Exercise Do’s and Don’ts for New Moms

pexels-photo-57529 (1)One of my favorite demographics to work with is new mamas. While no, I’m not a mom myself, I feel you ladies are generally being improperly served and taken advantage of by the fitness industry. It’s common for new moms to feel anxious and uncomfortable in their new bodies and want to quickly get their “old body” back. Unfortunately, the fitness industry KNOWS this and they looove to feed into it. (Obviously, I’m speaking in general terms. There’s some really awesome postpartum trainers out there that I personally look up to.) Mommy boot camps and stroller fitness are a prime example of some fitness fads that are trying to make bank on your current state and are urging women to jump into intense exercise waaaayy before they really should.

First off, I don’t care if you worked out intensely before and during your pregnancy, your body needs to rest and recover after giving birth. 

Just because your doctor “cleared” you to start running and training 6 weeks postpartum, doesn’t mean you’re actually ready to start up again. If you REALLY want to know for sure if you’re ready to start training intensely again, I would recommend seeing a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist 2-6 weeks postpartum to get a good picture of the status of your pelvic floor (yes, that entire area that was recently traumatized by pushing out a brand new human being…) Are you experiencing diastasis in your abdominals? (Separation of the rectis abdominis bellies.) What about any pelvic organ prolapse? (Like, do you feel like your organs are literally going to fall out of you…?) These things must be addressed before jumping back into intense exercise.

IF you are cleared for exercise, it’s best to start with some post-natal specific training and rehabilitation.

Before we get into the exercises that you SHOULD be doing, I want to discuss the types of exercises that you should AVOID (for the time being at least!)

AVOID

  • Maximal lifts – Heavy squats, deadlifts, bench press, and so on. Why? Because these exercises require a strong core to be performed properly and safely.
  • High impact exercises or plyometrics – All the bouncing that these tend to cause can be dangerous to the pelvic organs. And yes, this includes running!
  • Exercises that are stressful to the diastasis or create abdominal bulging – This includes abdominal crunches, push-ups, planks, and other abdominal exercises like leg raises.
  • AND… – Anything that is just really stressful to the body, causes pain (lower back, pelvis), and requires a lot to recover from.

I know that seems like a lot to avoid, but you need to view the first several postpartum months (or as long as needed) as a recovery period, much like someone who has just undergone surgery. The body needs to heal and this requires both time and patience. And if you view it in the grand scheme of things, this is really just a short period of time in the whole of an individual’s life. Besides, the more you rest and recover during this time period, the sooner you can get back to more rigorous exercise! And with less risk of injury or additional trauma caused to the body.

So what types of exercises CAN and SHOULD you do?

DO

  • Postpartum weeks 2-6 should be primarily devoted to rest, recovery, and rehabilitation. – This includes re-learning proper breathing and posture/body alignment and performing light leg and glute exercises such as squats and glute bridges, along with some gentle upper body exercises like band pulls.
  • WALK!  While running may be a no-no for approximately 6 months for many moms, walking is greatly encouraged. Not only does it get the blood flowing and help with recovery, but it can help reduce your new-mama stress, burn some extra calories to kick up fat burning a bit, and best of all, it’s easy to do with baby in tow.
  • EASE back into strength training at week 7 (or later, if needed) – Emphasize hip dominant exercises (think lots of glute bridging), pulling exercises (rows, pulldowns), chest and shoulder presses, and non-crunchy core exercises like the Pallof press. Remember to avoid going too heavy too fast. Listen to your body. If something feels “off” it probably is. 😉
  • SLEEP!!! – I know you’re laughing since sleep can be hard to come by when you have a new baby, but you must sleep and rest when you can. All of our body’s processes can be off-set if you aren’t getting enough sleep, and that includes fat burning and muscle repair. Just keep this in mind: the less sleep you get, the gentler you want to be on your body.

And for my last set of DO’s

  • Do be easy on yourself.
  • Do love your body in any state it’s in.
  • Do work with your body, not against it.
  • Do maintain patience in getting back to exercise and losing the “baby weight.” Afterall, there’s really no rush. 🙂

There’s so much more I could share with you about postpartum training, but I think I’ll save some of those other topics for another day. If you’re a new mom (or not-so-new mom) and need more specific help with core rehabilitation or training, you can head on over here and shoot me a message. There’s so much conflicting information out there, and it’s important for new moms to be reintroduced to exercise in a safe and efficient manner!

If you want even more info NOW, go check out Jessie Mundell on her website. She is my go-to source for everything pregnancy related! She’s very knowledgable and regularly puts out amazing, FREE content!

 

 

 

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5 Reasons Why You Aren’t Losing Weight (But Think You Should Be…)

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Progress… At first it was continuous. Your weight was dropping rapidly when you first started dieting and exercising and it was easy! Your motivation was through the roof because you continuously saw that progress and you had a reason to get to the gym regularly and avoid junk food for the most part.

And then…all of a sudden…progress stops.

You tell yourself, “oh, I’m just adding muscle. The scale is a liar. I should just throw it away because it makes me feel bad about myself.” Seriously, we’ve all been there. But you know, just like circumference measurements, progress photos, and the numerous types of body fat testers out there, the scale can be a useful tool. It tells us part of the picture. And if you know you have some fat to lose, you want to see that number drop, at least a little!

So why is it that your progress has stalled? Why have you plateaued? Well, there’s many reasons why this could be happening. It’s important to remember that this is NORMAL. And for the majority of people, this doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your body. Quite the opposite actually. Our bodies are masters at adaptation. They adapt to whatever you throw at them. Our bodies also don’t like to lose fat. They want to store it for times of possible cold and starvation and they’ll do just about anything to avoid losing it. Pretty smart, huh? But that’s not in line with our desire to look hot in a bikini…

I really don’t want to go into the technical and scientific side of things. I’d rather just give you some possible solutions to the problem, as I’m sure that’s also what you’d prefer to read about. So let’s do some troubleshooting…

    1. You’re eating healthfully, but you don’t know HOW MUCH you’re eating.

      Gradually swapping out most junk and processed foods for healthier and more whole foods is generally step one on your journey to a healthier you. But it’s still possible to overeat those whole foods or even add too many additional calories with condiments, sauces, oils and/or butter. Don’t even get me started on natural peanut butter… Just because it’s “natural” and it’s a “healthy fat” doesn’t mean it’s not packed with calories. Fruit is also a very healthy food and should be included in your diet, but it too can have a lot of calories.

      Solution: find a way to track, weigh, or measure how much food you’re eating and keep an eye on your overall calorie intake. You may find that you’re easily eating much closer to your maintenance calorie level than you thought. You don’t have to use a food scale (although, it’s my preferred method as it’s more accurate). You can also use measuring cups/spoons, or gauge the amount of food by comparing it to your hand. Just find an accurate system that you can easily stick to and gives you results.

    2. “Bites, Licks, and Tastes.”

      So maybe you are tracking your food intake somehow. You’re weighing… You’re using measuring cups… You’re counting calories… But did you count that handful of grapes you ate while cooking dinner? Did you consider those 5 french fries you stole from your kid’s lunch? What about the leftover peanut butter that you licked off the spoon earlier? I hate to break it to you, but these count! They may seem innocent and minuscule at the time, but over a course of a week they can certainly add up and kick you out of your fat loss deficit (or at least slow down fat loss so much that you can hardly tell you’re losing anything.) What’s even more frustrating is that often these “BLTs” increase as we diet because, well….we’re freaking hungry!

      Solution: Unfortunately, there isn’t one solution to this little problem. But here are some ideas for you:

      -You can simply become more conscious and mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth. I know… Easier said than done. This is a practice.

      -Eat more satisfying meals throughout the day. For example: Load up on those leafy greens at lunch. Include some starchy carbs in your diet. Or even build snacks into your diet that fit within your calorie allotment, but also tend to “take the edge off” for you. This may require some trial and error.

    3. NEAT Reduction

      Okay, maybe your diet is on point, buuuut you’re kind of feeling a little tired from the lack of calories. (This is to be expected, by the way.) Gradually and unknowingly you start to spend a little more time sitting, doing fewer chores, and parking a little bit closer to the store. These normal day-to-day activities are crucial to longterm fat loss and lead to a little phenomenon referred to as NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. While people tend to think that their workouts are key to their weight loss (and yes, they’re still important), you actually burn MORE calories throughout the day through NEAT. Consider this: maybe you exercise for about an hour a few times a week… There’s a whooooole lot more hours during the week that you’re not actually “exercising,” but your body is still using energy as it simply operates and to allows you to go about your day.

      Solution:  Remain conscious of your overall activity through the day. It might be helpful to invest in a Fitbit or pedometer to make sure that you’re making an effort to maintain movement throughout the day.

    4. Still Doing the Same Ol’ Same Ol’?

      Now I’m a big fan of choosing a program and sticking to it, but as you progress you will need to make some tiny changes to continue to see progress. This could simply mean increasing your intensity by lifting heavier weights, reducing rest times, running faster, or whatever. You could also add in a bit more cardio (A BIT!!!) or slightly reduce your calories. Overall, something needs to change. Like Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”And trust me, dieting the same way and training the same way forever without seeing any results WILL drive you insane! So find a way to change things up to get that fat dropping again!

      Solution: Again, just change things up a bit. Don’t overhaul your whole training program or diet. Just make some tweaks (like those listed above) and see if that gets things moving again!

    5. Maybe you need a break?

      This may sound counterintuitive, but if you’ve been dieting for 3-4 months and progress has stalled or slowed (again, NORMAL!), maybe it’s time you give your mind and body a break from dieting. This doesn’t mean to go back to your old ways of eating whatever and not exercising. It just means taking some time off to reset your body so that when you do get back to dieting, your body responds more like it once did when the weight was dropping consistently.

      Solution: After 3-4 months of dieting, it’s always a good idea to take a diet break. To do this, you slowwwly raise your calories back up closer to your maintenance calorie intake. Stay there for a month or so (longer if you’ve been dieting for a really long time…). This will give your metabolism a little boost and give your mind a bit of a break from dieting, because let’s be real, dieting can be a bit stressful even when you’re going about it pretty moderately. During this time you can expect your energy and strength levels to increase, your sleep will improve, and some dieters’ moodiness to dissipate. Not bad, huh?

    I hope these tips were helpful for you. Plateaus are pretty much guaranteed in fat loss. This is why we don’t start off dieting at 1200 calories and doing an hour of cardio 6-7 days a week. Instead, we incrementally make changes as progress slows. I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to diet on as many calories as possible while doing as little cardio as necessary while losing fat!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

I Threw In The Towel… And That’s Okay.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, doesn’t it? As a spouse of a soldier, this phrase really rings true for me. But over the past month, it’s had a different meaning. During the month of September I essentially stepped away from my 4-day bodybuilding splits and followed a different program that was more focused on strength and performance rather than physique and the glorious “pump.” I had become bored and tired and needed a bit of a change….for a while at least. The plan was to follow that program for approximately 12 weeks… Well…that was the plan.

While I generally enjoyed the lower volume work (less sets, reps, and overall exercises) and the addition of cardio and some circuits, I still felt that there was something missing. The workouts weren’t “me.” Yeah, sure I would feel exhausted post-workout (especially cardio-wise), but my muscles were craving more. My pump was gone… 😦 and I didn’t feel like the new workouts were helping me meet my goals. When I started the new workouts I somewhat felt that I didn’t have any goals. But I learned that I actually do KIND OF have goals, no matter how loose they are. They’re essentially this:

I’m a bodybuilder.

I train to build a physique that shows the hard work I put in at the gym.

I like to LOOK like I LIFT! Because…I do.

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Yes, I love the additional benefits of being strong and healthy, but I can’t deny that one of the major reasons I train the way I do is because I love the look this way of training has given me and others who train similarly! PLUS, I think it’s fun! I have to remind myself that it’s okay to exercise a certain way because of the way it will make my body look. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and it’s what I ENJOY!

It keeps me coming back for more. 

This is key.

If you hate the way you’re training and aren’t having fun or feeling inspired, you’re not going to keep coming back for more. Chances are you’ll throw in the towel and become part of the larger majority who doesn’t exercise at all. You’ll make excuses that it’s not for you and you don’t enjoy it. But you know what?

There’s something for everyone who’s willing to move. 

I don’t expect everyone to want to lift the way I do. I don’t even expect everyone to want to lift! But I do think everyone should find a form of movement that they enjoy and gets them fired up; even if that’s just leisure walks every day. If you haven’t figured out what you love yet, just keep searching. Keep trying new things! Then at least you’ll know what you do and don’t like. This month I’ve essentially re-learned how much I love being in the gym, blaring my music through my headphones, and cranking out lots of volume with heavy weights. What can I say? I’m a bro at heart. 😉

If you too enjoy higher volume, bodybuilding work (best for those who can train more than 3 days/week), then sign up —->Here<—for my e-mails as I might start shooting out some of my own workouts to all of my subscribers! If that type of training isn’t for you, feel free to ignore those workouts and read on for the juicy material.

 

5 Tips To Conquer Your Gym Anxiety

Last week I was having coffee with a friend (Lord, we were there for like 4 hours! Does that ever happen to you? Time flies, right?) and she was telling me that she and her husband just joined a gym. She went on to tell me that she feels intimidated when she goes there by herself though. Granted, it’s a smaller, more intimate gym, so it’s easier for there to be more eyes on you. Whereas, with big box gyms there’s usually more space, so you don’t have people “all up in yo’ grill.” Nah mean? But anyways, I think this is a common problem among women (and probably some men too), after all, isn’t that why Planet Fitness exists? (By the way, I personally feel really uncomfortable walking into a Planet Fitness because their marketing is so judgmental towards people who are actually in shape and have some muscle. Kind of hypocritical, huh?)

Anyways, I started giving her some advice on how to overcome those feelings while she’s at the gym. Yeah, sure, you’re ALWAYS going to worry a little bit about the way you look or perform, but you can’t let that stop you from trying to meet your goals. As I was advising her, I remembered that I had written a blog post on this a few years back, but since it’s such a common topic, I should probably hit on it once again!

So if you’re afraid of the weight room (or if you tend to move a lot, like me), this one is for you!

  1. Fake It Till You Make It: It’s okay to be new and not really know what you’re doing or know your way around. This is normal! Otherwise we’d never expose ourselves to new experiences and learn anything, right? But if being “new” to something and appearing like you’re “new” to something is really uncomfortable to you, then you might be more comfortable just “faking it till you make it.” You may or may not know that I am a military spouse, so we tend to move a lot. One thing this means for me is that I’m constantly trying new gyms. And let’s face it, they’re all extremely different. Maybe you’re the type to ask the front desk personnel where everything is, but if you know anything about DoD personnel (I generally train on post), they’re probably not very interested in helping you out much. Ha! So outside of asking where the locker room is, I figure it all out on my own.My tip: walk around with an air of confidence. I don’t care if it’s real or fake. By simply looking confident you will automatically feel more confident, even if you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing. Own your “newness.”  Don’t be afraid to explore. Scan your surroundings. Learn what pieces of equipment your new gym has and where everything is, this way you’re not hunting around for that one piece of equipment next time you’re in there. Although, in all honesty, I still find myself hunting every now and then. That’s just how it goes! Every gym is different! So if need-be, pop a stick of gum in your mouth and walk around with your best bitch-face possible, and most people won’t even think twice about why you’re there and what you’re doing!

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2. Have a Plan: It’s rare when I walk into the gym without a plan. While I feel confident in my abilities to ‘program’ on the fly, I still just don’t like walking into the gym without an overall plan of attack. If you’re new to the gym or even training in general, then I think it’s even more important for you to have a plan. Know what exercises you plan to do and know how many reps and sets of each you need to do.On day 1, you might want to keep everything very simple. Don’t rely on machines for everything because there’s a good chance that your gym just might not have every machine your plan calls for OR it could already be taken. Yes, there’s always substitutions, but you need to be aware of what those are and know how to perform them before you get there.

3.Remember Why You’re There: Why are you at the gym in the first place? To better yourself, right? That’s totally commendable! Just think of all the people out there who AREN’T at the gym or at least exercising in some way. You’re already in the minority, so give yourself a pat on the back. I know not caring about what others MIGHT be thinking of you is easier said than done, but you really can’t go your whole life thinking like that. Life’s short. Get your gym on. 😉 Also, remember not to compare yourself to others. Everyone is at a different point in their journey. It’s just important to get started and remain consistent!

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4. You’re Not Alone: See all those other people in the gym? Chances are half of them are worried about the same thing as you. They’re worrying about what others think of them; their clothes, their body, their exercise selection, their exercise form, whatever. I know. I care about these things too! Imagine the extra pressure you have on you when you’re a personal trainer! Just don’t let those things bother you so much that you stop going altogether. At a certain point you just have to get over it.

5. Hire a Trainer: If you find that you just can’t get your shit together, then it might be a good idea to hire a personal trainer! Even if it’s just for 1-2 sessions (often these are offered for free when joining a new gym too, so keep an eye out for that and don’t turn it down). Hopefully you’ll get lucky and they’ll be a decent trainer, but regardless, they’ll at least show you the ropes and run you through some exercises that you might not be totally familiar with. They can also show you how to use the machines, which can be really beneficial as I feel like I have to learn new machines every time I move to a different gym! Sometimes it’s even a challenge for the pros! (There’s nothing like watching a huge bodybuilder struggle to lock a fully-loaded leg press that he’s not familiar with…)

Remember, everyone was new to that gym at one point or another, so if they’re judging you for being “new,” screw them. You shouldn’t care about their thoughts anyways. Also, if you’re going to the gym consistently you will learn fast and quickly become a “regular” who totally knows their way around.  So just suck it up buttercup. You’ll be a pro in no time. 😉

The TRUTH About Following a Training Program

So you’re in the gym, doing your own thing and minding your own business (well, kind of…) and you notice someone hopping from exercise to exercise… They appear to have no rhyme or reason to their workout. The weights they’re using aren’t particularly heavy and the individual isn’t even pretending that they are. Their eyes are wandering off and they seem to be more concerned with watching others than they are with their own workout.

I know you’ve seen this person before. I see it all the time. And while it’s great that this person is in the gym, moving their body, they most certainly do not have a solid plan and unfortunately, their results will likely be lackluster.

It’s very rare when I go into the gym without a plan. It’s not that I can’t program “on the fly,” it’s just that I’d rather not. Usually I have specific goals I’m working towards, and goals require week in and week, or month in and month out, or year in and year out of focused training. Going into the gym and just doing willy nilly with no intensity isn’t going to serve you much. If your goal is to be able to just generally move better, then okay, you can probably get away with whatever. But if you’re trying to change your physique or get stronger in any spectacular way, you have to have a plan.

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Programming is both an art and a science.

If you’ve been following solid programs for several years, you might be able to get away with successfully designing your own program (considering you’re not preparing for a powerlifting meet or physique competition.) But if you’re pretty new to the game of lifting I would suggest finding a program that has been written by a professional or pay to have one written specifically for you. You want a program that will:

a) move you towards your specific goals,

b) fit well into your specific lifestyle, and

c) is appropriate for your level of experience (beginner, intermediate, or advanced).

If you seriously only have 1 hour, 3 days a week that you can commit to training, don’t select a program that requires you to be in the gym 5-6 days per week, 2 hours per day. The same goes for those of you who have never stepped foot into a gym. Starting with 5-6 days a week of heavy lifting is going to put a hurtin’ on you, so start slower.

Some pros to going into the gym with a program are:

1. There’s no guessing. You can walk into the gym with confidence and get to work straight away.

2. By not having to pause and think “what’s next?” you can move quickly from one exercise to the next, thus keeping your intensity up.

3. The professional who wrote your program probably knows more than you about training. Let them do the challenging work of writing the program. All you have to do is follow through consistently and results will come.

4. Results.

5. Results.

6. And yep, you guessed it: results.

You will get results. As long as you continuously bring intensity and focus to your workouts (which is much easier when you have a plan), you will certainly get results.

Floating around the gym floor aimlessly will get you nowhere fast. You know those people you see year after year who never look any different? Chances are they don’t have a plan (unless their goal is to maintain where they’re at…and honestly, that’s perfectly okay too). But if you do want to make some progress, get your hands on a good program.

In addition to following a program, I would also strongly advise tracking your workouts. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember what I had for dinner last Wednesday, so how on Earth would I remember how much weight I squatted, for how many reps, for each set, if I didn’t write it down? And how would I improve week to week if I didn’t keep track of those numbers? That’s a quick way to stagnate! And not because your strength is plateauing, but simply because you can’t remember what you lifted last time, so you’re just picking a random number to lift each week. Boo. Bad idea.

So you must have a plan to follow if you want to be successful. Extraordinary results require extraordinary efforts, so if you want to be extraordinary, you have to act extraordinary.

If you have any questions about what type of program might be best for you at your current stage, I’d be happy to help out and give you some suggestions! There’s all sorts of programs out there, and depending on your goals, one will probably be better than the other. Feel free to contact me on Facebook or post here in the comments if you need some guidance. I know program hunting can be quite a challenge! But trust me, there’s at least one out there for you.

Happy program hunting! 🙂

Jess Xx

My 3 Rules for Dieting and Exercising “On The Road”

April was a whirlwind of a month. If you’ve been keeping up, you may know that I was traveling for the entire month; visiting North Carolina, New York City, and Boston along the way. For someone who loves their gym-time and normal diet, you can imagine that this had the potential to be quite a scary ordeal. No regular gym. No regular diet. Ugh.

But hey! I survived AND I came out of the month mostly unscathed! So how did I do this while actually enjoying my month-long vacation? I made some rules for myself that allowed me to come out at the end of this trip mostly looking and feeling like I did when I left. I didn’t feel bloated and miserable. I essentially felt like my normal self! And that was the goal.

So here are the 3 rules I came up for myself:

  1. Workout when you can. I didn’t make it an overarching priority to workout every. single. day., but I did workout when it made sense and when I could easily fit it into my schedule. In other words, I wasn’t scheduling my day around my workout, I was just fitting something in when I could. In my normal day-to-day life I would prioritize my workout. I have a specific time I like to train and it generally doesn’t move much. But if I’m on vacation, it’s just not going to be THAT important to me. I also decided to allow myself to take this opportunity to let my body rest a bit. I kept most workouts less than 30 minutes and generally opted for full-body, dumbbell circuits. I also did A LOT of walking. A LOT! Some days we walked over 12 miles, like in Boston and New York. So I wasn’t so concerned about getting in a workout on those days.

    ICYMI on Facebook, here’s one of the workouts I did a few times with the 25lb dumbbells I brought with me:

    Perform 5 rounds, resting as needed.

    A1. DB Overhead Press x10
    A2. DB Romanian Deadlift x10
    A3. DB Plank Row x10
    A4. DB Squats x10
    A5. Push-Ups x10
    A6. DB Glute Bridges x20
    A7. Oblique Crunches x20 (one side at a time)
    A8. DB Swings x20

  2. Eat healthy when you can. Eating while on the road can definitely be a challenge. You don’t have your kitchen with you. Getting to grocery stores isn’t always easy or a priority. Means of refrigeration and cooking are not always there. So you have to make due somehow. My plan was to “navigate the middle.” I would focus on mostly eating as healthy as I could but I also wasn’t going to absolutely deprive myself of the “fun” stuff.

    Because we ate out so much, I often opted for high protein meals with lots of veggies and minimal starchy, ‘bready’, or sugary carbs. Hyooooge salads were a favorite go-to of mine when I could get my hands on them. If we ate out for breakfast, I would opt for an omelet most of the time (except for that one time I had greek pancakes in Astoria, NY…) And if we were staying with our parents and our moms wanted to cook something awesome for breakfast or dinner, you know there was no way in Hell I would turn that down! I would just watch my portion sizes.


    I also kept Quest protein bars on me all the time for snacks or even for breakfast on busy days. And in the car I tried to stick to jerky, fruit, and nuts.
    BUT I also had a couple burgers along the way. And pizza. And cupcakes from Magnolia’s Bakery. And NY bagels… Lord, I know there was more fun food along the way and I don’t regret a bite of it. Don’t judge.

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  3. Don’t stress over it! You’re on vacation DAMNIT! This rule is pretty self-explanatory, right? Show yourself some compassion. Life is not about dieting and working out. It’s about experiences, memories, friends, family, and all that good stuff. Eating well and exercising just helps to improve your quality of life (unless you’re the type to let it run your life…)

Sounds easy enough, right? And it was! Exercise and eating healthy have really just become part of my lifestyle and I don’t physically feel good when I can’t get some exercise in, or if I’m not eating well.  But I also didn’t over-burden myself with it. I didn’t want to stress over it, so I simply didn’t. And you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a great time! BUT I was also really excited to get home and get back to the routine that I love and have built for myself.

And since you might be interested in having some proof of whether my plan worked out or not, here’s a photo of me exactly one week after arriving home. After one week of being back in my routine and eating ‘normal’ (for me), this is where I’m at. Yeah, I’ve been leaner, but not without striving really hard for it and fixating on it. Right now I feel healthy, happy, super feminine, and generally more balanced. This is where I’m at today and I’m okay with that. 😉

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4 Unconventional Tips for a Healthy Mind and Body

I recently shared on Facebook that my husband and I essentially split an entire pizza in one night. Yes, I ate my fair share of it, and guess what… No guilt! I’ve honestly been eating A LOT of fun food since he’s been home from a recent deployment. We’ve really been enjoying ourselves, to say the least. But again, I really don’t feel guilty about it. I eat normal or relatively healthy most chances that I get, but if the husband wants to go out for lunch one day, you better believe I’m not going to argue with him.

 I really haven’t been surprised by my feelings towards food lately, as I’ve had this mindset for a while now. I have to admit that it has taken a while for me to get here mentally. Generally, when people start off on a health and fitness journey to lose fat, build muscle, and what not, they tend to really dive in and anything that might possibly hold them back (according to some lore they once heard) from reaching their goals will be shelved. Sometimes people even cut out all fruit and dairy, which seems insane to me unless you genuinely don’t like fruit or dairy, or they cause you discomfort. 

Despite all this “fun” eating, I haven’t gained a pound. 

Yep. 

Not a single pound. 

My skinny jeans and workout clothes all fit exactly the same. Now, I haven’t exactly lost any weight either, but considering all the yummy foods and drinks I’ve been embibing in, that’s of no surprise. But it’s also not the goal right now. 

  

So how did I get here? How have I become more physically and mentally stable with regards to dietary changes that at one time would have made me feel disgusting and bloated, along with making me feel guilty and undisciplined? 

1. I built a ton of muscle. Okay, Jess. What the hell does that have to do with anything? Well, 1. I weigh a lot more, which means I can get away with eating a little more without negative repercussions. And 2. The large amount of muscle I carry has greatly improved my insulin sensitivity. In lieu of getting into the science of how this works, I’ll just get to the good stuff. Training hard allows your body to UTILIZE food better, rather than just allowing it to…cling…and become fat. 

2. When I expect to eat a “fun” meal, I try to make it a priority to get in some challenging anaerobic activity. High volume weight lifting, sprints, and metabolic conditioning all improve insulin sensitivity. So while I may have been eating a lot of good food, I’ve also been putting it to good use by getting in some hard training sessions. 

3. I have stopped viewing food as something I need to “burn off.” Notice how I said in tip #2 that I’ve been putting my food to “good use?” I like to view my food as an awesome, tasty fuel. I view it as something positive rather than a scary thing that causes me issues and makes me fat. Food doesn’t make you fat in itself. But if you take in more fuel than your body requires from day to day, you might eventually create some problems for yourself. So if you’re planning on indulging, prep your body for it by improving your insulin sensitivity and get your lift on! Or, on the back end, put that fuel you ingested the day before to work. That’s a much more positive mindset than “burning off sludge,” right? 

4. I eat moderately all the time now. Life is just too short to cut out all the foods I love 100% of the time. I love a good burger… Pizza… Wine… Desserts… To me, life just isn’t worth living without them! But I also know how to keep it in check. I don’t eat those things every day, but they’re also never off-limits. Putting foods “off-limits” just makes you want it more, so when you finally take the opportunity to indulge in that slice of cake, it can be quite easy to say “eff it” and eat the entire cake instead! So rather than just indulging in an innocent piece of cake, you have overindulged and probably now feel guilty and extremely full…and utterly crappy. Now, if you allow yourself to have bits and bites of delicious things on a more regular basis, accidents like that are a lot less likely to happen. For example, I’m currently on the road and traveling. I’m having a great time visiting friends and family, but I haven’t really felt the desire to overindulge in anything because I honestly don’t have any cravings for anything! Why? Because I allow myself to eat delicious food all the time. AND I manage to stay lean while doing it because I never overdo it. It’s really a win-win situation. 

Maybe the all-or-nothig approach works for some people, but for me it doesn’t. I like the more moderate approach to eating as it makes me feel satisfied and fulfilled. I never feel like I’m “missing out” on something amazing. This approach may not work the best if you’re trying to drop the last few pounds for a fitness photo shoot, but how often in our lives are we really preparing for something like that? For most of us, not often. I’m finding this approach to be much more sustainable than the all-or-nothing approach. Both my mind and body are happier this way. There are never any weight rebounds, there’s less bloating, my thoughts about my body are more positive, and there’s less stress about food. Plus, I just find it easier to stay lean this way.

So for those of you who have found the all-or-nothing approach to be too challenging, go easier on yourself and try putting these tips to use. If you do try them out, let me know how it goes for you! I know I can see myself living this way forever.