“How did you do it?”

“What’s your secret?”

How do I condense three years of … all of it… into a single blog post?  What I do now is an accumulation of three years of decisions, research, and advice.

I’ll try, but there’s no “magic pill” in here.


I ate fewer calories than I burned.  If over the course of a week, I burned 3500 calories more than I ate, I would lose a pound of fat.  Doesn’t mean the scale would show a pound loss, though.  The scale doesn’t weigh fat.   It weighs fat, muscle, bones, organs, and water.  Never drop calories below your BMR (basal metobolic rate).  You can look that up on line.  To create the deficit, you cut out a little from the food and move a lot more.  If the calories are cut too much, the body will biologically react to handle the famine.  Everything slows down.  That’s why people who don’t eat a lot can gain weight.  The body will store everything as precious fat while it waits for the famine to end.  Be patient.  You really want to lose weight slowly.  This is the healthiest and most permanent way to do it.

I wasn’t a clean eater at first.  That happened about six months into it.  When I was ready to really understand it, my nutrition coach/friend Kim sent me some of Tosca Reno’s books.  I’ve since started eating like a bodybuilder.  No way would I have been ready to eat this way at the beginning.  In general, I tell people to eat real food.  Give your body the nutrients it needs to do the work you will be asking it to do.  Many kinds of vegetables with lots of colors, lean protein, and healthy fats.  Try to cut back on processed foods.  (It’s just my opinion, but I think the body will store some unnatural stuff in processed food as fat because it doesn’t recognize it as a protein or carb that can be used for energy.)  I am what I eat.

Lunch at my teacher desk.

Water.  So they say 70% of our body is water.  Water under the skin can look like fat.  (Fat under the skin looks like fat, too.)  Once I got used to the fluctuations in my weight based on water, I could predict what it would do.  If I ate a big meal, but got back on the plan right away, my weight would go up at first and then settle back down.  That was the extra water weight from the extra carbs.  No biggie.  I wanted to eat a cheat meal every so often – like once a month – to be tricky.  Tricks my body from thinking we are starving.  One of the many reasons to drink a lot of water is that it will flush water out of the body.  If you don’t drink enough, the body, once again in it’s completely misguided attempt to keep us alive, will hold water.  I have no proof of this, but I suspect my body also holds water when it is burning fat.  It releases it in a few days.

Move.  For the first year, I lost about 40 pounds just cutting calories and doing  basic cardio things.  There is a ton of stuff out there about what is the best cardio…yeah, it’s all good info, but it can be pretty overwhelming at the beginning.  Just move.  I was too heavy to do some of the things I do now.  Knees were just not going to handle it.  I walked.  I did the elliptical machine.  My buddy StairMonster – I couldn’t handle that beast at that point.  My biggest mistake was to not lift.  I should have started that sooner.  I did the same thing I know others do – I didn’t want to pay for training so I decided to wait until I proved to myself that I wasn’t going to quit.  Yeah, it worked out OK, for me this time, but most people fall away because “real life” gets in the way of self-care, doesn’t it?  And I think I would have had better results had I done things differently.

What if it didn’t work?

It’s not a day-to-day thing.  It matters what happens over the course of a week or two.  (I learned this from my bodybugg coach.) If I wasn’t getting results, she told me to make a food substitution and/or change my exercise a little bit.  It’s not always about doing MORE cardio.  Might just need to change what I did for cardio.   The body adapts.

I cruised along just fine losing weight until a point when I stopped losing weight.  The next big change was to add lifting into my program. Should have been there all along, but I was intimidated by that part of the gym.  That’s when I started working with a trainer.  Did that for about nine months.  I learned how to lift and didn’t need to have training after that.  (I studied, tested, and earned my personal training certification so I could design my own programs.   I’ve been working out on my own ever since,  however, I do have a coach now for the bodybuilding and contest prep stuff I’m doing.  So, I’m not really on my own, am I?  Duh.)

SLEEP.  I have personal experience with how lack of sleep alone will cause weight gain.  The research is out there if you need to see it.  But get your 8 hours in as many nights as you can.  Everything will work better.

ACCOUNTABILITY.  I have no idea what will work for others.  I know what worked for me.  I started food logging online and I had a someone reviewing those logs regularly.  When my own motivation fell away, I hired a trainer and started this blog.  Now I have a coach.  I found people online doing something similar to what I was doing.   This is something you do alone.  I had to stop myself from eating certain things.  I had to get up early and go workout.  I got up and went for a walk.  I did the research I needed to do.   No one made me do those things.  If I found myself spending more time “thinking” about losing weight, I stopped thinking about it and went to workout.

MENTAL GAME.  This is much harder than people realize.  I think this is when you need people to help you get out of funks.  Having real life people to talk to is best, I think, but it’s not always practical.  The internet is an excellent resource for you.  You are reading this blog right now.  There are a bunch of us fitness bloggers – go find more.  Read about their struggles.  Ask a question and we’ll answer.  We’ve all been there.  Use Facebook.  I used post-its.  My bathroom mirror is framed with post-its with motivational quotes that mean something to me.  I’ve been reading them every day for… years, I guess.

* * *

I’m very unsatisfied with this post.  Starting is simple.  After that, things can get complicated, but they don’t have to be.  Everyone is different.  Every body is different.  Some things are universal.   I don’t feel like I’m being very helpful just yammering about what I did.  I remember reading things like this when I started and thinking “Yeah, that worked for her, but what about…” whatever it was that was stuck in my head as an obstacle impossible to overcome.

How about we do this…if you ask me a question, I’ll do my best to answer it.   That might save this post.   So… do you have a question?


Filed under Motivation, Nutrition, Personal Training, Weight Loss

43 responses to “Questions?

  1. You have offered excellent insights and advice! For most of us, it’s imperative that from time to time we connect with others who are on a parallel journey. You have helped me! Thank you!


  2. Thank you. I am so tired of always “starting”. I guess that is the hardest part. I’m glad I found you as you’ve inspired me to turn myself around. If I don’t I’ll end up a dumpy mid-lifer–the very thing I’ve always said I wouldn’t do.


    • I got tired of starting over, too. There were days I went to the gym just to keep the routine. I may not have always had the greatest workout, but I knew if I skipped, that would be the beginning of the end. Thing is – they were usually pretty good workouts on those days. Or maybe I was just so proud I did anything they felt good.


  3. Bonnie

    YOU are a REAL hit at my page. The women are truly inspired by you. Tammy, may I ask, I am going to be 49 in 2013, and I must lose about 30 lbs and get fit. That’s all doable, but what I wonder about is my skin… will it be loose & “icky,” or…if I build enough beautiful muscle under it, will it look, seem, be tighter? What was your experience? Thx, always a fan, Bonnie


    • Thank you for sharing the pic! To answer your question, I lost my weight fairly slowly, 75 pounds in three years. I do have some skin issues, but not too bad. The muscle did make a difference. If it didn’t fill it up, it was a distraction. I’ve been told it will tighten up over time. For the show, I used an old bodybuilder trick. About 3 weeks prior, I started applying Prep H a couple times a day where I needed it to tighten up. Some people say it doesn’t work. It’s weird, that’s true. I think it worked better on my abdomen than other places. So I think if you shoot for a pound a week, your skin should adapt easily at that pace. Filling up with muscle is an excellent plan, btw!


  4. Colin DeWaay

    Great stuff! I think most of the time when the typical person asks this question they think you are going to offer some sort of simple solution like you figured out some deep dark secret. Aren’t they bummed when the answer is more like eat right and exercise? 🙂


  5. Anne S.

    Thanks for sharing your story! I think you have lots of good pieces of advice. The essence of it all is stop thinking – just do it! And yes it’s a struggle, it’s difficult at times to have that strong mentality to keep going. I guess that’s when one really needs to “just do it” or think: “Do I want to change or do I want what I am today?”
    Your article is an inspiration! Thank you again for sharing.


  6. One Fit Mama

    ha ha – you mean the answer is diet and exercise?!? go figure!
    great post


  7. I wish there was a way to love a post.
    This is great.
    I love it!!


  8. Nancy

    Good evening! I found ur blog a few days ago quite by accident but am SO glad I did!!! I have spent the last 3 years getting into shape after I saw my reflection in a window and wondered what was following me….turned out it was rear end! I turned 48 this past Oct and have decided that I too want to compete by my 50th. I have a trainer and have made tremendous progress in a few short months. My main concerns now are diet & supplements. I’ve done some research and have learned enough to know that the more mature lifter/competitor has different needs/tolerances than someone, say in their 20’s. I guess my actual question is did u get a nutritionist or did u figure it out on ur own? I’ve briefly looked at the Tosca Reno site & will going back there. Which would u recommend I read first? Ur thoughts on supplements?


    • Hi! I’ve done a lot of research, but not for my age bracket. Just for building muscle. The book I read that really changed everything was “Nutrient Timing” by John Ivy. I used it to figure out the supplements (BCAA, vitamins, etc.) I should take, too. The second book I read was “Better Than Steriods” by Warren Willey. Then, as I went into contest prep, I started working with my coach. Things were dialed in based on how my body reacted to certain foods. The only thing that I take that could be related to my age is Phosphatidylserine Complex. I get it at Vitamin Shoppe. I take that to control my cortisol levels. I’ve blogged on my battle with cortisol a few times. This was the active ingredient in the Chinese herbs my doctor was giving me for hot flashes, too. Cheaper for me to get it on my own.

      Congrats on your decision to compete! It’s very exciting. I had a blast. Please keep me posted on how things are going.


        • Nancy

          Thank you very much. I have previewed both the books you recommended and am so excited to read them now. They are EXACTLY what I was looking for. Scientifically based, tested & proven! Thank you again and Happy New Year!


        • javaseas

          Good morning….like so many here, yesterday found you via a FB post from my step son via Scott Sonnen, Inspiring to say the least. Question on the protein need. General rule states 0.7/lb of body weight….that’s current overweight body weight or fit weight we’re aiming for? Thanks!


          • Hi! That would be based on current body weight. It will drop as your weight drops.


            • Personally, I feel better with more protein. I think that study was establishing the lower amounts. Every body is different. These numbers give someone a place to start and you can tweak it later depending on how you feel.


              • javaseas

                Thanks….at this point, it’s a lot of protein due to my weight. I look forward to the journey (again….would I feel better if this was my first serious attempt, or will I commit this time and this is the beginning of a successful journey? I only know I will not give up the dream) of discovering at what level of protein intake I feel best.


                • Go with how you feel. In my plan, and this is just what works for me – every body is different – protein is locked down. I need to consume the stuff I need to recover. The other issue is that you don’t want your calories to go below your BMR, which is also dependent on your current weight. Drop calories slowly and gradually so as not to damage metabolism. If the body, no matter how much it weighs, learns how to get along with 1000 calories, where do you go from there if you still have weight to lose??


  9. Kolleen White

    I have been working out, walking, and lost about 100 lbs now. I have slacked for the last month (holidays, work, family obligations). Now I’m ready to get back to it. You have given me the inspiration to go further. THANK YOU!!! I’m 53 and I will look better at 54 than I did at 45 or 35! Please continue your posts. You are reaching more people than you do at school.


    • Wow! Nice job. I know how much work you had to do. And think of the years you gave back to yourself!

      Ironically, I was thinking about taking a break from FB and blogging just hours before Jason posted my pic on Siouxcountry’s page. Now, after hearing from all of you, I feel renewed energy, not just for posting, but for my own training. I want to do my best to represent the next time I compete. What if we 50-something’s start flooding into everything?? Awesome.


  10. SRossi

    You mention Tosca Reno’s books. I’ve looked at them but she has so many I STILL don’t know where to start! haha .. At 47, I am badly out of shape, need to lose 40 lbs., and have my own medical demons to battle just to get up off the couch and start exercising. I’ve never been good about motivating myself and yet so self conscious to go to the gym for help. But I promise myself that I am going to find a way this year! What books of Tosca’s did you find the best for a beginner?


    • I think the Eat Clean Diet Recharged is a good one to start with. If you live near a bookstore, you could look at it first.

      And – congrats on your decision! It’s exciting and scary. Many times I had to make myself do a thing I was nervous to do. I think I used my “teacher voice” on myself. LOL!


  11. javaseas

    Good morning again….do you have a favorite program you use to log your food or do you do it the old fashioned, pen and paper, way? Thanks!


  12. Hello….you are truly an inspiration for us women at this point in our lives. I, also, was doing a “body transformation” blog (, but when I started the dang menopause crap I got totally derailed. My thyroid went bonkers, too, and 20 pounds literally LEAPED on. I plan to use your blog to motivate me to get back on the wagon and restart my blog. BTW, I am a teacher, too. Early mornings are tough, especially dealing with 9-11 year olds the rest of the day! Best of luck to you in your future contests!


  13. ♥ to you my friend. Thanks for sharing my blog and if you don’t mind I’d like to share this one on my blog tomorrow. You mentioned that you weren’t satisfied with it, but it’s really great. You rock!


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