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

Monthly Archives: March 2016

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It’s no surprise that at 5’4″ I have loose skin from losing over 100 pounds. That kind of weight for anyone is a lot, but for a person my height it truly takes a toll on your skin. While there are things you can do to help loose skin, there’s nothing that 100% prevents it. I’ve been asked about creams, wraps and if I do ab work – no, no and some. Exercises that work your abdominal muscles mostly develop the muscle further, which can help with loose skin, but not like bulking muscle does in other areas of the body, like arms or legs.

Loose skin can make you feel bigger than you are because it takes up space. For me this means I have never been able to get an accurate reading when I’ve had my body fat measured. A few weeks ago I tried the tape measure method where you obviously use a tape measure and take multiple body measurements into consideration – I got a reading of 23%. Well, nice try, but I knew that wasn’t right. At the time I was 140 pounds and again in 5’4″ – I’m also wearing a size 2 pant.

I’ve tried calipers, which similar to the tape methods uses multiple points on the body, but again you’re pinching skin.

After some research, I found the bod pod, which uses air displacentcy. Kind of like a dunk tank uses water to measure this is just as effective and much less mess. There’s only 2 locations in Massachusetts – Weymouth Health Club in Weymouth and Merrimack College, well above Boston. My boyfriends family lives 15 minutes from Weymouth so an appointment there just means a quick overnight with the fam.

For a fee of $59, I would be the proud owner of accurate results that would not only get me on the right mental state because let’s face it loose skin fucks with your head; it would also help me figure out the last 4 weeks of prep. I know I’ve been busting my ass and so does my coach. At 135 and a size 2, I knew I had to be kind of fit – I feel fit, I look for with my gym clothes on. My primary care doctor is even impressed – he met me when I was hanging out over 200, so for him this is as much adventure as it is for me.

Well, I did it. I stopped by on Saturday and it took about 5 minutes.

There are my results. 16.2% body fat. I’m in the ultra lean category, which for this sport is perfect. I may actually have a shot at placing if my posing is on point. When the trainer conducting the test handed me the paper and pointed out what I should be looking at, I legit hand to mouth gasped and started crying and then had to explain why I was crying. He laughed and said “you’re more fit than most of our trainers here!” SATURDAY MADE. Just in time for my refeed on Sunday.

I have never felt more confident in the work I have been putting in, I have never felt like I could truly accomplish something like I do now. Next month I have a consult for skin removal and I can’t wait to bring here the results so she knows what I’m dealing with.

So if you’re interested in getting your body fat measured looked into various methods because one may not work for you. There can also be variance with taping or calipers, so if the measurement is high don’t be discouraged. Keep busting your butt and find a different way to measure your progress.

As always,

Cristina ❤️


Being on prep you need to be creative with your ,even if you follow flexible dieting because it can’t be all Oreos and ice cream all the time. I eat a lot of yogurt, specifically Greek yogurt, even outside of prep because it’s a great source of protein and it’s one of the few dairy products that agrees with my stomach. It’s also flexible enough and can work as a dessert.

In college, I developed a sensitivity to dairy – I was tested and it wasn’t a full blown intolerance, but I’ve identified things that make my stomach very upset such as soft serve ice cream, milk and cheesecake. The last one kills me because if you’ve ever been to Cheesecake Factory you know that those are so hard to resist. There are so many possibilities of flavors and styles and now I miss out, but not quite.

A lot of people make protein yogurt or a protein pudding because it has a taste and texture like dessert. This is something I do often and depending on my macros I’ll add granola or fruit to it to round it out and make it more filling.

A few weeks ago, I found mini graham cracker pie crusts at the store and I thought it would be interesting to see how a pro-yo pie would be. My favorite pro-yo to make has cinnamon swirl whey in it and when made with a few other ingredients, it tastes just like cheesecake.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • vanilla extract
  • water
  • plain Greek yogurt: 5.3 ounce container or 150g
  • Splenda
  • 1/2 scoop flavored whey – the kind and brand will change your macros
  • mini graham cracker pie crust
  • Optional items: sprinkles, oreos, whip cream

 

Directions

  1. In a bowl, scoop your yogurt out of the container. I buy the individual yogurt cups when I make this so it’s easy to measure. I also use fat free yogurt, but you can also use 2% if you need the fat macros.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the yogurt and mix slowly. This will thin it out and make it easier to add the whey later.
  3. Once the yogurt and water are mixed out completely, add a teaspoon or two of vanilla extra. This is more to your own taste. You don’t need a lot, but I like a little more vanilla than most.
  4. Add in whey. This is completely up to you on the flavor and the amount. When I made this a few weeks ago I used 7g of chocolate chip cookie dough whey because it was the last of the container – I added a little more vanilla. Tonight when I made this recipe, I used half a scoop of cinnamon swirl. So if you want more protein then add a little more whey, but remember to add a little more water because it’ll be really thick otherwise.
  5. This is the part I usually taste the mixture and decide if and how much Splenda I need to add. Half to one teaspoon is usually enough.
  6. You can either choose to mix in other things like sprinkles or a crushed up Oreo if you want to, but if you don’t, just scoop some of the mix into the pie crust. Not all of the mixture will fit, but that’s why you have a spoon.
  7. Set in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour. I usually make this the afternoon I know I want it for dessert.

The macros for the basic recipe are: 5.3F/20.5C/28.5.

Below are some photos of a variation I made adding in half an Oreo and using the other half as a decoration.

My friend gave me this because I “had”to try the flavor, but she knew I didn’t want a box in the house

 



 


 

❤ Cristina


For the past few weeks I have been talking about what I want to make for my birthday breakfast. To me, my birthday is just any other day, except I had a little more fun with my food. I had been bouncing the idea around of making frittatas because 1. I love eggs 2. I need an excuse to use my mini baking pans and 3. I had feta in the house and I wanted to be creative with it.

So after talking with a woman I follow on instagram – @paleobailey – about how she makes hers because hers look amazing all the time. I decided that I needed to definitely incorporate the feta into my frittata, I wanted it to be a leaner frittata – so heavy use on egg whites and somehow bacon needed to be on my plate, whether in or out of the frittata.

Since my boyfriend is home for the week I thought this was a great time to experiment and get his opinion – he even helped chop and weigh out the veggies!

Below is the recipe I used to make mine. Keep in mind your add ins can be 100% optional and therefore will change your macros for your meal.

What You’ll Need

  • mini baking pan
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1 whole egg
  • 25g cubed tomato
  • 25g bell pepper
  • 20g sweet onion
  • 25g sliced mushrooms
  • 40g spinach (half a serving if using Dole brand)
  • 14g of feta
  • bacon

 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop up your veggies and other adds as necessary. I picked these amounts for my veggies based on what I had in the fridge and the volume I wanted for the pan I was using.
  3. Measure out your egg whites and add to a bowl. Crack 1 whole egg into the bowl and beat with a fork until blended.
  4. Slowly add veggies to your egg bowl. I added mine one veggie at a time so I could blend them in and prevent splash of egg on the counter.

My friend gave me fresh eggs from her chickens!

5. Spray your baking dish with cooking spray so that it’s covered. If you don’t use enough the veggies that are in your egg mixture will stick and the whole frittata won’t come out of the pan easily.

6. After your veggies are mixed well, pour your egg mixtured into the baking dish. I took a fork and moved some of the veggies around so that they were a little more even in the throughout the frittata.

7. I decided to not mix the feta into the frittata, but to add it on top. If you don’t like feta, you can use any other cheese you do like. I would suggest something shredded so that it melts evenly.

8. Bake frittata for about 15 minutes. To check, poke it with a fork and see if it comes out clean. I tried to poke mine where there wasn’t cheese so I could get a cleaner reading. Depending on your oven, it may take more or less time.

I paired my frittata with a flax and oat pita and a slice of peppered bacon because it’s my birthday and I wanted bacon. One slice won’t hurt, half a pound may not be a good decision.

The macros for just the frittata were 6.7F/7.6C/22P. Macros for the whole meal were 14.7F/15.6C/33P

This was a lot easier than I thought it would be to throw together and the egg whites held really well. My concern was that many frittatas use whole eggs and even quiches uses milk and/or cream cheese to make them fluffy and for binding. I thought this fluffed up a lot and held together perfectly – no complaints at all!

I think we’ve gone over that I love food and I think it should be fun. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day and I’m glad that I had the chance to try something new. It was also nice that my boyfriend was home and I could have him try it too.

I hope you have a chance to try this and even make your own variation with different veggies and mix ins. There is so much potential with eggs and especially with something like this!

❤ Cristina 


No matter the task you’re taking on, there will be challenges of varying levels. This is a given, nothing is easy. When I started my weightloss journey, I didn’t have a support system or any one person who had verbalized that they believed in me. It was clear to me that to be successful, this had to be about me, for me, and I had to believe that I could accomplish the goals I was creating for myself.

Let me say, that this journey should be about you anyway. It shouldn’t be about getting someone to notice you. It should be about your health, how you feel about yourself and you should be slightly selfish in your goals. No one will make you successful, but they can help support you and give you tools that will lead to success when combined with hard work.

The simple definition of a support system from Merriam-Webster is:

 A group of people who someone help, encouragement, etc.

A more complex definition is:

A network of people that provide an individual with practical and emotional support.

As my journey has evolved and my goals have become more complex, I’ve learned that I can’t do this on my own. It took a lot for me to admit it, but while I had been flexible dieting and macro counting for over a year, I knew I need more guidance when it came to determining when and how to adjust my nutrition. I also had hit a wall in my lifting. I felt great about my lifts, but as far as configuring optimal workouts, I didn’t feel confident that I would have much success.

It’s okay to ask for help

On my instagram page I’ve talked about how much I love working with Alaina Sanders of Alaina Grace Fitness. We started working together in October and not only has my body changed, but mentally I feel like I’m in a really great place. Working with her has been a partnership. She listens when I say there’s something wrong, like the time I had a tendon rolling over in my wrist and it hurt to curl or the time I had lactic acid build up in my shoulder and it was preventing maximum mobility. She adjusted my workouts while I worked with my chiropractor to fix the physical issues.

When it comes to eating, as long as it fits it gets eaten. This creates balance because ice cream doesn’t always fit, but it also means I don’t need to overload on the veggies either – I learned this hard way. This means that Alaina lets me experiment in the kitchen as long as I’m hitting my macro nutrient goals. Bring on yogurt bowls and vegan stuffed brownies!

*side note – according to the latest nutritional report from the CDC the average American only need 14g of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed – I was consuming way too much for the amount of food I was eating and it was causing some digestive issues.

Alaina does more than just design my workouts and adjust my macros based on my progress. She’s there when I have questions or concerns about my progress. She’s reminded me to trust the process and to not freak out – or at least minimize the freaking out during prep. Alaina is the professional that I hired to keep me on track, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t try to turn to my friends too.

You learn who supports you at your craziest

This is the tricky part because Alaina, unlike many of my friends, knows about bodybuilding, “dieting”, macro counting and health things in general. My friends not so much, but throughout this journey I’ve learned who is here for me and who isn’t. Those who are here for me have been willing to listen and learn about why I’m competing or why I’ve lost as much weight as I have. Those who weren’t truly supportive, well, they’re no longer in the picture and it’s not my loss.

My friends have been extremely important in this process. Educating them can be fun and it can be a pain in the ass. The fun part is when they’re willing to experiment with food with you – thanks Jessica for enduring my burrito bowls, protein pancakes and scale portioned meals. The pain in the ass part is when they forget that you’re in dry prep – yeah JP, no bourbon. Or when they don’t realize that brunching in town may kill all your food for the day – looking at you again babe. But the fun part again, is when they tell you that they don’t get it, but they’re proud of you because they know it’s important to you – oh those college friends of mine.

It’s also ok if you don’t have friends physically close to you that don’t understand what you’re doing and why. This isn’t just about my journey, but all journey’s. Because of the stereotypes out there about weightlifting, some of your friends may try to tell you to not try hitting the weight room. Because of other myths about nutrition, some may tell you that you can only clean eat or only calorie count to lose weight. The truth is we are all different and we need to try different methods. For some it’s seeing or doing it that confirms if it’s the right step for them.

I tried macro counting with a clean eating focus during my last prep – by the end I wanted all the limited edition Oreos, that’s when I decided to just macro count and try to make good decisions. I’m down almost 36 pounds from macro counting: the first 24 from clean eating, then I gained 10 pounds back post-show when I wasn’t clean eating or tracking as carefully, then lost 22 with 100% flexibility. I had to learn that it’s ok to stare at the Oreo’s and eat them in moderation. But I wouldn’t have tried being 100% flexible if it hadn’t been for some of the lovely friends I had made on social media.

My friends mostly live in my phone

While I agree, there are aspects of social media that are damaging the new and even some of the older generations, I also believe there’s a lot of good coming from it. For me, it has been about connecting to like-minded people with similar goals and dreams, but maybe different methods. I met Sarah, you probably know her as @fit_badger15, in September 2014, but we started texting and sending each other care packages in December 2014. It’s been over a year since that started. Every month we send the craziest things from protein bars and hot cocoa to t-shirts and mugs. We’ve exchanged Christmas gifts and she sent me goodies from her trip in Ecuador. I also send her postcards while I travel for work. It was Sarah who introduced me to the Bikini Body Guide, or BBG. It’s circuit style training and at the time I needed something new – it was pre-Alaina and post-1st bikini competition. I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted and with her assistance, I dove into BBG and got to my lightest weight at the time 149 in June 2015.

I met Tresa or @not_a_runner in the summer of 2015 and I met her as she was determined to be a powerlifter. Now she’s not so sure, but she knows she loves lifting and that her health is equally as important as her strength. Similar to Sarah, Tresa and I send each other care packages and text more often than I do with friends I’ve known longer. She’s helped me get comfortable with lifting, but also push myself to lift heavier and be confident that I can finish a set. Because of her my squat max increased 25 pounds throughout the fall before I started prep.

The other day on instagram I had posted about the army of people behind me, most of which I have never actually met in person. Maybe I log on too much, but sometimes I need a little reassurance – I believe we all need reassurance sometimes. We need someone there who will believe in us when we don’t. People, who will equally tell you to act like an adult, put on your big girl pants and get your shit together, while in the same breathe tell you it’s okay to feel like crap every now and then.

The support system, whether made up of people you see every day or people you can only “pen pal” with, is important for success. The journey needs to be about you, but it needs to somehow encompass people who can help push you when you want to stand still and help give you the confidence you need when all you want to do is sit on the floor and eat peanut butter. My hard work has gotten me this far, but it’s been paired with someone else’s guidance the past few months and support that I have found in the most unlikely of places.

❤ Cristina

*if you want connect via social media check out my Facebook page or instagram


Let’s not pretend that being healthy while traveling is easy. We all know there are many challenges we face. If we’re flying the questions you may ask yourself are: can I bring food into the airport? What restaurants are in my terminal? What snacks are served on the plane? Will I be able to drink enough water during the day?

If you’re driving the questions can be different because yes you can have your own food packed, but is it easy to eat your meal while driving? Is that safe? Will you eat a hot meal cold? How often will you stop to use the bathroom if you’re drinking enough water? Will that add a lot of time to travel?

Also, planning to be healthy on travel is a pain in the ass. Let’s be honest.

Once you’re at your destination there’s a longer list of questions. Will I have access to a gym? Do I have time for a gym? What food is available to me?

I love lists. I love spreadsheets and I’m a planner. I’m organized because it helps me stay on track, not just in my healthy life, but my work life too. I’m in week 9 of prep and I had to take a 3 day trip to Washington DC during week 7. I have a lot more flexibility than most in my work travel because I do say where I’m traveling to and where I’m staying. So let’s start there.

How am I traveling?

Living in Massachusetts I knew I only had the option to fly to DC, so that meant I needed to look at my flights and determine what my eating schedule would be as well as what I would want to eat for the day, including in the airport and on the plane.

As long as your food is solid, it will most likely get through security. You can’t bring water or liquids in, but you can bring in an empty bottle – I brought in a blender bottle since I had packed a protein shake for later in the day while navigating the airport. As a pancake lover, I decided that since my flight was over brunch-ish time, protein pancakes were the way to go. I could make them in muffin form, they’re solid and they travel well. This would be my part of my airport meal. I also packed half a nut butter sandwich because again, solid and portable, but the carbs and protein from the nut butter keep me full for longer, which can make it easier to stick to your plan and not snack throughout the day, like when the stewardess hands you a bag of pretzels. You can also say no to the in flight snack.

 

Bella with a peanut butter pie protein bar on the flight.

Since TSA is a little tricky, I had given myself some extra time before my flight. At home I had looked to see what would be in my terminal – a Starbucks, the love of my coffee life. I had a black coffee with my lunch and I filled up my blender bottle with water I had purchased.

Now it was time to sit back and relax until my flight boarded.

Where am I staying while I travel?

Figuring out the hotel can a pain in the butt because it’s really about your schedule and what you want to accomplish. It’s also about affordability. I’m a fundraiser and I knew where my meetings were going to be, so I looked at hotels that were kind of in the middle. After I found one that fit my budget, I started looking through their site. Having a gym on location is important to me because regardless of how busy my day is, I will get up and make time for my workout. I could tell they had a lot of equipment, but I decided to call and ask the front desk about the facility. Most places don’t mind if you do this, not everyone will be knowledgeable, but they’ll try their best. This hotel had the best gym I had ever seen and I will probably continue to stay there when I travel to DC.

A girl has to eat, what’s going to be on my plate?

Since I knew most of my meals would be out at restaurants, I wasn’t concerned if there was a fridge in the room that I would have access to. If that was a concern I would do the same thing I did with the gym and ask if there is a fridge guests can use for free in their room. Most of the time there’s little space, but you can use the fridge – helpful if you bring yogurt or small snacks with you.

Just two girls with their protein shakes!

Since I was gone for a few days, I knew I would have to check a bag, this meant that I would also have some space to pack snacks. Snacks are important to me because they help me get to the next large meal, they also help supplement what I can’t get while on travel such as protein. Here’s what I packed for my trip.

Snack List:

    • 3 Quest protein shakes
    • 2 servings of Amino Energy aminos
    • 2 Oh Yeah ONE protein bars
    • a bag of Goldfish Grahams – vanilla cupcake flavor
    • a bag of Boom Chicapop Kettle corn
    • a bag of snyders pretzels

a blender bottle

*  also pictured: FlapJacked protein pancake muffins and half a CashewFit on whole wheat cinnamon raisin sandwich

 

It sounds like a random assortment, but bear with me, because it’s actually quite strategic.

This trip had been planned weeks in advance, which meant aside from planning my snacks, I had time to look over the menus for restaurants I would be going to and planning what I would pick from those menus. Some restaurants can be hard because nutritional information isn’t available, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make good decisions when you’re eating out. On Wednesday (the day I landed), I had dinner over happy hour and thankfully the restaurant is a global chain, which means they are regulated to provide nutritional information on their menu. This made happy hour the easiest meal I was having with a donor on this trip. I also was able to enjoy orange glazed sriracha chicken because it fit.

On the Thursday I was in town, I had breakfast on my own, two coffee meetings, a lunch and a dinner. For breakfast I had researched and found a Starbucks near my hotel, perfect for my own morning coffee and I knew they had some healthier options for a meal. I don’t usually eat at Starbucks – those little calorie signs freak me out, but I had posted on IG and got some great feedback from those who do eat there. I got the spinach and feta egg white wrap. Old Cristina or fat Cristina as I call her sometimes, would’ve appreciated the fact that the wrap tasted like a hot pocket. it was really kind of awesome and it kept me full until my mid-morning meeting.

IMG_2618

spinach and feta egg white wrap = classy hot pocket

Instead of diving into every meal and every decision I made, here’s the spreadsheet I made when I was planning this trip. I shared this with my coach because it helped us figure out if I would be eating enough on the trip – definitely a fear of mine because I want to leave room for some of those restaurant treats, but under-eating is just as bad as over-eating.

IMG_3640

I know this looks ridiculous and to some it’s intimidating, but my current goals are different than someone who wants to be just healthy. I used GoogleSpreadsheets to create this, which allowed my coach to update it if she wanted to. On Thursday because 2 meals were hard to fully track you notice there’s a discrepancy in the macros, but trust me they were consumed :]

Will I actually get in a good workout? What if I don’t have time?

This piece truly is up to you. DC is a walking city and I knew I would have a ton of miles on my shoes, but I’m also in competition prep. It’s a very different goal than someone just wanting to make better decisions when on vacation or on work travel. For me, getting my workout in was necessary. In my daily life, I get up at 435/450 – that’s when my alarms go off – for the gym. I also go to bed around 9 pm every night to accomplish this task. Since I had control over my work schedule while in DC, I was able  to be in bed around 9/930 every night, so keeping up with my early morning routine was a piece of cake. In fact, it was easier because all I had to do was go to the 2nd floor for the facility in the building – I save 15 minutes of driving!

Like I mentioned before, this facility was THE BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A HOTEL. I only had to change one exercise on Thursday – bicep curl machine to bicep curls with dumbbells.For my HIIT circuits, I used 2 different bikini body guide or BBG workouts because the only cardio equipment available were treadmills and ellipticals.

Look at all that equipment!

When I came home from DC, I was exhausted according to my Fitbit, I had walked over 50K steps in the 2 days I was actually in the city. I felt good about the decisions I had made with my eating, I also felt good about my workouts. So I wasn’t completely surprised when I checked in and had lost a full pound that week.

Planning can be stressful. Being organized can be hard. My advice would be to write down your goals of your trip and plan according to them. If you want to be healthier, but not perfect – because we’re not, maybe it’s not having bread at the table when you go out. Maybe you have dessert one night, but not two nights in a row. Maybe you are careful about breakfast, but have some fun at dinner. I will encourage you to look at menus before heading out to a new place. I would also encourage you to call ahead at the risk of sounding crazy, trust me they get crazier questions than “how many ounces is the salmon?”

I have an overnight trip to New Jersey this coming Sunday into Monday and then I head to Florida for 5 days for work the following week. I have called the hotels and they all have gym facilities on site.I have also checked about amenities and they have fridges and microwaves so I’ll be able to pick up yogurt or make a microwave protein muffin. I’m exciting to see how I do while I travel. I’m currently 8 weeks out and I’m loving my progress, but I know as the stage day gets closer the struggle may become harder.

Stay strong my friends!

❤ Cristina