.

As we enter summer and some of my long-time regular clients take extended vacations overseas or take breaks from training to run mommy camp with their kids I will have more flexibility in scheduling and more openings for new private clients. So, if you are thinking about private or group training with me this summer, it is just around the corner. Please be in touch so I can let you know what spaces will be available in May and June when I will likely have the ability to take on more clients and you can have a regular time slot.

As always, feel free to send me any fitness-related questions.


Intermittent Fasting Q+A

Esther Sara asks if Intermittent fasting is successful, helpful, and how long it took to see a difference.

Here’s my answer:2018clock

Basic background:

Intermittent fasting/IF is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting (though water is typically allowed) and non-fasting. Intermittent fasting can be used along with calorie restriction for weight loss. Generally there are two main types- one which fasting is performed on alternate days and (the one I have seen more) which is fasting for a period of each day- usually slightly longer than the hours in which you sleep.  In other words with most calories being consumed within an 8 hour window of the day. There are many combinations and modifications of this type of eating.

How I define success:

If by successful, you mean that you feel good and you are energized, clear thinking, regulated mood and able to perform the activities of daily living including daily exercise with optimal performance (ie not hitting the proverbial wall in your training) and its something sustainable long term- as in the rest of your life and won’t get in the way of your time with family and friends and you also feel good looking in the mirror, than I would call that really successful.

If on the other hand you find that you are obsessing about food and the clock or it leads you to a binge cycle, or you expect to use this as a temporary weight loss method followed by a return to some more typical eating pattern for yourself or followed by a series of other diets and/or you aren’t performing and feeling optimal on it, I would tend to view it as a massive fail. (There is scientific data to support the view that cyclic dieting isn’t best for long term optimal health or physique).

If you are considering whether this method vs. eating 3 squares, or 3 main meals and a snack or two is better, or eating every 2-4 hours is better for optimal health and performance or even for weight loss….I think the scientific data I have read is far from conclusive.

This eating plan is generally frowned upon for children by the medical community and that’s enough to give me pause.  

There’s no way someone else can answer how long it would take for you to see a change in physique (despite the heavy marketing you may have seen) since there are many unknowns including your baseline metabolism, dieting history, and how many calories from what types of foods you plan to consume, and whether you plan to exercise. Keep in mind, there’s nothing to say you will be happier, healthier or more attractive from rapid weight loss. Most times clients engage in short term rapid weight loss, they experience a boomerang effect of long term increased set point, slower metabolism and more difficulty losing weight. In fact if you are thinking about severe caloric restriction as a weight loss plan I urge you to have a discussion with a Registered Dietitian, a Mental Health Professional, and a Physician who can properly advise you.
The Jewish Context:

In a Jewish context, we encounter situations regularly in which eating is restricted and where fasting for spiritual purposes is practiced or simply situations where one is required to wait.  In fact, even within regional groups we see differences in how long one restricts consumption of meat after milk. In some regions it was typically 1 hour and in others it was 4 and yet others approximately 6.  Part of this has to do with how many meals were typically consumed in a day. People do different things based on their custom and lifestyle and region.


Humans are amazingly versatile omnivores designed for survival. Can I suggest looking inside to what suits your family and lifestyle and tuning into your body to find what works best for you long term. Find what is showing your body love and respect for its needs and what makes it feel and perform optimally. Know that there are many different ways for different people to eat and there are many paths to optimal health.  



The Women’s Locker Room Pep Talk I’ll Never Forget

A Women’s Locker Room Talk I’ll Never Forget

I was in the women’s locker room at my local  budget gym a few years ago and witnessed a conversation between two women I will never forget. One was in her mid to late 40s. Polished nails, trendy hair style, good complexion, taut firm skin, toned body, balanced posture, taking off her spandex and stepping into a matching bra and panty set.The other, a gray-haired woman in her 60’s, overweight, hunched posture, with belly rolls peeking out from her halfway pulled down one piece swimsuit. Looking spent from her aqua aerobics class, the older heavier woman was longingly examining the younger lady. Feeling her gaze, the younger toned woman turned to smile back at her.

“If I looked like you, I wouldn’t need to exercise”, said the woman in her 60s, wistfully.

“Oh, you have it wrong,”  said the woman in her late 40’s.. “It’s because I exercise that I look like this.”

Many people don’t like to exercise. (I get a personal thrill out of making exercise converts out of them, but I digress.) A lot of these people nevertheless will stick with exercise long enough to see results. However, the only way to maintain those results is by continuing to exercise.

Muscle strength decreases with just two weeks off of pumping iron and cardiovascular strength diminishes in just two days! That’s also why it’s really hard to see results after the occasional workout. It needs to be regular and consistent, as a lifestyle. Forever. Not only that, but it must be challenging to your system to make the kind of change you can see.

So as much as I think movement in general is beneficial; picking up the kids’ legos, parking farther from the entrance, and taking the stairs alone simply aren’t going to provide you with all the benefits (both aesthetically and in terms of health) that you probably want to see in the long run; even if they are good for your circulation and sense of self-efficacy in the short-term.

Activities like chasing toddlers across the living room, folding laundry and walking the groceries into the house are what I call exhausting. I also call them activities of daily living. Regular exercise is supposed to make these less taxing for you as your energy level increases because you are becoming more fit.  They aren’t the workout themselves.

What makes movement go from daily activity to exercise, in my book, is when your heart rate is elevated into your aerobic zone (The talk but not sing test is a nice benchmark for what your aerobic zone feels like). Even better if you could keep it in that zone for at least 10 minutes. Exercise is when your muscles have to work really hard to lift and you just might want to stop or you might have to struggle just slightly to complete the lift. Or that position you are holding still is challenging for you.

Does knowing all this make it hard to stick to an exercise routine if you don’t really like exercise? It can. That’s why it’s super important to keep trying different types of exercise until you find something you enjoy doing and then find a way to do that type often. If you can just tolerate exercise without actually liking it, you can try to find other things about the exercise experience that you do enjoy- such as the music, or the scenery, or the company, or the lack of company, or merely the feeling of accomplishment of charting it knowing its good for you (though this one tends not to work as well as the enjoyable endorphin rush at the end of the workout or any of the other tips mentioned).

Finally, now that you found something you like and you are doing it often, our body as brilliantly designed for homeostasis that it is, will adapt to that and stop giving you results at a certain point. You will plateau. To make more changes you will need to change it up- in duration, intensity or with another type of exercise. The good news is, by the time you reach that point, there’s a good chance you are already a regular exerciser.


Just Breathe

Just Breathe

 You probably heard that breathing is important during exercise. Maybe  your aerobics instructor cued you to breathe or your karate instructor told you to exhale as you kick or your yoga teacher wanted you to breathe into a stretch. Maybe you are thinking it’s a bunch of hogwash and of course you’re breathing or you wouldn’t be exercising, you’d be dead…So why all the reminders?

Breathing correctly not only ensures you can get a better workout, but keeps you safe too. If you hold your breath during exercise or breathe too rapidly, you can suffer ill effects.

If you hold your breath while exerting yourself in weightlifting, doing abdominal exercises (your bodyweight) or just shoveling snow and other strenuous activities, even healthy individuals can possibly experience slowed heart rate, dizziness, or even fainting. Those predisposed to heart disease could experience irregular heart rhythms and more serious consequences…all because of the changes inside the body which can interrupt blood flow. To avoid this issue, breathe in and out at a normal pace. Exhale when lifting the weight (contracting the muscle) or exerting yourself and inhale when at rest or releasing the weight.

On the flip side, I have sometimes see individuals or even fitness instructors breath too heavily or cue breathing every few seconds and normally conditioned people could get dizzy or have other consequences of over- ventilating. Keep in mind when an instructor asks that you breathe into a stretch for instance, this is an indication that you should relax into the stretch, not hyperventilate…breathing slowly and exhaling while deepening the stretch is common in yoga.

Breathing can also be used to assess how hard you are working. For instance the talk but not sing test is a good indication your breathing is right on track for a moderate exertion level. If you can carry on a conversation with ease, or sing well, you are not working hard enough but if you are working so hard you cannot catch your breath you may be working too hard.

If you experience shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, chest pain and/or coughing, you should consult your Dr. These may be symptoms of exercise-induced asthma.

Take a deep breath, now exhale. Feel less stressed? Not yet? Then go work out.