My competition season this year is best summed up by the phrase: 2nd Place. Regardless of my two 2nd Place rankings this year, the first one in my height class of 12 women at the Yorton Cup and the second from this past weekend in the Masters Over 35 division, I feel like I won as I enter the off season this time.
See the difference is that this year I cheated. I’ve been waiting to tell you this so that you didn’t judge me down when I got on stage, but it’s finally time I spilled the beans. I cheated, and I don’t regret it, AT ALL. I know that there would be some consequences to cheating and that my physique might not look as good this time, but to me, it was worth it. No I didn’t take HGH hormone or a performance enhancing drug. I didn’t befriend a judge on the panel. I ate some of my daughter’s peanut butter and jelly at times when she was done with it and it was about to hit the trash can. I had a cookie once a week or so when I really wanted it. I made my husband a new recipe for dinner and I had a couple of bites, even the lasagna (and damn that was good). I cheated on my diet. I made an intentional decision this year to cheat to protect my mental state and to attempt to achieve balance in a sport that demands extremes. There’s a quote that I read this year that stated, “You can’t be both elite and balanced.” We’ll this season, I wasn’t elite, but balance was of paramount importance to me.
See here’s what you don’t see when my competition season ends. The reverse dieting battle that I face post show is about a thousand times more difficult than prep. When you diet for 3-4 months and couple that with additional cardio sessions, your body gets stressed. I am not sure what my body fat is today, but my guess is around 14%, having started this season at 21%. When the show ends and I am “out of food prison” as I typically call it, I struggle with eating clean versus eating all the foods I’ve missed during my training season. Simple things like BREAD are a no-go when you’re trying to drop 20+ pounds in 12 weeks. I have failed at reverse dieting twice. As a former anorexic and bulimic in high school and a few years in college, sometimes my desire to control my food leaves me out of control. When I stepped off stage in May of 2017, I weighed 124 pounds. Two months later on my 5 year wedding anniversary trip to Vegas, I was up to 142 pounds. IN TWO MONTHS. I thought I learned my lesson. Went back into prep that August, won my pro card at 121 pounds, stepped off stage and was back up to 141 pounds by January, AGAIN. Another 20. I am not shaming myself or my body at that weight. Quite frankly, it didn’t bother me this off season at all. I was able to lift a lot and my energy was fantastic, but getting up to my top weight of 146 this year, I made a mental promise to myself not to let it happen again.
I’ve got very good at embracing the grey this past off season. It a phrase that I teach to the women I coach in my private groups. It’s about being okay with not being perfect, and that attempting perfectionism only backfires on us into a pattern of unhealthy eating and endless vows to “get back on track” by Monday. It took a lot of practice, but I now embrace this mentality. I can eat 1 cookie, even a half a cookie and get right back on track that same day without seeing that detour as that I “cheated” on my diet. It’s why I have been a macro counter for years. It works for me. My husband’s birthday cake, a week out from my last show? Yep, I ate some on Sunday and on Tuesday last week. Did it affect my physique? Not sure. Maybe I would have gotten first if I hadn’t but at the end of my show this past weekend, I wasn’t shoving donuts, candy and cake in my mouth like some of the other girls backstage. I drove to Cava in Alexandria for a big salad with lamb meatballs, and of course had some corn bread.
I started my reverse diet yesterday with a whole new outlook. I don’t have urges for any forbidden foods. I’ve already had them all this time around. It’s still going to be hard as hell as I slowly introduce calories and my metabolism revs up telling me to eat more. I have to slowly eat more and I cannot revert to my normal 2000+ calories a day right away. But I have set myself up for success with a new reverse dieting coach and a completely different mindset this time. Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to “embrace the grey” too. Practice moderation not perfection. Perfection is a defect, not an asset and life is too short to live without chocolate chip cookies once in a while. I cheated this competition season, and I don’t regret it one bit. Maybe you’ll allow yourself some cheats to as you heads forward into your goals. They may set you back a little, but life isn’t a race to the finish line of fitness, it’s enjoying the journey along the way.
It’s “Monday Motivation,” a catchy hashtag that social media came up with to get people to post pictures of what motivates them. Right now there are close to 12 million photos on Instagram with the hashtag #mondaymotivation. These photos range from quotes to posed selfies with people making duck faces, meal prep pictures with containers lined up full of food for days, then a random picture of someone’s dog just for kicks.
People tell me that I motivate them. I’ve had random people approach me in public over the past few weeks tell me that they follow me and that I am inspiring to them. I often get emails and texts relaying the same message. They’ve told me I inspire them to get up at 5am to do fasted cardio, to meal prep on a busy weekend, to pack your food when you head out to a social event, and eat it cold in the car. I ate shrimp and cold vegetables in the car this weekend during halftime of the Navy game, when my daughter and I sought out a brief reprieve from the rain. Plan. Prepare. Succeed. To those people I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to send me a message or a note of encouragement. I know I wrote a blog last week about how I almost quit, well let me tell you I have almost quit this prep about a thousand times this summer, and when I was about to give up (due to perceived lack of progress), I thought of these people, some clients, some random followers on my Facebook or Instagram accounts, and I remember that while it is not my job to motivate others all of the time, I do motivate people. And that is a privilege.
I always keep in mind, however, that at the end of the day, no one else wakes up and thinks about MY GOAL each morning but me. My 3-year old wants to know what’s for breakfast, and my husband has already been at work for at least an hour preparing for his next opponent. I am the one who gets on the scale every few days and analyzes the lines in my delts to make sure they are more pronounced than the day before. I am the one who thinks about my shows constantly and “will I be ready” crosses my mind at least a hundred times a day. It’s why I have a constant reminder to myself on the home screen of my iphone, staring at me all day, “Don’t let her down.” I do this for me, but I am glad that as a byproduct it helps you.
Be your own motivation. Don’t do it for your kids. Don’t do it for your spouse. They care but they don’t. You are the person staring at yourself in the mirror each day. Work hard and make you proud. People won’t understand and it’s not your job to make them. Protect your goals because no one’s going to do that for you.
A few spots remain for my Advanced Programming & Nutrition Group which begins next Monday. If you’re looking for a sign, this is it. Take that next step towards a stronger you now. My health is my wealth and today I’m a millionaire. For that I am grateful.
If you had asked me a week ago what the title of this blog would be, it would have read something like, “Why I quit my daydream. My decision to stop competing.”
My daughter and I hit a rough patch in August. We returned from the beach where we spent a lot of time this summer, transitioned her away from her pacifier and my husband went back to work full-time, working from 7am-9:30pm for the first three weeks of August. We were used to this camp schedule which takes place at the beginning of every football season, so we anticipated the change…I thought. My daughter took it hard. “Where’s Daddy?” all day everyday. I took her to his office during this transition, so they could spend 45 minutes together some days when he had a break, but of course that was not enough time with her best buddy. Her behavior became almost unbearable at times, and there were many days I spent crying on the sofa after she had yet another tantrum. I did not know who my child had become. I had never seen her act out like this before. Was my newly 3-year old really a threenager? After many of her episodes, doing my best to hold it together with calm responses but failing often, I would ask her, “Gianna what is WRONG?” Her answer was always the same, “I MISS DADDY.” Finally camp ended, Justin was around a bit more, and her outbursts slowly dissipated. I made a very conscious effort to spend more time playing when I was not working instead of doing mundane tasks like emptying the dishwasher and doing laundry. I also read the book, “The Whole Brain Child” by Dr. Dan Siegel which helped me to understand how her brain was working at this stage of her life. It gave me some strategies to help me respond better during conflict.
During this time, my progress for my shows this fall had stalled. My body was physically changing as I made changes to my diet and training, but my weight would not budge. Some days I would burn over 2500 calories in normal living and exercise (according to my Polar A370 activity tracker), eat only 1400 calories and wake up the next day the same weight or more. This went on for weeks and for the entire month of August my weight fluctuated between 142-144 pounds, never getting lower.
I reached a low point where I laid on the sofa one day with no motivation to do anything. Things I loved to do like training and teaching my spin classes no longer excited me. I knew something was really wrong, and I was pretty sure that cortisol was to blame. “Think of cortisol as nature’s built-in alarm system. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear.” I knew that stress was preventing me from making progress. I am a big believer in following good orderly direction (no coincidence that the acronym is G.O.D.) in times like these when I’m at a crossroad. Part of me believed that maybe it was time to stop competing. I had already made some significant changes to my body, and I was happy with how I looked, having no desire to lose more weight. I had found a great balance with food after a nice off season, enjoying small treats but rarely going overboard. I felt great. Why did I need to keep going, keep losing, for the stage? But then the other competitive side of me knew I still had unfinished business to attend to before I gave up the sport. I decided to gave it one more week. I hit my favorite yoga class, got a massage, TALKED about my stress instead of bottling it up inside per my usual m.o., and during that same time my daughter’s behavior started to return to normal. I also added an adrenal support supplement to my arsenal of vitamins and got a big boost of food in my diet on Tuesday last week (a refeed day where I got to eat 250g of carbs after a heavy leg day). This past weekend, I woke up at my lowest weight this prep 139 pounds. I had broken through the wall, and more importantly, I felt different inside. I’ve finally found my stride, and I’m ready to move forward over the next 6 weeks to hit my goal weight for my first show.
If you are struggling with your fitness goals, I suggest that you check your stress levels like I did. “It can derail your body’s most important functions. It can also lead to a number of health problems, including: anxiety and depression, headaches, heart disease, memory and concentration problems, problems with digestion, trouble sleeping and weight gain.” (according to WebMD).
Take a moment to laugh, take a walk, talk about what’s going on inside. Let stress go so you can move forward into your goals. That’s what I did, and onward we go.
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, not because I don’t have anything to say but because I have so much to say that it’s hard to narrow it all down. I’ve learned so much this year, about health and wellness and about myself about how life can be so simple if we allow it to be.
I am writing this post from the kitchen table of my 600 square foot beach condo. It’s 6:21am and my family is asleep in our little 200 square foot bedroom, my daughter’s cot snug right against our king sized bed. At first I wasn’t sure how we would all adjust to the close quarters of our new surroundings. In the beginning, there were a lot of family naps and early bedtimes as our daughter became acclimated in her new home. In 600 square feet, there’s not much to clean. It’s one of the reasons that I have zero desire to “upgrade” our home near Annapolis. I clean and do enough laundry as it is, I don’t want room for more. Some people think more is better. I believe the opposite. I like less. Less isn’t as messy. Less is less responsibility. If one of us lost a job, it’s easier to manage when you own less, have less, want less. I like less. Less is freeing.
At the end we will have spent over 50 days at the beach this summer. Grateful is an understatement. Our life here is very simple. A freezer full of homemade dinners that I prepared before we left, a closet with the bare essentials that we need for a beach life, mostly bathing suits, t-shirts and workout clothes. Gianna has about 3 toys here that she plays with when we are indoors, one of them being a set of poker chips since we had to improvise one day. Our mode of transportation is our bare feet or our bikes which we take to the beach, pools or to the ice cream shop. We go to the ice cream shop a lot.
During my first 20 days here, I limited my cardio to biking and incline walking only. This was the first break I had taken from teaching spin class since Gianna was born, and my body enjoyed the long rest from intense cardio. I learned that there is no better way to unwind and relax than having the sand between my toes and the salty air in my hair (which I had to wash a lot more often than when I was at home). I learned that my daughter really loves the beach. Many times throughout the day she randomly would run up and hug me or my husband and say, “I love you. You’re my best buddy.”
There aren’t a lot of photos of these moments because I spent a lot of time away from my phone this summer. When it wasn’t a work day, I’d leave my phone at the condo for hours at a time, not feeling the need to capture every moment on camera to post on social media to shout, look at my life. There were plenty of meltdowns and whining (mostly by my daughter, sometimes by my husband). Speaking of husband, I was reminded this summer of how wonderful of a guy that I have, being that he was the primary caregiver for our daughter Monday through Friday while I worked in my full-time job (remotely from our deck). Taking her to the beach, the pool, the watersides, the swings while packing her snacks, toys, extra diapers and supplies all while hauling it in the beach cruiser wagon in 90 degrees across to the sand on his own. He was grateful for her daily 2pm naps so he could relax and he got a glimpse into the life of a stay-at-home parent. Hard work.
We have 7 days left before we return home to the “real world,” back to normal life, back to his demanding job (a job which also allows us this stretch of off time in which we are grateful), and back to my structured life as I start dieting for my 2 bikini competitions this fall. Part of me wants to go back, and part of me just wants to buy out the ice cream shop and hole up here forever. However I think my fitness career would be over if I owned a creamery.
One thing is for certain, when I get home, I’ll be cleaning out my closets, donating any extra items to charity and minimizing my lifestyle even more. I’ll think twice and three times before I click “buy now” on Amazon Prime Day. Do I really need this? I’ll remember the salt and the sand and the simple days of this summer when things get hectic this fall. Are the things on my to do list really that important or can they wait so we can have more time to play. Play more. Stress less. My new motto. Happy summer friends.
19 pounds. That is how much weight I have lost since I started this prep in July. It sounds like a LOT, and frankly it is a lot. In all honestly, I am not comfortable being this lean. I went to my husband’s Navy Football game yesterday and wore a 3/4 sleeved shirt because I’m a little embarrassed at how vascular I have become. Borderline freak show. My body does not want to be 123 pounds and neither does my mind. I prefer a much more flexible lifestyle, more curves, and for goodness sake, I miss BREAD like you have no idea.
But for the purposes of going pro and bringing an even more competitive package to the stage in 6 days, I’ll stay the course for a bit longer. Beginning on the Monday after this show on the 28th, I will begin a very slow reverse diet in order to bring my weight back up to a more comfortable place at around 132 pounds. Stage weight isn’t maintainable (nor do I find it very attractive on me for everyday life), and if I want to keep improving my physique and growing my muscles, I need to eat more to fuel that performance. Bring on the carbs!
While my diet has shrunken down to about 1200-1400 calories a day, as opposed to my usual 2200 calories, I do admit that while there are afternoon bouts of low energy, I feel great overall when I eat a diet of 100% clean foods. On the menu most days are egg whites, oatmeal, almonds, a wide array of lean meats, and a lot of green vegetables. I get a little wild some days with hot peppers and flavored mustard. Boring, but it gets the job done.
Here are my best cooking tips for making the most out of a diet that may seem bland but PROVES to work!
I buy most of my vegetables frozen. My favorites are broccoli, green beans, and edamame. Frozen produce is picked at the peak of freshness and flash frozen to retain all the fiber and antioxidants that support a bodybuilders muscle-development needs. For fresh veggies, I choose spinach, arugula, kale and asparagus. I like to roast my asparagus on a large baking sheet lined with organic canola oil spray. Then I spray the tops of the asparagus lightly, and sprinkle on plenty of salt and pepper. I roast them at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook asparagus. You want them to be slightly soft with a little crunch.
Egg whites from a carton are always on hand in my fridge. Organic liquid egg whites are not cheap, at $5 a pint from Whole Foods, but in the end, I prefer to eat the best quality food possible and save money else ware. Make sure that you purchase egg whites and NOT egg beaters or egg substitute. There should just be one ingredient on the label: egg whites. I love to add salt and cinnamon to egg whites, and when I am allowed oatmeal, I mix it all together (after cooking both separately) for a hearty, sweet bowl of goodness.
I buy organic chicken breasts as my main source of white meat and cook them in the oven covered with plenty of Flavor God seasoning. My favorite flavors are Pizza, Taco Tuesday, Spicy Everything and Buffalo. Then I pour a small amount of chicken broth at the bottom and cover the dish with aluminium foil. I bake the chicken at 400 degree for about 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. After it cools slightly, I cut it into slices and store it in the fridge for easy access. I do not reheat the chicken when I eat it after it is cooled because it can get very rubbery. I prefer cold chicken which retains a moist consistency.
When it comes to fish, my two favorites are cod and shrimp. I love salmon as well, but the last few weeks my fats have been coming from only almonds, and salmon can pack a whopping 14g of fat for a 4 ounce filet. I buy the cod and the shrimp frozen for ease of storage and cost-savings. For the cod, I spray a casserole dish and lay 6 filets (yes, 6, which I will eat over 2 days) inside, once again covered with Flavor God seasonings and some added lemon juice. I cook cod at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the center is flaky. Do not overcook. You can reheat the fish the next day (or later that day) but I would suggest 30 seconds max in the microwave as to not overcook it.
I cook shrimp on the stove top in a frying pan. Spray oil, Flavor God seasonings, some crushed red pepper – whatever you enjoy! Cook the shrimp on medium heat for about 3 minutes, then flip each piece and cook for about 2-3 minutes more. The key with cooking any meat is NOT to overcook it. Reheat or enjoy cold.
Steak is a rare treat for a bodybuilder at the end of prep, so I typically buy the finest filet I can find from Whole Foods and prepare it in a cast iron skillet with butter and plenty of salt and pepper. I typically eat steak the night before a show, and it’s such a special treat. It’s also always my post show celebratory meal, alongside a crab cake and plenty of bread and butter.
I can’t even remember what a carb tastes like. Just kidding. But besides oatmeal, I haven’t had a potato in about a month, and the only other carbs come from green vegetables and the (very) occasional rice cake. When I am eating potatoes, I slice them into quarters, lay them on a baking sheet, spray with oil and top with plenty of salt and cinnamon (for sweet potatoes). Chili powder and a little cayenne pepper are great too. It’s all about flavor preference, so get creative!
If you’re not much of a cook, then I hope that these simple tips have helped you to see that cooking really isn’t that complicated or time consuming. Simple foods (with spice) are the best way to achieve a lean physique. Have a great week, and take some time to meal prep so you’re always prepared when hunger strikes.
It’s 4:07am as I sit in my dimly lit kitchen to write this blog. Last night was a new record. I was up every hour on the hour. I rolled over, looked at the time, debated if it it was too early to start my day. Any hour with a 2 in front of it, I forced myself back to sleep, but this morning at 3:15am, I just couldn’t sleep anymore. I laid in bed and felt my tummy, which is essentially now just skin, stretched over muscle. My hip bones protruding from my sides. Stomach rumbling. This is the fifth morning this week that I have been up before 5am, regardless of the timestamp on my daily Instagram story where I count down the days to my first competition this fall. 22 days to go. The good thing about getting up this early is that I get a lot done in the wee hours of the morning…and I get some nice hot black coffee. By 4pm, my brain is mush. By 8pm my body is physically worn and it’s hard to get up the stairs for bed. Last night I was in bed by 9pm, and my husband was a saint, eating his nightly snack after I left the room. I could hear the pantry door open as I settled into bed for the night. It would not have bothered me this week if he ate right next to me. At this close to a show, I don’t even see the temptation. Or my daughter’s grilled cheese. One might call them blinders. Regardless, a switch has been flipped and there’s no stopping me now.
This prep has been full of ups and downs, as recently as last week when I started to panic a bit. My weight was not dropping as quickly as my coach and I had hoped, due to my inability to stick 100% to my meal plan. No excuses. It was my fault. There were times during the past 9 weeks where I was not fully committed. After my last show, I let my weight get up to 142 pounds, which was a very uncomfortable place for me. I shared about this in an earlier post from this summer. Since then, we have been playing catch up to return me to my “normal weight” of 135/136 where I sit comfortable and happy. Losing that 7 pounds was pretty killer. Especially since some of that weight was definitely muscle. Even in the “off season” I am never off and continued to lift my booty and hamstrings 3 times a week. The scale was royally messing with my mind. Finally, after persistence, reassurance, and a lot of sweat, I got down to 132 pounds, where I sit this morning. I am now on target to hit my goal weights for both shows.
My first show is October 14th. It starts at 10:30am. It’s on a Saturday. There is no changing that. People change show dates all of the time because of personal conflicts and injury, but for me, there was no consideration for picking a first show at a later date. I am very big on commitment, and I did not want to let myself down. I have coached close to 200 women over the past two years since my online nutrition business has taken off, and I will tell you, the women who chose THEIR date were much more likely to meet their goals. Whether it was to trim up for an upcoming event or vacation, or just a random date that was set and committed to, those women succeeded more often than not. I teach a lot about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals in my groups which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. I ask my clients to WRITE DOWN their goals, being specific and aiming for a date. I am so passionate about helping women to achieve their goals, that I offer weekly challenges in my groups in order to force them to change and grow. This week my 23 ladies in my macro group are giving up processed foods for 5 days (ending tomorrow, which I am sure they are very happy about) in order for a chance to win a $100 Nordstrom or lululemon gift card. Would you give up peanut butter for a week for a chance to win the align pant in one of it’s fall colors? I would. Those pants are like butter. Mmmmm, butter. I digress.
I recently ran into a friend of mine who has lost 25 pounds. Her boyfriend is coming home from deployment in 6 weeks. She has never looked better. She set a her date and is crushing it.
In January, I have big plans to tie my macro groups to an end-of-session photo shoot, where women can show off their 8-week transformations by getting glammed up and photographed. I feel that everyone should have a beautiful photo of themselves. Especially my clients, many of which who are moms that spend a lot of time caring for others and putting themselves second.
I also have clients that come to me over and over and never make real changes. They repeat the same patterns over and over. They don’t plan ahead, the undo all of their hard work on the weekends, they make excuses. If you work with me, at times your get a big mouth full of tough love, and that’s only because I care. I care a lot. I identify the bullshit and highlight it, in a one-on-one setting. I ask people all of the time, how badly do you want it. Their actions will reveal their answer.
It’s almost time to get ready for the gym. In by 7am today and home to start my full-time job. My fire is lit, and it’s because I set a date. Maybe it’s time you set yours.
It’s no secret that I love treats. I’ve already planned my post-competition, food-fest party which will include everything from Stoney River’s Carrot Cake to Levain Bakery’s double chocolate peanut butter chip cookies, shipped from New York City. I am a self-proclaimed foodie, and even during prep, I try to trick my taste buds into thinking I am having the real deal.
Here are some of the recipes and products that I’ve grown to love and rely on during my 15 weeks of training so far.
1.) Nuts N More Toffee Crunch peanut butter. Not your average nut butter. Nuts ‘N More’s toffee flavor has been a staple in my pantry for many years since I first saw it on Shark Tank. I have tried all of the other flavors, and toffee is still my favorite. It boasts 12g of protein in 1 serving, while regular nut butter has 8g. It also has only 1g of sugar.
2.) SO Delicious CocoWhip! Like cool-whip without the dairy, fake ingredients and GMO’s, the SO Delicious is the perfect topping to just about anything from protein bread to waffles. I store it in the freezer, and scoop just a little out when I need it. Throw a few Guittard chocolate chips on top, and my sweet tooth is satisfied.
3.) I’ve recently gotten completely hooked on MuscleEgg protein egg whites. I have a freezer full of chocolate, pumpkin spice and cake batter flavors. They have a blog full of incredible recipes, including the protein crepes which I made last month which are super low carb and amazing. I was hesitant at first because the shipping is pricey, but now I am a MuscleEgg for life fan. They can also be purchased at some local gyms, so check their website for locations.
4.) FlavorGod seasonings are my go-to spices because they are low sodium and non-GMO. They also come in unique flavors like Taco Tuesday, Spicy Everything, and PIZZA. My favorite sweet seasonings are gingerbread cookie and chocolate donut. I sprinkle them on my protein bread before I bake it or add it to anything that needs a little extra flavor. They are awesome!
5.) I am a big fan of the flapjacked muffins and pancake mixes. I buy them on Amazon for the best price, but they are also sold at Vitamin Shoppe. The Chocolate Peanut Butter muffin tastes like a molten lava cake, and the carrot spice pancake mix is so flavorful. You can also use the pancake mixes to make breads and muffins, so they do double duty.
Speaking of pancakes, I top mine with organic powdered peanut butter (which you add water to and make low fat peanut butter) and Mancakes Syrup, which has less sugar and carbs than real syrup. The ingredients are a little fake, but they are non-GMO, and I use just a tablespoon per serving.
6.) When I need a little something sweet between meals, I use SLAP Nutrition BCAA’s as my drink of choice. I just tried their new “Slappy Hour” Strawberry Mojito which is great if you like a minty flavor. This one also has electrolytes added, so they help to replenish those key components that are lost during my sweaty workouts. Use code MARY for 10% on their website.
Feel free to message me @marydavisfitness on IG for any questions that you may have on these products.
This past week my daughter celebrated her first birthday. Everyone always told me it would “go by quickly,” and they were right. I remember the day I found out I was pregnant, our first doctor’s appointment, the first kick in my stomach and the day she was born like it was yesterday. Then I blinked and she was a year old.
My husband and I weren’t sure we wanted to have a child when we first got married. We loved to travel and the flexibility to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. As time went on and we celebrated our third wedding anniversary, we decided it was time to add a little person to our happy family of two. I have shared on social media many times how I was very nervous about what would happen to my body when I got pregnant. You can look at my Instagram page for lots of bump photos. I would look at other fit women who still looked super-fit post baby, and their journey gave me the inspiration to trust that I could be the same way.
I had a very active pregnancy. Before I got pregnant, I was in great shape. I taught 5 spin classes a week, including a double on Tuesdays, and I lifted weights 4 times a week. I also had a very easy pregnancy. I had no morning sickness, and I really did not get any more tired than usual, so I was able to keep up this rigorous schedule without many modifications. My heart rate was still very high when I taught class – but I was able to talk and teach. I reduced my weights when I was targeting very large muscle groups – during squats and lunges. Other than that, it was business as usual.
And the belly kept growing…
I described myself as a “laid back pregnant chick.” I did not go to extremes to avoid certain foods. I still had 1-2 cups of coffee a day, occasional sushi and red meat that was not well-done. I drank protein shakes and took my BCAAs along with my daily prenatal vitamins and fish oil. My diet was mostly whole foods, lots of vegetables, green juice, and plenty of homemade chocolate chip cookies. I ate healthy 80% of the time. In the end, I gained 35 pounds after 40 weeks, and I didn’t weigh myself at 41 weeks pregnant when I delivered exactly one week late.
My labor and delivery was again, easy. I was in labor for 8 hours and pushed for 30 minutes. Hello healthy 7 pound 14 ounce baby! My recovery, also easy. I was able to return to my workouts at 4-weeks postpartum.
I cannot say for sure that my health and my diet was to thank for my easy pregnancy, my easy delivery, my easy recovery or my easy BABY – a great sleeper to this day. But I can say one thing for sure – it didn’t hurt the cause.
After I delivered, I still had 12 pounds of baby weight to lose, and the journey to lose it was a struggle for me. Everyone told me it would “fall off” after I finished nursing at 12 weeks, but that was not my experience. Every pound was a struggle. A STRUGGLE. I hovered at 140 for a long time. I remember being very sad some days because I was still very uncomfortable in my skin. I didn’t like having to wear loose shirts. I remember crying on a date night with my husband because I felt so badly about my extra layers. He just looked at me and told me that it didn’t matter to him. But it mattered to me. So I got my ass in gear. I set some goals, and at 8-months postpartum, I got to 3 pounds below my pre pregnancy weight for a photoshoot I did for my lululemon athletica ambassador photos: 129 pounds. That lasted for about a day, then I returned to 132 quickly afterwards. Today I hover at 135 pounds, since I’ve made some muscle gains since then.
Now at one-year postpartum, I can honestly say that I am in the best shape of my life. I am stronger than I have ever been. I have ABS! I NEVER had a six-pack before I got pregnant, but the way that my body has reverted back has allowed me to achieve the six-pack look, which is super cool because I’ve always wanted one.
I never thought that I would be training for a bodybuilding competition at one-year postpartum. I never thought that I would care less about the scale than ever before, because the scale does not tell the whole story. Pictures tell a story. How your clothes fit tell a story. The number on the scale does not represent your fitness level. It is there as a gauge only.
And most important of all. I am grateful that I overcame a huge fear in my life, and I had a baby because the joy that I have experienced in the past 365 days, is greater than any that I have ever known. I mean, who wouldn’t smile when they looked at this face?
So I have said it before, and I will keep saying it. Do not let your fears hold you back from achieve anything your heart desires. Fear is a liar. Move past it. Crush it. Be grateful. I’m off to lift.
I have a love-hate relationship with traveling.
Sure, 5-nights at a 5-star resort and spa in the Bahamas, is WONDERFUL, don’t get me wrong. But, when I travel my brain typically likes to trick me and say, “Mary, this is your time to indulge.”
So, I have to fight my natural instinct to have dessert after breakfast, lunch AND dinner when I am on vacation and try just to limit it to just dinner. Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes I am not. I am not a drinker (that’s a virgin pina colada shown in the photo), so the thought of a tropical drink does not entice me at all. I am a structured, type-A, routine loving person, so when I am traveling, and all of that structure and routine gets jumbled up, I tend to relax in other areas as well. Like, pile on the carbs and sugar with a heaping bowl of dairy. The result is always the same. I am relaxed after vacation, and I am really glad I don’t have to get back in a bathing suit for a little while.
Why I am I telling you this?!
Because I don’t want you to think that I have everything in a nice little organized box, and staying fit is EASY for me. It’s not. I have to plan ahead to stay ahead for myself, because I can easily get off track just like you.
I have found through a lot of trial and error and major missteps that I have to prepare for vacation in order not to go completely off the wagon! Here are a few guidelines that I try to follow when I am planning a vacation:
1) START the vacation off right. That means, don’t pull into the airport and immediately grab an Auntie Annie’s pretzel for the plane ride. (Okay, I have done it. They ARE good). I usually empty my fridge before I leave for vacation, and throw all of the leftover protein and veggies into a Tupperware (or one of those plastic bins that the pre-washed lettuce/kale/spinach comes in) as my plane ride snack. Then I buy dressing once I pass through security or just make do with hummus and lemon juice. You save money, don’t waste all of your food at home, AND start your vacation off making healthy choices.
2) Plan vacations that are 4-nights or less. Any longer than 4 nights, and I am ready to roll home to my routine, my kitchen, my fitness classes, and our normal life. Justin and I lead a pretty simple life. We believe that less is more, and we enjoy life at home just as much as life on vacation, so we usually don’t plan vacations to “escape” from anything (except the laundry and emptying the dishwasher). We like to relax in the sun, turn off our cell phones, and enjoy each other’s company. We can usually accomplish that and recharge in 3 or 4 nights.
3) Stay in resorts with access to quality food and fitness facilities. I am a foodie. That is no secret. I love to eat. I need to balance that out with a sweaty workout when I am on vacation, because we do a lot more eating out when we are traveling, and I don’t count my macros. For instance, I am writing this post from Atlanta, GA. I came here on a business vacation (my job allows me to work from anywhere), but I also came here because my favorite workout, Flywheel is in this area. So I can take a crazy spin class every morning and eat in some amazing restaurants in Buckhead for dinner. It’s the best of both words.
4) Pack a sh*t ton of food. My husband usually gives me a big eye roll when he sees what I have packed for our vacations, but he is always happy when we land at our destination, and we don’t have to spend $30 each on a breakfast buffet every morning or be subject to whatever food is available at our resort in the overpriced gift shop. I pack A LOT of food. Some items that are always with me on vacation include: Vega One Bars, RX Bars, protein powder, brown rice cakes, my homemade protein bread, nuts, individual packets of nut butter (you cannot bring a whole container of nut butter through security. It is considered a gel, and they will take it. I learned this $12 lesson the hard way). Sometimes I load up on other snacks as well. It really depends on how long we will be gone and where we are going. My motto here is NOT less is more. It’s more is better.
I hope some of these tips help you prepare for your next trip too so you can “plan ahead” and “stay ahead.” Happy traveling!