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Q&A: Kick-Butt, Health-Lovin' Mama Jessica Ashley

by caroline

Introducing to you our very first expert in our “Q&A” series, Jessica Ashley! Jessica is a Yahoo! Shine Senior Editor, she also covers healthy living, fitness, nutrition, yoga, kids health and more for Yahoo! Shine. She has great tips on how to incorporate little tricks into your daily routine to keep you healthy, dishes on diet trends, and covers news on disorders and health issues. Previously, Jessica wrote for AOL’s That’s Fit, StrollerDerby on Babble.com and ParentsConnect.com. She is based in Chicago. Read Jessica’s Shine blog here.

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1. When you are playing nice with your body, what does your health routine look like? I’ve been running for about 18 months and I feel great when I’m training for an event. I haven’t completed any extraordinary distances – the longest run was 10 miles – but there was a time when I rued running, a time when I was just trying to work up to a mile, a time when 5 miles was a huge milestone. So training has been monumental for me as a reminder that each goal leads to another. I also feel strong and athletic when I’m running regularly. My body feels better (even when I’m achy or my muscles are complaining). I sleep harder. I’m hungrier  and don’t do silly things like skip meals and over-caffeinate. I am calmer and can more easily release stress. All of those things help me feel more like myself, empowered, and at ease. Plus, feeling like I am rocking the good-ass jeans pretty hard isn’t so bad, either.  My dream routine will include adding in some more yoga, weight training, and burlesque (not in those jeans).

2. You’re a mom, full-time writer, busy gal extraordinaire: How do you combat the urge to skip a workout and snuggle back up in bed, or to adopt an “I’ll start tomorrow” tag line?

As a mom, there is no snuggling back into bed! I make it as simple as possible to work out. That means I go to a gym that I have to pass after I drop my son off at school. If I don’t stop and work out, then that same gym screams at me as I drive to pick him up. I have goals like wanting to exercise four or five times a week or upping my pace, but what works best is to kindly remind myself how much I love the feeling when I am done, how much that 30 minutes fuels me. And when I’m overwhelmed or crabby or cry or yell for no good reason, I try to stop and tell myself that this is my body telling me it’s time to run or take a class or simply stretch and breathe.  When all else fails, see above about good-ass jeans.

3. What’s one of the top subjects your readers ask you about? Why do you think that is?

The readers on Yahoo! Shine really seem to want to share what they’ve learned, both in their tough times and challenges and in their victories. I’ve found that when I write honestly about struggles with reducing caffeine or doing breast exams or being kind to my body, some readers are not kind. Many, though, reach out with their own stories, tips and worries. That is an amazing and empowering connection. I’ve gotten a few emails and Tweets from women who said they started running when I did and…wow, that motivated me through some really crappy weather and failed iPods and other things that otherwise might have sent me home instead of plowing forward. Outside of questions from readers, I often joke that my whole job is writing about boobs and periods. Really, this isn’t a joke. Yahoo! Shine ladies allllllways want to discuss boobs and periods. And who am I kidding? So do I.

4. What do you think is a common misconception of what “healthy” means?

I believe that most women have a disordered sense of their bodies. That is, we aren’t really sure what size we are, what we can physically handle, how well or unhealthy we look.  We push ourselves really hard to one extreme, overtaxing our bodies with processed foods, alcohol, too little sleep, people who treat us poorly, expectations of weight and size that don’t match our bodies or life. And then sometimes we don’t recognize what we really are capable of, how much weight we can lift or pushups we can do, how much better we could feel if we made one small change at a time.  I think that “all or nothing” attitude doesn’t serve us well. I wish that all of us could embrace a definition of healthy that was more about feeling centered – choosing organic foods wisely, mixing up meditation with super-sweaty squat challenges, recognizing that our weight fluctuates some and that’s normal.  It’s the self-care that I think is lacking for lots of women – at times, I’m included in that.

5. Ok, we know you’re a Bieber fan, but that’s perfectly understandable. What’s a not-so-healthy habit of yours?

Are you suggesting The Bieb is not healthy?! I am constantly struggling with getting enough sleep. I’m a single mama and I often work on my personal blog or projects after my son goes to bed. I can get a lot done in those wee hours, but the truth is that I function much better when I get 8 hours of sleep. I’m a more fun mama, I’m a better writer, I have the energy to really work out the way I want to, and I do understand that under-eye circles are not pretty.  Getting in bed before midnight is probably my biggest health challenge.  The runner up is sweet potato chips.

Note to Jessica: Showing affection for the Bieb is a totally healthy habit. :D

**Read more on Jessica’s personal blog, Sassafrass or Yahoo! Shine blog, and find out why she’s not only on a journey to healthy living, but a completely shameless show wh*re.