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Friday, September 14, 2012

Food: The Problem

I was doing some thinking this morning about the root of our problem, the problem being obesity. Nations are calling it an epidemic, and it is. More and more people are crossing over thresholds of unhealthiness never seen before in the modern world, and even scarier is that many of those people are children. So why? Why after hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution is our lifestyle becoming so detrimental to our physical health?

Our food industry should be centred around a few core principles; ethics, quality, and nutrition. Makes sense right? We want to eat food that is of a high standard, that was obtained fairly and ethically, and is high in nutritive properties. The unfortunate reality is that the food industry only has two core principles that are in direct opposition of the ideal; profit and convenience.

Think about the average run of the mill grocery store. Think about the products on the shelves and the percentage of those products that contain the same or similar ingredients. Almost every single product on the centre aisles contain a wheat, soy, or corn product. Now why is that a problem? Well consider what we would encounter in a wild or hunter-gatherer environment before the dawn of agriculture. We would consume very little, and in some regions of the world, absolutely no grains whatsoever. Furthermore, the grain we consume today is not the grain of yesteryear. Almost all of them have been bred, hybridized, or genetically modified in some way, shape, or form. Why are grains so widely used and manufactured? Is it because they're good for us or mandatory in our diet in some way as the industry would have us believe? Nope. They're cheap to make and highly profitable. Corn production in the USA is subsidized to the point that growers have little to no production costs; still wonder why high fructose corn syrup is now the go-to sweetener for many companies?

The other problem is sugar. In a natural environment we would encounter very little that we would consider to have a 'sweet' flavour. Berries and other occasional fruit maybe, depending on where you lived. Now sugar is a very bio-available easily digestible carbohydrate. What that means is that your body receives fuel from it's consumption very quickly, and because our bodies are designed for survival it makes sense that we would be programmed to obtain the most convenient source of fuel. If you happened upon a field of blueberries it would make sense that your brain would tell you to eat them, and then eat some more, and then some more. Enter the modern grocery store. The minute you walk in the door you are bombarded with sugar. It is in a huge variety of products from potato chips, to tomato sauce, candy, chocolate, and processed meat products. Your natural brain is telling you to eat sweet, couple that with the high levels of insulin coursing through our veins due to unnaturally high carbohydrate diets and you have an almost impossibility that people can resist the temptation.

So we have a food industry directly opposed to what should be important principles, and abundance of grains and manufactured products that our bodies aren't used to consuming, and an overwhelming amount of sugar in our food products and you have our current recipe for disaster. Would people still be overweight if you resolved the above issues? Sure, but I think that the vast majority of obese and overweight people are struggling the most with what I've referred to in this post.

When you go to the store, try to think about your natural hunter-gathering self. What percentages would your diet be comprised of if you were primal man? How many grains? How much protein? And if it isn't natural, don't eat it. If you're looking for a way to clean up your diet without over complicating things or calorie counting, start there. Whole, natural foods are quite possibly the solution to the ever mounting problem; why are we all so fat and unhealthy?

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Big Show

As we got closer to our competition I have to say my nerves really got the best of me. Honestly my biggest concern was that I was going to stick out like a sore thumb. The thought of everyone wondering what the hell I was doing there was enough to make me want to throw up. Not a great feeling. I knew that I was going to do the show no matter what, and the body I had now was what was going up on stage. Nothing to do about it at that point other than practise my posing and hope for the best.

Well I have to say that my first impression of the WBFF show was that the competitors were amazing. The girls were incredibly friendly, complimentary, helpful, and kind. I am pretty adept at picking up on others energy and I have to say that every girl in there was nothing but positive. Although it was a long day, we had a lot of fun back stage getting to know each other and ended up having a great time.

The first moment I stepped on stage was scary. You are trying to focus on so many things at the same time; walking, smiling, keeping your core engaged, posing. My mind went immediately blank for a few moments and then I got my act together, but let me tell you I was extremely grateful that the prejuging show doesn't tend to draw much of an audience. At first I thought the prejudging would be redundant, but it ended up being an excellent practise run for the big show that evening. You work out all of your nervousness in the morning so that by the time you step out on stage that night, you feel tremendously more confident.

Being on stage is a lot of fun. Nerve racking, but fun. Trying to keep your muscles engaged and posing over and over again is definitely a workout all by itself, not to mention walking in those shoes for hours! Let me tell you I didn't see my ankles for a few days afterwards, the swelling reminded me of what my legs looked like during pregnancy.

The best part of the WBFF show was the atmosphere. No one had an attitude about them, everyone was friendly and wished the best for their competitors. I honestly can say that I don't think many of the girls there even care where they placed, it was all about the experience. It was a show celebrating the accomplishments of fitness minded individuals regardless of what stage they were at in their training. Some girls were magazine ready, others had just started out. The point is it didn't matter. We all had our different reasons for being there and had an intimate understanding and respect for the other athletes and what they'd accomplished.

When the show was over it was definitely an emotional moment. It was the end of a new beginning, and the beginning of a new journey. I got to share it with my training partner and friend, Bre, who has shared in the struggles of competition prep and who has been by my side every step of the way. The show ending felt very similar to how you feel at the end of your wedding day; happy to be starting a new chapter and happy the hard work and planning is over, but a little sad that the excitement and anticipation of your big day is gone.

The most revealing part of this experience for me was seeing the pictures after the show. I was honestly dreading the WBFF stage pictures. I was expecting to be devastated as I compared myself directly standing next to some of the incredible women I shared the stage with. When the pictures were posted, I cried. I didn't stand out. I didn't look strange up there next to all that beauty. I looked just like everyone else. It was a feeling I'll never forget. I came face to face with the reality that I was no longer striving to have a great body, I had one. Sure I want to improve even further and take my physique to the next level, but I am pretty happy with how far I've come in just six short months.

The competition, our photo shoot, even our Facebook page, has become a celebration and commemoration of the triumph and struggle to change our lives. We have accomplished much but it's just the beginning. The end of the competition marks the start of a new chapter of our fitness, who knows what the next year will bring.

To all of you that have shared in our journey, thank you.


On Happiness

It's a curious thing, happiness. Every goal we pursue in life, whether it's for money, philanthropy, relationships, or material possessions, it all has the same motivation; happiness. We want to create and maintain the highest level of happiness possible for ourselves; some believe that may be through helping others, some believe that's achieved by creating material wealth, others may equate happiness with the state of their personal relationships.

We all have a vision for our lives that we think is synonymous with happiness; that ultimate reality in which all of our dreams have come true. The difficult part about it is that much of what we deem worthy of creating happiness comes from other people and outside sources, this means that our happiness is conditional. It also means that unless certain circumstances arise and particular individuals cooperate, we may never achieve our perceived ideal of happiness. We spend our entire lives in pursuit of happiness, some of us find it along the way, others have it and then lose it, some people never find it at all. It doesn't seem fair. Certain individuals seem to get a disproportionate advantage over others; money comes easily to them or they seem to be lucky in love, whereas others suffer disappointment after disappointment.

What I want to tell you about happiness is something that has changed my life dramatically. It's a perception and attitude that guarantees your happiness regardless of what circumstance or obstacle comes your way. The secret is wholeness as an individual. The secret is not depending on others and outside influences to create or destroy happiness for you, it's creating the happiness within yourself so that regardless of what happens, happiness is there.

Creating happiness within yourself isn't conditional. There are many situations that would challenge this happiness to it's core; the death of a loved one or complete financial ruin. It wouldn't be easy to find happiness after a tragic event, no one said it would be easy, but we can find peace in the knowledge that even in tragedy there are lessons and points to be made. We are all part of the grand design; nothing is meaningless.

I liken it to viewing your life as a boat in the ocean. Your job throughout life is to build your boat in to an impenetrable ship; unsinkable even in the most devastating of storms. If your ship becomes attached to another ship and dependent on it's performance to stay afloat, what happens if that ship leaves? Become fearlessly complete. Know that each and every event and person in your life has significant meaning. Becoming a resilient and happy individual is a skill that comes with practise, not an ability only a few are born with.

Your life is like a handful of sand, the tighter your grip the faster it slips through your fingers. Hold your life in your hands with open palms. Accept all that comes your way with the strength and knowledge that you are destined for happiness and to achieve great things. When you make the decision to be happy regardless of what life brings your way, you create joy in a form that can not be destroyed. Be joyful. Be grateful. Love your life in whatever form it takes. Happiness that comes from within is an impenetrable fortress, build it and forever reap the rewards.


Monday, June 25, 2012

The Girl in the Mirror

Something very strange occurred to me the other day while I was watching one of our posing videos. I'm not sure about everyone else but in previous history, the person I saw every day in the mirror was definitely not the person I saw in pictures and videos. It amazed me how often I could feel great about the way I looked or the outfit I was wearing only to be horrified a few hours later when someone snapped a pic.

I DREADED Facebook pictures. As soon as someone would tag a photo of me I'd cringe and hope that it wasn't terrible. Most of them, inevitable, were definitely terrible. I hated pictures. Every event that I attended had lots of pictures of my husband and my son, but rarely of me. Seeing a bad picture was like bursting a little optimistic bubble in my mind; if I didn't see any pictures of how I looked I could keep telling myself that I looked great. I could keep on pretending that the person I saw in the mirror was one and the same with the person that everyone else saw.

I honestly believe that when we look in the mirror, we see what our soul reflects. If you're a beautiful soul and person you will see that beauty in the mirror. The problem is that inner beauty doesn't always translate into outer beauty, and the unfortunate reality of photographs is that they only show what's on the outside. It's amazing what the mind can do with an image, ask anyone that's struggled with an eating disorder or body dismorphic disorder. What they see in the mirror is certainly not what the world sees, and that disparity between the two can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety and despair.

What happened while I was watching that video is that I realized I recognized that person as ME. It wasn't a fat version of myself, which is what I'd always seen in pictures before. There was no cringe or wince at how my body looked or the facial expression I was making. It was just me; the me that I saw in the mirror every day was finally the me I was looking at on my screen. It was so profound to me that I would never again have to un-tag myself from a Facebook photo, that I could happily jump in a picture with my friends and not be afraid of looking bigger than everyone else in the photo. When I look in the mirror now I realize that this is what everyone else sees too, my inner beauty is on the outside.

Nothing can explain the way that feels. When people see me now I know that they see me for who I really am, not a fit girl stuck in a fat girls body. I don't plead them with my eyes to talk to me before they judge me. I am who I am meant to be, inside and out, and being confident with that knowledge is absolutely priceless. If for no other reason, keep going towards your fitness goals for that purpose alone. When you achieve it it's like two pieces of a puzzle finally coming together, a synergy like nothing else I've ever felt. I know that each of you can experience this for yourselves, the world is waiting to see the real you, don't keep us waiting. Your inner beauty is too breathtaking to be kept inside any longer.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fight Fat, and Win

I am officially declaring a victory over being fat. Our show is still three weeks away but I truly feel as if I now no longer fit in the 'fat' category and it feels fucking amazing. I remember vividly being a young girl and being teased about my weight. Being self conscious and unhappy about my appearance is a monkey I will HAPPILY throw off of my back, and run over, with a bulldozer.

The difference between this and every other weight loss attempt before this is that I have kept it up for six months and persevered long enough to create a nice little lifestyle for myself. I didn't have six months of perfection but I had half a year of consistency, THAT'S the key right there. I've been able to adhere to very strict diets for a few weeks or months before but as soon as I had a bad weekend I was right back at square one again, eating with reckless abandon and sitting on my ass. Now that I know what it feels like to work hard enough to afford some excellent eating here and there, I appreciate it so much more. I love my strange little eating routine because it makes deviating from it that much sweeter.

I don't feel deprived. I can honestly say that I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. Sure contest prep is much more strict than what I'll usually stick to, but it's only temporary. The thought of expanding my diet to incorporate some of my favorite foods again when I'm done is really motivating. Eating clean has become sort of a sport, what can you eat that tastes delicious and that also happens to be good for you? How can you squeeze the most volume out of the least amount of calories? I love to eat. That hasn't changed one bit. I've just discovered ways to substitute old stand by's for new ones. Instead of a quick dinner of spaghetti my go-to meal is now some broccoli slaw with a tilapia breast thrown on top, put an egg in there for some extra fat and protein when I'm allowed it and boom, there you have it, a delicious dinner that won't sit in your stomach like a bowling ball for three hours.

Stay with your eating and exercise plan long enough for it to become a habit. You'll get so good at planning your meals and workouts that it really becomes second nature, you'll do it without a second thought. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips. you'll grab a handful of pistachios. Instead of Saturday mornings at the mall you'll spend Saturday mornings at the gym (then hit the mall : ) ). It's not about how hard you can work to lose weight and look great the fastest so you can start eating like shit again. In order to get results you've never had you need to do something you've never done. If you start a new plan with the intention of only doing temporarily or until you've lost the weight you're doing it wrong. Start a plan with the intention of maintaining it for the rest of your life. Do it for your body, your organs, your lifespan, your children, your waistline, your self esteem. You can't keep up your unhealthy lifestyle and expect to look like a supermodel. You just can't, they don't coexist. You can't expect to eat a candy bar every day and still have an ass like J-Lo, and any diet that claims you can is full of shit. There is absolutely no secret or trick to it. Bodies like that take YEARS of training, eating right, and living a balanced lifestyle. If you want to look like that, then you need to do the same.

It's a huge, daunting, monumental undertaking and I know we all get tired of fighting the fight. It's so much easier to stay in our warm, calorie packed, cozy little couch-sitting comfort zones, but I promise you that once you get started you won't want to stop. The feeling of sculpting your body into a work of art is electrifying. You won't get tired of it. You'll never get tired of the compliments, buying size small at your favorite store, or having a guy run into something because he's so distracted by you. You will NEVER get tired of it. Instead of using food to feel good, use THAT to feel good. When you start to struggle just remember what it feels like to check out your developing muscles in the mirror. Take a moment, go there. Savor it and picture yourself with your ideal body ROCKING your life. Imagine never having to worry about looking fat in a picture ever again. You can do this. Declare war with your unhealthy body and start planning your victory party, 'cause it'll happen, the only person who determines if you win or lose.... is you.



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Lifestyle

My training partner Bre and I had a conversation the other day that I thought was worth sharing. My entire adult life has been a rollercoaster of eating poorly, partying too much, getting frustrated and fat, swinging to the other extreme, and then dieting and exercising like a crazy person. The entire time I would diet I felt like there would eventually be an 'end'; once I reached my goal weight, once I fit into a particular size, then I would stop dieting and go back to my old habits. We all know the drill. Obviously, the problem with this logic is that as soon as you stop dieting you put the weight back on and you're also faced with a tremendous amount of guilt when you fall off the bandwagon.

The beauty of what we're doing this time around is that it really, truly has become a lifestyle. I know we hear that time and time again, weight loss is about a lifestyle change, and I guess until I experienced it for myself I really didn't know what that meant. The key to this philosophy has been making changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life. If you think eating 800 calories a day of salad and chicken breast is maintainable you are absolutely kidding yourself. If you think forcing yourself to stick to an incredibly strict diet with no room for error or for cheat meals you are setting yourself up for failure. The most important lesson I've taken away from this is that you need to plan for imperfection. Give yourself the opportunity to take a few days off. Allow yourself that cheeseburger or ice cream once in awhile. This isn't about perfection, it's about consistency. As long as you're on plan 80% of the time you will be successful. Once you plan your cheats an incredible thing happens; instead of guilt during and after your meal you feel pleasure! Instead of beating yourself up the entire time you eat you enjoy every single bite.

You need to stick to a plan long enough to adapt it to your lifestyle and to get a rhythm going. If you're not a morning person don't plan your workouts for 5am and expect to be able to do it with any level of consistency. Incorporate workouts that you LIKE doing. There is no one way to get in shape, there are millions of them and you just need to persevere and experiment until you find the right program for you. I promise you, you will reach your stride and find a balance, and once you do it becomes harder to quit than it is to keep going.

If you hate your program, if you detest your diet, you may see short term success but you won't make the changes you need to make significant improvements. Your brain is also a muscle, and it's health and well being are every bit as important as your physical body. If you're suffering through workouts and through your diet regime you aren't on the right plan, take it easy on yourself and love your mind enough to be kind to it. Get yourself on the right program and go after it with all the focus and intensity you are capable of, but remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

You CAN do this. It make take months or even years but don't rush it, enjoy the process and experiencing those little successes every day. I can't even begin to tell you what it feels like to jump out of bed in the morning to check myself out in the mirror and to see what muscle I can start to see that day. The rush and the confidence you get from seeing your goals to fruition is like nothing I've ever felt before. I intensely want and hope that each and every one of you get to experience this feeling, and I promise you, with the right attitude and the right program, you are unstoppable.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Bre & Meg - 10 Weeks Out!

Bre - 127.5 lbs

Meg - 152 lbs