The best part of my job is seeing people grow and change before my very eyes. It’s seeing people look fear dead and the eye and tell it to go f*ck off. We all know that f-e-a-r is really just false evidence appearing real, don’t we? It’s the shit we tell ourselves when we project into the future. It is not reality. Many of the people that I work with are paralyzed by fear, and many won’t even work with me because of it. I wish that more people had the courage to tell fear to take a hike.
Then there are a few rare clients that just keep coming back for more. They look at fear, they move past it, and they grow. Today I wanted to highlight one of those people in this week’s blog. Meet Jessica.
I first met Jess about a year ago when she started coming to my spin classes. She was always in the front row, and she always worked hard. She was also a straight-shooter, which I admired and appreciated. Our relationship grew when she decided to take the plunge into macro-counting, and we went from client-coach to friends. Recently we have been meeting at the gym on Sunday mornings at o-dark-hundred so that I can teach her some new strength training exercises. She is not typically a “weekend warrior” when it comes to the gym and prefers to workout Monday through Friday, but after seeing some weekend patterns that she wanted to change, she embraced the motto “nothing changes if nothing changes” and has adjusted her routine to fit her goals.
I interviewed her recently because I am continually amazed at how much she continues to push past her limits and continue to grow.
Here is her experience with macro-counting, 2017 goals and working with me as a coach.
- When did you first start macro-counting?
“I started my macro journey in May 2016. I decided to try this program with a bunch of girlfriends from the gym.”
- Why did you decide to try it?
“I had been following Mary’s blog and fitness Facebook page for a while in addition to taking cycle / RPM classes from her at the gym. I admired Mary and her fitness and was curious to see how eating what you wanted and looking fabulous was possible. I was especially intrigued to hear that counting macros would change my view of food altogether.”
- What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen physically since you began?
“I do not have a small frame and would not consider myself skinny by any stretch – think thick soccer legs. I have struggled with my lower abs (3 kids later) and hips/thighs/butt. After counting macros for around 6 weeks, I noticed that all of these areas (including the rest of my body) began to lean out. While the scale showed a modest ROI, my body shape told a different, very satisfying, story.”
- What mental changes have you noticed in the way you view food now?
“Mary always preached that with counting macros I would no longer place foods into defined categories of good vs bad. Being a decade in the making carb-phobic, it was difficult for me to allow myself to eat carbs without guilt and worry. But of course, I listened to my “Jedi Macro Master” and stayed the course by “eating ALL the food”, hitting my goal numbers daily, and was delighted to see that good things were starting to happen and I wasn’t deprived of ANYTHING. I was even eating REAL WHITE BREAD and WHITE RICE! I now view food as fuel and am aware of what foods my body needs to look and feel my best.”
- What are some common misconceptions that people have about macro counting?
“In the beginning as a busy working mom of three, I, like many, was skeptical of how I would find the time to faithfully do this logistically. Buying a food scale? Weighing and documenting every bite? Eating out? Feeding my family too? No way would I have the time or patience for this mess. Well, here I am – just another true believer. In the beginning of the program, there was a lot of foreign territory to navigate. Many things were intimidating. But Mary was there all along, holding my hand and available to answer the silly questions from me and our group. It was nice to start out with a bunch of friends too – we all had some good quality laughs about our fumbles early on. But with anything, practice makes perfect. It took about 2 weeks to really get the kinks ironed out and build a comfort level with My Fitness Pal and the scale.”
- What is one of your favorite meals to eat that wouldn’t be found on a typical diet?
“Like I said before, I have been beaten into thinking that carbs are the devil for so long that really any recipe with pasta, rice, potatoes or bread is such a treat. Having a lean beef burger on an ACTUAL bun WITH NO GUILT WHATSOEVER is an amazing feeling for me. My husband is still floored by how much food I am eating and how much my happy, toned body is loving every bite.”
- What is Mary like as a coach – what is her style and how would you describe her ability to support her clients?
“I have been coached by other fitness professionals in the past. My experience was that most were very similar in style, had physical fitness knowledge, but in the end, none ever REALLY inspired me. Mary is different. She starts out from a place of true generosity. As you would imagine, she is of course a wealth of knowledge when it comes to all things food and fitness. She is attentive to individual needs of her clients. But what sets Mary apart from others in her field is that she is willing to pull back the curtain on her own struggles to show that we’re all human, we all stumble, but it’s how you recover and improve that makes you a success. I don’t think I have met someone more genuinely invested in helping others be their best self.”
- What is one thing you’ve done in 2017 that is outside of your comfort zone that you are proud of?
“I used to be the one in cycle class that would pretend to put on resistance becae I was worried that I wouldn’t be strong enough to make it through the next drill. Well, a year later I have retired Jessica 1.0. The new and improved me (Jessica 2.0) can honestly say that through this journey that started with macro counting in 2016, I am a lot less afraid of my own fears. I now lift weights in the scary part of the gym that intimidated me many months ago. With Mary’s tutelage, I try new weight lifting exercises and lift heavier than ever before. The new me is now cranking the resistance in cycle class, because as a wise woman once told me “you should always try the hardest resistance – if it’s too much to finish, you can always take some off”. I am proud to say that I rarely take off that extra gear and I am stronger than I thought.”
I hope that Jess’ story inspires you to step outside of your comfort zone more this year and try something scary for the very first time. The exciting part of the future is that you can help design it with your decisions. Way to go Jess!
You know it’s Valentine’s Week when the television commercials really kick it up a notch with their cheesy jewelry ads. My husband is one of those guys who believes that Valentine’s Day is a “made up holiday to get guys to buy things.” I would not describe him as a hopeless romantic (to say the least) but I do know that I am loved on a regular basis when he brings me a random bouquet of food coloring dyed flowers from the Giant or spends his rare weekend off doing endless loads of laundry. He reminds me everyday with his actions that love is a verb, not a heart pendant from Jared’s Galleria of Jewelry. For that I am grateful.
For me, Valentine’s Day is a great reminder that we need to love ourselves BEFORE we can truly love another. It took me years to understand the true meaning of self-love. Self love takes practice. I work with a lot of women who struggle with self-love: not good enough, pity-parties, mom guilt emotions. It is so easy to tell others to be kinder to themselves, but why is it hard sometimes to take our own advice?
Recently I’ve started conducting a social experiment where I treat myself as I would treat my best friend. Would I tell my best friend to get on the scale every morning and verbalize feelings of disappointment if I didn’t like how much she weighed? Would I over-schedule my best friend so that she is so busy that she has no time to rest? Would I tell my friend she shouldn’t take one hour of the day for herself because she needed to be with her kids 24/7? I would never treat my best friend that way, so why would I treat myself that way? I have encouraged the women in my macro group to conduct this same experiment. How did that change the way they treated themselves that day? The results were eye-opening. Why are we so kind to others, but so hard on ourselves? Don’t we deserve to be treated with the same love and respect?
After many years of practicing this habit, I have become very good at taking care of myself. When my daughter was 4 weeks old, I quickly lined up family to come and watch her for an hour or two a day so that I could hit the gym or get a manicure. I have heard of the term “mom guilt” many times, but honestly I have never experienced it myself. I know that I am a better mom and wife when I take time for me. Period. I am sure that if I had a conversation with Gianna twenty years from now when she is a young adult that she would agree that it was important for me to continue to enjoy my individuality as a woman when she was a child. I highly doubt she would be mad at me for taking that time for myself when she was wheeling around Elmo in her toy stroller. So why is the term “mom guilt” used so often these days? It makes me sad. Whether it’s an hour yoga class or just a cup of coffee alone at Starbucks, we all need that time to just be us. Not moms, not wives, not employees, just women.
Here are some ways that I practice self-love on a daily basis. These simple steps help me to be a whole and healthier me and the best version of myself:
- Drink a gallon of water a day. A gallon is conservative. My average is 1.5-2 gallons a day. I start every morning with 2 large Tervis tumblers of lukewarm lemon water. I started doing it after I watched this video about 3 years ago, and I’ve rarely missed a day. Water increases energy and reduces fatigue. Since our brain is mostly water, drinking it helps you be more alert and focused. Water promotes weight loss, improves skin’s complexion and is a natural headache remedy.
- Sleep for 8 hours a night. Sleep is a health tip that is often overlooked. I strive for at least 8 hours a sleep a night. When I first met my husband, he only slept for 4-5 hours a night, stating that’s “all he needed.” Then I started to convince him to go to bed at the same time as me each night (which we still do every night). Now he complains when he “only gets 7 hours.” When you are sleep deprived, you are moodier and you tend to make poor food choices the next day. Your body is looking for a way to cope with being tired, and usually it looks to cope with fatty, salty food cravings. No television show is worth me staying up too late. I tape it, watch it the next day, and get to bed.
- Rest on the weekends. I have mentioned this many times before (and recently on my Snapchat @ MaryGoNavy), but on the weekends, I prefer to do nothing. I teach my 1 spin class on Saturday, hit the grocery store and come home, shower and get back in to my sweats for the day. I don’t want my weekends filled with activities. I want to rest and enjoy time with my family doing simple things. We have 1 child who is too young for sports activities, so it’s easy for me to do nothing. I am sure that will change one day, but for now we are enjoying reading books and watching Mickey Mouse. As a result, I am more recharged and refocused when Monday comes because I was able to rest on Saturday and Sunday.
- Choose foods that make me FEEL good. 90% of the reason that I choose the foods that I eat is because of the way that they make me feel. During bikini prep, I really view food as fuel. If I’m going to workout, I know I need to choose carbs and protein to help give me energy and build muscle. Post workout is the same. At night, I have been reducing carbs to help with fat burning when I sleep. I eat very little refined sugar, not because it’s “not on my diet” but because it makes me FEEL terrible afterwards. On the rare day that I choose to have ice cream or a decadent dessert at a restaurant, I enjoy the foods while I’m actually eating them, but 10-20 minutes later the “crash” sets in and I regret the choice. Not because of the scale or the physical impact of how I will look, but because those foods make me tired, cranky and irritable when they start to digest. I don’t like doing that to my body. My body is so kind to me, so I try not to punish it with foods that make it crash and under perform. My body doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment.
- Engage in healthy relationships. I don’t do drama. At all. I don’t gossip. I choose relationships, mainly friendships, based upon mutual respect, a common bond and no bullshit. I am a straight-shooter, loyal and generous. I have close friends which are near and dear to my heart, and I spend time in healthy relationships that are mutually beneficial and that help me continue to grow into a better person.
- Sweat 6 days a week. The mental release that I experience when I workout outweighs the physical result tenfold. I really cannot describe the mental shift that takes place when I teach a spin class or set a deadlift PR. It just happens. It’s a chemical reaction, a mental breakthrough, an emotional and a spiritual experience.
I hope this post will inspire you to take a little more time out this week for you. Love your spouse or significant other a little harder. SHOW them you care everyday. Then show yourself the same love and compassion. You deserve it. It’s not selfish. It’s self-love.
Happy Superbowl Sunday. If you’re like me, you just dove into a pizza and some chips to celebrate this annual game (that most people really don’t care about). Treats like this for me are few and far between at 12 weeks out from my next bikini competition. Tonight, however, I enjoyed every bite because I knew that I was set up to succeed with my meal prep for the remainder of the week.
Someone recently asked me to help her get bikini-ready for a spring break vacation that was 6 weeks away. She wanted to know what type of workout schedule I would recommend to lean out a little in this short time. My response was simple. If you have 5 hours a week to devote to your fitness, use 4 hours of that week to meal prep.
That doesn’t mean she needs to be in the kitchen for 4 hours, chopping and cooking and chopping some more. That time would include making a grocery list, shopping, looking at the calendar to plan ahead for a busy schedule of dropping her kids at activities, and then actually cooking or prepping some simple foods that were ready to go.
Here are some of my top meal-prep hacks that I use regularly to stay on track when time is tight:
Pre-Cut and Pre-Washed Lettuce and Veggies
I spend a little extra money each week to have Whole Foods wash my lettuce for me. Do you know how annoying it is to wash lettuce? Don’t even get me started. I don’t even own a salad spinner to dry the lettuce, and frankly I have no space for one. Sign me up to pay fifty cents more for clean lettuce that’s ready to go. I also splurge on some veggies that are already washed and pre-sliced. It sounds silly, but have you ever bought whole vegetables at the store with intentions to wash/peel/chop them and you find them a week later in the back of your fridge, rotten? Go on. I’m with you. Sometimes our weeks are too busy to even chop a vegetable, and when we do have 5 minutes to ourselves, that’s the last thing we want to be doing. This is a minor expense that I pay to save me a little bit of time. That way when I am ready to assemble my daily salad, all I really have to do is assemble.
I also purchase a lot of frozen vegetables and use them as sides for many of our dinners. Broccoli, green beans, asparagus and spinach are all good choices that are low carb (yes, veggies have carbs) and packed with fiber.
I buy 2 rotisserie chickens a week, one on Sunday and a second one on Thursday. I always do a second grocery shop on Thursdays to restock anything that I need, so that I go strong into the weekend prepared. I know a lot of people that undo all of their hard work on the weekends, and they are back to square one on Mondays. This second shop helps to ensure that I can still meet my goals, even on a Saturday.
Rotisserie chickens are a simple solution for the lazy cook (or the bad cook). The KEY is to remove the meat when the bird is still warm. Trust me, you do not want to unpack the groceries, throw that bird in the fridge and think “I’ll get to it later.” You just spent $8-12 on a delicious bird, take that meat off (eat the juicy wings while you’re doing it) and shred the breast for later.
You can use that chicken for a lot of things:
- Salad topper
- Chicken tacos
- Throw it in the food processor (when cooled) with some carrots, onion, celery, some mayo or Greek yogurt and some hot sauce for buffalo chicken salad
- Make chicken enchiladas
- Make chicken soup
The list goes on. Get creative and use this simple hack to help you add protein to your week.
Whole Grain Rice Packets
I recently discovered that Whole Foods sells these whole grain rice packet medleys that are ready to go after 90 seconds in the microwave. Each packet serves two, so it’s perfect for me and the hubs. They come in blends like Spelt, Green Lentils & Long Grain Brown Rice and Long Grain Brown & Wild Rice. You can use it as a side for any dish or mix it with some taco meat, and make your own little burrito. Plus, 90 seconds is about the most time I want to spend on rice these days.
Frontera Sauces and Marinades
We eat a lot of Mexican cuisine in our home. Fish tacos, taco soup, enchiladas, flank steak tacos. The list goes on. I always have Frontera Sauces and Marinades on-hand, since all you have to add is the protein of your choice and wa-la a tasty dinner. I love the Carne Asada marinade for flank steak, the Red Chili Barbacoa Seasoning sauce for a slow cooker meal, and the Texas Original Taco Sauce for ground beef. Just buy a pouch, and follow the recipe on the back. There are no sketchy ingredients, and the calorie content is minimal. Keep and eye on the sodium if you have a history of high blood pressure.
Last but not least is frozen fish. Fish is an excellent way to add a well-balanced side of protein to your family dinner. I typically cook very bland white fish (cod, tilapia and halibut) and spice it up with Flavor God seasonings. If you haven’t heard of Flavor God, check them out. They are low sodium and they come in both sweet and savory flavors like pizza, spicy everything, and chocolate donut (which is amazing in oatmeal). They are non-GMO and MSG-free.
To make the fish, I defrost it (same day), rinse it and pat it dry. I place it on a foil-lined baking sheet (another hack to reduce clean up time – just toss the foil after the fish is cooked) that is sprayed with cooking spray. I drizzle a little olive oil on each piece and load up the seasonings. Fold up the sides of the foil and then the ends, sealing it tightly. Bake the fish for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Open the foil and scrape gently at the fish with a fork. It is cooked through when the flesh flakes easily and the color has turned opaque all the way through.
Another quick dinner that is healthy and easy in under 15 minutes.
I believe that I have mastered the simple-quick weeknight dinner in our home. It’s not fancy, but it’s healthy and easy. On the weekends, I venture out a bit and try new recipes .
I know you’ve heard the phrases “abs are made in the kitchen” and “you cannot out exercise a poor diet.” These statements are 100% accurate. Take some simple steps to plan ahead with your meals, and you can skip the gym a bit more often.