• La Fille Colette…Fashionably Fit!

    Colette Chretien Creative Director and Founder of La Fille Colette

    My relationship with fashion has had its ups and downs which, not surprisingly, seem to have a direct correlation with the ups and downs I’ve had on the scale.  While I was losing ninety-six pounds, I kept my clothing purchases to the bare minimum and I kept assuring myself that I wasn’t going to be that size for long, so there was no point in investing a lot of money.  I promised myself that my big reward, when I hit my goal range, was to splurge on a new wardrobe.  I will admit that, even when I hit my goal weight, it was difficult for me to pick styles that highlighted my new figure. I was simply used to buying loose fitting clothes in dark colors, trying to cover up.

    My friend, Ashley Richardson, a former supermodel, always teases me when I wear something too loose, and she grabs the extra fabric and shows me how much better the outfit would look if it was more tailored to my body.  When a woman who has graced the pages of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and countless other magazines gives you fashion advice, you stop and listen!

    I have learned that you tend to take on the shape of your clothing and wearing baggier clothes makes you appear… well… bigger!  Steer clear of excess material because it will accentuate the appearance of your size.   Some other tips I would suggest are to stay away from prints and details that hover around your hips or other problem areas.  Wear fitted pants with a blousy top, or more generously cut pants with a snug top, but don’t try to wear both together.  Contrast is the name of the game… think long and seamless!  Use statement jewelry to draw the eye upwards.  Consignment shopping can help stretch your wardrobe budget while you’re navigating your way down the scale.

    When I was preparing to do a photoshoot for some “after” photos for a feature on Pop Sugar Fitness, a friend told me about Colette Chretien, a talented designer and founder of La Fille Colette.  When I saw the collection of La Fille Colette’s dresses, I knew I had found something special. To my delight, La Fille Colette is based in Boston and Colette’s mission is to create fun, sustainable, and ethically made dresses that can take a woman from day to night or desk to dance floor.

    Lettie Dress by La Fille Colette
    Photo by Stephanie Larson

    When I got the opportunity to sit down and talk with Colette, I was very impressed with her commitment to not only creating a clothing line for the contemporary woman who embraced both strength and femininity, but also to opposing the terribly unfair labor practices that exist in the fashion industry.  La Fille Colette is ethically and locally manufactured.

    Colette very graciously agreed to let me model some of her dresses for my pictures and sent several for me to try.  When I first saw them my initial reaction was, “I could never pull this look off.”  I found that being overweight made me want to avoid fashions that drew attention to myself and I generally avoided having my picture taken.

    Colette assured me that the dresses would be fabulous and I’m glad she coaxed me into trying them on.  For the first photoshoot, I selected the Cleo dress.

    Charlene In the Cleo Dress by La Fille Colette Photo by Cordele Photography Hair and Makeup by Janeen Jones Hair and Makeup


    I asked Colette how she went about designing her dresses and she said that she tries to think about how they would look on a real woman.   Colette felt strongly that she wanted to create dresses for women of all ages, shapes and sizes.   She uses color blocking to create very flattering looks.  Putting black in areas that many women consider “trouble spots” makes the image recede so it’s not the first place that your eye goes.  The designs show off your best assets, while hugging curves to create an hourglass image.

    Charlene in the Penelope Dress by La Fille Colette Photo by Dana Lane Photography Hair and Makeup by Janeen Jones Hair and Makeup

    I found the ponte fabric of La Fille Colette’s dresses very complimentary.  Colette explained that her styles use fabric that are not only comfortable and packable, but figure flattering!  The fabric is substantial enough to be figure hugging and smoothing without showing every lump or bump.  In addition to the color blocking styles, La Fille Colette’s latest collection includes an art inspired print that not only makes the wearer stand out with its bold, vibrant colors, but also has a camouflaging effect on any areas you may not want to accentuate.  The latest collection is made from a stretch crepe fabric which is comfortable and wrinkle resistant.

    Amelia Dress by La Fille Colette Photo by Stephanie Larson

    Colette gave some of her tips for dressing to look your best:

    *Embrace the body you have.  Dress for that shape in a way that will make you feel fabulous and you’ll be amazed at how your confidence shines through.”

    *Try an A-line classic design as seen here in the Madeline dress.  An A-line dress is a flattering look for your waistline.” (And she adds, “It’s fun to twirl at every age!”)

    Madeleine Dress by La Fille Colette Photo by Stephanie Larson

    *Most importantly, wear what makes you happy!  When you feel great about what you’re wearing, it shows!”

    Designer Colette Chretien wearing the Victoria Dress by La Fille Colette
    Photo by Je’ Amou Photography

    To view the entire La Fille Colette Collection click here:  https://lafillecolette.com/

    Click here to follow La Fille Colette on Facebook and Twitter

    La Fille Colette offers free shipping and returns from their online store, to make it easy for people to try on in their own homes.



    Charlene Before & After Losing 96 pounds

  • What I Learned About Passion and Protein from Actor Steve Burton…

    If I told you I sat down with Steve Burton to talk with him about passion and cheating, you may think that I was asking the popular actor, who portrayed such fan favorite characters as Jason Morgan on General Hospital and Dylan McAvoy on The Young and the Restless, to dish on his experience as a soap star.  It wouldn’t be a bad guess, as I have watched General Hospital since birth.  My mother would close her bridal shop to watch the show each day and I was right there with her watching from my playpen.  Even now, I DVR the long running soap and hop on my exercise bike to catch up on the latest romances, trials and tribulations in the lives of the good citizens of Port Charles.

    The nature of our talk, however, was about his passion for fitness and the decision to launch Burton Nutrition, a family venture featuring a line of health and wellness products, as well as a social community to help offer support and encouragement to those looking to lose weight, get in shape and improve their fitness levels.

    Anxious to learn more about Burton Nutrition, I wrote to inquire about reviewing the Get Fit Shake, a pure whey protein isolate.  I was then sent a sample of Vanilla Get Fit to try.  In a happy turn of events, Steve was appearing in Boston the following week, and we were able to schedule some time to meet so he could share some insight into how Burton Nutrition came to be.

    Burton Nutrition Company
    Get Fit
    Photo by Dana Lane Photography

    Prior to meeting Steve, I had watched several of his Facebook Live videos for Burton Nutrition.   He discussed how vital protein is to your nutrition as it, among other things, helps build muscle, repair tissues and balances hormones. Protein helps you feel fuller longer and, unlike refined carbohydrates and fats, which are a mainstay in many people’s diets, proteins are not stored by the body.  One viewer asked him if he ever has a “cheat meal.”  His answer really resonated with me as he replied, “I don’t like that term.  Who are you cheating?  Yourself?”  I found myself nodding in agreement as I think that it’s important to think of food as a choice, rather than something that is inherently good or bad. Food choice shouldn’t become a never-ending battle of ‘deserved’ versus ‘deprived.’

    I have tried many protein powders, and I was eager to try Get Fit because its label boasts a natural, non-GMO formula, with 22 grams of protein per serving and has an ingredient list I can recognize and pronounce!  I sampled the Get Fit as a shake first. As promised, the vanilla flavored powder mixed well, wasn’t clumpy, even when simply mixed in a shaker bottle, and also didn’t have a gritty taste.  Get Fit is sweetened with Stevia so it didn’t leave an aftertaste the way powders containing artificial sweeteners often do.

    One of my favorite ways to use protein powder is to mix it into my oatmeal and the Get Fit dissolved well and was an effective way to add a great protein boost.

    Oatmeal with a Protein Kick

    I was happy to learn that you can also cook with Get Fit, so the powder found its way into my aptly named, “If you haven’t had an actual oatmeal cookie in a really long time this will be like an oatmeal cookie,” recipe, and I became an instant fan of how easily Get Fit was to bake with.  When I’ve baked with other protein powders, there are times when the powder can be dry and not mix well with the other ingredients.  Burton Nutrition also offers a variety of recipes on their site under the category of “Make My Shake a Meal.” 

    When I sat down with Steve, I had a list of questions regarding what prompted him to start this venture, and I also had some specific questions about Get Fit. I was more than a little surprised that he also asked me to tell him a bit more about my story.  Steve explained that being in shape as an actor was part of the job description, but he really fell in love with fitness.  I told him how weight training had been life changing for me and I explained how it helped me battle back from gaining 96 lbs. over the years. I also related how I had begun working out with home workout DVDs and then began training with Carla Dunlap, a former Ms. Olympia.  Steve was a fan of body builder, and former Mr. Olympia, Frank Zane, and we both acknowledged the undeniable influence of Arnold Schwarzenegger on fitness and nutrition.  I’m often surprised by life’s quirks.  While sharing my philosophy on fitness and nutrition and helping others struggling with obesity, I learned that, despite taking vastly different paths, Steve and I share a lot of the same fitness philosophy, as well as the realization of how vital the nutrition part of the equation is.

    Charlene Before and After
    Photo by Dana Lane Photogrpahy
    Clothing by Athleta Hair and makeup by Janeen Jones Hair and Makeup

    The Burton Nutrition line was conceived by Steve, his wife, Sheree, who is certified in nutrition, and Jon Gustin, Steve’s brother-in-law, a celebrity trainer and certified nutrition specialist.  It was a culmination of a passion for health and wellness, a lack of finding the perfect protein for themselves, and seeing the widespread struggle of others trying to get in shape and lose weight, that laid the groundwork for the birth of Burton Nutrition.  Steve told me that, by talking to so many people struggling with their weight, he not only recognized the need for high quality and natural products, but also learned how important it was to provide consumers with a supportive community as well.   In researching protein powders, I learned that many of them use a balance of isolate and concentrate and that Get Fit was a pure isolate powder.  Steve explained that the reason for going with all isolate was twofold:  First was his own personal experience of getting the best results with isolate protein; and second that the concentrate form of the powder was not as conducive to being sweetened naturally by the Stevia.

    We continued talking about the challenges of maintaining fitness and nutritional goals while juggling a busy lifestyle, and especially when traveling.  I always tell people to be prepared and I smiled when he told me that his wife had packed him some homemade protein muffins using the Get Fit powder.  I then shared with him my theory that, “Vodka leads to Oreos.”  We both recognized that the quest for a fit body and a healthy lifestyle is fluid and ongoing.

    I found it interesting that an actor who has always been buff, and a fitness blogger who lost half her body weight, could be so passionate about sharing what they knew and in trying to create a community and platform to help others. I must confess, I did get swept away by our conversation.  It was fun for me to find such a surprising, kindred spirit and learning more about what has become my go to protein powder!  “My soap fan friends will never forgive me for this, but I never did get around to asking whether Steve might reprise his role as Jason Morgan or if his character of Dylan McAvoy may ever find a way out of the Witness Protection Program.  In true soap opera fashion, I guess we will all have to just stay tuned!


    Steve Burton and Charlene Bazarian
    Photo by Dana Lane Photography Charlene’s clothing by Athleta

    If you want to try the Get Fit Shake which is also available in a vegan protein formula, or other Burton Nutrition products, click here for a 10% discount:



    The Get Fit Shake was gifted to me to review, and note that affiliate links in this post may generate a small commission, however the content of my posts and review are my own true opinions and are not influenced by any partnerships or collaborations.


  • This Is What Happens When You Meet Your Fitness Idol

    Gilad and Charlene at the ECA360 Fitness Conference

    I like to think that my first step into a fitter lifestyle is along the lines of Newton’s law of motion where, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”  Now, I’m not sure if that “unbalanced force” was the unsympathetic day spa receptionist who made me so uncomfortable when I had to ask for a larger robe because the “one size fits all” label wasn’t accurate, but that incident seems to be the driving force that prompted my efforts to lose 96 lbs.  It seems fitting, then, that my first exposure to home workout videos was with Gilad’s Bodies in Motion.

    I remember not wanting to attempt my initial workouts at the gym, and after scouring the Collage Video’s Guide to Exercise Videos Catalog, something about the title and the description of Gilad’s workouts called to me.  Once I received my first set of workouts, I found Gilad to be truly charming and, when he would say things like, “Get up off the couch and workout with me” or “You’re not going to get better by standing there” in that delightful accent, how could anyone refuse?  The fact that the workouts are set on the beaches of Hawaii with klutz-proof choreography was the icing on the cake. (You must know, though, I wasn’t eating the cake or the icing at this point, right?)  The workouts themselves are designed to be quick and easy to follow and, because Gilad and the Bodies in Motion team are performing the workouts on a small, black mat on the beach, the exercises are designed for a small footprint in your home as well.

    Gilad & The Bodies in Motion Team


    When I achieved my goal weight, a friend suggested that I send my “before and after” photos in as a success story.  At first I laughed, but she eventually convinced me to submit them and I was featured on both Gilad’s Bodies in Motion website and in Collage Videos catalog.

    Gilad’s signed picture that hangs on my home gym wall!

    The Bodies in Motion team sent me a Quick Fit Series DVD set and an autographed photo of Gilad that read, “Charlene, Keep your body in motion. From the other man in your life…Gilad”    I used Quick Fit so often over the years that I recently had to come to terms with the fact that I had worn them out.  I contacted Rob Hearn, the producer for Bodies in Motion with Gilad, and he graciously provided me with a new set.  While we were talking, he asked me if I was able to go to New York City for Gilad’s upcoming appearance at the ECA360 Fitness Conference.  He suggested that the promoters of the event would be interested in filming my long awaited, and much hoped for, meeting with Gilad.  While I initially wondered how I could possibly get away at the last minute with my obligations of work, caring for my elderly mother, and my three young sons’ busy schedules, the opportunity to cross off the bucket list item of meeting my fitness hero ultimately had me juggling things like a circus clown to make it all happen.  Fortunately for me, my fun, supportive and ‘always up for an adventure’ cousin is also a Gilad fan, so we packed up my smoking hot minivan and headed to The Big Apple!

    My cousin Brenda, Gilad and I at the ECA350 Fitness Conference

    After my success story was featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine, mentioning that my weight loss was largely achieved through the use of home workout DVDs, I recall reading a message board entry that discussed my story written by fellow home workout enthusiasts that are affectionately known as “vidiots.”  I immediately knew I was one of them and, when you workout with video instructors on the TV in your home day after day, and pound after pound, they become like a dear friend.  I wasn’t sure what I would actually say to this man that I felt like I already knew, and owed so much to.

    Much as I had always suspected, Gilad was delightful and it really did feel like meeting an old friend.  After the initial meeting, which was being filmed, we had a lot of time to talk.  Even though I had written to Gilad several times over the years, whenever my success stories were published and I gave him a shout out, I was stunned to learn that he had read those articles and knew all about my own FBJFit.com platform to inspire and encourage others who want to lose weight and get in shape.

    When a fitness legend talks, I listen!

    What struck me most was Gilad’s reference to my passing on the fitness message to others. Without realizing it, I now try to be the positive force that helps moves others into motion; much like Gilad was to me.  Occasionally I see workout challenges on social media with someone practically balancing on a medicine ball and lifting a dumbbell while attempting an arabesque. Not only are these types of challenges potentially dangerous, they are not necessary to get into shape.  I think these images discourage people and shape how they feel about their own ability to begin and maintain a fitness regimen.  Gilad’s workouts presented me with a fun vibe and seemed totally doable when I was just starting out and yet continue to be an effective workout now that I’m at a more advanced fitness level.

    Between our talks, I watched countless people come up and tell Gilad how much they loved him and how they have done his workouts over the years.  I met Mike Harrington, another Gilad enthusiast who had lost 200 lbs. and who also had begun his journey with Gilad’s workouts. Like myself, Mike uses his story to offer advice and encouragement to others who struggle with their weight.

    Mike Harrington, Gilad & Charlene at the ECA360 Fitness Conference

    Near the end of my time at the conference, Gilad even took a moment to send a selfie video with me to a friend of mine who absolutely adores him, jokingly asking why she wasn’t with me.  I even got an official Bodies in Motion black T-shirt like they wear on the show.   I was giggling like a tween getting to have fun with the “cute one” in her favorite boy band.

    Selfie with Gilad

    How do you begin to thank someone for having such charisma and passion for fitness that it literally jumps off the screen and touches the lives of the people who watch him?  Over the years I dreamed of one day meeting Gilad. Granted, in my fantasies, our meeting was in Hawaii, but it was still all I could have imagined.  I’m not sure he’ll ever really know the depth of my gratitude and how I truly plan to pay it forward.

    If you’re thinking of embarking on your own fitness adventure, and you are not sure where to start, you can check out Gilad’s workouts at www.gilad.tv    Who knows?  Maybe you’ll become a “vidiot” like me and we could end up doing one of the workouts on the beaches of Hawaii!  Until then, keep your body in motion!  Aloha!

    After Photo by Dana Lane Photography, Hair & Makeup by Janeen Jones & Dress by La Fille Colette on location at the Marriott Courtyard Woburn


    *A very special thank you to Rob Hearn and ECA360 Fitness for making this all happen, and to my cousin Brenda for being the best adventure BFF a girl could ask for!

  • Fun Time With FitVine Wine! A Review by Charlene Bazarian & Nancy Hughes


    For me, sharing a glass of wine often goes hand in hand with laughing, chatting and even venting with some of my most treasured girlfriends.   I’m most likely uncorking a bottle when I get to spend time catching up with my BFF, Nancy.  Recently, Nancy asked if I had heard of FitVine Wine, as she had wanted to try this self-proclaimed healthier wine option, and when she told me that it had less carbs and calories, she certainly had my attention. Further research touted the wine as being vegan, containing no GMO’s, and double filtered and cold stabilized to remove impurities.  I contacted FitVine Wines and they sent me three bottles to sample as I was looking forward to seeing if the taste lived up to the claims of being a healthier alternative.

    We started by sampling the Sauvignon Blanc, which retails for $17.99 a bottle, and were both pleasantly surprised at the crisp, light taste, which was perfect for sipping on its own.  We both noted a bright, fruity scent with a clean finish.  It was the perfect beverage to start the weekend on a bright note.  The fact that the FitVine Sauvignon Blanc, had only 90 calories a glass was a definitely a bonus.

    FitVine Wine Sauvignon Blanc

    Next up, we sampled the FitVine Chardonnay, which retails at $15.99 a bottle, also had 90 calories per glass, and which had fuller body with a clean, but not too heavy, mouth feel.  While some Chardonnays have a more buttery and heavier feel, FitVine Wine ferments in stainless steel versus oak barrels, which likely contributes to a more subtle balance of flavor.  Its smoothness paired well with light apps and could also be enjoyed on its own.   While Chardonnay is Nancy’s favorite white wine variety, I was pleasantly surprised by the FitVine Chardonnay as it is not typically the white wine of choice for me.

    FitVine Wine Chardonnay


    We finished with a glass of their Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $15.99 a bottle and has 95 calories per glass.  Now, I have scaled back on my red wine consumption, as I found it left me with a bit of headache, so I was curious to see how I would react to this.  I thought the aroma was warm and berry scented, and it had lovely dark color.   Despite the lower sugar content, it was not as dry as I expected and, in fact, we both found the wine smooth, yet full bodied.  As a red wine lover, Nancy was particularly impressed and is now eagerly awaiting the opportunity to sample the Pinot Noir set for release in the near future.  I am happy to report that the following day, neither Nancy or I felt any sign of a “RWH” (the dreaded red wine headache!)

    Nancy & I enjoying the FitVine Wine Cabernet Sauvignon
    FitVine Wine Bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon

    Across all the varieties, we noted each bottle was a great choice and not “wine-light” so to speak.  While the wines all shared a very clean taste to them, it was in a way that improved the overall taste and experience.  It was wine “healthied up” in the best possible way.  Nancy & I both also liked the FitVine slogan on the bottle, “We crush grapes, you crush life!”   We even liked the fun cork!

    FitVine Cork


    We enjoyed the opportunity to sample our favorite splurge in a healthier version and would encourage all fellow wine and fitness enthusiasts to try a glass (or two!)  of FitVine Wine yourselves, and see if its not love at first sip!! Cheers!!




    *Want to learn more about FitVine Wines or order some for yourself?  Click here!  All case orders include shipping!


    **Clothing graciously provided by Athleta.


  • My First Kickboxing Class: It’s Surprisingly Fun to Hit Something!


    Whenever people tell me that they hate to exercise, what I hear is “I don’t like to move.”  I always try to recommend finding something that you’ll genuinely enjoy doing.  I’m often surprised by what that actually ends up being, which is why I love trying new workouts.  From aerial arts to Zumba and everything in between, experiment and see what makes moving fun for you!  This weekend I was invited to try a complimentary boxing workout at Title Boxing Club, so I channeled my inner “Rocky” and happily accepted.

    I was asked to arrive in advance of the one hour class to fill out some paperwork, have my hands wrapped, get some boxing gloves to use, and receive a brief tour.  The class was called KBox60 and was a sixty-minute class.  The instructor, Jenn, was very encouraging and upbeat and, in addition to her walking around the class, there was another trainer also walking around during the class to help anyone who needed assistance and to encourage them when needed.

    The class began with a fifteen minute warm up of calisthenics and agility drills.  There is a large digital clock on the wall and I noticed that the class really adhered to the schedule.  The warm up and drills were followed by eight rounds of heavy bag work of kickboxing combinations and footwork.   The drills were a series of punches such as jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts.   Each round was three minutes long, which ended with ding of bell, and was followed by a one minute rest.  The heavy bag portion of the workout really kept my heart rate elevated and I don’t think I ever drank so much water during a workout class. Several times I found myself looking for Mickey or the cornerman person to squirt some water in my mouth, as getting the gloves off and get a drink in the minute time frame was a challenge unto itself.  Despite the fun and energizing Top-40 music being played during the class, it was almost impossible to not hear the theme from Rocky playing in my head.

    When the final round was done, the class began a fifteen minute core/abdominal workout segment.   You could use a medicine ball if you wanted, which I did, and they had a variety of weighted medicine balls to choose from.  I found this section to be a great core workout.  It was a good balance of moves that provided a challenging workout and I felt it worked my entire ab region.

    It was fun to see the wide variety of people that the class attracted, as there were men and women at all levels of fitness and ability, and the instructors were motivating and encouraging.  When did just having fun and movement become exercise and something we think we don’t like?  Experiment with a variety of workouts until you find the ones that are a real knockout!



    Photo by Cordele Photography



    The author, Charlene Bazarian,  is a fitness and weight loss success story after losing 96 lbs., who has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Oxygen Magazine, Pop Sugar Fitness, First For Women Magazine, Boston Magazine, Fitfluential, Muscle and Strength, The Sun, Daily Mail, and other publications and is known for mixing a no nonsense style of fitness advice with humor on Facebook at FBJ Fit and her blog at Fbjfit.com.



  • From Fitness to Fashion – The Highlights

    Workshop in progress Photo by Chantal Kellerd
    Workshop in progress
    Photo by Chantal Kellerd

    I was lucky enough to partner with Susan Andrews Kanoff (The Midlife Fashionista) who shares her amazing style  for a Fitness to Fashion Workshop hosted by Helen Thomas Simply Smashing, a fabulous shop in Andover, Massachusetts.  Our plan was to combine our areas of expertise and share some of our top tips for losing weight and looking great in the process!

    I first opted to show everyone my “before” picture, and I explained how it was my fateful trip to a day spa when the one size fits all robe didn’t fit me, that prompted my journey to lose ninety-six pounds.


    I went on to give some of my tips, including:

    • Remind yourself that you’re no busier than a fit person.
    • Vodka leads to Oreos”…another words, pay attention to what triggers your overeating!
    • Think of food as a choice and not as a reward or punishment. You don’t “deserve” a decadent dessert, nor are you “depriving” yourself if you don’t have it.
    • Make workouts something you do regularly, just like brushing your teeth.
    • Switch up your exercise routines and make them something you genuinely enjoy such as dance lessons, Sunday morning bike rides or taking walks with friends or family.
    • Recognize the saboteurs. Resist the “just this once”, “just a taste or bite won’t hurt” and even the “you’re no fun anymore” from some of the people closest to you.
    • Eat foods in their lowest common denominator (whole form). For example, oranges instead of orange juice and shop the aisles on the outside of the supermarket where the least processed foods are located.
    • View your body like a race-car– where you wouldn’t use cheap fuel and the goal is for the car to take you someplace, not just be the destination itself.
    “After” photo by Cordele Photography

    A few of the tips Susan touched upon were:

    Susan aka The Midlife Fashionista Photo by Chantal Kellerd

    Susan aka The Midlife Fashionista
    Photo by Chantal Kellerd

    Susan then shared some advice on how to look fabulous and not break your budget while you were your way down the size rack, and her tips included:

    • Make sure your closest only contains clothes that are in your current size. Holding on to smaller or bigger sizes does nothing for your self-esteem or motivation (contrary to popular belief!).
    • Stay away from big baggy clothes. Many women think that by wearing something oversized, it will cover them up. The reality is that your body takes on the shape of your clothes –so the looser the clothing, the bigger you may look.
    • Pay attention to your bras size as you lose weight…most likely you’ll need a few fittings along the way. A good fitting bra will actually make you look thinner!
    • Don’t spend a lot of money on clothes while you are losing weight since you probably won’t wear them for long. Stick to simple color palettes (colors that can be easily mixed and matched).  Buy just a few pieces at a time and look for fabrics with stretch and styles that can easily be tailored in. Shop at consignment stores, Target, Old Navy and the clearance racks for transitional pieces.
    • A wrap dress is a great transition piece since it can be pulled in tighter as you lose weight.
    Susan showing the many benefits of a wrap dress! Photo by Chantal Kellerd
    Susan showing the many benefits of a wrap dress!
    Photo by Chantal Kellerd

    Here’s a sampling of some of the delicious but guilt free refreshments:

    Riceworks chips (Sweet Chili Flavor) Photo by Chantal Kellerd
    Riceworks chips (Sweet Chili Flavor)
    Photo by Chantal Kellerd
    Halo Top Ice Cream Photo by Chantal Kellerd
    Halo Top Ice Cream
    Photo by Chantal Kellerd
    Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies by Torte di Venezia
    Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies by Torte di Venezia
    La Croix Flavored Seltzer Waters brought the sparkle! Photo by Chantal Kellerd
    La Croix Flavored Seltzer Waters brought the sparkle! Photo by Chantal Kellerd


  • Dr. O’s Prescription For Feeling Great in Your Own Skin

    Actress Kathleen Gati as ABC's General Hospital's Dr. Liesl Obrecht
    Actress Kathleen Gati as ABC’s General Hospital’s Dr. Liesl Obrecht

    Imagine you’re at work, millions of people are watching you and, all across social media, there’s a flurry of comments on every aspect of you and your co-workers’ physical appearance.   The comments can range from “Eat a cheeseburger” to “She needs to have her roots done” to “Is that a baby bump?” This is just another day in the life for the stars of our favorite daytime dramas.  Talk about an incentive to stay in shape!  Kathleen Gati, the fabulous Dr. Liesl Obrecht on ABC’s General Hospital, shared with me how she balances a busy schedule, long hours, and the constant pressure put on actresses in Hollywood to not only be on top of their acting game, but to be svelte and sexy at any age.

    Kathleen’s character was first contracted as a two day appearance but, luckily for her fans, the role evolved into a storyline involving mystery, kidnapping, attempted murder, becoming an instant mother to two beautiful, adult children, becoming the chief of staff of General Hospital, and alternating between being funny, evil, likeable and bitchy, all while showcasing her talents as singer and a dancer and stealing the hearts of fans along the way.  I got to sit down and ask the good doctor her prescription for balancing it all.

    How do you make the time for fitness with a busy acting schedule?

    “I find it very hard to keep to my daily exercise routine when I’m filming.  It really depends on the amount of work and how I need to best focus my time and energy.  I pour my heart and soul into my work!  If I’m not filming I’ll go to the gym but, if I am scheduled to shoot, I will try to get to the studio early and squeeze in some pushups, jumping jacks and crunches in my dressing room. Otherwise I head to the gym five or six days a week and enjoy taking aerobic, weight training or kickboxing classes. You can also find me on the elliptical machine or using free weights.  I find that having a class instructor is a great help as you tend to push yourself harder.  I also adore going for walks to get some fresh air and clear my thoughts.”

    Actress Kathleen Gati

    How do you handle the constant pressure to physically look your best?

    “As an actress and a human being, I try my best to take care of my health and body, both for the short and long term.  There is definitely more pressure put on us as actors to look as good as possible, especially on a soap, where the men are typically very hot and shirtless a great deal of the time!  And there’s a huge social pressure put on actresses.  When I first became an actress, I was told by an important casting director that I’d need to either lose twenty pounds to be considered marketable or gain a hundred pounds and be cast as a character actress!  I was told in no uncertain terms that this “in-between” look had no place in the industry.  It felt very good to prove that person WRONG and, while there has been some progress on acceptance of different body types, the truth of the matter is that what you look like remains intermingled with your ability to get hired for certain roles as an actress.  It took me a long time to make peace with the fact that I am of ‘strong’ Eastern European descent and I would never be a delicate little birdie, nor was I born with a Speedy Gonzales metabolism.  I remember my childhood ballet teacher telling us we could eat when we were older!! Now that’s a good joke!! Liar, liar pants on fire!”

    Do you have any special tips or tricks that help you look fabulous?

    “I have tried almost every trick I could think of but, what works best for me, is to be sure to eat protein in the morning and eat small meals throughout the day to stave off hunger.  In the evening, I find having large broth and veggie based soups help to fill me up, and I enjoy snacking on some carrots and snap peas.  When all else fails, my advice is to smile BIG so that people notice your smile instead of your butt size!  Smiling has the added advantage of being an instant face lift!”

    What is your diet like?  Are there any foods you avoid?

    “After many years of dysfunctional eating, e.g. lots of diet sodas and bubble gum instead of food, plus trying every diet you can think of, my wiser self now tends to be more ‘vegan-ish.’  I avoid gluten and sugars, and I keep meat intake to a minimum.  I have lots of salads and vegetables and occasionally fruits.  I do make protein shakes and sneak some healthy things in there like leafy greens, almond milk, pea protein powder, etc.  My morning meal usually consists of 12 ounces of almond milk and a scoop of Vega protein powder that is sweetened with stevia or scrambled eggs, or an egg white omelet.  I avoid alcohol and caffeine, with the exception of an occasional beer or cocktail.  I also find keeping a food journal is extremely helpful and try to keep my calories to 1200 a day.  If I splurge on special occasions I will try to get right back on track the following day.”

    What advice would you pass on to your fans?

    “I know that I always consider myself to be a work in progress, and I’ve made peace with this.  I enjoy always giving myself new goals to reach and strive for.  I find the chase keeps me on my toes!  I also love and accept myself for who I am in this moment and would encourage my fans to always do the same.  There is a wonderful scene in the film ‘The Rainmaker’ with Katharine Hepburn, where Bill Starbuck says to Lizzie, ‘Look in my eyes, what do you see?’ and she looks into his eyes long and hard and then says, ‘I’m beautiful.’  Whether someone else tells you that, or you look in the mirror and study yourself well… that really says it all….try to see the love and feel the love for yourself!  I’ve been blessed to play a character as interesting and fun as Dr. Obrecht, and am so grateful that the fabulous General Hospital fans have embraced my character and I have stolen their hearts, as the fans have definitely stolen mine!  I very much enjoy having a strong, fit, normal-sized body, which suits my work as an actress, and I feel a responsibility to represent the real woman, who may not be society’s notion of perfect.”

    Actress Kathleen Gati. Photo by Steven Bergman
    Actress Kathleen Gati. Photo by Steven Bergman

    Kathleen Gati is a multi award-winning international actress, currently best known for her role as Deirdre, the flight attendant on Fear The Walking Dead: Flight 462, and as Dr. Obrecht on General Hospital. Previously well known (among numerous other credits) for her roles as Anya Suvarov on 24 and Zahra Pirzad on Alphas. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband.  For more on Kathleen: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0309670/ and you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter:  @gatitweets  


    The author, Charlene Bazarian,  is a fitness and weight loss success story after losing 96 lbs., who has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Oxygen Magazine, Pop Sugar Fitness, First For Women Magazine, Boston Magazine, Fitfluential, Muscle and Strength, The Sun, Daily Mail, and other publications and is known for mixing a no nonsense style of fitness advice with humor on Facebook at FBJ Fit and her blog at Fbjfit.com.

  • White Out

    Photo by Cordele Photography
    Photo by Cordele Photography

    When it comes to certain foods, I’ve realized that it’s easier for me to have none than it is to have a little.  Much like the title of comedian Ron White’s book, “I Had the Right to Remain Silent … But I Didn’t Have the Ability” knowing this fact about myself has I’m quite certain saved me from consuming an extra gajillion calories.   My issue with some foods isn’t even really portion distortion, but rather, I find myself reaching for the next bite while I’m still chewing the previous one.  It’s not a coincidence that I call the Golden Oreo the “crack of the cookie world!”

    Apparently, I have some sort of food color fetish, and so as a general rule, if it’s white, and it’s not cauliflower or a White Chocolate Macadamia Luna Bar, I try not to eat it.  There are plenty of diets that boast that you can lose weight and still eat pasta, white breads, and sugars.  While it’s true a calorie is a calorie, I have yet to find myself satisfied after eating one slice of pizza or a half a cup of pasta, and worse, once those little starchy carbs hit my blood stream, I’m going back for seconds, thirds, and fourths.  After the blur clears, I would feel stuffed, puffy and remorseful.

    I have made my workouts, like brushing my teeth, something I just do without question, and I always feel physically and mentally better after I have worked out.  The food side of the fitness equation is by far the toughest.  It’s not unlike a phrase some alcoholics use to understand their limitations:  “I’m one drink away from a drunk.”  If you find certain foods create an addictive response, it can be a startling fact to live with and manage successfully.

    I think Dr. Atkins, while much maligned, was just misinformed.  You end up going crazy without carbohydrates, so attempts to eliminate them entirely will always end badly.  Significantly reducing your intake for the starchy white carbs, and replacing them with complex carbohydrate choices, however, can be both mind and body altering.  I tend to avoid pastas, breads, white rice, white flours, and added white sugars in my diet.  Truth be told, I don’t have much bread at all, as I really believe that most “whole grain” wheat breads really don’t offer much nutritional value.  I’m also not a huge fan of dairy, and if you see me with a glass of milk, chances are there is a fudgy brownie or birthday cake nearby.  I will use Greek yogurt occasionally as a swap for things I would have used sour cream for in a past life, like a veggie or onion dip.   Despite trying every single other combination known to the coffee drinking world, I still use a smidge of light cream and organic cane sugar in my coffee.  This is a vast improvement over my previous coffee order of “extra/extra.”   It keeps me sane and able to maintain my cherub like demeanor when I’m around other people.

    One time I inadvertently ordered a seafood risotto dish, which I thought was going to be some shellfish with a side of risotto, but instead, the waitress left me with a Jethro cereal bowl size dish with white, creamy risotto and a few shrimp and scallops mixed in.  When I found myself continuing to shovel this meal into my mouth at lightening speed, and realized the waitress was not coming back fast enough for me to ask her to box the rest up to take home, I dumped a mountain of black pepper on the dish to stop my feeding frenzy.   No one knows you better than you know yourself.  Try to make honest, intelligent choices about what you respond best to by eliminating, reducing or what you simply can’t live without.  If I never had mayonnaise again, I wouldn’t care, but my coffee is non-negotiable.  For me, this meant working towards reducing the cream and sugar in my morning cup, when eliminating it would make my mood turn darker than the coffee.



    • Avoid dancing with temptation.  I try not to let the server even leave the bread basket on the table at restaurants.
    • Swap sweet potatoes, brown rice, steal cut or old fashioned oatmeal for white potatoes, white rice and instant oatmeal or boxed cold cereal.
    • If you do drink milk, experiment with almond or coconut milks to find an alternative with less fat and calories that you enjoy.
    • Experiment with side dishes!  Try some riced cauliflower, spaghetti squash or zucchini or summer squash “zoodles” instead of pastas.
    • Instead of your typical sandwich breads, try lettuce wraps or I’ve found some oat bran and flax seed wraps that only have 80 calories, and are delicious!
    • Decide what keeps you sane, it’s important when you modify your eating plan, to choose things you can live with long term. 


  • Atkins to Weight Watchers: My Lessons Learned

    Before & After After Photo by Cordele Photography
    Before & After
    After Photo by Cordele Photography and hair and makeup by Janeen Jones Hair and MakeUp

    I tried everything from Atkins to Weight Watchers when the pounds were piling on.  Off the top of my head, I can tell you I tried Atkins, The Cabbage Soup Diet, Dexatrim, Diet Workshop, The Fat Flush Plan, Fen-Phen, Jenny Craig, Lean Cuisine, Metabolic Designs, Nutrisystem, Slim Fast, South Beach, Weight Watchers, and a library full of diet books in between.  While some things worked for a short time, I would invariably stray and the weight would find me like a bug at a picnic. Margaret Thatcher once said, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it” and I firmly believe she was talking about dieting. The preliminary battles were not for naught, as I learned a bit along the way from each of the failed attempts at my own, personal ‘Battle of the Bulge.’


    “What have you learned Dorothy?”  I learned that not only are there no magic pills, but that attempts to find any such short cuts can have serious health risks.  I learned that pre-packaged, high sodium foods weren’t the answer.  I came to understand that when I eat starchy, white carbohydrates, I may as well advance the scale five pounds, like some sort of Day Light Savings penalty. I learned that, while I am allowed to have a slice of pizza on some diet plans, I don’t have the discipline to limit myself to one, or even two, slices of pizza, so that it’s easier for me not to have any.  There aren’t enough points in a day to change this fact for me.  I also learned that there is absolutely no correlation between how much you spend on a program and the number of pounds you lose. If simply spending more money was the solution, I would have been thinner a lot sooner!


    Through trial and error, I also learned some useful lessons along the way.  I loved the cran-water and Fat Flush Soup recipes from The Fat Flush Plan, I love the myriad of things you can substitute with cauliflower in The South Beach Diet.  One of the most helpful tips I learned was from Diet Workshop, where the counselor explained how BLT’s (bites, licks, tastes & sips) can add up.  She strongly cautioned about the urge to eat the discarded crusts from your child’s plate, and I remember gasping when she explained that licking the butter knife after you make a peanut butter sandwich could tack on 90 extra calories!

    Cran Water & Fat Flush Soup
    Cran Water & Fat Flush Soup

    It took a mortifying experience at a day spa, when the one-size-fits-all robe didn’t and I had to ask the snooty receptionist for a larger size, to make me take my 100th first step back into the fray and learn some hard truths to any successful battle plan. Some of those axioms are as follows:

    • Your battle with weight loss is never really done, and there is no finish line or touchdown dance. Rather, it’s the day-to-day choices that you make.
    • You need to find out, not only what works for you, but also what you can live with.
    • No matter how much you work out, you can’t outrun a bad diet.
    • I also learned that moderation is for maintenance.
    • That vodka leads to Oreos.
    • And that you’re no busier than a fit person.

    vodka leads to Oreos

    So let my years of dieting “research” be both a cautionary tale of what to avoid, and give you hope that you can find the right battle plan that will work for you!





  • Rest an Injury? Yes, or Do the Humpty Dance!


    Chaklubah & Daphne Illustrated by Samantha Ross
    Chaklubah & Daphne
    Illustrated by Samantha Ross

    One day I’m going to write a humorous children’s book.  I even have the central character all picked out.  It’s a camel. Truth be told, I’m the camel.  As a mom of three active boys I always seem to be carrying a lot, and I don’t just mean stress.  Even my handbag is weighted down.  I call it my “Mom Bag,” and it contains everything from my youngest son’s Epi-Pen for his life threatening food allergies, to bandages, my emergency Luna Bar, mints, a lint brush, a deck of cards, an inflatable raft, a tire jack, a fire extinguisher… well, you get the idea of how heavy my Mom Bag is.

    My Mom Bag is famous and, like Mary Poppins’ magic bag, my boys have come to expect that anything can come out of the Mom Bag at any time.  One Fourth of July, while walking to see fireworks, we passed another mom tending to her daughter who had fallen and cut her knee.  The little girl was crying inconsolably and the mom said, “Well, do you just want to go home then?”  I stopped, whipped an antiseptic wipe and bandage out of my Mom Bag, and helped the mom tend to her daughter’s knee.  I then handed the little girl a tissue and a glow stick and distracted her with a story about how boys are always getting into scrapes until she smiled and, as we walked away, the mom thanked me and then joked that I was the better mom.  That last part isn’t true, but I’d put my Mom Bag up against anyone’s, any time.  My oldest son said to me, “You were like a mom super hero!”

    My Mom Bag
    My Mom Bag

    I live in multi-level house and, whether it is carrying the laundry basket up and down the stairs, bringing down recycling, carrying up groceries, or juggling the boys’ guitar, trumpet, fencing bag, stray play date, or whatever else they’ve either left around or forgotten, I’m carrying it.  So much so that I’ve long since nicknamed myself “Chaklubah the Camel” and Chaklubah is going to be the central character in my future children’s book.

    I’m not sure when I started referring to myself as Chaklubah, but I always seem to be carrying more than my fair share of stuff.  This fact, however, won’t stop a child from looking to put one more iPhone, pair of glasses, toy, gadget or gizmo up on Chaklubah’s back.  I can’t just blame the boys as, between my family, businesses, fitness blog and workout schedule, I multitask and juggle responsibilities like a circus clown.  Perhaps in the children’s story Chaklubah also juggles to the delight of the villagers in the market place.  One of my closest friends tells me that, rather than a camel, she feels like a donkey, pulling everyone and everything else behind her in a cart.  She jokes that no matter how festively they try to dress up and decorate the donkey, it’s still a donkey.   I can relate to this analogy as well, so perhaps Chaklubah’s sidekick is a donkey named Daphne.

    Well, as the idiom foretells, there’s usually a straw that breaks the camel’s back.  In Chaklubah’s case, I mean in my case, it was a bag of ice, not a straw.  I was helping out at my middle son’s school dance.  You’d think by now I’d have learned that no good deed goes unpunished and would have avoided being signed up on a committee, but you’d be wrong.  I had been helping move bags of ice and loading up coolers with drinks  for the dance and, the next day, I realized how much I reinjured my apparently-made-of-glass, spine.  Everyone who is familiar with me knows that I truly have made working out like brushing my teeth, something I just do as a routine….no matter what.  I say it’s my fear of “tomorrow turning into never” that keeps me in line.  I talk to plenty of people who tell me all kinds of reasons why they can’t work out and I always try to impart on them that there are ways to modify your routine so that you can at least do something each day.  After I hurt my back it took a lot for me to come to terms with the fact that I truly couldn’t do anything physical for a few days.  All I could do was ice my back, go to my chiropractor or acupuncturist, and even get purple circles again from cupping, and just wait to feel better.  After a couple of days of rest, I was able to do small amounts of time on the exercise bike.

    Cupping Back Treatment
    Cupping Back Treatment

    Since “finding fitness,” as I describe it, I’ve realized how much self-awareness is required to stay on track.  It takes a lot to know whether you really should rest to avoid risking injury, or if you can modify what sort of workout you do for the day… even if you’re looking for the slightest hangnail as an excuse not to have to exercise.  So like Kenny Rogers sings in the Gambler, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”  So, on the days when you feel like Chaklubah or Daphne, with the weight of the world on your shoulders, sometimes literally it seems, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether you need to take it easy so that you don’t prolong your inactivity by aggravating an injury, or if you’re able to vary your workout to incorporate something less strenuous and keep in the habit of being active.  Since the ice incident, I’ve also realized that lightening up my Mom Bag may not be such a bad idea either.

    Back at it! Photo by Cordele Photography
    Back at it!
    Photo by Cordele Photography