Saturday, March 31, 2012


Went through some old binders of mine and found some interesting photos of myself circa 2005. I was doing this 6 week workout regimen called "Slim in 6" and I had taken some before pictures. Here's one of them:

I was totally grossed out by this picture when I saw it. I still had a pretty thin upper body but certainly no abs. And look at those hips! According to measurements back then, my thighs are each 3 inches smaller now.
You should see the backside view.
¡Ay, caramba!

Here is a current photo:

What a difference!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

How do you train?

I've been thinking ahead to how I want to train after I hit my goal. Because that's what I do. It's part of my problem, I need to focus on just being. Still, it's good to at least have an idea of what I will do. I'm thinking I'll probably go back to heavy lifting. I definitely want to keep most of my movements compound but I do want to throw in some extra isolation moves.

How do you train right now? Do you use mostly compound movements, isolation movements or both? Do you utilize supersets? Drop sets? Do you do circuit style? Split training days or full body training? One of the BEST things about weight lifting (as my 1st choice of exercise) is that there are literally thousands of ways to do it. There are so many factors involved, so many variables you can change, it's impossible to get bored. And if you like to get your heart rate up and sweat, you don't just have to do cardio! Here's an interesting fact for you, I sweat more during a lifting session than I do during a cardio session (unless I'm doing HIIT). I work hard!

A drop set is a reduction of weight between sets with no rest. Example: doing a set of shoulder presses with 30lb dumbbells, then right away down to 25lb dumbbells, then right away down to 20lbs dumbbells. This will toast the muscle. Good luck raising your arms over your head to wash your hair that day!
A superset is two exercises performed back to back with no rest in between.
A circuit is when you perform a serious of exercises in rotation. Usually at a faster pace with no rest period until the circuit is completed.
A compound movement is an exercise that recruits multiple muscle groups.
An isolation movement uses just one joint or muscle group.
Split training is a method that divides training the whole body over a number of days.
Full body training trains the whole body in one workout.

I personally like full body workouts, 3 times per week. I've done 4 or 5 day splits in the past, but I never feel like I'm getting enough of a workout, especially on arm days. That's just a mental block, I suppose. I'm the type of person that feels like if I don't sweat and pant and pray for death, I'm not working hard enough. This is not always the case. Some days I don't feel like working that hard. But most of the time, that is my mantra.

There are upsides and downsides to both types of training (full body vs split). How you train [should]  directly reflect what you are working towards. In other words, you might train differently to build muscle than you would to lose fat. Or you might not. It depends on what you respond better to.

No matter if you are doing full body days or split days, you should always incorporate compound movements. Stimulate growth using as much muscle as possible. They also tend to get your heart rate up and make you sweaty ;)

But I've read that you don't necessarily have to lift heavy to failure for muscle growth. Studies show that lactic acid burn triggers growth hormone to be released. In other words, if you are doing high reps of leg extensions, you are going to feel an incredible burn from lactic acid, which will trigger this growth hormone, and eventually make your quads more defined (in theory). And you can't do high reps with heavy weight. Or you shouldn't, because you'll burn out quickly.

You can still achieve a lactic acid burn with heavier weights though. Doing drop sets and supersets will give you that burn.

Supersetting a compound movement with an isolation movement is probably a good way to utilize both training techniques. Especially if on the last set of the isolation movement you crank out as many reps as possible. You'll get a good burn, a good pump AND you'll be working you're whole body.

Superset a supinated bent over row with bicep curls or a deadlift with hamstring curls, for instance. You could easily produce a good full body routine that way. I think I just figured out my 'after goal' routine ;)

Here are some good compound movements:
1) Bench Press
2) Squat
3) Deadlift
4) Clean & Press
5) Military Press
6) Bent Over Row
7) Dips
8) Pull ups
9) Push ups

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pure Protein

I got my protein powder in the mail already! I ordered it two days ago!

I have only tried the Meal Replacement so far. I'm not sure that the flavor is a favorite. It's very different. The aftertaste reminds me of halva. And if you don't know what halva is, you've come to the wrong place to find out. I have NO idea how to describe it properly. It looks like a hunk of cheese, swirled like a marble cake. Has sort of a grainy texture. Is very dense. Sweet, but not not really. It's just a very odd dessert. If your curious, you can get it in the grocery store. Ours is on the same shelf as the Cheese Whiz. (Ew. Don't even get me started on how nasty that $&!t is!)

Or maybe the aftertaste is like tahini (sesame paste). Which is probably why halva came to mind. Some halva has tahini in it. I used tahini to make vegan cheese once. Once. (Johnny Dangerously fans? Anyone?) Also hummus. Hummus is amazing.

Anyway, I feel it's going to be an acquired taste.

I may order from Prograde next, just to compare flavors. But it might have a similar taste being both are flavored with Stevia, and that can have a bitter or odd sort of aftertaste. It's definitely something I'm used to though because I've substituted stevia for sugar in many things for many years now. I started back when practically nobody knew what stevia was. I couldn't buy it in stores so I had to order it online. Now, it has really caught on, which was a wish of mine back in those days. I used to always complain, "why don't companies start replacing harmful synthetic sugar substitutes with natural stevia in their products???" - just ask my husband, haha. These days, stevia is pretty available.

So that's the skinny on OnlyProtein. I can let you know what I think about it after I've been drinking it regularly.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Do I think I've lost any fat yet?
Yes, yes I do.

Compared to this picture, taken a few weeks ago:

I think I look leaner.
 9 and 1/2 more weeks to go!

Has there been progress?

It's been almost 2 and 1/2 weeks since I started my 12 week timeline. Count down to summer; shorts, bikinis, cute little dresses, etc. My goal is definitely starting to scare me a bit, but my motivation is an 11 out of 10 right now (that's high!) and I don't plan on backing down anytime soon.

I started at 118.2 and as of today I weighed 112.2. This doesn't mean I've lost 6lbs of fat but I'm hoping at least 2lbs comes from fat. That would mean I'm right on track.

Honestly, I don't know how I feel about being back down to 112. I was very excited to see 118, thinking I was packing on muscle. I just hope it wasn't all water and bloat or worse....fat!

I've read that you lose fat in the reverse order of how you put it on. So, for us women, that means that it "goes straight to the hips" and unfortunately it is the last place it comes off. Trust me on this. I KNOW! Anyway, supposedly when you lose fat, your body sheds it from internal organs first, which is why it takes a little longer to show up on the outside. Now that I know this, I think it's made me a little more patient. Whereas before, I would get frustrated, seeing the scale go down, yet not really seeing much improvement in the mirror. This is why the scale is not THE way to track progress. The tape measure is where you're going to see the change.

My tape measure is telling me I'm losing from my waist and abdomen (not my arms, thank goodness) and my lower body. I've only seen barely 1/4 inch loss on each thigh and around the hips. BUT, a loss is a loss, I'll take it!

Today, I felt really tired and winded during my workout. I believe that it may have something to do with my lower calorie intake. I'm afraid I'm going too low. I'm still tracking daily on MyPlate and my net calories (total calories after subtracting calories burned during exercise) are hovering just above 1,000. And yesterday it was even below 1,000. I'm trying not to overthink it. I feel good, I'm not craving or crabby, I feel fed (even over fed at times) so it can't be that bad. Although I did eat more after today's workout. And I plan on bumping up my calorie intake today to boost my leptin levels. Hello meatballs and mashed potatoes!

Protein Powder

I usually just get my protein powder from GNC. Their brand of 100% whey protein (chocolate is my favorite) is the only kind I've ever used. I have a Gold Card so every first week of the month, I go and stock up on my supplements and whey protein to save money. But after reading various blogs, I have come to find out that not all whey protein is created equal.

I was going to start ordering my protein powder from Prograde. I already get a few items auto shipped to me from them so I thought, why not. But, then I heard about Only Protein. I went to the sight to check it out. In terms of price it was actually even a little cheaper than Prograde. The protein grams in one serving is slightly smaller than what I'm using now (18g vs. 20g), but the calorie content is also lower. And the really cool thing is there are no fillers.

It's organic, hormone-free, pollution-free whey from New Zealand grass fed cows.  It has 3 types of protein so muscles get an immediate feed, a medium feed and up to a six to seven hour feed. There are no artificial sweeteners, they use cellulose free fiber, quick digesting enzymes and inulin, which is a pre-biotic.

click to go there now - Only Protein

However, Prograde's protein powder is also hormone-free, gluten-free, no artificial sweeteners, only 2 carbs and 24g protein (although that is in 2 scoops which will make the container empty quicker, which means you spend more). However, I don't know how big the containers are in comparison to the Only Protein containers. It probably wouldn't take much to find out, but I'm too lazy.

click to go there now - Prograde Nutrition

I've been using protein powder to supplement my healthy lifestyle for a number of years now, but I'm fairly inexperienced in the different brands out there. I'd be interested in hearing what you use and why you like it. Feel free to comment!

Oh, by the way, I had to share this with you because I found it to be INCREDIBLE. I have discovered a way to eat chocolate ice cream guilt free. Yay! My summer won't be ruined! Here's how: in a bowl, mix a scoop of protein powder with unsweetened almond milk (pour slowly, you don't want much) until it's about the consistency of a runny pudding. Put in freezer for a bit. And BAM!

Here's a tip though, I've only tried this with vanilla whey powder and I really dislike the vanilla flavor. So I add 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder & a bit of xylitol before I pour in the almond milk. It comes out the perfect consistency of ice cream with a rich chocolate flavor that I would compare to chocolate frosting. I can't wait to try it with chocolate whey!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

plan for success

"Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success." ~ Stephen A. Brennan

How do you plan your workouts? Do you even have a plan? Or do you haphazardly throw things together while you are at the gym?

I sometimes follow guided routines, or workouts that are generated by fitness experts. But there are times when I write my own workouts. Either way, I am never at the gym without my notebook that has my plan of attack all written out.

Having a plan is one of the keys to success (I think). It gets you mentally prepared and helps you just focus on what you need to do at the gym. There is a lot of importance put on sets, reps, poundage, rest periods, etc. That can get pretty difficult to keep track of from workout to workout if you don't keep a log. After all, how do you know if you are progressing if you don't know what you were lifting last week, or last month?

And what about the actual exercises? Do you train your whole body equally? I think a lot of times, we tend to focus on the things we most want to improve (as we should) but we shouldn't forget about the importance of creating a good overall balance.

I used to be so focused on growing my hamstrings that I think I probably ended up working them too much most of the time. Yes, that is possible. Or so I've read. Training a muscle hard is one thing. Over training is another. It's counterproductive. It also can create imbalances that can actually end up causing problems later on.

I've heard that a typical scenario in men is that they are so focused on growing "mirror muscles" or the muscles they see in the mirror (chest, biceps, abs) that they completely neglect to balance it out with back exercises.

I try to prevent this as much as I can these days, now that I know it can be harmful. I work my back as much as my front. But if there was one muscle that I am guilty of neglecting, it's my calves. I have tiny calves and could give a rat's ass about it. But I know that I need to train them. And if they were more muscular, I'd look more balanced.

Also, changing the exercises in your routine can really do wonders for strength. To give you an example; I was mostly using lat pulldowns but switched it out for pull ups and I've noticed a significant increase in the amount of weight I can now use for lat pulldowns. I hadn't done a pull down for a good few months and I went to do one the other day because the pull up bar was in use and I was supersetting so it needed to be done asap. And I was AMAZED at how my usual weight seemed so light and I had to keep moving the pin down lower and lower!

It isn't really about how much weight I can lift, I'd much rather focus on hypertrophy than strength. Although it is nice to see the progression, knowing that lifting heavier is what is going to stimulate that muscle to grow. If it's not challenged, it's not growing. And I don't train to remain the same!

Monday, March 26, 2012


Some people think that women with muscles are ugly.

Seriously? I want to be ugly!

FYI - this is Jamie Eason, I'm a big fan. We are the same age. Can you believe that? She still looks like she's 20, doesn't she? She's so dang cute. And her body is.....well.....let's be honest - perfect. Wiki her sometime if you are unfamiliar with her accomplishments.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sometimes I can be so brainless

I remember posting not too long back about how I was wearing my heart rate monitor at the gym and I was impressed by how the machine I was using was picking up my heart rate and displaying the exact same number as my watch. Well, a few days ago I didn't wear my heart rate monitor, but I got on the same machine, expecting to be able to see my heart rate. Nope. Nothing.
I was instantly embarrassed because I realized that it must have been interacting with the monitor I was wearing. So it wasn't taking my pulse through the handles. DUH! I honestly had no idea. And of course now I don't think it's as cool as I once did. haha....


I found a way to add macros to an entered food in MyPlate. You can "create a food'. It certainly wasn't easy to find, considering how I sort of accidentally stumbled onto it. But at least now I know how to do it if I want to take the time.

Two great mysteries solved. Watching Sherlock Holmes must have made me slightly more aware of small details this past week. Just kidding.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

could I be eating too much fat?

I wanted to see how my macronutrients have been adding up since I've started to track my food online every day.

I use MyPlate at and I love love love it. Except for one minor flaw (when you enter food manually, it only lets you enter calories, no macros like protein, carbs or fats, etc), it is a really helpful tool to aid you in weight loss (or gain). I've tried but I didn't find it as user friendly as MyPlate.

Most of the food I eat I can find searching their database. It's smart and saves food you eat a lot into a "favorite" category and it makes finding that food quicker. I can easily change portion sizes, whether it's cups, tsp, oz, etc. I can track my water intake. I can track my calories burned by entering them manually or finding specific exercises in their database, log miles, log heart rate, and much more. There is a constant bar at the top that fills as I eat throughout the day so I know how much I've eaten and how much I have left to eat. It also breaks the day's calories up by meals, so I can track my macros per meal. And at the end of the day, I have a lovely pie chart that shows my ratios of carbs/protein/fat.

Another nice thing is that as my weight changes, it will change my caloric needs for me. Or you have the option to enter your calorie goal manually. VERY helpful.

So today, I decided to average out how my pie chart has been over the past 11 days. Very interesting to me. Here they are:

On average, each day I'm getting 38% from carbs, 33% from protein, and 29% from fat.
Here's how I want it to look: 50/30/20

It's shocking to me to discover how low my carb percentage is, even though I'm not even trying to go lower carb. In fact, not one single day did I get to 50%. Not even on my splurge day. I got close, 49%, but never hit 50%. My protein is surprisingly adequate. But what really gets me is how easy it is to eat too much fat. It's from good fat (mostly), but it's still on the higher end. I would be really interested in tracking these numbers on a week where I wasn't specifically trying to eat a certain way. I bet I would be just as shocked.

What this tells me is that I should try to eat more carbs and less fat. Which is completely backwards from how my mind seems to be programmed. After the "low fat craze" of the past that wasn't necessarily the best fad diet that ever was and then the "low carb craze" that still doesn't seem to have gone away, it seems almost wrong to try and eat more carbs and less fat. All this time I've thinking I eat too many carbs, but maybe not. Maybe I'm not as "carb sensitive" as I once thought. Maybe I'm just eating too much fat. Even too much of a good thing can be bad.

A calorie is a calorie, right? I know it's not the same when you think of a 400 calorie slice of cake compared to a 400 calorie meal composed of healthy foods, but that's not what I mean. What I mean is, at the end of the day, the extra calories from olive oil, avocados, lean meats, etc will add up just the same as junk calories. The healthy fats will definitely fill you up better, probably causing you to intake less calories overall than if you just constantly fed your face with junk, but it adds up just the same.

So, it is quite possible to believe that the amount of fat I'm eating could be the culprit, not the carbs as I've always thought. We will see. Too early in the game to tell and I'm not going to change anything yet.

There was ONE day out of the 11 that I ate near perfect according to how I wanted. March 16th I had 50/30/20. And now, if I want, I can go back to that day and use it as a reference point if I wanted to change my eating habits. helpful tool!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interesting information

I came across some interesting information the other day. A figure competitor I follow had posted something on Facebook that intrigued me. She said that she had her bodyfat percentage measured with this thing called the Bod Pod.

Bod Pod

Anyway, I guess it very accurately measures your bodyfat. I had never heard of this thing before! According to the Bod Pod, her bodyfat percentage was at 22% and she was blown away because her gym's calipers said she was at 16%. And she came to find out that she had been eating too few net calories (net calories are calories consumed minus calories burned) and if she goes too low below her RMR then losing body fat will be impossible. (RMR is resting metabolic rate)


I'd NEVER read that information ANYWHERE. And I've read a TON about this stuff over the past 5-6 years, trust me. First of all, I hadn't ever heard of RMR (I had heard of BMR) and I wanted to know what the difference was and why you won't lose fat if you eat fewer calories than your RMR.

According to this website I found, RMR, or resting metabolic rate, is the calories you would burn if you did nothing but rest for 24 hours. And per their calculator, my RMR is 1223. So if I did nothing for 24 hours, my body would require 1223 calories for energy.

Now this woman says that if you go below this number, it is impossible to lose fat. I would assume that since your body is using all it's resources for keeping you alive and functioning, it's not wasting any to help you lose fat at that point.

So, if for instance if I ate 1500 calories today, then burned off 400 calories at the gym, my net calories is 1100 (which is 123 calories under my RMR). So while it looks fantastic from a calorie deficit perspective, if I continually do this, I will not lose fat.

If I eat too much, I won't lose fat. If I eat too little, I won't lose fat. And how can I eat within that perfect range of calories required for fat loss long enough to actually see a loss in fat??

Another thing I was confused about was that to take the RMR calculation further, and factor in activity level, that drives the RMR number up. For me, it goes somewhere between 1600 and 1800. Then which number am I supposed to take note of when making sure not to go below it: the one factoring in exercise or not? Because there is a big difference between 1223 calories and 1896 calories.

It's food for thought though. Interesting theory indeed. Wouldn't it be cool if we could be implanted with some sort of chip that sent us data like how many calories we need, how many we actually burn and how many we actually consume on a daily basis?? If I were a scientist, this is what my life's ambition would be. Will someone please invent this? It would make my life infinitely easier ;)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How the first week went

Right now, I am not feeling especially great about myself. The week started out great. All week long, actually, was pretty darn good....until the weekend. I always always always blow it on the weekend.

I was right on track, doing what I needed to do, but my willpower wanes on weekends. I held strong until Saturday night. Saturday afternoon, when my husband grilled brats, I had tuna and broccoli. I was so proud of my healthy choices despite smelling those delicious grilled brats. Saturday night, I had planned on grilling flank steak to have with my spinach and quinoa cakes (recipe in the new Food & Wine mag). BUT......

My husband fell asleep on the couch until after 5pm, and then we decided to go out for dinner. I decided it would be ok to treat myself to a splurge meal since I ate near perfectly all week long. I went for the lobster ravioli. But I also had two buns dipped in olive oil prior to the meal and a glass of white wine with the meal. So it ended up being a big splurge.

Oh, but I didn't stop there...

Sunday, again, I held strong with my diet all day, until dinner. I ate TWO quinoa cakes and lots of flank steak, so it was a nutritious yet high calorie dinner. And I didn't need another high calorie meal after what I had the night before. Then, I ate 6 pieces from my organic dark chocolate bar. I keep one of these around so I can have one square when I feel like I just NEED something. It's only an extra 38 calories and usually does the job keeping my sweet cravings at bay. But eating 6 squares was not a good thing. Then, I had a few crackers and a wedge of cheese. Processed junk! GRRRRR!!!!!

Looking at my totals for the week, I am nowhere near where I'd hoped to be with regards to a calorie deficit. I had a deficit, just not nearly as big as I'd planned for. It never gets easier. No matter how motivated, determined, and persistent I am. It's always a struggle.

I am trying to look on the bright side though. If I hadn't paid so much attention to my diet all week, it would have looked a lot worse. I tried really really hard and that is what counts. Now, I am at the start of week two and get an opportunity to do better.

I remembered to take my weight and measurements though. I had a 3lb weight loss on the scale and my hips were 1/2 an inch smaller. So things were looking good, although I don't know if I can count it as fat loss or water loss. I'll have a better idea at the end of this second week. At least it's going in the right direction.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

old news

Yesterday, while trying to find something I had misplaced, I came across my very first weight loss/fitness journal.

It was from 2006, the year I became serious about fitness. It was shortly after the birth of my 3rd child. I had gained a LOT of fat during my pregnancy. I was on bedrest for nearly 3 months. And if you've never had to stay in bed for that long, you have NO IDEA how awful it is. And what do we do to comfort ourselves in situations like these? Well, eat, of course. I was stressed out, worried and bored. I watched a lot of movies, wrote a lot of letters and ate a lot of food. That's about all I could do. I lost any muscle tone I did have and gained fat in it's place.

Luckily for me, the bedrest worked and I was able to carry my baby to term (first time in 4 pregnancies). But my body paid a price. As soon as I got the "all clear" from my doctor, and had enough sleep and energy to begin, I started working out. Pre-pregnanacy, I was around 122lbs. and I wanted to be there again.

Here's where my journal stats started:
July 24, 2006
146 lbs
waist 35 inches
lower belly 36.5 inches
hips 43 inches
thighs 24 inches
arm 10.5 inches

One year later, July 30, 2007 stats:
111.8 lbs
lower belly 27 inches
hips 35 inches
thighs 20 inches
arm 9 inches

This is what I've been able to maintain for the past 5 years. Actually, I've gotten even leaner since. My waist is at 24 inches and my belly button measures 25.5.

Losing all that weight made me feel SO good! I felt successful because I set out to achieve a goal and surpassed it. It sparked a love for fitness and healthier eating that can never be extinguished!

I did come to a point, nearly two years later, where I had regained some weight. I had to take a couple months off of exercising due to medical reasons and the weight started to pile on very quickly. Proof that when you get down to a low weight, it takes a lot to maintain it. It was astonishing how tight my pants that once fit so loose had gotten! It was very depressing. And it took me a very long time to lose it again. Over a year.

Back when I first started, in 2006, I didn't know what "clean eating" was. But I started out the best way I knew how at the time: replacing all white starches with 100% whole grains. That was the first and biggest switch. I'm not sure what it was next. But slowly, I began to change my diet. I was forming good habits!

Almost 6 years later, I'm still at it. Working out consistently every week and trying to eat as good as I can while still allowing myself to indulge now and then.

I will admit, that my initial slim down was almost all cardio. There was maybe one light weight training session a week, but that was it. And while it did prove successful in helping me drop weight, it did nothing to improve my shape. I was the same pear, just smaller. But I didn't know any better. I hadn't built any muscle. And even though I was dreadfully skinny, I felt lumpy and soft because I had no tone. And thus my quest for muscle was born.

Thank goodness too. Because I am not the kind of person who could stand the same old cardio, day in and day out. Just imagining waking up knowing what was in store for me.....same as yesterday, same as last week, last month, last year....same, same, same....YUK!

Once I realized that I could shape my body through weight training, I was hooked. Fun and challenging weight lifting routines replaced all those awful cardio sessions. I started to notice changes in my body composition. And I felt really good about my body for the first time since I was a teenager. Cardio has it's place though. I still do cardio now and then, but it certainly isn't the main focus of my workouts.

I am still learning when it comes to what works for my body and what doesn't. And I still have yet to perfect it. Some people are lucky to find something that works early on, I feel as though I'm still going through trial and error after 6 years of honest effort. There is so much information to soak up, a lot of it conflicting. And the more we read the more confusing it can get. We have to be careful who's advice we listen to because it might not always be the best for our own personal situation. But through my blog, sharing my experiences - successes & failures - I have come to know that people like me are a dime a dozen out there. All striving for the same goal. All finding out how incredibly difficult it can be.

I used to be afraid of aging. Afraid to get old. But it's happening, and quicker than I'd like to admit. Being 3 years away from 40 seems so impossible to me. Wasn't I just 18? But I choose to embrace it. There's nothing else you can really do. And to be able to say that I am more fit and look better at 40 than I did at 20 will be one proud and defining moment in my life!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Got muscle?

Got the ol' tripod out. It literally had cobwebs on it. Ew.

I wanted to get some decent full body pictures so I can compare at the end of these next 12 weeks. For some reason, the flash didn't fire on all of them, so there are a couple that are darker.

I still look really thin in my upper body despite gaining some weight. It drives me crazy! You'd never be able to guess I'm bench pressing 95lbs! And using 25lb dumbbells for my shoulder press.
But I wanted to focus on flexing my quads here. They aren't bad considering I don't train them specifically. I'm just imagining how hot they will look when I'm able to get some of that upper thigh fat off. They will really be defined and all my hard work will be revealed.
12 weeks, baby!


This is probably not an impressive back in the competitive bodybuilding world, but I like it.

I'm very happy with the way my body is shaping up. I'm actually impressed with the way my abs are looking even after gaining weight. My legs even look leaner. But it's all in the pose.

 Trying to get a look at my quad muscles and shoulders in these next two.
FYI - I have no idea how to properly strike a pose, I just do what I can to get those muscles to pop!


Here's my tiny hamstring. Although I have a feeling it's not as tiny as I think. Just have to uncover it. 
I WILL have a swoop!

I am able to tell that I've gained a bit of back fat. Not too worried about it though.


 It's especially noticeable here. Along with my pretty thick legs.

So basically, I need to lean out my back and thighs in order to look the way I want to look.
I'm 5 days into the first week of 12.
I'm meticulously tracking my diet and workouts so that when it comes time to measure on Sunday,
I will have a good baseline for what I need to do better in the coming weeks. Hopefully
I can say I don't need to tweak anything yet.

The way I'm going, I should have lost almost 1 pound of fat by the end of the week. I've added up my daily calorie intake, averaged that out and guesstimated what I'll be consuming until Sunday and after all is said and done, I should be looking at around a 2800 calorie deficit in the first week.
A pound is 3500 so I'll still be 700 away. Of course this is just an estimation. I might do better than that by week's end.

It seems PAINFULLY slow but I know it's the best way if I want to do it right. I don't want to just lose water and I don't want to lose muscle. I want to lose FAT!
Plus, it's not even the end of the 1st week! I've got 11 more to go...and I WILL get it done.
Watch me!

I'm gonna OWN this summer. It's mine.

heart rate

I wore my heart rate monitor at the gym yesterday. I wanted to be able to track my calorie burn accurately instead of just guessing. Boy was I surprised! From start to finish, my workout was 59 minutes 33 seconds. And I burned 452 calories. The really cool thing about it is, I was on one of those step/elliptical machines that have a heart rate monitor built into the handles so as you are holding on, it tracks your heart rate. The really SUPER cool thing is I was glancing at the heart rate monitor that I was wearing and it was DEAD ON EXACT the entire time! Gotta love when technology doesn't let you down!

So I did the machine for 30 minutes, alternating between a high tension stepping motion and a lower tension, yet faster paced, more true elliptical style motion. Then, I did weight training for my shoulders, biceps and triceps. Just because. Nothing heavy or demanding. So I was really surprised at how many calories I burned in that hour. I really wish I would have worn it while training heavy, just out of curiosity. But since my training style has changed a little, and is more circuit based, constantly moving sorta thing, I will wear it to see what I'm burning when I'm not doing a "cardio specific" workout. Can't wait!

I'm bursting with energy this week and I'm almost positive it has 100% everything to do with my diet. Typically right now I would probably feel a little bloated and lower energy, just because of where I am in my cycle. But I'm through the roof amped. People, if you want to feel better, eat better! Seriously.

A few weeks ago, I went to GNC to buy some powdered aminos. I am used to swallowing the gigantic pills that I have right now, but I wanted to try the powder, just to try it. I was hesitant because it comes in all kinds of fruity flavors and I am absolutely disgusted by sugary tasting drinks: soda, unnatural fruity drinks, kool aid, Gatorade, etc. But, it was on sale so I thought, what the hell. I took some and went downstairs to do a HIIT session. Well, I started to feel really funny. So much so that I had to cut my session short. And the funny feeling lasted a really long time. I was so jittery and uneasy. And since I'm easily prone to anxious and jittery feelings anyway, this was not a comfortable feeling for me.

Let's back up: I've been taking this stuff called Prograde Metabolism , which is supposed to kick ass in the fat loss department. I haven't seen any benefit from it yet because I have only just started my "fat loss" mode and it can take up to 6 weeks to notice it working. I think I've been taking it for a month now. Anyway, you are supposed to kind of stay away from extra caffeine while taking this stuff. When I take it, sometimes I get really flushed for about 5 minutes. My face, neck, arms and chest get all red and blotchy. Suddenly, one day, I realized why I got all funny feeling that day after trying my powdered aminos. Turns out, it's got a little "extra boost" in it. It's called Amino Energy (I didn't notice this when I bought it) and it's got an energy blend in it called caffeine caffeine caffeine! So I got a mega dose of uppity up that day and it didn't really work to my advantage. It just made me feel yucky. And yes, I thought the Blue Raspberry flavor I chose was horrid. But I'm sure I wouldn't have liked any of the other options either.

Moral of the story: always be aware of what's in what you are taking. And if you don't feel right on something, listen to your body.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

how to figure out your calorie needs

Yesterdays totals:

Calories: 1546
Carbs: 43.54%
Protein: 38.1%
Fat: 18.37%

These numbers are probably a little off because I had to manually enter calories for dinner last night and when you manually enter calories in MyPlate, it doesn't let you enter macros (like carbs, fat, protein). This is my one annoyance with the site. Otherwise, I love it. Unless there is actually a way to do it that I just don't know about, but I'm pretty sure it would be obvious if I could.

Water: over 72 oz again - yay me!

Here's exactly what I ate yesterday:
Breakfast: Grapefruit juice (1/2 cup), Freshly juiced veggies (104 calories worth), 3 egg whites, 1 whole egg, Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain hot cereal (1 cup) with a splash of unsweetened almond milk (1/4 cup)
Cal:417  Carb:29.5  Prot:24.25  Fat:6.75

Post-Workout AM Snack: 100% whey protein powder drink, 100% whole grain brown rice (2/3 cup)

Cal:223.8  Carb:23.76  Prot:22.01 Fat:3.17

Lunch: 2 slices Ezekiel Sprouted Grain bread, all natural peanut butter (2 tsp), 3 oz tuna

Cal:310.3  Carb:31.65  Prot:28.64  Fat:6.65

Snack: I didn't have an afternoon snack (naughty me) and I was really hungry at dinner time.

Dinner: steamed broccoli (2 cups), chicken taco noodle bake (1 1/2 cup)

Cal:550  - and everything else here would be inaccurate so I won't post

Evening Snack: 1% cottage cheese (1/4 cup) - I would normally have 1/2 cup but I didn't because I didn't feel I needed that much

Now, I won't list calories and macros for what I ate the previous day (because it's so dang time consuming), but I will tell you what I ate:

Breakfast: grapefruit juice and fresh juiced veg (as always, before I eat anything), oatmeal and 2 eggs
AM snack: protein powder drink & oatmeal
Lunch: Tilapia, steamed broccoli, small yam w/butter
PM snack: 7 grain hot cereal w/unsweetened almond milk
Dinner: Chicken breast, baby spinach, steamed cauliflower
Evening snack: 1% cottage cheese, anchovy stuffed olives

Ok, now how did I figure out what my "maintenance level" of calories was? There are a few different ways to do this. You can find many sites online that offer an average ballpark number for you simply by entering a few variables such as age, weight, etc. I use what's called the Katch-McArdle formula for figuring out my BMR (basal metabolic rate - which is the number of calories your body burns just to function; for digestion, circulation, breathing, temp control, etc). And this formula is supposedly the most accurate method of determining your daily calorie needs because it takes into consideration your lean body mass (LBM). And the only way to know your LBM is to use a caliper. After determining your BMR, you then figure out your maintenance level of calories by factoring your activity level.

Just to give you an example:
If I were to use a quick and generic way to determine my maintenance level calories, I would estimate 15-16 calories per pound of bodyweight. So for me at 118 pounds, that would be around 1770-1888.

Now, with the Katch-McArdle formula, my maintenance level calories is 2012. That to me is a HUGE difference. Because it means to stay at my current weight, I can eat more!

Right now, I am trying to create a 500 calorie a day deficit by staying around 1500 calories (the deficit gets bigger when I factor in exercise). But if I were to create a 500 calorie deficit using a generic method, that puts me at only 1270 calories a day. That is a big difference. And for an active person, that might start to impact my energy levels and my workouts start to suffer. And when my workouts suffer, and I'm not giving it 100%, I'm not losing fat at my full potential.

You can see the Katch-McArdle formula here

P.S. My husband is a computer nerd and he made me a spreadsheet in Excel a few years back that I can enter my body stats into. We put the Katch-McArdle formula into it so all I need to enter is my current weight and body fat percentage (as per the caliper) and BAM! it gives me my BMR. Then I enter my activity level at the current time and BAM! I've got a range of calories to maintain or to lose. It also tracks my progress with a graph so when I enter my body measurements, I can see how I have been progressing. The very first time I made an entry was in March 2010, so it's fun to see how my body is changing over the years!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yesterdays numbers

Here's how my nutrient ratios ended up yesterday:

Carbs: 37.7%
Protein: 35.3%
Fat: 26.99%

I am finding that it's very difficult for me to keep the fat percentage down. This is surprising. But I prefer whole eggs over egg whites, for instance. Butter or olive oil on everything. These things add up quickly! I was shooting for around 50/30/20 so really I was pretty close considering I'm a newbie at trying to manage macronutrients. (I'm eating egg whites this morning to see if that helps)

I still can't help but feel that the carbs are too high, but I'm trying to just relax and trust that this will work. I don't know for a fact that I'm carb sensitive so I might be able to pull it off with these ratios. At least in the beginning.

Calories: 1331 - I still had almost 200 calories I could have consumed! Big deficit yesterday (700)! Which is a good thing because I didn't workout. (I know, I know)

Water: over 72oz - I really made a conscious effort to drink a lot (and track it)

I'm living in the now, meaning I'm trying not to look at the entire 12 weeks as a whole, but rather day to day. If I catch myself thinking ahead, I will end up thinking things like, "How am I going to be able to maintain this meticulous tracking?" or "How am I going to handle eating like this" or "What if these macros don't work for me? I'm on a time limit here!" ....and those are self-sabotaging thoughts.

I was a little disappointed in myself for not getting to the gym yesterday, but I didn't cry over it. It's only one day. Mom called me in the morning saying she didn't feel up to going. I totally had planned on going myself, it just didn't happen. Hopefully the sun shining gloriously through her window this morning will inspire her to hop out of bed and get moving.

Monday, March 12, 2012

82 days until goal

Today is the second day into my 12 week timeline. I've had this period mapped out for weeks. When my mom suggested I wait "just one more day" and start today I explained to her that I couldn't. That is how I used to live my life, "just one more day"....and that turns into one more week, one more month.....and I can't do that anymore. That's the procrastinating side of me I am working on changing. I told her I had already drawn out my timeline (literally), dated every day, tapped the pieces of paper together, and hung it to the side of the desk.....I can't change it. I'm an officially in it.

I know that might sound weird, but I'm very visual. I have to write everything down or draw it out. I map out my life. It's like if I don't actually see it on paper, it doesn't exist. Some might say this is neurotic. But I think it's therapeutic.

So I'm out of muscle building mode and into lean out mode. I am VERY proud of myself and what I have accomplished over the last few months. Because I finally was able to make a clear decision about what I wanted. I decided that I was strictly going to focus on building muscle and consuming enough calories to do so. And guess what? It worked! I ate and followed a training regimen that was geared toward gaining muscle. And I have gained about 7lbs.

Before, I was so worried about eating more calories than maintenance because I was fearful of seeing the number on the scale go up. Fearful of gaining fat instead of, or along with, the muscle. But I got tired of being scared and going nowhere. I was going nowhere because I was trying to eat to lose fat, yet training and in a mindset to gain muscle. No wonder I never got anywhere!

"It's physiologically impossible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same moment in time. You can't gain muscle in a calorie deficit and you can't lose fat in a calorie surplus, it's that simple." Tom Venuto

I was so busy flip flopping back and forth between trying to gain muscle and trying to lose fat, that I couldn't accomplish either one. I had to have a clear goal and I had to make up my mind. One, then the other. So, I worked on muscle first, since I was already fairly lean to begin with. Then, once that specific timeline was over, I would switch over to fat loss. I had clear and distinctly different goals in mind. And I had exact dates for when I would follow each. It helped immensely! And just like I was finally successful in gaining muscle, I will be successful at losing fat. I have seen the importance clearly defined goal setting.

So now my focus is on fat loss and very strict and clean eating. I am limiting calories to 500 below maintenance and tapering carbs. I'm going to try and follow a baseline of 55/30/15 for my nutrient ratios the first week to see if that produces favorable results. It's hard because I've never really honestly paid attention to those for more than a day or so. I'm plugging everything I eat into MyPlate on so I can see how I'm doing throughout the day. I even have the app on my phone that syncs with my online account, so whether I'm on my computer at home or out, it'll track to the same account. No excuses!

I'm setting myself up for success with all this planning and tracking.

I'm also in the process of weaning myself off of my anxiety medication. My doctor wanted me off it by summer and my counselor says if I stop it completely my brain won't like it, so I'm slowly taking less and less. It's been a long time since I've had a panic attack and the more distance I put between myself and the last attack, the more confident I feel in my ability to control it. I've learned some helpful techniques for calming myself and becoming more mindful. It's been a wonderful experience because I'm able to apply it to other aspects of my life too. And for me, this justifies the phrase "everything happens for a reason". Bad or good. Even from bad things, good things can come.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Picture time again

I wanted to post some pictures again. It seems like it's been awhile. And since I've gained some weight (yay!) I wanted to see:

#1) if I could visibly tell that I have gained
 #2) where I have gained it.

I know that my booty is bigger. Some people might think that's a bad thing, but in my case, I am actually trying to build my butt, so I'm very happy about it. The ONLY places I would be unhappy about becoming bigger are in the abdominal region and in the thighs. So far, no growth there (phew!) so that means no fat gain there either. Eventually I wouldn't mind working on growing my quads, making them more muscular, but right now that is very low on the priority list. And I don't especially like training quads specifically.

First, an area that I don't photograph much. Because I don't really know how to flex my back muscles in the first place. And it's hard trying to flex, while holding a phone and getting a picture of yourself in the mirror behind you. I have a nice camera and a tripod, why don't I use it? Laziness I guess.

Next, my biceps, which aren't very big. I'd like to build them up a tad more but I don't focus on bicep specific exercises. I use compound movements that hit many muscle groups at once, including biceps. Again, not my main area of focus at the moment. And also, what the heck is up with my hand?

Triceps are next, of course you can't see them very well with my 'self portrait on a phone' skills. I used to do a lot of dips. Haven't for a while.

Oops, found another bicep pic.

Ab region. Always looking the same. The thing that makes me most proud about it is that these pictures are taken after not being extremely gung-ho with my diet. I'm eating carbs at night (for shame!), I'm eating a few girl scout cookies here and there, some wine, etc. So the fact that I can still see definition is astonishing. Imagine what they will look like after 12 weeks of clean eating!

The next picture is one I can use as a "before" picture because I want to see that oblique line pop out more. It's there, I can see it, just not really easy to tell in a photograph. But as I lean out, it will be more noticeable.

And lastly, my tiny quads.

It's sort of cool being able to see them through my pants. Even thought they aren't very big and I have to flex. I notice them most when I'm at the gym (because there are wall to wall mirrors). As I'm doing curtsy lunges especially, I can see multiple lines through my workout pants. It's way cool to be able to see what you have worked so hard for. Even though I don't work them specifically (with leg extensions for instance) they still get worked through those compounds moves like squats and lunges.

I tried to take pictures of my hamstrings but I just couldn't get them to show in that light. I could barely see them through my pants as I flexed them, but those little buggers are trying to come in! I've been working them heavy. Yesterday I just blasted them. I added some single leg seated leg curls, and then double leg curls after my usual punishing of deadlifts, walking lunges, lying ham curl and glute/ham raise machine. Today, I feel them!

And that's all folks! I will take my official "before" pictures on Sunday, which is the start of my 12 week timeline. And in case you aren't up to speed, I am starting my "lean out" phase. Going to get my bodyfat percentage down as low as I can. Then, I'm going to see all that beautiful muscle that I've gained!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

sick as a dog

Went to the gym yesterday and worked as hard as I could with this illness I have. I did the whole routine, just cut the sets short. Stayed on track with weight load though. Ugh. I just can't believe that I'm sick again. I'm starting to worry that maybe there is something else going wrong inside my body that I can't seem to fend off these colds.

I'm a bit of a worrier so here is what is going on in my mind:

"My lower back has been unusually sore for many weeks now. I thought it was because of the heavy deadlifts. Now I'm thinking, maybe that big mole on my back is cancer and that's why I'm getting sick all the time!"

Yeah, see how ridiculous I can be sometimes? Of course, I don't really think I have cancer, but I can't say it hasn't crossed my mind. Because for someone who is pretty much fit as a fiddle, and eats her veggies, it doesn't seem very fair that I've gotten sick 3 times so far this winter.

It started with just a crappy feeling Saturday, sore throat, etc. Nothing that stopped me from going out though! Sunday was worse. Monday, thought I was feeling ok to workout,  (because exercising can actually help you feel better when you are sick) and went to the gym. Felt great until about 3pm and it all went downhill from there. I had chills and just felt like poop. So I ordered pizza for dinner cuz I couldn't cook. I even ate some pizza. I didn't care, I was sick. Went up to bed. Laid down for a little while until the kids came up to bathe and woke me up. Then I puked up the pizza. After that, my throat felt worse, like razor blades. Ugh. Sleeping was ok until early morning when it felt like my throat was closing up. Now I've started coughing. It's mind boggling.

Nevertheless, I will try to carry on as best as I can. Next week, starting on the 11th, I will have 3 months left until goal. I've got my plan in place, just waiting for the starting gun. Training for muscle gain has been going so well, it's going to take more than a cold (or 3) to stop me from reaching my goal!

Monday, March 5, 2012

I'm gaining!!!! I'm gaining!!!!!!

Click on the link above to see useful information about cardio.
You get the video on her blog page also, but she shares helpful tips on
how to burn fat efficiently with HIIT cardio.
Our bodies get used to steady state cardio, which is why I'm not one to use it a lot.
We are great at adapting and so we need to constantly challenge ourselves
if we want to see improvement in our bodies.

I've been keeping track of her videos on her blog for a while now. It's been fun following her through the whole process of getting ready for a photo shoot. I've taken away a ton of useful information from her. I've Incorporated some of it into my routine, but for the most part, I'm still using my full body workouts 3 days per week as per Mike Geary's book - The Truth About 6 Pack Abs

and guess what??

Nothing, and I mean nothing, that I've used before has created change in my body like his routines. I am up to 118lbs!!! I can hardly believe it myself. That means, I've gained something like 7lbs in the past two months or so. I don't recall exact numbers or dates at the moment, but it's an approximation.

How do I know that I have not just gained fat? - good question

Because I still fit into my clothes. In fact, I fit into them better. Muscle is dense and compact, 5lbs of fat looks a lot different than 5 pounds of muscle. Fat takes up more space.


One thing that sucks right now is that I have a cold....again. Seriously, 3rd cold in 4 months. Not even cool. It's so rare that I get sick so this is quite weird. This winter has been hard on Emma and I. I think we just keep reinfecting each other. Oh well, it's not going to stop me! I'm still going to the gym today!