Beauty & Body Image

What is Precision Nutrition?

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Me holding a pair of my old jeans from my heaviest weight of 235lb

Last July I signed up for Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating program and now the program is wrapping up so I thought it would be a good time to share a little bit about my experience. First you should know that I thought about signing up for the program for 3 years before I actually decided to do it. It took me a long time to swallow my pride and ask for help.  You should also know that I do not work for them or have any reason to support them other than the fact that I loved the program and it was a game changer for me.

Intellectually, I know a lot about training and nutrition. In addition to being a registered nurse, I have a master’s degree in exercise physiology and have been a personal trainer for almost 10 years. Asking for help seemed like admitting failure. I even signed up for Precision Nutrition’s certification program with the intention that I could self-teach myself the program. Although I think the nutrition certification program is excellent, it is not the same as experiencing Lean Eating as a participant and I am so glad that I had the courage to sign up.

So what exactly is the program?

Lean Eating is a year-long online group coaching program that focuses primarily on nutrition and developing healthy lifestyle habits. Every 2 weeks you work on developing a new habit and every day you have a new lesson related to the habit that you are working on. You also have access to a coach, mentors, online group meetings, forums, a private facebook group, and support through email.

The program also provides a workout plan that changes every 4-6 weeks but if it is too easy or too hard you can make adjustments or follow your own training plan. Personally, I found the first workout program easy but it also focused on functional training and strengthening muscles that I didn’t train very often so I followed it anyway. As the program continued and my goals changed (I decided to compete in a fitness show) I hired Brad Fowler, an excellent trainer who works at The Athletic Club in London, Ontario, to design my workouts for me. I still trained on my own in the gym but he has a lot of experience training competitors and has been incredibly helpful.

Lean Eating is not a diet and it does not provide meal plans for you to follow and to me this is one of the best things about the program. Vegan? No problem. Paleo? No problem. You get the idea. In the past I have followed many different programs and diets and successfully lost weight – temporarily. The weight always came back once I stopped following the plan.

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My weight fluctuations over the past few years

Lean Eating is different because it helps you examine your eating habits and your lifestyle while creating positive changes. Before starting the program I had lost 50lb on my own after having my son but I was still engaging in self-sabotage by snacking when I was bored or lonely and I was really hard on myself.  Over the last year I have lost another 15lb and changed my body composition (I am currently 165lb and 5’8″ tall).  More importantly, I have changed on the inside and developed new ways of thinking and living.  You can’t see that in a picture but I am a much happier person.

It was also great to have support from my Lean Eating teammates, mentors, and coach because it has been a safe place to share struggles, insights, and successes. I used to think that it was a sign of weakness to ask for help but now I understand how important it is to have support on your journey. The photoshoot at the end was really nerve-wracking for me but I’m really happy that I did it. It definitely boosted my confidence and made me realize how much I have changed over the last year.

One of my fave shots from my celebration photoshoot

One of my fave shots from my celebration photoshoot with Dave Laus

Lean Eating isn’t for everyone but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way and is ready to change. Even if Lean Eating is not for you, I think everyone can benefit from coaching and ongoing personal and professional development so I encourage you to seek out people to help you on your journey.

Have a wonderful day!

Emily

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4 weeks out and a photoshoot

postSince my last post a few things happened. I took some days off training, I applied to teach a kinesiology course about physical activity and aging, and I had my first real photoshoot with an amazing photographer to celebrate my Lean Eating journey with Precision Nutrition (more about that next week). In retrospect planning to compete in a fitness event in June was probably not the best timing with all of the things I have going on in my life. I am moving into a new place at the end of May and trying to write my dissertation proposal while trying to lean down. As you know, stress is not beneficial for body composition and training hard also requires a lot of rest and sleep (which I don’t get enough of!).

So here’s my confession, so to speak. I have committed to doing this show on June 21st but now I’m sitting on the fence about doing it. I am absolutely thrilled with the photos from yesterday but it made me question why I want to do the show in the first place. I think it’s really great to have fitness goals but I really like my body right now. I don’t need a panel of judges to tell me I’m beautiful (or not). I realize that I’m not as lean as most people get for fitness shows but I also eat whatever I want (granted, I often want to eat kale salad or broccoli & tempeh stirfry, but I do eat homemade bread and go out for ice cream too) and I am healthy and happy.

Don’t get me wrong, training for a fitness show is hard work and not everyone can do it, but fitness (and life) is about more than just looking good. I remember a few months ago I was working out at my gym and an older gentleman asked me what I was training for. I chuckled and told him I was training for life; for playing with my son at the park and carrying my groceries; for helping me with my job as a nurse; for being healthy and strong.

I’m still not sure if I’m going to do the fitness show but I had a fantastic leg workout tonight and will continue to enjoy my training. I also wanted to share a few of my favourite photos from yesterday (none of them have retouched) and encourage you to eat real food, lift weights, and  toss out your scale.  I am 165lb at 5’8″ and a size 8. I can do real pushups, deadlift 200lb, squat 165lb, and bench 120lb. Still working on those pullups 😉

Keep it real and have a wonderful night!

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6 Weeks Out!

Thought I would give a little update on how my unconventional show prep is going.

The last month I have added in a few morning cardio sessions (3-4 times/week).  I’m actually really enjoying these. I am planning to do a triathlon as my next fitness goal so I’ve been running, swimming, and spinning on my road bike. Swimming is probably my fave because it’s so relaxing and the upper body strength gains I have made over the last year have made me more powerful 🙂

Nutrition wise, I still don’t count calories or macros and listen to my body.  My focus is on choosing fresh, healthy foods that have lots of nutrients (kale salad with tempeh, shredded apple, carrot & beet has been a fave as of late).  I also eat slowly and listen to my hunger cues.

My body weight hasn’t really changed but I think that I am getting a little leaner.  My immune function is not that great and I’ve been getting sick on and off since Christmas however I’m pretty sure that has more to do with living with a toddler than anything else.  I am working on getting more sleep – not always an easy task.

Anyway, here are some photos from this morning of my progress 🙂

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Vegetarian Contest Prep

One of my fitness goals has been to be in a fitness show again – I hesitate to say the word “compete” because for me personally just getting on that stage is success.  So about 3 weeks ago I decided to sign up for a local show on June 21st.  I sat down and planned out a “show prep diet” using logic, math, and counting macronutrients in foods.   I created a rotating carb/calorie cycling diet and made sure to fuel my workouts.  Most of my friends who compete in fitness eat meat so I thought I was doing it right to include a lot of meat in my diet plan – even though I know it’s really bad for the environment.  The result?  I couldn’t eat all of the food, felt sick, and got constipated (despite a fibre supplement and lots of veggies).  I was seeing results from the diet in terms of my body composition but I felt terrible (morally and physically).

Thinking there must be a better way to do this I searched for vegan fitness competitors and found out that there are actually starting to be more and more of them.  Alas, hope!  The interesting thing I found was that most of them eat a pretty balanced diet that includes lots of legumes and starches, as well as high protein supplements like Vega protein powder which is much more nutritious than plain old whey protein and also provides lots of iron.  So anyway, on the weekend I decided to ditch my carefully planned carnivore diet for a vegetarian one (I still eat eggs and some dairy) and use the principles of Lean Eating (i.e. listening to my body instead of eating by the clock or based on a strict menu).  Only a few days later and I feel a million times better and I am leaning down as well.  While I am excited about the show and achieving my goal, it is also important to me that I feel good and have energy to play with my son and write papers, etc.  After all, fitness is part of my life, not my whole life!

Things I eat include: lentil stew with brown rice, squash, yams, tempeh/tofu stirfry, tofu pad thai, toasted chickpeas, oats, protein pancakes & shakes, fruit, almond and peanut butter, hemp, quinoa, and of course lots of veggies!   I also eat eggs and some Greek yogurt here and there.   I also don’t keep track of calories or count anything because it drives me insane (which is interesting considering that I am a quantitative researcher who loves stats).  For me, listening to my body has been much more successful and is a lot less stressful.

Here’s a few progress update pictures from this morning (1o weeks out from the show) – note the amazing tan…just kidding.   Not sure how I will look in 10 weeks but so far this has been really interesting and I’ve learned a lot about my body and myself.

Front pose - 10 weeks out

Front pose – 10 weeks out

Back pose - 10 weeks out

Back pose – 10 weeks out

My Precision Nutrition Adventure!

emilyIn July I started the Lean Eating Coaching Program with Precision Nutrition and I LOVE IT!!   Here’s a picture of me this week, almost 1 year after having a baby and 8 weeks into lean eating.  Even though I know a lot about nutrition and exercise, I think the secret to weight loss is to have support and accountability from people who know what they are doing.  Yes, even trainers can benefit from having a trainer!

Life has been super busy and I haven’t been posting very often but I hope that your fitness adventure continues to go well!  I am starting year 2 of my PhD in nursing, doing research, publishing papers, helping teach university classes, working P/T as a nurse, and having a blast being a mom!  My workouts have been more HIIT-style workouts in my living room with a few pieces of equipment and that has been working well for me.  I also hit the gym whenever I am able to 🙂  Some days I am tired but I always feel better after a workout, even if it’s just a small one.  Every little bit counts!!   Sure, we all have lots on the go and don’t always feel like running a marathon (or even a 5k) but it’s not about being “perfect”!   We can only live one day at a time and we can only do our best, whatever that is today.  Over time, it will get easier, we will get stronger, and we will surprise the heck out of ourselves!

Hope this post finds you well!  Happy Saturday!!

~Live Inspired~!

Emily

Chasing Happiness

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Some people search elusively for happiness, always imagining that there is something better elsewhere.  Sadly, they miss out on a lot of joy because of it.  Life is never going to be “perfect” and while I do encourage people to dream big and pursue their dreams, the journey is just as important as the destination.  After all, you never really know what’s round the corner.

I dated a guy once who was obsessed with collecting memorabilia.  While he did have some interesting and valuable items, he spent most of his time and energy searching for the next thing.  After a few months I realized that he spent hours upon hours scouring the internet and talking on the phone making deals with people to buy and sell things.  He was addicted to the thrill of novelty and the idea that what he already had wasn’t enough.  It was exhausting.

It is so easy to get caught up in what we don’t have or what we are not.  That “if only I lost 20lb, I’d be happy” mentality.  There is absolutely no reason why you can’t be happy right now, exactly how you are, in the middle of whatever crap you are going through.  And yes, it might be a terrible time but there is always a bright side to everything.  Ironically, the more accepting you are of yourself, the easier it will be to actually lose that extra weight or achieve those fitness goals of yours. 

Cultivating Happiness:

1. Say thank you regularly.  I keep a gratitude list on my phone.  When I am waiting for the bus, I am reminded of all of the things (and people) that are wonderful in my life rather than focusing on what I don’t have (like a car).

2. Do activity that makes your heart smile.  Yesterday I was talking with my sister and she mentioned how important play is in her life.  I completely agree with her.  Stop taking fitness so seriously and be active because it is fun!  Do Zumba, take a dance class, learn a new sport, play soccer…run with the sunrise, jump in a lake, have a paddleboard race in the ocean, or go snowshoeing.  There is so much more to fitness than just lifting weights and “doing cardio” in a gym.

3. Surround yourself with positive people.  Attitudes are contagious so be selective about the people you spend your time with.  Who inspires you and encourages you to be your best?  And on the flip side, what messages are you sending out into the world?  How can you be more positive?

Lastly, it’s okay not to be happy all the time.  There will be workouts that suck or days when nothing seems to go right.  The key is to try to be aware of your reaction to these things, accept them, and move forward.

 

~Live Inspired~!

Emily

A New Year, A Fresh Start

Over the last several years I have achieved many fitness goals.  I have run a half marathon, competed in a Fitness America Pageant bikini competition, lifted more than my body weight, and at times have been able to do pull-ups.  I have mastered the burpee and the pushup.  I have done yoga and let my yoga practice go by the wayside.  I have watched the sun set and rise while biking to work with my giant pregnant belly.  It’s been a fitness adventure, to say the least.

Over the holidays I have had some time to reflect and think about how the choices I’ve been making (or not making) reflect my values and beliefs.  Many of my choices come from insecurity and a desire to be beautiful.  I struggle a lot with my body image and always have.  In high school I played varsity sports and my nickname was Butch. I was a strong, athletic girl who lifted heavy weights and played basketball with the boys in the gym at lunch time while the pretty girls sat on the stage with perfect makeup and styled hair.  Looking back, I loved playing basketball with those guys every day and wouldn’t trade those times for all the dates in the world!

It’s not easy living in our culture which tends to promote materialism and superficial ideals of beauty.  Unfortunately for me,  I think trying to live up to the beauty ideal  attracted a guy who wanted me because of that instead of all the other things I have to offer.  So here I am with a beautiful baby boy, still single, and searching to understand why things are the way that they are.   It would be easy to blame myself – to tell myself that I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not whatever enough…but that’s all bullshit.  The truth is that I am a strong, educated, and independent woman and perhaps some people can’t handle that.  The question I want to know the answer to is: why do gender roles still matter?   Why do we define masculinity and feminity the way that we do?  And why on earth am I spending so much time and energy trying to attain a standard of beauty that is unsustainable and bad for my mental health?

My body image has affected me in more ways than I would like to admit.  For quite some time I have waffled back and forth between a plant-based diet and one with lots of meat and animal products.  Somewhere I have it in my head that I have to choose between being lean and eating a plant-based diet.  While this may seem ridiculous to anyone who knows a vegetarian or vegan athlete, I bought into the idea that meat = muscles.  For me, eating meat was a choice to chase my ideal physique rather than stick to my ethical values and beliefs about food.  I justified my large carbon footprint because I wanted to be beautiful, and in my mind that meant eating meat.

It’s time to make a different choice and live in a way that reflects my values.  I love the planet.  I love fresh air and the salty ocean, grassy fields and wooded trails.  We need nature and there is only so much of it (and we are destroying what’s left).  I want to walk more lightly on the Earth and lower my carbon footprint.   In my opionion one of the best things I can do to help the environment is eat less meat so this year I am going to transition back to a plant-based diet. 

The other thing that I really want to work on this year is my body image.  In some ways, being a single mom makes this a lot easier because I’m only interested in dating someone if they are awesome (which, really, why shouldn’t that have been the case before?).  In other ways, it makes it harder because there’s always that little voice telling me that nobody’s going to want me unless I’m pretty.  My challenge to myself is to redefine what beauty means and focus on being a beautiful person instead of just how I look on the outside.

~Live Inspired~!

Emily