Want to look good? Find the answer on your inside.

For me, losing weight or changing my body has never been about “trying to look like I did in high school”, or about “losing the baby weight”.

I was not physically fit in high school, and that was the time of my life I began yo-yo dieting and never felt “good enough”.

I was a chronic dieter by the time I had my kids in my late twenties / early thirties – even so, I was still not “fit” and was “heavy” for my petite frame BUT only gained 35 lbs with each of my 3 pregnancies. In fact, after my second I *rapidly* lost an extra 25 lbs beyond what I gained from pregnancy – basically by eating almost nothing and exercising daily – just for the sake of *finally* losing the weight. Of course, the weight came back – and then some. Not something I wanted to “get back” to.

Nope, I am not trying to “get back” into my youthful ways and I’m not trying to achieve the waistline of my former self. I am ageing, sure. My body has taken a beating over the years from so much dieting abuse. But the story is not over – it’s only just beginning, really.

I am a work in progress.

And like I have said many times before, my pursuit of what may appear to be rooted in the external actually has more to do with the *internal*.
I want to be healthy, truly healthy. My nutrition choices and my commitment to my fitness may most obviously be reflected on the outside, but really I am working on how they affect my *inside* – both my physiology AND my psychology.

I had thought for a long time that my problem was all about “weight loss” (even though I was not severely overweight or even obese) – I thought my dissatisfaction came from the fact that my jeans didn’t fit and my tummy was fat – and I figured that because I didn’t look good, was the reason why I didn’t feel good.

You know what it really was?
I didn’t feel good, so I didn’t look good.
I wasn’t addressing my psychology – I was just trying to manipulate my body into a mold I thought it was *supposed to* fit into.
That mold did not take into consideration the health of my body or my mind. So it never was enough.

Once I started to consider my nutrition and physical fitness for how it was affecting my *inside* instead of just my outside, things changed.
My healthy brain could make better choices. My body became my vehicle for my determination since I was no longer driving it straight into the ground. I could enjoy my body and what it was capable of – the self-dissatisfaction stopped and my goals changed to *nurturing* my potential instead of lamenting all that I thought I would never be.

It’s not too late to nurture your potential. It’s all there.
It’s on the *inside*.

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Body Image, Throwing out the Scale, & Seeking the Internal not the External

If you spend any amount of time with me – in person or even online – you will very quickly find out that I am very passionate about health, and more specifically how it pertains to body image, fat loss, and lifestyle.

I refer to my own experiences a lot when I discuss weight loss and the correlation to mindsetbody image, and overall health. I am fortunate to be in a position of having fought these challenges over a long period of time – and experiencing many points on the spectrum of body change – and now coming to a place of health, balance, and education that I can now use to help others as a professional.

This was me just over 6 years ago, when I was trying to achieve a number on the scale - I was MISERABLE in this photo because I did not feel "good enough".

This was me just over 6 years ago, when I was trying to achieve a number on the scale – I was MISERABLE in this photo because I did not feel “good enough”.

Like I mentioned, I have run my body through many extremes over the years. I have been a dieting teenager. I have put on weight in college from an unhealthy diet and no physical activity. I have lost so much weight from restrictive eating that my body shrank down to 90 lbs. I have been through 3 pregnancies, when I was already overweight and gained about 35 lbs each time (I’m only 5’2″). I have lost weight, gotten “skinny” and then gained the weight back because I ate my emotions due to stress or depression (this happened more times than I’d like to admit). I have been super-fit, relatively lean, and athletic and have been among the top finishers in road races for my age group. I even defied everything I thought I could never be and competed (on stage in a tiny bikini) in not one, but two figure bodybuilding shows at age 36 and 38. I have done the work, dialed in my diet, and ended up in a metabolic rebound. I have learned to hang on when I could have given up. I have witnessed many extremes on the spectrum, and now stand here at my happiest, healthiest, most educated and balanced state EVER. 

In other words, I’ve been around the weight loss block a few times and I have not only survived, but I learned how to THRIVE.

So what has all this taught me?
It has taught me that I am not a better person if I weigh 90 lbs than if I am 125 lbs or 140 lbs.
In fact, my weight has nothing to do with anything. Chasing an arbitrary number has done me more harm than good. What I have learned is that CHOICES make the difference to becoming healthy, slim, and fit. The pursuit of the number on the scale or the tags of my clothes generally has led to messed up body image and constant dissatisfaction – that unhealthy mental state also led me to partake in unhealthy dieting practices, which led to an unhealthy, damaged body.

All of this has fueled my passion for helping other women see past the external and seek the internal. 

This was me in 2011, the week before my first figure show at about 114 lbs. This is NOT my normal, natural look. This was hard work and a life that was solely focused for MANY months on strict diet and exercise.

This was me in 2011, the week before my first figure show at about 114 lbs. This is NOT my normal, natural look. This was hard work and a life that was solely focused for MANY months on strict diet and exercise.

Because – I have learned that *skinny* doesn’t equal happiness or health. Hey, I would be the first to admit that if I could be one of those women who has long, slender legs (I am only 5’2″ with a 27.5″ inseam) or I could rely on sporting a lean midsection at all times without resorting to measures of torture – then I would be okay with that!  But, I have learned (the hard way) that not all of us are built or hard-wired to look like that. AND THAT’S OKAY!! For me to get – and stay – fairly lean (aka get rid of all the fat from all the places I don’t want it, even though it seems to like it there), I have to live and behave in a way that is not natural or even pleasant for me. It means that I have to put my food, my physical training, and my focus on my body before my family and friends, and give up a healthy, happy balance to my life.

This doesn’t mean that I choose to not care or live in an unhealthy way as a result. The exact opposite, actually. I get to choose to eat an abundance of nourishing foods that completely satisfy me – body, mind, and spirit. Giving myself proper nourishment makes my brain healthy which means I no longer suffer from depression (which I did for so long) and I get to be stronger and more physically fit than ever. Like I said, it is about how and why I make the choices I make. I eat to LIVE a good life. I no longer find myself abusing food. My balance is about wanting to feel my best, not about how much I can get away with for “enjoyment”. So my balance involves the things that nourish my body, but also includes things that nourish me in other ways, like wine with my husband or treats with my kids – they aren’t my downfall or my roadblock….they just allow me to live my life without extremes or anxieties.

I love to exercise (most of the time)…but the key is keeping it real. I used to just think in terms of more, more, more must be better. What I didn’t understand at the time was that sometimes too much can be just as detrimental as not enough. One example: When you stop getting your period for six months to a year, this is not normal. All that “healthy” exercise can become unhealthy and your hormonal state will let you know. Crazy that this happened on and off for me over a number of years and I never really thought much of it. However, that is one of the “alarm bells” that goes off when your body is entering “survival” mode because of too much output and not enough input – or if your body gets too low on body fat (this will be different for everyone, and my body likes it better when I have a *sufficient* amount of fat on it LOL).

This brings me to another point: there are no “rules” for what your body should look like or what your “ideal” weight or pants size should be.
There’s a difference between:
– the need to lose weight for better general health, especially if you have a significant amount of dangerous body fat.
– calling yourself “fat” when really what you need is to find your HEALTH.
– creating unrealistic expectations for what you want the aesthetics of your body to look like and doing “whatever it takes” to get there.

The answer to weight loss isn’t always simply finding ways to become skinnier.
I’m not saying that weight loss isn’t a good thing for those who have a significant amount of harmful body fat. But what I am saying is that there are also many people who are destroying their health with the notion that simply “losing 20-25 lbs” will make them healthier, more attractive, and will solve their problems. It won’t.

This is me about 25 lbs heavier than the other photo. I am much happier with my life here - eating healthy, not restrictive and far less exercise.

This is me in March 2013, about 25 lbs heavier than the pre-contest photo above. I am much happier with my life here – eating healthy, not restrictively. My life is balanced and I do not concern myself with a number on the scale.

Your body’s happy place involves much more than what it looks like on the outside or how much exercise you do or how little food you can get away with. Your body is the WHOLE package – and it is the vehicle you will use to travel through life for as long as you are blessed to have it.

I have learned that I am who I AM right now. There is no prize to chase; I am experiencing it everyday by the choices I make and the perspectives I choose to seek. My body is what is right now, for better or worse. It was what it was and will be what it will be. It’s not a race and it’s not a competition.

You are YOU right now – you CAN choose to “do it better everyday” whether you are in a smaller size jeans or not. You can choose better health and a better reality – and not judge yourself (or your progress) by how much you weigh.

The *perfect* you is not found, wrapped up in a size 2. Your “perfection” is constantly being unwrapped everyday – if you SEEK it and LIVE it 🙂 

I work as a Fat Loss Coach to help women find this healthy balance in their pursuit of weight loss and body change. If you are needing guidance and want to start looking at your body / mind health from this perspective, I can help. Visit my COACHING page to get more info.

July Workout Calendar

In conjunction with my coaching website I am posting a monthly fitness calendar!
For July, we are keeping things fun & simple. The goal is to give you a simple exercise routine you can do as soon as you roll out of bed – before the day gets too hot – so that you get your body moving and you feel energized all day. Lets face it, summer goes quickly and there’s lots to enjoy. So make your workout happen even if its short and sweet – and then get out there and enjoy the warm weather and fun!
The other part of this calendar includes some tips to help you de-stress! Summer is a good time to reframe your mindset and use the extra sunlight for leisure.
Hope these tips are useful – let me know what you think!

You can go here to view a printable version of this calendar.

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The Real Life Girl’s Guide to Losing Belly Fat

Definitely the number one question and concern I get asked about as a trainer and fat loss coach is how to get a trimmer tummy. Honestly, I am no superstar fitness model with a shredded six pack (lol surprise!) and quite frankly, I have battled this area of my body my whole life too. It has by far been the most frustrating area to get “control” over and to feel confident about. I like to eat and drink wine, and I don’t have time to workout all day (even though I am a trainer lol!) – probably the same as most of the “normal” women out there.

And I will add, that often I felt discouraged by fit people trying to tell me that “anyone can get abs if you work hard enough”…especially if they haven’t battled weight issues for most of their adult life or hadn’t endured multiple pregnancies with an already too big belly. I’m sure there are lots of women who “got their body back” after pregnancy (I personally wasn’t looking to get my body “back” after pregnancies, I was still looking for it!!) or have fabulous before and after pics of how they earned their six packs. But that was never me. Hard as I tried, that belly fat hung on for dear life. I really NEVER thought I would be able to beat this struggle. I figured I had bad genes, I liked food too much, and I was destined to be “chubby”. But I am stubborn and determined, so I went on a mission to get to the bottom of it!

Left: After 3 kids and two years of running. Belly abounding and no butt!  Right: Competition #2 done with minimal cardio and Lean Belly Foods!

I am a real woman with real life stubborn belly fat who is approaching 40 with three kids and a busy life. I have spent years working on finding the REAL keys to losing belly fat and changing my body for good.

Here are my top 5 “Real Life” strategies I have used for losing that belly fat and for staying trim over the past four years:

1. Drink lots of water. This also includes cutting out things like soft drinks (diet AND regular), juices, alcohol, and for some – coffee…. :S Optimally, you want to drink probably more water than you are used to – around 4L a day (or more if you are extremely active). Green tea (hot or cold, unsweetened) is also a great thing to ADD daily, as it helps to flush out toxins and can help with fat-burning. When you are dehydrated, you are likely to bloat, which can add to the appearance of a rounder tummy. Staying hydrated helps your body to flush out fat and the toxins fat holds. Good news for your belly – plus it’s cheap and easy to do!

2013 2982. Eat Lean Belly Foods. These are foods like veggies, proteins (like chicken, fish, turkey, lean cuts of beef, eggs, whey, etc), low-sugar fruits, a small amount of *some* whole grains (a topic for another post lol), and healthy fats. Fat-storing belly foods are things like breads, sugars, processed foods, high sodium foods, artificial sweeteners (or “diet” foods), and even chemicals on non-organic produce. Definitely we can add alcohol to this list again, as well as (of course) all forms of “junk food” (see processed, sugar, and salt foods).
YES – abs ARE made in the kitchen! You don’t get a lean belly by doing hundreds of crunches. A lean belly is revealed through allowing your body to enter “burn mode” instead of “storage mode” – you don’t want to starve your body and you don’t want to overeat. The “sweet spot” for belly fat burning is found in eating LOTS of the Lean Belly Foods so that you get adequate nutrition and energy for your body – without the “storage” effects from the foods that cannot be utilized fully or create an excessive glucose response in your body. So you MUST eat, but WHAT you eat is crucial.

3. Ab exercises do not burn belly fat. Building a strong core is essential to overall fitness and injury prevention, and developing your core can help to give a nice shape to your mid-section – BUT to get lean, you must exercise in way that effectively burns FAT. Did you know that some forms of exercise may even contribute to fat storage? For those who do not have much muscle to begin with, doing long steady cardio like jogging or logging time on gym cardio machines will actually feed off your lean tissues for fuel (not just use fat stores for fuel) and will tend to cause fat to be STORED in the midsection instead. Why? Well, it comes down to hormones. Our hormones work to keep our body in a state of balance. So long periods of endurance activity, like running, can cause a stress response in our body (cortisol) which in turn triggers the storage of fat. On the other hand, shorter periods of weight training and other intense exercise that is done in “burst” type fashion will create a mostly fat-burning/muscle-sparing state, but will also allow for the release of human growth hormone and testosterone (yes, women need testosterone also!) WHICH oppose the effect of cortisol’s fat-storing properties. I am a PRIME example of this, as I used to be a runner and even though I got “skinny”, I still could not get rid of my belly fat. Once I added weight training and greatly reduced my cardio time, *magic* started to happen…

4. Stress, anxiety, depression. and fatigue must be dealt with. All of these things do not add to our “caloric intake”, but they DO have a profound effect on whether we are storing or burning fat, particularly in our bellies. As women, this can also coincide with our estrogen levels – which combined can can make us feel “inflated” very quickly through our cycles and as we deal with age. There is too much detail to go into for this post, but some great info from Metabolic Effect here and here.
All in all, even if you eat “right” and exercise regularly, if you are chronically stressed, worn out, can’t sleep, or deal with depression, it is possible that you will hang on to belly fat regardless of what you do. So it is VERY important to treat the sources of these issues and focus on mindset and lifestyle strategies to move your mind into a place where your body can respond effectively. Mind health always = body health.

5. Lastly, but most importantly – you must do all these things CONSISTENTLY!! There is no

magic formula that says you can “see your abs in 14 days if you follow these rules”…no, the *exact* formula will be different for everyone. Some will get to see more definition after 2 weeks and others may find that it takes time just to de-bloat. We all have different food sensitivities, lifestyle factors, and personal histories that contribute to how our bodies respond to changes like these. What DOES matter is that you stick with what works for YOU and contributes to YOUR goals. If magic doesn’t happen after 2 weeks or even 2 months, it doesn’t mean you are doomed. Your body needs to find it’s sweet spot. For me, this took at least SIX MONTHS before I really started to see changes. It felt like nothing was happening despite all my efforts – then BOOM – it was like all my persistence and discipline was presented like an award in the form of slimmer tummy. But I had to keep on keeping on in order to get there. Stick with it to get your reward – most others will give up and quit too soon.

For me personally, the leanness of my belly has a spectrum. I am very

This is just me TODAY - sticking to a "normal" lifestyle strategy that works.

sensitive to the foods I eat and honestly if I wanted to have “ripped” abs (or even somewhat visible abs) most of the time, I would have no life and would never eat a carb again. I really don’t want to live that way! I love food, I love living life – so I live within my own formula for staying comfortably lean. There are times that I “tighten up” (like right now because I will be wearing a bikini for two weeks in August) and so I just switch to eating MORE of my Lean Belly Foods. I don’t crash diet, that doesn’t work – I watch my intake more carefully and go extra intense on my workouts.
I no longer have to worry about losing it all again – maintaining this kind of lifestyle lends itself to completely changing your overall body composition and metabolic function.
—> This is just me TODAY – sticking to a “normal” lifestyle strategy that works. My midsection enjoys being “fluffy”, and after 3 kids I have lots of loose skin. I’m no fitness model, but I have figured out what really works for me and I no longer have to “worry” about it 🙂

Are you ready to get a trimmer tummy and lose the extra belly fat once and for all?
Please contact me for coaching if you need help navigating these changes and how to make it work best for YOU! I coach you starting where you are now, and work with you so that the changes you make are not abrupt and uncomfortable. We start with small, but effective steps and find YOUR formula for success.
I am currently accepting a small number of private online clients throughout the summer – contact me here to get started.

SSFC web logoAlso check out SOUL SISTERS FIT CLUB online membership for group online coaching with me and access to my client resources and tools – only $29 per month!

 

I’m not perfect, I have perspective

As a trainer and fat loss coach, I never feel like my clients are “work” – I am honoured to be invited into their lives for a time and I find so much inspiration from knowing them. I too have a coach and I know that I can be candid and honest about my struggles, just as I hope my clients feel they can be with me. It’s such a great boost to my perspective to know that someone is there to support and encourage me, and will always give me the best advice for ME. I am fortunate to have a coach and mentor (Jill Coleman) who is balanced in fitness and life and can help me to put my stuff into perspective, like this:
One thing that I’ve had to embrace lately is how my struggle has changed – because let me tell you, life is full of challenges and losing weight doesn’t solve everything magically. What I wasn’t prepared for was the expectations I now put on myself as professional to constantly be in perfect condition and look like a fitness model. I have goals, yes. But I also have my own reality. 

pics 135In fact, what I’ve learned is that my body has changed – it has not become “perfect” like I once thought it be when I “arrived”. It has changed. Changed mostly for the better, but now my struggles look different. I no longer have to think about eating the “right” foods and I don’t stress about my weight or whether I’m going to let cookies get the best of me.
My struggles have become more about accepting that my perfect health and body weight does not come in a perfect size 2 and does not automatically come with a side of 6pack abs. I know how to get those things, but honestly I want my life to mean so much more. And I want to be able to give more of myself than I can if all I am focused on is the right mix of diet and training to stay in “perfect” shape.

Truth is, my body doesn’t do that naturally or easily – I suppose if it did, then I wouldn’t have struggled for 20 years to find balance. But I DO have a wonderful balance now – I am fit, trim, and healthy, and I am no longer fighting the fat loss fight. I have matured in my own fitness journey to be confident in my natural and fit curves – curves that have been created from building up my body instead of wearing it down. Curves that reflect healthy eating and love for life – not the result of drowning my depression in a tub of ice cream. There is a huge difference in what my INSIDES are all about – and that is where the true magic lies. You CAN have it all – just stop looking for it in the number on the scale.

I love the process of learning these lessons – because my bigger goal is driven by being able to pass them along to all of you, so you can maybe, hopefully figure it out sooner than I did 🙂