Fitness

My First Photoshoot!

I’ve been wanting to have a professional photoshoot for a long time and this past weekend I finally did it! It was a total blast, but surprisingly tiring; I guess that’s why models always talk about how hard modeling is 🙂

In the weeks leading up to the shoot I did a mini-prep where I followed the same training plan as my last contest-prep, but gave myself a little more leeway with the diet. There were no drastic cuts in calories or low-carb anything and I enjoyed weekly treat meals throughout. The only big thing I did was a 1 day carb-load and a water depletion, just to get some good definition going. It definitely helped and in that one day I was able to get great definition and fullness back without the bloat. It never seems to amaze me how much water we hold onto and how much it actually can change the way we look. I didn’t want to come in looking stage ready or super shredded, in fact, I don’t think that my body could handle another cut like that this year. Instead I wanted to look like me; fit and strong in a natural way because that’s who I am.

The day started good, my lovely sister/makeup artist came over and did a stunning job on my face.

I loved the way the makeup turned out and I wish she could come over everyday to help me get ready!

I headed over to the studio with my mama, but unfortunately the photographer had given me the old address for the company and so we wound up starting a bit later than we’d planned.

I must admit that it was really fun and that it’s exactly what I thought it would be like; music playing, the photographer giving me directions on how to pose and this giant camera flash every time I struck a pose. It was fitness based so I did have to do some workout movements with weights and it is really tough curling a dumbbell when you’re completely dehydrated. It was totally worth it though and every time the photographer showed me one of the shots I was amazed. I almost couldn’t believe how good and sharp it looked; way better than any pic a cellphone could take.

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This was another super fun experience on my fitness journey and I’m so glad that I decided to do this and so grateful that I found such an awesome photographer. I highly recommend a professional shoot for all entrepreneurs and fitness athletes. Not only is it a cool thing to do, but it’s also something special to add to your repertoire. Whether it means having professional shots for your own company or for your fitness career, it’s definitely worth it. I had an awesome experience for a few hours, that I got to share with my mama. And afterward I got to indulge in these babies.

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Yup, we found gold! Vegan donuts. I had 4 on the car ride home! Not  a bad way to spend a Saturday.

 

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Fitness, Nutrition, Recipes, Wellness

Why fitness isn’t for free

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When I first earned my personal trainer certification I started doing a couple of plans for free. I did these for some friends and relatives with the hopes of gaining some extra experience while also helping others get healthy. My thinking was that I was going to be a great resource for people who were looking to get fit, without them having to spend a fortune on some fancy group coaching service with weekly meetings and a minimum buy-in.

Well…I was wrong.

The reality is that if there is no investment, there are no returns. Think of it like this: right now you could google fitness and nutrition plans you will get an endless number of free options. How many people have actually followed those free plans on their own, gotten great results and be able to maintain these results? Very few if any at all. When there is no investment, there is nothing to hold you accountable and accountability is what will keep you on track when you are ready to throw in the towel. Ultimately, when you make this investment you’ll want to get your money’s worth.

Prime example: Someone had asked for my help and I had happily put a plan together for them; they were looking to a significant amount of weight. Well, one day they called me up just to chat and casually mentioned that they were going to pick up a bag of chips. Naturally I started telling them that this wasn’t part of their program and that they would only be hurting themself. This person responded with “I DON’T GIVE A SHIT!” and then they hung up on my face.

Just because you decide that you want to get in shape doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to happen. You can read all of the fitness magazines or sign up for as many free challenges as you want , but until you actually take massive action and start getting to work, you will never be able to change. What you have to know about weight loss is that it’s work and that it is a lifelong commitment. This may seem intimidating, but what’s the alternative? Continue feeling crappy all the time and disliking the way that you look. Why waste your precious time standing in the dressing room picking apart your body, when you could instead feel great and love every part of yourself? Seriously. You need to invest in yourself. I didn’t become a nationally qualified bodybuilder on my own. I hired a great coach with contest experience who specialized in vegan nutrition. I could have easily gone to the gym and picked out any trainer who would put together some generic plan for me, but I knew that it would be a total waste of resources for me. The investment got me the support that I needed and it created the accountability to fully commit to my goal. I still had to put in a ton of work, but it was totally worth it.

It’s the same principal with groceries. So many of us talk about how expensive it is, but the reality is that quality food and nutrient dense food can be more of an investment that the junk food that has no business being in your grocery kart.

At the end of the day, you get what you give and if you want to finally get healthy and lose weight FOR GOOD then it’s time to invest in yourself and get to work. You don’t have to go to the most expensive gym in your area or buy the most expensive protein powder out there, but you have to invest in the right training and in the right nutrition. And by right I mean the best balance between challenging, enjoyable and great quality. If you love to dance then try a Zumba class, if you’re competitive then try powerlifting or bodybuilding, if you love having a sense of community then try out Crossfit. Nutrition-wise, well if you love chocolate everything then try my Raw Protein Brownie, or if you are all about sushi, well I’ve got a low-carb sushi recipe that will knock your socks off!

The moral of the story is this:

Commit. Invest. Progress.

It’s time. You can do this and I can help. To schedule your FREE 1 on 1 no obligation coaching call click here

P.S. Don’t forget to check my newly released EBooks! There’s an awesome recipe collection with delicious meal and snack options that are 100% vegan. And for those of you looking to go-it alone in terms of losing weight or getting fit, check out the nutritional guide and workout plan!

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

You’re on your own

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Taking the decision to start living a healthy and fit lifestyle is awesome! It is without question one of the best conscious choices that you can make in your lifetime. Chances are, when you decide to embark on your fitness journey, you’ll be super pumped, I know I was. It’s this exciting adventure that you get to do just for you and you alone, for your own personal reasons. It opens you up to an entirely new world and subculture in the fitness community. One very common drawback that many people will experience at one point or another is when their spouse, family or friends are not on board. I’ve heard so many people talk about how challenging it is or how this has caused conflict in their relationships, and even I experience this today with my husband from time to time. It doesn’t always have to be a huge fight though and there are some ways that you can spin this around to make things way easier for you while still staying strong.

Before we take it any further, take a second to acknowledge why you’ve decided to change your lifestyle. Maybe you’ve been sedentary and eating unhealthy for a long time and you’re finally ready to lose weight. Or maybe you’ve been working out for a while, but are pretty inconsistent and you don’t really pay attention to nutrition. Or Maybe you’re a gym rat who’s ready to take it up a notch and start training for your first competition. Regardless of your “why”, your reason is what will carry you through when the going gets tough. Use this decision as a means to hold you accountable and to keep your eye on the prize. Whether it be the number on the scale or setting a new PR or winning a shiny trophy, your reason behind this lifestyle upgrade needs to always be at the center of your mind. Get super clear on this because you will need it if ever someone gets upset with your choice.

At some point someone will probably say something negative about you spending time at the gym or staying away from junk food or ordering something lighter at a restaurant. Naturally most of us will get defensive and then an argument will ensue. Some people just get quiet, but then it can lead to massive resentment instead. Neither is good for a relationship. Here are a few tried and true tips form yours truly, that can help take the edge off without ending your relationship:

  1. Communication is key. It is so important to very clearly articulate why you are doing this and why it is important that you continue. Explaining that this is something that you are doing for yourself and your well-being can help shift the other person’s perspective a bit. Focus on the health aspect above all else when having this conversation and explain that the healthier you are, the better you feel both physically and emotionally. Instead of coming home after work and crashing on the couch, you’re coming home from the gym feeling energized and positive. Your mood is better, your sleep is better and you’re just way more pleasant to be around.
  2. Think of it from their point of view to get a better understanding of what they’re really saying. If you’re spending an hour at the gym each day instead of being at home, then they probably just miss you. If you’re ordering something healthy at a restaurant then it might be making them feel self-conscious about their own choices.
  3. Compromise when necessary. If your workout schedule is interfering with your obligations, then instead of scrapping it altogether when you spouse says that they need your help (fill in the blank) and resenting them for it, change up your timing. Switch to morning or midday workouts or break up your workout into three smaller separated workouts to fit in the time. It may be an adjustment for you in the beginning, but with time you’ll adapt without neglecting your responsibilities.
  4. Get extra help. If time is your problem then consider getting with to free up some space in your day. For example, if your weekly meal prep takes three hours out of your life that you’ll never get back, then consider using a healthy meal delivery service that fits your budget. If the time you spent cleaning your house each week could be better spent working out, then hire a weekly house keeping service. Yes, these are added expenses, but if they can make your life easier then go for it. Budget accordingly and make it happen.

One final point that I’d like to make is that some may have an issue with your financial investment in this. In this case, I say it’s your life, your body and your health. Do you want hit 60 and feel like garbage all time struggling to walk up a flight of stairs or get out of bed in the morning? Or would you rather have the stamina to crush your day, feel energized and spent time with the ones you love? I’d choose the latter. You are investing in your health and your life, it is the best investment that you can make.

Denise K

Fitness

Booty Building

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Amanda Latona-Kucklo, the Booty Queen herself, said it best: Butts are back. Gone are the days when women were vying to be skinny and small, instead we now strive for those coveted sexy curves coupled with some nice muscle definition. More and more ladies are making their way towards to weight rooms in their local gyms and understand that getting in shape is more inline with lifting heavy weights than doing hours of mindless cardio. Whether you’re a physique competitor or fitness enthusiast, booty building is a staple for any workout plan.

The most important thing to keep in mind when training your lower body in the mind-muscle connection. This is a huge component to progressing with fat loss and muscle gains. You might be thinking that muscle gains is synonymous with bulking, but trust me it’s not, not even a little bit. Bulking up is a whole other method of training and dieting that requires a massive calorie surplus, very specific supplements and nutrient timing. Muscle gains in this case means building all the right curves in all the right places which makes you look fabulous in pretty much any outfit you throw on. The idea behind the mind-muscle connection is that during your workouts you bring your attention to the body part that you are training. More specifically, you focus on the muscle that you are working throughout each rep and each set. A good example of this would be performing a squat, during the concentric or shortening phase o the lift (when you are moving upwards) to really focus on digging your heels into the ground to bring most of the resistance towards your glutes. Same thing during a deadlift; although many consider this to be more of a back exercise it actually really works the legs and the more you engage the legs by bringing your attention to them as you lift, the heavier the load you can work with and the greater muscle you can build. With a deadlift, right at the midpoint of the concentric phase you want to focus on really pulling in those glutes and giving a big squeeze.

This mind-muscle connection isn’t just for weightlifting, but for cardio as well. Think about the elliptical machine. Most people that I see at the gym have a tendency to come up onto the ball of the foot and kind of bounce up as they go through the motion. What they end up doing is taking all of the resistance out and using momentum to move the machine ultimately working a little bit on their calves and quads instead of on their glutes and hamstrings. Same goes for the stepper machine. I can’t tell you how many people I see each day who hold on to the side rails, lock their arms and again come up onto their toes while stepping. Locking the arms removes all the resistance out of the movement and, just like the elliptical, coming up onto the toes will work everything but the hamstrings and glutes. This is fine if your goal is to build up your calves, but for most of us, the glutes and hamstrings are what really need a lot of work. The proper form for both of these cardio workouts is to hold onto the machine (not too tight!) to balance yourself, sit back slightly so the weight is distributed to the back of the legs and push your heels down throughout the motion, no doubt that you’ll really feel the burn. So whether you’re weight training or getting in some intense cardio, if booty building is your goal, get your mind-muscle connection on track.

The next thing to consider on your quest to building great glutes is that the lower body contains some of the largest muscles in your body. What this means is that in order to build curves in this area, you need to lift really heavy. The larger the muscle the heavy the load it can handle. Using myself as an example, I can leg press over 200 pounds for 12 reps, but I can’t curl more than a 25 pound barbell with my biceps for anything over 15 reps. The bigger the muscle, the heavier you gotta lift. Unless you are an athlete or work with a coach, chances are you’re lifting heavy enough. My rule of thumb is that when I get to the last rep of each set I’m swearing to myself or at least saying “ouchie!” when I’m done. Whenever you finish a set, if you feel like you could keep going or if you haven’t broken a sweat, then you are not lifting heavy enough.

Now for the actual exercises. There are countless ways to build a great booty, whether it be from bodyweight training, machines or free weights, the possibilities are plenty. Like I mentioned though, weight training is essential here and cardio alone won’t cut it, even if you include plyometric training like jump squats, burpees or switch lunges, it’s not enough, you have to include some serious strength training in there. For free weights, squats are great and there are tons of variations from foot positions to grip to placement of the weights. Everything from the standard back squat to front squat, then there’s goblet, sumo, deep and narrow squats. Same for deadlifts; there’s stiff-leg, sumo, wide grip and narrow grip. For lunges try walking forward lunges, backward lunges, curtsy-style or Bulgarian with one leg elevated on a bench. And then there’s always to essential barbell hip thrust which will no doubt leave you crawling your way out of the gym with a great pump in your backside. Although a lot of the strength machines may look like some sort of torture contraption, they are actually super effective and pretty straight forward to use. Everything from the abductor machines, to the butt blaster or even using a pullup machine for a leg press down. Not to mention the endless possibilities with cables like glute kickbacks and side leg raises. When building muscle and curve, you’re trying to achieve hypertrophy which is where your existing muscle fibers and cells are triggered to initiate muscle protein synthesis and ultimately muscle growth. In terms of exercise structure, to achieve hypertrophy aim for 3-4 sets or 10-15 reps per exercise and dedicate 2 days of lower body weight training each week to see maximum results (cardio does not count as leg training FYI).

If you don’t have access to equipment or if you workout at home then body weight exercises can still be useful. The usual squats, lunges and hip thrusts are essential here but definitely up the reps to feel the burn and opt for supersets (doing two exercises in a row without rest). Also try out some exercises using very slow movements like squatting down for 4 seconds, pause for 2 and then rise for 4 seconds and squeeze at the top, then at the last rep, squat down a pulse for 30 additional reps. You will definitely be sweating something fierce. There is always a way to get in a great workout and let yourself get the body you’ve always wanted while getting super strong in the process, regardless of your circumstance.

Sound simple enough? Notice I said simple not easy! Progress does take time so like everything else, you won’t see results in one day, but over the span of several weeks coupled with sound nutrition, you’ll start to see some real changes in your physique. No more skinny and puny, just curvy and strong. So get out there, train hard and love your new look.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Contest Prep, Fitness, Nutrition

The Rebound

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Rebounding is just one of those things… after you reach a goal weight or successfully complete a contest prep, the rebound that follows seems to be the natural part of the process. Or is it? What I it were possible to lose weight and actually keep it off for good and maintain your body weight while maybe even improving your body’s composition? And, dare I say, what if you could be stage ready year round? OMG right? There are some things that can be done to make this happen and these mostly come down to one massive concept: mindset.

Mindset is a very tricky thing because it can be used for some really positive things, but it can also stop you right in your tracks without even being aware that you are part of the problem. Losing weight is the perfect example as you have a specific goal in mind, a magical number to reach on the scale or by dress size. that becomes your focus and seeps into all aspects of your life in that you are always mindful of the quality and quantity of food that you are choosing to consume each day and how it will affect your results. The problem usually kicks in after you’ve reached your goal when one of two things happens: either you went too low in calories and/or certain macros for too long, or there is no follow through or maintenance plan in place to help you, well, maintain your physique. Either way your mindset will take a hit once you surpassed your goal. Sometimes it can be by rewarding yourself or celebrating your achievement with food which can lead to a binge that lasts several days, and sometimes it can be the fact that you no longer have a super specific goal to keep you on track and you’re just lost.

One very popular concept floating around, but very rarely being practiced is moderation. So many of us want balance, we want to be able to enjoy foods, eat what we want when we want it. I’ve heard countless say “everything in moderation is key” or “the 80/20 rule is the way to go”, I’ve tried these things and they don’t work and not just for me but for pretty much everybody. Why? because moderation is REALLY hard, much harder than losing weight and cutting out certain foods altogether. The hard truth is that most of us can’t stop at just one or two bites, no matter how well intentioned we are we just don’t have the will power. I can absolutely attest to this. I know that when I taste something really decadent, I am all in and I will eat the entire box of cookies or pizza or mac n cheese (all vegan versions of course, animal based would make me sick!). As much as I wish I could be the type of person that has just a taste and moves on, I’m not and most people are exactly like me. As I mentioned, it can lead to a full on cheat day or binge that can massively impact not only how you look, but your health as well. When you diet down and lose body fat, your metabolism becomes very sensitive and so a sudden increase in calories especial from fat combined with simple carbohydrates will cause an increase in body fat and will ultimately impact your cardiac health too.

Another important factor in all of this is the fact that as humans we are physiologically hard wired to survive no matter what. When we lose weight or try to, our bodies signals to our brains that we may starve, so the next time you do indulge or everything in you is pushing you to eat, eat and eat. This is why it sometimes feels as if we lose control when eating or as if our bodies are trying to fight us. Our bodies aren’t actually fighting us, they are trying to protect us from starvation and ultimately death. That’s all it is, it’s not because we lack self-control or we are weak, it’s just cause we’re all made that way. Again, this is why moderation very seldom works.

This is why so many bodybuilders pack on weight in the week following a show. Everybody has a victory meal; it’s part of the contest process and part of the culture. Most athletes have been low carb and without a treat meal for so long that it’s all they can think about during peak week, so when the show is over they go nuts. I’ve seen people step off stage and run directly to their coach or family member who is waiting for them with a box of donuts. I can understand why and I certainly engage in the victory meal, but I also know that I’m not gonna feel great right after either. I get bloated and heartburn, it’s not good. In the days following the competition, my muscle definition drops and my six pack of abs starts to fade away along with my spraytan. Now most of this is because I rehydrate and so everything plumps up, but some of it is also body fat. If one  cheat meal leads to a day and then a week, well I would definitely gain back some fat.

As a woman, being at 10% body fat over the long term can impact the hormones, so the best way to be “stage ready” long term is to work directly with your doctor and your coach to find the right combination and possible hormone therapy. Yup, that’s right, anything less than 13% will usually cause amenorrea which can lead to osteoporosis and thyroid problems, so it’s very important to work with a doctor here. Now you may not be super shredded all the time because you can’t be depleted of water all the time, so another equally important part of this is to keep your electrolytes in balance by keeping your water intake high while lightly salting all meals and including potassium rich foods in the diet such as potatoes, winter squash, white beans and bananas. That way you won’t hold on to any excess water weight and you won’t be depleted of electrolyte either. The other two big components here are to hit the gym hard and use an extra calories as a means to mass gain and pack on muscle, and obviously to eat quality food that nourishes you, even if that includes sprouted grains waffles with some earth balance and maple syrup 😊

For the non-competitor who recently hit a milestone in their fitness journey and reached their goal weight or finally dropped those last 5 pounds, the a great option to making it last is the reverse diet. Essentially you will be slowly adding in calories back into your diet usually on a weekly basis. How much to add can be tricky to figure out so it may be best to consult with a nutrition coach for help with this one. Usually a couple extra hundred calories will do the trick so long as all meals are balanced and you are still working out hard. If you are going to have some treats, as a rule of thumb stay away from refined sugars and starches and opt for something that may be a bit easier for your tummy to digest. One thing that’s easy to incorporate is switching to whole grains whether it’s flours in baking, past or bread, that alone will help you get in extra fiber and micronutrients.

Having the right mindset is the difference between just reaching your goal and moving beyond that goal. Just remember that it doesn’t have to be this horrible fight with yourself; it doesn’t have to be this big struggle where you have to be super strict for the rest of your life. Change your mindset and start seeing the reality that food is here to nourish you and that’s all, the fact that it tastes great is just the added bonus.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out my Summer Special for the month July!

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

The Skinny Complex

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I remember from a young age and even today being praised for being tiny and skinny. I remember standing in my bedroom at 6 years old and knowing how much I weighed and that it was a good thing that the number was so small. I remember being a teenager and a relative of mine stood next to me and said to our family “Look how small Denise is, she’s half my size!”. I remember this past summer, running into a friend after I had just gone for a jog and her saying to me “Oh my God, you’re so nice and skinny, it’s amazing”. I thought that things were shifting, that people were starting to see health before skinny, that the focus was on taking care of yourself instead of losing weight. I was completely wrong. Nothing has changed. People are still obsessed with being skinny. The more time goes by, the more I think that it’s getting worse.

At every family gathering, the conversation always shifts to losing weight regardless of what else is going on in our lives, it always goes back to being thin. I even had one relative ask me for advice when she mentioned that her biggest issue was that she gets so busy during the day, she forgets to eat and then goes home and overeats. Before I share my response, I would like to say this : HOW CAN ANYONE FORGET TO EAT?! Seriously!!!! I have never forgotten to eat; it is a concept so foreign to me. But I guess it does happen so I suggested that she pack a little something ahead of time that she can toss in her purse as a snack or buy something like individual prepackaged unsalted nuts or fresh cut fruit and leave them in the fridge at her office. Well, it was in one ear and out the other, she had this glazed over look in her eye and instantly responded with “well, that would mean that I’d have to be organized which I am not”. If that’s what you truly think of yourself and what you say to yourself, then that’s exactly what you’ll be. What you’re really saying is that you’re too lazing to eat right. That’s the bottom line, it’s harsh, but the truth hurts. Needless to say, the conversation went right back to losing weight. No mention of health or wellness or nutrition, it was all about the number on the scale dropping.

For some reason people always feel the need to point out when someone is skinny or eating healthy. It’s always such a big deal. A prime example was when I went out to dinner with some friends and the only plant based option on the menu was a salad, so that’s what I ordered. Out of the 9 of us, each one of the ladies at one point or another during the evening would say “Denise, you must be starving!”. This happened non-stop throughout  the night. No matter how many times I repeated that I was good because I eat every 2 hours anyway so I was perfectly fine, they kept on making a fuss over my meal and pointing out that I was eating light. It’s not as if I was sitting there staring at everyone else’s plates and salivating, or saying “that looks so good, I wish I could eat that!” That wasn’t the case at all, trust me when I say that I was really very much good with my salad. Finally towards the end of the night after my trying to no avail to convince my group that I wasn’t depriving myself of nourishment, one friend turned to me and said “I think we are making a bigger deal out of this than it actually is”. Yes, yes you were.

I like to think that when people say things or point things out that it’s coming from a place of love and concern, but really it’s not. If anything, it’s coming from a place of discomfort. People are genuinely uncomfortable eating with someone who is choosing a lighter option when they are eating something a bit more decadent. At this point it’s happened so many times that it no longer surprises me. I’ve heard it all. The saddest one was when after enjoying a big dinner, I had turned desert because I was stuffed and the back-handed response I received was “well, you’ve become very reasonable haven’t you?” This was coming from a person who admitted to hiding in the kitchen and stuffing their face with cookies when their mother had passed away just minutes before. It’s tragic, it’s suffering. I’m sad for this person because I know that they are hurting, but that at this point they’ve given up on themselves, and yet they still feel the need to point out that my husband and I are always reasonable when it comes to eating habits and always says it with a touch of disdain.

Another aspect of The Skinny Complex is self-deprication. A few days ago a friend of mine pointed out that the ladies in her family who appear to be slim always point out that they’ve gained a few pounds, or need to work on their tummy or love handles or try to get rid of their muffin top. These ladies unfortunately feel the need to point it out and claim that they have these so-called flaws. Why are these flaws? Why do we need to point them out? Self-deprication is just a way of protecting yourself, by pointing out what you think is wrong with you before anyone else might. First of all, nobody notices this stuff on other people because they are so busy thinking about themselves and their own “flaws”. Think about it: Do you seek out the cellulite on other women? Do you stare at woman’s midsection if she doesn’t have a six pack of abs? My guess is that you don’t, I know that I don’t and when I realized this, I realized how ridiculous we can all be. The negative self-talk isn’t something that you would say to anyone else, ever.

This obsession is so intense, being skinny seems to be on everyone’s mind all the time, whether they realize it or not. The comments I’ve heard, the conversations I’ve had, the back-handed snarky remarks thrown at me are all just projections of other peoples issues. A person’s size has nothing to do with anything whatsoever. Being a certain dress size is not an accomplishment at all and it doesn’t deserve to be praised in any way. Just because someone may appear slim doesn’t mean that they are healthy and it certainly doesn’t mean that they’ve done something so miraculous that it needs to be pointed out. An accomplishment in terms of physique would be someone who decides to become healthier by becoming more active or starting to eat more whole foods and balanced meals. Dress size has nothing to do with it, looks have nothing to do with it. Focus on health above anything else, because it’s everything. When you’re health is not 100% everything stops, priorities shift and suddenly the number on the scale or those emails that you just have to respond to or that Instagram post that you just have to put up no longer matter.

Those comments that I heard when I was younger could have been so damaging and dangerous to me; I couldn’t become terribly sick as a result of that. The reason why I didn’t was honestly because I have always enjoyed exercising, I’m terrible at sports, but working out has always been fun. Everything from doing workout videos with my mom in our basement to taking up jogging with my dad and then weightlifting in recent years with my husband. Being exposed to that from an early age helped me understand and become aware of health above size. Everything that I’ve done in terms of nutrition, diet, weight loss and workouts have always been driven by my wanting to be as healthy as possible, not as thin as possible.

The next time you catch yourself pointing out someone else’s meal or size or anything of that sort, stop before you speak and think about why you are saying this. Remember that this is only you projecting some insecurity onto someone else and keep in mind that it may even impact that other person in a negative way (especially if they are young). Just focus on yourself and your well being, instead of how everyone else looks compared to you. Stop the cycle, stop hurting yourself and please start recognizing that skinny is not something to be praised or celebrated. Being physically active, eating a well balanced diet, maintaining a healthy body are what should be celebrated and considered inspiring. Be the best you every day, eat to live and be well.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

Fearing Failure

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One of the biggest lessons that I have learned on my health and fitness journey has been this:

                                             The body achieves what the mind believes

This statement is so huge and has had a massive impact on how well I’ve been able to progress overtime and stay consistent in that continuous development. A person’s success in weight loss, overall health improvement and long term maintenance is 100% dependent on their mindset. That’s where the fear of failure comes into play.

Fear is what holds us back and stops us in our tracks from going after something or taking it to the next level. I’ve heard all kinds of so called “reasoning” that people tell themselves when it comes to their fitness  and weight loss goals and it always comes back to the fear of failure. For example, I had a conversation with a relative of mine a few weeks ago who mentioned that she was concerned that if she tried to be plant-based that she would be hungry all the time. My response to that was “If you are hungry, then you need to eat”. Simple enough right? Hunger (not a craving!) is a sign that your body needs more fuel and nourishment…so just eat more!  What’s stopping you from doing so? There is no reason to fear hunger or to overthink your nutrition. What I believe the thought process around being hungry on a plant-based diet stems from is the fear of feeling deprived or of having cravings all the time. This only happens if you don’t eat enough, don’t eat a balanced diet or miss out on important nutrients that your body needs. So just eat already! Yes, take a proactive approach to your nutrition and inform yourself of eating well (whether plant based or not), but then take action and just go for it instead of sitting around overthinking it and worrying about how “hungry” you may feel.

Another solid example of fearing failure also came from another relative who said that she was worried that if she started to clean up her diet, maybe try a few meatless meals that her family would not be on board and she would end up having to cook separate meals to appease everybody. To that I say, it may be time to show your family a little tough love. You are not doing your family or yourself any favours by serving food that is lacking nutrients, that is overly processed and just unhealthy. Don’t you want your family to be as healthy as possible so that they can live a long and fulfilling life? Because if that’s the case, then their diets absolutely need to be healthy all the time. If you are constantly giving in when they say let’s order in again or I won’t eat vegetables even if they are deep fried in chocolate sauce, then your loved ones on are the fast track to a life filled with countless health problems. And this goes for anyone at any age even if they don’t look overweight. When I was younger, before how learned how to cook, it didn’t matter whether I wanted french fries for dinner instead of lentil soup, that’s what was prepared by my mom and that’s all that I could have. Same goes for my husband when he was young. My mother in-law mentioned that if he didn’t like what was being served then it was too bad for him, that was the meal and he could either go hungry or eat. Needless to say his stubbornness and attempt at a hunger strike was very short lived. That’s the case with everyone; they may give you grief but it won’t last long. Hunger is very powerful and unless your loved are willing to cook for themselves (which chances are they probably won’t ) they’re going to eat what you put in front of them. You’re the boss of the kitchen, you set the rules, so make it healthy, stand strong and show off your tough love muscles.

A third and rather funny example of fearing failure that I hear all the time has to do with fitness, mostly weightlifting. “I don’t want to bulk up”, “I need to lose weight before I should start weightlifting”, “I need to get in better shape before I can start weightlifting”. These always make me laugh on the inside because each one of these examples is completely false! I’ve already address multiple times why you won’t bulk up from weightlifting so I’m not gonna go there now. In terms of needing to lose weight or get in better shape before picking up some dumbbells, stop and think about what you are ACTUALLY saying here. You are stating that you need to get “in better shape” before you can get in shape. That makes no sense at all. How can you get in shape before you get in shape? You don’t have to start by benching 200lbs or working with massive weights, I certainly didn’t, in fact I started by working out with a pairs of 2lbs dumbbells in my bedroom . You lift weights to get stronger and to sculpt your body regardless of your excess bodyweight and fat. If that’s not enough to convince you then keep in mind that diet will and cardio alone will only take you so far (that’s why you’ll see a lot of puny and soft looking people who are runners or cyclist), also the more muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout the day, and too much cardio can actually impact your posture making your belly round outwards a bit.

My current fear failure has to do with how hard I can push myself during workouts, mostly in terms of how heavy I can actually lift. It’s a big hindrance for me as this fear is stopping me from growing, from getting stronger and from becoming the best version of myself possible. This is all from a mix of self-doubt and discomfort; I don’t think that I can actually lift so much and I’m trying to protect myself from the difficulty of it. With this though, I’m only hurting myself and preventing myself from getting as much gains as possible and crushing it on show day. A wise lady once said : Always lift heavier than you think you can. This wise individual was actually Miss Piggy and these are words to live by! With my current prep I’ve become far more self-aware and I have built up my mind-muscle connection so know I am able to recognize when my body can handle a heavier load with each session. Each week I try to lift heavier than I had from the previous week and always worked out for the best. My mantra now is if I’m not swearing to myself by the end of each set (usually something like mother f*#^!r), then it’s not heavy enough. That’s just what works for me and my current goals though; it is different for each one of us so think about what your gauge would be.

Ultimately our minds are just trying to protect us from harm, whether it be physical or psychological as well. We don’t want to get injured, embarrassed or leered at for a making a mistake. At the end of the day though, bringing awareness to that fear and working through it and in spite of it will finally allow you to get to where you want to be. You can lose the weight, keep it off and get strong; it is possible but at a certain point you have see past the roadblocks that you are creating and just do it. It is you vs you, it is your reality vs your stories that you keep telling yourself. Recognize them and then move beyond them. When you get to the other side, it is a beautiful thing because you can finally see and achieve the endless possibilities in your journey fitness.

Start Strong, Finish Strong