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!)…

 IMG_4558 IMG_4559 IMG_4560

My results from the challenge are as follows:

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.

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!


“You just may come out of this smelling like roses.”


Yep, that’s what my physical therapist said to me the other day. He also said “Wow!” When he asked me to show him my range of motion.

My appointment this past Tuesday was much different than the one I had at the beginning of the month. My PT was positive, excited, and only mentioned surgery once. The only reason why he mentioned it was because he wanted to know what my orthopedic doctor said about it. (I think he forgot our last conversation).

I was finally able to see my MRI results and boy, were they neat! Well, except for that whole labral tear thing. Check out the pictures!

Shoulder X-Ray Redacted

The first image is of the X-Ray before the MRI – the left is before the injection and the right is after. Yes, that is a long-ass needle in my arm, and yes, it hurt like a mofo. Once the dye was injected, it felt like my shoulder was going to explode. I should also mention that the X-Ray box thingy was about an inch from my face. I love how the doctor asked me if I was claustrophobic after he had lowered the X-Ray box in front of my face. The dye is injected prior to the MRI so that it will be easier to see tears and such.

photo 1

And here are some of the results of my MRI. The white arrows point to the injury location. The bottom right picture shows the Gleno-humeral joint. Notice on the right side of the joint that it looks like a thin black moat. It is my understanding that if there was no tear, the moat would surround the joint, but since there is a tear the fluid was blocked off (please correct me if I’m wrong). Yay, injury. Also, after reading the report, I found out that my tear is 2.3 cm long. Eek. That makes me a little nervous, but let’s talk about the positive. I’m done with focusing on the negative.

My PT took measurements and we found that I had gained 20 degrees in my range of motion in two important directions – straight over my head and to the side (my arm bent at a 90 degree angle and with keeping my elbow to my side, abducting (or opening) my hand from my body . I am now about 10 degrees from full range of motion. WOOT!

He has commented before that my overall shoulder strength is fine, but wants me to really focus on keeping my rotator cuff muscles strong to help keep the humerus in the joint. He gave me a couple exercises that will strengthen my scapular muscles and OMG. I think I overdid it with my exercises as I am so unbelievably sore that I can’t move very well and I may have strained them. I can’t turn my head, I can’t sit comfortably, and this morning it even hurt to breathe. At a few points during the day I was almost in tears. Yay for more pain! Note to self – simmer down when doing PT. Sheesh.

Overall, I am proud of how far I have come along on my own. I have also gained an immense amount of patience and have a greater understanding of how my body works. I know I have more to work on, but the end is near. I have a different outlook on my rehab – I don’t (really) dread it like I used to. Rather than focusing on how annoying and tedious of a task it is, I’m excited and focused on the progress I am making.

I know I am not out of the woods yet, but hearing my PT say, “You just may come out of this smelling like roses” (aka letting my body heal itself and not having to have surgery), has added much needed positivity into my rehab.

I would like to say “thank you” to my friends with whom I’ve whined and complained to about my injury and who have also helped me through my rehab process. Y’all are neat.

Sadly, I have been riddled with injuries these past two years, but these injuries have offered an opportunity (albeit a shitty one) to learn more about how my body works. My only real “New Year’s resolution” is to not get injured. 😉

How Ninja Got Her ROM Back…

ROM Front-5Jan2013WOOT!

Well, I almost have my full range of motion (ROM) back. Regardless, I am a very happy ninja because I am almost there.

I finally had an appointment with a physical therapist on NYE and I was a bit nervous. I wasn’t sure of what to expect even though my shoulder has been feeling much stronger and more mobile. The PT was surprised with my shoulder strength and said I was just fine in that department. nnnGIT! However, he was not very pleased with my ROM or lack thereof. After 5 months he felt I should have been further along. Well, so do I, but considering I haven’t had consistent PT (actually, any PT at all) I thought I’ve been doing pretty well on my own. Anyway, after I wanted to punch him in the ear, he measured my ROM in various directions. I wasn’t very pleased and was quite frustrated.

Then, he brought up surgery. He went through his spiel about possibly needing surgery because I may re-dislocate my shoulder. I never dislocated my shoulder, nor have I ever had shoulder problems in my life – even after 12 years of gymnastics. He asked me if my orthopedist talked to me about surgery and I said that he did and I said that I do not want to have it done. I told him again that I do not want to have surgery.

He wasn’t happy with my ROM and gave me some stretches to do. He also mentioned that a doctor will not perform surgery on my shoulder until I have full ROM back, which actually gave me some relief. Maybe they’ll lay off talking about it for a while.

Before I go on, I would like to say that the PT I visited was nice and funny, but I just felt like he was going through his typical shoulder patient routine and recommending surgery. I would have liked him to consider my past and current activity level and base it off of ME and not just because that’s what you do for this particular injury because that is what has always been done. He did say that to save me money, he didn’t think that I need to go in to his office as I am capable of doing these stretches on my own and know enough about how the human body works since I am a trainer. I appreciated that.

He requested that I return in 2 weeks to reassess my progress and to see how I do on my own. I am expecting him to discuss surgery again. Sigh. Anyway…

I am proud to say that I have made a lot of progress in just 1 month. I have taken 4 different pictures on 3 different dates to show my progress and they are below. Even the progress I’ve made in the last week because of the stretching I have been working on is just wonderful. I’d also like to add that I did 40 push-ups (10 sets of 4) and 100 deadlifts (10 sets of 10) at 85lbs last night without any pain. I am, however, VERY sore. But whatevs, I did push-ups! HOORAY!!!

Left: 4 December 2012 – Middle: 28 December 2012 – Right: 5 January 2013

(Click the picture to enlarge)

ROM Frontx3-5Jan2013

ROM Sidex3-5Jan2013

ROM Bentx3-5Jan2013

ROM Backx3-5Jan2013

Back to School, Back to School…

(Adam Sandler in Billy Madison)

… To prove to dad that I’m not a fool…

Well, tomorrow marks the first day of my last year of college. WOOT! Major WOOT. WOOT x2! As I always feel before the first day of school, I am super excited and nervous. I have read over 2 of the syllabus’/syllabi(?) for two of my classes and it looks like I’m going to be WAY busier than previous quarters. And that’s just for two classes. I’m afraid to see what my third will have in store for me. Joy. I am looking forward to filling my brain with knowledge about race, ethnicity and the aging of America, but not looking forward to how much time I will have to spend doing so.

Today was a rest day, so instead I did some stretching and physical therapy on my feet. My feet are feeling better, just tired and sore from the workouts this week. I know I keep saying this, but it feels so dang good to be running again. Hooray!

For lunch I had a sandwich, like, a REAL sandwich with bread. I was willing to deduct 5 points for the taste of some delicious bread. And you know what? It was wonderful. The end. For dinner I had cheese on my taco salad. And you know what? It was deeeericious. The end. I was planning on cutting up some fruit to eat throughout the day, but my domestic goddess duties got in the way and didn’t get a chance to do it.

In addition to starting school tomorrow I am flying up to Seattle for one of my best friend’s wedding after class. Talk about a busy day! I can’t believe I’ve known her for over 20 years! I’m so happy for her that she’s finally getting married. I am also excited to see my family and friends AND I’m going to a workout at the CrossFit in my hometown, CrossFit Federal Way. This will be my first visit to another gym and I can’t wait! Should be an exciting weekend. I will miss Mr. Ninja and the Molliekins a lot, though.

Rest day!

Grub for the day:
Breakfast: eggs w/salsa, chicken apple sausage (that actually has all natural ingredients and no casing!), apples dipped in almond butter, coffee w/stevia
Snack: beef jerky
Lunch: tuna sandwich w/tomatoes and spinach drizzled w/olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette (-10 for mayo and bread), carrots, sweet potato fries
Snack: beef jerky
Dinner: taco salad w/queso (I couldn’t resist! -5) and avocado drizzled w/ olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette

Starting points: 96
-5 for mayo
-5 for bread
-5 for queso
+3 for stretching/physical therapy

Ending points: 84