Journey // Tag

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18 Dec

There’s a couple of people I owe a beer or two
And three or four that I owe more than a few.
For all the times I couldn’t find the answers.
Stumbling through the dark without a clue, this one’s for you.

Mom and Dad always did their best,
for a crazy fool who couldn’t help himself.
I thank God that they were there to see me through.
This one’s for you.

I told you all that I’d write you a song.
Pour my heart into the melody,
to keep you singing along.
This might not be the right time,
these might not be the right lines to prove.
For saying what I’m trying to,
but this one’s for you.

“This One’s For You” – Luke Combs

Well, an article will have to do. I am generally not a very sentimental person, and tend to not look back and reminisce. However, today I am packing up to move to a new job, and leave a profession that has been the center of my life for the past 20 years. Up to this point, it is all I have ever wanted to do. This will be the 7th out-of-state move since I started coaching in 1999. And I start reflecting. Why? Because of a storage bin out on the patio, that has not been opened since I moved to this apartment over 7 years ago. It contains a bunch of junk and is half-full of books. The book that makes me start to contemplate things is a torn, marked up, highlighted-on-every-page book with a black cover and yellow text called Starting Strength: A Simple and Practical Guide For Coaching Beginners by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore. I remember purchasing this book around 2006, and little did I know at the time the effect this $30 dollar purchase on Amazon would have on me, or that it would literally change the course of my career and ultimately my life. First, a little on how we got to this point.

The College Years and Coach Tuds

I was a decent enough thrower in High School to a win a state championship in the discus.  I had an excellent coach, and I was technically very sound. I was a mediocre shot putter, mostly due to my strength levels. This led to an invitation to walk-on to the Track and Field team at Montana State University.  My experience with strength coaches there was less than impressive. I think I had 4, maybe even 5, strength coaches in my 5 years in school. They ranged from average to awful for the first 4 years of my career. I remember watching the football team rep-maxing on the Hammer Strength Leg Press, with a spotter.  Coaches and athletes screaming and yelling at each other, the spotter basically doing max effort bent over rows, and the poor kid that was doing the exercise having to get carried out because he hyperextended his knee. I knew that was bullshit and that the atmosphere was fake long before I even knew what I did not know! I was a lousy collegiate thrower, poor levers and piss weak. Through a lot of hard work I got up to a 500 squat, 370 bench, 157kg clean, 110 snatch and was able to earn a tuition scholarship at the end of my career. This began my appreciation for the weight room, and what it can do.  

My senior year, we got another strength coach. Great, another clown probably. I was in town for the summer and I heard he just arrived, so I went to the weight room to meet him. Brett Tudsbury comes in for his first full-time job from Washington State. I went in, and here was this little dude doing clean & jerks with more weight than I’d seen lifted in that room the previous 4 years. I start lifting with him that day, and ended up spending more time in the weight room that year than I did in class or at track practice. 

He was the first strength coach I had that truly cared about us. He treated us the same or better than if we were football players. He probably spent way more time with us than he was paid for, got to know us on a personal level, came to our events, and introduced us to his family. He also knew his stuff inside and out, and he was constantly learning and trying new things. It was then that I decided I wanted to be a strength coach. I am still proud to call him a mentor and a friend. Thanks, Tuds! Actually, I do not know if I should thank him or MF him for getting me into this crazy field. He got smart and got out a long time ago, and is now a successful realtor (he didn’t teach me that part). 

Team Montana and Steve Gough

Later that summer Coach Tuds asked me if I want to do some Olympic lifting. I said to myself, why not?  We started being coached by Coach Tudsbury’s coach, and, it turned out, one of the finest (if not the best, in my book anyway) Olympic lifting coaches in the country. Steve Gough has coached countless national champions; his son even lifted in the Atlanta Olympics (Yes, we used to have male Olympic lifters make the Olympics!).

You wouldn’t know by looking at him – Steve was an older, gray-haired, beat-up dude. Working with he and Tuds was some of the most fun I ever had lifting weights, albeit far and away the hardest. We were indoctrinated into the Steve’s version of the Bulgarian System of training: Snatch, Clean, or Clean & Jerk, and Squat, every day, 6 days a week, up to a max. We’d go back down, work back up, and repeat, often several times during the workout, sometimes even twice a day depending on our schedule. One of my early workouts with Steve is still memorable. I went back and counted, and it still sticks in my mind: I did 27 sets of snatch, working down and back up several times. I’m not sure how many PRs I set, but I remember tearing 9 callouses. Most lessons you learn the hard way (hand care, for example). This is when I learned of the body’s incredible ability to adapt.

Steve may be the finest coach I ever met during my coaching career. I do not remember much in the way of technical coaching from him (I remember Tuds being the technician). However, he was the master mind coach. If a lift is in there that day, he can get it out of you. His presence was felt. You would run through a wall for the man because you don’t want to disappoint him. You would do anything to make that lift, and he would do anything to get it out of you.  

Steve and Tuds formed a club Olympic lifting team with myself, a teammate or two, and some of the strength and conditioning assistants and interns. I trained all year around my track and field duties, though I did not do a jerk the whole year due to an injury. I also interned in the weight room to get some experience. We ended up competing in the USAW Collegiate National Championships in none other than Wichita Falls, Texas; Rip and Lon Kilgore were the meet directors. The meet was in June, a couple weeks after track season ended and a few after graduation. Tuds took 5 of us in a minivan, and we drove from Bozeman, Montana to Wichita Falls, Texas.  It was one of the best trips of my life, something I will always remember (the details probably need to be left out of the article). Oh, but Team Montana won the title! You could tell the influence Steve and Tuds had on their athletes, as 3 of the 5 went on to become Head Strength Coaches at the collegiate level. Thanks, Steve. Your influence on me was more than you probably knew. Those lifting sessions are still some of my fondest weight room memories. 

To the Coldest Place on Earth

I moved home for the summer and went to work for the public school district. I knew I wanted to be a strength coach, but I didn’t have anything going yet. In August, I saw a posting for a Graduate Assistant position at the University of North Dakota. I applied, got a call, got an interview, and then I was packing up and driving to Grand Forks, North Dakota 3 days later to work for Paul Chapman (one of the several times that I’ll pack up and move in less than a week). Despite the fact that Grand Forks, North Dakota is the Coldest Place on Earth, my time working for Chappy, as everyone calls him, was one of the highlights of my career. He contributed to my development by throwing me into the fire and letting me coach and learn on my own, but he was always there to listen, guide, lead, and support. He was a squat, bench, and clean guy, so that certainly helped the direction of my career. He never got too high or too low, or took himself or anything too seriously. What a valuable lesson for a young coach, especially knowing some of the horror stories we hear now-a-days. It was truly a blast to go to work every day. Boy, do I miss those days. Love ya, Chappy! Thanks for everything!

Chappy prowling the sidelines.

I met a ton of wonderful people at UND, great head coaches, assistant coaches, but even better people. We were winning many games and having a lot of fun. I was a Graduate Assistant for two years, then got hired on as an assistant coach for another year. After one year, I was offered a paid internship for the University of Nebraska football team, and I moved down in May. Chappy ended up leaving UND in July, and I got called back to become the Head Strength Coach at UND. Of course, I was 26 at the time and thought I was good enough to be capable of this. Looking back sometimes, I wonder if I’d have been better off bouncing around as an assistant for a while and learning to coach under a bunch of different people. But then I see those that have, and all they know is what their boss showed them.  They have not developed their own coaching philosophy, and they will not veer from what their mentors did. I was thrown into the fire with a solid background, but I was fortunate to be able to learn and try things and see what works and what does not.

However, it was a chance to be a Head Coach and do my own thing. It was a chance to work with one of the premiere hockey teams in the country and a fantastic women’s basketball program. But most of all, when Dale Lennon, Head Football Coach at UND calls, you go. Because you will never get a chance to work with a better man. You get a chance to meet many good people when you grow up in Montana and work in North Dakota for 7 years, but you will never meet a better person than Coach Lennon.

I was afforded a front row seat to watch him lead young men. Coaching them to never be too high or too low, coaching toughness, letting the assistant coaches do their jobs, and keeping it all in perspective and fun, leading by example on how to be a family man – looking back, it was just a pleasure. The culture he established was something to behold. I have been around many head coaches over the years, and he may be the only one that never changed, one bit, when things were going bad. I have always said that pressure and stress does weird things to people. Coaches change when things go bad. They can become temperamental, become a completely different person; they may start pointing fingers and blaming others, or they may flat-out throw people under the bus. They push the panic button and become reactive, instead of sticking to their principles and core philosophies (if they have any). My staff and I have seen this, and have been on the receiving end a lot over the years. 

I was around Dale Lennon for what amounted to almost 10 years (I left UND in 2006 for University of Montana, then rejoined him at Southern Illinois University in 2008), and I never saw him do this one single time. Never saw him flinch. Not once. And we went through a few rough years together. He gets my utmost respect. We played numerous rounds of golf together and shared many conversations and cigars on his deck. Dale, thanks for all you did for me and for showing me the way. I could not have asked for a better mentor and example as a young coach. 

I guess at this point I would be remiss if I did not thank my parents. My mother is an educator.  I got my teaching background and thirst for knowledge and learning from her. She is also the kindest person you will ever meet and taught us to treat people the right way, I think this stuck and helped in this journey. As for my Dad, I got my love of sports and the weight room, my work ethic, taking pride in your work, and doing it right the first time from him. In fact, my first memory of a weight room was getting my finger smashed in a Universal machine leg press when he took me along to one of his workouts at the local college’s weight room. Not sure how old I was, probably around 7 or 8. Needless to say, that left a mark. They both encouraged me to follow my passion. My Dad was a big influence when I was deciding to pursue this career path instead of something more stable and lucrative. They never even blinked when I told them that I was moving to North Dakota to work for $3,000 a year. Not when I took my first full time job at $17,000 a year, not when I picked up and moved halfway across the country time and time again, not even when I missed family weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and funerals. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the unconditional love and support. I could not have done it without you. 

Enter Starting Strength

Well, back to the book. Due to all the influences in my career I have mentioned to this point, I was solid in my philosophy of Olympic lifts and basic strength. Trying to figure everything out, I went through phases like all young coaches. I even attended Mike Boyle’s Functional Strength Coach 1 in Boston (where he acknowledges in the intro that we (UND) were bigger and stronger and physically kicked their butts that year in hockey, a highlight of my young career), and went through my Boyle phase. I mean really, to the point where I put Keiser functional trainers in my weight room in 2008. However, I have always had the basics in there too. We always cleaned, snatched, squatted, and bench pressed… heavy. 

As I read and learned, I became a big fan of Jim Wendler and Elite Fitness Systems. I love his writings, they just appealed to me. Squats, deadlifts, presses, cleans, simple accessories like chins and rows, start light, progress slow, balance, set PRs (sound familiar?). I was on the EFS site and reading the Q&A, and Jim reviews Starting Strength: A Simple and Practical Guide For Coaching Beginners by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore. I was an avid reader at the time and tried to find good training material, which is hard to do. I ordered the book that day. I got it, started it, and became absolutely immersed and mesmerized. I felt like I had found the answer, the missing piece. 

jared nessland coaches the squatjared nessland coaches the squat

It just made too much sense. How can someone read this book and not change their technique, or their programming? You see, I am an ISTJ personality type, or the Logistician. “Logisticians don’t make many assumptions, preferring instead to analyze their surroundings, check their facts, and arrive at practical courses of action.” “ISTJs trust the proven method….” “They are logical and methodical, and often enjoy tasks that require them to use step-by-step reasoning to solve a problem.” You can see why I was drawn to this book. 

I messed around with it on myself – I don’t think we implemented much with the players at SIU at the time. I left North Dakota for the University of Montana in 2006, and then left for SIU to rejoin Coach Lennon in 2008. I ended up taking the Sacramento State job in September of 2011. The Blue Book came out in November, and I got it right away. Page 1, I was hooked again. It is the best first page of any book I have ever read. Everything just makes sense. I jumped head first, all in. I picked up and read all Rip’s books, Mean Ole Mister Gravity, Strong Enough?, and Practical Programming for Strength Training. I still think Strong Enough? is a gem and does not get enough love. 

We went all in with the Starting Strength method with our teams at Sac State. We ended up hosting a seminar in January 2013. My assistant, Tom DiStasio, and I worked closely together on how best to manipulate the programming to fit the time and the needs of college athletes, and came up with a system that works pretty well. 

They talk about paradigm shifts in training. I always thought that was just BS. Nevertheless, this was mine. I often tell my assistants that I have ruined their careers. I exposed them to Starting Strength; they read it, tried it, learned it, understood it, saw that it works, etc. and were sold. The problem is that nobody else is, and they don’t want to be. Hard. Simple. Effective. That doesn’t work in modern college athletics. Well, it does work, every time, if you are allowed to do it, but we are not. 

College strength coaches have more bosses than you can shake a stick at. They don’t want hard, simple, and effective. Coaches want easy, complicated, and effective. Well, that combination does not exist. The SS back squat technique is foreign, so it must be wrong. If someone gets hurt, it must be that, or the deadlifts. Sets of 5 put way too much muscle on the females, so they want 10s and 12s (yeah, try to understand that one). “It was not muscle, coach; it was the dining hall and a 6-pack of beer 4 nights a week. You see how her face went from oval to circle-shape? That is not from the weight room.” 

It is damn near impossible to implement the program to any extent in our setting, unless you’ve got thick skin, unlimited patience, and a desire to continually explain, educate, and compromise. Well, I do not, not anymore. Training kids that don’t want to be there (not all, definitely had some great ones), dealing with coaches that for some ungodly reason do not want their teams to train too hard, the stress, the headaches, and everything else that comes with it, just are not worth it anymore. 

Nearing the End 

I was at my wits end after summer football training in 2018. I knew I didn’t really want to do this a whole lot longer, but I wasn’t sure what else I would do. What does a strength coach do that doesn’t strength coach anymore? In fact, I’d asked a few friends at the national conference how long they were going to keep going, or if they had thought of getting out. To a man, each of them replied, “I don’t know what I’d do.” This is a sad part of our profession. I got to the point where I occasionally looked for jobs on or the state website, completely out of the field. I had 8 years in the California system; maybe just get a state job and punch the clock for the next decade or two until retirement. A job that you clock in, clock out, and leave work at the office started to sound somewhat nice. However, I am still a coach and teacher at heart. 

Then the “100 Gyms in 5 Years” article came out. Not long after that, there was an email from Nick that some guy named Jay Livsey in Denver wants to hire an SSC. I shot them an email that day. I met Jay in January 2018 at the seminar in San Diego just by chance; did not know he was going to be there. He was even staying in my hotel. We spent a few hours and a couple of drinks each night getting to know each other. This was a guy I can go to work for. My goal when I started out coaching was to work at the University of Colorado. Being from Montana, I have always been intrigued by the possibility of living in Colorado.  Beauty, mountains, four seasons, and milder weather sounds like heaven to me. 

After a lot of back and forth and soul searching I end up accepting the position. It’s hard to give up the only thing you have known and all the security that comes from a state job. But when you’re staying in a job you no longer enjoy as you once did, you have gotten complacent. It is hard to admit, but how can you give your all to a job when you don’t get the same in return? When you have to fight about everything from hiring practices, to programming, to the technical execution of the exercises by people who were Business or Government or English majors? That when you ask them specifically what you should do, they defer to you, the expert in the field – they have no idea what they want to do, they just know they don’t want to do it your way. This can create resentment after an extended period of time.  

This is why it’s a young man’s game: not yet sold on a philosophy, and much more likely to play give and take. Therefore, it was getting to be about time to go. It’s hard to step out of your comfort zone and into the unknown, but at the same time it’s exciting to find another direction for your career that may be more enjoyable than the one you are leaving. I needed to follow my heart and go somewhere more in line with my philosophies and values. 

It was quite a leap of faith, leaving the security, but getting paid your worth, not working the excessive crazy hours, and the idea of training people exactly the way you want to train them, training clients that actually want to be there is exciting. When I see what SS Austin and Kathy Grace are doing, this excites me. Or watching Doris and the Westminster crew. That is life changing stuff! 

Our influence at the college level is often overstated, in my opinion. However, with the aforementioned people, their coaches are literally changing their lives. It will challenge me and make me a better coach, on Day 1. It is a big leap of faith, but what’s the alternative? Keep going down the same road, becoming more miserable? I have always said that if you don’t like your situation, leave! If a kid is unhappy at the school, leave!  If the assistant coach is miserable working for his boss, leave! Yes, sometimes it is easier said than done, but it’s now time to listen to my own advice. This is why I respect Jim Steel so much, not only for his wonderful writings, but for his resignation after dealing with the same shit.  

Changing Course

So I’m sitting here, staring at this 1st edition book, reflecting. How can one single damn book pretty much change the course of a career? If you had told me in 1999 when I started coaching that one book would change the course of my career, I would tell you that you were crazy. Reading this book in 2006 indirectly or even directly lead me to packing my things and moving to Denver in 2019. It lead me to being unwilling to work in a setting that I’ve worked in for 20 years, a profession that I loved and thought was the greatest job ever.  However, Steel is correct; times have changed. Picking up that book and the aftermath of having done so has made me smarter, more critical, and a much better coach and programmer.  It has exposed me to many other good people I have learned from that I may not have otherwise. It is an opportunity to go to work for and represent a brand that has, whether they know it or not, given so much to me. I love what they stand for, and I can get behind this: The “Corporate Culture” of The Aasgaard Company. 

So Rip, thank you. As much as you bash college strength coaches, your work has had an immense influence on this one. I have no idea why it has not had the same influence on more. Our profession would be a better place if it did. So thanks for your work and influence. I will see you at the grand opening in Denver, and I owe you a beer! Cheers. 

In closing, I would like to thank all the athletes that bought in to the weight room, and who taught me more than I taught them over the years. It was truly a pleasure and you will be missed. I would also like to thank all my current and former assistant coaches. If I got anything right as a Head Coach, it was hiring great people and letting them do their job. They made me look a lot better than I probably was. Thank you to: Tom DiStasio, Nate Baukol, Adam Johnson, Joe Fondale, Mike Silbernagel, Bo Berglund, Quinn Peterson, John Rich, Alan Weber, Becky Kimball, Maureen Khairallah, Brett Bartholomew, Chas Ossenheimer, Trevor Loos, Justin Cortez, Erin Wick, Kyle Aber, Amanda Sheppard, Josh Jirgal, Jennifer Pfohl, Tyler Kessler, and the late Jeff Law (RIP buddy, miss you). 

They say it takes a village. As I said, I am not very sentimental or emotional, and I don’t often express myself well. My appreciation is hard to write down. Most of the people in the article will know this about me. However, I’ve thought a lot about them as my path as a collegiate strength coaching is coming to an end, and there are too many to reach out to individually. So this article will have to do. This one’s for you!

Discuss in Forums

Credit: Source link

17 Nov

1 week postpartum

Gaining weight during pregnancy—and then trying to lose weight after baby—is an emotional rollercoaster for so many women, and perhaps especially for those of us with lifelong issues with food. At my first OB appointment, my doctor told me I should aim to gain 25-30 pounds over the course of my pregnancy, which seemed reasonable enough to me. The only tricky part—I was already 20 pounds above my happy weight (that weight range where I feel confident and energetic, where I’m not bingeing and my clothes fit). It was the beginning of January 2018 at that first appointment. Daniel and I had gotten married at the end of that previous September and waited a few weeks before hopping a plane to Hawaii for our honeymoon, which was a blissful two weeks long and full of incredible food. We got home just before Halloween, just in time for me to break in our new kitchen with all the holiday baking I could possibly do. We were in full-on merry mode, eating our way through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve—hence the 20-pound gain.

postpartum weight gainpostpartum weight gain
1 month postpartum

So sure, I was starting at a higher weight than I might have liked, but what could I do? I had no intention to reel it in or restrict or “get back on track.” I was on a new track, nourishing my baby. And maybe that simple fact—that I couldn’t diet and so there was no looming restriction—was what made it easy to accept reality.

My only aim was to eat as wide a variety of wholesome foods as possible while also honoring the many, many cravings coming at me daily. So what did that jargon mean? It meant that I tried my best, which landed me about a mile away from perfection but y’know, in the neighborhood.

All in all, I gained 48 pounds during my pregnancy. More than I intended, but a number I was pretty comfortable with, considering all the challenges that pregnancy throws at you…and as potentially annoying as it sounds, I loved being pregnant. I felt fairly comfortable physically up until my last few weeks, so I was able to stay reasonably active in day-to-day life. I walked every day, cleaned my house non-stop (scrubbing inside and under cabinets was became a hobby), organized and then reorganized, and dabbled in DIY landscaping (which, yup, looked extremely DIY). I tried to find a middle ground between providing my baby with good, solid nutrition and a wide range of nutrients while also not causing myself too much stress in an attempt to be perfect at it. And of course, I wasn’t always quite the model of balance and moderation. Two of my strongest cravings were for Indian food and fried chicken sandwiches with mayo and pickles, and there’s an Indian restaurant nearby with a killer lunchtime buffet and a great deli up the street that makes an outstanding chicken cutlet sub, if that can illuminate my pregnancy eating for you.

losing weight after babylosing weight after baby
3 months postpartum

And now, here’s where things went off the rails. You might expect weight gain during pregnancy, but you probably don’t expect the weight gain afterward. On one of my first few days home after having James, I stepped on the scale out of curiosity and noticed I’d lost 20 pounds. Huh, I thought, surprised, only not pleasantly surprised like you might think—I was too tired to be pleased with myself. I had no plans to begin losing weight anytime soon and in our first week home, food was the last thing on my mind. I ate quick, convenient meals when I could, at all hours of the day and night, but noticed that nothing I ate seemed to taste like much of anything. Sweets, though, gave me fast energy. Every time I walked by the kitchen, I’d grab something—a cookie, a piece of candy—and momentarily it gave me a hit of optimism, like I wasn’t always going to feel as exhausted and rundown as I was. Looking back now, I understand that I was caught in the fog of either the baby blues or postpartum depression. I still don’t entirely know which it was because the whole experience of birthing a human being, getting to know that little person, learning to care for him, all the while feeling tremendously blessed and overwhelmed by new motherhood…is itself a massive, transformative, life-altering shift that could of course never be easy no matter how sunny and optimistic your natural disposition.

And so I ate, more and more each day until I was full-on bingeing every night in a sort of last supper attempt, promising myself that I’d stop tomorrow and begin eating healthier. Remember when I told you I had lost 20 pounds immediately postpartum? Well I gained those right back, plus 15 extra!, in just under two month’s time. It was astonishingly easy to do, but I didn’t feel good. Eating constantly made me feel—surprise!—heavy and lethargic. Every part of me ached, especially my back, which I threw out several times while lifting James. I didn’t think it was possible, but the sugar roller coaster I was riding was leaving me even more exhausted. I weighed 80-some-odd pounds more than my comfortable weight and I felt it. And as overwhelming as the mere thought of change can be when you recognize how far away you are from where you want to be, I was ready.

losing weight after babylosing weight after baby
4 months postpartum


On November first of 2018, I started by eliminating the easy, empty calories—like the maple pecan flavor syrup that I’d been adding to my iced coffees at Dunkin Donuts, and going back to basics with regular, structured meals. I aimed to eat three healthy meals a day with one snack in the evening. I’ve never been much of a snacker or the type to eat many small meals. I’ve always preferred to eat a few bigger meals. The food varied, mostly based on what I made for dinner because I usually ate leftovers for lunch, but my emphasis was always eating as many whole, single ingredient foods as I could. We ate a lot of chicken stir fries made with veggies and canned beans because it was super easy to make and buy in bulk. Daniel made some crock pot meals like his famous barbacoa (which I’m pretty sure is just him throwing whatever ingredients he can find in the cabinet into a crock pot with some cholula hot sauce). I ate a lot of hard boiled eggs for breakfast because they were easy to prepare ahead of time. At night before bed, my favorite thing to eat was a big bowl of oatmeal with a banana. It was warm and filling and I knew I wouldn’t go to bed hungry.

5 months postpartum


I’ve never been someone who liked exercise. I wish I was the person who fell in love with the gym or couldn’t start their day without a run. But I just can’t stick to an exercise routine. This is an area where motherhood really benefited me because even though I don’t “exercise,” I am very active. When James was very small, I used to walk him around the neighborhood in the stroller. I was constantly carrying him around and rocking and dancing with him. Then when he became mobile, I feel like I am more active than when I used to run several miles on a treadmill. I get down on the floor with him and play his favorite game which is me chasing him while speed crawling. I am constantly bending, lifting, playing, cleaning, and moving. And everywhere I go, I carry a crazy cute 27-pound weight with me. Taking care of a toddler is physical work and I genuinely think I get enough activity just from parenting.

weight loss after babyweight loss after baby
6 months postpartum
losing weight post babylosing weight post baby
8 months postpartum
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10 months postpartum
11 months postpartum


The most positive aspect of my postpartum experience has been how little I got hung up on my weight. For my entire life, food was the most important thing on my mind. I was obsessed with eating or thinking about what I was going to eat. All of a sudden, I had something in my life that completely took over my mind. My changes in priority meant I wasn’t so focused on myself, and that’s a good thing.

James nourishes a part of me that I have historically filled with food. Taking care of him makes me mindful of all the ways I need to take care of myself. When you’re a new parent, you’re forced to stop wasting time–watching tv, scrolling social media–and with the little free time you do have, you get really clear about what you truly need to not only survive, but to thrive. I was able to see what was really important for me and develop a positive routine. I don’t have time to obsess over food, or spend an afternoon binge eating. And it isn’t limited to food either. For me, it’s essential that I have an hour at night to shower, do my skincare routine, apply lotion, listen to a podcast, and go to bed early.

12 months postpartum

My Body

By James’ first birthday back in September, I had lost 80 pounds. I felt the best I had in ages—strong and energetic and balanced. I wasn’t so tired all the time, like I had been for those first four or five months postpartum. My old clothes fit once again. But make no mistake—my bare body (under those clothes) does not look like a model’s, and it never has, not even at my thinnest. It’s squishy and soft and dimpled and, well, covered in stretch marks. Because I was big for decades, I had a lot of excess skin leftover after I lost 135 pounds 12 years ago. I had some of that skin removed through surgery, from my belly and my thighs, but honestly the thigh skin removal never worked and the skin on my belly has lost all elasticity. The flesh on my thighs is saggy and deflated-looking, wobbly like a turkey neck. Physically, pregnancy didn’t quite help any of this, what with the ballooning size and all, but I really don’t mind. I’ll never have the figure of a swimsuit model—and that’s OK! I’ve spent 34 years in this one body, and maybe that’s just enough time to learn to accept that all of its scars are just memories of all that it’s done for me.

12 months postpartum

It’s true what they say about the miracle of childbirth, about how it gives you a new appreciation of your body. I couldn’t have said this two years ago, but today I look at my body with much more kindness, more understanding, and far more gratitude.

how I lost weight after babyhow I lost weight after baby

I’d love to hear from you—How was your postpartum weight journey?

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20 Sep

Sojourn winemaker Erich Bradley parked his truck at the end of the vineyard and turned the engine off. Sitting beside him was Sojourn co-founder Craig Haserot. It was 102° F and both were sweating as the interior of the cab began to swelter. They’d come to this hopefully quiet patch of wine country to record voiceover for a short film about their journey into wine.

They laugh about it now, but that voiceover segment was the most difficult part of the shoot. “It felt like an eternity,” Bradley told Wine Spectator. “Every time a tractor drove by, we had to redo everything.” But their persistence paid off: “Journey to the Edge of the Earth” is Wine Spectator’s 2019 Video Contest winner.

Their video offers an inside look at Bradley’s journey in the Sonoma Coast appellation. This year’s contest theme, “Wine Wanderlust,” felt natural for Bradley and Haserot, who met over a tennis game and bonded over their love of wine, specifically Pinot Noir, for its ability to express terroir. They eventually founded Sojourn and their first vintage, 2004, began their challenging exploration of Sonoma Coast, where weather conditions change on a dime thanks to its proximity to the Pacific.

Bradley says he wants viewers to learn “how geographically big and complex the puzzle of the Sonoma Coast appellation is … Telling that story allows people to connect with us and understand what we’re about.” Bradley and Haserot’s Video Contest Grand Prize includes two full weekend passes to Wine Spectator’s New York Wine Experience, where the video will be screened for more than 1,000 attendees.

Want to see more great wine videos? Sign up for Wine Spectator‘s free Video Theater e-mail newsletter and get our newest videos and more, delivered straight to your inbox!

This year’s second-place winner, “From the Bayou to the Bay,” also showcased Sonoma. Lawyer and winemaker Arthur Murray of Flambeaux Wines takes viewers on a symbolic trip from the historic streets of his native New Orleans to his family-owned winery in Healdsburg, Calif., where friends and family take part in the winemaking process. As Murray passes the torch to his kids, he hopes viewers will take away the same lessons he learned from his leap of faith: “Don’t be afraid to chase a dream,” Murray told Wine Spectator. “If your heart’s in it, you make it work.”

This year’s third-place winner, “Winetastic Path Home,” takes viewers to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Local filmmaker Martina Miličević shows viewers how wine allows people to balance passion, nature and connection. She cuts and mixes vineyard and street scenes to show that wandering doesn’t require great distance.

“I made a commitment to myself that I would do my best to show as many people as I can how close they are to this enchanting wine world,” Miličević told Wine Spectator.

There are many more inspiring stories amid the 2019 Video Contest finalists. From winemakers to wine lovers of all degrees, there is a story for everyone! Watch all the winners, finalists and honorable mentions share how wine took them on the road less traveled.

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04 Sep

We all know Mapule Ndhlovu as the ‘Queen of fitness’ — a pro athlete with killers abs, insane power moves and mad skipping skills — but did you know that she also loves to run?

She also happens to be one of the faces of adidas’ new ‘Feel The Boost’ campaign… so she gave us the low-down on the Boost technology and what motivates her to ‘lace-up’:

Why did you start running?

“I started running as an emotional release so that I could just clear my mind, cry, think and feel better with all that was happening in my life.”

How does running fit into your lifestyle?

“Running really gives me a different ‘feeling’ compared to all the other exercises I do. I use running as my time to think and clear my mind and it helps with my over-all cardiovascular fitness.”

Tell us about the impact that sport has had on your life.

“If it wasn’t for running I can’t even imagine where I would be today. Not only has it changed my outlook on life it has changed my entire world. Sport has given me the opportunity to work with amazing global brands such as adidas. I am now in a position where I inspire many people through the power of sport.”

How important is finding the right gear for specific workout sessions?

“Wearing the right gear not only gives you confidence, but it helps you feel more comfortable and move freely without thinking too much. The right gear also prevents you from getting unnecessary injuries — don’t head off for a run in training shoes, because you will regret it.”

READ MORE: This Is The Shoe You Need To Up Your Running Game

What does the adidas ‘Feel The Boost’ campaign mean to you?

“’Feel the boost’ means not having to think too much about your running — you just get in the zone, let your feet move and enjoy the feeling of being alive.”

How do you personally ‘Feel The Boost’ when you run?

“The Boost technology allows me to run pain-free… so I can move better and faster.”

What do you love the most about the Boost technology?

“The 3D heal frame component makes my shoes more supportive —  it’s comfortable, responsive and very light.”

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Do you have a personal Boost story?

“I struggle with my knee sometimes, especially after running a long distance. I must say that wearing running shoes with Boost technology has been a good experience — it’s helped me feel no pain after my runs.”

READ MORE ON: Celeb News Fitness Fitness Advice Running Running Tips

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23 Aug

Local chef Gerard Craft is among the most notable restaurateurs in the region. He’s won the coveted James Beard award for “Best Chef: Midwest” for his restaurant Niche; he operated a successful restaurant group; and his eateries included Pastaria, Taste Bar and Brasserie — all of them both popular with diners and restaurant critics. 

But he’s also secretly dealt with intense anxiety. In a new essay published Monday on the website Plate, he wrote that he decided to close Niche in part because he was worried it could only fall in the rankings. 

“In my town, there is a top-100 list, and Niche was listed as the No. 1 restaurant. But then every year, I would panic that Niche would be knocked off the top spot. That fear was ultimately one of the major factors that went into the decision to close the restaurant in 2016. I thought that if we went out on top, we couldn’t be knocked down,” he stated.

Craft joined host Sarah Fenske on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air to talk about his battles with anxiety and the way rankings and awards wreaked havoc with his well-being. 

To get out of the dark place he found himself in, where he questioned his expertise and success, Craft started to see a therapist and psychiatrist, and encourages others to seek professional help as well. 

He credits a combination of things with helping him: “from medication to learning skills to just kind of perceive what is your own negative thinking versus what is reality,” he said. “Which I think is very important. Because I think there are times when your anxiety is created by things that you really need to tackle, [or] like something going on in the restaurants or whatever.”

He added that he received a lot of feedback from chefs across the country who deeply related to the sentiments he shared. 

“It’s really been amazing to see the response,” Craft said. “I don’t know if it’s great, or just super alarming, but I do think it was great that everybody starts to understand that you’re not alone.”

Listen to the full discussion: 

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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22 Aug

Les Jones explores ways to attract patients and begin building trust before they even visit the practice.

Most people think of the customer journey at a dental practice as the patient arriving at reception, then the interaction with the dentist. But, of course, that journey starts a lot earlier.

It goes right back to before you even meet the customer coming through the door. It’s about how you market and position yourself, how people find out about you, and how those expectations start to grow in people before they even step into the practice.

There are multiple ways in which a person can find out about a dental practice: advertising, social media and your website. In fact, the mantra to remember is ‘all roads lead to your website’; however, a person first hears about you, they will check out your website.

How to you describe yourself

When it comes to your website, or any other communication from the practice, it would be an interesting idea for a practice team to think about the words and adjectives they would like their patients to use to describe them. Take those descriptors and ensure they are coming through in any communications from the practice, whether it be social media, adverts, website, and so on.

The words I tend to hear quite regularly when I ask practice teams about this, are ‘friendly’, ‘professional’ and ‘caring’ – which are all great words. But you could argue every dental practice should be friendly, caring and professional.

In many ways, it’s how you bring it all to life. Do you want to be friendly, caring and professional in a cool and funky kind of way, or in a fun and vibrant kind of way? Those are the things that start to define the culture of the practice and feed into how you position yourself through your marketing channels.

Consistency will bring trust

If you are consistent about your message, when a patient actually makes contact and walks through the door, there’s no disconnect between what they are expecting and starting to experience. That’s important because disconnect can lead to mistrust. Setting expectations is a serious business; you don’t want a patient to feel as if they have been seduced by fancy marketing, otherwise trust will be eroded from the start.

Getting into some specifics when it comes to the ways prospective patients are touched by your practice’s marketing and communications. A key area is referrals, potentially the lifeblood of a practice, but often not tackled in a structured way.

For me, this needs to start with the dentist. It shouldn’t be something that is offloaded to the reception team, where they hand a referral card to the patient as they are leaving. It carries much more weight if the dentist, at the end of an appointment, asks for a referral.

A simple 20-second conversation along the lines of: ‘Mrs Smith, it’s been great to see you as always. We’re always looking to grow our practice and we’d love more patients like you. Can I just give you these referral cards? If you know anyone else that could benefit from the treatment you get, it will be great if you referred us.’

It’s not over the top, and not salesy in any way. Of course, many people would argue the referral part of the customer journey is the end, which it clearly is for the existing patient. But for the one they are going to refer to, it’s the beginning. If Mrs Smith makes a referral to a friend, as I mentioned earlier, the chances are they will go online and check the practice website. So, your website really needs to be working for you in the best way possible.

Websites that appeal to patients

The vast majority of practice websites fall into the trap of being written for other dentists rather than patients. They focus too much on the technical ability and qualifications, which are important, but not from a patient’s perspective or using their language.

There’s also the issue of immediacy. We all know that when people are web surfing or looking for a particular product or service, they will land on a page and if it doesn’t grab them in the first five or six seconds, then they will just bounce off and go to the next one on the list. Therefore, the first thing a website has to do is grab people and make them feel that they’ve landed in the right place straight away.

Think about if you met someone face to face and you had five or 10 seconds to tell them the really key things that you wanted them to know about your practice. What would those things be? Once you have identified what those things are, make them very prominent on your website’s landing page.

Ultimately, practices need to see their website as an investment, such as being prepared to pay for professional photography rather than trying to do it on your iPhone. Any video testimonials on websites need to have thought and preparation. You need to give the patient the chance to understand what you would like them to convey, giving them some structure and format on the approach, just so everything is consistent.

Chat function and conversions

Another thing to consider is using a chat function. I came across one that used it, and started a chat with them and asked questions about how they used the facility, something I’ve not seen many practices doing. What came back was it was an extremely useful tool in terms of breaking down barriers before they had even met the patient.

If you imagine the situation, a prospective patient lands on your website, starts to have a little look around, then suddenly the chat function pops up and a very friendly chat says: ‘Hi. How are you today? Is there anything I can help you with? Do you have any questions?.’

If people start to interact with that, it’s a very safe environment for them. They’re still completely anonymous. They can ask questions about the practice or about certain parts of their dental health they might be concerned about.

Also, it starts to build a little bit of rapport as well. It makes them feel a lot more comfortable about actually making the next step. When I was talking to this practice, they were saying their conversion rate of people landing on their website to actually making an appointment had gone through the roof, simply because of this personalised interaction very early in the customer journey process.

Often, it comes down to breaking down the steps for the customer and making it manageable for them to take the next one. And, of course, it’s vital to remember those first steps are not the ones they take through the door of your practice – they start much earlier than that and usually with the click of a mouse.

To find out more about Practice Plan, visit

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02 Aug

“Yoga is made for everyone. You do not need to be an expert or at the peak of physical fitness. . . . It helps integrate the mental and physical plane, and it offers a sense of inner and outer balance, or alignment. True alignment means that the inner mind reaches every cell and fiber of the body,” B.K.S. Iyengar has repeated many times to students, young and old, healthy and sick, confident or stressed-out. Today there are 180 Iyengar Yoga Institutes in 40 countries, yet few people know a lot about his life.

This informative documentary by Jake Clennell shines a light on Iyengar’s life and philosophy. It opens with a celebration for his 90th birthday party in 2008. We then learn he was born in 1918 in India and began teaching yoga at the age of 17. He is acclaimed for identifying and teaching yoga postures as a form of exercise and breath training, often using props to achieve precise alignments.

As we watch this master teacher with his students in this documentary, we witness both the tender and the tough sides of his personality. But lest we judge him as being too hard on those who come to him for renewal, Iyengar makes it clear that his toughness is rooted in his reverence for dedication, thoroughness, and deeply focused attentiveness.

Additional interviews with Iyengar’s daughter, granddaughter, a long-time student who is a priest, and a man who learned yoga in prison reveal the influence of his teaching. A final fascinating dimension of this guru of the path to holistic health is that both Christian and Islamic believers have used his techniques in their rituals, which only goes to prove the universality of much of what he teaches.

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24 Jul

Take part in a long-standing Spanish tradition as you savor this simple one-layer cake, and discover the esteemed reason behind its iconic cross.

Leading up to July 25, legions of people embark on a spiritual journey to walk (and sometimes cycle) the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James). This ancient pilgrimage route, which consists of a large network of pathways across Europe, has drawn in hundreds of thousands of people in recent years. On some routes—many marked by gold scallop shells, the symbol of the pilgrim—travelers will encounter the Pyrenees mountain range, while others will be graced with trails flanked by vineyards or eucalyptus forests.

No matter which route is taken, all roads lead to Galicia, a breathtaking region tucked away in northwest Spain. What awaits them at the end of this pilgrimage, after meeting the steps of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela? A dense, lightly sweetened almond cake called Tarta de Santiago that people have been consuming for centuries.

Boasting a picturesque coastline and a gastronomy that rivals the best of Europe, Galicia is home to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where it is reputed that the remains of St. James (Santiago), the patron saint of Spain, rest. The cathedral represents an overwhelming mix of Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture, with its crowning artistic jewel being the world-famous Portico of Glory, an elaborate gateway depicting more than 200 detailed, hand-carved biblical figures. Those hiking the Camino will ultimately arrive here, the final destination, in order to pay their respects and begin the day of feasting, delighting in Tarta de Santiago in remembrance of St. James.

While the origin of Tarta de Santiago is, like many old traditions, fairly unclear, most claim the cake was brought to Galicia by a pilgrim and subsequently consumed by those making the journey to the cathedral. Written references to this cake stretch as far back as 1577, when it was referred to as torta real, or “royal cake.” However, the first recorded recipe of tarta de almendra, or “almond cake,” didn’t appear until 1838.

Most recipes called for three simple ingredients signature to desserts in the Iberian Peninsula region: eggs, almonds, and sugar. But what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in utility. Its hefty, crunchy crumb—due to the absence of flour or aeration in the batter—makes it a durable, on-the-go snack for hikers on the Camino de Santiago. And nearly everyone agrees its density makes it an ideal companion for a warm cup of café con leche.

While the cake itself has a minimalistic formula, its adornment, an outline of the cross of St. James, is what sets it apart. This particular cross is known as an espada, a hybrid of a sword and a cross, and can be made by gently placing either a stencil or a physical cross of St. James on the center of the cake and then dusting a generous amount of confectioners’ sugar on top.

Though it may seem unassuming, this emblem dates all the way back to the year 844, and it was used as a symbol of the Order of Santiago, a religious and military order founded in the 12th century. Nowadays, the cross of St. James exemplifies the power of Christianity, serving as a reminder of God’s protection for the people of Galicia, along with those who make the trek and who bake this iconic Galician cake.

Of the thousands who flock to Galicia each summer, not all take part in the daunting expedition on the Camino. But by baking this cross-bearing cake, they are engaging in a fundamental part of the spiritual journey. While a one-layer cake may seem much too modest to hold such paramount significance, it’s a right of passage when honoring the patron saint of Spain, with each bite connecting you to countless pilgrims who have been nourished by this very same cake. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

Find the recipe for the Tarta de Santiago in our July/August 2019 issue, and adorn your cake with the signature cross of St. James! We make it easy for you with a printable PDF stencil. 

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24 Jun

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HAMPTON ROADS, Va – In her book An Impossible Life, Sonja Wasden shares her  journey from suicidal depression to how she successfully deals with her mental illness today.

Written with her daughter, Sonja’s story details the struggles of her family, of finding help and her advice for others.

Learn more about the book at

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21 Jun

North Carolina writer Matthew Tessnear struggled through anxiety, depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for more than 30 years of his life before committing to fully understand his challenges and address them. Now, he has published a book, titled “Eating Me Alive: How Food, Faith and Family Helped me Fight Fear and Find Hope,” which explores his life with mental illnesses in hopes of helping others be more aware of and sensitive to their impacts. The book is available in paperback via

“I am sure some people who’ve known me will be surprised to see my name associated with a book about mental illness, but I’ve journeyed through some very dark days in my life,” shares Tessnear, who served as a reporter and then city editor of the Sun Journal from 2007 to 2011. “I was teased often when I was a child and continued to be prodded and embarrassed when I was an adult, to the point that I was afraid to be vulnerable. I buried my fears so deep I didn’t even fully understand them myself. Finally, I reached a point when I was so battered by worry and dread that I couldn’t ignore it anymore if I wanted to keep living, and as I started to explore the mental illness community, I realized I was not alone. So, I started to take care of myself, and I developed a deep desire to share my story to let everyone else, especially men who think they have to be tough and soldier through all pain, know that it’s OK to need and seek help.”

Tessnear, a native of Gaston County in western North Carolina, spent almost two years studying his own life and working to improve his mental and physical health while also writing his story. During that time, he shed nearly 80 pounds, completely changed his approach to eating, committed himself to a simple yet persistent exercise regimen, started taking medicine for his anxiety, and taught himself how to bake pies from scratch, a process he found to be deeply therapeutic. Most of all, he learned how to enjoy life, something he admits he never fully grasped as a child as he navigated a constant haze of worry.

In “Eating Me Alive,” Tessnear shares how his Christian faith, his closest family members and his love for cooking have provided him with the strength to work through his challenges. The book even includes a baker’s dozen of his most favorite and meaningful recipes, many of them passed down through members of his family in Gaston, Cleveland and Rutherford counties of western North Carolina.

“Like me and my life, my book is the combination of many different things,” Tessnear explains. “It’s part mental health memoir. It’s part family and local history book. It’s also part cookbook. The book is full of unfiltered honesty about who I am. I believe that all of our stories as people are connected through our common interests and experiences, and I truly think everyone will find something to identify within this book.”

Matthew Tessnear is a writer, foodie and former newspaper journalist. This is his first full-length book. He is also the author and illustrator of the children’s book “The Monkey & The Bear.” He lives in North Carolina with his wife Molly, with whom he publishes a collection of favorite American South recipes and restaurants at FoodieScore.Blog. Find him on Twitter and Instagram @MatthewTessnear.

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