Sarah Lynn Fitness Cookie Challenge: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today starts my third competition prep cycle and that means a few things: new goals, new workouts, changing my eating slightly.

Sadly last Thursday was my last cupcake – it glorious. I do have a sugar cookie planned for later this week, but during prep I prefer to have foods in my plan that are easily trackable, which means I want to be preparing them. While I would love to continue my cupcake and doughnut consumption through prep that’s not realistic if I want to do well. Recently, I came across the Instagram account @sarahlynnfitness. Sarah was diagnosed with celiac disease last year, which as many of you know means she had to change her diet. She created recipes that are healthier versions of some of our favorite cookies.

After following her account for about a week and checking out her web site, I decided that buying her cookie cookbook could help fill the void that has been left in my heart by cupcakes and doughnuts. Her recipes are gluten-free, mostly vegan and refined sugar free. They’re also low in fat and high in protein – that was key for me.

I emailed Sarah to introduce myself and get her permission to bake all her cookies over prep and review them. She gave me her blessing and to kick off prep I decided to start today. Instead of jumping around the book, I decided to start at the beginning and work my way through. There are 20 recipes and I have a 12 and 13 week prep – so carefully planned I can make 1 to 2 recipes a week depending on other things I have planned.  The macro nutrients for all the recipes would potentially allow you to eat all the cookies in one sitting or a portion of them, I guess it depends on your inner fat kid. Regardless of eating the whole batch or a portion, I think this will be pretty fun the next few weeks.

It did take some effort to hunt down some of the ingredients so keep that in mind – Amazon may be your best friend! I used many Bob’s Red Mill products because they were the easiest to find.

Today’s cookie is from the class cookie section at the very beginning. It’s a favorite I know and love, and know for sure that Phoebe Buffay would be on board too – chocolate chip cookies.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I loved that they really are individual recipes. It makes it easier to plan when to have the leftovers!
  • If you love coconut this will be up your alley.
  • If you like or love Almond Joys this may be up your alley: between the coconut flour, coconut oil and chocolate chips there’s a hint of the sitting on a beach with your toes in the sand.
  • I used tapioca pearls instead of tapioca starch, but if you grind them with a food processor or coffee grinder they work as effectively. You will have some pieces of the pearls, which are the little dots you see in the photo below.
  • Dough is sticky from the coconut oil, but don’t be scared of using your hands to form your cookies.
  • Sarah suggests you watch oven as they bake, I suggest the same thing. This recipe yielded 9 mini cookies, but because the macros were solid, I divided the dough in half and made 2 big cookies – this definitely changes the baking time.

Overall, I like the cookie. They’re still soft like the traditional recipe, but the texture is slightly different. Coconut flour is very thick, which I believe makes the cookie dense. Nothing wrong with this at all. I would definitely make these again when JP is home.

Macros for 1 cookie: 5.2F/24.1C/5.4P. My macros are slightly higher because I did use a different brand of protein powder – so keep that in mind. The macros are still excellent, but even slight changes will change the nutritional value.

If you’re interested in getting a daily dose of Sarah’s food porn  out her Instagram! If you’re interested in getting your hands on the recipe, check out her web site.

Now to clean up my crumbs!

❤ Cristina

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Week in Review: The Final Week of the Reverse Diet 

Yesterday closed out the end of an era – the close of the 7th week of my reverse diet post-surgery. I’ve mentioned before that I started a reverse diet into maintenance as soon as the Cutler was finished, but my surgery was scheduled for 3.5 weeks into it. While I was on bed rest my macros were adjusted to 1. the amount of movement I would be doing and 2. the amount of food that I could handle. My appetite wasn’t truly lost, but a few medications prescribed made me feel nauseous. I also had more nap times than a kindergarten. At 13 days post-surgery I was cleared to go back to the gym and start incorporating upper body lifting. We started increasing my nutrition at this point.

Yesterday when I did my photos and documentation for my start of prep, I weighed in at 127.2 and had been consuming 50F/210C/125P. To start prep I have adjusted my macros to 50F/210C/135P. I increased protein because it keeps me full and I also like protein. Many use .8g to 1.0g of protein per pound they weigh, but you can go up to 1.5g of protein per pound you weigh depending on your goals.There is a lot of conflicting information about protein consumption and what you should consume. All the articles I have read, have said that protein is helpful for weightloss in general and that the lower your daily calories the higher the percentage should be dedicated to protein. The articles also talk about the importance of protein for muscle recovery and muscle loss prevention.The only definitive answer I have found about protein consumption is  from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – 10 to 35% of calories should be dedicated to protein and factors to determine can include: age, gender and activity level. So yeah, I increased protein for the upcoming week because I think my body won’t mind and my activity level is changing.

So here’s a brief recap of last week. I think I had a pretty good time with my meals and I’m excited to see what I can do this week and the 12 succeeding it. Bring on the cut!

❤ Cristina

 

First outdoor run of the summer and since surgery

Bella got a new dress!

We went and saw Finding Dory

Post-Movie Fro-Yo was a success

Sock game strong

Vascularity coming through!

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake

Drinks with dinner

Waffle Wednesday was glorious

I worked on some posing

And had to make sure my butt still looked okay

I finished another pint of Halo Top and Keebler helped make it awesome with Birthday Cake Cookies

Because carbs are life

The last cupcake

I thought it was vanilla, nope -angel food and strawberry

Sprints were on point: 7:30 average pace

Some new goodies and some old goodies

 

May have enjoyed this grilled cheese and bacon more than I should have

The weigh in before prep

It’s like the abs want to come out

Lenny and Larry stuffed with Forte Gelato ches make every thing better

That new FitJoy bar tastes like peanut butter fudge

Bell was questioning the statues around the garden

I tried a roasted asparagus and feta salad

Bella helped me eat this sugar cookie from the farmer’s market

 

Coming Home Bikini Prep Series: Post 5 “A different direction for a new beginning”

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it now, to me there is nothing more exciting than goal setting and looking at a timeline. That’s what prep is. What goals do I have and what will it take to get there. In that, I also want to know what can I learn. I want to be challenged. Can I hit a new personal record? What new exercises will I try?  I track my lifts and cardio daily, and compare weekly. This helps me increase weight when necessary. I can also look back to my first lifting sessions from 2014 and see what I was lifting in comparison to now. I’m on my second notebook and I bought a new one to start with this prep, so I guess technically I’m on my third.

Prep means constant change.

Just like physics, change is the only constant in prep. Adjusting macros, lifts and cardio accordingly to make sure that progress is constant and steady. When it’s not constant you reevaluate and adjust and change again. Tracking sodium and balancing water to ensure that you’re not holding water and causing bloating because workouts with a bloated belly bite the big one. So many factors effect progress. In my last prep, I felt like a science experiment as I watched to see how my body would react to different changes. We introduced refeeds, adjusted sodium levels during peak week and even added in some carb cycling. Heading into maintenance I was excited and nervous to see how I would handle increases in food while decreasing activity. What would my body really think of the nutritional goals? 210 grams of carbohydrates later, and still sitting at roughly 127 pounds, I think my body is doing just fine.

Going into a third prep, I had a lot to think about. This time is different than the other times. My goals are slightly different as well. I wanted to get closer to the top 10 in the spring, but I knew that would be difficult. Now, I’m not going to hold myself back in thinking I have a chance. It’s been a crazy few weeks and for the fall I’ve decided to take my journey in a different direction and prep myself.

I know it seems out of the blue, but it’s not. I know a lot more than I give myself credit for and I have a desire to continue to learn. It’s going to be a busy fall because not only am I working and getting ready for competition, but I’m going to be starting classes towards an associates degree in public health with the hope that I can become a licensed health coach when it’s completed. I have a bachelors and master’s already, so about 5 or 6 classes will be transferring into the program. One benefit through my job is tuition remission, which means I can take courses for free. So I’m starting with one this fall and another in the spring before transferring the credits to the community college to start diving into their program.

So, for prep because prep isn’t real life as I say to JP – I’m adding a 6th day of lifting to my schedule and I’ll be working on lifting heavier and redesigning my lifts so that I can really push weight. During maintenance and the summer I lifted for 5 days because I didn’t want to feel like I was missing something. Real life isn’t about being in the gym every day for hours, and not that prep is like that either, but in my head, a 6th day if I’m enjoying it isn’t a problem for prep.

I’m going to have an emphasis on lower body and back. Focusing on keeping my squats heavy, bringing back and working on deadlifts, pushing my leg press and biting the bullet and seeing what I can accomplish with bench press. There will also be plenty of exercises working smaller muscles and groupings too. I’ve been researching pyramid lifting structures, you can check out the link in the “Educate Yourself” tab, and I’ve added a few exercises where it look like it would be appropriate to create these.Similar to what I was doing before – I am mixing up my lifts with machines, cables and free weights. I have also kept cardio into the mix, but only slightly. I do like running and I didn’t want to lose that since I just started again after surgery. I’m going to have an opportunity to work on my sprints, but I am also making sure that I incorporate Tabata or HIIT circuits into the week because of the benefits this training style brings to prep and the body.

I’m sure this sounds crazy to some, but I’ve done this before. I had a different physique, but I’ve done the workouts and the macro nutrient designing before. This is really me coming home and doing it on my own. I learned a lot the first time I did it and I know even more now having worked with a coach for almost a year. I think this direction will be a great way for me to take control again of my journey, for me to fully own it and rediscover fitness again.

I can’t wait to share the next few weeks with you.

❤ Cristina

 

Coming Home Bikini Prep Series: Post 4 “Empowered or Degraded, That is the Question”

Today I got to practice my first rule: If you can’t be nice on my profile, I’m going to delete your comments and block you. That was liberating.

So the comment was about how the person felt that “body shows” were degrading and didn’t understand how I could feel empowered by participating especially when the poses are suggestive and I have to wear “stripper” heels.

Well. Here’s my take.

The level of competing I participate in is bikini, this is the lowest level of bodybuilding and is the most attainable. For women, the next levels of bodybuilding are: fitness, figure, physique and bodybuilding. Each one requires more muscle than the last and bikini, fitness, figure/physique/bodybuilding require different suits. Bikini and figure require heels to be worn while the upper levels don’t. Wearing heels help accentuate the muscular definition in the lower body without flexing. In my opinion, from what I’ve read the judges are looking for symmetry or balance, fullness and some curves for bikini competitors. As the levels become more muscular they continue to look for balance and fullness, but more about the definition of the muscles over curves. This also is why the poses for bikini to figure to physique and bodybuilding are so different.

Now, for the men because the comment doesn’t mention much about if it’s degrading to men. Men’s physique is essentially the most attainable for their gender. They wear board shorts and go barefoot – personally I would love to see a man walk in heels, but the point of this level is upper body. How do their latissimus dorsi look? Oo that’s a sexy word. How full are their biceps and how defined are their abs. Their poses are to help accentuate these features. If you look at higher levels such as bodybuilding you’ll see men in speedo-esq suits that barely cover their glutes and they equally do a back pose to flex and show off the definition of these muscles.

Now, do I think it’s degrading or empowering?

Below is the definition of degrading, in case you wanted to know.

definition

#thanksGoogle

It definitely seems very subjective and very personal. I don’t think this is degrading, if it was I wouldn’t be participating. What I think makes it appear degrading is the lack of understanding and knowledge of the sport – why women AND men do various poses for the different levels. Why each has a different suit or costume – whatever you want to call it. Similar to a beauty contest, which I personally have no interest in – long dresses and heels are asking for disaster when combined – presentation of yourself is important. If you look miserable, why would you place well or win? So yes, I may bounce slightly as I turn, but I make sure that my poses are helping me show of the hard work I’ve put in. I’ve worked hard for this booty and I purposely want the world to see it.

Now here’s the definition of empower.

definition 2

I believe this sport is empowering, not necessarily for the 15 seconds I get on stage, but for the 12 weeks, 17 weeks, 22 weeks that have lead up to those 15 seconds. Don’t get me wrong, I emailed three friends, texted JP and asked a coworker before I ordered my suit on Monday because nothing is more exciting and nerve racking than getting the colors right. That suit color can make you feel good especially when you have your hair and make up done up in a way that you never believed possible, but it’s the discipline for proper nutrition (for this sport) and training that makes you feel on Cloud 9.

In my first prep, I not only taught myself how to lift, macro count and design workouts, but I went from lifting 25 pounds in a back squat to 125 pounds. I lost 24 pounds over 22 weeks, went from a size 8 to a 6 and never hit below 1500 calories daily during prep. I didn’t feel like I was overworking or under-eating. I learned everything I could about the sport. It gave me a new appreciate for what my body was capable of and I had a new perspective of exercise. I had broken all the myths I believed about lifting and women in one summer.

In my second prep I hit a new personal record of 165 for a back squat at my lowest weight at the time of 130 pounds – 35 pounds over body weight for 3 full sets of 5. My sprint was the fastest it had been at the time of 7:50/mile. I learned how to fuel my body and push my macronutrients through volume foods. I learned new recipes and gained even more confidence by openly talking and showing off my loose skin. I lost 20 pounds over 17 weeks and was the lowest weight I had been in almost eight years. I also set myself up for a successful tummy tuck, which lead to a successful recovery.

In between my second prep, surgery and surgical recovery I have learned how to maintain my weight without large amount of cardio a week, but by eating enough for my body and varying my lifting. Today I am nine weeks post surgery and my back squat is comfortably at 145 for full sets, pushing it at 150 and I hope over the next few months to get back to 165 and then break that PR.

Through my second prep for the Cutler Classic I learned how to trust someone else. I had coached myself through my first prep and was hesitant to have a coach for my second, but having had worked with Alaina Sanders for three months prior to the start of prep, I felt like she would have the best of intentions. I have trust issues and she helped me see that there are people out there willing to work with you, not against you. There are people who will support you and help you figure out the next step.

Since having surgery, I am now at my lowest weight on this journey and I have been maintaining it for 7 weeks (since being cleared to go back to the gym). At 127.6 pounds and a size 0, I’m getting ready for my third prep (starts Sunday!). I can’t wait to see what my body can handle as far as weight because a new PR sounds fantastic. I also can’t wait to see the science experiment that is refeeds. I’m maintaining at a higher caloric rate, which means I’ll be able to cut at a higher caloric rate. It’ll be new to me to eat this much and lose weight without over doing it in the gym.

The weeks leading up to the show remind you that you can do anything if you work hard and put your mind to it. They also show you that as long as you’re willing to learn you will be successful even if you don’t walk away with a piece of metal.

I have a better question – why does society still believe that they need to protect women from what they believe to be sexual objectification, but they don’t believe the need to protect men? Does the sport not objectify their bodies in any way? Just because they don’t wear heels doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain things being looked for in order for them to win, but they aren’t being questioned about their desire to compete. While the sport does have a sexy component to it, why does that mean it must be bad or degrading? There are women who are proud of being porn stars and see themselves as artists, they see it as a job. There are women who feel empowered by being strippers or exotic dancers – whatever you want to label them as. They acknowledge it’s a job and they feel sexy doing it. Obviously this isn’t the thought of everyone in those industries, but why is it okay for someone who thinks negatively about these jobs or roles or athletes to push and/or assume that everyone else should?

Go find a hobby that involves turtlenecks and rock yourself in the corner. I’ll be in the spotlight with my hip popped to the side and a smile on my face.

❤ Cristina

Found: mini half sized Larabars


I love Larbars, but I can’t alway fit them in my macros. I found these at Target by the other bars. It’s a mixed box of just Apple Pie and Cashew Cookie. Nutrition is exactly half a regular bar. Not 100% positive if they have other variety boxes, my Target only had this, but I do love these two flavors! 

Happy hunting! 

❤ Cristina 

Coming Home Bikini Prep Series: Post 3 “Let Me Introduce Myself”

When I logged off Sunday night there were 22.2K people following my journey. To put it in perspective, the Cutler Classic was April 30th, almost perfectly four months ago. That Friday I had 6K followers and by Sunday morning after taking you through my show day of eating and hanging out with fellow competitors backstage, I had 12K. THAT’S CRAZY TO ME. I’ve joked that I’ve convinced so many of you that I’m doing something cool, but seriously – cupcakes, doughtnuts and lifting, oh my! I’m not.

I am you and I’m going to tell you how.

My name is Cristina and I’m 27, but most days I look 20 and a few days a week I act like a 5 year old – sprinkles in one hand and a fork in the other. When you ask me where I’m from, I’m going to tell you “everywhere”. I was born in the Bronx and when I was almost three we moved to a suburb of Pittsburgh. While I lived in “Pittsburgh”until I was 13 and a half  the half is important – we had lived in three different houses, I had gone to three different school districts. The summer between 7th and 8th grade we moved to Durham, NC. In Pittsburgh, I was in Junior High and 7th grade was the top dog. In Durham, I was in Middle School and thankfully I was going into 8th grade – so still a top dog. After high school, I was one of the few to go out of state and I brought myself back north to Utica College in central New York. Ten months after graduating college I ended up in Massachusetts for my first career related job. So when I say everywhere, I mean it.

Our histories shape us. Experiences in my history have made me the person I am today, whether they’re positive or not. As a kid I remember being charismatic, not 100% sure how true that is because there’s a lot of things in my childhood that I don’t remember. It’s not that I don’t want to, but this is also where my PTSD comes into play. Forgetting was my coping mechanism and no matter how much I try, many events blend together, come in fragments or not at all.

To break up this post a little bit because 1. I know this generation doesn’t actually read and 2. I do better with pictures too. I’m going to scatter some of me throughout and you can see my transformation.

Roughly 3 or 4 year old Cristina

Cristina above is roughly 3 or 4 years old – I’m not completely sure, I don’t have many photos because if you remember film was really expensive in the 80s and 90s. This is a scanned copy of a Polaroid – even more expensive than regular film. It’s photos like this that make me think I was a pretty happy kid by glance. It’s also clear that it was smart that I danced when I got a little older, when you can’t use words to express what you want action can – dancing or lifting, actions are louder.

Cristina’s first day of Kindergarten

I remember the morning above very clearly, that was my favorite outfit. It’s red velvet, please don’t ask why, I couldn’t tell you, but I think between the softness and the lace I was sold. The book bag was a very typical 90s jean back pack, it was also my older sister. I used to think she walked on water. I looked up to her (literally and figuratively) and any chance to get her hand-me-downs was not an opportunity I wanted to miss. It wasn’t until older that I realize 5’1″ wasn’t very tall and that she was more of a bully than someone I should be idolizing.

1st grade Cristina and the Pink Ranger

Okay, I’ll be honest this one is just for fun because who doesn’t love the Pink Ranger. If you say no, we’re not friends. The Pink Ranger was the best Ranger.

3rd grade Cristina

11-year-old Cristina at the gardens at George Washington’s home

We all go through some pretty damn awkward phases as a kid. There’s many photos where my face as a whole is completely different and I look like completely different children. Maybe it’s how I was feeling when the photos were taken or the reality of my face and body at the time, but when I was 11 I believe that’s the first time I realized people would judge me on my body. Wearing a leotard in dance class and only a leotard was my least favorite thing and if I recall right, those bucket hats were my favorite and I had way more than any 11-year-old should have. I also liked skorts as pictured above. Somewhere between wearing a skirt, but not having to deal with sitting like a lady.

12-year-old Cristina

So somewhere between 11 and 12 I gained some weight – unless your blind you can see that between the last two photos. What you can’t see is the why I did. So let’s start with the how. Food became comforting. It didn’t matter what it was, just something I could find in the cabinet. Ramen was big in our house because it was cheap.

Side note – it’s excellent when you’re sick and can barely swollen solid foods.

The why – my PTSD is caused from childhood trauma. My mom was physically and emotionally abusive. I took a lot of it, but so did my older sister, our younger sister was probably impacted the most with emotional abuse, but I haven’t lived with her in almost a decade and haven’t talked to her in a few years – so I have no idea really at all. Between 11 and 12 is when it got really bad and ultimately my mom has been out of the picture since then.

13-year-old Cristina

Same shirt and same girl, but you wouldn’t think that would you? Take the stress away, take away the anxiety and the habits to cope go away. I was dancing about four days a week and eating like a normal-ish kid eats. This is also before anyone ever told me about tweezing my eyebrows.

17/18 year old Cristina

Between 7th and 8th grade we moved from the greater Pittsburgh area to just below the Mason Dixon Line. The pictures no one needs to see, but just know somewhere around 10th grade I learned about tweezers and a hair straighter. I started to like wearing jeans and my make up was usually outrageous because I idolized Gwen Stefani and if she could do it, so could I. Wrong, so wrong. Maybe I was ahead of my time, but aside from typical teasing in elementary school and the horribleness that occurs in Junior High and Middle School – High School was the worst. I wanted to discover myself and everyone around me wanted me to be in a box, in a very specific category. My 12th grade art teacher told me college would be better, college was for people like me and I was swim, the others would sink.

I’ve mentioned therapy over the past few weeks because I think normal people should talk about their problems and try to solve them, but I also think that most people need some guidance. I stopped dancing in 10th grade because I couldn’t handle the cliquey nature of the other dancers. Many had grown up together and from day 1 I was known as the Yankee so I already had factors against me. Junior and senior year of high school was when I went to therapy for the most serious of reasons. I didn’t know how to cope and self-harm was all I could think to do. I am not alone in this. For every 25 attempts there is one suicide fulfilled. Every year there are 42.7K suicides in America. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.In 2014, youth between 15-24 made up of 11.6% of suicides that year*. Talk therapy saved and it saves others every day. It helped me analyze why I felt like I did and how to express myself in other ways. Then came college.

18-year-old Cristina, October 2007 – Halloween

College was different than high school, but not by much. The biggest difference was you could have sex in your room only feared your roommate didn’t understand what a scrunchy on the doorknob meant. The bullies were still bullies, they just had a bigger playing field – instead of going to the principal there was potential for Campus Police.

My weight gain started the spring of my freshman year, 2008, but only slowly. It went full speed ahead between 2009 and winter 2010/2011. My heaviest was after college graduation at over 240+. I stopped keeping a scale in the house. My clothes were almost all sweatpants. I remember wearing sweatpants for my 21st birthday, how magical, but it’s all that I felt comfortable in. While the weight gain occurred I made Dean’s List, I worked an internship…or four, I had two part-time jobs including the school paper for a year. I was in a relationship. I had many ups and downs with my family. I started talking to someone on campus in the counseling center because it just seemed like too much life was happening at once.I wasn’t as outgoing as I had been before, but I was a lot faster with comebacks and my sarcasm level greatly increased. It was easier to be funny and use that to deflect.

Here’s the gain progression so you under a bit better.

18-year-old Cristina, fall 2007

 

 

 

21-year-old Cristina Summer 2010

October

January 2011

22-year-old Cristina, spring 2011

 

 

22-year-old Cristina, spring 2011

Like many college aged adults, in 2011 finding a job was a pain in the ass. I worked a paid internship and a part-time job that summer while still seeking employment. When it became evident that it was going to take longer than the summer, I found a seasonal job at Toys R Us and a part-time job at Wendy’s. Before the holiday season ended, I was able to quit Toys R Us and obtained a temporary full-time job at my alma mate in Admissions. Finally, after some re-budgeting I was able to quit my job at Wendy’s and only work in Admissions. During this time, my relationship of 3 and a half years ended, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and I had applied to graduate school. In January 2012, I bought a car, took my road test in said car, passed my road test and obtained my license, got accepted into graduate school, and my grandmother died. Also in January 2012, I found fitness because I had already started losing a few pounds from walking to and from work (yep, no license at the time), but I needed something for me that I could have some say in. There was a lot out of my control happening around me, but I could Zumba on my own schedule. I could also decide what to buy, cook and eat.

My fitness journey started out to find health and find myself. In February 2012, I interviewed for a job in Massachusetts, in March I accepted the job and moved to Massachusetts and on April 2nd I started that job. I also started graduate school that fall. It’s not hard to see that I’m always busy and I like it that way. The structure I set for myself is 100% the opposite that I had as a kid and I acknowledge that is the reason I like deadlines, structure and to-do lists. I think that’s why it wasn’t that difficult for me to lose weight steadily. Along with deadlines, I need benchmarks – I’m the same way professionally. This is why I started running in the summer of 2013. It’s also why I started bodybuilding and macro counting in the summer of 2014.I needed new challenges to keep pushing me, I kept hitting what I felt was my limit and these two opportunities allowed me to learn something new that is constantly evolving.

Here’s some photo of my weightloss progression:

May 2012

August 2012

July 2013

August 2013

October 2013

 

October 2014

November 2014

January 2015

May 2015

June 2015

October 2015

January 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weightloss part of my journey lasted 52 months and included two bikini competitions – November 2014 and April 2016. I lost about 115 pounds – there’s a few pounds fluctuation. I went from a pant size 24 at my heaviest to a 0.

I have had mental struggles. I have had physical struggles. I have had odds stacked against with lack of support. But, I am strong willed and I set my personal expectations high. I strive for personal greatness and for me that means always trying to be better than yesterday and a thirst for learning – always.

When you think you can’t, remember always the reasons why you should at least try. I have no idea where I would be if I hadn’t at least tried. Prep for my third starts on Sunday and I can’t wait to share that part of my journey with you.

❤ Cristina

*http://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/

Coming Home Bikini Prep Series: Post 2 “The Calm Before the Storm”

I woke up at 445 like I always do and for the first time I didn’t have any notifications on my phone, I didn’t feel the need to go through comments and decide if I needed to respond, delete or block anyone. I went to the bathroom, looked at my bin of shirts and got ready to go to the gym. I posted on Facebook a picture of the moon still high in the sky and arrived a few minutes after the opener.

I hit a PR for my bench, only 55 pounds, but I did this for all 3 sets and I kept my elbows tucked in – mostly. The cross trainer has become the third love of my life, since my second (stair stepper) has died and I don’t like running (my first love) on HIIT days.

I didn’t take a photo of my breakfast. I made it. Drenched it in syrup and berries and ate it.

Then I checked my emails.

I love working out. I love running and lifting. Maybe not always equally, but I love both – so I do both. I started this journey for me. For the first time in my life, I decided to do something because I wanted to. I wanted to get healthy. I wasn’t doing it for the approval of someone else, which honestly, is what all of my master’s was about. Yes, it helped project my career, but it was about some kind of approval. I received a 3.978 in my master’s and never got the approval I was looking for, but at least I have a career that is open for growth and opportunity, I also have a pretty piece of paper saying I did something.

Blogging is my outlet. I get thoughts of posts in the shower, during my lifts, when I’m at the store. I start to form sentences and paragraphs in my head, but ultimately when I sit down at the computer the words flow and I feel like I have the potential to be heard.

When I created my blog, my Instagram was 100% separate. It was about my life. Maybe I saw a very cool flower on a walk or I was going out with friends. There are definitely a lot more face-only selfies that populate in my Time Hop than I would like to admit, but that’s how my time on social media started – 100% about me. It also just happened that as fitness became a larger part of my life things that were important to me changed. I wasn’t interested in sharing the large bag of chips I was eating, I wanted to share side by side comparisons of how I physically changed. So two years ago, when I first started bodybuilding, I changed my handle to match my blog. It made sense and still makes sense.

I started competing and lifting because it gave me a new way to explore my limits. I know I’m smart. That sounds cocky, but academically, I do well. I have street smarts too. I am fearless when it comes to being lost in a city. Before I would ask someone who looked friendly for directions, but now I just pull up Google Maps on my phone. I don’t have an issue problem solving. But lifting and working out is something that I hadn’t tried before and I felt and still feel I can improve on. There are a ton of techniques just for squatting. There is always the possibility of lifting more weight. Essentially goal setting is endless.

Since moving to Massachusetts over four years ago, I have struggled to find in person friends. I moved for my career, I didn’t go to college here. I’m also usually the youngest in the office by at least a decade. My last job had a few young people and aside from one woman, who has since moved out of state, I didn’t have the same priorities as the others. In my current role, there’s a woman a few years older than me and we can talk about lifting and food and PRs, but she’s married and has two children. It’s still a different dynamic, it’s a different kind of life. Going to work and home was okay while I was getting my master’s, but once I completed my program in the fall of 2013, it made sense to put more focus on my health. I could do this without friends. It’s an individualized hobby that you can still find support for, similar to bodybuilding and competing – it’s a subjective sport and it’s 100% individual, but you can connect to others going through similar things.

The past few week’s I’ve talked about how comments have impacted me. How sometimes I feel terrible that I can’t help others with their questions or their journey’s in a way they are seeking. I have also found myself starting to compare myself to others. That’s what happened yesterday morning. I found myself upset about someone else, and that’s bullshit. In reality I don’t give a shit or at least shouldn’t about someone’s journey. I am me and they are them.

I was thin and a dancer and a cheerleader, then I was fat and obese and lost, now I’m fit and strong and have a scar that shows the hard work I’ve put in. It took me 52 months to lose the weight before I had surgery for the loose skin in my midsection. My journey is very different than many. I am more open than most. I also feel like if I’m not, then I have potential to start lying to myself – that’s not something I’m interested in.

I started feeling like my journey wasn’t about me. I do love connecting with everyone online, like I said in person friends are hard to make as an adult, but I don’t think people realize how tiring it is answering questions – especially the same ones over and over, as well as having so many things questioned. Yes, I know I’m putting my life out there, but as more of you have connected and started following my journey I have found myself needing to be more defensive because people feel like they can be assholes to large accounts. Hey guys, still a person here. I started to feel like my journey was more about helping others than helping myself, and yes, I’m glad I inspire you, but no, that is not my purpose. I need accountability too. I need to find others that love fitness like I do because I know those friends I do have in person don’t always get it. I started to feel like I was being judged for just being me.

I am loud when you get to know me, I can drink my body weight in bourbon, I laugh loudly and snort if laughing too hard. I eat crazy combinations because when I was a kid there wasn’t always food on the table. I eat pancakes every Monday now because for years I wouldn’t eat them because some nights as a kid that’s all there was for dinner. I love sprinkles because we never had them growing up. I wear bright colors and crazy socks because for too long I hid behind black and navy and bagging sweatpants.

This week, I am taking a break from Instagram because as a friend told me, she was getting tired for me. Yesterday I went on a brewery tour and paired my chocolate chip cookie dough Oreos with a ridiculously amazing and dark stout. Tonight, I’m taking myself to the movies and Bella is coming along – she really wants to know if we will find Dory. I am planning an adventure for myself for every night this week because I want to get back to my roots. I want to get back to myself. I’m reminding myself why I love the city I live in and why I love lifting and working out. This week is 100% about me. I’ll be blogging and I’ll be loosely posting on Facebook, but for the next 5 days (counting today) I’m going to focus on me.

I know for some of you this is surprising and you keep asking what’s wrong, but maybe that’s just a sign that we all need a break from routine sometimes – and I fucking love routine.

So I’ll see you Saturday for my check-in. Prep starts on Sunday.

Coming Home Bikini Prep Series: Post 1 “Why I Compete in the NPC”

Next week starts prep and after watching a few prep series vlogs on YouTube, I thought creating a category for this season wouldn’t be a bad idea. I’ve been asked when my next show is and I actually have two in mind for the fall season. The first is the New England Championship in Boston on October 29th – this was actually my first show in 2014, so I’m pretty excited about this one. The second show is the Eastern USA’s in Teaneck, NJ on November 5th. So prep timeline to start in less than two weeks, the first show would be a 12 week prep and the second to be a 13 week prep. Like I said, New England’s was my first show, so I thought it be fitting to call this series Coming Home.

My strategy behind picking these two shows is I don’t believe I need a 17 week prep like I did last time, but if we don’t think I’ll be ready for Boston, I have an extra week to be ready for Eastern USA’s.

Both of these shows are in the NPC, the National Physique Committee, which is an amateur league, if you win a pro-card then you go onto the IFBB Professional League.

I am a natural competitor, but I compete in the NPC for a number of reasons. The first reason I chose the NPC in 2014 was because of the lack of quarter turns in the stage routine. In the natural leagues here, you can be judged on your side profile during the stage routine, which has you turn in 90 degree turns. In 2014 at 150 pounds on stage that wasn’t something I was willing to put myself through. 1. I was heavier than the other girls and 2. I was starting to having loose skin in my middle. I felt and still feel that judgement on a side profile for bikini with my body the way it was would actually make me reconsider the sport. I said in April that it’s not the judges fault that they can’t tell loose skin from fat. It’s not their fault that the angle of their seat to the stage paints a different picture – I didn’t want to have more counting against me by having a specific turning style.

The second reason I compete in the NPC is because of opportunity. While the day of show is very busy and sometimes seems and is slightly disorganized, when you look at the show line up for the year – it’s packed. Just in the greater New England area I could’ve competed in at least 8 shows – if I was ready and comfortable – for calendar year 2016. Two shows were in Boston – hopefully, I will be doing both. Boston is a 45 minute drive for me. Easy peasy.  Though I typically drive in the night before and stay in a hotel – it just makes it easier and less stressful than getting up at 5 am on an already long day.The two shows that I have competed in were HUGE. I mean a few hundred competitors. My classes were between 22 and 34 women. THAT’S A TON OF BODIES. That was also just my height division. There’s definitely pressure at a larger show. You NEVER know who will show up to any competition for any league, but when you see 33 others in your height class all you can think is “shit, it’s anyone’s game.” That’s why I have a list of reasons to compete, it can’t just be about winning. I’ve tied in last place at both shows, I wasn’t expecting a higher placement, but the women I tied with all looked amazing, which means that those who placed high truly deserved it. It also means that I’ve tied for last place with at least 12 other women, so I’m not alone. Bring your A game and because it’s not just about ranking five or 10 women on stage, it’s about 20 or 30 who are as hungry as you are – literally, you should see the post-show cheats that happen.

The third reason I compete in the NPC is that natural is a relative term. There is a list of substances that are banned from the natural league in my area, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that competitors can’t or don’t use alternatives that aren’t on the list. There’s also a lie detector test and urinalysis that are conducted to ensure that competitors are compliment, so trust me when I say they’re looking for specific things. In my head, at least, since I only drink protein powder and use BCAAs, I figure if I can compete and place against women who are using fat burners and other substances, maybe I am bringing a damn good package. Is it harder to win, sure, but that’s also something to strive for.

I’m excited for next week and wish it was already here, but I also am excited for my last week of cupcakes and I’m even celebrating with my co-workers on Wednesday night. Before prep comes into full swing and I feel the struggle that is taking myself on dates that interfere with my bedtime, I’m going exploring every day this week and I’m going to write about it. This week, I’m going to practice my other adjectives and “come back home” for a few days. You can follow me here and see what I’m up to. You have my email in the About section of this blog. You can check out the Facebook page too, but this week, I’m going to disconnect from Instagram and I’ll be back Saturday in time for my check in and for prep to start on Sunday.

We all need a mental break and this last week before prep seems like the most perfect time to reset and recharge before I bring my A game this fall.

 

 

Week 6 Reverse diet check in

Today finishes my sixth week into my reverse diet since surgery. For those of you who are new around here, a reverse diet is the intentional increase in nutrition to your daily consumption. After my show in April, we had slowly been increasing my daily nutrition weekly based off of how I had been maintaining and reacting to the macros we increased. I got 3.5 weeks into my reverse and was maintaining before I had my abdominoplasty or tummy tuck or excess skin removal  – whatever you’d like to call it.

Since surgery put me on bed rest, which for me went from going lifting 6 days a week with 50 minutes of cardio to nothing at all, I spoke to Alaina about a nutrition plan so we could adjust my macro nutrients accordingly. Another concern I had was loss of appetite. Hitting macros perfectly or close to is like a puzzle, but since I knew I would be sleeping a lot and some of the medications I was prescribed would effect my appetite, I wanted to make sure my eating goals were also reasonable and not a mind fuck.

I was cleared to go back to the gym at 13 days post surgery. Again, working with my coach and bringing information from surgeon to determine workouts appropriate. This meant a lot of upper body in the beginning, then adding lower body and walking at 5 weeks post surgery adding hard cardio like running and HIIT back into m schedule. As soon as I got cleared to go back to the gym, we started increasing my macros again to meet the level of activity.

Last week after checking in with Alaina both fat and carbohydrates were increased while protein remained at roughly 1g per pound I weigh. She initially wanted to eliminate my 10 minute HIIT session, but it’s only 10 minutes and I asked if keeping it in meant more fat, then let’s do it. So last week I hit the 200 club – eating 200g of carbohydrates daily. My fats were also the highest they’ve been in a while. Overall calories – which I don’t track, but obviously are associated with macro nutrients – are higher and are almost as high as they were when I was cutting back in October at 157 pounds, they’re just shifted – less protein, more fat and carbs. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. I love food, there’s no doubt about it and I make my treats work with my goals, but I can’t remember the last time I intentionally ate this much food and had it working with me, not against me.

So this week, I had a little more fun with my flexibility, but I also added volume where necessary. So let’s recap with pictures.

 


Pesto Bacon on Foccacia from Cake Shop Cafe


Orange Creamsicle Cupcake from Cake Shop Cafe


Waffle Wednesday with a chocolate stack


Big ass salad trying out new hot sauces


S’mores and a S’mores Porters

 

Egg white bowl with maple pecan granola

 

 


Egg white and yogurt omelette


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake from Kadoodles Kupcakes

Mocha Espresso cream cheese on whole wheat toast with an egg from Birchtree

Check in photos – Weight: 127.6, Waist: 25.25″

This upcoming week is the last week before prep starts AND we’ve increased my carbs again, so I’m at 210g daily for the week. I can’t wait to see how I handle the 10g or extra 50 calories, however you count. I’m also super excited to see how my body can change with a higher macro count during prep. Last season my calorie totals didn’t fall below 1400 and I lost 20 pounds over 17 weeks. The focus will be more on leanness rather than weightloss, but I’m confident that we can keep food intake higher in relation to how lean I am now and what I can handle post-surgery.

I have some fun things planned for this week like shrimp tacos and a cheese danish for an office welcoming we’re hosting for a new member of my team. Remember that coworker with the brownies? Yeah, she told me we were having a welcoming breakfast-y thing and asked me to pick out my pastry. FUCKING LOVE THIS WOMAN. She also knows it’s my last week before prep and we’re getting cupcakes together at a bakery near our office that I’ve never been to. She knows the way to my heart and understand the short term restriction.

Cheers to Saturday night and the upcoming week!

❤ Cristina

 

No really, that’s not a compliment

My next session with my therapist is on Tuesday. I’m not sure if I’m going every week, but he knew that he didn’t want to wait longer than two weeks between our first two sessions. Fine by me.

At our first session he gave me some homework. He wanted me to email him a list of things that made me anxious. I do have anxiety and I do get panic attacks, but it also takes a lot to trigger them. Anxiety is a side effect of my PTSD. He told me the list should be at least three ideas or events that trigger me, but no more than 10. I came up with 8.

I’m writing this post because I’m trying to get better at just deleting a negative comment and blocking the user. I think that’s a good step toward eliminating the haters as he called them. Just erase their message and move on. Well, not all the comments are directly negative and I’m not 100% positive that they all need to be deleted, but in some way I think something needs to be addressed with those comments. Number 6 on my list is: people projecting their own insecurities on me by pointing out weight issues  (too thin or too fat) or trying to compare their bodies to mine (why doesn’t mine look like yours if we’re the same height…). Number 8 on my list is: when people point out parts of my body that they believe to be imperfect (my scar from surgery) or provide backhanded compliments by telling me how thin I am, how they don’t believe the person in old photos is me or “I looked good before.”

It’s clear that my number 6 and number 8 go hand in hand. The others on the list are related to perception, ability and things that are out of my control, but impact me or the relationships I have. I’m bringing up 6 and 8 specifically because there have been some comments lately that I have fired back at because they are not compliments at all, but in reaction to my feisty-ness the commenter becomes defensive telling me I can’t take a compliment. Here’s an example of a comment that I didn’t respond to at all: “you looked beautiful the way you were…”

I have said it so many times, MY BEAUTY HAS NEVER BEEN AN ISSUE. SIZE DOES NOT EQUATE BEAUTY. There are days and events and clothes that I can remember in technicolor that made me feel like a GODDAMN PRINCESS. I felt beautiful. I felt perfect. There are moments in my history that at every size I have felt beautiful and I have felt ugly. You can be miserable at any size. I think the fact I am trying to emotionally connect to my physical body says that even the girl in the next squat rack doesn’t necessarily have her shit together.

The rest of that comment: “…But you did it for you not the world! Congrats and it’s nice to see you want to improve yourself.” WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF COMPLIMENT IS THAT?! I’m going to tell you that you didn’t need to change yourself, then I’m going to say that it’s great that you did it because you wanted to, but I’m going to close with I’m giving you my approval for wanting to be a better version of you.This journey has always been about me and not seeking approval of others until recently.

Now you don’t need to tell me I’m over thinking this comment. I know I am, but that’s my point. Lately, these one off comments have made me question if I should’ve continued my journey. The answer is YES, OF COURSE I SHOULD’VE. I wasn’t at a healthy weight before. I was healthier than I had been and I was always looking to improve, but I’m 5’4″, my weight wasn’t healthy. I also wasn’t happy and more importantly, I wasn’t comfortable. These comments have made me question if I’m too thin. The answer is NO, I’m at a good weight for my height and I’m maintaining pretty damn well. An example: JP’s mom met me when I was about 150 pounds and we don’t see each other too often. So for her it seems like every time she does see me I’m more compact, thinner, insert whatever word you want to here. Her perception is that I’m thin because she never knew me to be thin before.

I know this her perception; however, prior to surgery she looked at me and said “do you really need surgery? The skin can’t be that bad.” I proceeded to lift my shirt up in the kitchen and move my belly button to the side. I may have also bluntly told her that having sex with her son was embarrassing for me because this moves when I’m on top. Well, it doesn’t anymore, but it did and I hated myself for it. My point with this little story is that perception is huge. They way we perceive the photos online dictates how and what we comment. What we don’t realize is how our comments will be perceived or reacted to. I’m sure the action of lifting my shirt was shocking to her, but I believed it to be necessary to get my point across.

When people tell me that “other women would kill to have my before body” the voice in my head says, I’m sure they would, but I didn’t, so I don’t. Whether it’s meant to be or not, this is a put down. If not to me, then to others who aren’t me. You are comparing me to women I’ve never met and I’m sure the commenter is sitting there comparing their own body to mine. It shouldn’t, but this makes me feel horrible. Like why am I so different to accomplish the goals I have set for myself. Partly, another side effect of my PTSD is obsession. My therapist said that this is most likely why I am capable of goal setting and being successful. I’m an all or nothing person, but I also benchmark myself and set both small and large goals. He also said this is why my career has been successful and I’ve progressed well there too.

Recently, I was asked what do I do when I can’t find the motivation to workout. I was honest and said that doesn’t really happen to me often if at all. My motivation to workout isn’t the issue. My stress and anxiety impact my desire to binge eat, it also makes me want to sleep sometimes. I also told her that when I can tell the urge to hard core nap or the desire to binge is coming on I’ll write down how I was feeling when the attack started, what was happening at the time as well and see if it was a trigger or something reminded me of a trigger. She also said she journals sometimes and she thought it helped too. I felt bad that I couldn’t help more than telling her to write everything down and talk to a therapist because that’s what I’m doing. I couldn’t help much more than that, but I saw a post from her today that proved to me that I may have helped more than I thought. My perception is that she needed more, but what she needed was an ear of someone who could be honest and say I don’t know how to help you, but I can listen and I hope that’s enough.

So we all need to work on how we perceive things, but also what we say.Like I said, I’m trying to get better about deleting and blocking the negativity out and reminding myself that I am the healthiest I have ever been and that these comments negative, directly or not shouldn’t impact how I like myself. I also need to remind myself that the comments that are backhanded are just the insecurities of others that don’t know how to keep their mouths shut. If they’re something to me as a stranger on the internet, they’re probably saying things to real people around them too.

❤ Cristina