Satirical Aerobics

For years I have had a dream.

It strikes me that most exercise videos are excessively earnest. Perky! Sincere! Cheerleader-esque!

There seemed to be few, if any, home workout routines for people with a healthy sense of irony, and a taste for the absurd. My people.

For too long I lacked the time, the equipment, and the chutzpah to make an ass of myself, without losing 30 lbs and an ankle brace or two.

But now–thanks to the unremitting skill and attention of Terry McHugh of NovaCare Physical Therapy, and Dawn of MotherHeart Studio–my chronic knee and ankle injuries are so well-healed that I can skip, sauté and bourreé to the satisfaction of all my kitchen appliances, and the total expense of dignity.

Because nothing hurts.


Get Your Body Back!!!

I always thought that personal trainers were for trophy wives. Which would not be me.

Plus, I hate gyms. I see no reason to subject myself to an environment full of clanking torture devices, fluorescent lights, TV screens, hideous music, sweaty odors and the sound of grunting. Not when the free, beautiful outdoors–for running, hiking, biking and dancing–is right there. The only reason I can think of to join a gym would be 1) unlimited pool access and 2) unlimited sauna access. No pool, no sauna, no deal.

Then my posterior tibial tendon gave out, and I was in trouble. Running was Right Out. Biking was fine, until it snowed. Even my favorite yoga classes were off limits–too much strain on the tendons.

Out of curiosity born of desperation, I tried a personal training session with Kate, of Bodywise Wellness. She has a private, quiet, stress-free training studio in the Northern Liberties, just a few blocks from Practical Bodywork.

Kate tailored a workout specifically to my concerns, my injury and my fitness level, which was fun, challenging and burned 647 calories, according to my Cardio Trainer.

The next day, I felt the kind of sore that feels AWESOME.

I started going regularly. She gave me a completely different workout every time. After three weeks, I was trotting up stairs, instead of dragging myself along by yanking on the banister. I dusted off my dance aerobic routines. I started getting more done, having more fun, and challenging my four-year-old to race me up the stairs.

After a workout with Kate, I feel that endorphin glow you get after skiing Tahoe all afternoon, minus the price of the lift ticket. That’s something I thought my ankle injury had taken away forever.

So I am sold. So sold, in fact, that I want to buy YOU a session with Kate.

Yep, you heard me right. Kate’s training is the bee’s knees, and the perfect complement to the kind of bodywork you get from me.

Because if you’re working through an injury, struggling with chronic pain, or just aching from too much stress, you come to me. You get yourself a structural myofascial package, because that’s the series that transforms your alignment, your energy level and your outlook, all at a sweet discount per session.

And from December 16 of this year through January 6 of 2014, when you buy a structural myofascial series for yourself or for someone else, I’m throwing in a gift certificate for a one-on-one session with Kate. That’s how awesome I think she is.

So if you’ve been thinking of making some personal transformations in the new year, this is the deal for you.

It’s also transferable. You can get bodywork for yourself, and give a training session as a gift, or vice versa. You can forward this article to your loved ones with the subject heading, “hint, hint.” You can give the gift of massage, and grab your training session as a reward for being so generous. You choose.

Happy holidays! Let’s thrive together!

Touchy Topic Tuesday: Supermarket Horrors

Yes, there is a website called

I love to grocery shop. It’s grounding, sensual, creative and pragmatic. In a world full of anxiety, filling my cupboards with a week’s worth of healthy meals feels like putting a carabiner in the cliff face of my life.

But I’m also a professional health-news junkie. And now my local Superfresh is a minefield.

Top priority: fresh fruits and vegetables, of course. Except that I will no longer buy commercial tomatoes. Aside from the fact that they’re tasteless, odorless and have the texture of moist sand, they’re produced by slave labor under brutally toxic working conditions that lay waste to Florida’s wetlands. (This is not remotely hyperbolic. Read the book.)

I try to buy locally grown, semi-organic, in-season produce, without bankrupting myself by insisting on Organic Everything. But lurking in the back of my mind is the knowledge that I’m almost certainly buying something that was sprayed with something poisonous by a person making starvation wages, with no civil rights and no healthcare.

On to the deli. Home of nitrate- and MSG-ridden processed meats, with bread made with toxic dough conditioners. Salami made in countries where those things are banned costs twice as much, but occasionally I buy it anyway, because my family really likes it.

People ask me all the time if I’m a vegetarian. The answer is a resounding ‘no.’ Aside from the fact that cooking vegetarian/vegan is tricky and time-consuming if you do it well, new research is continually coming to light about the value of cholesterol in brain health, the role of high-carb diets in contributing to obesity and diabetes, and the difficulty of getting necessary amino acids from a vegetarian diet.

But then Andrew Sullivan posted about about the lives of factory-farmed pigs–how they spend their entire lives in cages too small to turn around in.  About the body parts that get cut off of chickens because they’re crushed into boxes too closely to avoid injuring one another, otherwise. And then there are the super-viruses which are created when we routinely pump animals full of antibiotics, and the health risks that come from eating meat and dairy full of added hormones.

So pork and bacon are off the list, unless I know the farmer who raised the pig. Instead of getting big packages of cheap chicken, I get small ones that claim to be humane and antibiotic-free. I get frozen seafood on sale, closing my eyes to the problems of overfishing, ocean pollution and the potential disease and toxicity of factory-farmed fish. Occasionally, wracked with guilt, I grab a steak, but I never buy frozen processed food-like objects made of ground-up gristle or Pink Slime, even when my daughter points them out.

For it is a fact of modern life that any package which bears an adorable cartoon character on it contains more than 50% sugar, high-fructose corn sweetener, artificial coloring, trans fats, and any number of other nutrition-free, metabolism-wrecking substances. When I say to my four-year-old, “No, we’re not getting that, honey, because it’s poisonous,” I am not joking. I read too freaking much.

I do not want to be a rigid, humorless hippie mom whose kid has never tasted candy. Neither do I want my child to grow up at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, obesity, kidney disease, autoimmune disease, and mental health issues (!). The twelfth time I have to say “No, you can’t have that, because it’s got TOO MUCH SUGAR,” I start to think that these goals are mutually incompatible.

By the time we get to the eggs (cage and cruelty-free, no antibiotics or hormones), cheese, milk and yogurt (organic? Not enough money in the bank this month–or this year, or this decade), I’m exhausted. I feel like a criminal. I want to grab the grocery conglomerates by the throat and scream, “DO YOU HAVE SOULS??? WHY, THEN, WHY????” Why is it so easy to obtain food that harms your body, other people, animals and the planet, and so difficult (and expensive!) to find food that nourishes and heals?

This, then, is why I braved the suffocating claustrophobia and militaristic organizational structure of the Park Slope Food Coop for nearly a decade. This, my friends, is why I joined the Kensington Community Food Coop when I moved to Philadelphia, and why I give a 10% discount to members.  Food is important. It’s what we’re made of. We HAVE to spend our money on it, and money is a powerful force for good or evil.

And we can’t put the supermarket Pandora back in the box alone.

P.S. KCFC is ON THE VERGE of negotiating a deal for a building. Now is the time to join, if you haven’t already!!!

Weight Loss, Revisited

Certain Foods Can Aid Weight Loss –

Pureed vegetables in your casseroles? Seems devious and mildly depressing, but if you must.

However, Pretty Lady’s advice for joyous weight loss is still relevant, so here it is, virtually unedited.

1. Do yoga.

Yoga, by and large, will not directly help a person lose weight. It does, however, gently balance and nourish the body as a whole, thus relieving pain, toning the system, helping to release toxins, and getting you in shape to tackle a more-rigorous workout.

If you are having trouble standing up out of chairs, if your back hurts constantly, and you cannot touch your toes, it is best to start with Basic Hatha. This will involve moving slowly into mildly contorted poses, and learning how to breathe. Select a teacher who explains things clearly, is anatomically knowledgeable, and does not shame you.

If you are already able to touch your toes, or if you do not suffer from chronic pain and are in relatively competant cardiovascular shape (i.e. you do not start puffing heavily while climbing two flights of stairs), you may start with Bikram. Bikram is the fabled Hot Yoga sequence, popularized by Madonna and Gwyneth. It is a series of twenty-four poses, performed in a sauna-temperature studio, which are designed to flush the entire body of toxins, stimulate each body system in turn, and take years off your age.

Pretty Lady can attest that it works. After her first class, she experienced quite a dramatic toxic–well, this does not bear description. After her first two weeks of classes, she looked five years younger. After her first six months of classes, she was bored silly. Pretty Lady is a dancer by temperament, and repeating the same damn series of poses every day drives her bananas.

So she moved on to Vinyasa. Vinyasa Yoga is basically Hatha, but a bit more challenging, rigorous, and movement-oriented. A good Vinyasa teacher will have you puffing and doing acrobatic stunts in no time.

2. Work out.

If a person is serious about shedding spiritual poundage, however, more than yoga is required. Once you have done enough yoga so that you can stand on one foot and pull the opposite ankle up to your behind without thinking much about it, you may move on to a more cardiovascular workout.

By far the cheapest and easiest of these is running. Running merely requires a good pair of shoes and a world to run in. If you are not enlightened yet, the world is in front of you; do not skimp on the shoes. Good arch supports are a must. Buy another pair of shoes every six months, whether you think you need them or not. Pretty Lady can attest to the horrors attendant upon working out in bad shoes.

Unfortunately, running is also the sport which causes the greatest amount of wear and tear on the limbs, as Pretty Lady can also attest. If you are over thirty, have flat feet, dicey knees, chronic back pain, or wish to avoid these things, take up biking instead. It doesn’t give you either such a dependable endorphin high or quick physiological transformation, but in the long term it allows you to keep your ability to walk.

Speaking of walking: do it. Every day, at every decent opportunity. Take the stairs. Pop round to the corner store. Stroll up to the lake, or round the park. Visit the neighbors. Fie on this driveway-office-driveway-supermarket-driveway culture. Fie, I say.

It is important to discover a workout which gives you joy. If you love swimming, swim. If you love dancing, dance. If you love hiking, biking, fencing, kickboxing, tennis–well, there you go. If you love beating the shit out of people, there are innumerable martial arts studios springing up everywhere.

3. Watch what you eat.

Pretty Lady is not fond of the Denial attitude toward diet. Proscriptions are depressing and ultimately unsustainable. Surrounding your mental landscape with a forest of ‘no’s’ is not, in her opinion, the best way to cultivate a sense of spiritual freedom, joy and possibility.

Instead, concentrate on adding healthy, wonderful, fresh, nutrious, organic foods to your diet. Focus on fresh organic vegetables, salads, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and fish. Go out of your way to use organic extra-virgin olive oil. Variety is key; get a Thai, Indian, or Chinese cookbook and start experimenting. Make French salads.

Pretty Lady must pause here and give her general guidelines for a French salad.

Take one each of: a green, a steamed or cooked or grated vegetable, a cheese, a fruit, and a nut.

Dress with a dressing made up of: extra-virgin olive oil, lemon or lime juice, balsamic, apple cider, or red-wine vinegar,herbes du provence, salt and pepper.

Suggested greens:
Boston lettuce
red or green leaf lettuce
kale (use plenty of lemon in the dressing for this.)

Suggested vegetables:
steamed sugar snap peas
haricots verts (or green beans are fine, sort of)
steamed asparagus
beets, boiled or grated raw
grated carrot
steamed or canned yellow corn
artichoke hearts

Suggested fruits:
dried cranberries
mandarin oranges

Suggested cheeses:

Suggested nuts:
toasted walnuts
sunflower seeds

Feel free to mix, match, add, and experiment to your heart’s content. If you cannot find herbes du provence, get organo, basil, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary, and mix them together.

Also, substitute solid white albacore tuna for the cheese, or add anchovies to the dressing.

Once you have got in the habit of including at least one fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and lean protein in each meal, buttressed by modest amounts of olive oil, you will find that such things as chips, doughnuts, cake, cookies, white bread, deep-fried food, greasy meat, sodas, ice cream, and generally bad-for-you things do not disappear, but lose their central importance. You cannot ingest an entire bag of chocolate chip cookies when your system is already knawing on an exquisite French salad, perhaps with a bit of homemade bread, and an espresso for dessert. You may find the room for two or three cookies. But then your system will simply say, “no, thank you. I do not require more cookies. I am Content.”

4. Love people, love what you do, love your life, love yourself.

Overeating and failing to exercise are symptoms of despair and self-hatred, in Pretty Lady’s opinion. They are an attempt to fill a deep internal void with sweet greasy fluff. This is why the sight of an obese person makes Pretty Lady want to cry, rather than sneer. She has been there herself; most of us have. If you find yourself compulsively overeating, look critically at your life, and ask yourself, ‘what do I need that I haven’t got?’ Be honest. Acknowledge the frustration, the rage, the loneliness, the misery, the humiliation. Forgive yourself for feeling these universal human emotions. Acknowledge that you are a child of the universe, and you have a right to be here.

Then get to work rectifying the real problem, and leave the doughnuts behind.