Why Strong Figure Exists and My Total Health and Fitness Makeover:
Because I used to look like that girl on the left side of that photo there.
I knew NOTHING about food when growing up. The only thing I could possibly tell you about nutrition was that vegetables were good for you, and other than creamed peas and corn on the cob (with butter), I didn’t like any of them.
I hated green beans. They tasted mushy and rubbery and those stupid little strings always got caught in my teeth. Why was it that out of all the vegetables in the world, we always seemed to have green beans? And cucumbers? I didn’t like those either. But our garden seemed to produce way too many of them. Bitter. That’s how they tasted to me. Mushy rubbery green beans and bitter cucumbers.
Thank God mom knew how to fry up some squash and okra. I would totally eat those. That counted, right?
Frozen pizza. Orange juice. Cereal. Bacon. Sausage biscuits. Chicken patties. Bagels. Tuna Helper. Pillsbury Biscuits. Boxed Mac-N-Cheese. Pop Tarts and Toaster Strudels. Chicken nuggets and tater tots. Ice cream and pop corn. Little Debbie snacks.
This is what I remember when I think back to food and growing up. It’s all processed. All of it. And other than the few things that grew in our garden over the summer–that I turned my spoiled nose up to–this is all I remember eating.
It’s so sad for me to write this because looking at it now, I understand that this was easy. And that raising kids on very little money meant you had to buy what you could afford and processed food is cheap AND it tastes good. I don’t have a garden now and I miss it. I miss my dad and I wish I could tell him that I appreciate all those hours spent in his garden to grow the vegetables I wouldn’t eat. That I appreciate the food that we could afford–even if it wasn’t the “healthiest.”
Growing kids can eat food like this and get away with it. They’re growing. But I thought I could eat like this forever. I honest to God didn’t know that eating the way I was eating was going to make me fat until I looked at that photo on the left up there.
I knew I was gaining weight in college. I blamed genetics for a crappy metabolism–I mean that’s when everything stopped working for me–and I continued to eat pizza, Chinese, burritos, sugary drinks, even sodas! I stayed up late and got little sleep, pried my eyes open with cappuccinos day and night, and ate fast food every single weekend. My clothes size went from a juniors’ size 7 to a women’s 14. When I couldn’t fit into the 14s, severe depression hit. It’s also the time I saw myself in the photo.
I had to change.
But I had NO clue how or where to start. So I did the only thing that sounded right: I went on a diet.
I tried a lot of different “diets,” but the only one that worked for me was Weight Watchers. And by “worked,” I mean I could stick with the diet longer than a week and still got some results. I think I lost about 20 pounds on the WW program before hitting my plateau. And that’s when I started getting frustrated and yo-yoing. Gain some weight because I couldn’t lose anymore, go back on the diet, lose some weight, plateau again, gain weight, lose, and every time I plateaued, the number on the scale was getting higher and higher. Because I am so short–only 5 foot tall–every diet I’ve ever been on has restricted my calories to under 1500–many times within the 1200 range, and I bottomed out. Every time. I dropped as low as I could go, saving no room for progress, just flat out crushed my metabolism.
I screwed it all up.
So I had to join a gym to get further results. And let me tell you, joining a freaking gym was the last thing I wanted to do. I wasn’t good at fitness. I wanted to sit around and read books, cook casseroles, order pizza and have movie nights. Gym and carrots? I was starting to hate life.
For probably a year, maybe two, I performed a LOT of cardio. Never intervals, just steady state cardio. Elliptical. Treadmill. Bikes. One time I ran 10 miles on the treadmill before work. (Yeah, you totally read that right.) And I couldn’t walk for a week after: my feet, hips, low back, and knees hurt that bad. I took some spin classes and even started “enjoying” the stair mill. Just call me cardio queen! I lost some weight but never reshaped my body. I was just a smaller version of my flabby self. Still unhappy. Still too pudgy in the middle.
Some where along the way, I read a book about nutrition.
And that sparked my curiosity about food in general. I started reading as much as I could get my hands on about food. I eventually went from eating [processed] nutrigrain bars for breakfast with [processed] “Smart Ones” frozen cheesy broccoli and potatoes for lunch (with a [processed] 100-calorie snack pack for dessert) to eating whole grain [still processed] bagels topped with fresh tomatoes and avocados for breakfast and whole grain [I know, I know] bread with bananas and all natural peanut butter for lunch. I learned how to make dishes that included brown rice, tomatoes, garlic (I had never used garlic in my life before) and black beans; and I had completely jumped the band wagon of “whole wheat/whole grain” everything: pasta, bread, rice, oats, etc. I had turned into a cardio-loving, carb-eating, “healthy” me.
But why was I still fat? Why was I still plateauing? And why wasn’t anything working?
You’re laughing right? I was eating virtually no protein. Lifting zero weights. And still eating too many processed foods. Notice that I still haven’t mentioned vegetables. I might have started adding fruit, but vegetables? Ugh, no.
You can see now why I have turned into the advocate that I am for gaining strength, eating real foods, and taking back one’s life through the proper means of good health, enough protein, and building the proper body needed to function well as we age.
When I had to make this transformation, I had no clue what I was doing and it seems that I did everything wrong, first. Call me a slow learner, call me silly for my assumptions, call me ignorant for my lack of early education on vegetables and good health, but as much as I can’t believe I’m saying this, I don’t regret eating wrong for so long. Because I wouldn’t know what I know now, if I didn’t screw up so much. I wouldn’t know about metabolic damage and the affects of steady state cardio if I hadn’t dieted too hard or if I hadn’t focused solely on cardio when going to the gym. I wouldn’t know all the tricks for learning to love vegetables if I hadn’t pushed them away so many times, and I wouldn’t know the power and confidence of feeling strong if I had never let myself get so weak. If I hadn’t screwed up so many times with food, I wouldn’t know what works best for building muscle and getting lean, and I wouldn’t understand that eating food is about EATING FOOD! Not about how little one can eat to get skinny. (I think I just cringed.)
If I hadn’t spent years doing wrong things, I wouldn’t know about dangers of food restriction and binge eating–heck, I wouldn’t even know that’s an actual disorder. I wouldn’t know anything about nutrient timing, insulin responses, or peri-workout nutrition. I wouldn’t know about supplements, vitamins, minerals, micro or macro-nutrition. I wouldn’t know that deadlifting over 300 pounds is one of the most bad-ass feelings I’ve ever had in my life.
And if I hadn’t screwed up all those times, Strong Figure would not exist so that I could tell you both WHAT to do and maybe more importantly, what NOT to do. Because as you can see, I’ve lived it. I’ve experienced it. I’m not the kid that bounces out of kinesiology class with spirit fingers flying saying “Let’s exercise!! Exercise is FUN!” Sorry–I was never her. I’m just the one who says, “I know this is tough, but your health is important and we’re in this fight together. Let’s do some work.”
I still can’t believe it, but every day I get asked questions about health, fitness, lifting weights, and eating food. And I was once told by content media specialists, “If you answer the same questions each and every day, you are a leader in your field. People see you as the expert.”
That statement was eye opening to me. I am the leader? I thought about this for a while. I had spent over 12 solid years reading, researching, experimenting, trying, failing, trying some more, failing some more, reading some more, and more, and more. I hypothesized, I grew. I became a new person. I changed my life. I turned into that girl on the right, up there in that picture. I am succeeding. And I’m still growing, learning, and changing, even right now. Why? I freaking love this stuff, man. Twelve years of study, more than 10 certifications, thousands of books and articles researched, hundreds of theories tested, and all findings and results have been published….Oh my God, I should have earned at least TWO PhDs by now!!! I really am a leader in the field!
So that’s why we wrote, and are publishing next week, our first big project: The Strong Figure Total Health and Fitness Makeover. If you look at that picture up there on the left, I think you’d agree that that chick needed a makeover. And because I don’t want your makeover to take as long as mine did, we wrote 250 pages (plus a 50-page follow-along workbook) on how you can do it better.
In the book, you’ll find:
• Information based off both empirical research and anecdotes
• Success Stories
• Nutrition tips (Unit II, Nutrition, is the longest chapter of the book!)
• Macronutrients and their proper breakdowns
• Essentials for good health
• How to perform a fitness assessment
• Benefits and “How To” of basic exercise
• How to move and stretch better
• The importance of getting more sleep and reducing stress
• Lists, charts, and plans you can start today
We’re pre-selling the book right now during this week: our special LAUNCH WEEK for a very reasonable price. (A price that you will not see again.) Right now, if you pre-order, you’ll get the book for 25% off ($30 instead of $40) but you also get the workbook for FREE!
Why your health should be your primary focus?
- Do you drink enough water?
- Do you get at least eight hours of quality sleep every night?
- Do you eat enough vegetables? Enough protein? Enough fat?
- Do you live an active lifestyle?
- Do you have too much stress in your life?
If you don’t like the answers to these questions, then it is time to start your Total Health and Fitness makeover.
This week’s Strong Figure Conditioning Workouts are taken straight from the HIIT chapter of The Total Health and Fitness Makeover:
Workout One: 3 Rounds for time-
- Run 400 meters
- 50 body weight squats
Workout Two: 3-5 Rounds-
- 10 kettlebell swings (lunges if you don’t have a kettlebell)
- 10 burpees
Workout Three: 3 Rounds for time-
- 20 squats
- 20 burpees
- 20 push-ups
- 60 second plank