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Transformation: It’s Not Just About Physique

What a difference 5 years makes…

At 27, I was “skinny”…That’s really the only way to describe it…I wasn’t fit or lean. I wasn’t strong. I wasn’t healthy. I was just “skinny”. But, at that time, that’s what I wanted…It’s what I thought I needed to be.

I placed all my self-worth in the size of my clothing (those shorts were a size 0) and the number on the scale (I weighed about 118 pounds in that first pic, and that’s where I was determined to stay…at ALL costs!…And, yes, I weighed multiple times, daily) My health wasn’t my priority, my need to meet my own impossible standards was.

For me, fitness was an unrealistic image achieved only through extreme measures. Back then, I restricted food (I only ate about 900-1200 Calories a day) and I did hour upon hour of soul shattering cardio, as well as hundreds of sit-ups everyday (yeah, I used to think that’s how that worked😳) in an effort to achieve the “perfect” body. I had no idea what I was doing, and the worst part is, i didn’t even know that I had no idea, or care!…All that mattered was that damn scale and those size 0 shorts.

That was life throughout my later teenage years and most of my 20s…Then, cancer happened, and everything changed.

After I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma, my health started to matter.Numbers (my weight and jean size) became irrelevant…My focus shifted to healing…not just my body, but my mindset…I began learning how to nourish my body, to give it wha it needed to stay strong during chemo and radiation. Calories weren’t the focus anymore, feeling good and keeping my strength up was.

After I finished treatment, I started working out again, only this time it wasn’t for weight loss or to burn all the calories, it was to build stamina and become healthier. I decided to try weightlifting, and I fell in love!

The first time I picked up a weight with purpose was in January of 2016, a year and a half after that first picture was taken (I was 29-years-old). It was a set of 5# dumbbells , and at that time, they were “heavy”. I used those weights until I was ready to progress. Then, I moved up to 8s, then 10s, 15s, 20s, and so on. Progress has been slow and steady, but that’s how it should be. Consistency and dedication have changed my body, but self-love and self-acceptance have changed my mindset, and THAT is everything!

The past 5 years have been full of ups and downs. There’s been sickness, setbacks, accomplishments, and failures…There’ve been times that I’ve just been so on top of everything, and times I’ve questioned why I even bother…I’ve amazed myself by doing things I never even knew I wanted to, and I’ve fallen on my face (literally) a few times! I’ve evolved, I’ve grown, and I’ve learned…a lot! I’m proud of where I am today both physically and mentally, but mostly mentality…I’m at peace with my body, and I celebrate it daily by nourishing it, moving it, and loving it for all that it’s done and all that it will do.

We all have our reasons, and everyone’s Day One is different…My official Day One didn’t come until I was 29…It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’ve been through, how old you are, how much weight you’ve got to lose or gain, or how many times you’ve tried and given up. Starting fresh is always an option! Creating a new beginning is ALWAYS an option!

Age is just a number. Your weight, clothing size, BMI, body fat %, waist size, total of setbacks and failures are all just numbers! They don’t mean anything…unless you allow it!

Take what life throws at you and roll with it! You’ll never be able to control every situation, but you can control how you handle things…So, take control!…I promise, you’ll come out healthier, happier, and stronger than you could have ever imagined!

Building Muscle:

Lately, I’ve seen, and been asked, a ton of questions about building muscle….

So, I’ma drop a #TruthBomb.

Building muscle is a painstaking process, ESPECIALLY for us women!

It’s literally creating new tissue, and that takes forever! It takes so much longer to see the results when the goal is muscle gain than when the goal is fat loss. Truthfully, you’re not going to see much change on a day to day basis, or even month to month. But, 6 months from now, you will notice that you’re starting to look more muscular, and your post lift pumps will be getting better and better. And, a year from now, when you look back on pictures, (HINT: Progress pics are SO important!) you’ll see a significant difference in your physique.

I find that impatience is often people’s BIGGEST limiting factor here, but you’ve got to stay consistent with your workouts! You’ve also got to be sure you’re switching up your routines every 6 weeks or so, to keep your muscles from becoming “bored” and adapting to the training. These switch ups don’t have to be complicated, you can even incorporate some of the same exercises you’ve been doing, but adding new things and going back and forth between routines is very important, and will make a huge difference.

Additionally, you’ve got to continuously overload your muscles. This means asking them to do more “work” than they’re used to, which is accomplished by periodically placing more demand on them…You can achieve that by:

1. Adding reps to your sets (i.e. Instead of 8 bicep curls, do 10).

2. Increasing your resistance (weight) and doing the same number of reps (i.e. Do the same 10 reps, but increase the resistance from 5# to 10#).

3. Adding more sets of “work” to a specific muscle group (i.e. adding an additional set or two, while keeping reps and resistance the same…Instead of doing 3 sets of 10 reps at 10#, do 4 sets of 10 reps at 10#).

If you aren’t quite ready to go heavier, stick with numbers 1 & 3. Overload is necessary for growth, but remember, it takes time and consistency.

Finally, you’ve got to make sure you’re eating to match your goals. Building muscle requires you to take in more Calories than you burn. But, just counting Calories isn’t enough. You’ve got to give your body the vital nutrients it NEEDS. You’ve got to be sure to get enough protein each day to support muscle growth, as well as other cellular, hormonal, and regenerative functions. Carbs are important to putting on lean mass, as well. Your body will use them for quick energy, preventing you from burning stored nutrients, and allowing for growth. And, of course, fats are necessary for hormone production/function, brain functioning, and the transport/absorption of certain vitamins and minerals…Not to mention, they’re the longest lasting energy source in the body!

But, don’t just look at what you eat as Calories, carbs, protein, and fat…Really pay attention to food quality…The types of foods you eat will make a huge difference. Loading up on minimally processed, wholesome foods will help you see the results you want over time.

Building muscle calls for a multi faceted approach. It requires hard work, consistency, and patience, because it takes TIME! There is no fast track…You can’t force it…You’ve got to work at it day after day…one rep at a time.

10 Things To Remember After “Overdoing” The Weekend:

We’ve all been there. You work hard all week sticking to your fitness and nutrition goals. You eat well, you workout, you make it a point to do everything necessary in order to reach your goals, all while keeping up with the hustle and bustle of daily life. Then, Friday rolls around and you’re exhausted…and maybe even a little burnt out…But, it’s ok, because it’s finally time to kick back and relax…Time for a well deserved break from all the monotony!

Weekends are the perfect time to rest, recover, and recharge, but it can be so easy to let loose and have a little too much fun. For me, this past weekend was full of baby shower cake, concerts, tequila, tacos, beer, late nights, Sunday laziness, and pizza!

But, do you know what?…It’s all good!…It really is, because I had a blast!

Now, it’s a new week, and the journey continues!

If you ever find yourself engaging in a little too much weekend fun…and, chances are, you will!…there are a few things I want you to remember:

1 You did not fail! Your haven’t derailed yourself. You are not spiraling out of control. You didn’t throw in the towel. You haven’t reversed any of your progress. All your hard work still counts…You DID NOT fail!

2 You’re not fat, you’re bloated! Just like muscle tissue, fat cells take more than a day or two to grow. Yes, poor nutritional choices will speed up the process OVER TIME, not over a weekend. Your body composition hasn’t been compromised.

3 Those extra pounds you’re freaking out over the next morning are either water weight (because you’re bloated) or fecal matter. Believe me, a good poop after a weekend of indulging ReAlLy goes a long way!

4 Your mirror is lying to you. As humans, we have a way of only seeing our negative attributes, and if there’s none to be seen…well, then…we create some. If you’re feeling guilty about your weekend choices, it’s going to reflect in your “reflection”, so to speak. As I mentioned, you’re probably a little bloated, and when you look in the mirror, you’ll perceive that as “fat”…Look again! Don’t let your mind play tricks on you.

5 EVERYBODY has days…weekends…weeks like this! You’re not alone, and you’re certainly not inferior!

6 Stressing out, thinking unkind thoughts, and saying unkind words to yourself will not help. It’ll only make you feel worse.

7 Restricting food in an effort to compensate will not help. Depriving your body of the vital nutrients and energy it needs to function properly will only screw up your energy levels, mood, performance, hormones, cognition, reproductive function, metabolism, and eventually, WILL lead to fat storage.

8 Killing yourself in the gym in an effort to “burn off all the extra Calories” will not help. You DO need to continue with your exercise regimen…your NORMAL exercise regimen…Adding hours to your routine will only put you at risk for overtraining and injury, and it will cause you to look at fitness in a different light. Exercise should be a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate.

9 You do not need a detox to “cleanse your system”. Your liver will do a nice job of that on it’s own…It can handle it!…If you wanna help, drink plenty of water and eat a variety of wholesome, nutrient rich foods. Also, taking a probiotic every day is a great way to keep your digestive tract healthy and happy.

10 KEEP GOING!…Even if your weekend fitness and nutrition choices were less than perfect, that doesn’t constitute as a “weak end”…unless YOU let it! You wanna call it a setback?…Ok, cool!…But what do you do when you take a step back?…You take TWO steps forward! You stay consistent! You remain dedicated! You keep working towards your goals!…And, you KEEP GOING, because that’s how you get there!

I do hope you all enjoy each and every weekend to the fullest, and that you wake up every Monday morning with purpose, ready to take on the world, and show life what you’re made of!

Here’s to a lifetime fantastic weeks, y’all!

How Do I Get Abs? 10 Things You NEED To Know:

How do I get abs?

You already have them.

Ok, so how do I make them come out of hiding?

I’m so glad yo asked!

I know we’ve been here before, but this is a topic I feel worth repeating, because the most frequently asked questions I get involve abs…So, here are the facts.

1 Everyone has abs. They’re a group of muscles that, in part, make up the body’s “core”, or midsection. They include 1) the Rectus abdominis, 2) the Internal obliques, 3) the External obliques, and 4) the Transverse abdominis.

2 They aid in EVERYTHING we do, sitting, standing, bending over, housework, showering, getting dressed, exercising,..You name it, your abs are probably involved!

3 Though abs can’t be “built” like other muscles, strengthening them is VERY beneficial to improving EVERYTHING mentioned in No. 2. Also, strengthening can help them appear more defined once they’re been “uncovered”, which leads us to…

4 In order to be able to SEE your abs, you’ve got to reduce enough fat (visceral and subconscious) in your midsection for them to POP. And I quote “Muscularity as it relates to visual appearance IS dependent on having a relatively low body fat percentage”-Fredrick C. Hatfield, PhD. But…

5 You cannot sport reduce fat. You have to focus on total body fat reduction, and it takes a combination of consistently healthy habits (diet, exercise, rest, etc) to do that…It also takes TIME and PATIENCE!

6 Extremely restrictive eating habits and starvation tactics will only cause your body to store the fat you’re trying to burn, and will lead to uncontrollable cravings and binge cycles. Finding and maintaining YOUR proper energy balance is key, as well as fueling your body with wholesome, nourishing foods.

6 Carbs are not bad, UNLESS you have an intolerance to them. The right carbs are actually very important to a well balanced diet. They provide the body with quick, effective energy, help replenish glycogen in muscles, provide vital nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals, improve satiety, help control hunger, and can actually help control insulin levels…BUT, here’s where things get murky, and people get scared…According to a recent study, there is a link between a person’s genetic ability to produce amylase—the enzyme in saliva that breaks down carbs—and BMI…It turns out that some bodies genetically do a better job of regulating carbohydrates than others (likely due to a number of genes, not just amylase…but…).

What this means is, If you’re on the “lucky end” of carb-genetics, then a slice of cake registers as lower on the glycemic index in your body than most, and you may be satisfied for a week after just that one slice. On the other hand, if you’re at the “not so lucky end,” that one piece of cake has a HIGHER glycemic index, and it goes right to your love handles. Oh, and you’ll dream about that slice of cake every day thereafter, increasing the likelihood that you’ll binge on carbs in the near future.

So, in other words, life ain’t fair.

Being carbohydrate intolerant can definitely hinder fat loss.

If you suspect this is the case for you, here are some simple guidelines:

  • • Don’t cut out carbs totally.
  • • Get carbs from veggies and other foods low on the glycemic index.
  • • Take a probiotic supplement.
  • • Try an “ultra-low” glycemic index carb supplement like Ucan to curb cravings, but ONLY if absolutely necessary.

7 Exercise IS important to uncovering abs, just not core, “ab”, exercises (Reminder, they only strengthen, they don’t burn fat). You need to focus on a combination of strength training (weightlifting) and CAR-DI-O!

……Why both?……

Cardio, particularly high intensity cardio, burns calories, improves endurance, boosts metabolism, and helps the body burn fat (among other things). It doesn’t take much for you to start seeing the results you want (about 20-30 minutes a day), but consistency IS key (4-6 days a week, depending on the duration of the workout). For best results, in terms of fat loss, aim for between 120-150 minutes of moderate to high intensity cardio per week, performing at about 65%-75% of your best effort each session.

Strength training (weightlifting) helps strengthen joints and tendons, increases strength, boosts mobility, and builds lean muscle (among other things). For simplicity sake, the more lean muscle you have, the more fat your body burns, NATURALLY! Therefore, strength training is super important when fat loss is the goal. I recommend strength training 45-60 minutes a day, 4-6 times a week, again, performing, or lifting, at between 65%-75% of your best effort, or max, each session.

If strength training helps my body burn fat naturally, why can’t I only do that?

I’m gonna keep this one simple. If you have fat to lose, adding muscle underneath won’t do anything for you aesthetically. Sure, you’ll increase strength, power, endurance, health, etc, but I repeat “Muscularity as it relates to visual appearance IS dependent on having a relatively low body fat percentage”, thus you’ve got to burn the fat you’ve already got, and cardio plus sound nutrition strategies COMBINED with strength training is the key.

8 Drinking water helps. It’s no secret that water is essential to life, but it can also help your abs “come out”. Bloat is often problematic when trying to reveal abs. The more water you drink, the more water you flush out of your gut, making your tummy flatter and your abs more predominant.

9 You might have Diastasis Recti, a condition in which the lower abdomen sticks out due to the space between the left and right abdominal muscles widening, Some might call it a “pooch” or “mommy tummy”. It’s very common among pregnant women. About two-thirds of pregnant women have it. Having more than one child makes this condition more likely, especially if they’re close in age, as well as giving birth via c-section.

HOW TO TEST FOR DIASTASIS RECTI:

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Relax your head and shoulders and place your fingers (palm facing you) just above your belly button.

Lift your head and neck very slightly off the floor and press down with your fingertips. If you feel a gap, that’s the diastasis. You will feel the muscles close in around your fingers as you lift your head and neck. Don’t lift your shoulders. Repeat the test in two other place: directly over the belly button, and a couple of inches below.

A diastasis recti gap is measured in finger width’s. You are aiming for a 1-2 finger gap or less, but don’t panic if it’s much bigger at first.

Even more important than the width of the gap though, is the tension (or lack of tension) in the midline. Contracting the muscles should create tension and resistance when you apply gentle pressure with your fingers to the midline. If it doesn’t – you have some re-connecting to do…

WHICH MOVEMENTS OR EXERCISES SHOULD BE AVOIDED?:

Crunches, sit-ups, oblique (twists) combined with crunches; anything that  ‘jack-knifes’ the body, by pivoting at the hip and placing strain on the abdominals – such as straight leg lifts or holds from lying on your back and similar Pilates moves.

WHAT EXERCISES WILL HELP CLOSE A DIASTASIS?:

In some cases, medical intervention/surgery is necessary to correct this condition, but for many, there is a simple method which has proven to be very effective.

First, you need to FIND and connect with your deep core muscles. Here’s how: Lie flat on your back, knees bent, feet about shoulder width apart. Without raising or tensing your chest or shoulders, GENTLY draw your belly button back towards your spine as you slowly exhale. That’s the right muscle! You’re not ‘sucking in’ or making any forceful or exaggerated movement. Your pelvis shouldn’t tuck under as you do this – in fact nothing should be happening in your shoulders, chest or pelvis! It is just a subtle drawing in at the lower abs.

You are not… sucking in your stomach, holding your breath, moving your ribs or your shoulders. You’re not tucking your butt / tailbone under you or thrusting your hips. These movements indicate instead that the Transverse is not fully engaged. You need to find this muscle first and re-connect with it, if it is going to play its vital role in your core and pelvic floor system.

You need to correct your ALIGNMENT – the cause of that excessive pressure and loading.

Then you have to learn to ENGAGE  your transverse abdominis and pelvic floor muscles effectively and correctly, not only when  you exercise, but also during every-day movements like lifting, sneezing or twisting. This is a natural, reactive movement which you won’t always have to do consciously! But to re-connect, to realign, and to restore, you have to isolate at first.

Then you need to STRENGTHEN your transverse abdominis muscle in a way that will draw your rectus abdominis muscle (the six pack, outermost one, the one that has separated) back in together, pulling your belly back in… flatter and stronger.

It’ll take time…MONTHS…but it’ll be worth the extra effort.

10 EveryBODY is different. No two individuals cut or are shaped the same. Everyone’s muscle structure looks different, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Your body is just right for you. Your abs will be aesthetically unique to you!

So, there you have it! If abs are your ultimate goal, you’ve got to stop focusing on them solely…Stop with the endless crunching, twisting, planking, and leg lifting…It’s time to take a multifaceted approach, and focus on fat loss. THAT is what’s going to get you to where you wanna be!

BONUS;

Here is a KILLER fat blasting HIIT workout for you to try!

  • 50 Jumping Jacks
  • 10 Burpees
  • 50 Jumping Jacks
  • 50 Mountain Climbers
  • 50 Butt Kicks
  • 30 Pushups
  • 10 Burpees

Move from exercise to exercise with NO rest in between. Once you’ve completed ALL the given reps for each exercise, you’ve done ONE round. Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat. Do 3-5 rounds!

Guys, this type of workout, performed CONSISTENTLY, will help you burn the fat and reveal those abs. You just gotta stick with it.

Abs Won’t Make You Happy:

I wanna let you in on a little secret…Abs won’t make you happy…A bigger butt or boobs won’t make you happy…Increasing muscle definition won’t make you happy…Decreasing your total body fat % won’t make you happy… Decreasing the number on the scale won’t make you happy…Cosmetic surgery to obtain any of the above won’t make you happy…

Physically changing your body won’t make you happy if you’re doing so because you hate that body…I know, because I had to learn that for myself.

Like so many, I used to think that physical “perfection” was the secret to happiness. I equated happiness with weighing a certain weight, wearing a certain size, looking a certain way, and I let those things define who I was. I used to think that if I could make my body project the “perfect” physical image, I would be happy…So, I pushed my body, far beyond limits that should have ever been pushed, and guess what I discovered along the way?

The “perfect” physical image does NOT exist!

True happiness has NOTHING to do with appearance…True happiness comes from within you!…It comes from being able to love and accept yourself where you are, right now, this very minute.

No matter what you do, how much weight you lose, how much muscle you gain, or how much you physically transform and change your body’s composition, if yo don’t already love and appreciate yourself, you still won’t be happy, because you’ll still see nothing but flaws when you look at yourself.

Now, I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t set goals towards bettering yourself, but I am telling you that you should do so because you love and value your body, not because you feel dissatisfied or inadequate. Stop mentally beating yourself down!…Your happiness depends on it!

Today, I am so much more than my physical appearance. My abs don’t define me. My body fat % and weight don’t define me. My jean size doesn’t define me. My flaws, imperfections, and impairments DO NOT define me, and those things don’t define you either.

Rise up!…Take control!…LOVE WHO YOU ARE…

Because, YOU are so much more!

Making Health A Lifestyle Not A Hobby:

I read an interesting statistic the other day. 70% of people who start a health/fitness plan quit.

Why is that?

Because, it’s hard!

It’s hard to make a change. It’s hard to create new, healthy habits. It’s hard to change your body’s composition, whether through fat loss or muscle gain. It’s hard to work your ass off everyday and not physically see the changes you want to see…It’s HARD!

BUT…

Quitting WILL NOT get you there any faster, it WILL NOT solve the problem, and it IS NOT the answer!

Humans are very impatient creatures. When they want something, (to lose weight or build muscle) they want it NOW! Oftentimes, people start these fitness plans/programs/journeys with the notion that the work (eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, etc) will just be second nature and the results will come almost instantaneously, only to realize very quickly that 1) the work is hard and 2) results take time. Then, realizing how far they actually have to go, they quit…usually before they even really get started.

Sound familiar?

Believe me, we’ve ALL been there in one respect or another. We’re all human, after all.

If you find yourself struggling or feeling discouraged, remember this #FunFact: It takes approximately 21 days to form a habit…That’s 21 days of consistently making better food choices, drinking more water, working out, and just caring for and loving yourself…TWENTY. ONE. DAYS.

Additionally, it takes approximately 90 days of consistently repeating those healthy habits to build a lifestyle. And, a long-term, consistently healthy lifestyle is what will lead to the lasting, maintainable results that you desire.

So, before you decide to throw in the towel and give up on yourself, stop and think about why you started. Think about your goals, and ask yourself, “Is quitting really worth it?”

Allow me to go ahead and answer that for you.

No!…Quitting is NEVER worth it…Not. Ever.

So, stay the course, keep doing what you’re doing. and, remember, the smallest daily changes lead to the most staggering results.

The first 21 days is just the tip of the iceberg. The habits you form during that time are what’s going to shape the rest of your life.

Be that 30%!

DON’T QUIT!

Going Guilt Free For 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!

As we turn the page on 2018, and prepare to begin a new chapter in 2019, I want to present you with a little challenge…This year, TODAY, the first day of your new 365 page chapter, titled 2019, the first thing I want you to do is ditch the guilt…ESPECIALLY when it comes to food!

I promise, NOTHING you’ll ever eat will be as unhealthy for you as the negative self talk that follows when you feel guilty and beat yourself up…We’ve ALL done it in the past, and I’m telling you, It’s. Not. Worth. It.

Leave the guilt and negativity in 2018!

This year, start nourishing, but don’t punish. And, if you do make a choice that isn’t as nourishing, or you overindulge (And, you will!), enjoy it, accept it, and move on!

Make it a point, from this moment, to go forward loving your body and caring for it, inside and out. Food isn’t the enemy, your mindset is, or can be, if you allow it…

It’s a new year to love who you are…Do that!…You are amazing, strong, and beautiful.

Let’s make 2019 the best year yet!