Cheri – down another 5% body fat!

Cheri – down another 5% body fat!

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All my life I was overweight which turned into obesity in my adulthood. To make matters worse, I had a very sedentary lifestyle.  I never exercised, never even played sports.  It was a bad combination which seemed to culminate in depression and a terrible body image.  In June 2011, I decided to take control.

Over the past 2.5 years, I have tried many different paths to weight loss and fitness.  It was fun at times, and other times it was miserable.  What it came down to is everything I did, everything I ate seemed to have to point to weight loss or a better body which left me in a constant state of stress and being unsatisfied with myself.  With time, patience and a big case of the need-to-know’s, I feel like I have finally arrived at a comfortable, happy, strong place in my life.

I’ve spent the past year focusing on lifting after an injury sidelined me from marathon training. body fatI was devastated, but I did like lifting, so I thought it would be a good transitional fitness plan. Little did I know that while I was healing, I was catching a fever for strength! I thought I loved running… but the way I felt about running can’t even compare to the way I feel about lifting. I gave up endurance running and my dabblings in strength training, and decided to make lifting “my thing.”  I had to get over my fears of giving up the cardio, I also had to get over my fears of TRULY eating to maintenance, and in the process, I quit taking “progress pics” every few weeks.  I started looking WITHIN and making changes to match my inner desires and quit looking at it as a means to an end goal of aesthetics.

Suffice it to say, this brings us to today. Well, maybe not literally today, but you know what I mean ;) On Saturday November 30th, I competed in my very first powerlifting meet. It was one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences in my fitness journey to date! I went home with the first place gold medal for my weight class and the biggest grin you can imagine. I am so excited for my future in this sport.

body fatOne thing that I never imagined would happen is that my husband is supremely proud of me and takes every chance he can to brag on me. This is a man who does NOT lift, but is very fit and obviously secure in himself!  He loves that I am strong, capable and most of all doing what I love to do.  He is constantly telling me how sexy I am, and how lucky he is to have me… and after 11 years of marriage, this is pretty precious.  I believe it’s the confidence I now have.  Doing what I love doing and being confident must make me more beautiful to him.

In total, I have lost 75 pounds since June 2011.  I have gained about 5-10 back over the past year in lean mass and muscle.  My body fat has dropped about 5% since summer of 2012 and most importantly, I have been able to go from eating 1400-1700 cals and “maintaining” the summer of 2012, to eating 2600-3000 and maintaining today.

Success looks different for different people. This is my success.  I will not be “more successful” once I lose more fat, or have more developed muscles, I am not just a work in progress.  My biggest success lies within and cannot be seen with your eyes, but can be found in my passion, confidence and dedication.

 

 

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Down 70lbs and maintaining on 2600-3000 cals!

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First Powerlifting meet

 

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First place gold medal!

Have an EM2WL transformation to share? Willing to let us tag along on your journey? We’d love to see it! Be featured on our Transformation/Journey page by submitting your story to Success@EM2WL.com

50 pounds lighter! ~Angela’s Testimonial and Lifestyle Change

50 pounds lighter! ~Angela’s Testimonial and Lifestyle Change

Angela's 1.5 year progress update!!

lifestyle changeI can't thank you enough.  I have followed you guys all the way back from MyFitnessPal for a year and a half. You have changed my life.

A little about me:

I have struggled with my weight for most of my life, from middle school until recently.  I was a dancer through all these years, so I kept it in check for the most part, but I was still one of the “bigger” girls in dance class.  Once dance stopped, so did the whole “keeping it in check.”  Luckily it was more of a slow, steady creep up for me.  The eating was bad. The movement was minimal.

Following the college weight gain, I got married.  I tried different gimmicks to drop the pounds, including the low cal thing, very low cal.  I was just spinning my wheels, with no progress and a lot of hard work.  A year after I said “I do”, I was pregnant.  At that point, I was already 30 pounds heavier than high school.  I only gained 18 pounds throughout pregnancy.  Not too shabby, right???  Well those pounds fell right off, and then some, after I had my son.  Another “woohoo” moment…THEN…the slow, steady creep was back.  I gained all the pregnancy weight back.  I like to blame it on stress of being a new mother…whatever the excuse…I was UNHAPPY.  I was unhappy with every aspect of myself.  I was barely in any pictures with my new baby, and the pictures that exist…well, they were screened to assure they looked how I wanted them to.  I loved being a mother, but I was exhausted and cranky most of the time (my husband would agree to that).  I decided to make a change!!!!  A permanent change.  A lifestyle change.  I needed to do something for the sake of my family, my marriage, and my own happiness.

lifestyle changeTHE PLAN:
Eat as clean as tolerable (I am a known anti-veggie person)
Eat MORE
MOVE more
Whine less
No more excuses
Be happy
Don't be discouraged (progress is progress, no matter how small)
Track everything (ACCOUNTABILITY)
Bring others along (the journey is much easier when you have people to encourage you, even if it is just moral support)
Support others (I found that motivating others, in turn, motivates me!)

This was the beginning.  Notice I did not say “this IS the beginning.”  I wish I would have started a blog from day one.  I would have loved to be able to look back and see the emotional changes I have made.  I know how I felt, but reading it would have been more powerful.

Fast forward to current…I am 50 pounds lighter.  My energy level has grown significantly, and my moods have been on the upswing (my husband BETTER agree this time!).  My blood pressure is normal, my knees don't hurt, and my cholesterol is on its way down. The best thing is, on occasion, I am happy with myself and my progress! (It is still tough to break old mindsets) On that note….Let the journey continue!

Permission to post:  Absolutely!  Thank you so much.  I owe these muscles to you!  Now my goal is to motivate and inspire others to get out of their dark places that I know all too much about.  You guys started my journey, and I am eternally grateful!

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Bicep growth progress! :)

 

EAT MORE?? No way! Another Eat More 2 Weigh Less Success Story!

EAT MORE?? No way! Another Eat More 2 Weigh Less Success Story!

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Thank you for allowing me to share my story.

My weight loss journey began almost 3 years ago when I finally decided that the pain of staying the same was worse than the fear of change. I had been overweight my whole life and lived life as one of the heaviest of all my friends.  At my heaviest, I weighed 265lbs. I am only 5'0″ so that was a lot of weight to carry on my short frame. I had yo-yo dieted all my life and trust me, I had tried everything under the sun including weekly trips to weight loss doctors.  At one point in my life I had become so depressed over the weight that I thought I should try to gain weight in order to become a candidate for weight loss surgery.  I didn't think I could ever do it on my own.  Thankfully, that only lasted a few weeks and then I came back to reality and realized only I can make the changes I needed to make to save my future.

In December of 2010, I met a wonderful young lady named Kaylee.  She presented some information about a wellness program during one of my staff meetings at work.  There was something about her that seemed genuine, and she seemed like someone who was approachable. I decided to give her a call after the meeting, and she came and met me in my office.  I knew I needed to change my life but I didn't know where to even start.  I let her know that my original goal was to become a police officer.  I had finished college and was ready to start working on the physical aspect of my life so that I could have a chance at my dream.  Kaylee saw how much I wanted to change and she said that she doesn't often recommend this for people who are in my shape…but my answer was going to be CrossFit.  I had never even heard of it before but I trusted Kaylee and thought I might as well try one more thing.  I tried everything else already.

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I placed a phone call to the owner of our local box, CrossfitX.  This easy going guy named Travis answered and said he would meet me for my first workout.  Little did I know that getting the courage to walk through those doors would be one of the best decisions I would make in my life. As scared as I was, and as embarrassed as I wanted to be, I told myself I was going to give this one my all.  I have had so many roadblocks along the way but I try to tell myself how lucky I am for this opportunity each day I go back through those doors.  I won't lie, some days my head gets in my own way and I just want to stop.  But my teammates refuse to let me do that.  This is a journey they have all been on with me each step of the way.  When I started CrossFit I weighed 235lbs and I am now down to 150.  That means 115lbs are gone from my heaviest weight and I am grateful for each and every pound that I have lost because I learned something from each of them.

One of the hardest lessons I have had to get through my head is related to my relationship with food.

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I stalled out after 2 years of training and nothing else was happening.  I became frustrated until I was pointed to sites like yours that told me I needed to fuel my body.  You mean you want me to EAT MORE??  No way!  I fought it tooth and nail until one of my trainers told me this really was what I needed to look into.  As scary as it was, I dived in and began to slowly up my caloric intake from less than 1,000 a day to about 2,200.  The weight started to come off again and every single lift I tried kept going up! I can't put a price tag on increased strength. As weird as it is each day to fight the old food demons that tell me I should skip a meal to move this weight down, I don't wan to feel depleted ever again.  I learned my lesson, made the change, and will continue to ride this out until the end.  My new comfort while in my own skin has allowed me a wonderful opportunity to work at a job in sales and marketing.  I am no longer the wallflower who is too afraid to talk.

 

 

 

Share your success, no matter how large or small.  You never know who you may inspire to hang on just a bit longer.  We love featuring results and journey stories in REAL time, not just before/afters.  If you have a victory (scale or not) let us know and allow us to share with the fam, by submitting to success@EM2WL.com

“Look stunning while EATING!!!” – Tanya’s story of Hypoglycemia and EM2WL

“Look stunning while EATING!!!” – Tanya’s story of Hypoglycemia and EM2WL

hypoglycemiaI stumbled upon EM2WL about a year ago when I began having issues with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar/non-diabetic) when I was trying to find the best way to avoid the low blood sugar episodes but hopefully still lose weight. When I first started reading all of the EM2WL info I was reluctant like most but I've been reading about health, nutrition, and fitness for years because I truly love learning about it so the principles with EM2WL all made perfect sense to me and the fact that I wouldn't be starving was a bonus! I have literally tried everything since I became overweight at the age of 9, diet pills (as early as age 11), meal replacement shakes, Nutrisystem (age 12), Weight Watchers (about 15 times, age 15-36), every workout craze, even HCG injections (two separate times in 2011) combined with the crazy 500 calorie diet that goes with it. I'd even burn mega calories and log every food I ate creating 1,000+ calorie deficit each day and get pissed off a few weeks later when I lost nothing then go splurge and give up.

hypoglycemiaYes… I had a horrible track record for that..not getting the results I wanted so I'd get mad say screw it and go to McD's for a big mac, fries and DIET coke (of course..lol) followed by ice cream! Little did I realize I was destroying my body as well as my mental well being by the horrible drastic actions I was putting myself through. I may have still been beating myself up that way had I not started having issues with hypoglycemia, but because of it I HAD to change my ways. I can't go without eating every 2-3 hours and I have to eat good carbs with protein and fats or my blood sugar levels drop a few hours after eating and I get to where I feel as if I'll pass out. So now I eat the best I can to avoid it which means I'm eating MORE because I'm eating 6-7 times each day and I'm eating MORE because I'm eating better foods that are more nutrient dense and offer my body better fuel than that big mac and fries I used to eat. My body forced me to eat better, and now that I'm nicer to my body its finally being nicer to me! Since September 2012 I've lost 11 pounds most of which was done with 1800+ calories a day and very moderate exercise.

hypoglycemiaMy TDEE is only 1,816 with the very light activity I do because unfortunately the hypoglycemia has given me some anxiety especially when it comes to working out. I am however working on that and am starting to get back into working out since I do LOVE lifting HEAVY! When that happens I will up my calories accordingly. Over the past few months I did an unintentional reset eating at 2000+ where I maintained my weight but in the last two weeks dropped a little more scale weight but I've been losing inches as well, (about 15″ total) feeling trimmer and fitting into clothes that were too tight. I guess my body finally realizes I'm done abusing it and its willing to let go of the stubborn fat.

My best NSV recently: a couple months ago the hubby and I went dress shopping for a big event and I tried on several dresses surprisingly I wasn't critical of myself! No I actually thought “wow! I look good” in almost every single dress! The only ones I didn't like it was because of the dress itself not my body. I used to try on 50 dresses and leave with 0..this time I tried on 7 and bought 2…I only need 1..lol! But my hubby said they looked so good he wanted me to get both (he actually wanted me to buy 3). The next day he even text me and said “I hope you know how stunning you looked in those dresses yesterday” talk about making my day!!!

EM2WL is really a life that I can and will live! It's not some crazy, drastic, unhealthy quick fix that helps me lose a few only to gain 10! I've always loved food, couldn't stand eating 1,200 calories a day and going to bed with my tummy growling and now I realize I don't have to! Now I can eat foods that fuel my body and look “stunning” while eating!!!

Love, Love, Love EM2WL!!!!hypoglycemia

Share your success, no matter how large or small.  You never know who you may inspire to hang on just a bit longer.  We love featuring results and journey stories in REAL time, not just before/afters.  If you have a victory (scale or not) let us know and allow us to share with the fam, by submitting to success@EM2WL.com

Could this crazy woman be right? – A runner’s experience with bulking

Could this crazy woman be right? – A runner’s experience with bulking

bulkingHi, my name is Terri-Anne. 

I am a runner.  And I am a Lifter.  I am a mother of 5, forty, fit and finally starting to love this body that lugs me through my busy day. This has been a long journey about self-discovery.  Learning my limits, learning my goals, learning how to fall and get back up again.  Learning how to do it all wrong then finally working out how to do it right.  I’ve learnt the difference between dieting to lose weight and eating to lose fat.  I’ve learnt the difference between weighted cardio and lifting heavy.  I also learnt that cardio is good for you but if fit is the look you are after, you need to train smarter, heavier, not longer.  I have learnt so much on this journey and yet I am only just beginning.  Eating more, throwing out the scales and lifting to failure is working for me.

bulkingAfter having my fifth baby in October 2009 I gained weight.  I was busy with 5 children, working with my husband in our farming business and making excuses for not having time to exercise.  In February 2010 I was 74kg (163lb), my biggest weight ever.  (79kg or 174lb was my biggest full term pregnancy weight)  I decided there was no way I was going to buy the next size up in clothes, it was time to stop making excuses.  My goal was never to be skinny, all I wanted was to be fit and healthy.  I have never been one to obsess over scales, rather I used my favorite jeans to measure my weight.  I exercised a little and cut back on some treats, walked everywhere and after doing cardio only exercise for 4mths I was disappointed with my slow progress.  I was now 69kg and still feeling fat and ugly.

I joined the local gym and had a weights program written up by a trainer and got some great advice on interval training.  This is when the cardio bunny in me was born.  bulkingI loved tabata and was doing it every day along with weights – 15reps, 3 sets – 3 times a week.  I powered through my workouts, dripping with sweat thinking I was doing all the right things.  12mths after my journey started I was still only 67kg (147lb).  My fitness had improved but I was still not getting the results I wanted.  I still didn't look fit and had little tone.  I started running.  Lost a bit more.  But I was still not seeing a fit healthy woman in the mirror.

I decided at this point that my diet may not have been as good as I thought so I started counting calories and bought a set of scales.   I joined MyFitnessPal – an online diet and exercise diary – and set my calories at 1200 per day.  I am 173cm (5ft8) tall and at this time weighed 65kg (143lb).  The weight started dropping off.  I lost a lot and by the end of 2011 I was down to 59kg (130lb)!!  I was exhausted.  Tired.  Hungry.  Cranky.  I dragged myself through the day and armed with a HRM I dragged myself through workouts burning a minimum of 1000 cals 6 days a week.  I did not look fit.  I did not feel healthy.  What was I doing wrong???  Then I found out that MFP had a community and I ‘met’ Kiki.  I read her ramblings every day.  I researched her ramblings every day.  I read NROLFW.  I researched.  Could this crazy woman be right?  Could I look and feel better if I ate more???  I was lifting – 3 times a week!

bulkingWhat I was doing was not working so I decided to give this eating thing a go.  I decided to trust the process.  In January 2012 I purchased a periodized workout plan that Kiki recommended and had decided to increase my cals to 2000 a day.  My first ever bulk.   I had become dependent on the scales – weighing in on a weekly basis and was not ready to give that up.  As soon as I started the workouts I realized that I had not been lifting heavy.  In fact all I had been doing was weighted cardio.  I lasted 2 months and the ever rising scales did my head in (I had gained a whole kilo or 2lb).  All the food did my head in.  How could eating all this food help me look better?  Not enough running did my head in.  I needed to run to remain sane.   But I had also tasted heavy weights and I loved it.

So in May 2012 I started running again and dropped my cals back to 1200.  I immediately became lethargic. This lasted about 2 weeks before I put them up to 1500.  Still little energy.  I kept it up for another 2 weeks.  I went up to 1800 cals.  At this point I was able to think clearer.  I did more research, looked back through my diaries and realized this Kiki lady knew what she was on about!!  At that moment I did an overhaul of my diet.  I worked on my macros (who would have thought there was more to food then broccoli and chocolate), tweaking and adjusting, working out what made me feel good.  I no longer focused on calories but on the macronutrients in my food.  bulkingI made sure I got enough of what my body needed and let the calories fall into place – they usually hit around 1800-2000cals.   I cut the running back to 3 days a week and lifting days were for lifting only.  I trained less, ate more and finally little muscles started to poke through!!!  Finally I started to feel great.  Finally I started to see results!!  At this point I was 63kg. (138lb) and now only weighing monthly.

I needed a goal, something to keep me motivated.  I decided to do a triathlon – the grueling ’hell of the west’ – 2km swim in a murky river, 80km ride along the highway, and a hot dry 20km run in the Australian outback.  Two weeks into training the change in my physique was already showing.  I was literally watching the muscle melt away.  It was shear relief when my Dr. said he wanted to laser my varicose veins sooner rather than later.  I decided that the interruption to training was too long and I would only do the 20km run.  I also decided that the only way to maintain as much muscle as possible was to eat and lift to failure.  I did not want to go back to skinny.  December 2012 I started eating at around 3000 cals a day.  I also threw out the scales.  Best thing I ever did.  Come race day I was a little heavier than a lot of athletes, perhaps this made me a little slower but I was happy to be full of energy and felt and looked fit.  (my time was 1hr 40min)bulking

The very next day I went into cut mode.  I was cutting at what I had in the past thought was over eating!! I ate 1800cals a day, lifted heavy 3 days a week, did 2 interval cardio sessions and 1 weighted full body cross fit workout.   I don’t know if you can call what I do bulking and cutting as my workout schedules don’t really fit the typical bulk/cut model.  But it works for me.  I’m not trying to compete so my diet and exercise has to be tailored into my life.  I stopped cutting mid April when I decided to start training for a Tough Mudder – a 20km mud run.  I am now 1 week out from the race.  I’ve been eating around 3500cals a day and I feel great.  Eating gives me the energy to keep up with all the rigorous training and still live my life.  At the moment I do 2-3 cross fit style workouts a week.  I run 3-4 days a week and I lift 3 days.  I am bruised and battered, my body hurts most days but it’s a pain I love – the feeling you get when your body is repairing and growing.

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Back Cut Results

I weighed myself before writing this and I have gained 7kg in the last 8mths.   I went into full meltdown mode when I saw that number.  I couldn’t believe how far I had let myself go.  At this point I took some pictures and compared the difference to last time I was the same weight.  Wow.  If that doesn’t convince you to throw out the scale I don’t know what will??!!  I know it’s not all muscle but again if I’m a little slower because I’m a little fluffier, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

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Same weight, same shirt!

I will start to cut again when this race is over and I’m excited to see what lies beneath!  I am lifting 3-4 times heavier then when I did the same reps in my first round of periodization.  I have learnt to listen to my body.  If I need a rest day, I take it.  If I need a refuel day, I eat.  I feel strong.  I feel healthy.  I am the same weight I was 2 years ago and look and feel completely different.   I will keep running as it keeps me sane.  I love to wake up and go for a run.  Or not.  Maybe sprint intervals.  Maybe I’ll try for a PB.  I love not planning my runs, I just put on my shoes and let my body do the thinking.  I will also keep on lifting.  I love the feeling of power.  I love seeing the weights go up.  I love the structure of a weighted workout.   I love the comments.    I know that running will make building muscle slower but I am finally at peace with that.  I no longer care how many calories I burn in a workout, I work out because I love it.  I no longer need the scales – numbers do not define me.  I eat to fuel my workout or my current goal.  I am not the fastest or the strongest but I am fit and I am healthy.

Share your success, no matter how large or small.  You never know who you may inspire to hang on just a bit longer.  We love featuring results and journey stories in REAL time, not just before/afters.  If you have a victory (scale or not) let us know and allow us to share with the fam, by submitting to success@EM2WL.com

Figure Competitor Interview – Stephanie Lynn

Figure Competitor Interview – Stephanie Lynn

 

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Have you ever found yourself wondering what it really takes to look like a figure competitor/fitness model (or if it's possible to do so while fueling properly)?  Well, we were able to track down the stunning Stephanie Lynn (some of you may recognize her from Bodybuilding.com or MyFitnessPal) who was willing to spare a minute of her busy time for the fam.  Stephanie dishes on how she achieved her “fitness model”  look without the standard, metabolism-trashing methods of excess cardio & insufficient calories.

Hey Stephanie! Thanks so much for agreeing to this.  We've heard that you just finished a show.  Can you tell us how you placed?

I placed 1st in my class (Open – tall class) and 3rd in the Figure Master's (over 35) division.

Congrats!  How long have you been competing now? What inspired you to start?

This was my second year competing… my second show ever.  I have ALWAYS been intrigued with bodybuilding.  I started lifting weights back when I was in college.  I met my husband at our local gym.  We trained together when we were dating.  He taught me about all the different exercises and how to put together a routine.  His aunt (also named Stephanie) was a bodybuilding competitor.  She was the first woman I had ever seen up close with that much muscle mass.  I used to look at her with awe.  I used to think, “I would LOVE to look like that one day.”  figure competitorOnce I became a wife and mother I had all but given up that dream.  Don't get me wrong…I was still working out.  I was in the gym every day for many years but I seemed to see little progress.  I eventually stopped making my fitness a priority and quit working out for about 8 months.  It was the longest break I had taken from exercise in my whole adult life.  In that time I gained some weight…and I was miserable.  By the end of 2010 I reached a point where I no longer felt comfortable in my own skin.  My face was round, my clothes were tight, and my self esteem was in the toilet.  I had to make a change.  I started training harder and pushing myself in the gym.  I did get stronger but I didn't make as much progress as I would have liked.  A year went by and still not much had changed. I had been killing myself in the gym and I still did not like my body.  That's when I realized that while I had the training down, I had yet to conquer the diet.  In January of 2011 I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app to start tracking my calories.  That was the catalyst for my fitness revolution!

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 the level of muscularity required for the stage? Or were you always lean/muscular?

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Down to 117lbs

Was I always lean and muscular…LOL…NO!  I am, by nature, long and lanky.  If I would just diet and do cardio I would look like a stick woman.  I am not at all genetically inclined to build muscle.  I have learned that I both gain and lose fat fairly easily while building muscle has been more of a challenge.  When I first learned how to count calories/macros, my first goal was to lose weight.  I went from a “fat” 140lbs down to a super lean 120lbs.

At one point I even got down to 117lbs, which is way too skinny for a woman of 5'7″.

Remember I had been exercising for YEARS before this but yet my training lacked purpose and progression and my diet was a mess.  I was pretty much eating whatever I wanted.  I am living proof that you cannot out-train a bad diet!

So, (we often recommend “bulking” for ladies who want to build muscle)…do you feel that it's possible for a woman seeking the “fitness model look” to achieve it without bulk cycles?

^^That is the biggest lesson I learned throughout this whole fitness experiment.

Just going to the gym every day and lifting weights was never going to give me the body I wanted.  I HAD to adjust my diet to fit my goals if I was going to see progress.  If I wanted to gain muscle I had to be eating a surplus of calories.  If I wanted to lose fat I had to be eating at a deficit. It wasn't until I started doing that that I started seeing visible changes.  I know the prospect of purposely gaining weight is a scary thing for most women but it is truly the most efficient and effective way to build lean muscle.  Even with a proper diet, lean muscle takes a long time to acquire…not months but rather years.  figure competitorLifting weights without fueling the body with enough calories to build new muscle is like spinning your wheels and going nowhere.  Look at how many countless hours I spent in the gym in the 12 years before I started this life-changing fitness journey.  Once I shed the fat there was very little muscle under there to show for all the work I thought I had done.  I saw this.  I was disappointed.  I knew I wanted progress and that I wasn't getting it with what I had been doing.  I decided it was time to “bulk.”  I have since bulked twice and cut 3 times.  Here is my journey in pictures…

Consider not just the change in my body, but the change in my weight.  I weigh only 5lbs less in the last picture than I did in the first.  The scale is just a number.  I started my journey wanting that number to go down.  Now I just want it to go up!!  I am hoping by next summer I'll be ripped at 140lbs.  That would mean coming full circle for me…back to my “fat” weight but with a completely different body!  In addition to my weight, also note my waistline.  My waist was around 26 inches at 120lbs.  Now, at 135lbs it's 27.5 inches.  It's bigger…but look how much smaller it appears to be.  This is one of the amazing things about muscle.  It balances out the body and gives you curves in the right places.  I am more of an hour glass now than I ever was before.  Building a wider back, bigger shoulders, and a bigger bum have actually made me look more feminine!

figure competitorNow, your cut was a bit different from many that we've seen (in the industry)– in that you didn't drastically slash your cals, or do cardio 3xs/day. Can you explain how you were able to achieve this same look without using these traditional methods?

My diet is quite different from a lot of other competitors.  I have been doing intermittent fasting for over a year and a half now.  This method of eating allows me to consume more food at each meal including a late evening meal before bed to sustain me during the night.  I usually start my cut 20 weeks away from the show with my calories close to maintenance (around 2000).  From there I slowly cut calories down as needed to see progress.  For this last cut I spent the majority of those weeks eating around 1800-1900 calories. I cut down closer to 1600-1700 in the 4 weeks before the show.

I did the same with cardio.  While bulking I was doing only a couple of Zumba classes per week just for fun.  I slowly added cardio as well.   figure competitorI started with 20-25min at the beginning then worked my way up to 45-50min towards the end.  Some days I'd do Zumba and some days I'd use the cardio equipment (either the stairmill or the high-inclined treadmill).  I believe in a gradual approach to dieting.  I prefer to lose on as much food as possible. You never want to play all of your cards at the beginning.  If you start too low with calories you will have nowhere to go if/when you plateau.  If you are doing 1hr of cardio every day while you are bulking then you'll have to double that by the end of your cut.  Remember that the body likes homeostasis and will adapt to whatever you are doing.  You will have better and easier progress if you save some of those cards to play later in the game.

Can you describe the difference in your scale weight between off season and competition day? What about changes to your diet/workouts?

Well you can see in the images how my weight fluctuates.  I will start my 3rd bulk next month and I predict I will likely get up to at least 155lbs.  That's a 20lb gain.  figure competitorAs for my diet, I will be eating a lot of the same foods just more volume with a few extra treats thrown in there more often.  I fully intend to stuff my face for the holidays.  As for my training, I change this up fairly often both during contest prep and in the off season.  Once I lean down for a show I can see what muscle groups are lacking and pinpoint which areas I need “bring up” to foster more balance and cemetery in my figure.  I will often increase the frequency in which I train these areas so they are getting hit more often…more stimulus and time under tension.  I am generally stronger when bulking because of the extra food so I will take the opportunity to increase my strength and train in lower rep ranges.  I lose some strength while cutting but I still try to keep “weight on the bar” so that I retain as much muscle mass as possible while eating at a deficit.  I often make up for this by increasing my volume a bit (more sets and/or reps).

So would you say that it's realistic for women to strive for a competition look all year long?

No. It isn't realistic at all.  I would never try to maintain this look year round.  When you are cutting for a competition you are putting your body into a catabolic state.  You will lose some muscle mass while cutting.  figure competitorThe longer the cut and the more aggressive it is (low calories, lots of cardio), the more potential there is to lose the lean mass you've worked so hard to gain.  The off season is where you make improvements.  You aren't going to gain any appreciable amount of muscle while eating a calorie deficit so you NEED the time off from dieting to both add mass to your physique and to improve your metabolism.  Increasing your calories gradually over time will make your metabolism more efficient.  If you do it right you will likely be able to lose weight while eating more calories than you did last time you cut.  I am eating more food and doing less cardio every time I diet down.  In addition to improving both my lean mass and metabolism, bulking up also gives me a much-needed mental and physical break from the strict diet.  I don't particularly like micromanaging every bite I put in my mouth.  During the off season I can relax a bit and enjoy life.

What would you say to the many women who want to look like a fitness cover model, and are eating 1200 cals and doing 2 hours of cardio/day to achieve it?

I would tell them, first of all, that those fitness models are often in peak condition for those photoshoots and most likely do NOT walk around like that all year long.  Their images are also airbrushed to perfection.  Most of those amazing women you see on the covers of magazines have spent years in training to reach that level.  figure competitorYou are only seeing the results and not the hard work invested.  Second of all, starving and cardio-ing yourself to death is NOT the answer.  I can assure you…that cover girl didn't get to where she is by doing that…and neither will you!  Furthermore, sustaining a very low calorie diet (and/or excessive cardio) over a long period of time is not only a mental and physical stress on the body, it can actually cause damage to your metabolism.  Remember that your body craves homeostasis.  It will adapt itself to any activity that is practiced over time.  If you are eating 1200 calories per day + 2 hours of cardio over a period of time, your body will start to see this as it's “norm.”  In response to the stress you are putting on it, it will adjust your metabolism (lowering it) in order to conserve energy and resources.  This is what you do NOT want to happen!  If you want to have the shapely look of those fitness cover models, you are going to have to invest some time in building your body up…both your lean muscle and your metabolism!

How can our readers see more from/follow you? (FB/IG/Blog, etc)

I have a blog on My Fitness Pal (which really needs to be updated) and I also keep a journal on bodybuilding.com.

Thank you SO much for your time, Stephanie!  We really look forward to hearing more from you in the future!  Best of luck on next year's show!

figure competitor

Stephanie Lynn

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