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.

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Flexible dieting and prep life: alcohol, cupcakes and Birchtree oh my!

My competition preps have always been flexible, in fact, I started flexible dieting when I started bodybuilding and prepping to compete two years ago. My first prep while macro counting had a cleaner focus because that’s what I thought I needed. My clean focus also meant that I had a dry prep; I’d rather eat my carbs than drink them. In 22 weeks I lost 24 pounds, but mentally after that show going back to a much more flexible approach to macro counting was tough. For any competitor, life after show is tough in a variety of ways.

My second prep was the definition of flexible, but I still maintained a dry prep from January until after show at the end of April. This didn’t bother me one bit, although, it did make a few work events slightly challenging. While working large events I will typically get a seltzer or diet soda and ask for a lime wedge because people will assume it’s fancy and won’t say anything. I’ve noticed they’re more curious when you’re not drinking – so this helps prevent those questions.

This upcoming prep – T-minus 9 days – will also be flexible, but I don’t think I’m going to have a dry prep. I’ve been tracking long enough and should be able to trust myself enough to make smart decisions during prep including when it’s okay to have a beer with dinner and when it’s not.

For those who don’t know much about macro counting or tracking drinks – beer is a carb, many beers will actually provide you with their carbohydrate count when you scan the bottle into My Fitness Pal or search for it. Hard liquor is a little more tricky. During fermentation process sugar (carbohydrates) is converted into ethanol (energy). So when you look at something that’s been fermented like vodka, it appears to calories, but no carbohydrates. The same is for the distilling process for other liquors – carbohydrates are converted into energy and energy still has nutrition somehow associated with it. While we know fat is 9 calories per gram, protein is 4 calories per gram and carbohydrates is also 4 calories per gram, many don’t realize that alcohol is 7 calories per gram. So while it doesn’t fit the classifications of the other macro-nutrients, you should still take from their carbohydrate stores – Calories/7 to get the number of grams of carbohydrates they should deduct for the consumption of that drink. This is what I learned when I found this article from IIFYM.com in February when JP and I were going to the Extreme Beer Fest and it was the only time in prep I said I would consume alcohol.

Prior to learning the information above, I used to just take calories and divide by 4, I never saw a difference in my progress by tracking alcohol that way. Now that I know better, I divide by 7 and continue to take from my carbohydrate sources.

For me, this means that when JP and I make gin and tonic, we buy diet tonic water – otherwise you’re consuming carbohydrates from the liquor and the tonic water and we also measure out our liquor. A serving of gin is 2 tablespoons, but those 2 small tablespoons are also about 25c. A 6 ounce serving of tonic water is 16c and it’s 100% sugar, while the diet has 0c per serving it does use artificial sweeteners, but I’ve made it clear that I don’t mind consuming them. I mean look at everything around us – yogurt, cereal, syrups – I could be consuming much worse things. So with a diet tonic water, I’m willing consuming roughly 25c in a glass. We drink a lot of bourbon and whiskey as well, and serving size is similar – 2 tablespoons and if we’re not drinking it on the rocks, we will use diet soda of some kind. Again, like the tonic water, diet soda helps cut the carbohydrates. It’s also important to note that when we do drink we’re not pounding back multiple drinks; it’s usually a pairing with dinner. If it is at a party, it’s 100% planned and accounted for. I know I have an easier time with drinking than JP does, but we’re both pretty good at determining what we’re willing to give up nutritionally to fit these in as well as building around them so that we don’t become hungry throughout the day just for a beer or spirit.

My plan for prep will allow a drink-ish a week. There are some beers that are lighter than my typical stouts and porters that I know are about 12-15c. A glass of wine can range from 20-30c from just 4 ounces. I know what is heavier and will take up more nutritional value for my day; making a better decision isn’t hard, it’s just about planning. While prep is only 12 weeks long, there are a few holidays and events that I know will be happening during that time and personally, this me giving myself permission to be flexible in this way when I need to be.

On the flipside of this: MY LAST CUPCAKE WILL BE NEXT WEDNESDAY. I know, this is terribly sad for me, but my last cupcake will be my first time trying a bakery near work and really, that’s still pretty damn exciting. I am allowing myself a doughnut during prep – yes, it will be from Kane’s and will be at the beginning during the Boston meet up. That will be the only doughnut. Again, heartbreaking, but I’m imagining a post-show half dozen to share with my main squeeze and we really like trying them together and analyzing them. Tomorrow will be the last Birchtree food adventure until after prep because while the bread is pretty easy to figure out and track, the sandwiches and pastries are not. So I’m currently split screen looking at their menu right now.

I believe in flexible dieting, but the few things liked cupcakes and doughnuts are truly guesses when I track them. Prep is a little more refined than typical flexible dieting. So yes, you will still see pancakes on Monday’s and waffles on Wednesday’s, but cupcaking will be put on pause for a few weeks and so will discovering new doughnuts. Bring on the #bigASSsalads and volume veggies with my brownie goldfish and fat free whip cream. I’m ready.

9 days.

❤ Cristina

 

One week out/first week of reverse dieting 

To celebrate the ending of prep, I went to brunch on Sunday with my boyfriend and got the most amazing pancakes ever – Blueberry Pecan and Mascarpone. I went with a large stack because YOLO and I ate the whole stack – no regrets!

I did get egg whites on the side because protein is necessary. Since we had brunch a little later than we normally brunch, we didn’t eat a late lunch or an afternoon snack. We actually took a nap when we got back home from Boston, woke up and went to the gym and then came home to make dinner. We had a pretty lean dinner – chicken and veggies, this is pretty standard for us. It balanced out the carbs from the morning, but we also like chicken and veggies. We did try a new gelato. Full fat and all. But we stuck to the serving size and enjoyed it. I was mindful of what I was eating and logged/estimated to the best of my ability. I had asked Alaina to give me some loose macros so I would have a guide and I didn’t really go over them. I used this day kind of as a refeed day, and then jumped right into my new macros on Monday to start my reverse diet.

For those of you who don’t know, a reverse diet is when you  intentionally add nutrition back into your daily eating plan slowly. Many competitors do this after a show or full season of shows. It’s important that you increase slowly so that you don’t gain fat or gain weight back too fast. Everyone’s body is different and can handle different amount of nutrition at a time. This is an important step after season because stage weight isn’t always the healthiest to maintain year-round. Even those who are naturally lean shouldn’t be at stage weight all the time. Reverse dieting helps you get back to maintenance, which in some cases may be higher than where you were when you started your cut. Many think this is bro-science, but it actually makes a lot of sense scientifically if implemented correctly. There’s a number of reasons to conduct a reverse diet; while my macros never hit below 1,400 calories during prep, they were low for me. So this is something to help bring me back up to a sustainable number of macro nutrients.

This is the first time I’ve ever done a reverse diet. As you know, I’ve been losing weight for over four years so this concept is completely foreign to me. But unlike my refeeds, I’m really excited about the process of reversing and eventually maintaining my weight. This is a huge change for me and another opportunity to learning and research so I can take on the next part of my journey.

Alaina has been pretty amazing with designing my macro nutrition goals so that I was never hungry; always content, but so that I was at a point where my progress was going to be steady through prep. I knew that I would be in good hands working with her for my reverse. For the first week, we decreased my protein by 5g to  keep our numbers with 1g of protein per pound I weight. We hadn’t decreased my macros for the last few weeks of prep and my protein was a little higher. This kept me full, but it’s now appropriate to adjust it. We also increased my carbohydrates by 13g. I know for some this doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you think in terms of food, this is caramel rice cake or half a banana.

When I weighed in yesterday, I was still at my show weight even with the increased in macros. This was exciting for me because it means I’m adjusting to the increase in food and my body should be able to handle more nutrition than when I started my cut.

Saturday morning check-in. 1 week post show.

Even my abs came out to play.

I shared on my instagram a lot of the foods that I was consuming this week. Similar to my prep, I was able to eat out as well as eat meals I prepped at home. Throughout the week my boyfriend and I managed to cross off a few restaurants we’ve been wanting to try. We live long distance and it’s a pain in the butt because the list is forever growing, but we were able to make some good choices and have fun while he was home.

Welcome to Moe’s!

On Wednesday, we checked out Wahlburgers in Hingham. It’s the original location and it’s a burger joint, which only makes sense for them. They have a few sides that aren’t fried, but not many. As I was looking at the menu I noticed that the burgers they offer are pretty large, mostly 1/3 and 1/2 pound burgers. However, the kids menu offers a 3 ounce burger. I called to see if adults could order off the kids menu and to ask what the lean to fat ratio was for the meat they use. I was told “yes, anyone can order off the kids menu.” I was also told they use the standard 80/20 lean to fat ratio for ground beef. A quick google search told me that for 3 ounces there is 15F 0C and 22P in a serving.

Knowing what my macros are it was a no brainer to get a kids burger. This way I could eat it in true form with a bun and all. Instead of fries I got an entree mixed greens salad, which was high in volume and helped keep me full. Taking all parts of the meal into consideration I could estimate the macros and still accomplish my eating goals for the day.

On Friday, we went out to breakfast for bagels at a locally owned place that my boyfriend used to frequent in his college days. I had never been there before even though I live down the road and have lived here for four years. I know I’m ashamed too. Just like with Wahlburgers, I checked out the menu and found that they had cinnamon raisin bagels – my favorite. They also make the cream cheese there. They had a maple raisin cream cheese and I won’t lie I was sold when I saw it. I didn’t even consider another cream cheese. To find the nutritional value estimates I looked at a few chain places like Dunkin Donuts as well as brands you find in the store like Thomas’s Bagels. I took an average of what I had found and determined the macros I would use for the bagel. I did the same with the cream cheese. I usually get dressings on the side and I figured I could do the same with the cream cheese so I could portion it out myself. They actually serve it in a 2 ounce cup with is 4 tablespoons or 2 servings of cream cheese. So this was a lot easier to figure out than I thought it would be.

Alaina and I agreed that my reverse for the first week was extremely successful. I enjoyed everything I was eating. I never felt like I was having to choose one food over another. It’s the same philosophy I had during prep – it’s not never, it’s just not right now. We were able to have a lot of fun and going out for date night meant a lot. Since I’m not on prep, I was able to bring alcohol back into my daily diet. I had decided to do a dry prep because I wanted to make sure I was eating enough and not wasting my nutrition on liquids. I count alcohol and I believe that anyone serious about tracking should. For macro counting, there are a few ways to track alcohol. I deduct carbohydrates when the nutritional value isn’t provided.

For beer, many will scan into My Fitness Pal or you can easily search the number of carbs in a Pale Ale. However, for liquor, carbohydrates are converted during the distilling process. They still have “energy” or calories, so to find the macros I take the calories and divide by 4 – 1g of carbs is 4 calories. Some people deduct from fat. I prefer not to do that because peanut butter. Something like bourbon doesn’t reflect carbs because of the distilling process, however, Bulleit Bourbon has 109 calories for 1.5 ounces so for this I can determine that I need to keep 21g of carbohydrates aside for this.

Determining the carbohydrates in liquor helps me decide how I want to have a drink; is it something I want to mix or have neat. Bourbon is something I drink neat, so I don’t need to be concerned with added carbohydrates than what is determined from a serving. During a reverse it’ll be easier to fit alcohol in, but it’s not something I usually splurge on anyway. We like to do more pairings and had actually set a aside a few bottles of beer we really wanted to try post-prep.

Banana Bread Beer – 13c for the whole bottle, shared for dessert.

Since this first week was so successful we’re increasing my fat by 5g and my carbohydrates again by 10g. My protein is at an appropriate level for my body weight so that will not be increasing anymore. I’m interested to see how my body handles the food this week.

As far as my workouts go, I’m still lifting six days a week. I have three days of cardio and it doesn’t exceed an hour and 20 minutes. This week my cardio is staying the same as last week. My lifts are relatively the same. We did change a few exercise sets to alternate with high and low rep weeks because I found myself exhausted after an upper body day this week and that’s not the point of my workouts, especially now. I think being a little tired is fine, but not exhausted. I’m also not cutting anymore so I want to make sure that my workouts are appropriate.

I know for some people being in the gym that many days is tough. It’s not realistic for everyone, but for me it’s my alone time. It’s the time of the day when I know my only focus is me. So this schedule works for me.

I have a few work lunches this week; one where I don’t have any control over what’s provided and another where I do. Throughout my prep I handled work events very well so I have no concerns about these during my reverse. It might be a little easier with the increase!

Below are some other photos from the week. It’s weird to see how the body adapts and changes, but I don’t mind being a walking science experiment.

Talk to you soon!

❤ Cristina

Typical Pancake Monday

Dessert – single serve complete cookie

 

Breakfast – 1/2 cup egg whites + blueberries and peanut butter oats

 

Yogurt + Fudge brownie goldfish and whip

Grilled Haddock + broccolini and yellow squash

Leg day

Cashew apple salad and protein bar lunch

Homemade Sweet Potato Muffin

The biggest impact this season had on me mentally came…

…from the opportunity it created for me to trust someone else’s guidance.

I think many of us can agree that we are skeptical of advice at times and if we haven’t done the research ourselves we can be hesitant to follow through or listen fully. I started working with Alaina Sanders in October 2015 knowing that I was going to want to participate in the NPC during the 2016 spring season. I wanted to get a feel for her workouts, her structure and her decision making process when it comes to long-distance clients. Online coaching had always made me giggle and I really didn’t know what to expect.

At this point in my journey I had been researching everything on my own. Asking questions on social media and basically experimenting to see what would work and what didn’t work. The body is truly a big science experiment and every body is different. We react to fat differently, carbs differently and we all need different levels of nutrition to achieve our unique goals.

I had researched coaches and I wasn’t impressed with what I had found. Competing is tough and you need someone who knows what they’re doing to guide you, they also need to have your best interests at heart. I’ve said it in other posts, but I knew Alaina would have my best interest at heart because of her personal story and struggles. I knew that she would understand my concerns with eating disorders and that she would take my voice into consideration when deciding the path we would take from the fall into the winter and into prep.

I’m her first competition prep client, but she has been a trainer for others. I wasn’t nervous about working with someone who was slightly new to competition prep because I figured I would learn and grow with her. I believe I did just that and I think she did too.

My first refeed was a few weeks into prep and as someone who had been losing weight for many years the idea of purposely consuming more than necessary, even for a short period of time terrified me. So I asked questions: what are the results you hope I will have from a refeed? What is its purpose? I also told her I was nervous about it because it was completely new. After talking with her, I did my own research – you can find those articles in the Educate Yourself tab. So with what I now knew about refeeds, I thought about the macros I was given for the day. I planned brunch that I shared with a friend – we had cinnamon raisin French toast – it was completely worth it. I planned veggies and meat and finished with some tasty dessert. The few days following we tracked my progress and how I was holding water by weighing in. What we learned is that I hold water for about two days and then I regulate and drop weight by the third or fourth day post-refeed. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I freaked out the day after the refeed. I had to remind myself that carbs help the body retain water and this is how the process works.

After a slight freak out and then getting over it, we had two more refeeds throughout my prep. Both I carefully planned and then sent to Alaina for suggestions. She never told me what to eat, but she made suggestions or helped me adjust for fiber or sodium. We also carb cycled at the beginning of my peak week. I had no fear this time around. I knew that I was in good hands and that the results from the last refeeds were on track.

Everyone says trust the process – essentially trust the science behind nutrition and exercise, but no one ever says take a leap of faith and trust the person who is helping guide you through the process. Alaina has answered all of my questions, she has helped me decide menu options when I travel and she’s helped me figure out rough estimates for macros when I’m in situations where I’m eating out. She has taken most of the stress off my plate and helped me see competing in a different way. For me, it’s about learning about your body and seeing how it can adapt to change. It’s about being fearless when trying new methods or incorporating concepts that have potential to vary in results. Putting my faith in someone else is hard and trusting they will get me ever I want to go makes me nervous. It’s okay to be scared and nervous, but it’s not okay to let that hold you back when you acknowledge that your own knowledge can only take you so far.

Yes, I beat my old self.

Yes, I got on a stage that many won’t consider.

Yes, I increased weights in the gym and this excited me the most, aside from my body physically changing.

More importantly I trusted the person who designed the process I was going to follow. I tried new things and learned what works for me specifically and what we need to tweak the next time.  She helped make me successful this prep. Without her, I don’t think I would’ve been as successful. Continuing to work with her will only help me see the potential I can truly achieve. Reverse dieting, lifting heavier, eating more and going into another competition are some things I’m looking forward to experiencing with her.

❤ Cristina

How this competition season was different than the last time

Getting ready for the Jay Cutler Classic this season was very different than getting ready for the New England Championship in November 2014. Here are some of the obvious reasons:

This time I had a coach.

Coaches can be a big investment, both financially and mentally. Not only are you paying for someone’s expertise, but you’re trusting that they will keep your best interests in mind. You have to be able to communicate openly with them about you feel about the process and trust your gut. You are investing in your own progress by working with a coach, but I believe the mental investment is just as important to look at as the financial.

My current is an online coach and she’s young. She acknowledges that, which is another reason why her prices are reasonable. When I started researching last summer for coaches knowing I wanted to compete this spring season, I made sure to look at more than 1. do they win, 2. do they look good. I wanted to know their story because I wanted them to understand mine.

I haven’t always been heavy. This was an extreme weight gain in college, and then an extreme weightloss after college. I developed binge eating disorder and worked through it in talk therapy. I had been able to identify my triggers: events and foods and could analyze my feelings better to be able to prevent binges – for the most part. Many coaches that I had spoken with didn’t understand eating disorders and one even said it would be the clients fault if they developed an eating disorder. This goes to my point that you are trusting another person for their expertise to guide you through a prep that can be considered successful, regardless of how you’re gauging success. On her web site, she explained her story broadly and briefly, but I knew that she had been a survivor of an eating disorder. I didn’t know which one, but I figured she had a personal experience and would ultimately understand mine.

My first season I didn’t have a coach and this was soley based on cost. many of the coaches I had come across were very expensive – this sport as a whole is expensive. I hadn’t found a coach I believed would get me during my first season and I came to the conclusion that if they had learned how to do this and were coaching people, I could probably learn too.

So this season I had a coach and I knew more about exercise and nutrition.

Since I had competed on my own before, I had read a million articles about all the ways you could go about dieting for this kind of competition. I had followed a clean eating focus of IIFYM. Over a 22 week prep, I had lost 24 pounds. I felt great about my progress the whole time and I was never starving. I did, however, feel like I was missing something. I prefer to have a “dry” season of prep so I can eat my carbohydrates and while I thought this would be an issue the first time, it wasn’t. I found myself missing things like Oreos or deli meat. I wanted a damn sandwich. These are things that can be easily tracked and portion control, but at the time I thought the best way to go about this was clean eating. Post-November 2014, I am much more flexible. I have my macro goals and within that I have a fiber goal and I try to aim to have at least 3-5 veggies/fruits a day. I don’t always hit between 3-5, but I do hit my fiber goal. I had learned that the body, or my body at least, like carbohydrates and will effectively use these for fuel – doesn’t matter the source. I also learned that sugar makes me break out, so I do limit my sugars to around 60g a day. For perspective, a 12 ounce can of Coca-Cola is 39g of sugar. So I can kill it with a soda or I can consume a few different things and spread my sugar throughout the day. I also learned that protein keeps me full and even something like a protein shake in the mid-afternoon could count as a snack.

As far as workouts, I knew about HIIT, Intervals and Steady cardio before ever working with my coach. These three different styles of cardio can truly make a difference in your progress. They also work your body in different ways. For me personally, having these different style incorporated at different points of the week keeps it interesting.

Knowing what I knew from before has helped me tremendously in this prep. It’s helped me ask the right questions such as what is the purpose of a refeed scientifically and will a short term refeed over 24 hours really do anything for me? The answer: it’s supposed to help speed up your metabolism, you may hold some water for 1-3 days post a refeed, but essentially it helps you drop weight a steady pace. While a 24 hour refeed doesn’t have a great success with everyone, one day of refueling is good for the body. Some suggest refeeding for a week or two, obviously this isn’t something that would be conducive to a competition prep, but I will take a day of extra carbs and not complain.

I’ll admit as a lover of carbs, I was nervous the first refeed I tried about a  third of the way into this season. It was new and scary, but I aside from asking my coach questions, I took initiative and researched what I could. I found this article on the blog Kyle Hunt Fitness. This helped further explain to me what I could expect after my refeed.

I was confident in the weightroom and it didn’t matter if she changed up my workouts as the season continued. My first season I was learning to lift on my own, from scratch. I watched a ton of videos about form and how to increase weight and when to, I didn’t necessarily always feel comfortable increasing and it wasn’t until this past fall that I really started pushing myself with my squats, going from 125 to 150 pounds in a few months. This time I knew what exercises were for the most part. Sometimes I do look up an exercise to check on form and movement, but mostly because there are three names for practically every exercise.

Aside from learning to lift, I was 174 pounds and female – I felt like I would be looked at when walking into a weightroom. That’s not necesarily the case. Mostly, gym goers are trying to get their own exercises done and if they are looking at you it may be because they’re thinking “good for you” not “why is she in here”.

I have never had an issue taking a selfie in the gym, but this time I really didn’t care if people saw me videoing or taking a photo. This is my journey an my progress, I want to document it. I do try to not get other gym goers in my photos because before 6 am that’s just not a nice thing to do.

I know how to present myself on stage. Aside from a coach that guides you through your workouts and nutrition, posing coaches can be costly too. I watched more YouTube videos than I had ever before during my first season. This season, she asked me if I had considered getting a posing coach and she suggested hers who was a judge for a few natural leagues in the midwest and has been involved in the sport since the mid-90s. Her clients typically place high and I think she pulls greatness out of people. Working with her has helped me figure out what posing works well for my body. In the NPC, there are standard front and back poses, but they don’t necessarily emphasize the best parts of people on stage. Working together she identified a few poses that highlighted my best features and also made me feel good. Feeling good on stage is reflected in your posing. If you don’t feel good and aren’t having fun, then you’re posing will suck and it doesn’t matter how good your body looks.

In some ways this prep is the same as the last prep.

My goals were never about winning. They have always been about being the best me and bringing the best package I possible can. The first time that meant a six 6, 150 pounds and 22 weeks of learning and hard work. This time it means a size 2, 131 pounds and 17 weeks of learning and hard work. I wanted to be better than my last package and I’ve already done that. My external goal, one that I cannot fully control, is to get as close to the Top 10 as possible. Last time, there were 34 women total in my height class for bikini. That is a lot of women. I tied at 15 with 19 of them. While it’s subjective and you never know who will show up that day, I don’t want to tie for last this time. I know I have a better body now and that with my posing I can be competitive.

I am learning every day just like I was before. I now know what a refeed is and how my body reacts to one. I’m basically a human science experiment and I’m ok with that. I know new lifts like Arnold presses. I now know that I am a much happier person when I get to bed between 9 and 9:30 for the gym at 5 am, otherwise you should stay out my way. I understand better the importance of a higher water intake and balancing your sodium.

I’m enjoying the process and watching my body change. It was exciting to see inches come off the first time and while I’m thrilled I’ve lost almost 20 pounds this time, I get more excited about new lines and more definition in my muscles. I love seeing what my body is capable of and how it’s adapting to different situations such as refeeds, variation in cardio and more structured lifting. I know that this is going to set me up for a successful off season to be able to develop the muscle a little further, lift heavier when not in a deficit, but more in a maintaining structure.

I’m having fun and I haven’t been this happy in a long time. Maybe it’s because I can see the progress happening and it’s because of my effort. I have been doubted in the past and there’s nothing worse than caving and believing those who doubt you. I have done a lot of soul searching this season, some I’ve talked about and some I haven’t. I feel like I am in a better place now than I was in January and definitely a better place than where I was four years ago when I was decided to get healthy. I have continued to impress myself with how far I’ve come the past four months and the goals I’m ready to establish and take on after season.

I wish anyone who has the desire to compete the best, just remember to ask yourself why you’re doing it and make sure that’s it’s genuine. It’s more than the trophy for me and I hope it is for some others out there too.

Three days until stage day, let’s see how this goes!

 

❤ Cristina

 

 

Reflection: My weightloss journey, prep and what I’ve learned

I’ve been doing this weightloss thing for over four years now, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned about science and nutrition, I’ve learned about weight lifting and endurance, I’ve learned about myself and more importantly, how what you’re doing can attract both positive and negative people.

The past few days I’ve gotten a lot of direct messages on Instagram about my weightloss. I’d rank them like this:

  1. Most messages – asking if I want wraps to “fix” my stomach”

No, I don’t want your wraps. I don’t want your creams. I don’t want to be solicited. Many of these messages are coming from people who either don’t follow me/know my story or have been following me for a few seconds before determining they should message me about wraps. Clearly, almost all of these people are trying to get my business, don’t really care about my journey and truly don’t understand weightloss and the affect it can cause on the body.

  1. Many messages – asking how I’ve done, what’s the magic secret

First, these people are looking for a quick fix and think I have the answer. Most of them don’t follow my journey or haven’t follow for very long so they don’t realize that I have worked for over 4 years and that my journey has taken many turns, has had ups and downs and that I’ve had to change my approach many times to fit my lifestyle. The beauty about weightloss is that there is actually a science behind it. Everyone’s body reacts differently to different methods. There is no cookie cutter plan that will work for everyone because of a variety of factors. So when these people message me, I’m honest and I tell them I’ve focused on my nutrition plan a lot and that I’ve added cardio and weights as necessary. That I started with just getting moving and that I’m constantly setting new goals. For most, this isn’t what they want to hear and that’s ok, but that’s my story to tell.

  1. Some messages – thanking me for sharing my story, telling me that they can relate to parts of it and that I’m brave

Well, kiddos, let’s get one thing straight, I am not brave. There are a million accounts out there sharing their lives, sharing their weightloss, sharing their meal plans. This isn’t new. I use social media as an outlet to share my journey to:

  1. Hold me accountable to my goals. If I say it aloud then it’s reality.
  2. Show others that I’m a normal person, with a job and goals. I want to show people that to reach their goals, you can’t make excuses. I travel for work and I show how I plan for those times that it’s not convenient to be concerned about being healthy and my goals.
  3. Show others that weightlifting is one of the best things that have happened to me. Not just physically, but mentally. I can quantify weightlifting easily – I can tell you that when I started squatting I was using a 25 pounds pre-weighted barbell and that last Sunday I PR’d 150 pounds. That progress that makes me excited about lifting. It shows me how strong I am and that I am capable of more than I thought I was.
  4. Show others that every journey is different and mine happens to include flexible dieting. That I believe in true balance – even though by my dessert photos you would never know it. I believe in the powers that are pancakes, asparagus, chicken breast, protein ice cream and guacamole. I don’t believe in restricting and that progress is very possible with this balance.
  5. Maybe change the minds of those who believe that beauty is a thin figure without imperfections. I may be the most fit I have ever been, but I have a number of imperfections. Those that are visible are my loose skin, stretch marks, and deflated breasts from large weightloss. Those that can’t be seen are the negative thoughts I have about my stomach, the concern I have about going back to binge eating, and not thinking I’m good enough or strong enough to accomplish the goals that I created for myself.
  6. I want to change how we talk about weightloss, weightlifting, body expectations placed on us by ourselves and others.

I use social media to face my own fears and to help others as well – maybe they’ll embrace their imperfections or think differently about what it means to be healthy.

I’ve made a few posts that are really vulnerable, but that’s how I face my fear. I am going to be stepping on stage in 3 weeks. It’s not the first time, but this time there’s more loose skin. I do have a much better package, but that doesn’t make me any less frustrated that I don’t look as fit as I feel. There are 4 posts that truly stick out me that have received some positive feedback and as well as some nasty feedback. They’re pretty much the reason for this post and it’s length.

  1. Video of my stomach from April 7th

This video was taken post-gym and post-breakfast, but really shows how much loose skin I have in my middle. It’s received over 13,000 views and over 300 likes. The positive comments are:

  • how brave I am
  • how women who have had babies also look like this and hope that one day they are as comfortable with their bodies like I am
  • people are proud of me for the hard work I’ve put in
  • I am still beautiful with the loose skin.

The negative comments are a lot more fun, so here are some screenshots.

negative 1

not so bad

There are a few things I want to address with this video and the comments, even some of the positive comments.

  1. I have never said that I’m not beautiful. I know I am because my boyfriend tells me every day. Most days I feel beautiful. Some days I think I look like hot shit in my clothes and some days I don’t. We should not equate our weight or skin with beauty because you will constantly find imperfections and reasons as to why you are not as beautiful as the girl whose profile you just looked at.
  1. I have never compared my loose skin to someone else’s. Telling me that it could be worse only makes you looks like an asshole. I am 5’4”- my profile says so. I have lost 107 pounds over 4 years; length of the time of the loss doesn’t make it any less dramatic. Yes, I weightlift, but where I hold my fat and weight affects how my body looks. My loose skin is mine, it’s a reflection of my journey and at first I didn’t think I would want surgery because I did this to myself. However, over the last few months it’s been a bigger conversation because I have truly fell in love with competing and I want to be able to win in the fall season. I also become very self-aware when I’m active such as running, bending over and yes, being intimidate with my boyfriend. There are some clothes that fit funny because of how the skin sits on my body. So yes, maybe there is someone out there who has it worse than me and maybe they are coping better or worse than me, but I would never make them feel like they shouldn’t feel good about how hard they’ve worked or bad about how their body looks just because there’s a possibility of someone, somewhere working harder than them or with more imperfections.

There’s a lot I’ve learned going through different phases on my weightloss journey and the biggest one is that being fit can mean a lot of different things and weight is relative. I feel sorrier for those who think that how my midsection looks is funny because they have a skewed view of the world. This is my reality, it’s not pretty and it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. I gained weight and now I’ve lost it. This is the effect of that loss. Yes, it makes me sad sometimes and yes, it frustrates me, but that’s why I’ve decided to have surgery. Many choose to do that too. Does that mean that we can laugh because I’ll have a scar or a new belly button? No. Comments like this almost don’t deserve to be acknowledged, but at the same time its society that has led so many to believe that women specifically can’t have imperfections and must look a certain way. Men have their own standards too, but they’re not talked about as much and there is certainly not as much emphasis on them.

I would say: think before you comment. Read the caption to gain understanding of the post.

  1. Comparison of side profile – before lifting and last week’s check in

side by side

Please don’t compare your body to mine – I will forever say this over and over and sometimes to myself even. The comment has since been deleted, but a woman commented that she had the body I used to have and she wants the one I currently do. Again, I’m short so my fat is relative and so is my muscle. I’m in competition prep and that’s a very different lifestyle. I weightlift and I track what I eat just like I breathe. Everyone has different goals and methods. We are all at different stages of our lives. I’m 27 years old and I don’t have children – I never intend to. I travel for work and to me health and fitness is more than a hobby. This is my lifestyle. I have embraced it with wide open arms.  Comparing your chapter 2 to my chapter 50 is only going to make you feel like you’re never going to accomplish your goals.

Have patience because it’s going to take time.

  1. Morning ab shot

ab shot

Two things. 1 fat doesn’t turn into muscle. That’s not how science works.

I’ve gotten messages in response to this photo and I’ve seen some photos where people, both men and women, talk about how they want to turn their fat into muscle. Well, I believe some of you failed health because fat and muscle are two totally different things. You can maintain, gain or burn fat just like you can maintain, grow or burn muscle, but fat cannot physically convert into muscle. When you burn fat, you are just now able to see the muscle you already had. Loosing fat means that the number on the scale will go down. Gaining muscle also means that the scale will change. It may go up because muscle takes up less space than fat, but a pound of muscle still weighs a pound. This also means that if you lose a pound of fat and gain a pound of muscle you may appear thinner or fitter or whatever word you want to use, but the scale will be the same. At this point in my weightloss, if I wasn’t in prep, the scale wouldn’t matter much if at all. At this point, my coach asks me how I feel about how my body looks, how do my clothes feel and how do I feel during my workouts.

When I first started losing weight, it was 100% about the scale because at 5’4” and over 240 pounds, I needed that number to go do to see progress. At different points of my journey, different methods to measure progress have had more or less weight – per say, than others. Don’t tell me that the weight I currently am is your goal weight because I remember saying I wanted to be 150 pounds and a size 10 because I didn’t think I was capable of more. Well at 180 pounds I was a size 10, I knew I needed to reevaluate. I’m 133.6 and a size 2 right now.

  1. Stop being so surprised at what the body can accomplish. I need to be better about this too.

According to a post on Built Lean, there are a few things that should be considered when discussing abs definition and visibility. First, your body fat percentage. If you have a lot of fat, you’re not going to see a lot of definition or any at all. For women to start seeing ab definition they need to be between 20-22% body fat. This is typically the fit category and there will be some definition on the arms and legs. Women with 15-17% body fat, many bikini and fitness models, muscle definition will be apparent and there will be some vascularity as well. Women with 10-12% body fat, bodybuilders for example, will show striations and separation between muscles. Second, where is your fat place? If you hold your “weight” in your midsection, you’re less likely to show abs, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We all have abs, some may be less strong than others, but when there’s no fat over them you can see them clearly.

For me, I have skin over mine. My body fat was tested a few weeks ago – I know we’re all so sick of me talking about my stomach and my body fat, but I was in the extremely fit category at 16.2% at 135 pounds. I’m 133.6 pounds as of this morning, so aside from skin, there should be ab definition. So don’t be surprised that you can see it. Also, on that matter, don’t be surprised at your own accomplishments. NSV’s and all, you set your own goals, if you accomplish them then be excited, not shocked. You know how much effort you are putting in, there should be no shock. Again, I need to be better about this because most days I wake up and I’m like “yep, wow, this is my body. Yep, I lifted that weight.”

  1. Comparison of my backside – before weight lifting to last week’s check in

butt

Time is usually on your side. Most people aren’t trying to win a trophy or medal. Most have goals to just live a healthier lifestyle. I am not trying to necessarily live a healthier lifestyle right now. This comparison like the side profile is almost a 2 years difference. It shows what weightlifting and tracking my macro nutrition has done for my body. This was not an overnight change. The day I started lifting and tracking was with the goal of competing 5 months later. I did take a break from the prep lifestyle, but I never stopped lifting or tracking my meals. Since January this year, I have been training for another bikini competition. I will have been in prep for 4 months when I compete.

Don’t say because my backside changed someone else will. The commenter below doesn’t follow me and didn’t look through my other comparisons that day, all he saw was that my backside is smaller, tighter and there’s definition in my back. My motivation is probably different than his friend’s motivation. My methods and body are my own. Comparing what I’ve been able to accomplish to what he believes his friend can accomplish is not the best way to go about supporting and motivating his friend.

comparison

  1. Protein gelato sandwich with a Complete Cookie

ice cream cookie

I don’t believe in cheat meals. I believe in flexible dieting. I also believe in balance – saying not right now, but maybe later. The moment you start using terms like cheating is the moment that you start to creative a negative relationship with food. I used to binge and it would be from being too restrictive. There are also emotional triggers, but that’s something a little differently – but still reflects a poor relationship with food. I admit, in the beginning eliminating things out of my daily consumption was necessary. These eliminations included chips, pasta, soda and random candies. They have no nutritional value anyway and aren’t very filling. It was easy to eliminate them. But when I log on, I see people who are almost apologizing for enjoy dinner last night or indulging in a cupcake. I think we know how I feel about cupcakes so indulge on. The problem comes from having a cupcake every day if it doesn’t work for you plan. You can’t get upset at your own results if you own actions prevent you from reaching your goals. That being said, if you can eat the cupcake every day and still reach goals then eat the damn thing and celebrate. I count macro nutrition (fat, carbs and protein) because it allows me to be flexible in what I want to eat day to day; it also helps me reach my goals effectively. I’m nourishing my body with specific amount necessary – no more, no less – for my goals. I do look at some micro nutrients as well such as fiber and more recently potassium and sodium, but not as closely. If I can eat gelato and cookies every night I will, but I also know that during the day I need to eat some veggies too.

Have I gone over my macro goals before? Yes, definitely. I eat out for work and while I track and make the best decisions possible, it’s hard when you’re not preparing the meal. Have I under eaten? Probably, again, if I’m not making the meal it’s hard to be perfect. Hell, it’s hard to be perfect anyway, but I’m usually within my goals. I’m dedicated to my sport and to my goals and that’s why prep hasn’t be hard for me, but my journey as a whole, has been up and down with both workouts and eating. That’s normal, that’s human. But I call it what it is, balance and life.

I’m probably going to start rambling, but I want to say that what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter how good you’re doing there will always be someone there to bring you down. I believe that you need to learn all you can because science doesn’t lie, just read everything. Treat yourself well because no one will treat you better – for me that means what you say to yourself and what you “allow” yourself to do, say or eat. Own your journey, be proud for others’ accomplishments, but don’t beat yourself up for not being farther along than you are. Evaluate your goals and create high standards, dream as big as the moon, but keep in mind the chapter that you are in. Lastly, put sprinkles on everything.

❤ Cristina

A week in review – week 4

This past week was a pretty awesome week all things considering. My water was on point, which has made me feel like a lean bean. My meals were fun and for this upcoming week I’ve been digging through some cookbooks to get some other ideas.

So here’s my week in review in photos!

Greek yogurt with granola – it only looks like a fancy dessert

I had the chance to enjoy some bread from a local bakery and it was amazing with an egg stuffed tomato

 

National Peanut Butter Day was a thing and of course I made sure to fit it in

Seeing more definition while I was working out this week made me feel confident that I will be successful this round of prep

 

I tried some new exercises and didn’t fall over :]

Oh hey, some back definition.

 

Ok, maybe I’m a little excited about some definition.

Transformation Tuesday reminded me that my wardrobe has drastically improved

 

Pancake Monday was a success and I finished a bag of mix, which means I could open a new flavor

I found some new yogurt flavors and they help fill the void that I wish I could fill with all the pastries in the world

 

I never thought I was an athlete, but I do now. I’ll do whatever it takes.

I made a post about what athletes actually look like and people could relate.

I stopped by to admire and buy peanut butter in Rhode Island.

 

I was also reminded that I hold onto clothes, well I hold onto sweatpants.

 

I worked on my posing, a pretty good use of my lunch hour if I saw so myself.

My check in was a day early, but I’m really excited about my progress. I’m seeing new lines, which is kind of cool and my butt isn’t looking too bad.

As good as my photos for check in, I was down another .4 pounds for a total loss of 3.8 as of 1/28/16

I found, bought and made some protein brownie mix. I may have paired it with yogurt and Nuts n More and Walden Farms chocolate sauce. It was an amazing dessert alternative and I can’t wait to have more of these as prep continues.

I was also told by my coach that I’m trying out a refeed tomorrow. At first I was nervous because I’ve never purposely consumed more than necessary. Then I went through the OMG what will I make phase because a refeed is an increase in carbohydrates for the day and that means I can eat a lot of different things that I usually can’t. Third, I consulted a friend and tomorrow’s menu looks freakin’ awesome and I can’t wait to blog about it.

Part of the refeed is to weight myself today, tomorrow – during the refeed day and Monday after the refeed, to see how my body handles it. I weighed in at 145.8, so .4 lower than I was on Thursday, which means the loss for the week was really .8 pounds. I can’t believe that was the number on the scale, that’s a 4.2 loss in 4 weeks. The last time I was this weight was my sophomore year of college in 2008. That’s nuts!

Moving on…

Refeeds aren’t for everyone, but I’m really excited to see how my body responds to it and also for the French toast that I have planned for brunch! If it goes well, there will be more refeeds during prep, which means the possibility of more French toast.

So week 4 is over and I have 12 more weeks of prep. Bring on the crazy, the cardio and the rush that will come as the stage day gets closer!

❤ Cristina

Two weeks in and I couldn’t be happier

Yesterday marked the last day of the second week of prep. It’s going better than I could’ve ever imagined. My weight has steadily decreased and I’ve lost a total of 2.6 pounds, which brings me to 147.4. This is the lowest weight I have been since I was in college. And really since my sophomore year of college. Every week I have been blown away at the progress I’m making, even before prep and even when the scale wasn’t really moving. I was still in awe of what I was able to accomplish.

My lifts feel really good and even better – my running feels amazing since I’ve been lifting more and changing up my lifts. Go figure that making your legs stronger would help them in running.

Something that I’m doing similar to the last prep is early morning workouts. I’ve been getting to bed around 9 pm so that I can be up at 430 for the gym to open at 5. I have been sleeping through the night and getting up with no problem. We even got snow this week and I had my butt up to scrap off my car before going to the gym in the morning. I guess that’s dedication. I really want this. Getting up in the morning has also helped me a lot when planning the rest of my day because with an hour commute fitting in gym time after work can be really hard. I also believe that this is a big contributor as to why I’ve lost so steadily. When your body gets enough sleep it helps regulate your metabolism and it also decreases the amount of cortisol that your body produces. Lack of sleep can also increase hunger and appetite – I know my eating schedule hasn’t changed, but I feel fuller longer, which makes me stay track.

So here are some photos to catch up on the week. I can’t wait to start week 3 tomorrow with quad day.

 

Chicken + Spinach + Onions + Mushrooms + Sriracha Mayo

 

Dessert! Whipped Greek Yogurt  + Granola and Whip

 

The Perfect Yolk

 

Weight check-in

We had our first snow!

 

Sweater dress season

 

Overnight Oats

 

Pancake Monday

❤ Cristina

 

Prep – round 2, day 2

There are so many things I want to say and so many emotions I’ve got going on right now. In the fall, I decided that I was going to compete again. I was going to do it better. I had a goal of 150 pounds by the end of the year. I was 150 when I competed in November 2014, so why not have that as my goal starting point. Well, I’m proud to say that I made it through the holidays and yesterday’s weigh in said 150 pounds. I couldn’t believe it that I called my boyfriend in to look at the scale and then take a picture to send my trainer/coach Alaina. I was speechless because I knew I had done well during the holidays, by it was party after party and even tailgating at the Winter Classic. Granted, I was strategic, but still. I’m scared I won’t do well, but I’m confident I have the right people supporting me that there’s never going to be a chance to fail.

So let’s play some catch up, shall we? December 2014 was about a month post-show. I put on between 8-10 pounds throughout the holidays, which really wasn’t bad. Eating at the holidays is hard and going from competition prep to reality is VERY different. I tried to get back into the swing of things in the new year, but after losing 5 pounds by March, I wasn’t happy with my progress and decided to not compete in the spring of 2015. I tried Kayla Itsines BBG program and lost an additional 6 by the beginning of June. I was under 150, at 149 pounds for the first time since my sophomore year of college.

After a crazy job search, some stress eating and not focusing on the gym, I gained some weight back and by some I mean I think I was pushing 162ish. July 21, I got my act together. It was the day after I started my new job and I figured that was the best time to start because for the most part, all the unexpected crazy adult life things, were over. I restarted BBG and was on a great path – I was down about 5 pounds, back to 166/7ish. I then found Alaina on instagram. I found her web site and read everything. I emailed her and a few questions and after talking with her, I knew I wanted to work with her. That was October, it’s now January. I’m now 150 and almost sliding into a size 4.

My first show is April 23rd in Albany and the second show is April 3oth in Boston. It’s only day 2 and everything is being perfectly lined up so I am successful. I’m going to do a dry prep again, so no alcohol for the next 4 months, except for Extreme Beerfest, I already bought JP tickets for his birthday in February. I’ve made the decision to “skip my birthday” at least the eating anyway. It wasn’t a hard decision to make either, I want to do well at competition and it’s one day. It will be more fun celebrating over a meal when I don’t have a strict schedule or big goal in mind.

I’m 16 weeks out from the first show and 17 weeks out from the second. I’m confident for this time around. I’m going to have some fun with my workouts, I’m going to be a little cleaner in my eating. Maybe rub a treasure troll for good luck.

Here’s some progress shots from the past year. Cheers to the new year and kicking ass this spring.


❤ Cristina