Stay True to Your Beliefs- Why I Decided to Drop Out of the 1stPhorm Athlete Search

I haven’t been posting as much on social media lately, and there’s a few reasons for that, but the major one is that I’m coming to realize that the message I’ve been sending out is not quite the one I’m intending to promote. Let me preface this by saying that I have no issue with 1stphorm or their contest. As a brand and as a movement they have inspired and motivated hundreds of thousands of people and I support that. My issue lies within myself. In trying to promote myself to win a contest, I’ve lost sight of what I truly believe in and what truly matters to me. In aligning my message with what I thought would win, I’ve lost sight of promoting MY true message, the one that comes from my heart.

Do I believe in hard work, of course. Do I believe in giving it your all, absolutely. Do I believe in accomplishing your goal at all costs regardless of the toll it takes on your body, mind and life as a whole? No. And honestly I think a lot of the fitness industry via social media has been promoting that mentality- obsession.

Being obsessed with eating healthy and working out, at the expense of everything else in your life, is not in fact “healthy.” Being obsessed with how you look is not healthy. Being obsessed with doing “whatever it takes” and going to extremes to be “great” or to look a certain way is not healthy.

Obsession is not healthy.

But unfortunately, in my opinion, the majority of the fitness industry is promoting a message of obsession with diet and training, of extremes, of doing whatever it takes or else you’re a failure. And I no longer want to be a part of that message.

I used to be one of those fitness obsessed people. Quite frankly, I probably worked harder and more intensely at it than the majority of people out there. I turned pro in my second show, I competed at the Olympia in my first year as a pro. I was invited to compete in two Arnold Classic Fitness Internationals, I was sponsored by a major supplement company. I was ambitious, I did whatever it took, I was dedicated, disciplined, obsessed. I worked harder than most could dream of and I wasn’t going to stop until I was THE BEST. And you know what, I was absolutely miserable. It was NOT, in any way, shape or form, a healthy way to live. It did not create a healthy body or a healthy mindset. It gave me an outlet to channel my poor body image and to trick my mind into believing that I was successful because I was working hard and being 100% disciplined and pushing myself through no matter what. In reality, I was incredibly unhealthy both mentally and physically. I developed an injury that pretty much put an end to my career. I developed reproductive and thyroid issues. I isolated myself from family and friends. And I developed a severely distorted view of my body which lead to severely distorted eating habits.

When I returned to the stage in 2013 I vowed to do it the right way. With balance. With self confidence. With love and respect for my body and mind. Both on and off season. And I also vowed that this was the message I would promote to those that looked up to me. And I think in participating in this contest, I’ve lost sight of that a little bit.

The fact is, I whole heartedly believe that you can achieve great things in your life without becoming “obsessed.” I know because I’ve done it- I’ve done it both ways. Letting something consume your whole life is not healthy. As someone who’s “been there, done that” with that mentality, I just cannot go on promoting it, knowing all the damage it can cause and knowing that it’s just not necessary.

The images we see on social media are not real life. Realistically, the majority of these insta famous fitness icons are not the true picture of what is healthy. I certainly wasn’t. Although I was damn good at making everyone think I was.

In fact, by “fitness industry standards” right now I’m considered FAT. By fitness industry standards right now I’m “out of shape.”

The truth is, I’m not fat and I’m not out of shape. I’m far from it. I’m focusing on other things in my life and not spending as much time in the gym or “food prepping,” and you know what? That’s OK. I’m OK with it. But 5 years ago, back when I was “great,” I wouldn’t have been caught dead posting pictures at my current weight. I would have been terrified of what people thought. It’s really an absurd concept if you think about. WHAT KIND OF MESSAGE IS THIS PROMOTING?? I’ll tell you what message it’s sending- an unrealistic one that promotes poor body image. And it’s no better than the photo shopped “too skinny” cover models that everyone gets all up in arms about.

I believe people should work hard toward their goals, believe in themselves and give their all. But I cannot support this “get it done at all costs” philosophy because I just don’t believe in it. I lived it. And it damn near ruined my life. And I’ve since changed my approach, and done things the healthy, balanced, non-obsessed way- successfully.

I workout because I love my body. I eat healthy because I want to nourish my body not because I think I need to change it. I compete to see what my body and mind are capable of, not because I dislike how I look and I feel like I need to get in shape.

It took me a really long time to come to that realization. It took me a really long time to accept my body, my structure, my flaws. It took me a really long time to be proud of what my body is capable of and not just obsessed with how it looks. And it took me a really long time to realize that doing whatever it takes to be “great” is a good way to ruin my health and my happiness.

I want to promote a message of self confidence. A message of respect for your body, mind and soul. A message of kindness toward yourself. I’d like to inspire others to be well rounded, to be real, to be grounded, to encourage others. ENJOY YOUR LIFE. Be motivated, be dedicated, but never lose sight of the big picture. Stop trying to live up to the insta famous fitness model. That’s not real life. That’s not YOUR life.

Workout because you love your body. Eat well because you love your body. And always remember that you do not have to go to unhealthy extremes to accomplish what you want.

I don’t know what the future holds for me but I do know that moving forward, my message will be more clear. I don’t want people to look up to me because of how I used to look and what I’ve accomplished in the past, because the mindset and methods used to get there were far from healthy. I want to inspire people to do things the right way, respect their bodies, maintain a healthy mind and spirit, maintain balance, recognize obsession, BE HEALTHY! Personally, I want to be fit, healthy, HAPPY…
And should I ever be blessed with the opportunity to compete again, I am certain that I will be successful doing it my way.

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How to Build a Basic Meal Plan (in 8 somewhat simple steps)

Many of you may be wanting to develop a more structured eating plan, but perhaps for whatever reason, are not ready to hire someone else to do it. If that’s the case, follow these 8 steps to put together your own plan!

Step 1-
Determine your goal. Is your goal for muscle gain? Is your goal for fat loss? Is your goal for maintenance/healthy nutrition? Whatever it may be, your nutrition plan needs to start with a goal in mind.

Step 2-
Determine a calorie level appropriate for your goal. There are a lot of websites that will calculate an estimated BMR (basal metabolic rate) to which you can adjust based on your activity level and goal (most of the website tools can do this as well). If you don’t want to use one of those tools, the simplest way to begin is to multiply your body weight by a factor of 10-15.
Typically, I would start with calories of ~12x body weight for fat loss and ~ 15 x body weights for muscle gain. These numbers can then be adjusted based on your progress.
For example, for a 150lb female looking for fat loss, I would start at about 1800 calories per day (150lbs x 12). This is not an exact science, and as mentioned, you can make adjustments as you go along.
**If you are much heavier than your target weight (50+ pounds), you may need to use a weight closer to your target weight for these calculations

Step 3-
Make a list of healthy foods you enjoy, group them into categories based on their main macronutrient composition.
For example, I like chicken, turkey, steak, sweet potato, rice, oatmeal, peanut butter and avocados. So I would list:
Proteins: Chicken, turkey, etc.
Carbs: sweet potato, brown rice, etc.
Fats: avocado, peanut butter, etc.
Now many of these foods will, of course, contain more than one macronutrient, but most foods can be categorized by the macronutrient they are mainly composed of.

Step 4-
Determine how many meals you would like to eat per day (that’s an easy step, no further explanation needed).

Step 5-
Determine the proportion of calories you would like to come from each macronutrient group. I feel the best place to start is around 1g of protein per pound of body weight (*again, use a weight closer to your target weight if you are 50+ lbs overweight).
Multiple the protein grams by 4 (4 calories per gram of protein) to get the calories you will be consuming from protein. This will roughly give you 25-35% of your calories from protein. The rest will come from carbohydrates and fats. Typically fats can comprise ~25-35% of your total calories. And then carbs would make up the rest.

OK, so that was a little confusing, but take a look at the example here and it should help to clarify:
150 lb female looking for fat loss.
Total calories = 12x bodyweight (150lbs)= 1800 kcals
Total protein= 1x body weight = 150 grams
150grams of protein x 4 calories per gram= 600 calories from protein
1800 total calories x .25 (25%) = 450 calories from fats
450 calories divided by 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) = 50 grams per day
1800 total calories – 600 calories from protein – 450 calories from fat = 750 calories left (these will then come from carbohydrates)
750 calories from carbs divided by 4 (4 calories per gram of carbohydrate) = 188g carb
So, our meal plan for a 150 lb female looking for fat loss would have
~1800 calories, 150g Protein, 188g Carbs, 50g Fat
I promise you, if you just work through the numbers, its not as complicated as it looks!

Step 6-
Distribute the calories/macros amongst your meals. Try to evenly distribute protein amongst each meal (i.e. each meal should have an equivalent amount of protein). Typically, I like to include my carbs in breakfast, lunch and post-workout meals, but in theory, you could evenly spread them throughout all of your meals or even eat them in just the pre and post workout meals if you prefer. Similarly, fats can be divided into your non-carb meals, or evenly spaced throughout the day- however you prefer.

Step 7-
Start plugging foods from your list into the meal plan. Again, there are many websites available to give nutrition facts for most foods. Although this may seem tedious at first, if you eat similar things most days, it would not be too difficult to get a handle on the composition of those foods. I typically like to allow 1-3 options per meal—for example- 3.5oz of chicken or 1 scoop whey protein or 6 egg whites all have roughly the same amount of protein. You can use the same concept with carbs and fats.

Step 8
Monitor your progress and adjust accordingly. Whatever your goal is, you should give yourself a solid 2-4 weeks on any given meal plan and keep measure of your progress. Avoid adjusting things too soon just because, for example, you didn’t lose 2 lbs. the first week. Allow your body to settle in to the new meal plan and then make adjustments as needed. Usually this will lead to results with just a few small tweaks instead of a complete overhaul.

As you’re progressing, you can begin to manipulate both calorie levels and macronutrient levels depending on your goals. You can also make adjustments based on if/what you are training on any particular day.

As a side note- this is not an IIFYM plan, as I do not believe all calories are created equal, and thus I would encourage your food list to consist mostly of quality, nutritious, single (or very few) ingredient foods.

The Absolute Best Diet Ever

As a Registered Dietitian I get asked almost daily the question of “what is the best diet to follow?” There are so many diets and plans and theories and philosophies out there it’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all even as a professional in the field.

So let me answer this age old question for you. What is the best diet to follow? The one that works for YOU. The one you can stick with for the rest of your life. The one that keeps you healthy while still allowing you to enjoy your life and the food that comes with it. In fact, it’s not a diet at all. It’s how you want to live.

There are certainly plenty of ‘quick fixes’ for rapid weight loss. But there are no quick fixes for keeping it off. That requires work, and consistency; permanent change, finding something that you can live with for your life. Doing it that way may take longer and in a society that wants instant results, that’s a hard pill to swallow. But it’s necessary. If you’re not doing something you can keep doing forever, odds are the weight’s going to come back.

Find the balance that works for you. If that means subscribing to one of the nutritional philosophies out there, then great. Do your research, learn the approach and make sure it’s good for your overall health. Then believe in it and stay with it.

For me, I’m just not the type that can picture my life without pizza and ice cream. Does that mean I eat it everyday? Of course not. Every week? Maybe, if I’m not training for anything specific. But I try to work it in with the rest of what I’m eating, try to time it well with training and try not to overdo it.

Balanced healthy nutrition. Lots of fresh stuff and limited processed stuff MOST of the time. That’s my approach. I’m not perfect and I still struggle with food choices but I’ve found that this is what works best for me. You need to find what works for YOU!

And don’t be afraid to ask for help 😉