My Whole Life Challenge Experience

I’ve been debating whether or not I wanted to write something about my experience with the Whole Life Challenge, and whether or not I wanted to share my “before & after” pictures. However, I came to the conclusion that, as a coach, detailing my experience may help inspire others to make changes to improve their health and well being. Although coaches can be described as “health professionals” and can often be viewed as “having it together,” we have our own issues as well. I may or may not be slightly obsessed with Cheez-It. Just sayin’…

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I would like to say that I understand that some of you may look at me and feel that I don’t have any weight to lose, or may think “What is she thinking? She’s not fat,” or that I can eat whatever I want because I’m already “skinny”. I know that I’m not fat, but I do have some weight to lose and when I gain 5-7 pounds, I definitely feel it and it shows because of my small frame. Also, at my age, I can no longer eat whatever (e.g., junk food) because my metabolism doesn’t work the way it used to like in my teens and 20s.

A couple years ago, my husband and I tried to follow the paleo diet. If you’re not familiar, with the paleo diet, you basically cut out all grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, white potatoes and other “nightshades,” artificial sweeteners, and anything processed. You’re probably thinking, “well, what the heck do you eat then?” Meat, poultry, seafood, veggies, berries, nuts, and healthy fats and oils, such as avocados and coconut oil. There’s plenty left to eat! However, at the time I wasn’t quite ready to make the switch. I was addicted to crap food and towards the end of getting my college degree. Without Diet Coke, Cheez-It and chips, I don’t think I would have made it through those days where I was writing papers into the wee hours of the morning. I think I made it one or two weeks before I was so “hangry” (hungry + angry) that I, nor my husband, could take it any longer. Food is very emotional for a lot of us, and I was not emotionally ready for the change.

This past year has been quite stressful for me as work got super busy with four people in my department retiring and my supervisor going on maternity leave early and then being out for four months. My health deteriorated because I ate whatever was within my reach (i.e., lots of sandwiches and cookies) and working through lunch, which caused me to not sleep very much. I was also coaching in the evenings after work, and getting home around 8:30-9:00pm. I also reinjured my knee, and I just let myself go. My hormones were out of whack and I felt terrible all the time. Once things at work slowed down, I decided that it was finally time to get my shit together.

Enter the Whole Life Challenge (WLC). The WLC is an eight-week lifestyle challenge where you focus on clean eating, exercising and stretching regularly, taking a daily supplement, drinking 1/3 of your body weight in ounces of water daily, and participating in weekly lifestyle challenges (e.g., getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night or not using technology during meals). I have a few friends that have done the challenge in the past and have heard and seen the benefits from it. I felt I was mentally in a better place to take on the challenge, so I committed to it. I was a bit nervous because eight weeks seemed like a long time. Was I really ready for it?

There are three nutrition levels to choose from: Performance (strict paleo), Lifestyle (allowed to have some grains, starches, and corn), and Beginner (can pretty much eat anything but bread and sugar). I chose the Lifestyle level because I wanted to work on maintaining a reasonable diet and not drastically changing it, as I felt that I would be setting myself up for failure and disappointment had I gone the Performance route. I’m glad I chose this level because I was able to do just that – I found a way to maintain a reasonable diet.

The first week was difficult because my body went through withdrawals. I did get hangry, but not like before. But after that week, I started feeling and seeing the benefits and it felt so good. I found that in the first 2.5 weeks, I lost 1.5 inches around my waist, and my workouts felt easier! I also found that I wasn’t craving the bad food and not eating my feelings. It was pretty exciting.

I was on a roll and doing so well until October 10. It was that day that I found out that a friend had passed away earlier that morning. He was a very close friend of my brother’s, and he was also like a brother to me. I was shocked and upset. My husband asked me what he could do for me and I told him that I wanted Cheez-It and a glass of wine. He was so sweet and went to the store to buy both. Although I was eating and drinking my feelings, it felt different. I’m not sure how to describe it. I guess it wasn’t so much the addiction driving me to eat and drink; it was more of a conscious decision to do so. I felt in control of that decision. The next week was difficult as I was emotionally spent and I didn’t have the energy to focus on the challenge very much. I ate crappy food and drank a lot of wine and cider. Additionally, the following weekend was a close friend’s wedding and the weekend after that my birthday! So from October 10-26, I ate crappy and drank a lot of alcohol. Thankfully, I was able to get back on track for the final few weeks of the challenge. It was difficult, but I overcame the minor setback.

My goal for the challenge was to learn how to manage my diet better and to learn how to take better care of my body through nutrition. I refuse to be a slave to medication! Through this challenge, I now understand how my body reacts to certain foods, such as dairy, grains, and starches, which has led me to not crave them as much as before. Score! And since I don’t eat much of those types of food anymore, when I do eat them, they don’t taste as good as I remember them to be.

To give a bit of history, the verbal abuse and harassment that I received from my gymnastics coach from the ages of 10-16 still affect me to this day, which is why I have had such a bad relationship with food. His negative words also still affect my self-esteem. He often called me and my teammates “fat whores” and other names that I will not repeat. Mind you, we were still in elementary school/pre-teens when he said these nasty things. That shit does not go away. Because of this, I have not worn my bathing suit in public in the past two years. One, because I have a crazy tan line due to our gym being outside, and two, because of my self-esteem issues. However, after this challenge, I am feeling a little better about myself, which is why I now feel somewhat comfortable showing my before and after pictures (enjoy my tan line!)…

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My results from the challenge are as follows:

Weight:
Pre-challenge: 131.4lbs
Post-challenge: 126.8lbs

Body fat %:
Pre-challenge: 20.1%
Post-challenge: 18.4%

Challenge workout:
11min time cap:
800m run
75 air squats
50 sit-ups
25 push-ups
For the remainder of the time, do as many burpees as possible.
Your score is the total number of squats, sit-ups, push-ups, and burpees.

Score:
Pre-challenge: 173 (23 burpees)
Post-challenge: 183 (33 burpees)
I was able to bust out 10 more burpees!

I am pleased with my results, as my goal was to get around 126lbs, 18% body fat, and get a higher score during the workout. Woot!

Now, you’re probably wondering what my meals consisted of. Well, here ya go!

Breakfast: usually 3 eggs (scrambled-sometimes with spinach, or hard boiled) and 3-4 pieces of bacon or sausage, and coffee with stevia.

Lunch: spinach & kale mix salad with chicken and avocado or leftovers from dinner, and sometimes a vegan soup I bought from the café on campus.

Dinner: pork or beef cooked in the slow cooker with sweet potatoes and onions, tacos made with leftover pork, or steak with broccoli and/or sweet potatoes.

Snacks: Cashew cookie Larabar, apples, bananas, brown rice cakes with cashew butter, carrots, strawberries, cantaloupe

I’m glad the challenge is over because having to log points and do the weekly lifestyle challenges were a bit cumbersome, but I am happy that I am learning better nutrition and eating habits. I’m looking forward to being released into the wild and doing it on my own.

Here’s to cleaner eating and better health!

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What’s Your Motivation?

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My day started with me feeling gross and exhausted. I had a fight with myself whilst laying in bed – one part of me saying, “get your ass up! You’re running late!” the other part of me saying, “it’s okay. You work hard, you need the rest.” Who am I kidding? That is me EVERY morning when the darn “ripples” alarm goes off on my iPhone.

Because I was feeling crappy, I defaulted to my food-based comfort and was adamant about going to Starbucks (even though I was late) and getting a sugar-free vanilla latte and a tomato and cheese croissant. They didn’t have the tomato and cheese (gasp!), so I opted for the spinach and cheese (meh). I also forgot my lunch (again), so I purchased a turkey and havarti sandwich along with my healthy breakfast. As I was walking back to my car, I felt bad about myself because this is not what I had in mind with cleaner and healthier eating. To add to my crappy state of mind, I threw in some Cheez-It at lunch.

So what does this have to do with motivation, you say? A lot. I’m not saying this is healthy, but I have a habit of making myself feel like shit before I step it up and take control. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel as crappy as I thought I would after eating all the bread items. However, it was enough to do the job.

I was debating going to CrossFit because I was so exhausted and felt gross, but I forced myself to go. After I parked, I wasn’t quite ready to get out because I needed to mentally get in the zone before stepping into the gym to see my friends and to do work. I decided to check Facebook (which I don’t usually do before the gym, surprisingly) and saw that my friend Alexis (aka Fancy Pants!) shared a new blog post entitled “The Root of Suffering is Attachment” with the post starting off with “…attachment to things, feelings, people, ideas, expectations…” Oh, the expectations. This really resonated with me. The expectations I set for myself are often too high, which in all honesty is why I am currently exhausted. I reminded myself to “simmer down” and that I am doing okay. I am not perfect. I am doing the best I can. I walked into the gym, and did quite well with my workout. I left starving for protein and veggies and in a good mood.

So what’s my motivation? My motivation is the people I care for. Even though I may be their coach and am the one who is supposed to do all of the motivating, all of the athletes that I coach inspire me; however, my friends Alexis, Susan, Maira (aka Bon Bon), Janyce (aka Black Widow), and Allison in particular are my motivation. They all have their own strengths that push me to be a better person, athlete and coach. Being around them make me happy. My friends that pursue their dreams also motivate me. They may fail, but they keep on pursuing because they believe in their talent and abilities. People like Lakeisha Shurn motivate me. I may not know her personally, but her story and the determination and effort she put into losing weight inspires me. People that actually do the work rather than doing a lot of talking motivate me. We can all “talk the talk,” but not everyone can actually walk.

On a superficial level, my other motivation is this purple sports bra:

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I saw this sports bra a while ago, but didn’t purchase it for some reason. I haven’t been able to find it in my size since then. Janyce knew that I’ve been wanting it and bought it for me when she saw it in my size a couple weeks ago (she’s so rad!). My goal is to comfortably wear this without a shirt over it. Sometimes during a workout I get super hot and want to rip my shirt off, but I am not comfortable enough with my midsection to do so. I know I’m not fat, but I’m squishy and it’s uncomfortable and funny looking. I love my shoulders, arms, legs and booty, but my stomach? Not so much. It may not look squishy to you, but it’s because I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding it. I wore my bathing suit once last year, and never took my tank top off because I was too ashamed of my squishy midsection. Silly, I know.

So there you have it, whether you wanted it or not. Haha! I commend you for making it through all of my rambling about my mundane day. So my question to you is, what motivates you? What keeps you going?

Peace Out, 2013, and a Big Sexy Hello to 2014!

My favorite part of a new year is the overall feeling of hope and positiveness (that was for you, Meadows) from the majority of the population. Goals are being set, people let go of the past, and are determined to bring happiness into their lives. We reflect on our lives and the events that occurred over the past year, and we try our best to learn from mistakes and move on.

Well, 2013 was full of ups and downs for this little ninja. It was a such a great year for so many of my friends, but for me it was extremely challenging. I am definitely pleased that 2013 is a thing of the past, and am very much looking forward to what 2014 has to offer.

Overall, my favorite highlights of the year are the new friends I’ve made, the friends that I’ve gotten closer to, the new personal records (PRs) I’ve achieved at the gym, and the greater community that now exists at CrossFit Santa Barbara. However, I think my favorite part are the gains that all of the athletes at the gym have made. It delights me to see the boost in confidence of the athletes that I coach, how excited they are to come to the gym, how they overcome the challenges that are set before them, and how grateful they are. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people. I am also extremely grateful to Coach T for allowing me to be a part of his gym and to be one of his coaches.

In addition, being a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has been life changing. I think most people that go into volunteer work do it to change the lives of others, not expecting anything in return. However, I have learned so much about myself while mentoring my Little, Jimena. It brings so much joy to me to hear her say things like, “You’re the best big sister ever!,” “You’re all mine?!,” “See, I always have fun and am so happy when I’m with you.” It also kills me when she looks at me and says, “You aren’t going anywhere, right?” Things like that shows me just how important my job is as a mentor; how important it is for children to have a strong role model, which pushes me to be a better person, not just for her, but for me and everyone around me.

Even though last year was a bit challenging, looking at my list of highlights reminds me it wasn’t all so bad. Other highlights from 2013 include:

January:
*Gaining the mobility back in my shoulder and being able to raise my arm over my head.
*Avoiding shoulder surgery.
*One full month of being soda free!
*Start of better eating and food prepping.

Related blog posts:
How Ninja Got Her ROM Back
Food Preppin’, Soda-Free Ninja
“You just may come out of this smelling like roses.”

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February:
*Not killing Tall Guy (hey, that’s a highlight, right?)

March:
*Competing in the CF Open and doing way better than I thought.

Related blog post:
If at first you don’t succeed…

Ninja 13.2 Press(Photo credit: Rose Joost)

April:
*Completing the CrossFit Open without injury or pain!
*Competing in my first USPA powerlifting competition and obtaining CA state and American records in the sub-master division/132lb weight class (my American record has since been beat).
*Seeing Jurassic Park in 3D with Tall Guy.
*Returning to softball and not getting injured!

Related blog posts:
Better Than Expected: My 2013 CrossFit Open Experience
Lifting Heavy Things and Putting Them Back Down

Ninja Deadlift State Record

May:
*Cindy & KB’s wedding and gettin’ cray cray with the Josh & Cortney
*Mother’s Day at Chalk Hill with the Foleys and Grammy Eunice (this was the last time we saw Eunice, so it was extra special).

Related blog post:
Learning to Find Hope through Death

Grammy on Moms Day

June:
*Competing in my first local CrossFit competition at CrossFit Ventura
*Mini-moon #2 to Palm Desert
*Marie & Robert’s wedding
*Becoming a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and meeting Jimena. She would forever change my life.

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July:
*Spending the 4th with friends on a boat!
*Movies at the Courthouse
*Seeing Chanel the “corpse flower” bloom at UCSB and smelling her nasty scent.
*Attending my first figure competition to cheer on Karena. Go Team K-Bunny!
*Mandy and Josh’s visit

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August:
* Partying it up at Fiesta with the MasterBatters, where the term “Getting Fiesta drunk” was born.
*Saying goodbye to George, my trusty Honda Civic, and saying hello to my new Honda CR-V, Blurpie.
*Mini-moon #3 to Disneyland.
*My bestie Mandy’s engagement.

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September:
*Susan & Mike’s wedding and Tall Guy officiating it.
*Corralling a huge group of CFSB’ers to participate in the CALM fundraiser competition at CrossFit Pacific Coast and placing 5th.

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October:
*Birthday party at Sky High Sports trampoline park!
*Cindy’s baby shower.

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November:
*Marko surprising me at work with a visit. Totes made me cry I was so happy to see him!
*Delicious Thanksgiving dinner with friends.
*Birth of Chloe, the daughter of my other bestie, Clara.

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December:
*My friend Kari aka “Viva” surprising me at work with a cute note.
*Birth of Jesse Keenan aka “Baby Thor,” Cindy and KB’s little man.
*First CrossFit partner competition with Janyce at CrossFit FAST and placing 4th. Stupid wall balls.
*CrossFit Santa Barbara Christmas party
*Christmas with the family and seeing my nephew
*One year of being soda free!
*Jimena’s Christmas card

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card from Jimena

I look forward to another year with this guy!

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Here’s to a kickass 2014!!!

What does Ninja eat?

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(Black Widow and I at the WODseries partner competition on December 8, 2013)

A few friends have asked me over the past few weeks what I eat, as well as for the recipe for the meatloaf I made. Never in my life did I ever think that I would be sharing a recipe! I am not one to cook, but have been dabbling and trying to do it more often. But before I continue, I would like to share some exciting news…

Today is my 1-year anniversary of being soda-free from my favorite sodas!!! WOOT! I say “from my favorite sodas” because I haven’t been completely soda-free. The only soda I allowed myself to have was ginger ale when I wasn’t feeling well, and I’ve had a total of 4 over the past year. Pretty good considering I had a mad addiction to the corn syrup-filled goodness that is soda. I still crave my beloved Diet Coke (especially with Captain Morgan!), but I try to distract myself when I get those cravings. I still glare at Tall Guy, though, when he drinks a giant Coke or gets a Coke Slurpee. RUDE!

Now back to food. Last week I had a competition and I wanted to make sure that I was feeling well for it. My diet has been a bit dirty over the past few months and I wanted to clean it up and do a bit of detoxing. So I decided that I would cut out sugar (natural sugars were fine), dairy, and bread. It was tough, but I did it for a full week… and I lost 6 lbs! I wasn’t trying to lose weight; I just wanted to clean out my insides. I felt great and the bloating went away. Below is a list of what I ate during the week, and pretty much what I generally eat, except when I decide to throw in some sandwiches and cheese and crackers into the mix (bad Ninja!):

Breakfast: 3 hard boiled eggs or scrambled eggs, 2-3 pieces of bacon, avocado

Lunch: spinach salad with hard boiled eggs, apples, chicken, avocado, drizzled with oil & vinegar; lentil soup if I’m needing a little something else; leftover chicken or steak with rice and/or broccoli and/or green beans

Dinner: Chicken or steak with rice and/or broccoli and/or green beans, and corn if I’m feeling a little frisky

Snack: bananas and/or almonds (but I wish I was eating Cheez Its!)

Nothing too exciting or too fancy. Ain’t nobody got time for that with our schedules, so we make do with the time that we have.

A couple of recipes I’d like to share are as follows…

Meatloaf (gluten-free, Paleo-friendly)

I combined a couple of recipes that I found online and tailored them to my liking. Both recipes said to bake at 350° and cook for 40 min, but I would probably cook it a little higher for a tad longer.

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs of ground beef
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 large egg
Sprinkle salt and pepper to your liking

Mix in a bowl, then add the ground beef and mash with your (clean!) hands. Yum. Mold into a loaf pan. I sprayed the loaf pan with coconut oil instead of the other baking sprays. Instead of using ketchup (even though I wanted to) I spread tomato paste on the top and then layered bacon across. However, I think the next time I will chop up the bacon and throw it into the mix. It didn’t get as crispy as I hoped, so we had to throw the meatloaf in the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Lentil Dip Delight (vegetarian-friendly)

I had this “dip” at a BBQ a few months ago and it was so delightful that I had to ask for the recipe, and come to find out, it’s totes easy to make! It involves 3 ingredients all pre-made from Trader Joe’s. When I have time, I plan on trying to make it from scratch because of the added sugar in the bruschetta, but for now the pre-made stuff will suffice (because it’s BOMB!).

Ingredients:

1 package of pre-cooked lentils (found near the small packages of veggies in the refrigerated section)
1 tub of Bruschetta (found near the salsas in the refrigerated section)
1 tub of Feta cheese (found near the other cheeses, duh)

Throw in a bowl, mix it up, and voila! Lentil dip delight! This can be eaten with pita crackers or chips, but I also highly recommend putting it on top of chicken breast. Holy moly it is fantastic!

Well fancy that! I just Googled the Trader Joe’s bruschetta to find a picture to add and I found a picture with ALL of the ingredients! Looks like another short, Asian lady loves this stuff too!

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(Pic via The Fresh Find)

That’s all that I have for now. After the competition, I indulged with a giant burrito with lots of cheese and sour cream, as well as a Hawaiian pizza with garlic parmesan bites from Dominos (not at the same time – oh my, that would be painful!). To answer your question, yes, I feel awful, but it was worth it. Now back to cleaner eating… until Christmas dinner!

Happy holidays friends!