How Did I Get Myself Here?

Let’s start off by saying, that my first experience in a gym, was not a positive one. When my eight year old Levi, was one or two, and I was in the throws of crash dieting, I decided that it would be a good idea to actually join a gym. I didn’t join the gym because I was really concerned about my health or level of fitness. I, like a lot of people, only joined the gym because I was trying to lose weight as rapidly as possible, and thought that’s just what you were supposed to do to speed things up.

I knew how to use the cardio equipment, but I had no idea how to use any of the other machines. img_2445So I decided to use the free personal training session they were offering when I signed up for my new membership. To say it wasn’t a pleasant experience would be an understatement. I went in, hoping to learn how to use some equipment and get some sort of plan for a workout routine, and ended up puking my guts out in the kidcare bathroom.

When I walked in that day, we went over all of the usual assessments. Height, weight, measurements, and medical history were all recorded, and then it was time to get down to business. We began the workout, and I quickly realized she had no intentions of putting me on any machines. img_7399We spent the entire session, doing body weight exercises. All I got for my free session was a bunch of wall sits, lunges, and body weight squats. I was dying, but I was also irritated. I now know, that she was totally doing what she was supposed to be doing with a brand new, sedentary client. But this wasn’t what I had in mind, and I felt like this was all stuff I could have done at my house. What was the point of even going to the gym if this was all we were going to do? I could do this for free at my house!

So we wrapped up the session. She told me to do about 15 minutes on the elliptical, and then the good Lord above sent me an angel, in the form of a childcare worker. This angel appeared before me, in a beam of flourescent light, and informed me that Levi was crying, or pooped his pants, or something. I don’t know that I even heard what was wrong, I just know that it meant my torture was over, and I was glad to jump right off of that elliptical and go get my baby. Help is on the way, Deary!

The second I got off the treadmill, the wave of nausea hit me. I hurried into the childcare area, grabbed Levi, calmly asked if they had a bathroom, and let it rip. I puked from body weight exercises and five whole minutes on the elliptical. I think it’s safe to say that I was not in the best shape. It’s also safe to say that I had a bad taste in my mouth (figuratively and literally) about the gym and exercise for a long time after that. How could anybody actually enjoy putting themselves through that on the regular? I didn’t have high hopes that I would ever reach my weight loss goals if it meant I was going to be slogging it out like that 4-5 times a week.

Needless to say, things have changed a lot since that day. I still wouldn’t consider myself extremely in shape as far as endurance is concerned, but I am definitely leaps and bounds ahead of where I was at 23 years old, barfing in the kidcare bathroom. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know this change didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen by doing any crazy strict diets or “sweat til you puke” workouts. I lost all 114 pounds, by choosing to change my eating and lifestyle habits a little at a time. I started chipping away at all of my bad habits, like drinking a gallon of sweet tea a week. I just kept making adjustments here and there until I found the meals and workout routines, that were sustainable for me long-term.img_2459 I found a maintainable system of doing things that gave me consistent results, but didn’t make me feel like ripping my hair out.

Now that I’m at a healthy weight, I’ve been realizing how important it is to have goals other than just weight loss. I decided that I wanted to still continue the way that I’ve been eating, but I want to focus on being more well-rounded in my fitness as well. Meaning, keeping my workouts mainly focused on strength training, but also incorporating more flexibility training and the dreaded cardio. I want to really start dialing in my fitness, the way I have my food.

So in March of this year, I got a wild hair. I decided that if I was going to try to educate myself on fitness, that I might as well do it in a strategic way, that gave me something to show for it at the end. I began studying in March, in between being mom, work, and the gym. Tuesday, I had that familiar nauseuos feeling again and I took and passed my National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer Certification. Wow…that was a mouthful, but yo girl is a trainer!img_2483

Life is so funny! If anyone had told me, when I walked out of the gym 6 years ago, after that trainer absolutely crushed me with wall sits, that one day would be a personal trainer, I would’ve peed my stretchy pants laughing. If you had told me 2 years ago, when I was 9 months pregnant and 247 pounds, that I would even want to learn how to be a trainer, I would’ve thought you were insane.

The older I’m getting, the more I’m realizing that I have way more control over how my life looks than I once thought. This doesn’t just go for weight loss or fitness. If there’s something making you unhappy, life is too short, and you’re the only one that can change it. I’m not saying, “Sell everything you own and move to Bali!” Unless that’s really what you want to do! Drastic change can be scary. But I am saying, that taking small steps to move you closer to the person you want to be, are totally possible and within your power.

Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in the end goal, that we forget to focus on the small little goals along the way. Those small achievable goals, are the little breadcrumbs that move you closer and closer, until you finally look up and realize how far you’ve come. Over the last couple of years, that kind of how it’s felt for me. I felt like I’ve just had my head down, following the breadcrumbs. I was focused on each workout, each week of meal prep, over and overIMG_8004. Only since starting my Instagram and this blog, have I started to look around me and realize how far I’ve come, and how many other people are wanting to know how to get from there to here. When I looked up, things looked so much different, and I really wasn’t 100% sure how I got here.

So now I feel like my job is to try to replace the breadcrumbs. To think back and try to remember how I got here, so that hopefully I can help someone else find their way too. It may take time, but it doesn’t have to be miserable, and it’s totally doable. When you’re feeling like it’s taking too long, or life starts to get you off course, just remember to keep focusing and following the little breadcrumbs.

I’ve Been Personally Victimized By The BodPod

Last week, in my blog post, Confessions of a Crash Dieter, I briefly discussed a tragic story, of the time I subjected my body to the scrutiny of the BodPod. A BodPod, is a fancy little egg-shaped chamber, that uses air-displacement to accurately measure body fat percentage.

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The dreaded BodPod

The first time I entered the BodPod, I was confident. I was feeling brave. I was feeling like a weight loss master. I had been taking Phentermine for 6 months, eating 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day, and running three to four days a week. I thought I was doing all of the right things to lose weight. So I stepped into the BodPod, knowing that I wasn’t at my ultimate goal, but feeling pretty good about the progress I had made on the scale. Picture it, as I stepped out of the egg chamber, chest out, shoulders back. I sauntered over to the buff personal trainer and BodPod operator. Now imagine my embarrassment and horror, when he placed the results before me and read the verdict. 49% Body fat. I was a soft boiled egg. Half of my 150 pound, size 8 body, was made up of fat.

I knew I was still jiggly in places. I knew I still had work to do, to “tone”, but I was not expecting to be told that I was still considered to be in the “Risky” category for my body fat percentage. Even though I was at a normal weight for my height, because of the amount of excess body fat I had, I was still at a high risk for conditions related to obesity such as Type II Diabetes and heart disease.

Needless to say, I was ticked. How much more weight could they possibly expect me to lose? I held it together, the whole time thinking, “Maybe I did this at the wrong time of day? Maybe I ate a lot of sodium yesterday! Maybe I wore the wrong clothes?” I tried and tried to justify why the results had to be wrong. Totally dumbfounded, I tried to listen to him go over the results. He was talking, but all I heard was the Charlie Brown, wha wha. When I came to, he was totally calling me out. He said, “It looks like you’re eating way too little and doing too much cardio.” How could he know that from numbers on a paper?

It’s More Than The Scale

He knew exactly what I had been doing. Like so many others, I had based all of my weight loss

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150 pounds, 49% Body Fat

success on the number on the scale and the amount of pounds lost. I hadn’t thought one iota about body composition or fat loss. My only concern was seeing my weight drop.

The scale is a tricky thing, especially for women. While it is an important tool for collecting data points, it isn’t the end all be all when it comes to successful weight loss. So many things can cause our weight to fluctuate day-to-day. When I started losing weight, I weighed myself everyday. While this may seem a bit neurotic, it really helped me to learn my body. For me personally, I now know, that my weight will fluctuate if I have a busy day at work. It will fluctuate if I do a really heavy leg day and have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). I know that I’ll gain a pound or 2 when I ovulate, it will go back down for a week, and then it will go back up 2-3 pounds before I start my period and then I will have a big weight loss after my period.  As women, so many things can have an effect on our weight. At the risk of sounding like the lady from Fried Green Tomatoes with the hand mirrors…it’s so important to learn your body. The scale is an important tool, but it’s also important to have other ways to measure progress.

The Toning Myth

When we start losing weight, we usually have a picture in mind of what our dream body would be. We usually don’t want a smaller body that’s still flabby. Most of the time we picture our ultimate goal as a “toned” body. Dropping more and more weight, isn’t what is going to make us look toned. We just need to lose enough fat to reveal the muscle underneath. However, if we’re trying to lose too much too quick, we will also be losing our muscle. That’s why sometimes it can seem like you’re chasing your tail when it comes to toning. When you’re eating too little and burning through your muscle, it’s going to be really hard to see progress.

There’s a saying that sometimes floats around that says, “muscle weighs less that fat.”img_1362 That’s not actually true. A pound is a pound no matter if it’s a pound of fat, muscle, or a bag of peanuts. What they’re actually meaning, is that a pound of muscle is much smaller and compact than a pound of fat. This is why a person who weighs 150 pounds, but is 49% body fat, can look much more overweight than a person that weighs 150, but has a body fat percentage of 25%. What their weight is made up of is completely different, and looks completely different…because a pound of muscle is smaller than a pound of fat.

The Metabolic Powerhouse

Muscle is so important when it comes to weight loss, not only because of the look it gives our body, but also because it actually helps us burn more body fat. In a previous blog post I explained the term Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories our body burns, just to support us being alive. This number is important, because it play a part in telling us how many calories we should be eating in a day. This number is not fixed! It changes according to your body composition! Muscle requires more calories to support itself than fat does, and has been referred to as the “metabolic engine” of the body. So the lower your percentage of body fat, and the higher your muscle mass…the higher your BMR. Translation: the higher the amount of lean muscle you have, and the lower the body fat percentage you have, the more food you can eat while maintaining or losing weight!

Let’s Try This Again

This time when I lost weight, I started my weight loss journey, with body composition in mind. I knew I would lose weight on the scale as a by-product, but I wanted to retain as much muscle as possible during the process. I knew this time around, that the more muscle I had, the more calories my body would burn naturally. I wanted to help my body work for me.img_1286 I learned that although I can burn calories while doing cardio, resistance training is so important for weight loss because I can continue burning calories long after my workout, as my body repairs my muscle. I learned that not eating enough food, and doing excessive amounts of cardio doesn’t do much to change my actual shape or body composition, because while I am burning some body fat, I’m also burning through my muscle. Imagine you have a giant balloon filled half way with water, and the other half with baseballs. If you slowly begin removing the same ratio of water and baseballs, your balloon is going to feel the same, it will just get smaller. However, if you work to only remove the water, leaving as many baseballs as you can…eventually you’re going to have one deadly weapon of a baseball balloon on your hands! Does that make any sense? It did in my head, okay!

Body builders know this concept, and have it down to a science. It’s nearly impossible to gain muscle mass, while eating in a caloric deficit. When a body builder is trying to put on more muscle, or “bulking”, they are actually eating at a caloric number above their maintenance calories. When they want to drop body fat again, to show off their new muscle, they drop their calories back to a caloric deficit, or “cutting”. They lower their calories just low enough to lose body fat, without dropping it so low that they’re going to lose all of that muscle they worked so hard for during their bulk. When in a caloric deficit, your main goal isn’t to necessarily build muscle, but to maintain what muscle you already have, so that your body is burning the maximum amount of calories it can while at rest.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

So this week,  I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is, and once again face the dreaded BodPod. I have been working for so long to change my body composition, and wanted to make sure I actually was. I wanted to prove to myself, that losing weight this way had worked…that it wasn’t just a theory. So this past Thursday, May 10, 2018, I stood in nothing but a sports bra and compression shorts, in front of a complete stranger and braved the Pod.

I checked my body fat percentage on my scale at home before I went, just to compare the results.

Results from my home scale, the morning of my BodPod test

According to my scale at home, I was 32.4% body fat.

I will admit I was a little worried. The last time I subjected myself to the BodPod, I had been confident, and it was a disaster. What if all of this weight loss advice I had been touting was total crap and I still had no clue what I was doing?

First of all, my body fat scale at home was WAY off, but in the best way possible. I left that place with the biggest smile on my face. 22.8% body fat! I couldn’t believe it! I’m finally a hard-boiled egg! The girl went over the results with me, and told me I was in the “Lean” category. Mind you I was only 0.2% away from “moderately lean”, but she said lean and I’m totally running with it!

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BodPod results from May 10, 2018

Never in my life would I have ever referred to myself as lean, and honestly it’s still a bit surreal to me how far I’ve come. According to the print out, being in a lean category means: “Lower body fat levels than many people. This range is excellent for health and longevity.” How freaking cool is that?

I hope that by sharing my results, you can see that it’s possible to completely transform your body with food and exercise. For years I struggled with bouncing back and forth with my weight. I could lose 20- 60 pounds and still not be completely happy with my results. It took me a long time to figure out, that the body I desired, required not just weight loss, it required muscle. I had to shift my focus to fat loss and muscle retention, not just on pounds lost on the scale. Things like progress pictures, measurements, how your clothes fit, and body fat percentage, are so much more telling than just your weight on the scale. Just 18 months ago, I was obese…I would’ve been considered in the “risky” category. If my body fat percentage was 49% at 150 pounds, I shudder to think what it was at my highest weight. With the right food and exercise strategy, I’ve been able to completely change my body, and much to my relief, I now have the paper to prove it!

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All smiles after braving the BodPod

YouTube is My Guru

I have officially categorized myself as a “dabbler”. I’m not sure why, but every few months or so, I get the itch. I have a thought, about how I would like to learn how to do something new, and quickly, I escalate from questioning how, to full-blown obsession. I’m all in, or I don’t care about it at all. I guess this can be a strength or a weakness.

The Parade of Hobbies

One time it was cake decorating. I loved watching baking shows on TV, and Lord knows I love cake! It sounded like the thing for me! I knew nothing about decorating cakes, but I got on YouTube, and looked it up! Viola! I’m decorating cakes, cake pops, cupcakes, you name it. I even took a cake decorating class at Michael’s with my mom, and may have accidentally squirted icing in a lady’s hair. It’s kind of hazy. Until my mom reminds me of it once a year or so, because she thought it was hilarious.

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Next, it was knitting. I thought, if I can learn this cake decorating stuff on YouTube, I bet there are videos about knitting too. It seemed like it would be relaxing. Before long, I was knitting up a storm, and channeling my inner Grandma.

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Naturally, the next step after knitting, was quilting. Why you ask? Your guess is as good as mine!

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All I know is, I have a kitchen full of cake decorating supplies, a tote bag full of yarn and needles, and a sewing machine collecting dust in my laundry room cabinet. I get the urge to learn something new, and watch out YouTube, momma needs a new hobby!

Using My Obsessive Personality For Good

You Get the point. I am a firm believer, that if there’s something that you’re interested in learning how to do, you can learn it on YouTube. From cake decorating, to breastfeeding, to flexible dieting. Trust me, it’s on the Tube.

I had heard of flexible dieting before, years ago, and even had a friend make me a meal plan to try it out. But soon after starting to date my husband, I basically just said screw it and went wild with fast food, when and wherever I felt like it. That’s what you do when you’re falling in love I guess. Haha.

When we started dating, I was hovering around 160 pounds. A year later, after we had were married and decided to have a baby, I had ballooned up to 225, and when my youngest little angel was born, I was tipping the scales at 247 big ones.

So after I delivered Tyson, and life settled down a bit, I decided it was time to get my postpartum booty in gear. I started making small changes here and there. Dropping weight slowly, while still trying to breastfeed.

I dabbled (because I’m a dabbler), in different eating styles, and even tried to do the vegan thing for a couple of months after watching too many food documentaries on Netflix. Which is hilarious to me now, knowing how much meat and cheese I eat on a daily basis.

Finally, I decided to do the thing that may not be the easiest, but what I knew would work the best for me long term, if I could figure out how to do it for myself. I knew this was a methodical way of eating that people in the fitness industry had been using for decades. I had just been putting off learning it because it seemed so complicated. So many numbers and calculations.

Who did I turn to? Ol’ Faithful, the Tube. I binge watched so much YouTube, scouring the inter webs for flexible dieting info.

Not Just a Hobby

Here I am, 107 pounds lighter, the lightest I’ve ever been in my adult life. I’ve learned how to eat, how to get my mindset right around weight loss, and I’ve found a gym routine that I love and crave doing. I finally found a “hobby” that I love and have stuck with for way longer than any other, which in itself is still mind-blowing to me. You don’t have to buy anything to learn. I learned by investing my time. While the baby was taking a nap, after the kids went to sleep at night, I was a sponge, soaking up everything I could find about flexible dieting, and later about strength training.img_7048

Maybe most importantly, I didn’t learn everything about flexible dieting before I started implementing it. It was a learning process. I took “messy action”, refining and tweaking my macros and my meals as I learned and figured out what worked best for me and my body. Invest in yourself, and your knowledge. It can seem overwhelming at first, but you’ll be doing so much for yourself in the long-term, than any pill or fad diet could do in the short-term.