Voices of Reason

A super short post tonight to kick off 2016. Hope you all like it!

While having lunch with a friend of mine, she remarked, “Michelle, I hear your voice in my head every time I think about my diet. You said something that has stuck with me over the years: It’s not all about cardio and exercising all the time. Your diet matters more.”

I was telling her this while I was training for my bodybuilding competition. It’s something I have told clients repeatedly and most of them listen to me. But some still don’t believe me.

While exercise and working out is important for overall general health, it’s not the end all be all. What is most important is what we are feeding our bodies. What do we consider our fuel?

What do we shop for at the grocery store and put in our cart as the “best” we can do for ourselves and our families?

What do we consider a “once a year indulgence” and is it really worth it?

It’s interesting that my friend hears my voice in her head. Because I hear voices in my head (it’s healthy, I swear) from people in my past that have said similar things that have stuck with me.  A few that I think are worth sharing:

  • “Don’t focus on the number, (your weight, the weight on the bar, number of days, number of weeks you’ve been trying this) focus on the task at hand and conquer THAT.”
  • “If there’s a food or snack that you know isn’t all that healthy, why do you keep buying it?” (and if you say it’s for your kids, why isn’t their health as important as yours?)
  • “Not every occasion/get together/event is a reason to EAT something.”
  • “Start working out before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it.”
  • “If you’re tempted to eat that garbage food, think about how you felt the last time you ate it.” (Garbage in…garbage out)
  • “You’re not supposed to feel guilty if you screw up. Guilt is for criminals. You just made a poor choice. Choose wisely next time.”

And the most important voice…

“Sleep trumps all. So get plenty!”

 

 

 

Too Confused To Choose – When Dieting Becomes a Heavy Burden

Happy July to all!  Thanks for all the positive feedback concerning my last post. Seems quite a few of you got some good information out of it, which is always nice to hear.

Since this month we celebrate our Independence in the States, I got to thinking about freedom and choices and how that relates to our health. That got me thinking, “What happens when we are bombarded by so many choices, that we actually become anxious and obsessed with eating and being healthy?” Technically, there is a medical term for the obsession of being healthy – Orthorexia. I don’t believe I know too many people who legitimately HAVE this condition, but I DO know there is plenty of misinformation out there to cause confusion and anxiety. So here’s some advice on how to lift that burden off your shoulders for good and just…live.

Let’s start with my favorite subject – FOOD.

What I typically hear from most people:

“What foods are good for me? I hear Paleo is the way to go, is that good? What about eggs? They’re “bad” for me, right? And how about vitamins, I hear thats a load of garbage, so I shouldn’t take those, right? And how often should I workout? And how much cardio is TOO much cardio and what if I overtrain? AHHHHH!!!”

Well, now you’ve completely turned yourself into a big ball of anxiety because you can’t figure out how to even get to Step #1.

Fact – We cannot survive without food. But we have the freedom to choose which foods to eat. And, better yet, we have the freedom to choose which ones we KNOW will literally weigh us down and pack on a few extra lbs, and those that will lift us up, make us feel better, make us lighter, and help sustain us.

The first step to freeing yourself from this way of thinking and obsessing? Trial and error. It’s more intuitive than anything.

The question becomes: “Who are you listening to?”

Are you listening to your friends or co-workers: “You probably shouldn’t be eating all of that. Aren’t you on a diet?”

Are you listening to some doctor on TV: “Take these Raspberry ketones, you’ll burn fat at lightning speed!”

Are you listening to people who enable you: “I can’t eat like you do…you eat some of the weirdest foods. You should live a little!! Here, have some cheesecake. Better yet, just give me the cheesecake, I’ll eat it for you.”

The first step is to listen to you. While we all have the ability to do our own research on what foods are the most nutritious or most healthy for us, it doesn’t take a Masters in Dietetics to tell us that slice of apple pie is probably not going to help you lose weight like that one apple will.  Somewhere along the way, we have become slightly obsessed with being super duper healthy and fit. And it got complicated. So if you”uncomplicate” things, that weight is slowly lifted off your shoulders over time.

(This is easier for people who do not have serious eating disorders/obesity/anorexia. That’s an entirely different issue that I’m not addressing here. This is advice for your average dieter.)

Let’s say you have an auto-immune disease or condition where you DO have to be constantly aware of what you eat. The person with the nut allergy is probably going to have an easier time listening to his/her own voice due to the fact that if they don’t, they could become seriously ill or die if they choose the wrong foods. I don’t have a food allergy but I do have an auto-immune disease (Ulcerative Colitis) which I have blogged about before.

I have had to decipher between the voices telling me that if I just did a Paleo diet, I could cure myself. I know they only have good intentions and the research could suggest that this is entirely possible. I gave in and tried to eat differently and avoid grains for awhile. I felt, for a while, that my freedom to eat the way I WANTED to, was taken away and now I had to adapt to this NEW way of eating.

But guess what? Nothing happened. My flare-up didn’t go away. And, even when it did go away with medication, and I ate grains/foods that supposedly would do me harm, I didn’t get sick. So, through trial and error, I came to the conclusion that I should have just listened to my own voice to start with. Something inside me told me that a simple diet wouldn’t cure something that I’ve had since I was 14 years old. It might work for SOME, but it didn’t for me. And that’s okay! I had the choice to try an alternative way of eating and I did.


What about fitness and getting in shape? How about that guilt trip we put ourselves through when we KNOW we have time to get to the gym and we SHOULD go but we just don’t WANT to?

How do you think advertising agencies stay in business? They put out those infomercials and billboards and commercials telling you, “You are not good enough, therefore, take this pill/drink this shake/wear this body wrap/buy this treadmill/join this gym and you will finally be good enough.” And the sad part is, many of us listen to those commercials and we believe those lies. This is how the confusion starts. And this is when people start to HATE their own bodies and HATE the process. No wonder they stay away from the gym!

Again, it comes down to who’s voice you’re listening to? If you have zero desire to get in shape, by all means, don’t waste my time or your time by coming to the gym and hogging a machine that I could be on. Seriously, don’t. (That’s my attempt at reverse psychology). I truly believe we all desire to be healthy. But the process of exercising CAN be burdensome.

I met someone recently who said he had a barrier preventing him from getting in shape. He stated he hated and dreaded exercise so much that he could NEVER love it. Therefore, he never did it. This was the wall he was trying to break down.

Well, Newsflash: Not a whole lot of people LOVE to exercise. Not a whole lot of people LOVE their job, but they go to get a paycheck and provide for their families. Not a lot of people LOVE to go to school but they go so they can learn and educate themselves so they can be a contributing member of society. You don’t HAVE to LOVE exercise to do it. But you should LOVE YOURSELF enough to do what is right for your health.

Ever heard that saying that goes something like: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” How about we stop obsessing about how often we’re going to the gym and just decide to GO. And then when we get there, just doing one thing well. Do one thing. Wouldn’t that be better than going to the gym and doing NO THING?

Examples of just one thing:

1. Recumbent bike/stationary bike for 10 minutes.

2. 10 push ups/15 sit ups/ 20 squats

3. Walking on the treadmill for half a mile

4. Taking one group fitness class

Seriously, this is probably the most basic of basics. Anyone, doesn’t matter who you are or what level you are at, can do any of these “one things.” Imagine if you did all 4 of those things in one day. Well damn, now you just went did a pretty good workout! Give yourself a pat on the back! Why? Because it’s better than no thing.

You should see the look on someones face when I tell them how simple this is. It’s like they just discovered the meaning of life. They feel relief because they can finally let go of all that was holding them back. All those voices telling them, “No you aren’t working out hard enough if you don’t feel like puking at the end of your workout!” “No, you should’t eat that, EVER!” “No, you can’t do that!”

So go ahead and start simplifying your food choices. Start simplifying your workouts. Listen to yourself, tune out the “other” voices. Let go of all that garbage weighing you down. And do one thing well. Over time, you’ll be amazed at how light you start feeling as that burden of all that was once heavy starts to fall off your shoulders.

Becoming the Best Version Of Yourself

When I started out as Personal Trainer 7 years ago, I recall giving a few pieces of advice that seemed to resonate with people. One of these “declarations” has come full circle for me as it was repeated to me almost verbatim at a retreat recently.

I uttered one little sentence to a woman in the locker room 7 years ago as she confided in me that she was struggling with making healthy food decisions, giving in to temptation everywhere she went. She was ready to throw her hands up in surrender and say, “Forget this, it’s too hard!”

Without much hesitation on my part (which is rare since I never seem to know quite what to say to people right away, I usually need a few minutes), I said to her: “It’s really not as difficult as you think it is. We all THINK it’s hard but you’re MAKING it hard. It’s simply about being aware. Constantly conscious. You have to be constantly aware and conscious of every decision you make, and that includes every time you open your mouth to eat or drink.”

I remember this woman looking at me and saying something like, “Wow, you’re so right. I never thought of it that way. Constantly conscious. Yeah. Wow, I’m totally gonna use that. Thanks!”

Color me surprised, I just gave advice to someone that they’re going to USE?!

This came full circle recently. At a retreat, one of the participants mentioned a talk given by Matthew Kelly, a popular Catholic speaker and author. He’s all about becoming the best version of yourself. He believes that God wants us to be the best version of ourselves, that we are called to be more than mediocre. We are meant to live authentic, purpose driven lives and that means being aware of our daily habits – Are we choosing things that will help us become the best version of ourselves? Or are we just seeking temporary pleasure instead of sustainable happiness?

Matthew Kelly’s favorite analogies is the Gym/Diet analogy.

It goes something like this: Think about a time you’re scheduled to get to the gym. It’s your day to workout.

Now think about the effort that goes into it. You’ll have to get your workout clothes ready, you’ll have to get in your car, drive to the gym, change in the locker room and then you finally get on the floor and you have to navigate your way around the gym while trying to avoid eye contact with peering eyes from strangers, find a machine/weights that are available and a bench, or other equipment, get your workout in, work up a sweat,take a shower and then get some food afterwards and then head home or to work.

For most people this might not seem like a lot of effort. A First World Problem if there ever was one, right? But what if you REALLY want to watch something on TV that night? Or what if you celebrated a birthday last night and you still have leftover cake in the fridge? What if you’re hungover from the night before? What if you have some beer and Doritos nearby? How much do you feel like working out now? Probably not very motivated.

And here’s the question Kelly proposes: Which of these options is going to help you become the best version of yourself?  Hitting the gym or sitting at home eating crappy food?

I think we all know the answer to this question.

But wouldn’t it be nice if we were “constantly conscious” of this every time we went to reach for the Doritos instead of the gym bag?

I have told my clients to put something on their fridge/cupboards or even your screensaver/wallpaper on your phone (since we are one those constantly) which issues the same “challenge:” Is this food going to help me reach my goals or will it deter me and send me back to square one? If I eat this/drink this, will I feel temporary pleasure or will I feel sustained happiness?

It’s essentially asking the same thing as Kelly:

If we are aiming to become the best version of ourselves, what does that look like? What does that person look like? When you look in the mirror, do you want to see someone who has made poor choices with regards to his/her life? I assume no. We want to see someone who will not only be happy in their own skin, but they inspire others to become the best version of THEMselves as well due to their consistent habits of choosing happiness over temporary pleasure.

So this is my challenge to my readers, my clients, anyone who wants to become the best version of themselves: Start to become constantly conscious of your surroundings, of your actions, of your habits. Once you have this constant awareness, you are much less likely to make poor decisions. And this includes more than just food. This includes LIFE decisions.

You only have one body, one life. Take care of it. Treat it like the gift that it is.dynamic

  • In need of someone to help coach you to the best version of yourself? Matthew Kelly sends out Daily Food For Thought via email. You can subscribe to that here.
  • If you’d like more of a hands on approach with regards to your dietary and fitness habits, I can help. Here’s a link to my online coaching services. If you’d like to ask more questions about my services, reach out to me! I’m always easily accessible through email. FromFitoFigure@gmail.com

-Michelle

Put Down Your Phone and Pick Up A Book

A popular saying among fitness people and gym rats is, “Do you even lift?”  This is usually directed towards the male  population in a mocking tone to those boys who don’t take strength training too seriously.

But lately, I think the bigger question is, Do you even READ? Do you even do research? I’m not quite sure anyone does when it comes to working out. Why would they? Why would anyone when we have social media to instruct us on how to work out and eat and diet…and live. Right?

No..not so much. Books are still relevant, in my opinion. It’s still the best medium to get a message out there, and it’s especially useful for longevity. People need to refer, quickly, back to a resource. And what’s quicker than just flipping through a book? Yeah yeah, you could download a book to your electronic device but doesn’t anyone else just LOVE to hold a real book in their hands anymore? Plus, I LOVE to highlight in my books. And you can’t really do that on a Kindle. At least not the old fashioned way.

In an effort to get everyone back to reading the old fashioned way, and as way to keep myself from repeating myself a bazillion times on social media, I wanted to put together an easy way for my readers to see what I’m reading and what I recommend, especially when it comes to diet and fitness. Theres a ton of misleading information out there and I feel it’s important to share the relevant and well-researched information. Not just copying a workout you saw on YouTube. Let’s get back to really researching what works best and calling out those quick fix, hokey, quackery looking, scamming authors who just put out books to sell garbage and make a buck.

So without further ado, I present to you my Amazon.com Store! (I included an extra page at the top of my site as well as a link on the sidebar. And I’m including it here so you have no excuse not to give it a visit. What am I recommending?

Four categories:

Fitness Books

Diet and Healthy Living Books

Fitness Gear: All my favorite products that I own/use on myself and my clients

Miscellaneous Faith-Based Books: since my faith is huge part of who I am, I thought why not show you what I’ve been reading and what has changed my life

That’s it! Simple.

Also, if you missed my post about Periscope from last week, be sure to follow me if you are on Twitter (@fromfittofigure) and download the app. You will become quickly addicted, I promise! 🙂

 

-Michelle

 

When The Fire Dies Out, Find a New Campsite

So it’s 13 weeks until my next figure competition and I am completely unmotivated to do anything about it.

Workout-wise, I’m doing well. No big problems there.

Diet-wise? That’s another story.

I’m not quite sure where the motivation and energy and fire went, but it is long gone and I can’t seem to get it back. I tried logging my food, thinking the accountability of my clients and random friends on My Fitness Pal checking in might help. It has helped a bit, but I’m still not all in.

I’ve tried going to my favorite fitness competitor’s websites and checking out their progress pics. That sorta worked but it didn’t seem to illicit any feelings of “YEAH!!! LET’S DO THIS!”

I’ve tried reading my old blog posts from when I first trained two years ago. Nostalgia, right? Eh…I just ended up critiquing my writing style in some of them. 😉

I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly why I cannot seem to take this goal seriously like I did the first time.  I came to a few conclusions as to why this time around I am not as enthused about it:

  • This isn’t the first time. Now that I know what to expect, I’m not EXCITED as much as I’m DREADING it because I’m thinking of all the negative aspects of competing instead of the positive ones.
  • I’m.busier than before. I have several social events coming up in the next two months including a wedding across the country, a week long retreat in Pennsylvania, and a class reunion in less than a month.  I want to look forward to attending and instead I’m  sitting here thinking “How can I fit a cooler on to a plane?” and “I wonder if I can fit in a workout before the rehearsal dinner?”
  • I’m distracted. I’ve been reading a lot of books on religion and Catholic doctrine and Christianity and although I’ve ALWAYS known that there is more to life than 6pack abs, I can’t seem to find a balance between living the “fit life” and exercising my mind as well. Granted I’m reading other books too but I also want to travel and hang out with my family and friends and sometimes I think training prevents me from doing this.
  • My family won’t be able to attend the show. I will have a large audience of friends in support of me there at the show but as soon as I found out the majority of my immediate family couldn’t make it, I  felt like maybe this wasn’t meant to be. It’s super important to me that they be there and if they aren’t, I won’t take it as seriously as I should.

I’ve talked to my trainer/friend/co-worker Chris about this the other day and we agreed that if I am not into this, let’s not push it. BUT, this doesn’t get me off the hook. He suggested I find something that DOES spark that fire in me that I could shoot for. In other words, as the title of this post suggests, FIND a NEW goal because this competition just ain’t cutting it.

So, with that said, I discussed the possibility of sticking to the plan of training and attempting to diet and just training to look great for summer! The wedding that I’m in takes place in mid-July. I went to try on the dress and order it today. I tried on a size 6 and although it fit, it was a tad snug. So, there’s my motivation!

I’m not about to SQUEEZE into a dress in the sweltering July heat for my friends wedding and look like I barely fit into this dress. Granted, no one looks at the bridesmaids at weddings, all eyes will be on her. 🙂 But, it’s motivating me to take things more seriously.

And, the best part is, if by some chance I happen to look pretty good and feel pretty good at the wedding, there will still be a month left to prep for the competition, if I choose to do it.

If not, I will take my own advice and book a photo shoot, the one that I wanted to do LAST summer but didn’t because I got lazy and didn’t want to diet. Hmm….I’m sensing a pattern with myself.

Either way, I have found new motivation: July 18th is the wedding for my friend. Progress pics will be taken next week.

Let’s Do This!!

Repeat After Me

I don’t eat the junk food because I don’t buy the junk food.

I don’t buy junk food because I can walk past the junk food at the store.

I see the junk food but I don’t want the junk food.

I don’t want the junk food because I’ve had the junk food before…and it aint that good.

I don’t eat the fast food because I didn’t cook the fast food and I’m not entirely sure what’s in the fast food.

I didn’t cook the fast food so instead I eat the food I did cook.

I eat the food I cooked because it’s usually 100% better than the fast food anyway.

I drive past the drive thru because I spend enough $ on the real food.

I don’t get hung up about my weight because I don’t weigh myself everyday.

I don’t weight myself everyday because I don’t care about the weight that much.

I don’t care about the weight that much because I know I’m not a reflection of a number.

I don’t complain about my physical flaws because they can’t talk back to me anyways.

I appreciate the flaws I have because it’s a reminder I am not perfect and I’m human just like everyone else.

I drink water instead of pop because water tastes awesome to me.

I don’t buy the pop because I hate the taste of sugar coating my teeth.

I drink water because I listen to my body and it desires good things that give me energy.

I don’t  have the bad food or drink the sugary stuff too often (but I do sometimes and that’s okay!) because my body feels like garbage after I eat and drink that stuff.

And the more I eat and drink the junk stuff, the more my brain tricks me into thinking I want more of them…and then it’s back to….

…I don’t eat the junk food because I don’t buy the junk food…

An Apple Versus A Doughnut: How Science Helps Me Avoid Junk Food

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Back when I started studying to become certified as a Personal Trainer, I came across an article that sparked something in me.

Ever have that feeling? Have you ever read something or saw something or heard something that struck a chord in you or resonated with you in such a way that you never looked at anything the same way again?

Yeah, for me, with regards to junk food, it was this article.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you I hate science. I’ve never had a knack for understanding science, math, chemistry, pretty much anything with numbers and letters. 😉 But food? I understand food.

So when I read this article, I remember thinking it was a tad too “science-y” and so I had to read it about 3 or 4 times to truly get it. For those of you who aren’t into this whole biology thing, I have summarized the main takeaways. My point with today’s post is that perhaps those of you who are addicted to things like donuts and all around crappy foods and can’t seem to stop, maybe if you READ or UNDERSTAND how these foods differ, you’ll be more likely to make the healthier choice.

  1. An apple contains good nutrients like Vitamin C but also has calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin A and a healthy dose of potassium. An apple skin contains a compound called quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that reduces cardiovascular risk.  The flavonoids and phytochemicals that it contains seem to help fight against cancer. AND the skin contains lots of fiber, which helps to improve bowel function and reduced cholesterol absorption. Woohoo! Lots of good stuff right??
  2. A doughnut contains none of these nutrients.
  3. The doughnut is loaded with saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugar and is largely devoid of any nutritional value, other than energy, which it has in abundance.
  4. The digestion process of the doughnut is quite lengthier than the apple. Healthier fats generally are absorbed via the liver, whereas saturated and trans fats pass through the villi and are converted into triglycerides, the main form of fat storage in the body. They are also coated in cholesterol (from the liver) and hence the fats in a doughnut will raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol and reduce the good (HDL) component.
  5. Trans fats do even more damage. They have been shown to wreak havoc with the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol and massively increase your risk of heart disease. They also get into the outer lining of our cells, causing them to harden.
  6. We shouldn’t be too harsh on the doughnut, some of their trans-fat containing friends are deep fried foods, such as French fries, cakes, cookies, biscuits, some breads (especially croissants and pastries), processed foods (especially pies, sausage rolls etc), snack foods (potato chips, some muesli bars) and margarine.

I would be lying if I said I haven’t had a doughnut since reading this post back in 2008. But I can honestly say I know I have had 3 in the past 7 years. Why? When I was presented with the option of having one, I ALWAYS remember this article. Like I said in the beginning, it was one that resonated with me. Maybe it will make an impact with you or someone you know that you think MIGHT take Doughnut Sunday at church just a little too far. 😉

As for the progress that’s been made since this article came out, the USA has taken steps to ban trans fats in most foods so it’s not as popular as before. But you can bet not ALL those popular doughnut chains are trans-fat free. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows companies to round down to 0 g in its nutrition facts label even if the food contains as much as 0.5 of a gram per serving. Some popular donut companies use the words “Trans Fat Free!” in their advertising legally even though they DO in fact, contain trans fats.

That’s just an FYI for you. I’m not the food police but trans fats are not something anyone should be eating on the regular. If you care about your body and your health, take the time to research what you’re eating.

In good health,

Michelle

P.S. I recently did a consult with a woman who found me through my other blog that has little to do with fitness. In case you wanted to read what truly matters to me, you can read my ramblings there too.