Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What If You Were Already Perfect?

"Be the change you want to see."

When I was attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts back in the late 1980s, Jackie Cowgills give our Acting I class this motto,

"See, Do, Be."

As actor, your job is to move, speak, and behave in such a way that the audience believes that you're someone else: usually someone more alluring and compelling than yourself.  Nobody pays actors to watch them go shopping, or fight with their families.  That's what the Kardashians are for.  But I digress.

The idea behind "See, Do, Be"  is to imagine and visualize how your  character is different than you, do the actions you think your character would do, and then be the character based upon your actions.
In my case, I used to spend a lot of time thinking about how my character would look to an audience.  This is essentially acting from the ego, and it's very common because let's face it, most of us want to look good in front of people.  Thinking about how you look is not the way to artistry, though.  Truly behaving as the character is.  Think of how our great actors of today like Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep surrender themselves to a role and you'll understand what I mean.

So yesterday I was mentally beating myself up again for not measuring up to the physical standard I set for myself as a trainer.  Same old song and dance, right?  Why can't I eat less?  Why can't I eat more?  Why are my thighs like this?  Ugh, it's getting to be such a bore to be inside my head.

Then I had an idea.  The nice voice in my head, (which is akin to the hope that was left in Pandora's box after all the world's evils flew out), asked me this question,

"What if you were already perfect?  What would you do?"

And for once I surrendered to that idea for an entire day.  I did desk work, dressed, cooked, worked, and shopped with the idea in my mind that I was already living in the ideal body for me: a body that had absolutely nothing wrong with it or to be ashamed of.  What a feeling of relief!  Everything was easier- especially getting dressed to shop and go teach.  I simply asked, "What would I like to wear, not "What will make my legs look smaller?"

The very best thing happened at the grocery store.  I had listened to a podcast that day given by someone I admire who had lost a whole bunch of weight.  You may be familiar with Jimmy Moore of the Livin' La Vida Low Carb show.  He spoke about how he has some very high quality dark chocolate every day.  I thought, "If he can do it, so can I," so I went to the display of good chocolate at Safeway.  As I stood in front of the %72 cacao chocolate bars I thought to myself, "What would you do if you were already perfect?"  My answer was that I would listen to my appetite to check if I really wanted a chocolate bar.  And I didn't.  I put the chocolate bar back and walked away.

I had eaten the lunch I posted here yesterday, and I simply wasn't hungry.

So here is today's menu:

Breakfast:  Coffee with cream, 2 eggs cooked in 1t. coconut oil, 3 strips uncured bacon, mixed vegetables cooked with 1t. pastured butter.
Snack: 1 apple
Lunch: Large mixed salad with olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing, 1 4oz chicken thighs, 1C spinach and mushrooms.
Snack: 1 C raspberries
Dinner: 4 oz shrimp with sauteed mixed vegetables, mixed salad with dressing as above.
Evening snack after Zumba: 1 sweet potato with 2t. coconut oil and cinnamon
8 glasses of water.

I was very hungry after class last night, so I had a sweet potato, and that worked really well, so I'm going to have one again tonight.  One of the goals of this experiment in accountability is to find the right balanced eating plan for me- so adjustments are encouraged.

So finally, today: breathe, relax, imagine that you are exactly who you want and need to be, right now, and see what that belief frees you to do.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Almonds? Really?

Power Breakfast: Big and Satisfying
So how did my experiment in accountability go yesterday?  It went pretty well except for the raw almonds of all things.

I ate everything I wrote down, with a few exceptions.  My second serving of fruit was blackberries instead of an apple. (They were on sale at the store.)  Plus, for some odd reason, I was obsessing over those almonds.  I started thinking about them while I was making dinner, and it kept on afterward and all through the evening. Finally, I decided to just go ahead and chop some up and have them with my blackberries.

Here's what is so weird about my appetite.  Between around 3:30 and 8PM, I get these cravings that have nothing to do with stomach hunger.  I could say physical hunger, but this desire to eat doesn't seem to be emotional because it happens around the same time each day no matter what my mood is.  During the work week I'm doing very well, and I've been releasing fat at around the rate of 1/2 pound a week due to the fact that I teach my classes during the time when my appetite is the most insistent.

Let me highlight the idea that if you have a time of day that is causing you trouble when it comes to eating out of bounds, it's a great idea if you can fill that time with activities that don't involve food.  If you're free and near Sonora come to my TT or Zumba class. (Shameless plug.)  Heck, go to anybody's class, or schedule your training for this time.  I know it's popular to advise training in the morning so you won't blow it off, I find that moving can ease a craving if you can just get yourself to do it!

Let's try an experiment shall we?  The next time any of us had a craving let's do a quick set of simple bodyweight exercises.  How about doing  a few rounds of 10 counter push ups, alternating with 10 cross crawls?  I'm going to try it.

Here is Today's Menu:

Breakfast:  Coffee with cream, 2 eggs cooked in 1t. coconut oil, 3 strips uncured bacon, mixed vegetables cooked with 1t. pastured butter.
Snack: 1C Blackberries
Lunch: Large mixed salad with olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing, 1 4oz chicken thighs, 1C broccoli
Snack: 1 apple
Dinner: 4 oz grass fed beef, mixed salad with dressing as above, 1C broccoli.
8 glasses of water.

I thought about adding an ounce of almonds, but I'm going to see how I do without them.

My goal when it comes to eating continues to be finding the sweet spot where I feel energetic and satisfied, and I can still release fat.  I know that there will be times during the day when I will feel a reasonable sensation of hunger, and that I may experience cravings.  I am determined to learn not to act on them.  One way to keep cravings manageable is to make sure I'm eating enough nutritious food, so if I have to add a little and be more patient, I'm willing to do that.

Bottom line: I am determined to find out why I want to eat when I'm not hungry, and them I'm going to figure out what to do about it.  When I find the answer I promise to share it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Transformation Step Four: Accountability

Eating is Personal

After four years of maintaining a 60 pound fat release, I am still convinced that the primary key to physical transformation is exercise.  Many studies have shown that diet drives weight loss, but in my case at least, it was finding  forms of exercise I love like Turbulence Training and Zumba, that gave me the sense of well being and self mastery that makes following a food plan possible.

Not long after I started TT, it became clear to me that eating whole healthy foods had an immediate effect on how successful and enjoyable my training was going to be.  Now that I'm teaching a total of six Zumba and Zumba Gold classes a week, I can literally see and feel the difference while I'm teaching when I've taken the time to prepare and eat balanced healthy meals.

In the past, I've been a little bit ashamed of the fact that I couldn't eat reasonable portions of sweets and grains.  I thought, "Healthy, normal people eat bread, cereal, and pasta all the time.  Why can't I?"  This kept me from using one of the most powerful tools for transformation: accountability.

Now I understand that I never ever have to advocate a specific diet to my clients or readers.  What you eat is between you and your doctor, or your nutritionist.  What I can do, is write about ways that you can remain true to your healthy choices, whatever they may be.

If you are participating in the transformation contest with me, we have a little more than six weeks between now and picture day, and as I wrote in my last post, it's time to take our eating plans seriously. I mean to do that by posting what I eat here every day through writing or photographs.  Time consuming?  Maybe.  But now that I'm within ten pounds of my authentic ideal weight, I know that I have to practice a high level of accountability to get great results.  Here is my plan for the day:

Breakfast:  Coffee with cream, 2 eggs cooked in 1t. coconut oil, 3 strips uncured bacon, mixed vegetables cooked with 1t. pastured butter.
Snack: 1 apple
Lunch: Large mixed salad with olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing, 1 4oz pork chop, 1C cauliflower w/1t. butter.
Snack: 1 apple
Dinner: 4 oz grass fed beef, mixed salad with dressing as above, 1C cauliflower w/1t. butter..
8 glasses of water.

I have copied this menu and saved it to my desktop so that I can paste it into my blog and edit it easily each day.

Another fantastic reason to record what you are eating on this journey is so that you you can look back and see what worked when you succeed.  I have re-read some of my blogs from when I hit my ideal goal weight in December of 2011, but they are not nearly as specific as I would have liked.  I intend to remedy that in the coming weeks.

Do you have to make every bite you eat public in order to release fat for good?  Maybe not, but I think this level of accountability will be incredibly effective, and how wonderful it will be if I'm right.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Transformation Prime Time

"Whatever your dreams are, start taking them very, very seriously."  Barbara Sher

In the third week of September, several of my clients and I took "Before" pictures for the 15th Turbulence Training Transformation Contest.  It's been a little more than four weeks since then, and the time has come to shift gears in terms of our techniques and commitments.

Over the past four years of experimenting with ways of continuing to maintain and even improve my body composition, I've discovered that new levels of ability require new skills, and it takes some time to learn those skills.  I remember my first TT workouts, and especially my first interval training sessions, as a real challenge.  From falling off the stability ball while trying to learn the SB Jack-Knife, to tripping more than skipping while I taught myself to jump rope again, there was a period of learning that had to pass before my figure started to change.

In my experience, and from what I've seen in my students, it takes about four weeks to acquire the skills needed to use TT to it's greatest effect.  In TT Thermogenic class, the participants are getting the hang of Mountain Climbers, Kettlebell Swings, and the 1 Leg Romanian Deadlift.  As they become confident with these exercises, they start to bring the intensity that creates change.

When it comes to body recomposition, there is nothing more motivating than rapid, visible improvement.  When you add good nutrition and moderate calorie restriction to an intense training regimen, dramatic changes are possible: perhaps almost inevitable.  One thing is guaranteed.  By following a well designed training regimen you will acquire new skills.

It's crystal clear in class and in our training sessions that everyone is taking their fitness skills seriously, and now is the time to commit to our optimal eating strategies as well.  It's time to start taking our dreams very very seriously.

What are some techniques for optimal eating?  Pardon the repetition, but writing down what you eat had been proven to lead to twice as much weight loss.  It is the awareness and honesty that tracking provides that keeps us focused on our goals.  Whenever I eat outside of the good boundaries I set for myself, there is always an element of dishonesty involved.  Before I overeat, or reach for trigger foods, there is always a pattern of self-delusion that takes place.  Tracking or writing down what I intent to eat keeps me from pulling the wool over my eyes, so I consider it to be an invaluable habit.

Another powerful benefit of writing down what you eat is the record this creates of your success.  Just this weekend, I was able to go back and read what I was eating in the Fall of 2010 that helped me achieve my best body composition ever.  To my clients and anyone else reading this, when you succeed in reaching your goals, you will want this record of what worked!

It is invaluable to know what I was eating in order to get from there to here.
So my advice for today is: Write it down, or Write it in (as in to an on-line tracker like the one you'll find on WedMD.)  The time is now to take your dream seriously.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Triumph at Brunch

Back in the Spring of 2011 I thought I held all the keys to permanent fat release.  After going from a top weight of 185 pounds at 5'1" the day I came home from the hospital after giving birth to my son, to a stable, maintainable weight of 123, and keeping it off for three years, I thought I was home free.

I had discovered Turbulence Training, and a whole food nutritional approach that managed carbohydrate intake, along with indulgences on special occasions.

Speaking of occasions, a number of events where I would be speaking in public about my transformation gave me powerful incentives to keep my eye on the ball by training and eating consistently in the way that had worked best.

In the Summer of 2011 I started to teach Zumba and train clients, and I was lured into the false sense of security that some personal trainers succumb to.  I was putting in plenty of hours at the gym or studio, I was practicing my routines in my spare time, and I was under the extra stress of wanting to make good in my new profession.  I had invested a substantial amount of money and time getting certified, licensed, and insured, and the harsh voice in my head (that I could definitely do without) was suggesting dire consequences if I failed as a Trainer/Instructor.

Because I thought I was training enough to get away with it, I began to turn to food as a comfort and a reward again, and the place I would find the fancy, tempting, indulgent food was at brunch.  About every two or three weeks, my husband, son, and I would go to the lovely brunch at the Seven Sisters in Tuolumne.  We had a lot to celebrate: the business, birthdays, anniversaries, the change of season, the fact that it was Sunday, just about any reason would do.  I had all kinds of rationalizations for why I could eat whatever I desired in whatever quantities I wanted at these meals, and they caused some visible collateral damage.

Where for the past three years my weight ceiling had stayed at 123, between the Summer of 2011 right through to this month, my top set point had moved up to 133.

(I just used the BMI calculator at the CDC website, and that weight would put me at 25.1;  just inside the overweight category.  Yes, I know, BMI makes no accounting for muscle, and I have plenty, but as a professional who helps individuals release fat, and as a proponent of techniques for permanent change, I was sensing a growing disconnect between what I was teaching and what I was doing.)

Up until yesterday, my recent pattern has been: Eat well and train well during the work week, indulge and overeat on the weekend.  Two weeks ago, I ate according to that typical pattern.  I was going to do a two week "Cleanse" starting Monday, so I ate whatever I wanted at Sunday brunch.  I must have had four different desserts, and I felt awful the rest of the day.  I started the cleanse on Monday, and my withdrawal headache was so bad, and my brain was so foggy, I blew off the cleanse project the very next day.

Now there is a bright spot here.  I did add back my morning coffee, but I didn't add back sugar, flour, and other foods that had triggered overeating in the past.  I went back to what was working in 2011: High quality whole foods and moderate carbohydrate restriction.  The result?  A feeling of energy and well-being and the easing of my grinding hunger and cravings.

Yesterday's brunch was to have been a reward for making it through the cleanse, and a chance to catch up with a young friend we had invited to join us.  I had ditched the cleanse, so the meal wasn't going to be a reward for anything.  What was I going to do, treat the occasion as a sugar/flour/fat/salt-fest, or eat within the sugar and flour free boundaries I had been so happy with for the past 12 days?

Triumph!  I ate a good breakfast and I made the decision that I would enjoy the delicious foods that were going to help me feel good long after the meal- not just for the short time I would spend eating it.  I had some fabulous dishes, and a small plate of cheese and yes, asparagus, while the rest of the table enjoyed dessert.

I have complained loudly about that fact that while there are plenty of nutritional approaches available that can help us release fat, there don't seem to be enough techniques available to put them into practice.  Diets, menus, and Cookbooks may tell us what and how much to eat, but they rarely tell us how to motivate ourselves to choose in our own long term best interest.

Do you have a tempting meal or situation coming up?  Find a quiet moment to think about how you want to behave in that situation and make a plan.

The satisfaction you will feel from following that plan will give you ten times the pleasure you could get from any kind of food or drink.  This is not the hollow victory of denying yourself.  It is the deep satisfaction of staying true to yourself.

The triumph?  At three weeks into the 15th Turbulence Training Transformation Contest I am happy to see that I weigh 125 pounds this morning, and I am more confident every day that I can achieve my authentic ideal figure again.

Please Note:The highlighted phrases are affiliate links to the Turbulence Training For Fat Loss Program.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dopamine and Appetite/Genetics and Exercise

Ever since I was around six years old, I knew I was different.  Where my brothers and sisters were content with two cookies, one piece of cake, or even one reasonable slice of meat, I always wanted more.  Unless it was meatloaf, but that's a meatloaf issue.

By seven years old, when I started swim team with my sister, I discovered something was really wrong with me.  No matter how hard I tried or how much I pushed myself, I was worn out after swimming one length of the pool.  I had plenty of energy for playing on the playground, especially when it came to tether ball, jumping rope, or foursquare, and I could ride my bike on the flat like a champ- no hands most of the time, but when it came to biking up hills, running, or swimming, everyone else passed me like I was standing still.

To make things even more odd, I simply adored dancing.  I could dance around the living room, skip, and gallop down the hallways with joyful abandon, but skipping and dancing don't get you picked for any teams at school.

What was going on with the way I ate and the way I moved?  If we look at eating, I was born in the first generation that regularly ate sugar for breakfast.  I remember Capn Crunch, Froot Loops, and Trix being three of my favorites, and it usually took two bowls to satisfy me.  I was a small kid, why did I need to polish off two big bowls of cereal?  The answer may lie in the neurotransmitter dopamine.  In my latest issue of "Fitness Journal" I read an article by Dr. Pamela Peeke on how dopamine and it's receptors are affected by food.  Dopamine is connected to the pleasure we feel while eating, and the urgency we feel when we think about food.

I was not surprised at all that studies of obese subjects showed that they had fewer dopamine receptors than the lean individuals who were studied.  The lack of receptors was likely a cause of greater and more urgent appetite, and an effect from overeating.  In the same way that we can become insulin and leptin resistant, we may also become dopamine resistant.  What's the worst offender when it comes to messing with dopamine?  Sugar appears to be enemy number one, and when you mix it with fat and salt look out- edible crack.

On top of the dopamine response, sugar acts on the same parts of the brain as cocaine and heroin, and the cravings and obsession it causes can lead to the kind of behavior that packs on pounds of fat in spite of the best intentions of the susceptible individual who eats it.

What solutions does Dr. Peeke offer to this dilemma?  She cites meditation to lower stress and cravings because it builds up the Prefrontal Cortex of the brain, an area that is responsible for "Executive Functions" like organization, creativity, and self control.  She also writes about the power of exercise to increase beneficial neurotransmitters like BDNF.  On the nutrition front, omega 3s are helpful in their ability to keep dopamine receptors healthy.

For the past four years I have managed my cravings and obsessions with a diet that's low in sugar, white flour, grains, and processed fats.  I meditate daily, and as a personal trainer I teach my clients the forms of exercise I love and that leave me feeling energized and vital, not worn out and wondering why everyone is going faster and farther than me.

Here is the affiliate link to the program that turned me into the athlete I always wanted to be on my terms: Turbulence Training For Fat Loss.

In my next post, I will write about what it means to be a "Non Responder" to endurance  exercise, and why that absolutely does not have to keep you from building your authentic ideal body.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Two Weeks and my Abs Are Back

We're going into week three of the 15th Turbulence Training transformation contest, and lo and behold my abdominal muscles are starting to show again after about a six month hiatus.

Why is this?  The power of metabolic interval training is still something of a mystery to me.  One theory of why it works so well is that by using relatively brief periods of effort and recovery we become willing to work more intensely in the work periods.  If I know I can rest in 60 or even better, 30 seconds, I become willing to seek the edge of my ability, for example by doing more push ups or burpees.  Believe me, if I know I have to do a physical exercise for more than 10 minutes straight I'm going to hold back and pace myself.

Years ago, when I used to hit the gym for a minimum of 20 minutes of cardio before hitting the weight machines, I remember what a drag it was to slog along and push myself on the treadmill.  I remember the guilt and regret I would feel whenever I got off before 40 minutes was up.  I used to think that if I could just build up the stamina to run or at least jog for an hour straight, that the fat would magically melt off of my thighs for good.

Then I would head over to the weight machines to do bunches of hamstring curls, chest presses, and endless reps on the adductor machine- when there wasn't a long line for the machine!

The visible effect on my body or the scale?  Zero.  It simply did not work.

Why does TT work- especially the 30 minute thermogenic training sessions I'm teaching now?  Maybe it has to do with the big band of sweat around the torso and down the back we all get in class.  Let's face it, sweat comes from intensity, and when class is only 30 minutes long... you bring it.  It's also effective because we alternate working the major muscle groups.  One paradox of effective fitness is that you have to know how to use rest and recovery as well as you use work and progression in order to see results.  Surprisingly enough, rest and recovery have to be built into the training session itself- even if it's for no more that 30 seconds at a time.

On a side note, back in 2001-2002 I took a lot of spinning classes.  I lost a few pounds at the beginning, I got stronger, and I had more stamina, but I didn't release any fat after the first few weeks, even though I stuck with it for a year and I worked really really hard.   Now I strongly believe it didn't work because although it was billed as an interval class, we never fully recovered between work intervals, and the work intervals were so long I had to pace myself.

What gets me so excited about short TT classes is that they are effective for someone like me: someone who has struggled with excess fat storage for a lifetime, and someone with very little natural endurance or strength.  I couldn't do a single full body push up until I was 44 years old, and here I am banging out push up burpees in front of my classes.  (Showing off?  Maybe a little.) What's more gratifying is seeing my clients acquire new skills, and keep improving every week.

I know I have to give some credit to the fact that I've been eating clean, and sticking to a moderate amount of caloric restriction by doing the Lipman Cleanse, and stopping before I'm stuffed at all meals.  More on that later, as I'm kind of conflicted about the plan I'm following.  Deep down I'm convinced that moderate, satisfying meals made up of real food are the best way to go, but I paid for this thing so I'm going to stick it out.

Check back here to see how it goes.

Finally, if you want the Turbulence Training For Fat Loss program, Click Here!.  This is the training I used for my transformation, and yes, it's an affiliate link.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Diet Deal Breaker

There is a raging debate going on right now in the world of weight loss as to whether the force that drives fat release is calories or content.  In other words, is fat storage ruled by what you eat, or how much you eat?

As someone who has released a significant amount of fat and maintained a new weight for more than four years now, I'll be bold enough to say that it's both.

To achieve a permanent reduction in the amount of fat that your body wants to store and carry around for fuel and protection, you have to choose foods that nourish and satisfy you without triggering overeating.  What's more, if your body and genetics are pre-disposed to more fat storage than you would like, a certain amount of vigilance will always be required to keep the quantity of food you eat in the right range.

Ultimately you will discover that certain foods work for you, and some foods don't.

That's all well and good, but there's one more kind of food you can't ignore.

Deal Breakers: the foods you simply can't, or won't go without.  I was supposed to eliminate caffeine for two weeks for the Lipman Cleanse.  I caved on day two.

I'll say this for myself.  My experience with compulsion and the absolute unwillingness to give up certain beverages does give me some compassion for anyone who is following a plan to change their eating habits.

Sugar? Dairy? Tomatoes? Cherry Coke Zero?  No problem, I'll happily kick them to the curb for two weeks, but coffee?

I have a life to live, and I really don't want to try to function with that awful headache and the mental fog I felt Monday.  Maybe I'm a big baby, but it was awful, and I won't do it.  So there.  I'll drink the shakes and take the supplements, and maybe the cleanse won't work so well now but I don't care.

I will, however, accept the fact that I'm dependent on caffeine.  As I wrote in my last post, it's a crutch.  But sometimes we need to use crutches to keep moving forward.  I have an 8:30 Turbulence Training class to teach today, and now that I've had a cup of coffee, I can't wait to get down to the studio and train my students.

Worth every drop.