What It’s Like To Be A Fitness Instructor After An Eating Disorder


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This piece originally appeared on Bustle

This piece is part of Bustle's My Life With, which is all about removing the invisibility around living with a chronic illness.

Like many trainers, I was a professional dancer before I found fitness. I began dancing at three years old; the joy I associate with movement is deeply ingrained in me. But growing up, my dance training was pretty intense. I don’t remember ever being explicitly told I had to look a certain way by my teachers or peers, but my desire to be the best, coupled with not knowing how to manage my emotions around my parents' difficult divorce, manifested in an eating disorder, starting around age 10, that spanned most of my life. I learned to control my body because I couldn’t control casting, my parents' relationship, or feeling good enough.

I started teaching Pilates when I was 22 as a fluke. It was only ever supposed to be the day job so that I could devote more time to auditioning, training, and gigging in the competitive New York dance world. Pilates promised a flexible schedule and excellent cross-training for a dancer. I was more surprised than anyone when I realized how fulfilled it made me feel. For the first time, I really felt like I was not only doing a service, but I was doing it effectively. Being forced to speak publicly several hours a day, to be looked at as an authority at the front of a classroom, was terrifying at first. But eventually, teaching helped me find a genuine self-confidence I never really had before. I got less nervous speaking in front of strangers and started to trust myself as an expert. I began to look at movement as a purely enjoyable thing, rather than something I had to excel at to be worthy of doing.

Even as I was feeling more empowered by the day through teaching, I was still sick. I transitioned from alternating bouts of anorexia and bulimia to orthorexia, aka an obsession with “clean” eating. I became fixated on being as healthy as possible. My fitness routine mirrored my eating habits: I took multiple classes a day spurred by the same perfectionist instincts I had as a dancer, that were just as easy to hide in plain sight as a trainer. Because wellness culture looks at these habits as disciplined and “clean,” it was easy to disguise the fact that it was obsessive behavior.

But as I grew as an instructor, and developed close relationships with my students, I noticed that I was often a sounding board for all of their insecurities. Stunningly beautiful women would take my class and complain about their stomachs, arms, thighs, butts. It kind of blew my mind to think that they could hate these things on themselves, even though I still hated my own body. Out of nowhere, their negative self-talk felt like a real problem. I became self-conscious of how I talked in class because people were looking to me for the answers for their insecurities.

In the past, I was definitely guilty of the shameful verbiage you often hear in group fitness. But I cut out the expressions like “earn your dinner” as motivation and made a point to cue from an educational standpoint. I’m always happy to speak on what muscle is working, but I intentionally explain why strength or mobility is necessary for your body to function, rather than to have any “look.” I’d push my students towards the sense of pride they’d feel after reaching a new personal record instead of encouraging reminding them “summer is coming!”

I don’t think I was initially very concerned about my own health, but the impetus to actually address my issues sprung from my wanting to “walk the talk” I was giving the women showing up to my class every day. I started sharing my own personal mental health evolution and body image challenges on Instagram. The supportive feedback I got was overwhelming. Not only did my clients relate, but they started sharing their own stories of shame around their bodies. That dialogue alone was so healing everyone involved. The sheer repetition of speaking about exercise as a means to accomplish more than just losing weight helped reinforce my own relatively new belief system and created a safe space for people to practice enjoying their bodies. I started cognitive behavioral therapy again and was introduced to somatic experiencing, an alternative form of therapy for PTSD that builds mindfulness skills by focusing on the physical sensations that accompany uncomfortable thoughts. My eyes were opened to just how badly I’d been treating myself, and how real the connection between our physical selves and our mental selves is.

These days, instead of running on the treadmill until I’ve burned off all the calories I consumed that day, I work towards specific functional goals — evening out muscular imbalances, doing the full expression of a push up without dropping my knees, setting the box to the next highest position for a box jump — so that I can get that feeling of mastery and endorphin rush, but it’s not based on losing weight or fitting a particular size. I still strive to eat a real, unprocessed, nutrient-dense food, but its not actually a diet. I eat intuitively and don’t deprive myself of anything or count macronutrients. I did gain weight and muscle, which was also uncomfortable and scary in the beginning, but now I see how my butt and legs convey my strength and hard work.

Every now and then, I will take a trendy new class and hear the instructor tell me a certain move will get rid of my “problem areas,” which I find really triggering. I think it’s irresponsible for a teacher to tell a student that something is “wrong” with their body, but I don’t blame them personally — they are just reiterating the messages women get every day. I also just find it simply distracting, because I like to use my workout time as self-care — and being reminded about my insecurities takes me out of the joy of movement.

Like any human being, I do feel bad about my body sometimes. I’m fully aware of how easy it would be to settle into my old habits. Fitness can be just as competitive as dancing, and just as focused on how you look. The main difference between my mindset now and then is that today, I can identify triggering thoughts when they happen. My ability to acknowledge them as non-reality based gives me power over them. If the voice in my head gets negative, or I compare myself to other women, I do a short meditation: I take several breaths in my nose and out my mouth and repeat in my head that I am enough and worthy just as I am. I also remind myself that enjoying food won’t “ruin” all my hard work, and that understanding my body from the inside out makes me unstoppable.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder and needs help, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237, text 741741, or chat online with a Helpline volunteer here.

Real Talk with Gotham Magazine

REAL TALK WITH PILATES REBELS CREATOR HELEN PHELAN

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This piece originally appeared in Gotham Magazine

By Christina Najjar | May 16, 2019 | Lifestyle

Helen Phelan is a renowned Pilates instructor and the creator of Pilates Rebels at Project by Equinox. Known for teaching some of the most popular fitness classes in the city, Phelan started dancing at age 3 before pursuing dance professionally. After working through personal body image issues and becoming a teacher, Phelan had a shift in her mindset and became extremely passionate about teaching, feeling lucky to be creating the thing that becomes the best part of someone's day.

Phelan focuses on making her classes as educational as possible and veers away from using triggering language about one body part or another. With her deep knowledge of the human body and upbeat positivity, it is no wonder Phelan is one of the most sought after instructors in New York City.

What was your inspiration for becoming a health and wellness professional?
HELEN PHELAN:
 To be perfectly honest, I got into fitness initially just as a day gig while I was auditioning and performing as a dancer and needed a more flexible schedule than working in retail and a healthier schedule than hospitality. It surprised no one more than me when I felt my passion shifting from performance and concert dance to teaching and biomechanics.

What's the best part of working with clients?
HP:
 Definitely seeing how fitness can change someone's attitude, day and even life! In New York City women are running around so much, balancing careers, families, social lives and side hustles, that the hour they spend on a boutique fitness class is often the only hour they have for themselves all day. It is incredibly rewarding for me to see someone come in stressed out, exhausted, maybe a little grumpy, leave with a smile on their face (and better posture too!)

What are some of your favorite healthy food spots in the city? 
HP:
 Well, my local coffee shop in Williamsburg, Hardwater Coffee, has the best matcha and avocado toast. Modern Love is my go-to date night spot-the menu is pretty decadent. Everything there is vegan and so unbelievably yummy that even my carnivore boyfriend likes eating there. For quick lunches when I'm working, I do my best to pack my own, or the obvious Sweetgreen or Dig Inn.

What's the best wellness advice you've ever received?
HP:
 Oh, I have so many answers to this question! The concept of bio-individuality, which I learned about as a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, is what works for one person is not guaranteed to work for you. Trial and error your own way until you find what type of workout, eating habits, sleep schedule, self-care practice, etc. works for you, rather than feeling defeated if Whole30 didn't accomplish the magic trick you thought it would. Lastly, and this one may be controversial as a trainer, but that quote that talks about those last 5 lbs. that you can't seem to shake? That's your life—red wine with dinner, enjoying an amazing meal, sleeping in, following your body's innate intuition. If you're not training for the Olympics, definitely strive for being healthy, but part of being healthy is enjoying yourself and eating the cake sometimes.

What's your best advice for people who are having a dip in self-confidence?
HP:
 Get off Instagram! I love using it as a tool to connect with my clients, but when I spend too long on the app I definitely feel myself falling into the comparison game, which never feels good. A daily gratitude practice has been literal magic for my mood. When you're constantly reminding yourself of how great your life actually is, it's harder to get dragged down. If you're someone who is constantly putting yourself down—practice talking to yourself like you would a loved one, and if you would never call your best friend overweight, lazy or unqualified, don't say it to yourself.

What is your favorite thing about living in New York City?
HP:
 How international it is. One thing I never anticipated about becoming a teacher was how often I'd be teaching a movement class to someone who doesn't speak English, or English is a second, third or fourth language. In addition to just getting so much first-hand exposure to other cultures, the added challenge to me as an instructor to still effectively communicate is really fascinating. I also feel like everyone I know is up to big things, starting their own companies, brands, shops, etc. The nonstop drive you find in any given New Yorker is more intense than anywhere else in the world. I'm proud to be among them!

What does body positivity mean to you?

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Well + Good last week to discuss my thoughts on body positivity. Click over or read below to check out the good company I was in!

This post originally appeared on Well + Good.

WE ASKED 6 WOMEN TO SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ABOUT BODY POSITIVITY. THEY DIDN’T HOLD BACK.

If you ever want to witness the phenomenon of gassing up—where friends boost each others’ confidence with effusive praise and appreciation—just gather together a bunch of smart, funny, interesting women who have never met each other before.

That’s just what happened when Well+Good invited six New York women to join us for a photo shoot celebrating bodies, confidence, and self-love. These women—April, Jessica, Aurea, Helen, Kiara, and Yesenia—were all perfect strangers at the beginning of the day. But over the course of a few hours together, they were sharing meaningful stories about their lives, gushing over each others’ go-to confidence outfits (which we asked them to wear to the shoot), and laughing together like old friends. At the end of the day, they all exchanged contact info in order to stay in touch long after the camera flashes subsided.

In a world that has never felt so divided, so fraught with tensions and complications, there is nothing more powerful than seeing six completely different women with different life experiences come together with so much love and compassion—for each other, and also for themselves.  —Jessie Van Amburg, senior editor

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April Christina, 33, endometriosis advocate and beauty blogger

W+G: When you hear the words “body positivity,” how does it make you feel?

AC: I think I like [the words] “body positivity,” but I like “self-love” more. Because when I think of body positivity, self-love is the first thing that comes to my mind—especially because I have endometriosis. When I have an endo flare, my body changes—my tummy expands and it makes me look four to five months pregnant and I’m not—so I still have to learn to love myself despite what it may look like.

What are some of the ways you’d say having endometriosis (which is usually thought of as an “invisible” illness) has affected your relationship with your body and your self-image?

[My relationship with my body] is ever-evolving. I used to not feel too happy about myself, to the point where I didn’t want to work out because I felt like it didn’t matter how I would change my physical body, because my condition could still take control of it at any given moment.

But now I’m at a point where I’m learning to love my body more…I tell people all the time that [my endo] is a part of me, but it’s not me. Although it does have its own personality, its own characteristics, and its own mannerisms. Sometimes it’s very fierce and metamorphs into the physical image that I see, and sometimes it’s calm and quiet—it goes away and then I can just be me. So that’s how I’ve been really learning how to take it: Knowing it’s its own character, this individual that’s just living inside of me and with me and [the flareups are] just temporary.

I feel most confident when I…

Do things for myself. Just simple things. I have leg pain, and to still be able to walk, to drive, to fix food for myself, to get the remote control—doing those simple things even though I feel like I need to sit down shows I still have control over parts of my life.

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Jessica De La Rosa, 34, disability rights advocate, artist, dancer

W+G: What do you think about the term “body positivity”? Is there a term you prefer to use instead?

JDLR: There’s no [one] term. It’s like, “I’m f**king beautiful.” I don’t need people to remind me, to remind themselves, that I’m beautiful. There’s a stigma regarding what we should and should not be positive in ourselves about that we’re taught, both subliminally and outright. I catch myself doing it all the time. Even though I’m quote-unquote a “very body positive person,” I still catch myself in weak moments where I’m just like: “I’m too fat,” or “I’m too short,” or “I’m in a wheelchair.” But I remind myself that those are other people’s issues. Not mine.

How would you describe your relationship with your body today?

I used to hide myself in baggy clothes, in dark clothes. I already stick out, right? Because I’m in a wheelchair. I didn’t want to bring any more attention to myself. Now I’m like, “Ha! It’s in your face! Come get it. I’m going to give you something to look at right now!”

I’m tired of living by other people’s thoughts and standards. It was affecting my happiness.

I feel strongest when I…

I feel strongest when I’m prioritizing myself. I spend so much time trying to make the lives of everybody else around me easier and happier, so I stop and take a minute to remind myself: If I can do it for other people, I can do it for myself.

I’ve definitely gotten better at taking the time for myself, pampering myself. I set up candles, I put the iPad on in the bathroom, and I watch a show or movie while I take a bath. I do a hair mask and a face mask…So taking care of myself in those ways, loving myself, reminding myself of my worth, my strengths, those types of things [makes me feel strong].

“I used to hide myself in baggy clothes, in dark clothes. I already stick out, right? Because I’m in a wheelchair. I didn’t want to bring any more attention to myself. Now I’m like, ‘Ha! Come get it. I’m going to give you something to look at right now!'” —Jessica De La Rosa

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Aurea González, 26, artist

W+G: How has your mental health played into your self-confidence and body image?

AG: I feel like my relationship with my body is like a roller coaster—I would be dishonest if I said it wasn’t. I try my best to love it every day and there are days when it’s a lot harder than most. Last week, I felt hideous and lived in sweatpants. But that’s the roller coaster—that’s just life, and as long as you pick yourself back up, then you’re good.

It’s more than just a physical thing, it’s a mind game as well…I’m in therapy every other week. I take medication for depression and anxiety. Working out also helps me a lot. Working on my mental health has allowed me to feel a lot better and more optimistic and just try to turn a negative into a positive as much as I can.

How would you say that fitness has been a part of your self-love journey?

When I was 19, I used to work out a lot. I used to run outdoors. I’ve always been pretty active and I used it as tool to de-stress. I grew up in a very sheltered home and was very stressed out most of the time and just very angry. I was an angry little girl growing up. Then I got patellofemoral syndrome in both my knees, and then I gained weight and that didn’t help my knees, so I couldn’t do any high-impact training and it really screwed me up.

Late last June I got back into fitness and I’ve been consistently working out; now it’s like a second home for me. What started off as, “I want to lose a certain amount of weight,” turned into, “I just love working out.” I love seeing what happens to my body and my mind, seeing how I feel afterwards and that I’m growing muscles in places I’ve never had muscles before…When I realized that I can be consistent in fitness and saw the beautiful results that came from it—what it did for me emotionally and mentally—it made me feel like, “Okay. Now I can be consistent in everything else that means this much to me.”

I feel most confident when I…

Am staring at myself in the mirror naked. It’s an exercise. When people ask me, “How are you so confident?” the first thing I say is: “Do you own a full-body mirror, a full-sized mirror? If you don’t, get one. And when you get one, you need to look at yourself fully naked.” You have to face the fear, you can’t hide from fears your whole life. I always tell people, “Dissect your body in three parts: chest up, midsection to your waist, and then from there down. Find at least one thing that you like about each section and just give that part love.”

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Helen Phelan, 27, pilates instructor and health coach

W+G: How does the term “body positivity” make you feel? 

HP: I usually use the term “body neutral” instead of “body positive,” because I have a history with eating disorders. While I like to be super-positive in my classes and show people all the incredible things their bodies can do, I also think it’s important to separate [the way you feel from the way you look]. Your worth is not based on your looks. So I think that the body neutrality movement is a little bit more realistic for mental health purposes.

You’ve been outspoken about your experience in the past with eating disorders. How has that experience shaped your perception of your body?

I started dancing when I was three, and I [began a long battle with] anorexia and bulimia when I was 10. It was always in phases and it always felt like, “This is like something I can manage, it’s not a big deal.” When I had stomach problems a couple of years ago is when I started to be like, “Oh, okay, I’m really hurting my body in a permanent way.” I had to get an endoscopy and a colonoscopy—all these procedures to check out the damage in my throat and my stomach. So I guess that was like the wake-up call that made me want to start to get better…When I was a professional dancer, I really hated [my body] and then, through having a trainer and doing a lot of therapy, I have become more positive about it. But I’ve also been able to detach that [sense of] worth from how my body looks.

I feel sexiest when I…

I feel sexiest when I’ve done some sort of self-care or taken time for myself that day. It’s hard for me to connect with my body if I haven’t spent some time meditating, or dancing around my living room, or having a few minutes just to feel my body. I guess that could mean [I feel sexiest] anytime, so long as I’ve given myself that time today.

“It’s hard for me to connect with my body if I haven’t spent some time meditating, or dancing around my living room, or having a few minutes just to feel my body.” —Helen Phelan

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Kiara St. James, 41, founder and executive director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group

W+G: You’ve spoken about how you grew up in a gender-policing and non-affirming household. How did growing up in that environment affect your relationship with your body? How did that change (if at all) once you were able to embrace being a woman?

KS: I grew up in a very religious family. I was not able to actualize who I was when I was [growing up] back in Texas. Coming to New York City and finding a community that was able to affirm who I am…felt like I came out of being a caterpillar and into a butterfly. That’s what it felt like to me—being a caterpillar at home in Texas, being restricted to a binary gender—so coming to New York really helped me.

You were a drag performer in Atlanta before you moved to New York. How did doing drag shows influence your self-expression and body acceptance?

I loved it. It was a way of getting away from my everyday existence. And drag performances in Atlanta were really about celebrating our resilience. I didn’t realize it at the time…but it was still at the zenith of HIV and AIDS, so community members were dying [and] were oftentimes shunned by their family members. So it was up to the community who depended on the “female illusionists” to raise money to bury a lot of our gay brothers and sisters. I took that role very seriously, that I was doing something for the community and bringing us together.

[In terms of body image], I was appreciative of the older girls who showed me how their bodies looked outside of the gowns [they wore on stage]. There was a lot of disfiguring and discoloration that happened; the older girls used to inject Crisco oil and free-market silicone into their bodies…For black and brown trans women, it was [often] about emulating our sisters’ body shapes, our mothers, our aunts. Which meant being more voluptuous, more hippy, [emphasizing] the buttocks. Trans women also tend [to have broad shoulders]—I have broad shoulders, I accepted the fact that I have broad shoulders, there’s nothing I can do about it—and making their butts, hips, and breasts bigger was another way that trans women would try to take away from having broad shoulders and from what we felt were masculine features. They endured a lot of pain with their bodies.

Now that I am much older, I have a better respect for and understanding [of my body]. I’ve lost so many contemporaries, so the fact that I’m still here and I’m able to thrive gives me a better appreciation of this body, how this body has carried me through trauma, into a different journey of joy. And so I’m just in a really happy place.

I feel strongest when I…

Am able to express myself and be unapologetic about it. I spent most of my life censoring myself…I felt the best way to get along was to just be quiet and be part of an overall toxic environment. I realized that for me to really get to a place of abundance, I first have to speak my truth. The people, places, and things that we surround ourselves with are going to either push us forward or hold us back, and I take that very seriously.

Yesenia Torres, 45, advocate

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W+G: What do you think of when you hear the words “body positivity”? 

YT: Healthy. Because it gets away from the concept of a “beautiful body.” What is a beautiful body? Being positive towards your body is being healthy.

You were injured over 20 years ago—how has your relationship with your body changed since then?

[At first] it was about seeing the changes in my body and not liking them. But I was fortunate to have a lot of  people around me that did not care about that. They just wanted me to be breathing, knowing that they still had me and didn’t lose me [is what was important]. 

When I first saw myself speaking out as an advocate, my point of view of my body changed. I didn’t care if my hair was in a bun or with curls, if I had my glasses on or off. [The emphasis] was on what I needed to express and not my physical [looks].

I discovered my inner beauty and that’s enough for me. So whoever doesn’t like my outer beauty, they’ll love me because of what I’m transmitting, who I am, what I’m capable of doing, and how I’ve become a testimony of life. That’s the beauty that’s in me.

I feel sexiest when I…

Put a good lipstick on.

Note: These interviews were edited and condensed for clarity. Reporting by Jessie Van Amburg and Kells McPhillips.

Is Sweat Bad For Your Skin?

Written for Helen Phelan Pilates & Health Coaching by Molly Lamb owner and founder of Skin by Molly

A common question from my clients who work out a lot is “Is sweating bad for the skin?”

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The answer put simply is no. Not only does it rid toxins from our body, but sweating a small amount can actually help kill bad bacteria on our skin like staph. However, there are several other factors that need to be addressed to understand what’s happening to the skin when we sweat and how to treat the skin post sweat session.

Sweating also changes the PH of the skin. The sweat expelled through the apocrine glands in the skin is responsible for that familiar post-workout body odor. Sweat creates an occlusive barrier on the skin that can essentially “trap” impurities and make-up on the skin. It rids the body of unhealthy and harmful toxins (this is why we feel great after a hot yoga class!), BUT those toxins can sit in the skin if you don’t cleanse soon afterwards causing irritation. 

If it’s a heavy sweat session (think hot yoga or spin class), you should definitely cleanse immediately after if possible. It’s also very important to rehydrate the skin because sweating dehydrates our body. Following cleansing with a hydrating serum and moisture cream suitable for your skin type. Otherwise the skin will dry out if we sweat a bunch then cleanse but don’t apply a hydrating barrier for the skins protection.

To sum things up:

Sweating is natural and healthy! It’s rids toxins and kills certain bacteria. 

A small amount of sweat is fine to leave on the skin (like if your walking around on a hot day, and sweating there is no need to panic as long as your wash your face before bed).

Skin should always be cleansed mornings and evenings - a third cleanse is important if you sweat heavily.

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Molly Lamb is a licensed esthetician whose love of skin care developed through her struggles with her own skin. Attending the Aveda Institute in 2012 and working for some of NYC's top spas gave her a profound knowledge of skin care. She believes that beautiful skin comes from the inside out. Diet, genetics, and hormones all play an important role in the health of our skin… When that's not enough, Molly's facials can help get your skin back on track!

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Chip Wilson, Misogyny, and Athleisure

Lululemon educator was one of my first jobs in NY and I was absolutely PSYCHED to work there. It was before the sheer pants apocalypse and before I really knew anything about Lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson.

I only worked there as a seasonal employee for two Christmases- and really have nothing negative to say about my personal experience. I had a sick discount and the company policy of comping workout classes for employees allowed me to try a bunch of expensive boutique classes that I wouldn’t have gotten to regularly experience at 22 years old otherwise.

Photo: Time is Tight Communications Ltd; Graphic by Well+Good Creative

Photo: Time is Tight Communications Ltd; Graphic by Well+Good Creative

That being said, it’s Wilson has repeatedly spouted misogynistic, offensive rhetoric to the point of being forced to resign as CEO. This didn’t stop him from writing even more oblivious things about women even more in his new book. I can’t recommend giving him the satisfaction of buying his book- but Well + Good has done a great job of summarizing it and giving you the key points you need to know about the man who changed the face of athletic apparel.

This post originally appeared on Wellandgood.com

Chip Wilson is his own employee of the month. Right there on his website, you can see a portrait of his smiling face, set within a cheap wooden frame and festooned with a gold star bearing the accolade. But in his colorful new memoir, Little Black Stretchy Pants: The Unauthorized Story of Lululemon (LBSP), the controversial Lululemon Athletica founder makes clear that, beyond ostensibly putting himself above his actual employees, he also feels superior to many of the women who wear the brand’s hundred-dollar yoga pants that have made him a multibillionaire. LBSP is dripping with contempt for the “non-athletic, smoking, Diet-Coke drinking woman in a New Jersey shopping mall wearing an unflattering pink velour track suit” who may now reach for a pair of Lulus.

As he tells it, the irreverent Wilson is the star of Lululemon’s success story. And by extension, he also sees himself as the victim of what he understands to be the athleisure company’s fall from greatness to mass-market mediocrity since he resigned as chairman in 2013. If newer employees continue to find the culture refreshing, Wilson explains, it’s only because “Lululemon is living on the fumes” of its former glory.

In this way, Wilson’s 400-plus-page volume often reads like a screed. It’s worth your time, however, because for all Wilson’s outrage at what the innovative company he created has become (and there’s a lot of outrage), he is still Lululemon’s largest individual shareholder, profiting from every single sports bra, headband, and pair of pants sold—to Olympic athletes, weekend workout warriors, and suburbanites alike.

Meet Ocean, Lululemon’s ideal woman

Launched in 1998, Lululemon’s original Boogie Pant was recently displayed in the Museum of Modern Art as a cultural touchstone, and Wilson justifiably takes credit in LBSP for seamlessly linking Lycra leggings to an aesthetic he called “streetnic” long before “athleisure” was on offer from Kohl’s to Carbon38. I sported my worn lacrosse shorts to work out well into the early aughts, and LBSP sheds light on how, back in 1998, “gym fashion was your worst throwaway clothes,” while today we live in a world in which yoga pants outsell blue jeans.

To read Wilson’s book is to be reminded just how women became sold on yoga pants (they take up a full shelf in my own closet). The now-ubiquitous garments project a distinctly 21st century ideal that Lululemon, under Wilson’s leadership, helped create. It goes something like: I’m so disciplined, I’m always en route to or from the gym; I’m so liberated, I don’t constrain myself in stiff denim or by a job that requires the restrictions of a suit or uniform. I value comfort, but I do not surrender to the bulky shapelessness of sweatpants; the Spandex embrace of my yoga pants both shows off my curves and, Spanx-like, creates them. Plus, I’m stylish and practical: My workout wear is designed for performance and it is designer.

Women are core to promoting this particular vision and the idea that one must be outfitted in Lulu to truly live it. The very picture of this ideal, painted by Wilson, is “Ocean,” the eternally 32-year old exercise and travel enthusiast who owns her own condo and represents the perfect Lululemon customer (rather, “guest”). Then, there’s the real-life army of employees (sorry, “educators”), who sell Ocean’s imaginary aesthetic and the aspirational lifestyle it accompanies in the Lululemon stores that have become fixtures in affluent zip codes over the last decade. One former employee remembered the idol as so vivid and resonant that her fellow educators aspired “to be Ocean.”

Of course, not everyone can be Ocean, which accounts for her appeal. And Wilson is nostalgic for the days when such exclusivity drove Lululemon. He reminisces about banning smoking in his Westbeach store (the snowboarding apparel company he founded) in the early 1980s, enraging many but only making his following more “fanatical” and tying clean living to luxury consumption in a way now familiar in the GOOP era. That rich, youthful yogi is also straight and an aspiring mother: Wilson describes Lululemon as built on “family values”—a conservative catchphrase—and alarmingly recounts “screen[ing] for people who wanted families…[we] wanted people to meet the perfect mate, have children, wanted the family nucleus to be an energy generator.” The company required women to discuss family planning with management as a workaround to that pesky human resources problem: pregnancy.

Ocean is likely also white. Wilson’s brand vision took shape amid the snow-capped peaks of Whistler and the sanctuary of Vancouver yoga studios, glaringly white spaces where it was apparently possible for him to find inspiration in yoga classes and in the trends of “hoodies” and “hip-hop inspired and gun-hiding” clothing without once mentioning race.

Oh yeah, and she’s skinny. Body-positivity activism has been ascendant for at least a decade, and Lululemon has been called out as “discriminatory” for failing to stock sizes larger than 12. But on his blog, Wilson implies that the experience of a plus-size shopper who finds no clothes that fit her is similar to his own search for extra-long shoelaces to fit his size 14 shoes. Having large feet, most people who have ever entered a store, much less founded a retail empire, can tell you, is nowhere near as fraught as shopping when nothing is made to fit you.

Wilson’s refusal to make clothes for larger women seems clearly more about cultivating a slim, young, feminine ideal than conserving cloth.

On Wilson’s blog, he also wonders why sizing would be framed as “such a women’s issue,” since, in his (uninformed) view: “I don’t believe society thinks any different about plus size men or plus size women.” His opinion on women who, unlike Ocean, eventually turn 33, is similarly obtuse. The fastest-growing segment of gym-goers is over 55 years old, and inspiring stories of elderly marathoners, weightlifters, and well, RBG, have powerfully disrupted the outdated idea that fitness is about finding a fountain of youth rather than feeling good at any age. Yet Wilson disdains a competitor for serving “older women [who] preferred looser clothing and were typically larger in size.” It’s because “this customer is not iconic” (Wilson pronounces it as if it’s a foregone conclusion)—and because outfitting these women means more material at greater cost—an inclusive brand could “never be a market leader.” Given that Wilson recounts happily manufacturing oversized, “fat” (his word) clothing when young, male customers demanded it at his snowboarding brand, Westbeach, Wilson’s refusal to make clothes for larger women seems clearly more about cultivating a slim, young, feminine ideal than conserving cloth.

Such deliberate ignorance is troubling coming from the founder of a womenswear company who calls out the “macho” vibe of brands like Under Armour, Adidas, and Nike that for years relied on “shrink it and pink it” as their guiding philosophy, but whose own POV mostly boils down to a more sophisticated form of misogyny.

The problem with power women

Women, Wilson writes, were led astray from the Good Life in the last few decades. He doesn’t name feminist activism as the problem, but his digs at “Power Women,” for whom breast cancer and “divorce seemed inevitable” due to taking the birth control pill, “lack of sleep, work-related stress, poor eating habits, and three-martini lunches,” make the target of his critique crystal clear.

These Power Women, Wilson describes with unmasked contempt, birthed a generation of “Super Girls” raised to believe they could do anything and who thus “dominated education” and played sports on the weekends they spent with their dads while their hapless brothers were “coddled by their single mothers.” Interestingly, Wilson first targeted Super Girls as the Lululemon demographic, but quickly became as disgusted with a subset of newly “zenned out” women who’d abandoned hard-driving corporate careers and flocked to the West Coast’s wellness scene but failed to shed a “Wall Street mentality” that distracted them from marriage and children. “We soon had to rid ourselves of these Balance Girls,” Wilson summarily explains.

Moral stewardship might seem like too much to ask of a clothing company. But given Wilson’s grandiose claims about “elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness,” and Lululemon’s undeniable influence on 21st-century wellness culture, it’s fair to wonder what that world might look like.

Considering Wilson’s pull-no-punches rhetorical style and the ease with which he makes grand generalizations about women, LBSP is curiously quiet on specific issues at Lululemon that have affected specific women. Like the gruesome murder of one educator by another at the Bethesda store where they both worked, which inspired an entire book by an investigative journalist. Wilson doesn’t even mention this tragedy, much less reflect on the alarming critique by a former employee that murderous rage was one“inevitable” outcome of Lululemon’s “cult-like” environment, which he takes pride in having created. The current corporate incarnation of Lululemon mostly comes under fire from Wilson in LBSP, but he never mentions one of its most damning traits: allegedly enabling, and covering up, rape. Wilson blasts Laurent Potdevin—the CEO who oversaw this era—as the board’s “mediocre-at-best” fourteenth choice for the job, but oddly never mentions why Potdevin was allegedly forced to resign: sexual misconduct and, according to some employees, fostering a “toxic boys’ club” culture.” These silences speak volumes about Wilson’s disregard for the very demographic that allowed him to ascend from “good to great,” one of the inspirational sayings sprinkled throughout LBSP.

The one issue Wilson does not dodge are his infamous comments about “some women’s bodies not working” for Lululemon leggings that were discovered to pill easily. Dethroning him from visionary to “the weird uncle the family must put up with,” this episode was caused, in Wilson’s mind, by over-sensitive women with thighs thick enough to touch, social media outrage, political correctness, and risk-averse executives, not his retrograde attitudes becoming increasingly out of step with an ever-more-woke wellness culture. Though Wilson remembers this moment as the worst kind of watershed, when he was forced to resign and “the history and culture of Lululemon were whitewashed,” he never deigns to engage with any of the critiques he minimizes as mere “uproar.”

Moral stewardship might seem like too much to ask of a clothing company. But given Wilson’s grandiose claims about “elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness,” and Lululemon’s undeniable influence on 21st-century wellness culture, it’s fair to wonder what that world might look like. Lululemon, however, has never been“a wellness company,” Wilson clarifies, pointing out he has no interest in “making sick people well,” just in giving “normal people the opportunity to be their best.”

But what about those of us among the apparently abnormal masses?


Is cleaning your house good for your health?

If you follow me even sometimes on Instagram, you know that I’ve been on a cleaning spree since I rediscovered Marie Kondo this January. This comes as a total shock to those who knew me growing up/in college when I was a total slob- but my apartment is PRISTINE nowadays. I chalk this up to my overall health evolution. I can say without hyperbole- it has been life changing. Getting rid of excess clutter has freed my home and brain of unnecessary negativity and anxiety and has lifted a MASSIVE weight. I loved this article I stumbled across that describes the emotional and mental benefits of tidying up.

This post originally appeared on Healthline:

Why ‘Tidying Up’ Like Marie Kondo Is Good for Your Health — and Wallet

The new Netflix series that teaches people how to declutter their lives isn’t just popular entertainment, it’s helpful advice that can lead to a happier, healthier yoNetflix’s “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” promotes a way of living that can help viewers improve their health and save money.

Source: Netflix

Source: Netflix

Netflix’s new series “Tidying Up” is all the rage.

Viewers can’t get enough of host Marie Kondo helping people declutter their homes and get their lives back.

But can living a clutter-free life really bring about mental, physical and even financial benefits?

Ellen Delap, certified professional organizer and president of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, says absolutely.

“People can feel so overwhelmed by their stuff. When they start to declutter, the initial feeling is hope that their life will be changed by doing this work,” Delap told Healthline. “They also begin to feel a greater sense of control and well-being by lowering their stress levels. After all, there’s nothing more stressful than searching for your keys as you’re trying to get out of the house on time.”

The biggest benefit of decluttering, she adds, is creating more time to spend on what’s meaningful to you.

Joshua Becker, author of The Minimalist Home, discovered this about 10 years ago as he was spring cleaning.

“I decided to clean out my garage because I thought my 5-year old son would help me, but he helped for 20 seconds, and then was off,” Becker told Healthline. “I kept working on the garage and my neighbor happened to walk over. I complained to her about the time I had spent on the garage and she said, ‘That’s why my daughter decided to become a minimalist.'”

As Becker looked over at his son on their swing set, the idea resonated with him.

“In that moment, I realized that not only were my things not making me happy, but even worse they were actually taking me away from the very thing that did bring me happiness and purpose and fulfillment and joy in my life,” he said.

On that day, Becker set out to declutter and minimalize his family’s belongings. He’s been a minimalist since, and shares his journey and tips on his blog Becoming Minimalist.

Why cluttering happens

Delap says oftentimes people inherit stuff from loved ones who have passed away and the sentimental value they bring makes it difficult to let those things go.

Transitions in life is another common reason she sees.

“Someone that has a new baby, or moved into a new house, or got a new job or is taking care of an ill loved one might be overwhelmed and they’re really focused on that and don’t have time to organize their home, so it becomes a very low priority, and things just keep piling up as a result,” she said.

The ability to shop online plays a part too.

“People buy a lot of things on Amazon and don’t necessarily return them or they buy them because they couldn’t find that exact thing in their house yet it’s tucked away under stuff,” she said.

While hoarding disorder is a mental illness related to the inability to give up possessions, Delap says not everyone whose home is cluttered has this condition.

“Rarely do people actually have a hoarding disorder. It’s just more likely that a situation has come up or they’re going through a grieving process. There are a lot of reasons that lead up to this,” Delap said.

Less stuff brings more clarity and appreciation

When you have less stuff, Delap says you have more clarity because you’re not having to think about your stuff.

Becker agrees, noting that with that clarity comes the realization of what you want out of life.

“There are different motivations for decluttering or becoming a minimalist. Some people want to spend more time with their family or travel the world or want to change jobs or save money,” he said.

When Becker and his wife went through the process 10 years ago, they got rid of 60 to 70 percent of their stuff.

“At one point it really forced me to do some soul searching. I asked myself why I had all this stuff in the first place and what did I wish my life looked like instead,” he recalled.

In her show, Marie Kondo suggests that her guests ask themselves if an item sparks joy. Becker says his approach is similar but that he recommends people ask if the item will help them live the life they want.

“If an item does help you accomplish what you want to accomplish then we actually tend to take better care of it, but when we have a whole bunch of stuff that we don’t need then we tend to get careless with it,” he said.

Over time, the Beckers got really good at determining what mattered most to them, and they moved into a smaller house.

“We didn’t need the space anymore,” he said.

While Delap appreciates the less is more sentiment, she doesn’t always agree.

“I think everybody should have what they love and appreciate, so I don’t necessarily think less is more unless that is your goal. Everyone has to establish their own perspective on what does organized look like because each of us could have a different view of that and still feel organized,” she said. “For some people it’s having many things and taking care of those things and some people it’s having virtually as a little as possible so they can live in a trailer and tour the country. There’s a continuum.”

She says it comes down to practicality, too. She’ll have clients figure out how many of something they actually need.

“It’s a process of keeping what you really love and then creating a way to store it. For instance, in the kitchen, I might create a coffee zone that has a Keurig and only enough mugs that the area has space for,” Delap said. “It’s about what functions well.”

Less means more money and better quality

When you know what you have, you’re less likely to spend money on buying more.

“Oftentimes, people aren’t aware of how much money they’re spending on duplicate things,” says Delap.

She sees duplicates of office supplies most often, as well as pantry items, such as sugar.

“People will say they didn’t think they had sugar yet they actually have 15 pounds of sugar but can’t find where they put it,” she said.

Becker says that selling some of his family’s things and buying fewer things allowed him to save money.

However, he adds that knowing exactly what he has encourages him to take better care of all his belongings, and that owning less allows him to buy higher quality things.

“Minimalism and frugality are not necessarily the same thing. If I don’t own 30 pairs of pants, I can buy three or four really good pair,” he said.

Tips to start decluttering

Decluttering can be overwhelming. To make the process easier, Delap recommends putting a date on the calendar to start.

“Getting started is often the biggest obstacle. People know they want to do the work, but because there’s only so much time in a day, it doesn’t become a priority. [Blocking out] two hours on the calendar for your first day is a good start,” she said.

Becker suggests beginning by asking yourself why you desire to own less.

“Be very clear on why whether it’s to save money and travel, be more active in church or community, or whatever. Stating this clearly will keep you motivated,” he said.

As far as which room to tackle first, Delap recommends choosing either the most cluttered part of your house or the least.

“Sometimes the most frustrating part of the house is super compelling because people want to alleviate the pain of that spot. But the easiest spot is often the gateway to doing more work, so it just depends on what will motivate you more,” she said.

Becker sides on tackling an easier part of the house first, particularly one that is lived-in rather than an area you don’t go into much.

“Start in the living room or car or bedroom or bathroom. Somewhere you can finish the project and notice how it makes you feel,” he said. “For instance, you might notice right away how much more peaceful your bedroom is when it’s clear,” he said.

When it comes to clothes, Delap prefers a different approach than Kondo, who tells clients to throw all their clothes in the house into one, big pile. Delap suggests keeping a bag next to your closet and when you decide that you don’t want a piece of clothing, place it in the bag.

“While some people might be super motivated to make more decisions more quickly when they see a big pile, others will shut down,” Delap said.

Instead of worrying about finding the perfect person to donate your clothes to, she suggests donating all your items to a charity or organization that matters to you.

Becker agrees.

“Giving your stuff to an organization in your neighborhood that helps, say, battered women or refugees can be rewarding and motivating to keep going,” he said.

However, as you go through the process, remember that it will take time.

In fact, Becker says it took his family nine months to declutter their home.

“It’s a process that takes time, effort, and energy, but it is always worth it because your possessions have become a burden to you and the more you get rid of, the more you can begin living the life you want to live,” said Becker.

Investing the time to declutter will also give you a sense of accomplishment.

“There’s so much value placed on being an organized person in the world we live in right now yet there’s so many things working against us — time and access to things we don’t need,” Delap said. “When we get our homes in order, we have a great sense of accomplishment, we have confidence, we feel good about ourselves. We have a sense of serenity.”

How To Celebrate Yourself on Valentine's Day

There’s something about  celebrating relationships that I find, well, romantic, for lack of a better word. This year, however, I’ve been thinking more and more about taking the day to focus more inwardly. More important than anything external, is the relationship I help you cultivate in class and through coaching-the one we have with ourselves.

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