Archive for month: November, 2014

M'Lynn on the left, Ollie on the right

If you’re like most people, you’ve likely been staying busy with the holiday festivities this time of year. With social events and family gatherings popping up seemingly everyday, no doubt you may be feeling some overwhelm.

This time around, Evan and I decided to keep Thanksgiving pretty low-key given that 1) all our friends were out of town (so it happens with military life), and 2) our wedding is just around the corner. (Read: I declared that there’s absolutely no way I’m going through the trouble of cooking up a full turkey dinner for two people when we still have last-minute wedding details to finalize.) We ended up making reservations at a popular restaurant in downtown Savannah that we’d never been to before, and we wined and dined our way through the modern rendition of Thanksgiving.

‘Twas a good time.

There are so many things that I’m grateful for this year. Where do I even begin?

I’m grateful that I took (yet another) leap of faith and moved down to Savannah earlier this March.

A change in setting was exactly what I needed for my emotional wellness, my overall happiness, and ultimately the growth of my brand. Setting up a garage gym, having a full kitchen to actually cook my own meals again (rather than ordering through Seamless everyday), and feeling safe in my own neighborhood were just a few things that I so desperately craved — and I made all of that happen.

I was told that I was committing career suicide by moving away from one of the fitness hubs of the world, but I didn’t let that deter me, and for that I am grateful.

I’m grateful that I immersed myself in a hobby outside of fitness.

I know how difficult it can be to have a life that has nothing to do with the gym and the kitchen. I’ve swung from one extreme to the other without batting an eyelash — finding that happy place in the middle has been surprisingly tricky, as I’m sure many of you can attest to.

Yet I was aware that, if I wanted to keep this up over the long-term, I’d have to pull the reigns back.

So I got involved with a local foster organization and became a foster mommy to some puppies in need of love. :)

Even better, Evan and I ended up falling head over heels for our second foster pup and we were quick to adopt our lab mix baby, M’Lynn. She and our pug Ollie have been the sweetest pair together, and the two of them have brought immense joy to our lives.

M'Lynn on the left, Ollie on the right

M’Lynn on the left, Ollie on the right

I’m grateful to have mentors (both official and unofficial) who support me, guide me, and give me the tough love I need.

You know the saying: If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. This year, I’ve been especially proactive about staying connected with those smarter, more accomplished, and much further along in their careers than me.
My dad has been my go-to for all things business decisions, financial advise, and general venting; Evan has been an incredible sounding board every evening and has been integral in making sure that I don’t overwork myself; Dr. Layne Norton has become a great friend of mine, and we’ve worked on some really fun projects together (also, he convinced me to get my ass out of NYC, so thank you for that!); Adam Bornstein has spoken with me over the phone every week for the past six months as my business coach; Bret Contreras has answered my random texts, called me up to offer his two cents, and encouraged me to keep fighting the good fight; and other inspirations, including Marie ForleoMelanie DuncanLewis Howes, and more, who have challenged me to aim higher and think bigger as an entrepreneur.

I’m grateful that I’m able to fully enjoy the holiday season rather than fretting about my fitness.

I could go on forever, so I’ll end it on this note. There was a time not long ago when the holidays were a source of immense anxiety for me, as I was petrified about being around all the delicious food.

How could I exercise self control to resist all the temptations?
How do I survive the next few months without derailing all my progress?
Is there any way I can get out of these social events so I can stick to my diet?

These were questions that I asked myself over and over — but they were all the wrong questions.

You see, since then, I’ve learned a few things:

  • Long-term fitness adherence is not about having more self-control than the next person, but rather about eliminating the need for self-control as much as possible. In other words, white-knuckling it is a short-term strategy and not sustainable by any means.
  • You can absolutely have your cake and eat it, too, as long as you’re proactive and put in a little bit of work ahead of time.
  • If you find yourself avoiding seeing your friends and family because you’re afraid to deviate from your diet, you’re missing the point of fitness. Fitness should enhance your quality of life, and that includes not allowing food to control you.

But I get it: letting go of your need to control every aspect of fitness can be scary. After all, how do you navigate your way through all the unknowns?

Here are some strategies that I keep in my back pocket when the holidays come around:

>> Strategic Holiday Feasting << 

As well, I took some time earlier this week to film a video discussing my views on eating over the holidays, and I also answered some of your questions in the video above.

You’ll notice a common theme in the above video that I reiterate over and over:

Don’t stress.

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, remember?

#eat well, #lift heavy and hard, and #thrive everyday.

Contest Prep Q&A

In my latest video series, I take the time to answer your questions.

The videos have been divvied up into three parts, and I’ve included time stamps for your question as well.

For details on my macros and what all I ate during my prep, check out MyMacros+ and find me: SoheeFit

In my last post on contest prep, I talked about why I competed again.

Today, I’ll go over the details of my prep.

Specifically, people have been wondering what differed this time around vs. the last time I went through a contest prep 3.5 years ago.

Below, I’ve broken it all down for you.

Overview

Then:

  • 12-week prep
  • bodyweight dropped from 119.0lbs to 106.8lbs (averaged out to a hair over 1.0lb/week weight loss)
  • waist measurement dropped from approximately 26.5 inches to 24.0 inches
  • experienced mild degree of strength loss throughout the duration of my prep
  • followed a meal plan
  • had no alcohol, did not attend any social events
  • secretly binged one day a week

Now:

  • 20-week prep
  • bodyweight dropped from 116.0lbs to 105.8lbs (averaged out to a loss of 0.51lb/week loss)
  • waist measurement dropped from 26.0 inches to 23.5 inches
  • zero loss of strength in the gym (actually gained strength the first 12 or so weeks, then strength stalled the last 8 weeks)
  • was prescribed macros to follow but otherwise ate (meal timing, food choice) how I wanted
  • enjoyed wine weekly and maintained a thriving social life
  • did not binge once, nor did I experience the urge to binge

Training

Then:

  • 4 days a week of heavy lifting, each lasting anywhere between 45-60 minutes long
  • focused primarily on heavy, compound lifts with some accessory movements thrown in there
  • I also performed metabolic conditioning (metcon) sessions once or twice a week, depending on where I was in my prep
  • All in all, I was never in the gym more than once a day and never longer than 90 minutes per session

Now:

  • 5 days a week of heavy lifting a la Layne Norton’s PHAT protocol, each lasting anywhere between 45-60 minutes long
  • focused primarily on heavy, compound lifts with some accessory movements thrown in there
  • did no metcon whatsoever; when I was in the gym, it was all about the heavy work
  • all in all, I was never in the gym more than once a day and never longer than 90 minutes per session

Cardio/Conditioning

Then:

  • start off with just metcon sessions, then towards the end, I had one 30-minute steady state session tossed in per week on top of the 2 metcon sessions I was doing
  • came out to 4 days of heavy lifting, 2 metcon sessions, and 1 day of steady-state every week
  • worked out 6 days a week and got one day of full rest

Now:

  • started off with 2 interval sessions each lasting 20 minutes from start to finish
  • the last 10 weeks of prep, an extra session was tossed in and time was increased to 25-minutes each.
  • came out to 5 days of heavy lifting and 3 days of 25-minute interval sessions every week
  • took 2 full days off every week

Nutrition

Then:

  • started out at around 1440 calories; ended prep at 1080 calories with a weekly refeed
  • dietary adherence was spot-on except for weekly binges, which probably consisted of around 4,000-5,000 Calories
  • confined to a meal plan, which increased my cravings for “forbidden” foods
  • ate 5 tiny meals a day
  • oftentimes would find myself done with all my food for the day by 4:00p.m. and had to white-knuckle my way through the rest of the evening
  • never ate out to eat once for fear of straying from my plan

Now:

For details on my macros and what all I ate during my prep, check out MyMacros+ and find me: SoheeFit

For details on my macros and what all I ate during my prep, check out MyMacros+ and find me: SoheeFit

  • started out at around 1530 calories; ended prep at 1200 Calories on my off days, 1260 Calories on training days with a weekly refeed
  • dietary adherence was around 95% (last 8 weeks were 100%) with no binges whatsoever
  • followed the flexible dieting approach – most mornings, I ate grilled cheese or quesadillas for breakfast and would on occasion consume sugary cereal or ice cream as part of my PWO meal
  • ate my first meal at around 11a.m. and finished my last meal at 7 or 8p.m., which, looking back, was inadvertent intermittent fasting
  • consumed 3-4 meals a day depending on my schedule and my hunger levels
  • ate out once or twice a week (except for the last 2 weeks) and guestimated macros while eating out

Peak Week

Then:

  • training and lifting protocol did not change
  • sodium did not drop
  • drank 10L water a day leading up to the show; this made attending class and really doing anything extremely difficult as I was running to the bathroom every 15-20 minutes

Now:

  • bodypart split for peak week with intensity tapering off as the show got closer
  • all intervals switched out for moderate intensity steady-state cardio (20-35min sessions) consisting of power walking outdoors (modality was my choice)
  • sodium was manipulated only slightly
    water intake was at 4L/day at its highest

Mindset

Then:

  • had no idea what to expect
  • would freak out over the mildest of weight fluctuations
  • was struggling with severe body dysmorphia
  • adopted the all-or-nothing mindset and refused to go out and have fun
  • was determined to compete on stage no matter the cost (binge eating, loss of social life, loss of relationships, etc.)

Now:

  • actively made sure that I maintained my quality of life throughout the duration of the prep
  • ensured that I was secure with my body image before even beginning prep
  • did not get discouraged by “slow” progress (because after all, I knew that slow progress was good progress)
  • made it a point to go out and do something fun (not fitness-related) at least once a week
  • did a mindset check every single day
  • promised myself that I would back out if my mental sanity/integrity was compromised
  • understood that this prep was not about winning or “becoming happy” or receiving any kind of external validation, but rather about proving that the sustainable, moderate approach works even when it comes to achieving extremes

All in all, this most recent prep was very different from my last prep.

I ended up coming in with a better physical package, better posing, and even better jewelry and makeup, but that’s not what I’m most proud of.

I intentionally took this very slow. I wanted to give myself ample time, to not feel pressured to speed up progress and panic over whether or not I’d be ready in time.

The first few months, I lost on average 2-3lbs/month, and the last month leading into the show, I actually only lost 1.5lbs.

But I was okay with that. Because I understood this:

Progress does not take place strictly in scale weight, but also in measurements, the fit of my clothes, and what I see in the mirror.

(And don’t forget about the whoosh effect.)

As well, I didn’t worry about my progress. I had hired a quality coach to help me, and I knew that my sole responsibility was to adhere to the program consistently, while his job was to engineer my macros and training. I knew that it was his job to do the worrying on my behalf, and I fully trusted that he’d get me to where I wanted to be.

With this longer prep, we didn’t feel rushed to drop my calories prematurely – and in fact, my calories didn’t change at all for the last 8 weeks leading into the show (whereas with my first prep, my calories dropped like clockwork every 2-4 weeks).

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

There’s nothing I would change about this prep to make it better. It was an incredible learning experience and I would definitely considering doing it again.

For now, my goal is to get more food into my system and slowly reverse diet for the next 6-8 months. I’m looking to build some muscle mass (specifically shoulders and glutes) and bring a better package next year.

The moderate approach may not be sexy, but it sure as hell works.

—-

 

 

 

Looking great doesn’t have to be a miserable process.

Interested in getting stage lean or simply losing some fat the healthy, sustainable way? Let me help you figure out how.

Fill out the form at www.soheefit.com/coaching and I’ll show you how to get started on your journey right away.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 4.16.22 PM

In the latest episode of Physique Science Radio, Dr. Layne Norton and I have guest Dr. Bill Campbell on board with us and we discuss meal frequency.

Dr. Campbell is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida and also serves as the Director of the Performance Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism Laboratory. As well, he is the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s elected secretary.

In this episode, Dr. Campbell answers the questions:

  • What is considered the optimal meal frequency?
  • What does the latest scientific evidence suggest?
  • What are his thoughts on intermittent fasting?
  • What studies does he have up his sleeve?

Click below to give it a listen.

Episode 8: Eating DIsorders

In case you missed it, there were two new podcast episodes that were published last week that you should check out.

With the first, I was a guest on Michael Matthews’s Muscle for Life podcast. He asked me a lot of questions about metabolic adaptation and reverse dieting. I encourage you to give it a listen if you’re still on the fence about reverse dieting:

http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-dieting/

As well, we launched our latest episode of Physique Science Podcast and this is my favorite yet. We had special guest Dr. Megan Klabunde with us and we talked all things eating disorders.

We covered topics such as dieting and its relation to eating disorders, fit shaming, and we also spent some time discussing, from a clinical standpoint, why I stopped intuitive eating. I learned a ton from her and we definitely could have gone on for hours.

Enjoy the listen!

Showing off my hard work. This is what I look like after 7 years of heavy, consistent lifting.

This past weekend, I competed at the OCB West Coast Classic in Tampa, Florida hosted by Paul Revelia and his wife Misty.

That was 3.5 years in the making.

The last time I stepped on stage before that was May 2011 and I was 21 years old. I’d pretty much sworn off competing for good – because not only was that an exhausting experience, but I’d also struggled to re-gain my sense of normalcy for the next few months (and arguably, years) after that.

Here at SoheeFit, I talk a lot about the importance of fitness mindset. As in, while the specific program you’re following obviously has to be sound and safe, all of that means nothing if your mindset is not in the right place.

That’s why I preach sustainability, patience, enjoying the ride, throwing yourself a bone, and thinking long-term.

As my brand has continued to grow and evolve over the past three years, I’ve been feeling like my previous views on competing were a tad misguided.

I kept asking myself, Could it be that a healthy and balanced contest prep is possible, provided that I approach it in the right way?

Because the truth is, the idea of competing – whether it be in bikini, figure, physique, or bodybuilding – has always appealed to me. It’s what got me to fall in love with fitness in the first place.

The concept of bringing your body to its physical peak through months and weeks of dedicated work has always seemed natural to me. As a (recovering) perfectionist, I’m always looking to bring my best to whatever it may be that I’m doing – whether it be academic, career-oriented, or physical.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand that not all aspects of competing may be considered fair and may not seem inherently healthy. Yes, competing is a subjective sport, and yes, there is almost guaranteed to be a certain degree of neurosis bound to manifest itself, particularly in the last few weeks leading into your show.

Despite all of that, however, I still wanted to test myself.

Would I be able to practice what I preach day in and day out and still get contest lean?
Would I be able to dedicate the time and energy into contest prep while juggling a full-time job and planning a wedding?
Would I still be able to have a social life and maintain my quality of life without losing my marbles like I did the last time around?

It was, in some ways, the Ultimate Test for me.

Here’s why I decided to compete again.

I wanted to confirm my suspicions that I was wrong before.

Here are all the things that I convinced myself were true after my last show:

  • going through a contest prep is necessarily miserable
  • you will necessarily develop unhealthy obsessions
  • a trophy is the only prize you can get out of it
  • you will definitely feel lost and aimless after all is said and done

Since then, I’ve done a lot of reading and learning about behavioral psychology, habits, and mindset.

Specifically, I’ve come to learn that, while we can’t always change our surrounding circumstances, we are in complete control of how we choose to respond to them and how we choose to view them.

So could it be possible, then, that I was merely being reactive, rather than proactive, with my last show?

I’ve come to realize that I had adopted a bit of the victim mindset with my first prep. Things were happening to me; I was being forced to choke down chicken and brown rice; there was nothing I could possibly do to make things better.

Because I know now that if you believe that something is going to suck, then it most definitely will. In other words, your behaviors and actions fall in line with your beliefs.

Which then led me to ask: What if I actively changed the way I viewed contest prep?

It wasn’t going to be about that trophy anymore.
It wasn’t going to be one-and-done.
My self-esteem wasn’t going to be contingent upon my placing or the judges’ feedback.

I suspected that, if I changed my focus from seeing the stage as the end-goal but rather as a milestone in a long-term, lifelong, never-ending journey, I would fare much better.

I suspected that I wouldn’t panic over day-to-day fluctuations, that I wouldn’t binge after the show, that I wouldn’t experience food obsessions (or really, obsessions of any kind).

In short, I felt that everything I believed about competing before was incorrect and that those false views had stemmed from a place of defeat.

I wanted to test not only my physical but also my mental limits.

I knew that lifting heavy didn’t make women bulky.

I knew that it was nutrition that largely determined if and how much muscle (and fat) was gained.

But more than that, I wanted to find out how much muscle I’d built over the past three years and how my body shape had changed.

And I could kind of tell by looking at my everyday, maintenance-mode physique in the mirror, but I couldn’t be sure.

Why not strip off the fat and see what’s underneath there?

Was it an act of vanity? You could call it that, though I certainly don’t see it that way.

Consider this: I’ve been lifting consistently and diligently for close to seven years now. In that time, not once have I been thought of as bulky or “too big” by any standard.

But still, there’s always been a part of me that’s had a (one-sided) love affair with obliques.

Obliques, I think, are one of the sexiest muscles that a woman can sport, and it’s difficult for them to show if 1) you don’t have enough muscle mass, and 2) if you’re not lean enough.

With my first show, I definitely didn’t have any obliques. I was 106lbs on stage (at 5’2”) and yet, after having dropped close to 20lbs, I felt skinny and weak and didn’t even look like I lifted.

But what about three years later? After years of eating right and lifting heavy and hard, maybe I’d built up enough muscles for those elusive obliques of mine to make an appearance.

I wanted to test that.

Showing off my hard work. This is what I look like after 7 years of heavy, consistent lifting.

Showing off my hard work. This is what I look like after 7 years of heavy, consistent lifting.

You be the judge.

From a mental standpoint, I do believe that undergoing a contest prep is one of the more difficult things that people can undergo. Because not only are you required to be meticulous with your eating and your training, but you’re also required to do so consistently over a period of several months.

There really is no “off” time. You don’t get to punch in your nine hours of work and then go home and unwind with a pint of ice cream, then come back the next day with your work left intact.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Knowing that, then, I wanted to challenge myself to stick to my program and not only be consistent, but do it in a matter that would allow me to still live my life.

Would I be able to train myself to stay calm and collected throughout my prep and not feel like I’m “grinding it out” all the time?
To what degree could I eliminate the need for self-control and put things on autopilot?

This, I knew, would be incredibly difficult, and to be honest, I wasn’t entirely certain that I’d be able to accomplish this.

That’s why when I hired my friend Paul Revelia to coach me, I promised myself that I would back out of this prep as soon as I felt like my mindset was being compromised.

But still, I felt that it was worth testing out.

I wanted to prove that I walk the walk.

It’s one thing to preach this and that and to tell my clients and my readers that x, y, z is the way to go about things.

But to actively demonstrate that in my life – wow, how cool would that be?

I didn’t want to be one of those “do as I say, not as I do” role models.

Now, I understand that I could have achieved this without having to compete.

There was a certain appeal, however, to trying to coax rather than force my body to its physical limits without actually having to resort to extreme measures.

In short, I wanted to flip conventional contest prep wisdom on its head.

It’s not about “struggle harder than me” or bragging about how much cardio you have to do. I still don’t get why that’s something to be proud of.

I knew in my head that utilizing a macros-based approach and incorporating my favorite foods into my diet on the regular could get me contest lean. I wanted to experience that for myself.

If I can obtain the same results using smarter, more sustainable methods, then why not do that? If I experience zero rebound, zero body image issues, and zero mindf*cks after the fact, then who’s the real winner here?

I won two first place trophies this past weekend - but that's not what made me a winner.

I won two first place trophies this past weekend – but that’s not what made me a winner.

Let me be clear: I waited three full years before even entertaining the thought of competing again.

Why? Because I wanted to be doing it for the right reasons.

I wanted to be certain that I wasn’t struggling with body image issues, that I wasn’t doing it solely to get lean, that it wasn’t coming from a place of self-hate.

No.

My reasons for competing were far, far larger than that.

I waited until I could harbor the right mindset.

I worked hard to come to a place of security, of self-love and compassion, of understanding through and through that my self-worth had nothing to do with the number on the scale or my physical looks.

Then, and only then, did I think about strapping on my bikini and stepping back on stage.

In reality, I did this largely for myself.

But I realize that I did this for you, too.

If you need any consolation that a healthy, sustainable prep is possible, let this be it.

——

 

Looking great doesn’t have to be a miserable process.

Interested in getting stage lean or simply losing some fat the healthy, sustainable way? Let me help you figure out how.

Fill out the form at www.soheefit.com/coaching and I’ll show you how to get started on your journey right away.

 

macro tracking

At least a few times a week, I have a client or a reader ask me some form of the following question:

“It’s my niece’s birthday this weekend and I’m a little nervous about how I’m going to track my food. What’s your best recommendation for staying on my program when eating out?” 

Of course, “niece’s birthday” could easily be replaced with “dinner with a girlfriend,” “family get-together,” or even, “going frolicking in the mountains for 48 hours with no contact with civilization”.

Whatever the case may be, this much is clear: we don’t tend to do too well with uncertainty.

How much oil is in that steak?
Are you sure you didn’t put butter in this dish?
Dressing on the side. Are you sure the dressing’s on the side?

I’m sure you’ve been there before.

I figured it was about time that I cover this topic in a video.

Hope you like it!

 

Also related:

Fitness on the Road: Nutrition Edition

Fitness on the Road: Nutrition Edition, part II

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