Tracy Anderson Talks About Her Body Image Struggles and Offers Advice for Teens in New Book

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Tracy Anderson has used her fitness expertise to shape some of Hollywood’s most notable bodies — including Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow — and now she’s using her research and experience to help teenage girls embrace their own bodies and get healthy in a positive way.

“After spending almost 20 focused years helping people find comfort in their own skin, I saw a huge preventative opportunity to make sure teen girls never lose their connection to being themselves and having to find it again,” Anderson tells PEOPLE about the inspiration for her new book, Total Teen: Tracy Anderson’s Guide to Health, Happiness, and Ruling Your World. “It’s hard for teens to show up for their health correctly when we live in such a trendy world.”

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She suggests that teens struggling with self-esteem take media images of the body with a grain of salt, and focus on being their best selves instead.

“Slow down the noise in your head,” she says. “It’s all a vicious cycle of some editor sitting up in some tower airbrushing people to look like something dreamy. The issue is that teens need to understand that this falls into entertainment and art. It isn’t real. When you can take a deep breath and recognize a human form that has been turned into art, versus the true natural beauty of the incredible human you are, you can come to appreciate your own physical self.”

“It would be so boring if we were all the same,” she continues. “Knowing that you are enough and you are who you are meant to be can really calm the noise.”

Anderson herself is no stranger to having body image issues. As a teenager, the Tracy Anderson Method creator struggled with body acceptance after inexplicably gaining weight that left her feeling uncomfortable in her own skin.

“At 19, I gained almost 40 lbs. at school,” she says. “There wasn’t a support system for me to learn what could be happening or identify and heal this imbalance in a healthy way. I felt awkward and ashamed going to class. I felt like I was failing unintentionally, and it ultimately made me feel like the roadblock was too big for me to live my passion successfully and in a healthy way.”

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Anderson says she finally got past these mental roadblocks when she met with a doctor who taught her how to find balance in her body by focusing on muscular structure.

“Studying his work initially unlocked hope for me that there really could be a solution to creating balance in our bodies before or when imbalances arise,” she says.

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Anderson got to a place where she felt comfortable with her body “when I got physically available to myself on my own terms,” she says. “I feel like this is truly key. There is so much noise about what is ‘pretty’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘sexy’ or ‘trendy’ with our physical bodies that people don’t even know how to own their own body or assess what they even want.”

In her book — due out in December — Anderson includes strength and dance cardio workouts and simple healthy recipes, but also shares motivational stories in hopes that they will inspire active living and positive self-image in young girls.

“It’s about physically respecting and processing what it means to be a balanced and healthy individual. I hope everyone walks away shining their lights even brighter.” | Would you quit smoking for money?

South Africa is a nation of smokers. According to recent statistics in the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 16.4% of South Africans were smokers in 2012, with so much as 21% of children between grades eight and 11 lighting up.

But it seems that a new study might be on to something. Smokers who are offered cash incentives are far more likely to give up cigarettes than those who are simply offered tips on how to quit, said a recent US study.

The poor smoke more

The approach could offer ways to cut the number of smokers, which has remained steady at about one-fifth of the US population in recent years, according to the report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

The rate among the poor is even higher. 26% of smokers in the US in 2015 were below the poverty line, compared to 14% of smokers at or above the poverty line, according to background information in the article.

A previous Health24 article reports that according to the latest national statistics, 16.4% of South Africans were smokers in 2012. This is a significant drop from 32% in 1993.

What the study entailed

The randomised clinical trial included 352 people in Boston, Massachusetts.

Participants were recruited from hospital waiting rooms. Those entering the study all smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day and wanted to quit. Most were African-American women.

Some were given a brochure and a list of community resources available to help people quit smoking.

Others received the same resource list, along with extra counselling sessions on how to quit from “patient navigators”, and were also told they would get a cash payment if they managed to give up cigarettes.

Participants were not told how much they would get paid for quitting when they entered the year-long study.

Halfway through, those who quit were paid $250 (R3 500), and told they would get an additional $500 (R7 000) if they were not smoking at 12 months.

How many have quit?

Nearly 10% of the incentive group had quit by six months, compared to less than 1% of those offered a brochure.

Those who had not quit by six months were given a chance to keep trying in exchange for a payment.

“After 12 months, 12% of the intervention group quit smoking, while 2% of the control group had quit,” said the study.

Urine and saliva tests confirmed whether smokers had indeed quit or not.

Lead author Karen Lasser, associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, said the study shows a multi-faceted approach that employs incentives works best.

“Most of the participants who quit smoking utilised patient navigation, but it’s unclear whether navigation alone would achieve the rates of smoking cessation we observed,” she said.

Image credit: iStock | Scalp tattoos: a way to cope with hair loss

Have you felt ashamed of your balding scalp? Do you wonder if it isn’t better to just shave it all off and accept that you’re going bald?

Many men have found themselves in this position, and many have opted for alternative treatments.

A chronic condition

Scalp micropigmentation (SMP), or scalp tattoo, is a highly specialised process where pigment is permanently inked into the dermal layer of the skin. But it is more than getting a tattoo – it is a way for men to compensate for hair loss.

Alopecia is a chronic condition that can affect any area of the body, including the scalp, and results in hair loss. It may be gradual or sudden, and can happen to anyone at any age, male or female.

The most common form of alopecia is male-pattern baldness, which affects around half of all men by age 50.

Another, more distressing form of hair loss is alopecia areata, which causes bald patches about the size of a large coin. These patches usually appear on the scalp but can occur anywhere on the body.

Alopecia areata occurs in about one in every 1 000 people, with most people affected under the age of 30 years.

A highly skilled process

SMP should resemble shaven hair, which is a highly skilled and specialised process. Much finer needles are used than those you’ll find in a tattoo parlour. They are also isnerted at a much shallower depth.

The HIS Hair Clinic was the first company to introduce SMP to the world in 2002. Now SMP is the leading global – and permanent – treatment for baldness in men. Many companies locally and internationally have followed in their footsteps.

What you can expect

Hair has mass and texture; unfortunately SMP does not – it just gives the illusion of a shaved head.

According to the Daily Mail, most people who opt for SMP describe getting the tattoos as a “light tingling sensation in the scalp”.

The procedure takes roughly three to five hours, depending on the size of the area. People are also expected to return for two to three follow-up sessions.

The procedure is reportedly cheaper than hair transplant surgery, where individual hair follicles are taken from another part of the body and implanted into the balding area.

Added benefits

SMP is less invasive and often a better option for people who do not have hair follicles to remove and implant.

The process does not stop your hair from growing. The (remaining) hair, however, should be shaved off before treatment can begin.

Image credit: iStock