March 17, 2014

What Exercise Taught Me (that has nothing to do with my body)

I write a lot about how fitness is my biggest passion. And it basically is. However, there is one other thing that comes in at a very close second. That is empowering women. I am a girl's girl. I want women to feel great about themselves; be confident, feel loved, and have a strong sense of motivation. We live in a world where women are pinned against one another. We are almost genetically inclined to come out of the womb ready to tear down the woman next to us. I am not wired that way. I want that to change so that change starts within me.

The media is all about a woman and her looks. On magazine covers you always see women and something about their physical appearance. This woman gained X amount of pounds, this woman lost her baby weight in record time, this woman has a killer body, and it goes on and on. Physical looks and sex almost define a woman in this world... it seems.

When I was a teenager, I fell victim to this in a huge way. 

When I was growing up, I was an "ugly duckling". I was teased and bullied a lot. I hit puberty when I was about 7. I remember in second grade having a big butt and needing to wear a bra. I loathed it and I was so embarrassed. Thus I wore baggy clothes that were far too big for me. I never wanted any of my clothes to show my body. I had big glasses too and never cared how my hair looked. I was pretty content. My neighborhood was nothing but boys and I was close with my younger brother, so my days were spent playing sports, riding four-wheeler's, and playing video games. I thought nothing of it.

Time goes by and I grow older. The summer before 8th grade, when I was 13 years old, for the first time, I exercised and started to lose weight. I began to like my new found muscle and curves. I then started wearing contacts, and learned about hair and makeup due to making more friends who were girls. I also bought more fashionable clothes that fit me. That year, things changed a lot for me in school. I had more "friends" than ever, boys were taking notice, and I felt a way about myself that I had never felt before. I was becoming addicted to the attention. 

I learned that if I looked pretty, people would "like" me.

My last year of middle school was great, but then high school comes. I transfer out of the school system I grew up in the second month of my freshman year. I then joined MySpace in 2004 to keep in touch with all of my old friends. That was when I first laid eyes on a model on there. Her screen name was "ForbiddeN" but her real name is Christine. She was the most popular woman on My Space and was featured on talk shows and magazines from it. I thought that was so incredible and I wanted to be just like her. She had platinum blonde hair, extremely tan skin, huge boobs, and a skinny body. I wanted to be that. 

However, that did not quite happen. My freshman and sophomore years in school took a turn for the worse because of all of the bullying I went through and abuse from my then step-father (my mother has since divorced him). I was walked to class by the Student Resource Officer because I would skip class or show up late because if I walked to class alone, people would yell at me, throw paper, and things like that. My mom came up to the school countless times on my behalf, and having the SRO aid me to class was the only option to help the situation. I was a cheerleader and during basketball games people would sit on the bleachers while I was on the gym floor doing a cheer or dance routine, and make faces at me, point at me, and laugh. Another time, I had to run on a mile on the track outside one day after school since I missed gym class the day before. The football team was running the steps on the stadium and every time they would see me run past them on the track, they would yell really mean things. My list could go on for what happened for those two years. I exercised at the gym during that time, but I ate my feelings. I ate a lot. I binged, a lot.

When I got my license the summer before my junior year of high school and started working, my weight was under a better control. I was able to enroll in the co-op program so I only had to go to school until 11:15 AM everyday and then I graduated early. I was finally fit, attractive, and I was getting good attention. I had never been "pretty" before or had good attention, so this was unbelievably euphoric. 

Physical beauty and promiscuity ruled my entire life. I was not going out in the world sleeping with everyone, but I made sure people noticed my body. I made sure I stood out. The attention became an addiction, and I was so stupid at the time to not realize that the only reason I was getting this attention is because men wanted sex. Not because they liked me or thought I was an awesome person to befriend; they simply wanted to get  in my pants. I was so caught up in the moment that I did not have the intelligence to differentiate attention because of my body and attention because of someone liking me for who I am.

I rebelled a lot during this time period. I put my father and step-mom through so much pain. They are devote Christians and put strict curfew's on me, but I constantly disobeyed everyone. My mom was more laid back and gave me more freedom, however I ended up taking even that for granted. I got to the point where my parents had to sell my car for a couple of months to try and teach me a lesson. It was a horrible period of my life. One that I am so, so ashamed of. I was so obsessed with the attention I was getting that I let everyone else around me, who loved me, hurt. You see this attention was unheard of for me. I grew up as a tom-boy and ugly duckling. Then I was bullied and teased relentlessly throughout high school, so when I all of the sudden become "hot and sexy", the attention was a drug for me. 

It was not until I started my weight loss journey at 19 years old in September of 2008 that I finally snapped out of it. After nearly a year of hard partying, drinking, binge eating, and fast food trips, my body suffered a tremendous weight gain. I literally could not believe I had gained over 100 pounds in a 14-15 months. I was so caught up in a partying lifestyle that I did not realize what was happening myself. I felt so stuck. I was only 19 years old and was 276 pounds. I thought to myself: "how in the world can I bounce back from this?". My plan was to not get so overwhelmed and take it one step at a time. And that is what I did. I told you guys how I initially lost weight: hard research, obtaining my NASM certification (not because I necessarily wanted to train people, but I wanted the education), clean eating, and hard training. I made one healthy choice at a time.

Every day that I would go to the gym, I felt myself getting stronger and more fit. I would see myself in the mirror drenched in sweat and think "damn I look beautiful". I did not look beautiful because I had perfect hair or makeup, I looked beautiful because I was working hard. I was out of my comfort zone, but doing the exercises anyway. I never had the best gym clothes. My body was never the best in the gym. However, I stayed dedicated. That impressed me. That made me feel like I could do anything.  I would be so scared going into the gym sometimes, but I would make myself go. I would make myself not care what anyone else was thinking or saying. Because no one out there can make me lose weight except for myself. If I wanted to get fit, I had to put in the work. I was on my own personal mission. No one knew the pain and agony I felt inside. So I pushed on.

The gym in a sense has changed my life. It changed the way I viewed myself. It helped me learn to love myself for who I am, not because of the way I look. I know that may sound kind of crazy, because exercising helps our outward appearance so much. But let me tell you this, you will never move mountains without a strong a mind. Your body can do whatever you want it too, it is your mind and inner strength that must conduct it.

Over time I watched my body transform and that transformation changed the way I thought. I suddenly realized I could do anything I wanted. The gym was hard work and I was so uncomfortable in there sometimes, but I did it anyway. Imagine where else I could use the mentality! I realized that I have a worth and my worth was not my outward appearance. I made people start to respect me. I made people get to know me for who I was on the inside. I realized that it was my determination and dedication that changed my body. It was my hard, raw work that did this. That is an incredible feeling.

That is what saved me in November when part 2 of my journey began -- the confidence the gym taught me. I knew I was overweight. I knew I did not look the way I used too. More so, I knew I could get back to the place where I used to be. I knew I was better than the old me who binges when they are sad, who gets hurt when people talk about me, who feels sorry for myself - I am better than that. It was time to cut off my self loathing and hit the gym again. All of my clothes had grown too tight, I was embarrassed seeing people I knew, because I knew they could tell I was bigger, but I pushed anyway. I know in my heart that I am strong, confident, and intelligence. I have all of the tools I needed to get back to where I was. It was time to dig deep again and find that inner love I used to have and put it to use.  

As I would watch other woman battle with these same weight issues, I wanted to wanted to help them. As I would see other women battle with their on self-worth, I wanted to help. I wanted to scream to everyone who was going through what I did; "I know your pain! I know it all too well. Please listen to me because you can get past this". I suddenly wanted to tell every woman in the world that we are not creatures to be used as a dolls and for sex. We have hearts and minds and that if we work hard, we can do anything we want. 

The gym saved me from a downward spiral and a dark place. It not only transformed my body and health, but my mind and morals.

March 11, 2014

Healthy Loaded Chicken and Cheese Potatoes

I absolutely love this recipe. It is a good mix of lean protein and complex carbohydrates so it's nutritious, enjoyable, and filling! You probably have most of the ingredients lying around your home already. It is easy too. The below recipe is for one serving. 
  • What you need:
  • 1 and a half baby red potatoes 
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon of turkey bacon bits 
  • 1/4 of low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of low fat feta cheese
  • Chives 
  • 2 tablespoons of plain Greek Yogurt (optional)

  • What to do:
  • 1) Place chicken breast in skillet (nonstick spray first)to cook via stovetop. Cook as you normally would, however, I would recommend leaving it just a tad undone as it will finish cooking in the oven after. I let my chicken breast marinate for 24 hours in balsamic vingerette then coated it with Carolina Blackened seasoning -- make it to your liking!)

While the chicken is cooking...
  • 2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • 3) Spray cookie sheet with nonstick spray. 
  • 4) Cut potatoes into thin slices and top with seasoning (optional) and place on cookie sheet. (I topped my red potatoes with garlic and wine seasoning for flavor)
  • 5) Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on potatoes
Wait for chicken to finish cooking
  • 6) Cut chicken into small, shredded pieces and place on top of potatoes and shredded cheese
  • 7) Sprinkle bacon pieces, feta cheese, and chives on top
  • 8) Place cookie sheet in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes is finished, place your oven on the broil setting and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • 9) Carefully remove cookie sheet from oven and let cool for just a minute or two, then dig in!

Optional: I like to top mine with Greek Yogurt for a very low calorie type of "dressing". Take the two tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt and mix with one tablespoon of water until it has formed a creamy texture then drizzle over potatoes. 
  • Nutrition Facts: 1 serving 
  • This will vary based on portions, brands used, recipe variations, etc.
  • Calories: 350
  • Fat: 11g
  • Carbs: 35g
  • Protein: 18g

March 6, 2014

My 10-year gym anniversary: how my passion started.

It was in March of 2004 that I ever stepped foot into a gym. My passion was born and life has never been the same.

I actually began working out when I was 13. The summer after 7th grade, before 8th. When I first started exercising in 2003, I used my mom's old exercise videos. My mom was a BIG crash dieter. She would buy 10 different exercise tapes, 5 different supplements (MetaboLife with Ephedra anyone?) 19 different outfits - and never stick with anything. Lucky for me, I got all of the hand me downs. I would wear the floral design tank tops with matching knee length spandex shorts and get to work. I would do an exercise tape (a lot of Richard Simmons, Denise Austin, and The Firm. Denise Austin was my favorite because I wanted to look just like her. I thought she was so hot) then go run outside. Running outside pissed me off a lot of times though. I always used my disc-man so I could listen to music. I had to hold it in my hand because I did not have a clip. And when I would run fast, the CD player would always skip.

I religiously did my exercise tapes and running at home. After about 6 months, my mom noticed my dedication and decided she would buy me, my brother, and her gym memberships so we could all workout together. She picked my brother and I up from school every afternoon since she only worked Friday-Sunday as an ER Nurse Supervisor. Our new routine after school everyday would be us three going to the gym. It sounded great to me. My brother was not excited. We joined the gym "Body Fit" in Eden, NC - one town over from where we lived. Body Fit is an extremely tiny gym and it is where my passion first began. Below are pictures the gym, courtesy of their Facebook page:

I loved exercising at home, but the gym brought a brand new level of excitement. It was incredibly stimulating, versatile, fun, and I loved how I felt after. I was instantly hooked. I looked forward to going ever single day after school. My brother and mom only lasted about a month. I begged her to let me keep my membership though. She obliged, but it was hard. The gym was 20 minutes away from our home since it was in the next town over. Thus she would have to drop me off, find something to do for an hour, then pick me back up because going home was a waste of gas and time. However, she did it. On Friday's when I would go to my dad's for the weekend, she would drop me off and dad would pick me up. Dad would take me on the weekends as well. He would drop me off, go home, then come back and pick me up. My parents did that for over a year so I could continue to exercise at that gym. 

It felt good to move. It felt good to get out the stress of the day. As I have previously written about before, I was bullied in school a lot. The gym was my savior from it. Instead of turning to alcohol or drugs, which were sadly readily available, I chose music and exercise. It was a liberating feeling to blast my music through my disc-man and sweat out my high school problems. 

I was so embarrassed that my parents had to pick me up though. Everyone thought I was so much older than I was, so having my parents drop me off and pick me up was so *uncool*. I could not wait until I was old enough to drive to the gym myself and put my key ring up on wall like everyone else did. Ha!

On my 16th birthday, I was at the DMV 30 minutes before it opened so I could be the first in life to get my license. I passed with flying colors, then I started my first day of my first job; Food Lion. After working, I drove myself to the gym. I felt like such an adult and I proudly laid my keys on the key ring board that was mounted on the wall. 

Shortly after my 16th birthday on July 30th, 2005, I switched gyms. I joined a gym that was in the town I lived in - Reidsville, NC. I trained there from 2005 to 2010. I left that gym when I was 20 years old and moved to where I currently live, Charlotte, NC. I made so many friends there and I learned so much. I almost felt like I grew up in that gym. I had many, many mentors there varying from the owners, prior bodybuilder's, powerlifters, and everything in between. That is where I learned to train hard, lift weights, and become dedicated. It makes me want to cry writing about that gym. Everyone there was like my family. 

From 2008-2010, I worked at a popular gym chain called "The Rush Fitness Complex". Since it was 45 minutes away from where I lived, I did not always drive there to train on my days off. 

When I moved to Charlotte in March of 2010, there was a brand new gym being built beside of my apartment complex; literally right across the parking lot. It was huge, and I could not have been more excited. I felt like I really lucked out being able to have a gym so close and able to walk there a lot of days. LA Fitness (formally known as Urban Active Fitness) opened in September of 2010. I was elated that it was finally opened. I watched it grow from dirt and cement to a huge fitness facility, and I was ready to train. I went there the first day it opened and the rest has been history. I also worked there in 2012 as a second job!

I posted this picture on my Facebook in 2010 before it opened. They held an open house so you could tour the gym, see what it is about, and sign up. I of course went so I could get a first look!

And to this day, nearly 4 years and 1 name change later, I still walk to that very gym! The below picture is from my blog a couple of weeks ago when it was beautiful outside and I walked there. 

Exercising is a lifelong hobby and weight loss is an ongoing journey. You are going to have many ups and downs. Sometimes you may get some low that you feel like you can't get back up. Kind of like how I felt all of 2013, but what matters is when you just keep going. I push hard every single day and you can too. Every second is a second to make a good decision and get it right. One healthy choice at a time.

January 29, 2014

When you want to lose weight, but have no idea where to start

I get asked the question a lot, what did you do to lose weight? That question is usually followed by the comment; "I want to lose weight, but I have no idea what to do or how to get started". Losing weight is so simple, unbelievably simple. However, even though it is simple, it is not easy. To lose weight all you need to do is eat clean, exercise, and stay motivated. It sounds simple, right? Repeat those steps everyday and you will be able to lose weight.

I sincerely believe the biggest obstacle people struggle with is staying motivated. Unfortunately motivation is not something you can buy. There is no magic motivation pill you can pop once a day, nor a surgical procedure you can go under for and be done with it. Motivation comes deep within yourself and it is something that you have to push yourself with everyday on your journey.

When I decided that I had to lose weight, It was a Tuesday afternoon in September of 2008. I was 19 years old. I was at the doctor's office and a nurse had just weighed me and took my blood pressure as they always do when a patient comes from an appointment. I felt numb. I was 19 years old and weighed 276 pounds. I had gained 116 pounds in two years. Throughout high school, especially my senior year, I stayed very muscular and fit. However, I graduated early, and from January 2007 to September 2008, life to me meant nothing but partying, binging, fast food, and skipping the gym. I was at the doctor that September day to talk to my MD about depression. I had been battling it off and on. I would shower with the lights off because I could not stand to see myself naked. I would cry in the dressing rooms of any stores I was in because clothes never fit me correctly. I started to never see my friends because I hated going out with them. I was the fattest and ugliest of the group, so why even bother to go out? I just wanted to stay home and feel sorry for myself. And I wanted food to comfort me. 

When my doctor came in the room to talk to me, I told her what I was going through. We talked for about half an hour and she thought I should see a Psychologist. She was just a small town medical Doctor and she concluded that my problems were better fit for a Psychologist to evaluate. When I left, I sat in my car and replayed the conversation that just ensued and I thought really hard about what I told her. My problems sounded different when I said them aloud. For the first time, I told someone why I was feeling depressed. It was then sitting in my car, that I decided I had to lose weight. I had to change my life. I was 19 years old and I should be in the best shape of my life - having the best time of my life. My depression was not due to a neurological chemical imbalance to where I would need medication, it was because I loathed myself so much.

When I arrived home from the doctor, I started my research. That is how I initially got started. I did a lot of research to make myself learn. I could not afford a fancy weight loss program or a trainer to do all of the work for me and I just follow their lead. I knew that I wanted to learn so my change could be permanent. I went online and looked up YouTube videos for exercise and healthy eating, I would look up clean eating recipes, the benefits of lean proteins, vegetables, fiber, and carbohydrates - and examples of each of those food groups. I learned the difference between a simple and complex carbohydrate as well as monounsatured and trans fats. I would read and print pictures and instructions on different weight lifting exercises and the various types of cardio such as endurance and high intensity interval training. I worked for what I wanted. If I wanted to lose weight, I needed to learn how to do it correctly. I ordered books and magazines on nutrition and fitness. There are also a plethora of weight loss blogs and websites online filled with writers who are willing to help people, such as myself! If you want to lose weight but have no idea where to start, feed your brain with information. 

After I had an idea on what to eat, I consciously made myself make better choices. That evening after I read on nutrition and fitness, I made a clean dinner. My dinner consisted of a lean protein, vegetables, and a complex carbohydrate. I made progress. I was learning, and my first step to a clean meal was successful. Next, I sat down to write out and schedule my days so I could always ensure I have a designated time to exercise. Then I woke up the next morning and had a clean breakfast. Later that day, I said no to soda. After that I avoided picking up fast food on the way home from class. These tiny, insignificant choices that one makes throughout their day completely add up when you are on a weight loss journey. Good choices are constantly made, time goes by, and the next thing you know, it has been a week and you lost 8 pounds. 

If you want to lose weight, you can start right now. If you are drinking a sugary soda, toss it. Grab a glass of water. Are you going out for dinner? Order water to drink and order lean protein such as turkey, chicken, or fish and ask the cooks to prepare it with as little butter and salt as possible. Take an hour from your day to dedicate to exercise. Instead of watching TV, playing Candy Crush, or checking out Facebook, devote that time to a good work out. If you want something in life, it is up to you to make it happen. Excuses will not get you anywhere, and finally on that day in 2008, I was ready to give the excuses up. 

As your weight loss journey progresses, eating clean and exercising will become a habit. It truly becomes second nature. It has been scientifically shown it takes 21 days to create a habit. And it is true. When you first start clean eating and exercise, it is really hard. I can't take the hard away from it. Nor can anyone else. It is just something you have to push through if you really want it. 

Here is when the best part starts to come alive The incredible feelings. The feeling when you are able to be satisfied from food - not miserably full. The feeling of energy that comes from your clean meals. I feel like I am ready to take on the world after I eat healthy. I do not have that "food coma" feeling where I am miserable and want to fall asleep. Aside from proper food choices, you have the accomplishments with working out; be it in the gym, at home, or elsewhere. I pushed through a hard workout and my body is tingling of success (that is one of my personal favorites). Your endorphin's are going crazy. I started off not being able to run a mile, now I can run 5 without stopping. I previously could only do 3 sets of 10 repetitions, 12 pound dumbbell curls, but now I can do 3 sets of 15 - with proper form. I can go harder. I can go faster. I can go longer. I look in the mirror and see myself shrinking. The pants that were too tight a month ago, are now falling off of my waist. I can see my body getting toned. I can flex my arm and see definition starting to appear.  Your hard work comes to a surface. You finally understand and you finally appreciate the hard work you have put in. These are your rewards. And they keep you going. I want to be better than I was yesterday and I can't wait to be better than that tomorrow. 

One of the bonuses about losing weight that no one really talks about is how your accomplishments effect the rest of your life. I find that I want to be a better person at my job. I want to be a better friend. I want to set harder goals. I feel so much better about myself and I have learned to love myself more than I thought possible. I proved that I can work hard and stay dedicated to improve my body and health, and I also happen to strength my mind. My confidence. My self worth. Anyone can lose weight and you get started right now. Start by making healthier choices whenever you can. Do not overwhelm yourself, just take it one step at a time. You will not lose all of the weight you want in a day, week, month, or probably even 2 months. It takes time. It takes dedication, consistency, motivation from within, and if you want to start, take initiative and do it right now. Learn anything you can about proper nutrition and exercise, talk to your friends, talk to a trainer, buy books, obtain free material online - there are millions of sources. Once you gain some knowledge, execute it by making one healthy choice at a time. 

I'm there with you! On November 25th 2013, I had to almost start over. I am building myself up again from a hard year with a lot of obstacles. And I am doing it, one bite and one calorie at a time.

January 12, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Cups

Clean eating does not have to be boring and bland. This recipe will keep any sweet tooth craving satisfied. Introducing Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Cups:

What you need:

  • 1/2 cup of plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 scoop of protein powder
  • 6 packs Stevia
  • 1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder 
  • 1 cup of Peanut powder (You can now buy PB2 at WalMart. I do not reccomend using peanut butter for this recipe because it adds a lot of extra calories, sugar, etc.)
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • 24 mini muffin tin try (you can use any type of muffin tray actually, however it will change the nutrition facts)
What you do: 

  • In the first bowl:
  • Add cocoa powder, Stevia, half a scoop of protein powder, 1/2 cup of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, and Greek yogurt and stir until creamy and well blended.
  • In the second bowl: 
  • Add peanut powder, half a scoop of protein powder, and 1/2 cup of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk and blend stir until creamy and well blended.
  • Spray baking pan generously with nonstick spray
  • Place about half a tablespoon of the chocolate mix first in the muffin tin
  • Top each spot in the muffin tin with the peanut mix
  • Place in freezer for 90 minutes
  • Enjoy!
Nutrition Facts (24 servings) per cup:

  1. Calories: 26
  2. Fat: .08g
  3. Carbs: 2.7g
  4. Sugar: 1.2g
  5. Protein: 2.6g
Keep these frozen until ready to eat. They thaw quickly and will melt if you do not eat them within the first 10-15 minutes of taking them out of the freezer.

December 17, 2013

Battling Gym Insecurities and My Recent Struggle

Who has gym insecurities? Who reading this, truly wants to work out at a gym, but is scared to death? You have so many concerns that you just tell yourself to forget the idea of ever joining one.

I did. I told myself that many, many times.

When I was 15 years old, I joined a gym. However, I began exercising when I was 13 years old. I was a very overweight child. When I was thirteen, my exercises were "Denise Austin" videotapes and running through my neighborhood. When I started cheerleading my sophomore year of high school, I wanted to really get into more cardio exercise and weight lifting. I was lifting girls constantly as I was a spotter and we wore our cheer outfits on game days to school. I needed to look good. It did not help the bullying I received though

When I joined the gym I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, come on, I was on 15 years old. But I took initiative and I learned. I worked out religiously from 15-17 years old and I loved it. I looked great, gained a lot of muscle and lost a lot of body fat. Then I graduated high school early, in January of 2007. 

From January of 2007 until September 2008, partying, an incapacity to balance college plus work, and binge eating consumed my life. I went from a solid 160 pounds of pure muscle to 276 in a year and a half. I rarely went to the gym during that time period and had forgotten a lot of the things I taught myself about health and fitness. In September of 2008 my weight was reaching an old time high and I visited my doctor to see about my treatment for depression.

My weight had gotten so bad that I would not buy new clothes. I could not handle my reflection in the mirror in the dressing rooms. I would cry. I would sit in the dressing rooms and just cry. I would shower with the lights off so I would not have to see my naked body in the reflection of the big bathroom mirror. I would stop going out with my friends because I felt so ugly compared to them. I would make up excuses so I could just be alone, binge, and feel sorry for myself.

I decided I had to change. My doctor was going to prescribe me a pill (so easily how they do that) to help with my depression. But a light bulb went off in my head and I knew the root of my problem. The problem was me and my lifestyle, not a chemical inbalance in my head that required medication. I had to make a difference in my life. I will never forget that Tuesday afternoon in my doctor's office. I can tell you what I wore. I can tell you what I ate. I can tell you what I did that day. That is how monumental that day was to me.

It was time for me to hit the books and the internet to start teaching myself how to eat and exercise again. Healthy eating was OK to get back into. Sure, I was miserable for a while, but it was easy to go to the grocery store, buy food, and then prep food and eat it. I did OK with that.

However, going back to the gym... I was terrified. I was going to be in front of people that used to know and I was going to be over 100 pounds heavier. What would people say, what would they think? I could not remember how to do half of the exercises I used to do. 

I knew I had to go, though. I had to get over that fear. It's truly just that simple. I had tons of gym clothes at home, so I dressed myself and it was time to go back into it. Nothing fit. It was unreal how my work out clothes looked on me. I used to wear them all of the time. And now putting them on, you could see my stomach bulging through, my legs barely fitting in the pants, and it was an disaster. It was enough to make me almost never go back. But what good would that bring? What problems would I solve by doing that? I bought new clothes and it was time to make a difference.

Some of my top questions and comments from women since I have started writing and sharing my story and journey is about how they are terrified and intimated they are by a public gym.I get that. I was there! I am still that way sometimes. But there truly comes a time in life where you have to let go of your fears and excuses and just do it because you need too. Not everyone has the luxury of getting a hard, solid workout from home. Gym memberships are not always expensive either. Planet Fitness, which is almost everywhere now is only $10 a month. And most gyms I have ever seen are no more than $35 a month. The bottom line is, if you WANT something that bad, like to lose weight and get fit, YOU WILL MAKE it happen. Go over your monthly budget and expenses and try to work something out. That is what I do.

Today I wanted to write about some of the gym insecurities that I dealt with and had to make myself overcome, as well as some of the issues that I know a lot of other women experience as well.

The gym is not a beauty contest

   This probably the biggest insecurity that I dealt with personally as I know a lot of other women do. The gym is not a runway. The gym is not a fashion show. The gym is not a beauty contest. Repeat that to yourself 100 times and make yourself believe it. That is what I did. If a women is in the gym with full on makeup and perfect hair, she is doing something VERY wrong. The gym is a place where you come to work out and sweat. I know not one person who works their ass off in the gym and looks glamorous when they finish. Sometimes women think they are doing the right thing by looking like barbie when they are working out in the gym, but you look like a joke and cannot be taken seriously. If you know me or see my pictures, I am all for makeup, but the gym is not the place for it. I do not wear uber expensive gym clothes in the gym nor do I ensure my make up looks perfect. The gym is a time to work. The time to push your limits, the time to overcome challenges. 

When I feel beautiful in the gym,  I am soaked in sweat. I added one more rep. I did an extra 10 minutes of cardio. I sprinted harder than I have have before. THAT is beautiful in the gym. Your determination and dedication are things of beauty in exercise, not the make up on your face, the label on your clothes, or the style of your hair.

All of the girls in the gym have much better bodies than I do.

   This issue continues from the above, and to this I say, SO WHAT? They obtained their fit and muscular bodies from exercise and healthy eating. They were not born that way - we all have to start somewhere. Comparing yourself to other women in the gym will tear you apart. Do not focus on anyone else in there but YOU. Do you want a body like theirs? WORK FOR IT. For me, seeing women in the gym with hot bodies, motivates me even more! I want it, so I am going to push even harder. Try making that negative feeling of jealously or insecurity, and make it positive. If you keep working hard, you will have it too. And every work out is one step closer. 

I don't know anything about working out, so I am not going to go. I will look like an idiot.

   No one starts out at the gym knowing everything about exercise. No one is born with an expertise in exercise knowledge. Go learn. Most weight equipment in gyms have pictures and a label on the machine to instruct you on how to properly engage in that particular exercise. You are not looking like an idiot if you are reading the directions labeled on a particular exercise machine. That is taking an initiative; that is being motivated. If you take a couple of weeks to get familiar with free weights, exercise machines, and cardio machines, you will gain knowledge to where you do not have to do that forever. 

I took a notebook into the gym. And I did not care if anyone thought I looked crazy or not. I wanted to learn. I could not afford a Person Trainer nor did I want to rely on one. I would take notes about certain machines, tips for myself, and progress I made. I would try each machine and learn the proper form (which is IMPERATIVE). The best way to learn is just try it out. I also watched how others used machines and sometimes I would ask questions. I was never embarrased asking "how to" because I truly wanted to be better and learn how to get that way. 

I do not want men staring me down.

   I think a lot of times our own insecurities get the best of us. We do not feel positive or confident going into the gym so we feel as if the whole facility has their eyes on us and are watching every move we make. Most of the time people in the gym are in their own little world. They are fighting their own inner battles and worried about their own workouts. But sometimes we will get the occasional creeper who is standing there watching you work out. Do not let that keep you from joining a gym or going back to exercise. Weight loss is about YOU. It is not about anyone else. If it is that bad, go tell someone who is employed by the gym or move to another piece of equipment. Or if you are really ballsy, call he/she out on it. I would never let someone who could possibly be "staring" at me, keep me from reaching my goals. That is giving someone else the power. Ignore it or find help, that is not a plausible exercuse for not exercsing.


I want to conclude with another before and after picture. 2013 has been the most diffcult year for me health wise. For the four months of the year I was extremely sick, went through a very bad time that lead to immediate surgery to save my life, and it took a long time to recover. And that's life. Life is full of these up's and down's. I was doing great and had lost so much weight, and then I went to rock bottom and put a lot back on. Fitness is a way of life and a never ending journey. It truly never ends. It requires hard work and dedication for the rest of your life. It may sound hard, but it isn't. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me and helps keep motivated in every single aspect of my life.

I feel like now, at this point in my life, I am engaging on a brand new journey. I am turning into a smarter, healthier, and more compassionate woman than I ever thought I could be. Going through so much heartache this year has made me a better person. I am more motivated now than I have ever been. Not only to help myself, but other people as well.

I have been doing much better the past few months, but over the past 22 days - better than ever. I am elated to say, in those 22 days I have lost 14.1 pounds. I cannot wait to show my full progress soon and write all about the awesome changes!

Last night:

Just. Keep. Going.

Have you overcome gym insecurities? What are you still battling that keeps you from the gym?

July 15, 2013

Zucchini and Feta Burgers

I think I have quite possibly came up with the best recipe ever in the history of "healthy eating". I know that is a pretty bold statement, but these "burgers" are to die for! They are fast, easy, and affordable to make, too. You probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen already. 

What you need:

  • Serving size: 4 large "burgers"
  • 1 extra large zucchini (or two small)
  • 1/2 cup of reduced fat or fat free feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of extra light olive oil
  • 1 egg white 
  • 1/3 cup of whole wheat flour
  • I always recommend my readers adding their own favorite ingredients to make these even more delicious and to your specific liking! Onions and peppers are a good idea. As well as plain (non-flavored) protein powder!
  • First, grate your zucchini. I use a regular grater -- one you would use for cheese.
  • Drain the zucchini. You can use cheese cloth or put the zucchini in a strainer over the sink and pat down firmly on the zucchini with a spatula. 
  • In a large mixing bowl add the zucchini and all of the other ingredients. Mix well with a spoon until everything is well blended and your batter is thick. If your batter is too thin, add more flour, cheese, or zucchini. If it is not thick enough, you burgers will not form properly. 

  • Form mixture into four large patties
  • Spray frying pan with nonstick spray, place patties in it and cook via stove top. I use 6-7 heat setting
  • Let cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until patties reflect a golden/brown tint.
Lastly, enjoy!

Nutritional Information per "burger":
*This will vary depending upon quantities, brands, and amount consumed.
  • Calories: 150
  • Fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 8g
  • Protein: 5g
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