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Finding the balance of physical and mental health through adventures and fitness

This Above All: Relativity

This week I had a few realizations. It’s nothing ground breaking and it’s something that we all say. It’s stuff that I say all the time, but I don’t necessarily listen to clearly.

  1. happiness is relative. it means something different for everyone.

Something I’ve been struggling with the past few weeks since Connecticut is owning my happiness. There was a lot of negativity that I didn’t expect after placing and it made me question why I compete and what makes me happy. So, let me reiterate.

I compete because Cristina at over 240 pounds never thought she could do great things.

I compete because I like the challenge – it’s mental and physical all in one.

I compete because I love the glitter and sparkle that comes fleetingly on show day.

I compete because it let’s me become a character I never thought I could play.

I don’t compete for the trophy. It’s a nice addition, but that’s not my purpose. Just showing up and being present is enough for me. But I know it’s not enough for some people.

I started believing that I was never going to do better than 4th place. I started believing that my placing was meaningless. While there were so many positive comments, the ones I remember are the opposite. Someone told me that I still looked fat and my back still had rolls and posing didn’t help. They continued and said that I needed to stop telling people like me that they can accomplish anything because I’m making the sport a joke. I started to absorb that and I started to believe it.

But you know what, I’m getting on stage in 2 days for my 4th show in my 3rd season and I don’t see many people doing what I’m doing. So until someone drags me off stage, I’m going to absorb that 10 seconds of spotlight.

2. goals are relative. they can change weekly and so can the definition of success.

I don’t expect every person I talk to to have a  desire to compete. On the contrary, I am shocked when I meet other competitors because there are so few. When someone tells me they want to get healthy and find their path, that lights me up because that kind of change is tough. I’ve been told I’m inspiring even though I’m a competitor, I don’t know what the fuck that means, but I think EVERYONE can be inspiring in their own way. Take away the actual goal and you have left a person with dedication and drive. Take away age or gender or competition and you have a hard working person who focuses on their shit.

You don’t know someone’s story from glimpses at their day and maybe getting out of bed was a win. Maybe that morning getting their kids ready on time was a win, which allowed them to get their own personal goals moving along. Maybe success was seeing something from a different angle and deciding that they needed help.

Everyone has a different goal for their health because it’s defined differently for every person. Success looks different every week because you don’t always know what is going to be thrown your way.

3. it can be hard for people to understand how someone can be happy when there’s bad stuff happening around them.

I am not happy 100% of the time. I am not happy all day, every day. But I do find happiness most days for portions of the day and I think that is the balance in finding happiness. It’s not about expecting every day to go according to plan or being happy all of the time. I think if perfection is the expectation then you’re going to be very disappointed and see failure around every corner.

I’ve written about happiness before. I actually bought another psychology book the other day about creating your own happiness and how relative it is. The book says we have control over about 40% of lives. 10% is circumstance and 50% is genetics, you can’t control those, but 40% is what you actively are seeking and engaging in. I know so hippy-dippy, whatever. My money.

Bad things happen every day. Terrible things happen every day. I hold onto anger and frustration, but at some point you need to also be able to work through it and find something that makes you smile when all you want to do is scream or cry. Because really, what does screaming or crying do other than provide temporary relief.

Take the same energy and do something good.

Some of the littlest things make me happy like JP doing the dishes while I make breakfast because that means they aren’t piling up. A client texting me that they’re having a great day. A new PR in the gym. Reaching my step goal on days when I feel like I’m just sitting around. Being able to participate in class because I understand the material.

I’m excited because I have my 4th show in 3 seasons this weekend and the season isn’t quite over. I’m going to give up what I’ve been absorbing the past few weeks. Because really April has been great overall and I’m not letting anything stop me.

I hope you find happiness every day, around the corner, in front of your face. I hope you figure what works for you and hold onto it. I hope you use your energy for something worth while. I hope you find a cupcake that fits your goals that day or time to take a nap and relax.

I’m heading to class and then packing up for the weekend. Vermont is calling my name. I’m not scared for the outcome, I’m just excited for the opportunity.

Also, side note: I had this realization last night – the top 5 placing can go to Jr USA’s and Jr Nationals if they want to and the top 3 can go to Nationals. My goal was to do my best this season and give it my all, and get as close as I could to a national bid. Well, I guess I did that already. Now, it’s just about having some fun.

❤ Cristina

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This Above All: Everyone Knows The Rules

JP introduced me to Barstool Sports a few years ago when we first started dating. The content they create ranges – widely ranges. However, one thing that has stuck with us is a segment that El Pres does often called The One Bite.

As you imagine from the title he takes a bite and does a review…well, not quite. The point of the segment is to taste test pizza in Manhattan where their headquartered. He goes to a place and gets a slice, but the rule is one bite and give it a score out of 10. In most segments he repeatedly takes large bites while shouting “one bite, everyone knows the rules.”

For no reason at all, I think these are hilarious and it makes me want to do it with doughnuts, except you don’t waste a good doughnut by only taking one bite.

I’m pretty sure JP and I have adapted this for more things than we really should. Including today.

We were driving in the car, heading to his parents house for the weekend and I told him how I had talked to a friend and the crap that has been happening online.

substory…

I know some of you are wondering why I haven’t posted and some have reached out saying you completely understand. Well, for clarity, this isn’t about trolls. This is about how in depth some of the harassment has become. We all know that trolls are fake accounts posting ridiculous comments across the Internet. It’s not just Instagram, it’s Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. But what you don’t understand or realize is that aside from the 20+ accounts and more comments I delete and block on a daily basis, there have been comments that are using information I haven’t provided to you at all. Information that predates my use of Instagram.

The kind of information that says that 1. the person is doing their research by trying to find other social media platforms that are personal or 2. they know me.

Regardless, it’s kind of pathetic, but pretty damn scary at the same time.

That’s what set me off yesterday, not the Easter comment, which was the dumbest thing ever because I would love to see a family that has a normal meal where there isn’t something special for one person. After I finished a live session of ranting, someone started commenting with an account using a name of a family member of JP’s that we’ve NEVER EVER MENTIONED BEFORE.

HOW FUCKING CRAZY IS THAT?

They said they missed the live session, but then started commenting things I had mentioned in the live session… you good sir, are a dumbass. #BLOCKED

That’s crazy and creepy and honestly, it really does beg the question, who needs therapy more: me or them?

Anyway, back to the car.

My friend said that women should be empowering other women. JP smiled and said, “No, it’s empower her to her face and talk shit about her on the Internet,  everyone knows the rules.”

He has a point.

Is that the rule now? Pretend that you’re excited or happy for someone, but it actually burns you up?

There’s a level of jealousy I think everyone has, myself included. I’ve found myself wishing for fancy vacations or city living, but I also know what my circumstances are and I don’t necessarily know what affords someone else their opportunities.

You get what you earn, you get what you work hard for.

I share my journey because as I’ve said a million times, I want others see what they can achieve if they dream big and put in the work and give themselves time. My account didn’t start that way. It’s still my personal account, but it’s changed as my life has changed. I’m sure it’ll change a little bit in the after-competing life too.

I don’t find myself very inspiring because of my progress. Anyone can lose weight. I do find how people set goals and create plans for themselves to be inspiring and maybe that’s how some of you see me. I’m setting goals I want to be setting,  I’m creating a plan and timeline and going full speed ahead.

In some of the messages I’ve received I’ve been told I’m a leader and role model – things I never thought to categorize myself as, but I do believe a leader pushes a group of people to be better and reach their potential by helping them, not by telling them what to do. I want to always be learning new things and experimenting to find what works for me versus finding what’s trendy. I want others to be fearless in this way too.

I said it earlier this week. I’m excited for April, it’s going to be a good month. Good things are happening, even when bad things are too. What fun would it be if there wasn’t a challenge thrown your way?

This break isn’t about letting the trolls win because they’re losing the moment they try to become keyboard warriors instead of hitting the gym or stepping on stage. They are losing the moment they decided that someone else loving life means that they can’t love theirs. They are losing the moment they start throwing around words to bring people down to the dirt where they are rolling around.

I’m allowed to be frustrated because this much hate shouldn’t be in the world, not at at this level, not towards me or anyone like me trying to better themselves or show others they can do the same.

If you’re going to hate, why don’t you hate the real injustices that occur every day like unequal pay for women or the cost of education. Why does there need to be hate because someone lost weight, is eating what she likes even if it’s weird, is competing on a stage you don’t have balls to step on and is in a relationship where the man she loves equally loves her back even with all her flaws? If that shit isn’t jealousy, I don’t know what is.

Take your hate and put it to good use.

But if you are going to spew hate, at least put your money where your mouth is and show what things you’ve done lately to make the world a better place?

Show me yours, I’ve already shown you mine. Everyone knows the rules.

❤ Cristina

This Above All: Every Day Life v. The Emotional Mind

I’ve talked about my own experience with binge eating disorder before. I talked about it in the fall when it was triggered by PTSD. oh there she goes again. Remember, you can always stop reading or stop following.

Anyway, moving on.

Eating disorders have huge gray area, but I don’t think many people realize that. What we know to be true sometimes isn’t what we say to ourselves.

A former client of mine told me she started going to therapy because as she put it, once her and I cleaned up the fitness and nutrition part of her life, she realized that there was something more. She explained that when reaches a goal she usually stops and reverts back to bad habits. At this point, she’s lost the 20 pounds she set out to and did so by learning about macro nutrient counting. We calculated her numbers and talked about why those numbers were hers. We talked about how and when to adjust them. She’s now calculated macros for a few people her in life.

Looking at food from different angles changed how she thought about food. But, there’s a but, it also opened her eyes to the relationship she had with food before that she realized was creeping in.

There’s anorexia and there’s bulimia – while no eating disorder is clear cut, those two are very common and have more understanding or at least seem to. This woman explained, she never thought of herself as having disordered eating, but she started to realize she did and does and that there’s a deeper place that it comes from.

There is always more to our behaviors than we think on the surface. Remember that.

I had a check in this morning with a current client and I swear, the ways I help her, I can count the number of ways she teaches me. She is much wiser beyond her years and sometimes she will say something and a light bulb in my head goes off. I think that’s how the relationship should be. Symbiotic.

I had asked her to write about five of her favorite foods and why those were her favorite foods. I’ve talked about food in this way before. I’ve said that experience impacts behavior and memory can be connected to foods we enjoy or hate.

She said thinking about this list was tough. It was harder than she thought because she’s counting macros using a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate emphasis and when she thinks about the foods she enjoys, they’re good for her. They’re healthy. It’s eggs and avocado. It’s fresh artisan cheeses. It’s protein. She knows these make her feel good. They make her feel energized.

She continued to explain that her personal relationship with food is much more complicated and it’s about control. It’s about stress and coping. It has nothing to do with being fat and lazy. She is not alone in these feelings. These feelings are a million times valid.

In 1990, a document was published by the National Eating Disorder Centre in Toronto, Canada discussing as the first line says “anorexia and bulimia are metaphors of women’s psychological distress in the face of contradictory social expectations.” The document continues to talk about perceptions of dieting and control and how women in particular revolve around these concepts. Control and self-esteem can and are closely connected.

Psychology Today published an article in 2015 that talks about control in eating disorders, even 25 years later. Society hasn’t changed as much as we may think.

I rephrased and asked “What is the difference between the foods you enjoy to eat and the foods you use for control and coping?”

“They’re fundamentally different than things I know to keep me fueled that I enjoy.” The foods she explained are carbohydrates like breads or ice cream or other sweets. They are things that are consumed quickly because you have to take effort to chew vegetables and meats.

This made me think. It’s not that the foods we choose when we are trying to find control are necessarily bad, yes, sometimes they are, but it’s the pressure we put on them.

Eating disorders are gray area and look different for everyone. They can also evolve over time.

I’ve been asked about triggers and how can I have such control over foods that are consideration temptations for others. My answer is, my binging isn’t about restriction. It’s not about feeling compelled to consume large quantities of these foods. I know in my head that they will be there tomorrow, I can stop at a serving or two and call it a day. I also know that physically, these things outside of moderation don’t make me feel good. It’s not guilt, but physical bloating or pain or sickness.

It’s tied to my anxiety and my PTSD and at times manifests differently than I’m expecting. But, it all comes back to one thing. My binging is 100% tied to control. I’ve blacked out during binges and was essentially a body going through motions that she didn’t realize. The last binge I was very much present and that was new for me because I had never experienced a binge where it was more than searching for something to turn off the chemicals. Taking bites of a pepper and a cookie, peanut butter and broccoli. Sugars or salts. Maybe a texture. But never both at the same time.

What this client said made me think about my own history and what impacted it before and what impacts my present.

What we know in every day life is different than what we know when we are in an emotional mind. I know now, that for me to keep calm or in control, I need a process or schedule to feel like I’m at zero. That’s why I get up at the same time every morning and go to bed around the same time every night. That’s why I keep a strict calendar. It’s why I make lists and have dessert at roughly the same time every day. It’s why I excel in a deadline driven setting – I have always excelled in that regard.

That’s actually why I like baking so much. JP’s co-workers truly do benefit.

The process of reading, pre-heating, mixing and pouring for me is relaxing. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying biology so much, the process in lab puts me in control at first and then I get to sit back and see the reactions, see if my hypothesis is proved right or false.

Health is much more than eating right, whatever that means for you. It’s more than measurements and the scale. Health is a feeling. It’s about the confidence behind the psychology of the decision making process. Saying, I not enjoy what I’m eating, but I feel good about choosing it. It’s also realizing when something throws you through a loop and developing a plan that may help you solve the problem.

Something, something, inspiring.  I want people to think about things differently. I want people to see the world from different angles. It’s not just that there’s an eating disorder in your history or in your present, it’s something much deeper than that. It’s not that you don’t have your shit together, it’s just that sometimes things slip away and regaining control is found in losing control.

The conversation I had this morning with my client made me excited because she was able to start seeing things from different angles. It’s not about failing. Yes, it’s frustrating because she knows what makes her feel good and fueled, but that’s not what drives her own desire to regain superficial control.

Take what you learn from yourself and others and move forward, especially in tough times. Move toward forgiving yourself for not being perfect. Forgiving those around you from wishing that you were perfect. Be kind to yourself because if you can’t do that, then why should others?

Remember, you’re not crazy, it’s just that others aren’t talking about their own issues out loud for you to hear.

❤ Cristina

This Above All: It Still Hasn’t Hit Me

And it honestly might not for some time.

Every day since Saturday, JP has said “hey babe, look, you have trophies. No one came and took them away.” I know why he’s saying this and I do appreciate it, but at the same time, I feel indifferent.

I had a lot of excitement for Saturday’s competition leading up to the day, but on Saturday morning I woke up and it didn’t feel like show day. I had all my meals ready, my suitcase packed. I did forget a few things, but it wasn’t the end of the world, I figured it out. Getting to the venue made it more real. It was more intimate than the past two shows I’ve done and I really liked that. But with intimacy comes a few downfalls. Competitors were on top of each other backstage and I felt bad for having to sit in the middle of the room, but that’s where there was space. I also wasn’t the only one in the middle of the room.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I leaned out pretty fast and I realized that I was creating more loose skin than I had anticipated. That’s why this is my last season. Not because I don’t love competing, but my body is physically outgrowing the sport in a way. I can’t handle that level of leanness. Mentally, I also feel ready to take on new challenges.

I picked this show because it meant I could maintain for a few weeks and start my season sooner, almost a month sooner. It would give me a base line and I could figure out where progress can be made, if it can be made. It would give me time between a first and second and third show. Time would be on my side.

I’ve never done this show and I knew it was smaller than the previous two I’ve done, but no one knew what to expect when we showed up on Saturday. I had the chance to meet a few people. I had met a woman named Nicole in January and we hung out all day backstage. However, one thing I really missed was the chance to sit around and wait to get on stage and really talk with people. Backstage we were rushing around. Getting hair and make up done. Pumping up and timing out meals. My meal timing for Saturday was off and I could feel my sugar hit the floor. The rush didn’t make it less exciting, but it made it seem less real as time flew by. I felt like if I blinked then the show would be over. This made me frustrated and I’m sure it showed. I was frustrated because I can’t control time and I really wanted to.

Having Ali with me helped keep me level headed as I tried to find everything I needed. I know there were times she couldn’t tell if she was helping or not, but I told her she helped, she helped a lot.

I loved sharing my day with everyone. I was sending texts when I could to a former client who was competing in Arizona for her first time. We took some photos backstage. Ali took over phone while I was on stage. I received a ton of messages thanking me for giving her my phone so some of you could tune into the live stream.

I don’t know if it’s truly about the size of the show or a few of the comments I received, but the past few days I haven’t felt like I did at the start of peak week. I started peak week 10 days before my show – that’s how I designed my protocol – and I felt excited to try out the protocol that I created. It actually worked and that makes me super pumped for the next show! I was slowly packing up my bag and mentally preparing. The countdown had started for the show and Ali’s arrival. But right now, I’m having to remind myself that it’s not about how many show up that day, it’s about who shows up that day. It’s about the willingness to put myself out of my comfort zone.

I didn’t go into this show thinking I could place, I had thought about it, but that wasn’t my expectation.I’m shocked that I placed, but I’m more shocked that I’m having a hard time enjoying it. It only took a few comments for me to feel undeserving.

That’s the current state of mind. “I’m undeserving.” That’s the biggest pile of bullshit.

It took just over four years to lose the weight – yes, that includes two bikini competitions during the time. Competing was never about losing weight for health,  it has always been about the challenge and being an actual competitor. I texted a few of my friends after I got my tan and had a chance to looked at myself in the mirror in my suit. I said, I finally feel like a competitor. I said this as if feeling had to do with the physical. They may be intertwined, but they are not 100% dependent on each other. I have been a competitor since I started training and diving into this sport almost three years ago. But it’s the words of strangers, of other competitors, of non-competitors who don’t understand, that have made me feel like I’m not. I have pep talks with myself more than you know.

I prepped with a specific lifting structure and nutrition plan for nine weeks before Saturday, but I’ve been doing everything I can to work towards the bigger goal for almost three years. It’s about being better than you were the last time.

Every person that showed up on Saturday has worked hard, whether it’s been a short preparation or a long preparation. Whether they follow a meal plan or not, use a coach or coach themselves. They are putting themselves into the spotlight for a few seconds to have all the hard work be judged. We put ourselves in a position where judgement is subjective and you truly have no idea what will be considered a winning physique. You need to be open mindful that points added to your score are there because it’s relative to those on the stage in the moment. You ask for feedback and you look to improve. In my mind, it needs to be about more than just winning a piece of plastic because only five people get to take one home and the rest go home with memories.

I couldn’t believe how many people were just as excited about show day when I announced it last Thursday, but it was the few negative comments that really stuck with me. I’m human, sue me. I’m constantly surprised and I really shouldn’t be. I also say that all the time. But the negative comments I received over the weekend are also the reason I didn’t immediately share show dates with people outside of my friend group. I know that I can only brush off so much before it gets to me. I can only journal and read and go for walks and nap and go to the gym before it frustrates me and makes me feel defeated.

I feel like I’m constantly talking about how words impact others, how they impact me. I feel like while I try to be positive and push out negativity, I’m focusing so much on how I can prevent it from bothering me. It bothers me because it makes me think – I don’t think I’ve ever cared so much about someone who I don’t like that I went out of my way to tell them all the ways they could be disliked. It bothers me because I can list a handful of things I’m doing that are more productive while these people are wasting energy and time being assholes to strangers on the internet. Can you imagine a world where everyone did one nice thing for someone else, or just didn’t do anything ridiculous rude or mean? I get it, we all have bad days and sometimes that gets projected, but seriously, some people are just plain mean.

I am a normal person with extraordinary hobbies. All of those competitors are normal people with extraordinary hobbies. We all find flaws in ourselves. We all push through and reach for goals that some days feel unattainable. We are not super heroes. We are not celebrities. Do not make us those things.

We are sharing our journey’s to connect with others when we struggle to find those connections in those physically around us. We are looking for accountability. We are looking for new ideas. We have good days and bad days. We have eating disorders in our history, we have struggles that we over come. Daily motivation is fleeting, but we dream bigger and keep moving on.

When you tell me I can’t or I’m not worthy or I am less than, it is a reflection on how you truly are, not me. It makes me wonder who pissed in your coffee that morning or pushed you down when you were in high school. Maybe, you just never learned that your opinion actually doesn’t matter.  I have to tell myself that every day. I have said it before, I am my biggest bully and when there’s already doubt floating around from my own words, yours just are lighter fluid.

So yes, the show on Saturday was a little smaller than I thought it would be. But I placed. I placed 4th. I’m a million times okay with not being first. Because Cristina five years ago would’ve laughed in your face if you told her that she could even dream something like this up. I’m going to find a home for the buttons I’ve collected with my numbers from my shows. I’m going to find a home for my two trophies. I’m going to tell JP that he doesn’t need to remind me that my trophies are still here. I’m going to tell myself that those who are assholes to strangers aren’t adding anything constructive to the world around them.

I thought I needed therapy, then I got more involved in social media. Maybe I’m not as crazy as I thought I was.

❤ Cristina

 

This Above All: ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘It doesn’t matter.’

Here I go blending literature. Hamlet and Alice in Wonderland.Well, damn. I guess I like variety.

When I find myself needing to find myself, I start something new. I find a challenge to see what else I can prove. It’s not necessarily to prove something to the world, but I guess to prove to myself something can be accomplished. Something great, even when I feel ordinary.

I started my weightloss journey when I felt that I wasn’t in control of what was happening around me. I’ve said this before. A break up, a family member diagnosed with cancer, searching for a job in my field, applying and getting into graduate school, finding a job in my field, that family member dying from cancer after barely being diagnosed, moving for that job in my field and starting graduate school. All within a year, with the majority happening in four months. That’s overwhelming. And while yes, I made the decision to apply to graduate school and yes, I made the decision to apply to a job out state – I couldn’t control if I was going to be accepted into the program or offered a job.

I started running when I felt that I needed to be pushed. I felt moving forward and pushing my legs to their limit was what I needed at the time. I’ve only run a handful of structured races and they aren’t far distances by any means, but that wasn’t goal either. Symbolically running away from something and running towards something new. In reality, trying to see how long I would be able to let my legs go for before I felt they would give out.

I started competing when I felt wasn’t challenging myself in my gym routine. I had started with some gym classes and zumba – I loved dancing and that’s pretty close. I added in pilates every now and then, I added in running, but something was missing. At the time I had been trying my hand at online dating. You can’t even judge someone for saying that now because I feel like so many people connect that way, whether it’s a structure platform made for online dating or through social media. In my case, like many others, I found a lot of assholes, self-absorbed (more than me), ignorant, uneducated children. I can’t even call them men.

I started competing and decided to shift focus. I had seen these strong women online -yep, that’s where I saw them, on Instagram. I thought how cool is it to see these women appearing strong, being strong and breaking every myth I had ever known about weightlifting. I figured, if they could do it, why can’t I.

I went to work and to the gym and to work and to the gym and ate and went to bed. I stopped trying to find a partner in crime and looked for myself all over again. Thinking back, I can’t tell you what I expected to find in myself, but I know that most days I was impressed by what I was accomplishing, by what I was reading and by what I was allowing myself to do.

That was the biggest piece of it. Don’t hold back. Keep charging forward. Don’t let anyone tell you no. 

This past fall when I shifted focus again on finding my zero – finding my balance. I shifted a lot of things – I lifted heavier and tried to be more mindful with my eating rather than tracking strategically. I said it before, I found myself in lattes at new coffee houses and homemade sugar cookies. I found myself playing more card games than I can count. I found myself on the kitchen floor because sometimes when you’re down, you’re down. I found myself in other people. I found myself in their smiles and their stories. It allowed me to feel connected to the world, something I felt I hadn’t been doing in a while. This fall was 100% different than when I started competing.

In the summer of 2014, I found strength in myself that I didn’t know I had. I found excitement in a world that I had feared so much for longer than I should’ve because I feared the unknown. I found myself in the kitchen. I had a cleaner focus on macro counting because I believed at the time that’s what I needed. I later learned I was wrong, but I learned new recipes, I tried new foods, I became more adventurous. I found myself by cutting things out of my life that we’re holding me back. It’s like pruning a tree. You need to cut off the dead branches for it continue to grow and eventually blossom. Cheesy right? Well, you should kind of know me by now.

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Chesire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take? she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know.’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.’ – Lewis Carroll.

This. This is how I approach finding myself. This is how I approach trying something new. I can’t completely foresee the path that lies ahead, but I can see a few steps and in the moment that matters. I just don’t want to trip.

I couldn’t foresee meeting John Paul or JP or Babe or hey you at the very end of my first competition season. But I believe that when I trimmed back and went soul searching, the magic happened, I believe the magic always happens in that moment. JP is magic. He was what I didn’t know I deserved or needed or wanted.

He has shown me that love can look different every day. You love yourself and others in so many ways and it’s okay to change how you do that. He supports my crazy decisions and I think gives me more than I deserve, even though he says it’s just enough.

I said a few weeks ago that this is my last season. I said that I can’t wait for the future. I don’t know what my health or fitness goals are, but I know that I don’t need to find myself anymore. That was the realization I had this week. I can’t wait to see what I have left in me, but I know that I don’t feel that I need this sport like I used. The gym is always there. I can lift however I want to, whenever I want to. I don’t need to be structured thoroughly and I don’t need to be defined anymore. I was doing it to myself because I still felt lost.

But I think when I finally gave myself a break this fall, I truly found myself. I found out that I wanted to go back to school, but I needed to bite the bullet and do it. I found out that I actually did want to help people, that while my journey is 100% about me and has selfish moments, I do overall want to make others think differently about themselves, their journey’s and how they move forward.

I went into this season with fire in my heart and a goal in my head. Goals change and that’s exciting and scary. I’m navigating it with a different purpose. I thought I needed to keep soul searching and I admit, I was wrong.

I don’t feel like Alice alone in the woods or tumbling down a rabbit hole like I once did. I feel like I can love louder now. I feel like I can put passion and energy back into the world because I let myself stumble around.

A piece of my heart hopes that others will allow themselves to get a little lost so they can found.

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” – Alice in Wonderland

 

❤ Cristina

 

 

 

Trader Joe Finds

I have no issue getting crazy in the kitchen. I also have no issue hunting down products at the store to make my menu interesting. I notice that a lot of my friends are the same – fit and non-fit people, you know regular people exist too.

After someone reached out to me about Trader Joe finds, I decided to reach out to some of my friends and ask what they like to find at TJ’s. I thought I would try some of their finds, but also share them with you.

So first up. My friend Liz or @liz1315. Her TJ finds are super macro friendly and can be helpful for someone seeking lower carbohydrate options.

  1. Broccoli and Cauliflower vegetable patties. Macros per patty: 2F/6C/2P

I tried one plain with my lunch. I baked them and followed the directions on the box. They were awesome plain, but I tried them next with some roasted red pepper spread and a yolky egg. That was magical.


Next… something versatile. Rice cauliflower. I know my first thought was why would I do that. But after seeing some of Liz’s creations I decided to give it a try. It really is versatile and her and I have decided to do a post about the recipes and crazy stuff we come up with to eat on prep and in daily life to hit our macros. It’s going to be centered around this guy!

2. Riced cauliflower: Macros per 3/4 cup serving 0F/4C/2P



Next up, something sweet. My friend Alicia or @_alicia_h said Joe-Joe’s were the thing to buy. I completely trust Alicia here, she is also an excellent judge of doughnuts so I kind of have to. We still have a box of pumpkin Joe-Joe’s and peppermint Joe-Joe’s in the pantry. Both unopened just waiting until after competition season.

3. Joe-Joe’s. Macros per 2 cookie serving: 5F/20C/1P (slightly better than an Oreo)

 

Ali or @ali.widdis listed a few things such as flowers, cold pressed juice, but also said that she has to really want something because it’s a distance from her house and there are something that are pricey – it’s just a novelty thing.

4. Goat Cheese. Macros per 28g serving 6F/5C/6P (depending on flavor)


Spices, nuts and nut butter. Those are really reasonable to TJ’s. Here are some of my favorite.

5. Chile Lime seasoning. It’s good on eggs. It’s good on chicken, ground turkey and beef. It’s just good. Flavor is important, I don’t like sauces as much as I used to.

 

6. Bagel seasoning. It’s like the bagel, but without the carbs. So far I’ve mostly put this on my eggs, which I highly suggest you do. But Liz and Ali have found other carby sources to put it on to turn the average English muffin into a mock bagel of sorts. I imagine savory oats will be happening next week with this as well.

I don’t think the next one needs a reason to be purchase. It’s $1.99 and damn tasty.

7. No stir creamy peanut butter, I also have no stir chunky peanut butter.

 

 

Sometimes you just want to change up your protein sources. Chicken and ground turkey can get old. Sometimes you don’t want or like a salmon burger. The flavor on these is awesome and the macros aren’t bad either. I do think they could be a little more spicy, but if you don’t mind mild, you need to give these are a try.

8. Chile Lime Chicken Burgers. Macros per burger patty 6F/3C/19P

Breakfast is comfort food, well for me at least and I don’t think the next one needs an explanation at all.

9. Hashbrowns. Macros for 3 ounces: 0F/14C/1P

Also, a bunch of you came to the rescue and told me where to find unsweetened shredded coconut.

10. Unsweetened coconut. Macros for 1/4 cup: 20F/2C/2P

Here are some other things I’ve purchased at TJ’s that I think you should be mindful of as well:

  1. nuts – they are a lot cheaper at TJ’s than they are at most stores
  2. sushi – pretty tasty and macro-friendly enough meal when you’re on your lunch break
  3. mini peanut butter cups – 27 minis are a serving…that’s a ton of chocolate and peanut butter!
  4. chocolate covered espresso beans
  5. chunky reduced guilt guacamole – I don’t feel guilt eating guacamole usually, but this is made with Greek yogurt and you can consume a lot more for the same or similar nutritional value

A few sent me DM’s on Instagram about their favorite finds:

@jaynabean “chocolate croissants – I must have a box in the freezer at all times for when the occasion strikes.”

@woolandiron “rustic cinnamon graham crackers. They are so freaking delicious and have an awesome molasses taste. And the pink $2 Chuck. And the powdered chai. And frozen chicken gyiza/dumplings. I need to go to TJ’s now…”

Happy hunting!

❤ Cristina

 

This Above All: Smile Every Day, Laugh More Often

It’s been busy over here and I didn’t have the urge to write. I think I lost track of time. I think that happens to most of us. We live day to day, but somehow manage to lose days. You wake up fresh and ready, but then the next thing you know the week is gone. It’s exciting and sad because you know the weekend will fly by just as fast.

You want to hold onto experiences, but you want also don’t want to wait around. I’m taking another break from studying because if I look at cell structures longer than five minutes, I’m going to go cross eyed.

I can tell you that proteins are made up of amino acids that are held together by a reaction called dehydration synthesis. It’s when a water molecule is removed that aminos can join together in a peptide bond. I can tell you that there starch is converted and stored glucose in plants and acts as long term fuel. In a plant cell there’s a cell wall to keep it’s structure and protect the internal structures, in animals it’s called a plasma membrane, but does the same exact thing.

I can tell you that carbohydrates are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen at  1:2:1 ratio and because carbs have carbon in them. they’re considered organic. Even artificial sweetener is considered an organic compound because it has carbon in it – but obviously, it’s not natural.

I need a break and I’m doing that. I’m sipping on cups 12 to 14 of water and a mug full of pumpkin spice tea. I’m definitely panicking inside about my exam, but I also know what I know and I’m doing the best I can. We got midterm grades and I still have A, so really, I’m winning anyway. These chapters were interesting, probably because they were mostly about what makes up the foods we eat and we all know how I feel about food. I was also able to take what I already know from my own research and health/fitness journey and apply it.

I already knew that there are 20 amino acids, I knew that you’re body could only make 11 of them. That’s why nutrition is important. It’s also why if you don’t have well rounded nutrition, then taking a BCAA could be helpful to supplement what you aren’t getting from your food. It’s also why I don’t take BCAA’s.

In class we talked about enzymes and how they breakdown food and assist with optimal absorption. That’s why I researched it further and decided to add one to my daily supplements when I know I’m going to consume sulfur rich foods – they make me bloated big time.

Today, I’m smiling because I’m studying something that I’m interested in. I’m smiling because it reminds me that there’s a future waiting. Today, for the first time since I last wrote, I thought about what not competing will actually mean. It’ll mean that I’ve accomplished what I consider to be the physical transformation and interest side of my journey. It started out as weightloss for health and became sport. It became about pushing myself and seeing how far I could go. But as I’m labeling out parts of the cell – mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell you know, I’m thinking about the transformation my career is taking and my brain.

I’ve always been good at math, I never really thought science was cool though. I wish someone had talked to me about it like I talk about it now. I wish someone told that the nucleus tells the cell what to do. I wish someone told me that amino acids are broken down during your workout and by replenishing them you are helping contribute to cellular development and proper recovery. That replenishing amino acids is as easy as drinking a protein shake or having a rounded meal after you workout.

I can’t go back and learn things that I know now, but I can continue to keep learning and keep trying.

I’m trying to figure out ways to laugh a little more. I haven’t been doing that enough lately. Smiling is great, but I can’t remember the last time I laughed hard. I can tell you the last time I cried. It was yesterday and it was because I was reflecting on something else. Maybe JP and I need to plan a few more comedies when we’re getting settled down for bed, but I guess that means we may not fall asleep fast either.

I think laughing can be good medicine. It’s like crying. Sometimes you just need to get emotion out and getting a cramp in your side is necessary.

I think that’s my goal for the week – laugh a little more. I have my serious hat on more often than not, even in situations that I’m sure don’t require it. But part of me has this feeling that if I’m not serious than who will be? And if I don’t take myself seriously, who will?

I have always been bad this kind of balance. When do I switch hats? Can I switch hats?

I snapped my friend Sam and told her that after season I’m looking forward to changing up my health goals. I’m excited to back off slightly and reevaluate. I’m excited to focus more on coaching and school. I’m excited to be more flexible and maybe sleep in on a Sunday and go to the gym in the afternoon or not at all. I’m excited to create more experiences where I not only grin or smile, but I can laugh wholeheartedly. Please don’t read this and think “well if she’s not happy, then she should stop whatever it is she’s doing.” Oh that is most definitely not the case. I am so happy, but I’m also so happy to know there’s more possibilities out there.

In between my first and second season, I wasn’t really sure what to call myself (bikini competitor, lifter, etc.) and do with myself. I think I felt lost in between competition seasons. I have learned that I don’t need to categorize myself if I don’t want to, just like I can label myself too. I am a lifter. I am a foodie. I am a girlfriend. I am a student. I am a person with passion and fire. I have never felt so found. I have never felt so content with not fully having a completed plan – oh I have a loose one, but I don’t have a full road map. The past year didn’t have a huge road map either, but I knew my steps. Today, I’m just excited to be studying for an exam that full of questions that actually interest me. For once, I’m interested in today, I’m curious about the future, but my head isn’t fully there yet. That’s new for me. I always get ahead of myself.

So today – that’s where I am. I’m excited about the list of possibilities, but I’m excited to live in the moment. I’m excited to day dream about tomorrow, but I’m trying to not be in a rush to get there. I’m going to smile at little things and find more excuses to laugh, even if it means awkward stares from strangers in the line at Starbucks.

This above all.

❤ Cristina