Thursday, November 29, 2012

Transformation Challenge: Two Weeks, One Question

We've been on this transformation journey for just about ten weeks now, and you may have started to realize that long term change is caused by what we choose from moment to moment.

If I could find a foolproof method of resisting temptation, whether it's the temptation to overeat, sit around, or think negatively, life would be such a breeze.  But I know that desire is part of the human condition, so we will just have to manage.

The habit that has always stood between me and my goals is procrastination.  Tomorrow often seems like the best day to start being true to my resolve by following the map I've laid out to whatever I want to accomplish.  This is why I use these 12 week contests as a tool.

A deadline is the best cure for procrastination.

Now that we're two weeks out from picture day at Gordon Studio, I want to pass along a skill that will help you have your most productive two weeks starting today.

A little background; I've been writing a book about my transformation for over a year now, and just yesterday I managed to finish it completely and upload the manuscript to to order the proof.  I'll save the story of that project for another time, but the skill I used to finish the book is the same one I want you to use to have a great finish to this transformation challenge.

I've been working with a Life Coach, Sandy Goodwin, in order to overcome procrastination and self doubt, and this is how she coached me to completion.  She said that every time I came up against  a situation that threatened to take me off task I should ask myself this question,

     "Will this speed me up, or slow me down?"

I have heard this advice before in different forms such as,

     "Will this get me closer to my goal?"

I'm not completely sure why Sandy's phrase was so much more effective.  It must be the element of speed or time that made it work.  So I want you to use this phrase to help you make choices during the next two weeks and beyond.

When confronted by a choice about eating, training, resting, or thinking (by thinking I mean staying positive) I want you to ask,

     "Will this speed me up or slow me down?"

For example, yesterday I blew of my normal good breakfast by grabbing a few bites and rushing off to the studio.  I wasn't even running late, but I took for granted the fact that I could manage my appetite.  When I got back home mid morning I was simply ravenous, and quite frankly I lost it.  I won't be specific here.  I don't want to give any one any bad ideas, but it went kind of like this,

Sugar, sugar, fat and sugar, flour, flour, more sugar.  Ugh!

Here's the important lesson.  I had almost no power to choose well once I was ravenous.  The real power was in the moment when I decided to skip a real breakfast.  At that point if I had asked the question,

     "Will blowing off breakfast speed me up or slow me down?"

The answer would have been crystal clear.  Over the past four years I have gathered unassailable proof that when I skip a good breakfast, the wheels come off and I eat out of bounds.

Ah well, yesterday was still a great day because I made the most of the rest of it, and today I can do better.  The fact that I'm writing this blog post now shows that I've got plenty of time for breakfast this morning.

Ask the question,

"Will this speed me up or slow me down?"

Listen to the answer, and act on your inner wisdom.  We're going to have  great finish.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Lou Holtz Told Me

It was in June of 1986, and I was flying from South Bend to New York City with my parents.  We were off to celebrate my graduation from St. Mary's, and the first leg of our trip was the short commuter flight to Chicago.

My Mom and Dad were across the aisle, and I was sitting next to a somewhat slight gentleman of indeterminate age.  I wasn't feeling fabulous that morning, as the previous week had been a whirlwind of trying to wring every possible drop of fun out of the last days before graduation.  Although I had avoided alcohol for most of that school year due to one of my perpetual diets,  I remember that I pulled a few all-nighters that week.

I was tired, and I withdrew into my magazine.  That is until I nearly got elbowed in the head.

Now I am a polite and usually a cheerful individual, but I was trying to ignore the man in the seat next to me, which was made impossible by the fact that he was trying to put in eyedrops in a tiny commuter plane.  Put yourself in his place, and you'll see that it's impossible to do unobtrusively.

The gentleman apologized, telling me that he was having trouble with his eyes, and that he had been so busy that he hadn't had time to seek  the right treatment for them.  That woke up my compassion, and my manners, and I brightly told him not to worry.

At that point, I became aware that my Dad had become quietly excited about something.  He had started to twinkle.  If you'd ever met Dude Noble you'd know what I'm talking about.  He had a way of delighting in the foibles of other people that made his eyes sparkle his shoulders jiggle up and down.  My Dad was laughing at me and trying to hold it in.

I turned my gaze on my Dad.  It was not amused.  He leaned toward me and spoke in a low voice.

"I don't think you know who you're sitting next to."

Anyone who knew me at age 22 knows that I couldn't stand not knowing something.  If the man sitting next to me was someone I should recognize, but didn't,  I wasn't about to admit that to my Dad.  So I just widened my eyes at him without saying a word.

"That's your Coach.  Lou Holtz."

Anyone who attended Norte Dame (the Communications and Theatre departments of ND and SMC were combined at the time), even a self absorbed aspiring actor like me, would find it to be a very big deal to wind up sitting next to the football coach.  The '86 football season hadn't been particularly stellar.  ND's record that first year of Coach Holtz' tenure was 5 wins and 6 losses, but he had finished the season with an exhilarating win over USC.

I am not ashamed to admit that I no longer had an issue with my seat mate's elbows.

I remember we talked about the challenge of finding time for family when a job thrusts you onto the world stage.  I told him that I had earned a theatre degree, and that all I really wanted was to be a working actor.

The last thing he said to me was a shock.

"I hope to see you on Broadway."

The last thing I said to him was no surprise.

"I hope you win the National Championship."

My wishes for his success were added to the sea of thousands of prayers for a championship season for his storied program.  Not a big deal.

What was a big deal was that fact that Coach Holtz had taken the time to encourage a stranger with the best words she could possibly hear.

Lou Holtz thought I could make it to Broadway!

In January of 1988 he led the Fighting Irish to the National Championship in the Fiesta Bowl.  My family lived in the Phoenix area at the time, and with my Dad's encouragement I got to volunteer during the week before the game, and be there to watch the Irish win over West Virginia.

He had done it.  With that unbeaten season he helped an untold number of dreams come true.

Broadway?  No, I've never been on Broadway.  I've had the privilege to work with several actors, directors, and choreographers who have, but I headed to Los Angeles to pursue my career.  New York frightened me quite frankly.  No guts no glory I suppose.

Something about this ND football season has got me thinking though.

Over the past 26 years the echoes have faded somewhat since that championship season.  This year, my doubts didn't start to fade until the game against Stanford.  Hope didn't truly start to spring up until the astonishing game at Oklahoma.

Right now, when I think of Notre Dame I see goal line stand after goal line stand.  The image of this year is of the defense never, Ever, EVER giving up.  I look at this team and what they've accomplished and sacrificed, especially Manti Te'o, and I realize the difference between me and the gallant athletes.

I have given up too many goal line stands.  When stress and hunger and pressure and fear have pushed against the structure of some of my fondest dreams, I have given way.

 Not every time.  There have been times when I've been able to combine faith with determination and action.  That's how I won the TT Transformation contest back in 2008.  That's how I got the cast of "West Side Story" at Summerville High School to learn Jerome Robbin's choreography, and that's how I managed to open Gordon Studio- with Van and Colin's help of course!

This morning I'm thinking,  "What if I learned to win those goal line stands?"  What if I could teach my clients to make their own goal line stands and win them, over and over when it really counts?  Could I still make it to Broadway somehow?

What is your Broadway?  What are your goal line stands?  Do you have the determination of a Manti Te'o in your heart?

I pledge two things today.  First, from now until the National Championship on January 7th in Miami.  I will commit to and follow my eating and exercise plan with the same determination the ND defense uses in their games.

Second, I will publish "Keep the Change: Transform Your Body For Good" in plenty of time for the New Year.

Lou Holtz believed in me, way back in the Summer of 1986.  It's time for us to make a stand and believe in ourselves.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Three Weeks 'Till Picture Day

3 Weeks To Improve
Ok  everybody we have now officially entered the home stretch.  Several of you who are participating in the Turbulence Training Transformation Contest have already released a considerable amount of fat, and made visible changes in muscular definition.

All of the participants are women this time around, and it's interesting to note that all of you have enhanced definition without increasing size.  Honestly, your measurements are all getting smaller, and my hat is off to you.  As for me, the weather is cool enough that I'm wearing last winter's jeans, and they fit just fine- whew!

So here is where transformation gets interesting.  The past nine weeks have been spent training and eating right so that we have already created positive physical changes through our behavior.  Now it's time to use all of the skills we have learned in order to get the most out of our efforts.

How do we do this?

First: Train Safely and Wisely
Stick to your established training schedule, and continue to reach for reasonable progression.  For example, in TT Thermogenic class, you might go for one more full body push up in each 30 second round.  If you're doing TT2K3 you can commit to your best possible form and mental focus on each repetition.  This is also a good place to encourage you to get to bed on time.  Those extra minutes in front of any kind of screen;  Computer, TV, or Game Console, simply are not worth it now.

Second: Eat Sensibly
The Transformation Contest didn't call for a crash diet before, and you don't want to follow one now.  As much as we want or after photos to look great, none of us in this challenge are professional fitness competitors getting ready to go on stage.  What this means in term of body fat percentage is that the range that is going make you look fantastic in terms or your personal success will be quite healthy and reasonable.  Personally, I've found that going much below 23% body fat starts to make me look gaunt and older in the face and upper body.  For those of you who are in your twenties, you may wish to go leaner.

The point is that a nutrition plan that is made up of whole natural foods coupled with moderate calorie restriction will continue to serve you best.  The question to ask yourself when it comes to eating is this,

"How Does What I Eat Affect the Way I Act?"

If you cut your nutrition to the bone you will feel unbearably hungry, you may obsess about food, you will likely lack energy for your training, and you could end up "losing it" and eating everything you can get your hands on in an act of huger rebellion.  I will note again that you won't find a diet to follow on this page because everyone I met or had the chance to work with who has succeeded at transformation has found the food plan that works on their own.

Remember, diets are like marriages.  They work really well until someone cheats.

What is the eating plan that satisfies you within the boundaries of a reasonable calorie deficit?

Third: Think Positively
From here on out keep your mind on the joy of more vibrant health.  There is nothing worse than getting caught up in the envy of those who can eat whatever they wish, never train, and stay lean.  Yes, they are out there, and the media elevates them to godlike status in this culture, but you have to earn your fitness.  Lucky You.  Honestly, you will be gratified by how much genuine respect you earn by improving your health through nutrition and exercise.  When you accomplish transformation through your own efforts, unlike the celebrities who have chefs and trainers and multi-million dollar contracts to drive their actions, you join an exclusive fellowship you can be deeply proud of.

Take quiet time every day to be grateful for the health that allows you to train, acknowledge yourself for what you've already done, and build the confidence that your efforts will be rewarded.

Oh yes-  get to the grocery store to stock up on your power foods.  Make sure that they are ready to go so that you can put optimal meals together.  That means washing, chopping, and cooking enough food so that you are never caught without the foods that serve you best at mealtime.

This is so important that it bears repeating:   For the next 3 weeks, your top priority is making sure that you have the proper food available.  Don't wing it: Plan, Shop, and Prepare.

Train Safely.
Eat Sensibly.
Think Positively.

I'm rooting for you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Best Measure of Success

There are two vital questions  to answer before going into a physical transformation program.

"What do I want my body to look and feel like, and what do I want it for?"

In previous posts like, "Thank You Kate Upton" and "The ideal Woman is a Man" I have written about the disconnect between the kind of figure that represents health and natural beauty, and the figure that represents the demands of fashion and status.

I few days ago I was shocked when I put my weight and measurements into an on line body fat calculator, and the results came back with a warning that my body fat is borderline low for my age.  Now, I tend to carry fat in my hips and thighs so that may have skewed the numbers somewhat, but I had to stop and think.

How do we know when we've crossed the line between pursuing health and vitality, and chasing "Skinny Status?"

A practical answer to this question can be found in your waist measurement, and your waist to hip ratio.   According to the Mayo clinic website, when a woman's waist measurement at the narrowest point is more that 35 inches, there is cause for concern about cardiovascular health.  The warning bells go off for men at 45 inches.  For better health, a waist circumference below 30" is desired for women, and below 40"for men.

To be in the low risk category for heart disease a woman's waist to hip ratio should be below .80 and a man's should be below 1.0.  To find you waist to hip ratio divide your waist circumference in inches  by your your hip circumference.  Measure the waist at the narrowest point, and your hips at the widest point.  Here is list of ideal measurements according to the Mayo Clinic.

Ideal Waist Measurement Charts for Women and Men

Waist Measurement Chart - Women
Height Ideal Waist Line Waist to Height (%)
5' 1" 24 inches 39.5
5' 2-3" 24-25 inches 39.5
5' 3-4" 25-25.3 inches 39.5
5' 5" 25-25.5 inches 39.5
5' 6" 27.50 inches 39.5
5' 7" 27.75 inches 39.5
5' 8" 27.80 inches 39.5
5' 9-10" 27.85 inches 39.5
5' 11" - 6' 28 inches 39.5
Waist Measurement Chart - Men
Height Ideal Waist Line Waist to Height (%)
5' 5-6" 28.5 inches 46
5' 7" 31 inches 46
5' 8" 31.2 inches 46
5' 9" 31.7 inches 46
5' 10" 32 inches 46
5' 11" 32.6 inches 46
6' 33.1 inches 46
6' 2" 34 inches 46
6' 4" 35 inches 46

Now to the point:  If we compare the measurements of models, actors, and celebrities with this chart, fashion dictates measurements that are even lower than the ideals listed on this chart.

This is just another example of how media images of what is desirable can mess with our conception of what is healthy.

I like waist circumference over weight as an indicator of success at transformation because it helps to overcome the tyranny of the scale.  Still, we have to make sure we don't replace that with the tyranny of the tape measure!

To the women in the transformation challenge right now: Let's do our best to change for the sake of health and vitality, and for the sake of what that vitality allows us to do in the world.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Four Weeks 'Till the Photo Shoot

At the halfway mark.
Friday, December 14th is picture day, so we have four weeks to complete the transformation we started back in September.

If you've been doing your Turbulence Training consistently for the past eight weeks, you have laid the foundation for a great physique.  Now in these coming four weeks it's time to reveal what you've worked to build.

The biggest obstacle I confront when it comes to bringing my physical appearance in line with my wildest dreams, is the fact that I want results right now.  Like a kid who can't bear the fact that her birthday is months away, I whine internally about the fact that permanent healthy change takes time.

How tempting it is to say, "Oh I'll just fast today", or "I'll cut my calories way back", or "How about an extra hour of cardio?" In order to try to force a change in the scale or the mirror.  It's true that many people can take drastic measures and shed fat quickly, but I suspect that if I was one of them, I never would have become obese in the first place.

No, the truth is that if I try to fast for 24 hours, or if I cut my calories below around 1400, my appetite comes roaring up and I eat far more that I would have without the cutting or fasting, and usually later in the evening when I can least afford the insulin surge.

The discipline for all of us going into the last four weeks of the Transformation Contest is to continue to follow a healthy eating plan that fuels our training, and allows us to reveal our beautiful new muscle development through continued fat release.

The best way to do this in my personal opinion and experience, is to focus on pure whole foods, that tend not to wake up a surge of the storage hormone, insulin.  A simple way to do this is to eliminate foods that contain added sugar and white flour.  There is nothing radical or drastic about this idea.  Yes, that means bread, and pasta are out the window, and so are sweets, but this is how I send a message to my metabolism that it's time to release fat, and not to store it.

What about Thanksgiving you say?  Simply make some choices today, about how you're going to celebrate that wonderful national holiday. When it comes to the Thanksgiving meal, what is it that makes it special for you?  Yes, if you truly desire starches and sweets make sure that you choose them wisely in terms of quality, and the enjoyment and satisfaction they add to the meal and the experience.

I ordered an organic free range turkey last week, and yes the price made it an indulgence, but it is the star of the meal so it's worth it.  I am also looking forward to whipped sweet potatoes with coconut oil and cinnamon.  Today I will be choosing a sugar, gluten, and flour free dessert that I can have while the pumpkin pie is served, because believe me I would never deny my family that pleasure.  (Besides, they wouldn't let me.)

Put simply, the idea is to think ahead and make some choices before you sit down to dinner.  The great news is that we can all make excellent progress in the three weeks after the holiday.  Add to that the fact that since we've been training consistently, that yummy food will serve as fuel for our muscles.

To all of the TT participants at Gordon studio, I'm looking forward to seeing you on Monday the 19th, and again on Monday the 26th for TT Thermogenic.  Bookend that holiday with great training, and you have nothing to fear.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Catherine's One Page Transformation Guide

How to get from before to after.

Friday, December 14th is "After" picture day at Gordon Studio.  Most of the participants are taking the 30 minute TT Thermogenic class, so there's simply not time for transformation coaching in that setting.  I wrote this one page guide for them to use outside of class, and I hope my blog readers will find it helpful too.

One Page Transformation Guide

1. Set a goal and a deadline.

Transformation is change.  In order to change your body, you must change your behavior.  What is the change you desire, and how much time will you commit to achieving it?

Example:  Today is November 11th.  That means my TT Transformation participants and I have 33 days to complete the challenge.  Today I weigh 124 pounds, and my goal weight is 117.  That's 7 pounds of fat to release in a little less than five weeks.  At less than 2 pounds a week, my goal qualifies as reasonable and achievable.

2. Choose and Schedule Your Training.

Example: I chose TT Adrenaline for my one solo training session a week, and two TT Thermogenic classes for a total of three training sessions per week.  All of these training sessions are now written down in my appointment book.  Clients and readers: I am strongly urging you to do the same.

3. Choose and Prepare for your Eating Strategy.

Giving nutritional advice is outside my scope of practice as a Certified Personal Trainer.  However I will report on my experience and observations.  Some individuals are able to release fat by following the USDA's "My Plate Guide" with moderate calorie restriction.  I also know several men and women who have reached goal weight with Weight Watchers, a program that promotes a core of nutritious foods with no food "off limits" if portion guidelines are met.  If you can eat all foods in moderation and achieve success by managing calories I salute you.

Personally, I have never had success through calorie restriction alone.  In order to release fat I do eliminate sugar, artificial sweetener, all grains, and alcohol.  If I eat or drink these foods I experience overwhelming, uncontrollable cravings, and my most cherished goals are forgotten in my lust for food.  (Pardon the drama, but I'm serious about this.)

My practical advice for the next 33 days?  Shop, plan, and prepare, and write down your menu for the day before you start eating.

4. Schedule Rest and Recovery.

Get to bed!  Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.  Meditate or practice some form of mental rest and rejuvenation for at lease 10 minutes a day.  Please feel free to use this time as you will.  Pray, observe your breathing, visualize your dreams, or simply seek peace and quiet.  Trust me, you need this time to reset your stress clock.  I may have gone from 185 pounds to 133 pounds without it, but meditation and visualization were instrumental in helping me to release the next 10 pounds of fat.  I also find this practice to be essential for maintenance.

So there you have it.

1. Set your goal and deadline
2. Schedule your training.
3. Choose and prepare for your eating plan.
4. Rest and recover.

It is so simple to write down these steps.  Putting them into action is the challenge.  The rewards are worth it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

We Are Snowflakes

We are snowflakes.  
Beautiful original
Aware of the falling.
Landing we are water.
Melted joined
No longer alone.

Here in the foothills above the city of Sonora, the first snow of the the season is falling.
This is very good news.  Fall snow means Fall skiing with full hotels and restaurants.  Skiers and snowboarders, and sledders want to be entertained after dark as well so the theaters can be fuller too, if the snow stays above 3,000 feet.

Here at home a fire is lit in the fireplace, and I just want to let my chores and work go for a while.  I was going to write a post about the fact that there are five weeks to go on the transformation contest, including a detailed description of my secret fitness weapons for releasing fat, but...

I would rather sit by the fire and watch the snow fall.

Besides, It's Friday.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Catherine Teaches Contemporary

Yes, you can do this!
What is the number one thing you simply have to have in order to achieve and maintain your physical transformation?

You need a reason to change.  Many people think of their reason in terms of what they want to have: a better body, more dates, the respect of their peers, even simple happiness.  It may be more helpful to think of your reason in terms of what you want to do.  Do you want to travel and see the wonders of the world?  Many of them require strenuous walking to access.  Do you want to keep up with your children or grandchildren?  Maybe you want to volunteer by coaching a sport in your community, or by planting a community garden.  So many of the good things in life require a strong, balanced, supple body to enjoy fully.

Back in 2004, when I was still significantly overweight, I was trying to choreograph a dance when I landed wrong and broke my foot in four places.  The women in my family have had many problems with bones that are slow to heal, and for the eight weeks I spent with my foot in a cast I was truly frightened.  What if the bones didn't knit properly?  What if I couldn't dance anymore?

Once the bones did heal and the cast came off, I began to pursue fitness with a new drive.  I had found my purpose: the reason behind the reason.  I knew that if I wanted to dance like I had in the past, or even better, I had to release some of the fat I was carrying, and replace it with some muscle.

During every Turbulence Training Transformation Contest that I placed in, I always finished my training sessions with contemporary jazz practice.  I would do my "Across the floor" steps, turns, floor work, and flexibility exercises.  I called it the secret sauce that kept my muscles sleek and curvy, and more importantly, the dance kept the joy in my training sessions.  (Notice that I don't call them workouts.)

Now, I am so grateful for the Zumba, and Zumba Gold classes that I teach, but I have found myself sneaking in elements of traditional dance technique class that don't truly belong in the Zumba program. If I want my participants to get down on the floor and stretch, I really need to be doing that in a dance class.

Besides, for me, the reason behind the reason, my motivation to move, is To Dance.

So here is the big happy announcement.  Starting next week,  11/14/12 the 6:30 class on Wednesday night will become  Contemporary Jazz.  We'll do a full dance warmup, technique and across the floor, learn a short dance, and finish with a floor stretch.  As this is Contemporary, we will be going to the floor at times with our choreography, but I will always include modifications for beginners and mature dancers.

I woke up this morning and realized that it was time to dance again.  Here is your invitation to the dance at Gordon Studio.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Filling the Empty Space- With Cheese

Sometimes it feels like the most powerful driving force in my life is my appetite, especially after 3PM.  I asked "Professor Google"  why this is, and I found some helpful information about how insulin and leptin effect hunger signals.  In a nutshell, insulin is a storage hormone which allows glucose to get into muscle and fat cells.  If you've ever trained in a gym you probably know that some bodybuilders tout carb/protein combos like chocolate milk to help muscles grow after training.

Leptin on the other hand signals the brain to tell us to stop eating.  It's the "You've had enough" hormone.  The only problem is, insulin prevents leptin from delivering its message to the brain.  Two theories on why are one: that insulin keeps leptin from crossing the blood brain barrier, and two: insulin blocks leptin receptors in the brain.

The science is fascinating, but I'm a personal trainer with a theatre degree.  My emphasis is on Action.  Knowing insulin's effect on hunger, what do we do to manage its hold over our appetites?

I've been posting menus lately, and it must be pretty obvious that I've cut sweet and starchy carbs to a bare minimum in my eating plan.  Going low carb simply soothes the savage beast that is my appetite.
(By the way, the campaign to eliminate artificial sweetener is going well.  This is day three, and I miss my gum and Cherry Coke Zero less and less.)  That being said, I'm still experiencing these mad periods of hunger at around 3PM, and again when I get home from teaching Zumba.  How do I ease this hunger?  With cheese.  Rich, tangy, calorie dense cheese.

What is going on?  Further digging has brought up the fact that caffeine and stress trigger insulin release just as effectively a chocolate milk.

What am I going to do about it?

I'm reaching for the cheese because it's fast, and I don't have better alternatives ready to go.  So in the interests of preparation, I'm going to cook up some organic chicken and grass fed ground bison today.  I'm also join to make sure the lettuce in the fridge is washed and ready to go, and that I've got plenty of cooked and raw vegetables on hand.

The habit of preparation is vital no matter what is on your best menu.  I know a woman who lost 40 pound on Weight Watchers, and she said the secret to her success was being able to eat fruit whenever she got hungry.  I suspect she didn't have to drive to the store whenever the hunger pangs hit.

Today, I'm going to prepare for success, and leave the cheese alone.

Breakfast:  Coffee with cream, Lippman shake (Remember the cleanse?  I've got plenty of shakes left over.)

Lunch: Large mixed salad with olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing, 1 4oz chicken thighs, 1C cauliflower.

Snack: Lippman shake

Dinner: 4 oz grass fed beef, mixed salad with dressing as above, 1C broccoli.
8 glasses of water.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Giving Up Artificial Sweetener

I'm not really going to eat him.
Yes, that's Giving Up Artificial Sweetener to be completely honest.

So how did my day without sugar, saccharine, aspartame, Splenda, and Xylitol go?  Well, it was interesting.  It was nothing like the horrible time I had trying to give up coffee a few weeks ago.  There wasn't any physical pain, but there was a sense of loneliness.

The day was a good one.  Van and I planted bulbs in the backyard: giant hyacinth, daffodils, crocuses, and mountain lilies that will color up our spring after the coming winter.  While I was busy, the lack of sweet drinks and sugar free gum weren't an issue at all.

When I wasn't busy, I could feel the empty space inside me, and that made me sad.  What's in that space that I have to cover up with the taste of fake sweetness?  It's mostly regret.  I regret that I haven't filed everything on my desk.  The roses need trimming, the bookshelves are a bit messy, my closet isn't that organized, there are water stains on the kitchen sink, there is dry cleaning in the back of my car.  My book isn't finished, that You Tube Video isn't up yet.  Do you see where this is going?

Take the sweetness out and the guilt rushes in.

What is the solution?  The solution is simple, but its execution is hard.  To the best of our ability, we can complete the tasks that  cause guilt.  When guilt is gone avoidance is no longer needed.  I eat, drink, shop, and surf in order to avoid the pull of my conscience.

Do I need to perfectly fulfill every chore to be free of guilt?  I sure hope not!  I have been listening to Brian Tracy's book, "Eat That Frog," on my iPod.  Mr. Tracy suggests many excellent ways to get things done.  The "Frog" represents the most odious task that the the reader (or listener) is putting off.  The idea is that once you eat the frog, everything you do after that is so much easier.

How do you eat your frog?  Here are some of Tracy's excellent ideas.

The "Salami" method- take the job one slice at a time, or the "Swiss Cheese Method" where you poke holes in the job by doing the parts you are most comfortable with first.  The simplest great suggestion in the book is to get everything you need to do down on paper.  I did that this morning, and my list isn't really that awful or overwhelming after all.  With my frogs down on paper I see that I can eat them one bite at a time.

Then, with nothing guilt producing to avoid, I can stop the avoidance behaviors like diet soda drinking, and nearly constant gum chewing.

Now to explain the emphasis on artificial in the title.

When I got up this morning I made my coffee and added a teaspoon of cream.  Honestly, when I drank it, it was just too bitter.  I added ten drops of stevia.  It's natural, and I'm not perfect.  The soda is gone, along with the gum, the sugar free jell-o, and the fake pancake syrup.  For now, I believe this is enough to ease my sweet-seeking work- avoiding behavior.

I will know for sure when I finish eating my frogs.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sweet Goodbye

What would you give, in order to have what you've always wanted?

Time to come clean.  I've been carrying a monkey on my back since the late seventies.  Maybe you can relate.  It stared with Tab I think, or maybe Diet Rite.  No no!  It was those little pink packets of      Sweet n Low that first started my dubious relationship with artificial sweeteners.

I remember my sisters complaining about the aftertaste, but I had no problem with it.  Secretly I thought, "Hey, this is even sweeter than sugar.  That makes it even better."

By the age of 15 I had fallen in love with the taste of sugar free Shasta, Fresca, and especially the unique flavor of Diet Dr. Pepper.  A tall cold fountain Diet Coke from McDonalds or 7-11 was the perfect partner to the cigarettes I had started to smoke regularly.

I remember my daily breakfast at Nosh a Rye in Scottsdale, not far from my High School.  It consisted of a bagel with cream cheese and a big Diet Coke, followed by the best cigarette of the day.  Oh how pumped up I used to get by the three Cs: Caffiene, Carbs, and Cigarettes.  Now I'm beginning to accept that there was a fourth factor in that legal narcotic cocktail: Artificial Sweetener.

Since I started my transformation journey four years ago, I have read and heard many warning voices about the whit powder in all it's forms.  Saccharin, aspartame, Splenda, even stevia have drawn the concern and suspicion of fitness experts from Jillian Michaels, to my mentor Craig Ballantyne, all the way to Food Addicts Anonymous whose food plan calls for the elimination of all artificial sweeteners in order to reach abstinence.

A few days ago, I was listening to the Livin' La Vida Low Carb show, and the guest,  JJ Virgin was suggesting a diet that eliminated the top culprits for food sensitivity.  Some thing she said stayed with me.  It was her suggestion that the very food that you simply refuse to give up may be the one that is holding you back from reaching your fitness goals.

I could use the excuse that stevia/splenda/and aspartame aren't foods- but that just makes the case for leaving them out even stronger.

Right now, there is a cup of Tully's French Roast right next to me.  In it, I have mixed one teaspoon of heavy cream.  As I sip it, slowly, I can feel how it's power over me has been reduced by the absence of my usual hazelnut liquid stevia.  Every morning for years, especially since I quit smoking back in 2000, I have leapt out of bed eagerly to get my fix of what I thought was caffeine.  Maybe it wasn't the coffee I wanted so badly.

For the next six weeks, I have decided to let the sweeteners go.  I have heard, and I hope it's true, that after a few days all my desire for sweets will fade away, and I will be able to look upon things like chocolate cake with complete peace and equilibrium.  What I wouldn't give for that feeling!

Now, I have a little wisdom in these matters, and I know that nature abhors a vacuum, so I'll need something to fill the empty space that those sweeteners leave behind.  So when the craving hits, I'll think of freedom, of the ability to stay true to my goals, and the health gains I'll get from doing the right thing.  Deep down I've suspected that the chemicals I've been ingesting in the form of lots of sugarless gum has been the barrier between me and releasing the last ten pounds of fat.

If I can do this, and it works, the benefits will be priceless.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Transformation Challenge: 6 Weeks to Go

Hey, I see improvement.  I'm sure glad there are six weeks left in the 15th Turbulence Training Transformation Contest though.  To everyone else in the contest, especially my clients, congratulations for sticking with the program.  By spending the past month and a half making progress in your Turbulence Training skills, you have laid the foundation for transformation.  And some of you have shed a substantial amount of fat already!

Here is some of my best advice for capitalizing on the next six weeks.  The habit of fitness is established, so now is the time to be true to your nutritional intentions.  If you're anything like me, there have been times that you have eaten more than you really wanted, or you've chosen to eat foods that didn't further your goal.  You may have thought, "There's plenty of time, and if I eat this (fill in the blank) now, I won't miss it later."  All this may be true, but from here on out I want you to consider that staying within your chosen eating guidelines is going to give you a great deal of satisfaction, and the rewards can be downright astonishing when you combine cutting edge transformation techniques with a sensible plan for moderate calorie restriction.

Now, I'm not interested in joining the argument about calories in calories out right now, but I will share what I've experienced and observed.  In order to release fat you need to eat a menu of satisfying nutritious foods that allow you to stop eating when just content- not stuffed.  I want you to think in terms of how food makes you act and feel.  For example, eating a large mixed green salad with a home made dressing of top quality olive oil, Braggs apple cider vinegar, and a drop or two of stevia to take the edge off of the sourness is enjoyable and filling, but a tablespoon of peanut butter- even organic natural peanut butter, makes me ravenous.  That's right.  For me eating certain healthy foods makes me hungrier than when I started.  Weird, I know.

The practical action here is to make some choices about what and how much you are going to eat.  There is a food plan out there to serve every taste and inclination, but you need to be willing to follow it.  It bears repeating that all of the people I have worked with have succeed by eating in a new way of their own choosing.  From Atkins to Ornish, and from Vegitarian to Paleo, the right plan is the one that satisfies you within the boundaries of moderate energy restriction.  I have yet to meet anyone who achieved a transformation while feeling stuffed all the time.

Today's post is sounding a little bit like a lecture, so I will sign off with my own menu for the day.  May I have the grace to follow it!

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

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Transformation Step Five: Manage Mistakes

In the last four years, I've committed to and completed four different 12 week fitness challenges.  Three of them were Turbulence Training Transformation Contests, and the other was a 12 week Venus Index program.  In all four instances the results were gratifying.  I released fat, built muscle, and I learned new fitness skills.  It's no surprise that it takes commitment and perseverance to succeed at a 12 week challenge.  What is surprising is how many mistakes I made along the way.

I don't know if it was the result of writing a blog post with the word "Perfect" in the title last time, but on Tuesday all kinds of thoughts and situations came up to test my commitment to self acceptance.  For example, I got an overwhelming craving for Halloween candy right at the end of my daily meditation.  You may remember from my post on cravings and dopamine that mediation has been shown in clinical studies to strengthen areas of the brain that handle self control and executive function.  I started meditating regularly in 2008, and I do feel it's been instrumental for maintaining my fat loss, so I was shocked when this craving hit me right at 3PM, as I quietly breathed and allowed thoughts of wholeness drift through my mind.

I just have to ask again, what is it with the three o' clock hour that crumbles my resolve?  Trust me, I will be tackling what happens at the "witching hour" in another post.  What I want to address right now what happened Tuesday, and what we can learn from it.

The craving was powerful, there was a cauldron of candy on the table in the front hall, and I ate six pieces.  Now, these were "Fun Size," but they weren't that tiny fun size.  There were three varieties, and I had to have one of each, followed by a second of each to test whether they really tasted that good.  Then I had some ice cream and a piece of toast, because, what the heck- what further harm could it do?

The result?  Yesterday I woke up with swollen hands, an aching head, and a bruised conscience.  Now, this is hardly the first time this has happened.  During Turbulence Training Transformation Contest #2, my first, I started the challenge on May 10th.  My husband's birthday was May 31st, and after his party we had this huge chocolate cake right on the kitchen counter under a beautiful glass cover that had been a wedding gift from our friend Rebecca.  For three days in a row, I snarfed big pieces of that cake when no-one was looking.  Three weeks into the contest I was risking giving all my progress back in three days.

Did I quit?  No way.  I had established a pattern of training already, and it was going to the gym and doing my training that kept me from going off the rails.  Here's how I soothed my troubled mind over all that cake.  I told myself that as long as I continued to train, at least all that sugar was going toward building new muscle.  Cake is hardly ideal nutrition for muscle hypertrophy, but positive thinking about that cake helped me get back to the gym- in spite of my three day cake belly.

In order to complete this 12 week journey, we have to establish goals and positive behaviors that cover more than eating.  That way if we run into a snag on the food front, we can still move forward with our training, positive thinking, and accountability.  Authentic bodies are not built on food alone, so it's essential to keep adding to the entire structure of change so that we don't fall down for too long if we give in to a craving.

Here's some good news.  After a good night's sleep (another part of our fat release structure) the craving was gone, and I was able to enjoy Halloween without eating any more candy.  I made sure to eat full healthy meals, and I took some L-Glutamine after lunch when the cravings usually strike.  Now I don't have the expertise to recommend any kind of supplement, but the sub-lingual L-Glutamine did seem to have a soothing effect after about 20 minutes.  (I read about it in Julia Ross's book, "The Diet Cure" if you're curious and want to study the effect of amino acids on appetite.)

Now, in the interest of strong habits of accountability, 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.

Lunch: Large mixed salad with olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing, 1 4oz chicken thighs, 1C broccoli.

Dinner: 4 oz pork chop, mixed salad with dressing as above, 1C broccoli.

Snack: 1 Sweet Potato with 2t coconut oil.

8 glasses of water.

There were other mistakes and mishaps along the way, but the most important idea to take from this post is the understanding that this challenge lasts 12 weeks, not a few days.  These 12 weeks are a time of learning and focus, and if we can learn to come back to our best habits after a foray into our old unhelpful ones, we learn more than we would have if our behavior had remained... perfect.