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.


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