Tag Archives: health transformation

2017 Prep Update: Day 164 or Why I Shaved My Head


Oh, hi!  Haven’t written in a long time.  Sorry.  Part of that is because I am a busy teacher.   But when I’m quiet, it usually means I’m having a difficult time and I just don’t want to write until I’m through it and can reflect back.   This might be a long post.  I’ll break it up into sections:  Training, Diet, and Hair (or why I shaved my head)

Training

That new training split I told you about in my last post in February didn’t work well for me at all.  It was too much…everything.  I’m an introvert who teaches high school kids – and right now, I have 189 student on my roster.  Each of those students is working at their own pace.  If you’re a teacher reading this – yeah.  It’s like that.  So to say my brain is fried at the end of the day is not an exaggeration.  Lifting is how I manage stress and bodybuilding gives the lifting a goal so I will do self-care when I realistically have no time for self-care.  That phase with whole body lifts pushed my central nervous system too hard each time.  And having to deal with RPEs at 4:30 in the morning – it was not fun.  It was stressful.  When I was in the middle of it and I could not make it work, I was frustrated. Using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a well-documented technique.  Many lifters like it and have had success with it.  It was hard for me to accept that I couldn’t do it.  I tried to communicate what was wrong to my coach, but I didn’t know how to explain what wasn’t working.  Initially, he thought I didn’t understand the philosophy, so we lost a couple of days trading emails about that.  There were days I hated going to the gym – and that never happens.  I was getting hurt because I was distracted from paying attention to my form.  I literally cried during a couple workouts.  I felt like my coach and I were not working together well and that bothered me more than the issue with the program.   I finally just quit that split.  I didn’t quit lifting.  I just put myself back onto a familiar split.  Told my coach what I was doing.  We agreed to just go back to an older split that worked well.  I updated a couple of exercises.  And since I’ve been back on that split, I’ve hit a couple PRs on accessory movements each week.

Reflecting, I’ve learned…

  • I hate whole body lifts. I can handle upper/lower splits, but not whole body.  It’s hard to describe, but it almost feels too “confusing” to my nerves.  I felt my stress hormones go up during the lift instead of feeling the expected dopamine release.  I haven’t done research on it, but I suspect it has something to do with the physiology of being a highly sensitive introvert.  The “highly sensitive” part isn’t about emotions – it’s literally about a heightened sensitivity to external stimulation of the senses.  Windy days annoy me because I feel like I’m being assaulted by air.  As much as I love my job, I crave/need those breaks in the day when I don’t have kids around so I can recharge a bit.
  • I hate RPEs because I mentally rehearse my major lifts for hours, or even days, before I do them. When I look on the spreadsheet and see I have a 520 pound leg press coming up in Week 3, I subconsciously psyche up for it.  I’m totally fine picking a weight for an accessory movement if you tell me I need to do 3 set of 12-15 reps.  Given two conditions, I can select the third variable without stress.  But when asked to pick a weight so that I’m using 60-80% of maximum exertion, I get too caught up in the mathematics of that and I stall out.  Honestly, I’m perfectly capable of writing my own programs, but I don’t want to think about my lifts other than everything I pay attention to just to execute them properly with correct form.  I analyze every part of a rep while I’m doing it to make sure I’m activating the muscle intended.   I just want to open the spreadsheet and do what it tells me to do.  I hardly ever miss a rep.  If it says 3 set x 12 reps x 100 lbs, I will lift that damn thing 12 times just because it’s on the spreadsheet.  I will also do 3 sets of 12 because it makes recording it easier.  A set of 12, a set of 10, and a third set of 8 looks like this… 1x12x100; 1x10x100; 1x8x100.  That’s just a pain in the ass.  So I move the thing.  Every time.  And I believe my laziness in recording is one reason I build muscle.
  • I’ve also told my coach that from now on, when things aren’t working, he can expect a text or a phone call – not an email. We’ve worked so well together for over three years that this really was the first time we had something go wrong.  I didn’t really know how to handle it.  As a result, I feel like I was on a deload for a month.  I didn’t lose ground – the number of PRs I’m setting now is reassuring.

Diet

Our school district has a two week spring break.  Today is Monday of the second week.  I told Coach that right now is the best time to dig.  I have time to workout and sleep.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  Scale has been dropping a little every day.  I am now about 1-2 pounds over my scale weight before we did peak week for my last show.  I still have 3 months.  Conditioning this time will be better.   This isn’t a surprise to me.  We planned this back in 2015 after the last show.  Last week, I brought the calories down to about 10 kcal/pound of body weight for 5 days, then 2 days of slightly more to recover.  I will repeat that again this week.  Coach decides what happens after that based on where we are at.   The actual macro breakdown has my protein set at 160 grams, carbs range between 130 and 150 grams, and fats are coming in under 20 grams.  I don’t stress about hitting any number exactly except for the protein and the calorie.  I’ve got this thing dialed in most days, though.  Since Coach brought protein up, I haven’t felt super hungry.  I also figured out that if I split my morning meal in half and eat more frequently after my early morning lift, I feel better.

I’m satisfied with my progress.  There are 111 days left in this prep.  There is an end-goal for stage, but the real goal is just navigating through these next 111 days as an endurance challenge.  Can I do my life while pushing myself physically in ways I’ve never done before?  Will I be able to manage stress of life while under the stress of what I’m doing to my body composition?  And can I do this with a little grace and sense of humor?  I have stayed on course, but I haven’t been that graceful about it over the last month.  I hope to have learned a lesson I can use over the next 3 months.   This is all for fun, right?  Nothing life and death about this thing.

Hair

This next show is pivotal for me.  I’m heading right back to the same show I did in 2015 that wrecked me a little bit.  I have no idea what to expect after what happened the last time I was on that stage in front of those judges.  And then I had that frustrating lifting month in February.  In hindsight, I see it as a blessing now.  I had every reason to quit – lifting sucked, I turned 55, I’m busy, it’s hard to do, and there isn’t a tangible reason to compete… but I didn’t quit.  I couldn’t quit.   I don’t quit.  But there wasn’t much positive pulling me towards something instead of a general “I don’t quit” stubborness.  Then one day I woke up and a switch had flipped.  I needed to commit and commence with the “ass-kickin’-takin’-names” part of this prep.  That morning, I registered for the show.

I’ve felt different since then.  It’s about redemption now.  Maybe I will always be put in the last place.  So what?  I’m still showing up, aren’t I?  This is amateur women’s bodybuilding.  There is no real-world difference between “overall” and “last place”.   There aren’t cash prizes.  There will be no contracts or sponsorships.  Those of us who do this are motivated by something else.  If the width of my pelvis screws up my symmetry, I can’t give a fuck about that because I can’t change it.  But I can prep hard to lose enough fat so that the glutes attached to that wide pelvis will be visible.  If it’s possible, I can do that.   I have built my delts and quads a little.  That will help with the symmetry a bit.  And I can get creative with posing to emphasize some things and distract away from others.

But how can I be braver?  How can I make sure I hear that little voice in my head that reminds me to be a badass every day when the doubts can be so loud????

So that happened.  This is my signal to myself to remember who I am and why I’m doing this.  I get a reminder every time I see a reflection.  I get a reminder every time that side of my head gets cold, too.  Hahahaha!  To be honest, it was an impulsive thought at first, but I thought about it for a week.  I pulled my hair back and tried to imagine it.  I was beyond excited to get this done.  After I walked around with it for a few days, I figured out why I needed to do it. I’ve had it about a week and I love it.  Not a single regret yet.

Sorry about the length.  Thanks for hanging in there with me!  The support I get keeps me going.  Thank you!!

9 Comments

Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Contest Prep, My Lifting Log, Nutrition, Weight Loss

2017 Prep Update: My 275 Day Project

My prep will be 275 days long, but I changed my life 2750 days ago.  Started – didn’t stop.  I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments.  Things that worked for a while stopped working. Other things that were hard at first, like logging food, have become second nature.  Sure, some things have been disappointing and frustrating.  But this sport challenges me in unexpected ways.  It has made me a better wife.  It has made me a better teacher.  Training calms me and helps me handle life.  I’m careful and train safely.  I’m proud of what I’ve done and grateful that I’ve been able to do it.

I need to apologize for my long absence from this blog.  It’s true that I’ve been busy – I’ve retooled my geometry class to be one where all students move through curriculum at their own pace.  I have about 170 students who needed to master 38 skills before Christmas break.  During this break, I’m organizing the activities for them to do during second semester.  Yeah, I’m busy.

That’s not the only reason I haven’t been writing.  I spent most of 2016 learning how to disengage my ego from what I’m doing as a bodybuilder.  The problem isn’t that I think I’m so awesome.  It’s the opposite of that.  I don’t think I’ve accomplished much at all and have been battling the urge to give in and “be realistic” about competing.  I haven’t had a healthy perspective on this thing.  I’ve worked hard, so part of me feels like I “deserve” to have some tangible success, but based on some things I cannot control, it’s possible that I will always place poorly.  Hard work doesn’t matter.  That’s a given.  Everyone up there worked hard.  Do I keep going anyway?  Others have quit.  If this isn’t going to be about being competitive, what is it about for me??  The initial excitement is gone, I got knocked on my ass, and I’ve spent a long time finding a way to get back up.

It’s been a hard year and a half of self-reflection about what I can control, what I can’t control, and what is it about this sport that keeps me engaged.  The July 2015 show really rocked my confidence.  I am afraid to compete again.  I’m not getting younger – 55 next time I’m up there.  Genetics aren’t going to change.  How do I justify continuing when I’ve had so little success?  I have a full plate.  I have people who depend on me.  I have responsibilities.  Why am I spending time and money on this bodybuilding thing at my age?

Why? Because I love training.  And it keeps me from sliding back into my old, unhealthy habits.  Based on what the doctors told me back in 2009, it’s critical that I do self-maintenance if I want to have a normal life-expectancy.  I’m goal-driven and the scarier the goal, the better.  In my mind, it feels more like an individual quest for excellence.  If my measure of success becomes improving form, increasing strength, being consistent, grinding on days I need to grind, learning when to push and when to hold back, controlling all the variables that are mine to manage – can I do all of that?  And can I make myself stand there for another stinky spray tan, get back up under the lights, and be vulnerable again?  I think I can. I think I can keep doing this for a long time, too.  I also think there is something more I’m supposed to learn.  There is something more going on here – I just don’t know what it is yet.  So I’m “all-in” with this thing, I guess.

Ok, so how do I prepare for the next show when I have so much anxiety wrapped around the idea of it?  I’ve been working with the same online coach for three years, so he’s handling the nuts-and-bolts of the prep.  It’s on me to handle the mental game.  If you’ve been following the few posts I’ve made, you know I’ve been on it.  Lots of audio books.  Lots.  After some frustrating experiences, I’ve chosen to limit my exposure to almost everything online that relates to bodybuilding.  That alone has cut down on a lot of stress because my value system is a little different.  I never feel so old as I do when I look at what people post.  If I avoid it, it is easier to focus on what’s important to me and what I need to do.

Most people who compete talk about prep in terms of a countdown.  “I’m 20 weeks out”, etc.  I’ve done it that way before because I was excited about the destination.  Thing is, I’m not now.  Counting down to something that scares me increases my anxiety about it.   Plus, it’s too ‘future-focused’ for me.  I prefer to focus on what I need to do TODAY.  So let’s flip that around.  The project is now the prep itself.  It is not a “means to an end”.  It is the goal.  Can I do this?

The day I started prep on October 14th was Day #1 and there will be 275 days in this project.  The overall goal is to push fat-loss farther than before.  This is NOT something a non-competitor should attempt.  If you’re not going to compete as a bodybuilder – literally in a division called “bodybuilding” – don’t do what I’m going to do.   Can I, a formerly obese 55-year-old woman, get “shredded”?  I’m sure it’s been done before, but I haven’t done it.   And can I do it safely so that I won’t have issues later?  I have a smart, protective coach and we have worked our way through a plan over the last three years to be in a position to make this attempt now.  But I can already tell we are way ahead of our 2015 prep.  Months ahead.  I don’t think July 2017 will be my ‘final form’, either.

The result of the 275 day project will be an accumulation of what I do each day.   That makes each day a separate challenge and the goal is to do that day as well as I can.  Did I make every rep of each set count?  Did I do what I needed to do with food?  Did I get enough sleep?  Did I have enough energy to take care of life?  AND… am I not getting my undies bunched up about how I do that day?  Yes, it’s true.  “Not caring that much” is really a daily goal.  I refuse to up-end my life just to get a little leaner.  Sure, there are some sacrifices to be made, but gosh, this is just for fun, right?  It’s just my version of climbing Mt. Everest.

I hope to find time to write every so often and update this blog on where I’m at inside this prep, my 275 Day Project.

CURRENT STATUS:

Today is Day 76.  This phase of the cut has been aggressive, but calories were increased a couple weeks ago and will be increased again soon.  So far, I’ve lost about 10 lbs.  I am also about 10 pounds over my previous stage weight, but the plan is to come in lighter.  There is more muscle, so coming in even a couple pounds lighter will look a lot leaner.  My personal goals are more about things that have been issues for me on stage.   There are certain poses that have always been hard for me because I wasn’t lean enough to perform them properly.  I don’t want to deal with that issue this time around.

I will do today as well as I can.  And I will do that 199 more times.  And my undies will remain as unbunched as possible.

Here is part of my video report to my coach last week showing my workouts for days 65 through 71.

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Filed under Competing, Contest Prep

The “Shit Sandwich” & Other Lessons From Elizabeth Gilbert

This week, some big ideas from unrelated parts in my brain crashed together in a perfect storm of temporary enlightenment.  An email conversation over a few days with my coach about goal setting happened while I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic.  This isn’t a book review – I’m just sharing a couple of things I’ve discovered listening to this book that helped me.

For a couple months now, I’ve explored the shame I felt when I competed last July.  If I don’t deal with it, I won’t be able to compete again because I know there will be an anxiety attack of epic proportions.  For those of you who are familiar with her work, one of Brené Brown’s books has already been listened to – twice.  (I’m sure I’ll listen to it a couple more times). There have been a couple of Wayne Dyer’s books, too, and a couple from authors not so well-known.  Each of these books have given me something I can use to evolve my mental game, just like lifting transformed my physique.

She Called it “The Shit Sandwich”

Ms. Gilbert referred to the sacrifices required to make time to be creative while still being a responsible person as eating “the shit sandwich” for your particular endeavor.  It means that that there will be parts of the process that aren’t fun or convenient, but need to happen.  She gave examples of now famous authors who made the time to write, working other jobs, before they were able to make a living as a writer.  She mentioned Toni Morrison and JK Rowling specifically.   She said we need to be willing to do the inconvenient stuff.

Someday, I’d like to be an author, but right now, that’s not where my creativity is focused.  I don’t expect people to understand it, but bodybuilding is where I feel creative.  I work on it daily.  Lifting, food, rest are my tools.   It’s my sculpture.  I’m working on this one project.   I add to it, sometimes work on details, and I walk around wearing it.  I’m happy to do the hard stuff for my craft – “the shit sandwich” of early morning workouts, getting by on less sleep, saving money to pay for it, and the periods of strict nutrition.  But there are other parts of bodybuilding that feel like it’s not worth it.  I do think about these things.  I work on balance.  And I repeatedly ask myself “why do I need to do this?”  It’s a simple answer.  It brings me joy.

Rejection?

When I step on stage, my “art” is being judged.  Last July, my sculpture was the best it’s been, but I lost sight of that fact.  The table of folks below the stage judged my work as inferior.  (Have I told you what happened?  I don’t remember.  When I was moved after the first symmetry round, I wasn’t just moved to what would be a last place position in my own class.  Women’s open and novice classes were brought out together.  I was in the open.  When I was moved, I was moved away from the open class to the other side of the novice class.   I was far stage right, not being compared to anyone during the mandatory poses.  I did not see a single judge look at me during front-facing poses.  I knew I just earned my third last place finish in three shows.  I fought hard to keep my inner demons quiet the whole time I was on stage.  My photographer husband was next to the stage, so I posed for the pictures.  Those are the only pictures where I’m smiling.)  The reflective work I’ve been doing – listening to books, absorbing ideas, applying some, rejecting others – has helped begin to build the mental foundation that I thought was strong enough to withstand what happened on stage that day.  I wasn’t ready.  I need to be sturdier to do what I’m attempting to do – a competitive female bodybuilder in open classes even though I’m in my 50’s – because I don’t want to be caught off guard on stage like that again.  I can’t control where they move me, but I can control how I react to being moved.  I can control who’s opinion matters more to me on that day.  Mine.  Period.

As I mentioned, there were several emails with Coach last week about goal-setting.  He knows what I’m working on.  We’ve also agreed that I need to complete this work before I can compete again.  He gently steered me towards setting goals about personal progression.  Thought about it.   Turns out, that doesn’t work for me.  I see progression as a logical outcome of smart programming and consistency.  So if I’m going to make sacrifices, expect my husband to sacrifice, spend money on this, I need another big scary goal.  I made a list of the big scary goals I’ve set and achieved, even though they seemed hard or impossible when set.  After a few days of sitting with it, mulling it over, and acknowledging that my experience last summer had landed me in a depressing place called “reality”, Coach helped me find the words to set the next big  scary goal…

Last. Woman. Standing.

(Which means I want to win an overall, earn a pro-card, and compete at a national show.  I’ve always wanted this, but three last place finishes has made it seem too naive to hang on to.  It’s still naive and unrealistic.  So what?  I’ve been disappointed already and know what that feels like.  I didn’t set a time limit.  Just owning the dream.)

This one needs a new name.  It will now be called the Big-Scary-Hairy-Improbable-But-I’m-Going-For-It-Anyway Goal.  I honestly believe I will continue to improve and will present a better sculpture each time I compete no matter what.  I have a good work-ethic and a supportive and smart coach.  But it’s no longer about how hard I work anymore, is it?  This goal will fuel my work regardless.  This is “Fire-in-the-belly” sort of stuff.

I listened to Ms. Gilbert addressed rejection and it occured to me that I can learn a lot from writers about judging and rejection.  This passage resonated with me…

“No doesn’t always mean no.  Never surrender.  Miraculous turns of fate can happen to those who persist in showing up.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

So that’s the plan.  I’ll keep showing up.

6 Comments

Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Motivation

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.

8 Comments

Filed under Guest Blog, Nutrition, Weight Loss

68 Weeks Out

WORKOUTS

This is a deload week for me.  I do a deload every 4th week.  For each exercise, the sets are reduced by one and I either keep the weight the same as it was the week before or I drop it a little.  Deload weeks help me recover while still lifting.  But they make for uninteresting status reports.

I won’t deload the two leg exercises I use for blood flow restriction work.  It’s already light.  I feel like I finally figured out how to do it.  I’ve learned how tight the straps need to be.  Read some more about it and started making the first set a very high rep set – 30 reps.  Felt that.  Legs stay a little big for a day afterwards, too.  I like that.

Today’s workout was upper body hypertrophy.  Chest, back, shoulders, and arms – all in the 8 to 12 reps range.  Even with the deload, I was so pumped after two sets of bench press and two sets of hammer smith incline press that my bra and shirt were too tight.  Hahahaha!  Love it!

FOOD

I am logging food and counting macros, but each day varies.  I am using the Bodybugg to track calorie burn as the day progresses.  I am not too concerned with meal timing – my day is pretty regimented since I’m a teacher.  I eat when I have time to eat and it happens at the same time every day.  But when I get home, I synch the Bugg to check the burn and then I eat enough in the evening to stay just under maintenance.  The Bugg resets at midnight and when I wake up in the morning, I’ve got a deficit around 200 calories.  I’m trying to maintain my weight eating as much as I can.  I keep the protein and fat grams basically the same, and I have a minimum amount of carb grams I will eat every day, but if I need more calories, I eat more carbs.

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This video is a great resource for info about calorie deficits and surpluses and how to use timing to optimize body composition.

OTHER STUFF

My “get more sleep” goal was given up when my husband had his car accident, but I’m still trying.  Didn’t have a good week with that this week.  Slept only about 5 hours every night.  Even on a night when I’ve got more time, my body just didn’t want more than 5.  Or my mind.  Doesn’t matter – it’s not enough.  My husband is a great sleeper.  The dogs are great sleepers.  I suck at sleeping.

Emotionally, I’ve struggled a little bit this week.  I’ve been edgy and easily annoyed.  I suppose that’s to be expected with only 5 hours of sleep a night.  There is also a lot of extra stuff to do dealing with the aftermath of the accident while trying to lesson plan for three very rigorous math classes.  Oh, and grades were due this week so I had piles of grading to catch up.  Luckily, we have one more week before spring break – two weeks off this year!  That’s two weeks without an alarm clock.  I will be able to catch up on sleep.  Yay!!!

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Filed under Competing, Life, My Lifting Log, Nutrition

I Chose the Foggy Path

It’s so weird what triggers these blog posts.  Just watched a video of a young competitor who had a bad rebound after her last competition.  Read a bunch of comments that just reminded me that sometimes people get hyperfocused on things that don’t matter in the big picture – or at least they don’t matter to me as much.  Maybe it’s because I’ve got more miles on me.

I started this life-transformation thing because I knew, really deep down KNEW, that I was on a fast train to an early death.  I had to slow that train the heck down!  There is no stopping it – death is inevitable.  But I love this life and want to be here as long as possible.  Posted a link on the LMS Facebook page to a life expectancy calculator.  I would never have done it before because I knew the news wouldn’t be good.  But now, it’s kind of fun.  I’m starting to plan my 103rd birthday party.  

When I was in high school, I lived on a farm.  I used to go for walks by myself on sunny days.  On those walks I distinctly remember being frustrated that I only had two small eyes and couldn’t take in everything around me at the same time.  I resented that I had to turn my head to see things and lose sight of the other things.  Especially the sky.  I wanted to have one giant eyeball on top of my head.  I wanted to see everything at the same time.

I still feel like that.  Especially when I’m driving home.  We live in the foothills of a mountain, and there is a spot 0n my drive home where I come into a valley where the mountain is on my left, sunset behind it (if I’m lucky enough to be driving home that early), and on the right is a wide open expanse with beautiful high dessert landscape and more mountains in the distance.  If there are clouds, they are almost always doing something breathtaking because they are coming over the mountain on the left.  At sunset, it looks like paint stokes of oranges, pinks, on the blue sky canvas.  Sorry – no picture because I’m driving on a freeway when I experience this.  Sunrise going in the opposite direction is equally impressive.  That sunrise always fills me with hope and gratitude.

I understand that this is primarily a fitness blog.  So what’s with all of this sunrise/sunset stuff?  This is why I value my health so much.  This is why I lift.  This is why I eat how I eat now.  I feel connected to my life now.  I hated feeling depressed and anxious almost 24/7.  These days, I have my moments when I’m wound up about something, but they are moments.  OK, maybe an hour or two.  But hardly ever are entire days/weeks/months lost to feeling hopeless.  I used to lay down at night, feel the weight of me on my heart, and feel afraid to fall asleep because I might not wake up.  Looking back and comparing how felt and what I thought about then, to how I feel and what I think about now, I know that my state of mind is dictated by my state of health.  Because I didn’t feel good, I used to work to attach outside reasons to that feeling and I would react to any stressor.  I looked for those stressors to explain how I felt.  Now, I feel good.  So when I’m anxious about something now, there is probably a real situation that needs my attention.  (Assuming I’m not having a cortisol response.  An update on that – I quit doing cardio.  Boom.  Fixed.  I will do HIIT – eventually.  Been dealing with the same flu bug everyone else on the planet seems to have caught.)

Rambling – sorry.  It happens.  But I will try to get to the point…

I’ve lost and gained weight several times in my life, starting when I was in high school.  I didn’t gain weight back this time because something fundamental changed when I was hooked up to machines in an emergency room in March 2009.  I suppose that was my personal “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment.  I was shown what was coming.  It was a fork in the road with two paths to choose.  One was familiar and I could see the whole path.  I knew where that one would end.  The other was foggy.  I didn’t know what would happen if I chose that path.  I didn’t know where I would go.

It was fear that made me choose the foggy path.  That path has become clearer because I invested, researched, and did the work.  I watched the scale and I watched the mirror.  I hit walls.  I screwed up.  But I didn’t quit.  Quitting would be like walking back to the fork in the road and taking the clear path, the shorter path, the easier path.

Found this image on a great blog called the Internet Monk. Please click and visit.

Oooo – let’s do something scary.  I’ve never thought about where I would be now had I not changed everything.  In 2009, I was gaining weight at a rate of about 15-20 pounds a year and was already on high blood pressure meds.   My heaviest weight was 198 pounds and it was climbing.  I had one ER visit for a possible cardiac event, that they diagnosed an anxiety attack, but they kept me there for four hours.    The nice female doctor was very direct about how it was an anxiety issue this time.   Had I taken the shorter path, today I would probably weigh well into the 200’s and have a body run down and at risk for a major cardiac event, if I hadn’t already had one.  That path is always there waiting for me.

The foggy path led to a magical place for me.  The gym.  The iron.  I was so intimidated by that place, but I just pushed forward.  I’ve been discouraged or disappointed with something every single week since June 2009.  But I’ve also done something new every single week that I couldn’t do the week before.

The path is still a little foggy.  The next few months are going to be extremely challenging.  I have a a demanding teaching schedule this semester.  I am working with clients.  But my own training and nutrition will not be compromised.  Period.  I’ll keep pushing.  Doing anything else is walking back to the fork and choosing the short path.

Did you notice that I never once mentioned being preoccupied with what I look like or my size?  If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, I would hope my motivations are clear.  I want to enjoy good health and I want to lift.   I want to compete as a bodybuilder.  I have been fascinated with bodybuilding for decades.  When I compete, I am concerned with appearance, but it’s bodybuilding.  That’s the sculpture, artistic part.  It’s fun for me.  But my point is that if there is anyone following my journey who is concerned about being a specific size or weight, and that is a priority before your long term health, please consider this – if focusing on your appearance hasn’t worked for you to make a permanent change in your lifestyle in the past, it’s not your motivator.  Change your focus.  Look for your own fork in the road and chose your foggy path.

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Filed under Competing, Cortisol, Faith, Life, Motivation, Opinions, Venting, Ranting, Weight Loss

My 10 Tips for Fat Loss

Any one of these tips could be another post, but I wanted to put together a list for how to start a program with a little bit of explanation.

1)      Collect current data about your food intake.  You need an honest appraisal of what is happening now.   Eat normally, but log it for a full week, at least. (I’ve been logging for most of the last 4 ½  years.)  You will need to measure and weigh some things.  Get a digital scale to make this chore easier.  I’ve used a digital scale every day since I started and I’ve never used an expensive one.  Use an online food log to have access to extensive data base. It takes a few weeks to get things set up, but if you eat the same foods over the week, it becomes a matter of clicking frequent foods instead of searching.

2)      Come up with a good estimate of how many calories you burn in a 24 hour period.  I remember that “ah-ha” moment when I realized that I’m burning calories all the time, not just when I exercise.  The cardio machines at a gym will give an estimated burn, but in my experience, they can overestimate quite a bit.  There are calculators online, too.    If you can make an investment, there are gadgets that you wear that will give better estimates based on your personal activity over the entire day.  I use a Bodybugg.  I have friends who use a Fitbit.  I rationalized the purchase by comparing it to the medical costs I had at the time for my high blood pressure meds and an ER visit to rule out a heart attack.

3)      Make a food plan based on what you do now.  For safe fat loss and a sustainable, lifestyle change, keep the calorie deficit between 300 and 1000 calories.  In other words, it is my recommendation that you burn no more than 1000 calories than you intake each day.  But there is a minimum number of calories you need to eat for a healthy metabolism.  The USDA’s recommendations for minimum calorie intake levels are 1600 calories for women and 2000 calories for men.  If your intake is already at a minimum and you still need to increase a deficit, do it with moderate exercise.  The metabolism is not a linear equation where the bigger the deficit, the more fat you lose.  To over simplify a complicated process, your body will adapt so when it is not getting enough calories, it will use as few calories as possible to maintain functions and store what little is left over as body fat.  It may even breakdown muscle for additional energy.   This is why people who don’t eat a lot can maintain their scale weight, or even gain scale weight. Over time, body composition changes so that there is more fat and less muscle at the same weight.  This is what is meant by “skinny fat”.  Metabolism is not designed for looks – it’s about staying alive.  Through repeated attempts at weight loss by calorie restriction, many people have trained their bodies to maintain their weight eating less.  It’s really important to get that baseline intake information I discussed in Tip #1 so you can determine if you have slowed your metabolism a little bit.  If you are a woman maintaining your weight at 1000 calories, jumping right up to the recommended minimum of 1600 would cause fat gain.

4)      Make food substitutions gradually.  It is not practical for most people to completely overhaul everything in the kitchen.  Food prep becomes a new routine that will change how you spend your time – and that means “life” will need to be adjusted.  That takes time.  It took me months to figure out a system that worked for me.  If there are other people in the house, their favorite foods may be trigger foods for you.  I’ve been there.  I practiced telling myself repeatedly that “I control what I eat.”  Self-discipline really is an emotional muscle that needs to be strengthened.  And it is hard.  That’s OK.  Hard doesn’t mean impossible.  Each time you don’t cave to a temptation, it gets easier.  Especially when you focus more on how you “feel” instead of how you “look”.

5)      Train with weights.  There are several reasons why resistance training needs to be part of the program for fat loss.  Resistance training preserves muscle and builds bone mass.   To change the appearance of the body, the muscles need to be developed.  One of the most common questions I get is about how I dealt with loose skin.  First, I lost my weight very slowly and that helped minimize it.  But I also filled spaces with muscle – especially in my arms.  A full body program done twice a week, that uses multi-joint exercises, like body weight squats, is a good way to start.

6)      Don’t overdo cardio.  There is an abundance of research out there about cardio.  Personally, long sessions of cardio elevate my cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a hormone similar to adrenaline.  I believe I’ve had a cortisol problem for a long time and it contributed to my weight gain and health decline that led up to that “before” picture.  When my cortisol levels are up, I feel very anxious without a reason and I have trouble falling asleep.  My body stores fat quickly during those times.  Cardio is one of those variables that will start a lot of discussion.  I know what the research says, what works for me, what doesn’t, and that is exactly what I believe everyone needs to know for themselves.  But when I started, I knew nothing.  I had no idea that the cardio I was doing contributed to the anxiety I felt about the process.

7)      Sleep.    The body needs to rest to recover from the stress of the day.  Add in exercise and a moderate calorie restriction and there is more stress on the body.  Lack of sleep will elevate cortisol levels, too. Drink water!  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.

8)      Drink water.  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.  I know some say it helps them feel full, but that’s not my experience.  When I’m hungry, I’m HUNGRY.  For food.

9)      Keep it simple.  Avoid the urge to over-plan and under-do, despite all the information I’ve just thrown at you.  Your program does not have to be perfect.  As you learn more, you’ll adjust things.  You have to have movement.  You need more food your body recognizes (whole foods) and less food designed to make you want to buy more of it (processed foods).  When asked, I tell people that most of my food is grown by God – a very simple description of vegetables, fruit, lean meats, fish, nuts, olive oil, and limited grains for personal digestive reasons.

10)   Be patient.  Permanent changes happen slowly.  You are changing your life one cell at a time.  A scale measures total body weight – that is mostly water, by the way.  It’s easy to feel impatient when looking at a transformation picture because the eye just goes back forth between the two versions of that person.  But note the dates.  Took me three years to get from “before” to the first “after”.  It helped me psychologically to accept that this was the LAST time I was going to lose most of these fat pounds and my life was going to be different from that point on.  I know I’m happier, excited to get up every day, and my life is likely to be longer because I decided to finally do this thing and not quit.

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References & Resources

http://www.theiflife.com/is-your-exercise-keeping-you-fat/

http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/Chapter2.pdf

© Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Filed under Cortisol, Life, Weight Loss