This was hands-down the hardest week of prep. I’m sitting here at 6 days out on Sunday afternoon while my daughter is napping, and I can’t help but reflect on the week. My husband just finished off a Capriotti’s cheesesteak and chips in the seat next to me as he works on his football recruiting. He was kind enough to text me to ask if he should just eat it at the restaurant or bring it home so I could run to the gym for posing practice. He probably didn’t know what the “right” thing to do was because I’ve been a bit of a loose cannon the past few days. So instead of posing right now, I am just sitting and relaxing and writing, and I was fine with him enjoying his lunch next to me. Man it looked good.
I think my body finally said ENOUGH on Wednesday, the day after my 36th birthday (which happened to be the strangest birthday of my life). Do you know how weird it is to eat a 1/2 grapefruit as a your “birthday cake.” Now whenever Gianna sees me eating my daily 1/2 grapefruit (a fibrous acidic carb that helps to promote digestion), she starts to sing “Happy Birthday to you Mommy…” then asks to share it. God bless her, she wants ALL of my foods and turns down her chewy granola bars and moist homemade banana pancakes covered with peanut butter so that she can eat cucumbers and “Mommy’s eggs.”
Mind-racing nights tossing and turning, afternoons filled with low energy and brain fogs, a few bouts of tears while lying on the sofa after a long day juggling my job, my training and my family, this week my motivation and energy were at an all-time low. Thank goodness for my coach who helped me through some tough times. Joe won the Overall Bodybuilding Champion last March at the NPC Gladiator, so he knows a thing or two about these feelings and emotions (that’s why I hired him).
“It’s completely normal,” he said. “It’s always those last few weeks too. I swear it’s your mind trying to trick you into giving up and just eating more. You should be proud. I usually only see it when people push themselves into really good conditioning. My other client had it last week but he is leaner than he was last year on stage already. His body is trying to fight that. But you have surpassed last year’s conditioning and now I think your body is like ‘hey, when are you still pushing?'”
That simple text reminded me that this IS normal for the stress that I am putting on my body. These feeling are what can make or break a competitor. These last few weeks, especially last week, challenged me more mentally than any other. Today, I am holding strong at 129 pounds. I started prep at 136ish, and my goal is 127 by Saturday. I’ll get there. My diet has been pretty boring. Minimal carbs and only in the morning. Lots of lean proteins (mostly fish) and greens for days. At night, I get to eat 18 whole almonds, and it’s the highlight of my day. My sodium and water levels are normal. I still add salt to my foods, and I still drink 1.5-2 gallons of water a day. During a typical “peak week,” carbs are slowly added towards the end of the week to start to fill out the muscles more, which have become depleted and flat over the past few weeks. Since this is my first of 2 shows in the next 3 weeks, my second show being on May 14th, my “peak week” will look like a normal week on my diet, and we will reserve a lot of the fun carbs for the week of the second show. We want to make sure that I continue to progress even further over these next 21 days, so my best “package” (a term bodybuilders use to refer to their physique) is for that Sunday.
Regardless of the food, this week is still so incredibly exciting. I’ve worked for over 100 days to prepare for this show. I’ve done over 80 hours of lifting and 60 hours of cardio during that time. I’ve taken a total of 10 rest days. Most of the hard training is done. This week, my exercise schedule will be light. I’ll focus more on light lifts, moderate short cardio sessions and lots of posing. I’ll get a little pampering too. Hair, nails, and nice blow dry before the infamous dark spray tan is applied on Friday afternoon. You know the one. Friday will be devoted to rest, reflection and a stress-free day. I trained for this show as hard as I could. I gave it everything I had in me. I know that my physique has surpassed the one that I brought to the stage last fall, so I’ve already won there. I’ll have my husband by my side supporting me, my friends and family in the crowd. I’ll go out there and give it everything I have left. That’s all I can do. At the end of the day, it the training and the challenge that drives me. In this 16-weeks, I’ve been mentally challenged like no other. Now all I want is the hardware to prove it. 6 days and counting…here goes.
If you’ve ever wondered what 2 weeks out felt like, this photo describes it perfectly. Things just all start to come together. The winter layers have come off, and you just start to feel a little like the Queen B. My friend Sophia asked me how I was feeling this week, and without thinking I just said “like a rockstar.” I just feel GOOD, confident, I am ready.
I trained with my coach this week, and he gave me the stamp of approval. He only sees me in person a few times during my prep, so I always get a little anxious before I am about to meet with him. Pictures never really tell the true story, and with his extensive experience in bodybuilding, his opinion means a lot to me. I got high marks. So much so, that I was given one last cheat meal before my show in, now 13 days. People always want to know about the cheat meal, and it’s always the same: Stoney River filet, crab cake, asparagus, and a house salad. Their house salad is THE BEST. I am a nerd, I know, but it comes out in a really cold bowl, there are bits of egg and bacon on it, everything about it is just amazing. I may have had one of their famous rolls as well, but I’ll never tell.
I’ve also been practicing a lot with my posing coach this month. I typically wait until the end of prep to really hone in on my T-walk (a 1-minute stage presentation which I choreograph to a song of my choosing) and individual poses. I like to wait till I am really confident in my body because THAT what really shines on stage. Sure the glittery suit and jewelry helps too, but the confidence is key.
It’s been a long 14-weeks of prep so far to get to the point where I am today. I’ve shared about my struggles with the scale not moving, low energy levels and balancing prep life with real life. During this time, I have discovered 4 tricks that have really helped me during this journey, so I thought I’d share them with you. Summer is coming, and many of us are hoping to get swimsuit ready in the next 6 weeks. I am hoping these tips can help you, the way that they’ve helped me.
- Brush your teeth after lunch and dinner. I started brushing my teeth after lunch about a month ago, and it’s amazing how much this simple act can make a difference. It signals to my brain that I’m DONE (well, for the next 2.5 hours until my 4th meal), and it helps my brain to focus on something else besides food. Same with dinner. It has helped me tremendously.
- Try THIS tea. I am so NOT a tea person. I’ve tried to be a tea person, but it really just did nothing for me. UNTIL I had THIS TEA. And now I am a tea person. I purchased it at the Varuna Aveda Spa on West Street in Annapolis when I was there a few weeks ago for some pampering. It is a bit pricey at $20 a box, but it’s so comforting and flavorful. I have a cup typically after lunch and dinner. You can also buy it online here.
- If you’re due for a teeth whitening, apply your white strips during your “weak” times of the day. I have been whitening my teeth (because all the little details help when it’s showtime) for the past two weeks. I’ll apply the white strips every other day or every two days after dinner and after I’ve brushed my teeth. I know that I need to leave them on for 30 minutes, so it’s another way to ensure that I don’t go back for seconds, and it allows my brain to catch up to my stomach and to signal that I am full.
- Establish a new weekend routine. If you typically go out to dinner on Friday nights or you find yourself undoing your diet on the weekends, consider establishing a new routine. For me, I have been taking a relaxing Epsom salt bath some weekend nights and applying one of my favorite face masks to help to cleanse and detox my skin. This practice reminds me that I am making healthy choices not only for my body and mind, but for my skin as well. Beautycounter’s Charcoal Mask and Origins Rose Clay Mask are my two favorites. I use each of them once a week.
As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, weight loss is a mental game. You must be mentally committed to your goal 100% to succeed. No tip or trick or ab workout will get you the results that you want unless you’re willing to do whatever it takes. Take the time to commit to your goals FIRST, and the results will come, in time, if you continue to work for them. Have a great week! 13 days and counting…
I bought these Junior Mints a few weeks ago at Paper Source when I was picking up some birthday cards. They were an impulse buy, and I was drawn to the colors, the kind of candy, and the nostalgia. See, Junior Mints were Dad’s favorite candy. He wasn’t a big candy guy, but these were his go-to. I’m not sure he would have gone for the pastel, limited edition, however; he was more of a classic guy. His memory smacks me over the head at random times, and this was one of them.
I lost my Dad close to twelve years ago to lung cancer. He was diagnosed as stage four after a few weeks of coughing, and we lost him less than six months later. He was not a smoker and was one of the 5% of people diagnosed with lung cancer from an “unknown cause.” When my Dad died, I decided not to grieve his death. I brushed it under the rug, mentally. I put his death in a box and hid it in the back of my brain, and I postponed the grief. It wasn’t until many years later when I got healthier in all ways of my life that I had to deal with the pain. Even after all this time, it’s still hard, especially when I smell freshly cut grass and pecan rolls. Hard work and cooking were two of his hobbies. I guess that’s where I get it from.
When I think about this sport that I have grown to love (and right now at less than 50g of carbs a day, HATE), I think of my Dad. He was a very conservative and religious man. What would he think of the barely there bottoms and high heels? I laugh out loud as I write that sentence. I am not sure he would be in the crowd cheering me on (like my Mom will be). I think my Mom proudly told everyone in Annapolis, “That’s my daughter,” referencing the Bay Weekly edition with me on the cover from last week. I am not sure he would understand. I hope he knows that I am drawn to the sport for the hard work that comes with the preparation. It is 99% of the reason that I do it. The other 1% is for the abs, but those will quickly disappear after these shows are over, and I will return to a normal, more flexible lifestyle. The work is what I love, the challenge. And THAT is all HIS FAULT. It’s because of the Saturday morning list of chores each weekend, the early morning wake up calls, and the work ethic that he instilled in me, that I have this drive to compete. It’s why I had 5 W-2s from last year. (Not kidding). It’s why sometimes I have a hard time resting, because I really like to work.
I am grateful for that list of chores and every time I had to “wash the kitchen floor on hands and knees” to earn my weekly allowance. That list of chores made an immeasurable impact on me. With every drop of sweat I shed during my 5am cardio sessions and every time I hit a weight lifting personal record, I think of the work, the lesson. I hope the work that I do continues to inspire others. I know THAT inspiration would make him proud today. In less than 3 weeks, I’ll enjoy those Junior Mints backstage to give me a little sugar and carb rush before showtime. I’ll think of my Dad and thank him again for the impact me made on me as a child. It reminds me how impressionable we are when we’re young. It’s why I say to Gianna daily, “You’re so smart” and “You’re so strong.” It’s why I take my job as a parent very seriously and why I do hit the gym at those early hours. Every second I have with her is a chance to make a positive impact on her life the way my Dad (and Mom) made on mine. Parents don’t get trophies for their hard work, but if they did, my Dad would surely get mine.
“I’m training for a bikini competition, and it’s been a tough week,” I told a client in my spin class on Saturday when she asked about some of the motivating phrases regarding mental toughness that I delivered during class that morning. One of my regulars overheard us, and interjected, “You’re not training for a bikini competition. You’re training to WIN a bikini competition.” Damn. Training to win it? I never really thought of it like that, but I guess I am.
As I write this week’s blog post, I am eating meal 3 of my strict prep diet in preparation for my show on April 29th. Meal 3 (of 6 for the day) includes 4 ounces of chicken, a half a cup of greens and 4 ounces of sweet potato. That sweet potato will be my last carbs for the day, and I am enjoying them at 1:40 in the afternoon.
Losing weight is hard.
This prep has been much different than my last one for many reasons. First off, I have bigger goals for these shows. I don’t really want to say them out loud here because fear holds me back. What if I FAIL? Then the 3 people who read my blog will know. Isn’t this this stuff we tell ourselves that holds us back? FEAR. FEAR. FEAR. Okay I will tell you my goals. In the first show, the OCB Catonsville Conquer, my goal is top 3 overall. In the second show on May 14th, the NPC Natural Capital Classic, my goal is top 3 in Masters. Okay, there I’ve said it, now let’s move on.
So now that I have these larger, scarier goals, I have to bring a better package to the stage this spring. I have to be leaner, I have to have more developed glutes and hamstrings. I have to have more balanced arms. And I have to nail my posing. No biggie right? Oh and there will be MORE girls to compete against and most of them will be in their twenties. Go big or go home, right?
Here are the top 5 things I’ve learned during this 16-week prep that may help YOU lose weight (and you won’t like them one bit).
- You have to be consistent. I started this prep around 137 pounds. Today I am at 133, and my goal weight is 127 pounds for the first show and 125 pounds for the second. Losing weight is HARD. 3500 calories = 1 pound. So that means that I have to burn about 700 calories MORE than I eat for the next 30 days. That means that my diet has to be on point everyday for 30 days. It has to be perfect, if that is my goal. It doesn’t mean that I can be “on point during the week and blow it on the weekends.” It doesn’t mean that I can “have a few cheat meals a week where I eat whatever.” Losing weight is hard. If you’ve tried to lose weight and you’ve fallen into speaking one of the two phrases I list above, then maybe that is why you have not been successful. You have to remain diligent, and you have to remain consistent. I told you that you wouldn’t like what I’ve learned.
- Eating clean foods is the best way to lose weight. Ughhhhhhh. This one is the WORST. Everyday that I look at my daughter’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with longing, I am reminded that I cannot have nut butter right now. I am training to be in the best shape of my life, and nut butter isn’t a part of that equation. Neither is bread, but that’s a whole other topic. Believe me, I fought my coach hard on this one when he kept telling me CLEAN FOODS ONLY. But what about my protein bread and protein pancakes. PLEASE! No. Clean foods only. After about a week on his boring clean foods diet, guess what, I dropped a pound quickly. Mainly water weight, since many processed foods hold water in the body, but regardless, I was beginning to look leaner for sure.
- You have to get up really early some days. I get it. You’re busy. We all have full lives. But it’s a hell of a lot easier to lose weight if you exercise, so I joined a great second gym, Edgewater Fitness, which is within walking distance of my house, so I could do extra cardio at o’dark hundred before my family wakes up. I get in there at 5:45am for an hour on the stepper burning 550 calories, pick up Starbucks for me and the hubs on the way home, and I’m showered and ready for the day before my daughter wakes up. I usually hit a second workout later in the day depending on my energy. Losing weight is hard.
- If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. One of my favorite quotes ever. I love when people tell me they want better __________ (insert object of desire here – arms, abs, booty), and then I start to tell them how to get them and their eyes glaze over. “Yeah, I can’t do that.” I love when I tell people how much food they GET TO EAT on my macro plans, and they say “I can’t eat that much food.” Kind of like when I told my coach that I really liked eating protein waffles and carbs and night and he told me I couldn’t do that. Ughhhhhh again, and that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach where you know you have to step outside of your comfort zone and CHANGE. Why can it be so uncomfortable to change? So fine, almonds and protein shakes it is, and more weight lost. I guess I really do have to change if I want to change.
- You are responsible for your goals. No one else is. Your mom drops by with dinner for the family. SO nice of her, but you’ll be having the meal you prepared. Family birthday parties. GREAT, but you’ll be sticking to your goals. It’s always important to socialize and show gratitude, but you don’t HAVE to EAT the birthday cake to show it. If you have aggressive weight loss goals, don’t let others be in charge of your ability to achieve them. Period.
Well there you have the truth from yours truly. Losing weight is hard. If it were easy, then the cabbage soup diet and juice cleanses would really work. You can’t take the easier softer way if you want long term, sustainable weight loss. It takes time, hard work, and diligence. So keep working hard on you, and always keep your eye on the prize.