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

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

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

Well. Here’s my take.

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

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

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

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

definition

#thanksGoogle

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

Now here’s the definition of empower.

definition 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

❤ Cristina

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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

Adventures with spaghetti squash

I can’t remember the last time that I actively bought a box of pasta and had an Italian night in. Even when I go out, I stay away from pasta. It’s not that I eat low carb or don’t like pasta, but I don’t feel satisfied when I eat it. I do feel full when I eat it, but within 30 minutes I’m staving again; this could be because a serving size isn’t very big or that there isn’t much nutritional value in pasta. Regardless, I’ve sought out alternatives that are lower carb and higher volume so I can stay fuller longer. Spaghetti squash is a vegetable that I’ve used multiple times with a variety of ingredients to keep it interesting and provide a similar taste to my favorite pasta dishes.

Basic how-do cook spaghetti squash

What You’ll Need:

  • large pot
  • water
  • spaghetti squash
  • ice cream scoop

Directions:

  1. Fill a large pot about 75% of the way with water and set to get it boiling.
  2. Wash the outer skin of your spaghetti squash and pat dry with a towel.
  3. With a large and sharp knife cut the squash down the middle, length wise.
  4. With an ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop out the seeds.
  5. Place the squash in the pot and cook until tender. Depending on the size of the squash this could take 20-30 minutes.
  6. Once it’s full cooked, drain the squash and with a fork scrap out the meat of the squash. it’ll cook out in strains, which is where it gets its name from.

Buffalo Chicken Bake

What You’ll Need:

  • cooked spaghetti squash
  • Frank’s Red Hot
  • cream cheese
  • shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • cooked chicken
  • casserole dish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray casserole dish with a little bit of cooking spray. I used a mini bread loaf pan because I was making this for one serving, but you can use any size that you believe will fit all of your ingredients.
  3. Cut chicken into bite size pieces. I used left over chicken that I had already baked. *Make sure your chicken is already cooked.
  4. In a bowl weigh out your spaghetti squash. Since this was one serving, I used 100 grams of squash.
  5. Mix in each ingredient one at a time so they are all fully mixed.
  6. Add in Frank’s Red Hot to taste. I used 3 tablespoons because I like the kick.
  7. Add cream cheese. I used 1 table spoon of fat free cream cheese just a store brand.
  8. Add shredded cheese. I used Mexican cheese blend, but you could use cheddar or Monterrey Jack.
  9. Pour mixed into casserole pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350.

 

Italian Style Spaghetti Squash

What You’ll Need:

  • cooked spaghetti squash
  • Newman’s Own pasta sauce
  • cooked ground turkey
  • shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • small pot

Directions:

This recipe is for one serving so adjust the ingredients as you feel is necessary to make a larger quantity.

  1. In a medium pot  heat up 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of pasta sauce. I used Newman’s Own because it has less sugar than a lot of other brands and therefore less carbohydrates.
  2. Add 150g of cooked spaghetti squash to the sauce and mix. Make sure that the squash is completely covered.
  3. Add in 4 ounces of cooked ground turkey. I cook my ground turkey like I do for Sloppy Joes, nice and crumbly. Also, make sure to drain the grease.
  4. Lastly, add in shredded cheese and mix so the it melts and is stringy.

I add spices to this recipes like basil or oregano. I also will add cooked onions, peppers and mushrooms too if I want more volume. Obviously, it doesn’t fully replace spaghetti, but the flavor is pretty darn close.


I’ve also tried Alfredo sauce and spinach with spaghetti squash, but I wasn’t that big of a fan. These are definitely my top two ways to cook it. It’s also good plain with a little bit of salt as a side too.

I love playing with alternatives and veggies. I hope you get inspired by these two combinations and get creative in the kitchen to think of your own!

 

❤ Cristina

Recipe: Pro-Yo Pie

Being on prep you need to be creative with your ,even if you follow flexible dieting because it can’t be all Oreos and ice cream all the time. I eat a lot of yogurt, specifically Greek yogurt, even outside of prep because it’s a great source of protein and it’s one of the few dairy products that agrees with my stomach. It’s also flexible enough and can work as a dessert.

In college, I developed a sensitivity to dairy – I was tested and it wasn’t a full blown intolerance, but I’ve identified things that make my stomach very upset such as soft serve ice cream, milk and cheesecake. The last one kills me because if you’ve ever been to Cheesecake Factory you know that those are so hard to resist. There are so many possibilities of flavors and styles and now I miss out, but not quite.

A lot of people make protein yogurt or a protein pudding because it has a taste and texture like dessert. This is something I do often and depending on my macros I’ll add granola or fruit to it to round it out and make it more filling.

A few weeks ago, I found mini graham cracker pie crusts at the store and I thought it would be interesting to see how a pro-yo pie would be. My favorite pro-yo to make has cinnamon swirl whey in it and when made with a few other ingredients, it tastes just like cheesecake.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • vanilla extract
  • water
  • plain Greek yogurt: 5.3 ounce container or 150g
  • Splenda
  • 1/2 scoop flavored whey – the kind and brand will change your macros
  • mini graham cracker pie crust
  • Optional items: sprinkles, oreos, whip cream

 

Directions

  1. In a bowl, scoop your yogurt out of the container. I buy the individual yogurt cups when I make this so it’s easy to measure. I also use fat free yogurt, but you can also use 2% if you need the fat macros.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the yogurt and mix slowly. This will thin it out and make it easier to add the whey later.
  3. Once the yogurt and water are mixed out completely, add a teaspoon or two of vanilla extra. This is more to your own taste. You don’t need a lot, but I like a little more vanilla than most.
  4. Add in whey. This is completely up to you on the flavor and the amount. When I made this a few weeks ago I used 7g of chocolate chip cookie dough whey because it was the last of the container – I added a little more vanilla. Tonight when I made this recipe, I used half a scoop of cinnamon swirl. So if you want more protein then add a little more whey, but remember to add a little more water because it’ll be really thick otherwise.
  5. This is the part I usually taste the mixture and decide if and how much Splenda I need to add. Half to one teaspoon is usually enough.
  6. You can either choose to mix in other things like sprinkles or a crushed up Oreo if you want to, but if you don’t, just scoop some of the mix into the pie crust. Not all of the mixture will fit, but that’s why you have a spoon.
  7. Set in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour. I usually make this the afternoon I know I want it for dessert.

The macros for the basic recipe are: 5.3F/20.5C/28.5.

Below are some photos of a variation I made adding in half an Oreo and using the other half as a decoration.

My friend gave me this because I “had”to try the flavor, but she knew I didn’t want a box in the house

 



 


 

❤ Cristina

The power of having a support system

No matter the task you’re taking on, there will be challenges of varying levels. This is a given, nothing is easy. When I started my weightloss journey, I didn’t have a support system or any one person who had verbalized that they believed in me. It was clear to me that to be successful, this had to be about me, for me, and I had to believe that I could accomplish the goals I was creating for myself.

Let me say, that this journey should be about you anyway. It shouldn’t be about getting someone to notice you. It should be about your health, how you feel about yourself and you should be slightly selfish in your goals. No one will make you successful, but they can help support you and give you tools that will lead to success when combined with hard work.

The simple definition of a support system from Merriam-Webster is:

 A group of people who someone help, encouragement, etc.

A more complex definition is:

A network of people that provide an individual with practical and emotional support.

As my journey has evolved and my goals have become more complex, I’ve learned that I can’t do this on my own. It took a lot for me to admit it, but while I had been flexible dieting and macro counting for over a year, I knew I need more guidance when it came to determining when and how to adjust my nutrition. I also had hit a wall in my lifting. I felt great about my lifts, but as far as configuring optimal workouts, I didn’t feel confident that I would have much success.

It’s okay to ask for help

I’ve talked about working with a trainer on my instagram page. We started working together in October and not only has my body changed, but mentally I feel like I’m in a really great place. Working with her has been a partnership. She listens when I say there’s something wrong, like the time I had a tendon rolling over in my wrist and it hurt to curl or the time I had lactic acid build up in my shoulder and it was preventing maximum mobility. She adjusted my workouts while I worked with my chiropractor to fix the physical issues.

When it comes to eating, as long as it fits it gets eaten. This creates balance because ice cream doesn’t always fit, but it also means I don’t need to overload on the veggies either – I learned this hard way. This means that she lets me experiment in the kitchen as long as I’m hitting my macro nutrient goals. Bring on yogurt bowls and vegan stuffed brownies!

*side note – according to the latest nutritional report from the CDC the average American only need 14g of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed – I was consuming way too much for the amount of food I was eating and it was causing some digestive issues.

She does more than just design my workouts and adjust my macros based on my progress. She’s there when I have questions or concerns about my progress. She’s reminded me to trust the process and to not freak out – or at least minimize the freaking out during prep. She is the professional that I hired to keep me on track, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t try to turn to my friends too.

You learn who supports you at your craziest

Throughout this journey I’ve learned who is here for me and who isn’t. Those who are here for me have been willing to listen and learn about why I’m competing or why I’ve lost as much weight as I have. Those who weren’t truly supportive, well, they’re no longer in the picture and it’s not my loss.

My friends have been extremely important in this process. Educating them can be fun and it can be a pain in the ass. The fun part is when they’re willing to experiment with food with you – thanks Jessica for enduring my burrito bowls, protein pancakes and scale portioned meals. The pain in the ass part is when they forget that you’re in dry prep – yeah JP, no bourbon. Or when they don’t realize that brunching in town may kill all your food for the day – looking at you again babe. But the fun part again, is when they tell you that they don’t get it, but they’re proud of you because they know it’s important to you – oh those college friends of mine.

It’s also ok if you don’t have friends physically close to you that don’t understand what you’re doing and why. This isn’t just about my journey, but all journey’s. Because of the stereotypes out there about weightlifting, some of your friends may try to tell you to not try hitting the weight room. Because of other myths about nutrition, some may tell you that you can only clean eat or only calorie count to lose weight. The truth is we are all different and we need to try different methods. For some it’s seeing or doing it that confirms if it’s the right step for them.

I tried macro counting with a clean eating focus during my last prep – by the end I wanted all the limited edition Oreos, that’s when I decided to just macro count and try to make good decisions. I’m down almost 36 pounds from macro counting: the first 24 from clean eating, then I gained 10 pounds back post-show when I wasn’t clean eating or tracking as carefully, then lost 22 with 100% flexibility. I had to learn that it’s ok to stare at the Oreo’s and eat them in moderation. But I wouldn’t have tried being 100% flexible if it hadn’t been for some of the lovely friends I had made on social media.

My friends mostly live in my phone

While I agree, there are aspects of social media that are damaging the new and even some of the older generations, I also believe there’s a lot of good coming from it. For me, it has been about connecting to like-minded people with similar goals and dreams, but maybe different methods. I met Sarah, you probably know her as @fit_badger15, in September 2014, but we started texting and sending each other care packages in December 2014. It’s been over a year since that started. Every month we send the craziest things from protein bars and hot cocoa to t-shirts and mugs. We’ve exchanged Christmas gifts and she sent me goodies from her trip in Ecuador. I also send her postcards while I travel for work. It was Sarah who introduced me to the Bikini Body Guide, or BBG. It’s circuit style training and at the time I needed something new – it was pre-Alaina and post-1st bikini competition. I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted and with her assistance, I dove into BBG and got to my lightest weight at the time 149 in June 2015.

I met Tresa or @not_a_runner in the summer of 2015 and I met her as she was determined to be a powerlifter. Now she’s not so sure, but she knows she loves lifting and that her health is equally as important as her strength. Similar to Sarah, Tresa and I send each other care packages and text more often than I do with friends I’ve known longer. She’s helped me get comfortable with lifting, but also push myself to lift heavier and be confident that I can finish a set. Because of her my squat max increased 25 pounds throughout the fall before I started prep.

The other day on instagram I had posted about the army of people behind me, most of which I have never actually met in person. Maybe I log on too much, but sometimes I need a little reassurance – I believe we all need reassurance sometimes. We need someone there who will believe in us when we don’t. People, who will equally tell you to act like an adult, put on your big girl pants and get your shit together, while in the same breathe tell you it’s okay to feel like crap every now and then.

The support system, whether made up of people you see every day or people you can only “pen pal” with, is important for success. The journey needs to be about you, but it needs to somehow encompass people who can help push you when you want to stand still and help give you the confidence you need when all you want to do is sit on the floor and eat peanut butter. My hard work has gotten me this far, but it’s been paired with someone else’s guidance the past few months and support that I have found in the most unlikely of places.

❤ Cristina

 

Healthy choices, exercising and traveling: My trip to DC

Let’s not pretend that being healthy while traveling is easy. We all know there are many challenges we face. If we’re flying the questions you may ask yourself are: can I bring food into the airport? What restaurants are in my terminal? What snacks are served on the plane? Will I be able to drink enough water during the day?

If you’re driving the questions can be different because yes you can have your own food packed, but is it easy to eat your meal while driving? Is that safe? Will you eat a hot meal cold? How often will you stop to use the bathroom if you’re drinking enough water? Will that add a lot of time to travel?

Also, planning to be healthy on travel is a pain in the ass. Let’s be honest.

Once you’re at your destination there’s a longer list of questions. Will I have access to a gym? Do I have time for a gym? What food is available to me?

I love lists. I love spreadsheets and I’m a planner. I’m organized because it helps me stay on track, not just in my healthy life, but my work life too. I’m in week 9 of prep and I had to take a 3 day trip to Washington DC during week 7. I have a lot more flexibility than most in my work travel because I do say where I’m traveling to and where I’m staying. So let’s start there.

How am I traveling?

Living in Massachusetts I knew I only had the option to fly to DC, so that meant I needed to look at my flights and determine what my eating schedule would be as well as what I would want to eat for the day, including in the airport and on the plane.

As long as your food is solid, it will most likely get through security. You can’t bring water or liquids in, but you can bring in an empty bottle – I brought in a blender bottle since I had packed a protein shake for later in the day while navigating the airport. As a pancake lover, I decided that since my flight was over brunch-ish time, protein pancakes were the way to go. I could make them in muffin form, they’re solid and they travel well. This would be my part of my airport meal. I also packed half a nut butter sandwich because again, solid and portable, but the carbs and protein from the nut butter keep me full for longer, which can make it easier to stick to your plan and not snack throughout the day, like when the stewardess hands you a bag of pretzels. You can also say no to the in flight snack.

 

Bella with a peanut butter pie protein bar on the flight.

Since TSA is a little tricky, I had given myself some extra time before my flight. At home I had looked to see what would be in my terminal – a Starbucks, the love of my coffee life. I had a black coffee with my lunch and I filled up my blender bottle with water I had purchased.

Now it was time to sit back and relax until my flight boarded.

Where am I staying while I travel?

Figuring out the hotel can a pain in the butt because it’s really about your schedule and what you want to accomplish. It’s also about affordability. I’m a fundraiser and I knew where my meetings were going to be, so I looked at hotels that were kind of in the middle. After I found one that fit my budget, I started looking through their site. Having a gym on location is important to me because regardless of how busy my day is, I will get up and make time for my workout. I could tell they had a lot of equipment, but I decided to call and ask the front desk about the facility. Most places don’t mind if you do this, not everyone will be knowledgeable, but they’ll try their best. This hotel had the best gym I had ever seen and I will probably continue to stay there when I travel to DC.

A girl has to eat, what’s going to be on my plate?

Since I knew most of my meals would be out at restaurants, I wasn’t concerned if there was a fridge in the room that I would have access to. If that was a concern I would do the same thing I did with the gym and ask if there is a fridge guests can use for free in their room. Most of the time there’s little space, but you can use the fridge – helpful if you bring yogurt or small snacks with you.

Just two girls with their protein shakes!

Since I was gone for a few days, I knew I would have to check a bag, this meant that I would also have some space to pack snacks. Snacks are important to me because they help me get to the next large meal, they also help supplement what I can’t get while on travel such as protein. Here’s what I packed for my trip.

Snack List:

    • 3 Quest protein shakes
    • 2 servings of Amino Energy aminos
    • 2 Oh Yeah ONE protein bars
    • a bag of Goldfish Grahams – vanilla cupcake flavor
    • a bag of Boom Chicapop Kettle corn
    • a bag of snyders pretzels

a blender bottle

*  also pictured: FlapJacked protein pancake muffins and half a CashewFit on whole wheat cinnamon raisin sandwich

 

It sounds like a random assortment, but bear with me, because it’s actually quite strategic.

This trip had been planned weeks in advance, which meant aside from planning my snacks, I had time to look over the menus for restaurants I would be going to and planning what I would pick from those menus. Some restaurants can be hard because nutritional information isn’t available, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make good decisions when you’re eating out. On Wednesday (the day I landed), I had dinner over happy hour and thankfully the restaurant is a global chain, which means they are regulated to provide nutritional information on their menu. This made happy hour the easiest meal I was having with a donor on this trip. I also was able to enjoy orange glazed sriracha chicken because it fit.

On the Thursday I was in town, I had breakfast on my own, two coffee meetings, a lunch and a dinner. For breakfast I had researched and found a Starbucks near my hotel, perfect for my own morning coffee and I knew they had some healthier options for a meal. I don’t usually eat at Starbucks – those little calorie signs freak me out, but I had posted on IG and got some great feedback from those who do eat there. I got the spinach and feta egg white wrap. Old Cristina or fat Cristina as I call her sometimes, would’ve appreciated the fact that the wrap tasted like a hot pocket. it was really kind of awesome and it kept me full until my mid-morning meeting.

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spinach and feta egg white wrap = classy hot pocket

Instead of diving into every meal and every decision I made, here’s the spreadsheet I made when I was planning this trip. I shared this with my coach because it helped us figure out if I would be eating enough on the trip – definitely a fear of mine because I want to leave room for some of those restaurant treats, but under-eating is just as bad as over-eating.

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I know this looks ridiculous and to some it’s intimidating, but my current goals are different than someone who wants to be just healthy. I used GoogleSpreadsheets to create this, which allowed my coach to update it if she wanted to. On Thursday because 2 meals were hard to fully track you notice there’s a discrepancy in the macros, but trust me they were consumed :]

Will I actually get in a good workout? What if I don’t have time?

This piece truly is up to you. DC is a walking city and I knew I would have a ton of miles on my shoes, but I’m also in competition prep. It’s a very different goal than someone just wanting to make better decisions when on vacation or on work travel. For me, getting my workout in was necessary. In my daily life, I get up at 435/450 – that’s when my alarms go off – for the gym. I also go to bed around 9 pm every night to accomplish this task. Since I had control over my work schedule while in DC, I was able  to be in bed around 9/930 every night, so keeping up with my early morning routine was a piece of cake. In fact, it was easier because all I had to do was go to the 2nd floor for the facility in the building – I save 15 minutes of driving!

Like I mentioned before, this facility was THE BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A HOTEL. I only had to change one exercise on Thursday – bicep curl machine to bicep curls with dumbbells.For my HIIT circuits, I used 2 different bikini body guide or BBG workouts because the only cardio equipment available were treadmills and ellipticals.

Look at all that equipment!

When I came home from DC, I was exhausted according to my Fitbit, I had walked over 50K steps in the 2 days I was actually in the city. I felt good about the decisions I had made with my eating, I also felt good about my workouts. So I wasn’t completely surprised when I checked in and had lost a full pound that week.

Planning can be stressful. Being organized can be hard. My advice would be to write down your goals of your trip and plan according to them. If you want to be healthier, but not perfect – because we’re not, maybe it’s not having bread at the table when you go out. Maybe you have dessert one night, but not two nights in a row. Maybe you are careful about breakfast, but have some fun at dinner. I will encourage you to look at menus before heading out to a new place. I would also encourage you to call ahead at the risk of sounding crazy, trust me they get crazier questions than “how many ounces is the salmon?”

I have an overnight trip to New Jersey this coming Sunday into Monday and then I head to Florida for 5 days for work the following week. I have called the hotels and they all have gym facilities on site.I have also checked about amenities and they have fridges and microwaves so I’ll be able to pick up yogurt or make a microwave protein muffin. I’m exciting to see how I do while I travel. I’m currently 8 weeks out and I’m loving my progress, but I know as the stage day gets closer the struggle may become harder.

Stay strong my friends!

❤ Cristina

Recipe: Mexican Hot Chocolate + PB overnight oats

For my refeed I planned some things that I don’t typically get to eat in the same day or get a chance to eat often. I had mentioned before that I’ve been adding oats into my diet as a way to change up my breakfast and this morning I made Mexican hot chocolate overnight oats, but I added peanut butter because peanut butter makes everything better.

I used my basic overnight oats recipe that I shared a few weeks ago, but here’s what I added.

2 tablespoons of chocolate PB2

When the oats were still dry, I added the PB2 so I could mix it in thoroughly.

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

I add cinnamon to my basic recipe as well, but it’s more of a dash. For this recipe I added an exact amount to get the spice that I wanted.

1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Mexican hot chocolate is hot cocoa with a kick and aside from cinnamon, the kick comes from peppers. Historically, cocoa wasn’t eaten and to drink it herbs and spices need to be added so it wouldn’t taste so bitter. I added cayenne pepper on top of my oats for this kick. Some recipes I’ve seen for from scratch Mexican hot chocolate call for chile pepper.

Mixed in, the oats are spicy without making your mouth burn up. I know some people say they can’t handle spicy foods, but this is just enough and with Trader Joe’s PB cups this was a perfect way to start my refeed day.

 

Enjoy!

❤ Cristina

Recipe: egg stuffed tomato

I love eggs. I eat them all the time, but I’ve been playing with how I make them so I can incorporate more veggies into my day as well as keeping my meals interesting. I’ve seen posts of people baking eggs in muffin pans to make mini quiches or egg cups with ham or bacon. I figure I could do something similar, so I tried baking an egg in a tomato. While I was disappointed that the yolk was completely cooked, it was still soft.

Since tomatoes are low in carbs,I  paired it with a flax and oat pita, which gave me something to put it on and not just look like a crazy lady shoving a tomato into her mouth.

This week I made them again, except one came out running and I was so pumped. I also got a great baby loaf of olive and herb bread from a local bakery to use with it. Cream + Egg + Tomato = freakin’ heaven.

So enough about me stuffing my face, here’s the recipe.

What you’ll need:

  • whole tomato a little smaller than a fist
  • 1 egg
  • cooking spray
  • small baking dish or muffin pan

Directions

Pre-heat your oven to 350.

In your baking pan or muffin pan spray a little cooking spray. Your egg will overflow out of the tomato and this will allow it to come right out and not stick.

Cut the top of your tomato off. Try to not cut off too much tomato.

With a spoon, cut and scoop out the seeds in the middle. I scooped out a little meat to make room for the egg, but I didn’t need to cut out a bunch.

Place tomato in baking pan so that it doesn’t move around.

Crack your egg into the tomato. It’ll overflow so don’t be worried, that’s what the cooking spray is for!

Place pan in the middle of the shelf, for me this meant about 4-6″ from the edge of the shelf. Bake your tomato for about 15-25 minutes. When I cooked 2 it was closer to 25 minutes. I kept checking on my tomato every 5 minutes or so to see if the white of the egg was cooked since that’s what I care about.

After your satisfied with the doneness of your egg/tomato, pull it out of the oven and use a fork to loosen any egg white that poured over into the pan. I also used the fork to lift the egg out of the pan so it doesn’t roll around. I didn’t do this with the first egg out of two this morning and the fully cooked yolk popped right out. I was sad for a minute and then put it back in place once it was safely on my plate.

Macros – depends on the size of the tomato mostly. I used 200g of tomato between two tomatoes + 2 whole eggs = 9.4f/9.8c/13.8p

Have fun cracking!

 

❤ Cristina

Recipe: Overnight Oats

The only thing that I can say about overnight oats is that I wish I had made these sooner. I started making them last month. I believe it’s because I was nervous about having too much nut butter in the container and going out of my macros. Well, I won’t lie, to ensure that I got all of the cashew butter mixed into my oats that I made last night, I scrapped the last bit of the container and weighed it. The put it back in the container. Obviously, not the point of using the jar, but overnight oats can be measured or not. It’s your preference.

This is my basic recipe for overnight oats. You can add whatever you want, just remember that macros and calories change as the brands or ingredients change, but you’re smart enough to figure that out.

What You’ll Need:

  •  1/2 cup rolled or steal cut oats – I used rolled oats because nutritionally there’s not much difference 
  • 5 ounces of almond milk – I had vanilla Almond Breeze on hand
  • 1/2 scoop protein
  • cinnamon – optional 
  • vanilla extract – optional 
  • container

Directions:

Measure out a 1/2 cup of oats (or a serving according to your label) in your container.

Add 5 ounces or 2/3 cup of almond milk (you can use any milk, I have a dairy sensitivity to certain products). To measure I used a liquid measuring cup.

Add a little cinnamon to taste and vanilla extract. Stir until cinnamon appears to be well mixed. Add protein powder if desired. 

Place in fridge for overnight because you know, they’re overnight oats. I’m sure they could sit for a few hours if you wanted them for later in the day, but overnight allows them to really absorb the milk.

morning after

This is the basic recipe that I follow every time I make over night oats. Most oats I will add a nut butter. I keep a million different kinds and flavors in my pantry, and they all have very different nutritional value. So it depends on the day as to which one I use. Below are some photos of oats I have made in the past few weeks. I’ve listed the extra ingredient and the macros for them.

Side note: I add half a scoop of whey/casein blend to my oats for more protein. This makes them thicker, you may need to adjust liquid for protein powders. I have found 2/3 cup is enough for thickness.

Have fun with your flavors!

1T Salted Caramel Nuts and More +7 mini PB cups from Trader Joe’s 15F/48C/12P

Same as above

Oats in the actual cashew butter jar

2T Caramel French Toast Cashew Fit + FF Whip and Cinnamon 17.8F/42.5C/15.5P

❤ Cristina

How to make work fit your healthy lifestyle

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while and I’m sitting down and doing it.

One of the excuses I’ve used in the past in relation to eating healthy and/or working out is that my work gets in the way. In some instances I would say well I have an event to go to and it’s hard to mingle when everyone else is eating. This is true, when you see someone drinking wine or eating mini quiches, you want it. When you have a lot day of meetings it can be exhausting to get to the gym. Completely true, getting there is most of the battle. The problem with these two thoughts is that you’re putting something else above yourself. While my career is important to me, I know my health is too. When I’m eating well, I have more energy and I’m happier. When I get my workout in, I’m more productive and again, happier.

I travel for work a few times a month and I meet people for lunches and dinners, all of these are day trips, but it still adds the hard task of staying on track. Most restaurants don’t have an easy way to track their meals, but if you have an idea of portions then eating out can be easier than you think.

Most of my success I have to attribute to meal prepping and planning.

Last month I went a conference that last two nights and 2 days. I have been to day conferences before and I know that they usually involve mini muffins, juice and coffee for breakfast; salad with very little protein for lunch and dinner is on your own. I LOVE mini muffins, but I don’t like the extra sugar and wasted carbs that come with them. I knew that was going to be something I wanted to skip. I also don’t drink juice. Even when they say they aren’t from concentrate, they have high sugar content. Again, why waste precious carbs on something so empty?

I went into this with a goal: I wanted to stick to my competition prep lifestyle as much as possible. So I took what I knew and went from there. The first thing I knew was that the hotel had a gym I would have access to. I honestly had no excuse to not use it in the morning. So I packed two days workout clothes, headphones, lifting gloves and shoes. I didn’t know what kind of equipment there would be, but I knew I could improvise if I needed to. Since I had planned on lifting and I knew that there was very little protein typically served at these functions I packed 2 servings of my cellucor whey protein. Scooped, bagged and in a tupperware so it wouldn’t spill.

The next thing I knew is that I really like a high protein and carb breakfast. This always keeps me full the longest and helps me prevent snacking. Since I’m picky with weighing things that I can’t scan, I brought my own apples, one for each day.

I called the hotel to see if there was going to be a fridge in the room that I could use for free. Guess what? There was. So I also brought Chobani Greek yogurt: 1 they were one sale, 2 perfect portions for breakfast.

I looked at the conference schedule and noticed that lunch would be later than I was used to on both days, so I packed snacks. I packed fun carbs, protein and healthy fats:

  • Scooby Snack graham cracker packs
  • Mozzarella cheese string cheese
  • Quest bars
  • Kind Bar
  • Pretzels
  • Caramel Rice Crisps (think mini rice cakes)

I have sad obsession with string cheese, but it’s got great fat and protein. At 80 calories, it’s great to help hold you over until you get a plate in front of you. That plate was definitely my concern the first day because like I mentioned I knew breakfast items weren’t well rounded. To save myself some heartache, I brought 1 meal prepped meal of chicken, brown rice and asparagus.

I’m not saying that you need to do this to be serious about your health, but if you have any concerns you should take matters into your hands, so I did. I’m glad I did. Lunch was a salad with some romaine mix and maybe 2 ounces of chicken with a side of bread. I actually had people staring at my lunch and saying that they wish they had thought ahead.

Even though it sounds like I brought a lot, I was able to fit it in a normal size lunch bag that fit into my work purse, which could fit a small child in it :] I had an ice pack so everything would last the day and it eased my mind that my food was on track. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself though. With Starbucks on the main floor, I had a blendicano post-workout both mornings and the second day of the conference there was a cocktail hour during the closing.

Here comes the sneaky, everyone else is eating and I want to as well. You have to make to decision, does it fit my goals today? does it fit my goals tomorrow? will I beat myself up if I eat it? I have had a bad relationship with food in the past. I’ve had moments of binging, just like many women have, but the best way I find to prevent that is to not tell yourself you can’t have something. One bad meal isn’t going to hurt you, just like one good one isn’t going to make you thin overnight. I skimmed the room and saw what they had laid out. From pitas and hummus (very typical) to chocolate covered strawberries and some mini custards and dessert cups, cheese platters and alcohol.

Knowing I wanted to be able to enjoy a good dinner I grabbed one strawberry and a few pieces of cheese and pita. I know the problem can be saying stop, you’ve had enough, but there can also be a problem depriving yourself. I don’t believe packing my own food prevented me from enjoying my time at the conference, I think it gave me piece of mind and allowed me to scope out what food options there were. Something as small as bringing my water bottle helped I me hit one of my goals: at least 160 ounces of water. I don’t always hit this, but I knew I could focus on it.

I don’t think that these concepts are ones you can use for just travel, if you sit in an office like I do, then bring them to work daily. I keep a gallon jug of water at my desk and I fill my water bottle from it. I bring my meal prepped meals to the office and put them in the fridge in a bag with my name on it. There’s nothing wrong with packing a lunch. I also work out on my lunch hour sometimes. I work two jobs and it can be hard to fit it in during normal hours, but I know I can always take my hour break at work. I can always use the gym on campus. Don’t have a gym? Maybe walk around the building or a few laps on the floor. Maybe walk up and down the stairwell.

I love my job, but I can’t let it dictate my health. I sit down almost all day, and even that can lead to poor food choices. If you want this, do it for yourself. Recognize that small changes can be made. Don’t let work be another excuse.

 

 

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❤ Cristina