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Healthy Mind, Healthy Body: Tips For a Fit Life

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body: Tips For a Fit Life

By Susana Hayman-Chaffey

Dancers are notorious for their enviable toned bodies, gracefulness, and confidence. Susana Hayman-Chaffey, former soloist with the esteemed Merce Cunningham Dance Company, shares what worked for her to create the answer to the modern woman’s ultimate question – how do we balance a successful career with family life? Or better yet, can we “do it all” and still stay happy and fulfilled?


Make yourself financially independent as soon as you can. Know that you are not subservient or inferior to any man. Use your charms as a woman to be warm, loving and kind. Remember that to be an empowered woman you do not need to be hard, aggressive or defensive. In fact, it is best to use the soft side of your character to gain other people’s confidence. Be confident, accepting and kind.


To be a protagonist in your own life, you need to first believe in yourself. Know that you are unique, there is no one else like you. Look at what you represent to yourself and what you have that is special. It can be anything: your eyes, the way you laugh, your unique way of dressing. Whatever it is, cherish that, feel it, sense it and then move on to the rest of you. If there is something you don’t like, find a way to improve it or change it. I did not like my birth name, Susan, so I added an a at the end to be Susana. It gave me more confidence and I felt it represented who I was better. Try not to buy into the stereotypes society and the world around you tries sell you.


Learn to meditate at least once or twice a day, even, for 15 minutes at a time. If you don’t feel you can do it on your own, look for meditation sites that can help guide you. I use a simple method where I sit down in a comfortable place, close my eyes and imagine a white light surrounding me (don’t worry if you can’t visualize it, with practice you will) and I just let my mind concentrate on my breathing. If thoughts come up, I let them pass as a cloud in the sky, and just allow myself to be present in the moment. Before I finish, I just close the light off.

When you do something, anything, be concentrated and focused. The past is gone, and there’s nothing you can do about that. The future is in front; all you really have is the present moment. We all know this, yet we persist in not following what we know to be true. For this reason, meditation is important because it brings you into the present, like also yoga, Tai Chi, or a walk in nature can also do in a different way.

Put your whole attention into what you are doing. For example, when talking to someone, really listen to their words. Don’t be thinking your own thoughts or be distracted. The act of total concentration allows your mind and body precious moments of rest from the constant bombardment of your thoughts.


Weight problems can be connected to your stress levels, self-esteem issues, lack of discipline, and resistance to dealing with the problem through your own efforts. We all think and hope for a solution that will magically help us drop the unwanted pounds. The health and pharmaceutical industry is making millions on this attitude. Why not get a handle on this with your own efforts? There is no magic wand. It  may be helpful to remember that eating patterns all start in childhood with what your parents fed you, leading to how much you eat, why and when you eat now.

More small meals are best, as they keep your metabolism burning. It is like putting logs on a fire, so that the fire does not go out. Go for a brisk walk after your heaviest meal of the day. Eat your smallest meal in the evening before 7 p.m. and don’t eat anything afterwards.

It is all about attitude, discipline, control and optimism. Don’t think in a defeatist way. Believe you can do this. You can start by eliminating, breads, sugars, sodas, most dairy, except low fat, and all starches. Introduce fish, lean poultry, all kinds of vegetables, fruits and, in limited quantities, dried fruits and nuts. A good way to control how much you eat is by only filling a half of your plate. And remember to drink plenty of water.


About the Author

Susana Hayman-Chaffey is the author of Love, Please: A Memoir of Destiny, Loss and Healing.