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My (Winning!) Contest Strategy and CrossFit Conversion Story

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I am going to be up front with this right now: this blog post might not be comprehensible because I have abandoned all of my regular eating rules for the last two days which has resulted in a near-constant stomach ache and fuzzy brain.  Pretty much nothing in my body feels right.

Anyways – if you traveled to this webpage from my facebook, you likely know that I won the Biggest Loser competition at work! Hooray!  2 months of super disciplined eating and regular CrossFit attendance was definitely challenging, but completely worth it.  How were my results, you ask?  Pretty darn good, I think so.

BEFORE

WEIGHT: 153 
BODY FAT: 32.1%
WAIST: 28″
BELOW BELLY BUTTON (PUDGE):37″
HIPS: 39.5″
THIGH: 22.5″

AFTER

WEIGHT: 141.5
BODY FAT: 26.6%
WAIST: 27″
PUDGE: 35.8″
HIPS: 39″
THIGH: 20.5″

I was super happy with my measurements and the way my body is looking.  I was actually surprised I lost any inches off my thighs at all, because I was genetically gifted with the flattest butt in the universe (shout out to my mom for that one) and CrossFit has really turned that around for me.  Seriously.  Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my rear end in the mirror and I’m like: I can’t believe that belongs to me!

So, in the diet arena, the rules I had for myself were pretty simple.  Lean protein with every meal, 4 or more servings of vegetables daily, no refined or processed or packaged foods, no added sugars of any kind (honey and agave included).  And no more weekend cheats.  I had 1 cheat day (on the anniversary of my mother’s passing) and 2 cheat meals over the entire course of the competition.  And as difficult as that was, sometimes, I actually felt awesome.  As evidenced by how crappy I feel today.

The other integral part of my victory was definitely CrossFit.  And here is a little love story about how the girl who scoffed at CrossFit became converted in less than two months.

I was always a little put off by CrossFit.  Probably because everyone I knew who did it was extraordinarily intimidating.  We’re talking about the fittest-looking people I’ve ever encountered.  And for anyone who doesn’t know about this, I have a hard time when I feel inferior.  I like to be the smartest, funniest, prettiest girl in the room. It’s a sickness, I know.  So when Chris told me to come with him to CrossFit, I grimaced and whined.  But I knew it would help me get to where I wanted to be, considering the reason I didn’t want to go is because I wasn’t anywhere near as fit as the CrossFitters I knew and I was afraid of being harshly judged for my inadequacy.

So I went for my free workout.  It involved wall burpees.  There is nothing I hate more than burpees.  And then they added a wall to that hatred.  When we finished our 15-minute AMRAP, my face was pinker than it had been in months.  But no one made fun of me for doing box dips instead of ring dips.  In fact, everyone had been encouraging and nice.  And, much to my surprise, there was a whole range of people with different fitness levels and abilities there.  The next day I was sore in muscles that I didn’t even know were utilizable.  And I couldn’t wait to go back.

I found that my original perceptions only sort of aligned with reality.  My first misconceptions: only the super-fit (and super-crazy) do CrossFit.  In reality, there are people of all fitness levels scaling the workouts to make it work for them.  And if you’re willing to throw yourself in and throw the words “I can’t” out the window, you can make progress and gain fitness confidence more quickly than you can imagine.  Although I am no master CrossFitter, I have seen measurable improvements in the two short months I’ve been going.  Most notably, I started out doing 16″ box jumps and last week I completed my first WOD on the 24″ box! And I front squatted 85 pounds two weeks ago, a marked improvement from the struggle I had with 35 pounds my first week. Basically: CrossFit isn’t just for the super-fit — it will just make you super-fit.  My stomach is even starting to flatten out (lady abs, here I come!)

Another major misconception I had was that the trainers (some of whom I already knew) would be intense and intimidating and/or think I was pretty pathetic because I had so much to learn and a lot of room for improvement.  In reality, they’ve all been incredible.  I’ve been in a class at least once with each of them, and they each bring something different to the table with their personality.  I’ve learned something useful and important from each of them.  And the trainer that I thought would be the most terrifying to work (coughBrandycough) with has actually turned out to be my favorite.  (Should I say that on my blog? . . . you guys are all favorites!).  Although there are days where I’m the last one who finishes or the one with the lightest weight in my class, it doesn’t really bother me.  As long as I know that I’m pushing myself, I feel like I do something every single day that I can be proud of.  And although I still get a fair bit of correction on my form, I also know that I’m getting a little bit better with every WOD I complete.

And here is the unexpected bit: I love it.  I love that every day brings a different challenge.  I love that I can’t think or worry about something else and my brain is marvelously free of stress  (other than don’t drop the barbell on your head) for the length of the workout.  I love that I always feel better, stronger and happier after I finish.  I love that other people encourage me when I struggle or congratulate me when I do more than I thought I could.  In short, I love not only CrossFit itself, but also the community.

And based on my contest win and the fact that I can’t wait to get back to it on Monday, I believe this is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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What’s In Whitney’s Lunchbox?

Tuesdays are my busiest day of the week, so I have to be a bit more organized with the food I pack, or else I eat junk.  Or just go hungry.  So here’s a look at my day in food.  And also a look in my lunchbox.

Breakfast:

2 eggs, 2 egg whites (scrambled), 1 cup spinach, sliced tomato

Snack:

Chris (my rockstar boyfriend, for those of you who don’t know who that is) made salmon packets last night and gave me some of the leftovers.  This is the only way I will eat salmon.  I hate salmon, but Chris always tries to get me to eat it because it’s so good for you.  So for those of you who want to eat more salmon, check out this recipe from Giada here.

Lunch/afternoon snack pictures!

Lunch was a turkey burger (still working on that recipe. . . it wasn’t super great).  Also a salad that I like to call Karrah salad, because my baby sister usually makes it for me at home.  Only she makes it better.  Basically, it’s romaine, tomatoes, cucumber and whatever other vegetables you have on hand.  Then you add some avocado and rice wine vinegar, and kind of smash the avocado into the vinegar to make it dressing-like.  Then I finished it up with some raspberries for dessert.

My pre-class afternoon snack consisted of those two lovely hard-boiled eggs and 5 very large strawberries.  Then I ate a few raw cashews during my 2 1/2 hour long class.  That is a long class.

After I got home and threw a load of laundry in, I had another turkey burger and some broccoli for dinner.  I had bigger plans for dinner, but I had laundry to worry about and homework and now blogging.  So at least I had the leftovers in there.

I definitely have to plan ahead for days like this, but it’s worth it to not have the stress of feeling like I screwed up on my eating in addition to the fact that I have to be in class/work from 8:00 am till 6:30 pm.  Also, I love my lunchbox because it makes my food seem exciting and special, even when it really isn’t all that exciting.  It’s kind of silly, but the planning and the lunchbox are the way I do what I have to in order to get the job done.

You Never Deserve Cake/Cookies/Chocolate. NEVER. Seriously.

I decided today that if I had to wait for every time I had a coherent thought or priceless piece of advice to post a new blog entry, this blog would look. . . well. . . about like it does.  As in, I haven’t posted for two months.  So all I have today are some random thoughts about the Biggest Loser competition at work that is coming to a close next Friday and my long-standing issue with the “I deserve it” philosophy.

We’ll start with the competition at work.  I can’t speak for how everyone else who is participating is doing, but I’ve really enjoyed having some kind of short-term end goal and motivation to keep me on my toes.  When you have a looming and untimeable goal like “I want lady abs”, it’s easy to cheat yourself and slack off because you don’t really have rules or parameters.  On the other hand, when your end goal is “all I wanna do is *bang, bang, bang, band* and a-*click, ching!* and take ya money” (thanks to MIA for the mission statement there), and you have two months to work as hard as possible, you have not only motivation but a marker that says: someday, this will end.  I will not be doing this day in and day out forever.

Well, at least that’s how it started.  And now?  I have no desire to throw out the hard work I’ve done or the habits I’ve established by mustering my willpower and saying no to heaven only knows how much delicious-looking treat food.  So what began as a short-term quest to reign in my diet to a near-perfect state only to win money to buy new clothes is now an awesome habit.  That just so happens to be helping me get closer to that abstract goal of getting my lady abs.  Win win win.

I can’t say if I’ll win the competition.  My starting body fat was likely one of the very lowest to begin with, so in some ways that put me at a disadvantage.  But this I do know:  I have worked hard. I have eaten better than ever before in my life.  I have been prioritizing sleep.  I even joined CrossFit with my boyfriend (we’ll be addressing this at length in another post), which I never thought I would ever do.  I have had days where I feel like I could do this every day for the rest of forever.  And I have had days where I spent hours on foodgawker crying over pictures of cake.  Luckily, I’m doing a lot more of the former the further into the competition we get.

So what’s the biggest thing I’ve learned?  I’ve learned that people sell themselves short.  A lot.  I know girls who have no problem getting enough exercise, but they absolutely do not control their eating.  I’ve been doing it for a long time.  I’ve been a relatively healthy eater for quite some time now, but it’s amazing what the difference is between being a “relatively healthy” eater and a “nearly optimal” eater.  I still have more things I could clean up, but I’ve cleaned up a lot over the last couple of months and the results have been so much better than before.  Just a little fine-tuning has gone a long way.  I feel better. I look better. My skin is nicer.  I even smell better, which is totally weird.  (Well. . . except for after a workout.  I have never smelled/looked worse in my entire life than I do after some CrossFit workouts — I assume that means I’m doing it right).

And here’s the thing that really gets me: most people tell themselves that they deserve the crap that is holding them back because they’ve worked so hard.  Or because they’re so stressed out.  Or because they’ve had a rough day.  You deserve it?  Really?  You deserve to keep yourself from seeing progress because you want to put something delicious in your mouth, chew a couple of times, and then swallow?  Seriously?

Let me tell you something: you don’t deserve it.  Nope.  Never.

What you deserve is to see the results of the work you put in at the gym.  What you deserve is to reap the benefits of all of the rest of your healthy eating choices, instead of having just done all that work to create a buffer.  What you deserve is to make progress, not to barely break even or to sabotage yourself.  You deserve to feel better, and that ice cream is not going to do it for you.  I promise.

So what you really deserve is to accomplish your goals.  You deserve to feel healthy and strong and fit and amazing.  In short, you deserve so much more than dessert.

At any rate, next Friday we’ll find out if I win.  But I already know that my hard work has paid off based on the way I feel and on the way my sexiness has definitely increased over the last 7 or so weeks.  But to win the cash would just be the icing on the cake.  (Mmmm. . . cake).

Weight Loss: A Primer

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So I’ve been thinking of doing a Weight Loss 101 post for weeks now, but I’ve had a really hard time getting passionate about calories in/calories out and macronutrient ratios and blah blah blah. Because, really, you can get that kind of information everywhere on the internet. Calorie needs calculators are everywhere. I even have one on my phone.

So here are some things you need to get started (or to keep going!) that you won’t find in your calorie needs calculator.

To preface this, I have to tell you that right now, I am really freaking frustrated with my progress this month. I am working my butt off, and I don’t feel like I have anything to show for it. So yesterday I made a list (I always make lists instead of writing in a journal) of things that I need in order to continue to be successful.

Persistence

If you have nothing else, at least have this.  I think the most successful people in life, not just in weight loss, are the persistent ones.  Look at Abraham Lincoln, who famously failed to get elected to pretty much any office but didn’t give up.  And now he’s one of the highest regarded presidents in US history.  Anything you try, you may end up failing at over and over again.  But keep going!  You’re going to have days where you feel disappointed in yourself.  You’re going to have setbacks.  You’re going to feel like you aren’t making progress.  But if you give up, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to yield the rewards of your work later on.  Which bring us to. . . .

Patience

I struggle with this one.  I’m working really hard right now! I should get to see my results right now!  Sadly, life does not work that way.  And it’s really true what they say, anything worth having is worth waiting for.  You didn’t get into the body you have overnight, and you’re not going to get into the body you want overnight, either.  Give it time.  But don’t give up!

Hard Work

Yes, hard work.  You’re going to have put in a lot of time in the kitchen, and a lot of time sweating it out.  You’re going to have to say no to things you want to eat, and you’re going to have to expect the best of yourself even when you don’t feel like it.  You can have access to all of the best equipment and resources in the world, but it won’t you do any good unless you put in the work.  No one can eat well for you.  No one can go on your run or to your Zumba class for you.  It’s all you.

Trust in the Process

Oh yes.  “The process”.  You have to believe that if you’re creating a calorie deficit and are treating your body right, it’ll get you to where you want to go.  It’s as simple as that.  You have to believe it’s doing something for you, even though some days you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere.  You are.

A Good Attitude

Having a good attitude will help you be so much more successful, simply because you’ll learn to want to be doing what you are doing.  I used to think about what I’d rather be eating, but now I just enjoy what I’m eating for what it is, rather than for what it isn’t (because nothing other than a cheeseburger is a cheeseburger. . . sigh).  And I used to dread going on a run with my boyfriend because he was faster and stronger and fitter than me, which always resulted in me doing extra poorly and becoming a whiny baby.  Now I see that time as an opportunity to run the best that I can and know that we can enjoy doing something together that is good for us, even though I don’t challenge him.  That’s not my role.  It’s my job to be the one who works harder because he’s there with me.  Life is too short not to enjoy what you’re doing.

Mindfulness

This is another thing I’ve always struggled with.  Get to know your body and what it needs and what it’s capable of.  Learn to distinguish between physical hunger and an emotional craving (quick check: are you hungry from the shoulders up–your mouth? or from the shoulders down–your stomach?)  Learn to pay attention to the feeling in your body that says: I don’t feel like working out today.  And learn to throw that feeling out the window and suck it up and do it anyway.  When you know the difference between hunger and a craving, and between genuine physical exhaustion (which you don’t really get very often, I promise.  We’re talking like. . semi-annually) and just not feeling like it, you know how to move forward in the best way possible.

Discipline

Make a plan and stick to it.  That means scheduling in your workouts and not compromising them, no matter what.  That means sticking to your meal plans and your healthy habits.  When you have discipline, these things become automatic and you’re less likely to get off track.  I work out right after work every day.  It’s just what I do.  I don’t eat any sugar on weekdays, and I know that.  So when someone pulls out the cookies at work, I don’t have to sit there and think about whether I want them or not.  That decision has already been made, that habit has already been implemented.

Sacrifice

You’re going to have to give up things you want.  Period.  I’m sorry, but you can’t have it all.  Figure out what you want more and give up the things that are standing in your way.

Adequate Sleep

Everything else on this list is a lot easier when you’ve had enough sleep.  You feel better.  Your body works better.  You’re happier.  Do not overlook this.  Experts say you need at least seven hours a night.  Bare minimum.  This goes back to sacrifice.  You’re probably going to have to give up some things to get enough sleep, but what you get back is worth it.

This is by no means a comprehensive list.  But it’s a start.  So, when you’re collecting all your resources to accomplish your goals, don’t forget that all of the workout programs and personal trainers and diet books in the world can’t make you successful.  Only you can do that.  You’re the only thing standing in between who you are now and who you want to be.

Get moving.

5 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Losing Weight

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So, here’s the deal.  When I started this blog, I thought I wanted it to be about cooking.  But as far as cooking goes, I don’t feel like I have anything extra important and special to talk about.  What I have come to realize is that I do have something important to say to my friends and loved ones (and anyone else in the world who stumbles onto this blog) about losing weight and getting healthy.  So I’m going to start going in that direction.  And I’m going to start by telling you guys the things I have learned, through trial and error, that have worked for me.

Also, I’m going to shamelessly give you guys another before and after picture.  Because, seriously, who doesn’t love those?

So here are some things you may or may not read elsewhere on the internet.  At any rate, they are things that I truly believe.  And things that I had to figure out the hard way.  Things I wish someone would have told me when I started out.

1. It takes courage to lose weight.

I know when I normally think of courage, I think of people going out on the battlefield.  People leaving their families to defend their country.  Or even explorers, going out into the wild unknown.  We don’t really think of changing out bodies as being a process that takes courage, but it does.  Because there is always risk and fear involved.  As someone who had never been thin and had spent her whole life feeling like the chubby friend, I admit now that I was scared to change.  Without my extra pounds, I was worried that I wouldn’t know who I was, in some ways.  I was scared of getting attention from the opposite sex and how that would make me feel, thinking that these people would never have liked me when I was heavier.

I was also scared of how hard it was going to be.  I had never put a lot of thought into the way I was eating before, and I didn’t really know what I was doing most of the time.  I was scared of people paying too much attention or judging me when I went to the gym.

And I was scared that I was going to fail.

I don’t remember exactly what it was that helped me overcome most of these fears.  Probably just the act of doing it anyway.  You can’t let your fears hold you back.  When it really comes down to it, the only thing standing in your way is you.  I truly believe that.

2. Not everyone is going to be supportive.  People will sometimes see you making good choices and take it personally.  Make them anyway.

This is one that really gets me going.  And I see it all the time. Everywhere from work to school to family gatherings, I have seen or personally had people try to undermine healthy behaviors.  Sometimes they don’t say anything, and just give you a look.  Sometimes they’re open and loud about it.  But here’s the thing: they don’t think you’re doing something bad, really.  Most of the time they’re jealous or upset that you’re stronger than they are. Because they know they aren’t at your level, they want to drag you down to theirs.

Well, maybe that’s just what I tell myself to make me feel better, but it’s easier to swallow that way.

This happened once at work, very recently.  Management had brought ice cream bars in to celebrate an accomplishment.  I declined the ice cream, but I sit in a corner all by myself where no one can see me, so no one bothered me about it.  One of my coworkers, however, said no to the ice cream and our other coworkers tried to guilt her into eating it.  She did a great job holding her ground, but their reactions really bothered me.  Why did it matter to them whether she had some or not?  I could see no other reason for it other than feeling like they weren’t living up to her standard.

Remember that next time someone teases or belittles you for making a good choice.  They feel bad because they aren’t living up to your standard.

3. Write down your goal, and make sure you encounter something every day that reminds you of your goal.

This is actually a relatively new one for me, but I’m finding it super helpful.  Some people make motivational posters or have a goal calendar.  I have a really simple piece of yellow paper that has my beginning and current measurements written on it.  There’s space for more measurements, and I take them every month.  It’s a reminder that I want my measurements to be smaller next month than this month.

And if that fails to keep me motivated, I just google image search the phrase “lady abs” (though I admit that this phrase is beginning to return too many pictures of Lady Gaga, so I may have to find a new one soon).

4. Track your progress in more than one way.

Some people say you should throw out the scale and go on measurements alone.  I don’t believe that.  I think you need both to get an accurate depiction of what is happening to your body.  Track your weight, track your measurements, track your body fat as accurately as you can, and don’t forget to take pictures.  I don’t have a lot of weight left to lose.  It’s all vanity weight at this point, so I’m not seeing very much movement on the scale (4 pounds in the last 2 months! And I am legitimately happy about that), but I can see a lot of progress in my monthly photographs.  I promise you, if you’re working hard and you have a calorie deficit, your body is changing.  But sometimes it’s not showing progress in the method you’re tracking.  The more methods you use, the more likely you are to see your progress accurately.

5. Your body will likely always feel like a work in progress.

I thought that once I reached my initial goal, I would just happily stay at that magic weight forever and live happily ever after.  Not true.  Don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve done a great job getting to where I am.  But just like with pretty much everything else in life, there is always room for improvement.  I want to have more muscle tone, I want to be a better runner.  I really friggin’ want lady abs (someday!).  And sometimes it’s frustrating to feel like I’m never going to be done and perfected.  But I don’t think anyone feels that way.  Even the person you think has the most perfect body on earth probably wishes they looked as good as the airbrushed version of them that they see on magazine covers.  As long as you use that as motivation to keep active and keep eating well and keep working, I don’t really think that’s a bad thing.

But it is important to look at your body right now (right now, I said!) and appreciate it for what it is and what it does for you and what it allows you to do.  Thank your body for what it’s done today.  And appreciate the things about it you think are attractive.  I remember waking up one day and looking in the mirror and thinking, “my, what mighty fine clavicles I have!”  I am not kidding.  They are fantastic, feminine clavicles.  And on days that I feel bloated or I’m having a bad hair day, I take a good look at my clavicles and remind myself that I have mighty fine clavicles, no matter what.

Don’t ever give up, even when you’re discouraged.  Write down your goals and your plans, but lose your expectations.  Be patient.  You are a work in progress.  You are beautiful.  You are a miracle.     

And now. . . the promised before/after picture.  I don’t remember when the “before” picture was taken.  The “after” is only a few weeks old.

(Note: I’m not always sure what to write on this blog.  Hence the lack of updates.  So if you have any questions you’d like me to answer or address in a blog post, feel free to leave it in the comments or message me on facebook).

Take it Easy (+ Clean-Out-The-Veggie-Drawer Frittata)

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I learn new things all the time.  Like this week I learned that I can get a free copy of the New York Times every single day in one of the buildings I have class in.  I took advantage of this new discovery on Tuesday morning and (after reading up the turmoil in Libya) immediately flipped over to the Health section, where I was delighted to find an article on why going easy on yourself is a good weight loss and health tool.  Finally! Vindication!  I swear I’ve been telling people this forever and no one wants to listen.

Apparently they did this study where they had two groups of women taste-test candies and doughnuts.  One group of women was reassured that they shouldn’t feel bad about eating the foods because everyone in the study had to do it, so it wasn’t a big deal.  The other group of women wasn’t given any such reassurance.  You would think that the ones who were told it’s okay to eat the sweets would be the ones who ate more, right?  But . . . no.  The group of women who wasn’t given any reassurance and were feeling guilty about what they were eating were actually overeating because of their guilt about it.  So counterproductive.

There’s more in the article about self-compassion and further details about the study.  It’s a great read, especially for anyone who is struggling to lose weight and deals with guilt eating.  Read the full article on the NY Times Well blog here.

(Keep reading for more commentary on how letting go of negative emotions helped me. . . and for the frittata recipe!)

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New Year’s Eve and the Spontaneous Five Course Dinner

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I know this is well over a week late.  And that I haven’t posted anything on this blog in over a month.  But I’m in college and working and I’m super busy.  And trust me, this post is worth the wait.

So, it’s December 31st around 11:00 AM and my sisters and I are sitting at home and the question is asked: “What are we doing tonight?”

Less than a half hour later, we had a grocery list and menu for a five-course meal to serve to our family and significant others.  (The guest list: myself, my sisters Michelle and Karrah, brother Dustin and his extraordinary wife Emily, Karrah’s boyfriend Sam, and of course my boyfriend Chris) Was this necessarily the wisest idea we had ever had?  Probably not.  We only had eight hours to shop, decorate and cook for this party.  Not to mention none of us had even showered yet.  Adventure!

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