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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A test in meal conversions - Chicken Salad

One of the things I started to learn on my journey to healthier eating was that it's possible to make many of the same fattening foods I enjoy in versions that are healthier and lower in fat, calories, and sodium.

I thought I'd share one such conversion with my readers, hoping it will help inspire you to convert one of your regular meals to something healthier as well!

So first, here's the regular meal:

It's a chicken salad sub (the "Chicken Salad Classic with Cheese") from Wawa, which is a local convenience store that makes great sandwiches.

According to Wawa's website, their 451 gram sandwich has the following stats:

Calories: 981
Calories from fat: 528
Fat: 59 grams
Saturated fat: 15 grams
Trans fat: 0.849 grams
Cholesterol: 140 mg
Sodium: 2213 mg
Carbohydrates: 72g
Dietary fiber: 10g
Sugars: 10g
Protein: 45g

Okay, well that's not really what you want in a lunch - nearly an entire day's fat grams in just one little sandwich! Not to mention the sodium and trans fats!

Now let's make a healthier version at home. Instead of using mayo, I substitute nonfat plain yogurt, mixed with a little dijon mustard. It adds the right amount of creaminess without all of the fat! And, instead of Wawa's high sodium sandwich rolls, I'm using two slices of low sodium whole wheat bread. You can also use a whole wheat wrap or whole wheat pita if you prefer.

1 13 oz can Chicken, drained
1/2 C nonfat yogurt
6 oz rainbow salad
1 celery rib, chopped
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 C green grapes, cut in half
3 tomato slices
1 C baby spinach
6 slices low sodium whole wheat bread (Ezekiel brand is a good option)

Mix the first six ingredients and divide into three equal portions. Of course, you can have more or less yogurt, and add any other fixings you like to have in your chicken salad. But this is my version! Put on one slice of bread and top with one tomato slice and some baby spinach. Top with other slice of bread.

So now let's see how the nutrition stacks up for my healthy version!

Each sandwich (the recipe makes three) has the following:

Calories: 350
Calories from fat: 40
Fat: 4 grams
Saturated fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 65 mg
Sodium: 530 mg
Carbohydrates: 45g
Dietary fiber: 7g
Sugars: 11g
Protein: 32g

I've cut the calories to one third of the original sandwich. There are 55 fewer grams of fat, and only 25% of the sodium in the original version. It's just as filling as the original, if not more so, and actually leaves you some extra room in your calorie allotment for a side of raw veggies and hummus.

Is there a meal you'd like me to convert from high fat and high calorie to healthy? Let me know your ideas and I'll use it in a future post.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Favorite Bodyweight Exercises - Part 3

Well, I've told you about my first two favorite bodyweight exercises -- the push-up and the chin-up. So I thought I'd conclude the series with the last of my favorite bodyweight exercises, and the one I have not yet mastered: the Pistol Squat.

The Pistol Squat, also known as a one-legged squat, is a pretty advanced move. You need to already be able to do two-legged squats well first. These are a great workout for the entire lower body.

Phase 1: Two-legged squats. A proper two-legged squat starts with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. You then bend at the knees and hips, keeping your chest up while pushing your butt back as if you are sitting in a chair. Done properly, you should have your weight over your heels, and have to work on your balance to avoid falling backwards. Your knees should not go past your toes - if they do, reduce the depth of the squat. Then push through your heels and rise back up to the standing position. Once you can do about 20 of these in a row, then you are ready to start working on the pistol squat!

Phase 2: Bench Get-Ups. Stand with feet about shoulder width apart. Lift one leg and extend it in front of you. Hold your arms out for balance. Bend at the hips and knee and sit back onto the bench. Push through your heel and stand up again. That's one repetition.

Phase 3: Box One-Leg Squats. Stand on a box or bench at least 8" off the ground. Hang one leg off the side of the box, and stand on the box with the other leg. Put your hands out in front of you and push your butt back and squat down until your hanging leg touches the ground. Push through the heel on the box and rise back up to standing. As you improve, instead of having the hanging leg go straight down, push it forward so it is at a diagonal to the ground.

Phase 4: Pistol Squats. Okay, you're ready to give it a try! Lift one leg forward and try to keep it straight and tight as much as you can throughout the exercise. Push your hips and butt back and squat slowly down on one leg. Go as far down as you can comfortably go, balancing more of your weight on your heel and keeping your chest erect. For the ascent, push through the heel and keep your body erect, rising back up to the starting position.

Here's video of Craig Ballantyne demonstrating the Phase 2 Bench Get-up and the final Phase 4 Pistol Squat.

There are 200 pound muscle men who can't do a pistol squat, so once you can do one, you will have scored a major bodyweight achievement.

Win a Flip Video!

Just wanted to deviate from my usual fitness and nutrition-related posts to pass on information on how you can win a Flip Video camera!

If you've been reading my blog for more than about two minutes you know that I use the Turbulence Training workouts designed by world-famous fat loss expert, Craig Ballantyne. Well, Craig is giving away a FREE Flip Video Camera to TWO lucky folks, just for answering a quick question on his blog.

So drop by his blog and tell him, "What would Transforming Your Body
mean to you?"

Does it mean...

- Freedom from being overweight
- Confidence to do more with your life
- Relief from the depression that plagues you everyday
- Success in proving others that you CAN do whatever you set out to do
- Or something even more powerful?

Just let Craig know on his blog...

Here's the link:

Turbulence Training for Fat Loss Blog

You have until Wednesday, April 29th, 11:59pm, EST to submit your entry. Craig will announce the winners on Friday, May 1st.

While we're at it, I might as well mention that Craig's next Turbulence Training Transformation Contest starts in just over a week - next Monday, May 4th. I was able to use Turbulence Training to transform my body and health. Participating in the contest helped give me that last little push I needed to really commit myself and get it done! It could be what you need as well. Why not give it a try?

You can start your workouts with the free Turbulence Training program I will send you if you sign up for my email list (on the right). Hope to hear from you soon!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Breakfast Cereal - Healthy? Or not?

I received a gift subscription to Nutrition Action Health Letter from a colleague last year. The magazine is published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an independent nonprofit consumer health group. I like to think of them as the Consumer Reports for nutrition and food products.

In this month's issue, they had an entire feature on breakfast cereals, focusing in particular on which are whole grain. Remember my post about sneaky food labeling tactics? Well, breakfast cereal manufacturers are among the worst in the industry, labeling their products as being "made with whole grains" when they are made primarily with refined grains, but have a negligible amount of whole grains. Others add isolated fiber to boost the fiber grams on the Nutrition Facts chart when there is little intact fiber in the cereal.

A few surprising and helpful things I learned:
  • Grape Nuts, a veritable staple in the diets of healthy people, actually is only a little over 50% whole grain. Nutrition Action suggests Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets as a real whole-grain alternative.
  • Many cereals that have "chocolate" in them actually make fake chocolate out of sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, and cocoa. What's sad is that real chocolate would actually be healthier.
  • As I mentioned, many brands add isolated fiber, even though the studies that suggest that eating whole grains lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes measured those risks in people eating INTACT fiber, not isolated fiber.
  • Some types of isolated fiber (avoid or at least discount the amount of fiber) to look for in the ingredients are inulin (chicory root extract), oat fiber, soy fiber, maltodextrin, starches (corn, wheat, tapioca), polydextrose, psyllium, and gums (arabic, guar, acacia).
  • Kashi brand is actually owned by Kelloggs. So discount any ideas you may have that it is a green or healthy brand. It's just another major brand with some good and healthy products, and some misleading or unhealthy ones.
I recognize that all of this information may increase the amount of time you spend in that dreaded cereal aisle, while you check labels and ingredients looking for the best cereals for you and your family. So now might be a good time to ask the question...why eat cereal for breakfast at all?

Studies showed that eating protein-rich breakfasts (instead of carbohydrate-rich breakfasts) reduced hunger longer, and dieters ate 400 fewer calories, on average, over the next 24 hours. So while a whole grain cereal with skim milk is a decent breakfast (especially with some fruit), by no means is it the holy grail of breakfasts! That title belongs to the egg. Yep, you heard me right, eggs. Sure, eggs are high in cholesterol, but a study of men with normal cholesterol levels showed that eating two eggs a day does not raise your cholesterol levels.

So eat away! A 2-egg omelet with sauteed vegetables is a well-balanced and great start to your day. Some other great options:
  • Oatmeal (not instant) with fruit or even canned pumpkin
  • Yogurt (especially greek yogurt) with fruit and granola
  • Cottage cheese with fruit and nuts (if you follow my twitter feed, you know this is my favorite breakfast!)
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter
Trust me, all of these are JUST as easy as a bowl of cereal, if you do a little preparation the night before. If you can't let go of eating cereals, stick to the ones that are 100% whole grain and low in sugar and fat. The May 2009 issue of Nutrition Action can help you find the best ones, if you want to save yourself the stress of label reading!

If you've found something healthy and tasty for breakfast, I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Favorite Bodyweight Exercises - Part 2

A few days ago, I posted about my #1 favorite bodyweight exercise, the push-up. I thought I'd continue this series and post about my next-favorite bodyweight exercise, the chin-up!

I'm sure you're familiar with pull-ups, but maybe you don't know the difference between a pull-up and a chin-up. Pull-ups are generally pretty hard for most people, but chin-ups (palms towards you, hands shoulder-width apart) have the advantage of allowing you to use your biceps to take a little of the work away from your back, while still being great for your back. And, always a plus, it's very cool to be able to go over to the chin-up bar and crank out a few in a row, particularly if you're a woman.

This one is a little more intimidating, and I often see women using the "assisted pull-up machine" at the gym, trying to work up to the level needed to do unassisted chin-ups. But my experience has been that there's a better way to learn how to do chin-ups. First, spend $30 for a chin-up bar for your home (some are more, some are less). Hang it in a doorway in an area of the house where you are frequently. Now here's how you practice:

Level 1: Stand on a chair so that your chin is above the bar. Grab the bar with a narrow grip (about shoulder width), palms towards you, and bend your legs so you are no longer supported by the chair. Gently and slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended. This is called a negative or "eccentric" chin-up. Try lowering for 3 seconds, then 5, then 7. Start with just three repetitions, and add more as you get stronger.

Level 2: Stand below your chin-up bar with your arms extended above you. Jump until you can grab the bar, and immediately pull yourself up and try to do a complete chin-up. The momentum from the jump will help with the motion. Let go and try again.

Level 3: Stand flat-footed and grab the chin-up bar above you. Bend your legs at the knees, crossing your feet behind you. Pull up to the bar, targeting your back muscles by imagining your a string coming from your elbows being pulled towards the ground. Slowly lower to the fully-extended position and try again. If you can't make it over the bar a second time, let go and repeat as "singles."

Once you are at level 3, you should not have any reservations about trying your chin-ups in the gym or in front of people. And, if your house is like mine, your chin-up bar will become your newest social conversation piece (everyone that comes into the house tries it to see if they can do one).

So on a personal note, I worked from October to December, trying to do my very first chin-up. I finally managed to do just one in December, then two around Christmas. Now it's April, and I can do four in a row, or five if I do them as singles.

Now I'm working towards that elusive goal of being able to do a pull-up! I'll be sure to let you all know when I get there so you can celebrate with me!

Friday, April 17, 2009

My experience with Eat, Stop, Eat

"You must eat 6 meals a day to lose weight."
"You have to eat exactly X many calories each day."
"NEVER (and I mean NEVER) skip a meal."
"If you skip a meal your metabolism will be ruined and you will gain weight!"

If you've been researching fat loss and nutrition, I'm sure you've heard or read these phrases before. I know I have! So when I heard there was this so-called "nutrition expert," Brad Pilon, who promoted fasting for an entire 24 hours to lose weight, I thought he had to be nuts!

But after spending time on the Turbulence Training message boards, I kept coming across people who had used Brad's program, Eat, Stop, Eat, with success. Finally, in the Fall of 2008, my curiousity was piqued, and I started asking questions about it. I was encouraged to buy Brad's book, because he explains in detail why fasting does work, and why all of that conventional wisdom is wrong.

Brad points out, quite logically I might add, that people fast for religious and spiritual reasons in countries all over the world, without destroying their metabolisms and gaining weight. And he suggests that you can use a concept called "intermittent fasting" to create a weekly calorie deficit without having to have a daily calorie deficit. He also goes into some extensive discussions and reviews of scientific research which all support his premise that fasting, when done in moderation, is perfectly healthy, and, when done in combination with resistance training, can even be done without losing muscle mass. Seriously!

After reading Brad's book, I was encouraged to give intermittent fasting a try. I started off fasting twice per week. Dinner has always been a troublesome meal for me, and the least likely for me to plan out, so I decided I would fast from lunch to lunch, meaning that I would eat lunch, and then fast through dinner, overnight, and breakfast the next morning before eating lunch again on the following day. During my first fast, I was surprised to noticed that, after I made it past about 3-4 hours from my last meal, I was not very hungry. And when I woke up the following morning, when it had been 18 hours since my last meal, I felt just as normal as I did every day! And, importantly, this normal feeling helped me break my fast with a normal lunch, not a mega meal! And YES, I worked out while fasted and was able to do so without a problem!

After several fasts, I noticed some major benefits. The first was that the weight absolutely started to drop off! It was already coming off due to my great workouts and attempts at healthy eating, but the loss absolutely accelerated. My great results from my first Turbulence Training contest are the evidence! But the other main benefits I saw were:
  • I could eat more the rest of the week. If my daily calorie target was 1300 (a deficit of 400 calories from my "maintenance" calorie level of 1700), and I was trying to eat 4-6 meals per day, that meant each meal was 200-350 calories. That's not much of a meal! But when I was fasting twice per week, I could eat for maintenance (1700 calories) on my non-fasting days, allowing me to enjoy a normal healthy meal without stressing about its size.
  • I was able to stop emotional eating cycles. Sure, maybe I felt like I "needed" a piece of chocolate after a bad or stressful day, but when I was fasting, I knew that simply wasn't an option. So I'd have a cup of hot tea or glass of water, and deal with the stress in a more productive way. The bonus was that I proved to myself that I could deal with stress without chocolate. Who knew?
  • I exposed willpower I could tap into later. When I was fasting for 24 hours straight, I proved to myself that I could get through a day without snacks, serve peanut butter without licking the spoon/knife, or wash my kids dishes without finishing up their uneaten food. On my regular eating days, I could then stop myself before I finished the last few bites of my daughter's bowl of ice cream (who doesn't eat all their ice cream???), remembering that I was strong enough to simply wash it down the drain. And I did!
  • I had less stress in my life. When I was fasting two times per week, that was two nights that I could get home and play with my kids, instead of stressing about what to make my husband and I for dinner (on fasting nights, he had to fend for himself). I also had fewer meals to prepare and pack for me to eat at work. I didn't have to totally obsess about everything I ate, as long as I was eating healthy and doing resistance training.

Now that I've achieved my weight loss goals, I still find myself fasting, but now I do it only once per week. I found that a weekly reminder of my inner strength and willpower is important for me, personally, to maintain my healthy eating habits the rest of the week. If you're curious about intermittent fasting and Eat, Stop, Eat, feel free to ask me questions about my experience in the comments section!

I'll also be featuring a few of Brad's nutrition articles in the coming weeks so that you can hear straight from the expert himself!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Escaping from a cycle of bad eating

So, it's been a few days since Easter, and I don't know about you, but I've indulged in the candy a few times too many! Did you know that Easter and Halloween are two of the biggest holidays for candy sales and consumption? And if you have kids, it's hard to do a complete moratorium, since even if you don't get them any candy, they're likely to end up with some from school or local egg hunts. This time of year I'm almost jealous of my Jewish friends celebrating passover. I would be much less tempted by Matzo than I am by those darned peanut butter eggs!

For me, each piece of candy I eat seems to open the door towards eating more. It's as if my mind has said, "well, clearly it's okay to eat some of this." So while I might start on day one with just one mini twix, by day two I've had a mini twix and a mini reese's peanut butter cup, and by day three I'm wondering if my kids will notice if I eat both of their peanut butter eggs! (Answer: Yes, they will. Not that I've done it. Yet. Some things, a mom just knows!)

I went through this same thing at Halloween, and after a week of what felt like a downward spiral, I decided to take matters into my own hands and get back to healthy eating. Now it's time for me to do the same thing, and I'll share some strategies so that those of you suffering can find a way out as well!
  1. Throw it out. Okay, this technique is easiest for those without kids, or with very young kids. Basically, a week after the holiday, you just throw it all away. Put it in a bag in the outside trash. You can keep one piece for each year of each child's age if you'd like. Trust me, they'll know how many you have, and you won't be able to sneak any!
  2. Out of sight, out of mind. Instead of leaving the candy out in a dish or in their easter basket, put it all into a brown paper bag, and put it on the top shelf of the pantry. Get it down when your kids ask for a treat. Without having it under your nose, it will be easier to get through your day without eating any. And, your kids may even start to forget how much they have, which means you can strategically follow strategy #1, with just a few pieces at at time, over the next few weeks.
  3. Buy it. From your kids, that is. Last Halloween, I told my kids I'd give them $0.25 for each piece of candy. $18 later, I had a nice full bag, and they each had a few pieces of just their very favorite candies. I took my bag to work, where the candy disappeared in less than a day. It was one of the best investments I ever made! And the upside was that my kids weren't upset about losing their candy.
  4. Have a piece of fruit. When you are considering eating a piece of candy or chocolate, crush that sugar craving by having a nice fresh and juicy piece of fruit. Really sweet fruit like pineapple or mango is often best. The fiber in the fruit helps make you feel full, and the sugar will help get you over the craving.
  5. Write it down. If you aren't journaling your food yet, now is the time to start. Sure, there may not be an easy way to determine the calories in one mini M&M, but if you eat one, WRITE IT DOWN! You may think twice about eating it next time. Jillian Michaels has also suggested writing down how you're feeling when you eat unhealthy foods. This can help you determine if your eating is emotionally based.
  6. Make it just one day. For one day, put a moratorium on candy. No matter how tempted you are, just think to yourself, "I'm not eating any candy today," and move on. Once you've proven to yourself that you can make it through a day without candy, you may find it easier to decide to pass on it the next day.

As for me, this is my confession time. So here we go!

On April 11, I ate a mini twix, mini reese's peanut butter cup, mini dark chocolate bar, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

On April 12, I ate three chocolate chip cookies, a mini twix, and half a glazed donut.

On April 13, I ate a mini reese's peanut butter cup, 2 wintergreen lifesavers, and 3 cups of popcorn (which I ate while trying to keep myself from eating the peanut butter eggs)!

That's where it stopped. After reviewing what I had documented (using strategy #5) for the previous three days, I was upset with myself for my apparent lack of control. I decided I wasn't having any more of my kid's candy. So I implemented strategy #2, and when I had a craving, had a nice plum (strategy #4).

Fortunately, I got control before I developed a habit of poor eating. I hope these techniques help you do the same!

(And thank goodness we now have over six months until Halloween!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Favorite Bodyweight Exercises - Part 1

There are some exercises that I commonly see men doing, but rarely see women doing. Because of my competitive nature, this instantly makes me want to do those same exercises.

So I thought I'd write a series of posts about some of my favorite bodyweight exercises. Why are these my favorites? Not only are they great exercises that work multiple muscle groups, but frankly some of them just look old school and cool. When a woman does them, and does them well, she will generally earn the respect of both the men AND the women around her. At least, that's been my experience!

The first, and it's a classic, is the push-up. Whenever I talk about push-ups, invariably a man will say, "do you do girl push-ups or man push-ups." I have to roll my eyes! There are two kinds of basic push-ups: from the knees, and from the toes. Your goal, of course, is to be able to work towards doing your push-ups from the toes.

In August 2008, I had my husband take a video of me doing push-ups (from the toes), so I could see my form. At the time, I struggled to do 6. But as I improved my strength and, more importantly, practiced push-ups, I got better at them. Now, the most I've done in a row without stopping is 34, but I've done more than 50 if I break them up into sets. Last summer I was at a town event, and the army had a booth there. If you could do as many push-ups as your age, you won a shirt. I couldn't do it then, but I could now!

So if you want to feel strong, cool, and wow the guys at the army booth (particularly if you are a woman), start incorporating push-ups into your workouts. You can do them anywhere, and there are endless variations to make them harder, easier, and even to make them target different muscles. I could explain all the different varieties and how to do them, but the guys (and gals) at this site do it better: http://hundredpushups.com/

Next post, I'll talk about the chin-up!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sneaky Food Labeling Tactics

With my quest for fitness and improved health (and let's face it, a better looking body), I've been trying to eat healthier. But the more research I do, the more I realize just how difficult it can be in a marketing-based environment!

Let's take your typical grocery store foods. Once you wander past the fresh fruits and vegetables, you're bombarded with food claims like, "No Sugar Added," "Trans Fat Free," "Made with Whole Grains," "High in Fiber," and "Contains Omega 3 Fatty Acids." WOW! It must be easy to eat healthy with all of these packages containing these types of labels, right? Think again!

The food manufacturers know that consumers have started to make healthier choices, and they also know that people primarily rely on packaging, including the Nutritional Information Table required by the FDA, to tell them whether a product is healthy. So they've found sneaky ways to include unhealthy ingredients in food while making the Nutritional Information Table look good.

I'm going to talk about three of my most hated sneaky labeling tactics that companies use to trick you into thinking their product is healthy.

1. Trans-fat Free. You might find this on the label of a package of food sold in the U.S.A., where I live. And when you check the Nutritional Information Table, sure enough, Trans Fat will be listed as 0g. However, check the actual ingredient list. The F.D.A. allows food manufacturers to label a product as trans-fat free if it contains less then .5g of trans fat per serving. Another term/claim I've seen used is, "0g Trans Fat per serving," which is at least more honest than the former claim, but still misleading. I had a lengthy discussion with someone who told me that her butter replacement spread was trans-fat free. Once we checked the ingredients, she was shocked to find out that it actually did contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (that's code for trans fats!). So in the area of trans fats, don't believe the food claim, don't look at the Nutritional Information grid, just check the ingredients. If you see "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" anything or "shortening," there are trans fats. Put it back and look for something else.

2. No Sugar Added. This is a tricky one. Sometimes, it means just what you'd expect -- that you have an unsweetened product. But other times, it's a buzzword for sugar substitutes like Splenda or Aspartame. Food producers will use sugar substitutes to reduce the calories and carbohydrate grams in a product. I'm a firm believer that when you are limiting your exposure to sugar, you shouldn't do so by relying on foods containing sugar substitutes. Instead, buy products that are truly sugar- and sweetener-free, and add some of your own sugar while you transition your palate to be able to enjoy unsweetened foods. Better yet, add some fruit to give your meal a natural sweetness! So again, I encourage you to check the ingredient list. If you see saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, or acesulfame potassium, the product is using sugar substitutes. I'm not saying you can never enjoy these products, but don't think of them as being sugar-free in the true sense. And personally, I'd rather have something with a small amount of sugar than a large amount of a chemical sugar replacement!

3. Made with Whole Grains. This is a food claim that sounds great on the surface, but is now being used to tout hundreds of junk foods and treats as healthy snacks. There is a whole line of breakfast cereals, each made with whole grains, that contain more than 30g of sugar per serving - and let's be honest and admit that most people don't limit themselves to just 1/2 C of cereal when they pour their bowl. You may even see products that have high fiber numbers in the Nutritional Information Table. So here are a few tips. First of all, just because something has whole grains in it, doesn't mean that you have a free pass to eat it. Still use your basic rules regarding sugar content and basic nutritional value. In other words, those new Chips Ahoy cookies made with whole grains are still a rare treat! Second, a product can contain whole grains, but still be made primarily with white flour. When checking ingredients, look for "whole wheat flour" as the first ingredient. "Wheat flour" or "enriched flour" both mean white flour, and do not indicate a significant amount of whole grains. Finally, don't be misled by those high fiber grams! Manufacturers know consumers are trying to increase their fiber content, so many of them have taken to adding processed fiber from peas or other foods. These processed additives do not have the same nutritional benefit as the regular whole grains you think you're eating. So AGAIN, check those ingredient lists, look for WHOLE grains as one of the first or the first ingredient, and beware those sneaky additives that artificially boost the fiber grams.

So that's it - my three most hated sneaky food labeling tactics used by food manufacturers. Although it may take you more time to do your shopping, I highly encourage you to READ those ingredient lists. Look for short lists without lots of chemicals, and beware of these and other sneaky tactics designed to make you regard unhealthy foods as healthy food. Sometimes shopping in the organic food section can help you find foods that aren't using these tactics, but unfortunately that's not a free pass anymore either!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My second 12 weeks of Turbulence Training

I just finished my second 12 weeks of Turbulence Training, and wanted to share my results with my readers! It was another very successful transformation, and I'm very proud of what I've accomplished.

Workouts used:
TT for Female Strength Phase II
TT Gain Muscle Lose Fat
TT Buff Dudes Hot Chicks

My stats:
Start date - 1/5
End date - 3/29

Height 5'1"
Weight 116.5 - end 111
Moving Avg Weight 115.92 - end 111.59
Chest 35" - end 34"
Waist 28" - end 26.5"
Belly 31" - end 29.5"
Hip 37" - end 35"
Thigh 17.75" - end 17.25"
Calf 12" - end 12.25"
Body fat per Tanita scale - 22% - end 20%
Body fat per calipers - no starting measurement - end 15.5%

1. Maintain or add to my lean body mass (weight is 116 with 15.5% body fat - calipers) - Both the Tanita scale and my pictures indicate that I accomplished this goal. With calipers I ended up with the same body fat measurement as I had at the end of TC3, but I think that TC3 measurement was a little lower than actual.

2. Maintain or reduce my fat (see above) - visually, I clearly did this in the chest, tummy, butt, and back

3. Perform 5 consecutive chin-ups - VERY close. I can do 4 singles now!

4. Perform 20 consecutive close-grip push-ups - YES! And I was surprised when I tested but I can do it!

5. Perform 20 consecutive decline push-ups - YES!

6. Perform 50 consecutive regular push-ups - Not there yet, although I can do way more than 50 if I break them up into sets. Consecutive is around 35 right now.

7. Improve my arm/shoulder definition - OH YES. Those 3 min arms deltoid supersets I did certainly helped, as did the arm sets in BDHC.

8. Get a bikini-worthy tummy (no 6-pack needed, but a 2-pack or 4-pack would be nice!) - still no 2 pack, but I am super proud of how my tummy looks. I am totally ready to play sports on the beach now!

I came into the fourth Turbulence Training contest ready to rededicate myself to clean eating and fitness after a bit of overeating over the holidays. But I was already below what I had seen as my goal weight so my goals this time were strength driven.

My inspiration was a picture of Jessica Biel, running around playing sports in a bikini and looking so gorgeous and unconcerned about the way she looked. I wanted that, AND I wanted to be a tough chick too! I wanted to crank out chin ups and push ups and make people in the gym stop and look at me and think, "WOW."

So I really pushed myself and tried to pick harder workouts that would push my limits and help me achieve strength. I was VERY happy with the results. I can now crank out 35 push-ups, and more importantly, I can do decline and close-up push-ups at much higher reps and with much better form that I could 12 weeks ago. I've doubled the number of chin-ups I can do, and made progress towards that elusive first pull-up, although I'm not there yet. My physical conditioning is improving, and the bodyweight circuits in GM/LF and BDHC really helped with that as well.

While I've been building strength, I've been shocked to find the pounds and inches continue to drop from a body that I already thought looked great! I bought a size 4 suit at the end of December that is now too big for me to wear. I'm a size 2! I haven't been this light since I was a freshman in college, and I found that I can fit into an evening gown I wore in my very first beauty pageant that year (1994)! It's a size 2 as well.

What you may have realized from my "before" pictures at the very start of my blog is that I fully expected to need to have breast reduction surgery within the next few years. I am so proud to say with all of my fat loss I have gone from a 34F to a very normal 34C. I can't believe it! I can buy shirts sized for my frame and not worry about my breasts popping out of them. The fact that I've gotten this without surgery is something that absolutely brings tears to my eyes! I know most women would not be happy about their chest getting smaller but for me it is such a great thing. I never realized going from body fat of around 26% to 20% and below would make such a dramatic difference.

As always, nutrition was SO key. I am so tempted by so many things and just a little bit of sugar can turn on my cravings for hours! And I continued to use my weekly ESE fast to help me mentally, by reminding me that I CAN resist temptation. I struggled with that a bit, but having my support network at the TT forums, and all the people joining in a ban on sweets except for their cheat meal really helped me. And, the encouragement to actually let my cheat be a true cheat helped too. Choosing something that really made me feel like I was treating myself helped me resist the temptations the rest of the week. Now I really have a meal routine down, and although I could stand to have some more variety in what I eat, I am eating really healthy. My latest challenge has been switching to a maintenance calorie level, and while it's taken some adjustment, I think I will settle in and get comfortable with that.

Now I feel strong, powerful, and in charge of my destiny. I'm excited to see where the next chapter takes me. Two of my neighbors commented that I look like a completely different person. But I'm not. I'm the same me I've always been, only better, more confident, and healthier! I am SO ready to go running around on the beach in my bikini, not worried whether I'm going to look bad. And I have to say it -- I look good! (And not just for a mom.)

I'm going to keep up with my TT workouts, but I'm developing a love of Kettlebells and will be taking a weekly class with an RKC coach at my gym. I'm really excited to begin exploring a new chapter of fitness and strength. I'll keep all of my readers posted on where this new chapter takes me.