Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Last Year... post competition

When I started this blog, I was prepping for my first figure competition and I was going to share my process through this blog. I stopped blogging about the competition after only a few posts and I never explained why. I ended up quitting at only 3 weeks out and never went on stage. This was a difficult decision to make after 17 weeks of hard work and dedication,  but I know now it was the right thing to do.

Having never competed before, I had no idea what the process should look like. I knew it was going to be hard, I knew the diet would be strict and the workouts tough. I hired a coach to guide me through me because although I knew how to train people, I didn't know how to train for this specific sport and I wanted to do it right. I told my coach (who I will not name, but will refer to as 'Coach') that I wanted the process to be as healthy as possible and I wanted to remain a good example for my clients. I did not want to do anything that I would not recommend to my own clients. I hired someone I trusted to be an expert in this area of training.

Along the way, I had some red flags that as a trainer, I should have listened to. I was began losing weight very quickly, sometimes 3 or 4 lbs in a week. I felt very tired after just a couple weeks. My supplement stack was longer than my food list. My calories were very low at even 20 weeks out and got as low as about 800 calories/day by 5 weeks out. I was doing excessive amounts of cardio including early morning, empty stomach cardio for up to 1 hour every day, and more cardio in the evening with an hour of weight training in the afternoon.

I started taking fat burners very early on... first it was just a mild one, but as the cardio increased and my diet decreased, I felt like I needed more and was put on a much stronger one, and when that didn't work anymore, we increased the dose, and later added ephedrine. By the end, I was taking 3 fat burners, 2 ephederines and green tea just to give me enough energy to get to the gym to do cardio in the morning. Then I would do the same in the after before weight training. I was taking 6 times the recommended amount of the fat burner listed on the bottle.

In the last few weeks, my diet looked like this:

Meal 1:
4 rice cakes
4oz white fish
1 fish oil cap

Meal 2:
4oz white fish
1 cup cucumber

Meal 3:
4oz white fish
6 spears of asparagus
1 fish oil cap

Meal 4:
4 oz white fish
1 cup cucumber

Meal 5:
4oz white fish
6 spears of asparagus
1 tsp olive oil

As a trainer, I think I should have known better, and that's really easy to say in retrospect. At the time though, I trusted my coach and it was a very slippery slope that I didn't even realize I was on until the end. When I did question my coach, I was reminded about all the other girls she had trained and told that none of them had had any problems after the competition. She would tell me to trust her, that she knew what she was doing and that as long as I followed program, I would be fine. I understand that I was a willing participant, so I do take responsibility for my part, but having no frame of reference to compare to, I didn't know that this wasn't how all competitors train or feel. I thought this was what everyone did.

The beginning of the end came one day when I was supposed to train legs, I remember sitting on my couch feeling so exhausted that I couldn't move and couldn't fathom getting up much less working out. So I broke down and ate an apple with 1tbsp of peanut butter -yes, I even measured it. I felt so guilty after... like I had just undone all my progress and downed a whole pizza! I even did extra cardio after my workout to make up for it. Of course, later on when I was in a "saner" frame of mind, I realized that I did not cheat on anything...  I was starving and my body needed food and so I ate something that I needed. This was at 5 weeks out.

Then I started getting dizzy during cardio and I almost fainted one night. Not wanting to "cheat" again, I texted my coach for permission to eat an apple. When I got home (my husband was driving- thankfully I wasn't alone at the gym that night) I took my blood pressure and it was only 93/60. Very low, no wonder I felt faint. I was feeling worse and worse... my hair was thinning, I looked gaunt and felt like I was dying (I probably was starving myself to death, slowly) and one day at 3 weeks out, my husband had an honest heart to heart with me and told me I needed to stop.

Gregg reminded me that I wanted to do this in healthy way, and I wasn't. I wanted to be a good role model for my clients, and I wasn't. I didn't want to do anything that I wouldn't recommend to my own clients- I wouldn't recommend fat burners,  extreme low calories diets, or excessive cardio to any of my clients. I realized that I was as big of a hypocrite as a trainer who preached clean eating and goes home to eat big macs and drink coke. What I was doing was no better.

I quit the next day. I lied to my coach about why I was quitting- I said I couldn't afford all the final expenses and that our car needed expensive work. I didn't know how to tell her how I was feeling without hurting her feelings.

In the months that followed I discovered how much damage had been done to my body. After I quit, my coach gave me a carb cycling program to follow so that I wouldn't "rebound"... I gained 8lbs in the first week. And then I kept gaining... about 1/2 lb to 1 lb per week. Then I tried going onto my own healthy balanced plan watching my calories... and I kept gaining. Then I hired another coach, Allison who is a trainer, Nutritionist and IFBB pro and she put me on a well balanced, healthy plan... and I kept gaining! It was Allison who first suggested that I might have Metabolic Damage.

I also went to my doctor around this time. She ran a lot of blood work and concluded that I do have Metabolic Damage and Adrenal Fatigue. My thyroid was fine, but one of my hormones was too high which she told me would not allow me to lose weight. I asked her if the dieting and cardio could have caused it- she said yes. She had tested the same hormones 2 1/2 years before and they were all normal and she said I would not have been able to lose weight durning the competition prep if it had been out then. The Adrenal Fatigue she attributes to the fat burners and excessive cardio.

Allison suggested I cut out all cardio from that point on and I was not allowed to "diet" in anyway. I was to eat what and when I felt like eating to reprogram my bodies ability to self regulate my food. This made me panic a little bit... I suddenly felt lost, I felt like I had no idea what to eat! It was crazy! She also recommended I only weight train 4 days/week and focus on lifting heavy with lower reps. This worked... I stopped gaining weight. I didn't lose anything, but as least my weight was stable again.

So this is where I'm at now... I follow a Paleo diet (diet as in "way of eating" or lifestyle), I still only do cardio once in awhile and I still only weight train 3 or 4 days/week. I have learnt the hard way not to overdo it or I feel sick and tired for a week or two after and can't workout at all. My muscles do not recover the way they used to and always feel a little sore and fatigued. My doctor recently suggested I cut fruit and nuts out of my diet for awhile to see if that stimulates some weight loss. She thinks that I'm so sensitive to insulin right now that a piece of fruit or handful of almonds raises my insulin too much to lose weight. This seems to be working...  I have lost 5lbs in the last 3 weeks, so fingers crossed this is the right track.

I no longer speak to my former coach... we had a confrontation through email about what happened and she refused to take any responsibility. As I said... I take responsibility for following something I didn't agree with, but I don't think she should be giving out the programs that she does. I have also since learned of 2 other girls who have had the same problems after working with this coach and they know of a few other girls. My hope for my former coach, is that she learns from this, educates herself, and changes her approach. I don't think she hurt anyone intentionally, I think she was acting out of ignorance didn't know any better.

I struggled with whether or not to tell this story, but I finally realized that if I didn't share it, no one will learn from it, and maybe by telling my story, others will be cautious when it comes to competing or extreme dieting. Lesson learnt- when you push your body to far, it will eventually push back even harder.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Love Your Body, Love Yourself

After my last post "Women... Please Stop Doing This", I got into a very interesting discussion with a friend and client of mine, Amanda. Our discussion centered around the question: Is it possible to have a healthy body image, but not a healthy body? In other words, can you really love your body if you don't take care of it?

In my view, if you really love something, you take care of it, you don't abuse it. I think a well loved body is one that is moved frequently and fed healthy nutritious foods. I have witnessed amazing transformations in many of my clients but the most amazing one of all is seeing what happens to their confidence levels after they begin working out and eating right. This happens early on... before their weight changes, before their clothes get loose... this happens once they start moving and eating better.

They start to appreciate what their bodies can do. They start to love their bodies and want to take better care of them.

Another client recently told me after a brief "sabbatical" from working out and healthy eating that she felt "fat and lumpy again". Her weight hadn't changed at all, her clothes fit the same as before. What the two of us discovered was that her sense of body image was directly related to having a healthy body. After a couple workouts and a few days of clean eating, she felt better about herself again. Her weight was still the same, but she felt better.

I have heard many overweight, unfit people say they love their bodies just the way the are... but I don't buy it. How can you really feel good carry all the extra weight? And again, how can you love something you don't take care of? In my own experience, when I was 200+lbs, I was depressed, bitter and hated my body. I would not call that a loving relationship. I can also tell you that every overweight client who has come to for training and said "I love my body the way it is... I don't care about the weight..." is lying, at some point they have all confided that they do not in fact love their bodies, and they do care very much about the weight.

On the flip side, I have also seen some very seemingly "fit" people with very negative body images. They may appear "fit" on the outside but they've done some frightening things to get there and although they may look fit, they are not healthy. Unfortunately I've experienced this end of the spectrum too. That's a topic for a whole other blog that I'm just not ready to write yet.

I guess what I'm say is that relationships are complicated, and I think our relationships with ourselves is complicated too. I think it's a relationship worth examining... do you love your body? Are you taking care of your body? If someone else treated you the way you treat your body, would you stay with them? If you fed your pet they way you feed yourself, or subjected them to the sedentary life you subject your body too... would you be able to say you really love them? I'm pretty sure we'd call that neglect and you would lose your pet.

You don't have to look like a super model, or be rock hard lean, sport a 6-pack or run a marathon to have a healthy body image, but I do think you have to take care of your body to truly love it.

I think there's a discussion here... I'd love to hear what you guys have to say on this...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Women... please stop doing this!

Today I am angry, and I need to say something about it.

Today I saw an image posted on facebook that made me so angry I needed to speak up. And it was posted by multiple friends, posted by women, "liked" by women, shared by women, and supported by women.

This was the image...

I hate images like this. This image implies that one of these body types is "wrong" and the other is "right". All of the women depicted here are beautiful. The women on the top row are naturally thin. They have what we would call an "ectomorph" body type. They could probably eat their faces off and still never look like the women on the bottom. The women on the bottom are naturally curvier and have a "mesomorph" or "endomorph" body type. None of these body types are "wrong" they're just different.

Why is it, when something negative is said or shown about an overweight woman, we send out a lynch mob, but when it's aimed at a thin woman, we think it's okay? Do we think that thin women are immune to body image issues? Do we think that they never look in the mirror wishing they were curvier or more muscular? Wonder if their shape is feminine enough? Wish they had fuller breasts/hips/butts? Think about getting implants?

I work with women of various shapes and sizes and I deal a lot with body image in my work. I can tell you that just because a woman is thin does not mean that she is happy with her body. I have had women who look like the ones on the top, come to me and ask me to help them build curves, to give them rounder butts, to make them less boney, to put some fat on them. Sometimes they are concerned that with their low body fat percentage that they may have problems conceiving or won't be able to breast feed. How would a woman like this feel seeing this posted on facebook? Is it going to help to be more accepting of her body? Or is it going to hurt her?

Also, and I know I'm not going to be popular for saying this, but it needs to be said: Curvy is not the same as obese. Obesity is not healthy. Period. So please stop calling obese "curvy" and let's call it what it is. It is a huge epidemic in North America, and it needs to be addressed and treated seriously... not sugar coated. It's important to take responsibility for our health in this way. I was once obese... not "curvy", but obese. I realized that I needed to change this for my health and I did. It was hard, but I did it, and so can any of you out there.

So, I have a huge favour to ask of all of us. Can we please all agree to stop judging each other's bodies? We can blame the fashion industry all we want but at the end of the day it comes down to US to change things. How about we stop posting things about "curvier being better" "men don't like sticks/clothing racks/bones etc" and instead we post messages of acceptance of ALL body types. And let's not judge those who are struggling with their weight... they're probably judging themselves enough, so instead, how about we help support them to make healthy changes?

My challenge to all the women out there is this: Stop judging each other. Instead, let's focus on being healthy and strong and fit, and let's support each other to do the same.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Turkey time is here again!

It's almost Thanksgiving and so begins the holiday season and with it comes celebration, family, shopping, stress and food... lot's of food... fatty, buttery treats full of cinnamon and nutmeg... and the wine that comes with it...  and by January 1st, most of us are wondering where that extra 5, 10, 15lbs came from.

Here are somethings to keep in mind and keep your waistline in check:

1) The holidays are about celebrating our loved ones. We can do this without eating our weight in mashed potatoes and gravy. It's not about the food, it's about the company you're with. Please keep this in mind and repeat it to yourself like a mantra.

2) The holidays can be stressful... create a healthy plan for how you can deal with this stress without eating an entire box of "Pot of Gold" and downing a carton of eggnog (and rum). Working out is a great way to relieve stress and physical exertion is a known way to reduce cortisol levels- Cortisol is the stress hormone that tells your body to store fat, particularly in the abdomen.

3) find healthy alternatives to your favorite dishes and offer to share them with your family. Check out the Crustless Pumpkin Pie recipe on my website

4) Create a new family tradition of going for a family walk after a big dinner, or maybe a game of soccer? Last Thanksgiving,  my family and I enjoyed a great game of soccer after dinner and everyone got involved. I remember that more than what we ate.

5) Enjoy your favorite holiday treats in moderation... if it's Dad's stuffing that you look forward to every year,  then allow yourself to have a small portion... but choose to skip the mashed potatoes and double up on your veggies. This way you won't feel deprived and end up over indulging later.

6) There is nothing wrong with Turkey... until you smother it in gravy and cranberry sauce. Save yourself a few hundred calories by skipping out on these condiments.

7) Say no to leftovers. If you're the one hosting, then send the leftovers home with your guests. If you're the guest... then say no to the goody bag. I know this is a double standard, but hey, it's your waistline, do what you have to do.

8) Don't go to parties hungry! Eat before you go.

9) Limit your alcohol. It's best if you can avoid it completely... trust me, it's not your friend in weight loss, but if you choose to indulge, limit yourself to 3 servings per week.

10) I know peer pressure to eat a certain way around friends and family can be overwhelming, but be strong! Stand up to *insert person here* who's trying to shove *insert fatty/sugary something here* down your throat and let them know that your health is important to you and that you'd appreciate their support. Their sabotaging behavior is about their insecurities and has nothing to do with you.

11) If you do slip up, don't beat yourself up for it. You're only human. Learn what you can from the situation and choose to do better next time. Then move on. That behavior of beating yourself up is part of the same negative behavior that leads to weight gain in the first place.

I think the most important thing to realize, is that there will always be reasons to lose site of your goals. There will always be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, New Years, Birthdays, Weddings,  promotions, grads, showers, fridays... your best friends third cousins wife's uncles 6oth birthday party to deal with, but you have a choice in how you deal with it. And it is a choice.

Trust me, the pain of saying no to temptation is only temporary. The pleasure of accomplishing your goals and living a fulfilling and healthy life is limitless. And come January 1st... you won't be making a weight loss resolution, and fighting for a treadmill at the gym, you'll just be carrying on, living your healthy lifestyle.... doesn't that sound good?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Finding my Inner Warrior

It's no secret that I hate running. I don't try to hide it. I would rather lift weights over running any day, but sometimes I wish I could like running... so I go through spurts where I run for a bit, remember that I hate it and go back to lifting weights. I think I'm designed for lifting and moving fast... this whole long slow distance thing that runners do doesn't work for me, it doesn't feel right.

I had accepted this about myself. Then I heard about the Warrior Dash... a 5K run through hell (their words not mine) and I thought "now that's a race I could do!". What exactly is it? It's a 5k obstacle course race which involves climbing over things, jumping over hurdles of fire (yeah that's right, fire!), crawling through dark tunnels (not my fav), walking planks and crawling through a mud pit under barbed wire (definitely my favorite!) and they host them all over the world! What's the point? Bragging rights of saying you did it!

So I signed up with bunch of other trainer friends- a great group of very fit ladies. Then I realized I had better start running! It was all well and good until I sprained my foot 2 weeks before the race. Well, I thought it was a sprain, the doctor I went to diagnosed it as a sprain and said I'd be good to train again in a few days. Bad advice... but I'll explain more about that later...

So, Saturday morning I got up ridiculously early to drive to Whistler with friends/ trainers Patty and Ingrid. The drive was a bit of a gong show... we were all tired, and one of us (not me) got car sick, but we managed to arrive in one piece to meet up with the rest of our team and register.

Okay... so we get to the start line and realize that the first part of the run (2k) is straight UP the mountain! So not only do I hate running, but now I have to run straight up! If I knew this beforehand, if I had done some more research, I would have stayed in bed that morning, but here I was, so I was going to go for it! and really... it didn't look too bad, it looked like it leveled off not far up.... wrong! It just turns and then keeps going straight up, and up and up!! FML!!! I was swearing a lot at this point! I thought about going back, giving up but then I realized that's what "Old Teri" would have done, that was 200lb Teri talking, new Teri doesn't give up. And I thought about Gregg, my amazing husband, and how proud he would be of me if I finished, and just as I decided to keep going... the ground leveled out and we were at a water station.

Then the real fun started... the first obstacle was jumping over walls and crawling under barbed wire, one after the other, up and over, down and under... at the first wall I thought "yeah right, are you kidding me?" but up I went, I hoisted myself up, swung my legs over and jumped down. Not so bad at all. I past the obstacle and kept going... but every time I hit the next obstacle, that voice came back again "No way, I can't do this, I'm going to fall on my face" but every time, I pulled myself up, pushed myself through, and kept going again  and every time that voice of "old Teri" got a little weaker, and little quieter.

Then I stumbled. My "just a sprain will be fine in a few days" ankle, apparently wasn't so strong yet and I slipped on a rock and rolled it badly. It hurt a lot... but I chose to keep going and as I kept moving the pain subsided and I was okay (I mostly just walked though).

When we got to the end, it was such an amazing feeling and three of us crossed arm in arm together and waited for the rest of our team. We were muddy, tired and hungry and it felt great!!

I learnt a few important things durning the race...

1) when a doctor tells you it's "just a sprain you'll be fine to train in a few days" but doesn't even examine your foot, get a second opinion. A few hours after the race on the way on the drive home, excruciating pain set in and I ended up in the ER the next day. I found out that I had strained the tendon of my Tibialis Anterior and if I do it again (a third time) before it properly heals, it will probably tear.

2) Even the steepest mountains level out if you climb long enough

3) Bananas somehow taste even better with muddy hands

4) Now that I can't run (for at least 4 weeks), I really want to...

but most importantly I learnt that "Old Teri" is still lurking there, somewhere in my brain, and even though she's getting smaller and weaker, I know she'll always be there... reminding me of who I once was and what I'm capable of becoming again... if I don't out run her first.

Me with the ladies... shelby, Ingrid, Nicole, (Me), Sherry, Jamieson and Patty

Monday, August 8, 2011

How to find a trainer

As the average waistline keeps getting bigger, so does the fitness industry. It has become more and more common for people to hire Personal Trainers, but how do you know you're picking the right one? Unfortunately, our industry isn't regulated and anyone can call themselves a Personal Trainer without being certified. So here are some tips to make sure you pick the right one:

1) First and foremost, ask to see a copy of their certification and make sure it hasn't expired. All certifying agencies require trainer to re-certify every year or two.

2) Ask for testimonials from past or current clients. If the trainer has helped other clients reach their goals, odds are they know how to get you to your goals too.

3) If you are training for something specific ie; to run a 10k, look for a trainer who has trained others for the same type of event and who trains or has experience in the same sport.

4) look for someone who practices what they preach! Would you take advice from a cardiologist with a smoking habit? Don't take advice from a trainer who doesn't practice a healthy lifestyle.

5) If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is... meaning, if they're guaranteeing you will lose a ridiculous amount of weight in no time at all if you pay a ridiculous amount of money right now... run.

6) A good trainer will help you to set realistic, healthy and attainable goals and they will tell you if your goals aren't.

7) Ask what they're training philosophy is and make sure you're comfortable with it.

8) Lastly remember, you are going to be spending a lot of time with this person, do you feel comfortable with them? Do you like them? Is this someone who's going to motivate and inspire you?

I hope this helps you to make  a good choice, but if you check all of these things and still end up with a trainer who doesn't fit right with you... well that's for another blog post ;)