#FitBlogLA 2013, Part I: My Takeaways


Ever since I began this blog in February, I am regularly stunned by the great opportunities that come my way because of it. But if I'm being honest, none have been nearly as cool or as inspirational as getting to attend Fitness Magazine's West Coast Blogger Meet and Tweet, #FitBlogLA.

About 50 fitness bloggers were invited to enjoy speaker panels, food, and sponsor interactions at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica. After checking in and getting my badge, I headed upstairs to get a seat for the panels. Immediately, the swag began: on our way in, we were given cute aqua-colored Camelbak Groove Insulated Bottles that have filters in the straws. Which is perfect for the times when I'm working out and there's only tap water available. I filled my new Camelbak up with lemon water and went inside to listen to Fitness Magazine's Editor-In-Chief, Betty Wong, interview the creator of P90X, Tony Horton.

Personally, I've never tried P90X. I've had plenty of friends who've attempted it and only one who actually completed it. And no one has ever said anything about it that has convinced me to try it myself, including Tony. As he was talking to Betty about his views on fitness and nutrition, he just came across as a cocky, over-caffeinated LA stereotype. Overall, I didn't take anything away from Tony's panel, but I will say that for his age, which is 55 years old (a fact he mentioned at least a dozen times), he does look really good in person.

The next panel was my absolute favorite, mostly because it was somewhat life-changing. I've never heard anyone talk about food or diets or nutrition in a way that resonated with me before I heard nutrition therapist Alyse Levine speak. She spoke a lot about our cultural relationship with food and our tendency to approach food with a deprivation mindset. Everything she said made so much sense and she gave me actionable advice that I've already started putting to use. For instance, "the fork rule": when food is in your mouth, put your fork down. Don't have the next bite ready while you chew.

As I get older and pay more attention to how I feel when I eat different foods, I've been thinking a lot lately about how I need to change my relationship with food. For instance, it's not funny anymore to profess to eating Cheez-Its, gummy bears and Diet Coke for breakfast every morning. In fact, it goes against another one of Dr. Levine's rules: choose real food. Another thing? While I used to think it was cute and made me like one of the guys to eat as fast as I do (which is really, really fast), I now realize it's actually really bad for me. Not only do I not get to enjoy food that way, but I eat too fast to notice that I'm full.

But the most important realization of all was that I have a lot of anxiety around food because of money. This wasn't something that Alyse talked about specifically, it just happened to occur to me as she was discussing the way that we deprive ourselves and then eat too much as a reward. The truth is, though I've rarely deprived myself of food on purpose (I'm not a fan of "diets"), I have, for much of my life, been deprived of good food against my will or because of means. For example, when there was no food in the house as a kid, my mom would buy huge bags of potato chips to "tide us over." Unfortunately, we never knew when she would be able to get to the grocery store, so I would end up eating the whole bag out of fear that I wouldn't be able to satiate my hunger with real food. This happened often enough that whenever I was at friends' houses or school parties or was being treated to lunch or dinner, I would binge on as much real food there as possible and as quickly as I could. It started a lifelong pattern of eating crap food like chips when I had no money and when I had money, I overate good food out of anxiety that I didn't know when the next good meal would be.

The problem is, that shouldn't be a problem anymore. Money is no longer an issue for me, but that anxiety still exists. Someone can treat me to lunch now and I feel guilty if I don't eat all of it. I feel compelled to eat the food that people bring to work to share just because it's free. Which is why I say Alyse's panel was life-changing. Without her, I don't think I would have experienced this revelation and I'm really inspired now to try to rewire my brain.

The third speaker was celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, who is responsible for one or two bodies you might have seen before: Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West (imagine having to tell him what to do), Jennifer Hudson, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, Julianne Hough, and on and on and on (you can see the full list of his clients here). The roster of celebrities whose bodies Pasternak whips into shape is so long that it basically means he is THE trainer of Hollywood. And yet, he is just a humble guy who embodies Canadian niceness and who is actually kind of nerdy about his approach to fitness and research. He debunked a couple of myths during his talk (juicing and detoxes are BS) and said that one of the main reasons we're overweight as a nation is because we're walking thousands of steps less than other countries. He also doesn't believe in push-ups, so he is the best trainer in the world as far as I'm concerned.

Last but not least, Fitness's Digital Editor, the adorable Christie Griffin, moderated a discussion with four bloggers on how they've turned their blogs into businesses.The bloggers, two of whom I read regularly (Skinny Runner and Run Eat Repeat), shared a lot of really good information and insights as to what it takes to make a blog profitable and what they've learned along the way. It was pretty motivational and I really liked their overall outlook on how we should all support each other in this community, something that I've believed since I started blogging 14 years ago.

Following the blogging panel, Saucony was leading a run on the beach, but I had at least two hours worth of driving ahead of me so I bolted for my swag bag and hit the road. I was beaming the whole ride home, something I haven't felt as a result of a professional or creative endeavor in a very long time. It was such a great day, partly because of the swag (so much awesome stuff that I'll have to cover it in a separate post), partly because of the things I learned, but mostly because it of the energy I got from meeting so many awesome women from the blogging community, many of whom who share a lot of the same interests that I do. It made blogging suddenly seem very legitimate and full of potential for me, more so than ever before.

As Ira Glass just said in the episode of This American Life that I'm listening to right now, "The clumsy first steps that you take towards any big goal are inherently awkward." This blog was and is my first step since grad school into figuring out how to make writing a part of my life and, eventually, my income. Maybe I have gone about blogging somewhat awkwardly so far this year. But #FitBlogLA gave me the courage and motivation to take the next steps and that is exactly what I'm going to do. :)