Monday, July 16, 2012

Q&A With Helen M. Ryan, Author of "21 Days to Change Your Body"

Hi everyone!

I have something a little different for you today (but there is still lots of stick figure goodness!)  I was recently sent a book called 21 Days to Change Your Body, by Helen M. Ryan.  

The book is broken up into quick, daily recommendations that guide the reader to make small, but crucial changes in both body and mind, in order to start making healthy choices. 

I think Helen is pretty inspirational, as she lost over 80 pounds in less than a year through changing her mental approach to food and exercise.  She is currently an ACE certified personal trainer and Spinning instructor (you know, my favourite kind of instructor!)  You can check out her blog, Real World Weight Loss to learn much more about her.

Here is the Q&A I did with her after reading her book.

What prompted you to write this book?
As a fitness instructor/trainer, I discovered that many of my clients suffered from the same issues I had before my weight loss. I realized that they felt alone and hopeless, not knowing where to turn or how to get on the right track. I was helping people on a one-by-one basis, but realized that by "going public" and writing a book, I would be able to reach more people and maybe, just maybe, help get them on a healthier path and change their lives. I had a great experience last week that solidified for me the reasons behind writing the book. A woman at the gym - who I didn't know - came up to me and told me she bought the book. I asked her if she liked it and she said, "Liked it? It changed my life!" That right there was worth every word I typed all those late nights. 

What was the biggest surprise you discovered upon making these changes to your life?
People, particularly men, treated me differently. I was also more respected in business dealings after I lost the weight. I found that kind of odd, since I have the same brain I had before. It was a bit surprising, and it goes to show us that weight does play a role in business.

What is the question your clients ask you most often?
How I did it. Many of them are in the same place I was before I lost weight, and they are looking for the "magic" that spurs weight loss. There is no magic - there is only you. The truth is, people won't lose weight until they are ready. I had a friend tell me that everything I told her a few years ago is finally making sense. When people are truly tired of being overweight - truly tired of feeling run down - truly tired of not being able to button their pants - they will succeed. But only then.

What (if any) changes have you seen in your children since you started eating healthy and exercising?
My daughter does Zumba Fitness classes with me and comes to my Pilates Barre classes during school breaks. I cajole my son to strength train. The kids (13 and 15), try to make healthier choices, but they are kids, after all, and not very interested in choosing vegetables over chips. I try to model healthy habits, but I don't force the issue. 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten?
To make sure my clients and students feel successful. The owner of the very first Spinning studio I taught at shared that gem with me, and I keep it close to my heart. My goal is not to "kill" anyone, but to give them a good workout and help them feel capable and strong. Too many classes, especially Spinning classes (my favorite), make students feel inferior and weak. That is not what exercise is about. You have to learn to love something and build up your strength and stamina. Nothing warms my heart more than taking an overweight and out-of-shape student or client and showing them what their bodies CAN do - not reinforce what it CAN'T do.

What is the worst piece of advice you have ever gotten?
I think it's  a toss up between "don't eat carbs" and "don't do so much cardio" - both terrible pieces of advice. I agree that we need to cut down on carbs and focus mostly on getting our carbs from veggies, fruits and occasional whole grains, but  I don't agree with giving them up completely (hello - I love chocolate!). Also, many trainer friends of mine admonish me for doing as much cardio as I do. I lost 80 pounds doing cardio, and I still have great biceps, so I am definitely not burning off muscle. Cardio - Spinning classes in particular - make me happy, and keep me fit, so I don't see the problem.

Did you every try any of those miracle weight-loss/tone-up devices they peddle on late night T.V?
No, but I bought every book written about weight loss and even tried weight loss pills (both over the counter and prescription). Nothing worked because I didn't change my mindset. I had a "fat" mind and I was looking, like many, for a quick solution. Most of the late-night weight-loss/tone-up devices are useless, though there are exceptions. The exercises used in the Brazllian butt infomercial, for example, are ones often used by trainers and in classes, and they do work - if you stick with them and focus on eating healthier. 


Thank you, Helen!  I really enjoyed this book.  If you are looking for a way to jump-start a new philosophy on eating and exercising, this is a must-read.  It's fun, honest, and to-the-point.  Helen offers common-sense ideas that can be implemented realistically in a non-punitive, nor highly restrictive way.  You can also follow Helen on her Facebook page, at Real World Weight Loss.

Have you had a change in your mindset that has led you to a lifestyle change?

What keeps you motivated to to eat a balanced diet and to stay active?


Disclaimer:  I was asked to participate in this online book tour in return for a free copy of the book and links back to my site.  I was not financially compensated for this post, and all opinions are my own.


  1. Loved this post!!!! I love the part about how she makes her clients focus on what their bodies CAN do not what they can't :) I think that's key for sure!!!

  2. Ah, great interview! Love that you illustrated it.

  3. Sounds like a good read and important information. You asked what made us become aerious about getting healthy and I would have to say, for me, it had to do with hitting 'over 40' status. You tend to get a little more concerned about health the older you get.

  4. The Kale chips picture - awesome. What an inspiration she is!

  5. This interview was entertaining with the great pictures. Helen is a fabulous trainer and she has a fun but educated approach to exercise. Always keeping in mind your physical issues but not letting your whining get in the way! The book makes so much sense and gives simple and easy to follow guidelines backed by education and common sense.

  6. Ali Mc: I think you're right; encouragement works so much better for most of us than belittling.

    Gia: Thanks! I couldn't have done it any other way :)

    Allie: I already recommended the book to a friend! Totally makes sense about getting older and wanting to get healthier. You lose that sense of invincibility.

    Meghan: She is! For the record, I do think kale chips are great :D

    Melissa: Thanks so much for coming by and commenting. It's nice to hear from Helen's fan club!

  7. This is so cute, I'm so excited to start reading this book!!!!

  8. loved this post! I have to check out that book now, thanks for sharing!

  9. Thanks for having me, TriGirl. I LOVE your illustrations, and the one that makes me giggle the most is the "worst advice" drawing. That is so me...making off with the donut. Keep up the good work!

  10. Love this :) Glad she said she liked chocolate because anyone who says to give it up loses me right there :)

  11. Lorraine: Thanks :) I hope you get some good ideas from the book!

    Adrian: Do it! It helps you look at your relationship with food and exercise, rather than just tell you how to lose some pounds :)

    aspinchick: Thanks so much for including me on your book tour, Helen! I'm so glad you liked the accompanying drawings! And really, who wouldn't try to run off with a doughnut??

    stridingmom: That's how I knew I would like her :D

  12. OMG I love the image of "Blink your way thin" or however it's worded. I swear there's a new technique every day! Great post, it's probably the first interview I have every read, the images kept me entertained and looking for the next part.

  13. Julie: Yes, I'm thinking I should market that book! I'm glad you stayed to read the interview...I think pictures always make reading fun :)

  14. Very very interesting! And now that I've tried to make my own stick figures... I'm even MORE impressed with how awesome yours are!

  15. uh. i love your blog! that is all. :)

  16. Ha! Blink your way thin. Oh if only. :)

  17. Ricole Runs: You are too kind! I loved your stick figures! The book really is good :)

    christina: Thanks so much :D

    Vapid Vixen: you know anyone who's tried it??


I love comments and I always reply to each one!


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