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YOUR Perfect Fitness Formula: 10 Things to Consider

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I have told you I am on a quest to find MY perfect fitness formula. But, what exactly does that mean? For me, it means looking truthfully at 10 different pieces of my life and making honest assessments about will work for me long-term. I’m not interested in short-term fixes just to fit into a dress or for an event. I want to be healthier and continue on this road to wellness…no matter how long it takes me to get there. Truth be told, once I get there my journey won’t end. And my perfect fitness formula has to be flexible, sustainable and realistic.

With so many choices out there, there is no reason that any of us should feel that if we can’t do it all according to one plan or program, we are failing.  When something doesn’t work for us, we can think “I FAILED!”, or we can choose to say “That didn’t work, lets pick up and try something else”.   On the flip side, when you do find something that works make it a part of your new, healthy lifestyle… even if it means you can’t do it in its entirety.

Here are 10 different things that I am considering when coming up with my perfect fitness formula.  Once I gave myself permission to identify these things… I could look at this whole process with a clear mind.  Are there things that I need to change about my life?  Of course… obviously many of the things I have been doing for half of my life have landed me in these size 18 jeans.  But that doesn’t mean that I should have to change all the wonderful things about my life, or that I should have to try and fit into some ridiculous mold that simply won’t stick.  Since I have taken a good look at this list, I am finding that I am able to make some changes that ARE sticking.  How would taking a good look at this list change how you are approaching YOUR perfect fitness formula?

1) Personality!

Some people love going to support group meetings where they cheer for you when you lose one pound. It works for them. It makes me want to vomit. Some people like to workout at home. I need to put on my shoes, leave the house, and drive to the gym. Or, at the very least get the whole family engaged in a walk/run. I am a social creature, and while a pep-rally over reaching my first five pounds lost seems cheesy to me, I enjoy working out with other people. I feed off of their energy.

What personality traits do you have that can impact the formula? Instead of trying to change who you are to fit a plan that works for someone else, how can you use the best parts of your personality to find your perfect fit?

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2) Money

We are in a fortunate place now in that we can afford to pay for CrossFit. I can afford to purchase the supplements that work for me. Our grocery budget is not tight. But there was a time when that was far from the case.

If you would love to join a gym but it is not in the budget, it is better to figure out another solution…instead of just allowing that to stop you from starting your journey. Has money been holding you back?

3) Your Family

What does your family look like? Do you have small children at home with specific dietary quirks? Do you require childcare to attend a Zumba class? Do you have a husband that loves to hike, or a son who loves swimming? How can all of these things factor into the formula…not just for you, but your family?

What works for one family, will not always work for the next. Embrace the unique parts of your family make-up!

4) Your Gender

Let’s face it. Men and women are different. I can stop eating bread for 6 months and lose two pounds, my husband can stop eating it for a weekend and lose five! Also, in general, men and women have different strengths physically. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do an activity that your husband does or that you can’t both follow the same diet.  It is just another thing to consider.

Be flexible enough to realize that even within your own family, things may work better for one person over another… simply because of gender.

5) Your Age

What worked for us at 20 may not work anymore at 35 or 40.  Our bodies change.  Our metabolism changes.  Gravity grabs a hold of things with a tenacity we may have never experienced before.  It is no reason to either throw in the towel, or become depressed.  We just have to adapt and figure out what DOES work for us now.

The good news?  Along with that gravity comes wisdom, or so they tell me.  I am hoping this wisdom will help me continue to listen to my body and adjust to what it needs.

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6) Health Concerns

This is a big one.  You have to take into consideration any health concerns or limitations you may have.  If you are lactose intolerant, a diet rich in low fat dairy is obviously not for you… no matter how well it worked for someone else.  If you have severe asthma, you may not be able to run outside every day.  If you are on medications or have other health related issues it is always a good idea to discuss this stuff with a doctor.  Health concerns are a big REASON to possibly eliminate certain dietary or exercise choices.

HOWEVER, let me just say this.  You and ONLY you need to really look yourself in the mirror and decide if those health issues are truly your reason, or if they are becoming your excuse.  NO ONE else can make that call for you.  I will tell you.  My RA was a reason for a long time.  There are still days when it is a reason I should not workout.  But I know myself.  I was using it as an excuse too often.  Only when I was able to be honest with myself and really know the difference did I make strides towards better health.

7) Geographical Location

Yes, this matters.  Climate makes a difference in which outdoor activities you choose.  The availability of certain facilities in your area may make a difference.  The cost of certain kinds of foods in your area may make a difference in how and where you shop for your meals.

No, it doesn’t mean you CAN’T do your favorite thing… well, sometimes it does.  If you are in Alaska and your favorite exercise is surfing, you might be out of luck.  It might be time to try snow boarding instead.

8) Likes/Dislikes

If you absolutely HATE vegetables and they make you gag… going vegetarian isn’t for you.  How long are you going to stick with something you absolutely abhor?  Not very long.  And then you will beat yourself up.  Instead of dreading that Zumba class three times a week, find something you enjoy.

Again… there are a million choices out there.  Leading a healthy lifestyle should NOT be a punishment.

9) Body Type

There is a lot of research out there that can help you figure out what type of body you have and how that might affect your fitness formula.  Some research suggests that certain diets are better for different body types.  Also, some exercises are better suited for folks with certain physical attributes.  Again, it doesn’t mean you can’t play basketball if you are under five foot tall, but it may be something to consider.  Not only is it important to know what type you are for informational purposes, but it can be helpful in helping you make realistic goals.  I will never have thighs that do not rub together, no matter how thin or fit I become.  It is just how my body is made.  So if it were a goal of mine to have a gap between my thighs, I would be set up for failure.

Take an honest look at your body type and shape and let that help you make realistic, attainable goals.

10) Lifestyle

This is the biggest one, in my opinion, and also the one thing that most people believe they must drastically alter in order to be successful with their weight loss and/or fitness goals.  I know that lots of people have had great success with the Paleo Diet.  Perhaps I would have success too.  But it absolutely does not work in my current lifestyle.  I work full-time but have part-time child care and I am a professional performer who travels a lot.  Some would argue that if I really tried, that I could make it work.  Or that perhaps I should get more child care, work less, or not travel as often so that I could adopt what they believe to be the best diet possible.  But I love all of those things about my life.  I love my job, I love performing, and I don’t want my baby in daycare 50 hours a week.  Those are lifestyle choices that I stand by.  So instead of Paleo I am figuring out the diet that works for me.  It has to be flexible, it has to travel well and it needs to fuel me for my busy life.

Are there things about my lifestyle that are unhealthy?  Oh, absolutely… and I am working to change those things.  But my perfect fitness formula should not have to require me to give up the positive things in my life that I adore.

I have tried for years to find that magic pill, that one program or plan that would solve all of my problems and finally be the right fit for me.  And I failed. Over and over again.  But what I was really failing at was taking a good look at MYSELF and realizing that only I can truly find what really works for me.  Once I realized that, I have discovered I am taking control of my health.  Here’s hoping this post will help you start a path to figuring out your perfect fitness formula too. Find what works for YOU… then make it WORK for you!

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Why the Weight Loss and Fitness Industry is Failing Fat People

The Weight Loss and Fitness Industry is an ever-changing and evolving beast.  It seems that every where we look we are overwhelmed with programs, methods, supplements, diets, plans… all hoping to help beat the number one health concern facing our country; obesity.   Every year new products are developed, certain diets are hailed as better than what we were doing before, new exercise and fitness programs gain popularity.  But with every passing year we keep getting fatter, and fatter.   According to the  Centers for Disease Control website, one third of adult Americans are considered clinically obese.  About 17% of American children also fit that medical description.  For an adult, obesity is defined as having a BMI over 30.  Anything between 25 – 29 is still considered overweight.  Some websites suggest that two thirds of all American adults  and one third of American children are overweight.  It has, quite literally, become a huge problem.

I have been battling a weight problem my entire adult life which is now over 20 years. That is more than half of my life. I have tried countless programs, diets, exercise classes, gym memberships, and supplements. I have had success with some parts of many of the above. But none of them worked in entirety for me. And when they failed, and I started to gain again, the message was “You must not really be committed or have willpower, because if you did you would have followed this plan 100% and you would finally be in control of your health.” Sigh. And that message, whether it came from my own head, or by well-meaning folks who were sold on these programs because it worked for THEM…the result was that I became demoralized. I would throw up my hands in defeat…convinced I couldn’t do it, so I might as well give up altogether. I don’t believe I am the first person to ever feel that way. In fact, I know there are many other “fat” people with similar stories.

I understand that someone who writes a best-selling book about how a certain diet worked for them is passionate about that particular diet. Of course! It worked! It changed their life! And they want to sell books, which I absolutely think they have a right to do. Or the person who developed a really cool piece of exercise equipment that changed their body from flabby to fabulous. I would be excited too! If you have been following me on Facebook you know that I have found CrossFit and am absolutely in love with how it is changing my body. Of course I want to tell everyone about it, I truly believe it is amazing!

BUT here is where I ran into a problem recently. My weight loss had come to a screeching halt. And while I know that my body is getting stronger every single time I go to the box, while I know that the scale is not the ultimate indicator of health…I am a big believer in dealing in truth. The TRUTH is that I am still clinically obese, despite being able to dead lift 168 pounds. I have 86 pounds that must come off. Because my body deserves to not carry around rheumatoid arthritis AND the equivalent of a 10 year old all day long.  Plus, I could lie and tell you that I love myself just the way I am.  Well, I don’t.  I don’t love the fat rolls and not fitting into my clothes or still having to shop in the plus-size section.  I want to look in the mirror and see in my reflection what I feel on the inside; a strong, confident, beautiful woman.  Will I ever get rid of the stretch marks?  No.  Will my arms ever be perfectly sculptured?  Maybe not.  Will my stomach ever be flat again?  Not without a considerable amount of plastic surgery.  Those things I can learn to accept and love when I get there.  But the reality, the TRUTH, is that the weight needs to come off.  I am already kicking butt in the exercise department these days.  The weight is only going to come off when I start changing my eating habits. Period.  But I had sabotaged myself… and the weight loss stopped.

Because here is the thing.  Many CrossFit athletes also adhere to a Paleo or Zone Diet.  So, in order to feel like I was really a “CrossFitter” I felt like I needed to start eating that way.  I tried it for a few days and felt like garbage.  People told me that I should just suck it up and feel bad for a few weeks and that THEN I would feel amazing.  So I tried again.  But I work full-time.  I am also a performer.  In 2013 I will have traveled at least once a month (sometimes multiple times in a month) eight out of 12 months of this year.  I have a pre-teen daughter at home and a toddler.  Then, I added 3-5 nights a week at the box.  To say my life is hectic is an understatement.  Preparing and sticking to a Paleo diet was failing miserably for me.  And I was feeling like a failure.  So, what happened?  That’s right.  Those hands were thrown in the air and I gave up.  Now I was eating like garbage.  Seriously.  Fast food, snacks, mindless meals at my computer while I worked.  I kept going to the box but there was one week where I felt so demoralized I didn’t even go.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  I was a failure.  I would never be able to do this!

And then, I realized something.  The reason I was failing to improve my eating habits was that I was trying to fit into the mold of the perfect CrossFitter by following that diet, one that simply did not work for my life… a life that I happen to love.  And when I couldn’t fit into that mold, I thought it must mean that I was non-motivated and worthless.  And that is just plain WRONG.  I have lost weight before.  I KNOW what combination of foods works for me.  I know my lifestyle, my personality, my likes/dislikes… my BODY better than anyone else.  It was MY job to start figuring out how to make this work for ME and not according to a plan that has worked for someone else.

Why do I think the Weight Loss and Fitness Industry is failing fat people?  Because I think they are so convinced that THEIR way is the RIGHT way, they are not considering that perhaps only PART of their way might be right for the consumer… the FAT Girl or Guy.  If we encourage people to start looking for THEIR perfect fitness formula, they will have more long-term success.  They will be empowered to say “working out at the CrossFit box works for me, but a Mediterranean diet, and this one vitamin supplement fits better into my life and still produces results!”  And in the long run, I believe that will keep consumers coming back to that plan, or gym, or supplement because they are in control and can sustain their own perfect fitness formula for the long-haul.

I believe most people in the industry really do want to help. Do they also want to make money? Sure. But we shouldn’t begrudge them that. What I would like to see is an industry that is willing to admit that their product or plan may work for some people, but not all. That using a part of what they offer, if it fits into that individual’s own perfect fitness formula…will help the consumer improve their health and may help folks in the industry keep customers for a longer period of time.

But remember when I said I am firm believer in dealing in TRUTH? Here is the other thing…. those of us who fit into the category of the FAT Girl or Guy need to take some responsibility here.  Actually, we need to take a LOT.  We need to start empowering ourselves to find that perfect fitness formula. Instead of looking at the industry to finally come up with that magic pill or perfect diet or exercise program we will love…let’s figure out what pieces and parts work for us now, and finally take control of our health.

I have started to put together the pieces of my own perfect fitness formula… and am already feeling empowered, eating better and making better life choices every single day.  That is why I have created this blog.  To share my journey as I find my perfect fitness formula, to hold myself accountable, deal in truth, and to hopefully help empower others to do the same.  Care to join me?

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The 12 Days of CrossFit Christmas

Lyrics by: Erin Whitehead

On the first day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me, a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the second day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the third day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me, 500 meter row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the fourth day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me, blisters from the kipping, 500 meter row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the fifth day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me, all those damn burpees! Blisters from the kipping, 500 meter row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the sixth day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me, bruises from my dead lifts, all those damn burpees! Blisters from the kipping, 500 meter row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the seventh day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me, no-rep on my back squat, bruises from my dead lifts, all those damn burpees! Blisters from the kipping, 500 meter row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the eighth day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me, a Hero WOD with wall balls, no-rep on my back squat, bruises from my dead lifts, all those damn burpees! Blisters from the kipping, 500 m row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the ninth day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me, a 20 minute AMRAP, Hero WOD with wall balls, no-rep on my back squat, bruises from my dead lifts, all those damn burpees! Blisters from the kipping, 500 m row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the tenth day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me puking from the thrusters, 20 minute AMRAP, Hero WOD with wall balls, no-rep on my back squat, bruises from my dead lifts, all those damn burpees! Blisters from the kipping, 500 m row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that would make me pee.

On the eleventh day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me inches for my box jumps, puking from the thrusters, 20 minute AMRAP, Hero WOD with wall balls, no-rep on my back squat, bruises from my dead lifts, all those damn burpees! Blisters from the kipping, 500 m row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that will make me pee.

On the twelfth day of CrossFit my coaches gave to me a PR on my Fran time, inches for my box jumps, puking from the thrusters, 20 minute AMRAP, Hero WOD with wall balls, no-rep on my back squat, bruises from my dead lifts, all those damn burpees! Blisters from the kipping, 500 m row, comments on my snatch, and a jump rope that will make me pee.

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Adult Diapers and Jump Ropes

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My Facebook status recently read “If I show up to the gym wearing gray pants…you will know I have reached an important milestone!” Some of you are nodding in agreement, any men reading this have no clue what I am talking about, and the rest of you are really lucky if you don’t get it.

Let me break it down for you. I will be sooooo glad when I can finally get through an entire workout without peeing myself. Shoot. I’ll be glad to get through an entire day (no working out, thank you) without needing a product from the incontinence section of the grocery store.

Before we go any further…and before anyone gets all in a tizzy….let me tell you that yes I understand it is not “normal” to pee yourself during workouts or other activities. I understand that adult incontinence is a medical condition that needs to be addressed with your doctor. Well, you will be glad to know (or really sorry you now know) that I have my annual date with the stirrups and medieval medical equipment tomorrow. I plan to ask my doctor about it…right after she tells me to scoot down and just relax a little bit.

Normal, or not…medical condition, or not… it happens. To lots of women. And we don’t talk about it openly. Cause it’s embarrassing. And it’s pee. And well, girls are supposed to have more class than that. I mean women can birth human beings from our loins…but shhhhhhh don’t tell anyone you tinkle when you sneeze.

When I first started CrossFit, I had to make a bi-weekly trip to the pharmacy for multiple bags of Epsom salts and adult diapers. No. I don’t mean some little panty liners for the occasional little leak. I mean adult diapers. I felt like I was a walking Depends commercial when I was at the box. Almost everything we did made me pee. Kettle bell swings, sit-ups, squats, running, burpees, and of course jumping.

Ugh. Jumping. I used to hate anything having to do with that motion. First of all, when you are overweight and out of shape, jumping sucks. Let’s just get that out there. Body parts flop around, it is not easy to get things up off the ground, and landing makes you feel like a large zoo animal. And then there is the peeing. Every. Single. Jump.

I wanted to cry when I saw jump roping on the daily workout. Not only did I hate my failing bladder and pelvic floor…I was really bad at jumping rope. I could get two jumps in a row. Period. But I kept trying. I kept sucking at it. And then one day something just clicked and I “got” the jumping motion. Now I think my max number of single unders in a row is 35. I get a little better every time I try.

And the peeing has gotten better. It still happens, but not nearly as bad as when I started. Depending on the WOD I can get away with just a liner and I have been able to retire the adult diapers and can use a pad on the days where we jump. My pelvic floor is getting stronger and the weight is coming off. It will continue to improve.

There are a ton of things that are really uncomfortable and embarrassing about physical activity when you are fat. I know. I get it. I’m still living it. But I promise you, it gets better. We can’t let it hold us back. Because a little bit of embarrassment now…means having better control over our health, our bodies, and even our bladders in the future.

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Why I Call Myself “Fat”

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(Photo Credit: Heather Bird Photography)

When I launched this blog I thought long and hard about the title.  Words matter, after all.  And I knew that using the word “fat” would make some people angry, or would cause some folks in my life concern when they thought I was using the term to somehow cut myself down.  How in the world could I write something about being empowered, but then ruin the entire concept by using such a negative and demoralizing word right next to it?

If you look up the word “fat” in a dictionary there are lots of definitions, depending on how the word is utilized.  In reference to the human body, the word means: obese, plump, having excess flesh.  So, from a technical and clinical perspective, I can define myself as being “fat”.  Because it is the truth.  And we have already established how I feel about the truth. But we all know that Webster can not possibly list all of the ways the word is used in the real world.  A dictionary can not tell you how a world feels when it is used by you or to describe you.  I realize that the word “fat”, while clinically correct, holds much more weight (zero pun intended) than it’s official definition.

And I still chose it.  Because words matter.  Depending on how they are utilized, right?

I believe the word FAT is just, if not more important, than the word EMPOWERMENT in the title of this blog.

There are no official statistics to back up what I am about to say, but I believe it to be true.  Every single woman, at some point in her life, has considered herself fat.  If only once a month when bloated, or after a vacation where she ate less desirably than preferred and put on a few pounds. Young women without a single extra pound look in the mirror and think they are fat because they are not shaped like those girls on TV.  Even the most fit and slim woman can look at a photo taken in the wrong light and wrong angle and cringe at how big her thighs appear.  I have heard women who used to be really heavy say that years after losing the weight and keeping it off, they still feel fat on the inside.  How many men have tried to talk themselves out of answering the question “Do these jeans make me look fat?”

Like it or not, it is a word used in our culture.  It is a feeling felt by a majority of women, and probably a lot of men as well.  We can discuss WHY the word has become so prevalent.  But it is here.  We use it, we feel it… often.

So, on the surface, it is a word that I believe all women can relate to on some level.  But more importantly I am using the word so that we can start to re-define what the word means.  Words are powerful, but only when we give them that power.  If someone calls you fat, YOU have the power to allow it to hurt you, or to let it slide right off your back.  Call me fat.  I don’t care.  Yes, clinically I am fat.  I got it.  Thanks for pointing out the obvious.

Sometimes, many times, the danger in a word comes from when we use it to describe ourselves.  If we are constantly looking in the mirror and seeing just fat, that is a problem.  If we are not allowing ourselves to achieve certain things in life because we are fat, that is a problem.  If we are using just that one word to define ourselves, that is a problem.

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For me, the word “fat” means just what the dictionary says: “Obese, plump, having excess flesh”  I can accept that definition and the fact that I fit right into it.  But here is what I can not and WILL NOT accept.  The implied definitions.  The ones that we make up.  The ones others make up for us.  We know what the word “fat” DOES mean.  Now, lets talk about what it DOES NOT.

The word “fat” is NOT defined as:

  • Being lazy
  • Being stupid
  • Lacking in talent
  • Lacking any self-control
  • Being selfish
  • Being worthless
  • Being unattractive
  • Being a slob
  • Being poor
  • Being a failure

Does this mean that I believe people who are fat should settle for being fat because it is acceptable?  No.  Being fat is a medical problem that needs to be addressed, no matter how you got there.  I do believe we cross a dangerous line when we encourage people who are overweight to just accept and love themselves the way they are.  It is important to know all the ways in which you are awesome.  It is equally important to know where you can improve, especially when it is in regards to something as important as your health.  It is possible to love yourself, and be aware enough to know that you are imperfect and need to change.

I have always carried my weight well.  That is what people have been telling me for years.  No way!  You don’t look like you are 190 pounds.  What?! You are not 220 pounds, you are beautiful!  There is no way I would have ever guessed you weigh 265 pounds, I don’t see weight when I look at you.  If I angle my face correctly or look in the mirror a certain way, there are parts of me that can pass as slim…even at my current weight of over 220 pounds.  And while that makes me feel good, it has given me a reason to deceive myself into believing that it doesn’t really matter.  That I am beautiful the way I am.  Well, the TRUTH is that my heart doesn’t really care how beautiful I am, it just knows how much harder it has to work.  My knees don’t care how many people love me just the way I am as they are deteriorating under the mass that is my body.  My higher cancer risk is not just going to go away because I don’t “look fat to my friends and family.

So, why do I call myself “fat”?  Well, because I am.  It doesn’t make me cry.  It allows me to deal in truth and empower myself to change it.  Why did I purposefully use that word in the title? This is a blog about empowering myself (and hopefully others) on a path to better health.  That means losing weight, getting fit, making better choices, dealing in the truth and doing all of that on terms that work for you.  We have become a nation of “fat” people.  Taking that one word out of our vocabulary because we don’t want to offend or make anyone cringe is not going to change that.  Changing our lives will.

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