Health and Fitness Success in the Long Term – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay

Colin and I have been friends for a few years.  We met through our blogs.  Because of his passion for helping others achieve their health and fitness goals, he and his wife transformed their professional lives so that Colin could follow his dream to be a trainer and coach.  He’s researched and written extensively for a long time, as a contributing author for other blogs, and on his own site, Colin DeWaay Training.  Even though I am a NASM trainer and Fitness Nutrition Coach, my teacher duties and my own training keep me too busy to work with clients or to even research and write the kind of informative posts I’d like to have here on this blog.  Colin and I share similar views on everything related to fitness and nutrition, so I asked him if he would be willing write for my blog monthly and he generously agreed.  I’m excited because you will get solid information and I can keep my focus on the motivation side of a long-term transformation.   Let me know in the comments if you found it helpful.  Thanks Colin!

When Tammy asked me to step in and write a guest blog for her I was thinking hard about what I’d want to write about. Given a lot of people look up to Tammy because of her amazing accomplishments over the last several years, I felt a good place to start would be how to bring about health and fitness success in the long-term.

Chances are if you are reading this you’ve lost weight at some point in your life. Perhaps you’ve done it several times. You see the world doesn’t really have a weight loss problem. It has a losing weight and keeping it off problem. The statistics are quite staggering. According to a paper in the American Journal of Physiology (1) 80% of people that lose weight are unable to keep it off for one year and the statistics just get worse with each passing year to the point where within a 3-5 years only a handful of people have kept it off.

Now before you read that and decide it’s not worth the effort, I want to explain why I personally believe most people fail to keep the weight off. You know the old cliché diets don’t work? That it’s a lifestyle change? Yeah, that’s true. But the problem is nobody talks about how to make it a lifestyle you can keep up with and that’s enjoyable.  When most people diet they focus on eliminating things. No more sugar, bread, dairy, alcohol, etc. The focus becomes on all the things they can’t eat, creating a pretty miserable experience. Certainly you want to focus on eating foods packed with nutrition, but I also believe it’s important to include the foods you love as well.

“If what you are doing now to lose weight isn’t something you can see yourself doing 3 months, 6 months, a year, 5 years down the road… it won’t work.”

The problem with the typical diet is they aren’t sustainable. They are too restrictive and too hard for the average person to keep doing. If what you are doing now to lose weight isn’t something you can see yourself doing 3 months, 6 months, a year, 5 years down the road… it won’t work. This is why I’m never impressed with short-term “transformation” photos. Sure that’s great you lost 30 lbs in 2 months. I want to see another picture in a year. Most of the time it will look just like the “before” photo.

Why? Because when you crash diet you signal your body to think there is a lack of calories. So your metabolic rates slows, and when it does come across calories there is a greater likelihood of fat storage. Your body doesn’t care about being lean, it wants to keep you from starving to death. That’s it’s job! So how does the typical diet go?

Usually it starts by eliminating a bunch of foods as I mentioned before. Generally there will be a pretty drastic cut in calories because of this. By eliminating a bunch of foods you start losing weight fast. Not because those foods were necessarily “bad” but because by eliminating them you eliminate a lot of calories. At first you start losing weight really fast. Multiple pounds per week start falling off and you couldn’t be happier. It’s “working!” But eventually you stop losing weight. It’s getting much harder than it was at first. You stick with it for a while but as the weeks go by and you still can’t lose more weight so eventually you give up. It’s too hard and there’s “no point” so you go back to your old eating habits and the weight comes back on. FAST.

Sound familiar? Why does this happen? Well first, it’s probably not your fault. You’ve been taught by infomercials and the media that fast weight loss is GOOD. That you can drink shakes and take pills and lose the weight for good. You’ve been told cardio and eating only rabbit food and cardboard is how you lose weight, you don’t know any better! When I’m done with this series, you won’t have that excuse anymore…

Here’s what really happens when you take this approach: When you lose weight fast it’s because you are burning significantly more calories than you are consuming. Sounds good right? After all you MUST burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. There is no way around this. But the problem comes from not eating enough. At first you lose a lot of calories because your metabolism is firing away from all the excess calories it’s used to getting. But then when you cut your calories it slows down.

You have to understand when you lose weight your metabolism will slow, there is no way around this. If someone tells you they can raise your metabolism while you lose weight run far, far away from them. When you cut your calories too fast your metabolism will slow down even faster. But the problem is if you’re already eating extremely low calories, what will you do when weight loss stops? Keep cutting calories until you’re no longer eating at all? No, you can’t possibly keep that up so instead you quit. And you go back to your old eating habits, only you do so with a much slower metabolism than you had when you were eating like that before. Sound familiar?

So here’s the real “secret” to losing weight and continuing to lose weight long-term. Eat as many calories as possible while still losing weight.  It is imperative that you do this for lasting results. This way when you do reach plateaus you have room to make adjustments. You can continue to cut your calories and get the ball rolling again. This is why slow weight loss is the way to go. It keeps your metabolism working for you. It makes it more sustainable so you can keep going in the right direction. Certainly if you have an extreme amount of weight to lose a faster pace in the beginning is okay and normal, but eventually you want to keep things around a pound or two per week max. And honestly the slower you can take it the better off you’ll be long-term. Plus as an added bonus, you get to eat more! Who doesn’t want that???

“So here’s the real ‘secret’ to losing weight and continuing to lose weight long-term. Eat as many calories as possible while still losing weight.”

Yes you will get frustrated sometimes because it’s taking longer than you’d like. And yes, you’ll be jealous of the people you see online and in person who are losing weight extremely fast. But if you just keep going and doing it the right way. Chances are a year down the road, two years and beyond those people will be right back where they started. And they will be asking you what your secret is. It’s something I see ALL the time.

Okay now that you know you want to keep calories high and take weight loss slow. Now you probably want to learn more about still eating the foods you love while you lose weight… That’s exactly what I will talk about next time Tammy has me back.

If you are looking for more information from me you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you will get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you are super sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life, you will love it.


Filed under Guest Blog, Nutrition, Weight Loss

YOU Magazine Article

article photo

Click below to read a PDF version of the article that was published in YOU Magazine in South Africa last week.  I was contacted by this magazine after someone saw one of my transformation pictures.   I was surprised and honored to be asked.  It’s a wonderful article.  I liked how much they included about hubby.  I’d love to hear from anyone in South Africa who picked up a copy and read it.  My copy is being sent and I can’t wait to see it in print.  Mind blowing!

YOU article


Filed under Life, Motivation

FAQs From Facebook

These are some common questions I’ve been asked by the people who follow the Lifting My Spirits page.  Thank you so much!!  There were some great questions that I don’t have the experience to answer.  For those, I’m going to line up some guest bloggers to share their expertise.  These are the questions I picked to answer here…

  • Is there one certain diet plan you have followed more than another one?
  • When you first started you journey what did you change first?
  • How do you know how any carbs you should have?
  • Have you had to deal with any hormone issues or messed up metabolism from the competition diet that hinder the building muscle or especially losing body fat around the abdomen/hip areas?
  • Everyone wants to see results fast. When you were not seeing the results you expected, what did you do and how did you stay motivated?

Is there one certain diet plan you have followed more than another one?

I have done a few plans.  Obviously none of them provided long-term results.  I had to quit thinking about “diet” as a thing I did to lose weight and instead start thinking about the need for me to learn how food interacts with my body, how it makes me feel, energy levels, etc.  I needed to learn how to feed and care for my body in a way that worked for this body, the one I’m in charge of keeping healthy.  I think it’s a mistake to assume we are all exactly the same and that “plans” or “programs” will deliver the same results for everyone.  “Individual result may vary” isn’t about varied levels of compliance – it’s about biology.  We have to become observant experts about our own body.  That led me to choose mostly whole foods over processed foods – but more on that in a minute.

I need to come “clean”, so to speak before I say much more. In the beginning, I was a religious “clean-eater”.  For me, that meant I was judgmental about how I ate and how other people ate.  I was excited about my new life.  I wanted everyone to know this secret.  But I was also not secure with my ability to stick to it and felt like I needed to be vocal about it to stay committed.   Still emotionally eating, but in a different way.  I played the role of a “beast-mode” martyr.  I was annoying.  I’m certain I offended people.  I’m ashamed of that now, but I understand the psychology of that phase now that I’m here.  I think some of us just need to go through that phase.

I had to step back and think about it objectively and work hard to remove emotions from how I fed myself.  I learned more about flexible dieting and eating to hit macro targets (protein, carbs, fats) from my current coach.  Food choices are mine.  No food lists.  The volume of food depends on whether my goal is cutting weight, gaining weight, or maintaining weight.  I learned that whole foods – lean meats, vegetables, fruit, some grains, Greek yogurt, eggs –are the foods that worked best for me.   In the beginning, I also wanted to heal my body from years of self-neglect.  It just made sense for me to eat foods I knew would provide the most amount nutrients for the calories.  I knew about cell-regeneration.  I believed that if I provided myself with food that my body was designed to use for fuel and recovery, I’d be putting myself in the best position to live the way I wanted to live, feel the way I wanted to feel for the rest of my life.  Nothing fancy.  No programs.  No gimmicks.  No short-cuts.

When you first started you journey what did you change first?

When I first started, I knew that I would be overwhelmed doing everything at the same time.  I started with nutrition.  I did work with a nutrition coach, but I don’t think that’s necessary for everyone.  I felt I needed to be told what to do and then do exactly what I was told.  I’m very busy and that helped me stick to it.  (See the question about my diet for more info what I did.)  While I was learning how to eat, food prep, log, track, etc., I walked for cardio.  I wish now that I would have started lifting sooner because I didn’t expect that I would love it so much.  I was intimidated by it.  I do think everyone needs to have some sort of resistance training in their program because of the health benefits – we have muscles and bones that need attention, too.  We get too focused on the fat we store and forget that the structural part.  (Fat doesn’t break when you fall.  Fat doesn’t get pulled and puts in you in bed until it heals.)

The best approach for someone just starting is to pick one thing and make that a new healthy habit.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s the nutrition, or cardio, or lifting.  Or something else like quitting smoking.  But just one thing.  Once the routines of life have been adjusted to the first thing and you feel you can handle a second component, add it.  Think of it as learning how to juggle.  Start with one ball, add a second, master that, and then add another.  Accept and embrace that you will screw up and be ready to handle that with yourself as if you were teaching a child a new skill.  It’s OK.  It’s more than OK – it’s necessary to screw up.  We learn from those mistakes.  We learn what works for us and what doesn’t’.  As you learn, you’ll adjust.  I’m not doing anything exactly the same way as I did it when I started.  My program had to change as I changed.  That’s what’s supposed to happen.

How do you know how any carbs you should have?

I don’t think carbs should be a set number.  Carbs are gas in the tank – some days we need more than others.   So when thinking about my nutrition,  carbs aren’t set in stone – protein is and it needs to be set first.  I like 1 gram of protein per pound of my body weight.  That’s not something that changes for me from day to day.  My fat grams will range up or down, as do my carbs, depending on my activity level that day or whether I’m in a contest prep phase or in an “improvement season” like I am now.   It’s been a goal of mine to increase the number of carbs I can consume and maintain my weight.  My metabolism is healthier now than it was before I competed.

Have you had to deal with any hormone issues or messed up metabolism from the competition diet that hinder the building muscle or especially losing body fat around the abdomen/hip areas?

No hormone issues that I’m aware of, but the fat on my abdomen and glutes is the last to leave me.  I did the typical competition diet for my first and second shows.  After the second show, I knew that I couldn’t go through that cycle again.  It would undo the health benefits I gained with my transformation.  That’s when I started working with my current coach.  I don’t have food lists.  I am free to eat what I like, just need to hit macro targets set depending on the current goals. And for my third show, I came in leaner and eating more than I had before.  I also didn’t do a water-cut.  I was drinking water all morning, eating back stage, and looked leaner and fuller than I did during my second show.  These results didn’t come from one thing – it was smart coaching for 18 months prior.  I’m excited to see what we are going to accomplish over the next couple of years, since I’m not planning on competing again until summer 2017 at the earliest.

Everyone wants to see results fast. When you were not seeing the results you expected, what did you do and how did you stay motivated?

I’ve been discouraged so many times.  When it happens, I remind myself that this is a process.  Change happens at the cellular level.  Changes in grams, either fat lost or muscle gained, won’t show up on the scale right away.  Just because I can’t see change, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  This is science.   I know that if I am consistent and patient, results come.  The goals I set are behavioral goals.  I can control my behavior.  I won’t miss a workout.  I will stick to my food plan.  The physical changes are side-effects of the things I do.

On a bad day, I’ll go back and look at pictures.  I didn’t take pictures all along, but have been doing that regularly for the last couple of years.  Those pictures help me see changes.  I also LOVE lifting.  I can’t deal with the stress of life without it.   It’s my “me” time.  I like the challenge of it.  I enjoy pushing myself to do things that used to intimidate me.

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Filed under FAQ

Can You Fix Everything?

This is my 20th year as a high school math teacher.  This is my 6th year of my health transformation.  It’s my 3rd year as a competitive bodybuilder.  Maybe it’s just because all these things are threads of my reality, but in my mind, there are lessons that I’ve learned in one area that apply to the other two.

My teaching assignment this year is 10th grade geometry.  This is a rough year for humans.  Remember that year you were 16?  These are the years when we expect kids to begin to accept consequences for their choices.  It’s hard for them, though.  Up to a certain point, there are ‘safety nets’ provided to help them in school…

“Yes, you can still do missing work.”

“Yes, you can retake that exam.”

“Yes, you can still turn in that project.”

We end up teaching ourselves (remember – we used to be kids) that there aren’t permanent consequences.

And then life happens.

I’m not going to get into the big, ugly, real-life things some of my kids have to deal with outside of school.  We all know those things are exist.  I think about those things every day when I look at them.   It’s the little stuff I want to get into.  It’s the late fees, the penalties, the loss of services if you don’t pay the bills, the relationships that can’t be fixed… the consequences of our daily choices that we have to live with.  I am one of those teachers that believes a big part of my job is to help kids learn how to avoid negative consequences by making better decisions.  Many kids figure it out fast enough.  Some need to fall down and learn how to get back up.  It’s hard, though.  It’s hard for them.  It’s hard for parents who don’t want to watch their kids struggle.  It’s hard for the education system I work in to let kids fail – but does anyone ever learn the big lessons any other way?  No.  We learn from our mistakes.  We learn from our struggle.  And I’m one of those teachers who would rather my kids fall down with me so I can teach them how to avoid another fall before the consequences of impulsive choices haunt them as adults.  I won’t take all the credit for how badass my kids are, but they are out there in the world doing some very impressive things.  I know I gave them a couple of the tools in their toolbox.

For most of my followers, this lesson applies to health.  How many years of self-neglect go by before we have medical problems that can’t be fixed easily?  I was lucky.  I was on the path to a major health situation, but my parents showed me how NOT to do it.  My father had heart surgery to address what years of bad choices did to his heart.  A brain aneurysm killed my mother after the same number of years of eating whatever and smoking. She was only 56.

So how far can you let it go before you can’t pull it back and fix it?   After my mom died, I was afraid I would die early, too.  I tried all kinds of “programs”.  Short term success always rebounded to more weight gained later.  I was working too much.  I was depressed because I knew that the way I was living and feeling was going to continue until I died.   Fear of what was in store for me probably brought on my issues faster, but it also made me paranoid enough to keep tabs on it.  I was on high blood pressure meds by the time I was 45.  In March 2009, a Sunday afternoon rush to the ER because I chest pains that wouldn’t subside – well, that was when I decided all the excuse-making and compromising was done.  I would get help.  I would throw money at the problem.  I would change and I wouldn’t ever need to start over again. I knew if I didn’t fully commit to my own success this time,  my life would end early.

But like I said, I was lucky to have had that ER visit when I did.   I made the choice when I still had time to fix things.  But there was no way I could have known that at the time.  I just knew where I was was going to to end up if I didn’t change.

I also believed that change was going to happen One. Cell. At. A. Time.   I think that’s reassuring.  It means that rejuvenation is possible.  I had to be patient.  I knew that, but still had some impatient days.  That’s when the support of people I put in my life helped.   Change happened.  And now I’m living with the happy consequences of those choices.  That’s my truth.

So I’m standing in front of kids every day talking about consequences for choices.  I’m setting due dates and sticking to them.   I’m doing what I can to help kids rebound after they made bad choices.  This is real-life, human training.  We can’t fix some things, I know.  But we can fix many things.  We can transform.

I pray, that if you’re reading this, and you know you need to change, you will find the courage to start NOW.  This minute.  It starts with what you think and what you believe to be true.   You know what you need to do to start.  Come on now – we all know – we tend to overthink it as a form of procrastination.  Eat better.   Drink enough water.  MOVE!   Start with what you can do now and progress.  Learn more, do better.  Search YouTube for videos about activities you want to learn how to do.  Hire a trainer.

Given enough time, fix enough cells, and things change dramatically.  You can be “fake” like me!  Hahahaha!


Filed under Life, Motivation, Teaching, Weight Loss

Long Time, No Write

I haven’t written in so long!  I miss it.  Life is very busy.  Very.  Busy.

Not sure where to start.

Right after my last post in July, I had to go back to work.  School didn’t start until August 10th, but at the end of July, I was asked if I wanted to move my classroom to a larger one with windows.  YES PLEASE!! (I think I’ve written about this before, so I’m backtracking a bit for continuity.)  It’s an awesome room.  I’ll be there for a while, I hope.  The move wasn’t far – just about 100 steps from door to door.  Still took about a week to move my stuff and get things organized.  The week after that, teacher meetings started.  The week after that, kids arrived.  There hasn’t been much time to do anything.  In fact, I shouldn’t be doing this right now.  I have food to prep, laundry to do, grades to enter, lessons to plan… that’s my non-gym life now.  There are 200 students on my rosters as of yesterday.  Not sure if I’ve ever had that many students.  And most are 10th graders.  It’s not the same as having 200 12th graders.   If you’re a high school teacher, you have an idea of what my days are like.

My days are long.  I am settling into a routine of going to bed around 8 pm and getting up at 3 am.  It’s too early, even for me.  I can’t keep that up for more than a couple of days without losing brain function.  But there is rarely time during the school day to do lesson planning or grading.  Now add in the workouts.  Yup.  Very.  Busy.

It’s been two months since I competed.  Lifting is going well.  No injuries.  Haven’t tried to hit PRs yet.  I’m focused on improving form.  Bench press form has gotten better, so I’m expecting strength gains there.  I’m not even trying to push myself through a full workout on any given day if the time is crunched.  I look at the spreadsheet Coach sends me as a “to do” list for the week – and the week might take 8 days to finish.  There is increased volume in the program.  Most secondary exercises are done in sets of 15-20 reps.  And 15’s suck, btw.   Lifting is how I cope, so I won’t allow it to be a source of stress.   My strength is coming back.  I won’t test it for another month.  Should see some PRs then.

Coach has been working with me as I transition from tracking food to eating intuitively.  It’s been fun and weird and scary.  I like it.  I need to have less stress, so not tracking food and not trying to hit macros makes like simpler.  I had a good reverse diet and didn’t gain a lot of weight post-competition.  I’ve had a couple challenging weeks with intuitive eating, so the scale has crept up a little more, but I’m still less than 10 pounds over stage weight, which is OK.  In fact, my weight now, two months post-show,  is about what it was two months before the show, so I guess that’s also evidence of a good reverse diet.  That’s about as heavy as I want to get during this entire off-season.  So my challenge is to learn how to use the mirror and the scale to adjust my activity and food intake without tracking anything.  There is no way I could have done this in 2009.  Or 2012.  Or last year.  But now I can.  I hope.  Still working on “dialing it in” as they say.

May-Sept Same Wt

My mental game is improving about life and bodybuilding.  I can’t lie – what happened at the show rocked me.  Every time I look at one of the videos I post, I’m reminded of that “you have a normal female pelvis” comment I got as one explanation as to why I didn’t place higher (one of several reasons why I didn’t place higher) – and that just brings up all the helplessness feelings I have about not being able to change things.  And then I push it off.  I remind myself that I love what I’m doing and I will continue to improve what I can improve.  I wrestle with it a bit, get it back in a box, and push it into a corner of my mind.  Coach and I both know that we will have to open that box and deal with the stinky thinking at some point again.  What has been helping me lately is a suggestion from a friend to listen to an audiobook called “The Power”, which is the sequel to “The Secret”.  I loved “The Secret”.  I show it to my classes.  This new audiobook has some parts that are a bit too silly, but the overall message is one that makes sense to me.  In a week, I’ve listened to it twice.  It’s a reminder of something I already knew – focus needs to be on gratitude and love.  I like how it makes me feel and how it helps me navigate my life.  Remember those 200 students?  And then there is the rest of what’s involved with being a government employee that makes no good sense… I need to work on staying patient, calm, and internally balanced.

As busy as I am, I have thought about discontinuing my social media involvement.  Thing is – every time I consider it, I hear from someone I’ve never met, someone who hasn’t ever commented before, who has borrowed a little courage from me to do something that is important to them.  I didn’t start all of this to be anyone’s “inspiration”.  I did this for accountability.  I knew if I told the Internet that I was going to do a thing, I would get it done.  Decades of hiding kept me from fully committing to change.  Had a conversation with a friend about the quote “I want to inspire people…” etc – you know that one?  I realized when we were talking about it that, to me, wanting to be an “inspiration” might be a form of approval-seeking?  Probably doesn’t come across that way for anyone else, but it just doesn’t feel right for me.  I spend my whole day pushing kids and I suppose that’s the same as trying to “inspire” them, but inspired or not, I expect them to work and learn a little geometry before the bell rings and they bolt off into the hall.   I’m a teacher.  I’m a teacher in my day-job and I think of myself as a teacher online, too.  Just don’t assign homework here.  (Maybe I should?  That’s an interesting idea.)

So here I am, writing instead of grading, writing instead of food-prep, writing instead of laundry.  If we attract what we put out into the the universe with what we feel and say, then posting online must have power, too.  I’ve been mindful of that before, but more so now.  It’s important to me to make positive ripples online.  I know that negative rants and such things get more attention, but they don’t add anything positive to anyone’s life – certainly not mine.  I can control that.  I intend to control that.  :)


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Life, Teaching

Show Pictures and Reflection: Subtracting Negatives is Addition

You have already seen some of the gorgeous pictures my husband took at my show.  (He did the ‘behind-the-scenes’ shots for our team and the really nice ones of me on stage.)  In this post, I want to share the pictures that were taken by the show’s photographer.   I’m using all the pictures to evaluate my performance, celebrate my progress, and identify things I want to improve so I can set new goals.

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to sort out the emotions and get some perspective.  Coach has had to work a bit to help me process some things.  It helps somewhat to learn that many competitors go through a similar mental process after a competition.  The farther I get away from it, that doesn’t surprise me.  We train hard, we diet hard, we invest so much in this ‘hobby’.  Perspective is easily lost.  Two weeks later, I’m starting to feel more like myself.  And for those who are thinking it – yes, it is worth it to me.  Competitive bodybuilding tests me physically, intellectually, and emotionally.   But it also provides a structure to my life that keeps me physically and emotionally healthy.  It’s a paradox.

My previous goals were to come to this show leaner and with more muscle than I had at my previous shows.  I accomplished both – not bad for a 50-something, post-menopausal, high school teacher who’s only been lifting for five years, huh?  And for that, I need to give credit to my coach, Alberto Nunez at 3D Muscle Journey.  Freaking brilliant programming and prep protocol.  Remember – we never went low-carb and I didn’t cut water.


Coach Nunez and I finally met in person! Thank you, Berto!!

It’s important  to remind myself that I accomplished those goals on stage at a big show, in the open class of female bodybuilders with more competitors standing on that stage than I’ve ever had before.  People flew in from other states, other countries in order to participate in this show.   You will see the pictures below, my personal critique will follow, but it’s important to remember that I’m happy with the results and proud of what I’ve accomplished in a short amount of time.  The size of this show and the caliber of the other competitors were a bit intimidating, but as my coach said, I “looked like I belonged up there”.  After I saw the pictures my husband took, I thought “I look like a bodybuilder”.  When I got these pictures this week and I could see how I looked in the line, I think I looked OK considering the experience of the ladies up there with me. (The woman who won was a figure pro in a different federation.)

Here are slideshows documenting my inaugural appearance in the open class of female bodybuilding.

These are just me:

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These are Me vs. Me:

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These are the entire open class at pre-judging.  (The young lady in purple next to me was the only novice competitor.  She is 17.  So, the oldest, a high school teacher, and the youngest, a high school student, female competitors were lined up together – how cool is that?  Well, I thought it was, anyway. A nice memory for me.)

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Post Game Analysis – Time to “Subtract the Negatives”

I’ve spent too much time focused on the “negatives” of this experience.  I lived in that negative place for a few days.  One day this week, I remembered – removing negatives is the same thing as addition.  I can turn these negatives into something positive.  (I’m a math teacher – go with it.  Hahaha!)  When I reflected on the show and looked at these pictures, I identified the “negatives” that need to be removed in order to “add” to my progress as a bodybuilder:

  • Symmetry is a negative.   My pelvis is too wide.  My waist is too wide.   But I can’t change my skeleton.  Stalled?  No.  To remove this negative, I will need to create the appearance of a smaller midsection by increasing the size of myi delts, my upper back, and my legs.  I can address some of this with posing, too.
  • I screwed up the timing of my pre-stage feeding.  It’s a bit tricky to figure out when you’re going to be called to get on stage.  I got the first couple of meals that day in on time.  The last one was supposed to be a candy bar about an hour before stage.  The first part of pre-judging went by quite slowly.  I thought I had more time, but things sped up a bit and I ended up shoving that candy in while I was pumping up.  Big mistake.  Should have just skipped it at that point.  When the sugar hit, I was on the third quarter turn of the first symmetry round.  My blood pressure dropped, I had a dizzy spell, and I spent the rest of the pre-judging time trying to not faint.  I was trying to save energy by not smiling on every pose.  I’m sure that’s also why I forgot some of my posing ques.  I couldn’t hear my coach or my teammates in the audience because there were a lot of people in the front rows yelling.  The negative to remove is to do a better job of tracking the progression of the show and getting my food in me at the right time.  This was the first time I’ve had this pre-stage feeding protocol, so now that I’ve done it once, the next time should run a bit smoother.
  • Posing – I did not hit some important poses well.  I did better with posing during my practices, but forgot several ques when I was on stage.  Even had I been at my best posing, I don’t think I practiced posing in a way that would create the appearance of better symmetry.  That is something I will need to figure out and practice.
  • Body Composition – I still had fat on my lower abdomen and glutes.  Totally fine for life, so please don’t think I’m calling myself “fat”, but I wasn’t lean enough for stage.  To achieve stage-leanness for the competition,  I need to be able to maintain a lower body weight through the off-season so that when I start my next fat loss phase, whenever Coach decides that is going to be, the precious stored fat in those areas will slowly go away.  So far, I’ve only gained 3-4 pounds since the show.  I’m supposed to maintain this weight now.  When we started my cut back in Sept 2014, I was about 157 lbs.  The morning of the show, I weighed about 128.5.  Now the plan is to keep my scale weight between 130 and 135 lbs during the off-season.

What’s Next?

I do not plan to compete again until at least 2017.  I will be 55 that year.  I have a lot of work to do to subtract the negatives.  Life loses a bit of balance during prep, too.  That’s not fair to Hubby or my students.  But I’m a competitor.  I’m happiest when I’ve got a goal to work towards.  Now that I’ve been on the Mayhem stage, I have a vision of being on it again, but he next time, I will have fewer negatives.  I’m excited to get back to work.  If Berto’s programming can do what it did in the first 18 months of our collaboration, I’m 100% confident about what we can do now that we’ve developed a solid foundation for our athlete/coach relationship.  I’m enthusiastic about what my 55-year-old self will be able to accomplish.

It was a fun day overall.  I’ve had more fun on stage before – that is true.  The dizzy spell during pre-judging was a bit scary.  And the anxiety attack I had the day before was not fun for me – really not fun for my husband.  But Hubby did a good job to find humor in the situation and calmed me down.  On show day, there were 16 of my 3DMJ teammates competing that day, so the atmosphere backstage was like a reunion.  We all met up for dinner afterwards – I think there were 40+ people there?  Competitors, coaches, significant others, friends, and former competitors all together to eat too much, share stories, and laugh.  I had a great time, got to meet people I’ve only interacted with online, and made new friends with people I’d never meet in real life if not for this competition.  A special day with great memories.

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Oh – and I almost forgot – here is my night show routine.  The song is “Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling.

Photo Credits: KodaMax Photography and Better Aesthetics Bodybuilding


Filed under Competing

My Competitor Self

Had a great conversation with my coach this week.  It’s similar to one we’ve had before.  I think I need to share it with people who are following my journey so you will have some context to apply to some things I say or do.

There is a difference between who I am in the the world and who I am as a competitor.

My top priorities about things are about who I am in the world.  That is who I am with respect to my health, self-care, my marriage, teaching, and being a friend.  Some things I share – like my health transformation story and how I practice self-care through nutrition and exercise.  Those are things that most people who follow my posts on social media are interested in, which is how you probably found me.  Like most people who have pages or blogs, I separate who I am in person from who I am online.  I’m more transparent about things than some, but that is only because I remember how isolating it felt when I started my transformation.  No one in my real life had done this.  It’s hard to know that what you are feeling is “normal” without something to compare it to.

I am also a competitive bodybuilder.  There aren’t many women doing that, so I suspect most of the people who follow my journey don’t compete.  Most of the time, it does not matter.  And the massive amount of support and encouragement is humbling.  When I want to quit, I think about that.  When I think it’s “hard”, I remember the stories from people who are really doing something “hard” who, for some reason, find what I’m doing inspirational.  I’m accountable – which was the point of starting this blog in 2010 and the Facebook page in 2012.

Coach’s advice to me was to make sure I keep “Tammy in the World” separate from “Tammy the Competitive Bodybuilder” in my mind.  But the competitive side of me is why I’m driven.   It’s what gets me up at 3:30 in the morning to go train before work.  It’s how I handle the crazy OCDness of weighing a handful of almonds and then putting some back.

Lessons learned from my journey to transform my health…

  • the skill to track food (which took about 6 months, by the way)
  • how to set a realistic, measurable, attainable short term goal
  • discipline required to reach that goal and set another one
  • patience when results aren’t predictable – because they usually aren’t
  • dedication to the promises you make yourself
  • be MORE patient
  • determination to stay consistent and do the work even when you don’t want to
  • learned that no matter how crappy you feel, you’re going to feel better afterwards
  • learned that nutrition is science and what the body does with the food is also science
  • learned to be more objective and less emotional about what I eat or what happens in the gym

… and a bunch of other lessons if I were to continue

These lessons prepared me to follow my dream to be a competitive bodybuilder.  Please realize that my goals for my sport are specific to that part of my life.  When I talk about my disappointments in not reaching a bodybuilding goal, it does not diminish what I’ve done as “Tammy in the Real World”.  But there will be times when I share my thoughts, successes, and failures from the perspective as a competitor.

As a competitive bodybuilder, I have improved a lot.  I am pleased and proud of that.  However, I’ve done three competitions and I have yet to actually earn a placement.  I am lucky to have two trophies and a medal because there were just enough to go around for the number of women who registered for my division.  Again – as “Tammy in the Real World”, I am proud of my progress.   But I’m not done.  I have not reached a goal that I have as a competitor – to earn a placement in an open division as a 50+ female bodybuilder.  It is because I’m competitive that I train harder, I diet precisely, and I practice posing.  If my goal was to participate as a woman in her 50’s, I did that in 2012.  To keep training diligently, I need a new goal.  I hoped that this time I had done enough,  but I knew the day before I had not. Improved, but not there yet.  I need more time.  It wasn’t a matter of work or coaching – I presented the best package I have ever presented.  Especially for someone who has only been lifting for 5 years.  At the show, I was moved to the end of the line during prejudging after the first round of posing.  There were three rounds, I think.  Went by quickly.

A few days have gone by, I’ve reflected, talked with Coach, and I know what I want to work on.  Because I’m competitive,  I was discouraged at first, but have since become fueled by it.  I like being an underdog.  I like being in a position of having something to prove.  Just like when I started – there were people in my life then who didn’t think I’d lose the weight, much less compete.  And now I’ve done three competitions.  (Yes, that’s empowering.)  I got back into the gym right away this week because I needed to.  I’m having a little harder time dialing in my recovery macros, but each day I’m getting a bit closer.  I’m determined to have a successful recovery from show prep and transition into another long improvement season.

So just because I’m disappointed with my performance last weekend, that’s only “Tammy the Competitor”.  “Tammy in the Real World” sees things differently  – I am grateful, proud, and joyful that I’ve been blessed with the capacity to do it.  I also have a secret weapon that no one I’ve competed against has had – the people who follow my journey.  When I needed a pep talk the day before, they were there for me in a way that was overwhelming!  I swear, I had almost made the decision to drive home, but it was the interactions we had on the page that gave me the courage to follow through.

And these pictures comparing my first show to my third reassure me that I’m on the right track.





Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep