Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Our Yummy Dinner

Oh my, we had such a yummy dinner tonight. I had to share:

Doesn't that look delicious? Let me tell you, it WAS. Yum! The best part is that the recipes are all from barre people. See how they look out for us? Love that.

The main dish was Bacon-wrapped Salmon with Balsamic Glaze from Leah Sarago. You can find the recipe on Leah's site here. Honestly, the recipe is pretty easy, but it looks really fancy. So make it next time you're having people over because they'll think you're Julia Child. The Darling Son #1 doesn't even like fish all that much, but he likes this. Quoth he: "I only like fish when it has this yummy sauce." Leah's site has some other great recipes, including a turkey chili that is the Darling Husband's all time fave.

Oven-roasted Broccoli: yes, the broccoli was roasted. That's brilliant. Really, I roast vegetables all the time, but somehow it never occurred to me to roast broccoli. This one is from the Pure Barre website. You can find the recipe here. The DH even went back for seconds... on BROCCOLI. That's a first when there's been bacon involved. 

Lastly, the baked sweet potato is from the Physique 57 book. It's your basic baked sweet potato, but they have you rub the outside with olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt, which makes the skin nice and crispy. And really, the skin is where a lot of the good stuff is, so if you can incentivize sweet-potato-skin-eating, you're performing a public service. 

By the way, the Physique 57 book is awesome. There are many great recipes and the paperback edition includes a 30 minute DVD with segments compiled from the Volume 2 DVDs. It's a great way to try my favorite workout of all time, otherwise known as The Workout Holy Grailtm.

Normally I wouldn't make such a special dinner on a Wednesday, but the DH is finally home from a long trip so I thought I'd keep the Trader Joe's frozen lasagne on ice for another night. 

Highly recommend all these great recipes! Bon appetit!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reader Question: What to do about the 'Mummy Tummy'? Part 1

Last summer, the Duchess of Cambridge made headlines for not only birthing the boy third in line to the British throne, but also leaving the hospital wearing a dress that showcased her one-day-post-partum midsection.

Not all that goes on in a mother's middle is exclusively baby. Kate won praise around the globe for being willing to show that everything doesn't go back to flat immediately after the little tyke is born. 

But many mothers are very distressed to find that months (or even years) after, things... well... just aren't the same. Last week I heard from three readers looking for ways to deal with their post-baby waists, and so I've been doing some exhaustive internet researchtm. It's actually turning out to be quite an in-depth topic, so I'm going to have to make it into a series. My first series! I feel like I'm growing as a blogger. 

 Before I continue, however, I would like to review with you my certifications and credentials:

.... {awkward silence} ....

Well. That was quick! Indeed, I have neither. I am simply someone who finds food and exercise interesting and does a lot of both. (Eating food and exercising, that is.)

Ok, with disclaimers out of the way, let's discuss. Basically, your midsection goes through an awful lot to accommodate your growing baby. Lingering mummy tummies result from a combination of weakened muscle, an excess fat layer around the middle, hormonal changes, and loose skin. Today we're going to talk about...

A big reason many mothers experience a saggy middle after giving birth is loose skin. We don't think of it this way, but skin is actually an organ--the largest one in our bodies. 

Skin looses elasticity with age, and this is a particular issue for those of us who didn't have our children until our 30's or 40's. When your tummy expands to accommodate the baby, then deflates after birth, it's a lot to ask of skin within a fairly short time frame. Loose skin is also a concern for people who lose a significant amount of weight very quickly, and it is seldom addressed by TV shows and magazine articles that celebrate extreme weight loss. Those contestants on the diabolical Biggest Loser? They all have issues with loose skin--guaranteed. You can't lose 50% of your body weight in four months without having skin issues.

Many people turn to surgery to address this, but before going under the knife, let's exhaust all other options, no? One way to address this is... 

Dry Skin Brushing

What is it?
Brushing your dry skin before a shower stimulates the lymphatic system. This is basically your body's drainage system, and it turns out that 1/4 of your body's detoxification occurs through the skin. Crazy, huh? The simple habit of brushing your dry skin facilitates this essential component of the circulatory system. It can improve skin tone and circulation and helps to reduce cellulite. Yay! 

How do you do it?
Use a natural, vegetable bristle brush. The bristles should be fairly stiff. This is my brush:

I think I bought it at a Whole Foods market for around $10. You can also find them at drug stores and on Amazon... along with anything else you might ever want. I kind of wish I had gotten one with a hand strap and detachable handle, but I was too cheap. Live and learn...

Begin at your feet and brush toward your heart in long, fluid strokes. Do not brush 'back and forth.' The strokes should be long and sweeping, moving toward your heart. Move up your body the same way. For your arms, start at the back of your hand and brush up the arm. Don't forget to extend the motion into the armpit, even if it tickles a little.

For your tummy, lightly brush counter-clockwise. (Try patting your head at the same time and singing 'I'm a little teapot' for an extra challenge.)

Your strokes should be light--it might feel slightly uncomfortable at first, but it generally produces a little tingly sensation. If your skin is sensitive, try adjusting the pressure of your strokes before resorting to a softer brush. Your skin should not be red or irritated long afterwards. Do NOT brush over cuts, rashes, Poison Ivy or other skin owies. 

I actually suspended my brushing routine during the very cold winter months because I quite frankly didn't want to be naked any longer than absolutely necessary, but now that we're up to a balmy 40 degrees, I'm back at it.

The great thing about dry skin brushing is that it seriously takes about 20 seconds. I do it while I wait for the water to heat up in the shower. The time and effort is really minimal. 

The Caveat: This needs to be a habit--please don't try it for three days and then tell me your skin hasn't snapped back like a rubber band. You really need to keep it up for at least a month to experience the benefits. Honestly, it's just part of my routine now. I brush my teeth, I brush my hair, I brush my skin, I brush crumbs off the table, etc. In the meantime, you'll notice brushing also serves to slough off dead skin cells, so your skin will be softer and smoother, too. Who doesn't want that?

In part 2, we'll discuss other fixes for the mummy tummy. In the meantime, happy brushing!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Best of the Barre Crawl!

I had a post full of deep thoughts ready to go, but then I decided since it's St. Patrick's Day I'd write about my barre crawl and Irish people. Somehow it seemed more festive. And it goes better with beer.

So I got up bright and early on Saturday (3.30am, to be precise.) I had a wicked head cold and I couldn't breathe. I tried to fall back to sleep. I couldn't. Not an auspicious way to start a barre crawl, but what can you do? It was too late to turn back. So I got on the bus.

First stop: West 73rd St, Mat class with Neil. High on coffee and Dayquil. This is Neil:

Oh my, Neil is *SO* funny. He had us all laughing while inflicting a fair degree of pain. The nice thing about Mat, though, is you get to lie down some. While doing hard things, but at least you get to be on the floor. Mat is a good class to take when you've been up since 3.30. FYI.

Thoroughly enjoyed the class, left with lalalas and headed off through Central Park to 57th Street for a Mixed level with Sarah

Did she mean it to be wicked hard? I mean, like way harder than most mixed-level classes? Or was it the head cold? Or the 3.30am? Or the fact that we had just done Mat? Because it was wicked hard. Wicked. Hard. I was almost a little delirious when it was over. But I still managed to smile for a picture with Sarah: 

One thing that got me through the class was the very fun playlist of Irish music. Irish people are good at music. Whoever said music gets you through hard stuff is right. Maybe James Joyce said that? No. Can't be him otherwise it would have been a much longer run-on sentence you know we're having lasagne for dinner tonight not very festive but we're not Irish.

Anyway, by this point I was completely spent, so thankfully the next class was a stretch. By that, I mean a Stretch Class with Holly at Spring St. During which we stretched to more Irish music. This is Holly:
Isn't she cute?

The stretching was nice, but I was cold by the time I got there and a little cranky. I blame it on 3.30. But I did win a raffle prize! So that was fun. And they gave us green juice. And Kind granola bars along the way, which were super yummy... and I think there were oats in them, which is kind of Irish-y, no? I'd post a picture but I ate them. (The Kind bars... not the picture.)

Then I skulked down to the Darling Cousin's place and collapsed on her couch, thus. We ordered Indian take-away and I vegged in my new, hard earned t-shirt. I thought vegging kept with the theme because most vegetables are green.

I normally don't do a whole lot for St. Patrick's Day since, as previously noted, I don't really self-identify as Irish. Though practically everyone is a little bit Irish. My Chinese Darling Husband thinks he's probably the exception to the rule, but I don't know... that would explain why we have a blue-eyed son.

So yes, I survived my first barre crawl. And I actually felt pretty good yesterday--just pleasantly sore, which is better than I expected. A friend said she wanted to come with me next time, so I told her to start training! Because the next time it's offered, I'm crawling back for more.

Friday, March 7, 2014

I Have a Skin-over-Bone to Pick with Lindsey Vonn

About a month ago, American skier Lindsey Vonn participated in a benefit fashion show for cardiac health. Vonn took to the catwalk in a fetching red frock. On crutches.

Vonn was on crutches, because last year she fractured her tibia, among other owwies. She exacerbated those injuries in December, rendering her unable to participate in the Winter Games at Sochi. Which is very sad for Vonn and I feel for her. To put in all that work and not be able to go the Olympics... That's a wicked bummer.

Vonn's appearance made headlines, not for the crutches, rather because of disparaging comments she made about professional fashion models. She said,

"It may look good in a magazine but it's not actually healthy. And girls who are that skinny are actually fat. You can see the cellulite on their legs and on their butts," she said. "You know I have cellulite too but I go to the gym and I try to eat healthy. I think that's a better model for girls to look up to than skinny people who need to eat more."

Oh dear.... where do I start? {clearing throat... Rant: enter stage left} I see her point, but I get really frustrated when women pick on each other. Vonn's comments reminded of a Middle School girls' locker room. "OMG, did you see that skinny girl's cellulite?!" It's just not kind. It's not helpful. And it's not fair.

She added, "I've been to a lot of photo shoots and I see these girls that are just really thin. They're not healthy. They don't work out. Health — that's one of the reasons I am out tonight. Just in general staying active and being healthy is important," Vonn said.

Umm... is anyone else finding it ironic that a woman on crutches, who has enough hardware in her body to set off the airport metal detectors from the parking lot, is really the best person to be getting preachy about health? Yes, there are different ways to define 'healthy,' but a big reason I exercise is hopefully to avoid having to install one of these when I'm old:

I would find it hard to believe that Vonn's myriad injuries from her physically punishing sport aren't going to have long-term consequences on her health and well-being. I recognize there's a difference between skiing hard and trying to whittle yourself away to almost nothing (assuming that's what models are doing), but it's the fashion industry that needs to take the heat. I can't get behind slamming the models themselves.

Indeed, there are some alarming reports coming out of the fashion world--stories of models thinking it's perfectly normal to faint from hunger, editors admitting to having used Photoshop to plump up hollowed cheeks, soften visible ribs, add color to wan skin. This is what best showcases designer clothes? Really??

I wish the models would all say, "Bag this, let's get a pizza," but many of them won't, because they know there are thousands of eager, hungry girls (and yes, I mean girls) waiting in the wings to take their place. They're just doing what they have to do to be successful.

In the same way, winning skiing gold medals at the Olympics requires a certain all-out-leave-nothing-on-the-slopes kind of performance. And that can spell injury. I get that. She's doing what it takes to be successful at what she does. Which is skiing. And the 'skinny fat' models are doing what it takes to be successful at what they do. Which is modeling. 

I'm not justifying starvation, but why not call out the industry as a whole, instead of the models? If the editors, the designers, the Fashion Week organizers said, "Enough. We're not doing this anymore. We're taking things in a different direction," there would be change. But until then, the models are just doing it what it takes to win runway shows and magazine spreads. Just like Lindsey Vonn does what it takes to get down the mountain as fast as she can. They may have more in common than they think.


Ok, so those are enough deep thoughts for the day. In other news, I'm travelling to NYC on Saturday, March 15th to participate in Physique 57's Barre Crawl! Yes, people, a class at each of Physique's three NYC studios. Before you (and I) completely freak out, the last one is a stretch class. Still, I'll be doing a Mat and Mixed-level back-to-back.

I'll be Instagramming photos throughout the day, so follow me @momsatthebarre to see my first ever selfie! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Latest Barre Crawl and the Science Behind the Lalas!

I'm sick. I'm a sick woman. I know this. Last month, I drove three hours to Scarsdale, NY to use my free Physique 57 class. People thought I was nuts, especially since I paid the cost of the class in gas and tolls, but I didn't care. I couldn't pass up a free class. And in my economy, it was totally worth it.

Well, I did it again. Except this time, I dragged my entire family from San Diego to Los Angeles to go to Physique 57 Beverly Hills!
I think I've mentioned that I'm on a pilgrimmage to visit all of Physique's studios. I've hit all three in Manhattan, the one in Scarsdale and now LA. All I have left is Bridgehampton and DUBAI. Right--the one in the Middle East. I'm not sure that's ever going to happen, unless I start entering travel contests.

As an East Coaster, I forget that everything isn't as close together on the West Coast as it is here. I live in Massachusetts. You can get from one end of the state to the other in three hours. Tops. I figured San Diego and LA are not only both in California, they're in southern California. How far apart could they be? I mean, really?

Two hours and forty-five minutes, actually, plus traffic, which in SoCal is notorious. My Darling Husband actually consented to spend an entire day of our vacation for this. We left at 7am and got back to San Diego at 4.30pm. (We stopped for meals. And potty breaks.) He took the small people to the Beverly Hills post office while I got my sweat on. The DH is a wonderful man. And I am insane.

But it was totally worth it!! LALALALA!!!!

The whole thing was wonderful, from friendly Michelle at the front desk to the final stretch, I loved it. I signed up for a mixed level with Chloe. It was awesome!! She was awesome. The pushups, the waterski, the flat-back chair, the thigh dancing, it was all awesome!

All of this contributed to major post-barre lalas, which is just Stephanie-speak for endorphins. Really, I get the most extraordinary endorphin rush from a good barre workout--more than any other type of exercise I have ever done in my life. And I've done lots of different kinds of exercise. This led me to wonder... what is it about barre? Why are the lalas sooo intense? So I did a little bit of my world-famous exhaustive internet

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About the Lalas

Endorphins are chemicals that your body produces as a response to certain stimuli. Food and sex are a couple of the more pleasant prompts for endorphin production, but another initiator is pain. Your body will stimulate an endorphin response to ease pain. In fact, many women who have natural childbirths say it hurt--a LOT--but they experienced absolute euphoria immediately afterwards. I wouldn't know because I took the drugs, but that's what I'm told.

In exercise terms, endorphin production has been found to be highest in anaerobic activities--those that get you to seriously suck wind. Researchers have found that light-to-moderate exercise does not produce endorphins. I'm not saying light exercise doesn't have benefits--it just won't give you lalas.

Obviously, you want to seek out the good pain--the burning, the shaking, the quaking--to get your lala fix. Sharp pain is not your friend, so please stop if you feel bad pain. But don't be afraid of the burn/shake/quake. That's where the lalas live. It's a very happy place! Once I get there I'm so blissed out... it's beautiful, and I love it there. The only problem is the amount of energy I have to expend to ensure I haven't left my phone, my keys, my wallet, etc. I would be a very easy target for the Artful Dodger and his minions after a toasty barre class, and my visit to Physique 57 Beverly Hills was no exception.
With the small people in the lobby after class. Don't I look happy? Lalala!

The other really fun thing about this class was my barre-mate--none other than Fox sportscaster Erin Andrews, who is a huge Physique fan.
Erin appeared in one of Physique's online videos. She's their it-girl, and it kind of rounded out my whole crazy Physique 57 love-fest. I think Erin must have a very fun life. She lives near a Physique studio, she was in a video, and she had great seats at Fenway when the Sox won the World Series.

Of course, I marched right up to her at the end and introduced myself. I figured if we got all sweaty together, the least we could do is have a little chat. I've become very bold since I had children. My small people are very friendly and will talk to anyone. In fact, they accosted poor Chloe on the way out and told her all about the post office.

Erin and I gushed about our love for founder Tanya Becker and all things Physique. Lalala... the endorphins were flowing freely and all was right with the world.
"Look Mommy! We need to go to Bridgehampton next. I bet they have a post office."

Or maybe, Dubai? How do you say 'lalala' in arabic??