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

Hey there! I’m Cristina and a late 20-something. This blog was to help me document my journey through weight loss, but when I reached my goal it became about my health, love of fitness and food too. I started tracking my weightloss at around 240ish and a size 24. I’m currently a size 2ish.  I’ve competed as a bikini competitor. I’m a lover of lifting and running, but also eating and drinking some good beer.

Here’s some of my story.

I started my journey in January 2012. I started where pretty much everyone starts as a resolutioner. I had gone through some HUGE life changes in November and December 2011 and I needed something I could control. My physical health was what I became attached to so I could regain control of my life. I started with my nutrition. I counted calories because I knew I was consuming too many, and to start I was eating over 2,000 calories – I know that sounds like a lot and it is, but at the same time I was easily consuming 3,000+ and if I binged I could push that into 4,000+ . At this point, I had eliminated coffee because I didn’t know what a good cup should taste like and I loaded it with cream and sugar – so better to just not have it at all. I eliminated soda, even diet soda. I cut out foods that I knew weren’t good for me like chips, pasta and candy. This not only helped me establish a better eating plan, but saved my wallet too. I immediately started seeing a change because this was a big change for me.

After about a month, I started to move around more. I did Zumba because it sounded like a fun way to move around. I had grown up dancing and this reminded me of that. It wasn’t easy and I’m sure I looked crazy doing it, but it got easier. Every now and then I would venture towards the dumb bells, but at this point I didn’t know what I was doing and just focused on eating better and moving around.

In March 2012, I picked up and moved to a new state for a new job to start at the beginning of April 2012. While I had been working full-time hours before, I was a temporary hire and had been looking something in my field since I had graduated the previous May. This new job was my first “big girl” job. There’s stress with moving and a new job, but I didn’t know anyone so working out was easy because it gave me something to do.

I had also applied for a graduate program in December 2011, was accepted January 2012 and was ready to start in the fall of 2012. Can you tell I like to stay busy?

I found Zumba at my new gym and a co-worker who didn’t mind going. We also found Pilates together, which made me feel embarrassed and honestly, I didn’t enjoy it. I like challenges, but I couldn’t figure out why anyone would do this for fun.

By the fall, I was working full-time hours as a fundraiser for a University and I was taking classes full-time through Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies, which caters to the working adult. I could get my degree online and work without being concerned I would have to leave work early or find a way to fit it in. However, with some of the craziness that is graduate school, I put my weightloss on a slight hold. I didn’t gain, but I didn’t really lose. I was still mindful of my eating, but I had decreased my activity levels significantly. So this was still progress. The biggest changes happened when I graduated the following fall – yeah, the program was an accelerated 11 month intensive master’s.

In 2013, I found my stride. I started running and had signed up for a structured 5K. My first miles were slow. I mean snail speed and it wasn’t until I had been running for about a year that my mile was comfortably under 10 minutes. #practicemakesbetter

In 2013, I was diagnosed with PTSD. It was and wasn’t shocking. I grew up in a physically and mentally abusive household, but no therapist I had ever seen had considered that a possibility. We had been putting bandaids on problems for years, but not always getting to the root. This was the first time we looked at cause and effect and built solutions.

After I finished my master’s, I got back on the train of increasing my activity and figuring out what I wanted for my health. That’s how I found the Paleo diet. If you’ve never heard of it, you can find out more about it here. It was trendy and I didn’t know any better, so I thought I would give it a try. Here’s what I learned from Paleo:

  1. I missed peanut butter
  2. Vegetables aren’t that bad
  3. Almond flour and coconut flour are more expensive than I believe they should be
  4. I couldn’t live like this

I ate Paleo for almost two months and I did lose, but it wasn’t because I ate Paleo, it was because I was in a caloric deficit and that’s how you lose fat. I further learned that while you can have bacon and some other foods that many would consider not so good, there wasn’t really a structure to moderate them, so I still didn’t have balance.

In January 2014, I had my tonsils removed and I was out of the gym for a minimum of three weeks to recover. I had complications and was out of the gym for almost six. It was terrible, not just because I couldn’t work out, but eating and drinking was a pain in the ass.

I spent the spring continuing to make a few Paleo recipes, but going back to what I knew, calories and moderating my foods. I went back for another attempt with yoga. I tried Bikram – you know, really hot yoga. I went consistently because this time around I enjoyed it. However, there were times the instructor was kind of an asshole and when my passes were used, I didn’t renew. When the weather got nicer, I added some hiking in here and there because it’s New England and do you even live here if you don’t do that?

In June 2014, I decided I needed something to push me. Something that would make me work out of my comfort zone and help me obtain more progress in my weightloss journey. Weight lifting did just that. Competing in a bikini competition did just that. Going back through old posts I guess I did my measurements. Here there were: 174 pounds, Bust: 35″, Waist: 31.5″, Hips: 41.5″ – that’s dated June 14, 2014. I was a size 10. I changed my eating to six times a day to make sure I was getting meals spread throughout. I started working out six days a week. I threw myself into lifting and learned everything I could. My initial macros were hilarious and way off. It was way too much protein and way too many carbohydrates – I know I just said that, but they were poorly calculated. That’s when I found They had calculators so I could trash the initial macros and reconfigure them appropriately. In the first month of tracking my macros and weightlifting I had lost 12.5 pounds. This was huge for me because it was breaking the misconceptions I had about women and weightlifting. In 10 weeks, I was down 17.5 pounds and it was mostly from my middle. I was no longer a size 10, I was a size 6. My running was improving more and things felt better in the gym and out of the gym.

Then something happened. I met my boyfriend. I met him and I also put my foot down and told him what my goals were for competing and he just said ok. In the course of 85 days of prep, I was down 19.5 pounds and had lost 3.5″ in my waist (according to old posts. I was gaining confidence in the gym. I had forced myself to be ok with just walking in and picking up the barbells, but now I wasn’t forcing myself.

On the day of my show I was a perfect 150 pounds. I had lost 24 pounds in the course of 21 weeks. My macros at the time hit a low of 40F/140C/157P or 1,548 calories. I didn’t know much about macros, but I thought I needed higher protein. What I know now, is I didn’t necessarily need that high of protein, but because of my activity levels it wasn’t an issue.

After my first show in fall 2014, I went back to tracking my food, but not necessarily being specific about it like I had when getting ready to compete. I gained some weight back, I was high 150s, but not quite 160. After the holiday, I wanted to try to compete again, I started after Christmas… well, that just didn’t happen and that’s ok.

In the spring of 2015 I tried the Bikini Body Guide – it’s a plyometric based workout program. It has a cult following. It definitely pushes you and I lost some weight with it, but then I started looking for a new job and just like everyone else, I wasn’t focusing on my weight. I was focusing on getting a new job and that meant a lot of interviews and travel and in some cases half-day interviews. The weight I had lost, I put back on. Then I did get a new job and I felt like I could get my crap together, but with a new job I didn’t want to focus on programming myself.  I decided to get a trainer, I was skeptical of trusting someone else, but I felt I didn’t have a choice to that. I did some research and I picked an online trainer that I felt I could work with who would listen to me. We worked together in the fall of 2015 and my goal was to lose the weight I had put on, I wanted to start January at 150 pounds with the hope I was prep for another show. I reached that goal and we continued to work together through my prep. I came in at a perfect 130 pounds for stage. This time, I wasn’t in control of my programming or my food. My macros got to a new low of 40F/127C/135P or 1,408 calories. Still not bad because many competitors are much lower than that. Everyone’s body is very different.

During that second season, I started to realize that parts of my body that I believed were covered in fat, were actually covered in excess skin. So a month before my show I decided to set up a consultation for skin removal. That had never been a part of the plan before, but maybe it would be now. A few weeks before my show, I had my consult and we picked a date for surgery. I had surgery a month post-show.

I stayed with my trainer post-show and post-surgical recovery, but I realized that summer that I wasn’t being challenged and I didn’t feel like I was being heard and in some cases I felt like my nutrition wasn’t where it should be in relation to my workouts. I wanted to be maintaining and yes, I didn’t want to regain the fat that I had worked hard to lose, but something that I didn’t realize and that was never communicated to me, is that maintaining has nothing to do with the scale. Looking back on my programming and my nutrition at the tail end of working with my trainer, I was still in a caloric deficit, but I would sometimes go over my nutritional goals, which had me flirting with maintaining sometimes and a deficit sometimes.

When I tried communicating my issues and I felt I wasn’t heard, I left my trainer. I decided to do it on my own again.

Now if I was working out, I was doing it on my own terms. I was doing it because I enjoy it. I was competing for sport. I was losing for sport. Now, I wasn’t losing weight or fat for health and that is a huge change from the general population wanting to be healthy.

I attempted another prep in the Fall of 2016, but mentally I wasn’t having it. There were a lot of things going on and I took medical leave from work. I’ve had a lot of praise for taking leave and putting my mental health first, I’ve also gotten a lot of crap for it because many don’t see mental health as a reason to take a break from work, but it is and our mental health impacts our physical health. This I learned greatly that fall. It’s what lead me to leave my full-time job and coach my own clients.

Working out and eating well are important when it comes to being healthy and getting fit, but I also believe that we need to think about food and exercise differently. It’s not a punishment to choose healthier options. I also think that if you feel guilt when having a treat, you need to step back and think about why. Working out isn’t a punishment and if you feel that you’re dragging yourself to the gym or for a run, you should re-evaluate your goals and think about what is the priority in that moment.

I went back to school in January 2017 to pursue an associate’s in public health because I also started life and goal coaching. I have my own experience and I have strategy and development skills from my previous career, but I don’t have a formal background and I want one. An associate’s paired with my master’s in nonprofit management will open a lot of new opportunities for me and allows me to marry my personal goals with my professional ones.

In January 2017, I felt ready to compete again and I did. I prepped myself – training and nutrition. I competed in three shows, one in March and two in April. I probably should’ve only done two because toward the end, my mental health just wasn’t there. The photo below compares me in May 2011 graduating from my undergraduate degree to March 2017, competing in my third bikini competition. There’s about 120 pound difference and a TON of inches. Always smiling, but smiling for different reasons. The photo below that is in prep versus living life or at least trying to.

Today, I’m still figuring it out. I’m still working on being a better me. A healthier me, while maintaining my size – whatever the hell that means. A mentally healthier me, which means sometimes I need to eat the cookie and then talk to myself about why I needed the cookie. I go to therapy regularly because let’s face it, having an outside perspective is necessary and therapy keeps me sane because I don’t have things bottled up. I lift a lot. I eat a lot. I’m trying to find balance with those two. I work with clients on their personal, professional and health goals. Some like my style of coaching and some don’t.

This journey was about my weight, then it was about fat, then it was about my brain and sometimes it’s about it all. But mostly it’s about finding a good place in this world.

** Stage photos by Chris Hayden Photography

prep and life

December 2017. ~139 pounds. 25.25″ waist. 36.5″ hips.               Pretty damn happy.

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4 Comment(s)

  1. CultFit

    April 9, 2014 at 10:27 am

    How do I begin to – Thank You – for stopping over and following my humble blog-o-thing?!? I wish you the very best, not only today but well into the future. Be inspired and please take care.

  2. nataliamae87

    June 27, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Great job on your blog, I really enjoy it!! I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! If you have already been nominated, congrats, but I hope you accept mine as well. Check it out here:

  3. kiwiyogirunner

    February 22, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    So inspiring! Sounds like you have achieved soo much not only career wise but health wise too! 🙂

  4. posingpancakess

    August 9, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    OMG this is awesome! I love your blog already!

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