Friday, August 19, 2011

One Choice for Change

I can sit here today and honestly say I am amazed, grateful, and happy with where my life is. Not everything is perfect, and yes there will always be things to strive for and do. However, in the last year my life has changed so drastically, it makes me think maybe you really can build your own path and predict your own future. A little over a year ago... I was living in Eugene. I was a college graduate who just recently got laid off from a job that fulfilled my financial desires but that inside I absolutely hated. I was broke, was over my head in financial responsibilities, living in a house that I owned and thought I could never move out of, coming to the ends of a relationship I knew wouldn’t last, and in retrospect completely lost. I felt extremely tied down by responsibilities, and frustrated with the feeling that there was no way out and I had no help. I also had a horse that I didn’t want to sell but knew I couldn’t afford nor move if I kept her. My situation seemed hopeless, even if on the outside it looked alright.

 I knew back then I was not at my true potential of happiness, yet I also honestly thought it may be impossible for me to ever get there. I had no direction, I had two degrees that I didn't care to use, and in my opinion I had nothing that really defined me. Because of my past family issues with alcohol, I never was a huge partier... Thank god. Not to say I didn't live college life to the fullest and do a lot of dumb thing along the way. What I mean is... Alcohol never really did much for me. Most people say it loosens them up, or chills them out. Some just like the way it makes them feel. The only reason I ever really drank is because it was what everyone did. I didn't know how to not have it in my life because it seemed like it was a big part of everyone’s life. The weekends would come and what else was on the agenda besides going out and being social with alcohol? That was our "break" from the work week and our only means of fun. Most of the time it gave me anxiety. I can honestly say there wasn't a single time in my life where I ever drank and felt relaxed or "chill". I think deep down there was something telling me I could be doing other things. I could not be wasting my time and sleeping until noon the next day only to get up and go out to an unhealthy and thoughtless breakfast at two in the afternoon. What was the fun in that? Blame it on the fact that I have had such a busy schedule since I was 15, and felt the constant need to be productive in order to fit everything in. Blame it on my financial insecurity and that my subconscious saw it all as a waste of time and money. Blame it on the fact that I absolutely hated it when I felt my time wasn’t used efficiently. Whatever it was, I am happy that little voice stuck around for so many years, because without it I may never have gotten to where I am today.

I am now 25 years old and engaged to the most amazing, supportive, encouraging and positive man I have ever known. I also live in Lake Oswego which is a beautiful place where everyone is so active. I lease my home out as a rental in Eugene, am building a business with my fiancé, love my job and the friends I have made there, and couldn't feel better mentally and physically. So how did the last 15 months lead to this? It all started with a choice. I made a choice to focus on something positive. I made a choice to define myself in the fitness world and chase a dream. I made a choice to live healthier, happier. With all these choices came positive people, positive changes.

Now I'm not saying it's all been easy or all these things just came out of nowhere and presented themselves to me. It was not luck, what I am trying to convey is that if every choice you are presented with is made with your best intention and you continually work hard to improve your life, then you cannot fail. I guess I feel the need to write this because if there is someone out there reading this who has felt the way I felt even 15 months ago, then maybe I can help. I have felt stuck, hopeless, discouraged, alone. I have felt like there is no way out of my current situation. I have felt lost. I look back and am so blessed now because I don't feel those things today. Those on the outside looking in may think my life looks pretty glamorous, or "easy" or that I could never have been in a situation like them... but believe me, I have been there. So start today and make a choice to change your future. Everyday presents itself with opportunity for change. It all starts with you and one choice. 

Team NNPT- All first time competitors @ Oregon Ironman in May 2011. They all made a choice to compete!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Post Show Thoughts; Once a competitor, always a competitor.

August 2nd- 4 days post show.

This morning I walked to Starbucks. Not because I was especially in the mood for coffee or a walk but I thought a walk would give me some peace of mind and clarity and I could use any and all forms of exercise. You see, this is my third time competing and my third time experiencing post show uneasiness. I keep thinking it will get easier, and from a nutrition standpoint it has a bit, however, the life of a normal person is hard to live. As a competitor, your always on a plan, a mission, you always wake up with a goal. You dream of days when you can sleep in again, when you don't have to go to the gym at 5am and when you have the freedom to choose what food you want to eat and when. But then when this life is presented to you, it's almost like you feel your losing yourself. In my opinion, once a competitor- always a competitor. This sport has truly changed me. I can never look at a meal again and not break down it's nutritional content, put it in food groups, and realize the ways in which consuming it will affect my body. I am grateful for my knowledge of nutrition thus far and know I will ways be healthier because of it, however, sometimes I find myself wishing I could just be "normal" again. What I mean is, I used to eat and not have a thought about what I was eating. I ate when I was hungry, I ate what I was craving, I ate and enjoyed what I was eating and then it was over. I find my mind thinking about every choice now, thinking about every meal, the time of the meal, and what I am doing to my body with the meal. Don't get me wrong, I don't restrain myself and could never or would never have any sort of eating disorder (thank heavens). I just remember the days when these thoughts weren't around and wonder if I will ever be "normal" again.

Through prepping for the USA's, I learned a great more than I already knew about nutrition. I also took my meal plan each week very seriously. I was up before the crack of dawn making sure I had enough steamed broccoli and BBQ'd tilapia to get me through until the next day I could cook again. I also spent more hours in our tiny kitchen then ever before. I felt different during this prep. Maybe it was because I knew I was competing against the best of the best, or maybe it was because I really didn't want to fail in front of thousands of people. Either way i would never call it easy because I definitely had days where I felt so hungry I was going to die, but this time it was easier to stay mentally in the game. I think this changed me a bit. I still am craving steamed broccoli and not having oatmeal for two weeks made me feel like when I was done with my show I would be perfectly content with eating a bowl of stealcut oats with blueberries for every meal.I didn't want donuts or pizza or any of that other crap most people talk about eating. I wanted oatmeal, wheat bread, peanut butter, a sandwich, fruit. I wanted the typical healthy diet that so many other people strive to stay on. I wanted that. Ironic what extremes do to us.

Since the show I have been dealing with adjustment to a "normal" life. The option to eat whatever, whenever really messes with my head. I start to eat because I can, not because I'm hungry. I don't like the way that makes me feel but it's like you want to taste everything... But then you become too full from eating everything you wanted to taste and you feel miserable- mentally and physically. I have eaten a few things such as a cheeseburger and froyo and cookies, etc. But I feel like when I eat these things it's because that's what I'm supposed to do right? That's what I'm supposed to want to eat. Needless to say, none of it is ever as good as we make up in our minds it's going to be. It's never what we imagined, is it? For me, I feel like I'm mostly disappointed with how I feel when I eat it but I do it because I don't know when it might be taken away again. When I might wish for the option again. I feel like finding a balance is the hardest part of post show adjustment.

Along with eating, post show water retention, carb adjustment, and the shock our body goes through throws us mentally in a mind screw. We are so used to be abnormally lean that we begin to think we look fat. Combine this with exponentially decreased exercise endorphins, the confusion of waking up with no goal, and you feel like a lost soul who no longer has a purpose. The reason I write about this is because I guarantee there are thousands out there who know exactly what I am talking about. Most competitors get embarrassed, ashamed, and hide from the world after a show. They think they need to live up to others expectations, and they can't possibly be seen in the condition they are in now. I don't want to do that. I want to learn others strategies and help others who may be feeling a similar feeling. Sometimes we fall into this phase where we tell ourselves we dont want to go to the gym because we "deserve" to sit on the couch and do nothing for a while. Sometimes we think we worked so hard we deserve a break- and we do. However, working out and eating healthy should be a lifestyle and not something we just do for competition purposes. Its okay to take a break but remember the reality of sitting on the couch and overindulging only sounds good on the outside. The actuality of it is it makes you feel miserable, depressed, and lazy. Health is something that affects us in each direction of our life. Working out really does increase your endorphins and makes your mood more positive. Work out because you love to, not because any one is forcing you to. Eat healthy because you care about your body not because you have to. And yes reward yourself when you feel the need to, take some time off if you need to as well but find your true passion for health and fitness outside of the competition world. That is my advice to those struggling with post show adjustment- and even to myself.

I am thankful that I have had experience with post show "blues" before and for the most part I know how to avoid them. I will stay positive, workout because I want to not because I have to, not become obsessed with the fact that I may not always have a 6 pack, and realize how we look on stage is not realistic. I have also realized that the opportunities I have had to compete have been a blessing in desguise. They have changed my life forever. I know I will always have a competitor mentality at heart, and I may always think about my food choices, the timing of my food, and my workouts for the day. But there are worst things to be addicted to then health and fitness ; )

I recently became engaged to my best friend and am excited to take this off time from competing to spend some quality time with him. I am still struggling a bit with the fact that my workouts and food planning are no longer #1 on my list of priorities but I am excited to have the extra hours of the day to relax and have some fun with my fiance. He deserves a healthy happy me, even if I am not in competition prep. I am determined to stay fit and healthy because it is what truly makes me happy. 

Its all about finding a balance- Once a competitor, always a competitor!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Alcohol: "Do you EVER drink?"

Hey there!
I have been asked the following question alot lately and thought it would be a good idea to address the topic on my blog, "Do you EVER drink?"

When people ask me about my training and getting in better shape, the question of drinking is often one of the first that gets addressed. People bring it up because it is such a HUGE part of most peoples lives. As soon as we get off work... we go to happy hour at our favorite spot or call our best friend for martini's on thirsty Thursday. Every weekend includes at least one night of social drinking and every weekend includes at least one morning of sleeping in/being hung over... Right? Our lives are so constrained by alcohol and it wasn't until I quit that I could realize this. So to answer your question... No, I do not drink (anymore/ever).

When doing fitness consultations and giving people advice, I try to not be unrealistic. I know the majority of you out there do drink and I know it is possible to be in great shape and drink. However, if you are wanting to take your fitness and goals to the next level, or even to a new level, alcohol is going to be one of the key ingredients that will either prevent this or let it happen. In competition, it is practically impossible to drink and hit your goals. Why? Because the body cannot maintain muscle mass or recover and for men- the toxins released by the liver block the production of testosterone. Alcohol is the #1 worst thing you could do to your body if you are trying to take your fitness to the next level. For more information on this, click here.

I feel fortunate that I have a boyfriend who also does not drink. If any of you out there are thinking about competing, it is extremely important to surround yourself with people who understand and support your goals and decisions. Competing is a lifestyle change, you must make sacrifices that are harder than most other things you have done in your life. I am grateful that my boyfriend has been sober for seven years now. When we started dating, I was training for my first competition. I felt blessed to have someone around me who was okay with staying in and cooking all our own meals and watching a movie instead of going to happy hour or going out to the bars. I honestly do not know if I could of done as well as I did without him, but I can honestly say I had the most active, fun, productive summer of my life this last summer- without alcohol. Instead of being hung over and wasting our days away.. we went hiking, swimming, we ran a 10K together, I cheered him on at his first triathlon, we traveled, climbed the south sisters summit (10,000ft!), etc. I had never felt healthier or happier than I did knowing I was putting my time to good use and experiencing things I never would of if alcohol and partying were still a big part of my life.

The temptations of our friends and those around us have huge impacts on us, sometimes more than we know. Trust me, for those out there wanting to change your life and give up drinking, its not easy. I even lost a few friends over the change. You see, people hate change. If they are used to you being their "drinking buddy" they will be the last to support you changing this about yourself. However, those who do support you are the real friends in your life who you should cherish and keep around. If they can see through their own selfish wants and that you are doing something better for yourself and your life, then they are worth keeping around. If you want a good way to weed out the negative and in the positive, quit drinking and see how the people around you respond. It will blow your mind.

A new study was flashed in front of me on google news recently. It states that alcohol is more harmful on the body then crack, cocaine, or many other drugs. If your interested in reading about it, click here. It seems sometimes just because the substance is legal, we seem to think it is okay for us. My thought process on this.. I dont miss being hung over, I dont miss poisoning my body, I dont miss making decisions I regret. I dont miss drinking. So even if the substance is legal, why would I drink it? When I first met my boyfriend, I asked him the question I get asked so often now, "Why did you quit drinking?"His answer inspired me so much I will never forget it. He responded, "Alcohol holds me back from being the best I can be. It prevents me from what and who I want to become and it doesn't do anything positive in my life." I loved this response and he was so right.

For those out there that do drink and want to try and be in better shape, try sticking to non flavored liquors such as vodka with a mixer such as soda water, tonic water, or order a "press" (half soda/half seven up). Most of the time we dont realize how many extra calories we are consuming by drinking. High calorie mixers and high sugar juices and sodas that are added to our alcohol add up much quicker than anyone might realize. Some mixed drinks can have up to 800 calories in them! That's almost half of our average daily consumption! I don't know about you... but I would rather have a piece of cheesecake with my dinner!

Brody and I hiking the South Sister's Summit this Summer---->

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Importance of Accountability

Today I thought I would write about accountability and its meaningfulness in reaching our goals. I recently spoke with a girl interested in competing. She does not have a trainer and is wanting to train on her own with the help of friends and those who are already in the competition field of fitness. My thought on this is the following:

We as human beings have a natural tendency of cheating ourselves before cheating others. In other words, we often will make decisions based off our current wants and not consider our future wants. As an economics student, I learned that the present self has a different discount rate then the future self. This means we dont always consider our future situation as much as we consider our present, leading us to make decisions that might not always be the best for our future but rather the immediate gratification of our present. This is why people eat things and satisfy their wants now, and then kick themselves for the outcome of extra weight a month down the road. This theory is even more amplified when it comes to our needs, aka eating food. The present us when hungry will make whatever decision it needs to in order to satisfy itself, regardless of the consequences in the future.

The idea of accountability plays a huge role in this thought process, and this is why I recommend anyone wanting to compete or wanting to actually meet their goals to find a trainer. I, myself, have a ton of knowledge in the world of working out. I have been training on and off for 4 years with my brother. People ask me often, why would a trainer, have a trainer? The point is not that I dont know how to work out, or I dont push myself hard enough. The point is, I know with a trainer I will have another aspect of accountability that will keep me on track much better than I can do for myself. Each week, I have weekly updates while training with a trainer. I get measured, pinched for body fat, and weighed. Each week, I know this is coming, and I know the goals that my trainer and I set for myself. If I was not held accountable by someone other than myself, I would make different decisions because my present self would be okay with letting my future self down. Now my present self is not okay with letting myself and my trainer down. Dont ask me why we work this way.... we just do. I think females especially have a nuturing sense to make others happy, which will play a big role in meeting your goals with your trainer.

We as human beings, need to have some sense of accountability or we will cheat ourselves out of our maximum potential. It takes a lot of self control and re-programming our brains to make healthy decisions all the time... it takes years for some people to even make baby steps toward becoming healthier. In our society, we are constantly tempted with fast food drive thrus, commercials for $5 pizzas, etc.  The only person you can really be accountable to is yourself. Although trainer is a good person to have and they will get you started on the right track. Remember, long term accountability is going to come from yourself and understanding how your actions will have certain outcomes in the future and really understanding what makes you happy.

If you are in the Eugene, Salem, or Portland area, I recommend the following trainers/gyms:

Trainer: Brody Nivens
Gym: Nivens Northwest Personal Training (NNPT)
Phone: 503-851-3659

Trainer: Aaron Orton
Gym: ProFitness of Eugene
Phone: 541-206-8854

Or you can always contact myself, I am back and forth between Eugene and Portland alot, and am training in a few different locations as of now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Post Show Crack Head

Many of you may have read my recent status update on facebook stating, "Sugar is legallized crack. It increases disease, obesity, illness. It is in almost EVERYTHING and can even make people act crazy. Ask yourself, how much crack have you had today?"

This post was not at all intended to make myself seem superhuman, like I'm someone that never eats sugar, or to make those out there with sweet-tooth's feel bad about themselves. This post was describing how I felt about my own addictive behaviors that had recently been heightened by the awareness of my personal sugar consumption.

You see, while training for the last five months I have been deprived of most sugars. I say most because it is practically impossible to not eat any sugar, even when you cut out what the majority of America would consider as unhealthy. What most people don't understand is that sugar is in practically EVERYTHING. Let's take a normal but seemingly healthy eating schedule, for example: you eat a bowl of Kashi brand go lean cereal for breakfast and slice a banana up to add to it. Seemingly healthy breakfast right? Wrong. 1 cup of this "healthy" cereal has 12 grams of sugar. Not to mention one medium banana has around 14 grams of sugar. That's 26 grams of sugar. Now on to your snack. You eat a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter. English muffin has 2 grams of sugar + peanut butter has 3 grams per serving. There's 5 more grams. Let's say you eat a "healthy" lunch and have a teriyaki chicken salad.   You use lettuce, tomatoe, corn, carrots, peas, and teriyaki chicken. Carrots have 5 grams of sugar, 4 grams in the corn, and 4 grams in the peas. That's 13 grams in the salad alone. Not to mention the crazy amount of sugar in teriyaki sauce. On average you get about 3-5 grams per tablespoon. Most of us use at least 6 tablespoons to flavor dishes. That's up to 30 grams in just your sauce. So our healthy lunch has a total of 43 grams of sugar. Let's say you are on the go later and stop by a fast food joint. You go to Arby's and get a roast beef sandwich and fries. You put some Arby's sauce on your sandwich and dip your fries in some ketchup. Well that little packet of Arby's sauce has 5 grams of sugar and ketchup has 2 grams per serving. Not to mention the sauce the meet is cured in probably has sugar. **Theres hidden sugar in everything** So here we have another 10+ grams, considering we almost all use more than one serving of ketchup. Right now.. We have a total of 84 grams of sugar consumed and we haven't even had a soda, dessert, candy, or alcohol yet. When you throw in foods with processed, added sugar this number grows exponentially
. (White, refined sugar is also bleached with Chlorine Bleach, a substance that many people are sensitive to.   Chlorine, when it combines with organic compounds, converts to Dioxin, a lethal chemical.  No one should ever consume any substances that have been exposed to chlorine or chlorine bleach).
If that doesn't make you think twice about your sugar intake you should begin to look at your health. Do you get headaches regularly? Do you have high cholesterol? Have problems sleeping?

Some of the other effects of sugar on the body are: *Increases overgrowth of candida yeast organism *Increases chronic fatigue *Can trigger binge eating in those with bulima*Increases PMS symptoms*Increases hyperactivity in about 50% of children *Increases tooth decay *Increases anxiety and irritability*Can increase or intensify symptoms of anxiety and panic in susceptible women*Can make it difficult to lose weight because of constantly high insulin levels, which causes the body to store excess carbs as fat.

The reason I ask these questions is because I had a list going of all the things I wanted to eat that I couldn't while training. Not to mention all the people around me who seemed so anxious to feed me when I was done. I had friends make me my favorite muffins, buy my favorite candies, and get more excited than I was just to watch me eat these things. Super grateful of these kind deeds and appreciate my friends thoughts...But I cant help thinking that we have been programmed to see these gestures as good things when in all actuality we are adding to our own health risks. I dont blame my friends and family for this, I blame our society and its view on health. We go out to eat in order to socialize. It seems we can't even have a conversation unless its in a public place that is serving us food and/or drinks.

The previous thought of eating all these goodies was something I was surprised to find out didn't match the feeling my body had after the fact. Gaining ten pounds in the 5 days following my show didn't bug me.. Most of it was water and I was at a healthier wight for my height... But what did bug me is how sick my body felt from all the excess sugar. I started to notice myself going to extremes- eating amd craving more and more. I also started noticing regular headaches, unhealthy amplified cravings, I felt myself drained of energy much quicker, and I was sleeping irregularly. The post show adjustment to "normal" eating has got me thinking, "Am I eating these foods because I want to? Or am I eating them because it's the American normal way of consumption? I mean afterall... Candy and cookies makes us happy ..right?" I mean I had two months "off" training to eat "normally" before I had to start training for nationals. But did this two months mean I needed to take "off" being healthy? I'm starting to think i'm only eating these things because it's what I'm supposed to do. My body is obviously telling me differently.

Maybe if we all changed our perception on sugar and saw it as crack, obesity wouldn't be the #1 killer in America. Both crack and sugar are tiny, white, crystals that amplify our senses and grow on plants. So today.. One week after my show... I am retiring my crack head behaviors.. Even if it's not what everyone else is doing.

So once again, Ask yourself.. How much crack have you had today?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

**The Beginning of a New Chapter**

Hi Guys!
First I want to thank you for stopping by to read my blog! The thought of writing a blog has been in the back of my mind for a few months (especially while training for my first fitness show), however, I always shot myself down and said, "Who wants to read what you have to say anyways? I mean I am not a nutritionist, I dont have a degree in anything even related to fitness, and I am not a certified personal trainer..." But after having multiple requests on Facebook for fitness tips, advice, and general help in the world of weight .. I thought.. what the hell!

This blog is a work in progress so bare with me. I am trying to collaborate my thoughts and knowledge in different aspects, including nutrition and food (I will be adding recipes I find and like), general workout tips, cardio and weight tips when training, and the basic struggles that come with those who have a goal that sometimes seems impossible to reach. I am lucky enough to have a lot of knowledgeable people in my life and sometimes feel that I don't need school at all. Speaking with my brother (a certified personal trainer, bodybuilder competitor, and my trainer @ ProFitness in Eugene), my boyfriend (also a certified personal trainer who owns his own training studio and trains me @ NNPT), and having a passion to learn about the field, I believe I have retained enough knowledge to be of help to those wanting advice in different areas.

To start off.. I want everyone to know a little about me. Sometimes we create images of what peoples lives are like based on assumptions and mis-accurate interpretations. I know a lot of people probably assume I have a easy life, with help from mommy and daddy, or dont have a lot of stresses or issues to distract me from being in "such good shape". This is completely not true. The reason I start by addressing this issue is because I dont want any of you making excuses as to why you might not be able to chase your dreams. The last four months of my life have been anything but easy and training for my first fitness competition on top of all my personal struggles made it that much more of a challenge. I am 24 years old. I own a house that I bought when I was 18. I have been faced with family issues in my past that have made me 100% dependent on myself for any financial support, emotional support, or help. Try telling me that owning a home in this economy, graduating college in this job market, and being completely on your own to face the world and all its problems is easy. I wont go in to more depth of my personal issues, or complain about my life. I have never been happier of where my life is going than I am now, even if it took climbing a mountain to get here. But if I can juggle moving out of my home and getting it ready to lease on my own, trying to work and make enough income to pay for the move along with basic bills of life, fit in the time to date someone who lives an hour and a half away, and find the time to cook my meals, eat healthy, stay on track, and workout...then believe me, you can too.