Self-Appreciation: Best Gift ANYONE Can Give

Today, as I was going through my daily ritual of reading the news as it comes through my news feed, I came across an article to which the subject matter really made me disturbed. This is a positive response of removal of a “new image” of Princess Merida, the beautiful red-headed young woman from Disney’s movie Brave. Disney created a “Sexy Merida” for a coronation ceremony late last week to which caused some major grief, rightfully so.
‘Brave’ (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)
“This one character may not do any damage to a girl’s psychological development, per se,” said Dr. Robyn Silverman. “But Merida joins a barrage of thin, sultry characters for girls, making her yet another facet of our sexed-up, thinned down messaging.” 
As a human (I cannot just say one gender faces this more so than the other), as men and women alike, we are faced with so many body image perfectionist ideas to which we can majorly lose sight of what makes us unique. Everyone is shaped differently. Everyone is colored differently and not one person is like another. Comparison is unfair and how boring of a world this would be if you looked like every other person! BOOOOORRRINNGG!
Take a look at this campaign that Dove created a while back. It illustrates a good point: how we perceive ourselves is not always how others perceive us.
One step in health and wellness is shaping, molding, and being honest with our skewed perception of ourselves. It is embracing our flaws and imperfections as much as it is realizing what our needs are to feel good about ourselves inside and out. Health and wellness is full body endeavor to which takes an extreme amount of honesty, heart, perseverance, and dedication to embrace everything God made us to be. So what if we have large thighs, bags under our eyes or our rear end is “too big”. This is what makes YOU uniquely you. Instead of looking negatively on what you don’t like about yourself, why not say one thing positive about yourself?
Next time you are brushing your teeth and look up into the mirror to clean the excess toothpaste off your lips, try saying something you love about yourself in a positive fashion. This is not to be a vain attempt as much as it is to recognize qualities you possess that have a positive impact. If there is something you do not like about yourself, it is up to you on whether you want to change it. There are means to do so if that is your choice, but before you go changing yourself, appreciate who and what you are first.
I want to challenge each and everyone today to really find self-appreciation. To me, that is more important than trying to look and act like someone you are not. Appreciate who and what you are. There is only one you in this world. Be yourself. Allow it to be so! That is simply the best gift that anyone can give to themselves!
Catie Manning, Hair Stylist

Working Out Barefoot

I still remember standing in my boss’s office at Rutgers as she explained barefoot workouts to me. This is before Vibrams were popular or it was all over fitness news about people running around barefoot. Her interest in barefoot workouts started from the class WillPower & Grace. It was here my interest was sparked and I was hooked on this barefoot concept. I began my research and as a science brain I really liked what I saw!
For the general public, working out barefoot can be a great addition! However, if you have had foot problems in the past make sure to consult a podiatrist on whether or not it is a good idea for you (1).


Shoes have not always been around, and it is this idea that appears to be at the core of working out barefoot. Without even researching I thought about it, so why do we wear shoes? In the medical world we wear shoes to protect us from a lot of things, including needles and random flying bodily fluids. On the street we wear them to protect ourselves from the many random objects lying around. While running we wear them to support our feet. But why do we insist on wearing shoes all the time? In one foot alone there are 26 bones (or one quarter of all the bones in the body in both feet), 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments (2). So as a personal trainer who is BIG on training all the muscles, especially the small forgotten about muscles why was I NOT focusing on training all those muscles in the feet?
That was a good question I started to ask myself. So after some research and making sure it was safe for me to try working out barefoot because of an abnormality in my back, off I went to try barefoot training. You want to know what I found out? I LOVED it and still do to this day!
What are the benefits I have found from it? As I strengthened my feet outside of my 13 hour shifts in my workouts, not only did I have the support up my supportive shoes as I walk 6+ miles per shift, but I also have the support of all those strengthened muscles in my feet. Barefoot workouts is something I highly recommend for anyone who is in a job that demands them to be on their feet for long hours! I have found that my back that has always hurt, hurts less because of the support that is provided by my feet now that I have strengthened the muscles in my feet. I also love the feeling of working out without shoes or with my Vibrams. It is so nice to not feel completely constricted!
It is recommended that when you can, take off your shoes to continue to strengthen those muscles. If your feet are in poorly fitted shoes for too long, it may even weaken your arch (3). The best way to strengthen your foot is to take away the support and allow it to strengthen from within (4)!
Some suggestions I have for if you are thinking about going barefoot:
  1. Make sure it is safe for you as an individual.
  2. Do it with your safety in mind. Don’t go running outside without shoes in a place where there could be sharp objects.
  3. Start slowly. Don’t just jump right into an hour workout without shoes, start with 10 minutes and continue to work your way up.
  4. Stretch out your toes and feet and do exercises that focus on strengthening your feet. Here are some examples of Feet Exercises. As your feet get stronger don’t be afraid to do things like jumping squats, burpees, and mountain climbers barefoot! Also, look at your local gym for barefoot classes!
  5. I recommend getting a pair of barefoot shoes such as the Vibrams so that as you advance in your barefoot training, you are not limited to places where your feet will not run into sharp objects.
  6. If you’re lifting heavy weights, please where shoes. We don’t want any of those many bones broken!

Erica, The Mastermind



Catie’s Confidence Check-list

“Confidence is the only key. I know a lot of people who aren’t traditionally ‘beautiful’– not symmetrical or perfect-bodied or perfect skinned. But none of that matters because all that shines through is their confidence, humor and comfort with themselves. I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself.”  Emma Stone
I am a firm believe that true beauty is found on the inside and radiates through the being to which the beauty is possessed. That is the “glow” affect some people possess. Their beauty radiates! What people deem beautiful is what they see on the outside as that is our first impression. We all make assessments regarding one another’s looks, styles, fashions, attitudes or lack thereof, but I will be the first to tell you – if you look and feel good about your outer appearance it will boost your confidence and allow you to feel as beautiful as you can be!
For many young women and men alike, this world is about comparison. We are always trying to measure up ourselves to the next person. Well we shouldn’t do that. We should really spend some time getting to know ourselves, our likes, our dislikes, what clothes we feel best and look the best in. Since everyone is created individually with our own personalities and designs, it is simply unfair to think you should be like someone else on this earth! Embrace who and what you are then let your confidence speak.
Something that pairs with your confidence and builds your credibility would be attention to your outside appearance. Since first impressions happen daily, draw awareness to your outside. This will reinforce your new found confidence and help you approach life in a new way. When you look your best you too will feel your best.
Here is morning check list that I use to make sure I am looking/feeling my best. I encourage you to make a check list of your own and boost your confidence! This shouldn’t take you more than an hour. My Confidence Check-list is down to a half an hour. I do some prep (like making sure your bag and clothes are laid out the night before) and that cuts down on my time spent pulling myself together in the morning.
Catie’s Confidence Check-list:
1.   Shower: wash hair, body then face – ask yourself, “do I need to shave?”
2.   Analyze your face: do you need additional eye cream today? If not, continue with your face cleansing routine
3.   Analyze your hair: where do you want to part it? What hair products should you use today?
4.   Blow dry your hair (if necessary)
5.   Apply your make-up
6.   Brush your teeth and apply deodorant
7.   Apply lotion to your arms and legs
8.   Get dressed and flip on some music to jam to!
If I don’t go through my check-list fully, I don’t feel my best or if my morning gets rushed: it starts everything off on the wrong foot and I feel less confident. Or perhaps you are guilty of my favorite step skipped – forgetting the deodorant (you know the whole ‘sure’ or ‘unsure’ thing)! What can you do? You freak and everything is off…sigh.
Whatever you do for your “Confidence Check-list” remember to keep it simple and realistic. Accents are best whether it is wearing a headband, scarf or light make-up…these accessories accent your reflected inner beauty. Don’t be afraid to do your thing and let that confidence show. There is only ONE YOU in this world and you owe it to yourself to shine. 🙂
Catie Manning, Hair Stylist

Run, Ride and Relax

Hello everyone! I’m Courtney, a social media publicist, exercise nut and healthy eating (re: food-loving) twenty-something contributor/behind the scenes girl for Erica Smith Fitness and Lifestyle. I live in downtown Indianapolis, IN and enjoy all kinds of physical activities – especially those that take place outside. I’d consider myself a runner and a cyclist, but I’m also a TurboKicker, a spinner and a wannabe weightlifter.
As a contributor (and good friend of Miss Smith) I felt compelled to share a bit about myself and my story. 
Without further ado, a VERY little bit about me: 
Some call them goggles, I call them bug deflectors.
I was overweight/borderline obese most of my life. I attribute it to lack of knowledge regarding nutrition and exercise. I grew up playing volleyball and softball, but because of our busy schedule (both of my brother also played sports), meals were generally on the road/from the freezer section.
After college/circa 2011, I decided I had had enough of being “the big girl.” I started counting my calories and exercising every day. I was amazed to see how simply being conscious of what I ate and consciously exercising changed my body. Within a year I lost 75-80 (+ or – depending on the season/what I’m training for).
In the place of the 80ish pounds came an addiction to exercise and a very disordered eating mindset that I still battle every day. Physically I looked amazing (to a point) but emotionally I was crumbling. Through the help of friends and family (particularly Erica) I was able to find the strength to get myself out of that pit and recognize that my worth isn’t in my body, but in my heart and actions. My biggest fear was becoming fat again. Now my biggest fear is not living a life worth remembering.

I still work out most every day – because I love working out. I’m still conscious of what I eat – because my body is my future. A few weeks back I did the Spartan Race in Laural, IN and came in 6th among women, second in my age group! I went home and had a cookout with some friends and cocktails – there’s balance! I also attempted my first 100 mile bike challenge last weekend (The Three State Three Mountain Century in Chattanooga, TN – it was cut short because of the weather). I run half marathons and finish sprint triathlons. Exercise is a joy to me. I love to have something to train for, and to be honest, I still have trouble treating my body well (nourishment and rest don’t come easy…yet). It’s a process and I wouldn’t be where I am today without Erica’s help.

I also LOVE encouraging, coaching, supporting, helping/butt kicking anyone who needs it. If you’re feeling down or need a boost, please feel free to friend me/message me – sincerely!

— Courtney Skells, Publicist and adventure junkie

An Incredible Weight Loss Story

I met my friend Megan in high school, but it wasn’t until freshman year at IU when I moved in across the hall from her and Emily that they then became 2 of my best friends.  I was the annoying across the hall neighbor who woke up far too early in the morning without an alarm.  Years later they told me they would lock the door and pretend to still be sleeping so I couldn’t bother them.

I remember the day many years ago when Megan called me and said “Erica I need to get healthier.” It was this day I noticed a change in her attitude about her health, and this day I believe is the beginning of an incredible journey in her life that brought her to this point.  At this point she was a new navy wife which brings on all sorts of stress and trials.  She was also at her heaviest non pregnant weight. Shortly after this phone call she found out she was pregnant.  While she couldn’t start to make extreme changes at this point, her view on health started to change here.

Shortly after Meg found out she was pregnant, her incredible husband Steven left for deployment.  The strength and courage Megan has amazes me.  They had their sweet little girl Mady.

After Mady was born Meg started again to focus on losing weight and being healthier… then came pregnancy number 2 and sweet Brynn!

As you can see, Megan’s weight loss story was exactly a straight and narrow path but had many detours… 2 pregnancies, deployments, and 2 children at one point under the age of 2.  You could understand why after the 2nd pregnancy Megan could have easily given up, but she didn’t.

With the support of her husband, Megan started to make an effort every day to be active and to eat healthier as a family.  It started out with just walking, but she kept working up her stamina and now has even completed P90x.  When I asked her how she does it Megan said:

Don’t get me wrong though, every morning when my alarm goes off at 5:10am I think of excuses. I am tired. I am sore from yesterday. I just need a little extra sleep. And some days I give into those excuses. Those are usually the days I struggle with having energy. I tend to be shorter with the girls, and I eat crappy.

For the most part, Megan kept her efforts quiet until one day on facebook she posted this incredible before and after shot:

Such an INCREDIBLE change!  I am SO incredibly proud of her for so many reasons.  Her strength and courage amazes me.  For those of you looking at making lifestyle changes here are the words of advice Megan has for you:

My best piece of advice would be to get out of your own way and just do it.  You can keep making excuses for as long as you want as to why you can’t do this, why you can’t make the changes needed, but in the end you just need to take the first step.  Just start doing 1 thing different toward making yourself healthier and you will see changes.   And figure out what works for you.  Just because everyone you know is doing one thing and it works from them, does not mean it will work for you.  Each person is different, so each diet and exercise regimen has to be different. 

As this incredible family faces another deployment, lets join together in encouraging them in their strength and courage all around.  I am so blessed to have this family in my life and am daily encouraged by them! Thank you Whitsitt family for letting me be a part of your journey!

Want to read more about Megan’s story and new exciting news? Visit her blog here The Long road to Cake

Keeping Hair Healthy in the Summer Sun

During the summer months, swimming and water sports are a great way to stay active, yet the exposure to heat and sun can really create a mess for our hair.  Just as important as keeping our skin protected from sun/UV over exposure, we need to also protect our beautiful locks from the drying affects that occur from spending the extra time outdoors.  I will provide some added information to help you feel and look your best while being active during the warm summer months.

1. Use Mineral Removal Treatments/Swimmer specific shampoo/conditioner 
If swimming at a public pool or even the salt water ocean, chlorine and the natural salt damage will occur.  Both chlorine and salt are very drying on our skin and hair.  A good way to help keep your hair at a minimum damage is by using Mineral Removal Treatments which help draw out the excess chemicals/minerals from your hair without further damage.  These are easy to pick up and use.  Malibu C ( is a great brand to which has packets of these treatments.  They are an inexpensive way to help promote healthy hair.  Use once or twice a week at most.  They also offer a “Swimmer’s” hair solution line to which I would also recommend if you are in the water frequently.

Swimming is a great low impact and even relaxing activity which promotes health.  Wearing sun glasses protected my eyes, the sunscreen protected my skin, and you better believe I didn’t process my hair anymore than I had too!  “Embrace my natural hair” was my summer motto during college.  At this time, I had not found Malibu yet…sigh.

2.  Condition and add moisture back
The sun is so very drying.  When your skin is dry, you use lotion.  When your hair is dry, we suggest conditioning often.  This is something that will promote silky beautiful hair outside the sun exposure and limit the amount of damage being done.  What the conditioner will do is form a barrier on the outside shaft of your hair.  For extremely dry hair, you can also go into your salon of choice and ask them what Deep Conditioning Treatment options they offer.

Another daily option which will also help is using a little Argon or Moroccan Oil through your hair.  Use sparingly as it may make your hair oily verses silky, but it will help promote moisture.

3. Avoid over processing and over working hair; use Heat Protectors
Rule of thumb, if your hair is already dry–avoid chemical services (coloring, permanent wave, and chemical relaxers), straightening, curling and blow drying your hair.  If your hair is already dry going into the summer months, be proactive and moisturize it.

If you must straighten and blow dry your hair, use a Heat Protector from a professional line.  These can be found in serums or sprays and it is so important to use them regularly.  The heat is not good for the hair and what these Heat Protectors do is form a barrier on the outside hair shaft protecting your hair and allowing the iron to do the least amount of damage possible.  Argon or Moroccan Oil also make great heat protectors.

Yes, as a cheerleader at Indiana University, we were required to look our best when representing our school.  Argon oil, straightening my hair on a low heat setting and wearing my hair naturally curly helped in the promotion of keeping my hair looking healthy.

4. Protein Treatments
So we have done a lot of talk on protecting the outside of your beautiful locks, but just as it is important to keep your inside of your hair as strong as it can be too.  Since our hair is made up of protein, we need to restore what has been lost through processing it.  In the salon, we offer Protein Treatments to assist in this matter.  There are both leave-in options as well as a once a week solution.  The leave-in option you can use on a daily basis and the once a week is never a bad idea.  Ask your salon professional what options they offer and they will be able to suggest which would be best to fit your lifestyle.

5. Trim ends frequently during summer months
In the salon, we recommend a trim every 4 to 6 weeks.  When you follow this recommendation, it minimizes how much we cut off and promotes beautiful looking hair.  When our hair dries out the ends of our hair if split can begin to unravel much like yarn.  If it unravels too far, that means we have to trim off more hair.  You would be amazed what even a 1/4″ off of the ends would do for the over all quality of your hair.

All in all, there is only so much we can do to protect our hair from damage in the summer sun, salt water and chlorine.  When we feel good on the outside, it also helps promote good self-esteem, build our confidence, and bring a smile to our faces.  Being proactive allows you to have the upper hand in the quality of your hair and in return your hair will thank you kindly.

-Ms. Catie Manning, Hair Stylist

Being Healthy on the Night Shift

This Sunday morning ended my year and a half of being on and off night shift.  I can’t say I’m sad to see it go, but I am incredibly thankful for the things it allowed me to learn.  Until the night shift, I would consistently go to bed at one time and wake up at pretty much the exact same time every day.  Before I worked night shift I had only slept past 1030 AM a very few times in my life.  Until I worked night shift I did not realize how incredibly hard it is to stay healthy on a night shift schedule.


As a nurse, I learned so much in my career by being on night shift.  It allowed me to work more autonomously. I definitely learned the wonderfulness of Ambien.  I transferred far too many patients to the ICU, but not a single one of them coded in my care for which I am thankful. And I got to know some really incredible people and learn how to be a nurse without all the people around.

As a nutritionist I learned that working the night shift means that those regular meals are not going to happen. That when you stay up all night and are stressed, as nursing as a career makes you stressed, you crave those high fat foods.

As a personal trainer I learned just how hard it is to get in a regular work out routine when you walk an average of 6 miles a night at work and you are never actually awake consistently at the same time every day of the week, let alone have the consistency to work out.

As a person, I learned that my body much prefers a day schedule and I’m not the nicest person on night shift.  I learned that there were times I could sleep for almost 24 hours. And I was definitely able to sleep past 10:30 AM.

As a person who constantly likes to learn, I cringed every time I saw another article pop up in an e-mail about the long term health effects of shift work.  But shift work, especially in nursing, will always exist.  There will ALWAYS be sick people, and just because it is healthier for people to sleep at night, it doesn’t mean diseases, especially cancer, will stop causing people to be sick at night.  So since we don’t live in a magical world where suddenly at night everyone is not healthy, we must learn to be the healthiest possible with the schedule we are given.

My advice for evening/night shifters:

1. Don’t fight sleep: your body needs sleep to repair. Staying up for 24 hours multiple times reduces your ability to think clearly.  Especially for people in shift positions, this can be very dangerous.  If you need to revert back to a day schedule, make sure to sleep a couple of hours after getting off of work.

2. Blackout curtains: seriously, especially during the summer, they really help.  It also helps your body to release the proper hormones, like melatonin.

3. Silence your phone: I have a rule that unless there is something I HAVE to hear my phone for, it is on silent while I’m asleep during the day.  My schedule changes every week, so it was hard for my family and friends to keep track of the days I would be sleeping during the day. Your sleep is more important than that text, I promise.

4. Keep the caffeine to a minimum: Caffeine is a drug, a legal one, but still a drug.  In excess doses caffeine can be really dangerous. Don’t keep increasing the amount and set a time to stop drinking caffeine so it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.  On your days off try and stay away from the caffeine so your tolerance doesn’t increase and your rest isn’t interrupted.

5. Have a social life: Make sure that though you’re working a funky schedule you plan ahead to have a social life.  If you’re working shift work, chances are you have to work weekends. Work with those important to you to have time to relax and hang out and feel like more of a “normal” person.

6. Exercise: Try to exercise at least 3 times a week. This could be just taking a walk or doing a 20 minute video.  Exercise will help your body to feel healthier and actually be healthier.  It will also help reduce those stress hormones that shift work increases.

7. Eating schedule: Try and keep your eating schedule as regular as possible.  Try consistently eating when you get up and then every 4-5 hours from there.  There is no research I have behind this, but it seemed to help me.  When I waited to eat until the same hours each day, I would often be up for far too long without eating food. Eat when you’re hungry.  Your body will tell you.  And eat real meals.

8. Stay away from the junk: You can’t always stay away from it, but as much as possible focus on healthy eating. Late nights often make your body crave the worst foods.  Make it an effort to pack healthy and know where at work you can buy the healthy food.

9. Take care of yourself: Keep up with your hair, your laundry, get a massage or mani/pedi, plan fun events you like to do. Often with shift work, because it runs your schedule so much you forget to take care of yourself.  Your job is only part of your life, remember to enjoy the other parts :-).

10. Water and Nutrients: Water, your body needs it.  Make sure you drink enough. Make sure your body has enough of it. Monitor your nutrition and if you think you aren’t getting enough, talk to a healthcare professional who can advise you on supplements.

Chances are on the night shift you are not going to be the healthiest you will ever be in your life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live at the optimal health for your current life situation. Take care of yourself, your health and happiness are worth it!

You are unique :-)

We all do it, especially women. It is something we struggle with without even realizing it. But it nags at us. When you’re sitting at lunch.  Sitting in the break room. Sitting at your desk. Walking down the street. It happens. Working out at the gym.

“I wish I had this..” “I wish I looked like that..”

We compare ourselves. The way we look, the clothes we wear, our personality, our abilities… and so much more.  Why do we do it?  Sometimes, because it makes us feel better.  But often because we don’t believe in ourselves.

From talking to many males, it seems they don’t escape this sink hole either.

So why am I writing about this on a fitness and nutrition blog? Because I believe that starting here, can make a huge difference!

1. Realize that you are unique. EVERYTHING about you. Your personality, what motivates you, your body shape, how your body will respond to different exercise and nutrition, and what you need to do to live a healthier life.

2. Find what works for you. If you are looking to hire a personal trainer and/or nutritionist, make sure that they are not going to give you a cookie cutter plan.  Cookie cutter plans don’t work for everyone, it takes some listening and experimenting to truly find out what works for each individual person.

3. Find out the reasons YOU want to make changes and what motivates you.  This will be different for everyone.  Is it for your health? Is it for your family? Is it just so you feel better? What is going to motivate you?  Are you competitive? Are you just going to work out to get it done? What will keep you working harder while you are doing your work out? What is going to keep you on a healthy eating schedule?

Before you sit down and truly commit to a lifestyle change, figure out what it is that is going to motivate you and keep you accountable.  Put together a plan, and remember, you aren’t going to be successful every day, but that doesn’t mean you have failed!

Who YOU are is beautiful. Right now. Start with believing that, then take the steps to a lifestyle change that is going to help you be the best you, you can be!

Who You Are Right Now, is Beautiful

There are two worlds I live in. I live in the health promotion striving to help people live healthier lives. I also live in the world of cancer patients. 3 days a week for 13 hours a day I work with people who have one thing in common, they are facing something that very well may take their life.

It is interesting to me that my two favorite things in life are kind of opposite. On one side I like to help people live healthier longer lives.  On the other side I really enjoy helping to make patients comfortable in their last few hours and help them realize it is ok to let go.  They are different, yet they are the same.  In both circumstances I get to look someone square in the eyes and tell them who they are at that very moment is enough. Who they are at that very moment is beautiful.

Lifestyles changes are hard. REALLY hard. Accepting that you haven’t been living the healthiest is hard to digest. We all beat ourselves up over it. But here is the truth: beating yourself up over the past is going to get you no where.

Wanting to make changes in your life? Learn these things..

1. The past is the past leave it there.
2. The choices you made yesterday are left there. Make new ones today.
3. Who you are, right now, is beautiful.

So my dear friends, make the decision today to love yourself where you are at and accept that every decision you’ve made has helped to shape you into the beautiful person you are right now. Live life in this moment and decide today to start making those better choices!

Afterall, you aren’t making lifestyle changes to be a more beautiful you.  You’re making them to be a healthier you!