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 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!

Lentil-Bruschetta-023

(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!

Food Preppin’, Soda-free Ninja!

ImageI’ve kicked my soda habit! Yeah buddy!

Tomorrow marks one full month of being soda free. WOOT! It’s been a long and tough month, but I did it! I no longer feel like I NEED to have a soda. Yes, I’ve had cravings, but every day those cravings have less and less control over me.

I’ve been a soda drinker my entire life. I love the bubbles, I love the sweetness, and I love the combo they make. I also wouldn’t have made it through my last two years of college without it thanks to the caffeine. However, as I got older I began to hate the way it made me feel (except when there was vodka or rum involved – that was nice). About a month ago I started getting horrible headaches – the type of headache you get right before a full on migraine kicked in. Oy. It sucked. For some reason I knew then that it was time to give up my soda. I was sort of glad that this happened because it forced me to stop my soda habit. I’ve been trying for the longest time to quit, but I had become so addicted to the bubbly, sugary goodness that I just couldn’t do it.

Well, I’ve been soda free for a month now and I feel great. I don’t feel as sluggish and heavy anymore. I feel light; it’s strange. I’m sure I will have soda again in the future (I do enjoy my vodka), but not until I’m able to control my cravings. I was a little too addicted for my taste. Now, whenever I drink a glass of water, I remind myself of how I feel at that moment and how clean and fresh that feeling is. I’m trying to focus on how I feel after drinking or eating something rather than just how it tastes. It seems to be working! I do treat myself to a sparkling apple juice every once in a while to get that bubbly, sweet taste.

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My next goal is to decrease my gluten intake. I LOVE bread. I LOVE crackers. I LOVE BAGELS!!! Yeah, it’s an unhealthy love. However, note that I said decrease and not eliminate. I can see myself getting rid of soda, but I can’t see myself doing that with bread. I still want to enjoy what I eat. Also, we have Bagel Day every Wednesday. I can’t pass up a free bagel once a week. That’s just silly talk.

I’ve known that gluten products have been making me feel gross for a while, but I was too stubborn to do anything about it. But, again, as I get older I can’t take feeling like crap anymore just for a type of food or beverage. I would also occasionally break out with a patch of eczema because of it.

pretzelcrisps_flavorsDang, I love these things.

The other day I had about 5 Pretzel Crisps and within minutes I got the worst stomach ache. I felt super gassy and bloated and felt like I wasn’t going to stop expanding. That moment was similar to that of my headache slash time-to-give-up-soda moment. It is time. This moment finally sparked something inside of me that I’ve been trying to do for so long, but was just too lazy, I suppose, to do it. Perhaps I just didn’t want to commit. Who knows. Anyway…

I finally decided that I was going to become a “food prepper” (is ‘prepper’ even a word? It doesn’t sound like it should be a word). All day Sunday I spent driving around buying food containers and going to various grocery stores collecting food for the week and then cooking and preparing it. Tall Guy was pretty happy that I was finally doing this. We’ve been talking about doing something like this for so long. Well, here we go!

BeforeBefore

It was fairly painless (except for my back – I must’ve been standing with poor posture) and I had fun doing it. I’ve never been much of a cook, but rather than focusing on the cooking aspect of food prepping, I focused on the organization aspect of it… “Ooh, I’m going to put 2 hard boiled eggs and 2 pieces of bacon in these tubs, then I’m going to put spinach and sliced apples in those, and I’m going to put 4 strawberries, 3 carrots, 4 pieces of celery and a handful of blueberries in this one.” Yeah, I know – anal retentive much? Whatever, it’s making me do good.

The resulting feeling was happiness, accomplishment and satisfaction. I knew that I was finally doing something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and it was, and is, going to be beneficial for my health. I’m looking forward to doing this again next Sunday and have been brainstorming ideas on how to make it more efficient and better. Yay!

AfterAfter – blue = breakfast, green = lunch, red = snack, little red = oil & vinegar from Viva Oliva

BaconTall Guy’s bacon pile – He gets 4 pieces in his tub because he’s giant.

AvocadosCan’t wait for these bad boys to ripen. Yum!

TallGuyLunchBoxSince Tall Guy works in LA 3 out of 4 weeks a month, he needs to keep his food cold/hot during his trip, so I bought him this neat lunch bag.

Day 10 = Lady-card Pulling, Wagon Falling Ninja

I’m running on 4.5 hours of sleep so I apologize in advance for if this blog entry doesn’t flow or if I ramble or don’t make any sense. Yesterday, I pulled the lady-card and had a soda and some bread with dinner. Oops, I forgot there was cheese on my chicken sandwich, too. I was feeling so drained after school like the life was being sucked out of me and needed something to help pep me up and get schtuff done. Sometimes you gotta give a woman what she wants. For the sake of humanity, you should give a woman what she wants. Especially during a certain time of the month. Ha! Yeah, I went there. However, another reason why I allowed myself to have a wheat bun with my chicken sandwich instead of a lettuce wrap, and also a soda, was to see how my body would react and to make myself feel icky. I know, I know, self-sabotage is not good, but sometimes you need to teach yourself a lesson. I knew I would feel icky afterward, but I wanted to feel it. This crazy little stunt helped me in that I will probably not do it again anytime soon. I needed a confirmation, so to speak, that bread and soda are not good for me. Well, soda with vodka is good for me. Mmm, vodka and soda… Wait, what am I thinking?! It’s 9:45 am. Silly Ninja. Enough about food schmood.

I hate to admit it, but I’m a little concerned about my foot. It’s been hurting and aching off and on, and I just don’t know what to do anymore. I think I need to put myself in a body cast and lock myself up so that I can’t do anything. It’s very frustrating. Some days my foot (and feet) feel great and working out doesn’t cause me any problems. Other days it’s the opposite. I think I’m going to stop rowing for a while as I think that may be one of the causes. My left Achilles has also been hurting because it’s been compensating for my right foot for so long. It’s been about 4 months now since I injured my foot. The pain is so sporadic I’m not sure what to do. I’m dying to start running again, and I don’t want to stop working out. I feel crazy when I’m not able to workout. Whine, whine, whine. Enough of that, Ninja.

Other than the above nonsense, yesterday was a good day. I finished my Anthropology take-home midterm and feel pretty good about it, and Mr. Ninja received some amazing news that is going to be so great for us. I am so proud of him as he deserves the best. Even though I stayed up until 1:30am working on a research project for my Sociology class I am feeling spiritually good today. Physically, I’m okay, just super exhausted. I’m hoping to stick closer to the diet today and I think I can. Now, if only I could get some sleep…

Workout of the Day:
Rizzy rest day!

Grub for the day:
Breakfast: eggs, bacon, apple, coffee w/stevia
Lunch: salad w/tuna mixed with avocado & mustard on top, drizzled w/olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette
Dinner: The Habit – chicken sandwich w/lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo on a wheat bun, sweet potato fries w/ketchup, DIET COKE IS DELICIOUS
Snack: beef jerky
(I wasn’t very hungry today compared to the past few days.)

Cravings:
I ate ’em, except for bagels & cream cheese. Oh, and McDonald’s French fries.