Wellness Refocused Education: Alcohol

I can’t have wine. I can’t have beer. I can’t go out.

I’ve heard this from a few clients. I’ve read it and heard it from a few people online. When I started, it’s something that I said myself.

It’s possible to still have a beer or a glass of wine and lose weight and create a healthy lifestyle. I kept alcohol in my plan during my last competition prep and saw the lowest body fat percentage I have ever had. This isn’t something many people practice, but in my last prep, it’s something I wanted to keep in for when I wanted a drink with dinner or date night. I wanted the ability to have a drink if I felt comfortable with having one work in my day.

Alcohol consumption and weight loss comes down to a few things.

  1. Maintaining a caloric deficit consistently over time.
  2. Determining how you feel about the choice of having a drink.

Weight loss/fat loss occur over time. While weight can fluctuate greatly day-to-day, true fat loss occurs over a period of time longer than a few days. You need to be in a caloric deficit over that period and that can be created through your nutrition protocol and workout programming.

The mental aspect of dieting is something that I talk about heavily with my clients because I don’t believe in eating things you don’t like (you won’t adhere to your plan if you don’t like it) and you also need to be comfortable or at least ok with the ramifications (if any) of your choices.

Three questions I get often are:

  • Why doesn’t alcohol have a nutrition label?
  • How do I track alcohol?
  • Should I leave space in my diet for alcohol? i.e. should there be an allotted number of calories or macros for alcohol to replace food?

Before we answer these questions, let understand alcohol a little bit better.

When we talk about alcohol as a consumable like beer, we’re meaning ethanol. Ethanol is a specific type of alcohol that you find in beer, wine and distilled spirits. Alcohol and ethanol are used interchangeably.

Alcohol is technically a macronutrient.

Chemically they are structurally similar to carbohydrates. Chemically, carbohydrates are C6H12O6 whereas ethanol alcohol is C2H5OH. Alcohol is similar to carbohydrates because they’re created from fermented carbohydrates in a process called ethanol fermentation or alcoholic fermentation.

Image result for alcoholic fermentation formula

Alcohol has 7 calories associated per gram. This makes them more calorically dense than carbohydrates and protein, but less calorically dense than fat (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Ethanol is a specific type of alcohol that you find in beer, wine and distilled spirits.

Alcohol provides no nutritional value, but it has energy.

So, if it’s a macronutrient why isn’t it on a nutrition label?

While the FDA and USDA are regulatory entities for food and supplements, they don’t regulate alcohol. That’s the short answer. Alcohol is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). This organization doesn’t require that companies provide nutritional information on their products. However, in 2004 a ruling called the Federal Alcohol Administration Act allowed TTB to implement labeling regulations as long as the information was accurate and not misleading to consumers. The FAA Act also had restrictions about marketing and statements in relation to benefits of alcohol. Since the FAA Action, more alcohol companies have tried to appease health conscious consumers by adding nutrition labels, however, if you look closely, you’ll see in many cases the calories don’t match the nutritional values provided on the label.

The reason – alcohol isn’t a nutrient that is usually provided on a label, and since much of the carbohydrates are converted into alcohol only those not converted are accounted for on the label.

Below is a label of Angry Orchard Hard Cider. We all know that apples are carbohydrates and we know carbohydrates is a fancy name for sugar. You’ll see that calories, carbohydrates and sugars are accounted for on the label, but if you multiply 31g of carbohydrates by 4 calories per gram, you get 124 calories, not 210. That’s not to say that there are truly 84 calories or 12g of alcohol in this bottle, but you get the idea – the energy is accounted for, but not the nutrient.

This was in the fridge at JP’s parents house. Notice how it lists carbohydrates as 5g (which is 20 calories) and at the top it says calories from alcohol 120 (roughly 17g). I’m not sure if this is something that we will be seeing more of, but I do think it allows people to make more healthful decisions – nutritionally and psychologically.

How do you track it if you’re counting macros?

I recommended threeways to accommodate alcohol into their plan.

1. Since it’s chemically similar to carbohydrates, you can over-accommodate by taking the total calories of the drink and dividing by 4 calories (1g of carbohydrates) to determine how many grams of carbohydrates you would use to account for your drink.

2. Calorically, since they’re close to fats at 7 calories per gram, you can divide by 9 calories (1g of fats) and determine how many grams of fats you want to use to account for your drink.

Both of these ways to accommodate alcohol aren’t going to be perfect – there’s no perfect way to account for it. Even if you’re counting calories, many people aren’t measuring all of the ingredients in their drinks and are estimating their consumption – especially if they’re ordering out.

3. The most common way I recommend they accommodate alcohol into their plan is to calculate it similarly to above and accepting and allowing themselves to eat in a surplus that day. I hardly ever recommend that clients substitute alcohol for food. Not only is alcohol not nutritious but decreasing food will also amplify the impacts that alcohol can have on a body such as stimulant effects.

Early in my journey, I made the mistake of attempting to leave space in my day for a drink to go out and it hits you like a ton of bricks if you’re not careful. Now, if I have a drink I’ve actively made the decision to have it and go over my calories for the day. This doesn’t mean that I load up and go over excessively. In many cases I’m putting my body into maintenance range, not necessarily a surplus.

We’ve talked about how the body breaks down certain nutrients from complex to simple forms and we’ve talk about how some things are broken down at different rates. As a liquid, alcohol is readily absorbed from the both the stomach and the small intestine – it’s not digested before reaching these two organs (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Foods containing protein, fat and fiber help slow down absorption rates of alcohol and therefore slowly the effects of it.

After alcohol enters the bloodstream, it moves to the liver where it’s broken down. The liver produces two enzymes that break down alcohol – alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) (Thompson & Manore, 2015). These enzymes break down alcohol so that it’s energy can be readily available to the body.  After the energy has been made ready, the body only has two options – use it for energy if caloric needs haven’t been met or convert it to fatty acids and store it for later.

While age, gender and weight can impact how alcohol impacts a person, the rate at which alcohol breaks down once it reaches the liver can’t be altered regardless of the myths out there.

Why do so many people cut it out of their diets if you can still lose weight and fat when consuming alcohol?

Again, there’s no nutritional value and it’s easy over consume energy through alcohol consumption. It’s not just from alcohol in beverages that the calories come from, many who enjoy mixed drinks are adding calories through sugary mixers and additions likes cherries and whipped cream. Other negative behaviors like over-eating as well as heavy drinking are also associated with alcohol consumption.

It’s possible that there are some benefits to light or moderate alcohol consumption. Resveratrol is a phytochemical found in red wines, grapes and other plants that can play a role in limiting cellular damage and help lower risk of certain chronic diseases (Thompson & Manore, 2015). However, the amount of resveratrol in wines may be too little to make a meaningful impact and therefore a purified supplement of resveratrol would be recommended. Much research has found links between moderate alcohol consumption and lower chronic disease, but not causation. “Clinical studies are limited by their observational nature as well as for the difficulties to abstract the benefits of wine from other confounders” meaning that it can be hard to determine if the benefits were from the wine or other healthy positive behaviors (Artero, Artero, Tarin & Cano, 2015). There are clear risks to drinking too much alcohol such as higher risk of chronic disease like impaired bone health, pancreatic injury and diabetes, abdominal obesity, cancer.

There is no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for alcohol, however, moderation per gender is encouraged. Moderation for women is one drink per day and no more than two drink per day for men.

Similarly to deciding if you should have a dessert after dinner or an extra serving of what would be considered a treat, you should feel confident in the decision to participate. Having a glass of wine or a bottle of beer shouldn’t make you feel derailed or feel like you’re ruining progress. It should be accounted for in whatever way you believe will be helpful. If it’s moderating the rest of the day and acknowledging that you will be out of a deficit that day – then so be it. If it’s not counting it, but going about your day tracking other items – then so be it. Just don’t allow yourself to become out of control.

As for me, I enjoy a beer with dinner. I like a cocktail when it’s hot. Sometimes I put liquor in my coffee when we make brunch.

Cheers!

❤ Cristina

References

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (2018, July 2). Beverage Alcohol. Retrieved from Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: https://www.ttb.gov/alcohol/bev-alc.shtml

Artero, A., Artero, A., Tarin, J. J., & Cano, A. (2015). The impact of moderate wine consumption on health. Maturitas, 3-13.

Department of the Treasury: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (2004, April 7). Caloric and Carbohydrate Representations in the Labeling and Advertising of Wine, Distilled Spirits and Malt Beverages. Retrieved from Department of the Treasury: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: https://www.ttb.gov/rulings/2004-1.pdf

ScienceDirect. (2018, July 2). Ethanol fermentation. Retrieved from ScienceDirect: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/ethanol-fermentation

Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2015). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. Boston: Pearson.

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A Week in Review and Week 3 of the Reverse Diet

Last week was the third week in my reverse diet to maintenance. I’ve already  surpassed the macros that were prescribed when I was 3.5 weeks into my reverse before surgery. It’s pretty damn exciting to see what the body can do when it has proper nutrients. It’s also crazy to see how much food one can actually consume. Obviously the foods your selecting determine the quantity that you’re eating, but regardless, I’m eating more and maintaining my weight. Well, I was until the end of the week.

Let’s review shall we?
This was the week of the big move. Stress levels were high, I cried more than a normal person should and I had a little more fun with my food than I normally do. But it did start out good, well kind of.

If I could ignore Sunday I would. Holy hell, what a cluster fuck. We started to load the larger items into the storage unit to then break the key in the lock and get locked out of our storage unit. Way less than ideal and led to tears and yelling.

But then something kind of cool happen in the midst if that. A bunch of my Instagram followers have started using my coach as their trainer because a lot of them have seen my progress and then done their research on her. Cool and weird, but maybe it’s a sign that she’s a great coach. Someone gifted me a month of free training with her. I had already paid until July, but now I’m good until the end of August when we start prep. I cried because 1. I was already frustrated, but 2. How freaking crazy is that? Someone told her that I was inspirational and impacted them so this was their way to pay it forward – not the exact words, but yeah. I say it all the time- I’m by doing anything special, and I’m still always surprised when people say things like this. Maybe one day I won’t be so surprised, but until then I’m just going to be in the corner with my jaw on the floor.

Sunday night resulted in burgers and calamari. We had our first date at this place, it’s called Brew City. They have the beer selection for draft beers, but after the Sunday we had beer was not happening. From sweating through the day and trying to keep up with water both JP and I threw off our electrolytes. So salty food was slightly necessary and that point we didn’t really care about tracking.

It’s equally possible that we didn’t care so much that we also picked up a cupcake to share too… Oops, #sorrynotsorry.

I’ve moved on from my lack of tracking and I hope you do too. Anyway, Monday.

Monday was A BIG DAY because I got cleared to resume everything. My surgeon doesn’t want to see me until April 2017. We will take photos then of the progress. I was also cleared to not wear my garment unless I felt like I needed it. This made me so excited. I would be able to run again and not die in the 80 degree heat this summer. Everything is healing nicely and my scar looks great. However, I have decided to wear it during hard cardio because the impact of hitting the ground during a run or sprints is pretty damn uncomfortable at the moment. I also wore it while we moved because I swell with the heat and last week was HOT.

Tuesday was a more eventful day in a positive way at work; I had a luncheon in downtown and that meant I got to throw on my heels and put on a fancy dress. I bought this dress in March, when I was 135 pounds and toward the end of competition prep. It was at that point I knew surgery was what I wanted. I love this dress, but wearing it in March, in Florida with spanx on underneath was not ideal. I didn’t want that to be my normal. Wearing this dress on Tuesday made me feel like a million dollars. It fit how it should and hugged where it should. I never felt weird wearing it except when I had to remind myself that sitting down wasn’t making me look bad.

Tuesday night we cupcaked! After a successful day at work, this seemed right. I’ve become friends with the owner of Kadoodles near Worcester and after seeing her Heath Bar Crunch cupcakes over the weekend I was like I need to obtain those this week! I posted on their Instagram asking if they would have more, so she made two for me and JP and set them aside. So Tuesday we had 1.5 cupcakes because I didn’t realize the gave me two Heath Bar and I picked up a Samoa Cupcake too. Well, you can never have too many cupcakes, right? We had these while we took down the Christmas tree. We both were a little emotional about the tree coming down unwillingly, but this was the perfect way to celebrate. So we packed a lot on Monday and Tuesday we packed some more and the tree came down. Close to that chapter. 

Wednesday was a standard rest day. I wished I was at they gym in the morning, but instead I cleaned and packed. Then we celebrated Waffle Wednesday. I’m weird and I don’t care who knows it. I think Waffle Wednesday, Taco Tuesday are life. I have Pancakes EVERY Monday too. Yes, Pancakes get capitalized. As soon as these were devoured, we cleaned and packed away the waffle iron. It was a sad moment.

I had a work retreat during the day, which made the day go by fast, until out of nowhere I was exhausted. Maybe it was the packing and lack of sleep finally catching up to me. The stress certainly wasn’t completely released at the gym. Mid-week was kind of rough. But I stuck to my guns and packed my snacks and lunch.

My coworkers watched me eat 5 different times and drink 100 ounces of water. One clapped when I finished the jug off, he was impressed. My boss looked at him and said “you know she does that every day, right?” I laughed because I do drink a ton of water daily, but we all have offices so it’s not noticed as much, however, they all know I eat a lot of food.

Wednesday night was still as warm as it was during the day and we needed to escape the apartment. It was soul sucking to say the least. We took a 2 mile round trip walk to the grocery store. Picked up a diet soda and Powerade and then walked home.

My second leg day falls on a Thursday and during the move I wasn’t super thrilled to be leg lifting, but it needed to get done. So I threw on my crazy clothes and fit in my morning workout before the day got busy.

On the way to the storage unit we stopped for coffee because that’s what helps make the world go round. InHouse Coffee is a gem that many don’t realize exists. They make their own grounds and have ridiculous flavors like: Brownie Toffee Crunch. What do you think I got in my cup? So good and helped kick off the morning.

More craziness ensued when the bank started being difficult, but we had also stopped by the post office on the way home to find a lovely package from Alicia with the perfect note and goodies to get us through the next week. I’ve already tried two of the bars she sent me and I’m planning the others for this week.

As it turned out, the bank’s errand runner couldn’t come on Thursday after all, since the agreement never specified that I needed to be out by 11 am on Thursday, instead of the afternoon like had been discussed. We were able to stay another night and get the rest done on Friday. That gave us more time and meant more could be moved directly into the apartment. We wouldn’t need to get a hotel room like we thought we might and stress could go down a little bit. To relax, we showered then headed for the Farmer’s Market and dinner.

At the market I found a mermaid Cristina cookie and yes that’s what I am calling it and have been calling it since I saw it.

Since we knew dinner was going to be heavy, we decided to not eat it Thursday and instead we had it on Friday. The prettiest sugar cookie ever and it tasted amazing too! Dinner was from Mezcal, a restaurant also in Worcester. They have the best guacamole and even though we kept saying we didn’t need it, it came down to “Fuck it, I want it.” So we picked buffalo chicken guacamole out of a plethora of flavors to choose from. Sadly, it wasn’t spicy enough so we asked for some hot sauce and I poured it on. Sometimes I just want my mouth on fire.

My entree was my alternative go to – chicken fajitas. Typically, I eat all the meat and veggies. I don’t eat the tortillas, or I’ll only have one. I usually kill the salsa and guac too. That’s exactly what I did because yeah, I had already gone over my macros for the day, but I had also walked almost 7 miles and lifted for 10 hours. No reason to add more damage to the nutrition, but I also couldn’t get too mad at myself either.

See FitBit stats from Thursday below.

See? I really couldn’t be mad.

Friday was THE BIG DAY. After my workout, I came home to find JP already packing the van and cleaning. We were rushing around and I was already exhausted. My workout had invigorated me and then I felt knocked down again. I made breakfast, which was a special treat. I had ordered Doughbar Doughnuts and they had come in. So these were quick and easy to eat along with our egg whites before really getting the show on the road.

After some crap and people being ridiculous, we were out and at the new place around noon. We unpacked a ton and got a lot set up. We stopped by Birchtree for lunch and to pick up bread because they are closed this week for vacation. It’s very sad, my heart is breaking. We both agreed to keep it lighter for Friday night dinner, so we had Panera. Salads for both of us with chicken for protein.

We were so close to being able to relax. Then I checked my FitBit.

Yeah, thank God that was bed time for us.

Saturday. Well, I have never liked rest days and I had never been more thankful for one. So naturally I slept until 6 and woke up. I mean that’s late for me since I’m up at 430 during the week for the gym. Sleeping in is actually tough for me.

I did my check-in with Alaina keeping in mind macros had been shit the second half of the week. And aside from some lower swelling from the heat and lifting boxes all day, I felt ok enough. I think the photos weren’t too bad.

The scale, however, reflected the swelling, the increase in sodium and lack of proper balance with hydration.

Whatever, it’s one week. Shit happens. The guacamole was good. The cookie was good and my legs were sore AF from everything we had been doing. Something had to give a little and this was going to be it.

Surprisingly, Saturday’s meals were excellent, water was better and because EVERYTHING was moved into the new place, we had a lot less to worry about.

FitBit check?

 

And somehow 7 miles happened on a light day.

We did take a break from unpacking and cleaning to shower and check out the local car show that JP had been talking about for a few days. It was pretty cool. It’s mostly muscle cars. Lots of Mustangs in lots of colors. Of course, whenever something looked interesting JP stuck his head in to see the details of the interior and the engine.

After a day of not being as stressed, along with a much better following of my nutrition, I felt like a lean bean on Sunday when I woke up. I weighed myself just to see what the difference was and it was a pound. So down a pound from the morning before and up a pound from last week’s check in.

While I’m excited about my reverse, I emailed Alaina the Sunday weigh in from my phone and suggested that we hold of this week from an increase because I wasn’t hitting my nutritional goals last week and I know that if I do this week, it’ll balance out. I have new workouts in hand, I had emailed her in the middle of the week asking to add some specific exercises back into the routine and great minds think alike because she already had added almost everyone I asked for.

It’s going to be a better week. Last week, all things considering wasn’t terrible, just stress levels were high, I wanted to cry and there was more yelling than normal. I am still tired and slightly cranky like a 5 year old who missed nap time, but I’m optimistic about this week.

I dropped JP off at the airport a few hours ago and I’m actually sitting in a cafe in Wegman’s writing this. I do need groceries and I promise I bought a snack so I wouldn’t mooch their internet. It felt good to sit down and just brain dump the past week.

So overall – macros: on point until Wednesday and not so much again until Saturday. Workouts: pretty solid every day. My body kind of caught up to the pain on Saturday, but thankfully leg day on Sunday did help with stretch the muscles again.

I’m meal prepping some things tonight so nutrition can be on point. Bella is with my backpack so she can help pick out snacks. It’s weird not having JP here, but I guess this was our normal before and hopefully it won’t be our normal for too much longer. I’m heading to check out and see what Halo Top flavors are available. I hope everyone had a great Monday and that your Tuesday doesn’t drag ass like Monday’s normally do.

 

❤ Cristina

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Video of my stomach from April 7th

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

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

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

negative 1

not so bad

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

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

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

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

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

side by side

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

Have patience because it’s going to take time.

  1. Morning ab shot

ab shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

butt

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

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

comparison

  1. Protein gelato sandwich with a Complete Cookie

ice cream cookie

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

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

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

❤ Cristina

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

 

6 of 84

Today closes the first week back into BBG mode. I’m pleased with the circuits and totally forgot how much leg and cardio combo day kicks my ass. It’s not that I can’t handle squats or lunges, but the design of the circuit is definitely a mind-fuck for your legs. Before they realize what they’re doing, you’re done with the circuit and wipe out. My legs were a good sore until about Tuesday, but so be it. Progress doesn’t happen from sitting on your peach.

For two cardio days, I worked on running intervals. I have a timer that I use to set rounds. I do 20 rounds, 45 seconds of running with a 15 second break. Depending on how my legs and hips feel – mostly my hips – I vary the pace. Most days I start with a 6.1 or 6.2 on the treadmill and add .1 mph every few rounds until about 7.0. Other days I will stay between 6.2 and 6.7 and be happy. Regardless I try to get at least 2 miles in, even if it means a good run when the rounds are done. 4.14 miles added to my shoes this week.

My goal is to make all my cardio days, running days. I also want to start adding a few more rounds every few weeks to the intervals. I like how I feel when I run and finish a solid distance in good time. It’s the same feeling I get when I hit a new PR in lifting. Completely satisfied and ready to set a new goal.

I’ve planned out my meals for tomorrow and Saturday, and I will be working on Sunday’s meal plan tomorrow – since I do my grocery shopping on Saturdays.

Here’s my week in photos. What have you accomplished this week that you’re excited about?

 

#TransformationTuesday

#yolkporn

Post-run “my outfit is awesome” selfie


Baby biceps


#ThrowbackThursday post: Left- 240+, Middle: 175, Right: 153ish


Two weeks difference: July 21 v August 4

 

New goodies to try

 
❤ Cristina

Transitioning from cutting to maintaining…

Saturday I got the shock of being a size 4. While most people would probably say “be happy, be excited, or who cares” mentally for me it was a lot. I’m officially smaller than I was when I started my freshman year of college. I also weigh more and as we all know, the more muscle gain the less the scale matters because composition changes so much regardless of weight when lifting is involved. 

  
Yesterday, JP and I were talking about beach trips for the summer and I asked what he thought about me wearing a bikini out in public. Aside from competition, I haven’t worn a bikini in public since high school. Just a quick recap: I graduated from high school in 2007, started gaining weight drastically at the end of 2008 and my highest weight was in 2011 at 240+ pounds and a size 24. 

Wearing a bikini to the beach is kind of a big deal because it’s more than 3 minutes on stage. 

He asked me “does Cristina feel comfortable wearing a bikini in public?” I thought about it and said “I think so.” The truth is, I have no idea. I joke with him about my loose skin. If I pull my stomach to make the loose skin flat, my navel moves almost 3″ up and there are stretch marks; which bother me less than they did in the beginning, but sometimes make me roll my eyes.

During Week 2 of BBG I took a photo of myself in the bikini I’ll be wearing this summer. It’s the practice suit I had for my show last fall. It fits pretty well and I like it a lot, but it’s still an adjust from throwing a shirt on and some shorts and jumping in a pool. I took a photo last night the end of Week 7 of BBG in the same suit. I’m pretty pleased with the results between the two photos and there’s been more progress than I thought. I mentioned in a previous post that I’m under 150 pounds and it was a huge achievement, so of course I need to expect a solid change because I have lost about 6 pounds doing Kayla. 

  
I went hiking today for the holiday instead of resistance training, I’ll fit that in tomorrow and we’re officially in Week 8 out of 12 for the first round. I’m looking forward to see what happens, but I also know I need see what maintenance will look like. I flex diet and macro count my food, but cutting macros are different than maintenance macros. I know it’ll be an adjustment when I change it up, right now it’s crazy to think I might actually be close to the weightloss part of my journey. A little over 3 years and it might finally be here. 

Kind of relieved. Kind of freaked out because I never thought about the transition from losing to maintaining. Mostly excited. 

I hope everyone else is having a great Memorial Day. I loved the long weekend and today was a great day for a hike and later were having some treats we don’t typically keep in the house 🙂 here are some photos from our hike! 

 

Boston skyline

  

Checking out the map

  

Action shot down the hill

  

Post lunch smiles

 
❤️ Cristina

Woah where did this week go?

Seriously? Has anyone else had to ask themselves this question today? Living in New England, many of us were able to celebrate Patriot’s Day or Marathon Monday by not having to work. For me that meant getting to the gym early, heading home to get laundry and meal prep underway. I closed out the Monday by working the closing shift too. I had a work breakfast meeting on Tuesday, which made the morning zoom. It was followed by work lunches on Wednesday and Thursday… Friday I had a workshop in Connecticut and then boom, Hello Saturday! You can see the dilemma? No, neither can I, except I sadly feel like this means that the weekend is going to zoom by as well.

Motivation Monday comparison

 

Let’s back up a minute. I had three food work-related meetings this week. This is part of my day job, but sometimes it can leave me stressed out. With hopes to prevent a melt down at the table, I always look at the menu before hand and try make a game plan. I then figure out my macros for the rest of the day based on what I’m consuming at this meal. I’m really excited about the decisions I made this week and I was able to maintain about a 400 calorie deficient while hitting my macros accordingly.

My weigh-in on Wednesday shocked me with a 1.75 pound loss bringing me to 151.25 pounds – I’m only 1.25 pounds heavier than I was at my November show. Holy crap! I had to step on the scale 4 times to make sure it wasn’t lying! I have lost almost 4 pounds by “doing Kayla” as all the cool kids say. I attribute a lot of this to my food consumption and water intake as well the workouts, which were strong all week.

I had to take a picture because I barely believed it!

Comparison since starting BBG. The middle of my stomach is starting to shrink and lift.

 

This also includes a lifting session I had on Thursday to replace low intensive steady cardio… Sorry Kayla, I needed some deadlifts in my life. Happily enough, I can report that my deadlifts were solid and I hit a new PR of 110 pounds for 3 sets of 10. The first set was a little rough, but the second and third sets were solid were form and execution.

The one downfall this week happened on Thursday night I had a good time getting sick. It really hit me out of no where. I was bloated and I like to say it appeared as though I had a bowling ball in my stomach. Regardless of how it happened or how sick I was, I managed to get in bed by 915 and fast asleep. I was up at 530 – all the bloat was gone and it was like it never happened! Ugh.

Not a transformation: Left- my lift at 6 am on Thursday, Middle- post sick, Right- Friday morning

 

I was in Connecticut by 8 and I maintained my normal eating and even made it to the gym, but stomach was off for most of the day. I definitely thought I was going to get sick during my circuits, but thanks to a ton of water and some slowed breathing I was able to control the nausea and not lose it on the gym floor. I had a cup of peppermint tea with dinner and this morning everything was back to normal. No bloating, no nausea and I even felt super lean.

Saturday morning (this morning) lean city!

 

I don’t know why, but I’m still surprised by what your body can do to you when it’s not happy, but again what it does when it loves they way you’re treating it!

Moving on…

To finish out Week 3 of Bikini Body Guide, I went hiking today for the first time this season with my friend Jules – we met on Instagram and learned that we only live 20 minutes from each other! How freakin’ cool is that?! We went up to Mt. Wachusett and rocked an hour and 20 minute hike for a total 395 calories burned!

Getting ready!

 

Me and Jules at the summit on Mt. Wachusett!

Pine Hill Trail

 

Our view at the summit

 

This brought my workout caloric burn to 2,015 for the week. This combined with my eating deficit allowed for a little over 4,000 calories output. While I’ve written about how it’s a little more than calorie input/output to lose weight, this is definitely a start. I’m excited to be 1.75 pounds away from my first goal weight of 149.5. I’m also excited to be able to quantify my progress and see how hard I’m pushing myself by having timed circuits and using a new HRM.

I’ve written my circuits for Week 4 in my notebook already and I’m looking forward to my rest day tomorrow. Shocking i know, but I’m going to the VegFest, which is a free festival that celebrates vegetarians and vegans. While I’m neither of those, I do appreciate veggies and fruits and supporting local. I also hear there’s samples too!? Who could give up local grown samples? Not me!

Well, I’m heading to bed. I hope everyone else had a great Saturday and has an even better Sunday Funday. I know I will!

 

❤ Cristina

Bikini Body Guide Week 1 Completed

Today I completed the first week of Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Istines. It has been a great week in the gym and in the kitchen. When I first decided to purchase the 12-week program, I really had no idea what to expect. I honestly thought it was going to be a joke, but I couldn’t be any happier with my decision to try it. Since I had decided to not compete this spring because of the cost, I was feeling really lost. I’m very goal oriented and I like structure in my routine. My friend Sarah (fit_badger15 on IG) suggested I try BBG because it would give me the structure I wanted, but it would be also allow me to get some of the lifting in that I like. Lifting was my biggest concern. I love picking up heavy things and putting them down, I wasn’t really sure how weights would fit into this routine.

Here’s what I have learned about the program and what I like:

It kicks your butt if you put in the work.

When I work out, I want to be challenged and lately I hadn’t been feeling challenged in the gym. I was changing it up, I was increasing weight and mixing up the number of reps, but I wasn’t feeling the way I wanted to in my workouts. With BBG program every day is a designed as circuits, except for steady cardio days. The circuits are intense and have forced me to push myself harder than I had been. Monday was leg day and I can’t remember the last time I had really felt leg day the day after, day after.

They’re time efficient.

I work two jobs and can’t remember the last time I ate dinner on a plate, instead of in tupperware. I needed something that I could without feeling like I spending hours in the gym. This week I have gotten up every morning at 530 and dragged my booty to the gym with coffee in hand. Some mornings were harder than others, but I felt amazing when I was done. The best part, I was done in 30 minutes and then home in time for a shower and breakfast.

I’ll actually get results, it’s not some gimmick.

My mind is probably messing with me, but I can already feel a difference. Slightly see one too. I was down half a pound on Wednesday when I weighed myself and it was a pretty good feeling seeing the scale move. It was an even better feeling when I went to buy new jeans today because mine are too big. Sarah’s results from doing both sections of BBG (week’s 1 to 12, and week’s 13 to 24) have been awesome. Obviously, everyone’s results will be different, but it makes me hopeful that busting my butt over the next few weeks will bring some serious progress. I’m sitting at 153.5 pounds and the goal at the moment is 149.5. I think it’s reasonable and definitely possible.

I’m able to do my own exercises on top of BBG.

I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to continue heavy lifting during the program and I have learned a couple of things. 1. I don’t want to do my own leg lifting on leg day because circuits are enough. I mean crawling would be more than likely if I did extra. 2. I can do extra on arm day and 3. I can throw in an extra leg day on Thursdays when I do cardio.

I can follow IIFYM.

I don’t need to follow her nutrition guide. I can still flex diet, which has been solid all week and has contributed to my half pound loss this week as well. I’m able to make the decisions I need to without feeling like I’m not going to have results. I can look at cake and eat it too.

I’m excited for the next 11 weeks because this is something I can follow and something I look forward too. There are millions of women also following these workouts so I can easily ask questions or talk to others about their progress. It’s a huge sense of community.

Stay tuned for more updates. I’m going to do a weekly update on BBG and every few weeks post a new photo with my progress. I’m ready to get out of my funk and get moving along!

Have a great weekend :]

❤ Cristina