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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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!!!

Learning to Find Hope through Death

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Back in November of last year I wrote a post entitled “Learning to Give Thanks through Death“. There was a lot of death surrounding me at that time, however, it reminded me of the wonderful people in my life and to be grateful for that. Now that death is paying another visit, I am choosing to find hope where many default to sadness. Don’t get me wrong, I am feeling sadness, but I am trying to focus on the positive.

I recently became a mentor for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and last Monday I met my “Little” for the first time. A couple hours after I met my Little, I found out that someone I care for was dying. It was such a strange evening. I went from being completely ecstatic to feeling sadness and worry. Strangely, I felt that these two events were connected.

I have been wanting to be a mentor for so long, but it never fit in with my crazy life. My life is still pretty busy, but I made a commitment to myself to do this. I have an inherent need to help others, especially those less fortunate – not only in a monetary sense, but with family, health, or all of the above. I have felt this way for as long as I can remember. I remember as a child wanting to help other kids who were getting picked on. I remember trying to understand why some people were more favored than others. I could not understand why people were homeless or why people were picked on and bullied just because they were different. I knew then as much as I do now that I want to help people; I want them to know that someone out there cares for them regardless if they know them or not. I have a strong sense of empathy and want, rather, need to do what I can to help.

My Little and I were matched because our number 1 interest was gymnastics. During our first meeting, we went for a short walk around the block to get to know each other and the whole time we talked about gymnastics while she did cartwheels. It was like watching myself when I was that age. It was neat! We also discovered that we love all things purple. My Little changed my life during that meeting. The quick peeks she kept taking and the little smiles of hope she kept giving – it changed my life. Her grandma even said that she hasn’t seen her smile that much before. Here I am hoping to change someone else’s life and I am the one being changed.

Grammy was someone I met through my husband. She wasn’t blood related to him, but a surrogate grandma of sorts. She was so wonderfully kind, sweet, and hilarious. Ooh, and was she competitive when we played a game of Aggravation or cards! Don’t let her sweetness fool you, she will get you. What I loved about her was that from the first time I met her she made me feel like I was part of the family. My grandparents died many years ago, so it was nice to have a grandma again. The type of relationship she had with her husband of many many years is the type of relationship I strive for. I learned so much from watching them interact. The level of care and love was outstanding. She also didn’t sweat the small stuff. I know that’s totally cliche to say, but it’s true. Whatever health issues that comes with being 90 years old didn’t bother her. She understood and just kept on truckin’. If people were being dumb, she accepted it and moved on. No use in stressing. Even though I only knew Grammy for about 3 years, she made a huge impact on my life.

Today I found out and understood why I felt that there was a connection between these two – my Little and I had our first outing alone and Grammy moved on to her next journey. As one life was ending, a new one was beginning. Everything good that Grammy was and everything that I learned from her, I am going to embrace and pass on to my Little. I made a promise to myself and to my Little that I would be there for her and do my best to guide her in the right direction. My Little asked me today if I was her only Big Sister and didn’t have any other Littles. I told her that I was all hers and she said, “You’re all mine? REALLY?!” I said “Yep!” and she replied with a big “YAY!” and smile. Gosh darnit is she adorable.

I am choosing to find hope in the situation. I did have my moments of sadness and tears; they come and go. Although in the literal sense of the word “death,” a life may have ended, but Grammy’s legacy lives on. My relationship with my Little and our lives together, started today.

Grammy on Moms Day

Learning to Give Thanks through Death

There has been a lot of death surrounding me lately and I do not like it.

First, a good friend and former co-worker passed in October. Last week a family member on my husband’s side passed from cancer. Yesterday, I found out that a friend of my brother and his friends whom I call my “brothers from another mother” was killed from a senseless act of violence. Last week was also the anniversary of the death of my Auntie Sweetie who passed from cancer, and a high school classmate, who was also a very good friend of my husband’s, who was also killed from a senseless act of violence.

I wish that I could say that all of these people had lived long lives and that it was their time to go, but no, that is not the case. They were taken too soon and it really upsets me.

I don’t necessarily feel sad for myself that these people are no longer physically in my life or this world. My feelings of sadness are for those closest to them – their husbands, their wives, their children, and the rest of their families and friends. Seeing the sadness in the eyes of my 3 step-brothers-in-law kills me. They are only 13-18 years old and they have lost their mother. Hearing and reading the sadness from my brothers from another mother upsets me so much. My brothers friends have been in my life since I was very young and I see them as part of my family. I hate seeing the sadness in those for whom I care about very much. I wish that I could pick everyone up and give them a giant hug and tell them that everything will be okay. I wish that I could shield everyone from the evil, hate, and sadness in the world.

However, what gives me hope are those who keep the memories of the deceased alive. Rather than focusing on the bad times or the horrible things that evil people do that take others’ lives, they focus on the good and fun times. One thing I find interesting about funerals and memorial services is that they bring people together. Even though it is a sad situation, so many people were brought together to celebrate that person’s life. Some of these people you haven’t seen in ages, some you have never even met. I love hearing all of the stories that people share at memorials.

So, as sad as I may feel, I’m forcing myself to look at the positive and give thanks that I have so many caring people in my life. I also hope that they know how much I care for them and that I’m always thinking about them.

Death is Such a Strange Thing

Death is such a difficult concept to comprehend. Who understands death? Does anyone really understand death? From a biological and scientific standpoint, I understand that our bodies cease to live; our organs shut down and the physical being ceases to exist. That sounds a bit harsh, but that is the truth. However, I feel there is something more to death.

There’s the spiritual aspect of death and of a human being; the soul of the person – their personality, their experiences and memories. I am not a religious person by any means, but I am a spiritual person. The connections that we have with other living beings, whether it is with other humans, animals, or nature, that is spirituality to me. I cannot deny the connections that I have felt before with all three.

So what happens after death? Who knows. I guess it is whatever we want, whatever helps us cope and move on. Does a person’s soul die, too, or does it move on? I’d like to think that our souls live on. I’d like to believe that we get reincarnated. Silly as it may seem, I think it’s a pretty neat concept. I guess my philosophy about life and death is like the Law of Conservation of Energy. When someone passes I’d like to think that their energy is transferred to someone or something else. The energy in our Universe is constant and it just keeps getting transferred around. The more people we have on this planet, the less resources we have. I think if we slow the growth of our planet’s population, our resources will grow. This is one of the debates that I keep having with myself – whether or not I want to have kids and contribute to the dwindling resources that exist. But, I digress.

I found out this morning through a friend’s Facebook status update that a good friend passed away this week. After I read it, I sat in front of my computer stunned. Then I felt confused as to why I was not upset or crying; I guess I was in shock. Then a few seconds later I was sobbing. Since this morning I have been spontaneously crying throughout the day. I’ll be sitting here working, totally fine, then out of the blue I’m sobbing again.

I met my friend, Rae, while working at Nettwerk Music Group. Even though she was an older woman we instantly became friends. We spent many lunches and happy hours together, she even came to my shows when I was in a band. She was such a kind-hearted woman, the type of person who brightened your day. She loved making cards for all sorts of holidays and celebrations. The kinds of cards that had pop-ups on the inside and/or outside, and would even put confetti and glitter in them so that when you opened it you’d get that crap all over you. Haha!

She had such a love for animals, especially dogs. She had such a love for all things Hollywood and the 50s. She had such a love for life and for helping others.

We worked across from each other at Nettwerk, however, there was a hallway and giant glass window separating us. We joked that the glass window was like her cage at a zoo. Whenever I would walk out of my office I would wave to her or do a little dance or be my goofy little self to make her laugh. In return she would make a funny face back at me.

We had a bond that I cannot describe. Perhaps she was my surrogate mom since mine lives in another state. Perhaps I was the daughter she never had. Whatever it was, I miss her.

These past few years have been difficult for her and I hope that she is finally at peace. I hope her husband, Stan, and her dog, Coco, are doing okay.

There have been times where she said she felt lonely. Rae, I hope you know that you are loved and will be greatly missed. You were an amazing and funny woman, and I am grateful to have had you as a friend.

Love,
Pookz

This is one of my favorite pictures of Rae, back during her acting days.