Tag Archives: diet

How to Not Need “Cheat Days”

vegetables italian pizza restaurant

I don’t have “cheat days”.

I’m not THAT dedicated.

Hahaha!  Probably not what you expected to hear from me.

Nutrition supports your fitness goals in two ways…

  • Calories determine whether you are gaining, losing, or maintaining.
  • Macro and micronutrients help your body work optimally and help you feel better.

Food preferences are individual.  (I really dislike strawberry ice cream.  Go ahead – judge. But I’m going for the chocolate.  Or my recent new favorite – orange cream sherbet.  Must a summer thing!)

person holding ice cream with cone

Once you get used to using food as fuel, it’s like seeing the matrix.  Sort of.  You’ll still drop into the illusion and enjoy your favorites.

But those favorites are part of the matrix – they are a combination of calories and nutrients.  In the matrix, pizza has no value judgement – it’s just calories, carbs, protein, and fat.

That said, when I’m in a fat-loss phase (which I’m not this year), what someone else might call a “cheat day”, I call a refeed day.

On a refeed day, I’ll bring my calories up to maintenance – which means my goal is to eat the same number of calories that I estimate I will burn in that 24 hours period.

Usually, I do that by increasing portion sizes of foods I’m already eating.  But if I’m psychologically needing something I haven’t had in a while, that will come in on a refeed day.

It’s all logged.  It’s not a “cheat” anything because I’m not cheating by choosing “forbidden foods”.  No foods are forbidden for this purpose. 

Food choices are individual.  Yes, there are plenty of medical, philosophical, and ethical reasons why people have certain food preferences.

 That’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about controlling the amount of food you choose to eat – whatever that is going to be.

Actually, I do the same thing when I’m NOT in a fat-loss phase.  The difference is that I’m either at maintenance or in a controlled surplus with calories.


Not everyone likes the matrix.  I do.  I like the flexibility of choosing foods I like instead of using food lists.  I like how it changed my relationship with food by adding some structure and science.

Now the questions are do you do a refeed day, a refeed meal, and when? 

That’s another post…

If you’d like me to teach you how to do this for yourself, or to figure it all out for you  – a customized nutrition plan with live, weekly, support to make it all work when life gets busy – learn more here.

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Filed under diet, Nutrition

Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay: How to Use “Bad” Foods to (Finally) Reach Your Goals

Sure you can lose weight eating ice cream every day, but it’s not healthy.” This is probably the number one argument I hear from people who promote a strictly “clean eating” approach to dieting when I talk about flexible dieting or specifically my diet. I’m dead serious when I say there’s barely a day that goes by where I don’t eat ice cream (and before bed too, gasp.) So while physically it looks like I’m in pretty good shape, I guess I’m unhealthy (my health markers would say otherwise, for the record.)

Hey I get it, I used to be a clean eater too. I think the majority of people who start out do the same thing. After all we’re told all the time to avoid junk food and eat more veggies right? Besides, it’s certainly good and I encourage a large portion of anyone’s diet to by nutrient dense and whole foods. They’ll typically have more vitamins/minerals and be more satiating, not to mention have a higher thermic effect of food. But does that mean eating ice cream, pizza, cookies or a glass of wine in any amount is automatically unhealthy?

I’ll say this much… Foods like junk food, fast food, sugary snacks, etc. are void of micronutrients and aren’t very filling so they can be easy to overeat, but does that mean they’re unhealthy? Well I believe that requires some context. I truly believe no food, on it’s own, is unhealthy. Say for instance a person is literally starving to death. If they’re offered a pizza should they turn it down because it’s “not healthy?” Of course not, in fact those calories would be VERY healthy to them. Calories are a good thing, they give us energy and make us function. It’s when we go too far in one direction where it becomes a problem.

But what about someone who eats a balanced diet, is health conscious and exercises regularly? Is incorporating a little ice cream into their diet daily really unhealthy? Is any amount of “bad” food ALWAYS bad? After all the argument here is that eating certain foods is always unhealthy no matter what, right? Well research doesn’t exactly support that argument…

Let’s take a closer look at sugar. EVERYONE can agree sugar is bad right? In fact I’ve literally had people tell me sugar was “the devil” (not joking.) Well again, this requires context. Again, yes sugar is easy to over eat and void of nutrients. My precious ice cream certainly has sugar in it, so am I unhealthy? Well there was a study published in 1997 that looked at the effect of sugar in a diet when protein, carbs and fat were matched. (1) In one group sugar made up 4% of their calories and in the other group 43% of calories came from sugar. That was the difference of about 11 grams of sugar per day and 118! Guess what? At the end of the study both groups lost the same amount of weight, both showed decreases in depression, hunger, negative mood and increases in vigilance and positive mood. But remember, the argument is that you can lose weight, but it’s not healthy. Well both groups also saw the same improvements in blood pressure, blood glucose, thyroid hormones and markers of inflammation with the only difference between a slight advantage to the low sugar group (less than a 10% difference) in cholesterol and blood lips. Which I’d make the argument it was because fiber was not matched. There are also other studies that looked at the difference between complex and simple carbs (often looked at as “good” or “bad” carbs) where they found no difference in weight loss or blood lipids. (2,3,4)

Besides research showing positive results despite the actual types of foods eaten, there are number anecdotal subjects who went through extreme measures to prove no foods were bad so long as you ate below maintenance. Remember the documentary “Supersize Me?” The guy ate nothing but McDonald’s, didn’t control calories at all, stopped exercising and gained a bunch of weight. (Duh) The whole world screamed for McDonald’s to be shut down because it’s making the world fat. Well a guy by the name of John Cisna didn’t agree and set out to prove them wrong. He spent 6 months eating NOTHING but McDonald’s. Following a 2,000 calorie diet he ended up losing 56 lbs, saw his cholesterol drop from 249 to 190 and by the end of it all he had normal sodium and blood pressure levels.

Or how about Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition, who spent 2 months on what he called the “Twinkie Diet” eating two thirds of his food from things like Twinkies, Oreos, Little Debbie snacks and sugary cereals? He lost 27 lbs, his LDL (“bad cholesterol”) dropped by 20% and his HDL (“good cholesterol”) increased by 20% while seeing his triglycerides drop by 39%.

Then there is a man who runs a YouTube channel called “Abs & Ice Cream” who recently spent 100 days eating 2000 calories worth of ice cream… (Plus about 500 calories from whey protein.) Every. Single. Day. When I heard about this, you better believe I was paying attention. Guess what? He lost 32 lbs, his triglycerides dropped 25 points, HDL went up 17 points, LDL went down 6 points, and they rated his overall cardiac risk factors and it went from 2.3 to 1.6. Eating 2,000 calories of ice cream every day! But yeah my one bowl is unhealthy…

But I digress.

What does all this tell us? Well we should go out and eat whatever the hell we want and just control calories! Okay no, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But it does show that you CAN eat foods most deem as “unhealthy” and still be healthy. Furthermore I think it CLEARLY shows that how much bodyfat you store is a much bigger health factor than the actual foods you eat. Again, I still think a major portion of your diet should be from nutritious foods, but at that doesn’t mean you need to, or even should avoid certain foods because you think they’re bad. We always have to remember weight loss isn’t just a physical thing, the psychological side of things is not only just as important, but in my opinion MORE important.

It doesn’t matter how “optimal” a diet is if you can’t stick to it.

It doesn’t matter how “optimal” a diet is if you can’t stick to it. I’ve given you these stats before but it’s worth mentioning over and over. The evidence of weight loss success (meaning keeping it off) is BLEAK. Almost everyone who becomes obese loses a significant amount of weight in their life. But of those people less than 5% keep the weight off long-term. (5) FIVE PERCENT. That is a staggering number. I believe a big reason is because nobody thinks about sustainability when they diet. It’s always this mad dash to the finish line. Cutting out all their favorite foods, starving themselves, never thinking about how they’ll maintain the weight when (or more like if) it comes off. It doesn’t matter what you do to lose the weight if you can’t keep doing it when the weight is gone. THIS is why I find it so important include foods you enjoy into your diet and learn about moderation. If you’re controlling your intake, especially if you’re matching calories, protein and fiber, the actual foods you eat mean next to nothing. It’s time to stop looking for magic foods and start looking for something a little more realistic. No foods by themselves inherently make you fat or thin, everything requires CONTEXT.



For more information from Colin you may download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on an email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails. Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you’re sensitive you may want to pass.


Colin DeWaay holds a personal training certification with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He’s the owner of Colin DeWaay Training LLC, an online strength and nutrition consulting business that fully customizes training and nutrition programs for those interested in general fitness all the way up to advanced powerlifting programs. He specializes in helping people with a history of yoyo dieting create a more sustainable healthy lifestyle, improving metabolism through reverse dieting if necessary, and helping make binges a thing of the past by creating a healthy relationship with food utilizing flexible dieting. His goal is not to produce quick results, but to help produce realistic, sustainable results that last.





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Filed under Guest Blog, Guest Blogs, Nutrition

What To Do When Dieting No Longer Works – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay

“How did I get here again?” That’s the question you find yourself asking as you step back on the scale for the first time in months. You had done so well, lost a bunch of weight, feeling good about yourself, but you somehow put it all back on… AGAIN. This isn’t the first time it’s happened to you, hell it’s probably not the 4th time it’s happened. But this time you’ve had enough. This will be the last time. You go back to your old routine. You start cleaning up your diet, exercising daily, doing all the right things. “Why isn’t the weight coming off?” It seems like no matter what you do now, dieting no longer works. So, you get a little more extreme, still nothing. Eventually you get frustrated and give up, go back to your old habits, until once again you can’t take it and start over. You’ve tried every quick fix, fad diet, and gimmick you could find but nothing ever sticks. Does any of this sound familiar? You’re not alone.

You probably think the reason it’s not working is because you’ve gotten older. Sure, age is somewhat of a factor, especially for women when menopause starts (I’ve written about this before here) but that’s still not the main reason. It’s actually your long history of dieting that’s making it so tough. In fact, the more times you’ve dieted in your life, the harder it likely is to lose again. (1) It’s not uncommon for people to have dieted on and off most of their life. I have clients who admit they’ve spent the last 25-30 years of their life yoyo dieting. With how adaptive the human body is, losing weight in that scenario will be next to impossible unless you take the time to improve your metabolism, which I’ll cover here soon, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

First, let’s talk about just how well the body adapts to low calories. Remember that your body doesn’t care about achieving low levels of body fat, it cares about survival and when calories are low, those survival instincts are going to take over. Your body becomes very efficient and holding onto what you give it. Your hormones change, thyroid and leptin levels drop, cortisol and ghrelin rise. Not only that but even when weight increases fast, your hormones still don’t return to normal. On top of that you burn less calories from exercise, the thermic effect of food drops and your metabolic rate slows. (2, 3)

In fact, lucky for me the day I sat down to write this article Dr. Layne Norton posted a new study showing how metabolic adaptation happens during low calorie periods. In this study they showed just 3 weeks of a 50% calorie reduction reduced total daily energy expenditure much more than predicted based on the amount of bodyweight actually lost. During this small time frame, total daily expenditure dropped 42%, resting metabolic rate dropped by 40% and non-resting metabolic rate dropped by 48%! (4) Keep in mind this is just a 3 week period, imagine if you’ve done something similar for months or even years on and off? Clearly the body is good at adapting to low calories and this is just one more sign why so few people are able to lose weight and keep it off long-term.

So what does all this mean for you? Well for one it reminds us just how important it is to NOT diet with extreme methods and keep calories as high as possible while still losing weight. It also brings to mind the importance of sustainability of your diet, which is why I believe flexible dieting is much more effective than rigid plans. But most importantly if you’re someone with a long history of dieting the last thing you should think about doing is trying to diet down once again. Yes, I’m saying even if you’re overweight and unhealthy you SHOULD NOT try to lose weight. Wait, what? What kind of a coach/trainer would tell someone out of shape NOT to diet? Well, one who actually cares about your long-term success… If calories get low, if dieting is no longer working, dieting more will only make things worse. So what SHOULD you do then? Well I’ve talked about it before, but this is where reverse dieting comes into play.

I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here because as I mentioned I’ve covered it all here before, but I do want to touch on it. If you have a long history of dieting, if you’re eating low calories and the body isn’t responding, you’re going to need to take the time to improve your metabolism if you’re ever going to see long-term success. Think about it this way. If you’re eating 1200 calories and not losing, what are you going to do? Eat 1000? 800? 600? At some point it’s just not realistic. I’ll be honest too, reverse dieting isn’t a fast process. It’s going to take a lot of patience, you may gain some weight in the short-term, but the trade-off for an improved metabolism and a LIFETIME of success is well worth the trade-off of short-term frustration. It can’t be any less frustrating then dieting hard and not seeing any results, can it?

Hey I get it, this isn’t what you want to hear. And believe it or not I completely empathize with your frustration. You didn’t know this was happening, you didn’t know you were doing more harm than good with all this dieting. You had good intentions! Unfortunately, that doesn’t change reality and it’s important to operate from a position of acceptance, rather than blame or anger. Now you know better. Now you know what you’re up against. You don’t HAVE to reverse diet and take the time to do things the right way, but if you don’t you’re also probably better off not even thinking about getting in shape. I’m not here to tell you what your priorities in life should be, and there’s nothing wrong if health and fitness isn’t your priority. That is completely up to you. But if it IS a priority, this is your new reality. What are you going to do about it? Starvation diets and extreme methods have never worked, restrictive dieting only leads you to binge. It’s time to give up the quick fixes and start doing things in a sustainable manner. Remember, if what you’re doing to lose the weight isn’t something you can do when the weight is gone, you’re doomed to fail. Break the cycle!


If you’re looking for more information from Colin download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on an email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails. Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you’re sensitive you may want to pass.

Colin DeWaay holds a personal training certification with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He’s the owner of Colin DeWaay Training LLC, an online strength and nutrition consulting business that fully customizes training and nutrition programs for those interested in general fitness all the way up to advanced powerlifting programs. He specializes in helping people with a history of yoyo dieting create a more sustainable healthy lifestyle, improving metabolism through reverse dieting if necessary, and helping make binges a thing of the past by creating a healthy relationship with food utilizing flexible dieting. His goal is not to produce quick results, but to help produce realistic, sustainable results that last.






Filed under My Lifting Log

Health and Fitness Success in the Long Term – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay

Colin and I have been friends for a few years.  We met through our blogs.  Because of his passion for helping others achieve their health and fitness goals, he and his wife transformed their professional lives so that Colin could follow his dream to be a trainer and coach.  He’s researched and written extensively for a long time, as a contributing author for other blogs, and on his own site, Colin DeWaay Training.  Even though I am a NASM trainer and Fitness Nutrition Coach, my teacher duties and my own training keep me too busy to work with clients or to even research and write the kind of informative posts I’d like to have here on this blog.  Colin and I share similar views on everything related to fitness and nutrition, so I asked him if he would be willing write for my blog monthly and he generously agreed.  I’m excited because you will get solid information and I can keep my focus on the motivation side of a long-term transformation.   Let me know in the comments if you found it helpful.  Thanks Colin!

When Tammy asked me to step in and write a guest blog for her I was thinking hard about what I’d want to write about. Given a lot of people look up to Tammy because of her amazing accomplishments over the last several years, I felt a good place to start would be how to bring about health and fitness success in the long-term.

Chances are if you are reading this you’ve lost weight at some point in your life. Perhaps you’ve done it several times. You see the world doesn’t really have a weight loss problem. It has a losing weight and keeping it off problem. The statistics are quite staggering. According to a paper in the American Journal of Physiology (1) 80% of people that lose weight are unable to keep it off for one year and the statistics just get worse with each passing year to the point where within a 3-5 years only a handful of people have kept it off.

Now before you read that and decide it’s not worth the effort, I want to explain why I personally believe most people fail to keep the weight off. You know the old cliché diets don’t work? That it’s a lifestyle change? Yeah, that’s true. But the problem is nobody talks about how to make it a lifestyle you can keep up with and that’s enjoyable.  When most people diet they focus on eliminating things. No more sugar, bread, dairy, alcohol, etc. The focus becomes on all the things they can’t eat, creating a pretty miserable experience. Certainly you want to focus on eating foods packed with nutrition, but I also believe it’s important to include the foods you love as well.

“If what you are doing now to lose weight isn’t something you can see yourself doing 3 months, 6 months, a year, 5 years down the road… it won’t work.”

The problem with the typical diet is they aren’t sustainable. They are too restrictive and too hard for the average person to keep doing. If what you are doing now to lose weight isn’t something you can see yourself doing 3 months, 6 months, a year, 5 years down the road… it won’t work. This is why I’m never impressed with short-term “transformation” photos. Sure that’s great you lost 30 lbs in 2 months. I want to see another picture in a year. Most of the time it will look just like the “before” photo.

Why? Because when you crash diet you signal your body to think there is a lack of calories. So your metabolic rates slows, and when it does come across calories there is a greater likelihood of fat storage. Your body doesn’t care about being lean, it wants to keep you from starving to death. That’s it’s job! So how does the typical diet go?

Usually it starts by eliminating a bunch of foods as I mentioned before. Generally there will be a pretty drastic cut in calories because of this. By eliminating a bunch of foods you start losing weight fast. Not because those foods were necessarily “bad” but because by eliminating them you eliminate a lot of calories. At first you start losing weight really fast. Multiple pounds per week start falling off and you couldn’t be happier. It’s “working!” But eventually you stop losing weight. It’s getting much harder than it was at first. You stick with it for a while but as the weeks go by and you still can’t lose more weight so eventually you give up. It’s too hard and there’s “no point” so you go back to your old eating habits and the weight comes back on. FAST.

Sound familiar? Why does this happen? Well first, it’s probably not your fault. You’ve been taught by infomercials and the media that fast weight loss is GOOD. That you can drink shakes and take pills and lose the weight for good. You’ve been told cardio and eating only rabbit food and cardboard is how you lose weight, you don’t know any better! When I’m done with this series, you won’t have that excuse anymore…

Here’s what really happens when you take this approach: When you lose weight fast it’s because you are burning significantly more calories than you are consuming. Sounds good right? After all you MUST burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. There is no way around this. But the problem comes from not eating enough. At first you lose a lot of calories because your metabolism is firing away from all the excess calories it’s used to getting. But then when you cut your calories it slows down.

You have to understand when you lose weight your metabolism will slow, there is no way around this. If someone tells you they can raise your metabolism while you lose weight run far, far away from them. When you cut your calories too fast your metabolism will slow down even faster. But the problem is if you’re already eating extremely low calories, what will you do when weight loss stops? Keep cutting calories until you’re no longer eating at all? No, you can’t possibly keep that up so instead you quit. And you go back to your old eating habits, only you do so with a much slower metabolism than you had when you were eating like that before. Sound familiar?

So here’s the real “secret” to losing weight and continuing to lose weight long-term. Eat as many calories as possible while still losing weight.  It is imperative that you do this for lasting results. This way when you do reach plateaus you have room to make adjustments. You can continue to cut your calories and get the ball rolling again. This is why slow weight loss is the way to go. It keeps your metabolism working for you. It makes it more sustainable so you can keep going in the right direction. Certainly if you have an extreme amount of weight to lose a faster pace in the beginning is okay and normal, but eventually you want to keep things around a pound or two per week max. And honestly the slower you can take it the better off you’ll be long-term. Plus as an added bonus, you get to eat more! Who doesn’t want that???

“So here’s the real ‘secret’ to losing weight and continuing to lose weight long-term. Eat as many calories as possible while still losing weight.”

Yes you will get frustrated sometimes because it’s taking longer than you’d like. And yes, you’ll be jealous of the people you see online and in person who are losing weight extremely fast. But if you just keep going and doing it the right way. Chances are a year down the road, two years and beyond those people will be right back where they started. And they will be asking you what your secret is. It’s something I see ALL the time.

Okay now that you know you want to keep calories high and take weight loss slow. Now you probably want to learn more about still eating the foods you love while you lose weight… That’s exactly what I will talk about next time Tammy has me back.

If you are looking for more information from me you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you will get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you are super sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life, you will love it.


Filed under Guest Blog, Nutrition, Weight Loss

FAQs From Facebook

These are some common questions I’ve been asked by the people who follow the Lifting My Spirits page.  Thank you so much!!  There were some great questions that I don’t have the experience to answer.  For those, I’m going to line up some guest bloggers to share their expertise.  These are the questions I picked to answer here…

  • Is there one certain diet plan you have followed more than another one?
  • When you first started you journey what did you change first?
  • How do you know how any carbs you should have?
  • Have you had to deal with any hormone issues or messed up metabolism from the competition diet that hinder the building muscle or especially losing body fat around the abdomen/hip areas?
  • Everyone wants to see results fast. When you were not seeing the results you expected, what did you do and how did you stay motivated?

Is there one certain diet plan you have followed more than another one?

I have done a few plans.  Obviously none of them provided long-term results.  I had to quit thinking about “diet” as a thing I did to lose weight and instead start thinking about the need for me to learn how food interacts with my body, how it makes me feel, energy levels, etc.  I needed to learn how to feed and care for my body in a way that worked for this body, the one I’m in charge of keeping healthy.  I think it’s a mistake to assume we are all exactly the same and that “plans” or “programs” will deliver the same results for everyone.  “Individual result may vary” isn’t about varied levels of compliance – it’s about biology.  We have to become observant experts about our own body.  That led me to choose mostly whole foods over processed foods – but more on that in a minute.

I need to come “clean”, so to speak before I say much more. In the beginning, I was a religious “clean-eater”.  For me, that meant I was judgmental about how I ate and how other people ate.  I was excited about my new life.  I wanted everyone to know this secret.  But I was also not secure with my ability to stick to it and felt like I needed to be vocal about it to stay committed.   Still emotionally eating, but in a different way.  I played the role of a “beast-mode” martyr.  I was annoying.  I’m certain I offended people.  I’m ashamed of that now, but I understand the psychology of that phase now that I’m here.  I think some of us just need to go through that phase.

I had to step back and think about it objectively and work hard to remove emotions from how I fed myself.  I learned more about flexible dieting and eating to hit macro targets (protein, carbs, fats) from my current coach.  Food choices are mine.  No food lists.  The volume of food depends on whether my goal is cutting weight, gaining weight, or maintaining weight.  I learned that whole foods – lean meats, vegetables, fruit, some grains, Greek yogurt, eggs –are the foods that worked best for me.   In the beginning, I also wanted to heal my body from years of self-neglect.  It just made sense for me to eat foods I knew would provide the most amount nutrients for the calories.  I knew about cell-regeneration.  I believed that if I provided myself with food that my body was designed to use for fuel and recovery, I’d be putting myself in the best position to live the way I wanted to live, feel the way I wanted to feel for the rest of my life.  Nothing fancy.  No programs.  No gimmicks.  No short-cuts.

When you first started you journey what did you change first?

When I first started, I knew that I would be overwhelmed doing everything at the same time.  I started with nutrition.  I did work with a nutrition coach, but I don’t think that’s necessary for everyone.  I felt I needed to be told what to do and then do exactly what I was told.  I’m very busy and that helped me stick to it.  (See the question about my diet for more info what I did.)  While I was learning how to eat, food prep, log, track, etc., I walked for cardio.  I wish now that I would have started lifting sooner because I didn’t expect that I would love it so much.  I was intimidated by it.  I do think everyone needs to have some sort of resistance training in their program because of the health benefits – we have muscles and bones that need attention, too.  We get too focused on the fat we store and forget that the structural part.  (Fat doesn’t break when you fall.  Fat doesn’t get pulled and puts in you in bed until it heals.)

The best approach for someone just starting is to pick one thing and make that a new healthy habit.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s the nutrition, or cardio, or lifting.  Or something else like quitting smoking.  But just one thing.  Once the routines of life have been adjusted to the first thing and you feel you can handle a second component, add it.  Think of it as learning how to juggle.  Start with one ball, add a second, master that, and then add another.  Accept and embrace that you will screw up and be ready to handle that with yourself as if you were teaching a child a new skill.  It’s OK.  It’s more than OK – it’s necessary to screw up.  We learn from those mistakes.  We learn what works for us and what doesn’t’.  As you learn, you’ll adjust.  I’m not doing anything exactly the same way as I did it when I started.  My program had to change as I changed.  That’s what’s supposed to happen.

How do you know how any carbs you should have?

I don’t think carbs should be a set number.  Carbs are gas in the tank – some days we need more than others.   So when thinking about my nutrition,  carbs aren’t set in stone – protein is and it needs to be set first.  I like 1 gram of protein per pound of my body weight.  That’s not something that changes for me from day to day.  My fat grams will range up or down, as do my carbs, depending on my activity level that day or whether I’m in a contest prep phase or in an “improvement season” like I am now.   It’s been a goal of mine to increase the number of carbs I can consume and maintain my weight.  My metabolism is healthier now than it was before I competed.

Have you had to deal with any hormone issues or messed up metabolism from the competition diet that hinder the building muscle or especially losing body fat around the abdomen/hip areas?

No hormone issues that I’m aware of, but the fat on my abdomen and glutes is the last to leave me.  I did the typical competition diet for my first and second shows.  After the second show, I knew that I couldn’t go through that cycle again.  It would undo the health benefits I gained with my transformation.  That’s when I started working with my current coach.  I don’t have food lists.  I am free to eat what I like, just need to hit macro targets set depending on the current goals. And for my third show, I came in leaner and eating more than I had before.  I also didn’t do a water-cut.  I was drinking water all morning, eating back stage, and looked leaner and fuller than I did during my second show.  These results didn’t come from one thing – it was smart coaching for 18 months prior.  I’m excited to see what we are going to accomplish over the next couple of years, since I’m not planning on competing again until summer 2017 at the earliest.

Everyone wants to see results fast. When you were not seeing the results you expected, what did you do and how did you stay motivated?

I’ve been discouraged so many times.  When it happens, I remind myself that this is a process.  Change happens at the cellular level.  Changes in grams, either fat lost or muscle gained, won’t show up on the scale right away.  Just because I can’t see change, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  This is science.   I know that if I am consistent and patient, results come.  The goals I set are behavioral goals.  I can control my behavior.  I won’t miss a workout.  I will stick to my food plan.  The physical changes are side-effects of the things I do.

On a bad day, I’ll go back and look at pictures.  I didn’t take pictures all along, but have been doing that regularly for the last couple of years.  Those pictures help me see changes.  I also LOVE lifting.  I can’t deal with the stress of life without it.   It’s my “me” time.  I like the challenge of it.  I enjoy pushing myself to do things that used to intimidate me.

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3 Weeks Out – Time is Flying By Fast Now

This past week was an emotional one.

  • Two graduations to attend – my new high school and my old one.  I don’t have enough words to describe how proud I am of my students.  Every single one had to work hard to achieve what they celebrated on that day.
  • Had to go back to school to clean up the room, print my grades, and turn in my keys for the summer break.  It’s a short break in our district – we go back at the beginning of August.  I’ll go back at the end of July.  When I locked that classroom door, I was a bit overcome with gratitude to have finally landed in a spot that works with my life and where I feel appreciated.
  • I dropped our parakeet’s cage in the patio by accident.  It wasn’t hurt – but it flew away.  I didn’t think I was bonded to that bird, but I miss it.  I feel remorse that my clumsiness probably killed the little guy.  I try to push back thoughts of how scared it must have been with the thought that, since he was kind of an old parakeet and never been out of a cage, that this was his great escape.  He is off having an adventure.
  • Life happened – no details – but for about half a day, it looked like I was going to have to pull out of the show because we would need to the money I have saved for show expenses to handle the situation.  That made me a bit sad for about half a day.  It worked out differently than I thought it would, so things are still a “go”.  Competing is NOT a life-priority.  I won’t let it be a consideration when we are making decisions.
  • Since I’m not working now, all my daily routines are gone.  It’s relaxing to be able to sleep without an alarm clock.  Still working on getting my days to run a bit smoother.  My training and prep activities do take up a chunk of time each day, but they aren’t the most important things I need to do each day.  Hubby and home are my top priorities.  I spent a lot of free time over the last year dealing with school transfers.  I’m still juggling things a bit to make sure my priorities are reflected with how I spend my time each day.

Look what came today!  I love it!!  Fits great.  I ordered the suit last Sunday night and it was delivered on Saturday.  This is my fourth suit from Saleyla , they are affordable, they have all fit and are delivered in a week.


New Posing Suit (Photobombed by Tippy)

This week, I chose the song I will use for my routine.   I had to download and learn how to use software to edit it myself.  It was a little more involved than setting a start/stop time.  I needed to figure out how to put three different chunks together and make it sound like it wasn’t three different chunks stuck together.  It can only be a minute long.

This is the song I’m using…

I think I have a rough draft of my routine put together.  Sent a video to my coach for his feedback.  The next three weeks will include a LOT of practice time for the routine and for mandatory poses.

Diet break ended and I was back on deficit days this past Thursday.  Body has dropped every day since.  I was at a prep low of 132.6 lbs this morning.  This is what diet breaks have done for me during this prep.  Haven’t really hit any unplanned plateau’s yet.  Those breaks are planned maintenance periods.  Not exactly refeeds – I have to eat a little under my burn to maintain my weight.  Months ago, these “diet deloads” were nice breaks.  Now, they are stressful.  Obviously, they are a psychologically stressful this close to a show, but the last two have also been physically stressful.  It’s a gear change that I actually feel.  But they are a break for my metabolism, though, which is the point.  These breaks are pushing my fat loss to a place I’ve never been.

Lifting has been going well.  Still no major loss of strength.  There were a couple times during the last week of school when I pulled back a bit, but that was to stay safe when I knew I was sleep-deprived and stressed.  This week, I’ve been able to do what was planned.  I am supposed to test my max lifts next week, but I asked coach if I could skip that.  I don’t need another thing to think about right now.  And I know myself – I get a bit competitive with myself when testing.  I just don’t see the point right now.  Coach said I could just add 5% to my lifts and skip it this time.  I’ll test again after the competition.

New progress pics were taken this morning.  I’m still nervous about being as lean as I need to be, but I am happy that I have already reached my goal of having better conditioning than I did in 2013.  I only post my progress pictures here on this blog.

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4 Weeks Out: ANOTHER Diet Break! Really?

File this one under the “BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR” category.  I’ve been back on my diet for a week, with a seven day break before that, and today Coach tells me to go to maintenance for three days, wait two days, then take pictures on Saturday morning.  This must be a test run to see how my body responds to carb-loading.  But still, it’s annoying.  Unexpectedly stressful to keep going on and off the diet.  When the nerves flare up, I want to suffer a bit to feel like I’m making progress with the extreme fat-loss that needs to happen to be stage-ready.  It’s a psychological thing.  This prep is so different than my last two.  Trust the process?  Trust the coach.

Hahahaha!  OK.  If I must eat, I will eat.

About that – I am sad to report that ice cream is out now.  I eat mostly whole foods anyway, so this won’t be an overhaul.  Just pulling out things that have ingredient labels.  Peace-of-mind, mostly.



Sent my registration.  This is happening.


Found my posing suits in the closet.  My black suit will still work for prejudging.  The fancy night show suit doesn’t fit well and I didn’t like how the color looked on stage in 2013.   Decided to order a new one from the same place, Saleyla, because they make great suits and turn them around fast.  I liked this simple style with a little bling, but I changed the fabric to be turquoise velvet.


About teaching…school ended last week.  Graduation is tomorrow.  The end of a school year is always a bit nuts – especially if you work with seniors.  Many ’emergencies’.  But they really need to be given a chance to earn that graduation, in my opinion.  I never want to see someone handed a diploma they didn’t earn, but I also understand how important it is to give that second, third, fourth chance to earn it.  NOT graduating is a severe, life-changing consequence.  So last week was all about trying to save as many as possible.  Most stepped up and earned it.  Can’t wait to watch them walk across the stage tomorrow!  I am grateful to have landed at this school.  Took the long way to get here, but it’s a good fit.  Looking forward to next year – which starts in August.


In other news…  I can’t share details, but it did impact me negatively, so it is that impact that I want to document in my blog.   Much stress was felt over the last couple months about this issue.  It’s not what or why that’s important.   It’s another chapter in my never-ending journey outside my comfort-zone.  I never wrote about this.  I wanted to, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say or even if it was appropriate for me to share my experience here.  I felt stifled.  Moved past it.   I thought I had dealt with this issue and found an ethical compromise I could live with.  However,  last week, there was a new development and I felt it was important for me to speak up to the group to share my discomfort about the issue.  Wasn’t sure how that would be received.  For a few hours, I thought I might get kicked off my bodybuilding team – which is a possibility.  Sometimes, coaches fire clients.  I didn’t think it would happen, but it took a fair amount of courage and trust for me to say what I needed to say.  Some things are bigger and more important to me than my own needs.  My coach reached out to me personally.  The other coaches were open to a dialogue with me and were sincere, understanding, and willing to revisit some decisions.  You don’t see that happening very often.  Most of the time, people get defensive, dig in, and hold their ground.  I’m sure that was their initial response privately, so to move away from that was unexpected and impressive.    The situation is resolved now, I guess.  Or at least it’s been discussed and air has been cleared.

One of the reasons this one issue blew up into something uncomfortable for me is an unshakable feeling that I have little in common with most people on my team, other than things related to bodybuilding itself.   I’ve only met a few of these people in person, so it’s hard to feel like I really know any of them.  The demographic is mostly 2o,30-something males with athletic backgrounds.  And then there is me:  a 50-something female who is new to anything athletic.  Heck, I don’t even follow professional sports!  I workout by myself.  I love to lift,  but I don’t enjoy discussing the nuances of it.  (I can talk about teaching ALL. DAY. LONG.)  I understand intellectually that I’m on a team, but physically, I’m alone. I only interact with my coach regularly.   For the last year, whenever I reached out and posted on our team page, very few interacted with me.  That’s to be expected, I guess, but it still makes it hard for me to connect.   Or to want to keep trying.  The issue that prompted the drama is behind me, but because I rocked the boat, I won’t know if it is something the others will understand and forgive as the coaches have done.  I hope some of that mutual discomfort will dissipate after my show since I will meet many of my teammates on that day.     When I’m on stage, if my results are evident, others like me will want to work with these coaches, I hope.   It would be wonderful if more women my age became part of this group so I won’t feel quite so isolated.   Yes, that would be awesome.  Logical, too.  These coaches put health, balance, and life ahead of everything.  Their philosophy fits perfectly with the needs of  middle-aged athletes with adult responsibilities and lives to manage.  And the results are impressive.  I plan to work with Berto and 3DMJ for as long as I continue in bodybuilding.

Sorry for the testimonial, but it’s true.  It’s why I’m willing to power through some stuff to make this work for me.




Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep, Life, Opinions, Venting, Ranting, Teaching, Weight Loss