Tag Archives: fat loss

Lift to Lose Fat – Guest Blogger, Colin DeWaay


Colin continues his series for Lifting My Spirits with this Part 4 – Training.  This is an excellent resource for those of you who were asking me whether you should lose weight first and then lift, or start lifting right away.  I’m posting this one with my before/after picture because I didn’t start to see the results I wanted until I started weight training in 2010

Tammy - before and after 8x10 - Copy

In my first blog for Tammy I discussed why the majority of people who lose weight struggle to keep it off long-term and gave some tips on how to keep the weight coming off by avoiding plateaus. In the second blog we talked about flexible dieting and the importance of avoiding super restrictive diets. Last time we talked about how to calculate your macros and I gave you a couple of options for tracking them. So now that I’ve covered much of the nutrition side of things for weight loss, I’d like to move onto training. Don’t you worry though – there is still plenty to talk about with regards to nutrition in the future.

Just like there are many misconceptions with regards to dieting, the same goes for the best way to burn fat from training. It seems most people think the only way to drop the weight is to spend hours running on a treadmill. But these people tend to run and run but get nowhere, literally.

While steady state cardio does tend to burn more calories while actually working out, it can’t hold a candle to the powers of strength training in the long run. See with steady state cardio (IE. Jogging) once you’re done with the exercise and your heartrate returns back to normal you’re done burning calories for the most part. But with strength training and other forms of interval training you get what’s called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.) With EPOC your body continues to burn calories while at a resting state as it tries to recover and repair itself from what you just put it through. This effect can happen for a few hours up to even close to two days depending on many factors. (1)

The other benefit to strength training is adding lean body mass to your frame. This not only helps with body composition (“toning” is the combination of muscle mass plus lower body fat) but increases in muscle mass helps your body burn calories even in a rested state. While some have severely overblown the affect additional muscle mass has on your daily expenditure, each additional pound of muscle could help burn roughly an additional 6-10 calories per day. (2) While it’s not a lot, every little bit helps right?

Now before you start worrying about getting “too big or bulky” I’d like to squash that right away. Trust me, people spend years TRYING to get “too big” and can’t. I don’t think anyone in the history of time has ever “accidentally” built too much muscle. Plus less be honest, if that scenario ever really did happen, could you just train less then? Anyway especially for women, who have about one tenth the testosterone of men, they’ll have a much harder time adding that extra muscle. Honestly for most people to get the results they want, I encourage them to do everything they can to TRY and build too much muscle.

Okay you get it, muscle = good. Strength training is better than cardio for fat loss. But should you be doing cardio at all? Well I’ll say this: Some cardio for general cardiovascular health is never a BAD idea, as long as it’s not extreme. However, honestly at least in the beginning the less cardio you can do the better. Remember how I previously talked about eating as many calories as possible while still losing weight so you have room to make adjustments when things stall? Cardio works similarly. You want to do as little as possible while still losing weight for the same reason. This way when things stall you have more options to get it going again. You can take away calories, you can add in cardio to supplement your weight training. You have options. But if you go low cal and do a bunch of cardio right off the bat, what are you going to do when you hit a plateau? You can only take away so many calories and do so much cardio.

The other thing to think about with regards to cardio is what kind to do. Once again I’m going to pick on poor steady state cardio. Sorry, it’s just not a very efficient use of your time! Perhaps you’ve heard of something called HIIT? It stands for high intensity interval training. This has been shown to be more effective than it’s steady state counterpart while allowing you to burn more calories in less time. (3, 4) It does, however, require some intense work and can be tough for some individuals to perform.

Basically you perform extremely intense exercise for short intervals mixed with a period of rest. This could be done by sprinting, biking, car pushes, sled drags, prowler pushes, etc. The point is you put forth maximum effort for a short period, maybe 20-30 seconds and then do a little active rest like walking until you feel recovered and do it again. Typically 3-5 minute rest periods are good for most people. I see a lot of people make the mistake of doing things like 30 seconds on and off, but chances are they aren’t putting in the maximum effort required to get the most of this training or they wouldn’t be able to go again in 30 seconds. If you can carry a conversation at all after your interval, chances are it wasn’t intense enough.

You can also combine the best of both worlds so to speak. High intensity interval resistance training has been shown to be very effective for additional calorie burn from EPOC as well as fat oxidation. (5) While I would approach this similarly as to save this type of work for further down the road, it can be a good option for anyone who has time restraints in the gym. If you need to get in and get out, working on strength training with very short rest periods can be an effective training method.

With all of this said there is one caveat to it all (there always is, isn’t there?) I’m basically telling you what I see as the most optimal way to go about burning fat. But what’s optimal isn’t always what’s best for each individual. If you absolutely hate one form of exercise and love another one, you’re going to have a lot better success doing the thing you love. Regardless of how “optimal” something is (this goes for both training and nutrition) the #1 factor in seeing results is adherence to the plan, being consistent. If you aren’t going to stick to something, it’ll never work. There is nothing wrong with steady state cardio so to speak, it’s just less efficient for both fat loss and body composition. But if that’s what you love and what you’ll continue to do, by all means do what you love.

So that’s all I have for this article. Not even sure what I’ll talk about next month, but don’t you worry, I’ll be back!


Also 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 sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life and taking ACTION, you should love it.

Lastly if you’re ready for change RIGHT NOW, I am accepting clients for both training and/or nutrition help. If you’re looking for coaching just head here and choose the option you would like. I’d love to help you reach your goals!



Filed under Guest Blog, Weight Loss

What Do You Want First? The Bad News or the Real Bad News?

As I write this, I’m sitting next to my husband’s hospital bed.  My understanding about what I considered “bad news” has been… adjusted.

Earlier this week, I mentioned I got some bad news that rocked me a little bit.  On Wednesday, I got another DXA bodyfat analysis scan.  I got one last October.  I’ve actually done these scans a couple times a year for the last three years.  Over the last three months, I’ve been doing a mini-cut.  Nothing drastic – I was supposed to lose about 1/2 pound a week. I was doing an upper/lower body strength/hypertrophy split. Everything worked twice a week, once for strength and a second time a couple days later with lighter weights and 8-12 reps. No cardio at all.  The results?   I’ve lost fat, but also muscle.  A lot more muscle than fat according to the scan results.  It was a shock.

I decided to take a couple rest days and regroup. I sent the data and all logs to someone to analyze. Waiting to hear what he thinks before I move ahead with a Plan B. He gave me the protocol I was following, so now he has results so he can fine tune things.    My plan was to get started again on Saturday.  I’d increase my calories to maintenance and change the lifting protocol to a more traditional body-part-a-day split.  More food.  More recovery time.

And then something happened.  This is the Real Bad News…

My husband was in a car accident Friday night.  I think it was a miracle that the only injury he had was a broken patella.  He had surgery yesterday.  He’s going to have a rough couple of months while it heals.  The hardest part is going to be immobile.  He is a strong, self-reliant guy and this is going to be difficult for him.  I’m switching gears.  I’m in ‘caretaker’ mode now.   We spent the whole weekend at the hospital, so I need a few days off of work to get things set up at home so he can get around safely and have food to eat.

Making things work at home for him is my first priority.  Teaching is my second.  My own training isn’t really a priority – it’s a coping mechanism.  I need it.  So it doesn’t matter why I train.  I need to train.  Everything else falls into some spot behind everything else.  I have to be honest with myself about what I can and cannot do.  I may not be posting as much. Or I may find that writing helps. We’ll see.

One thing that I won’t ever forget – a set back in training is NOT A PROBLEM.  It’s just a thing to fix.  Life is messy and there will be real problems.  I’ve been lucky to have been able to navigate through mild storms to this point.  If I’m going to practice what I preach, I’ll get through this bigger storm, too.

However, I am officially “off track” with my training and food for the last few days.  I’ve been eating at the hospital cafeteria and Starbucks.  (A stranger bought my coffee this morning.  I cried.  Explained that it has been a stressful weekend and his kindness was very appreciated.)  I may be off track, and it’s tempting to quit using my husband and my job as reasons why, but I can’t do that.  I don’t think my husband would let me do that.  So, I’ll take a few days off work so I can make sure things are manageable for hubby at home.  I’ll find a way to get back on track by the end of the week.


Home now.  Hubby is napping on and off.  I’m relieved.


Filed under Life

Hunger Hormones and Sleep

The more I learn, the more I know that I don’t know.  And the more I learn, the more I realize how I screwed up this miraculously engineered body God gave me to live in.  I learned a little about leptin and ghrelin last year when I was studying for my Fitness Nutrition certification.  These two hormones regulate hunger.  Leptin is released by fat cells and some other places.  It decreases hunger.  Ghrelin is released from the stomach lining and it’s job is to increase hunger.

And when we do not live optimally, the we may alter how things work.

A simple description of how leptin and ghrelin work and may not work…  


Like almost everyone, I don’t get enough sleep.  My biggest issue is that it takes me a several hours to unwind from my day.  I really need to sit and do something to numb my brain for a couple hours.  Teaching is a very high energy job.  It doesn’t look that way, but imagine this…

You are at home and the door bell rings.  You open the front door and 30 teenagers come into your living room and sit down.  You’re expected to direct their activity for the next hour.  (The phrase “herding cats” comes to mind.)  You watch to make sure they are paying attention, redirecting them back when they lose attention, make sure they are writing notes, or doing the thing you need them to do.  And while you’re explaining something mathematical, watch all the facial expressions looking for clues as to whether they understand.  Some won’t be able to articulate what they do not understand.  Or they will think they understand, so you have to ask questions to see if they really do.  After about 55 minutes, the door bells rings again.  Those 30 kids leave and 30 more come in and sit down.  This happens every hour for the next six hours.

That’s my day.  When I get home, I don’t want to talk.  I don’t want to think.  I want to eat and sit and watch Netflix for a couple hours.  Pretty sure your job is similarly taxing.

So I started reading more about these hormones and sleep.  Some things I found were general studies.  Others did try to narrow a focus to my sub group – post menopausal overweight.  Yes, I know I’m at a healthy weight now, but I was at an unhealthy weight for a lot longer, and while I know I’ve fixed a lot of things, I suspect that my endocrine system might still be ‘in repair’.  Also, my clients tend to be busy middle aged women like me.  I know that when I don’t get enough sleep, I feel hungrier.  I’m sure we’ve all had that happen.

I’ve read conflicting things, which is to be expected.  But overall, researchers are usually finding a connection.

“Furthermore, in this sample of overweight and obese post-menopausal women,sleep improvements did not cause greater weight loss in exercisers, nor did they moderate exercise-induced increases in ghrelin or decreases in leptin. Although our findings with baseline sleep are far from definitive, they are intriguing, and beg the question of whether exercise can ameliorate weight gain in women with sleep problems.”  http://portalsaudebrasil.com/artigospsb/obes208.pdf

OK, that was from 2007.  They couldn’t really find a predictable relationship between sleep, leptin, and ghrelin, but they suspect that regular exercise might reduce the negative effects of sleep deprivation with respect to the hormone fluctuations.  That’s good news, I guess.

This one was published online just a few weeks ago.  Didn’t read the whole article because I’d have to pay for it.

“…sleep duration is inversely associated with serum leptin and dietary energy intake in postmenopausal women.”   Which basically means that we eat more when we don’t get enough sleep.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20683/abstract

From 2004, a study of 12 men with only two days of reduced sleep.  That’s kind of a major limitation of the study in my opinion, but this is more representative of what’s out there as a whole…

“Short sleep duration in young, healthy men is associated with decreased leptin levels, increased ghrelin levels,
and increased hunger and appetite.”  http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic197607.files/Due_Wk_11_Nov_28/SPIEGEL_2004.pdf

What they did mention in this study was that while the leptin levels of these men stayed level during the day, they fluctuated more at night.  I read something – forgot where – that said our bodies regulate these hormones while we sleep.  Maybe it’s more like ‘recalibrating’ than ‘regulation’.  If we tinker with the way things are supposed to work, we may recalibrate incorrectly.  I think as I get older, my body is more sensitive to things that aren’t calibrated correctly.

Sleep is so important for so many other things besides hunger that getting enough will always be a top priority for me now.  It wasn’t a priority for too many years.

sleep deprivation


Filed under Life, Teaching

My 10 Tips for Fat Loss

Any one of these tips could be another post, but I wanted to put together a list for how to start a program with a little bit of explanation.

1)      Collect current data about your food intake.  You need an honest appraisal of what is happening now.   Eat normally, but log it for a full week, at least. (I’ve been logging for most of the last 4 ½  years.)  You will need to measure and weigh some things.  Get a digital scale to make this chore easier.  I’ve used a digital scale every day since I started and I’ve never used an expensive one.  Use an online food log to have access to extensive data base. It takes a few weeks to get things set up, but if you eat the same foods over the week, it becomes a matter of clicking frequent foods instead of searching.

2)      Come up with a good estimate of how many calories you burn in a 24 hour period.  I remember that “ah-ha” moment when I realized that I’m burning calories all the time, not just when I exercise.  The cardio machines at a gym will give an estimated burn, but in my experience, they can overestimate quite a bit.  There are calculators online, too.    If you can make an investment, there are gadgets that you wear that will give better estimates based on your personal activity over the entire day.  I use a Bodybugg.  I have friends who use a Fitbit.  I rationalized the purchase by comparing it to the medical costs I had at the time for my high blood pressure meds and an ER visit to rule out a heart attack.

3)      Make a food plan based on what you do now.  For safe fat loss and a sustainable, lifestyle change, keep the calorie deficit between 300 and 1000 calories.  In other words, it is my recommendation that you burn no more than 1000 calories than you intake each day.  But there is a minimum number of calories you need to eat for a healthy metabolism.  The USDA’s recommendations for minimum calorie intake levels are 1600 calories for women and 2000 calories for men.  If your intake is already at a minimum and you still need to increase a deficit, do it with moderate exercise.  The metabolism is not a linear equation where the bigger the deficit, the more fat you lose.  To over simplify a complicated process, your body will adapt so when it is not getting enough calories, it will use as few calories as possible to maintain functions and store what little is left over as body fat.  It may even breakdown muscle for additional energy.   This is why people who don’t eat a lot can maintain their scale weight, or even gain scale weight. Over time, body composition changes so that there is more fat and less muscle at the same weight.  This is what is meant by “skinny fat”.  Metabolism is not designed for looks – it’s about staying alive.  Through repeated attempts at weight loss by calorie restriction, many people have trained their bodies to maintain their weight eating less.  It’s really important to get that baseline intake information I discussed in Tip #1 so you can determine if you have slowed your metabolism a little bit.  If you are a woman maintaining your weight at 1000 calories, jumping right up to the recommended minimum of 1600 would cause fat gain.

4)      Make food substitutions gradually.  It is not practical for most people to completely overhaul everything in the kitchen.  Food prep becomes a new routine that will change how you spend your time – and that means “life” will need to be adjusted.  That takes time.  It took me months to figure out a system that worked for me.  If there are other people in the house, their favorite foods may be trigger foods for you.  I’ve been there.  I practiced telling myself repeatedly that “I control what I eat.”  Self-discipline really is an emotional muscle that needs to be strengthened.  And it is hard.  That’s OK.  Hard doesn’t mean impossible.  Each time you don’t cave to a temptation, it gets easier.  Especially when you focus more on how you “feel” instead of how you “look”.

5)      Train with weights.  There are several reasons why resistance training needs to be part of the program for fat loss.  Resistance training preserves muscle and builds bone mass.   To change the appearance of the body, the muscles need to be developed.  One of the most common questions I get is about how I dealt with loose skin.  First, I lost my weight very slowly and that helped minimize it.  But I also filled spaces with muscle – especially in my arms.  A full body program done twice a week, that uses multi-joint exercises, like body weight squats, is a good way to start.

6)      Don’t overdo cardio.  There is an abundance of research out there about cardio.  Personally, long sessions of cardio elevate my cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a hormone similar to adrenaline.  I believe I’ve had a cortisol problem for a long time and it contributed to my weight gain and health decline that led up to that “before” picture.  When my cortisol levels are up, I feel very anxious without a reason and I have trouble falling asleep.  My body stores fat quickly during those times.  Cardio is one of those variables that will start a lot of discussion.  I know what the research says, what works for me, what doesn’t, and that is exactly what I believe everyone needs to know for themselves.  But when I started, I knew nothing.  I had no idea that the cardio I was doing contributed to the anxiety I felt about the process.

7)      Sleep.    The body needs to rest to recover from the stress of the day.  Add in exercise and a moderate calorie restriction and there is more stress on the body.  Lack of sleep will elevate cortisol levels, too. Drink water!  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.

8)      Drink water.  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.  I know some say it helps them feel full, but that’s not my experience.  When I’m hungry, I’m HUNGRY.  For food.

9)      Keep it simple.  Avoid the urge to over-plan and under-do, despite all the information I’ve just thrown at you.  Your program does not have to be perfect.  As you learn more, you’ll adjust things.  You have to have movement.  You need more food your body recognizes (whole foods) and less food designed to make you want to buy more of it (processed foods).  When asked, I tell people that most of my food is grown by God – a very simple description of vegetables, fruit, lean meats, fish, nuts, olive oil, and limited grains for personal digestive reasons.

10)   Be patient.  Permanent changes happen slowly.  You are changing your life one cell at a time.  A scale measures total body weight – that is mostly water, by the way.  It’s easy to feel impatient when looking at a transformation picture because the eye just goes back forth between the two versions of that person.  But note the dates.  Took me three years to get from “before” to the first “after”.  It helped me psychologically to accept that this was the LAST time I was going to lose most of these fat pounds and my life was going to be different from that point on.  I know I’m happier, excited to get up every day, and my life is likely to be longer because I decided to finally do this thing and not quit.


References & Resources




© Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Filed under Cortisol, Life, Weight Loss

Optimism vs. Reality

I struggle with staying on the fence between being optimistic and being realistic each day.  I see the pics.  I see myself in the mirror.  It’s important to be both optimistic and realistic.  Can I be ready??

When I have a student who is struggling and is upset about their grades, I am able to help them reframe the situation, but there are times when I have to help them just accept the reality.  I say something like, but nicer than, “You screwed up and no, you aren’t going to earn the grade you want.”  I know people who can spin poop into gold.  But it’s still poop.  I’m very pragmatic.  So are the people around me being pragmatic or spinning poo until it sounds all nice and shiny?

People who I believe know what they are talking about say that the layer of “softness” I see and am concerned about is mostly water.  The skin on my stomach is getting thinner and more of my “two pack” is visible.  Still waiting for the other 4 to pop up.  Maybe they are right.  At least as far as the limbs and abs are concerned.

But, then there is the butt.  Coach says I need more muscle in the butt.  Agreed – more muscle is a good idea.  Working butt and hamstrings twice a week now.   But there is a layer of fat I need to burn off in the next three weeks.  (I want to be basically want to be done by Aug 20th, so all that’s left is the water reduction.) So I’m sitting on the butt right now, when I should be doing more cardio, but my butt is TIRED.  I worked out twice today, got up and left hubby in bed sleeping.  So right now, it’s time to watch a movie with him.  No, this competition is NOT the most important thing in my life.  Trying to keep it all balanced is quite  trick.

Tomorrow is a”rest” day.  These days, “rest” = laundry, food prep, cardio, and yoga.  Hey butt!  I’m coming for you!

Here is my back after it got worked the other day.  You know it amazes me how small it looks compared to how it felt.  Totally pumped and sore.  It was a great workout.  I thought for sure it was a lot wider and defined than this.


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal

Week 160 Update – Embarrassing Posing Practice Videos Included

Show is 6 weeks from tomorrow.  I’m very busy these days.  I started teaching summer school this week.  It goes for 3 weeks, 7 am to noon.  Sure, it’s only 4 hours of teaching, but it can take several hours to prep lessons.  And there are papers to grade.

In order to be able to sleep as late as possible (it seems a healthy dose of sleep each day seems to be accelerating my progress), I decided to do just a short cardio in the mornings before work and lift in the afternoons.  I do a second cardio after lifting on most days.   I could use all this busyness as my excuse for not blogging frequently, and it’s valid, but I think the real reason is that it’s getting harder to be transparent with this process.  Part of me just wants to knuckle down, get the work done, and not take time to do anything other than what I have to do.  That’s probably smart.  But to be honest, a part of me just wants to hide.  This is getting really REAL, really fast.  I’m not sure if I’m more afraid to fail or succeed.

Fear of Failure

  • Everyone knows I’ve been working to hit this goal for two years, so missing it would be embarrassing.   More than embarrassing – disappointing.  When I started this blog, I thought it was just going to be documentation of my process.  But it’s become more than that.  Through it, I’ve made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and have been humbled to learn there are some who read it for inspiration for their own health transformation.  I know I have a lot of support and a lot of people rooting for me.  I don’t take that lightly.  It does push me.  Thank you.  I really want to follow through and do what I said I was going to do.
  • Missing this show would validate the people I used to trust to have my back, but they flipped their script and told me that I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own – but for a mere $1000 a month, they could “guarantee” my success.   Betrayal and arrogance with a scoop of bullshit on top.  I don’t talk about it much, but when I’m tired, hungry, want to skip that last set, or sleep in some morning, I remember.   Last winter, right after it happened, I told Bob about it.  (He’s the owner of my gym.)  He told me that stuff like that just becomes “fire in the belly”.  He was right.  That’s exactly what happened.  I am the one who guarantees my success.  So I can’t fail.

Fear of Success

  • If (ok, when – I can hear you yelling ‘when’ at me as you read it) this all works, I’ll be on stage in a bikini on Saturday, August 25.  This is a major step outside a big comfort zone for this woman who can’t walk around the house in her underwear.  Not just on a stage.  On a stage in what looks like a big show, lots of competitors, with video cameras, two jumbo screens, and a live web-cast.
  • I have to learn to pose and do a routine.  I have all the grace and flexibility of a cinder block.  I have a muscle imbalance my right hip.  I’ve been working on it, but progress is slow.  I can literally trip on my own feet.  My confidence level about doing a routine in that little bikini without falling on what I hope will a great set of glutes is low.
  • I have no stage presence at all.  I don’t know how to smile and look “appealing”. I make my living teaching math to teenagers.  Looking “appealing” is not in the skill set.  “Scary”, “intimidating”, and “authoritative” – I can do those.  I have one of those “teacher looks” that can stop anyone in their tracks.

My two fears play teeter-totter.  As long as I keep them balanced, not letting one get noisier in my head than the other, they seems to nullify each other.  So I just continue to follow the routines and do the stuff I need to do every day.  But I have to actively ignore both frequently throughout the day.

Got good news this week about my efforts.  In the last five weeks, I’ve lost 4.5 pounds of fat.  More is always better than less in the fat department – especially as that little bikini thing looms – but I’m pleased.  I seem to be losing fat faster now.  I’ve been doing it carefully and in a healthy way.   I’m getting good advice and I’m smart.  The closer I get to the show, I think I’m on the right track.  I can step things up short term without a health risk.

So after explaining why I’m nervous about sharing the rest of this journey, how about I ignore all of that and show the videos my friend Dietrich made the other day when he was coaching me on how to pose?  OK?  Let’s do it.  Forge ahead with total disregard for personal humiliation.  These are really hard for me to watch.  But I am watching them a lot so I can learn. This is not how I want to look.  I’m hoping to make big improvements with the posing fast.  Practice.  Lots and lots of practice.  (There are several because D needed to cut them to send them to me through e-mail. I’m only showing you a few of them now.)



Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Videos


After three years of losing it, 60 pounds of it, and I’ve got almost 20 more to go to be ready for the show in August, I thought I’d research how it worked.

I liked this article.  I thought it gave a clear explanation.


1 Comment

Filed under Bodybuilding Journal