Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Lately I've been getting quite a lot of positive comments about my abs on my new professional pics I posted here on Spark, mostly because I've had four babies and women are marveling at how I got my abs into the shape they are in. While I really appreciate the positive comments (Keep 'em up!), I want to be really honest about a few things:
1.) I have a little loose skin in my stomach, and the skin around my belly button is droopy. (I also have stretch marks, although they have really paled and blended over the years.) I almost had a tummy tuck because of it. I backed out at the last minute because I felt that the scar all the way across the bottom of my abs would look worse than the loose skin does. You don't see the loose skin in my photos because a.) I know how to pose (most of the time) to take up the slack. And b.) I'm not going to post pics that don't show me at my best! :-D
Except now. Here's some pics of me all stretched out and looking the way I want to for pics:
And here's reality (smaller like these the loose skin isn't showing up, but the full-size you can really see it):
2.) Given that, I think I got blessed in the skin elasticity department. I have God to thank for this. Yes, I work out like a fiend and eat right to have very little fat over those muscles and look as good as possible, but there is NOTHING I did after birthing four babies to make the skin as tight as it is. This was just God in my corner. (I think He was making up for the cellulite and broken spider veins in my legs and bum.)
3.) I can thank my Mom for my waist-to-hip ratio. I believe that if she'd taken better care of herself I'd be bearing LOT of resemblance to her in the body department right now. So while I have had to work hard (really, really hard!) to get the body I have, being able to get a waist to 25" after multiple pregnancies is something that not everyone can do, because not everyone has the genes I do. Again, I lucked out on this one.
4.) Thank you very much for the compliment, but I do NOT have a six pack! A six-pack is the wash-board look of horizontal lines going across the abs. It's stunning, but I don't have that. Wish I did, have been shooting for it for years now, but don't and probably never will. Why do I doubt this? Because even when I was a 5'8" 135-lb size 4 19 year-old with a 22" waist (yes, you read that right!) who had never experienced childbirth I STILL didn't have a six-pack. I have muscular abs, but it's not a six-pack. I think this is a genetic thing, too.
The fact is that we all have our strong points. Abs are one of mine, and I have learned to enhance and draw attention to them. It's because I want to draw attention AWAY from my least-favorable area, my legs. And I've built up my shouders to help even out my hips. If you have a good shoulder line, work on making those delts more defined! Legs? Put on a cute little skirt and show 'em off! (I envy you!). I have good abs and I work to make 'em better. Play up your assetts!
And never stop lifting and trying to improve- you'd be amazed how what you consider one of your worst parts can turn into one of your best. Who knows? Maybe one day I'll have the hard legs and a tush that have eluded me for so long now........
Sunday, May 08, 2011
One of the keys to losing and now maintaining my weight has been drinking copious amounts of water (rarely less than 1 and sometimes up to 2 gallons a day). I promised someone a while back who was surprised I considered it so important that I would post a blog on the subject. I'm finally making good on that promise.
Here are a few of the many benefits of drinking plenty of water (not zero-calorie beverages: WATER!)
- Let's start with the most motivating one: Water helps waste move through the body in a mighty way. This means that a bunch of crud won't be hanging around inside you so you're more likely to weigh less on the scale in the mornings (after you've peed), because the content of your intestines will weigh less. Full intestines can cause several pounds of scale weight gain if you are.... er..... stopped up. So drinking water helps to give you a truer scale weight.
-Water helps to break down the nutrients in your food better, thus increasing your metabolism. Not only that, if you are getting the nutrients you need the chances of cravings is reduced.
- Water helps regulate blood sugar, which helps insulin levels to stay steady, also reducing your likelihood to overindulge in sweet stuff.
- Water helps to give your stomach a full feel so that you are less likely to overeat.
- Plenty of water in your system helps your body to keep you cool during workouts, therefore allowing you to work out harder and get more bang for your exercise buck.
- Water is the primary ingredient in the synovial fluid around the joints, which allows them to move freely and gives them cushioning during your workouts.
There are a TON of other ways that water benefits the body, but these are ones that specifically relate to weight loss and fitness.
Generally speaking, you want to drink all the water you can. Someone noted in the comments on this blog that Spark says 5-6 cups of fluid a day is adequate and it doesn't all have to come from water. I've been seeing that Spark tries to keep things as easy for people to maintain as possible- They don't want you giving up! But if you want to take your body to the next level you are going to need to drink more than that. (I personally get way too hungry when my water is below about 12 cups a day and am almost guaranteed to binge.) Besides, I've never once heard of a figure competitor (which I aspire to look like) or any sort of serious athlete who doesn't drink way more than they traditionally accepted 8-cups of water a day.
Can you drink too much water? Yes- There is such a thing as water toxicity. But to get that you have to drink stupid amounts of water. The kidneys can process quite a lot of water an hour (over a quart) easily. You'd pretty much have to TRY to drink too much water to get water toxicity. Stay away from water-chugging contests and you'll probably be fine. :-)
And I know you are wondering..... Do I pee a lot? YES! But you don't pee out all that you drink- water goes out of you in other ways like sweat and respiration, too. And I will say that my bladder size has increased since increasing my water intake, so while I still visit the bathroom more often than most other adults I know, I'm not seeing the inside of the ladies room as often as I did this time last year.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I've been working with an individual who is in the middle of his weight loss journey. He has managed to lose about 40 pounds but still has at least that much to go and has hit a plateau. I asked him if he was logging everything that crossed his lips, explaining that most often eating plans don't work because the user is doing something wrong. He assured me that he was. So we bumped up his calories. Still no progress.
Than last week he called and said that he was looking at the back of his jar of olive oil and was stunned to see that it had 120 calories per Tablespoon. Turns out he had not been logging the points from his oils and condiments, thinking there were such small amounts that it wouldn't make any difference in his weight loss. I explained that these calories can add up very quickly and indeed stall well-intended weight loss efforts.
He said something that I was, quite frankly, relieved to hear. And that was; "I think that when I had more weight to lose I could get away with making mistakes like this, but now that I've lost some weight I have to be more diligent."
EVERYONE who is trying to lose weight should account for everything that crosses their lips, but it's especially important for people who have been on the weight loss journey a while. And when you get down very close to goal (within about 10 pounds or so) it is particularly important to be fastidious about logging virtually everything you eat and watch your macronutrient ratio. (I like 40% of calories from each carbs and protein and 20% from fats, as I blogged about in my "Moving Past a Weight Loss Plateau" blog a couple of months ago.)
Also, little things like the sugars in ketchup, eating bites off of your kids plates, and eating starchy snacks before bed (this can do a real number on your insulin levels, causing you to store fat instead of burning it while you sleep) can make the difference between losing weight or not.
So if the scale isn't moving-
1- Go back to the basics and re-read the ground rules of the program you are on.
2- Recommit to the plan in it's purest, un-you-if-ied form.
3- Measure everything- Portions tend to grow with time when you are eyeballing them.
4- Drink plenty of water each day. (I'm talking a gallon or more- no kidding!)
5- Most importantly, investigate the calories of EVERYTHING you eat, and log them.
Most times I am less likely to eat a handful of BBQ chips if I know I have to write it down and account for the calories and macronutrients.
It's the little things, I've found, that can make or break weight-loss success.
Monday, April 11, 2011
A common and often disappointing issue that competitors who have just been through a cutting diet experience is gaining most, if not all, of the weight that they lost through 12-16 weeks of grueling training and restrictive eating back within a few days after their show. I did a cutting diet of my own recently and managed to keep all but 3 pounds of the weight I lost off. Want to know my secret? Here it is:
Ease back into normal eating!
First of all, pay attention to when you are full. Most competitors have been eating such little bits of food leading up to the competition, with portions getting smaller and smaller as they get closer to the finish date, that their appetites have shrunk considerably. If you eat past when you are comfortably full because suddenly you have access to all the food your little heart desires, you are setting yourself up for bloat and the dreaded "carb spillage". If you don't do anything else in this blog, do this!
If you dehydrated (I wouldn't recommend it: it's a practice that is becoming less and less used, but some still do), don't slam back a gallon of water as soon as you are done with your show or photo shoot or whatever it was you were leaning-in for. After the shoot/photos, just drink to satisfy thirst. No pushing water like you did pre-contest. The next day, go up to 8 cups or so. The day after that, 12. You don't want to stay dehydrated, but I've found that if I flood my body with water after dehydrating it seems to hang on to every single drop for fear it won't see water again for a while. So give it time to readjust to being hydrated.
One aside- please don't think the instructions here will have you maintaining your dehydrated weight. I'd suspect you'll be able to stay very close to where you were before you dehydrated, but to stay at your dehydrated weight right after a show is not only unrealistic, but unhealthy.
If you sodium depleted (almost everyone does), ease back into sodium, as well. This is not the time to have six pieces of pizza and movie theatre popcorn! The day before and morning of my shoot I eliminated all salt possible in my foods. After the shoot we went out to Jimmy Johns for a sandwich. I got a six-inch Baja, and I am certain the lunch meat and condiments had plenty of sodium. But the rest of the day I took it easy on sodium . I didn't avoid it, but I didn't salt my foods and tried to make choices that were relatively low in salt.
Same goes for carbs. Yeah, I know you want to grab the donuts and whatever else crap they have backstage after the shoot, but if you give your carb depleted body a ton of 'em at once it's gonna hang on to those suckers for dear life, PLUS the accompanying water (3g for every g of carbs) that comes along with it. The next morning you're going to feel like you are 4 months pregnant! Like I said, I had my Jimmy Johns sandwich, but then the rest of the day I pretty much avoided carbs, except for the ones in produce. So pick one thing that will feel special to eat higher in carbs, but then go back to fairly low carbs for the rest of the day. The next day, ease carbs into two meals, then next three, etc.
Also, don't introduce a whole bunch of foods that your body has not been used to eating all at once. The sandwich had white bread, salty processed turkey meat, mayonnaise (yeah, I got the mayo!), pickles, and sprouts. Oh, and I split a package of BBQ Chips with my daughter. My body hadn't experienced foods like this in weeks. I figured that was enough "new" for one day. The rest of the day I didn't eat the exact same foods at the same times of the day I had through the cutting diet, but I DID eat pretty much the same TYPES of foods. (Snack was peanuts and dinner was an omelet with a side of fruit.)
I know it's hard to exercise restraint when you have felt deprived (and are just plain old hungry) after weeks of limited, repetitive, low carb, and dull food choices. But likely there is nothing you are going to eat today that won't be there tomorrow. So if you want to try and keep yourself fairly lean, pick one special meal to have that day, and keep it close to the vest the rest of the day.
And if you did pig out, take heart: I read somewhere that if you go back high carb/salt eating after a big gain following leaning in it takes the body about 2-3 weeks, but you CAN get most of the water weight back off. Of course, if you got extremely lean a little weight gain afterwards is to be expected and healthy, but you don't have to stay swelled up like a dead armadillo in the Alabama heat.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
I promised another Sparker that I would post about how I exercised during the 12-week Transformation Challenge with my gym. I feel an obligation, however, to point out that my changes came mainly from how I ate, not how I worked out. As I have said a ba-zillion times before, you can put on all the beautiful muscle in the world, but if it is covered by fat, no one is going to see it. AND, I might add, if you aren't eating right you aren't going to put on muscle that is as plentiful OR as beautiful.
Before I started the Challenge I was doing three sets of 15 reps per body part, for the most part. To elicit maximum growth and change during the 12 weeks I knew changing things up was going to be key.
Before lifting I always did/do 5-10 minutes of moderate paced cardio to warm up my muscles. Often I follow these few minutes of cardio with light stretching to further warm and lube everything up.
I followed every lifting session with thorough stretching, often my 15-minute stretch routine.
The first four weeks:
- The first set for a body part was about 12-15 reps with a moderate weight, just to make sure blood was pumping to the area. Then is was time to get down to business.....
- Three exercises per body part, three sets of 8-10 per exercise, aiming to max out by the last rep of the last two sets. This is a good range for building muscle, and I was still in building phase.
----------The exception to this was light leg day, where all sets were 15 reps. I felt two heavy days was risking injury. This doesn't mean it was easy, though. After the first set I still tried to make the weights heavy enough that I maxed at 15 reps. "Light" day is a harder workout than "heavy" day, and "light" day leaves me sorer after.
PLEASE NOTE!!!!!!: I do NOT recommend that beginners start out with trying to max out their weights! You have to condition yourself into this kind of intensity.
- My split was something ike this:
Mon- Light Thighs (2 exercises multi-joint, 3 ham/glute specific, 2 quad specific, 1 inner-thigh for a physical therapy reason), Cardio
Tues- Chest (5 exercises- needed to build)), Tri's (2 exercises- already built), Abs (3 exercises)
Weds- Back (3 exercises), Bi's (3 exercises), Calves (2 exercises- they already got hit pretty good with legs), Cardio
Thurs- Abs (5 exercises- mainly weighted), Cardio
Friday- Heavy Legs (2-3 multi-joint, 2-3 each quads and hams, 1 inner thigh), Delts (4-5 exercises- can always use wider shoulders!) Didn't do cardio this day-Longer lifting day and there was nothing left in me after heavy legs!
- Short rests between sets- Just long enough to feel the muscle normalize somewhat, then on to the next set.
- For cardio I did either 25 minutes of HIIT cardio (20 minutes HIIT with a 5-minute cool down), or 40 minutes of steady-state.
- I went to my favorite workout style, which is modified pyramids, doing reps of 12-8-4-12, aiming to max out on all but the first set, then immediately (no rest) switch to another exercise for the same body part and crank out 12-more reps, maxed. If I chose my weight wrong and couldn't get 12 out, or could get more reps out, I rested a few seconds, adjusted the weights, and did another set of 12.
-I kept the same split, for the most part, but added an abs session at home on Saturdays, usually Kari Anderson's "Curl" DVD.
-During this time my (former) nutritionist had me doing tons of cardio (I believe I was up to about 10 hours a week) on very low carbs. Because of this, I was compromised muscularly with so little glycogen in my cells and pulled a muscle in my scapula that put me out of commission for a week at week 7. That is why I only did this split for 3 weeks instead of the intended 4. When I was ready to go back to the gym I came in with phase 3, which was......
Weeks 8-12. It was time to go into fat burning mode:
- I started getting 1 hour of cardio first thing in the morning at home on an empty stomach.
- Mondays was a whole-body boot camp class at my gym. Multiple sets with lighter weight.
- Rest of the week I did sets of 20-25, with minimal rest in-between. 2 sets per exercise, I started with 3, but I felt the volume was going to become too much on my joints after my injury, so dropped it to 3 sets. Plus it was taking me too danged long to get out of the gym.
- Minimal rest (20-25 seconds) between sets.
- Roughly the same split Tues-Sat and number of exercises per body part I'd been doing the weeks prior. Leg day was also 20-25 reps, but I added in more glute-specific exercises.
- In addition to 6x/week early AM cardio, I kept up the hour of Wednesday evening cardio and added in 1/2 hour cardio on Tuesday nights while my daughter was at dance. I would have got more cardio in yet during these last weeks, but my shoulder was still not feeling 100% and I didn't want to further injure myself, so I took it a little easier than I would normally at the end of a cut.
My final weigh-in with the gym was Sunday morning at the end of week 12. By my scale I showed an 18 1/2 pound loss, by theirs just over 16. BUT I had gained about 8 pounds in water retention right before the initial weigh-in, so really it was about a 10 pound loss overall. Which isn't bad for 12 weeks. Again, if I'd of been doing it on my own the whole time instead of with help from a nutritionist who's instructions and meal plan actually set me back the first 7 weeks, I believe I could have been down further yet.
But it is what it is. That fact is that I gave it my best effort all along and did the best I could with what was dealt me.
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