You Mean I’m the Zombie?!

I feel like I’m always writing about trials, or emotional breakdowns, or my pangs of competition, but apparently that’s…normal?

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I took a few days off of life to visit family and friends “back home,” and sort of recenter my focus.  I know I say that a lot, but isn’t it important to stay centered? The world itself is so chaotic; people are always pushing and pulling you in different directions, while your own will does the same. I came to the conclusion this week that other peoples’ perceptions of you are actually reality, so I’m working now to put my best self forward (not just physically). I want what people perceive of me to be true, I want the truth to be what is perceived of me; I want to be the realest real and the best I can be. That being said, I’m going crazy…literally.

As Chrissy explained it to me this morning between sobs, “You’re on a low-carb, low-fat diet. Low carb = zero energy, fat regulates hormones, so no fat = crazy lady who hates herself. No carbs/No fat = zombie.” I’M THE ZOMBIE!

But apparently every thing I’m feeling right now is normal. Except that I’m here at my mother’s house…going even more insane.

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So tomorrow I’m going for posing practice numero uno with my very best. I’ve got to take a few progress pictures to submit to my potential new coach (fingers crossed), and then I’ve got to kill my back and bi’s in my old stomping grounds.

But on the real:

This isn’t easy, and nobody said it was going to be; in fact, everyone has said quite the opposite. It’s ok to be overwhelmed, it’s ok to be upset, and it’s ok to feel like quitting, but it’s important to get up and keep moving. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to get what I want, whether it was handed to me on a silver platter, or I had to bust my ass to get it, I’ve always gotten everything I’ve desired, and I’ve always achieved exactly what I want, so when did that stop? I have also prided myself on my ability to “wing shit.” I remember entering my first pageant and spouting out whatever came to mind as the mic was handed to me. I remember holding hands with the girls on stage as they announced the top 3, and I remember thinking, “I didn’t win, but this was pretty fun,” and then two seconds later they’re placing a crown on my head. So when did that change? Sometimes I get inside my head, and it seems when I have a plethora of people around supporting me I forget that I have two feet of my own.  I become dependent on the compliments and support and encouragement that I forget why I started this in the first place. I’m not doing it for anyone else, I never was. I’m doing this for me. As long as I get up there and I give it everything I have, then that should be enough.

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Let that be enough.

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What Grinds My Gears…

WARNING: Rant Ahead

So I’ve been at this fitness thing for years, right? I’ve played sports, was always an active child, and well-educated on nutrition my entire life. I like it, it’s my “thing,” I guess some could say.  You know what else is my “thing?” Bartending.

Recently I was nominated in my city as “Best Bartender,” which is pretty cool if you ask me.  I’m certainly NOT the best bartender, but I’m the best I know how to be.  Surprisingly, this nomination came shortly before my competition diet began round II, and I am slightly shocked by this because it’s become apparent to me that I’m actually a better bartender sober.  Not only do I have more patience, a higher tolerance for the drunken zombies, and faster work rate/higher quality drinks, but I’m more me when I work; I’m nicer.

I like people, believe it or not. And liking people makes my job a lot easier because drunk people aren’t always people. I know some of my customers read this, so don’t think I’m pin-pointing anyone in particular, but the drunk people I’m referring to are the aforementioned ‘zombies.’ There comes a point of intoxication when people are no longer themselves and, to be frank, they get annoying. They turn into this sloppy mess of a person who doesn’t realize his/her own inebriation, who orders 8 more rounds of shots for the group, then stumbles for 4.5 minutes trying to maneuver a debit card from their wallet which has now become some sort of Japanese finger trap.  But, being sober and logical, I can easily rationalize that, “Hey, we’ve all been there; here’s some water and I’ll still love you tomorrow night when you’re back at it.”

Since I’ve been tending bar sober for a month now, however, I’ve heard so many different opinions from people.

  • I’m “more fun” when I’m drinking. FALSE. Though you might think I’m more fun, I’m just more focused on doing my job and doing it correctly. Also, I’m trying to get 8 hours of sleep each night and still function as a normal member of society. So “getting in and getting out” is the motive for now.
  • I think I’m “better” than everyone else because I’m “fit.” FALSE. I don’t care if you drink, smoke, snort, dip, chew or shoot; you do you, I’m going to do me. We’ve all got a drug of choice and we’ve all got faults. Drinking doesn’t make you any less of a person, just as sobriety doesn’t make me any more. Trust me, once this is all said and done and the GOALS that I’ve set for myself are achieved, I will be throwing back quite a few beers.
  • I can’t do anything because I have to go to the gym. FALSE. I do a lot of things, they just don’t revolve around drinking, which is a perfectly acceptable and normal pastime for the citizens of Lafayette, so by all means, continue to do so, and don’t feel obligated to exclude me just because I don’t imbibe. I paint, I read, I go see movies, I lay out at the pool, I go shopping, I take my dog to the park, I go bowling, I write, I consult other people on their diets. I have a life outside of fitness, this is just goal #1 for the meantime.

I want people to understand the concept of balance. You can have your cake and eat it too, but cake doesn’t fit my goals for the next 7.5 weeks; chicken and rice is where it’s at.  I’ve learned a lot through this whole prep. I’ve learned who my true friends are, how much I don’t need alcohol to take the strain off of social situations, and I’ve learned that food doesn’t have to be the center of social gatherings. I’ve also expanded my list of hobbies and talents as I’ve had to find other ways to occupy my time.

Now, that being said, I’ve also experienced the other side of that spectrum.  I found myself at a concert last week and had to remind myself that people weren’t staring at me because I wasn’t drinking. I had to continuously sip from a bottle of water just to occupy my awkwardness. I found that I didn’t know what to do with my hands and I couldn’t fully enjoy the music or the atmosphere being one of the only sober people in the building.  I also continue to take shots of water or SF Redbull at work, just to join in on the party or to connect with my co-workers/customers.

So when prep is done and I begin to reverse diet I think I’ll continue to remain sober most of the time, not because it makes me a better person than you, but because it makes me a better person than I used to be.  It doesn’t mean I won’t indulge or let loose from time to time, but I’ve learned the value of it and the “time and place” for it. Everyone is a critic and everyone has critics, but nobody’s hands are clean. I don’t write in this blog for anyone in particular, I don’t post my progress pictures to “flaunt,” and I don’t hashtag for attention.  I write because it keeps me focused and motivated, I’m proud of the work I’ve put in and the results that I’ve produced AND I enjoy sharing it with likeminded individuals. I don’t complain about the number of “party pics” or shots anyone takes, so unless someone is supportive of my goals, they shouldn’t be concerned with my ‘fitspo’ posts or food craving tweets.

Live and Let Live.

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Nothing is Really Work

Unless you would rather be doing something else…” – J.M. Barrie

This post has been a long time coming, but as with any great decision, it has been backed by great doubt.  Long story short: we back in this bitch! How could I let 6 months of (not so) hard work go down the drain? This has been my dream for 4 years, and I shouldn’t let one small hiccup ruin that again.

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First competition on the books is set for August 2nd, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I was pretty mad for a long time about my whole competition prep this season.  I had a boyfriend whom I felt was announcing every thing to the world, co-workers who were encouraging me to “just take 1 shot,” and parent’s breathing down my neck about whether or not I could handle the pressure of competition rebound and weight gain.  Of course ALL of those actions were based on good intentions; Los was just being supportive, my friends wanted to include me in their fun, and my parents are just looking out for my well-being. I get it.  However; I’d be lying if I said I felt as though I’d lost a piece of myself when I was told training could no longer continue. I felt like I’d let so many people down, myself included, and I really felt like I’d lost my purpose. I no longer had a goal to be accountable to, I no longer had the drive to motivate myself, much less inspire anyone else.

In one simple text conversation that all changed. My “coach” had decided to come out of retirement and compete in the last three shows of the season. She qualified for her pro card in 2011, but decided to focus on raising a family, and now, since that’s been put on hold, she’s decided to give it another shot. And with her announcement she included at the very bottom, “And it’s exactly 12 weeks tomorrow until the first competition 😉 😉 ” And my diet started the next day.

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My mentality has completely changed as well; I’m hungry for personal success.  If you’re going to put your heart into something, you might as well do it for all the right reasons. Bikini girls get a bad rep for being “skinny,” or “cardio bunnies,” but I’m not trying to win some spring break wet t-shirt contest; I want muscle. I want to be strong. I want to surpass the stereotype and prove to myself that recovery is possible and that muscles really are beautiful. After some much needed quality time floating down the river, Los is completely on board. He’s been nothing short of amazing, making sure I eat, making sure we have enough food in the house, making sure I get what I need in the gym, making sure my supplements are available. He’s networked for me, encouraged me, but also respected my privacy. I’m very much an introvert and too much attention can backfire. And with that I can proudly announce that he has decided to compete as well.

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It’s been 3 weeks since we started our journey together and it’s been quite an experience growing, learning and sharing.  We get to watch and encourage one another as our physiques change, and when our moments of weakness strike, which they do, we’re there to back one another and keep ourselves on track. I’m not sure I could’ve done this without him.

So I’m officially 8 weeks out as of this past Saturday. I’ve got my suit picked out (we order on Monday), I’ve started tanning, ordered my weave (yeah, girl!), and posing classes begin next week. I can’t wait to start writing more inspiring blogs instead of this mushy, emotional crap, but it keeps me on track…and well, this is my journey anyway.

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Back to the Start

After a few weeks of mental turmoil, I’m finally beginning to wrap my head around this whole competition dilemma.  It’s taken a lot of reflection, a lot of naps, and a lot of beer for me to figure the whole thing out, but then it hit me: just go back to the start.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the direction in which my life is headed, where I want it to go, and what I want to accomplish.  Big-hearted, but far from naive, I want to change lives in such a way that my mark is left on this world.  Our actions, and sometimes lack thereof, affect the people around us, so why not do something worth a damn? I pouted, I moped, I slept, I neglected the gym, and I neglected communicating my reasons with the people I love.  Luckily I’m fortunate to have such a relationship with Los that he respects my space when I get like this, and when the time is right (which he seems to always know) he asks. So last night I was reminded that I do have purpose and that I already have impacted some lives.

4 years ago, when I became truly involved in fitness by managing a small-town gym, I just worked paycheck to paycheck while in nursing school.  It wasn’t until I had an ED relapse for the second time that I really took charge of my life and began to utilize the information I’d learned from working in healthcare.  With that, I started working out and eating right, and thus my journey really began. In the last 4 years I have gained 30lbs, lost 10, gained it back, etc; so my decision to compete again this year was also an attempt to prove that I could do this ‘the right way,’ and maintain a healthy mental status while also a healthy body.  I’ve had so many people commend my efforts, and grown in a lot of my relationships through this. I’ve influenced at least 3 people that I know of to get off their asses and lose weight that they wanted to lose. I’ve made meal plans for a few friends, and even trained a few. Maybe those small incidents are not life-changing for me, but as Los pointed out, it’s been eye-opening for others.

When I quit my competition diet, I immediately gained 5lbs and I panicked. I kind of spiraled into this pseudo-depression about my body. After all this hard work and dedication, I failed. I struggled to eat all my meals, to make it to the gym, to even bring myself to put makeup on in the mornings. So Los gave me some space, gave me some time, took care of things around the house, and then I blossomed again. I’m not 137lbs, I’m not even 120lbs again, and when did weight become such an issue anyway? All of my ‘competition season’ clothes still fit, and I feel better, so why was I being so hard on myself?

I can actually go out on a Wednesday night and enjoy a dinner/beer with my friends, I can guiltlessly eat a slice of pizza, I can actually experiment in the kitchen again. I’ve sort of regained my freedom, and I can still be an inspiration and motivator for people because now I can balance my life with my fitness goals.

They say that a lot of women experience the same emotions post-competition, so I suppose in a way I’m just as normal as any other, especially having been to therapy twice for a body image disorder. This has been just a taste of what’s to come to prepare me even further for next season. In the meantime I’m continuing to make meal plans and work towards my goals; I’m gaining muscle, but still leaning out a little for beer, I mean bikini season, and I’m doing it at my own pace. I forgot for awhile that I dove into the world of fitness for the health reasons, and there’s nothing healthy about a woman with 8% body fat.  As I prepare my body for next season’s torture I’m going to continue to experiment with what works best for me mind, body and soul, and I’m going to continue to share my story in hopes that someone can relate and gain a little peace of mind knowing they aren’t alone either.

 

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Dat off-season back, doe!

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That Was Short-Lived

It turns out that my season was over before it even began, and in case you were wondering, I’m devastated.

I spent 7 solid weeks prepping for what I thought was going to be an epic competition season.  After much debate prior, my boyfriend boosted my ego by telling everyone and their mother’s (or just his) that I was going to rock the stage again.  I would overhear my customers at the bar telling their friends, “She’s competing this year.” I would get applauded for busting out my protein shaker mid-shift. I attended parties with my tupperware and even sported a lunch box to the bowling alley on more than one occasion.

With 9 weeks left til competition number 1 I realized I was going to need some outside help with posing and contest prep, and at this stage in the game I was willing to shell out between $500 and $1000 for that help.  I figured driving back and forth to Slidell weekly to see my current coach was going to cost me just as much in gas, so why not pay for someone local? Much to my dismay, there is nobody that was willing to take me on.  After seeking out two other trainers, I was told by both: “It will take more than just a few months to reverse the damage already done to your body.”

Damage? What do you mean damage? I was in peak physical condition and continuing to look better day in and day out. Metabolic damage? Cardio overload? Caloric deficient? I felt like I was in rehab for anorexia a third time. I’ve spent years trying to correct the mental damage done to my body, and by putting on healthy weight I assumed I’d corrected the physical damage. I guess I was wrong. Apparently the roller coaster my body has been through in the last 7 weeks is enough to deter two trainers, and I’m out of options as to where else to look for help.  I’m at this crossroads: do I continue to further damage my body (though they haven’t explained to me exactly what that means), or do I postpone my goals until next season when I have ample time and proper help with my diet and routine?

Someone told me to look at this as a blessing in disguise. It’s like getting bonus prep time, and I’ve always thought that if you want something to last you need to do it right the first time. So I won’t be stepping onto stage this season, and as heartbreaking as it is, it does feel pretty amazing to get in the gym and throw some heavy ass weight around again.

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Just squatting my 190lb boyfriend on a Friday night

I could pout, drown myself in Quest bars, and assume that woe is me, I’ll never achieve my fitness goals, but what are fitness goals? When is enough enough? I’ve preached for years that this is a lifestyle, so in a sense nothing has really changed. I’m just going to wait a little longer to reveal my hard work. But I’m also not going to gorge myself on pizza and beer (except for St. Patrick’s Day…because I am an Irish redhead after all), I’m going to continue working hard, I mean it’s still bikini season!

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Why My Diet Won’t Work For You

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about diet, and while nutrition is one of my strong suits, I am by no means qualified to give anyone a 100% fool-proof plan.  I have taken countless classes, read hundreds of articles, and experimented with my own body, but there are so many other elements that factor into the perfect balance of diet and nutrition.  I’ve also been asked by quite a few women (and a couple men) for my “secret” or my “diet;” so this is my opportunity to clear the air and address those topics.

Firstly, I’m extremely knowledgeable of the human body after nursing school, clinicals, managing a health facility and training for countless races, pageants, competitions and being an athlete since I can remember. Does that make me the guru of wellness? Of course not; I’m not even sure that exists. Everything you’ve heard or read can be misinterpreted or countered by an opposing study.  There has been evidence that weight loss is possible by restricting your diet to 30 days of only doughnuts. But a diet high in carbs, trans fats and sugars is going to wreak havoc on other health factors like cholesterol, muscle mass, diabetes and heart disease. But hey, at least you’ll be skinny-fat! So I encourage you to quit being lazy, avoid that “magic pill” that everyone is advertising, and simply educate yourself on the facts. Stop Eating Crap.

That being said, I learned in nursing school that there are thousands upon thousands of Americans who simply lack proper health education.  Statistics that I assumed were common sense were trivial and incomprehensible to a vast majority of people.  Also, the economy often hinders the ability of many to shop smart and healthy.  That’s where my interest was first sparked. I can make a healthy dish off of Wal-Mart shelves (no offense) and I can name at least two healthy(er) alternatives to any one item you throw at me. How? Because I’ve done my research, because I want to live healthier and because I wanted to change my lifestyle without missing out on cheesecake, blueberry muffins and loaded pizza.

Someone once told me that if I wanted to lose weight I’d have to “eat less and move more,” and for a long time I believed that. However, living that way only made me miserable, ruined my perception of a healthy body, and left me struggling with an eating disorder for 5 years. Now I eat 6 meals a day, do an average half an hour of cardio a day, and weight train 4-6 days a week. I’m moving a hell of a lot more, but I’m also eating a lot more; and I’ve lost 17lbs in 4 months, all the while losing 3 pant sizes — Holy Thunder Thighs, Batman.

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So I think it’s clear I know what I’m doing, but really I’m just listening to my body. Some people should monitor their sodium intake due to heart conditions and high blood pressure, some should watch their sugar intake due to diabetes; there are so many other elements that factor into health besides being skinny, and some people are predisposed to holding on to more fat than others. So before you assume that you could adjust to my lifestyle, or that a diet plan I make for you will cure you of any issues, note that you could be wrong.

Not to mention that right now I’m on a strict diet as I journey to the stage.  My goal body fat percentage is around 10; which is extremely unhealthy for a woman my age.  This is a temporary adjustment to my clean-lifestyle. Plus, you really have to commit to a goal to eat the same flavorless crap everyday for 12 weeks.

Would I like to make meal plans for everyone? Sure, assuming they’d follow it, which a good portion of people won’t; but hey, it makes me cash money, so I don’t really care. I’ll only help those who want to help themselves, so in the mean time do a little research on your own and see where you get. #ToughLove

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Standing Alone

It’s so easy to be discouraged when you stand alone.

My schedule, if it were perfectly suited to this season, would go a little something like this:

5am — wake up. Breakfast.
630am — 1 hour cardio
8am — Shake
11am — Lunch
1pm — 1 hour weight training
2pm — Lunch 2
330pm — 1 hour cardio
5pm — Shake
530pm — Shower
8pm — Dinner
9pm — Bed

Exhilarating, right? But that’s the trouble. My life isn’t that simple. I’ve got friends, family, a puppy, a job and a life. I’m finding it fairly easy to balance it a vast majority of the time, but there are days that I just want to join in on everyone else’s fun. Those are the days that make this difficult.

I’m trying to remind myself to write on the days I feel strongest or most empowered, but with all of the Mardi Gras balls and festivities surrounding, I can only think of the events I’ll be missing or sitting on the sidelines.

It will be worth it.

Saturday nights. I’m exhausted from a week of balancing cardio, meals and my responsibilities. I want to let loose at work and have a few drinks at the back bar. Everyone is toasting and our hectic bartending is only relieved by the brief moments we come together for a shot. I can’t participate. Everyone raises a glass and I continue working. Sunday, everyone goes to eat pizza or BBQ or they search for crawfish, and I’m on my couch watching television or stuck on an elliptical.

And then I’m just complaining again. And I feel guilty. And I feel silly and gluttonous.

84 days. I’ve made too much progress to quit again this year. I won’t quit…

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