Tag Archives: Beauty

The Lighthouse Method for Fitness and Wellness

Stacy S. Kim, PhD and author of The Lighthouse Method, helps people navigate what she calls “life junctions” or times in your life when you feel stuck, frustrated and unfulfilled. While her book and speaking engagements usually revolve around helping women revamp or launch their careers, her coaching and suggestions are excellent and can be easily applied to the fitness and wellness space. So, what is this methodology? How do you apply it in your own life to get out of a rut? How do you use it to enjoy your body and health? Let’s explore together…

Lighthouse

When people come to Stacy they are often frustrated and lacking answers. They want a career change but they don’t know how to achieve it. Sometimes, they don’t even know where to start because they aren’t sure what they want to do. As a personal trainer, I can say that this happens to me a lot too. People come to me feeling like they need to try something new for their health and wellness, but they aren’t sure where to start. The sea of information is overwhelming and getting started feels daunting. As coaching professionals, it’s important to help people get “unstuck” and to navigate them towards answers. For this reason, I love Stacy’s approach…

Stacy encourages people to forget about drawing up a perfect roadmap for their career and happiness. In fact, she says to ditch the planning altogether! Shocker to all us Type A ladies, I know. The need for a perfect plan leaves many people in decision paralysis and/or feeling stressed out. They are unable to take the first steps of action because the timing or logistics of their “perfect” plan fall short. There is never a perfect way or time to get started on a perfect plan. For example, a mom wants to work with disabled children but doesn’t have experience to gain a job in special education. She starts planning out how to get a degree in order to become qualified, but the analytical planning (how to apply for schools, where they will be, the financial commitment, juggling study time with family time, etc) keeps her from feeling like she can take action. She gets stuck trying to navigate and her good intentions are so fraught with perfectionism that she pigeon holes herself into inaction.

Likewise, a lot of people wanting to change their health try to think of the perfect weight loss plan before getting started. They map out exactly how many days they want to be active each week, where they will work out, the times of day that work for them to exercise and even how they will start a diet plan. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. Before you know it, there are so many preconditions necessary for exercise and eating well that it becomes difficult to get “all the ducks in a row.” Before you know it, broccoli is spoiling in the fridge and guilt is piling up about the tennis shoes that are still stowed in the front hall closet.

So, how do you get unstuck? How do you move forward? 

Stacy suggests thinking of a lighthouse. The light may be barely visible, but it still has the power to help boats navigate. Similarly, think about whatever inkling of a feeling you have about what you want to do or what you enjoy the most. It might not be crystal clear, but whatever it is, that is your lighthouse. For example, a woman might really love crafting (i.e. “her lighthouse”) but she doesn’t understand how that could correlate to a career. She was formerly a lawyer before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Stacy would encourage this woman to find the time, in small ways, to do more crafting. Over time, it may evolve into an unexpected path or it may make her a more joyous person and bring clarity to other parts of her life.

I encourage readers and personal training clients to think of their health, fitness and wellness in a similar vein. For example, what do you enjoy the most when it comes to exercise? Maybe instead of thinking about your “need” to hit the gym five times a week you can become more active simply by allowing yourself to do something you genuinely enjoy? Perhaps participating in a tennis league twice a week will be so fulfilling that you find yourself suddenly willing to drop by the gym and eat more healthy! Another example; if you absolutely hate kale, why force yourself to eat a kale salad just because you hear it’s a super food and feel like you should fit it into your diet? That’s only going to make you gag! Although I love me some crispy kale chips. Instead, try eating veggies like you enjoy them on a holiday or special occasion. Maybe this is enough to make you get creative about other ways to eat them (and perhaps more healthy ways?!). In short, we are better at caring for ourselves when we come up with a “lighthouse” or some activity we know deep down will fulfill us.

What do we do after we discover our lighthouse?

Rowboat

Stacy points out the obvious: we will never get to our lighthouse if we don’t step in the rowboat and start rowing! In the process of rowing, we actually have to turn around backwards in the boat. In other words, we have to temporarily forget about our lighthouse/large goal or vision and focus on the task of rowing. If we focus too much on the lighthouse we will never get to it. We must take action and row the boat.

Cheers to Memorial Weekend, WellnessWinz readers! Discover your lighthouse and start rowing soon!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Proper Nutrition for Healthy Skin

It might surprise you that what we consume is just as important as the products we use when it comes to keeping our skin healthy.  It’s important to get the nutrients we need to keep our skin looking great.

So, what foods can help keep our skin healthy?

  1. Eat foods rich in Vitamin A.  This vitamin is important for overall skin health.  Foods rich in vitamin A are carrots and low-fat dairy products.
  2. To help prevent age related issues caused by sun exposure, make sure you get plenty of Lycopene in your diet. Some foods that contain Lycopene are tomatoes, guava, and watermelon!
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help nourish the skin and regulate oil production. Fish, flax seeds, and eggs are all examples of foods high in Omega-3s.
  4. Vitamin C. This vitamin can help fight wrinkles. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin C are sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and citrus fruits.
  5. Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells. Get the benefits by eating nuts and seeds.

A healthy digestive tract is also important to keep your skin looking great.  These are some additional nutrients you should include in your diet to help keep your gut and skin healthy:

Fiber – Foods rich in fiber will help your digestive system remove waste.

Probiotics – These healthy bacteria will help balance your digestive tract

Digestive Enzymes – These can assist in helping you get as much nutrition from the foods you eat as you can.  Look for a quality digestive enzyme.

I hope you learned something new from these tips.  Check out our infographic below that illustrates the importance of how proper nutrition and a healthy gut can help keep our skin healthy!

Personal anecdote from Maggie, author of WellnessWinz: When I started taking probiotics and eating veggies at every lunch and dinner, my skin improved dramatically! Wellness is in the little details and adjustments we make in our lives. 

Healthy Skin infographic non-branded

This article was contributed by Samantha Thayer at USANA Health Sciences.  Infographic design by Taylor Romney, and used with permission.  For more information on how you can love life and live it, visit us at our blog, What’s Up, USANA?. Thank you, Samantha and Taylor! I know I learned something and I’m sure readers did too!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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What I Learned About the Body…after I got hit by a car (Part 2)

If you’re joining the story now, please feel free to read the first part of it: http://bit.ly/1Leo8Fp

These are lessons that I have learned the hard way and that I’m here to share.  

 car accident 4

 

Lesson #5: Don’t give up on finding the right care from the right professional

It can be incredibly difficult to navigate the confusing network of health professionals. So many people get lost when they try to figure out if they should seek treatment options from general practitioners, massage therapists, physical therapists, acupuncture specialists, chiropractic doctors, nutritionists, personal trainers, psychologists, and more. One common question is: “Should I try one at a time or opt for multiple forms of treatment at once?” This is a tricky question to answer because it’s very different for each and every person, according to their condition and stage of healing.

For me, I’ve tried it all. Literally. I sought out acupuncture and cupping techniques with one specialist, cognitive therapy for post-traumatic stress with another, chiropractic adjustments with two doctors, physical therapy with five different professionals, and massage therapies from an uncountable number of nimble-fingered individuals. This is not even an exhaustive list of the professionals I worked with while trying to recover from my accident. The reason I kept trying different things is because every person gave me a different opinion. I would give heed to their opinion and try their approach for a while and if it wasn’t working out, then I moved on to the next.

Although I had moments when tears of frustration would roll down my face, feeling like I had set out on a fruitless treasure hunt, I just knew that I had to keep trying. What on earth would happen if I gave up?!  Thus, the years stretched on, but ironically, I started to learn so much more than I bargained for. I began to learn how to heal other people who were dealing with back pain. In the time that it took me to heal my own, I helped over a dozen people quickly dissolve their issues. Perhaps, I thought, those seemingly pointless efforts with other health professionals weren’t such a waste of time after all!

In the end, I’ve learned that different stages of healing may require different forms of assistance. For example, there was a time when the most important thing for me to do was heal emotionally. Once I was calmer, I began to believe in the physical healing process again. Once I rebooted that journey, I found that needling in physical therapy worked for a while, to bring flexibility back to stiff muscles that had been stuck in spasm. At another point, I found that my muscles were flexible enough to allow my back to get adjusted into alignment by a chiropractor. And finally, I found that my body was getting better and better at keeping me in alignment all on its own, thanks to being able to increase strength training again.

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This long, drawn-out process is just my story. (Believe it or not, we barely scratched the surface.) It doesn’t have to be so convoluted for everyone. What’s important is that you keep looking for the right help. Once you’ve found a great professional, give them time to really impact your body with their treatment/approach. Full healing won’t happen overnight so try not to leave after your first session expecting the process to be done.

Lastly on this subject, although I’m preaching to give practitioners time and patience, it’s also important to recognize and get out of a bad situation. One chiropractor I used to work with actually had the audacity to tell me not to gain weight, citing that it wouldn’t be attractive to men. It was so out of the blue (not to mention UNCALLED FOR) that it completely took me aback. I told the chauvinist straight to his face that he was lucky he said that to me and not another woman because I wouldn’t sue the pants off of him for harassment. This was not the first comment of his that was inappropriate. I walked out of his clinic that day and never turned back. There is nothing more damaging than someone who is supposed to heal you trying to tear you down instead. I deserved better. You deserve better.

 

Lesson #6: Inflammation does weird things to the body

Yes, it’s true. When inflammation is high, your body reacts in strange and confusing ways. For example, I already mentioned to you that my body gained a lot of weight during this time. Part of this weight gain was my body hoarding fat because it was scared for its life (rightfully so). Another part of the weight gain was because of excessive water retention. My body couldn’t figure out how to flush anything through its system because it was so backed up and slowed down by all the stresses it was trying to combat.

I can remember one evening when I was with a group of friends, and the guy I liked at the time, at a bar. I drank a cocktail and it sent me over the edge. I felt sick and got an intense menopausal-like hot flash. I couldn’t understand what was going on with my body. All I knew was that I needed to cool down FAST. I was profusely sweating through my dress. I told my friends that I needed to go to the bathroom but instead, I snuck around the bar counter and flung open a beer fridge’s door. If I could have squeezed my whole body into that cool little space I would have. I was desperate.

I understand now that when the body is severely inflamed, even simple things like eating a food that you are sensitive to, or drinking an alcoholic beverage, can tip you into unpredictable states of discomfort. I wish I could say exactly what happens to each person in every scenario known to man, but I can’t. I can only say that keeping attuned to your healthy – or unhealthy – habits is more important than ever. Pay attention to how your body is reacting. It’s a powerful experience to realize just how prepared our bodies are to defend themselves. It physically feels like a bad thing, but it’s actually a good thing in the end.

There was another time that I experienced something really bizarre, that I think may have been related to inflammation too. It happened to me was about a year after the accident. I went for a jog on a treadmill one afternoon. It felt good. Later that day, I had red spots all over my legs. I couldn’t tell if they were burst blood capillaries, an allergic reaction, or what! Even doctors weren’t sure. It was terrifying.

I’m still not sure what the red spots were from but I have my suspicions. I was hyped up on Ambien every night, to help with my insomnia, and I took pain killers from time to time, when my pain got really bad. In other words, my body was dealing with a lot of foreign substances. It seemed that anything wacky was game to happen.

Since I noticed that my body was obviously NOT okay with me putting anything foreign or toxic into it, I started to strip down my diet and reduce medications. I was extra careful about everything I put into my body. Over time, eating clean and being cautious about medicines really helped me. I think the crazy bodily dysfunctions were its way of telling me to stop putting foreign substances into it, and to let it do what the human body is best at: take care of me.

car accident 1

 Pictures on top = post-exercise red spots.

Pictures below = marks from cupping treatments I did for a while…definitely not ideal during sundress season. 

 

Lesson #7: If your spirit is defeated, your body is defeated

A few months after my accident my cousin visited. She was excited to see Washington, DC and at the time, I lived smack dab in the center of “the action.” She was in my bathroom, showering and primping to get ready for a fun girls’ night out, while I was in my bed, head spinning and body screaming for more sleep. She came into the room and asked if I was feeling okay. The only thing I could say was “I feel like I want to go to sleep and never wake up again.”

She was in obvious shock at my statement and shared her concern. I had to explain to her that I wasn’t suicidal; I just didn’t want to keep fighting. I was spent! My comment just felt like the most natural statement I could make at the moment.

This feeling of burnout lasted for a while. I made many careless mistakes during that time in my life. I went out partying, initiated arguments with my family over nothing, and showed interest in “bad boys” when I had forever favored mamas’ boys. It wasn’t until I started to put more effort into finding peace within myself and with God that I got back on track.

I decided to initiate this process by taking a month off of work. I spent lots of time soul-searching in coffee shops and wrote a book that reconnected me to my faith. As I wrote, I started to realize that I wasn’t alone. I could stop feeling so afraid. I can still remember the day that I fell down to my knees in my shower – it hit me out of nowhere that God had been there for me the whole time, even when I had forgotten and lost my way. I began to understand how to replenish my spirit and thereby discovered energy to move forward and physically heal.

 

Lesson #8: The universe has a wonderful way of bringing the right people your way during times of need

I wonder if I would still be married to my husband if I hadn’t been hit by that car. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true! I met my husband during my “bad boy” streak and he was the farthest thing from dismissive, rude and reckless. He was compassionate and full of life. Although I tried to shrug him off, his persistence and light kept me tethered. Although I didn’t feel attractive or worthy at that time, he saw every good thing about me even though I was focused so exclusively on the bad.

I remember the night that we met. We ended up dancing for hours. Dancing became our favorite thing to do during the first few months of knowing one another. It felt great. We would find places to dance in the city and would continue dancing in our living rooms. Wherever we were, we found a way to celebrate and have fun. It was the most refreshing experience ever.

I really do believe that he was sent into my life at the exact right time. He helped show me that healing was possible and that there is much to be excited about, even when you’re not feeling physically great. I would briefly forget about my pain while I was having fun and laughing with him. Soon, the bouts of pain became less frequent and less severe. Eventually, I would go an entire 24 hours without severe pain. Even when pain did hit me with a vengeance, I found new ways to stay calm because I realized that someday I would get over it completely. Everything was going to be okay.

0376-Maggie_and_Casey

 

Lesson #9: Moments of weakness and frustration are not signs that you’re failing to heal

I wish I could say that healing is a linear process but alas, I can’t do that. I had many hang-ups and pitfalls along the way. Sometimes I would feel gently defeated and other times I would feel like an utter failure, but I learned to get over those negative mentalities. I learned to get stronger each and every time.

Simple moments challenged me, like when I slipped on ice during the winter and my back went into a brief spasm, and when friends would ask me to go to tough exercise classes with them and I would have to say no even though I had formerly always said yes. There were other more profound moments that set back my body and spirits too. For example, one mid-summer day I collapsed in my apartment building’s elevator. I had been carrying heavy groceries because I was planning to spend the whole day cooking for family. It was a quiet hour in the middle of the day so no one was around to help me. I crawled, dragging my groceries along the floor. I tried to stand up but keeled over again. I kept trying to get back on my feet but I collapsed another two times as I made my way down the hallway to my apartment. Once inside, I cried until I was too tired to cry more.

Although moments like this have the power to defeat you, they aren’t a sign that you haven’t made progress. Every time I would reignite the pain, I would get over it a little faster than before. Each time, I learned something valuable.

 

Lesson #10: Learning to let go is the final step

Has my body reached pre-trauma condition? Honestly…no. But, have I fully recovered? Yes. Let me explain…

Up until a few short years ago, I still had to put a heating pack on my back a few times every month. I would also occasionally have a sleepless night or two when my nerves would get set off and I’d fear falling back into insomnia. To this day, my back and hips have remained a little more sensitive and prone to instability. I keep it under control though.

My heart will always feel a little bit sad when I think of how dark some of those days of pain were but I also know that they taught me a lot. I decided years ago that I would be okay and my body has followed me in that decision. I’ve learned exactly what to do in 15-20 minutes to immediately correct a flare-up that would formerly last for months. I’ve also learned that I’m capable of surviving one of the worst kinds of pain in the world – the loss of self-identity. If I can rediscover myself and come out stronger, I know that you can too.

Recovery is possible when we decide to let go of hurt and move on. It’s a single, simple, profound decision [to let go] that one has to consistently choose, every day and during every moment of frustration. It’s a decision that is made in the midst of pain that can pull you through to the other side.

I believe that the power of letting go can have a meaningful impact in anyone’s life. I encourage you to give it a try.

 

I sincerely hope that sharing this authentic story will help someone else

find healing and joy soon too.

“Start believing you can.”

Maggie

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What I Learned About the Body…after I got hit by a car (Part 1)

Six years ago, from the day of this article’s publication (05/18/2015), my world literally turned upside down. While riding my bike to work, I was hit by a car at a busy intersection located in the heart of Washington, DC.

car accident 3

I immediately felt sharp pain in my back after plunging to the pavement in the middle of Florida Avenue. At that moment, a startling thought crossed through my mind, one that concerned me far more than the physical agony; Am I about to become roadkill?! I couldn’t move for a minute. My breath had been taken away. I couldn’t pick myself up to get out of the intersection. I couldn’t even wave my hands for help. All I could do was focus on trying to stay conscious in spite of bolts of pain through my hips and back. Thankfully, no other car ran an additional 4,500 lbs of steel and aluminum alloy into my 130 lb body.

The EMTs arrived quickly on the scene. They gave me a disapproving look when I waved them briefly away in order to call my work to say that I couldn’t teach my “Cycle and Core” class that morning. After placing the call, I let the EMTs strap me down to a spine board and make their assessments. I recall laughing with pride at how my blood pressure was still fairly stable, just minutes following a trauma. Only a crazy fitness professional would be proud of something like that. My amusement was quickly snuffed out though, thanks to escalating pain.

While on the way to the hospital, one husky, dark-and-dreamy man asked me several times to rank my pain on a scale of 1-10. I kept thinking, well, if you’d just let me off this stupid spine board then it would be a whole lot better. But, I couldn’t be let off that cursed board. It was protocol for the ambulance ride. So, my response was consistently and emphatically, “TEN!!!!!!”

…….

The pain didn’t stay at its initial 10 forever but it did continue. It troubled my health, threatened my career, and haunted my psyche for the next five years. It had such a palpable presence in my life that it felt like the pain was on the verge of scraping itself out of my body and becoming its own entity; an embodiment that could more properly pound the shell of my formerly strong self deeper into the unforgiving ground. It was the cruelest “thing” I’ve ever met – hell bent on squeezing every last ounce of hope and perseverance from my body.

But, I’m here today to tell you that the pain didn’t win. I did. I won thanks to the lessons I learned along the healing journey. The trying times taught me how to interpret the language of pain and how to affect physical well-being through a multi-pronged approach to healthy living.

It was a long process, let me tell you. But, the silver lining is that I get to share the things I’ve learned with others. I hope that lessons from my journey can help you with yours. I pray that they shed light on your pain or even personal challenges.

We all go through pain at some point in our life. The process of picking ourselves up again is not always pretty. But, it’s important that we try. And try again. And again. And again.

 

Lesson #1: The first serious pain you experience is always the hardest…but it has the potential to be the one of the most meaningful experiences in your life

Before getting hit by a car, I had literally never broken, sprained or strained any part of my body. One time, when I was 5 years old, I was ambitiously trying to follow a friend across the monkey bars, swinging and stretching each arm to skip every other bar. It was the cool thing to do. I missed one bar mid-way across and landed in a precarious position on the ground, one arm twisted behind my back with my little body’s weight crushing it. Even then, I didn’t actually break anything; I bent my arm bone!

I assumed that injuring my arm would mean getting a cast with my kindergarten classmates’ sympathies strewn all over it, smiley faces, hearts and rainbows. I was miffed by the removable brace that I was given to wear. No cast tic-tac-toe? No purple marker heart encircled by stars?

Similarly, after getting hit by the car, I was certain that the pain I was experiencing would reveal itself on X-rays. It didn’t though. No fractures in my pelvis, no hairline fractures upon my follow-up appointment, nothing! Just one enormous, dark-as-night bruise taking up 75% of the real estate on the left cheek of my rear end. I will spare you those gruesome pictures…but below you can take a glimpse at some other ones. My face is the thing behind the purple wash cloth and ice…in case you were wondering.  

car accident 2

It was so frustrating for me to be told that nothing major was wrong because I could tell that something was actually very out-of-sorts in my body. It made it difficult to justify to my co-workers and friends that I was decidedly NOT okay. I was in pain for a long time. I just couldn’t pin a clinical name and prognosis to the discomfort. I didn’t have something like a cast as proof.

Unfortunately, because my pain lacked a “title,” I thought that all I needed to do was take the pain killers and muscle relaxants that I had been prescribed, and wait it out. The doctors at the hospital didn’t recommend physical therapy, so why would I need it? They didn’t say anything about psychological help, so why would I assume that counseling for post-traumatic stress should be considered? I could deal with it all on my own, right?! Wrong.

The first serious injury you experience is scary and overwhelming. You may even be in a situation like mine, with a lot of unanswered questions and mixed information coming at you. You may even have feelings that getting over the injury is your sole responsibility and burden to bear – but that is just false, false, false!

There is a reason that children color “get well” messages on a friend’s cast; it’s important not to feel alone as you undergo the process of healing. Finding the right support networks as you navigate the journey is essential because feeling confused and afraid is normal. Lean on everyone you can the first time around because how you respond to this injury will impact your mentality the next time you encounter pain or hurt. It can either cripple you or cause you to take a step back and calmly evaluate your plan to get over it.

It’s interesting…the first time that you’re injured, you’re in a position to learn and grow. For example, if a woman (let’s call her Angela) sprains her ankle and has to avoid her favorite sport, running, for 8 or more weeks, then she is likely going to feel frustrated and maybe even depressed. Instead of giving in to these defeated feelings, Angela can come out of her injury stronger than ever by remaining mentally patient, emotionally calm, and focused on things that she can control. She may decide to cook more healthy meals at home or spend time with friends whom she usually brushes off in order to exercise. If Angela does want to keep exercising rigorously then she can devote effort to building upper body strength so that she looks incredible come strapless dress season!

The options are endless, not ending, when you get injured and have to look at the world from a new perspective. It takes time to see things this way, but it can happen.

 

Lesson #2: It’s OK to take a little time to grieve

Okay, I know I just mentioned that learning from your injury helps you become stronger and move on. But, I know that it’s also important to grieve, to give yourself time to be frustrated and feel that the world crashing around you. If you don’t do it initially, you may have a surprise meltdown far later in life when buried emotions get unearthed. I wish I had listened to this advice. Instead, this is what I did…

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Chick in picture looking lovely since this “accident” was merely staged for stock photography. Disclaimer: The real deal is NOT this tidy and attractive!

Once I was released from the hospital, I got a ride home from a cop. After she dropped me off, I took a nap on my couch and then hobbled down the block to the pharmacy for my pain killer and muscle relaxant prescriptions. Moving felt terrible but I took it as a positive sign that I was capable of putting one foot in front of the other. This meant that I could get back to my job, right?

The day of my accident I had 11 hours of work on my schedule. I was terrified of losing income and damaging accountability with my clients. Most of this fear stemmed from the fact that it was the spring of 2009, not long after the major U.S. economic crash. I was in a hustle mentality, happy to have a secure job and determined to pack my work days with exercise classes to teach and clients to train. I was exceptionally exhausted and simultaneously exhilarated from my one-woman daily mission to change the world in spite of the most obvious obstacle: people were tightening their purse strings because they were afraid they would lose money or already had lost money in the crash.

So, ignoring my exhausted body’s protests, I went in to train the last few hours of clients I had on schedule for that evening. I was delirious and in denial. I laughed off others’ concerns about the “crazy accident” that happened earlier that day. Needless to say, nothing about it was funny.   

I wonder, if I hadn’t been so naïve and if proper discharge procedures had been in place, would I have stayed home and gotten the appropriate rest and recovery that I needed? If I had gotten that rest, would I have continued to deal with severe pain, bulging discs, spinal disc fissures, hip instability, and dysfunctional scar tissue on my piriformis for years to come? Would I have still slipped into insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety, weight gain, and borderline depression? It’s hard to say…

All I do know is that I refused to think of myself as “injured” for too long. One of the most critical things to do when injured, is to accept it. Also important is learning (over time) that acceptance doesn’t mean your life is over. Acceptance is simply the first step towards truly healing.

 

Lesson #3: The mind-body connection is REAL; sleep-deprivation & somatization

As mentioned in lesson #2, I dealt with some major challenges after getting injured, one of which was sleep deprivation. At first I couldn’t sleep because of the severe inflammation in my hips and back. Any direct pressure on that area was excruciating. Sleeping directly on my back or stomach was simply out of the question due to the discomfort, so I slept on my side. Even that posed challenges. I could be sound asleep in the middle of the night and wake up to pain while attempting to roll from one side of my body to the other. Over time, I couldn’t even fall sleep because I was afraid of the pain and restlessness that lay ahead of me throughout the night.

This fear caused me to stay in a fight-or-flight mode throughout the night, my heart racing. The harder I tried to fall asleep, the more sleep evaded me. My efforts regularly turned into frustrated tears and fits of fatigued hysteria. For almost a year, I barely got 6 hours of sleep each night. The majority of this timeframe, I was working 10-12 hour work days on a broken 4-5 hours of rest. Obviously, my mind and body began to break down even more. The more I mentally and emotionally caved under the pain, the worse it became. It was a vicious cycle that I didn’t know how to break. I can remember days when I wondered if my life was over. I thought I would never see the day that the pain ended. It was stifling and slowly suffocated my ability to stay positive.

As I became more physically inflamed and emotionally overrun, my stress translated into many new physical issues. This is sometimes considered to be somatization; mental and emotional stress resulting in physical problems. I suffered a few panic attacks that seemingly struck me out of nowhere, I had a moment or two of binge eating in my distress, and I began moving in pain-avoidance patterns that exacerbated my issues. My stomach would hurt. My head would hurt. Everything hurt. I could no longer tell which pains and challenges were the cause of my physical stress versus my emotional stress…there were no hard lines separating the two because they were inherently connected.

car accident 7

 

Lesson #4: Pain pathways are tricky to navigate – understanding the “language” they speak is essential

For the longest time, I felt like I could control the pain if I just tried hard enough. Eventually though, after many months and years of playing ring-around-the-rosy with this nemesis, I discovered that the world could stop spinning…if I learned my pain’s language. I realized that the pain wasn’t actually trying to hurt me, it was trying to help me! My body was sending me signals that something was wrong and if I learned what my body wanted most, then it would reduce the pain, sending me the message that we were finally on the same team with the same mission: to get better!

Although I already mentally knew that the body acts like one integrated machine, with all its complex parts influencing one another with every step and every breath, I didn’t really understand this firsthand. I hadn’t felt this truth before. But suddenly, I started to realize that a brand new pain in my knee, and a strange crackling in my ankle, were both related to my initial injury. They weren’t brand new injuries out of the blue, they were responses that my kinetic chain (i.e. musculo-skeletal system and neuromuscular system) was having to the primary issue: back and hip misalignment and instability resulting from damaged soft tissue (i.e. muscle).

The more I remained out of alignment and unstable, the more the different parts of my body started talking in foreign languages and losing touch with one another. It was up to me, and me alone, to figure out how to treat the initial issue in order for my body to send out a message to all its parts, commanding that they get back to their primary language. They needed to speak the same language to work properly together.

When I started to realize that my body wasn’t breaking down in a million places haphazardly, I began to look at exercise and recovery solutions that would benefit my whole body rather than its isolated parts. If I continued to ignore the relationships between my various body parts then each would continue to grow stronger in its new language (which subsequently would make the whole body weaker).

Thank you for reading Part 1 of this story. As you can tell, it’s very personal to me. Part 2 is coming up soon! Stay tuned.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

 

5 Special Treats for Readers!

Guess what this month is?! National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! (oh yea, and my birthday month, hehe) It’s time to step into the joy of fitness like you’ve never done before! It’s time to drop excuses, enjoy the fresh spring air and get moving! Today, I’m not going to share a long form blog post. I don’t want you to spend your time reading. I want you to spend your time MOVING!!! I hope that these 5 special treats will help you do just that.

Drum roll, please!

Today….I will be PROUDLY presenting you with….

A chance to get a FREE hour-long fitness and wellness consulting phone call (or skype) with yours truly!

 A three ingredient, summer-inspired recipe that I love!

 Hand-picked images to inspire you towards fitness!

 22 energizing songs to fire up your workout playlist!

 …annnnnddd a poem, written by one of our readers, that just plain rocks.

Get it, girls!! Today is your day!

 

Part 1: COACHING GIVEAWAY!

WellnessWinz FB Cover

Yes, it’s true. I have a golden window of time this spring during which I’m excited to extend my professional guidance even more than usual. Thus, the coaching giveaway! This will be a FREE one-hour coaching session via phone or skype, focused exclusively on your top-priority fitness and wellness needs. It will include a customized, 4-week workout schedule.

All you have to do to enter is go to the new WellnessWinz Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wellnesswinz (or click the above image) and “like” the page. Then, comment on the timeline with this hashtag: #WannaWinzGiveaway. At the end of the month of May, I will randomly draw a winner! Get excited!!!

PS – if you aren’t interested in the drawing, I would still be honored if you’d like the Facebook page!  

 

Part 2: “FROSTED MANGO,” MY FAVORITE ANYTIME SMOOTHIE!

smoothie 1

It tastes just like summer and it can be made for any meal of the day. It only requires THREE ingredients: Mangos, Milk, and Vanilla Protein Powder. I prefer almond milk but you can use regular milk, coconut milk or cashew milk. You can also pick a protein powder that works for your dietary needs and preferences (e.g. whey-based, soy-based, hemp-based or pea-protein-based). Try to find a protein powder with minimal processing, minimal sugars and sugar alcohols, and lots of packed-in nutrition.

I swear, this smoothie is simply the best because you can keep all three items in your pantry and fridge for long periods of time without spoiling. Choose frozen mangos and you will avoid wasting ones that turn to mush.

Put a handful of ice in your blender and then scoop in some mangos. Next, add the powder (serving size or half a serving) and milk product. Use 12-16 ounces of milk so that everything blends well. Add spinach, bananas, berries or anything else yummy for extra nutrition and taste! This smoothie will probably come out to 400 calories or less, depending on your ingredients and portions. Yummmmm. 

 

Part 3: HAND-PICKED PINS FOR FITNESS INSPIRATION!! 

Straight from my Pinterest-loving heart to your computer monitor. Hope one of these will inspire you to get moving!

Pinspiration 9

 

Pinspiration 8

 

Pinspiration 7

 

Pinspiration 6

 

Pinspiration 4

 

Pinspiration 3

 

Pinspiration 2

 

Pinspiration 1

 

Pinspiration 10

 

Part 4: THE ULTIMATE WORKOUT PLAYLIST. GET IT, GIRLS!!! 

Allow me a moment to brag…I’ve been told by many exercise class participants that they love my music selection. Of course, I like to think that they love the workouts more, but alas, there’s something about a well-rounded playlist that boosts energy like none other.

Enter the songs below into your iTunes search bar and you can download them for yourself. It will take about 5 minutes or so, and then you will be stocked with enough songs to last you almost an hour and a half!! (For some of us, that’s TWO workouts or more!)

WellnessWinz Workout Playlist

 

Part 5: POEM BY ONE OF OUR READERS!

I was so thrilled to see this poem from our reader, Meredith O’Leary. She recently shared it with me and I’ve got to say, tears swelled in my eyes. Why? Well, Meredith and I have talked about her fitness/wellness journey for a few years now. One of the most challenging parts of it, like for most women, is understanding the line between pushing one’s body towards health and accepting one’s body and its incredible beauty. I couldn’t be prouder to present you with Meredith’s insights and powerful words… 

“This is My Body”

This is my body, true and real
Don’t tell me how I should feel
About it. Cause it isn’t for you
To decide just how I make it through

This is my body, and only mine
The only body I could find
To host my spirit and my mind.
I promise you, I’ll be just fine

This is my body, ever improving
I assure you that I’m always moving,
Being aware, and trying not to care
About others’ judgments, though they’re always there

This is my body. You can’t see through me
It isn’t like you ever knew me
And yet, you disregard the rest
Which is making it through Life’s great test

This is my body. Watch what it can do!
It can clean a house, drive a car
Sometimes it can walk quite far,
And when I hear a good beat, it can dance, too!

This is my body, which you cannot own.
You try to possess, and sometimes offend
But I digress, because I can mend
Myself. So just leave me alone.

This is my body. And I’m proud of it!
Life is the cause, and I’m the effect
It’s never, ever allowed me to quit
And I think it’s about time I gave it some respect

This is my body. And I am beautiful!
Nothing about me has ever been dull
The Universe, in me, is embodied
I have a strong soul! And this is my body.

Meredith O’Leary (c) 2015 MAO

 

Alright, ladies! What are you waiting for?! HAVE FUN! GET MOVING!!!!

Happy National Fitness and Sports Month! 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

 

 

10 Unspoken Rules of the Gym

This blog post may just be my personal vendetta to correct the many things I’ve seen go wrong at gyms over the years, or it may be an opportunity for you to kindly reference this article to the next person who gets on your last nerve at the gym. Maybe print it out and smack it in the center of their bench press? If nothing else, know that you’re in the right and can chuckle lightly to yourself about those who will soon see the error of their ways. There are some real life anecdotes in here that may make you giggle (or cringe) too…you’re welcome.

 

10 unspoken rules of the gym

 

1) Learn How to Share (it’s a basic life lesson)

Just like the little boy from the well-known Campbell’s Soup commercial said to his hungry older brothers: “Don’t hog it all!” Yes, it’s true that people at the gym can get overly possessive about the equipment they’re using. Take the following scenario that happened to me just a week ago…

I’m alternating sets between a leg extension machine and a reverse fly machine. They’re right beside one another and I was five sets done out of six. A man comes up to the reverse fly machine just as I’m finishing my last set for lower body and heading that way. I understand that he has zero notion of what my routine is so I ask him politely if I can finish my last set after his first one, while he takes a break.

This man gives me the nastiest look a human can possibly conjure up. After a pause he says in a snarky tone “But I’m just starting…” I reassure him that I’m happy to wait while he does a set and can finish my routine quickly while he takes his first break. The man gives me silence…yes, silence (oh yea, and another unusually offensive glare) and continues to adjust the machine’s seat to his preference. At this point I walk away. I could have responded to his comment “You’re just starting? Oh yea? Well, I’m just finishing! I was here first! Nah-Nah-Nah! It’s MINE!!!” But that would have been immature….we’re not children learning the rules of the playground for the first time.

So, don’t hog it all. It’s normal for people to ask to takes turns with you and it’s your right to ask the same. Some people might not follow the rules, but don’t you kind of feel sorry for them and their “I will be miserable to all of humanity” attitude? Apparently, they never learned that being ruler of the swing-set is something only preschoolers should get away with when their teachers aren’t watching.

 

 2) Respect Paid-For Sessions

I know this next point is going to step on some sensitive toes…but here I go anyway. Individuals who are working with a personal trainer have paid for a privilege at the gym. In other words, their needs are just a teeny tiny bit higher for the duration of their paid-for session. From the outside looking in, you may have no clue why that person is paying for a training session. From the inside out, I can tell you that those individuals, who make the intense commitment to pay for training, have something specific that they really need help with. It may be accountability or it may be something much more worrisome such as vascular disease or osteopenia. Either way, these people are contributing to what keeps the gym doors open for all; the bottom line (…and no, not all of them are more financially capable than you so dismiss that judgement right away).

Trainers who are with their clients should not ignore the standard rules of sharing and demonstrating respect for others, but they might be a little more assertive about asking permission to use a machine that you were just on. They’re not trying to be rude or reduce the importance of your workout, they’re just trying to do their job and make sure that their client’s significant investment proves worthwhile.

 

gym classes

 

3) Don’t Come Into a Group Class Super Late

At most gyms, group exercise instructors actually have the right to deny you permission to participate in class, if you’re over 10-15 minutes late. Yup, you heard me right. They are allowed to dismiss you because it’s not going to be very safe for you to jump in after the warm-up. You become a liability to the instructor AND yourself.

I have had plenty of people join one of my Spinning® classes over halfway through. Out of respect for them, I don’t yell through my mic “HEY YOU! GET OUT OF HERE! YOU’RE TOO LATE!” But, I do have to hop off my bike and go speak to them personally. Frankly, it’s annoying.

Even the people who meet my refusal and warnings with a “Don’t worry, I will get warmed up before I start following along,” don’t properly warm up. This takes me beyond my former level of annoyance to feeling genuinely infuriated. Warming up is essential.

Have you ever had a moment as a parent/guardian/friend/significant other when you see a loved one doing something that’s so blatantly harmful that it makes your skin itch? That’s how it feels to be an instructor watching an unruly participant just follow their own whim. If they’re not going to listen to professional guidance, why are they even in class?! It’s like watching a child who is about to dart across the street without looking both ways. The natural urge is to yell “Stop!!! You’re going to get hurt!”

 

4) Waste not. For real.

I recently wrote an Earth Day article for Mad Dogg Athletics’ Spinning.com site. The article, Conserving Water by Skimping on Laundry, explains how the average top-loading washer can use up to 45 gallons of water! Industrial size washers, like most gyms use, require even more water to operate. So, next time you’re at the gym, try not to be so nonchalant about grabbing a stack of white towels for your sweat, the leg press seat, the exercise mat, your neck support, your second round of sweat, and everything else you can possibly use a towel for. I have a feeling you can make do with just one (maybe two).

Big box gyms are EXPENSIVE to operate. So the little things, like extra loads of laundry, do add up over time. As boutique fitness studios chip away at big box gyms, they struggle more and more. If you love your gym (or even your studio!) then try to help them reduce costs by not being wasteful. More importantly, you’re helping Mother Nature too.

 

show-off

 

5) The Gym is NOT the Place to Show off Your Goods

Believe it or not, the gym is not the place to flaunt everything that you’ve got. There are certain exercise classes and environments where sports bras, booty-huggers and mid-riff shirts are commonplace, and okay, it’s not exactly against the rules to wear these on the gym floor either. But, no one needs or wants to see your one-woman parade purposefully making a spectacle of herself.

Have you ever seen a beefed-up guy lift his muscle tank, flex his abs for the mirror and grin? Um…hello Mr. Obvious! While he may physically look like a cool drink on a hot day, vanity isn’t very attractive. Plus, distracted exercisers might drop a dumbbell on their heads!

Even more extreme is when people show off their…err…actual private parts. I kid you not. Once upon a time, there was a middle-aged man who would pull a recumbent bike into the middle of a heavy-traffic hallway at the gym. It was always after work when the gym was at its most crowded. Women would pass through the hallway, heading his way, and come out the other side with their faces grimaced in disgust. Mr. Perverted would pedal away on his bike with his male anatomy hanging out of his loose shorts. Eventually, gym management cracked down on him. Apparently, he thought the gym is a place for exhibitionism. Gross.

 

6) Staking Claim to Cardio Equipment is NOT Cool

We’ve all been in gyms during the hustle and bustle of the new year, when people are practically fighting one another for their favorite treadmill or elliptical. During these busy times, and even during non-peak seasons, it’s just ridiculously rude to stake claim to a piece of cardio equipment (i.e. placing your personal belongings on it) if you’re going to peace out to another part of the gym or do a substantial warm-up or workout elsewhere first. I’ve seen so many unnecessary disagreements arise between people because of this behavior. Remember the old “#1 Learn How to Share?” Yea….

 

7) Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Time and time again, people put themselves in harm’s way, and disrespect other people’s workouts, by not being appropriately aware of their surroundings. I have seen a pretty young woman vigorously swinging a kettlebell near an older man’s head. I have seen clients with their trainers doing traveling lunges only to have someone obliviously walk directly into their path, sometimes causing awkward and hazardous collisions. I have seen people so immersed in their personal world, (typically lost in blaring music through their Beats headphones), that they trip over another clumsy gym-goer’s heap of dumbbells.

Recently, I had an experience when I was working out in a plank position. A man came in front of me and started doing triceps kickbacks INTO MY FACE. Really?! You don’t realize that you’re about to smash my head in?

I get it, the workout zone can feel like a real, other-worldly state, but for your safety and the wellbeing of others, try to stay just a little bit aware of your surroundings.

 

gym clutter

 

8) Clean up After Yourself

Cleaning up your gym equipment helps other exercisers avoid tripping hazards. Duh.

Cleaning up is also about reducing the spread of germs. In short, don’t hack up a lung on a machine and leave your germs to fester. I saw a man literally blow snot into his palm, wipe it nonchalantly on his gym shorts, and then resume his workout. I didn’t want to go near that elliptical ever again…even after it was cleaned.

 

9) Play Nice

Help reduce gym intimidation and try to lighten up! Stalking around the gym like you’re on a mission to kill doesn’t help get you into the right mindset for your workout, and it doesn’t help the people around you either. This seems so obvious, but it’s amazing to me how many people find ways to gripe and complain incessantly while at the gym.

The music coming in through the sound system may not be your jam. You may have set a record for the worst day at work ever. You may be experiencing hormonal shifts during your workout and the mass of sweaty bodies moving around might not let you feel as invigorated as your body is implying you should be. Nonetheless, no one, I repeat NO ONE, should turn into a crazy person who is so sensitive that she takes out her frustration on those around her. Remember that insane gym rat years ago who threw another guy off his bike during a group class? Yea…no one should leave the gym with a concussion and spinal injuries. Isn’t that exactly what we’re at the gym to avoid?!

 

10) It’s OKAY to Ask for Help

Many people are reluctant to ask for help. They worry that they will look foolish for not knowing how to adjust the treadmill’s speed or for not knowing the proper direction to face on the lat pull-down machine (facing in, always facing in). But, it’s so much better to ask for professional help and to stay safe. I promise, there are professionals at your gym who are available and willing to help. If they’re not, find a new gym. Plus, if you don’t ask for help, chances are you look exponentially more clueless because you’re doing an exercise wrong. Swallow your pride! Everyone has to start somewhere. You will be given respect for wanting to learn.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

http://gothamist.com/2007/08/25/gym_rat_gets_wo.php

http://www.spinning.com/community/earth-day-conserving-water-by-skimping-on-laundry/

 

Boudoir Lessons for Bikini Season

Beach Body

So, I have a confession to make. Back in March, I decided to embark on a mission to discover how Victoria’s Secret models feel when they’re in a photo shoot wearing…not much. It started as a little oh-la-la present for my husband, who travels four days out of the week, but it turned into a full-fledged, top-priority operation [on behalf of my readers]. I sought to discover how on earth someone could feel comfortable in little more than a bikini’s worth of material, and learned way more than I bargained for. No, I’m not sharing pictures, those are for my hubby’s eyes only, but I will share the lessons learned along the way, and the ladies I encountered who are changing the world, one bikini-fearing, underwear-shopping-adverse woman at a time…

When I signed up for a photoshoot with Three Boudoir, I knew I would have to restrain myself from going crazy over the next few months. I’m the type of person who likes to have event specific goals to train for (weddings, bikini season, road races). It’s easy to be motivated by external pressures that have tangible deadlines attached. It gets us tying up our gym shoes a little faster, and choosing salmon and broccoli more often than steak and fries. But, I wanted to challenge myself to refrain from ramping up my exercise and trimming out a few hundred calories every day, in preparation for the photoshoot. I actually wanted to just feel like myself for once. I knew that if I could step into that intimidating environment, cameras flashing, feeling…normal…that I would really put myself to the test.

I have to tell you; I’m SO glad that I did. Upon signing up for the photoshoot, I anticipated that I would be plagued by major stomach cramps from pent-up anxiety and a ten-fold increase in nervous butterflies on the day of. Surpisingly, my tummy only did a small flip-flop or two.

Body Confidence Bobbi Brown

I was grateful to the Three Boudoir girls for the encouraging emails they sent me prior to the photoshoot. I was initially worried that I may have put myself into a queue to be objectified, but when I got their first email, I understood that they were all about empowerment, and that thrilled me. They incrementally boosted my confidence and made me feel reassured about just being my natural self. Here’s a little sample of their enthusiasm: “Give yourself a huge pat on the back. You are brave and fearless. You are about to take on a super fun boudoir shoot that is going to leave you feeling sexy and ready to take on the world.”

Every single email that the company sent me was full of positive language. I’m pretty sure they used “hot,” “sexy,” “gorgeoous,” “amazing,” “brave,” and “beautiful” dozens of times each. Even though I giggled and let the comments slide off of me at first, over time, I started to feel better about myself, and was more excited than nervous. I started to believe in my bravery and beauty. What an even grander benefit than having pretty pictures!

On the day of the shoot, I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the women who helped me pose and look my best. I give myself ZERO credit for being able to strike those poses on my own; it’s hard work! They were encouraging, natural and fun. The time actually flew by. I felt my long-standing intimidation of models, and the unnatural poses they’re photographed in, begin to melt away. I might not look exactly like a lot of models, but I’m me – and that’s pretty awesome. Likewise, for you! 

What made the biggest impression on me though, is that apparently lots of women are more accepting of themselves than I knew. Apparently, plenty of women prefer to leave their simple “imperfections” front and center rather than edited out of photos. The boudoir ladies told me that lots of women prefer to let birth marks and scars show in their pictures. For example, without naming names, they told me that even women who have undergone surgery following breast cancer may prefer to let their scars show, because it’s part of their identity. This fits exactly within a message, on Three Boudoir’s website, that all women can take to heart: “Every single person that comes through our studio has unique qualities that we know exactly how to draw out and capture in photos.” Oh man, I might as well be their spokeswoman with all this good PR! Haha. No, they did not ask me to write this. I prayed for the confidence to share this all on my own.

Done with Guilt, On with Life

Unfortunately, positive affirmations and mood-lifting information isn’t internalized very well by women. Glamour magazine polled 1,000 women, ages 18-40, and found that body image today is actually worse than 30 years ago.  Even though women have been dominating in many professional fields, proving to the world that we should have been taken more seriously long, long, long ago, we’re suffering from a lack of self-esteem more than ever. Why?!? Someone tell us why!!!

According to Glamour, modern women compare themselves more to the girl next door than celebrities. Instead of flipping through magazines a few times a month, as may have been the case 30 years ago, we’re now inundated by at least 1.8 billion, yes BILLION, new pictures posted to social media every day! Since we’re seeing a lot more normal people, we curiously scan the endless images until we find someone that looks like our “ideal body,” and then believe we should and can look like that too.

Nowadays, the thinking is a little like this:

“Oh, I know I can’t achieve a Cameron Diaz or Madonna body. It’s unrealistic because I’d have to be super rich and paying a personal chef and world-class trainer to sculpt that kind of bod. But, my friend Michelle’s recent pictures on Facebook and Instagram make her look super amazing and she’s not a celebrity. She has a child and a full-time job! If she can get a ripped stomach then I can do it. If I can’t look like her, there must be something wrong with me. I have to prove that I can be just as on-top-of-it and slim. Why not, right?”

I’m all for women feeling empowered because of other people’s successes, but comparing ourselves to others is apparently at the core of what makes us dissatisfied. Geesh. What to do?

Here are few simple steps towards feeling your best:

1) Quit comparing yourself to others. Easier said than done, I know. But, you should try anyways.

2) If looking at other people’s pictures makes you feel bad, then place a limit on yourself by monitoring your media browsing.

3) Reinforce positive language about your body whenever the urge to shame it creeps up – aka, fake it until you make it. Positive affirmations breed positive thinking.

4) Exercise – it’s a natural self-esteem, feel-good boost.

5) Give yourself some love. Think about what healthy actions make you happy and do more of them, instead of repeating negative habits or actions that lead to frustration and anxiety.

Bikini Joy

Another fun thing you can do to feel invigorated and ready for bikini season, is treat yourself to some new underwear that will make you feel great and build up your confidence! I recently met a fellow UVA alum, Katie Fritts, who started a company called UnderClub. Katie discovered that many women often don’t toss out their older pairs of underwear and are so pressed for time that they don’t have the mental energy to make a one-off trip to the mall for minor but necessary basics like underwear. Underclub offers women a way to turn this chore into a fun subscription-based service, delivering customized high-quality undies straight to their doorsteps. To accompany the cute packaging with every order, Underclub includes a personalized note for customers; a simple reminder of their beauty or a little something to make them feel good. Love it. 

Whether or not you’re planning to buy chic new undies or a fun seasonal bikini, I encourage you to remember what you love most about your body, mind and soul this summer. You don’t need to be in skimpy stuff to feel worthy or attractive, and you certainly don’t need to be objectified, but you can put on a sleek, sexy, feminine, bold, fun, or classy attitude that makes you outshine the sun. YOU make any little piece of fabric look good. Don’t forget it.  

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

References:

http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2014/10/body-image-how-do-you-feel-about-your-body/1

http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2011/02/shocking-body-image-news-97-percent-of-women-will-be-cruel-to-their-bodies-today/1

http://www.threeboudoir.com/

http://www.underclub.co/