12 Weeks Out… Again

Game On- 2014

Considering that my schedule this summer may prevent me from competing in the Florida show at the end of June that I had wanted to do, I’ve decided to go ahead and do the Lone Star competition with the Fitness America Pageant (FAP) again. This was the one I was going to do last year, but having my son on the GAPS diet got to be too much to deal with to be able to truly give my attention to competing. If it does work out that I can do Florida, then I’ll just be that much more ready.

It is going to be in Galveston on the 10th of May, which means that 11 weeks from yesterday is my show. Crazy to think how far away yet how close that seems. It’s another reminder for me that time passes whether or not I do anything to accomplish my goals.

Game On- 2014 12 Weeks Out

So, here is my check-in picture from 12-weeks out, no make-up or fancy hair, or even my suit. I really hate to post these pictures so far out. They do make me cringe. However, it’s part of the deal as a natural competitor.

I use food and exercise to build my physique and nothing else. There’s a lot of stuff out there that doesn’t get tested for and is still considered “legal” for competitors to use, and it might make competing easier.  However, I don’t think it’s safe or natural so I’m not going to use it.

During competition season I “diet-down” or “cut” which involves loss of body fat, water weight, and even a little bit of muscle, although if you do it right you don’t lose too much muscle. That means in the off-season I have to eat extra carbs in order to build my muscles. It also puts on extra fat, although my coach told me I’m not allowed to use the F-word to describe the less than desirable side effect of the building phase.

It’s for that reason that every show-package is different for a natural competitor. Over the next less-than-11-weeks I’ll be slowly and carefully peeling off the layers to reveal the musculature underneath. I’ve really been working my glutes over the last few months so I hope they are going to look better as they have always been my weakest muscle group.

This is really the first off-season that I have been really careful about what I was eating to build right. The other times I just ate about 80% clean and didn’t pay attention to portions. So this next few weeks and months will be like unwrapping a present to myself-  very, very slowly. I’ll post pictures again at 8 weeks, and then every two weeks after that until show-time so you can see the transformation. I also ordered a new suit in the off-season (Yay!) so I hope to have that by about 4 weeks out so you’ll see the pictures of that too.

I hope you enjoy the process!

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.


Why a Calorie is Not a Calorie When it Comes to Body Fat Loss- Part 3

I hope that you’ve paid attention to how you’ve felt after certain foods this past week. I know it can be hard around a holiday like Valentine’s Day when there is lots of chocolate around. I mean, please tell me I’m not the only one…

The gooey, chocolaty stuff tastes great, but it’s not exactly light in the stomach is it? So, it seems at first glance that we cannot have any junk food in order to be healthy, right? Well, that’s not true either. Maybe if you want to lose that last ten pounds or get ready for a fitness competition, that will be necessary for a while, but for regular weight loss and overall health, you can have some treats every once in a while and still not be derailed. But as you get used to eating healthier your definition of a treat will no longer be things like Twinkies or other highly processed junk foods you think you can’t live without now. You’ll have higher standards for what you’ll want to put into your body.

How do we get to that point? Well, we start by using a term that IIN calls “crowding out.” If you eat enough of the good stuff, you’ll be truly full and there won’t be any room for the junk. Non-starchy veggies should be staples. So should nutrient dense protein from humanely raised animals. Whole food fats, like those in avocados, nuts, and seeds, are also part of a balanced diet as are low-sugar fruits like berries and citrus. You can eat amazingly large portions of those foods and lose body fat without starving yourself and messing up your metabolism.

Calorie Comparison

Calories are measurements of energy, but we all know that not all calories are created equal. Jonathan Bailor, author of The Calorie Myth, created an acronym to explain why this is true. It’s pretty good and I’ll go into it more, but this picture pretty much sums up why. You can eat all of the food on the right for 2225 calories while just one item on the left will get you to that number and more. It’s crazy to see the comparison. Even on my hungriest day, I’d have a hard time eating that much food. Of course, there’s no healthy fats in this picture and I’m not a fan of tofu or cottage cheese, and not just because they don’t have enough protein for me. Even substituting a pound of chicken breast for those two would only make the calorie count go up by 70 to 2295. You would literally make yourself sick before you’d be able to eat all of that food in one day, but your body would be loving the nutrients.

Jonathan’s acronym to remember when it comes to why all calories are not created equal is SANE.

  • Satiety
  • Aggression
  • Nutrition
  • Efficiency

Don’t go crazy trying to count calories, stay SANE and think of how a food will Satisfy you. If it has a slogan that says, “Once you pop you can’t stop!” like Pringles does, then it probably won’t satisfy you for very long. Things like Oreos are specifically manufactured to make you want more and to not feel full. The whole purpose of light beer is so that you can drink more without feeling bloated. These are just a few examples of things that just have not staying power. Processed foods with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) also fall into this category.

Also think of how a food effects your blood sugar, (Aggression). High sugar foods can cause your blood sugar to spike quicker than your body can produce insulin to absorb it. Then comes the crash, sometimes that comes with jitters, and even irritation in some people. None of that is good. Our food should give us a gentle sustainable energy, not mood swings.

Nutrition refers to the nutrient density, or quality versus quantity part of food. This is evident in the picture above. Our body needs vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and amino acids on a regular basis to repair its cells. Highly processed foods don’t have any of these nutrients, or if they do have them they’ve been added back in after the fact in a much cheaper and less easy to absorb form.

The last part, Efficiency, refers to the amount of energy it takes our body to break down the food we eat and turn it into a usable form, either the energy from it or the micronutrients.

Michael Pollan author of “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,” has quite a few good rules about eating for health. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
  • “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”
  • “Eat only foods that will eventually rot. “
  • “It’s not food if it’s called the same thing in every language (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles).”

It seems complicated, but it’s really not. Just eat real food. As your body takes that food and uses it to build a stronger body for you, you will eventually see greater health, more energy, and even weight loss.

I hope this has helped you. If not and you have questions or comments, please let me know.


Why a Calorie is Not a Calorie When it Comes to Body Fat Loss- Part 2

One Buff Mama- Fat vs Weight Loss

Last time I talked about why calories in less being than calories out does not necessarily equal fat loss. I’m going to continue on the ridiculousness of that for a little while longer before I move on.

Using that logic when we look at an overweight woman with an extremely skinny child sitting in the waiting room of a medical clinic we would draw the conclusion that that mom is hoarding all the food from her child. While there are extreme cases where that exact thing is going on and a child is rescued from an abusive home, for the most part we know that most moms would do the opposite and starve themselves for the health of their children. What we know from studies that have been done in various countries and communities world-wide is that both the overweight mom and the underweight child are undernourished.

Even in places where there is not a vending machine and a fast food establishment on every corner and the majority of the jobs are “heavy labor” type positions in factories or working on farms helping to bring in the harvest, many studies have shown both overweight and underweight populations coexist in the same community coupled undernourishment. From factory workers in Chile in 1974, to Mexican-American workers in Starr County, Texas in 1981, to the slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2005 this has shown to be true time and time again. These are not populations sitting around eating junk food and playing video games all day.

That’s not even counting our genetics, which control how and where our fat is stored once our bodies go into fat storage mode. If thermodynamics are truly all that matters, what would you tell this woman to do? Her upper body is obviously under-eating while her lower body is over-eating. Umm…wait a minute…


(On a funnier note, this is how my weight distribution goes- I gain first in the lower body and lose first in the upper body so without clean eating this could be me…aaahhh!)

I talked about the laws of thermodynamics vs biology last week. So it still seems like obesity is a result of fat accumulation, not energy balance. Biologically, fat accumulation is regulated by insulin. When our blood glucose is too high, we secrete insulin, which causes this blood sugar to be absorbed by our fat cells, instead of causing the fat cells to release fat. When insulin drops, ie our blood sugar is under control, fat is allowed to escape from the fat cells.

What spikes blood sugar and insulin? Sugars and things that are metabolized like sugar- basically processed foods. In many people, too many of what we would consider as the good carbs can cause too much insulin secretion. For instance, what researchers discovered in the communities studied above is that they relied very heavily on high carbohydrate foods for their nourishment. Foods like white potatoes, grains, and corn, even the non-processed stuff, were eaten as the main part, if not the only part, of every meal.

Using that logic you would think that all we have to do to lose weight is count and cut carbs. That’s not necessarily true because there are many Asian populations that rely mostly on rice for their food and are not overweight. There are also vegan and vegetarian populations that are a picture of health despite high carbohydrate consumption.

On a side note, what is this preoccupation with counting something? We have to count calories, we have to count carbs, fats, proteins. No, we don’t. The word calorie didn’t even become mainstream until the 70’s and it’s not like a sudden understanding of energy expenditures and calories caused a decline in obesity. In fact, quite the opposite has happened.

We are humans which means  our neocortex takes up about 76% of our brain volume. The neocortex is responsible for higher functions like sensory perception, conscious thought, and language so we’re supposed to be using our neocortex to be creative, fulfill our passions, and make the world a better place. By taking food consumption, which is a basic function of survival, and making it a function of the neocortex we are basically dumbing ourselves down. Don’t do that, please. Okay? That’s all I have to say about counting.

So what does all this mean? Carbs are good? Carbs are bad? It means we have to start listening to our bodies again and paying attention to how certain foods make us feel. It means we have to be patient and stop thinking about losing 30 pounds in 30 days. We to figure out if we do better with more or less protein, more or less carbohydrates. Do we like more raw veggies or steamed? Do we need a big breakfast first thing in the morning or do we do better with something light?

Our bodies desire to be in homeostasis so if they’re messed up it’s more than likely because we did something to mess them up, like feeding a finely tuned precision vehicle farm diesel and wondering why it’s sputtering along. We don’t really have to do anything crazy like counting calories or carbohydrates- just give our body the proper fuel and let our bodies “heal” themselves. “Fixing” this lack of homeostasis is going to take a long-term sustained lifestyle change. Forget fad diets, forget crazy amounts of mindless cardio and exercising.

The right fuel is different for everyone and it takes patience and listening to your body, which we’ve somehow forgot how to do. If you couldn’t see clearly, you wouldn’t ask to borrow your friend’s glasses because they might actually make your vision worse. Don’t “borrow” your friend’s diet either and don’t follow some cookie cutter plan that doesn’t take your complex and individual biology and physiology into account at all.

Next time I’m going to talk about nutrient density and how to get started really paying attention to what works for your body.

Between now and then, please keep a food log. Don’t just write down what you eat though. Try to pay attention to how certain foods make you feel. If you feel a craving for ice cream, cookies, cheeseburgers, or pizza that just won’t go away, go ahead and eat it (not all of them all at once). Just take note of if it makes your stomach hurt, or give you a little more gas. Do certain foods sit like lead in your stomach or could you eat a whole bag of them and not feel full? Do you feel a sudden burst of energy followed by a crash? Had you hardly eaten all day due to a stressful work environment and then come home and cleaned out an entire shelf of your pantry? Try to pay attention to your triggers and responses. That’s it. There’s your “assignment,” should you choose to accept.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.


Why a Calorie is Not a Calorie When it Comes to Body Fat Loss

One Buff Mama- Fat vs Weight Loss

Most people know that you can’t eat giant-sized portions of food three meals a day every day, especially if you are fairly sedentary, but I really hate hearing fitness professionals tell people that all they have to do to lose weight is make sure that calories in is less than calories out.

It’s simple laws of thermodynamics right?!? Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it stays constant, right? So if energy that you take in (calories in) decrease, then your body has to make up for the energy that you use (calories out) by burning body fat for fuel, right? It sounds simple.

If it were true then everyone who is overweight is just slothful and gluttonous, right? If they walked around the block a few times and didn’t gorge themselves then they’d be thin and fit. That’s how many people act toward those who are “overweight” and it’s really sad. So many people try so hard, count calories, walk, run, and bike endless miles on the treadmill and don’t see the results they want.

Why is that? Well, for one, it’s impossible to measure exactly how much you’re expending during a certain type of exercise, even the machines that tell you how much you’re burning get it wrong by up to as much as 40% over. There’s just no way to be 100% accurate 100% of the time. And unless your measuring every bit of food that you put in your mouth, there’s no way to be 100% accurate about intake either.

However, the biggest reason that relying on the laws of thermodynamics for weight loss is wrong is that while our bodies do operate within the laws of thermodynamics, they also operate within the laws of biology. If you are operating in a calorie deficit, your body will have to do something, but it won’t necessarily be a body fat loss.

When you operate in a long-term calorie deficit your body doesn’t continue to operate at the same high energy level. It slows down. Have you ever noticed when you reduce your calories for a while you get tired, cold, and kind of feel lethargic like you’re in a mental fog? It also reduces some of your other functions, like your immune system. That’s your body’s biological response to the laws of thermodynamics- reduced energy input equals reduced energy output, not continued output at old levels burning through tons of body fat like everyone leads you to believe.

Another thing that happens after you slow down and still continue to reduce your calories is that you burn off tissue for energy. Organs like your brain and liver use the most energy in the body, but due to self-preservation your body will not burn those off. It will however take some less-essential energy-burning tissue like muscle and eat right through that.

Along the way you will lose a little weight due to body fat. Your body really wants to hold on to that though because it believes that this reduced caloric intake may be due to a famine (especially if you’re really stressing about weight loss along the way- and I’ll cover more about hormones later) and body fat is what will “feed” you long-term.

So, when it’s all over, you’ve lost water weight, muscle, and some body fat. Your metabolism is now lower partly due to loss of the muscle so should you ever decide that you want to eat normally again- I’m not talking about regular trips to the buffet table, just eating until you feel reasonably full- you will gain all the weight back and this time the weight will be all body fat.

Can you see how years of continued yo-yo dieting through deprivation can really do a number on you?  Imagine how bad it would be for a woman who’s been doing this since her late teens when she first got self-conscious about her body, then got pregnant a couple of times (hormones, hormones, hormones) and tried to lose the baby weight, and  who is now getting ready to go through menopause (again, crazy hormones that I’ll talk about later). Talk about complete and total havoc.

Anyway, so what are we to do for true body fat loss? The simple answer is to just eat real food. I’ll go into this more next time so stay tuned.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.