The Gift of: Your (Beautiful) Body Story

I wrote this blog post about 6 months ago. I thought it would be worth sharing again, especially for newbies to the blog:

A wise person once said: You Don’t Have a Body. You Are a Body.

In light of my occupation as a personal trainer and bodybuilder, I started to take a second look at the entire fitness industry in light of this statement.

I think too often we focus on the negatives of our bodies. “We hate our own bodiliness,” was something a wise person once said recently (actually it’s the same wise person I just mentioned. I can’t help it, I love wise people.)

I tend to agree that there is an almost universal negative attitude towards our bodies.

I’ve spoken to people on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to what to do with “this body.” I’ve noticed 2 types of people:

The Hater

We hate our body and we do everything possible to hide it, to lie about it, to use it, and abuse it in an effort to make it appear acceptable, perhaps even attractive according to outside influences or societal standards. This becomes an obsession to the point that we become envious of anyone who has the body that we desire so much. This also could lead to despair as we try over and over to attain this “perfect body” with little to show for it. We devalue our bodies and think ourselves unworthy.

The Lover

We love our body so much that we become vain to the point of over exposure. We boast and brag and show off, becoming completely obsessed with maintaining this “perfect” physique. A narcissistic attitude takes over. We believe our body is something to be worshiped by those who hate their own bodies (and we know there are plenty of those).  We also become very frustrated by anyone who isn’t like us. We don’t understand how they just don’t “get with it” and aren’t in love with fitness and health like we are.

But there’s some good news, kind of.

Perhaps the overwhelming majority are those in the middle:

The Love/Haters

These folks have a love/hate relationship with their body. They struggle just like everyone else with maintaining their weight but they don’t obsess over it. They “watch” their diet but they don’t write down what they eat and they most certainly don’t count calories. They like what they see in the mirror but they don’t love it. There’s always room for improvement but they probably only get to the gym once or twice a month.

If there’s one thing all of these people have in common, it’s that they see their bodies as Objects. Things. Possessions.

But what if you looked at your body as a way to tell a story. That certainly changes things doesn’t it?

You can either tell a good, honest story, or a story of lies and deception.

Some examples, since this is a difficult concept:

I’m a smoker and I go to my doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells me that I’m showing all the signs of lung cancer and that I had better cut back or quit on the smoking if I want to live longer. Meanwhile, I’ve seen this same doctor light up a cigarette outside the office and I see a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. That doctor is lying with his body.

Or:

I go to a used car salesmen to try and find a good deal. He sells me this great looking car, I take it for a test drive, the price is right and I drive off the lot but not before he shakes my hand and tells me I made a great decision. Meanwhile, he goes back to his desk and laughs to himself because he knows he just sold me a lemon. By shaking my hand and sincerely telling me I made a great purchase, he lied with is body, as well as his words.

Or:

In the gym, let’s say I take some video demonstrating an exercise or I take a few pictures to put up on my website. When someone asks me how I manage to be so strong or in such great shape, I tell them “Hard work!” but in the meantime, I’m taking some performance enhancing drugs or steroids. I would be lying with my body.


 

So how do we use our body to tell the truth, specifically with regards to health and fitness?

 

It starts with honesty with ourselves. It’s EASY to lie to others. “Oh yeah, I’ve been sticking with my diet and my training. I’ll be ready for that 5k in a few weeks, no problem!”

Meanwhile, you know you’ve cheated on your diet, eaten ll the wrong things, splurged on junk food, and haven’t gotten a run in because you still haven’t bought a good pair of running shoes (or whatever the case may be).  But no one else knows that! So there’s no one to tell the truth to, except yourself.

If we can be honest with ourselves, by speaking the truth, by admitting our faults and our screw-ups, even if it’s in a journal or out loud to ourselves, it’s one step towards telling the truth with our bodies.

It starts when we stop thinking of our bodies as these “things” you have to deal with and work at and drag around. What a sad way to view ourselves. And we wonder why people are SO interested in the quick-fix diet schemes?


 

We need to re-frame our thinking to understand that our body is exactly who we are. It’s not something to be mocked, abused, degraded and devalued at the expense of others or in the name of vanity and pride. And certainly not the in the name of fitness.

Start telling your story with honesty. If we start there, it might become easier to view OTHERS in a more respectful way, not just ourselves.

If you are telling a story every minute of the day with your body…

What kind of story are you telling and what would you want people to remember about it?

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…

What a Shame!

I see the internet is abuzz once again with the latest “No Excuses” photo making the rounds on Instagram.

Rewind: Fitness enthusiast Maria Kang posted this picture of herself on Facebook way back in the fall of 2013.

Maria Kang was accused of “Fit-Shaming” for posting this photo

The internet exploded with half praise for Kang for being “fitsporational” but many others accused her of bullying and “fit-shaming,” making people (specifically women) who have had kids thinking they are just sitting at home on the couch eating chips and bon bons when they have plenty of time to exercise and eat healthy.

So was she bragging or motivating? Kang said on her own website “I felt that if others can overcome incredible challenges to be in shape, why would my story be any different?”

So we’ve had a break with the fit-shaming since then…right? I guess the internet was overdue for another one.

Enter Abby Pell. Pell frequently posts pictures of herself on her Instagram page with motivational sayings, apparently. She posted this picture almost a year ago but it’s making headlines now because she recently won a fitness/bodybuilding competition.

Look familiar?

Her intent seems to be the same as Kang.

 “The message I want to portray is for all the women/mums/girl who aren’t happy or confident with themselves and the reason they don’t try to do anything about it is because they think it’ll be too hard or even impossible to get results.

Everyone could make excuses, too many people think it’s easier not to try than to risk failure. It’s not the case. I don’t want to make other women feel bad about themselves, I want them to look at me and think, if she can do it so can I. Because you can!”

Is this message being portrayed in the best way?

If we are trying to tell Mommies everywhere that having kids is no excuse for getting in shape, does baring your six pack stomach really inspire anyone? Or is it just making people angry enough to comment and post about how much they hate these women?

I definitely don’t have an answer. But I think the REACTION is interesting. Perhaps the picture brought out some…Jealousy? Envy? Sensitivity?

I honestly felt none of these. I immediately thought, “Good for them! Okay…so what else is going on in the news?” I didn’t give it more than a second or two of attention. It wasn’t until almost every fitness person I follow started Retweeting and sharing it that I noticed the “outrage.”

What’s Your Excuse Reason for Getting in Shape?

As for me, several things inspired me to get in shape for the competition.

I don’t have kids and I’ve mentioned on here in the past, I had been a personal trainer but just hadn’t pushed myself as much at the time. I had felt soft and lazy. I didn’t like the way I felt but had become so complacent that I kinda didn’t care all that much. I could have stayed soft, lazy, and kinda average looking but I KNEW I had it in me to look and feel better.

Taking a look around me, I was surrounded by fit people at the gym I worked at.  I saw how hard they worked and wondered, “Why don’t my workouts look like that? How come my muscles don’t look like hers?” Well, the answer was easy: I wasn’t pushing myself. At all. I was just coasting.

I had looked at pictures of some of my former co-workers from back in Chicago, one in particular was incredibly inspirational for me. She pushed and trained and dieted for a competition as well and I thought, WOW. I want to look like that! I want my workouts to kick ass and I want to look like these people when I’m done!

I don’t have kids so maybe training and dieting for the competition would have been challenging for me if I did. But there are plenty of mommies who compete. Maybe they aren’t all pros but they are out there.

So it wasn’t one picture or one person in particular who lit the fire in me to get off my butt and start taking fitness more seriously. It was several people and my current lazy flat butt* that got me going.

*It’s not flat anymore. Thank you deadlifts and split squats and lunges and more squats!

15 Minutes of Fame

Did these women just want to be in the spotlight for a period of time? Maybe. Attention seeking? Perhaps.

But I think what is interesting is these women are real people (i.e. not celebrities). Can you imagine the audacity if Madonna or Britney or Heidi Klum posted a photo with the same caption??? Can you imagine the outrage and the comments???

“Easy for you to say, you’re a millionaire!!!”

“You have 3 nannies and probably a personal chef and a personal trainer!!”

“You get paid $ to look that way!!!”

“You’ve probably had liposuction!!! All your photos are photoshopped anyways!”

But the minute a real woman posts it, all of a sudden the reaction is “Fit shaming! Shame on you!!  Who are you to tell me what I should be doing?!”

Newsflash: These women never ordered or commanded any of us to listen to them. They are merely trying to help. And quite frankly, you don’t need to listen or click or comment if you don’t like the message.

Think of social media as a hobby, not your job.

Some of us respond well to yelling and barking in your face type of personal trainers, some respond well to calm and collected and others listen to no-nonsense types (I put myself in this category). I think the same is said for the type of people you follow on social media, real or…ummm not real (famous people).

Maybe you like the hardcore, in-your-face types who might curse once in awhile and post videos of themselves kicking their own butts in the gym. Maybe you like the fitness geeks who show you how to move better or always have a post about how to keep good form while working out. Or maybe you like just regular good old fashioned easy-to-follow instructions and black and white “I tell it like it is” types. As long as they get you off the couch and ignite a little fire in you, keep following them. But be careful, because sometimes the best sources of inspiration, are right under your nose.

I for one, like to follow and look up to REAL people. As I mentioned earlier, my friends, my co-workers who train hard, my clients who follow their plans. Those people are my “fit-sporation.” Sure I follow plenty of fitness people on social media, but I like following my actual friends who I see everyday even more.

Turn Around

So take a look around you.  Try actually looking up from the phone and the computer. Who around you has the best healthy habits that you would love to adapt? Who has a workout regiment that you think you’d like to try? Who seems to have their act together?

Talk to them. Ask them how did they get to the point where they are now with their physique and fitness level.

Guaranteed the conversation might go something like this:

“I make it a priority. But I wasn’t always like this! It took me a long time to prepare all my meals and get my workouts in.”

or

“My gym is right around the corner from my job so I go right after work. Otherwise I don’t think I would ever go.”

or

“I have the energy to deal with my job and the kids because I don’t eat crap like I used to. I don’t always work out. Sometimes I just can’t get it in, but at least my meals are pretty good 80% of the time. It also helps that I learned how to cook after I got married.”

or

“Oh it’s takes a lot of work to stay in shape but I’m addicted to it! I signed up for some endurance races to hold me accountable. At first it was hard, but I just made it a point to put it in my schedule. Like an appointment that I can’t miss.”

Do you see what the consistent message is here? “It’s not easy but I made it work for me.” “I’m not always 100% consistent but I try.”  “It took me a long time to get this way.”

I promise, this is the only secret that there is.

Some day, everyone will stop with the quick fixes and diet pills and crash diets. People will see the celebrities on magazine covers and condemn the latest Hollywood cleanse. Women won’t tear each other down. We’ll stop trying to one-up our transformation story as being better or “because I’m a Mom I had to work harder than you!”

Some day this will happen. They’ll understand there are no excuses. There’s just hard work and desire to succeed.

It’s a shame we still don’t get it.

 

 

Hit the Reset Button

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It’s been one of those months.  Not days, not weeks, an entire month of being way too liberal with my diet.

I had booked a just-for-fun photo shoot for June 28th but told my photographer I need much more time. If I would have stuck with the original date, I would have been miserable. I probably would look “okay” maybe even “good” to some people, but I’m setting my standards higher than just “good” and “okay.”  I will in no way look like I’m ready to hit the stage in a competition, but I aim to look my most FIT this year. That’s my goal.

So, today is day number 1. Again.  We’ve all been here I’m sure:

“I’ll start tomorrow.”

“Just one more party and I’ll get back on my diet next week.”

“I can’t possibly say no to birthday/graduation/wedding cake, so just one more cheat weekend.”

I consider the past month a mini-vacation for myself. I didn’t go nuts but NOTHING was working to get myself motivated to lean out. My usual tricks just weren’t cutting it. No motivational sayings posted on my phone or pictures of my favorite competitors helped. Writing about it didn’t help. Watching other people workout didn’t do anything for me. Taking progress pics didn’t do it either. Even pushing my own clients to work hard, which almost always works for me, didn’t make me want to take this seriously this time around.

I think I realized the problem: I believe it was a combination of stopping the coaching with Erik as well as having become USED to all the food during my bulk phase. I think my stomach was just like, “Ummm….what happened to all that food you were feeding me?”

Trust me, the food that’s on my diet phase of this plan is PLENTY of food for me. But of course, who wouldn’t just a little bit more? Just an extra bite here. A little more spoonful there. Oh just a few more grams won’t hurt.

The nice interesting part is that the scale doesn’t show any significant change. I didn’t completely undo all my hard work. So this tells me my cheats really weren’t that bad. This is more of a psychological RESET button I’m hitting. Because my mind and my heart were NOT into it this past month at all.

But that’s changing today.

No more slacking. Time to get serious.

So let’s this be a lesson to you boys and girls:

Even when you set goals, be ready to put the work in. Admit when you’re hearts just not into it, and hit that reset button when you are ready. It’s never too late!

 

 

Does this Selfie Make My Ego Look Big?

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Who says we have to suffer?  When did this stop becoming fun and lighthearted and turn into hardcore and punishment?

At this time last year I was spending a decent amount of time in the gym.  I was working out 6 days week for about 45 minutes at a time.  No cardio, just lifting.  Not overtraining.  Just working towards the goal of the competition. I also worked at two other gyms. And paid membership dues to 3 gyms.

My sister joked once at the time:  “Whenever I call you you’re either on your way to the gym, at the gym, or driving home from the gym.”  I thought it was hilarious…back then.

Now? A year later, I’m kind of irritated that I found it necessary to workout so much.  I think of all the time I could have spent doing other things.  I could have at least cut back to 4 days a week.  Granted, I made sure I didn’t miss out on any family gatherings as much as possible. But it bordered on obsession and addiction.

Today, I can’t help but see others succumbing to the #NoDaysOff mantra.  Take a look at ANY social media forum and it’s right there. Instagram is probably the worst culprit.  I don’t recall all this Selfie obsession a year or two ago.  It has definitely escalated.  I’m sure it started out as motivating and perhaps it continues to motivate others. (I just like the pictures of the food to be honest).  But it borders on Bragging and Boasting.  Now everyone and their mother thinks they have to tweet and post and snap a pic of every rep and set and flex.  #Beastmode? #NoDaysOff? I say #Annoying.

And these are not people training for a competition or a marathon.  These are not Olympians or professional athletes. These are just average people thinking they have to kill themselves in the gym almost everyday.  And they ARE doing cardio and possibly overtraining.  But let’s just say they are being careful and have become addicted to the gym.  I think that’s a great thing except for one small problem:  Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

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I think you might need to find a LIFE if the gym is the only good part of your day. I love working out but it is indeed not the best part of my day.

Injuries and overtraining aside, spending 75% of your time in a gym working out is not the point of working out.  The point of being fit is to be healthy so you WON’T have to spend 75% of your time in a gym.  Even if you think of your average overweight or even obese person in this example, they can accomplish most of their fat loss by diet alone and little exercise.  But therein lies the problem – Most of the people who NEED to lose fat, probably have an addiction to food, which is how they got to where they are presently.

So instead of working on a food plan and getting a diet in order, people are under the impression that in order to lose fat, they can just workout and still eat like garbage.  That might work for a week or two, but crappy eating always wins in the end.  You can run a marathon and still gain weight.

Programs like P90X and T25 and CrossFit give the false impression, I think, that you have to sweat until you bleed in the gym everyday or else you’re not doing it right.

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Sorry to my CF friends but this is #lame.

Selfies and Flex Friday and Motivation Monday and #FitFamily can be a great thing, don’t get me wrong.  At this point, it’s just motivating the already-motivated groups though.

Let’s just get the word out there that beating  yourself up in the gym everyday isn’t worth it in the end.  And it’s not necessary or even recommended to anyone.

No one ever said on their deathbed, “If only I had just squatted a few more times!”  And no matter what you believe about the afterlife, I don’t think you can take your dumbbells with you.

Unfortunately the people who really need to read this, won’t see it.

They’re still at the gym.

The Honeymoon is Over – Saying Goodbye to the Bulk

I officially started my dieting phase on Monday and ended the building phase.  It’s been 26 weeks since the last time I had NO plan – No lifting and No meal plan.  And it’s been about 14 months since I’ve done any cardio (I don’t count the 3 cardio sessions I did the week of my competition).

Last week I was under orders from my coach to take off, no lifting and no planned meals for an entire week.  The result?  See here:

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I gained just 1lb, half an inch in my waist (BOO) half an inch in the hips (YAY!), half an inch in each leg, (YAY!), and of course, 1.5inches in my stomach. (BOO).

So you might think I’m upset about this but keep in mind, this was the result of being ON plan one week and being OFF one week.  It was such a much needed break for my body.  I did enjoy a few runs fast walks during the weekend while the weather was nice, a few alcoholic beverages, and celebrating Easter a week early with carbs galore.  If this is the result of that, then I’m really pleased.

So these are the STARTING numbers for my cutting phase.  I’m logging all of my food until I get a detailed plan from my coach which is due to arrive any minute now.  I took in about 1600 calories yesterday and am on track to do about the same today.  I worked legs yesterday and upper body today.  I’m holding off on cardio until I get my plan because, as I’ve learned, it’s all diet. 🙂  And the less cardio I have to do to shed this extra layer, the better and happier I’ll be.

I thought about ending my bulking phase with a little Ode to Food..but I’m not feeling the creative juices flowing on that one.  So here are some Lessons Learned instead:

  • The scale is my friend…the food scale that is.  I don’t care who you are, when you slap exactly 90ounces of tilapia or exactly 85grams of chicken on the scale, it’s like a little mini celebration.  As pathetic as it sounds, I can’t help but think “HELL YEAH I’M A ROCK STAR”  for being able to eye-ball what 85grams is and then to be right on the money?  Okay it’s silly but I feel pretty damn awesome for doing it.
  • You can never get tired of peanut butter.  Did you know there are people out there who don’t love peanut butter?  How dare they!  I learned to control my cravings by making my own in my VitaMix.  It’s amazing what you WON’T devour when you’ve made it yourself.  And when you’re super cheap frugal like me.
  • Good Food Attitude Required.  You cannot possibly enter a bulking phase with a bad relationship with food.  Of course, you can’t diet with one either.  But I would say you better have a positive attitude because when you consume a lot of it, you don’t want to HATE food.  You don’t want to HATE what it’s doing to your body.  You’re getting larger and larger and clothes aren’t fitting but don’t hate on the food.  It’s doing what it’s supposed to.  You’re training your body to grow and you have to keep in mind that a surplus of food is necessary to achieve this.
  • Body Image is Everything.  To go along with the food attitude, if you are miserable with how you look, you won’t last long.  It’s not easy to see my six pack go away, it’s not a cake walk to step on the scale and record the new number, and it’s damn annoying to try on clothes that fit 3 months ago that can’t get past your hips.  But it’s just the way things work.  It’s the way your body responds to added muscle (plus a little fat).
  • If eating an entire plate of asparagus is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.  There’s not really a lesson here.  I just love asparagus.  And I will never ever ever get tired of it. 🙂

Dieting progress posts will be forthcoming, as well as some much requested Workout posts.  I’ve been asked to blog a 20 minute Hotel Workout for those clients of mine who travel frequently.  So be on the lookout for that! 

 

As always, you can find my other posts on various training topics at Muscle is the New Sexy, new posts from me come out every Wednesday.  Don’t forget to like me on Facebook here and follow me on Twitter (mostly fitness related but sometimes sports and humor get mixed in) and Instagram (always just fitness related content).

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Happy Training!