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Discipline

 

“Discipline is the instant willing obedience to all orders, respect for authority and teamwork.”

During Marine Corps recruit training our Drill Instructors had us memorize and repeat a variety of sayings and important pieces of information. The definition we repeated for discipline was often accompanied by physical incentive training like push ups, jumping jacks or simply holding our rifles parallel to the floor for several minutes. Another saying we used often:

Through pain comes discipline.

Discipline is using willpower to overcome other needs. Other words for discipline are self-control, obedience, restraint and determination. Discipline is being able to carry out a task no matter what your emotional or physical state is. The instant willing obedience to all orders.

The reason I bring up discipline is because there are two factors that keep people on track during workouts/diets/pretty much anything in life. These two factors are motivation and discipline. Motivation is the initial emotional reaction that drives us to make a change. It provides a reason to act in a specific manner and offers an incentive to initiate change. Someone might feel motivated to get their degree, so they enroll in college. Someone might feel motivated to lose weight, so they change their eating. Someone might feel motivated to run a marathon, so they start running.

Motivation doesn’t always last until completion. Even with incentives and reinforcement motivation can still come to an end. At this point we must rely on discipline to reach our goals. Often discipline is created through routine and in the absence of motivation the plan is carried out automatically. If we are consistent with training/eating well/going to class then our habit will ensure we succeed. If the habit has not been created we have to turn to discipline and exert willpower to overcome struggles, control ourselves and ultimately be successful.

What’s the TL;DR version?

Take the time now to create a plan for success and carry it out on a daily basis. This will ensure when the motivation wears off and the monotony or struggles come along the habit (discipline) will stick ensuring success. 

Meet day: Powerlifting

Thought I would change things up a bit today and talk about how a powerlifting meet goes. Each one is a bit different, but the general structure is the same. Here is sort of what to expect the day of a powerlifting meet.

First part of the process is check-in. Most of them allow 24 hours for check-in, but have restricted it to a few different time slots. Many choose the day before to give them a good evening of fuel before the meet.  Every competitor has their weight and equipment checked.  That means singlet, shoes and maybe wraps for raw and squat/deadlift suit or bench shirt for equipped.  At check-in everyone chooses their starting weight for the lifts they will be performing.  This helps them organize the competitors and makes the meet go quicker (less loading and unloading of plates). Everyone selects their starting attempt a bit different, but I selected mine off something I hit solidly for two reps during my workouts.

After check-in the competitors are divided into groups that are called flights.  The purposed behind having each group complete all three attempts before moving on to another group is to keep everyone warmed up between lifts.  This also signals the following group that it is time to start warming up for their lifts.  

The basics for each lift are that you get called to the platform, perform the lift, select a weight for the next attempt and get back to the waiting area.  There are three judges who give a white light (lift was good) or a red light (lift was bad) based on what they saw.  You have to get two white lights for the lift to count.  There are a wide variety of reasons someone might get red lights for different lifts and those vary by federation, so check the rules.

First up is squats.  You get called to the platform and get under the bar.  Depending on the judges and federation you might use a monolift or you might walk the squat out of the lift.  Once your feet are set and you are ready to squat you look at the judge who gives the command, "Squat".  There is no, "Up" command.  You go to where you think the appropriate depth is, then stand up to complete the lift.  There are spotters just in case something goes wrong.  Once the lift is completed the judge gives the command to rack the bar and you select your next weight (if you get two or three red lights you can keep the same weight, in some federations you can't choose a lower weight).

Next up is bench press.  You get called to the platform and settle into your bench press position.  Feet, butt and shoulders must stay in place for the entire lift.  A spotter or a friend can do the hand off from the rack.  You lower the bar until it touches your chest, pause, then the judge gives the, "Up" command.  At that point you press the bar until your arms reach a fully locked position.  The judge gives a command to rack the bar and you select your next weight.

Finally we reach deadlifts (my favorite).  Once you get called to the platform  you set your feet and hands to prepare for the lift.  There is no command to start the pull, so you prepare then lift when you are ready.  Once you have reached the fully locked position at the top of the lift the judge gives the, "Down" command and you carefully control the bar to the ground (you can get red lights for setting down too hard).  Once the bar is on the ground the lift is complete and you can select your next weigh.

Once every flight has finished the people who are keeping track of the weights and lifts do calculations and determine how people placed and who had the best lifts.  This is also when the natural and drug tested federations do their testing.  The reason they wait until after the lifts are completed is because a few different stimulants and steroids are taken shortly before lifting to give the best boost for the lifts.

After everything is calculated they have everyone sit down for the award ceremony.  Each of the top place finishers for each weight class and top overall lifters are called up and handed a medal or trophy.  When someone sets a national or world record they are often called up and recognized for that achievement.  After that is time to celebrate with a great dinner and some new friends!

Competition day: Bodybuilding

Thought I would change things up a bit today and talk about the actual competition. Each one is a bit different, but many of the smaller ones run the same way. Here is sort of what to expect the day of a bodybuilding/figure competition.

First part of the process is check-in. Most are the morning of. You’ll give your name and either be weighed or have your height checked. Sometimes you have to sign paperwork, but usually that process is done during the registration weeks before. They give you a swag bag (shirt, supplements, coupons, etc.) and your number. You step off to a waiting area and usually snack on your pump up meal.

After check-in is done they have a meeting for the competitors. They go over rules, poses, order of events and any other things they want you to know. After that is pre-judging.

Depending on when your group is scheduled you either go back stage to get ready or sit in the audience to watch other competitors. About 30 minutes before stage time you’ll fix tan, hair and make up. About 10 minutes out from stage time you’ll start pumping up. Usually some squats, push ups, sit ups and a variety of light exercises with bands or weights.  The goal of this is to increase blood flow to the muscles to help with muscle volume and definition.

Stage time for bodybuilders:
Walk out and stand in the front relaxed pose. They’ll call out the turns for the side and back relaxed poses. Next, they’ll call out the mandatory poses. If there are lots of people on stage they will rearrange everyone for better comparisons and call out the mandatory poses again. Hold each pose until they say relax. When they call relax go into the relaxed pose. When it’s all over they thank and dismiss you.

Stage time for figure:
The very first thing you’ll do is the model walk (also known as the T-walk). Corner, corner, center, turn and walk back to the line up at the rear of the stage. Once all girls have done their walk they call everyone forward to do the quarter turns. After that they thank you and dismiss you.

Bodybuilding is the same for men and women. Bikini and men's physique are a bit different.  They do a model walk, but they don't have quarter turns.

After you are done with pre-judging is not the time to go crazy and eat whatever you want. The evening show and awards are still several hours away. Small snacks, a bit of water and watching the other categories are a good idea.  During this time or right before the evening show are often when natural or drug tested federations will do their testing.  Sometimes it is random and sometimes it is on suspicion when comparing the competitors against each other during pre-judging.

Evening show:
Like the morning it’s important to pump up before going on stage. They call out each division to display the competitors. For bodybuilding they may ask them to show a few poses before sending them back stage again. The top competitors for each division are called out to do a posing routine. After the routine everyone is called out on stage again. There might be a pose down where each person displays their best poses. Then they hand out the awards. First place for each division competes for women’s or men’s overall.

Figure does the same as the morning with the walk and quarter turns then are handed their awards. Like bodybuilding the first place finishers for each division compete for the overall title.

After all that is over it is time to celebrate with a hard earned treat before heading into reverse dieting!  

Don't compete to get in shape

Don’t compete to get in shape, get in shape to compete.

I know that sounds confusing, but it is a very important concept that is just starting to gain recognition. Many people who are in average shape or overweight decide that they are going to compete because it will get them in shape. This is the wrong train of thought. Being stage ready is a very temporary state and is unsustainable long term. Most professionals spend 8-12 weeks getting ready to step on stage. They look good year round and maintain a decent level of leanness, but in order to compete they still have to drop body fat.

There is nothing wrong with saying you want to get in shape with the future goal of competing. Even setting a goal of a specific competition is a good way to help stay on track, as long as the goal is a realistic distance out. Eating at a reasonable deficit, training well and allowing plenty of time to make the changes is necessary to sustaining a leaner physique after the competition.

I see women decide they want to be a figure competitor and jump into the first show they can. They give themselves 15 weeks to drop 25 pounds and expect to do well. I know, I was there. I’m not sure what it is about women and competitions, but many women don’t take the time needed for a proper prep. Men decide they want to compete and finally step on stage a year or two later. They take the time to build lean mass and slowly cut the fat.

What is the problem then with competing to get in shape? Most people with that mentality want instant results. They don’t realize that stage ready is unsustainable. They crash diet and spend hours doing cardio each week. As soon as the competition is done they either immediately go back to eating like they were before because they deprived themselves so much that they lose control. Or, they start increasing calories and gaining weight, it freaks them out which leads them to lowering calories and increasing cardio because they are afraid of gaining. All of these factors lead to further damage to hormones, the body and the mind, which turns into either yo-yo dieting and further damage or eating disorder behavior.

I have seen an example of this over the last few years that I want to share. I’m sure she doesn’t read this blog, but I will not name her or give private details that give her identity away. Here’s her story:

Metabolic damage and competition prep
Growing up she was an average girl. Not skinny. Not fat. After high school she got started in the bodybuilding industry and became a figure competitor. I would see her at the gym spending an hour doing cardio. A mutual friend confessed that she ate almost nothing. She was lean and had that hard body look I wanted.

I heard stories from girls she worked with about their crazy diets and workouts. You could see they got results and won lots of awards. A part of me was jealous. Why couldn’t I stick to mine better? I wanted results like that, but I wasn’t going as crazy as them. Should I?

We could all see her gaining weight. In the industry, especially local shows, everyone notices and whispers. When people accused her of starving her clients and dangerous methods she lashed out. I stopped caring about what went on around her when I saw the negativity they displayed towards other competitors. 

I hear she was really sick. Without revealing private details it sounds like her body was rejecting her attempts at being healthy.  She confessed that her diet soon consisted of sugars and fats because it was all she could stomach.  Doctors couldn’t find anything physically wrong. It took her a long time of slow progress to regain control. She looks like a competitor again and I hope that she has found a healthy way to progress.

This life and these shows are not worth your health. Don’t destroy your body for a $50 dust collector.

How a Marine got fat

When people think of United States Marines they think of people in excellent shape.  Our annual fitness tests are fairly tough and exercise is an essential part of every day in the Marine Corps.  Strength, endurance and a hard body are a source of pride.

I would love to give you an idea of what we do for exercise, but it depends on the unit and who is doing it.  Runs could be individual, indian runs, formation runs, sprints, drills, etc.  Exercises could be standard push ups, pull ups, sit ups, jumping jacks and flutter kicks.  Sometimes we did workouts that were similar to crossfit.  Sometimes we put on full gear to do obstacle courses.  Every unit and leader had their own schedule.  

So why are there Marines on MFP trying to lose weight?  Generally there is one main reason.

We get lazy.  After 4+ years of waking up early to go running we enjoy not being forced to submit to early morning hours of exercise.  We eat the way we always have, but moving to a less physically demanding job and reducing exercise starts packing on the pounds.

My personal story is different because I got fat while I was in the Marine Corps.  Yep, you read that right.  It wasn't acceptable and my life was hell.  

Going back to the beginning of my time in will help clear things up.  When I joined the Marine Corps I hated running.  I was an idiot for joing the branch that loves running.  Three months of running daily in boot camp didn't change my mind.  Add in breaking my ankle and pelvis during training, now running is painful mentally and physically (it still is).

I checked into my first duty station still broken, but at an acceptable weight.  After spending 4 months with never enough food to make me feel full I started binge eating.  Binge eating plus lack of exercise made my weight increase dramatically.  I got yelled at, forced to exercise, written counselings, and extra physical labor. Then I got pregnant twice.

When I got out of the Marine Corps I was obese.  I did serve my five years honorably, completing my duties and receiving an honorable discharge.  The injuries I got during training were bad enough to give me a disability rating and I was told that I would walk with a cane within a few years.  Although not having to worry about making weight (or not in my case) was a relief, I still felt shame about how I looked nothing like a Marine should.

Once I finally started getting proper therapy and mobility work I was able to exercise more.  Exercise is a self rewarding behavior and soon I started learning more about nutrition.  After that discipline and habits set back in.  I still deal with pain and setbacks from my injuries.  Some days I can barely walk.  One day I will end up with a cane or wheelchair.

The Marine Corps did teach me many valuable things that help me be successful now, but I was fat while I was in. 

Bodybuilding vs Figure vs Bikini

I thought I would take a bit of time today to explain what the difference between the categories are.  Before I do that I want to point out that there are different federations you can compete with.  Each will have things they are looking for.  There is an important distinction that people need to know about.  That distinction is that some competitions are for people who have never used steroids, PEDs or other WADA banned substances.  This does make a difference in a few categories because there is a limit to how much size can be put on naturally (or without the use of those substances).

 

Natural competitions:

Bodybuilding (men and women)- It's the most muscular of all the categories.  Competitiors are judged on size, symmetry, leanness/definition, development, vascularity and  proportion.

Physique (usually just men in natural federations)- These are in shape men with visible muscles and great upper body development.  They wear shorts instead of trunks, so leg development isn't usually visible.  These men are lean, but not overly lean or vascular.  These guys have a sort of  "beach body" type look to them.

Figure (women)- They have well shaped muscles with a little bit of size.  Low body fat without excessive muscle size or defiiniton.

Bikini (women)- Obvious muscle tone without definition.  Low body fat with feminine curves.  These women have the "beach body" type look.

 

Non-drug tested competitions:

Bodybuilding (men and women)- Their size and leanness are often not attainable for natural competitors.  Natural competitors can place well at smaller/local/lower level competitions.

Physique (men and women)- Often at the physique competitors are around what the natural bodybuilders look like.  Their size and leanness can be attained naturally, although natural competitors may not place well compared to competitors who are not natural.

Figure (women)- Their muscles are usually bigger and more developed than natural competitiors.  It is easier for a natural figure competitor to do well in these competitions after many years of work.

Bikini (women)- These competitors tend to look leaner than their natural counterparts.  It can be attained naturally, but the use of certain steroids can attribute to the leaner/dryer look. 

Cellulite, stretch marks and loose skin

Approximately 90% of women and 10% of men have cellulite.  The range of people who have strech marks is from 50-90%.  In 2012 there were 106,000 tummy tucks performed in the United States.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Why are we so worried about other people seeing our stretch marks or cellulite?  If you want to wear shorts go ahead and rock them!  You shouldn't be embarassed about something you have ZERO control over.  You didn't decide how your body was going to store fat.  You didn't decide to let your body grow faster than your skin could handle.

Even people who have never been overweight have cellulite and stretch marks.  There are fashion and fitness models with cellulite and stretch marks.  Great lighting and photo editing make sure they aren't visible.

Those of us who were overweight or obese sometimes end up with loose skin.  I know I feel that was my fault and I should be ashamed of it. I do hide it because it's the one thing that gives away how much weight I've lost.  I would rather have this loose skin and feel as good as I do then go back to being obese.  I can breathe easier, clothes fit better and I have so much more confidence (in clothes at least!).

I am choosing to not stress about my cellulite, stretch marks and loose skin.  I'm healthy and I'm not going to let a few physical flaws destroy my happiness.  Hopefully seeing these pictures of my "imperfections" will help others see that they are not alone.

 

When 1 becomes 10

I am a binge eater.  I am also a general over eater.  These aren't things that magically disappeared as I lost weight.  They are easier to control now, but these are still things I face from time to time.

As most binge eaters know we don't just decide to go on an eating spree.  It's starts with a cookie.  One cookie was good, so two cookies are better.  Two cookies become five and five cookies become ten.  It's not even the sugar that spurs me on.  It's the fact that I can feel that comfortable pressure of a full stomach, so I keep eating long after I've finished off the cookies. 

I'm the kind of person who currently chooses to not keep certain foods in my house.  I can't buy a box of Swiss Cake Rolls because by the end of the day I will have eaten them all.  I used to be this way about most dessert type foods, but slowly things have improved as I learned balance and moderation.

I can finally eat a bowl of ice cream after dinner without finishing off the pint.  I can avoid the treats in the break room when I am really determined to not eat them.  I can freeze half of the cookie dough instead of baking it all (then eating all the cookies) or eating it raw.  I don't even touch the open bag of chips in the cupboard. 

It's a tough process telling yourself to just be satisfied with a serving (or sometimes two if you have the calories for it).  Making sure I eat lots of lean meat and vegetables through the day helps keep me full, which means that I'm not using that treat to try to fill me up.  When I have a binge day (usually 6000+ calories) I don't beat myself up or vow to make up for it.  I remember that those days are getting fewer and that I gave myself extra fuel for the next few workouts.

I might never be able to keep Swiss Cake Rolls in my house or eat cereal after dinner because those are binge triggers.  I will keep trying though because avoidance is allowing the food to control me still.

Meal Prep

I've had a few newer friends talk about how they need to plan their meals better because they have a hard time hitting their macros.  I've shared this information on a different blog, but thought it could be helpful to some here.

Before you start into actually preparing the food you'll need to decide what sort of things you'll be eating for the week and then set aside about an hour or two to actually portion and cook food (this saves me at least 30 minutes every morning).  In general I like to plan for meat at each meal and vegetables (obviously vegetarians and vegans would plan different).  I don't plan exact portions because I know that extra portions at the end of the week mean less prep for the next week, so I over shoot it a bit.  I also pick a variety of snacks with different macronutrient amounts to help fill in later.

Now we get down to the prep.  As I mentioned I buy meat in bulk.  I picked 6 ounces as a portion because that's enough to fill me up.  I cut the chicken breasts down into appropriate portions (I put 3-4 portions in one bag to freeze) then chop the leftover cuts and put into individual bags to freeze. This makes it easy to grab a single portion for dinner or multiple portions if I'm making a family meal.  Fresh fruits and vegetables get washed at this point and separated into containers for grab and go snacks.

Next comes the cooking.  I usually cook on Sunday nights and I only cook for 3 days to make sure Friday's meals don't taste funky (it doesn't take much time to make 2 days worth of food Wednesday since it's all pre-portioned).  I usually boil the chicken breasts because pan cooking can create a rubbery texture when reheated and boiling leaves the chicken moist.  Sometimes I add seasoning to the water for extra flavor.  I like eggs for breakfast and snacks.  Eggs keep me full for several hours.  I use a few whites and some whole eggs to help fill my dietary fat needs.  I usually scramble them and the key to them being good when reheated is to not let them cook totally dry (heating will dry them further) and wait for them to cool before putting a lid on (extra moisture when reheating will make them soggy). 

Final step with meal prep is sitting down to log everything.  This is the point where the boys and I usually decide what's for dinner.  I've made breakfast and lunches for most of the week, so now I know what I have left for the last two days as well as dinners.  Making a chart showing them what we are having for dinner has reduced complaints and they feel like they get to have a say.  I log the main meals first, then fill in with snacks.  I try to leave around 200 calories for random things because I never know if someone is going to offer me a cookie at work.

Now, this isn't THE way to prep because everyone does it a bit different. This is just one method that works for me.  Another option is to cook in bulk and portion out to eat through the week. Here are some other meal ideas I tried that worked pretty good too.

Breakfast:

  • Overnight oats
  • Baked oatmeal
  • Breakfast bars
  • Protein bars/shakes
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Pre-made (homemade) frozen breakfast sandwiches

Lunch:

  • Sandwich
  • Soup
  • Chili
  • Leftovers
  • Casserole

Death and perspective

I just found out that my last living grandparent passed away last night.  She has been refusing to eat for the last month, so most of us have done the grieving already because it has been coming for a while.  There's a bit of relief that she has moved on because she really wasn't herself over the last year or two.  

Death is a reminder to make the most of life (don't skip out on birthday cake!), but it's also a reminder of what our health is worth.  My mom has been getting in shape and her blood work looks good.  I worry about my dad and sisters.  My dad suffers from high blood pressure and high cholestrol.  These are very concerning since his parents died fairly young, both of heart attacks.  My sisters are in their mid 20's and obese.  One is already on cholesterol medicine and has been diagnosed as pre-diabetic.

We can't force people to do anything.  I can give them the information and offer to workout with them, but I can't do it for them.  I wish I could.  I would gladly lose weight over and over again to improve their lives and health.  I wish I could show them how everything just feels better or easier even 20 pounds lighter.

I've learned that talking to them about health or weight loss doesn't work.  It causes resentment.  All I can do is to continue to live a healthy life and hope that one day they start making the changes to be healthier.  

It isn't that I want to change them, but with a family history of heart disease I want to improve their odds of staying around for a few extra years.

 

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