Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nighttime Nutrition

Thanks to Oprah, there's a myth that our society has bought into heavily that you cannot eat past 7pm or it will cause weight gain, prevent weight loss, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. Eating at nigh, eating right before bed, is not what makes you gain weight. And, eating before you go to sleep at night can actually help your weight loss efforts.

Eating a small high protein, moderate fat meal right before you go to bed helps to keep the metabolism fueled during your "fasting" hours while you are sleeping. When you pair a lean protein (I usually opt for a protein powder as opposed to a whole food protein) with a fat source, it slows down the digestion process and gives your body something to metabolize throughout your sleeping hours.

It is also a well-known fact that going to bed hungry can have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep. Hungry people often do not sleep well and/or have interrupted sleep. Eating a small meal before bed will help ward off hunger pangs and late night cravings that are common for many people.

So what should you eat?

Well, like I said, I like to use a protein powder instead of a whole food source, but either one is fine. Casein protein is a slower digesting protein which makes it a good choice for your bedtime meal. A blend will also work as will a whey protein isolate. Really, any protein will do. If you prefer something besides protein powder, low fat cottage cheese, eggs or nonfat, low sugar Greek yogurt are great options as well. Add 10 almonds or a tablespoon of nut butter to your protein source (eggs are all you'll need if you're eating the yolks) to help so down the digestion of your protein.

This is what I've been doing on my busy nights - 12oz unsweetened almond milk, 1 scoop of Siren 
Labs Isolate and 1 Tablespoon PB2. I only opted for the PB2 because I can just shake it with the almond milk and protein powder and it's just quicker and easier than real peanut butter. Sometimes, life is busy, we get tired and it's ok to compromise and not be exactly perfect on your nutrition. Don't get obsessed with having to be perfect. Real peanut butter would be better but many nights lately, I'm tired after a long day of running kids around, taking care of kids, working, etc and quick and easy is what I need. If that's you too - cut yourself some slack. Dump some good stuff in a shaker, shake it up, drink it up and GO TO BED!!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Contest Revelations

For 6 years, being a “figure competitor” in bodybuilding was the thing that defined me. In 6 years I stepped on stage 20 times. In a miserable marriage when my competing journey began, I found contest prep to be a welcome distraction and the stage a place where I found validation. 

Over the 6 years, I went through one traumatic event after
another and competing was a distraction from the curveballs life seemed to be relentlessly throwing my way. I allowed myself to become defined by what stage of contest prep I was in and once I stepped on stage, I was defined by how well I did…or didn’t do. 

Over the years, my body went through, well, a lot of abuse, if I can put it bluntly. It was restriction and over exercise and extremes in the gym and in the kitchen. On two different occasions my body went through metabolic damage. Essentially, this is where the body gains weight and despite any efforts with nutrition and exercise nothing works. And the only way to recover from metabolic damage is to rest. Stop dieting. Stop training. Stop competing. These two time periods were extremely discouraging and depressing for me. As I was dealing with long term depression (unbeknownst to me at the time) this only exacerbated my symptoms of depression. 

On top of all that, competition has a way of distorting any kind of normal body image you may have had before your days of competing. Get uber lean for contest…hold that look for a day, maybe 3 if you’re lucky and within a couple weeks you’ve added back a [healthy] layer of body fat. And you look in the mirror and think you look horrible. You can’t wait to be lean again. It’s a vicious cycle and one that most competitors get trapped in. 

When I did my last contest, I went into it as healthy as possible. I had learned my lessons and I was determined not to repeat them. I wasn’t going to step on stage if I couldn’t do it in moderation. At least as much as is possible in the bodybuilding world. And I did. But when I got off the stage after the prejudging of my last show in late 2014, I felt something I had never felt before. And I knew I was done. 

I had 3 revelations that Saturday in October 2014. Revelations that changed my feelings about competing and as a result, changed ME in a very big way. 

Revelation #1
I knew that day on stage I wasn’t the best in my class. I looked good and I felt really good about my conditioning and the package I brought to the stage. But, it was in that moment on stage that I realized that my body isn’t a “package” I need to bring in front of a panel of judges for critique. For so long, the stage had provided me validation that I needed that my body was okay. I had been through so much since the last time I competed a year and a half prior and had so much growth, I realized I no longer need the stage to fill a void. The void had been filled. Primarily with my faith which brought healing from my depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Revelation #2
People look at bodybuilding competitors and think that they’re the picture of “health & fitness”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is so much disordered eating in the bodybuilding culture and what you see on stage is extremely unhealthy - usually very depleted and dehydrated. I got off stage after the evening show and the bikini girls and physique guys were eating Trophy Cupcakes and Krispy Kreme donuts after having deprived themselves of food for a minimum of 12 weeks. Now they were stuffing their faces with junk. 

As someone who takes my role as a fitness professional very seriously, I realized in this moment that this is not the kind of behavior I want to endorse…or be around. My goal has always been to inspire and empower people to live healthier lives and feel good about themselves and their bodies. This whole scene just went against everything I want to be about. 

Revelation #3
So the night show - when each competitor gets to come out and be introduced and hit 3 poses or so. It’s typical to do a front pose, a back pose and some sort of “model” pose. My family was in the front row…VIP seating. As I looked out from backstage before my turn came I saw my dad and my 11 year old son sitting in the front row. BAM! Right there. I was soon to be nearly within arm’s reach of them. There was no way, I was going to be hitting a back pose putting my booty right in front of my son. No way. He would never be able to unsee that and I don’t think I could have lived with myself knowing I did that to him. So, I was the only competitor in that show to go out and NOT hit a back pose. And I was fine with that. 

This final revelation had the biggest impact on me. It reminded me that first and foremost I am a mother to my children and they are watching me. On stage and off stage. It was different when they were younger and didn’t attend my shows but now that they are older they have a desire to see what I do. I am not saying there’s anything distasteful about bodybuilding, I’m just saying it isn’t what I want my children to see. Especially as my girls get older and more impressionable about body image and food…seeing me restricting food is not good for them. 

I still love the bodybuilding world. I love the people I have met through my years competing and still consider myself part of it. I love to be around it. I love to see other people compete. But I had my days on the stage. And I no longer coach competitors. I much coaching people who just want to be fit, healthy and feel good and age UNgracefully. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Promise of Spring

It’s still dark outside, the sun has yet to rise. It’s the middle of winter. Yet, I can hear the sounds of spring even though I can see nothing. I hear the birds chirping and it reminds me of a sunny summer morning. It makes my heart happy because, for me, it is the promise of spring. 

The trees outside are starting to bud and with each passing week the buds will grow bigger and bigger until they open up in pink and white blossoms, filling the trees. The chirping birds will be joined by more birds…their spring babies…as these winter days come to an end. 

I do not like winter but I realize it is necessary. Winter feels like death to me. All the beauty of the spring and summer starts to slowly fade away in the fall. It dries up and blows off it’s source and then comes winter and the trees are bare and the beautiful colors of spring and summer are long gone. Nature dies so that the ground and creation can rest. 

I’m not a fan. 

I’m also not a fan of rest but after some trial and much error I have learned it is not optional. It is necessary. The promise of spring I hear outside my window is a beautiful reminder of the seasons of our lives. We all go through a winter at some time or another. It’s possible you've experienced several seasons of winter in a row and you’re wondering if that’s all there is…winter. You haven’t heard the birds chirping with the promise of spring in a very long time. And the trees are yet without buds. Spring is NOT on the horizon.

Sometimes our winters feel long…and cold..and dark. And often they can feel really uncomfortable. Winter is a transition and transitions are always uncomfortable. In the death and the resting, is the rebuilding so that when spring comes everything is like brand new again. In our winters we give death to the past and rest and regroup as we transition into a completely new season of our lives. 

Maybe, like me, you’ve had your fair share of winters in recent years and the promise of spring makes your heart full of joy. Hearing the birds this morning reminded me that, while I don’t know what this next season will be like - it could be record rain fall and dark, gray days or it could be unseasonably warm and sunny and the crocuses pop up from the ground early - I do know that something new is coming and that winter isn’t going to last forever. 

Spring is a new hope (like what I did there? not even a SW
junkie) that after a barren winter, life can be sunny and bright and beautiful and colorful again. If you’ve ever been through a depression this is what it feels like - depression feels like winter and recovery feels like spring. After fighting through many years of long term depression I have a keen liking for spring and all the little promises that come along with it. 

Part of the healing is awareness. Look for the signs - feel them, hear them, see them - and immerse yourself in the hope of what this new season can be in your life. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Busting Nutrition Myths

The health industry, much to my dismay, is filled with misinformation and myths. There is an overabundance of sources nowadays with social media and the internet, leaving it very hard for the majority of people to decipher fact from fiction. 

There are quite a few nutrition myths that I consistently see spread to the masses but because this is a blog not a novel, I will give you my top 5 nutrition myths that need to be debunked. I was inspired to write this blog after a conversation with my aunt the other day about fruit so we’ll start with that…

Myth #1
Eat all the fruit you want. 
No, don’t do it. I get it - fruit is tasty and it is natural and many varieties are loaded with good vitamins and antioxidants and fiber. But the reason it tastes so good is because it is loaded with SUGAR!! I’m not saying don’t eat fruit at all, I’m telling you if you want to trim down, eat fruit in moderation and put it in your breakfast or lunch, not your bedtime snack when your body will be inactive and therefore, not burning it, just storing it as…fat. Another fact that many people don’t realize is that not all fruits are created equal. For instance, pineapple has substantially more sugar per serving than raspberries or blackberries. Always go for the berries or grapefruit over the more sugary fruits. 

Myth #2
Cutting Calories = Cutting Weight
While this is true in the sense that we need to burn more calories than we consume in order to lose weight, cutting to extremes (1200 or less) will work in the short term but it will cause your metabolism to bottom out. Getting your metabolism to recover from this can take a very long time. The reason many people on very low calorie diets eventually start gaining weight is because they have ruined their metabolism. Instead of dropping your calories to a ridiculously low level, take a look at your foods and make sure you are eating nutrient-dense foods and not consuming a lot of empty calories (hold the whip on that mocha). 

Myth #3
Fat makes you fat.
This is an oldie but still as true as ever. It’s not fat that makes us fat, it’s the type of fat and the quantity. In our hurried society we are often reliant on convenience foods for our meals. Often times these are the foods that are loaded with fats like creams and butters. These are not the good fats. Omega 3 and 6 - salmon, eggs, avocado, nut butters, nuts, coconut oil, EVOO, to name a few. A diet with healthy fats will not only keep your body functioning well but it will also aid weight loss. Yep, that’s right!!

Myth #4
If it’s organic it must be healthier
Nope. It’s not. It’s more expensive but that’s about it. I get it - some people like to know that the food they’re putting in their bodies is organic. Totally cool, I get that. It won’t make a person healthier, live longer or lose weight faster. So if you are in the camp that just doesn’t have the budget for organic foods, fret not! 

Myth #5
Eating late at night will make you fat
Dear Oprah, take it back!! I think I heard Oprah say this back when I was in high school and it is something that has never died and it is one of the biggest myths and it is still preached today in the health industry. It is not true. False false falsity false. You will not gain weight just because you eat right before bed. If however, you eat ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream every night before bed, you probably will. A “small meal” (200-300 calories) containing protein and fat is a great thing to eat before bed. This will keep your metabolism cranking throughout the night. 

I realize it’s hard to separate fact from fiction, especially these days. Hopefully this helps make sense of some things you’ve heard or read. I would also caution you to keep in mind that many things you will see online are “click bait” and so they share information that isn’t necessarily true but it peaks your interest and you click. Always double check your sources. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

No One Ever Hated Their Body...What?

I was reading Ephesians 5 the other day which is a scripture that talks about how husbands and wives are to treat and relate to one another. And I got to verse 29 which reads:

After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, 
just as Christ does the church

I stopped in my tracks. Say what? No one ever hated their body? Well that’s about as false as I’ve ever heard. Apparently the women of Paul’s day did not suffer from the body image issues of the women of our day. Now, I realize that I took this verse a bit out of context, but it really got me thinking…

Do I know any women who do not have a rather volatile relationship with their body? I couldn’t think of any woman that I know that does not desire to change something about her body - whether it be a major or minor change - every female I know wants to change something. 

Hate is a strong word. Perhaps we don’t “hate” our bodies but we certainly don’t give them the respect they deserve. We deprive ourselves of food and go on extreme diets that make us feel like garbage because we think if we lose some weight we’ll like ourselves better. And maybe, just maybe it will make us happier. Or worthy. 

There was a period of time when I beat my body into submission. Tired, sore, injured…but I needed to push my body into the results I wanted. Maybe then I would feel worthy or people would be impressed and then I would feel more confident. 

I have had enough conversations with other women to know that I am not alone in the way I treated my body. I was anything but kind and I think at times I felt my body was the enemy. My mind and body were not connected - my mind was saying “go” while my body was saying “no.” 

Our bodies beg us to treat them with kindness. Our bodies want to be nourished properly - not crash dieted with hCG and 500 calories a day. We need good nutrition. We need to feed our bodies to function well so that we can live the kind of lifestyle that allows us to be the mothers, sisters, partners, friends we want to be. 

Our bodies are designed to move. Fitness is a great thing that every body-loving human should do. But there is a line - and it’s not even a “fine line” - between pushing your body to extremes and exercising in a way that benefits your body. I have learned the hard way that “no pain no gain” is not necessarily the best mentality. We have to consider how long we want our bodies to last. If we want our bodies to be able to move well into our golden years, we need to move smarter. 

All my adult life I have struggled to love my body. I have struggled with being happy with it just the way it is, appreciating it for all the amazing things it has done in 41 years. Why? Because it is drilled into us over and over again, everywhere we turn, that a certain type of body is more appealing than another. Tight and lean is better than soft and round. And so we strive for this unattainable, “perfect” body and in doing so we hate the body we have.

This scripture was a big “ah ha” moment for me and over the past few days I have found a great deal of peace as I meditate on it. God never designed us to hate our bodies. We are supposed to feed and care for our bodies. But we don’t do that because our society has taught us to do otherwise. 

How are you treating your body? Who are you trying to please? If you’re trying to please God, it’s time to stop hating your body. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The “Over 40” Metabolism

I remember when I hit 30. There were changes in my body that seemingly happened overnight. Like I woke up on my 30th birthday and something was different. Not a lot different, but enough for me to notice. The changes weren’t really drastic and didn’t really bother me too much. Nothing I couldn’t work around. 

And then I hit 40. I remember everybody telling me how my body would change after I hit 40 but I didn’t really think it would be an instant, hello-you’re-40-now everything is going to slow down and get weird. But it did. I feel like things got weird first and then by the end of the year my metabolism noticeably slowed down.

Now I’m nearing 42. In 5 weeks to be exact. Over the last several months I have noticed even more changes that are simply a sign of “aging.” (I am not fond of that word) In my discussions with other women in my “over 40” age group, I have learned that I’m not alone and these issues are a common thread among us. We can’t eat the way we used to eat. One glass of wine has repercussions it didn’t have before. Our joints are creaky and sometimes achy. And we don’t put on muscle the way we used to and we lose it twice as fast. 

I have no intention of growing old gracefully. I intend to fight it with all my strength. If you’re over 40 too, I would encourage you to resist and take some easy steps to fight mother nature. So, what can you do? Here are 5 easy things that we can do that will help us stay healthy, boost our metabolisms and keep us fit with minimal risk of injury. 

  1. Eat Frequent, Small Meals - I learned this when I started bodybuilding. I ate every 2-3 hours. After 7 years of this and strict meal planning, I got real tired of it. It became a chore. So I stopped. I went to more like 3 meals a day and noticed that it did no favors for my metabolism. In my quest to go back to the more frequent, small meals I decided to do this in a way that made it easy without feeling cumbersome. These meals don’t have to be labor-intensive. Grab a container of high protein Greek yogurt. Eat a protein bar. Drink a protein shake/smoothie - add berries, peanut butter, spinach, whatever you like. Batch cook things you like to eat that you can take on the go and reheat easily. The worst thing we can do as we age, is to run on empty too often. Give your body a little something to work on. 
  2. Add Fats, Subtract Carbs - it’s not about removing calories, it’s about shifting your nutrient partitioning. You still want to have complex carbohydrates in your diet but your body needs less than it did when it was younger. What it doesn’t need it will store as body fat. Swap out some of your carbs for healthy fats like salmon, avocado, EVOO, coconut oil, nut butters. 
  3. Supplement with Fish Oil - Fish oil actually aids in fat loss. It’s an essential fatty acid that our bodies need for proper functioning. It also helps with joint and bone health which is very important for women, especially. Fish oil is also found to support serotonin levels which boost your mood and help lower stress levels. If you already consume a healthy amount of fatty fish in your diet, you will not need to supplement as much…but you’ll still need to supplement.
  4. Take a Fat Burner/Fat Loss Supplement - there are many non-stimulant fat burners on the market these days. Two of my favorites are SlimTox by NDS Nutrition - this blend has an appetite control component, sleep aid and probiotic and supports healthy digestion. This is a stimulant free supplement taken before bed. The other that I like is Slimify by Siren Labs. This product helps fat loss by suppressing appetite and the mild stimulants help with metabolism and aid in fat loss. The metabolic boost by this type of product is very helpful for women over 40. I had removed this from my supplement arsenal and added them back in several weeks ago and have noticed positive changes as a result.
  5. Hydrate! - It’s not a health blog if it doesn’t advise proper hydration, right? Water is critical for our bodies to do their work. Our digestive systems require proper hydration to function effectively. Dehydration is one of the worst things you can do to your body. In the winter months I tend not to love plain water like I do when the weather is warmer. I drink lots when I exercise but throughout the day I find myself turning towards tea, fruit infused, zero calorie waters. 

These are some simple steps that won’t require a huge time commitment or life change. They’re easy and effective. While we can’t completely stop the hands of time, we can take some easy steps to slow them down. What we didn’t “have” to do in our younger years are now necessary for us to keep getting results out of a body that wants to slow down. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Let Things Come

I’ve always considered myself a “go-getter.” If I want something, I go get it. I work for it. I do what is necessary to achieve it. I’ve never been a person that has struggled with a passion for something but a few years ago that all changed. 

Sometimes life hits us with unexpected surprises and challenges that change the course of everything. Sometimes getting back “on course” is actually getting on a whole new course. But what happens when you don’t know what that course is? You don’t know what your purpose is? You don’t feel that drive to “go get it?” 

I guess this is when you “let things come.” You sit in the quiet, you pray and you listen for the Spirit to guide you. And you wait. You wait for answers. You wait for passion. You wait for drive. You wait for a Word that tells you “go this way!”

We can’t force passion. And if you’re a person who has never had a problem with finding your passion and suddenly you find yourself floundering, it can be very frustrating and confusing and discouraging. 

I think part of letting things come is also the ability to let things go. The last couple days my Facebook memories have been popping up reminding me that 6 years ago I opened my gym. It was my dream. I was so passionate about it. I hardly slept I was so excited about building my dream. I enjoyed watching my business grow and the lives that I was getting to impact. And only two years later it all “went up in smoke.” Losing my dream was devastating and because of the trauma I was going through it was a loss I didn’t have time to grieve. 

In order to let things come, we have to have room for them in our lives. If we are holding onto yesterday’s dreams, there’s probably not much room for new things to come. It can be hard to let things of the past go, especially when it was a loss we didn’t want and/or didn’t choose. When something was “taken” from us, it’s much harder to let go. 

We move so quickly from one circumstance to the next. One challenge to another. We don’t give ourselves the time to really go through the grieving process that is necessary to let things go - whether they are jobs, relationships, homes, finances, etc. Losing something significant in our lives, always requires us to process the grief. Sometimes this is a quick process and sometimes it takes a long time. 

As I was processing why it has been so difficult to “let things come” I realized that there’s not space for a new passion in my life because I haven’t properly grieved the passion, the dream that I lost. To be honest, I think a part of me is still numb and in disbelief that it’s gone. Surreal - was the whole thing all just a dream?

This is life, though. Things come and things go. But we have to embrace them and then release them in order for the process to take place. 

I want to let things come, but first I need to let some things go.