Are you looking to lose weight, but don't have time to hit the gym? Are workout videos your go-to solution? Though they may seem like an easy way to get in a workout, not all videos are created equal. In fact, many of them can actually be quite ineffective when it comes to weight loss. But don't worry – we're here to help! Read on for our tips on how to make your workout videos more effective for weight loss.
The Truth About Workout Videos: How To Make Them More Effective For Weight Loss
Once upon a time, working out at home was reserved for the Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda, leotard, thong, leg warmers, aerobics, aerobics, and more aerobics era. But with the explosion of Beachbody and other late-night infomercials (are there other infomercials?), most of us have grown to accept a visual of more muscular-looking individuals using dumbbells on our home workout screens.
This new era of workout videos provides instant access to some of the top trainers of the industry today: Jillian Michaels, Kelly Coffey-Meyer, Jackie Warner, Cathe Friedrich, Chalene Johnson, and so many more. The convenience of working out at home can be a fantastic thing for the motivated individual or the person who enjoys the “feel” of being in a class setting (minus worrying that one might be judged by classmates – gasp!! “can you believe she's wearing those pink pajama pants?!”).
With the (over)abundance of workout vids, we might assume that ripped, superfit types (as seen on the videos) are also in plentiful supply. If you are one of the growing numbers of at-home exercisers (like me), you may be wondering when your ripped-ness will arrive. Or, perhaps you glumly think that you're the only person who works your butt off with these annoyingly-ripped-freaks-of-nature yet still look like you gave birth last week. Grrrr…How is it possible to work your buns off yet still not be able to fit said buns into those skinny jeans? To collect bucket-loads of sweat from doing 30-Day Shred (for 120 days!), yet have no semblance of becoming “shredded” any time soon?
This is typically because, as consumers, we tend to equate sweating with results. Moving nonstop during your workout, doing endless reps, or cardio moves between lifts will surely provide the sweat. Unfortunately, the amount of sweat you leave behind has little to do with the reshaping of your body. As great as it feels, your body will eventually adapt to ANY workout you repeatedly do, and you'll stop seeing results. So should you toss your hopes of getting fit at home and run to the nearest gym? Not necessarily. It's always great to work with what you've got (and I, for one, am not willing to shew my pink PJs just yet).
Here are five ways to make any DVD worthwhile:
Make any DVD work harder by simply picking up a heavier weight. Even if you only have one or two DVDs to work with, increasing the weight you're lifting is a quick plateau prevention/fix. Just because the people on the screen are using five-eight pounds doesn't mean you need to. Pick a weight that challenges you (i.e., you can't do MORE than two reps beyond the amount you're supposed to be doing) and will bring you the results you're after. You're all good, even if you come up a few reps shorter than “the crew.”
Most home workout DVDs have far too many reps for the desired results. For strength gains, lift as heavy as you can for up to seven reps. For muscle building and definition, lift for eight to 12 reps, and for endurance (cardio), perform 12+ reps (or as directed by the DVD). For best results, alternate all three rep ranges using weight appropriate for each range.
To have tremendous success with the previous tip, be sure to take a moment to bring a pen and pad with you to the workout area. Jot down the exercises done in the vid and how much weight you used. Whenever you discover that you could've kept going, put an asterisk or other symbol (like an up arrow) to let you know to go up in weight next time. ALWAYS lift heavier if you can safely do so.
You're not doing yourself any favors by using the exact weight amounts for months at a time, no matter how much sweating is going down. Also, keep track of how many reps you did so that you can adjust the next time around. If you could do 12 pounds for 15 reps, you know that you'll need to go heavier if aiming for eight to ten reps next time around. Keeping a journal of your workouts (exercises, reps, sets, and rests) is key to successful training, whether at home or the gym.
Pressing pause is perfectly acceptable if the DVD moves too fast (this will become incredibly relevant when increasing lift poundage). It becomes tough to lift heavy enough weights when doing circuit-type workout vids (a weight move followed by a cardio move – or weighted moves with no rest between sets). This may tempt us to believe that we can't go heavier, but this is far from the truth.
While I would typically recommend doing a workout via a professional, as written, the first few times around, this becomes significantly less relevant the 88th time the video is done. It's OK to stray from the pro at this point and pause the dang thing so that you can get some severe muscle involvement happening. Using the rep ranges discussed above, base your “rest” periods on the amount of weight and reps that you're doing — just as you would in the gym.
The goal of endurance needs very little rest (30 seconds or less) between exercises, muscle building requires slightly longer (30-60 seconds), and strength requires the longest (60-90 seconds). If the crew is doing 15 reps and you've chosen to do only six, consider the “extra” time they are pumping out reps as part of your rest period.
Re-Purpose “Strength” DVDs
Most DVDs suggest dumbbells that are far too light have too many reps and not enough rest to be considered a proper “strength” workout. No problem. Why not change how you view your vids and accept the faster-paced workouts for what they genuinely are…cardio! Most so-called strength videos on the market are just glorified HIIT workouts. So why not treat them as such.
Metabolic cardio and HIIT are all the rage these days anyway, so using your old circuit workouts for cardio helps you cash in on this trend. This also works well as an alternative for those who can only make it to the gym a couple of times per week. Plan your lifting days for when you have access to heavier equipment at the gym and your cardio (via video) on the days that you can't make it.
Swap Out Moves (or Equipment)
Let's face it. Doing the same moves day in and day out for three years isn't gonna “shape and tone” anything no matter how many times your DVD coach has told you so. Just as we get comfortable when we know what move is coming next on the DVD (or what words for that matter!) so do our bodies. And let's just say that changes don't happen when you're comfortable…well, not good changes anyway.
Now that you've been taking notes on your workouts (ahem?) you can use that same notebook to plot out ways to shake things up. Again, I don't typically recommend taking a program written by someone who creates them for a living, and adding your own perceived “improvements.” However, if you know at exactly which pitch of the background song that a particular exercise will start…you stopped seeing results from that move many moons ago. There are safe swaps that can be done to most moves so that you are keeping with the general theme of the program's intent. For example, you can sub the move for a variation of that same move: plie' squat for regular, step-ups or rear/side lunges in lieu of front lunges, hammer curls instead of traditional, etc…
Work With What You Have
You could also swap out equipment used in the vid, for equipment that you own but rarely use. I can't count the number of messages I've received from women asking if it's “OK” to use hubby's Bowflex, Nautilus, Smith machine, etc down in the basement…umm, YES! Don't be scared to put someone else's dust-collecting equipment to use – I did and it changed my life! The Gold's Gym setup that I currently use in “Kiki's Cave” is also formerly-known-as “Father's Day Gift/clothes dryer” lol.
Work with what you have. Does your teen son have an iron gym? Does hubby have an old bench and rack? Score! Have some crazy as-seen-on-TV gadget that you just couldn't pass up? Use. it. Variety is the spice of life, and just may help you get excited about working out to your old DVDs again. Sub out the old-is-new-again equipment for similar body-part movements. Bench press during pushups. Use a rowing apparatus (lat pull-down, rowing machine?) for bent-over rows…or better yet, do pull-ups! Grab a Frisbee or gliding disc and do sliding lunges in place of regular. Use your Kettlebell in place of dumbbells, or sub Kettlebell swings (or sandbag cleans – see vid below) for another cardio move for circuit vids.
Take inventory of items you'd love to use, but never do, and allow your mind to wander. The possibilities are endless.
Not everyone can afford the time or finances that a full-time gym commitment requires. Workout videos provide a convenient alternative for busy moms, housewives, or students that simply can't make it to the gym regularly (or at all). With new formats popping up daily — whether via DVDs, downloads, or free sources like YouTube and Fitness Blender — you can make this growing trend work in your favor (and keep getting results!) with a few simple tweaks.
Do you work out with videos? What are your tricks for keeping the results flowing?
In our last post, we talked about intuitive eating, what it is and how it can benefit you. In this post, we'll discuss intuitive eating for weight loss. When it comes to weight loss, there are a lot of different methods people try. Some popular approaches include counting calories, eating low-carb or keto, and intermittent fasting. But what about intuitive eating? This approach eschews tracking or limiting food intake in favor of tuning into your body's natural cues for hunger and fullness. Is intuitive eating a good option for those looking to lose weight? Let's take a closer look.
Intuitive Eating for Weight Loss? Here's What You Need to Know
Intuitive eating is not a weight loss method.
Many people ask the question, “will intuitive eating work for me?”,
If by “work,” you mean weight loss? If by “work,” you mean, “will I lose weight from eating more intuitively?” the answer is no. Sadly, if you think you will be able to eat whatever you want, when you want, and look like a fitness model in a magazine. It just doesn't work that way. I would not do intuitive eating with a weight loss intent because that is not the purpose of intuitive eating.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Intuitive Eating: What is it, and How Can It Help You?… Intuitive eating is a method to heal people who struggle with a diet mentality and/or are recovering from over dieting. This helps reset the mind and body from things like binge eating, restriction, and the thought process of every food item being either “good” or “bad.”
We must first remember that everything has a mindset component associated with it. Whenever you get to the point where you are consumed with losing weight and start to have your identity wrapped around it, you usually start to run into issues thinking that weight loss will solve all your problems and make you happy is not the right path. In fact, it usually ends up having an adverse effect.
When we finally step away from looking for the all-in-one solution is when we can actually start finding the answers instead of compartmentalizing our lives. When it comes to seeing each individual thing for what it is, what it can be, and the purpose that it serves for you, you can lean wholly into that purpose.
Watch the video above as we dig more into this topic of intuitive eating and why it is not the best method for fat loss.
If you're struggling with your weight or have a history of yo-yo dieting, then intuitive eating may be able to help. Find out what it is and how it can help you reach your goals!
Intuitive Eating: What is it, and How Can It Help You?
I'm just going to put it out there. If you want to lose fat, you have to be in a caloric deficit. How do you know if you're in a deficit eating intuitively? Is intuitive eating good for weight loss? Will intuitive eating make me fat? Can intuitive eating work? There's so much confusion around intuitive eating and its purpose. We tend to see many questions and misinterpretations about intuitive eating and when to use it in our journey. We often see this happen when someone says, “will intuitive eating work for me?”; usually, there's something behind that word “work .”
First and foremost, if you want to know if intuitive eating will work for you, you want to ask yourself that question. What do I mean by work? Are you using it for binge episodes, to lose weight, or go on a journey of self-love? There are so many different reasons why people head down the path of intuitive eating that it's crucial to understand what intuitive eating is and what it isn't.
I have found that when asked, “Is intuitive eating going to work for me?”, usually they are referring to a weight loss technique. With Eat More 2 Weigh Less, when I'm referring to intuitive eating, it's typically for someone in the “Chill Phase” or the metabolism reset phase. Those are the main two times that I would recommend that somebody venture into intuitive eating. The reason for that is that although there are five phases of EM2WL, typically three of those, you're keeping a tight rein on what you are eating. When you're tracking your food and keeping a tighter rein on what you're eating, it's a little bit harder to eat intuitively because you may want to eat something that will not fit in your calories or macros.
Who Can Benefit From Intuitive Eating?
If you … Are Healing From A Diet Mentality.
The best time to use intuitive eating is when you are trying to heal from a diet mentality. Diet Mentality is when someone is constantly thinking that getting smaller and being thinner will solve all of their problems – a thought process that has infiltrated and cultivated our society, even now. If you're of that mindset, then that's when intuitive eating could be a path you should set out on, to become okay with the fact that getting smaller is not the absolute solution to all problems. Diet mentality tells us that there's this quick and easy solution to something that has been plaguing us for our entire lives. “Try this 2 week, 30-day, 90-day diet and lose X amount of pounds!” When you start constantly chasing after all of these fad diets and thinking that you can solve weight loss issues overnight, that leads to this constant feeling of shame and failure when you don't succeed in a diet when in actuality, most diets are failing you.
If you … Struggle with Binge Eating.
Another instance where intuitive eating would be an amazing route to go on is if you struggle with binge eating. This typically carries over from dieting because we often don't realize that restriction typically begets binging. You see people constantly trying to like stick to this perfect way of eating, constantly restricting calories, removing things from your diet that you actually like and enjoy, or just eating too little food. It's going to work until it doesn't, and then when it doesn't. So when you're constantly struggling with these binges, whether it's a binge-purge cycle in the traditional sense of actually purging the food manually or a purge where you eat a lot of food and then you're trying to burn it all off with exercise. There's also restricting yourself so much that it leads to an all-out binge. So if you're stuck in that cycle, that's when intuitive eating can help because one of the biggest benefits is learning how to honor your hunger cues.
If you … Categorize Your Food In Extremes.
The third reason why intuitive eating would work for someone is to help them understand that every food serves a purpose. One of the things that we don't tend to realize when it comes to dieting, is that we start to slowly categorize food. We're trying to fit things into a very tight window of opportunity or a tight amount of calories, points, or whatever the case may be. You start looking at something with a lot of points versus a few points, high calorie versus low calorie, high carbs, and low carbs, constantly swinging in these extremes of high and low. So we start to develop this good and bad philosophy about food. Anything with a high amount of calories, fats, carbs, points, or whatever the demon ingredient is of the year is, we label as bad. Lower amounts we look at as good. When we start to live in this good and bad food mindset it puts us in this good/bad position regarding our behaviors. We begin to think that we are good when we undereat and bad when we overeat, eat foods that we love, or things considered “unhealthy”.
Intuitive eating can work wonders for you as you begin to cultivate this mindset around the fact that something can be healthy and high calorie/fat and can be good for you but be on the “bad list,” simply because it's good for you mentally. Some foods' entire purpose is to light up your taste pallet and make you happy. Sometimes the purpose is just happiness for that moment or taking a bite and truly savoring how something feels versus bypassing taste to hit some data point. This also means accepting that health and weight loss are not always synonymous.
The fitness industry often tells us that losing weight is the epitome of health but that isn't always true. There are health benefits to losing weight, but there are also health repercussions to getting too lean as well. We look at women in the media and magazines who are doing fitness competitions, then doing photo shoots right after those fitness competitions that appear in our Instagram feed or magazines. And because they're gracing the cover of a “Health Magazine,” we cannot mentally detach those images from what's happening and understand that person was most likely at their leanest they've been all year. That physique may have been something that they've been working towards for three, six, nine months. and at the peak of that leanness, they were the unhealthiest that they had been all that year. They are now seeing negative repercussions of it, like not having their period anymore and losing essential body fat that their body needs. Most know this and plan to put back on their essential fat after the competition and go off and live happily ever after. However, we will continue striving for that image of them that we see in the magazine.
Having that intuitive eating period helps you see things for what they are. Learning to step away from the diet mentality, honor your hunger cues, get away from the good versus bad mentality, and learn to love yourself, right where you are. Loving yourself is crucial. It doesn't matter if you're a size 2 or 22, you can hate yourself and hate your body, just the same. When we step away from the thinking that size will magically make us accept ourselves, then true healing can begin. Even if all the commercials are saying the opposite and telling us that once we get to XYZ size, we love ourselves again. That is never going to happen. So if you don't love yourself as you are, it will not magically happen when you get to be another size.
It's one thing to have a goal for the sake of having a goal and achieving things that you thought you couldn't. However, thinking that the goal of losing weight is going to solve a bigger, deeper problem is that is when we need to take a step back and do more of the inner work to find out what we're seeking.
With that being said, if any of the reasons above are you then I highly recommended going down a path of intuitive eating or taking a chill phase, as we call it. Let that phase do what it is intended to do.
There are some warning signs that your diet plan may not be working. Find out what these red flags look like so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to start a new (or keep following your current) diet plan.
Red Flags In Dieting
If you're looking online, scrolling social media, or browsing diet books in the store, make sure that you always look for these red flags.
Is it Restricting?
The key to permanent weight loss is a sustainable and long-term style of eating. If a diet removes your favorite foods, it will be challenging to keep up the behaviors. Remember, weight management and keeping the weight off is more important than losing it. Whatever you do to lose fat, needs to be something you can stick to going forward. So make sure that diet that you're considering allows you to eat foods that you love. If it's doesn't, you will not be able to be consistent with it. This means that even if you do lose the weight, you will not be able to keep it off because once you start adding back in the good stuff, the weight will pile right back on.
So if the diet you're considering removes everything that you ever loved in life, that's red flag #1. Right off the bat you know that that is not going to be a sustainable weight loss plan for you. Weight loss is not the issue. Weight management is. Keeping the weight off is the goal.
If it's not something that you can stick with long-term, keep looking.
Is it Flexible?
Does it allow you to be flexible? So maybe even if it does cut back on certain things or it's reducing things that perhaps you do genuinely want to reduce, or help you to eat less of certain things. Is there a flexibility aspect to it?
If you go off track, is it over?
It should not be all or nothing. If it does not allow you to be flexible (read: it doesn't let you eat cake at your son's birthday or have that glass of wine when you're out with your husband or eat something for a special occasion) – that is a huge red flag. If you go “off plan” and experience feelings such as, “Oh well, I blew my diet!,” that is Diet Mentality and whatever you're doing is probably not sustainable.
Along those same lines, if you have to have cheat days or days where you're allowed to go off the rails, then you may need to rethink it. If Monday through Friday your diet is “perfect,” but on Saturday and Sunday, you're binging enough that it ultimately outweighs what you did Monday through Friday, then it was pointless.
We're often dieting, and we don't realize that that's what's creating the binges. You end up in this nasty restriction cycle because you feel so bad that you binged that you start your diet Monday again, and you're super strict again, and you can only hold out for so long, which goes right back to number one – if you're not eating the foods you love, then it's not sustainable. If it's not flexible, then it's not sustainable.
Is it Realistic?
If it promises a certain amount of weight loss, like “10 pounds in 10 days” or “lose 30 pounds in X amount of time” to anyone who does the diet – those are not individual results. This means that it probably not realistic for you. When you fall into the trap of assuming you can get these types of results, you'll end up discouraged or trying to force something that may be unnatural to occur within a certain amount of time.
No one can guarantee you any amount of weight loss in a certain amount of time. Your dieting results will always need to have some individualism. If you're a new dieter, you may lose all the weight quickly, but if you're someone who has dieted over and over, then you likely have a much slower metabolism – which means it may take you a long time before you reach your goal.
You need to know that the diet that allows you to be consistent is always the diet that wins, period. The perfect diet that can't stick to is never going to outweigh the imperfect diet that you can adhere to consistently. So you want to find something that you can do consistently, even if it just means that you're just taking baby steps and saying, “Okay, I'm going to add in a few more servings of vegetables until it is a habit.” Once you have it, then you add on the next thing. Find some way to make it more flexible, including the things you love, and ensure that you're not on-again or off-again.
Whatever it is, make sure that the lifestyle that you're choosing when you're flipping through the books, when you're looking through the internet, when somebody's telling you to try the newest thing. Bring up those three red flags.
The whole point is don't focus so much on weight loss. Focus on maintaining the weight loss because there are 105 things you can do to get the weight off. You can chop off a limb and lose weight, but that does not mean that it is healthy for you. Losing weight is not the issue. The point is that you need to be able to keep it off. So, you have to find something that you can do consistently. It has to be flexible. It has to include the foods that you love.
Maybe you're thinking; “that's too easy” or “that will take too long!” We believe we need to punish ourselves for losing fat. You don't have to give up the foods you love; stay flexible and don't fall for anything telling you that you're going to lose a set amount of weight at a set amount of time. The time will pass anyway, so why not use it to take steps toward permanent (rather than fleeting) results. Just take baby steps, build those habits and watch your body slowly transform in a way that lasts.
There are 3 ways to tell if a diet will work for you. During this time of year we are being bombarded with diet ads, and “New Year, New You” promises blare at us from every angle in the grocery checkout line. As you’re scouring the diet book aisle, or looking to hit “purchase” on that new online program, make sure that you are checking to see if the plan suits your lifestyle, priorities, and sustainability needs. Here's three ways to tell, right off the bat, if a diet will work for YOU.
Does it Exclude Foods You Adore?
If it doesn’t allow you to eat foods that you love, why waste your time? How could that possibly be sustainable in the long run?
If you find the “perfect” weight loss plan, and it removes every food that you’ve ever loved, don't expect to be able to keep it up for long. This should be your first red flag that the diet is not going to be sustainable. Any eating plan that helps you to lose weight (preferably from fat), needs to be something that you are going to be able to stick to. So make sure that it allows you to eat foods that you love, in moderation. You may be convinced that such a thing is not possible — and that you must be punished for your sins of weight gain — but this is a MUST. If fave foods aren't included, you will not be able to be consistent. Even if you do lose the weight, the second you begin to eat “normal” again (adding back all the things you cut out during your “diet”), it all piles back on (and then some).
Does it allow you to be flexible?
Let's say it does cut back on certain types foods, and you don't mind. Maybe you do truly want to reduce your intake of it, or start eating less of certain things overall, is there still a flexibility aspect to it? Or are the rules very strict? If you go “off track,” will you ruin your diet and feel hopeless?
It shouldn’t be all or nothing. If the diet doesn’t allow you to eat cake at your sons birthday, have the occasional dessert, drink that glass of wine when you’re out with your husband, how will you feel during those moments? Can you decide to eat something (that maybe you’re not eating all of the time) during a special occasion, without feeling like “ugh!…I blew my diet!”?
If that’s the case, then whatever you’re doing is probably not sustainable. One of my favorite quotes from Leslie Schilling, says that “if what you’re doing requires you to cheat…it is not sustainable or healthy.” If you have to have cheat days (including unplanned binges), where you’re allowing yourself to go off-the-rails, eating any and everything…then maybe you need to be rethinking it. If you don't have flexibility, and permission to eat the foods you love built in to your diet, you’re eventually going off-the-rails anyway. The best example of this is the “I'll start my diet Monday” mentality.
If Monday through Friday your diet is perfection, but Saturday and Sunday you’re binging so much that it completely outweighs what you did the rest of the week — then it was pointless. You’d have been better off having some type of treat everyday, in small amounts, rather than going crazy on the final day. Often we spend so much time during the week avoiding the craving, only to give in at a later time (aka the weekend). The problem is that we could have simply had a small amount and been fulfilled when the craving was small, rather than “needing” to insanely overeat the same food when we eventually run out of willpower.
Sawanda, a long time Crusher showing that weight loss does not equal fat loss
Dieting plays an enormous role in Binge Eating Disorder (BED). We spend so much of our lives dieting, and trying to claim victory over our willpower, that we don’t realize what’s happening. Restriction is the most common precursor to binging. Refusing to acknowledge this, triggers a nasty cycle: you horrible that you binged, but since you've “already ruined it” you keep going, vowing to start your diet Monday (again). Come Monday, you’re super strict (again), yet you can only hold out for so long…then you binge. Rinse. Repeat.
Does it Promise Specific Amounts of Weight Loss?
Weight loss is individual to you. Anything that touts “10 pounds in 10 days” or otherwise promises you're going to lose a certain amount of weight in a specific amount of time is bull…crap. (yep…I went there :P). Those types of claims are not promoting individual results, meaning: it's not realistic.
Your mental energy (and precious muscle mass) will likely be wasted, trying to force something (that may be unnatural!) to happen within a certain amount of time. You may see temporary (mostly water) weight loss on the scale, but you will likely land right back at square one (or worse) when it's all said and done. And for what? A few days of feeling like you've accomplished something because a few magical (and fleeting) numbers flashed on a scale?
No one can guarantee you any amount of weight loss in a certain amount of time. So when you come across a new plan, that appears to be making such promises, read the fine print. You'll typically find that it says “results not typical” or “lose up to X amounts.” Your dieting results must always include your individual spin; in execution AND results. One person may start losing weight right away, (newbie dieters tend to lose all the weight quickly) but another (ie. someone who has dieted over-and-over) may take a much longer time.
The Bottom Line
You have your three red flags (there are more – but let's roll with these top three), so USE them when you feel motivated to take (diet) action. Set aside all impulsive thoughts, or lures of the before/afters, and get real with yourself. If it’s not allowing you to eat the foods that you love, inflexible (you feel like it has to be all-or-nothing), or it’s guaranteeing you a certain amount of weight loss (there’s no individuality variables)…RUN (don't walk) away.
The diet that allows you to be consistent is always the diet that wins, period. The perfect diet that you do in spurts, is never going to outweigh the imperfect diet that you do consistently. So find something that you can do consistently, even if it just means that you’re taking baby steps (start with ONE habit, and run that sucker into the ground until it's second nature).
Thanks so much for agreeing to this! I saw that you just finished a powerlifting competition, can you tell us how you did?
I did my first WNPF (World Natural Powerlifting Federal) national meet on Sunday, September 6th. After four weeks of training specifically for this event, I ended up coming in first in my weight class and was awarded Best Lifter Award for my recognizable 350 pound deadlift. My total at the end of the meet was 710 pounds which qualified me for the World Meet which is scheduled for October 24th. I am currently the WNPF’s NJ record holder in my weight class for the bench, deadlift and total weight! I was extremely excited to see my hard work pay off.
You also compete in figure, right? How long have you been competing now? What inspired you to start?
About four years ago, my husband brought home a magazine with Alicia Harris (Ross) gracing the cover. Her chiseled body made my jaw drop and my heart yearned to take my fitness to the next level. At the time, I was working out but I guess you can say it wasn’t working! I just knew that my body and I were capable of so much more. I had to see how far I could possibly push myself and competing seemed like the perfect opportunity. I met a trainer, committed to a show, trained my butt off, committed wholeheartedly to eat extremely clean and competed. My first season ended with me finishing 2nd in my first show and 1st and overall in my second show. The next two seasons also added nice trophies to my shelf. I love the sport of bodybuilding and am looking forward to helping others prepare to grace the stage but I decided to switch to powerlifting and crossfit for the future.
On IG a few months ago, you described an epiphany that you had over becoming a more flexible dieter, vs a super-strict “clean eater/binger.” Can you tell us a little about your diet struggle, and how that change has affected you mentally, physically?
Eating clean is a good thing when balanced with nourishing fruits, vegetables and a treat here and there. Eating 100% clean, 100% of the time is not such a good thing. At least, for me, it wasn’t. When I competed, I was required to eliminate most of my favorite foods including, breads, pasta, chocolate chip cookies, fro yo, cheese…I could go on and on. I was limited to about 10 food options for weeks at a time and no I am not exaggerating! This was not bad coaching or anything like that. It was just a method used to get to my goals of competing in figure competitions. It actually worked and I ended up doing really well in my competitions, however what was being displayed on the outside was not depicting my true emotional, physical or mental health at the time. I was STRUGGLING! Anxiety was taking root and honestly, overtaking my life. The phases of low/no carb days would make my blood sugar so insanely low that I experienced fainting spells, foggy brain and even depression.
When I was finally able to eat, I ate EVERYTHING that I possibly could. This had negative effects on my already sensitive stomach and proved a hard habit to break once I entered my off-season. Last season, I did a lot of research on meal plans, metabolic rates and carb intake. I decided to follow a more flexible plan while still keeping track of macros. This helped me stay on track with my goals but still have energy to carry out daily activities. My focus really shifted to becoming healthier, developing sustained fitness, and getting stronger as these were the things I was encouraging my clients to do. Flexible dieting changed my life! I’ve learned that you need food to reach your goals and balance is key. In order to get stronger, you have to eat more. I don’t count marcos anymore because the many months of counting every single marco has made it easy to guesstimate how much I’m intaking. I do ensure to eat my carbs mostly in the morning, before and after my workouts as this is the time where my body can use them the most.
Did you gain weight when you increased your carb intake?
When I changed to a flexible diet, I did it very slowly after my last cutting season. I used a method called reverse dieting. This simply means that you take your current macros and add on to them over the course of a few weeks until your weight begins to change. By doing this for about a month or so, it allowed me to increase my carb intake to almost triple the amount that I was accustomed to during prep season without gaining more than a few pounds. My body did change slightly but that was a welcomed change.
Many women spend the better part of their lives dieting to achieve the fit, lean, muscular look that we see on fitness models and competitors like you. Can you explain to us the methods that you used to achieve your level of muscularity for the stage? Have you ever done specific “muscle-building/bulk” cycles, or were you always lean/muscular?
I have worked extremely hard to achieve the strength that I currently have. As a bonus, my body is shaped the way that I desire it to be. I was always very active with track, dance and outdoor activities so being overweight has never been a real struggle for me. However, through my experience of competing- I completely understand the struggle of dieting and having weight/image goals. Prepping for a competition usually takes about 16 weeks of working out about 3 hours, 6 days a week and eating 6 clean meals each day. When I competed, I did have bulking and shredding seasons.
Bulking is to gain size and muscle maturity to your physique. Although, it is considered to be a bulking season, in the beginning, I really struggled to build mass because one- it was SO hard and two- I was not comfortable looking too “fluffy” or far off from competition lean. After learning more about my body, I gained a better understand of the necessity of a bulking season and learned to enjoy it rather than to despise it. During my “bulking season” my carbs significantly increased, cardio was minimal and workouts include lower reps at higher weight. Once the prep season started my carb intake would change and I would try my best to maintain the strength that I gained during my “bulking phase” This was extremely hard with the lack of carbs and added cardio but with a committed spirit- I got it done! So can anyone else. It wasn’t easy but well worth it.
Can you describe the difference in your scale weight between off season and competition day? What about changes to your diet/workouts?
Competition day, I usually weigh about 115 pounds! Off season, I am most comfortable around 135 pounds. This fluctuates with what my goal at the time of my training. For my powerlifting meets, I am in the 132 pound weight class and general weigh in a few pounds lighter for security!
Remember, competition size is maintainable only for a short amount of time!
Do you think that it's realistic for women to strive for a competition/fitness model look all year long?
NO! Take a breath of relief! You are probably closer to looking like a competitor in their off-season than you realize.
Most competitors and fitness models look stage ready between a short window of needing to be on stage or in front of a camera. Between the water manipulation (dehydration) and carb cycling (sometimes close to zero a few days before), it is impossible to maintain the amount of leanness that you see on magazine covers. Besides, for a female, being under about 12% body fat is UNHEALTHY. When you drop your body fat that low, your body is unable to properly produce hormones which can lead to all types of problems including insane cravings, poor eating habits, mood swings, depression, menstrual complications and so much more. Our bodies have a little extra fluff because we need it. A good body fat percentage is about 18-25% for healthy females.
What would you say to the many women who want to look like a fitness cover model, and are eating 1200 cals, little to no carbs, and doing 2 hours of cardio/day to achieve it?
Friend, let go and love yourself! I had to learn how to do this again once my competitions were over. It is very easy to chase after the 6 pack while neglecting the needs of your body. Our body can live off of low calories but not live well. At 1200 calories you are most likely lacking a lot of nutrients that your body needs, eating away at your muscles and causing issues with your body’s natural functions. Consult with a professional to see what your daily caloric consumption should be.
Any parting words of advice or encouragement (to ladies who are struggling with the idea of fueling to lose, or waiting for the “perfect body” before enjoying life)?
A perfect body is one that healthy and appreciated. It is great to have physical goals but the first two should be – to love your body and to take care of it! You only get one body so I charge you to love it, cherish it, take care of it and appreciate it. When you look in the mirror, do not- for any reason- say anything negative about yourself. Rather, take the time to adore yourself, even your flaws! If you don’t love your body-it will be challenging for others to do love it. Change starts in the mind. If you love what you already have, it will make it easier to make changes in small steps. Change does not happen overnight, so in the meantime, enjoy the journey and celebrate the small successes.
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