Monday, January 30, 2012

The Attack of the Forty Foot Martini Olive

I wanted to call this blog the Attack of the Forty Foot Nacho and came pretty close to it. At one time, nachos were my late night dinner of choice. While working full time and going to college, I often ate one meal a day, consisting of pure comfort food acquired from a local restaurant. The meal usually occurred late at night on my way home from the college library. I’d order a plate of loaded nachos to go, grab my pizza box sized dinner and head home to eat them as I read, wrote and completed assignments into the wee hours of the morning. Once I changed my nutrition (in case you missed it, see my original blog post “Do These Nachos Make My Hiney Look Fat?”), I chose to no longer indulge in such things. I kept to the nutritional straight and narrow with occasional deviations for nights out. They are no longer comfort food to me and I am not in imminent danger of actually being attacked by a plate of loaded nachos.

Really, what I miss is the casual ordering of a cocktail without a second thought. 

While working to maintain my newly achieved smaller size for a year, I occasionally indulged in a glass or two of wine or a delightfully well-made dirty martini with an array of blue cheese stuffed olives. It’s a reasonable decision to make while maintaining size, but if the goal is to drop body fat, which is what I am doing now, I need to deny the urge to answer the olive’s come hither looks. It’s not like that olive is going to pull itself off the stick and jump into my mouth – it can’t attack me any way but mentally.

Its Forty Foot stature only exists in my head and only if I allow it.

My rule is that I have to evaluate the consequences of my choices. The choices I make either take me where I want to go or they take me in another direction. If I make a decision that isn’t taking me toward a goal, it really needs to be worth it. That martini olive often beckons me, propped with its friends on a little stick. But, its siren song needs to wait until my 12 weeks of FLT nutrition are over and I transition into maintenance. That is my choice. Others in my group still opt to indulge in wine and cocktails. For them, the wine is worth it. This plan is about being able to live your life in a healthy, normal way while dealing with challenges. It is about finding balance that works for each, individual person.

On January 12, I met with Caryn Acevedo at Accelerated Fitness Solutions in Cromwell to go over the FirstLine Therapy nutrition program customized for me. She brings high energy, laughter and positive energy into the room with her. The best part is that Caryn recently returned from maternity leave. She still has approximately 20 pounds to lose in order to return to her pre-pregnancy figure so she’ll be strongly focused on her own nutrition and facing some of the same issues that our group members need to address. 

We met privately for over an hour. She administered the bioimpedance test and reviewed all of my information. It showed that since the last time I experienced the test in January, 2011, I’d gained 12 pounds of muscle and my metabolic rate had taken a nice jump. The bioimpedance test is the one that taught me to not live and die by a scale. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, but they serve different purposes and change body appearance in dramatically dissimilar ways. One burns fuel, drives metabolism and keeps the body tight while the other does not. That’s a 12 pound gain actually taking me in the right direction. My size 2 trousers all still fit quite nicely. What I need to do now is drop my body fat without losing muscle to see more definition and sculpt what I have. That is the goal for which we’re working.
For the past year, having achieved my original size goals, I followed a fairly structured style of eating and a workout schedule in order to maintain what I had done and to remain both healthy and fit. I am accustomed to planning ahead, being prepared for social situations and in general, making good decisions. This program makes some changes to what I have been doing and I think in the long run, I will actually spend less money on groceries. I just need to alter my mindset to follow along and make sure I eat appropriately for my 6 meals, getting in all different foods as required. Caryn gave me a sassy, organized notebook with loads of reference materials and recipes.

Together we reviewed my program. I learned how to pick, choose, and move food options around in order to accommodate my ever-changing daily schedule. Caryn also reminded me about the importance of good sleep. Since I typically sleep 4-6 hours a night, Caryn made a scrunchy face and suggested I up those numbers. 

I started the program the next day. I find it fairly easy to follow along and I like that it is so focused on clean, healthful eating. I keep a log of my 6 meals to make sure I get in all the food I am supposed to be eating. It really does help to write it down. I don't write it as I eat it, but rather plan ahead for a few days. The log makes sure that everything I need is on my grocery list or in the house. I don't have to scramble around last minute and leave myself in a predicament of being caught without a healthy choice.

We had our first group meeting and we talked about some of the issues we each faced.

For me, it is the constant barrage of social situations where bad food choices are the name of the game. Restaurant food is delicious, but most of the time I avoid it. Steak finished in butter, meals full of hidden sugars, fat and calories - all sabotage any kind of fat reduction plan.

I am a Rotarian with a once a week dinner meeting. Last week, I spent all day Monday in a seminar with banquet food followed by my evening dinner meeting. I belong to a local Chamber of Commerce. Wednesday was the Annual Meeting complete with full bar and dinner. Thursday, I was invited to a friend's for dinner. Saturday night, I had tickets to a Murder Mystery dinner. So, you can see how planning ahead is a must in order for me to remain successful and focused. I did not eat a single bite of restaurant food and managed to avoid the call of the martini olive at the same time. It's not about sitting there feeling deprived and starving. I bring my own food when I am able or eat beforehand. Planning is the key to success. It's not that I won't ever have a martini again (or even a donut for that matter), but I am not going to have them because I don't have other choices available to me.

Other group members are not accustomed to cooking without bottles of sauces to flavor meat and fish and are in need of some recipes to prepare their meals in a more healthful way, without all the processed sugar. Just yesterday, I made pan-seared salmon for lunch. It's a quick and easy recipe, from fridge to plate in under 10 minutes. I paired it with steam-baked squash (prepared the night before), served mashed with a dribble of EVOO and seasoning, a low carb flax/whole wheat pita with hummus, cucumbers and olives along with some almonds. Great lunch.

I finally checked my progress on Saturday morning, also known as day 16. I am down 5 pounds of fat. My muscle is safe, I have high energy and am keeping up with my workouts. Caryn will be happy to know, I am getting 8 hours of sleep every night. Our next group meeting is this Friday. Can't wait to catch up with everyone, get some new recipe ideas and have a few laughs at the same time.

Take that, you great big olive!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ya Gotta Have Friends

My original nutrition changes occurred on April 27, 2010. That was the day I made drastic changes to my eating patterns (you can read about it in my first blog post called “Do These Nachos Make My Hiney Look Fat”). I continued to follow a fairly healthy nutrition plan, using a website to log my meals on a daily basis. On January 13, 2012, I started the FLT nutrition program at Accelerated Fitness and received a customized nutrition plan designed to get my body fat to drop while protecting my lean muscle. Anyway, an integral component of sustaining my dietary changes and being successful was the creation of support systems. That change was as important as educating myself about food, nutrition and physiological processes.

I had to change my relationship with food. I don’t reward myself, celebrate achievements or comfort myself with food.  Making the people in my life a part of this change was a must. I wasn’t afraid to say, “it is my birthday, please don’t bake me a cake; instead, let’s go for walk or have coffee”. I made it clear that dinner plans meant we needed to choose a restaurant with dining choices acceptable to me. I had to ask my friends to engage with me in different ways until I could make these changes a habit and better adapt to socializing without the mindless ingestion of bad calories.

Every decision you make either takes you toward a goal or away from it. If you are trying to reduce your body fat, get fit and gain strength, what you eat and how you move directly impact your success. Surrounding yourself with people who support your choices is another way to help you remain focused on your goals and be successful. It’s not that you’ll never deviate from your nutritional plan. You will. I did and do, on occasion. But, I always get right back to it.

Not having friends who are food pushers? Priceless.

I have made many friends among the Cromwell Accelerated Fitness clients. We run into each other at private training appointments as we finish or start a session, stick around for cardio after a session and we see each other in our respective boot camps. The studio is an intimate environment. We support each other, encourage each other and make each other laugh. If one of us is struggling, the rest of us are right there to offer support. After the extreme boot camp, many of us will stand outside talking for another 30 minutes - about challenges, new program moves and how things are going.

This is what we do to avoid the hard. Together.

We share the common goals of better health, better fitness, positivity, fat loss, good body image and strength. It’s the ultimate “workout with a friend experience”. And here’s the thing, when you struggle with weight and its associated costs (health, relationship, professional, emotional), there is a bond of common experience. We all relate to the history of each other because we’ve all been in those shoes. Maybe it wasn’t the exact same set of circumstances, but we’d all experienced the emotion of it. We have the same self-judgment, lack of confidence, negative body image, food issues and history of interactions that come with being the “fat girl/guy”.

Have you ever watched Say Yes to the Dress on TLC? There are episodes dedicated to plus-sized brides. Biggest common fear? Getting stuck in a too small dress they are attempting to try. Even if one plus-sized woman does not have the exact experience as another or you compare a size 16 misses to a 26 W, there is still the shared understanding and emotion of what it means to be “of size” in a culture that is not sized for you.

Being in a place where we can experience a lack of judgment and be supported means a lot. During our last gab session after boot camp, several of the women expressed how much group support is helpful. Accelerated Fitness Solutions is holding a Fat Loss Challenge starting January 14th. Although I am not participating in it, many of the Cromwell clients are. Several of them have been through the FirstLine Therapy program (see the Accelerated Fitness Solutions website under nutrition) and are still working on achieving their size and fat loss goals. Since I am shaking up my nutrition for 12 weeks by starting the FirstLine Therapy program, we decided to be additional support systems to each other by holding a group klatch session every other week after our boot camp ends.

Stephanie is getting married on October 13th. She has lost an amazing 70 pounds and her photos (before and current) hang on the wall at the studio. She has set a goal weight of 150 pounds. She continues to use what she learned during her FLT program weeks to keep her nutrition in order. Steph works out hard, in training sessions at Accelerated Fitness, at her gym and in boot camp. She just recently was admitted to the Extreme Boot Camp for the first time. She definitely earned her spot. I call Steph the Queen of the Lunge. Since she is participating in the Fat Loss Challenge, time in a small support group will help maintain focus during the challenge to keep her on track, help her plan for social circumstances and just provide a forum where other people can directly relate to her experience. 

This is Stephanie before FLT and training.

This is Stephanie now, posing with me at the Fat Loss Challenge Kick Off and boot camp at the Glastonbury location.
Jessica is a happily married, high energy client who always wears a smile. Her photos also hang on the wall and recently, we were paired together for the filming of a segment for Better CT. She used FirstLine Therapy with Accelerated Fitness along with training, personal workouts and boot camp to drop 30 pounds and several sizes. She still would like to trim and tone so she is joining Steph and me in the client driven support group as she participates in the Fat Loss Challenge. Jess recently graduated into the Extreme Boot camp. She brings good energy to the group. The Extreme campers experience fewer breaks, less rest and way more intensity in every area. She did great!

Here is Jessica's before photo.
This is Jessica now, looking great and still working on her goals.

The hard part is figuring out how to cheer on both Steph and Jess for the fat loss challenge – I want everyone to do well. This is what I appreciate so much about this workout environment. I have a regular gym membership and I use it. I am alone and unsupported there. I get odd looks from the men when I walk over to the free weight area as most of women remain over in the Cybex machine section, if they use weights at all. We wear ear buds and listen to music, working out in isolation.

The studio is a place where you meet other people whose achievements inspire you to work harder, stay on track and do what you never thought you could do. I guess YA JUST GOTTA HAVE FRIENDS!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Choose Your Hard

Many of my friends ask about my personal training sessions with Kevin Carlson at Accelerated Fitness in Cromwell. They want to know what sessions are like, what we do, how things work, but the most often asked question can be summed up in three words:

“Is it hard?”

I have mulled that question in my head over and over, because certainly the workouts are challenging. And, I want to answer it honestly, not making anyone think that my workouts are a breeze.

In the end, my response is simple, this is what I do to avoid hard

Hard to me is hating to see photographs of myself or panicking as a friend pulls out a camera; hard is catching my reflection in a mirror or shop window and flinching at the sight; hard is walking into a room and feeling like I’m being measured by my physical presentation as opposed to who I really am or my abilities; hard is changing my clothes several times before leaving the house because I’m trying to not “look” fat.

Hard is a word with negative connotations and I don’t use it to describe the work we do in the studio.

My sessions at Accelerated Fitness are challenging, but they are challenging at my level of ability. When I first started, I certainly didn’t do the kind of demanding workout program I do now. I couldn't do pushups on the floor. I did mine with my hands on a raised bench. I was wearing an ankle brace and devoid of muscle. But, I learned that if Kevin says “Go”, it’s because he knows I have the ability to handle a move and I am able to push through it. He makes me laugh while I do whatever the set happens to be and keeps me focused.

If this were a negative experience, a “hard” experience, I would do something else. Who wants to hate what they do or dread the experience? Not me.

Emily Woodward, of Images by Emily, was kind enough to stop at a recent training session to take photos. I see Kevin twice a week in private session. Each session is a different program. After several weeks, both programs change. During the weeks of the programs, the weights may or may not be increased, depending on how I am adapting to the challenges presented.

In my last blog, I commented that while I was smaller, my body is not perfect by any means. It is a work in process, but I have the confidence to show it, to wear form-fitting gym clothing and appreciate it for what it is in this place, at this time. I also mentioned my body is used to my current nutrition plan. The goal with Accelerated Fitness's FirstLine Therapy program is to shake things up a little and I can't wait. I'm looking forward to tightening, toning and dropping body fat.

So, here are a selection of photos from my workout, not my whole program, but glimpses into it and there is my body, a work in progress - it's here for everyone to see, warts and all. You can tell from my facial expressions, that I am indeed "challenged".

Try doing your situps with a weighted bar. And yes, those are 5 toed Vibrams on my feet. I look like a duck, but they provide an excellent balance platform for me. When recovering from my ankle injury, I had terrible problems with balance as my stabilizer muscle was, in effect, absent.

 That's Kevin, being kind enough to pass me the weight.

It's not a lot of weight, but you get tired after a few sets. I get loads of encouragement & lots of laughter to keep going.

Best advice ever? Don't hit yourself in the head with that. 

When he knows I am getting really tired, Kevin moves closer to keep me safe and make sure I can get the job done.


Baby deads, one legged with a lift - the balance is tricky

Pushups, Kevin style. Hands on medicine balls. 

Sets of weighted squats. Time to grab the bar! We vary the weight depending on how many he wants - higher weight with a few reps, lower weight with higher reps - here I need to get 10 so the weight is lower.

My nemesis. I love the battle ropes. Timed sets of rope slams, guaranteed to raise your heart rate and work your whole body. I've never experienced anything like it. He has baby ropes for beginners. I get the big ones. Loads of fun!