Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fake Bake and Fakin' Bacon

Yesterday, I was "that person."

"That person." We all know them.

The fool in the room that has no idea what is going on. At the gym, it's the woman lifting the 1 lb weights in some non-existent lifting move as she walks across the gym floor, only to put them down and mount a machine and use it completely wrong as to not only not be a totally ineffective exercise, but also probably take years off of her life and inches out of her cartilage.

The fool who gets on the T and taps his paper ticket on the Charlie Card reader, or the person who steps up on the T and stops completely thinking he can ride the T in the stairwell, completely ignoring the LINE OF PEOPLE behind him.

The fool who has never once used a PC, then tries to fill out a job application at Target on the PC, but can't work the mouse and it takes him 4 minutes to move the arrow to field 1, with only 399 more fields to fill out.


Well, when it comes to tanning at a tanning salon, I'm THAT GUY!

I live above a tanning salon. Yes, it's true. The basement level of many Boston apartments serves as anything from a bar, to a restaurant, to Real Estate offices, to anything. I happen to be above a tanning salon on on side (yay!), and a really great yummy pub with pub food on the other (booo, not on nutrition plan!)

I've never been against fake baking, but I just never "got it." I likely would never have done this had I not had to worry about my farmer's tan for the show. Some people overdo it, and that's I think why a lot of people start to wonder about tanning salons.

I have quite the ridiculous farmer's tan from this summer. Later on down the road, I'll be getting some spray tanning, some paint-on tanning, and maybe some bronzer. I'm not sure.

But in the meantime, my goal is to minimize the appearance of my farmer's tan. Given that my posing suit will be rather minimal in size, simply tanning in the bikinis I have, might leave even more of a tan line that I'd have to worry about later. So we're doing this in the birthday suit.

Now, my first day at the tanning salon, I told the girls I had zero idea of what to do. They were so nice to explain the entire thing to me like I was an idiot, which I am. Soo many types of beds, different lamp wattages, standing, laying down, spray tan machine, some have aromatherapy, some have face lamps that shut off, some have extra lamps, all the machines use different quantities of the minutes package you buy... it's so much information.

Then the goggles! Oh these things are so silly looking, but of course, required unless you'd like to burn out your corneas.

So, the girl and I decided that the stand-up machine was going to be the best bet. She demonstrated everything for me. You go in, close the door behind you, then there's a little room to change. Then you go into another room inside with the lamps and close the door behind you. You hold onto the two straps above your head, and put your feet where it says "place feet here." After you tell the desk how many minutes you want, they program it in, and you have about 3 minutes to change out of your clothing and get into the lamp sub-room.

I'm going to say it right now, but I was so scared the first time. I'm not usually scared by new experiences, but I guess it was a mix of fears, including burning the sh*t out the parts of my skin that have never once seen the light of day, getting electrocuted, and having the goggles fall off and I go blind for all eternity.

I'd like to say this is the scariest thing I've ever done in my life. No lie. NOTHING scares me. I went skydiving last year, wasn't scared before, after, during, nothing. I do all the roller coasters, scary plane rides, nothing. But for some reason, this whole tanning thing sort of freaked me out a bit.

I had decided to cover my face with a towel, of course over my goggles, to reduce the amount of tan on my face. I don't want wrinkles, and my face is already tan enough, despite wearing 15 SPF lotion on it 365 days a year.

So, my first time tanning, I go into the little room, disrobe, put my junk on the floor and the little itty bitty chair, and carefully into the little pod with the lamps and close the door behind me. I put the towel over my head, my hands on the straps and wait patiently.

As soon as the lights flicker on, the towel on my head disappears. I start to panic: WHERE DID IT GO? With my goggles on, I can see through the little windows in 'em, and I am looking on the floor for my towel. I can't find it ANYWHERE. I sort of panic, where could it have gone?

I soon realize it's plastered to the ceiling of the light pod I'm standing in. I didn't realize that the light pod is actually one huge vacumn with strong fans below and above me. I quickly peel the towel off of the 2 foot fan above my head, and hold it over my face with alternating arms for the duration of my first 4-minutes tanning session. All I hear is the fans, and it starts to get a little warm. 4 minutes seems like a long time.

The lights eventually turn off, and I carefully find the door (this part reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where Gene Wilder searches tirelessly for the exit door in the tiny room with the crazy black and white walls, with all of the children and their parents, and then the exit door is also the entrance door, and all the parents yell at him for being loony.)

I put my junky clothes back on (because that's what I wear in my apartment, and technically, this is my apartment, it's just a fancy basement), and go up 1 set of stairs to the street, then go up the stairs into my apartment building.

I'm so proud of myself. I went again tonight for 3 minutes, as my white skin has never once been tan in some places, and I already notice a difference. In order to avoid having to hold the towel over my head, I brought the headbands I wear while working out and basically bagged my head in a towel. I put the towel over my head, then put one headband around my forehead around the back of my head, and the other headband around my chin area and around the back of my head. It worked; the towel stayed in place and I can hold the straps which helps get an even tan all around.

Tonight I also put sunblock on my already-tan body parts, as to not continue to tan those parts. I want them to stay sort of where they are. I wonder if getting rid of a farmer's tan this way will really work. Either way, tanning isn't that expensive. I think I spent $75 on something like 150 minutes. That's a lot of minutes, considering each day is about 4 minutes on average.

My workout tonight was decent, but certainly not great. I'm considering maybe doing something in the mornings before work, like an additional workout. I just worry I won't be ready in time......

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pensive on the Porch

Today isn't going to be my favorite day. I got a rough start on my Monday, missed the single most favorite day at the gym, and overall wasn't very pleased with how I felt today.

Life in big city is so peaceful to me. I live in a college neighborhood, which isn't nearly as obnoxious as it sounds. A few perks of living in this area is that I don't have crying babies in my building, live beneath children that run around at all hours, and no one owns dogs that bark incessantly.

I have a back porch. Some would call it a fire escape, although there is no place to escape to, except another bedroom in my apartment, or another apartment all together. Let us call it the back terrace. So classy, so chic.

When I first moved to Boston, there was a time I was without employment unexpectedly, and the back terrace was a place I spent a lot of time sitting, looking up at the stars, trying to understand where my life was going.

Now, I find I don't spend enough time out there. In NYC, these unique additions to apartments are quite popular, and are a part of the culture in some neighborhoods, more so than Boston.

Tonight as I sat out there, it was almost a calmer tribute to Hitchcock's Rear Window, a splendid movie, starring Christopher Reeve many years later. The university owns the building parallel to my terrace, and I watched a man sweeping all of the empty apartments at 11 PM before the students move in.

One woman also apparently has moved in already, and was spending some time in the kitchen with a T-shirt just barely grazing her hip bone, but unfortunately forgot to wear her britches. Just looked up the singular word "britch," on the internet, and it is defined as the buttocks of an animal. So basically tonight my view was tainted by Britch in the Kitch, not as popular as the best-selling Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, probably the best selling vegan cookbook out there.

Regardless of my burning corneas, it is always calming to be out there. I hear the faint hum of various HVAC and A/C units powering up all the buildings. I rarely hear horns or sirens; only the occasional young adults strolling through the back alley.

But I love my city, my apartment, and I'm such a gracious, proud taxpayer to the city.

The view to the left


Really struggling.

Haven't felt great all day, and I can't get it together to hit up my favorite fitness class and the gym.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane? No public transit? No problem!

Of course, we've got this storm. The city of Boston shut down all public transit, which is a mild inconvenience for those of us who don't own cars.

I awoke this morning to do my e-mail check-in with my online coach. I took my standard photos and sent them off, along with my feedback for the week.

Since I was all suited up in my bikini, I took the time to walk around a bit in my platforms. I'm starting to get really excited for my show, and yesterday was exactly 10 weeks out from the competition. I can't believe it's creeping up, and it's a little scary.

I will be taking posing classes down the road, but it's important for me to start to feel comfortable wearing the heels and a bikini. So with a little iPod music and a full-length mirror, I just had a little fun with it. I'm just still blown away that despite a rough week, I still have a physique like I never thought I would, and I know it will only get better.

Of course I haven't started the very serious lean-out process yet, nor am I tan. Most of my skin hasn't seen sun in over a year, so I know with a tan, I'd probably be even more content with how I look thus far.

Despite having no transit, I called up a few of the Boston Sports Clubs in the area to see if any of them were open. To my surprise, all the ones that were within walking distance, were open. I decided to head to my primary gym, so I set out in some junky clothes, armed with an old umbrella, my gym bag, and my 3rd meal packed.

The walk was a mess, and I hardly used my umbrella on the way there, as the wind made it nearly impossible. I love how the city was so empty. It's exactly 1 mile from my apartment, so it only takes me about 15 minutes or so to get there.

Surprisingly, there was a relatively significant number of people working out. It was still quiet, and it was a great day to use the weight room and have it all to myself. Today included:

- 1 leg-bridges
- Reverse dumbbell lunges
- 1 leg hack squats
- 1 leg quad leg extension - machine
- Lying hamstring curl - machine
- Ab crunch machine

My favorite of those exercises is the lying hamstring curl. Least favorite is the lunges... I hate all lunges more than any other lifting move. After my stair running last night, the workout definitely was a little trickier.

Luckily when I left the gym, the rain had stopped, and the walk home was fun and windy. An empty city with high-speed winds can be a lot of fun. The high winds circling around the John Hancock tower creates a sound like no other; it sounds like an enormous crowd cheering at a baseball game, and it's pretty loud.

I had run to Whole Foods early this morning to pick up lettuce, and then the corner store to get Diet Coke, so now I'm all set to set up camp for the rest of the day. My usual volunteering will unfortunately not happen because I have no way to get there. Oh well, it's a good day to catch up on extra rest.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back on Track - 70 Days Until Showtime!!

Most of this past week was good. 80% of it was good.

20% of it was not.

I made some poor judgement calls when it came to eating on two days. It wasn't because I was craving something. It wasn't because I was hungry, it wasn't because my nutrition plan leaves me wanting more. It's that some part of me wanted to rebel and thumb my nose at my progress. Because I have already noticed enormous changes in my physique in only 8 weeks, I guess I figured I was "comfortable" and "could get away" with poor dietary choices.

I felt like garbage, both physically and mentally.

With a little pep talk from a fellow fitness competitor (hey girl!!!), a great chest/tricep workout, followed by running the 10 flights of stairs for a high-intensity cardio workout, I am back on track.


Lost some focus this week.

I just e-mailed my online coach to ask for her help.

Stressful, but I know I can get it back together.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Food Costs and Economics

Food costs are definitely at an all-time high around the country. It first began a few years back, about 3 or 4 years ago, that prices started to creep up.

It was heavily due to energy costs increasing the costs of transport of food. There was upward movement in commodity costs, including corn and wheat, that especially drove up the cost of processed foods.

But now, energy prices are lower, but many food prices have stayed at the high level. The reason for this, is because much of the food we all buy at the grocery store adhere to an economic theory called "sticky prices." Sticky prices are prices that may change due to changes in the overall economic climate, but once those variable changes disappear or return to their normal levels, the price stays the same. There a lot of reasons for this, and if you're interested, here's a brief article if you'd like to know more. I read a lot of this sort of stuff, because I find it interesting, but I gather that most people don't.

Anyways, on top of those sticky prices we all pay, city-dwellers pay quite the premium on all food sold at a grocery store. But, that's okay, I wouldn't trade my city life for the world.

Today is a day off from work so I walked over to my Whole Foods and stocked up for about 1 week's worth of food. This stock will last me about 1 week, but also in addition to this, would be a few cups of oats and a few cups of fruit per week. That probably adds perhaps an additional $5.00 per week, and small amounts of things like salad dressing, garlic chili sauce, and probably $5.00 worth of protein shake mix. I would probably also add another $5.00 worth of lettuce to this.

This diet is relatively cheap I have found. Every single staple in this photo is actually cheaper at Whole Foods than my local Shaw's, which is quite the opposite of what I had expected to find.

I use 1 container of tofu a day, dry-fried of course. That takes a lot of the water weight out so it shrinks a bit. the lettuce I use for my salad for Meal 3 and Meal 6, and I use a lot of it, though I spend a few bucks each day buying my lettuce for Meal 3 during the work week. The Smart Bacon I use maybe once a week on top of my salad to change up my protein source, but I try not to use it much because it is a processed foods and we're advised to avoid them. I like Whole Foods's selection of frozen veggies; they're more imaginative than most grocery stores. I don't love the "Whole Foods Scene," and by no means do I believe that I or anyone need to follow an organic diet. I don't believe in any of that. [I actually think that the health benefits touted are mostly gimmick and something that Americans want to believe, so they do believe. People also used to believe that a woman's place was at home, not in the workplace, and not one questioned it. But that has also changed significantly over time. Though if someone prefers the taste of organic, then that's a reason enough to choose organic. But in terms of non-organic produce being bad or less good for you than organic, I'm not drinking that Kool-Aid] I go here often because it's cheaper and closer.

All of this food cost about $40. Not too bad. That, plus the $15 of so in other food that I consume. Ballpark figure, that's $55 a week in food costs, not too bad.

I don't really watch my food costs or only buy what is on sale. But today I actually thought it would be interesting just to see what I spend. I don't usually believe that buying and packing your food is cheaper. When I'm not dieting, I *never* do that. I much prefer to pick something up at one of my local places. I never pack a lunch; there is nothing more unappealing than a packed lunch. But, with this diet, this rule doesn't apply. I'm always amazed when I see people sit at their desk and eat a sad little sandwich with like 3 anemic slices of turkey on it and some tap water. I don't know how people do it.

I have a cafeteria in my building, and I buy my lettuce each day from the salad bar downstairs. I could bring my lettuce, but it takes up so much space, and plus, it's just more convenient this way.

I put on a pair of shorts that I haven't worn since my solo Puerto Rico vacation I took in June of 2010. Wow, they sure fit better, in fact, they're a little large. So I took a photo so I could compare.

Waaay more room in the hips and waist area. I looooove it.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Making it last

There are two things that you want to last when you are training for a fitness show.

1. Your food
2. You satiety (i.e. your feeling of fullness)

Regardless of whether I am going to work or it's the weekend, I always have food on hand. I don't refrigerate ANYTHING. Things taste better to me at room temperature. Sure, you might think this is dangerous or whatever, but it's a practice I've always used. A healthy body comes equipped with very strong bacteria in the gut, and mine can handle a lot. I don't believe in "coddling" your body with antibacterials, overly obsessive hand-washing, crazy produce cleaning, antibiotics for things that can't be cured with antibiotics, none of that.

I quickly rinse my produce (celery, peppers). I never wash my lettuce. And I don't refrigerate my vegetables and tofu if it's going to be eaten within the next 10 hours. I don't get sick, not even a common cold. So this works for me. I believe too much caution allows your body's self-defense mechanisms to quit working, because they don't have to.

What works well:
Broccoli - If it's raw, it stays crunchy. If it's frozen or cooked, it maintains its firmness, though the longer you hold onto it, the sulfer smell does sort of get stronger, but it tastes fine. Raw is really the best for long periods of time.
Tofu - dry-fried. It's been sitting on a hot griddle, the edges are seared, and it will sit in my Snap-Ware all day.
Carrots - Raw or canned, they stay good.
Cauliflower - Raw. It does start to brown a bit, but the taste remains the same
Edamame - I buy it frozen, it's delicious. It keeps well, but is high in carbs so I don't eat it that frequently.
Raw Berries - They don't have to last that long since mine will be gone by noon per my nutrition plan.

What does not work well:
Peppers - they begin to ferment a bit. They also get a bit slimy over time.
Okra - I buy it frozen, but if you keep it sitting, it will get VERY slimy, and it's messy to eat and the texture gets gross.
Eggplant, Squash, Zucchini - It looses the firmness, browns. I don't even like this stuff anyway so no loss to me.
Fruit with liquid - This includes my frozen strawberries. They begin to ferment if you hold them at room temperature too long... but again, mine are consumed by noon, so this is a non-issue.


Obviously, no one wants to be hungry all day. I'm not that hungry with my nutrition plan, but sometimes I like to be pro-active to keep hunger at bay.

- Metamucil - I'm taking this anyway to increase my fiber intake without upping my calories. I like to take it at my smaller meals, and the meals without fat. I take it at Meal 2 and 4, and sometimes 6. With 8 to 10 ounces of water, a rounded teaspoon dissolved is a nice stomach filler.
- Water - Tons of it. I aim for a gallon a day, minimum. I fill up my large Nalgene bottle at least 3 to 4 times at work, and try to drink another while I workout.
- Hot water - I drink this at work because I'm freezing, but I also find that it helps keep hunger at bay. It's hot and satisfying. Sometimes I add a Green Tea bag, but I don't really like tea all that much.
- Protein shake - My pea protein (which I have put to the side) is very bulky compared to my rice protein. That stuff filled my entire stomach up. Though I don't prefer the taste or texture to my rice protein, it has zero carbs, and I may use it closer to showtime.
- Large Salads - I eat large salads at meals 3 and 6. Because nice lettuce is so light and has so few calories, I really make large salads. A shoe-box size of the good lettuce has fewer than 100 calories. Probably 4 large handfuls of lettuce. Once I use a fork and knife to cut it all down, it really is only about 4 cups of lettuce. These keep me nice and full, because they take so long to eat and have a lot of volume.
- Crystal Light - I find that one or two glasses of Crystal Light Lemon Iced Tea can really nip a tummy rumble in the bud. It has a different effect on my satiety than does Diet Coke. It's more "filling" to me.

The urge to eat was far stronger when I first began my nutrition plan. It was especially rough at night. But with my large salad at meal 6, I find that I'm full and satiated, and don't have those antsy feelings that I experienced at night a few months back.

Hunger Anxiety - Gone!

It is common practice for those who are training for any sort of fitness show, that you generally carry your food with you wherever you go. You always must "be prepared," as they say in the Boy Scouts, which I know because dad was Scout Master for my brother and I had to sit in the hallway of the elementary school dying a slow death from boredom as the Boy Scout meeting dragged on every Tuesday night.

In addition to my gym bag, I also picked up a smaller shoulder bag that perfectly fits 4 Snap Ware containers, my Nalgene bottle, and even a book if I want to throw it in there. So with the gym bag on one shoulder, the food bag on the other, it works well. Now, when I run to the grocery store WITH all of that, then I become that crazy bag-carrying girl on the bus. THEN I stop at the corner store for my bag of Diet Coke and Diet Sunkist Orange, and then I just look like a fool.

But the great thing about carrying my food around is that I'm never famished. I used to work out for a few hours, then be deathly starving, so anxious to rush home and eat something, so I'd often skip some errands that I really needed to get finished. When I'm hungry, I don't function well at all. I am one-track-minded to get home and EAT. And usually, it would turn into an all-night session of eating. So after the gym I'd rush to my corner store to pick up my diet sodas..... maybe a box of crackers, and a single-serving pack of Oreos, and a jar of Teddie Natural Chunky Peanut Butter to replenish the jar I polished off the night before.

But that's only after I stop at Boloco for my burrito bowl, which is VERY good for you, just very starchy, even without the tortilla. My custom bowl would always have brown rice, black beans, lettuce, mango salsa, regular salsa, cucumbers, and a dollop of their amazing guacamole... it's the only place I enjoy guacamole. All great, nutritious foods that no one should be embarrassed or ashamed to eat.

But eating like this wasn't doing my body justice. For some reason, my body wants to hold onto the calories taken in with this food. Who knows if I just stopped eating my Boloco Bowl if I'd have "extra" around my edges. I don't know, I never just had my burrito bowl; I always continued having some snacky snacks as I come home to "reward" myself for a long day and tough workout.

Now, after a workout, I eat in the locker room. Some people give me judgmental looks, but I don't care, there will always be those people.

As I open my locker, I take out my plastic tumbler, my plastic fork, and my snapware of protein shake mix. I head to the sinks, make myself a quick shake, stir it up with my fork, then down it. Then I just rinse off my tumbler, dry it off, throw it back in my bag.

Then I head back to my locker and eat whatever veggie I have on me. Last night it was broccoli, the frozen kind. (Tip: If you're going with frozen broccoli, buy broccoli crowns, vs just broccoli. It's so much better, as the stalks can be tough and tasteless.) It's so satisfying to fill up my stomach after a workout, so I can calm the heck down and just take my time and enjoy the trip home.

I love eating this way. I no longer have the outrageous "hunger anxiety" that has ruled my world as long as I can remember. It's truly liberating.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Updated Progress Photos

Here is an update to my progress photos since my last post with photos 2 weeks ago.

So far left, June 28
Middle photo, Aug 7
Right photo, Aug 21.

The photos don't truly show as much of a difference as I personally see. But between Aug 7 and 21, my overall size has decreased, though it's hard to tell from the photos. In these photos, it's slightly apparent in the hip area.

You can also click on the image to get a large (you've been warned) version of this photo.

Chest and Tris, Step, and Getting Sassy at Shaw's

Okay, so basically, I'm what you would call "very assertive." I don't ever allow people to walk all over me, and I have never absorbed a lot of the socialized "female" behaviors. An example of a socialized female behavior is the following, which happened at my corner store:

Two young women standing in line to make a purchase behind me, as I finish up my transaction. A goon walks off the street, into the store, and cuts in front of the two girls and a long line, plops a $20 on the counter to buy tobacco, as I turn and watch this scene. The store clerk points out there is a line and he cut in front of the girls. The goon turns around and steps back, not really caring that he just had a social faux paus. The two women smile shyly, giggle awkwardly, and apologize PROFUSELY to this guy. Each woman said "I'm sorry" at least 3 times to this random rude goon.

You'd NEVER see a guy apologize for SOMEONE ELSE being rude. But, this is how a lot of women have absorbed behaviors through the years. Girls are taught to be agreeable, non-confrontational, accepting, to go-with-the-flow, and not make a scene. Me, being the staunch feminist since I was absurdly young, I have staved off most of these behaviors. So, I will often assert myself.

Today at a busy Shaw's after the gym, I find the 15 Items and Under line looks good to me. I get in line and there are 4 people in front of me. I put a few items down for a few seconds on the metal before the conveyer belt to run and grab 2 more Diet Cokes from 2 of the coolers (I had to go to 3 coolers to get 3 Diet Cokes, there was 1 in each). The woman behind me watches me leave.

When I return 20 seconds later, she had closed the space between me and the other guy, as she held her wine ever-so-lovingly. I say "excuse me" and squeeze back into the spot to put my other 2 sodas down.

She sarcastically says "Oh, sure, go right ahead."
I said "What?"
She repeats again, with more sarcasm "Oh, yeah sure I don't mind, go right ahead."
I responded, "Oh, I was here. See, this is my stuff. I'm not cutting anyone."
The guy in front of me (who works out at my gym and I had just seen 5 minutes before) says to her "Yeah, she was there."
The woman mutters, "I didn't even say anything."
I respond under my breath (not looking at her), "When you said it with that tone, you insinuated that I had cut in front of you."
She responded with, "I didn't insinuate anything."

So after an awesome step class and an awesome lifting session, now I'm going at it at Shaw's. See, sure, there are options. Option one was to ignore it. Option two was to respond to it. Seeing as though I am possibly the LEAST passive person anyone will ever meet, ignoring someone who is rude to me and trying to make me look as though I'm a line cutter, is not an option.

This is just one of hundreds of examples. I live in the city, so there are SOO many stories that I have, and many I have long since forgotten. I could write a book.

Anyways, this was my shopping list at Shaw's:
2 containers of NaSoya Lite Firm Tofu
1 container of Mesclun Lettuce Mix
1 Red Onion
3 Diet Cokes.

The tofu is dry-frying (YOU MUST DRY FRY UNLESS YOU LIKE MUSH), and I'm excited to enjoy my 6th meal for the day. It's the usual: Salad, Oil Dressing, Chili Garlic Sauce, Red Onion, and tofu. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm SASSY!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Positive Reinforcement

I am not one who generally wants to receive compliments, though if I happen to receive them, I appreciate that someone felt some kind words were in order.

One thing that I never expected since I began this process 8 weeks ago, is how I would be complimented. I think I have received more compliments from strangers in the past month, than I have in the past few years combined. People that I see once a week, are also able to see the difference in my body composition and my size.

Now, the compliments themselves aren't satisfying due to them being kind words spoken about me, to me. But it lets me know that there is a difference in how I look.

Two of the complements are from random people at my gym that I have never spoken to, but who I have seen occasionally in the past. Both asked if I was specifically training for something, and then complemented the changes they saw in my physique.

My personal trainer also has been giving me the positive feedback when he sees me at the gym. Though we are taking a break from training to restart back up when it gets a little closer to the competition.

Tonight I changed up my work-out a bit. Instead of doing my usual lifting, then hitting a cardio class in the morning, I headed to the gym in the evening. I lifted back and arms, then (and this is the good part) RAN STAIRS! Yes, it's true! One of my BSC's is in a building that has 10 flights of stairs that are well-lit, clean, and free for the members to use!

I used it as a 30-minute high-intensity cardio workout. High intensity Interval Training (or, HIIT) is short bursts of intense cardio exercise, followed by lighter sessions of cardio, then back and forth. So tonight, this is what I did:

- Run up 7 flights of stairs (about 30 to 45 seconds)
- Jog in place a bit (about 10 seconds) to let the leg burn simmer down and catch up with cardio
- Run up 3 flights of stairs
- Turn down and quickly jaunt all the way to the first floor.
- Jog in place for 5-10 seconds
- Repeat

The jaunting back down to the first floor is also helpful because the movement of going downstairs and the impact of the feet hitting the floor helps clear out the lactic acid build-up in the leg muscles.

Oh my gosh, I love this workout, I need to do it more often.

It reminds of my college days when I used to go to one of the academic buildings late at night. The only difference there was that I'd run up one flight of stairs, run all the way across the top floor to another flight of stairs, then jog down. It was always one of my toughest workouts, but I like how I'm sort of in my own world. There are no distractions, and hardly anyone ever comes into the stairwell. I like the solitude.

With the humid air, it was just me, some stairs, and Armin Van Buuren's A State of Trance as soundtrack, I felt like I could conquer the world. I felt and feel amazing.

I am also grateful that the staircase did not look like this one.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm no angel

I'm not really one to get into TV programs. I got into Millionaire Matchmaker, some of the Real Housewives seasons, and of course The First 48. But I've never been one to get into, or even enjoy, watching the dramas on TV that everyone seems to love. I canceled cable 6 months ago and have never looked back. But there is one exception: Rescue Me, but only seasons 1 and 2. It then jumped the shark and became ludicrous, and I am content to watch my two seasons on the DVDs that I own.

There is one scene which stands out for me. Recovering, and often relapsing severe alcoholic Tommy Gavin (played by Denis Leary, who I had significant interaction with unexpectedly in the summer of 2007 at one of the hotels I managed at the time, I am so lucky), is standing outside a liquor store. He peers in at all of the whiskey, gin, and rum bottles lining the walls, as people come and go, as he stands there. He's contemplating what he should do: enter and purchase, or walk away.

It segways into a series of scenes in which he goes to a bar with a significant other, has a series of drinks, laughs the night away smartly, and ultimately ends up back at her apartment, and everything is fine and dandy. You think it's actually happening, until at the very end, it shoots back to him standing outside the liquor store, slowly and despondently walking away.

Today I had this moment.

As anyone who is reading this can clearly infer from my posts, is that I always have, and likely always will, have a sort of preoccupation with food.

Ironically, tonight is my day off from the gym, and even more ironic, is that I picked up a copy of Portia de Rossi's relatively new memoir, entitled Unbearable Lightness, from the library. I've been absorbed with this book since I got home super early sans gym commitment, and I've been reading about her battles with weight, self-esteem, self-worth, bulimia, exercise addiction, anorexia, laxative use, and of course, her bingeing.

Page 47: "I barely felt any anxiety as I pulled into the [7-Eleven] parking lot because I think I'd subconciously planned this stop from the first bite of nachos. As I'd already blown the diet, I figured I might as well keep going - I might as well eat all the things I'd denied myself for the last few weeks. And I had to get it all done in one sitting because if I allowed myself to do this again - to eat all this food - I'd get fat. " Portia De Rossi, from Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain.

Apparently, Portia De Rossi is in my head, and narrating virtually everything that has gone through my head in my moments of weakness.

After putting this book down for a brief respite to reload my Diet Coke supply at the corner store, this story could have become mine.

Before I left the apartment to walk to my corner store, I lifted up my t-shirt, flexed my abs in front of the mirror, and was actually quite impressed with what I was looking at. Clear muscles defined, under some fat that hopefully will get more noticeable closer to showtime.

As I get to my store, I very seriously contemplated a binge. Every single rationalization that anyone could every come up with, I came up with, none of which, of course, have any remote association with logic.

"You're getting too thin, you don't want to loose too much weight."
"Your pants were hanging really loosely today at work, you deserve it."
"You've been following your diet plan really closely, except for that one night you had some carbs, but that doesn't count."
"Get the Double Stuf because that way you can remove all of the icing and just eat all of the icing like you've done in the past."
"Should I skip being vegan for tonight and get some Snickers bars, or some Entemanns?"
"Come on, eating the icing out of the box of Oreos isn't really that bad, it's just one meal out of all the meals in the week."
"This will be the last free-for-all before your show, so just go with it, why not?"

I picked up a container of Double Stuf, walked around with it a bit. So much was going through my head. I thought about how much of a freaking liar I'd be on my blog if I came home and posted "I feel great, yay low carb!" or how sad I'd be about myself when I talked to my friend this weekend who also has a tendency to binge. Or if I got to show-time, and I had a spare tire and looked like a joke on stage. Or how I'd feel like a fool for bothering to pack my healthy food tonight for tomorrow knowing that I just consumed enough calories for a week in 10 minutes, with a distended stomach, an aching jaw, and the inability to sleep with an enormous food baby making any sleeping position possible.

I put the Oreos back. I grabbed my Diet Coke and got in line to pay.

Two people in front of me. As I waited, I stepped back out of line, went back to the Oreos, and picked them up. I cradled them in my arm because I had decided to commit. Hey, let's just do this, it'll be so good and so worth every moment. I did another lap around the perimeter of the store. Should I switch and get peanut butter instead? How about chips? Well, you don't really like chips all that much, so no. Or maybe you could get chips AND the Oreos? Or how about one of these Turkish treats this store has... [reading label] oh okay no, that has milk. I wonder if these 2-cupcakes in the plastic have milk... [reading label] oh they have eggs, so no to that one. Ooh, a new Chex-Mix with peanut butter and chocolate [reading label] okay milk, nevermind. Or how about Vegetable Thins, you always enjoy those... no, those will take up too much valuable stomach real estate, stick with the Double Stuf icing.

Then I went back to all the thoughts I had before. I'd be lying. I was afraid that I'd have to confess to my fellow first-time competitor that I met, who reads my blog and I hers. I knew she'd be disappointed in me. I knew everyone would, and I knew most of all, I'd be most disappointed in myself.

I put the Oreos back down, and resolved to get back in line with my diet sodas and be done with it.

Near the check-out was some single-serving cashews. I had to swear off nuts for my show-prep because 1 serving became 2 servings, became 10 servings. I picked up those cashews, thought about it. I mean, it's better than Oreos, right? Just this once. Held them in my hand, got back in line.

No, girl, you've had your 2nd serving of fat for the day. Put the cashews down and leave.

I left with my diet sodas and went home to confess here.

- - -
I was never a bad kid. I never drank until I was 21. Then I didn't drink at all until I was maybe 27 and I went out from time to time. I don't like to break rules and be bad. I don't like to steal pens from work, or leave early when no one is looking. I like to do things right.

But this insane defiance of myself, of society, I don't know why I continue to struggle with it, year after year. Why the self-sabotage? It's so stupid. I'm not afraid of getting up there on stage, I'm such a ham! I'm not afraid of anything, but I think I just want to rebel, and have it both ways. It's not all the time. It's some of the time. I follow the rules. Sometimes I struggle, sometimes I fail. I'm just doing the best that I can do.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The fun stuff. The sparkle.

So, of course, in order to compete, one needs an ensemble in which to appear on stage.

So, my first order of business was to find a posing suit. It looks like a swimsuit, but it is not a swimsuit. It is a posing suit.

Now, there aren't huge suppliers of such things, so after poking around with Google for a few weeks, I really didn't find much to my liking. A lot of the sites aren't really updated, or legit looking, and I have enough to worry about without ordering a suit from someone who could be one of those "You've won the Nigerian Lottery, just send us $10,000 to redeem" folk.

Additionally, this is the hugest thing I have ever done. I've never fully "celebrated" any accomplishments in my life, and that is because all of the things I accomplished, I was expected to, and expected myself to, accomplish. High school, college, grad school. No pomp and circumstance there. That's not really newsworthy in my world.

But appearing in PUBLIC, in a BIKINI, in front of a CROWD, and getting JUDGED, and receiving a SCORE, which will be PUBLISHED on the INTERNET? Geez, just appearing in public in a bikini is worthy enough of balloons, some confetti, and perhaps a cake and a party. So this big time.

And since while many ladies my age are pooling large sums of money into wedding or kid-rearing activities (no thank you for me, for both of those), this is going to be my big shindig. And I'm proud.

So, I went with the best suit designer I could find. Sylvia Tremblay, of Tremblay Designs. This designer is NO JOKE. She does suits for the pros. And since I manage my money properly, I have the cash to get the very best. So I did. I ordered the very highest level of custom-designed suit that she offers. Ah, yes, it will be a spectacle of glitter and glam, and I cannot WAIT to see what she designs for me. I also feel sort of cool, knowing that I shell out cash, a woman in Canada listens to what I'm looking for, then she goes to work, on a piece just for me.
It's so couture-ish. I can't wait to see it!

The 2nd thing I needed to get, is some nice clear stiletto heels. I ended up going with the 6-inch platform slide-on. I am very comfortable in heels worth of nosebleed tickets. I spent several years managing luxury hotels in nylons, suits, and 5-inch pumps, and never sat down. So these heels aren't so much of an issue... but they are gorgeous.

As usual, I hit up the gym after work. Today was leg day, and after years of not really lifting with my legs, these are the hardest days for me when I leave the gym. After my leg workout, I hit up one of my favorite BSC cardio classes, which is half kickboxing, half high-intensity cardio blended with some sculpting. It's a sweaty mess, and I love it.

I was soo tired after work. I had to drag myself there more than usual, because I worked out hard Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and lifted Tuesday. It took a lot of mental strength to hit up the gym today, when every bone in my body wanted to stay on the T and head home. But I was good, I dutifully disembarked at the stop near my gym, and all is well.

I had to do some self-talk to get there:
"But you'll feel great afterwards."
"You can't just skip days willy-nilly."
"Are you serious about this fitness competition? Or are you just wasting everyone's time?"
"Do you want to get on stage and be a jiggly mess?"
"You'll miss a great cardio class you always enjoy."
"People will wonder why you're not working out tonight."
"You're always tired after work, so what? So should you just never exercise, ever?"

I went, and I'm sooooooooooooo glad. GOSH I am SO GLAD I WENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The gym is the one thing in life that will never let you down. It will be there forever, whether you neglect it, forget about it, and pretend it doesn't exist. It will haunt you until you return, but you'll be so glad you did. I know I am!!

Carb Oopsie

Last night I had too much fruit and oats before I went to bed. Both are carbs, and both shouldn't be eaten past noon. Whoooops.

However, I'm not going to let it get me down. My online nutrition program supposedly allows for 2 "cheats" a week, but it's never been specified what exactly a "cheat" is. I don't really use my "cheats." I don't use the cheats for a few reasons:

1. If I have 1 cheat, I want 100 cheats.
2. I figure if I don't have a cheat, I'll be ready sooner.
3. If I don't use my cheats for planned cheats, I can use my cheats for WHOOPS cheats.

Well, I'm going to categorize this as a cheat, option 3.

I follow my nutrition 99% of the time very closely, so upping carbs once a week when I'm not supposed to is not the end of the world.

I wasn't even hungry, but I was tired, and when I'm tired, I make poor decisions.

This morning I came close to making a bad decision. I was tired, lethargic, likely because I had too many carbs before I went to bed, and I went to bed too late. I sat at my desk, feeling that sugar hangover, and contemplated hitting up the candy machine for some Oreos (they're vegan-friendly). (See, I had 1 cheat, now I want to continue with the cheat).

I thought about it, and I felt like it was going to happen. Then I took a few deep breaths and decided against it.

Sometimes these struggles come back to haunt. All I can do, is do the very best that I can. I know some people can't go to a bar without having an alcoholic beverage; they can't fight that urge. For me, that urge is non-existent, I couldn't care less about alcoholic drinks. But my urge is the occasional temptation to sabotage myself.

I don't know where the urges stem from, but my best guess is that it's biological. It's in my best evolutionary interest to gobble up every carb, fat, and protein that I can get my hands on. And in the caveman days, that would suit me well, and suit my fellow humans well. But our bodies have not evolved to have an unlimited supply of calories around us.

So, our minds have to adjust.... or at least mine does. Mine definitely has over the past few months, but it is certainly not perfect.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

That sure would make me feel crummy too

After I finished my workout tonight, I, per usual, plop myself down on the floor in my towels near my favorite area of lockers. My favorite locker area happens to be right next to the scale, which I don't use, but there's lots of room to move around there. And since it's near the entrance, I think many people are wary of an inadvertent entry by a male, so they prefer to be farther back.

So as I'm sitting there on the floor, full and content from my 1/2 cup haricot vert and yuuumy chocolate coconut rice protein shake, I do my usual routine. I struggle to find my clothes in the pile of stuff I have, lose one sock, then the other, jam my sweaty gym clothes into the plastic bag, and contemplate whether I should stop at the library en route home.

As I'm sitting there, enjoying my post-workout/food/shower endorphin haze, a woman walks up to the scale to my left. She's making all sorts of noises of disappointment and confusion. I can hear her moving the 50-lb counter weight around from left to right, as she says "whaa?" to herself under her breath. She steps off. She steps back on, fiddles with the counter weight some more. She is clearly not sure what she is seeing.

Then I realize why she is confused; this scale only goes up to 350 pounds. She had moved the counter weights all the way to the right, but the balance bar stayed firmly put. Her weight exceeded the maximum for this scale.

I could now understand why she sounded so distressed. I can't even imagine how she felt. I felt sad for her.

Years ago in the summer, I was working two full-time jobs. I would work an 8-hour shift at once place, go home, eat some food, then change and go back to my 2nd 8-hour shift. It was exhausting, but I believe in hard work.

Both jobs required uniforms, and both the uniforms had extra room in the pants. So, after 2 months of working virtually around the clock, I hadn't gone anywhere else except work and home. If I ran an errand, it would be either in my uniform or my pajamas, since I basically never had a full-day off.

So one day, I put on a pair of jeans to go somewhere..... and they might as well have been spray-on jeans. It was the most_horrible_feeling_in_the_world. I had been wearing my uniform and not my street clothes, so I hadn't noticed I had packed on a significant amount of weight. I could hardly button them. I ransacked around my room, looking for the largest pair of jeans I had at the bottom of a pile. Oh good, my "fat jeans," I'll just put these on. Well, the "fat jeans" had become my "fitted jeans," and not a very good fit, I might add.

Both jobs were around food. One job was in a hotel, which also happened to offer an exquisitely huge continental breakfast spread. There were always leftovers, and of course, most of it garbage carbs: bagels, muffins, pastries, cookies, scones, pancakes, and French Toast (my favorite). And as I am not shy about helping myself to leftovers, you better believe I most certainly helped myself.

The other job was in a restaurant, and I was in the kitchen. This kitchen happened to serve pizza. I happen to be a huge fan of pizza. There are also a lot of mistakes in a place that prepares pizza. I will let you do the math on this one.

The moment you realize you have gained significant weight is frightening, because there is literally ZERO you can do about it at that moment. You are stuck with it. Sort of like the moment you've been walking around with food in your teeth, smiling at random good-looking strangers. But this is worse, because you just can't grab some floss and be done with it. Instead, you are forced to live in a body that not only you don't like, but that you didn't even know was larger than you thought.

This woman at the gym probably felt similar to what I felt when I (tried) to put my jeans on. I know she felt hopeless. It's hard enough hitting the gym and losing weight when you are a few pounds over your ideal weight. But if you're carrying so much extra, it's got to be so much more difficult.

The past 20 years I have worked to find what works for my body. Most of it doesn't work. Some of it does work. What doesn't work? Carbs, lack of exercise, not enough sleep, and putting convenience over health. What does work? Well, my contest-prep diet works. How much it will adjust after the show, I don't know yet. But I do know that nothing feels as good as fit feels, and nothing feels worse than putting on weight for a few brief moments of pleasure, when you have those brief moments of pleasure too often for it to be a "treat," and your diet is basically one big treat from morning to night.

This life is better.

I'm not a fan of sharing music, or listening to music others post. However this will be my only shared piece of music. It's been my all-time favorite, calming, feel-good song.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Burning arm workout, sweaty step class, then heaven

Bath & Body Works Candles are my daily pleasure. You'd think these two 3-wicks would make me salivate and crave goodies; they don't. It allows me to extend the lovely experience as long as I like, without any repercussions.

Who said you can't have a little bit of heaven for more than a few moments? One of the joys of eating, is obviously the moment of heaven as you gobble up whatever is your favorite vice. However, I think about how long that pleasure truly lasts. A few seconds? A few moments? The joy of consumption is so fleeting, when you step back and think of the feelings of regret someone may have after eating something, or a quantity they should not have, you realize how in terms of economics, it makes no sense.

When I say "economics," I'd like to refer to one of my favorite terms from academia: "utility." In economist speak, utility is a measure of relative satisfaction. For example, I get high utility out of getting a 1-hour massage. I get lower utility out of watching a game of golf on TV. Therefore, you can say that economically, I should spend more time getting a 1-hour massage, and less time watching golf on TV.

However, with everything we do, there is a cost. I'd love to get 1-hour massages 4 times a day, but it is cost prohibitive. I pay virtually nothing to watch a game of golf on TV, but the utility gained from that action is so low, I would opt to not partake.

So when it comes to splurging, or regularly enjoying something that may not really be nutritiously sound, or within my physique goals, I would say this has a relatively small amount of utility. Sure, the chemicals in my brain go nutty with excitement when I grab a vegan cupcake or Double Stuff Oreos and mash them into my mouth, but the guilt and lack of satisfaction after I have swallowed the food, is a huge cost to pay.

When I struggle with temptation, I truly look at it this way. It isn't always easy, and doesn't always work, but it very often does. The satisfaction is so momentary, so brief. My stomach, like those of many, could be a bottomless pit. I could eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until the cows come home, but I want to do it again in a few hours. This is why a restrictive diet has been a life-changer for me. Moderation does nothing for me. I don't want 1 cookie. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to remember a time where I've had 1 cookie. For me, it's simpler and less anxiety to abstain entirely. It is easier to have zero cookies.

On the subject of change, I certainly notice a difference in my performance in step class. I have been taking this class regularly for almost 4 years now, every Monday. Up until my training, I've always struggled to complete the class without stopping to cool off for 45 seconds, or to keep the energy strong from start to finish. But now, I handle the class with an ability that is new to me, due to my lifestyle changes.

Awesome, positive changes I notice:

- I no longer overheat. Sure, I'm hot and sweaty and look like I just jumped into a swimming pool, but my body is better able to self-regulate my temperature. No more "brain fry," which is when my brain feels so hot that it can't continue without a brief respite.

- I no longer "jiggle" where I used to. Step class is very jumpy. Doing a fast-feet/speed-drill (you see this in football practice, legs shoulder-width apart, and shift weight back and forth very rapidly between the right and left foot, keeping your core relatively stable), used to yield a little bit of booty-junk movement and tummy McJiggles. It sort of hurt a little bit, and I can only imagine what it feels like for those with more "excess" than I have ever had. It's not comfortable. But I am so proud and excited to say that I am seeing my "jiggly bits" lean out so I feel very aerodynamic at this point. I've never felt this before!

- My breathing during step class, is far more in control. In fact, I no longer feel the intense "labored breathing" that I used to experience. It is steady and my body does not feel nearly as taxed as it has in the past. I don't have to revert to that super deep lung inhalations I once did, to get that last drop of oxygen. This all allows me to get so much more from the class. I can start strong and finish strong, and I can even maximize the moves by taking it up a notch and making the moves "bigger" and more effective.

So, as I sit here, listening to my custom "Enya Station" on Pandora over my Roku, enjoying the never-ending scent of baked goods from my candles, I am in heaven.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Example of a Day in Show-Prep Nutrition

I just got back from the gym and I'm beat. Today was shoulders and calves, then I finished it off with a super awesome high-intensity cardio workout my online coach gave me. It's 30 minutes on the treadmill, at 8% incline, with 1 minute of jogging, 1 minute of sprinting, 1 minute of jogging, 1 minute of sprinting, etc. It's super effective and I can feel it working.

Okay, and now in case anyone is curious to know what a day in the life of a vegan doing bikini show prep, here it is:

Meal 1
1.2 scoops protein powder (approx 30 grams of protein) from
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup strawberries
1/2 cup raw broccoli

Meal 2
1.2 scoops protein powder
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup strawberries
1/2 cup carrots

Meal 3
3 ounces of Tofu (approx 20 grams of protein)
1/4 cup chick peas
1/4 cup strawberries
6 cups fresh greens salad
1 tsp oil-based salad dressing

Meal 4
1 scoop protein powder
1/2 cup fresh green peppers

Meal 5
4 ounces tofu
1/2 cup broccoli

Meal 6
1 scoop protein powder
1 oz tofu
4 cups fresh greens salad
1/4 cup edamame
4 tsp of Garlic Chili Sauce, mixed with 1 tsp coconut oil, used as salad dressing

This is my typical breakfast. 1/2 cup veggies, 1/4 cup of whole oats with 1/4 cup of strawberries on top, and a protein shake.

I find the first three meals the most satisfying, as they allow me to have a serving of carbohydrate, albeit a small one.

This morning I woke up and took my front, back, and side photos for my online coach. I check-in with her each week, and give her feedback about my energy levels, my workouts, and ask her any questions I may have.

This week was the first week since I started 7 weeks ago, that I really struggled with low energy. Last Sunday, I cancelled my day plans because I simply had no energy to be productive. It was a feeling I have never experienced before. I was a zombie, and it wasn't because I felt hungry. I expect it's due to the long-term carbohydrate deficit, which I have been expecting. I make sure to always have my Nalgene bottle with me so that I drink at least a gallon of water throughout the day.

It's no fun being tired. It's an uncomfortable feeling. The occasional fatigue I feel with my show-prep nutrition plan is a different feeling than the usual feelings of tiredness I might feel after laying around on the sofa all day. This fatigue is less mental, and more physical.

We all experience times of fatigue, especially after sitting at a desk at work all day for 9 hours, then having to head to the gym. For me, that feeling of being tired is more of the true desire to go home and relax after working, to obtain a "reward" for being at work and wanting to mentally check-out.

This feeling is different. It's like a battery running low. It's like one of those kids' toys that still makes sounds, but the sound is all distorted and muffled; it is working, but not effectively. That is how I feel some days.

But simply eating more is not a solution to this. I have experienced, in times of fatigue, having an extra serving of veggies, or having a very small serving of fruit or oats. It doesn't help. I know energy production has a lag, and the fatigue one moment is from the 24 hour period, and maybe even the 1 week period, leading up to that moment. Simply putting more calories in my stomach does not create energy.

Though I am tired, this nutrition plan makes me full. I can honestly say that I am less hungry following this plan, than ever before. And that is because carbohydrates have always made me into a bottomless pit.

30 years of using starches for energy may have avoided this occasional fatigue, but I was constantly hungry. There was never a time where I could go out and run errands for a few hours, without absolutely needing to stop at a store for a granola bar or crackers to quell my hungry, screaming stomach. I don't like that feeling either. The feeling of never ever being able to be satiated is scary. Why would I want to need to have 2 granola bars between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner? It's madness.

I don't struggle with hunger. I do struggle with all the outside stimuli out there: walking by the roasted nuts stand downtown, watching TV and seeing a pizza commercial, or catching a whiff of the bread outside a Subway. Those are the moments that are tough. But, then I look around at the general public and realize I don't want to join this country in our obesity epidemic, and that brings me back to focus.

So I guess the choices are this:
1. Be hungry all the time, carry extra weight, eat carbohydrates as usual. Not suffer from low energy
2. Never be hungry, not carry extra weight, watch carbs closely, suffer from occasional low energy

Tough call. But I choose 2.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gym Rats and Gym Roaches

Though it's a little narcissist to say, but I am a gym rat. I love the gym. I get so fired up when I'm there. I want to run through the streets and tell everyone about how great the gym is. I want to talk to young kids and tell them that I think they should start looking into hitting up a fitness routine. I love talking about the gym, gym classes, new lifting exercises. Most of all, I love how I feel when I leave the gym after a great workout. It's not always easy to go, but once I get there, I am so very glad I went.

So I consider myself to be pretty "advanced" when it comes to the gym. I've tried the entire gamut of fitness classes, from Spin (which I loathe), to TRX, to Bootcamp, to Core Fusion, to Bikram Yoga, to kickboxing, to step, to old-school 80's aerobics. I also consider myself to be as knowledgeable about lifting and stretching as "expert". I'm actually a certified personal trainer with ACE, which I got just as a plan C when the market started to tank in 2008.

But when I signed on for a show, I wanted some insurance. So I signed on with the ONLY personal trainer, in all the years that I have been a gym rat, that I think is legit.

99.999% of the personal trainers I see, are more interested in being Chatty Cathys than they are training. I call them Gym Roaches. That is because they are sucking all of the value out of client (money, energy, time), but are producing really nothing for the client. Sure, the client gets someone to shoot the breeze with instead of actually exercising, but it's not responsible to do your job poorly. It shows a lack of respect for the profession, your employer, and yourself.

I actually saw a whole lot of it this morning at my ooh la la fancy gym Sports Club LA. I was there at 7 AM, there were probably 5 trainers with clients for 1 hour, not one of them actually doing what I call "training." 2 of them were snacking on something in wrappers, and looked like they were chillin' out in the park with a beer. Not one of them counted out reps and guided the clients on how to maximize the effectiveness of the exercises they were doing. And every single client was chatting away mid-exercise with the trainer, as the trainer engaged them in non-stop conversation the entire hour. One trainer and his client, literally stood around a bench and gabbed for one hour straight. They had weights out, but they were never actually moved. I guess people just want to chill out.

I don't fault the clients, I fault the trainers. I'd be embarrassed if someone saw me being anything less than highly effective as I trained someone. This is something I've seen everywhere, from the grubby former Jack LaLane Fitness in Union NJ, now known as grubby Bally's, to seven Boston Sports Clubs locations I've worked out at, and Sports Club/LA. But, that's their choice. I just wonder why people bother.

I train with Mark at Boston Sports Club. I had taken his Sports Circuit class for 4 years, and each class wipes me out. He's a stickler on form, and changes the routine every week, and really expects the most out of each of the people in the class. He also is genuine and cares about improving peoples' lives through fitness. Furthermore, he competes in fitness competitions as well, so I know he'd be able to give me more information than just exercise tips.

So I hired him. I signed up for 12 weeks, and I have used 4 of them so far. I am taking a break, then I will start up again, so that I have him during the last weeks before my show.

I didn't actually think I would get a lot out of a personal trainer. I know my way around the gym, and when I hit the weight room, I hit it HARD. I don't waste my time with one half-assed set of 5 pound bicep curls and then 30 minutes of jaw exercises as I chat up my girlfriends at the gym. No, I am INTENSE.

But what first changed when I started to train with Mark was that he gave me a training split. A training split is when you only really workout 1, maybe 2 major muscle groups a day. That's it. I'd usually hit up the weight room, and exhaust my body by doing every exercise that looked good to me. I'd usually spend an hour and 15 minutes lifting, with 3 sets of 12 to 15, with 30 to 45 seconds recovery between each set. Then I would blast off to the next exercise and hit it hard again.

So the split is as follows:

- Chest/Triceps
- Legs
- Shoulders/Calves
- Back/Biceps

Each of those is a day, and there are between 5 and 7 exercises for each one, and the trainer gives me a new set of exercises every 4 weeks.

I have found this to change up my body significantly. I also spend less time lifting, usually around 40 minutes. I still struggle to just accept that I'm only lifting for 40 minutes, but hey, I'm willing to change.

The 2nd thing that changed when I hired Mark, was that he showed me how to fully get everything I could out of each rep. He helped me focus my breathing, hone the movement, think about the muscles I am using, and how to get that "extra bit" out of a movement to really maximize its potential.

Another strategy that also changed was how I do my abs. Now, I never really LIKED abs, but I did do the 25-minute ab class that runs adjacent to many of the classes I take at BSC. Mark advised that for my purposes of building muscles and creating growth, these would be less effective than doing 3 weight-type ab exercises, which change during the week.

An example of an ab exercise would be a Paloff Press. (Google it). Here I am, thinking this exercise looks dumb and lame, and ineffective. Yup, nope, I was wrong. VERY effective, and it's created enormous strength and firmness in my core.

Another example would be straight-leg leg lifts on a Roman Chair. Doing 3 sets of that got easier over the 4 week period of that cycle, and I now know what Mark meant by doing isolated strength-based exercises versus an abs class. That isn't to say the abs class isn't effective, it is! However, Mark told me right now that my goal is to BUILD significant muscle, whereas an abs class is a bit more toning.

This morning was legs, followed by a cardio class taught by an instructor I love. Her name is Christine, and she is very aggressive with expectations. Her classes leave me begging for mercy, but they are very effective.

I returned to the locker room (SC/LA's locker rooms have at least 3 locker room attendants, eucalyptus steam rooms, and most importantly, nice soft carpet) and had my post-workout meal, Meal 2, which was exactly the same as Meal 1, but without the Metamucil.

1.5 servings of Rice Protein Powder - Chocolate Coconut
1/2 cup carrots
1/4 cup oats with
1/4 cup strawberries on top.

I love my oats and strawberries. I use the frozen kind, let them thaw, and I actually like them better than fresh. They have more flavor as they have been sitting in their own juice before they freeze. Mmm

I'm truly still stuffed almost 2 hours later.

I then swung by my 2nd true love, the Boston Public Library, to pick up a few books that were on hold for me. Including my first Jonathan Franzen book, entitled "How to be Alone." As a loner myself, maybe I can learn something!

Oh, I have a tip for you ladies out there:
Wear two sports bras at the same time, both sized as small as you can get them on. I am NOT very large (as you can see from the photos), but if you want to truly strap everything in, you will find that you have much better range of motion, and better ability to move exactly how you want when doing cardio. Whether it be step class, running or boot camp. Trust me on this, no matter what size you are.

My favorite Sports Bras are the Champion Double Dry Action Tech. I wear two size smalls at a time. They are the most simple design you could possibly find, but they work. You don't need bells and whistles and shapers and all the nonsense that they make out there. I've been using these for 10 years, and I will never change. One works amazingly. Two makes you feel as though they're not even there. And since I'd like to fight gravity's toll in the long run, it will only benefit me. I even wear a loose sports bra to bed, and I feel as though it has helped me keep things in place very well.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Let's make this as pleasant as possible

The food I mean.

I mean, let's be honest, some of the stuff can get a little dull. If you are choosing to partake in the tofu-eating extravaganza, let me give you a hint I wish I new about the first 3 weeks of my diet. Tofu from the container tastes like a glob of beef fat, with its gelatinous texture and its plain, yet not great, taste.

Solution: THE DRY FRY (i.e. no oil). I first learned about it here. I owe that woman a lot of money, since she's made eating tofu my least favorite part of the day, to a part of the day that's now quite tasty!

The tofu, with the dry fry, turns chewy, tasty, and actually, quite substantial in texture and substance. All those years wasted trying to acquaint myself with sludgy, wet tofu.... what a waste.

Here is how I cook a container of Tofu each day. This is after I first put it on the skillet to begin the dry-fry.

This is the after:

Now, what, pray tell, can we put on this tofu, without adding fat, a ton of sugar, or something else that negates the fact that we're eating healthfully? The solution is this:

Chili Garlic Sauce. You open the container, and your mouth starts to water.

Sometimes, you want to have a salad. For me, this is at least once a day, most of the time, twice. Now, because lettuce is so light, airy, and virtually no calories, the usual "half-cup" measurement rule doesn't really apply. I usually use liberal amounts of good lettuce, called mesclun mix.

It's good for you, better than iceberg, and better than romaine. AND, it takes to minimal dressing real well, so if you're trying to use just 1 tsp of fat, put this lettuce in your large bowl, with a lid, and shake it, and every little piece of lettuce holds dressing, and it's wonderful.

What I will often do, is add these three items together and make a salad. The Garlic Chili sauce, perhaps 3 teaspoons of it, then 5 cups of lettuce, plus a few ounces of the tofu, put it in a large Snapware bowl, shake it up, and it's so delicious. The best part of this meal is that it's got lots of volume. And the Garlic Chili sauce is fat free, and basically calorie free, so I can use my fat serving elsewhere. Bonus!

One item that I tried, that was recommended to me by another fitness competitor, is something called Shirataki noodles. They're Asian noodles made from tofu, and they have virtually no calories, no fat, and no carbs.

Why hello, future answer to my carbohydrate prayers!
If you are as half as delicious as you look, we are in business!

So I waddled over to Whole Foods in my neighborhood, picked up 2 packages. I tried it tonight. First of all, as the package warns you, there is a smell when you open it.

How to describe the smell. Okay, imagine a decaying fish in the summer heat, in an overused outdoor womens restroom, where there is also a dead body bloating up from the slow decay of human tissue, and a pile of dirty diapers in a trash can in the sun. That's what it smelled like.

So, I rinsed it thoroughly, as the package suggested. Then microwaved it. Then added some edamame, ready to enjoy my faux pasta dinner. Soooo it still smelled like rotting corpse, and the texture wasn't really like pasta, so it all went in the trash. Sorry Shirataki noodles. You really should please, not smell like death's door, maybe people would eat you more.

And lastly, I recommend this to anyone who is going to do a high protein, low carb diet. I've never needed anything like this. I used to scoff at the fools who would need to partake in such a supplement to their diet. Well, now, folks, I need it. Because I can't eat fiber cereal, and I can't eat prunes, and I can't eat enough roughage without screwing up the diet, we've resorted to Metamucil. Ah, ahem, EXCUSE me, I mean Equaline Natural Fiber.

Things I'm eating

You know, you look at the diet I listed in an earlier post, and it looks "easy" in a way. Until you decide that you are so used to eating a certain way, that you have to revamp your kitchen, revamp your day plan, revamp your work plan, revamp pretty much everything.

If you leave the house for 2 hours or more, you have to bring food. Period.

If you are out of the house all day, you have to bring A LOT of food. Period.

It's not hard, it's just inconvenient. But it's also inconvenient to not fit in your clothes anymore (been there), and to have your heart and lungs taxed from the 2 steps you had to take to step onto the E line street car (seen it), and to walk into a bakery and spend a small fortune on enough vegan cupcakes for ten people, then eat them all before you even get home, then you are so stuffed you feel sick (so... yeah okay I've been there as well).

It is not to say that I still don't have issues with food; I do. I actually believe I have more food issues than many obese people I know. I always have been.

I remember as a kid in elementary school, I loved the school lunch. I was proud of loving the school lunch. Like I am sure it still is, those who buy, look down on those who bring, and vice versa. I looked down at those who brought a plain boring sandwich in a brown paper bag, with a mom-portion of potato chips and an apple. I always loathed the smell of the paper bag, and the plastic baggies that held all the food. To this day, I hate the smell, I can't stand it.

The Lunch Bringers
There were two sub-categories of people who brought their lunches. Subcategory A: The Sissy Rich Snob girls. Their mothers didn't work, and lived for their children. This was the largest of the two subcategories. Subcategory B: The lone Korean girl in my elementary school. Her parents owned a Deli in Jersey City, so she brought enormous, delicious-looking sandwiches with 6 inches of meat, cheese, fresh veggies, on fancy Deli breads. She would have the fancy bags of chips that you only saw at the Cumberland Farms, and of course, a big fancy GLASS BOTTLE of Iced Tea, Snapple, or some other delicious confection-in-a-jar that costs too much for most kids to have in their school lunches.

The Lunch Buyers
This of course included me. Why would I pass up a hot meal of Spaghetti, or Grilled Cheese, or Pizza Day? I loved the canned corn, the canned peas, I loved it all. But most of all, I loved the soup. Whether it was vegetable beef, chicken noodle, mmm....

I would stay and ask for more soup on soup day. Everyone else would go out to recess, and I'd be sitting there in the cafeteria eating 2nds and 3rds of these cups of soup. All the lunch ladies thought it was charming, how I would come back with my empty soup bowl, asking if I could please have some more. The main cook, an old lady of about 65, was so flattered that I loved her soup. They didn't even start charging me extra, until the principal found out, and so they started charging me 20 cents for each additional bowl. No one else left in the cafeteria. Just me, eating more, and more soup.

My life has also always been obsessively motivated by food. One time when my marching band was in Virginia Beach (as we did each year), the rest of my friends went out along the strip with the rest of the band. I opted to stay in the hotel. Why? Because I had discovered a candy machine several floors down, replete with Lance products, something we didn't have up north. Lance cookies, Lance cheese and crackers, Lance brand Ho-Hos. Lance popcorn, Lance Chips. Unbelievable. And I remember surreptitiously taking some dollar bills and going to the front desk to get 10 dollars worth of quarters to use in the old machine that didn't take dollar bills. And I stood there, in that little inlet off of the hallway on the 3rd floor, plugging quarters into this machine for an hour. As soon as whatever came out, came out, I'd eat it right there. I was afraid of taking a large pile of snacks in one handful in the elevator. What if someone saw me? I'd be so embarrassed!

But all I wanted to do, was eat the food from this candy machine. It truly and wholeheartedly washed out anything else I wanted to do. I felt myself physically drawn to do this. I didn't get the chance to eat like this usually, as my parents' house had nothing junky.

I also swore of cereal a dozen years ago. Why? Because the entire box would go down in one swoop. I remember once when I lived in Montana, I bought a super large size box of Lucky Charms, came home, ate it all, then thought it would be a good idea to for a random jog in the neighborhood. Suffice it to say, I barely made it back home in time to visit the bathroom.

Also when I lived in Montana, I'd head home after my post-school workout, stop at Albertson's, pick up a large circular birthday cake, and take it home and eat it. I'd eat a cake. Most of it right there. I didn't cut a piece out. I just took the lid off, sat in the living room, and ate it while I watched the Scott Peterson trial. Just like that. Sitting there with a cake in my lap, a fork, watching Mark Geragos essentially pave the road to Death Row for Scotty Boy.

Before I went vegan, each and every work day was controlled by the candy machine, more specifically, D6, Snickers. Yes, D6. D6 was Snickers, and A10 was the chips, and I'd be at the candy machine at least 5 times a day. I'd start each day promising myself I wouldn't start up with the Snickers bars, but it never worked. Nope. It cost 85 cents, I'd watch the metal coil go round one time, listen to the candy hit the bottom of the machine with a cavernous THUD, and I'd feel guilty. Every time I heard that THUD, I felt like a loser. Because it was out of control.

I compare my food obsessions with those of a recovering addict. They may never go away, but I hope that if I have goals, such as a show, I can stop the obsessive madness that my food-oriented brain makes me do.

Going vegan was a major assist in helping me get control of my food habits. Most of the delicious things out there in the world DO have animal products; pizza ordered at work, the brownies someone brings in to the MSPCA to share, the Godiva chocolate that sits on every counter at Macy's. All of those, dear friends, are off limits when you are vegan. But it's easier, because I know that not using animal products allows me to have a clear mind about not participating in factory farming, which is a whole separate issue that I have no intention of even addressing here on my blog.

June 28 to August 7

Since I want to start off strong before this blog just gets so boring that you fall asleep in your protein shake, I'd like to include some "before" and "so far" shots with you.

The "before" shots, on the
left, were taken June 28, the day I decided to get my act together. The "so far" shots on the right, were taken August 7. So, less than 6 weeks.

I never thought I'd put photos of myself in a bikini online, but luckily, most of you out there probably have no idea who I am. Plus, I didn't include the headshot ;)

Vegan Protein Powders

Years ago when I went vegan, before I decided to compete, I wanted to start my day with something that wasn't a starch. So I went to the local GNC, went to the protein powder section, and just picked up one of the vegan ones. It was called "hemp protein."

Let us be very clear: It was as if someone were to come over to me, and defecate in my mouth.

So I thought I was in trouble, what was I going to do for some protein supplement? I did a little Googling, and found Ah yes, the oasis in the desert. Bulk, custom protein powders in a multitude of flavors and additives.

I started with the pea protein, flavored with Double Dutch Chocolate. As much as it didn't taste great, it was manageable. I still never really enjoyed drinking it, but I used that for years. It was thick, I had to use more than 8 ounces of water, and it was sort of sludgy. The taste itself was mediocre, but I just never really wanted to go have my protein shake. At work, it was always a slow deathwalk of doom towards the bathroom with my cup, my mixing fork, and my Snapware with my pea protein.

Then I began to spend more time on the site's very active message boards, and found that the rice protein was well-reviewed, and that everyone raved about the chocolate-coconut flavor. I said "why not," and ordered myself 5 pounds of it.

When it arrived, I knew it was going to be better immediately. It smelled better, and I could tell it was going to dissolve better. One scoop of this stuff mixes in as little as 4 ounces of water, and it does, in fact, taste as close to a Mounds bar as you're going to get with something so healthy.

So, now I enjoy my protein shakes. I usually use my protein shakes as my protein for meals 1, 2, 4, and 6, but it varies. I received my 2nd box of 5 pounds yesterday. Hats off to True Protein. Without them, there is no way I could compete in this competition. I could not muster the hemp protein or any other of the garishly terrible vegan powders out there. I never even enjoyed the whey protein that I'd use before I went vegan. But, you are my savior!

Try 'em out!

How this all works

I get asked a lot of questions about diet, I always have. When I first became a vegetarian when I was 13, I had to hear the hemming and hawing of those around me who just couldn't accept me not eating meat. This included everyone: grandparents, mother, random people, friends of family. I have never enjoyed the inundation of questions posed by people who don't know the first thing about nutrition. Worst of all were the combative anti-vegetarian folk who looked like they definitely could benefit from a nice run in the park and some vegetables.

Then, at 28, I went vegan. If you think not eating meat creates an uproar, try being a vegan. "What do you do for protein?" "But we were meant to eat meat." "How do you have enough energy?" "What can you even eat?" "I only eat free-range chicken." "Are you a hippy?" "I'll have an extra steak for you tonight." It's just nauseating really.

You can be divorced. You can be broke and use the government to feed your kids. You can be a high school dropout. You can live at home with your mommy as a grown adult. You can even sit on the T and play your stupid loud hip hop music from your phone at full blast without earphones. ALL of these things you can do, and nobody would even DARE to criticize you, or challenge your actions. But when someone finds out you don't eat meat or dairy, the floodgates open, and everyone becomes your nutritionist, ethicist, physician, life coach, parent, guardian, concerned sister, personal trainer, and therapist. It can drive a person insane.

This is why I never offer that information to anyone. If work is ordering pizza, and I eat the usual salad, I just say I prefer to eat my salad. If I'm in a group ordering dinner, I just tell my server "please no cheese or chicken on that." If someone offer me a baked good, I say "No thank you, trying to cut back." It's not that I'm hiding anything. I just want to be left alone with my food choices, because without fail, there will be questions. Period.

So, when I decided to go ahead and prep for a show, I was very pleased to know that my online program was vegan-friendly! My online coach has experience working with vegans, and didn't make me feel like my goals were unattainable.

So, since we're talking about it, and maybe some of you are truly curious about what I eat as I prep, I'd love to share it with you.

As I am on an aggressive meal plan due to the fact that I have significant leaning out in a 4-month time period, my diet is as follows:

Meal 1: 4 oz protein, 1/4 cup starch, 1/2 cup veggies, 1/4 fruit
Meal 2: 3 oz protein, 1/4 cup starch, 1/2 cup veggies, 1/4 fruit
Meal 3: 3 oz protein, 1/4 cup starch, 1/2 cup veggies, 1/4 fruit, 1 tsp fat
Meal 4: 3 oz protein, 1/2 cup veggies
Meal 5: 4 oz protein, 1/2 cup veggies
Meal 6: 4 oz protein, 1/2 cup veggies, 1 tsp fat

For meat eaters, protein could be fish, steak, chicken, turkey. For vegans, my option is protein shake and tofu. Sure, legumes like chick peas have protein, but they also carry a ton of starch. So, I'd have to double count that as a starch. So I rarely eat beans, and use tofu and protein shakes.

Good fats include coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, flax oil.
The veggies do NOT include starchy veggies like potatoes, corn, peas.
I drink at least a gallon of water a day, and I eat every 2-3 hours.

That's it. It's not rocket science. However, you DO have to plan. You won't find 3 ounces of protein anywhere around town, so you, quite simply, have to pack it. It's just a lifestyle, like any other. Just like hitting the gym after work every day. It doesn't mean that it wouldn't be EASIER to jet set home and park it in front of Judge Judy. But if it were easy, then everyone would do it, and it wouldn't be special.

And 1/4 cup of anything is really is quite small, about three very small strawberries, or two mouthfulls of oats.