An Open Letter to My Little Sister

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Dear Sister:

 

I bet I’m the millionth person to tell you this, but I’m going to say it anyway.  You are gorgeous. Like, ridiculously gorgeous. Beyond that, you are creative, thoughtful, and always ready to try something that interests you. Your capacity to deeply feel anything and everything is admirable, and something that I have never been able to do.  

 

Soon you will be 20 years old.   This is a big deal. It is also insane to me, because I remember the day you were born.  I wanted to wear my favorite dress the day I met you.  It was a real gem. 

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I know that I’ve always been a little overbearing and demanding.  When we were younger, I would have really specific scripts that we had to follow when we played Barbies or American Girl dolls, or even when we were pretending we could ski in the swimming pool in the back yard.  Thanks for dealing with my neuroticism from a young age.  Thanks also for dealing with constant need to show affection.  I promise it all comes from a place of love. 

 

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Anyway, if you are online at all EVER, or have seen any movies about 20somethings, you may think that your 20s are all about living it up, having a blast, and trying new things. I would agree with that. Your 20s are a gift—and a fun one at that.  However, your 20s are also when you begin to have all sorts of responsibilities and consequences, and are learning to really be a “grown-up.” There’s that side too, or at least there was for me. 

 

So here I sit, thinking about what I wish I would have known when I was in your shoes—just a few (ok slightly more than just a few) years ago.  They are things that I still stand by and strive to remember, and I’d love to share them with you.

 

1. Remember you aren’t bulletproof.  Consider your health. Create a habit that you can keep up with forever… or at least until something comes along you love even more and makes you feel good. Find a healthy stress reliever and do it every day. Sleep a reasonable amount of time. Move every day. Occasionally sit around and have FRIENDS or Gilmore Girls marathons, because laughter is good for the soul.

 

2. Don’t stop learning.  You might not have a final at the end of the semester, but keep your brain active.  Read a book that makes you think.  Read the newspaper so you know what is going on around you.  If you’re curious about how something works, or how something came into being, research it.  If there is something at your job you do not understand, find a way to learn about it. When you stop learning, you stop improving yourself.

 

3. Do something that terrifies you.  I mean, seriously puts you into an almost panic attack. Move to a new city.  Take the plunge and take a job that is going to be a challenge.  This world is a huge and amazing place, and don’t let fear stop you from seeing what you want or achieving anything because you are more than capable of doing whatever you set your mind too.  Don’t be paralyzed by what may or may not happen. Get excited about the possibilities.  Hiding behind excuses of why something just won’t work will prevent you from success.  You are so much better than that, sis. Want to know a secret? I was scared to move to DC for that internship.  I was nervous that taking the job with AmeriCorps would leave me broke on the street. I thought that M was nuts that he wanted to seriously date a girl who is incapable of a serious relationship.  Sometimes things turn out better than you could ever imagine but if you don’t put on a brave face and go for it, you’ll never know.

 

4. When you absolutely hate something, finish it anyway.  I’m about to burst all of your bubbles, and I’m sorry, but as your big sister it’s my responsibility to let you know something.  Sometimes work SUCKS.  Sometimes life is HARD. Sometimes, you are going to be AWFUL at something and hate every minute of it.  However, after taking on something you truly hate and conquering it, you’ll realize that you can do anything. Also, in life, you can’t do only what you love and only what you’re good at.  Toughing it out through the tough stuff, bad times, and seriously terrible tasks makes you appreciate the good things that much more.  It also shows everyone that you can’t be stopped and won’t settle.  So, if nothing else convinces you to carry on, remember that everything has a finish line and will eventually end. You can do it, you just have to stick it out. This is a particularly hard lesson, but accepting it at the beginning saves time and heartache—I promise.

 

5. When someone shares an opinion about something that’s vastly different than yours, listen anyway. Really listen. Don’t interrupt, even if it is stupid or ridiculous, or if you just don’t like them.  Do this because someday someone will think that about your opinion, and you should be given the chance to share your thoughts then as well.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even learn something. At least you’ll have done something that is worthy of respect and falls in line with that wonderful character that you have.  It isn’t your job to change everyone’s opinion to match yours, no matter how sure you are that yours is the best out there. 

 

6. When you find something you love to do, stick with it. There will always be something that pays more or looks more glamorous. Remembering why you are somewhere helps when things get tough. A delight in life is making a difference and knowing that you are doing something that is fulfilling to you. That being said, remember you are never stuck anywhere.  If you’ve given something a lot of thought and prayer, I believe that you just know when it’s time to move on.  Don’t be afraid to do that, but make sure it’s what you really want before you give up something that you know you love to do.

 

7. There is nothing on your resume that trumps hard work. Create a reputation of being the person that gets things done. Beat deadlines.  When you’re at work, focus all of your mind and heart into what you are doing.  Ask if there is more you can do. Be honest when you are stuck or make a mistake—no one expects perfection. Fix errors that you can, accept and move on from errors you cannot control or correct.  Accept criticism with grace and openness, knowing you are not perfect.  Don’t let pride stand between you and a better, more knowledgeable self.  If you’re having a bad day, no one at work should be able to tell. Sidenote: A coffee pot in your office is a godsend and worth every penny.

 

8. Don’t burn bridges.  I credit Mrs. Callan from AP English with this. She also added that you never know who your boss will be.  She was right. Make an effort to be kind to all and show great respect to everyone you meet.  At the very least you aren’t screwing yourself out of future employment, but more than that, respecting others is a reflection of your character.  Likewise, not respecting others—no matter their actions toward you—is a reflection of your own poor character.

 

9. When you don’t know the answer, ask someone who does.  No one expects you to know everything.  This piece of advice is something that I learned from experience, when I wish I would have learned it in theory first. So much time and effort and dignity is saved when you can just admit you don’t know. The result is two-fold: 1. You learn something and won’t have to keep asking.  2.  You probably would screw it up if you just guessed, so save yourself having to do something over again. There is no shame in needing help.

 

10. You are not “too good” for any task. Remember your roots.  Even as you get promoted to the highest heights, as I’m sure you will, remember that you are a person, the same as everyone else on this planet.  There is nothing that you’re “too good” to do.  That pride is dangerous and that attitude is obvious to everyone.  You are not entitled to anything in life, and the sooner you realize that, the more successful you will be.

 

 

Oh, and always remember to call mom at least once a week. I still think she knows everything. The number one blessing of being in our family is knowing you have a support system always—no matter what.  Leggings are never a substitute for pants, unless you’re wearing a long top that covers your butt or it’s an 80s party or you’re running a marathon.  When your friend asks if she looks fat and she does, say the outfit just isn’t her color or style. Don’t date drummers; it’s a cliché for a reason. Have a designated driver or a cab ALWAYS- NO EXCUSES! Even though I know you won’t be having sex until you’re 40 and married, just know condoms are non-negotiable.  Have daddy go with you to help pick out your first apartment so he can check out how everything works. Have mom go with you to make sure you’ll have everything you need, because she thinks of everything.

 

And I love you tons.

 

xoxo,

 

Aly  

Hi. My Name is Aly, and I’m a Recovering Bride

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Remember that girlfriend that you had in high school that just dropped off the face of the planet when she got a boyfriend?  You used to look forward hanging out together all the time and then she went and got all self-involved, so you were all, “Screw her, I don’t need that!”

I’m that friend, or at least I have definitely been that friend for the past few months. So sorry, please forgive my negligence.  July 13th I tied the knot with the love of my life and have been absent from all of my favorite activities because I was in Bride Mode. It has ended, and I am back and more motivated than EVER!

Please indulge me, as I know this portion of my post is not directly fitness-related.  However, mental sanity is a necessity. Do not take it for granted. And so, for some of you upcoming bride (and grooms/families of brides and grooms/friends and saints who put up with them), I’ve compiled a list of things that I found were key for having a joyous day instead of wanting to have a diva Bridezilla attack on everyone and everything in sight.

  1. Remember that this glorious day you have waited for your whole life is basically a big party. If things go awry, I swear it’s not the end of the world.  People are excited and rooting for you, so try not to have a panic attack. It rained on the day of my outdoor wedding, and you know what? We had a wonderful day anyway. Just be sure to have backup arrangements.
  2.  Be clear on the guest list and make sure everyone else in the wedding party and family is too. You can’t invite everyone that you’ve ever met, unless you have unlimited resources and time. We had a guest limit imposed by our venue, and wanted a more intimate wedding.  It was probably the most stressful part of the wedding to try to enforce the guest list that my husband and I had decided on, and I’m sure some feelings were hurt. However, at the end of the day this is about the Bride and Groom, and if others don’t like it, bummer for them.  Don’t let anyone bring you down. I was lucky enough to have a groom that didn’t care to take care of awkward situations like this in my corner.
  3. Take time to be alone with your new spouse for a few minutes during the reception or right after the ceremony.  After your ceremony, you’re essentially a celebrity for the next few hours. Everyone wants to take a picture with you and talk to you. It’s fabulous—but the few moments my husband and I were able to steal a few unwatched kisses and be giddy about the fact we would be together forever were priceless.
  4. Splurge on your photographer. You spend all this time and money making sure everything is exactly how you have imagined. It was imperative to me that we hire someone who could make everything as visually beautiful as the memories in my mind.  A special thanks to my dear friend Daniel and his company, Michael Bordeaux Photography. Pick someone with whom you are comfortable and someone whose style you love.
  5. Pick attendants that will actually be helpful. My girls and his guys were INCREDIBLE and helpful with anything that we needed.  They talked me down from my minor panic attack, and planned him one heck of a bachelor party. This is always a tough call when you’re trying not to hurt feelings.  We each chose three of our very closest friends who we knew would have our best interest at heart.
  6. Eat. ‘Nuff said.

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Ok that’s all I’ll harp on the whole wedding planning thing. As far as my adventures in fitness, I have absolutely been slacking due to wedding palooza. Yesterday I went back to the boxing club for the first time in FIVE WEEKS and I’m absolutely feeling it today. I think I’ll never be able to move my shoulders again—in a good way! It is thrilling to be back into something I love that makes me feel good (or will soon).  Getting back to it is intense, but it reminds me how much better I feel afterward. Performing horrifically last night has been the best motivator now to get back into my old healthy routines.  I forget how good my body is designed to feel and am looking forward to getting back to a more fit me. More to come, folks.

No for real, I swear.

Cheers!

Aly’s Favorite Things Episode!

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Get excited. Get hyped. Are you ready? YOU GET A CAR!! YOU GET A CAR!! WE’RE ALL GETTING CARS!!!!!

 Nope just kidding, sorry.  You really should get excited, though. Below you will find all of my favorite things that have led me to success in the past. I hope they help you out, as they have me!

Food

Favorite Healthy Dessert: Don’t be alarmed. This is no lie. These flourless AND butterless brownies are to die for, not to mention are high fiber and actually nutritious. Give ’em a try! 

Meatless Dinner: These quesadillas leave you full and happy. M loves these too, so I swear they are fella-approved. 

Meat Dinner: I think that this is the meal that made M propose. No doubt one of his all-time favorites, so I had to include it. I love it too! 

Munchies: Game time food at its best. Seriously, they are better than the original full-fat full of crap version.  

Gear

iPhone app (Android too!):  I love this running trainer! It’s fun having someone tell you what to do and you can jam to your favorite songs.  Like my favorite PUMP UP JAM!!! 

 Gym Bag: Ladies, they have thought of EVERYTHING. Sorry guys, this is girl-specific. There’s a place for your curling iron/straightener, dirty clothes, shoes–yep, everything.  

Headband: No-slip.  This piece of genius will stay with you throughout your whole workout and not slide around or fall off your head.   

 Jacket: CRAZY flattering, thumb holes so your sleeves stay in place, reflectors so you don’t get hit by a car, wicks sweat off so that guy you’re hitting on in your class will think you actually don’t sweat more than he does. Look at you, sexy thang! 

 Tank: It tricks you into thinking you’re only wearing a sports bra but you don’t have to actually only wear a sports bra. Genius. I have like every color. LOVELOVELOVE. 

Shorts: I’ve talked about these already, but they are just THAT good. Shorts under shorts, these move with you and cover your ass…ets. 

 Sneakers: Comfy, just enough support, and super light.  AND they’re pink!  

Just for fun…

Best Yoga Video ever: True life.  

White Wine 

 Red Wine

 

 Workout Resources

Yoga: http://www.myyogaonline.com/

 Lifting: http://www.bodybuilding.com/

 Running: http://skinnyrunner.com/

 

Enjoy! Cheers!  

 

 

 

You’re Overcookin’ My Grits, Coach

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True confession time. I didn’t get up and do yoga today. I slept in. My alarm went off and M rolled over and said, “Babe, aren’t you going to do yoga?” I scowled at him as though he made a most ridiculous suggestion, rolled over, and grunted no as I reset my alarm 45 minutes later.

You know what? I think I was much more tired than if I would have just gotten up and done it. The extra sleep was so not worth it! I could kick myself!

Here’s the thing—I think yoga is hard. I really, really do.  It does challenge my strength, but the activities I love and look forward to do that. I’m used to pushing myself when it comes to strengthening my body. I love that challenge and the feeling of sore muscles repairing themselves.

There are two things that kill me with yoga. The first is that I am super inflexible. You know how giraffes are kind of awkward when they try to bend? I feel such kinship with them.  I’m 5’11” (and a half). My toes are really far away….

Even after a hard workout where my muscles got all nice and warm and pliable, I am just not flexible. Because of my lack of ability in this area, I’m having a hard time enjoying it. I feel like a new girl all over again, after I have worked so hard to achieve a higher level of fitness.

The second is my mind’s inability to focus with its multi-tasking default setting, which I’ve gone over before.  Why do I have to think about twelve things at once? I won’t belabor that point because I really haven’t had any major breakthroughs to share.

What this whole new routine reminds me of is the familiar feeling of utter frustration and contempt from when I first started working out. Every activity felt like a huge undertaking. A mile was climbing Everest—there is no way you’re making me go that far! Pushing that prowler was like taking on a semi truck.  Don’t even get me started on a pushup—are you trying to get me to hold the world on my shoulders? I was heaving after jogging for one minute. ONE MINUTE! And the word “jogging” is very generous for the relatively quick walk I was doing. Why was everything so hard???

Previously, I discussed the need to work harder and push yourself if you want to see results. How your body trains itself to tolerate strenuous activity is truly incredible. I’m trying to remind myself that this won’t be so hard soon.  I remember this epiphany I had while I was working out one day with Jackson, my fabulous and wonderful former trainer.

The activity isn’t getting any easier; I’m just getting better. I am able to tolerate it more. Jogging for a minute is the same level of difficulty as it was a year ago, the only difference is me. I’m different. There is very real, very tangible proof of progress.

One of the greatest exercises I did was after I’d lost about 50 lbs.  Jackson had me do the stairs with a 50-pound vest on.  It was a challenge that made me realize just how far I had come.  My body had become so much lighter and more efficient. I totally recommend doing an exercise like that no matter how much progress you have made just so you can really feel what you’ve achieved.

Keeping this in mind as I aim to improve my struggles with flexibility and strength of mind through yoga is a source of inspiration for me.  These feelings are familiar.  I will get stronger. Everything is hard at first. Discipline, baby! Well, I’m working on it…

Cheers!

Because Sometimes I Need a Little Kick in the Keister

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Have you ever wondered why they call exercising “working out”?  I’m no etymologist, but I do notice that the word “work” is inside of it.

Webster’s Dictionary defines work…ok, just kidding. Dictionary.com defines work as “Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something.” Exertion? Effort? Ugh. I thought that I heard I could just walk around the park a couple times and the weight will just melt off.

I apologize if you feel like I’m saying something that is just too obvious that it insults your intelligence, but I figure that if this took some learning for me, maybe someone out there needs to hear it.  You are not going to lose a substantial amount of weight from a leisurely stroll around the park once a week. You are not going to lose it by parking further back in the parking lot.  You are not going to lose it by taking the stairs to your second-floor dentist appointment every six months.

Changing your body requires work.  Real work. Sweating, groaning, some serious intensity, and probably some cussing. That lesson was a hard one for me, because I read articles with titles like, “Ten Easy Steps to Weight Loss,” or “Six Easy Things to Do For a Six-Pack.”  I’ve found that anything with “easy” in the title is code for ineffective. Getting in shape is an entire lifestyle change, and there’s nothing easy about it.

There’s a saying that’s all over the Internet to which I absolutely subscribe. You may recognize it because it’s at the top of this post. Or perhaps you’ve gone on the Pinterest “Health and Fitness” category page in the past six months. Or attended one of those inspiration work conferences.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

It feels like common sense, right? But somehow, I spent several months just moving along on that treadmill feeling a false sense of accomplishment. I don’t mean to be a treadmill hater, it’s just that I didn’t challenge myself at all when I was jogging on it for months, and it was a huge discouragement.  If you’re not sore the next day, or at the very least if you’re really not even sweating and breathing hard, why bother?

That’s great for you. But shouldn’t it just kind of happen for me?

I think that we live in a time now where people (clearly myself included) believe everything should just happen for us.  This sense of entitlement permeates our consciousness. Things should be easy; life should be simple.  The idea of learning to relish a challenge left much to be desired for me at first.

My mind’s cure for this was the joy I got from taking on a challenge and coming out on the other end stronger—in the area of fitness, I mean that literally. Life isn’t easy, and neither is changing habits. If you’re going to succeed, you need to accept that you can’t do the same things you’re doing now and expect a different result.

There’s another big secret to losing weight that is basically the same sentiment.  By secret, I mean common sense idea that I took a while to pick up on.  

 Work harder. If you’re not getting results, you’re not working hard enough.

 The concept is so simple.  Step it up.  Don’t fake it. Try something new. Pick up something heavy. Punch something heavy. Hold yourself up. Run—really run. Ride your bike up hills. Make yourself go longer.  Make yourself go faster. Make yourself go heavier. Put more weight on that prowler. Throw on a weighted vest. Hike up something tall. Push yourself. Get the word “can’t” out of your mind, because it’s really just a substitute for “won’t try”. You’re better than that.

Not into it? Think it’s just too hard? That’s fine. The only person you’re cheating is yourself.

 

 

Mini Yoga Update:

Still on board. Still waking up to do it. Still the first week. Not a whole lot of change to share. I’ll keep you posted!

A Bit of a Group Class Slut

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I have three loves in life right now. One is my man, the love of my life. Second is my job. However, I have a very close third. My most recent group class.  It’s a new love, and perhaps we are still at that fling stage, but I see our relationship lasting a long time.

Before I reveal this obsession, I feel the need to take you through my previous relationships. Remember how I said that I hated working out at the beginning of everything? Exercise was not my friend.  Well, when we became close acquaintances, I went through several group class phases.  Group classes have been great motivators for me, and if you feel like you need an extra push to get your butt to the gym, this may just be a good opportunity for you!

Channeling Shiva Rea

First was the yoga phase. There was a lot of stretching and strengthening. I am still incredibly fond of yoga, and I’m glad we were together. One of these days I’m going to master the crow. It’s a life goal. My fiancé appreciates the extra flexibility…;) What I didn’t expect was how tough it is! Seriously, have you tried to hold some of these poses?

Jillian Michaels says it best with her little catch phrase

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I believe yoga has enhanced my flexibility and strength, and love the calmness and piece of mind. I admit, however, one of the huge challenges for me is being still. Any advice in this area would be totally helpful. So as I continue to improve this skill, I needed an outlet.

 Channeling Jennifer Lopez

Trends make me curious. I’ve read Twilight, used to rock some saddle shoes, once was stylin’ with a bob, and am unhealthily manic over Harry Potter. Fitness trends are the same for me—I just have to try something!

Enter Zumba.  To this day, I’m not sure why I thought I’d be good at this. I’m a white girl with a predominately German heritage, accompanied by splashes of Irish and British. Zumba ain’t no folk dance and sure isn’t a river dance. I also can’t down a beer when I do it, so really there wasn’t much hope.

I’ll be damned if it wasn’t one of the most fun group classes I’ve attended, even if I lack some rhythm. The atmosphere was like a sweaty dance party. Loved it! I know I’ve mentioned the Zumba Core Kinect game, and it is the bomb, but a group class is great for Zumba! The people put it over the top.

Negative Nancy moment—I just wasn’t seeing the results I wanted from the dance parties. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun cardio and I got really sweaty, but I needed something more out of a class. Perhaps something to challenge my muscles as well as get my heart pumping.

Clouds Parted. Angels Sang.

You know that moment when you try doing something and it just works? When I met M, he could crack a joke, carry on a conversation, and watch a good football game with me. It fit. It worked. I just knew I had something great.  When I started working at the nonprofit for which I’m currently directing Communications, I fell in love with the programs, the people we serve, and my coworkers.

That was my experience upon entering TITLE Boxing Club. When I slipped on my first pair of boxing gloves and went at that 100lb bag, I knew that this was something I wanted to keep doing.

What do I love so much? The three-minute rounds of high-intensity cardio with active rests that I could work up to completing. The conditioning in the first part of class. The hardcore ab shredder at the end of class. And the atmosphere: welcoming, fun, challenging, and a true learning experience each class, as I work to correct my form and hit harder.  I can’t recommend it enough. There are athletes and non-athletes at every level who attend, and I’ve heard nothing but excellent feedback from others as well.

Oh, also—I swear I’m not getting paid for this total plug, mostly because like 10 people are reading my blog;) Thanks guys! Anyone have something that they just fell in love with doing? I’d love to test the waters.  Who knows, maybe there will be something to knock boxing out of first place. Pun totally intended.

Cheers!

The code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules

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I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the fitness rules I live by. Let me clear up a point for everyone: I’m not so good with rules.  While at my insanely strict college, my lack of respect for arbitrary rules got me in a bit of trouble, namely a suspension.  That’s right, I got suspended from college. It was for having an all-girl margarita night in my apartment at age 21.  I know, I know, the nerve we had in those wild college days. Such rebels.

Anyway, I know this is a repeat of what I’ve already shared: I can’t follow arbitrary rules for the sake of having rules. It’s not in my blood. This is why I struggle with random diet restrictions, strict workout plans, and ideas I find to sound nuts. It’s my life and I’d like to live it, you know?

I don’t want you to think of these as some training/nutrition expert’s gospel truth keys to success. This is what worked for me, and if it works for you that is AWESOME!  My goal with this is to share ideas that gave me results. Disagree with me? Have more? Let me know!

Tips for SUCCESS!

Lift Lift Lift: I’ve said it before; I’ll sing the praises from the rooftops. Lifting is a magical tool for badassery. Get some heavy stuff. Pick it up. It’ll change your life. You’ll have these muscles popping out and a sweet byproduct is your fat will melt off. All sans treadmill/elliptical.

Eat food: Sounds obvious? One would think.  Have you checked the labels of what you regularly consume? If the package says low fat/diet/sugar free, it’s likely whatever you’re eating is a hearty bowlful of chemicals. Try eating the real thing, but less…which conveniently brings me to my next point.

Portion control: Figuring out how much food is required to keep you full and energized is an art. Some may disagree and call it a science, but I’ve found that it takes a lot of personal discovery and testing.  I did do a lot of research on correct portion sizes, and ended up more confused than ever. List after list of eat this at this time with this…no thanks. Solution? I started by using a smaller plate and fill at least half of it with veggies and fruits.  The other half I put some kind of meat/whole grain situation. Adjust as needed.

 Eat when hungry: Don’t eat because you’re bored. Don’t eat because your boyfriend pissed you off. Eat because your body lacks energy or your tummy is growling.

Water: Drink it. Lots of it. It will make you feel full, keep you hydrated, and your skin will glow. You’ll also tend to lay off the soda and sugary juices when you focus on drinking tons of water. Nuff said.

Don’t spot train “problem areas”: You know what’s super frustrating? Doing hundreds of crunches and still be flabby. Strengthening your core is phenomenal, but don’t think that training one spot is going to cause your fat to melt away. I only say this to keep your expectations realistic. Losing fat all over your body will help your awesome muscles pop out. This also means that your boobs might shrink. It’ll be ok. I promise.

Drink red wine! I’m not actually sure that this really has helped achieve my fitness goals.  What I can say is that it clearly hasn’t hindered them, and a little red wine makes life so much better;)

I hope these have helped! If you have any you think I missed, let me know. I might not know of your genius advice yet!

Cheers!