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Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, October 26 and 27, 2013
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Getting Hot at the Barre!

DanceFIT Studio hosted a fun event one week ago for Boston-area healthy living bloggers. DanceFIT has two locations; the Brookline studio opened in 2006 and its Natick location opened this past December. The owner is Gina Fey, a dancer most of her life who trained at prestigious ballet schools in California and France but eventually shifted to teaching dance to both children and adults. BalletFIT is her signature class that was inspired by her need to shed baby weight (her two boys are now 3 and 4 years old). The class incorporates barre work with pliés, relevés, and even développés (think straight leg extended high) that are intended to tighten the gluts and thighs, firm the abdominal muscles, and increase flexibility. 

Gina sharing with us the evolution of DanceFIT studios. Photos courtesy of Rebecca Hildreth Photography and myself.

The blogger event in Natick was introducing a variation of this class called HOT BalletFIT, which employs similar exercises but in a 90-degree studio! I've taken hot yoga and survived, so I invited Fen my fitness contributor to try it out with me. I have to admit that ballet intimidates me, even though interestingly students new to my Zumba classes often ask afterwards if I have ballet training. I took ballet off and on for a few years as a child but always dropped out. I loved barre work but hated going "across the floor" as I could never quite get the jumps and intricate combinations. I also always felt like a clumsy giant in my leotard, next to everyone else who seemed to fall into the petite category.

But when we arrived at the event, I was immediately put at ease as Gina rushed over to greet us and was incredibly sweet and friendly. She looked like a ballerina in her off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, legwarmers, and impeccable bun. Some of the other attendees had taken classes here before and wore legwarmers and tights, so I knew this was not a Zumba crowd! 

I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the traditional barre moves, as I had in childhood ballet classes. The room was hot but not overwhelmingly so, and it felt good when doing the slower movements. However, there were some cardio segments of jumping where the heat did not feel so great, as your heart and breathing rates increased and gulping the hot air was not comfortable! I also hesitated to do the high-impact jumping without sneakers (the class is taken with bare feet or grip socks) since I'm always hounding Zumba students to wear proper shoes. I know that certain dance classes encourage bare feet so this may just be an accepted practice that I'm not used to. An option to modify the movement to a lower impact version would have been helpful. In addition to traditional barre exercises, the workout also included use of a weighted ball to add resistance to moves such as pliés. One segment incorporated rapid bicep curls with an extended arm; I used a 1-pound ball which I felt didn't offer enough resistance, whereas Fen chose the 3-pound ball but felt it was too heavy to do the movements quickly with good technique without risk of pulling a muscle. We agreed that a 2-pound ball (not available) would have been perfect. 

I loved the sweating and that this was a total body workout. I also loved the unusual playlist (who knew there was a classical music remake of Britney Spears' Toxic!). We ended with floor work of abdominal exercises and stretches. I would have liked more abdominal exercises, but Gina said that every class is different so that sometimes there may be an extended focus on abs. To note, much of the barre work automatically incorporates core muscles as you have to tighten them to maintain balance and good form. Overall I was glad to finally have the chance to experience DanceFIT, meet Gina, and mingle with some great Boston bloggers. I hope to try the other classes that DanceFIT offers. One cool option is their Skype virtual classes. If you're a busy mom who finds it difficult to leave home to take exercise classes and misses the social aspect, check that out. Also be on the lookout for a special BollyX class that Fen will be teaching at their Brookline studio in June!

Believe me, everyone was drenched in sweat after class even though you can't see it here!


Weight Watchers New Ice Cream Lineup

Summer is a few months away but I've already visited the ice cream aisle at the supermarket. I don't eat ice cream at all in the fall and winter, but funny how once the weather warms 20-30 degrees, I dig out the ice cream scoop! Weight Watchers sent samples of their new frozen treats that debuted last month. My completely honest opinion is that this is great ice cream! Keep in mind that I'm not an ice cream snob and don't demand full-fat or premium ice cream, but I do eat a fair share. 

I was impressed with how authentic the flavors taste. The Black Cherry Greek frozen yogurt has that deep rich cherry flavor, and the Strawberry Swirl tastes like real strawberries without being overly sweet. The yogurts contain five different live and active cultures (probiotics) though it's not clear how much. Mint chocolate chip is my son's favorite flavor and he gobbled up the Mint Chip ice cream without hesitation. I also adored the Salted Caramel bar (which FYI is low in sodium) that recalls a classic chocolate ice cream bar but with a hint of salty. They were all very creamy and didn't taste weak the way "light" ice creams usually do. 

What could be considered a plus or a minus is the serving size and price. Each ice cream/frozen yogurt box comes with only three 3/4-cup servings and retails for $3.99. The Salted Caramel bar and other specialty bars and cones offer six treats per box and retail for $5.99. As a nutritionist, I love the preportioned sizes that supply 100-120 calories and less than 3 grams fat per treat yet are surprisingly satisfying. Ice cream is meant to be a small treat, not eaten from big bowls every night. If you view ice cream like this, you'll savor and appreciate it much more. You will eat it slowly and feel great afterwards, rather than regretting that you bought it because you slurped down half a carton in one sitting!

This ice cream line could be an everyday indulgence if the cost doesn't bother you. At my supermarket today, they were on sale for $2.50 for the ice cream cups and $3.99 for the bars so I bought some, but still are pricey for what you get. If you're a fan of Weight Watchers products, give them a try!

Disclosure: I received Weight Watchers food samples for my honest review of the product.


My First Flash Mob: Beat As One

When Fen sent an invite on Facebook to a flash mob hosted by The FAM, my first impulse was to click delete. But I hesitated because it was in honor of the Boston Marathon victims, and when I heard the song Beat As One and saw the choreography (by The Z Spot's Lena Andrade), I changed my mind. Being in a flash mob was the last thing on my to-do list but this event wasn't about me. It was about making a declaration of unity and support for each other in response to the tragedy that occurred one year ago. It was a terrible day, week, and months after. It's something you don't want to think about, but have to, because there are disabled survivors in our own communities. They are our inspiration. Below are photos I took from the rehearsal at the Prudential Center just before the actual flash mob with more than 200 participants.

The song describes how everyone goes through trials and we do our best to stay positive and not breed bitterness, but the only way to really achieve this is with the help of others. We can't move forward alone, at least not for very long, and you may be surprised who steps forward to meet you in your worst moments. "When trouble happens right before our faces. Is it better if we look the other way? The best things come from unexpected places. My heart is your heart."

This day I saw diversity in age, ethnicity, and ability, but I'd agree the underlying motivation was unity as the song title suggests.

Everyone's thoughts were with the Boston Marathon victims at each rehearsal and the actual flash mob. There was also joy, and I believe through every dance step we wished we could send the survivors joy and hope for the future.


The Beat As One flash mob took place Sunday April 13 outside the Pru on Boylston Street. Below, we try to look inconspicuous and casual before it begins.

Sasha, below, was working in the Pru and watering plants as we were waiting. He'd never heard of a flash mob before but after we described it, he decided to wing the choreo and do the whole thing with us...which he did with water pitcher in hand! 

And, the final video!

Thanks to The FAM for an amazing day. God bless Boston and the Marathon runners on Monday!