Before and After

How awesome is this meme my sister created for me?

That first pic was taken of me some time in September of 2011, #2 was February 2012 and #3 was around April 2012 before I got injured and had to cancel the competition I had signed up for in May. I was hovering between 144 – 146 lbs in the first picture and the day before the competition I weight 133lbs (and had weighed between 133-134 lbs for about 2 weeks at that point) so there wasn’t much scale weight lost, but there was obviously a huge physical difference!

Real health vs. the appearance of health

One of the awesome benefits to this process has been meeting so many new and great people. As I’ve gotten closer to the date of the competition 2 things have happened. 1) my workouts have gotten more frequent (therefore I’m in the gym more) and 2) I look a little crazy intense and obviously have a lot of muscle going for me. So I think those 2 things have contributed to people coming and talking to me more. A lot of the time it is trainers… which is awesome because they will frequently give me little tips or give their take of nutrition and exercise, but other times it’s just other people working out. Yesterday I chatted on and off for about 30 minutes with a man named Adam who is an actor and had a great build without trying to show off. It was refreshing. He was keeping the movements slow and deliberate and wasn’t grunting or making a big deal of things. After a couple minutes he came over and told me I was inspiring, which always makes me feel great, because that’s basically the point of this blog. We talked about lifestyle choices and making sacrifices, but a big topic was that what I look like right now, and what other people in shows or in magazines looks like on those days is not reality.

So I want to make this very clear. My body fat is TOO LOW to be healthy. This is ok to have happen for a short period of time, but can cause hormone imbalances, metabolic problems and, here’s the kicker, problems with reproductive activities and possible infertility (which is reversible when you gain weight back). Obviously this isn’t the picture of “health”. People on magazine covers and in fitness competitions are at one of the unhealthiest points they will ever be at in their lives. The list of unhealthy things going on is extensive, but here are some that stick out in my head:

  • Body fat percentage is too low leading to hormonal and metabolic issues
  • Fruit and even many vegetables have been cut from the diet in order to cut carbs and these provide necessary nutrients
  • Healthy fats have likely been reduced very low which are needed for healthy brain function and digestion
  • Salt has been manipulated to shed water weight which as I’ve discussed before can cause a host of problems including muscle spasms
  • Water has been limited for 1 – 2 days dehydrating the body which we all know is terrible for EVERYTHING in your body as every function requires water.
  • Possible use of diuretics, further dehydrating the body
  • Possible “junk loading” where bodybuilders will eat bad foods like French fries and chocolate to pump their muscles up before the show (without drinking water so they won’t bloat)
  • Increase protein intake without the buffering effects of fats that can cause the body to become acidic. An acidic body is a breeding ground for bacteria and cancers. Not good!

Then after they have done this they relax their diet, sometimes too much and gain weight and water back into the system. It takes about 2 days for them to go from looking shredded to looking “normal” or even bloated. Definitely not what you saw up on stage. Yet this is what people are looking at in magazines. This is the inspiration for a fit and healthy lifestyle, these people who know what real health is and ignore it temporarily to achieve the “look” of health while simultaneously being very unhealthy! It makes no sense!

Things I’m missing right now!

And here I am perpetuating it, so that is what this post is about. I want you all to know that while the way I look right now is awesome, I feel like crap, my hormones are all out of whack, I’m probably suffering from adrenal fatigue, I am supper mercurial (moods switch on a dime – sorry Andre, I know I’ve been hard to handle!) and my workouts and meals are no longer things I look forward to. I am looking forward to rocking it up on stage and hopefully doing well, but I’m also looking forward to going back to eating and working out for real, honest to goodness, health instead of to LOOK good.

So do yourselves a favour and realize that even these “fit” people in magazines are doctored and are not looking that way 90% of the time. So when you look at yourself in the mirror, they are not the comparison ok?!

I will also (if I am feeling brave) post some pictures of myself 2 days and 1 week after the competition to give you an idea of what happens when you limit yourself so much and then retain water like crazy. Sorry in advance if I get too embarrassed to actually post those. But that is the plan.

To your good health and me getting back to real healthy living!

This whole good carb bad carb thing…

Yesterday was great. I bought my competition shoes (below), did a leisurely back workout with my friend (I don’t think she considered it leisurely) and went to my parent’s for dinner where I had the BEST sweet potato ever. It was so sweet that it actually carmelized a bit. It was supposed to be a low carb day, but for a cheat, sweet potato is a pretty reasonable one… I also ate significantly more chicken (and skin) than I normally would because my mom’s cooking is awesome and things just somehow taste better when she makes them.

Some practice will be needed walk confidently in these.

While I’m on the topic of carbs I would like to point out something that has always bothered me; this whole labeling carbs “good” vs. “bad” is just wrong!

Yes there are higher nutrient carb sources which I would consider BETTER for you, but that is not the division I typically see.

More often is goes “complex carbs = good and simple carbs = bad”, but it just doesn’t work like that. That puts raisins and pixy stix in the same category of bad and sweet potatoes in the same category as cereal as good. I do not accept that!

Simple carbs have their place in a healthy diet, especially one that has high intensity exercises. Complex carbs are just slow releasing carbs, they provide energy to your system slower over a longer period of time which is great in day-to-day life. They also have a slower insulin response and will keep you full longer. Simple carbs have a high insulin response, you probably all think this is bad, but there is a place where you want this as insulin is an enzyme that transports carbs to be used by the muscle. Simple carbs are great before high intensity work where your muscles will need the fuel; they are also great after a tough weight session when you are trying to build muscle because the sugar will help to muscle use the protein you should all be having post workout. Artificial and chemically processed foods, sugary foods, candy and white flour might meet the definition of complex or simple carb but they have little to no nutritional value like vitamins and minerals. Stick which whole natural foods to meet your simple and complex carb needs.

OK rant over.

Yesterday I had my friend take some pictures of my back while we were working out and was quite pleased with the level of definition.

A little blurry but you get the idea

I love working back, it just makes me feel so strong! What are most people’s favourite muscle groups to work? I feel like for women it’s usually abs, and men seem to love chest and biceps. I’m a little weird I guess.

It was supposed to be a low carb day, but as I mentioned above, I was at my parents’ for dinner and my Mom made awesome sweet potatoes so I had a nibble of one and quickly decided that it could be a moderate carb day instead. Sometimes that just needs to happen. I had deliberately eaten a little less throughout the day knowing that I cannot resist bigger servings at my parents’ house so I was still right at my target calorie level and in a good range for protein and fats and less than 100 grams of carbs.

Today marks my first day of 2-a-day workouts. This morning I did a 25 minute fasted interval run and some pretty intense ab work. This afternoon I will do steady state cardio and a shoulder workout. I will try to do 2 cardio sessions every other day and 1 on the day in between (with one full rest day each week) in an attempt to push my body to shed a bit more weight as I’m starting to freak out that the show is so close! But I’m so excited at the same time. I don’t like cardio, but it definitely has a time and a place in competition training.

I feel like this post has been a little all over the place, which is probably reflective of my state of mind… crazy diets and exercise make my brain do funny things, sorry!

Train hard!

Mind games and the scale

I love this quote and yet sometimes I feel like I’m tethered to the scale, especially right now leading up to the fitness competition. I have an incredibly difficult time losing weight and my day starts off with a gamble on whether the scale will move up or down. Down and I feel great! I feel like I succeeded the prior day and that I can keep going… Up and I start wondering what the hell I did wrong the day before that it’s no going the right direction and will probably have a not so great mood for the next hour. In reality the day to day fluctuations don’t really matter, but even looking at the weekly fluctuations, hitting a plateau can really take the wind out of your sails when you are working yourself so hard. To deal with this i try to do the following:

  • Take progress pictures like the ones I posted here and compare those to the befores… did I change or not? I probably did so ignore the scale.
  • Measure you chest, hips, waist and thighs and see the changes
  • Get your body fat measured; I have a body fat scale but it’s not very accurate, I usually ask the gym if I can use theirs which will give me an idea if my body fat is decreasing. If that number isn’t moving that is a bigger problem than the scale number.
  • Look at how my clothes fit, as long as they are getting looser (except for the thighs which are always tight on me) then we are moving in the right direction
  • Look in the mirror… notice anything different?
  • Think about what you ate yesterday if the scale went up… did I have a lot of salt at dinner? was yesterday a carb up? maybe I’m retaining water.

These can really help you deal with the psychology of scale weight. But the biggest thing I can recommend is DON’T USE A SCALE! I’m serious! Hide it somewhere and only use it if you think you need to. I don’t normally weight myself, but this competition requires a bit closer tracking than just the mirror. I don’t really care what I weigh, but if I’m pushing myself to the limit and not losing weight that can be really upsetting. So for everyone else out there that gets upset at the scale… chuck it out the window… I bet you’ll feel way better 🙂

Now, that is not to say that I haven’t been losing weight. Carb cycling has really pushed through this last plateau and I am down 2.5 pounds in about 1.5 weeks, which is pretty good and I’ve been loving it. Last night I made the most awesome low carb dinner ever! It was a bit salty so the scale went up about half a pound this morning, but per the above, I’m dealing with it. This was the:

Low Carb Burger from Heaven

Low carb cheeseburger with a side salad… happy low carb day!

 Ingredients:

  • 1 Portobello mushroom cap
  • 1 5 oz. extra lean burger patty  (I bought some frozen “Popeye” burgers which are made from extra lean grass-fed beef, mixed with onions, spices, spinach and cottage cheese)
  • 1/2 tbsp oil
  • Toppings of your choice – mine were:
    • 2 tbsp homemade guacamole (avocado, tomatoes, onions, chile pepper, lime juice, cilantro)
    • 1 handful spinach
    • 1 oz smoked cheddar cheese
    • 1 tsp cheddar ale mustard

Directions: (Really these don’t need directions other than maybe the “bun”)

The “bun” and toppings

    1. Slice mushroom cap horizontally so you have 2 circular pieces that can be used as the bun
    2. If you have a barbecue, grill it on the barbecue and I’m sure it will be delicious, otherwise heat a pan to high heat and pan fry the mushroom cap
    3. Cook the burger in your desired fashion, I did mine in a pan and added the cheese so it got nice and melty
    4. Construct your burger using the mushroom as the bun like this.

Nutritional Info (without toppings): Cals – 325     Carbs – 5 g     Fats – 16 g     Protein – 40 g Nutritional Info (with toppings): Cals – 490     Carbs – 9 g     Fats – 29 g     Protein – 47 g

What is fitness?

For my first actual topic related post I figured I should probably tell you what I’m talking about when I say fitness. There are so many different definitions out there, but when I talk about fitness I’m talking about the whole package. A better term might be overall health, but this seems to be more related to the lack of illness or ailments than of achieving anything. Fitness for me consists of the following things:

  • Being physically active and able to do the things I want to do with ease.
  • Having good nutrition that supplies me with the energy and nutrients to get through the day.
  • Maintaining a good body composition (body fat % is a good indicator of this, NOT the scale).
  • Getting enough sleep and rest to feel energized.
  • Balancing these things with the other important aspects of my life.

Another part of this that is a bit tangential to it all is the fitness competition that I am doing in October. The requirements of preparing for a fitness competition do not really fit this definition of fitness and balance. In order to compete you have to focus in completely on your goal and diet down to a weight that is not maintainable. So when I talk about what I am doing leading up to this competition, keep in mind that this is not my everyday life, though I am trying to make it as sustainable as possible.

Everyone has a different idea in their head about what fitness is. A lot of it has to do with what we want to look like, which seems to take priority and can often lead us down roads that are not healthy in order to look a certain way. My ideal body probably has a lot more muscle than what the average girl would want, so I am working on getting that body. I try not to let other people’s ideas of health and beauty impact me too much and neither should you! If you want to get fit and be healthy, then go after it.

You ARE worth it, so go after what you want.