Tag Archives: resolutions

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

2014. What to do? What to do?

I would like to thank you for following along with my journey.  This blog is important to me.  This is “me”.  The Facebook page is a different animal.  It’s too…temporary.  Stuff gets buried in the feed.  A post on the page is a lot like fireworks – fun but short-lived.  It’s cool for what it is, but the blog is more satisfying.  If I find a blog I like, I have easy access to a ton of content.  I know some of you have read everything I’ve written, and for that, you have no idea how honored I am.  Humbly…   ThAnK YoU!!

I want to write today because it’s the first day of a new year, but for the life of me, I don’t have anything profound to say.


I don’t make resolutions.  I set goals when they need to be made and then I do a ton of work to get the thing done.  To me, every day is a new opportunity to progress.  I do need some concrete, measurable goals.  I just don’t know what they are going to be yet.  Ugh.  Frustrating.

But if I had to describe what I think 2014 will be about, I’d say GROWTH.

First, I’d like to work on my marriage.  We have a good one, but a relationship is always a work on progress.  There are things I’ve promised I would do and I haven’t done yet.  I need to fix that.  A promise to him is a vow in my heart.  I’d like that relationship to grow deeper.

I’m not planning on competing again until 2015.  My goal is to look better on stage than I did in June 2013.  By better I mean I want it to be such a dramatic difference that I blow my own mind.  I need more muscle, I need that muscle to be denser, I need to be leaner, I want to pose better, and have a better routine.  I’m willing to invest an entire year working towards those things.  I’m going to gather input from new sources.  I might even take a dance class.  I don’t know why I don’t make specific goals about moving a certain weight on specific exercises (like squat x pounds for y reps).  Maybe I need to reflect on that.  It might be helpful to me to do that.  Now that I type that…I think that would be very helpful to me.  I’ll get back to you on that one.

I’m training and coaching a few people.  Of course I’d like to grow my business, but there is a limit to how much I can handle while I’m teaching full time.  And retirement looks like it is something that won’t happen soon.  So I’d like to grow my client base slowly so when I do retire, I’m ready to jump into a new adventure.

I’m always grateful for the new opportunities that come along – opportunities to learn and to share what I’ve learned already.  I suspect more of that is coming in the near future.

Not sure what 2014 will bring, but I know I’m happy to be here.  Happy to be able to work hard and workout harder.


A very bad picture, I know. But that bicep pump yesterday, in that light, made me all proud like a mom watching a kid do a recital.


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Life, Motivation

Dear Resolutioners,

I love that you are at the gym.  But it makes me sad that you won’t be around for long.  Most “Resolutioners” last about a month.  You remind me of the people who go to church twice a year at Christmas and Easter because they feel like it’s something they should do.  But it’s different – I know you want this to work.     But it gets hard and most of you will quit.  There will be obstacles and interruptions.  Maybe you don’t think you are making excuses when you tell me why you can’t stick with it – but you’re wrong.  They are excuses.  Don’t bullshit a bullshitter.  I was one of you not so long ago and I made the resolution, I made the effort, and I predictably quit when it got hard to manage with everything else going on in my life.  I didn’t have the resolve to keep the resolution until I knew that I had to live differently if I didn’t want to die too young.  It doesn’t really matter what calendar date you choose.  It will happen when you are tired of the bullshit story you tell yourself about why you can’t do it.

If you are serious about making this a real lifestyle change, here are some tips from me about what to expect.  You can find all kinds of tips online about nutrition and exercises.  I’m more interested in why you will want to quit and how you can push beyond that.

  • The motivation of the new year won’t last long.  Habits do.  Do something 21 times and it’s a habit.  Expect your motivation to fade, but keep going anyway.  Be consistent.  Be your own parent about this.  Maybe make doing it consistently a goal.
  • You will get tired.  You will get sore.  You will be uncomfortable.  You may feel awkward or stupid.  Do it anyway.  The uncomfortable, awkward, and stupid parts fade.  Sorry, but if you do it correctly, the tired and sore won’t go away.  You will just learn how to gauge the effectiveness of your workout by how tired and sore you are.  You will welcome it.
  • Sometimes your brain is tired, but your muscles aren’t.  So do it anyway.  You may not be in a great mood.  So what?  Your muscles don’t have moods.
  •  You will get hungry.  But you are always in control of what you put in your mouth, chew, and swallow.  No, really.  You are.  Stay in control.
  • If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it – don’t argue with me on this – you know what I’m talking about.  Even if you are socializing and the food and drink are free, it’s highly unlikely that you are being ‘waterboarded’ with cookies or beer.
  • There is always a solution to the “I don’t have time” issue.  You might have to give up something – like TV so you can workout or go to bed earlier so you can workout in the morning before you go to work.  Honestly – your house doesn’t need to be cleaned everyday.  Pack the gym bag the night before.  Make new habits and MAKE THE TIME.
  • It will be hard for a while.  Maybe a long while.  It wasn’t fun for me for the first YEAR.  But after that, I was stronger and was capable of doing the fun stuff I love now.  Had I quit during that first year, I wouldn’t be doing this now.  
  • Thousands of people have transformed themselves.  And they will all tell you that they were changed positively in ways beyond how they looked.  I believe most people aren’t vain about their appearance, so ‘looking better’ isn’t a good goal to sustain you when it’s hard.  You need something important to you that will get you out of bed when it’s dark and cold.  So pick another goal.  Feeling better is an excellent goal.  Pay attention to the little clues you are being sent from your body about how it’s not functioning at it’s best.  Don’t wait for a major health crisis and a big medical bill.
  • You will screw up.  So what?  Tomorrow is another day.  You don’t need a “Jan 1” or a “Monday” to start anything.  Your body doesn’t know about calendars.  If you own a pet, you know your they don’t care if it’s your day off when it’s time to get up.

I’ve made several blog posts about the practical stuff I’ve done to make this all work over the last two years.  But the most important thing is to not let yourself quit.  Get control of those thoughts!  There are mornings when I try to talk myself out of working out while I’m getting dressed, loading the car, and driving to the gym.  My body follows the routine while my mind chatters away about some lame reason why I shouldn’t do it.

I do it anyway.

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Filed under Motivation

Don’t RESOLVE to do it – DO IT.

I don’t believe in resolutions because they break.  I believe in life.  So when you think about how you want to live so that you will live longer and better, you already know how to make that happen.  All that boring stuff you know you should do and don’t – DO IT.

  • Eat clean every day, every meal.
  • Eat smaller meals, but more of them.  Eat 5-6 times a day.
  • Exercise every day.  And if you only do cardio, you won’t change your body composition.  You will become ‘skinny fat’.  That’s means you will become smaller, but still have an unhealthy high body fat percentage.
  • Everyone should be doing some resistance training.  Unless you want to, you won’t get big muscles.  Trust me on that.   You can’t get huge unless you want to and then it will take a loooong time.  It’s not going to happen by accident.  What happens to most women when they lift, is they get leaner and stronger.
  • Be ready to deal with the “I don’t feel like it”, “I don’t have time to workout”, or “I don’t want to get up this early” moments.  Push through.  Do it anyway.  For my teacher friends… LEAVE at 3:15.  I’m serious.   We aren’t doing anyone any good if we are unhealthy and stressed out.  If you only leave to go walk around the track and then go back to your room, that’s a start.  Better to just LEAVE and go the gym.  Are you really volunteering your time to get to the bottom of a pile that has no bottom?  Are you volunteering your time to shorten your life expectancy, which robs your own family of even more time with you?  Do you want to retire as an old teacher or die young on the job?  I know – that’s a little harsh, but you know what I’m talking about.  I promise you – the job can be done well (or good enough) AND you can be healthy at the same time.  What’s important to the kids is that we show up everyday and are in a good mood.  They don’t care about how fancy our lessons are – they connect to US.  They remember the laughter and the fun we are having being their teacher.  The other stuff is only important to administrators – and we don’t care about them anyway because they will be gone in a year or two. (tee hee)

TEN REASONS TO LIFT – Borrowed from an article about why women should lift, but most apply to everyone.

1) You will be stronger.  Pick up kids easier,  carry more groceries, etc.  I can unload my car in one trip now when it used to take 3.

2) You will lose body fat.

3) Women will gain strength without gaining bulk.

4) Decrease your risk of osteoporosis.

5) You will improve your athletic performance.  Maybe you’re not an “athlete” – but do you play golf?  Do you like to dance?  Do you like to hike?  What quality of life thing do you enjoy that you would enjoy more if you were stronger?

6) Reduce your risk of injury, back pain, and arthritis.   Strengthening your core will do this.

7) Reduce your risk of heart disease.

8) Reduce your risk of diabetes.

9) Never too late to start.  Huge benefits to those of us who are middle-aged.

10) You will improve your attitude and fight depression.  This is the reason I’m completely hooked on lifting.  It’s the best medicine I’ve found for dealing with stress.  Also has helped me deal with the effects of menopause.

If you belong to a gym, talk to a personal trainer about starting a resistance program.  Most of us develop predictable muscle imbalances that should be addressed if you want to stick with it.  I’m not trying to sell training.  I’m just telling you that I wasn’t able to do what I thought I could do at first.  Years of working too much and sitting made some muscles stronger and others weaker.  Had I jumped into a lifting program, I could have gotten hurt.  And I didn’t have any confidence and was intimidated by the equipment.  I didn’t want to look stupid.  I don’t regret spending the money to get the help I needed to start properly.  If you are willing to work with a trainer, but don’t want to spend a lot of money,  know that most people will only need to work with a trainer for three to six weeks to be ready to workout on their own.

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Filed under Old Posts, Workouts