Why Would a Girl WANT To Gain Weight? Let Me Explain…

I will address the topic from the subject line momentarily, but first: an update on my new powerlifting program from Coach Ben Pollack! It involved a lot of learning.

For example, Ben is helping me adjust my technique with each exercise to best work with my personal leverages (the angles my body has, based on my height and the length of my limbs, etc.).  The right positions are going to be different for each person’s body, but here are the changes we made:

  • With my squat, Ben had me lower the bar half an inch on my back, rather than having it sit right on top of my traps. This actually did make me feel a lot stronger!  It’s called a “low bar squat” (see the picture). 

  • Bench press: Ben had me widen my grip so I am using more pec muscle than triceps. And he had me bring my feet closer to the barbell so I can use the power from my legs to move the bar (picture above).
  • Lastly, I have been deadlifting with only socks on because my CrossFit shoes have too much of a lift in the heel (your feet need to be flat to avoid injury) So I need to order some old school Converse Chuck Taylors, ha).

How the program works:  Each week, I do each of the big movements (deadlift, squat and bench press) twice, plus some ‘bodybuilding style’ work on various bodyparts, which will ultimately make my “big lifts” stronger.  I can also do a few sessions per week of lower-intensity cardio.  This is such a change from my previous bodybuilding days when I spent literally 50 minutes to 1 hour on the treadmill every morning (fasted!!), doing lunges, walking squats, etc. (and this turned into TWICE per day cardio, during the last few weeks of competition prep – no wonder I had no social life, lol.).

Overall things are going well and I am having fun! Thanks to everybody who sent kind messages or comments about my new journey! I hope I can inspire some other folks (women in particular!) to pick up a barbell because it’s super fun to see your strength numbers go UP (rather than obsessing about the scale number going DOWN, which is not fun, ever!).

Now explaining the title of this blog:

I talked to Coach Ben a little bit about weight classes. For those who don’t know, in a powerlifting meet, you compete with other people in your same weight class.  I asked him where I would best fit (you should select a weight class where you feel strong, but the higher you go, the stronger the other competitors may be, simply because ‘mass moves mass’).

He recommended eventually, long-term, that I ‘fill out’ to the 158 lb weight class (I am 5’7” and currently 147-8 lbs).  So I talked to my nutrition coach, and we plan on sloooowly adding muscle over the next several months ..and years. Yes – I said YEARS, haha.  That is how long it’s going to take.  Muscle doesn’t come on easily for women.  It takes a LOT of hard work (so all of the ladies who fear getting “bulky” – I promise you don’t need to worry about it!).  If you do it the right way, the slow way, you won’t add tons of bodyfat (aka, we’re not doing the old-school “bulking” which I do not believe in!!).

This is important because I am in such a healthier mindset than I was a year or two ago, before I got into real strength training.  From age 12 to my late 20s, I was obsessed with being skinny/lean and never ate enough.  That is an exhausting, depressing way to live!  Now, of course I want to look fit, but I understand that can be accomplished in a healthy way (with heavy lifting!).  Something to think about for anyone else struggling with the scale and body image!!  ❤️

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Journey to First Powerlifting Meet!

Hello!

If this is your first visit, welcome to my blog! I have been writing it since 2011, which is crazy!  A lot has changed since my first post. Although the blog has been called “Legally Fit Girl” since day 1, I am definitely not a lawyer (law school was fun though!).  I am a nutrition coach for the most amazing company ever, Working Against Gravity (WAG) and I love it!

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My training and nutrition have changed so much since 2011.  Originally my goal was to compete in bikini & figure competitions, and I achieved that. I reached nationally-qualified status.  Then, when it started to feel repetitive and my body wasn’t responding very well, I decided it was time to find the “fun” in fitness again.  With my husband’s help, I discovered CrossFit and learned a million new things – Olympic lifting, gymnastics, powerlifting, aerobic capacity, and more!

Then, a few months ago, upon noticing that the only things I wanted to do in CrossFit involved lifting heavy things (and knowing that my strength numbers need to go up, to be competitive in CrossFit), I am now specialized in powerlifting.  For my friends who aren’t familiar with powerlifting, it composes three lifts: bench press, deadlift, and squat.  So I need to get super-strong with these lifts! 🙂

I just hired my first powerlifting coach, named Ben Pollack. He was recommended to me by a fellow WAG coach Kate Hart (who is like Wonder Woman and you must follow her on Instagram!).  Ben has given me a very structured strength program with the aim of competing in my first powerlifting meet in February 2018. I am so excited!  For the last decade I have been obsessed with being strong and looking strong, but I don’t feel that my training or nutrition have permitted me to expand to my full potential until now!

Speaking of nutrition, that has changed a lot for me too in the last few years. When I began training for bodybuilding competitions, I followed strict, structured meal plans. I learned how to weigh and measure my food with a food scale, but I had no knowledge of how many calories or macronutrients I was consuming. Now, I subscribe to a flexible dieting philosophy (which is how we coach at WAG). This has been life changing for me, and I still check in every week with my own coach at WAG. Coaches need coaches too! You can read more about flexible dieting and counting macros at this blog from WAG.

So currently, I am consuming around 130 grams protein / 240 grams carbs / 56 grams fat (plus fiber of course) and working very, very hard on gaining strength and muscle size.  Eating this amount of food is

a huge accomplishment for me because, less than two years ago when preparing for a figure competition, I was consuming about half that amount!  I had horribly low energy, did excessive cardio, and was obsessed with the scale.  Now I comfortably maintain a body weight of around 145-148 lbs and I feel awesome, with plenty of energy to lift heavy and enjoy life!

So follow along with my journey to my first powerlifting meet in a few months!  Thanks for reading! I post often on Instagram so follow me if want to see my day-to-day stuff!   #SkinnyToStrong 

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Here is me now…
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Here is where I need to be. Lol 🙂

Sticking To Your Nutrition Plan While Traveling: Chicago Version!

Hello everybody!

IMG_0728I have returned from a short weekend getaway to Chicago (a few hours’ drive from our home in Michigan).  We were celebrating my fiancé Rocko’s birthday! Each year he and I take a short trip together someplace we’ve never explored, and this year turned out great.  Part of the fun was, of course, the food!  I am going to share with you how I stay on track with my nutrition plan and training while on the road.

The first step is, of course, preparation.  We picked our AirBnB in downtown Chicago (which I prefer over a hotel because there’s a full kitchen) and immediately started looking at what was nearby.  We found a couple of gyms within walking distance, as well as a Whole Foods. We planned to lift weights each morning we were there.

IMG_0706One of the most critical things to do before you leave for your trip: pack travel-friendly food!  We brought a Six Pack cooler bag with us stocked with:

  • protein powder packets
  • cut-up veggies (I eat tons of cucumber and bell peppers)
  • already-cooked chicken
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • Kodiak Cakes protein pancake mix
  • condiments like hot sauce and stevia

We knew we would eat out for 1-2 meals per day.  When you go out to eat, you run the highest risk of going over your allotted fat or carbs macros, so I place the biggest focus on bringing protein sources with me.  I always recommend clients pack protein bars with them for trips (some brands I like include Quest Bars, Rx Bars, and B-Up Bars) and/or packets of protein powder (can be found at LifeTime, Whole Foods, or most health food stores).   It’s not fun to come back from a vacation, step on the bathroom scale and see a huge jump – so plan in advance and do yourself a favor 🙂
IMG_0735On our first day in Chicago, we focused on the most important objective: find the BEST Chicago pizza!  Because I knew we would eat pizza, I planned my day of eating in advance:  I kept the carbs and fat low in my breakfast with higher protein (example: egg white omelet with veggies).

We were not disappointed in Lou Malnati’s Pizza, which was in walking distance of our AirBnB (notice the “walking” theme throughout this entire blog – Rocko and I walked a LOT!).  The pizza was amazing. So the question is: how do you track this pizza in MyFitnessPal (MFP)?

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Fortunately, Lou Malnati’s has several of its items in the MFP database!  We ordered a pizza called “The Lou” and I sliced off 1/4 of it.  That serving had 40 g carbs / 28 g fat– and I wanted to save macros for dessert!  So, I chose not have any of the cheesy bread appetizer we ordered.  Later in the afternoon, we stopped by Sprinkles Cupcakes where I had half of a cupcake (and, of course, logged that into MFP too – 31 g carbs / 13.4 g fat).

The next day, we woke up, put on our workout gear and headed to a local LA Fitness for strength training.  (Again, I kept breakfast low-carb and low-fat to save macros!)  I love to strength train on vacation because it makes me feel like I’m putting the food to use!

IMG_0709Next, we explored the city, including a big breakfast at a great place called WildBerry (right next to Millenium Park).  It was delicious and extravagant – S’Mores pancakes, hash browns with gravy, etc.  This was difficult to track because WildBerry was not in the MyFitnessPal database.  So, instead, I found similar entries in MFP from IHop!  IHop and Denny’s are two places which are quite useful for tracking food because their items are relatively simple and the entries are pretty accurate.  I shared all breakfast items with Rocko, cutting off smaller portions for myself and enjoying every bite.

My main point in describing this day of eating & training:  you CAN still hit your macro goals while on vacation IF you plan in advance and watch your portion sizes.  I returned from vacation weighing exactly the same, if not a little less (which is about 141-142 lbs, for those who are wondering – I am 5’7” with lots of muscle!).   If your goals are important to you, it’s worth the planning and preparation I described above 🙂

IMG_0695Hope you enjoyed this blog!  Thanks for reading!

What Diet Should I Follow? (And Tough Love About Why You’re Not Losing Weight)

You have tried it all. You cut out carbs. You started Weight Watchers (or Atkins, or Whole30, or Paleo, etc.). You joined that workout class and regularly attend three days per week. You lost a few pounds … and then gained it back. You’re starting to lose patience and get frustrated. Bathing suit season is rapidly approaching and you have made zero progress toward the New Year’s goals you set on January 1.  So what now? What’s the problem?

It’s time to be honest with ourselves.

What, exactly, are you eating?

I’m not talking about a list of angelic superfoods that would impress a nutritionist or personal trainer (“I ate a kale smoothie for breakfast with chia seeds and Acai berries!”). I’m talking about real numbers. How many calories are you averaging? How many grams of protein? How many grams of fiber?

… You don’t know?

Then how will we know what’s working, or what isn’t working?

As a nutrition coach, I have seen and heard it ALL. I am not shocked or disappointed if a client confesses that they binged on jelly beans on Easter weekend or stopped at Taco Bell at 3am after a night out with their friends.  We have all been there!  (*Of course I hope that 80-90 percent of your diet consists of whole, unprocessed foods and tons of veggies, but do I really expect you to never touch a cookie again? Of course not!)

Intro to Flexible Dieting: We Like Numbers!

I want real, hard data so we can help you succeed.  I want to know how many calories you are consistently consuming and what makes up those calories – aka, the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates (including fiber), and fat).  I want to help you figure out a nutrition plan – not a diet – that will allow you to reach your goals and keep you sane so you can follow it for the rest of your life.   I want to teach you HOW to eat, not give you a list of “approved” and “non-approved” foods that makes you feel more disappointed in yourself than you already do.

This way of eating is called “flexible dieting” (also called “if it fits your macros”).  This way of eating allows you to choose what you want to eat, as long as you meet your daily calorie/macro requirements.  I love this way of eating because it is science-based (and I am a nerd – I graduated from law school, after all!).  It abides by the basic laws of calories/macros (which say that, put simply, in order to lose body fat, we must be in a caloric deficit – but consuming sufficient protein allows us to maintain our lean body mass (i.e. muscle).  More on this in a future blog).

Good For the Body AND Mind

Studies are emerging which support flexible dieting as a healthy way of eating both for the body and the mind.  How many times have you been on a rigid diet where you eventually quit or lost control and binged because you JUST NEEDED ONE OREO?!  A flexible diet allows us to remain versatile with our diet, which means we can survive the social challenges of modern day life (the snack bins at work, the dinners out with your family, holidays, etc.).  It allows us to enjoy our diet more and not totally restrict ourselves.  This flexibility often allows for a higher rate of long-term success and less yo-yo dieting!

This study found that individuals who engaged in rigid dieting strategies reported symptoms related to an eating disorder, along with poor mood and obsession with body size/shape, while those following a flexible diet did not report the same issues.  I can speak to this directly: starting in 2011, I followed a very strict meal plan outlined by a coach which told me exactly what to eat at every meal (i.e. 4 ounces of tilapia, ½ cup green beans, etc.).  It worked temporarily, but without a rigid meal plan, I was clueless about how to eat – I never learned the “why” behind the meal plan.  On top of that, it definitely exacerbated my disordered eating behaviors – I always ate alone, in secret, and binged weekly so I could eat the foods I actually wanted, leading to feeling ashamed and “fat” and starting the cycle all over again.   I began using a flexible dieting method in 2016 and my food obsessions have dissipated.  My brain is much healthier!

Taking Flexible Dieting Too Far

Of course, people can take the concept of “I can eat anything I want if it fits my macros” to an unhealthy extreme – you may see bodybuilders on Instagram bragging about eating a Pop-Tart and staying lean.  But in reality, in order to meet your fiber and micronutrient requirements, you cannot subsist on “junk foods”.  My fiancé, for example, loves his pancakes and eggs each morning for breakfast – but they’re high-protein Kodiak Power Cakes and cage-free eggs with organic spinach mixed in. And later in the day he eats at least 6-7 cups of green veggies because he needs to get at least 30 grams of fiber daily.  (He has lost 26 pounds so far since beginning to use a flexible dieting method).

In addition, a Pop-Tart is very “expensive” in terms of your macronutrient “budget” – it will use up a lot of your daily allotment of carbs, leaving you hungry!  In order to remain full, you must incorporate high-volume foods … aka, vegetables and fruits!  In this way, I have found flexible dieting to be “self-regulating” – I don’t have to tell people to eat veggies because they do so anyway, in order to get enough fiber and feel full.

How Do I Learn How to Do This?

Learning what a “macro” is and how to track your food in an app like MyFitnessPal isn’t easy in the beginning, but anybody can learn how.  The best approach is to get some personalized help – ask me if you’re a member of LifeTime Fitness. Or start by reading some articles, like this one.  Download MyFitnessPal and start tracking.  Have patience and be honest J

In conclusion, when you’re trying to determine what the best diet is for YOU, ask yourself – what can I stick to long-term?  Maybe that’s Atkins, Paleo, Whole30, Weight Watchers, or flexible dieting – but be honest with yourself about your lifestyle and preferences so you can jump off the weight “roller coaster” forever.

26 Days Out: Forcing Things to Happen vs. Letting Them Happen

Today is Sunday, my rest day.  26 days until the NPC Natural Western USA Figure competition.  My body—my nervous system—is very tired.  I am spending the day studying for school …. in bed. Ha. I am so sore, and my bed is the most comfortable place.  But I am also at peace.  Admittedly, I woke up this morning in a state of anxiety (like I do pretty much every morning) thinking, “Maybe I should go do extra cardio?!”  But then I stopped and recognized that the idea of doing extra cardio did not feel good in my body.  In the past, I might have forced myself to go do it anyway. And then it would have been a pathetic cardio session with me feeling frustrated the whole time.  But I told myself at the beginning of this competition prep that I would not force things to happen—I would let them happen.  Let me explain using an analogy:

One of my life role models is named Martha Beck (she’s a Harvard-educated sociologist, life coach and best-selling author).  One of her methods of teaching people to be happier and calmer is to have them work with horses: usually when a horse is behaving badly and violently, humans will attempt to “break” them using physical means—ropes, whips, etc… basically forms of torture.  Sometimes that will work. But in her seminars, Martha teaches people that if you stand in a pen with the horse—just stand there—and offer the horse kindness and compassion, and show it that you’re not going to hurt it, it will eventually calm down and “join up” with you.  (Here’s a video of Martha Beck’s friend, Koelle Simpson, explaining this in more detail in a TED Talk).

So here’s where the analogy comes in: the horse is like your own human body.  You can certainly torture it via starvation diets and excessive exercise, and you can get some results.  This is what I had done for a long time, and it sort of worked—and I also suffered miserably internally (one time in high school I actually ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration because I kept exercising when I was sick with the flu… brilliant, huh?).

There is, I believe, a better way.  I have adopted the approach of being kind and compassionate to my body, and recognizing its limits.  At my gym, the people who work there are so sweet—they call me “The Machine”… but in reality our human bodies are not machines.  They are animals that require sufficient food and physical movement and rest.  All of my ideas in this blog may sound a little strange to many Figure & Bikini competitors who enjoy the (so-called) inspirational/motivational “Fitspo” posts on Facebook and Instagram  (e.g. “push yourself to the limit!” and my least favorite of all time: “do it for the thigh gap!” etc.)  Those concepts no longer resonate with me.  I started training to become a Figure competitor because I love it, and it’s that love that will carry me through these next 26 days until showtime.  Let’s see how it goes … 🙂

Thank you for reading!