Sunday, November 20, 2011

When dieting during the holidays, don't be a martyr!

It's the Sunday before Thanksgiving and I'm quite excited. This means that I get the constant reminder all week to give thanks and I find I need it around this time of year. It's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day necessary tasks that too often I forget to take notice of the many blessings in my life.

We all know that most people are thinking about what they are going to eat or what gifts they're giving for Christmas. So, I do try to make an extra effort to think about the things I'm thankful for. Personally, I've been quite thankful for my renewed belief in myself as an individual. See, I've always believed in my clients and my friends, but I once struggled with believing that I could achieve physically challenging goals. I'm also thankful for the dear friends I've made who are in the fitness industry with me. Many of these people have motivated me during the slow business months, stood by me through physical illness or after injuries, cried with me when loved ones died or became ill, and others have been mentors as I've grown into the business woman I'm becoming. Of course I'm thankful for my beautiful children, my doting husband, Christ my savior, my home, my country... But having once struggled with recognizing my own individual value as a competitor and as a business woman, this new determination and sense of worth is a blessing that I'm thankful for.

Now, back to Thanksgiving... My mother-in-law already has me down for the things that I love to make. Believing that there are no evil foods, I will make some things that I will also choose to not eat. Homemade bread, brownie pizza, and maybe even a cheesecake... Why do I make some of the things that I won't be eating? Do I believe that I'm contributing to the downfall of those around me? Are these questions you're asking yourself? Well, first of all, I do want my children to experience the balance of eating healthy and not worrying every moment of their existence whether or not something they eat will make them fat. There are special occasions when I believe that it is okay to celebrate with a feast as long as they understand that those occasions should be rare and balanced with healthy, clean-eating. Secondly, I have a pretty healthy family. They eat what they want to in moderation and I'm not worried about what one feast will do to their blood pressure, cholesterol, waist size, etc. If I had reason to be concerned about the health and weight of my husband and kids, our household eating would be pretty regimented if necessary; even then, there would be a balance. And here's another important thing important to realize. My fitness goals are my own and it's my job to monitor what I eat for those goals. Strict eating that a figure competitor or a bodybuilder chooses should not be imposed on others. Sometimes it is more difficult than other times, but that's my issue to deal with for the sport I've chosen.

Many people struggle to make the edible choices which will help them achieve their desired fitness level. Very often, a client will tell me, "Gretchen, I could lose the weight if _______ wouldn't bring home the crap." Look, I do understand and personally believe it's somewhat selfish if someone knows your stumbling blocks and still sets them in front of you. That being said, you must be prepared for such sabotagers. Many do this deliberately and many are just plain aloof. Once, I had a client whose fiancee deliberately left bags of chips or cookies on the counter knowing she would stumble. He hated seeing her deprive herself of the treats she enjoyed. One morning, when I arrived at her home to train her, we systematically went through all of her cabinets and her pantry and removed the temptations down to her basement. She'd answered the door in tears, disappointed in herself for putting so much effort into her workouts just to find herself downing 1500 calories in cookies (no kidding) in just a few minutes. We'd discarded the immediate temptations (the bags of crap that was opened) and put all of his junk food stash down in the basement (his man cave). And so he learned that if he wanted that stuff, she would no longer complain or fall prey to it, he simply had to have it away from her safe zone. It took a little while for him to catch on, but he eventually did. Her attitude was the determining factor though; he needed to see that she wasn't a suffering martyr; she was willing to do what she needed to do to succeed whether he was on board or not. Here's what he told me after she'd finally lost 70lbs. "Gretchen, I was so pissed at you for throwing out my food. It was a waste! But I didn't know what I was doing to her until she started to succeed." See, in his mind, if she'd lost a couple of pounds one week, she should be able to reward herself at the dining table. He learned to "reward" her with affirming words of encouragement or even new clothes to fit her shrinking waistline.

See, what I often see happening is two things among dieters. One is that someone is just determined to sabotage their weight-loss or competition goal efforts. Someone's mother, father, wife, husband, or best friend will say something like this, "It's Thanksgiving; can't you just enjoy one meal with us?" To which I recommend responding, "Sure, I could. But I have set a goal to lose ____ lbs by Christmas and this would set me back. I understand if you don't get it, but know that I'm enjoying your company regardless of what I'm eating." In other words, someone may think that you're suffering by not eating what they're eating. They've seen you enjoy that meal every Thanksgiving (or 21st birthday, or Christmas, or some other celebration) and suddenly you are giving the "Poor me, I can't eat this stuff anymore" story. That's what I call being a diet martyr. Change your attitude if you want to change your body. The second thing is half-hearted commitment. If you're true to your clean-eating plan 80% of the time, but 20% of the time, you eat or drink your heart out, there's a VERY good chance that you are your own personal sabotaging problem. Transforming your body requires transforming your thinking about food and exercise. That means, "Just one more piece of pizza" or "Just a few drinks" may not be an option for you if meeting your goals isn't happening for you.

Now, what if your loved ones (face it, almost everyone has a sabotager lurking around the corner) won't give in the way my client's husband did? Well, you're going to have to suck it up the hard way. You'll have to determine that you are worth the effort to buckle down and do this for you. Every time you see the bag of crackers or cookies, every time your friends invite you out for a margarita, every time a piece of your kids' birthday cake is tempting you you will need to overcome it with sheer willpower! If you face the temptation with the, "Oh, I can't eat that--poor me" attitude, the likelihood is that you'll eventually fail. That's the attitude of a martyr. If you face it with the attitude of "I could eat that, but it would do nothing to help me reach my fitness goals. So, I won't", you will certainly succeed! You're worth it!

Now all that being said, I do have clients and loved ones who seriously need to watch their eating. I strongly recommend to those people to not feel badly about bringing a small stash of your own healthy eats to your family's Thanksgiving feast. For example, I'll be bringing my sweet potatoes--already measured for my needs. Although I'll have enough to offer to others who may want some as well, I don't expect everyone to have my same goals. I know that my husband is watching his eating, so I'll likely offer to make a little extra sweet potato for him as well (only if that's what he wants). This goes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Easter, birthdays, weddings, and more. Make your goals count, enjoy your family and friends regardless of whether or not they're celebrating with food. You matter, your goals matter, your health matters!

If you feel that you cannot do this on your own, I've got you covered! You may benefit from a knowledgable professional who is willing to keep your accountable through this journey. You can do this!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Even When I Just Don't Feel Like It

Boy was today a hot one! Even now, at 9:20PM, it's 97° outside. Tomorrow won't be any better; as a matter of fact, it's going to be worse (according to the forecast anyway). After some personal training, taking kids to doctor appointments, doing some grocery shopping, and other mommy duties, I was spent. It seems that every time I got into my car, those black leather seats sucked a little more energy out of me. The suffocating heat was just almost more than I could take.
Before all of this, I just knew what my workout plan was. I needed to get my cardio in as well as a good shoulder/chest workout. The strength training was the easy part; that's the stuff I enjoy. I must admit, had I known how hot it was going to be in the gym, I may have talked myself right out of it. By the time the workout was over, my youngest child (who'd been going with me to my in-home personal training appointments and on my errands) had been in the childcare room for about an hour. I knew I needed to get my sweet Sophie home so that she could enjoy herself. There was still the cardio that needed to be done... Perhaps I'd get a nap in first. And so I took a nap. When I woke up, I found myself finding every excuse to not head out again. I was tired, I had cleaning to do, I wanted to relax with my kids, it's hot outside, there's that reading assignment for my literature class... You name the excuse and chances are I'd come up with it. For nearly an hour, I was telling myself all of the reasons that I could get away with not going to the gym. At the same time, in the back of my mind, those extra post-competition binge pounds were saying, "Come on! You don't really want me hanging around with you all summer, do you?" And so I went. I quit procrastinating just in time to make it to the last spin class of the day. It wasn't until about fifteen minutes into the class that I was glad I'd made it. Frankly, I just didn't feel like going before that. After those first few minutes of spinning, my heart was pumping and I found myself singing along to the songs that were blaring out in that hot, little room. Some great HIIT focused moments made the class totally worthwhile. I felt strong, clear-minded, and energized.
It's crazy how that works, isn't it? Almost every week, at some point in time, at least one of my clients will either forget, oversleep, or psyche themselves out of their workout with me. It's more normal for my clients to answer with a resounding "No" when I ask if they'd gone to the gym or done some physical activity between our appointments. They're tired, overwhelmed, hot, discouraged, depressed, or just not in the mood for it. Goodness, I used to be the same way. Frankly, it's the reason most people I know aren't reaching their fitness goals. They want the prize at the end of the finish line, but they just don't feel like running the race. Believe me, I know how that feels because I've been there-done that way too many times to count.
What I'm going to say, I've said many times before. I believe that when people do this it's because they do not believe that they are worth the time, effort, and sacrifice it takes to be as healthy and fit as they would like to be. Think about it for a minute or two. Would you hesitate for a minute if your neighbor or friend asked you to help watch their child for a day or to help them move? Do you feel guilty saying "no" to the boss who requests you work a little longer or come in a little earlier even though you'll be exhausted if you do so? Are you the first to volunteer to be "Team Dad or Mom" or to organize the weekly carpool? Do you indulge the chatty friend who just doesn't know when to end a conversation on the phone or as you walk by and find that before you know it, you've been chatting it up for an hour or more? Personally, I can relate. For years, I gave and sacrificed for all of those important things while neglecting my own health and needs. It caught up with me. I found myself tired, sick, and crabby. The very people I was sacrificing for were getting the worst of me. It was not until I realized that I'm worth the effort and time it takes to be more physically fit that I learned to make this a priority. What's your story?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

When Procrastination Comes to Visit

As I sit here writing, I'm struggling a bit. Not with energy, not with discouragement, not with sadness or anger... I'm struggling with distraction. I've got zillions of things going through my head. Will I get the kids' rooms cleaned before they get home from their dad's? What time should I wake up tomorrow to get to the gym so that I can shower and still get to church on time? Why haven't I started on that essay that's due tomorrow by midnight? Do the kids miss me? Oh no, we're running out of groceries; I'd better get to the store before the kids get home Wednesday! Should I walk the dog now or in an hour? Could I steal some lazy time and watch Friday Night Lights (the finale is recorded-why did that show have to end?)? What's that smell? Probably something in the gargage. I'd better take that out. How long will it take to lose the binge weight and can I safely do that without losing the strength gains I'm working toward for next competition season? I probably spent too much money at Marshalls on those new workout shirts; they are nice though. Only 9.99 for a 35.00 shirt ain't too bad---unless you buy five of them. Am I nutty for thinking about all of this instead of focusing on that paper I'm supposed to be writing?
Do you ever have moments like that? Usually, what keeps me from getting the studying or schoolwork done when I want to get it done is overwhelming fatigue, not a flood of unrelated distracting thoughts. The feeling that I have so much to do and so little time to do it seems to invite my good old friend, Procrastination, into my home. She's sitting right here on the couch with me, thanking me for such a comfy place to spend the evening. I guess there are times that it seems easier to procrastinate than settle on that one thing that absolutely must get done.
So, why am I writing about this on a blog that is related to fitness? Well, when talking to clients who feel stuck or defeated when it comes to reaching their goals, I often hear similar things come from them. They feel like they just can't focus on their diet or on their workouts because there's just too much to get done. Further discussion usually brings some clarity to the situation, regardless of how complicated it all is. Most of the time, my clients will share with me that they're bombarded with the needs of work, their children, their husbands, etc. Sometimes, they're just frozen like I am now. They will find one excuse after the other to cancel an appointment with me, to splurge on just one more piece of pizza (like I did last night), or just throw in the towel altogether. I've actually had clients who've paid me hundreds of dollars for several sessions, knowing it's non-refundable and give up after only two or three sessions because "This is just all overwhelming to me right now." That's when I say, "Come on. Let's get going. Are you worth this or not?" You just cannot stay in that frozen state and expect to achieve anything at all. If you want a degree (like I do), eventually you've got to get to work. If you want to lose some weight, you've got to get moving and make the edible changes that don't take a rocket scientist to figure out. If you don't know what to do, ask someone who does. You really are worth it! There's not a single reason that any of us should be sitting around on our bums feeling sorry for ourselves for not being where we want to be in life. We have so many resources at our disposal to help us reach the goals that we want to reach that most excuses are really not worth even voicing.
Roadblocks? Yes, they absolutely do exist. Sometimes, you can actually get around them or climb over them. Disappointingly, there are times that the roadblocks cannot be passed or climbed over. So, if you're are honestly giving it your all to reach the goals that you've set for yourself and one of those gigantic roadblocks is in your way, drop to your knees and ask God if your heart is set on the right kind of goals that He wants you to have. You may find that reaching your goals would put you in a place that would hinder you from being the person God designed you to be. If that's the case, it's not a failure; it's merely a redirection. You may be unwittingly headed to Timbuktu instead of the Promised Land.
Now, let's say you had a roadblock and you got to the other side of it. Chances are you learned something along the way of that difficult, burdensome journey. Don't keep it to yourself. Who knows? You may just be providing someone with the inspiration they need to climb over some monster-sized hurdles in their own lives. I can't tell you how many times someone has openly shared a past or present struggle that they worked through which inspired me to get through something similar. Praise God for those inspirational people in my life!
Alright, off of my soapbox I go. I'm kicking Procrastination out of the house; she's eating up my productive energy. Time to walk the dog and then get this brain wrapped around some short stories by DH. Lawrence and Shirley Jackson for my literature class essay. And then, Friday Night Lights. The rest of it all will just have to wait til tomorrow. Priorities, baby....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Goals, goals, and more goals. What are yours?

It's been several months since I last posted anything on my blog. Why? Because I'm busier than a fly being chased by a swatter.
I've got only about four courses left to take before it's time for me to start considering and planning the next phase of college which is student teaching. If you're a client reading this, don't worry, I'm still training for a while. I'm not quite ready to take the leap and quit training full-time yet. When the time comes, you'll know way in advance. Before I was working so hard toward this degree, I had so much more time for my favorite at-home hobbies: reading, writing, and napping).
I'm not sure why I didn't post my figure competition prep here. Perhaps it's because of all of the time I was spending on, (forums there are great for fitness and natural bodybuilding enthusiasts), working on my degree, working with clients, or catching a breather at home. Or it could be (and I'm sure this is part of it), I was a little nervous about sharing the ups and downs of the whole figure prep experience.
Now that I've gone through the hardest stages of that and am prepare for the 2012 competition season, I'm ready to share some things I've learned about myself hoping it will motivate or encourage you.
Late last summer, I made the ultimate decision to compete in an all natural figure competition. I started cleaning up my diet during the Fall and really buckled down on the diet in November. At the time, I was planning on competing in February. It only took about three or four weeks to realize that I was carrying too much bodyfat to be stage-ready. So, I set my eyes on a competition in April.
Using the knowledge base that I already had, asking experienced friends and acquaintances for guidance and constructive criticism, and stating my goals to many people put me in the right frame of mind to do what I had to do. By February 1, I had lost almost twenty pounds of bodyfat. That being said, I was starting to second-guess myself in the gym and with my diet. Was I eating too much? Was I eating too little? Should I do high intensity cardio? Should I exercise on an empty stomach? Could I drink coffee? It was starting to monopolize my thoughts, especially at bedtime. All of that second-guessing and fretting led me to realize that I needed more outside help from someone who I could trust.
Right around that time, I started posing practice with my posing coach, Tina Peratino of Centerstage Figures. At the first session, I realized just how much I needed to focus on my presentation. Tina taught me how to stand in such a way to maximize my muscular and feminine strengths. She took pictures of me posing so that I could have them for reference. Boy were those pictures a wake-up call. I still had a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. That's when I decided to contact the man who would become my training and nutrition coach, Layne Norton.
When I first contacted Layne, I really doubted he'd ever have the time or interest in getting around to contacting me back. What a shocker it was when he responded to my email within minutes of my sending it. The really crazy thing is that I think it was nearly midnight. I was seven weeks out from my very first competition and I just figured I'd waited too long for him to be willing to work with me. After telling me that he typically doesn't work with anyone less than 12 weeks out from competition, he said that I should send him my most recent progress pictures. He ended that email saying he wouldn't make any promises regarding the whole thing. Over the next few days, we emailed back and forth...he wanted to know what my diet, training, and sleep looked like, he wanted to know what kind of supplementation I was doing, etc. After a few back-and-forth emails, he agreed to work with me.
My results with Layne were immediate. I'd been "stuck" at 127lbs for weeks. At the first week, I dropped about two pounds. Seven weeks later, I stepped on stage for the first time looking as lean and as strong as I possibly could have with the amount of time I had to do it. I was the Masters champion (women ages 35+) and I brought home three 2nd place trophies.
I competed again a few weeks later in two other competitions and walked away with trophies each time. By the third competition, I was exhausted and had come down with strep throat. The surreal excitement of my accomplishments gave way to exhaustion and a surprising depressed feeling. Then there were the post competition binges. Boy did I eat, and eat, and eat....and sleep, and throw up, and get sick, and feel depressed....
Here I am two months past my first competition season, about fifteen pounds heavier, and very proud of what I've accomplished personally and professionally.
So, what's coming up next? Well, I'm looking to compete again in 2012. In the meantime, I've got a degree I am strongly pursuing, a full-time personal training business to work, five beautiful kids who need more of me, and an amazing husband to be thankful for and enjoy. So, while I'm enjoying my family and working my job like most of you work yours, I'm also growing physically. You'll see these deltoids of mine getting fuller and rounder, I may be walking funny to your personal training sessions after having given myself a beating in the gym (don't think I don't victimize myself the way I torture my clients).
The smaller, but still important goals I've got are probably similar to most of my friends. Eliminate our debts, save more, get the home better organized, spend more time with the kids individually, etc. What's important is that my goals are not the sum of who I am. I set out to be successful because I wholeheartedly believe that the successes I desire will enrich the lives of my husband, my children, and me. Are you setting goals? Have you reached the point in your life where you want to be? You're worth whatever it takes to be as healthy as you can be and at peace with your life. Love you for the person that you were designed to be. Live every day like it matters because you matter!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

where have I been?

The last time I posted here, I was near the beginning of contest preparation for my very first figure competition. Weighing in at nearly 140lbs, I was ready to lean down and see what I could do competitively.
The journey was long, tiring, exciting, enlightening, motivating, enriching, and fulfilling. More to come. What I will say before closing is that a new journey has begun. I'm aiming for a pro card now!