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Last week I attended an inspiring fitness panel hosted by Nike and Lead Like Her, a platform of empowerment for creative and independent women. Among the panel were some familiar faces from the fitness world — coach and trainer Alyssa Chang, graphic designer and fitness influencer Mickey Roxas, and health coach, fitness blogger, and creative Joanne Encarnacion. These women broke down barriers with more than the typical, canned inspirational answers — they opened up about eating disorders, depression, and unhealthy relationships with weight and with themselves. It got REAL.
Seeing these fabulous, successful, healthy women show their vulnerable sides was inspiring in and of itself. But, it also made me wonder how they push through those tougher times when they sense negative thoughts and feelings creeping back in — not just to keep appearances on social media, but for their sanity. So, naturally, I was not shy about asking.
Joanne answered so candidly, it was like she was waiting for this question to be asked. And her response made so much sense: in sum, we don’t get enough compliments, and as adults and powerful independent women, we don’t need to wait for those compliments — we can give them to ourselves!
“I always think about how I talk to my kids,” she told us. “I tell them every day, ‘you’re so beautiful,’ or ‘you’re so smart.’ So as children, we receive and are showered with these compliments and these affirmations all the time,” she said. But that stops happening as much when you’re an adult. So what does she do to balance it out, and ward off the potential onset of depression? She has five daily affirmations, and they change from day to day.
“We don’t compliment ourselves enough, and we are trained to not accept compliments,” she said. “I tell myself something every day, even if it’s small like ‘my muffin tops are extra cushy today!’ or ‘my hair looks fabulous right now!'”
Here are a few big ones that she relies on often:
I am a powerhouse, I am indestructible.
I am courageous.
I am at peace with all that is happened in my life, all that is happening, and will happen.
I am the designer of my life, I build its foundation and choose its contents.
I am blessed with an incredible family and amazing friends.
Hitting a rut? Not feeling strong? Affirm yourself. You don’t have to wait for a man, a boss, a family member, a friend, or ANYONE to tell you how amazing you are. It’s OK to be modest and humble, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love on yourself.Read More
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We chat to September cover model, Alexa Towersey about all things fitness, health, career and self-love. Check out the exclusive cover story interview below!
I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years. I’ve played pretty much every sport known to man including American football, boxing, soccer, skiing and horse-riding. I completed a Bachelor of Science in biology and psychology and went on to do a post-graduate diploma in sports management and kinesiology, and then I interned with an All Blacks-endorsed Pilates studio.
When I was 27 I moved to Hong Kong, where I was the senior strength and conditioning coach at a mixed martial arts (MMA) gym. I decided to get into half-Ironman events and I took two years to qualify for the world champs. Living in Asia gave me the opportunity to travel and learn; I spent five years commuting between HK and the United States, learning from the legendary Gym Jones (the outfit responsible for training the cast and crew for the movies 300, The Immortals, Repo Men and Superman) and internationally recognised strength coach Charles Poliquin.
When I was younger, I was bullied for being too skinny. My nickname at school was Alexa Anorexia. I started going to the gym when I was 15 on a mission to create muscles and it was the first place I ever truly felt in control of my body and my mind. I want to be able to educate, empower and instil that passion in everyone I work with.
Both my parents passed away from lifestyle-related diseases – my mum from lung cancer and my dad from alcoholism. This led to me giving up alcohol six years ago and is the reason I remain such a passionate advocate of living a healthy lifestyle.
For years, I was limited by own lack of self-belief. It wasn’t until I moved to Australia two years ago and immersed myself in a community of likeminded people that I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I truly believe that if you’re driven by passion and positivity rather than profit, then success is organic.
ON BODY IMAGE
I think it’s a really exciting time to be in the industry as the landscape is definitely changing for the better. Women seem to be less focused on wanting to lose weight and be a size zero and more excited about getting stronger, feeling better in their own skin and wanting to develop shape.
ON CREATING CURVES
I love celebrating the strength of the female form. For me, as both a trainer and a female, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a woman become empowered in the gym and watching how this translates into the rest of her life.
I have a very holistic approach with both myself and my clients. I’m a big advocate for learning to listen to your body and trusting your gut instincts. Your body is a very clever instrument and it will tell you in no uncertain terms what it likes and dislikes.
ON WHAT’S NEXT
I’m rolling out my Creating Curves workshops internationally, including Kuwait, the US and New Zealand. I’ve almost finished my second e-book program with Renae Ayris (former Miss Universe Australia). I’ve also recently started public speaking on behalf of the charity Livin, which is an organisation aimed at educating people about mental health issues and suicide prevention. I love being able to be involved in such an incredible and relevant cause. Twenty-sixteen is shaping up to be a huge year, so watch this space!
Alexatowersey.com // @actionalexa
Photography: Emily Abay // @emilyabay_photographer
Hair & Make-up Artist: Mae Taylor // @maetaylor_makeupartist
Dressed in: PE Nation // @p.e.nation courtesy of StyleRunner // @stylerunner
Read more …
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Have you heard of vitiligo? I hadn't either, before I was diagnosed with it at age 17.
I was on a beach trip when I first noticed the uneven white patches all over my body, including around my eyes; my friends joked that I looked like a raccoon. I figured it was just a weird sunburn, and for the rest of the summer, I lathered on sunscreen and tried to stay in the shade. But the white patches just spread even more, and my family took notice. Before I started college, my mom thought it would be a good idea to talk to a dermatologist.
I expected the derm to lecture me for getting a tan. Instead, I learned I have an incurable condition. “It’s called vitiligo,” the doctor told me in a cold, matter-of-fact way. With vitiligo, cells that make color in the skin (called melanocytes) are destroyed, causing white patches to appear randomly all over the body, according to the National Institutes of Health. Michael Jackson had it, and fashion model Winnie Harlow has made headlines for landing high-profile campaigns despite her spots.
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Experts aren't sure what triggers the condition (which affects about 1% of the population), but some believe it may be an autoimmune disease. With autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks a healthy part of your body—in this case, the melanocytes. Others theorize vitiligo may be caused by genetics, while some say emotional stress or a sunburn can trigger it.
In my case, I wouldn't be surprised if emotional strain were the trigger, since at that time I was more stressed than I'd ever been in my life. I was in the midst of my high school graduation, my final days with a dance studio I had considered a second home for nearly 10 years, and a heart-wrenching breakup from my first serious boyfriend. Everything in my life was changing, and now my body was, too.
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I was stunned by my diagnosis. Whenever I'd had a medical issue before, I could just take a pill or see another doctor to make it better. Topical creams, oral medications, UVA light treatments, and surgery may ease vitiligo symptoms, but there's no cure. It can come back at any time, for any reason. I felt totally powerless.
I started college feeling even more stressed. To even out my skin tone, I globbed concealer on my face and slathered tanning lotions all over my body. Some of the white patches would stay put, some would get brighter, and new ones would pop up, but none of them ever went away. Doctors gave me a topical cream to put on the patches, but they said it probably wouldn’t do anything anyway. My self-confidence plummeted. I felt ugly.
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My plummeting self-esteem wasn't an unusual way to react to a vitiligo diagnosis. Even the NIH says that although the condition is neither life-threatening nor contagious, it is life-altering. It has profound psychological and emotional implications for many patients, says Nada Elbuluk, MD, assistant professor of dermatology in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. “I think the psychological component of the disease is a significant one that needs attention,” she says.
For people with vitiligo, learning to cope can be very difficult—but it's essential. For me, it took months of complaining to family and friends and feeling sorry for myself to realize I needed to make a change. I met with a therapist, who helped me uncover deeper-rooted self-esteem issues that had nothing to do with my skin, and understand it's completely normal to blame all of your problems and insecurities on one thing. I challenged myself to turn my focus away from my condition. I dove into my schoolwork, and decided to pursue a double major, even though I had previously been to scared to do so. I also tried harder to make friends at my school, and ended up meeting many incredible people who didn't even notice my skin. Refocusing my energy helped build my confidence and prove to myself there was more to me than a few white spots.
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One thing I had to get over was the idea that people may look at me and assume parts of my skin were pale white from a sickness or sun poisoning. That's why Dr. Elbuluk’s believes the best way to help people with vitiligo is to increase awareness of the condition. Many people have no idea that the condition exists, and there is very little research funding available for doctors to better understand and treat it. “Educating people can go a long way,” Dr. Elbuluk says. “If more people know that it’s a skin condition, it’s autoimmune, and it’s not contagious, that education can help take away some of the stigma that’s been associated with it.”
Today, I've learned to live with my white patches, and even accept them. Luckily, I haven’t had any new ones appear lately, but since this disease is so unpredictable, I could wake up tomorrow with my face covered in white splotches. Still, I'm thankful for my health, and refuse to let a skin condition affect my self-worth.