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

 

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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