Putting in the effort for mental satisfaction

Today I had the chance to speak with my trainer, about transitioning from trainee to trainer. It’s always interesting to think about how you’ll approach teaching something to someone else. I used to tutor math, given guitar lessons.

I’m sure everyone has had a moment of “ohhhh, well, if you would’ve just said it like that! . .” Language and phrasing is really important.

So in readying my mind for this departure from student to teacher, I need to consider my demeanor. I need to consider if there is a way to better say things or act, in order to better serve my students.

I’ve realized that I don’t ever go halfway on anything, and that might come off as a bit intense, or even pretty smug in certain situations. My underlying theme of thought, or even an assumption, is “why be here if you aren’t going to do your absolute best?” And this has always served me well. This has always been my attitude when I played sports as a kid, all the way through varsity teams in high school.

I simply do not feel good when I’m not giving all I have to give at that very moment. And it doesn’t mean that I’m constantly putting out my strongest performance ever. It just means that, at that very moment, I may be achy and tired, but I’m going to muster up all the energy and effort I can right then and there. And I leave with no regrets.

So how do I pull that out of students? How do I promote an environment of 100%? I’m worried about that, because I want to make sure I’m feeling like I’m giving my all to them. But, when I go in and hear their stories about eating sandwiches and drinking margaritas, and then their bewilderment as to why they aren’t seeing any progress physically or mentally, I worry that this may be an uphill battle that will burn me out.

New Year New Career

I haven’t written anything since August, and it’s because everything was indecipherable and tangled, both personally and professionally . . . and then physically, as a result of the former two.  Without detail, my marriage hit its two-year anniversary as it was imploding.

While we were married for two years, we were together for over six. As a partnership, we created a successful business, bought a house, and made some small waves in the movement for marriage equality. Though it ended, I can’t call it a failure.

Anyway, I couldn’t really eat, because I was a ball of nerves from July through October. No real caloric intake resulted in weakness, and I was unable to move the heavy things like I was able to February through June.

But now, since October, I’m eating well, and I’m sleeping very well. I’m now rounding the corner to a full year of kettlebell training, and heading toward my first step in certifications for teaching others. I will be heading for my first certification (HKC) in March. Thereafter, I will begin training for other certifications.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited. I’m excited to transition over to teaching others about strength training, hoping to focus on adolescent & adult women and the queer community within the urban setting. I’ve always wanted to work in a health-related field, starting out as pre-med in college, toying around with the idea or nursing and midwifery, and eventually finishing my academic career focusing on how a neighborhood’s design can affect the health of its residents.

All of this really does feel like it is coming together. I will be able to work with people one-on-one to foster positive changes in their lives. I will get to do something that comes very naturally to me, and make a living from it. Working won’t be work.

I am truly fortunate.


Stress and my reactions

This past month has been so stressful on so many fronts, and my body is paying the price. 

or is it only if I make it?

I’m sort of torn about this really. In my head, I want to lift. I want to work out. But my body is telling me to slow it down. And I suppose it is right that I tune in and listen. 

This week, I am constantly fatigued, my joints are terribly achy, and I just want to eat all of the carbs and watch all of the netflix. This really doesn’t happen to me for more than a day here and there, certainly not a week. But the joint pain is really odd. That never happens at all.

So, because I’m stressed, my body is all like “let’s watch Gilmore Girls and eat Chinese food three times this week” and I have zero endurance at the gym, and it makes me depressed to worry about it, I’m just going to embrace it. But with a deadline.

I’m going to do the netflix and the eating, but I’m going to gear it toward nesting for the fall, hoping to make it somewhat productive, instead of just eating so many carbs and sugar that I become a walking case of candida. 

So I will go to lift heavy shit, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I have to downgrade to a lighter bell, or if I’m gasping for air. I’m going to eat all of the food, but I’m going to make sure I’m cooking it all from scratch, like I actually prefer, rather than memorizing a takeout menu. 

This month has beaten me down, and I’m going to just let my bod take a little mental health break. But next week, it is on like Donkey Kong. I’m never going to give up ice cream, though. 

Cook More and Prosper

I’ve been following a lean eating guide, which Janelle Pica put together for us at the studio.  The short story is that I really wasn’t eating nearly enough.  I naturally keep a pretty tight eating window, about 11am-8pm, or a 8:16 eating to fasting ratio for all of your intermittent fasters.  Before, I was really only eating one large meal and one smaller one, likely only to get about 1300-1700 Calories in during the day.  This plan changed all of that.  I’m now set to target about 3000-3300 Calories a day, on the days I’m lifting, and doing about 30% less on non-active days.

So, I thought, why not? Let’s try this as an experiment.  I gave it a go for 3 weeks, and then I went on a trip for the final week and didn’t worry about tracking macros or counting calories at all.  What happened was I took about a week to get used to shoving all of that food down my gullet.  But then after that, I got into the swing of things.  I say “all of that food,” because anyone trying to eat 3000 Calories of real food, cooked from real ingredients, will tell you how much food that really is.  Sure, I could have knocked out 3000 Calories at McDonald’s without a problem, but what’s the point in working so hard if I’m just going to sabotage myself?

This plan is designed to simultaneously cut fat and build muscle, which is a delicate balance.  By the time I was in my second week, I was humming along; third week, even better.  So at the middle of the fourth week, I went on a trip to Lexington, KY.  While I was there, I didn’t worry about getting in all the Calories, or keeping track of my macros.  I just ate when Meg ate.

I didn’t lift at all, but did some biking and a reasonable amount of walking.  One day, I did work on a farm and helped weed and do small stuff there.  The fat was just melting off my body.  My shorts would not stay up.  I felt like my body was eating itself.  It was like my metabolism kicked into its primal instinct mode, and flipped the switch from feast to famine.

Because I wasn’t tracking anything, I can’t be certain, but I estimate that I was hitting my basal metabolic caloric needs each day.  I was eating about 2 meals a day, which was my norm before this experiment, and I was having a cocktail or two per day.

Once I got home, I stepped on the scale.  I knew that I had lost some weight, just by how my clothes felt, and how I felt springy and lean.  But honestly, I thought maybe it was just 3-4lbs, as I don’t lose weight very quickly at all.  I was only gone for 5 days, but I ended up losing 10lbs.

This lean eating thing is no joke.  I plan to keep doing this all the way through training for my SFG level 1.

But I did have one concern about eating this much.  I’m not worried about too much fat, as I eat all grassfed meat and dairy.  And I wasn’t worried about too much sugar, as I rarely eat anything that isn’t meat or veg (‘cept ice cream, gotta eat the ice cream).  But I was worried about small things like hitting the mark for micronutrients, and if worrying if I’m getting too much sodium on a daily basis.

Typically, I use the LoseIt! app to track macros and caloric levels, but they have a pretty expensive premium upgrade.  After looking around and researching other apps, I settled on a $3 app called My Macros+.  Since tracking on this app, I’m able to input different goals (e.g. maintenance and inactive days), and I can see some micronutrient data.  I am consistently falling below the daily recommended max of 1500mg of sodium, even eating about 3300 Calories.

Which leads me to this: if everyone had the time and luxury of cooking every meal at home, and not eating out of packages, we’d never have to worry (or worry a whole lot less) about killing ourselves via diet. Ideally: work less/cook more = live long and prosper.

And here is a photo of my kitten, Ellsworth, wanting to lift the things:IMG_2839


progress thus far

i began all of this in mid February (2015). it was such an easy decision to make, because i just felt so terrible. i was so slow at work, often huffing and puffing around. and I just overall felt very stiff and inflamed. my joints, especially in my hands, were quite tight. it was uncomfortable to make a tight fist. it was such an easy decision to make, because how could it possibly get any worse?

“You can’t get better ’til you’re worse” – the wise sages, Tegan & Sara

so here i am, it is june. so what is that….3.5 months into this journey? i feel fantastic, which is great. but i’m a numbers person. so let me break it down.

i began with these measurements:

  • waist: 44 inches
  • arm: 14 inches
  • quad: 26 inches
  • calf: 19 inches

and just 4 weeks ago, I could strict press 20kg — but this was if i was well-rested and ate well. usually i was rocking the 16kg as my typical max press.

and this is where i am currently:

  • waist: 39 inches (5 inches lost since mid February, THREE inches lost since just the beginning of May!)
  • arm: 15.5 inches (i had actually gone down to 13.5 inches by May, but the pressing program we did added 2 inches to my arm = made amazing progress with my strict press)
  • quad: 25 inches
  • calf: 19 inches

and just last week i achieved a strict press of 26kg. hot damn!!


always satisfied, which is new

i had talked about how when i was growing up, it was dead in the middle of the low-fat, fat-free, non-fat craze. and i have many memories of just eating insane amounts of food. first, i was a growing and active adolescent. but second, and more importantly, all of the “food” i was eating was a complete sham. it was low-fat, and if it was low-fat then you were safe and you could have as much as you wanted.  which was a good thing, because satiety was never ever part of eating those things.

i remember going to the pool during the summer, and my mom bringing along a family-sized bag of twizzlers. she and the rest of us would eat them as if we were chain smoking. it said right on the label “a fat-free food.” and then there was jello pudding cups, fat-free and sugar free of course. but egg yolks were full of cholesterol, which would make you fat. and so were nuts, and red meat, so all of those things weren’t on the approved list.

i also remember eating bowl after bowl of cereal. it didn’t matter what time of day. i could eat a box of cereal in 24 hours.

never ever satisfied.

i wasn’t satisfied, because i wasn’t supposed to be. it wasn’t in the best interests of general mills or post to get their customers to eat less. they wanted me to do exactly what i was doing. i couldn’t get enough, because my body was just scavenging for any source of nutrition available, and i just kept feeding it the skeleton of a food-like product: highly processed, sugar coated, low-fat, corn-based everything.

now, i am a big fan of intermittent fasting. i do it because it helps me burn this layer of blubber off my stomach, but i also do it because it comes naturally to me. i eat one large meal for lunch around noon, and then maybe 2 small snacks or a small meal later in the evening after going to the kettlebell studio.  i basically have an 8 hour eating window. this is to encourage my body to become a fat burning machine, rather than the sugar burning machine i created in my adolescence.

i said this all comes naturally to me, and it totally does. once i really dug into the paleo/primal thing, eating things with as much good fat as possible, in the way of a ketogenic routine, i was completely satiated. i didn’t need to eat much more than what i could consume in that 8 hour block.

when i tell people that sometimes i only eat once every 24 hours, they look at me like i’m crazy, and then quickly jump to “well no wonder you’re heavy! you’re slowing down your metabolism!” yeah, well, they should’ve seen me before. i’m gaining muscle, and i’m consistently dropping poundage on the scale.

to all the people who want to constantly eat small meals (and who aren’t trying their hand at being a competition body builder): have fun with you consistently elevated blood sugar and crashing out after meals.

i can’t tell you how much fun it is to eat! to create new dishes. to stretch my abilities. and i really don’t eat all that much, but when i do, it’s just so fucking delicious.

grassfed steak, wild caught shrimp, broccoli

grassfed steak, wild caught shrimp, broccoli

curing acanthosis nigricans with diet

from about 2010-2013 i had a very dark ring around my neck. i knew that it was insulin settling under my skin, and i was insulin resistant. i knew this, because when i was in high school, my physician thought i was fat and sent me to see a nutritionist through children’s hospital of pittsburgh. this actually ended up being a program where they did coach me on nutrition (always included a nice serving of whole grains), put me in a pod and had me breath into a tub (this was to read my body composition) and then did regular blood sugar testing, where i had to drink the orange sugar syrup and have blood drawn. and then they put me on metformin.

i knew about that dark ring around the neck, or the “dirty collar” as they called it, because they talked about it when they were trying to find it on me as a 15 year old. they didn’t find it. i was 160lbs, 5’3, and a year round athlete with 24 percent body fat (i oddly remember that from our athletic program physicals). and they still put me on metformin. it made me so sick. the worst stomach cramps. i think i was on it for about a month when my aunt and uncle found out, a pharmacist and physician, respectively. i remember they looked at me like “why the fuck are you on that?” and they laid out a plan to get off the meds. i’ve never actually thanked them for doing that, and i probably should.

but i did eventually end up seeing that dark ring around my neck years later. i had gained a bunch of weight (and a happy relationship — we were nesting, ok?) and i felt like crap. i was always fit before and this time, i was exactly what that program at children’s hospital had wanted, seriously obese at about 245lb at my heaviest.  i had that dark ring around my neck for about 4 years. so i’m sure that i probably went from insulin resistant to diabetic, but i never went to the doctor. and then i stopped eating wheat.

it was gone in 2 weeks.

Acanthosis nigricans, before and after beginning a paleo/ketogenic diet

Acanthosis nigricans, before and after beginning a paleo/ketogenic diet

kettlebells and burning fat (making muscle)

at the beginning of this year, around mid-february, i decided to finally make the jump into trying out kettlebell exercises. for a long while, i have been into the paleo thing and i have always been very interested in nutrition and food. and i do love a good podcast. so, combining all of those things, i was listening to the paleo lifestyle and fitness podcast by sarah fragoso and jason seib. both of these people advocate for a clean eating lifestyle, without grains or seeds of grass, but with meat, seafood, vegetables, eggs, and just generally eating these things in a very nutritionally dense way, such as choosing grassfed beef and dairy over grain fed.  but what they also support is weight training, or “lifting heavy things” as jason says over and over.  this all ultimately led me to seeking out local like minded people to coach me.  i did look into crossfit, and it seems cool, but knowing what i know now, i’m very happy i ended up going with kettlebells.

so i dug around on google and i found a kettlebell studio in pittsburgh. i went in, ended up signing up for a year right then and there. i’m insanely happy that i did, because weight training has changed my life and my outlook on fitness. and now i’m planning to become a certified russian kettlebell instructor.

i was always on team sports in high school, and i always was the slowest, and i absolutely dreaded the days where our coach would send us out for a run around campus. who the fuck wants to go on a several mile run in the middle of january? but it was always just sort of assumed that that was how you got into shape for the season, and no, not soccer season or basketball. it was softball, where you really do not need the endurance of a long distance runner. also, now that i look back on it, why did they never have us in the weight room? i would have been able to (assuming proper training and form) hit the ball much further and been much more explosive in my sprints — but that’s all in the past.  my point is that the entire sports program was so lopsided and didn’t teach women how to properly weight train (or weight train really at all), and when we did have our weight training unit in gym class, it was on machines, never free weights, and we never learned form.  but running we did. lots of cortisol releasing, stress fracture inducing running. and we “carbed up,” which was (now I know) the exact opposite thing my body needed.

i’m not cut out for eating a carb heavy diet, and definitely not wheat. i should’ve been training my body to be a fat burning machine, rather than a sugar burning machine.  now that i’ve learned all of this, thankfully before i was old enough to do really permanent damage to my body, i live a life fueled on locally raised grassfed and organic meats, eggs, butter and vegetables.  i even eat lots of grassfed cheese and milk. curiously, i was lactose intolerant as a kid and into my early twenties, but once i started getting grassfed organic milk and cheese from a csa, i never had an issue.

so i guess what i’m saying is, everything is falling into place and i’m turning my health around in a grand way. i’m going to talk about all of the results, too.