Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Pregnancy Frees Me from Body Image Obsession

Under 16 weeks pregnant, I'm well aware that I know nothing about being a mother — and this article is not about glorifying moms (although they deserve much appreciation). I'm also well aware that while my body is changing and has (only to my knowledge apparently) changed from what it once was, I still probably don't have a clue about the lasting effects that will take place five months from now. However, my hope is that what I've learned through prayer, reflection and purposely seeking peace with my body might inspire you to think differently too.

If you've been in any of my Orangetheory or ZYN22 classes, or even my boot camps or coaching sessions, you more than likely have heard me mention something to the effect that the battle to get stronger is in your mind. That's why it's essential that we as self-improvers learn to start thinking about what we think about.

Reflection: to pause and reflect on matters of the mind and decide if we need to change. 


I truly feel like God's given me a revelation on how to value body image and how to stay balanced in a world that glorifies "self." There's self-help, self-improvement, self-love, self-esteem, self-independence ... And if you're not sure you agree, the evidence can be seen in the abundance of "selfies." While I believe these are all good ideas for people to think about, and maybe even a good place to start, I'm recently aware of a new idea.

What if getting stronger and finding true joy isn't about looking within oneself?

When I first started my journey into a life of fitness and nutrition, I loved it because of the results I saw in my character, discipline, prayer life, and oh yeah, the physical results were pretty sweet too. Truly though, I devoted my career to helping others learn how to find a strength from within, which still rings true. But, isn't there a boundary between looking to God working within you for strength and looking to yourself and only yourself? Yes, there is.

Digging Deep on the Outside

Before getting pregnant, I battled body image issues (literally up to the day I found out I was pregnant). I think we all will to a certain extent, but this struggle had me completely obsessed. Although I'd made strides over the years to accept my body, independent of what others said or thought about it, I still criticized myself (and probably worse so).

The motivation for self-improvement toted by media, Instagram-queens and the rest of the world advocates one to challenge his or herself to look within, decide how bad you really want something, and go for it.

"The only one stopping you is you; the only way you won't get there is if you don't think highly enough of yourself."

When I try this, I end up obsessing over aesthetics, how my body looks in comparison to its older self, which yes, is an improvement from previously comparing my body to others', but still has me disapproving of what I may see.

Pregnancy has flipped the scales on my perspective of body image and self-improvement. The challenge of pushing myself outside my comfort zone to get stronger and leaner is no longer a front runner in my mind. In fact, the thrill of working out to "make gains" or "burn fat" has been replaced by the thrill of possibly inspiring someone else or finding an opportunity to make someone see his or herself differently.


Being pregnant, my attention is instinctively not on me, but someone else — my baby, rather. Although I'm concerned with my personal health, my motivation is not to simply improve myself, but to protect and serve the one inside me: in essence, I find myself thinking about the baby and its needs more than my own.

I feel freer. I feel like I can eat intuitively, not afraid that I'm going to gain weight, because I know I'm supposed to gain weight. In fact, I really haven't thought much about that. I've been able to think more about how I can improve the healthiness of my baby and therefore, the vessel in which it grows and on which it relies.

Humility is exactly what God calls me to have in my thought life even when I'm not pregnant. It's something I want to replicate outside my thought life, and actually, I want to put it into action more and more. The pressure I used to put on myself to be lean and often, the leanest, no longer takes priority. Hopefully, that pressure will one day be gone forever. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the journey God has me on, learning what it means to humbly put others first.

Looking Back From Where I Came

One thing I always recommend to my Team A.M.Fit clients and people in my classes is the importance of reflection. It's vital to look back at where you came from. When I read my journal entries from the last couple of years, I can see the improvement in my thought life. I used to get upset seeing someone "better" than me, which is subjective, trivial and and shallow anyway. My next stage in self-improvement involved me being happy for others but only getting upset when I failed to "better" myself from one season to another. The problem with that is that our bodies go through different seasons, not to mention the fact that the idea of self-improvement to the body still revolves around aesthetics and to put it simply, still revolves around SELF.

A rider in one of my classes mentioned to me that she loved hearing the message in my rides that drove her to not look inside oneself to get motivated, like most people encouraged, but that I advocated going outside oneself. She put this message in words I haven't used before, and it deeply impacted me. That's exactly what I feel like God's teaching me through pregnancy, teaching fitness classes and being a wife.

Before, I encouraged myself and others to look inside oneself to find motivation to push past pain, but I'm finding out how valuable it is to look outside oneself. If you truly want to experience peace, it's the only way. What's ironic about being pregnant is that you're looking outside yourself figuratively but inside yourself literally - hah.

For more tips and resources, follow me on social media: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram. Also, check out my Services to find out how I can personally help you get fit from the inside out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Signs You're on the Verge of Plateauing (and need to reset your hormones)

Many of you have heard my story on getting pregnant naturally after two years of trying infertility meds. I truly believe that my pregnancy is a miracle from God (it always is, isn't it?). But for real, I had messed up hormones from years of dieting and excessive exercise for competitions, and before that, toxin-filled nutrition like most other 90's-fruitloop-eating kiddo's. For the past year, I've been intentionally praying for God to heal my body, and while I'm not exactly where I want to be with my body, I believe I've learned quite a bit about healing one's hormones, and literally, getting stronger from the inside out.

About 8 weeks pregnant here (more progress pics to come)
I've experienced all of these signs from jacked up hormones (or the lack thereof all together). The six weeks before I found out I was pregnant, I had been eating a super high fat, low carb (no sugar - yes, no fruit), and moderate protein diet. I'd also been seeing a chiropractor, which I believe in too. And remember, I'd been praying consistently and working on my relationship with God. But all these things together truly changed my body and healed my hormones.

So, here are five warning signs your hormones might be causing you a plateau in your future fat loss endeavors.

1. You Daydream of Napping.

Hormones in the thyroid control your metabolic rate, hunger cues and ability to burn fat; but if you constantly run on overdrive, you run these hormones dry. Your body doesn’t sense when you actually need hormones like cortisol (fight or flight hormone) because you constantly run on it. If you live on "busy" mode (guilty), chances are your cortisol levels have been maxed out. You probably feel fatigued all the time and have difficulty getting motivated to workout or even function in life. Chronic fatigue is a real thing, but it's often caused from a history of dieting, excessive exercise without recovery or a nutrition regimen lacking in certain nutrients. Healthy fats are essential to hormone health, so lean, shredding-style diets could be harmful over a long period of time. Certain supplements and toxins (household products, artificial ingredients, etc) could also make or break you and zap you of your energy.

2. Hunger Takes Over.

Eat a snickers, Bob. You’re turning into a diva!” Okay, maybe not a Snickers, but definitely check in on your “hanger” factor for the day. You can’t out-train a bad diet, but neither can you out-train an excessive diet. Many times, people who feel this way are missing healthy fats, and so they eat more protein and carbs, but still don’t feel satisfied. Healthy fats like avocado, eggs, nuts, salmon and coconut oil help give your body the building blocks to hormones, which are necessary for ultimate fitness, to train your body to burn fat.

3. Everyone Ticks You Off.

So now we know that constant food restriction makes you hangry. This hanger can lead to real anger and extreme mood swings. When I was training for my fitness competitions and closing in on the show date, I'd go from super-cool gym rat to freaking out about the smallest things to crying over the dumbest things. I was in starvation mode for a little too long, not to mention I feared taking a day off from exercise. All of that wears out your stress hormones, which makes you even hangrier. Not to mention that not getting enough sleep (7+ hours) can cause your cortisol levels to rise again. Recovery from workouts and muscle rest are essential, so give yourself a ticket for a day (or three) off.

4. Depression Becomes Real.

I think it's totally normal to have bad days. However, the closer I get to God, the less bad days I have. I've learned to change my mind to find that every struggle, every sense of hopelessness, is an opportunity for God to do something amazing. So, that's my number one tip on that subject. But, I will say there are other scientific causes for depression, a chemical imbalance in your brain. Thes imbalances can result from toxins stored in fat and added sugar in your diet. Sugar causes depression - straight up. So does excess alcohol. Excess alcohol doesn't mean you're an alcoholic, but if you drink 2-3 times a week, you could be adversely affecting your hormones and actually putting the odds against your sex hormones. Detoxification is critical, especially after extra sugar and alcohol. A quick way to detox is to get rid of all processed foods, cut carbs down to veggies/fruits only, no dairy and no meats. Load up on healthy fats and eggs. Drink tons of water with lemon and supplement with Vitamin D, C and a probiotic with live active cultures. Bam!

5. Your Regularity isn’t Normal.

Speaking of detox, did you know that the G.I. tract is your primary toxin excretor, so if things aren’t functioning 100 percent, then you have problems storing toxins, which typically hide in fat. Bloating is one symptom; less than two bowel movements per day is another. What? Yes, more than one is a gross, yet coveted, healthy habit. Probiotics, fermented foods, cruciferous veggies, sweating, and fiber can all help. It also might help to get a food sensitivity test done or eliminating certain foods from your diet for a while. (ex: dairy, meat, grains, etc).

For more tips and resources, follow me on social media: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram. Also, check out my Services to find out how I can personally help you get fit from the inside out.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Healthy Finds at Sam's Club

Grocery shopping can be a real headache when you're trying to be healthy. Even the healthiest of stores stock shelves full of foods with toxins, artificial ingredients and sneaky sugars. I've found a few simple approaches to shopping quickly and cost-efficiently at Sam's. Below, I've posted a video of some of my favorite food finds you can buy in bulk at your local Sam's Club. I'm sure Costco has similar items as well.




Team A.M.Fit Omega 3 Trail Mix

  • 8 cups walnuts
  • 6 cups sliced almonds
  • 8 cups pecans
  • 8 cups Energy Trail Mix (from Sam's)

This makes 2 gallon bags full of trail mix, which comes out to about 64 1/2 cup servings or 128 1/4 cup servings (probably a better serving size).

For tracking macros, refer to the breakdown below.

1/4 cup serving | 189 calories

  • 4.5 g protein
  • 6 g carbs (3 g fiber/ 3 g net carbs)
  • 16 g fat

For more tips and resources, follow me on social media: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram. Also, check out my Services to find out how I can personally help you get fit from the inside out.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Why Your Body Won't Get Lean

Do you feel like you're killing yourself in the gym to torch calories? Or maybe you feel like you follow all the rules of your healthy habits for a few weeks and then get burnt out? If you're banking on your will power, then you might get somewhere, but probably not to your ultimate goals. If you want peace with your body and peace with food, then you have to change your mind about dieting and exercise.

Your body burns carbs primarily instead of fat.
Traditional diets and low-fat eating can often lead to hormonal imbalances. When your body is underfed healthy fats like salmon, flax, coconut, avocados and almonds, your body resorts to storing fat and burning only what's absolutely necessary, thus slowing down the metabolism. Try implementing more whole foods, healthy fats and less carbs.

You eat too much after exercising.
I'm not one to advocate limiting the amount of food one eats, but sometimes, we can overestimate how many calories we torched during exercise and end up overeating afterwards. This can happen especially easily if you're under-eating during the day. You also don't want to get into a habit of rewarding yourself with food after you workout. Instead, find different ways to reward yourself like a new pair of shoes.

You restrict and reward.
Have you ever told yourself, I'm never eating _____ again? That kind of restriction sets you up for failure. Food is not bad. Some food is better than others, but telling yourself you can never have something you like won't help. Instead, try finding alternatives to the foods you crave, and eat those regularly. And then, the occasional indulgence in something less healthy won't kill you.

You're drinking greens full of sugar.
Pre-made green drinks are notorious for hiding tons of sugar. Kinds like Odwalla and Naked sneak in more than 50 grams of sugar. It doesn't matter if that sugar stems from real fruits or not; it's still sugar. The problem with sugar is that it spikes blood insulin levels and desensitizes your body's hormones from cuing fat to free up as fuel.

You're mindlessly eating.
Multitasking is no foreign idea to most of us. If you're like me, you can text, sweep, launder and let the dogs out all at the same time. When it comes to eating, however, you want o narrow it down to just one activity. Studies show eating slow, enjoying your meals and turning off all distractions help you have more self-control during meals, as well as help you notice hunger/fullness cues more easily.

You're skipping meals during the day.
Not only does this put your body into starvation mode, it often triggers make-up hunger pains late at night, when your body should be going into fat-burning/restorative mode. You see, most people eat something full of carbs in the morning like cereal or a granola bar or yogurt, OR they don't eat anything at all. The body's blood insulin levels spike in the morning and then completely fall during the day, causing your metabolism to once again slow down. Instead, plan ahead. Prep meals on the weekends or one evening a week. Research easy recipes or snacks to take to work or in the car.

For more tips and resources, follow me on social media: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram. Also, check out my Services to find out how I can personally help you get fit from the inside out.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

MyProtein Supplement Review


When your life revolves around when and how you're going to workout for the day, it's especially important you have supplementation to keep you ahead of fatigue. That includes things like protein powder, BCAAs, quick snacks and high functioning apparel (ain't nothing worse than a pair of leggings that slide down your thighs). With so many supplement companies throwing new things at you, promising lean gains and supernatural fat-burning, it's easy to get lost in which brands are legit. I'm happy to review MyProtein supplements and comment that yes, they are legit.

The MyProtein supplements: BCAAs, Whey Isolate, Protein Bars and Shaker cup
MyProtein supplements has taken over the market in Europe and is quickly expanding in the U.S. With a shipping plant in Chicago, supplements can get from them to you in less than a week. My experience with MyProtein was very positive, from the initial contact made by a very friendly MyProtein representative all the way to the performance of these snazzy blue workout pants.

Aside from the supplements, MyProtein has done a great job at educating visitors to their website on each supplement they sell. They have research explaining why you would want to take any of the supplements listed, and references for where that information came from. I love that they care so much about the integrity of their products and actually informing people, instead of just claiming to be the best. They also give you free shipping when you spend $70 or more.
The mugcake I made using Vanilla Whey Protein Isolate by MyProtein

Impact Whey Protein Isolate

  • Over 22g protein per serving
  • Comes in a HUGE variety of flavors including Rocky Road, Coffee Caramel, and Blueberry Cheesecake (tons more too)
  • Sweetened with sucralose
I really like this protein. I'm a huge advocate for whey isolate (highly absorbable and bakeable), so that's a no-brainer. Ideally, I wish it was sweetened with stevia and free of the soy lecithin, which is an emulsifier, but other than that, there are not a bunch of crazy ingredients. I even noticed on some of the other unique flavors, they use natural coloring agents like beetroot coloring to make things red. I was sent the vanilla flavor, and it tasted delicious. I enjoyed it in a normal blended protein shake (water, ice, stevia and protein), and I made a mug cake (coconut flour, cinnamon, stevia, baking powder, flax and protein). Both worked seamlessly.


BCAA

  • 0.5 lb bag of aminos (easy to scoop)
  • Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine (good for protein synthesis and to prevent muscular breakdown)
  • Comes in 10 flavors including Berry Blast, Blue Raspberry and Raspberry Lemonade
  • Sweeteened with sucralose
I got to try the Sour Apple flavor, and while I normally don't like that flavor, this one was pretty good. It was less sour and more just "apple-y." It actually tasted like apple juice. My husband really liked these BCAAs. Again, I'd prefer stevia-sweetened products and no artificial food colorings. 


Protein Chox Bars

  • 22 g protein per bar
  • 5 flavors including lemon crunch and cookies and creme
MyProtein protein bar: chocolate caramel flavor
Caramel Peanut: Protein Blend (Milk Protein Isolate, Hydrolysed Gelatine), Milk Chocolate Couverture (17%) (Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Whole Milk Powder, Cocoa Mass, Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin, Flavouring), Caramel (14%) (Sweetened Condensed Milk, Glucose Syrup, Non-Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Sugar, Caramelised Syrup, Emulsifier: E471; Salt, Natural Butter Flavour (Milk)), Humectant (Glycerine), Glucose Syrup, Peanuts (6%), Peanut Flour, Fructose, Rapeseed Oil, Flavouring, Sodium Chloride, Antioxidant (Mixed Tocopherols).

I got to try the above flavor, Caramel Peanut, and it tasted pretty comparable to other protein bars. My husband actually loved these, and he's already eaten like 14 of them. I'm not a huge fan of these protein bars because they have so many artificial ingredients in them, but the biggest reason is because they have 13 g of sugar. So, if we're rating taste, I'd give them an 8/9, but overall, about a 5 — pretty comparable to a FiberOne protein bar.


Shaker Cup

What's not to like about the shaker cup? It's great.

Leggings

At first, I'm not going to lie, I was a little afraid of these leggings. I thought they would fit too snug in the waist and be uncomfortable, but they were actually really easy to exercise in. Plus, they looked cuter on than I thought. They're dry-fit, and definitely resisted wetness during the workout. They have several patterns available, and the best part is they are totally affordable — less than $40!

Whether you're brand new to the exercise game or a seasoned gym rat, I'd recommend browsing the MyProtein website and giving some of their supps a glance. If you're set with supplements, then you still might be interested in the web of articles and research they have available, which is really interesting. They've already got quite the team lined up with fitness professionals like Brad Gouthro, Bradley Martyn, Nina Ross, Michael Kory and Chris Lavado.
*I was not paid to review these items, nor do I receive any monetary compensation to endorse these items. I did, however, receive these items free of charge.

For more tips and resources, follow me on social media: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram. Also, check out my Services to find out how I can personally help you get fit from the inside out.`
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