Bettie Page Fitness Diagonal Crunch

This photo of Bettie inspired the diagonal crunch we do in the Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio video. Get the full workout at bettiepagefitness.com (click announcement bar at top of this page to shop!), and try this crunch in the meantime

Bottom: Still shot of Tori in the Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio video; Top: the Bettie pose that inspired this move.

Bottom: Still shot of Tori in the Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio video; Top: the Bettie pose that inspired this move.

Start with your right ankle on your left knee, hands behind your ears or head and elbows out. Crunch as far as you can toward the right knee, aiming your left shoulder (not the elbow) toward your right knee. Do a total of 12 full reps, then do 12 pulses at the top of the crunch. Repeat on other side, then do each side twice more for a total of 3 sets.

*Make it easier: Keep one arm down (the one on the side of the lifted foot) with your hand touching the ground.

*Make it harder: At the top of each regular crunch (not the pulses), extend the left arm straight out past your right leg (opposite for other side, of course).

The Yoga Star & the Pin-up Queen

Talking yoga, body love and Bettie Page with Kathryn Budig

Badass babes in beautiful backbends! (Pose: Anuvittasana) ~Page photo: Bunny Yeager; Budig photo: Cheyenne Ellis

Badass babes in beautiful backbends! (Pose: Anuvittasana) ~Page photo: Bunny Yeager; Budig photo: Cheyenne Ellis

Though Kathryn Budig might object to being called a yoga superstar, she certainly is one to me–and not just because she can rock some of the most mind-blowing, beautiful poses I’ve ever seen. Her teaching style is fun, strong and transformative, in both the asana practice and the nuggets of how-to-do-life wisdom that she drops throughout her classes and writing. She is a noted champion of body positivity, authenticity and self-acceptance–much like beloved pinup queen Bettie Page–and that’s why I thought Budig would be an excellent person to interview for BettiePageFitness.com.

Learn more about her new book, Aim True: Love Your Body, Eat Without Fear, Nourish Your Spirit, Discover True Balance! and check out what she had to say below about fearless eating, self-love, and of course, Bettie Page.

Bettie Page Fitness (BPF): Congrats on your new book! I strongly suspect from its description and name that readers can expect lots of that signature, infectious Kathryn Budig joy and encouragement to embrace ourselves as we are while challenging ourselves with love–to me, that is the essence of body-positive fitness! Am I right, and what else can we look forward to in the book?

Kathryn Budig (KB): Of course! I put a lot of time and effort into the thought process behind creating this book, because I didn’t want to turn it into another self-help book that lists all the things that are wrong with you. I wanted to start from a place of encouraging the reader to understand that where they are right now is fantastic, but then ask them the following question: What are the tools we can develop to make ourselves even better?

Kathryn Budig always aims true! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

Kathryn Budig always aims true! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

BPF: One of the things that jumped out at me–and which I love–is the part of your book’s title that says “Eat Without Fear.” As a psychotherapist, fitness expert and Ayurvedic health coach specializing in food and body image issues, I believe that’s a powerful message that can’t be shared enough. Can you say more about it and what prompted you to make it an area of focus in your book?

KB: I’m an avid lover of food, but I’ve also been in the health world for years, and so I’m highly educated on the value and details of nutrition. And I’ve found that most people differentiate between “health” and “enjoyment.” They convince themselves they can either eat decadent or they can eat healthy. I wanted to bridge the gap, because I believe that you can nourish your body without taking away any of the enjoyment that food brings. I love that the world is moving in a direction that’s more conscious of food decisions, but sometimes that seems to also become very restrictive and creates neuroses, so I try to give people the tools to create true balance in the way they eat. So, eat that kale salad, but don’t be afraid to pair it with a glass of red wine!

 Eat and drink without fear, a la Kathryn Budig! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

 Eat and drink without fear, a la Kathryn Budig! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

BPF: I often take your classes on YogaGlo.com and read your work online. I’m a huge fan, and it has struck me that some of the head and heart stuff that you teach in class is similar to the things I teach clients one on one. You are incredibly wise, insightful and therapeutic! What steered you down the path of being such a fierce advocate for self-care, self-acceptance and authentic living?

KB: I think everything starts with how you take care of yourself as an individual, and I desire nothing less than to live the most embodied, passionate life possible. And in order to do that, I have to know what lights my fire and what makes my heart beat, but I also have to – as cliché as it sounds – absolutely love myself. So it starts with the self work and then, in doing that and discovering what works for me, offering that to my students, so that we can all help each other love who we are and support each other in that endeavor.

 It starts with you... know and love thyself! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

 It starts with you... know and love thyself! ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

BPF: Whether in fitness or life in general, what are some things that help you treat yourself with kindness and compassion rather than with criticism and perfectionist pressure?

KB: Perspective. It’s called being human, and the human condition is to be objective and critical, so I don’t know if there’s ever such a thing as quelling that voice, but I’ve found that if I take a moment to step back when I’ve moved into a place of negativity, that often it allows me to see the bigger picture and not just the fictional story that I’ve told myself that has usually led me to the negative space.

BPF: Clearly, Bettie Page is one of my fitness and life muses. Who are some of your top sources of inspiration in either or both areas?

KB: Seane Corn has been a huge mentor, guide and friend on my journey and she was the first person to tell me that I had a voice and that it was important that I use it. Also, Maty Ezraty trained me and will always be my teacher and I owe my teaching career to her. Ashi, my 10-year-old Puggle, has been with me every step of the way and constantly reminds me of what actually matters in life when I start to go off the deep end. And finally, my friends and family are the ultimate support system. They listen to me even when I’m completely irrational. They humor me and keep it real.  

Bettie Page flips her dog on the beach; Kathryn Budig snuggles with her Puggle, Ashi! ~~Page photo by Bunny Yeager; Budig photo by Cheyenne Ellis

Bettie Page flips her dog on the beach; Kathryn Budig snuggles with her Puggle, Ashi! ~~Page photo by Bunny Yeager; Budig photo by Cheyenne Ellis

BPF: I was so surprised and excited when I realized Bettie was into yoga, first from her photos and then from firsthand accounts of people who knew her. What are your thoughts about her yoga-esque poses?

KB: They’re beautiful. They’re reminiscent of the famous Marilyn Monroe yoga photos, and both women embody that old-world glamour that somehow seems to be lost today. I love the combination of playfulness and sexiness. It always brings me joy to see an empowered woman embracing who she is.

 A modern yogi and a retro yogi open their hearts in Camel Pose (Ustrasana)  ~~Budig photo by Cheyenne Ellis; Page photo by Irving Klaw

 A modern yogi and a retro yogi open their hearts in Camel Pose (Ustrasana)  ~~Budig photo by Cheyenne Ellis; Page photo by Irving Klaw

BPF: Where do you think someone like Bettie–a working model in NYC, generally–would have learned yoga back then? Marilyn Monroe is said to have perhaps learned from Indra Devi’s writings, and there are those beautiful photos you mentioned of her in various yoga poses. But it's not known where Bettie learned, though she did work out at the gym regularly and could have learned from someone there.

KB: It’s hard to say–maybe she learned from books. That was an era where yoga was still predominantly male, and Indra was incredible innovative and the first of her kind. So, I’m not entirely sure where Bettie would have learned from, but it shows that she had some prowess and moxie, learning wherever she could. 

Pinup Plow Pose! Bettie & Marilyn in their own variations of Halasana ~Page photo by Irving Klaw; Monroe photo by Ed Cronenweth

Pinup Plow Pose! Bettie & Marilyn in their own variations of Halasana ~Page photo by Irving Klaw; Monroe photo by Ed Cronenweth

It has been an absolute fan-girl pleasure to interview you, Kathryn! Thank you so much for all the goodness you bring to my life and to the world! 

    Glitter kisses! Bye for now, Beautiful!  xoxoxo  ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

    Glitter kisses! Bye for now, Beautiful!  xoxoxo  ~~Photo by Cheyenne Ellis

Just Say No to Dieting: Here’s a Kinder, Gentler Approach to Health

How to drop the weight-loss focus, get healthy, and feel good about yourself

body pos bikini bodies.jpg

BY TORI RODRIGUEZ

Want to enhance your self-esteem and body image, improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce depression, lessen your chance of developing an eating disorder, and quadruple your physical activity level? (I know - it’s a no-brainer.) Sounds like quite a challenge, but that’s exactly what a group accomplished in a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Think they did it by dieting? Think again.

Their success was due to their participation in a program called “Health at Every Size” (HAES), a non-diet approach that focuses on self-acceptance, intuitive eating, and mindful exercise. Throughout a two-year period, the HAES group was compared to a group of dieters to assess improvements in health. The findings show that the dieters worsened or remained the same on all levels after initially losing weight, most of which they had gained back by the end of the study, while 92% of the HAES folks maintained their healthy behaviors.

This holiday season, as many of us are gearing up – again – to lose weight, let’s finally accept that dieting doesn’t work and can actually cause mental and physical health problems. I propose that this year and going forward, instead of setting ourselves up for disappointment, let’s give ourselves the gift of good self-care by making better health our priority instead of thinness. Check out the tips below to start enjoying the benefits of HAES.

willpower gave up dieting haes body pos.jpg

♥  Accept yourself as you are right now, regardless of your weight. That doesn’t mean you have to like it or that you can never try to change it (though I would strongly encourage ongoing self-reflection about why you feel you MUST change it even if you are consistently eating well, exercising, and otherwise taking good care of your health), but it does mean you don’t put off liking yourself for when you weigh less. It’s hard enough to make lifestyle changes without constantly beating yourself up, so make self-compassion a priority and be gentle with yourself. Plus: be aware of and resist societal and media pressure to be thin.

♥  Focus on nourishment instead of deprivation. Rather than fixating on what you can’t eat, aim to give your body what it needs to function optimally. Consult a dietitian if you need some guidance, but be aware that many dietitians take the old-school, unscientific weight-loss and diet-y approach. Look for one who embraces the HAES approach or overlapping approaches like intuitive eating.

♥  Remember that nourishment includes sometimes indulging in foods you love that aren’t perhaps the top nutritional picks. The more you restrict your eating, the higher your risk of getting caught in the binge/deprive cycle typical of disordered eating.

♥  Don’t make your moods and self-worth contingent on whether you had a “good” food day or a “bad” food day. Instead, strive for “good enough”, and recognize that your worth as a person is independent of the food you put in your body. Of course, chronically feeding yourself unhealthy foods could signify issues that need to be addressed.

♥  Emphasize the process over the outcome. Think long-term and focus on healthy behaviors you can comfortably do every day instead of fixating on weight loss. This results in sustained health gains because the motivation is internal versus external - how you feel and what works for you, instead of how you look and what others think about it. Obsessing about appearance deters you from doing what’s best for your body and makes you more likely to take extreme measures. Aim for better health instead of better-looking, and you can’t go wrong.

Resources:

Go here to read the basic principles of HAES along with some eye-opening facts and statistics about dieting and weight loss culture: https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=161

Check out these books by the creator of HAES:

Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About your Weight

Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, or Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight

… and this one by Anita Johnston, which isn’t specifically HAES but is anti-deprivation and pro-intuitive eating with lots of beautiful, nourishing language and stories throughout: Eating by the Light of the Moon

Also, search for info and books on intuitive eating and mindful eating

And it might be a little dated but I love this book: The Don't Diet, Live-It! Workbook: Healing Food, Weight and Body Issues, by Andrea Wachter, LMFT, and Marsea Marcus, LMFT

diets just say no body pos.jpeg

The Bettie Page Guide To Body Confidence

The Queen of Pinups inspires women of all sizes and shapes to embrace and express who they are, as they are. Read on for eight Bettie-inspired ways to feel great about yourself.

Photos courtesy of Rizzoli.

Photos courtesy of Rizzoli.

BY TORI RODRIGUEZ

Bettie Page knew "exactly the right poses to make her body look perfect," says famous pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager, whose previously unreleased Bettie photos and commentary are featured in the book, Bettie Page: Queen of Curves, by Petra Mason. Indeed, you’ll notice that one of the many things that sets Bettie apart is her expert grasp of how to accentuate her "holy shit!" figure. She was often lifting, reaching, stretching, twisting, and rejoicing.

She had this obvious confidence and unabashed joy, despite all the challenges she faced in her impoverished, abusive childhood and into adulthood. This is probably one of many things that makes Bettie so appealing to women –who now make up the majority of her fan base, according to filmmaker Mark Mori, director of the documentary Bettie Page Reveals All. She inspires women of all sizes and shapes to embrace and express who they are, as they are. Read on for eight Bettie-inspired ways to feel great about yourself.

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💃🏻 DO YOU – FOR REAL.

Once turned down by Ford Modeling Agency for being "too curvy," Bettie became arguably the most influential model of all time. She keeps a steady spot on on Forbes’ annual list of top-earning deceased stars, and she’s been a source of style inspiration for everyone from Madonna to Katy Perry. Believe it or not, though, she had no clue she was doing anything special. When Yeager asked Bettie about her pervasive, trendsetting influence, she said, “I wasn’t trying to be anything. I was just myself.” So, take it from the Queen and don’t try too hard. You’re already a badass, even if you don't know it.

bettie bunny cam.jpg

💃🏻 STRIKE A POWER POSE.

Bettie knew about adopting powerful postures; her poses were open and expansive.* Studies have since found that putting your body in positions like this can actually boost your confidence and body image. So, make a point of taking up more space: Instead of standing slightly hunched with your arms crossed and your head tilted down, stand tall — with your shoulders wide and your chin up. 

[*The Bettie Page Fitness workout DVDs are purposefully packed with power poses! CLICK HERE to get yours!]

bettie bunny color.jpg

💃🏻 ALIGN WITH PEOPLE WHO BRING OUT YOUR BEST.

Bettie is said to have felt especially comfortable with Yeager because she was a woman (and a pin-up model herself before she picked up the camera), and she was always able to capture Bettie's free and joyful spirit. They only worked together over the course of one summer, but their collaboration made them both legends. Yeager's famous holiday-themed shot of Bettie in 1955 became Playboy's first-ever Christmas centerfold.

bettie and friends beach.jpg

💃🏻 TAKE RISKS.

It was rare in Bettie’s time for a woman to go to college, live alone, or support herself — but she did all three. She graduated from college with a teaching degree, but dreamed of being an actress like her icon, Bette Davis. When she was in her early 20s, she moved from her hometown of Nashville to NYC to go to acting school, and she supported herself with administrative jobs before she got into modeling. As a team, Bettie and Yeager were radical, fearless, and trailblazing; here were two young women defying the societal norms of the 1950s, determined to follow their dreams. Even their trips to the beach pushed the envelope: Bikinis were still considered taboo, yet Bettie would typically wear a two-piece — or nothing at all.

bettie bunny collage beach.jpg

💃🏻 KNOW WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.

Yeager noted that Bettie wore the same simple makeup in just about every shoot. Why keep up with the trends when you're setting one yourself?

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💃🏻 BE OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS.

While walking on the beach one day, Bettie met amateur photographer Jerry Tibbs, who suggested that her high forehead would work well with bangs. Bettie went home and chopped them herself, and her iconic look was born. Tibbs’s subsequent photos of her kicked off her career.

jungle bettie ostrich.jpg

💃🏻 EXPLORE YOUR CREATIVE SIDE.

Almost all of the bikinis and lingerie you see in Bettie’s photos were handmade by her. She knew exactly which cuts flattered her figure, so she made them herself — and unwittingly became a style idol, as confirmed by her spot on TIME’s 2012 list of the most influential fashion icons in history. Her designs were so unique that a clothing company stole some and marketed them as their own.

bettie nude boat.jpg

💃🏻 BE BODY POSITIVE.

Part of Bettie’s appeal is the boundless joy that seems to jump off the page at you when you look at her photos. “I was...doing my job and enjoyed every bit of it,” she says in Mori’s documentary. She was also clearly comfortable in her own skin, and wasn’t bothered by supposed "imperfections" like cellulite. Bettie reminds us that being real is something to celebrate. 💕

~ This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared on Refinery29.com. ~

Breathing Techniques for Less Stress & More Energy

Deeper inhales and exhales may be the easiest route to a happier, healthier existence. Here's how to take advantage

bettie breathing bettie page fitness.jpg

BY TORI RODRIGUEZ

It's crazy to think you could be messing up something you do some 20,000 times a day: inhaling and exhaling. Well, maybe not so much "messing up" as not doing it as efficiently and effectively as you could be.

"When done well, breathing can regulate and revitalize your body, your energy levels, and your mind," says Isaac Eliaz, M.D., director of the Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center in Sebastopol, California. Most people, however, suck in the bare minimum with each inhalation, filling their lungs with half a liter of air (your full lung capacity is at least five to six liters!) and depriving their organs of the O2 they need for peak performance.

The remedy, however, isn't just to gulp more air. The secret to most kinds of beneficial deep breathing--including the diaphragmatic, abdominal, and pranayama varieties--lies in longer, fuller exhalations, which rid your body of carbon dioxide and free up lots of extra space for when you do inhale. Keeping that in mind, read on to reap the many healthy rewards of the almighty breath.

A Stronger Immune System
Deep breathing can build your defenses because of something pretty basic: its relaxation effect. "When you decrease tension and stress, you curb the release of hormones and chemicals that can be detrimental to immune function," says Duck-Hee Kang, Ph.D., R.N., of the University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston.

Find Your Breath:
1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position, keeping your legs and spine straight. Place one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest.
2. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose and into your abdomen until your lungs are full. Pause for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through the mouth, making a quiet whooshing sound, until your lungs are empty. Repeat.

Less Anxiety
It turns out that the way we breathe has a strong effect on our feelings of fear. It's a vicious circle, really: When we're anxious, we tend to take short, shallow breaths, robbing the body of oxygen--and when we take rapid breaths, we're more likely to gasp for air and feel panicky. Long-exhalation breathing may signal the nervous system to slow down, lowering your heart rate and chilling you out.

Find Your Breath:
1. Stand, sit, or lie down, keeping your spine straight.
2. Breathe in for three to five seconds through your nose. Then breathe out very slowly and evenly through your nose, taking twice as long to exhale (six to 10 seconds). Repeat.

For this particular technique, you don't need to breathe into your belly or hold your breath between inhales and exhales, and there's no need to wait until your lungs are completely empty to inhale again. Just follow the timing and try to practice daily for five to 15 minutes.

Better Blood-Sugar Control
In a recent study, people who practiced diaphragmatic breathing for 40 minutes after wolfing down a high-cal, high-carb meal were able to offset many of the energy-zapping effects of over¬indulging (including eventual diabetes risk). Turns out, deep breathing can stimulate the production of insulin, which lowers blood-sugar levels; with more time, it can also nix extra cortisol (a stress hormone) and harmful free radicals, according to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Find Your Breath:
1. Ten minutes after you finish a big meal, sit comfortably in a quiet place, resting one hand on your stomach.
2. Breathe into your belly through your nose for about three seconds. Make sure you can feel your stomach expanding. Breathe out through your nose for three seconds. Repeat.
3. To get the full effect, keep at it for at least 30 minutes.

An Enhanced Attention Span
Make like a Zen monk and combine deep breathing with mindful breathing (the kind used in meditation) to help you focus. A 2011 study found that just one 20-minute session could increase the flow of oxygenated blood to your brain, ramping up activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area associated with concentration. Bonus: This type of breathing also raises levels of the "happy hormone" serotonin, which can help ease symptoms of depression.

Find Your Breath:
Sit comfortably in a quiet, dimly lit room. Close your eyes and relax. 1. Inhale slowly through your nose for six to eight seconds. Focus on the sound of your breath and on breathing deeply into your lower abdomen.
2. Exhale through your nose for nine to 12 seconds. Contract your abdominal muscles as you breathe out. Repeat.
3. Your goal is around three or four breaths per minute. Work up to super-beneficial 20-minute intervals.

Amped-Up Heart Health
If, when you're seriously stressed, you can feel your heart rate increasing, consider pranayama your new best friend. The yoga-based breathing method ensures you're taking in enough oxygen and leads to lowered blood pressure in just two weeks, according to a study in Heart Views. Ideally, you'd practice for around 40 minutes a day, says study author Anita Herur, M.D. Realistically, though, you can try the breathing steps below whenever you have time.

Find Your Breath:
1. Sit or lie in a quiet place.
2. Breathe deeply through your nose for five seconds, then exhale through your nose for five seconds. Repeat this pattern for 10 minutes.
3. Hold your left nostril closed and follow the above breathing pattern, using only your right nostril. Repeat for 10 minutes, then switch nostrils.
4. Continue the breathing pattern, but this time alternate nostrils: Inhale deeply through your right and exhale through your left. Inhale through your left, then exhale through your right, and so on. Repeat the pattern for 10 minutes.

NOSE VS. MOUTH
There's no single "right" way to breathe. Generally, though, try to get air through your schnoz, which filters out dirt and bacteria. (Yes, nose hairs are good for something!) Nasal passages also moisten air, making it easier on your lungs. Try to breathe through your mouth only when you are exercising and need to take in large amounts of oxygen at once.

Focus exclusively on the sound and feeling of your breaths for five to 10 minutes. (Once you get the hang of it, you can work up to 20 minutes.) The key, says Kang, is consistency: Try it once a day, three or four times a week, and keep it up for at least several months.

~ This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared in Women's Health Magazine. ~

How to Live in the Now

By practicing mindfulness, you can reduce stress, boost your brain, and power up your body

Stop and smell the roses... and kiss them if you'd like. ;)

Stop and smell the roses... and kiss them if you'd like. ;)

BY TORI RODRIGUEZ

It was sort of a pre-midlife crisis that led Jessica Obenschain, 35, to the practice that would transform her life. After a few fits and starts, she'd finally graduated from college at age 29; but when she looked around at the "real world"—then cascading into financial free fall—her plans to quickly score a job faltered. Her anxiety, however, mounted so much that she would have panic attacks a few times a week while driving, including to interviews. She'd have to pull over and call her husband for a ride home, leaving her car and potential employment behind.

While researching ways to cope, Jessica stumbled across mindfulness, the practice of living in—and accepting—the present moment. She gave it a try. "After a couple months, something changed," she says. "My panic just went away. The more I practiced, the more I realized I could take care of myself—behind the wheel and in general." These days, as a mom and freelance writer, she's largely without anxiety.

Jessica is just one of many turning to mindfulness, for everything from stress and anxiety relief to help with sleep to better performance at work (or at the gym, or even in bed!).

"Mindfulness has gone from a niche practice to something embraced by tens—if not hundreds—of millions of people," says Danny Penman, Ph.D., coauthor of Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. It's showing up in the boardroom (Google offers its staff a program), the classroom (some school districts add it to teacher training), and even Congress (see Rep. Tim Ryan's new book, A Mindful Nation). And per new science, it works—with no negative side effects.

Gain Mind Control

Like most integrative mind-body therapies (yoga, acupuncture), mindfulness isn't exactly new. Its roots lie in ancient Buddhism, and a secular version was popularized stateside in the 1970s. But for decades, mainstream culture viewed it as New Age fluff, a hippie-esque way of tuning out.

Then came a perfect storm. Studies began exploding out of research labs, proving that mindfulness could be a key to fighting disease. At the same time, technology advanced to the point that we live under a nonstop bombardment of information, 24 hours a day. And the financial crisis hit, leaving people in a "constantly stressed, burned-out state of existence," says Penman. Suddenly, that New Age fluff was looking pretty good.

The concept is at once super simple and difficult to grasp. "Mindfulness is a full awareness of precisely what is happening in the present," says Penman. OK, but. . .huh? Think of it like this: Most of us spend a lot of time either mulling over the past (if only I'd kept my mouth shut) or worrying about the future (will I ever finish this assignment?). Mindfulness involves stilling that chatter and focusing on the here and now, says psychologist Susan Albers, Psy.D., a mindfulness expert at the Cleveland Clinic. "It is concentrating on what's happening in the moment, without dwelling, judging, or trying to change anything."

In other words, no overthinking or over-analyzing—or the opposite, banishing all thoughts. Unlike many forms of meditation, which involve totally clearing your mind, mindfulness means letting your thoughts come and go without rushing to figure out what they mean.

If that sounds a little too Zen, keep in mind that you can't be mindful allthe time. There is, however, a cumulative and lasting effect. "Mindfulness is both a process and an outcome," says Mirabai Bush, of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. "The day-to-day practice leads to a general state of heightened awareness." It also leads to some awesome health boons.

Bettie soaking in that present-moment goodness!

Bettie soaking in that present-moment goodness!

 

Head-Strong Habits
Turns out, all that harping on the past or future is way stressful. It activates your sympathetic nervous system, the driving force behind the body's fight-or-flight response. Kicking that into continuous high gear can seriously tax your body and mind, says Penman.

Obviously, no one can live worry-free. But what you can do is dial down a prolonged fight-or-flight impulse by flexing your parasympathetic nervous system, a.k.a. your relaxation response, via—yup, you guessed it—mindfulness.

The chill-out effect comes with major brain bonuses. People who practice everyday mindfulness can actually change the structure of their brains, beefing up the areas that control emotions and stress responses, says psychologist Britta Holzel, Ph.D., a neuroscience researcher at Charite Hospital in Berlin. That's why mindfulness can mean the difference between freaking out and keeping cool when, say, your friend flakes on dinner or you get unfair criticism from a boss. And why it's been proven to help ward off anxiety and depression.

Body-wise, the more mindful you are, the more dominant your relaxation response becomes, which means you have fewer stress hormones coursing through you at any given time. Hence the links between mindfulness and reductions in blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation. The practice has also been shown to aid chronic fatigue sufferers in one study and cut irritable bowel syndrome symptoms by 38 percent, per another study. What's more, it can help increase your pain tolerance, and your social and sex lives benefit too: Mindfulness can lead to less social anxiety and more sexual satisfaction.

Start Your Practice
Best of all: Mindfulness is free. Caveat: It takes loads of practice. But before the idea of more work makes you turn away, consider that you can try it anytime, any place, in almost any situation. And once you get the hang of it, you'll automatically be more mindful, without much effort.

To start, try to set aside 10 to 20 minutes a day. Remember that "you'll never be able to spend tons of time in a state of mindfulness; the human mind is designed to wander, and that's OK," says Penman. So don't give yourself a mental spanking if you break your concentration. Keep at it with these step-by-step tips.

Just Breathe. The very thing that makes mindfulness so accessible—you can do it anywhere—is also what can make it seem confusing. The simplest place to begin is with your breath, says Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center. Sit or stand in a comfortable, quiet place and breathe naturally. No need to count inhalations and exhalations; just relax, focusing on the sensations in your stomach, chest, or nostrils. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Use What You've Got. Next, try bringing that "here and now" awareness to everyday activities. For example, notice the warmth of the water and movement of your hands while washing the dishes; focus on how the bristles feel on your gums while brushing your teeth; observe the leaves, grass, and smells around you on a nature walk.

Find Your Center. Start employing that focus in small real-life situations. Take your mental temperature throughout the day. If you notice you are, for example, stressed about an upcoming work meeting, spend a few minutes in mindful breathing. Don't try to push your anxious thoughts away; rather, try watching your mind in action. Acknowledge your stress and where it's stemming from. This helps dissolve negativity, says Penman.

Get Ready For Prime Time. You can try mindfulness in higher-stakes scenarios—such as a confrontation with a friend. Practice mindful breathing beforehand, and then, even in the thick of conversation, stay aware of your breath, body, and emotions. Remain in the moment rather than jumping ahead to how you'll respond or fend off a verbal bruising. This will help you be a better listener and avoid saying anything you'll later regret.

Know How To Stop. If at any point you get frustrated—hey, it happens, even to the pros—fall back on the STOP method: Stop, Take a breath, Observe what's happening inside and around you at that moment, then Proceed with whatever you're doing. Eventually, your default emotional setting will be calmer—and your body and mind will thank you.

It's always easy to tune in to right now when you're at the beach! 

It's always easy to tune in to right now when you're at the beach! 

~ This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared in Women's Health Magazine. The wording here has been slightly modified to accurately to reflect Tori's views. ~

 

9 Ways to Love Your Body Right Now

Ditch negative thoughts and feel better about the skin you're in

-Tori Rodriguez

The rare Bettie pic without the sucked-in stomach that was so common in her day! Beautiful!

The rare Bettie pic without the sucked-in stomach that was so common in her day! Beautiful!

While the advice to "love your body" seems easy enough, a surprising number of women have a hard time taking it to heart: According to an estimate from the National Eating Disorders Association, 80 percent of women in the U.S. are unhappy with the way their bodies look. So you're not alone if you've ever felt less than thrilled with the reflection in the mirror. But if the body blues have you down more often than not, it's time to boost your satisfaction when it comes to your one-of-a-kind physique. Read on for nine tips that will help you start loving your body as it is.

1. Curb the comparisons.

A 2010 study from the University of Louisville found that women's perceptions of their bodies were negatively influenced when they compared their appearances to those of others. When you find yourself making comparisons, stop and thank your body for all the things it allows you to do instead of what it looks like. No matter how you feel about it, "your body still continues to get up and go each morning, and it deserves a big thank-you," says Dina Zeckhausen, PhD, psychologist and author of Full Mouse, Empty Mouse, a children's book that addresses healthy eating and body image. "When I ask kids, 'What do you appreciate about your body?' they say, 'My body lets me play soccer!' or 'My body lets me give and get hugs!'" Take a page from their book and start appreciating your body for everything you can achieve because of it.

2. Change your approach to exercise.

A University of South Florida study from the November 2010 issue of the journal Sex Rolesfound that people with a distorted body image often work out because they feel like they must. If exercise feels more like a have-to than a want-to, it's time to revamp your regimen. Try different kinds of exercise to find the ones you enjoy doing. "Whether you actually lose a pound or not, your body image will be better after you have increased your endorphins through fun and playful physical activity," notes Dr. Zeckhausen. For a boredom buster, try belly dancing, which research has connected with high levels of body satisfaction.

Bettie belly dancing... or something like it. ;)

Bettie belly dancing... or something like it. ;)

3. Switch subjects.

A lot of women seek comfort by bonding through body-bashing talk, but in the end, it only makes us feel worse. A recent study in the January 2011 issue of Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that conversations about appearance predicted body dissatisfaction. Share these findings with your best buds, and agree to make an effort to talk about jobs, kids, current events and shared passions instead. Whenever you slip up (and it's OK if you do––the goal is awareness, not perfection!) change the topic to something more fulfilling.

4. Resist unrealistic expectations.

A Louisiana State University study from July 2010 linked having a negative body image with comparing oneself to images of models with an "ideal" body type. If this is a hot button for you, do yourself a favor and avoid magazines and TV shows that feature a lot of super-thin women. Says Dr. Zeckhausen, "If images of unattainable bodies fuel your insecurities, cut off the supply at the source!" When images of ultra-thin models can't be avoided, give yourself a reality check by reminding yourself that only two percent of American women are as thin as most fashion models. Or, Dr. Zeckhausen suggests getting a little perspective on the matter. "Instead of flipping through magazines, view artists' renderings of the female form over the centuries or take a life drawing class which allows you to see the female body through an artist's eyes. Observing a body through a perspective of line, color and shade can help you realize that 'imperfections' make an image more interesting."

5. Let others feed your spirit.

"When people compliment you, do you brush it off?" asks Dr. Zeckhausen. "Doing so is like throwing away medicine and wondering why you still feel sick." If you focus on negative thoughts about your body but won't let the positive feedback in, you're bound to feel bad about yourself. She suggests thanking others for their kind words, and advises that you "try to view yourself through the eyes of those who love you."

6. Stop the negative self-talk.

"Too often we normalize our body hatred by letting unkind words pass our lips about ourselves without a thought," explains Rosie Molinary, author of Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance. "We should catch and correct ourselves because our whole lives are affected by how we think and speak about our bodies." Her advice: Deposit a quarter into a designated container each time you criticize your body, and "watch your self-awareness soar and your habits change. When you've collected enough money, treat yourself to a gift or donate it. We can all change our language—and our minds."

Oh come on now, this is taking the whole compare-yourself-to-others thing way too far! ;)

Oh come on now, this is taking the whole compare-yourself-to-others thing way too far! ;)

7. Dress your personal best.

We often hang onto clothes from when we were thinner so we'll be inspired to one day fit into them again. But Dr. Zeckhausen says, "Instead of keeping skinny clothes as 'thinspiration,' donate too-tight or outdated items…buy clothes that fit your body now so you are less self-conscious. You deserve to feel pretty at your current weight."

8. Cut out the body checking.

A January 2011 study from the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that when participants repeatedly checked themselves out in a mirror it made them dissatisfied with their bodies––and it also gave them a heightened awareness of bodies in general. "Watch for times when you're checking yourself out in mirrors, windows, even shadows. When you catch yourself doing it, take a breath and change your focus," says Molinary. You won't look any different from one minute to the next, and "by curtailing the behavior that fuels your obsession, you train yourself to turn off the tape that keeps cycling in your head."

9. Think nourishment, not numbers.

Instead of going for a specific number on the scale, gauge whether your weight is "ideal" by assessing the following: Are you getting a variety of natural, tasty, satisfying foods and enough movement to stimulate your body and brain on a regular basis? Are you mostly fulfilled by what you eat, and rarely feel deprived? If freedom from deprivation—and the obsessive food- and body-related thoughts that come with it—means weighing more than you're "supposed to" (based on someone else's standards), it may be a healthy tradeoff you should make.

*This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared on WomansDay.com.

10 Proven Tips to Stop Food Cravings

Dieting doesn't work, but for those of us who often eat in response to stress, boredom, sadness - or even happiness - it's good to have some tricks in your toolbox to deal with constant cravings. Try these!

pinup pasta.jpg

BY TORI RODRIGUEZ

You know that stress and feeling down can make food cravings soar, but a good mood can trigger overeating just as much as a bad one. In both states, "people tend to consume tasty, high-caloric foods," says researcher Peg Bongers, of Maastricht University in the Netherlands. "Few—if any—people will eat a carrot when they feel sad or have something to celebrate." All the more reason you need an arsenal of options to avoid overdoing it. Try these 10 surprising ones, whether you're in the throes of the blues or bliss.

1. Take a whiff of something else. Studies show that sniffing peppermint or jasmine extract dampens desire for chocolate and other high-calorie faves. "When people crave a particular food, they have vivid images not only of how delicious it looks but also of how good it smells," says Eva Kemps, PhD, a professor at Flinders University in Australia. Inhaling an unrelated scent "reduces the vividness and clarity of these imagined smells, and reduces the craving for that food." Keep some jasmine or peppermint essential oil handy, and indulge your nose when temptation strikes.

2. Tune into your body. In one study, an exercise called "body scan" kept cravings in check. "When people crave something, they see it in their mind's eye, and the stronger and more vivid this imagery is, the worse the craving becomes," says Jon May, PhD, of Plymouth University's Cognition Institute in the U.K. Envisioning something else weakens the craving imagery—and the craving itself. Settle into a quiet spot and mentally "scan" your body from toes to head, noticing sensations as you go. As other thoughts arise, acknowledge them, then return your attention to your body.

3. Take a mental vacation. Dr. May's study also found that visualizing a 10-minute walk through the forest helped head off food urges…if you tap into multiple senses. So imagine seeing colorful birds, smelling pine trees and feeling the ground beneath your feet as you walk. If the forest isn't your thing, try the beach or mountains. The imagery doesn't just provide distraction, says Dr. May: "It uses mental processes also used by cravings, so it's particularly good at making them easier to resist."

4. Take on a challenging task. According to recent research, it doesn't just reduce cravings; it increases more nutritious food choices too. "Humans can only maintain a limited amount of information simultaneously," says Lotte van Dillen, PhD, a professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands. In situations that require a lot of brainpower, "there simply is not enough mental capacity available for cravings to persist, so people will be less vulnerable to temptation." When the snack machine beckons, tackle advanced Sudoku instead.

5. Don't react to your thoughts. Just because you think something ("Must have candy now!") doesn't mean you have to follow it (by devouring any sweet treat within reach). In a 2012 study, one group of people who noticed their thoughts but recognized that they didn't have to do anything about them had a big dip in their desire for chocolate—and the amount they ate. In fact, it was a more effective craving cutter than using a relaxation technique.

6. Play games. Dust off the Nintendo. A new study found that people who played Tetris for just three minutes had significantly weaker cravings than participants who didn't play, perhaps because the game loads down working memory and crowds out tempting thoughts. Good thing there are several ways to get your game fix: If you don't have a gaming system, you can play Tetris on your computer or smart phone.

7. Hit the pavement. A brisk 15-minute walk helped reduce women's chocolate cravings in a recent study. It could be because exercise slashes the tension, boredom and fatigue that can lead to unhealthy food choices. More possible reasons: "Short bouts of physical activity throughout the day may help regulate mood and reduce focus on snacks," points out Hwajung Oh, PhD, a professor at Seoul National University in South Korea.

8. Work with clay. Maybe they were onto something in Ghost. Making shapes out of modeling clay can reduce the strength of cravings and the frequency of thoughts about the desired food, according to a 2012 study. The simple reason: The task competes with the craving for our attention, according to experts. Don't worry about making a masterpiece: Study participants made as many pyramids and cubes as they could within 10 minutes.

9. Remember your last meal. Hunger is the strongest cue to eat, of course, but when we don't have a clear sense of what we most recently ate, we can think we're hungry when we're not. Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. found that people felt fuller when they recalled having eaten a large meal, but when they thought the meal was smaller than it was, they felt hungrier. Try writing down details of your meals to refer to later, or take a mental (or real) snapshot so there's no wondering what you last ate.

10. Do what works for you. Simply using tips from a self-help book about dealing with cravings decreased them in a recent study, while trying to suppress food thoughts had the opposite effect. The self-help approach may have worked because participants chose strategies they preferred, and people are more likely to rely on a technique if they like it, says researcher Boris C. Rodríguez Martín, PhD. The takeaway: Pick out the tips above that appeal most to you, and count on just them when cravings arise.

~This article by Tori Rodriguez originally appeared on WomansDay.com; intro language has been slightly modified to reflect author's views.~