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

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Don’t doubt yourself. Try to not let the doubt of others fill you either. But, are you ready for the things you want to accomplish? I’m not just talking about your health, but in general, everything you want – do you really want to put your words into action or are they just words right now?

I talk about goals a lot because I feel better and more in control when I have a goal in mind – either continuous or deadline driven. I have a mostly Type A personality meaning I like structure, but I’ve also figured out how to go with the flow and be more fluid with my methods and goals. However, not everyone is like this and that’s completely okay.

Whether you realize it or not, as you think about tomorrow, next week, next month and next year you are going through The Stages of Change Model. I first learned about this model in my psychology course last fall, since then, it’s been discussed in five out of nine of my program’s classes.

Some background…

In 1979,  James O. Prochaska developed a transtheoretical model of change in a study that compared 18 different therapy systems and reviewed about 300 therapy outcomes. His model categorized the systems of therapy into five processes of change. “These processes are differentiated along two dimensions.”

1. verbal and behavior categorized the change process according to application – therapy that relies of verbal interaction or behavior manipulation.

examples: feedback and awareness of a problem like smoking, education about a problem like smoking

2. experiential and environmental categorized the change process by the individual’s experience or the individual’s surrounding environment

examples: finding new coping mechanisms instead of smoking, removing triggers like ashtrays and cigarettes

In 1982, Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente worked together using Prochaska’s model to examine self-change and therapy change in smoking behavior. Their study was titled: Self-Change and Therapy Change of Smoking Behavior: A Comparison of Processes of Change in Cessation and Maintenance. It was published in Addictive Behaviors volume 7 that year.

The sample was small, but there was a mix of gender (29 males to 34 females).  Smokers who quit on their own (n=29) were compared with two different groups of smokers: an aversion group (n=18) and a behavioral-management group (n= 16). The sample was random with self-quitting participants recruited through various methods like fliers, advertisements and newspaper – remember, this is 1982. Participants from the two therapy groups were recruited randomly as well through fliers handed out after meetings.

Within seven weeks of quitting all subjects were given a change-process questionnaire verbally with all responses recorded on tape. They also answered a variety of smoking history and demographic questions. They were told they would be interviewed a second time within six months.

From these responses, Prochaska and DiClemente looked six verbal and four behavior process of change, and three stages of change (decision to change, active change and maintenance).

Here’s what they found:

1. Attempts to quit among the three groups were similar, gender didn’t necessarily make a significant difference among the three groups either.

2. The group that did see signification differences (p < .01) were from the behavioral-management group. These participants were older with an average age of 42, the age range varying from 30.4 years to 53.6 years. They smoked for a longer time than the other two groups with a mean of 25 years and a years-as-a-smoker range from 14 years to 36 years. These participants were more invested in quitting this time.

When looking at the different processes of change they found:

1. Individuals who quit on their own rated feedback, stimulus control and social management as less important than the other two groups.

2. All three groups rates self-liberation as quite important, however, the aversion group said it was more important than the other two groups.

3. The behavioral-management group rated counterconditioning as more important than the other two groups.

During the follow up they found:

1. Two-thirds of all subjects remained abstainers.

2. There were no differences in proportion of successes and relapses for all groups. Looking at the variables such as age, education, occupation, years smoking, etc. didn’t have any significance.

When speaking to participants who relapsed:

1. They struggled to find other coping mechanisms to deal with personal problems like consistency with exercises or health-related physical activity.

2. Some said they believed the habit was under control even with the relapse.

3. Some said they missed the habit.

Prochaska and DiClemente conducted new study a few years later where they used a sample of 872 smokers. This study was an extension of the first.

This model of behavior change is taught in all areas of the health field from psychology to sociology to nursing and public health. While I don’t blatantly tell my clients they are going through this model when we have our screening, I assess them with this model.

Many who talk with me are usually past precontemplation and contemplation – they’re ready for action, however, some are still determining the right course of action. It’s not about how bad they want change, it’s about being ready for change and finding the right way to go about making changes to their lifestyle.

There are some cases where a client and I will discuss their goals and I’ll say, I think these are great, but be aware that it’s possible that they may change, that you may realize there are other things that will assist with these goals that may become more important for the time being. This isn’t too discourage them, but to let them know that I’m acknowledging that goals can change and that as their coach, I think it’s okay. An example may be the client who says they want to lose weight, but doesn’t realize that they have a poor relationship with food. The goal eventually will be weight loss, but for the moment it’s about working on building a better relationship with food so it’s not used as a coping mechanism or so that they don’t restrict themselves and feel incapable of adhering to their nutrition goals. We will work on stress management,  meal planning, meal creation and setting micro-goals that work towards a healthy lifestyle that assists weight loss for eventual weight loss over time.

It’s completely okay to not be ready for a goal, it’s also completely okay to change your immediate goals in order to work towards the bigger picture.

When we think about our goals and what we want out of life, what direction we want to take, we also need to look at the driving force behind it. I always ask my clients why their goals are their goals. The responses have ranged from “I want to be able to get on the floor with my kids” to “I want to be stronger”. There are also some who say they want to lose weight because they believe they will be happier or feel better when they have.  I have said to them that size doesn’t equate happiness, but if being a healthier smaller size means that they will be more outgoing and their mental well being will improve – then yes, it’s reasonable to say that you believe you may be happier when you’ve lost weight.

But for all clients, regardless of their reasoning behind their goals, I ask them to dig deeper to make sure that their goals are truly something they want.

Living a healthy lifestyle is more than the time that it takes to lose weight. It’s more than the time it takes to learn to allow freedom and flexibility. It’s about building lasting habits and truly implementing and learning positive behaviors.

Now, that’s not to say that you won’t ever “mess up”, you won’t ever not want to eat off plan,. It’s human to have set backs. It’s human to take a break. It’s crazy to think that every day has to be perfectly lived towards these goals. I don’t believe that’s realistic, but it’s about small behaviors that add up over time that make meaningful change.

I challenge myself often to remind myself why I’m back in school, why I’m coaching, what health means for me in this moment. I want you to think about your why’s, your life, your plan  – are you ready? Do you have the support around you? Do you truly support yourself to make the changes necessary to accomplish whatever it is you want to?

I hope you can see the greatness inside you. There’s nothing more rewarding than the light bulb going off when something finally clicks for a client or they start seeing the greatness I see in them.

I wish for you empowerment in the New Year. I wish for you that you allow yourself time as you start to figure out your next steps. Don’t rush – good things can come slowly, we just need to learn to be patient.

❤ Cristina



It’s been about a month since I’ve written on here, but let’s be honest, that was a recipe – that’s not real writing.

I’ve said it before on Facebook more recently, but here as well – I write when I feel compelled. I write when I feel it’s the most beneficial to me. I feel like this is something I always write when I’m coming back after a hiatus of not writing as well. But sometimes I need the reminder of why I blog or why I don’t, and I think you do to.

This year has been all over the place. I think it started with adventure and a new high. A new direction, a path that I was excited to take and discover. I felt that I was going to learn more about myself and the biological world that I had barely scratched the surface of. I’m sure some of you sat there and thought, well damn her life’s a mess – I’m pretty sure I said that a few times from my living room floor.

Academically, I have pushed myself well out of my comfort zone. This pursuit started so I could better meet my clients needs. I had been asked many times to help with weightloss and meal planning, I had been asked to coach people to help them create a healthier lifestyle, but people were asking based on my experience alone. For me, that’s not enough. I don’t think you can just have an education, and I don’t think you can just have experience. You need to blend the two and be open minded to learn more and learn often.

I’ve taken some classes that are straightforward like anatomy and physiology, and I’ve taken some that are more fluid like nutrition and sociology.

With finals I started to feel slightly burnt out, but that’s normal after writing thousands of words, reading through dozens of studies, studying for hundreds of hours and filling up multiple notebooks. It doesn’t matter if you take one course or five courses – it’s brain power. Along with my classmates, I had been saying I was ready for this semester to be over, but I’m also so excited and ready for next semester.

My courses: medical microbiology, chemistry and epidemiology. Eleven credit hours. All in person. All night classes. There are going to be some long days because I still work three days a week in a doctor’s office. I will also be starting an internship.

I start an internship for my program that should last for at least half the year. It’ll total roughly 300 hours at least. it combines my love of health and education along with serving specific populations – in this case, children. I think if we start the conversation while their young and the parents are involved, then positive habits can be created and in a fun way that doesn’t make them seem so tedious and boring.

On the more personal end of things- yoga, lifting and running have helped me get back to feeling like I did before with my activity. I’m feeling good about the ratio of ass sitting to mobility. I’m physically feeling more comfortable in my skin and have been working on getting my strength back up. I know the upcoming semester will be a little more unique as far as scheduling because I will have some long days shifting from work to internship to class to coaching, but that’s part of goal development. At different times, some routines make sense and others don’t. I’ve gotten better at not fighting it, and going more with the flow.

Since October 1st, I’ve run 76.62 miles. Nothing ground breaking, but a lot more than I had been running earlier this year because it wasn’t necessary to my training and I didn’t feel it in my heart to do so.

Eating has been normal. Indulging in a lot of cocoa and some treats that are only available at this time of the year. However, I’m creating a balance. I’m making the decision to indulge versus mindlessly doing so or feeling guilty about it. Stress hasn’t felt out of control, aside from the standard academic stress – I’ve been meditating a little less than I was before, but I also don’t think that’s a bad thing. My meditations have also changed, which wasn’t something I was expecting.

It’s been three months since I’ve been off birth control and hormonally, I’ve noticed a lot of change. My anxiety is different, reactions to similar situations are a little different – I feel less wiped out and that has been the biggest change.

Sitting down writing this out is weird because in my head I think I want to share what my next steps are, but then part of me goes who cares?  That’s the honest truth. I’ve always had both thoughts in my head, but the one always overpowered the other. I think about what is different, and I think I finally realized the answer.

I want to help people and that’s not a bad thing, but it also means that I forgot I can help someone indirectly by sharing my perspective.

On Facebook, I’ve started to share more about my interest in public health, my investment in organizations on campus, what I’m writing and talking about in class, but I’m going to start doing that here too. Writing has never been something I felt like I had to do, it wasn’t something that was an outlet for me. After talking with friends and doing a few too many videos on Facebook, I’ve been missing it.

My goal is to be more active in writing because I do enjoy it, but I need to protect it so that it doesn’t feel like an emotional burden. Some part of me also believes that there are people who click on my posts to actually read them, not just skim them to see if I’ve fallen on my face. So there’s that – the indirect way to help someone else.

I’m not putting a schedule out there for writing, but my promise to myself is that I’m going to sit down more often. I have a few recipes in my drafts folder I’ve been meaning to finish as well. So that’s on my to do list during break.

I have a list of things I want to do over the break before the spring semester starts. There’s no penalty if things don’t get crossed off, but I have a wish list, but that’s for another conversation.

❤ Cristina


If you’ve ever lost weight – extreme or not – there’s always the fear that you may revert back to your original size. That even if you’ve been practicing habits for years that you will wake up one day and magically lose them. As someone who was obese that fear is in the back of my head many days. Do I think it will always be there? Of course not, but that will also come with years of practicing self trust. It will come with distance and time away from the life that was weight loss and competing.

When I think about the time of my life that I was overweight or obese, it was only roughly 10% of my life. Isn’t that crazy? Something that lasted for a short period felt longer. it felt like a lifetime and I remember when I started that I felt like it may never end. It took almost 16% of my life to get to where I am. So that’s 26% focused on figuring out what healthier meant for me and what fitness or health goals were. Remember I’m only 28.

I say often that I haven’t lost weight for health since last year. When I competed in my first season it wasn’t about health, even though the fat loss was helpful for my health, it was for the stage, it was for pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Twenty-four pounds gone.

When I competed in my second show it wasn’t for health it was for the stage, it was to be better than the last time and to prove to others that I could do it and that I could have a piece of that lifestyle. I had already proved it to myself once, but others needed convincing. Another 20 pounds gone.

This last season, this was for me. I wanted to qualify for Nationals, I didn’t want to go because I’m not stupid – I do know that my body is different and that there are limitations in my shape. I know that there are certain things they look for and I knew that my own comfort level wouldn’t do well at Nationals. At my lowest weight in my adult life, 122 pounds didn’t seem small at the time, but looking at the photos I can say “yep, I was tiny”. It was just about weight, I was also 12% body fat, that’s damn lean. Not lifestyle lean, but competitive lean – there is a difference and I will always remind people who have followed me for a while or those who are finding me now, that there is a huge difference.

I’m currently 20 pounds above that stage weight, but only 8 pounds above my starting point. However, weight is relative – measurements tell a different story. My waist is only 1″ bigger and my hips are only 1.5″ bigger than when I started prep in January. When I think about that perspective, I don’t get as frustrated about the events that happened since April.

On Facebook, I’ve mentioned the fluctuations I experienced this summer while I was figuring out a new routine, navigating stress and anxiety attacks. A couple of weeks ago I did an update about advocacy because my doctor continued to try to misdiagnose me with PCOS – which an endocrinologist determined I DON’T have. In the video, I mentioned that there was a point in July when I felt like I had a better handle on my anxiety, classes were going well and I was finding some kind of balance for the time – I literally woke up one day and just felt better. That’s when I started documenting my measurements in a notebook, I also documented weight fluctuations with notes about water intake, body feels, stressful events, sleeping patterns. For some that’s a lot of information, but a life outside of weight loss and competing when that’s what you’ve been doing for a few years is a weird life and I needed to see some of the correlations before I could make a real plan for myself. I also wanted to bring it to my appointment in August with the endocrinologist because if I was diagnosed with PCOS there wouldn’t be anything we could do except treat the symptoms, which I wasn’t interested in. Again, it was determined that I DON’T have PCOS, but having the data helped me start the new academic year off in a positive direction.

September was about doing what I could since I was back to a full load of classes and that meant a lot of yoga and meditating. I started yoga in August and it’s helped mentally and physically. I’m noticing a huge difference in shoulder mobility and my lifts feel better and I’m not getting as knotted up as before. Mentally, I feel accomplished after the classes, I feel that I’m able to shut off my mind and close out the world when I’m in a practice. This is huge for anyone who is constantly on the go.

At the end of September I decided to run a 5K for Thanksgiving, which meant I should probably practice more than just sprints. I run only during the work week, and I vary my running. My goal is to increase over time, which means each week I increase my distance total a little more. My goal is to be up to about 10 miles a week comfortably including sprinting and steady runs.

I’ve continued to be consistent with yoga this month and plugging in lifts as they felt good – mostly just combination leg and back days. I’ve done more accessory work than ever because it’s easy to do it in the fitness center on site at our complex, but accessory work helps with the bigger lifts. I’ve decided to completely ditch my gym and save the $20 a month to workout on campus. The equipment is good, not many people attend and they have 90s on the speaker – why not take advantage of it until I graduate?

After a month and half of having a more active routine that works with my lifestyle, I’m noticing some body recomposition in my legs. I measured myself for the first time in a month and my measurements and weight haven’t changed since August in the places that I’m tracking, but I’m noticing in photos I’m taking that other areas of my thigh and glutes are changing. I wore a 0 to a 2 pant during prep, which again, is a tiny person, but I’m also 5’4″. This summer I was wearing a 2 to a 4 and now, I’m back to a solid 2.

More importantly than these numbers, I feel comfortable in my clothes and I don’t feel like I’m tugging at them. I don’t feel bloated most days. I’ve been sleeping better (less tossing) and throughout the night with the exception of pee breaks if I drank before bed. My legs feel better in my runs. My breathing is much more steady during running, which I think is partially due to how we breathe in yoga. Mobility is increasing, especially in my shoulders and upper back, which has helped my lifts greatly. I’m able to find balance in yoga poses that I struggled with when I started in August like Warrior 3 variation and I’m able to go deeper in some of my poses.

Nutritionally, I feel like I’m in a good place. Some days I eat more, some days I eat less. Some days I have too much beer and other days I have water with dinner. I track about 60% of my food because I think that there needs to be some accountability. We still meal plan and I still prep some things because it’s helpful for time and to ensure that everything is eaten and we have less waste.

For those who say they’ve mastered intuitive eating, good for them, but is it really intuitive if you’ve tracked for an extended period of time and are capable of eye balling your meals accurately? Will I “ruin” my MFP streak? probably. Will it upset me? probably not.

We’ve been more adventurous with our meals. I’m making pizza from scratch again tonight :] I have a pound and half of glass noodles to play with.

I had a screening last night and I told her I still have days where I’ve eaten a box of Oreos and said, well I probably shouldn’t have done that. But I’m also not getting to upset about it because the action is more related to bored eating in front of the TV rather than a binging episode triggered by anxiety and stress. Still not great, but mentally, it’s better.

We’re constantly learning about ourselves and that’s what keeps it interesting.

Here’s a few photos I took this morning, again, not huge differences since photos in August, but I’m able to see and feel little things.

The past four Decembers I’ve thought about what I wanted to do in the New Year. I’ve thought about what I had already accomplished and how I could build on that. Last year, my goals consisted of competing in my second bikini competition, getting stronger in my lifts and excelling at my job.

I entered 2016 on prep. Like many competitors I started on January 1st, but unlike many competitors my New Year’s Day kicked off at Gillette Stadium for the Bruins Winter game. My prep started at a tailgate. It started with protein pancakes and egg whites on the grill. It started with water and passing on the 8 am beer. When I look back on that prep, those four months, I am in love with that girl.

She continuously challenged herself and trusted someone else – something that many of us acknowledge is a hard feat. At the time, I felt prep was flawless because I was never hungry like I know is possible. I never felt overworked or tired. I also am always in bed early. I learned about myself a lot over those four months.

I also learned about a dark side that I never thought would resurface.

What I haven’t talked about is the specifics.

My reverse diet was slow. Slower than it should’ve been. My workouts were still roughly the same from prep – high volume and cardio. Not a lot of cardio, but again, I was done with the season and changes could’ve been made. They weren’t and at the time I was trusting someone else.

I reversed for a month before I had surgery and while I was enjoying the reverse I found myself paranoid. I was nervous about the scale moving up. I was nervous that if the scale moved my reverse would continue to be slow and that I wouldn’t get more nutrition added to my plan. I had heard of other competitors having their overall caloric intake increased greatly after their season because continuing the deficit for too much longer could be harmful. Essentially, why keep losing weight if you’re not wanting to or trying to?

Because I have emails, I have records.

My overall macros one month after my show were: 47F/170C/130P or 1,623 calories.

My TDEE or total daily energy expenditure is almost 2,000 calories WITHOUT cardio right now. At the time I didn’t know this because while with my coach I wasn’t controlling my nutrition or workouts. I was trusting to guided appropriately.

When I had surgery my macros dropped to: 40F/135C/125P or 1,400 calories.

At the time, when we had been talking about the lack of exercise I had asked about dropping macros not realizing how many more calories the body burns when it is under duress. Meaning, when you’re sick your fever is the body response to using energy to kill off bacteria. When you’re healing, especially after trauma, your body uses more calories than normal to get you better as fast as it can. I did say I wanted us to come up with a plan so I wouldn’t drop weight or too much during recovery because that was a concern I had. I was on the table at 130.0 and had 1.6 pounds of skin removed. But on June 18th I weighed in at 126.2 pounds. My lowest had been around 125.5.

That was the first real check in back into the gym post surgery because I couldn’t stand straight up the week before even though I had been cleared and went back to the gym on the 9th for light upper body.

I always felt satisfied with my macros because I do really eat in volume. You eat a TON of broccoli and it’s still low in carbs. So I was eating, but I wasn’t eating what I should’ve. This check-in my macros were increased to 43F/172C/125P or 1,575 calories. The following check-in I explained I was satisfied, but I could always eat and now we were adding some cardio back in even though weightloss wasn’t the goal. But why would I argue.

New macros for June 26 – 45F/185C/125P or 1,645 calories

But, on July 3rd, because my weight on the scale was increasing I got nervous and asked to keep my macros the same. I didn’t understand I was still in a deficit and the fluctuation was truly about sodium intake, water intake and some residual swelling due to the summer heat and surgery. Now I know that.

Macros slightly increased again July 10th to 47F/193C/125P or 1,695 calories. To the eye that’s a lot of food, but again, my total daily caloric burn is well over that, I was still in a deficit and just didn’t realize it. If you remember my plan was going to be heading into prep the first of August.
On July 17th macros slightly changed again to 47F/200C/120P or 1,723… so protein went down and she decided to take out my 10 minute HIIT session. At that point it was clear that to get more food I needed to be doing the cardio. So I asked to keep it in so I could get a few more grams of fat. I asked for a gram or two because I had no idea how she was determining my increases.So cardio was kept and my macros were 50F/200C/125P or 1,750 calories– fat and protein increased and I couldn’t tell you the rhyme or reason for those increases. I even asked in this same email what was her reasoning to determining how much to increase by – no response.

I didn’t know any better and it seemed like she had been listening to me. I even wrote a post about why were a good partnership. But we were good until we weren’t. It’s okay to ask questions and want to know answers. It’s also okay for trainers and coaches to say I don’t know the answer, let’s figure it out together. I started asking for harder workouts because I knew I could handle them. I asked for less reps and more sets, I wanted to lift heavier and see how much I could push and pull. I asked for pyramids. I don’t know what I was given, but from research that’s not what was provided.

Anyway. At this point I was more content with the nutrition provided to me. I was able to fit in cupcakes easier and I was still eating in volume. But what she didn’t realize was, I was partially lying to her.

I was getting so nervous about the scale moving I started making myself physically sick. Mind over matter right? Well, your mind controls a lot and as someone with anxiety it’s not hard to get yourself worked up. So yes, there were a few times this summer I threw up because I got so anxious that it just happened. There were also a few times that I regretted the extra gram or two of peanut butter and wished I could and twice I did.

But you know what. I can’t fully blame her for the decision I made, but she isn’t innocent either. She had my weight and measurements every week. She had my progress photos every week. She could’ve calculated y body fat or TDEE any time she wanted to. But again, I had lost weight, I had gotten on stage, I tried new workouts – what could I complain about. I didn’t see the problem. But looking back there were more red flags.

I had sent her an email asking her opinion as my coach about muscular definition and symmetry – two things that are important in competing. I asked if we could talk about strengths and weakness and develop goals.I asked if we could talk on the phone about this. That section of my email was completely ignored. I started asking for harder workouts because I knew I could handle them. I asked for less reps and more sets, I wanted to lift heavier and see how much I could push and pull. I asked for pyramids. I asked for 10g of protein more in which I was told it would tun to fat… I had read conflicting information about protein utilization and I’m not sure if I believe that it automatically converts to fat. If you’re in a deficit how could it possibly do that? A deficit is a deficit, right?

It became clear that I wasn’t being listened to anymore and I’ve always believed in doing my own research and educating myself. I don’t want to be doing something just because someone says I should. When I got my workouts for the first week of prep she left off a day. We had discussed going from back to six days because prep isn’t real life. I understand when coaches have multiple clients and the to-do lists are lengthy, but after parts of my emails being ignored, it was the last straw.

I thanked her for helping me, but that I felt I wanted to try on my own. I told her she had helped me when I needed it and that I probably would’ve been lost after surgery without her, which is partially true. But I also believe  -looking back – that I would’ve found my way.

The summer spiraled into the fall and I was already predisposed to breaking down. I felt like someone I had been paying for help, didn’t care about me or my goals. I felt that they weren’t listening and here I was getting ready to do another prep and questioning myself left and right. Stepping back in September was ultimately because of my mental health – my PTSD and anxiety broke me down, but I shouldn’t have even tried to begin with. I spoke with another competitor and she said her coach says you should pick a “season”. Do you want to compete in the first half of the year or the second? I had still been “dieting down”and been in a caloric deficit. I was arguing with the scale because it was the method I had been used to using.

I recalculated my TDEE and had my body fat retested. Almost 2,000 calories in a daily burn and I was still sitting around 15% body fat, what I was on stage day, but I couldn’t tell you if I had gained any muscle. I probably lost some. I started writing my workouts again and I decided well if I want to eat more I should do more cardio. That went out the window so damn fast. That thinking officially went to bed when I started PH3.

I haven’t done programmed cardio since I started in October. I weighted 133.8 this morning and my waist is 1″ bigger than when I was on stage and .25” bigger than my last check-in with my old coach. My hips are .5″bigger than stage day. When I updated my stats on bodyspace today it told me I was about 12% body fat and the error range is 2-3%. I weigh almost 6 pounds more than when I stepped on stage and my body fat is close to what it was then. These past months I rediscovered why I got into lifting and competing to begin with. I listened to my body. I read study after study. I check books out of the library and read blog after blog. I also journaled and cried and ate doughnuts and cupcakes and laughed with my boyfriend. We sat on the floor and played cards. We made dinner together and loosing counted things. Some days have been better than others, but this year is different.

This year I learned more about myself and instead of thinking of my goals in December, I thought about my goals in October and in November. I thought about the impact I’m making and the one I want to make. I thought about how the majority enjoys engaging with me and the minority can rock in a corner because cyber bullying is something the kids who never grew up do.

This year I have some amazing dreams and rolling goals. I don’t think setting them at the end of the year is the most effective for me. That’s why I started coaching in December, I wanted others to give themselves a chance to get started before the new year. I wanted them to feel empowered for the new year because I found this new found power these past few months.

So yes, I have these amazingly big goals. And you’re just going to have to watch them unfold because even I am sitting here in awe. But I can tell you, that this year taught me to trust someone and then it taught me that it’s ok to question things and then eventually let go. It taught me that you can be more capable than you give yourself credit for. It taught me that you can fail and not be a failure. It also taught me that you can change your mind all the time and that’s 100% ok too.

2017, I’m so ready for you. 2016, I can’t wait to see you die.

❤ Cristina

P.S. Please don’t take Betty White.


We all talk about the importance of enjoying the ride. Enjoying the journey as you develop and accomplish goals and figure out how to create some kind of balance in your life. It’s not a 50/50 balance I’m seeking and I think most of you will agree that you’re not looking for that either, but some days 60/40 feels equal or 25/75 gives relief.

I’ve heard it be called a tightrope because it really does depend on what’s important at the time. I’ve mentioned before that there were times my career or education were more important and my weightloss took a step back into a planned plateau.

This is the first holiday season I’m not losing weight. I talked about that at Thanksgiving. I said that for Thanksgiving, I knew what would be offered and what I needed to supplement. With tracking my macro nutrients, I’ve always given myself permission to try new things at the table, but remembered to be mindful – try to stay within my goals. I take smaller portions so I can have or try more things and I ask what the ingredients are because of new sensitivities that have developed since my life became healthier.

This year I followed the same principles, but enjoyed a few more cookies than I have in past years. I am working hard to figure out what my balance looks like for this point in my journey – this point in my life. I have felt more relieved the past few weeks, but like I mentioned during the Thanksmas party we attended a few weeks ago, my anxiety gets the best of me and this much social interaction drains me.

I have interacted with over 34 people in the past two days, not including JP or the barista at Starbucks. I’ve answered questions regarding my weightloss and how much more I want to lose – answer: I’m not losing weight and haven’t been losing weight to be healthy in quite some time. I did attempt a competition prep in August, but ended it in the middle of September around the time of my anxiety and PTSD attacks. I’ve been answering questions about coaching and macro counting and if I’m allowed to eat carbs – answer: I eat all the carbs and champagne is one of the best carbs to drink. Thankfully, no one this year questioned my plate or the portions, however, someone did comment to JP that he had such a small portion of something…when he had seven other things on his plate that he was ready to eat. They’ve started to slightly understand that this is my life, but still have a hard time understanding how it’s part of his.

But it’s not just this aspect of the holidays that in a way stresses me out and makes me want to nap.

When JP and I finally had the present talk, it was late in the game and aside from bills or classes I want to take, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted. I could list a bunch of things I need, but if we’re going to be honest – I don’t need presents at 27. We decided to not really do presents this year. We would do some stocking stuffers, but of course he broke the rules when I learned that he bought me two Disney movies he knew I wanted, but would never buy because of price. He saw my candy cane Joe Joes and raised them a copy of Snow White. Thoughtful, but it left me frustrated. I want to give him the world, but to me the world doesn’t come in a small box with a bow. I was the only “kid” to not provide a wish list for Christmas when his mom asked us for one.

Christmas and the holidays to me aren’t about the presents. I wasn’t raised that way. The holidays were never that much fun and someone usually ended up in tears – me or one of my sisters for one reason or another. I don’t really remember a lot of good from this time of year other than cookie baking. So to me, it’s more about the experience – I would rather go out to dinner than exchange presents that may never get used. I would rather play games than stay seated at the table with bowls of food in front of us.

My lifestyle is healthier now, which means holidays don’t derail me like they did when I was in college. Candy and chips around doesn’t tempt me and I know some of you can’t relate to that, which is fine, but that’s just not the kind of food I enjoy now. So for me, I get frustrated with the holiday’s because I’ve been trying to make my whole world a healthier place overall and that’s not just about what goes on my plate and in my mouth. It’s also about where I put weight or emphasis on things – like experiences over material items.

On the surface, JP bought me two Disney movies because he knew I really wanted them, but internally, for me – I felt terrible because I don’t have the kind of money to buy the gifts he desires. He asked for mostly car parts and thankfully, what he didn’t buy for himself he asked his parents to. When we talked about not exchanging real gifts, I told him I wanted to focus on paying down some of my debts and getting things in a place where we could potentially buy a house sometime in the next few years. I told him I would rather make dinner with him or go on a date than buy things that I could buy myself if they were really that important. He sees gift giving as a loving gesture, which it is. However, I also see it as a way people measure their relationships and love of and from someone else.

I look back on the past 87 days and I measure our love in doughnuts shares, apples picked, movie watched, tears wiped away and journal entries. I’m measuring it in things that were consumed together or seen and experienced. I’m measuring it in acceptance of faults and nights on the kitchen floor.

I’m looking back on the past two days and trying to count the smiles we had, but I’m slightly struggling. I’m recalling stepping out of the living room last night because I could clearly hear two conversations happening near me that didn’t involve me – I just happened to be sitting in the perfect place. It was overwhelming hearing them so clearly and not being able to focus one at a time. I’m thinking of yesterday afternoon and I’m reminded of lattes together. Perfect temperature. It was stress from being excited and stress from being in a position where I lacked control of my emotions and felt wiped out. Even as I write this I’m thinking about how long I think I can last during the movie we’re planning on watching. Will I make it half way through or will I just crash? I’m thinking about the hour nap I had during the movie this morning in between breakfast and getting ready to head out to “dinner”.

I’m seeking balance in a place where others put importance on things that I used to, but have learned have little true meaning. I’m learning to love myself through both the good days and bad when others just sit back and complain about wanting to “be better” but actually have no desire to “do better”. I can’t relate to that. Either do something about it or stop talking.

I thought this year would be a lot easier around this time of year because I know what to expect and how to be assertive where it counts. But I didn’t realize that I would be measuring my world in anxiety and butter cookies equally.

❤ Cristina



Part of my coaching incorporates writing. I mentioned that a few posts back when I did the “Shoulds” post. Everything I believe I should be and where I learned it.

This post is from another assignment I gave a client last week.

What are all the mean words and phrases you say to yourself and why?

It’s pretty self-explanatory. There are bullies out there, but they will never be as mean or inconsiderate as we are to ourselves. We know our darkest secrets. We know our true fears. That kind of knowledge is power, even though we don’t always use that power in a positive way.

So my list. Here’s my list.

  1. You don’t deserve your boyfriend. He’s too good for you.
  2. You’re never going to be a good coach or trainer.
  3. If you have PTSD and anxiety, how can you help others?
  4. You’re stupid.
  5. You’re ugly.
  6. Why can’t you just act like an adult?
  7. Why are you so emotional?
  8. You’re not a real a competitor, it doesn’t matter how hard you train.

Does my list look similar to your list?

I’m sure it does, I’m also sure some of you are in denial and that’s okay too. I’m sure that together we have the amount of self doubt to feed a small army. Make them full and still have leftovers.

But why these things? Why these phrases or words?

Number one is pretty easy. I never thought I would find a love like him, like JP. Cheesy right? But how many of you have said that? Have said that your partner is too nice to you, too good to you, but couldn’t figure out or say why you deserve less. I give what I can, when I can. Relationships are not 50/50 and we know that. Sometimes it’s 80/20, sometimes it 60/40. Sometimes I get dinner ready and he’s done the clean up, sometimes we look at each other and decide to eat out and avoid the stove and dishes.

Our lives have been changed so many different times this year.

May 25th – I found out that my landlord failed to pay the mortgage for almost a year and the bank was evicting me.

May 26th – My tummy tuck. We thought joking about poop as a couple was hard core, pooping with door open wasn’t anything big – well, have major surgery where you struggle to do things like that alone. Yep, game changer.

September 9th – JP moved home on our second year anniversary after dating long distance for two years.

October 13th – I went on medical leave.

We have been through so much and I’m constantly saying “if we can get through ‘x’ then we can get through anything, but sometimes, just sometimes – I do wonder if I will push him too far. Sometimes I ask myself do I deserve his kindness for all the crap we go through that I believe I bring on.

When I step back, I realize there’s a lot of stuff that has been out of our control, let alone my control. There are things I can control, like my weightloss, but there are others like the eviction that I can’t. I can be sad and I can be mad, but I can’t own everything as my fault. JP doesn’t make me feel like it’s my fault, so why should I?

There’s a lot of mean things that I say that relate to my own mental health. There’s a lot of things others have said about my mental health. I don’t think people understand that childhood experience impacts adults – being physically and mentally abused as a child  impacts chemical function, growth and essentially puts the body under a large amount of stress that prevents many normal developmental processes. This kind of trauma follows you into adulthood and leads to anxiety, PTSD, ADD, ADHD and a laundry list of things. People don’t understand this because most people don’t experience this themselves or know someone who has experienced this. In some cases they don’t want to know because they don’t care enough or can’t fathom how the brain works. Your brain doesn’t just shut off or erase those memories. They may not be in the forefront of thought, but they still live there.

I have to remind myself this EVERY DAY. Control what you can and work through your triggers and breathe when you can’t control the behavior or events occurring around you.

Just because I have PTSD doesn’t mean I’m crazy and it doesn’t mean I can’t help others. It doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference. But like everyone else, you need to be able to say “I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t actually help you.”

I told my therapist about number three and he said I couldn’t control the behavior exemplified and pushed onto me, but I can control the relationship I have with clients. I have the ability to analyze the situation and offer assistance because I’m controlling the pace and the interaction. I can’t own the actions that triggered me, but I can own what I’m doing to work through it and prevent it from happening again.

He’s right and I know he is, but again, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to not say these things to myself.

We say things about our appearance or our intelligence when we’re frustrated with something else. I don’t think that we actually believe these things when we say them to ourselves, but we’ve heard them from others so why not own these words too. Most days I feel pretty good about myself. I’m proud of where I am and when I look back at all the before photos, I’m reminded of where I never want to end up again. I don’t believe size equates beauty, but at one time I did. I used to call myself ugly because I was fat and who could possibly love a fat girl. But as I started to find strength in other things like running and lifting and I started to feel more confident in my abilities, I started to feel good about myself. I haven’t used my appearance against myself in a long time, but it does hurt when others try to use it against me instead.

Every now and then, I question competing because while I love it, I’m not blind – I know my body is different. I know there’s a scar across my stomach. People tell me how ugly it is and how noticeable, like I don’t have to wake up to it every day. I won’t lie – I wake up most mornings and forget that I have it. I forget that I had surgery, until I twist and pull something funny or look down in the shower. Yeah, sometimes I forget. When people ask about my scar and if that will prevent me from competing – the answer is always no. I don’t want that to hold me back from trying. Because you only fail the moment you decide to stop trying. When people ask if it will make the judges think twice all I can say is “I hope not, there’s a lot of imperfections on that stage, not just my scar.” I have to remind myself that in the tiny world that is bodybuilding and bikini competing, most competitors haven’t lost the amount of weight that I have. So while we all go through transformations, mentally and physically, the noticeable trauma my body has gone through may be a little greater – having surgery has leveled the playing field. It doesn’t just erase the hard work I have and still to dedicate to myself.

When I think about my list and I try to make sense of it, my head hurts. There’s no making sense of something like this. Why do we kick ourselves when we’re already down? Do we really think it’s going to help us pick right back up and work harder? There’s a reason those with eating disorders struggle to gain control after making what they believe to be a mistake – they figure I’ve already screwed up it’s not going to be much worse if they keep going.

If we can’t be nice to ourselves, why should we expect others to? It’s not even about treat others they way you want to be treated because I’m sure many of us confused what way we want with the way we are. Think about it like, treat yourself the way you want others to and hopefully that’s the energy you pull.

If you’re a single parent, remember you’re doing the best you can with the resources you have.

If you’re  feeling bad about your body, think about how far you’ve come and the kind of you it took to achieve those goals.

Try to remind yourself EVERYDAY that you are trying and that is all you can ask of yourself.

❤ Cristina


This past week I conducted an experiment. I thought it was a pretty important experiment. I told JP and my therapist about it. I told them both that wanted to show others what my old eating habits looked like in comparison to my current day. I think too many people stumble across my page and see the end results and get excited, but they don’t truly understand how far I’ve come.

Of course I share transformation photos, but it’s not hard to understand something physical. I wanted to show people how my decision making has changed. I wanted people to understand that before I cared about health and fitness and being healthy overall, that my decisions sucked. I mostly wanted others to understand how one day of that wasn’t going to change everything that they’ve worked so hard for. I wanted to show others that you can treat yourself and not be derailed. My experiment was slightly overboard. My old normal is far extreme from my new normal, but at one point I liked that normal. My treats now fit pretty well into my plan, and if they don’t fit perfectly, they don’t push me over like that. But the point is I know that some of those who follow me on social media can be easily frustrated and will self sabotage – this looks like 50 shades of gray.

You saw me document it on Instagram and I wrote a blog post recapping it.

Thursday I felt pretty good after all of the food on Wednesday. I think the two worst things were 1. I woke up starving…after a day of consuming 4,400 calories and 2. I was sleepy by the afternoon, I finally felt the crash.

On Friday I woke up and after Thursday’s day of eating on a cut, most of the bloat was off. I felt really good. I felt lean and I felt much more clear headed – less foggy, didn’t get tired until around what would be bed time, except we went on a date.

This morning I was down .2 pounds from Wednesday morning’s starting point of 135.0. I won’t lie I wasn’t expecting that, but at the same time, my body did some crazy losses during prep after refeeds – so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised.

I went to therapy this morning and I told my therapist about it. I told him that I think it was eye opening for some people how eating without purpose adds up quickly. I think the reverse – it was eye opening for some that if they just get back on track, things will go their way with time. Lastly, I told him I thought it helped me see that I am learning about my body – it’s limitations and how it reacts. The experiment was a good reminder for myself, especially as I start thinking about the 2017 season.

No one is immune to frustration. It doesn’t matter your goal, you can find it anywhere.

I told him I thought that doing the experiment helped me see that when I’m in a good place I have complete control and have no issue sticking to my plan.

I finally feel like I have some control. No, I’m not talking about the power struggle with food. I haven’t had those since October, but I also don’t think that’s been the true problem, that was and is just a byproduct of the real problem. I feel like I have some control on my life. What I’m doing with it, the kind of impact I want to make. Almost like, if I looked back could I be satisfied with what I’ve accomplished – well, not quite, but I think I’m getting there or at least have a plan in place.

I told JP this morning while we were running errands that I feel like I will be in a good place when I decide to start competition prep. I feel better than I did in August. I’ve had time to experiment with my body, play with lifting structures – see how and where my body gains muscle and fat mass. Most importantly I took control of my health again without assistance. I relearned a few things and started researching others. I feel more capable now than I did before. I don’t have a crutch and there’s no one to please. No coach, no audience – while there can be pressure from social media.In the morning when I get up, it’s a short list of things to accomplish that will build and accumulate on other lists. But at the end of the day, it’s me and JP getting into bed and shutting off the lights.

There’s 14 days left in the year and I feel like I’ve grown more in the past 64 days than I did in the whole year.

When I look back on the year and think about competing and surgery and the eviction. I think about JP moving home and being jobless – while thankfully short lived. I think about work and school and being on leave.I think about the amount of lattes and cookie crumbs that accompanied my journal. I finally feel like I’m at peace with how this year went.

I grabbed what I could and tried to let go of things and people. I let frustrations fuel me and I tried to pick myself up off the floor over and over. If I couldn’t pick myself up, I tried to let JP. When he didn’t know what to do, we sat there together on the kitchen floor with a box of Oreos and a deck of cards.

I don’t have resolutions for the new year, my goals don’t have a timeline like that. Mostly, I’m impatient and I don’t like to wait -a new calendar year doesn’t mean anything to me except an opportunity to continue to grow, but I can start that today. I mean I started months ago.I guess it took 4,400 calories and two days of detoxing to see how much I can truly control. I’m going to keep my head up and my eyes forward and hopefully in there next year the only time I’m sitting on the floor is because I can’t stop laughing long enough to stand up.

❤ Cristina