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You don't have to believe

You just have to not give up.

If you had asked me in 2010 where I would be with fitness and fat loss in 5 years I would have told you I would still be fat.  I had zero faith in my ability to lose fat.  I didn't think it was possible for me to have visible abs.

Some of my doubt was due to the misconceptions I had about fat loss.  I wasn't willing or able to remain in a starving state for more than a few days.  I wasn't able to eat 100% "clean" foods because it caused binge eating.  I couldn't do two hours of cardio every day because frankly I didn't have that kind of time.  The more I learned about fat loss and body composition the more I realized I was making it harder than it had to be.

Some of my doubt was simply caused by my past failed attempts to lose weight.

Between 2010 and now I have had many, many, many bad days.  I've given up on workouts, skipped cardio, had binge eating weeks, lost and gained the same pounds over and over, but above all I have kept trying.  People say they wish they could be like me and you can because the only thing I have going for me is that I simply refuse to give up.

It doesn't matter if it takes you a few months or a few years to reach your goal.  Never give up.  You don't even have to believe it is possible.  Never give up.  You will fail once or twice, but the good days add up in the long run.

Most people will quit or fail

Statistics show that in the long run 80-95% of all people will fail at their attempts to lose weight and will gain it back.  I'm sure some people are discouraged by the statistics, but it shouldn't discourage you it should make you want to fight for it.

Sure, there are hormonal factors that play into our bodies trying to keep the fat on.  There are mental factors that play into comfort eating.  There are definitely factors in society that encourage eating and events seem to revolve around food.

Sounds like the deck is stacked against us.

Beyond all those factors is simply us.  Our commitment and complacency.  I fully admit to becoming complacent since my last bodybuilding competition.  I have gained more fat during this bulk than I should have.  I've put off taking charge of that for more months than I care to admit.

Being aware of what we eat, how much we eat and how active we are needs to become a habit.  We make sure we brush our teeth daily.  We take showers daily.  We need to plan our meals and evaluate our eating daily.

You don't have to just accept that you are likely to gain the weight back.  You have to accept that once the weight is off the work is not done.  We talk constantly about how these are lifestyle changes and the things we do to lose weight need to be things we will continue forever.  It's easy to go back to our old habit (I know, I've slipped back into some over the last year).  Find a way to build healthy new habits and traditions.  

My MFP Evolution

When I came to this site in 2011 I had been trying to lose weight for a year.  I had been tracking calories on paper for a while, but I was inconsistent and really had no idea what my intake should be (I was just trying to eat as little as possible).  I admit that I was a bit lost.

Valentine's Day 2011 I joined a gym for the first time.  CARDIO!  I had been told for many years that running was how you lose weight.  A couple of months and many painful miles later I had lost no weight.  That was when I was introduced to MyFitnessPal.

Like most other women I entered my stats, said I wanted to lose two pounds a week and was awarded an allotment of 1200 calories.  The first few days of logging were TEDIOUS!  It took me weeks to finally have filled in enough of my food diary to make tracking easier and even then I felt it was a waste of time compared to tracking on paper.

I am embarrassed to say that for the first several weeks I ate under 1000 calories and convinced myself I was full.  Considering that I'm 5'9" and at the time I was just under 200 pounds burning 500 calories a day through exercise that was not nearly enough.  I started a bad cycle of eating 1000 calories during the week (not eating back exercise calories) and then binge eating on the weekends.  Of course I didn't lose any weight during this time.

I knew that the solution was to eat less and move more, but there was no way I could do less than 1000 during the week.  Then one day a friend suggested I increase my calories.  I started eating 1500 during the week, not eating back exercise calories, not binge eating on weekends and the weight starting coming off.  Shortly after that someone suggested I find a form of exercise I enjoyed.

That's when I fell in love with lifting.

It has taken a few years to really understand calories, macronutrients, micronutrients, hormones and all the other parts of fitness/fat loss.  I have made tons of mistakes and I knew nothing when I started out.  If I were to give just a few small pieces of advice to beginners it would be:


  1. Try to be accurate when logging food.  Even if you are over your goal you could still be under what you would maintain at.
  2. Try to eat as many calories as possible while still losing.  This doesn't have to be painful and it isn't a race.
  3. Find an activity you love and you'll stick with it.
  4. You can do it!  If it isn't working don't be afraid to ask questions, but remember to keep an open mind about the answers.
As always, I am more than happy to answer questions by PM as are many of the long term successful members on this site.


Personal Responsibility

It leaves a sour taste in my mouth when members with 75+ pounds of weight loss are suddenly wagging their fingers at others for not jumping on the personal responsibility train and dismissing the idea of government and the food industry should have culpability in this.

This was a message posted on a discussion board the other day. The discussion was revolving around government regulation for foods and display of candy. It sort of blew me away and I wanted to talk about it for a minute

As you can see the person who posted this is disgusted that people who have successfully lost fat are telling others to accept personal responsibility for what they eat. I can’t be the only one who is in disbelief over that. I used to be obese and someone thinks it is wrong that I am telling others that the way to lose weight is to control what they eat.

How does this person think we lost weight? Did we spend a bunch of time picketing the government, Hershey or Coca-Cola? No. Did we sit around blaming the government and food companies for forcing cheeseburgers down our throats? No. We accepted personal responsibility, it worked, we are passing it on to others.

Companies put food labels on packages (although they aren’t always as straight forward as they seem). Restaurants and fast food chains often have nutritional information online. There are TONS of resources to learn about nutrition. You have to accept responsibility to do the research. I don’t think very many people are completely clueless that they shouldn’t eat fast food for every meal or half of a pizza for dinner.

I don’t want the government telling companies they have to reduce fat or sugar because it means they have to replace those with a bunch of extra chemicals to keep the taste decent. I don’t want the government taking away my choices. I am responsible for what I buy and what I eat. If I want chicken and broccoli for dinner with a pop-tart ice cream sandwich it is up to me to make sure that’s an appropriate calorie and macronutrient intake for me. It’s up to me to make sure that I fill my micronutrient needs as well. That’s personal responsibility. You are not forced to buy a Snickers just because it is there.

My final words on this is something a friend told me long ago.

When you point the finger and blame someone/something else you give up control. When you take the blame you take back control and you can do something about it.

I KNOW that eating a box of Swiss Cake Rolls is not appropriate for my goals and health. I’m not going to blame McKee Foods for making them tasty, that’s the point, they’re a tasty treat. I’m going to accept the fact that one (not a box) is an appropriate amount in combination with a day full of nutrient dense foods. It is not the company’s fault if I eat the entire box because I could not exercise self control.  It is not the company's fault if I have never attempted to learn about nutrition.  Personal responsibility.

Why I hate salesmen on MFP

If I could instantly ban anyone from the forums it would be people who come to MyFitnessPal and try to sell things (this is why I am not a moderator).  I get irrationally upset over people who try to sell weight loss/fitness products and services.  Why is that?

I think the main reason for this is that I remember my first attempts at weight loss.  A friend started taking these pills that she swore killed her appetite.  I HAD to have those.  How much I lost is irrelevant because I gained it back plus more.  Then I heard about these other pills that burned fat and toned your muscles (I laugh at my stupidity now).  Once again any weight that I lost was temporary.  To be completely honest, even though the various pills I took helped slightly they made me feel horrible and one of them landed me in the hospital.

I couldn't even begin to put an ultimate price tag on all the weight loss products I tried.  Pills, creams, belts, wraps, shakes and detoxes.  You name it and I've probably tried it.  I'm not going to sit here and say that they didn't work because some of them did.  The problem is that the few that did work didn't teach me how to live without them.


Coming back to my point now.


I hate salemen on MFP because they prey on people looking for an easy way to lose weight.  Yes, that is a bit dramatic.  Some of the people who come here are vulnerable and others are on the verge of deciding that they absolutely cannot achieve weight loss.  When a saleman posts that they have this shake/pill/wrap that is guaranteed to help someone lose weight that is the golden ticket they are looking for.

Instead of worrying about what they can or can't eat they now have an easy to make shake that just does it for them.  No need to learn about calories or macronutrients or wonder if they are allowed to have a piece of candy.  This wonderful shake will take all the work out of the calories in part of the equation.  

Sometimes they actually do work!

The problem comes when the shakes become boring or the taste becomes unbearable or they just want to start eating real food again.  If they haven't learned about calories during this time they're going to struggle.  It could come to the point where they think the only way to keep the weight off is to continue using the shakes forever, when in reality they could have been learning all along healthy habits they can maintain forever.  


TL;DR?  Why do I care?

1.  Someone is making money off another person who is in a vulnerable state.

2.  The products are entirely unneccessary. You can lose weight without the weight loss industry.

3.  I personally think that if it is something you can't see yourself doing forever it is a waste of money/time.

Why I do the things I hate

We all have those lifts that we absolutely hate.  You know which one I'm talking about.  The one you find a substitution for.  The one you never put in your programming.  The one you have to mentally build yourself up to do.

We generally hate them because we aren't good at them.  Whether it's just a weak lift or something we feel uncoordinated doing.  The nemesis movement.

I have several for every body part and when I write my own programming those movements make up about half of my workout.  Why?  Well if I hate them or dread them it means those are either the things that work or the things I'm not good at.  Either way those are the ones that need more attention.

They say that bodybuilders and powerlifters have a mental defect.  We do the things that are uncomfortable because we have to leave our comfort zone to grow.  If you are just doing strength training to help with fat loss there's nothing wrong with sticking to comfort movements.  I personally think we should all start doing more of what we hate and see where it takes us.

Which road?

Often our lives, especially weight loss, are compared to a journey.  Many of our choices impact the destination.
When we start out wanting to lose weight the only thing some of us care about is the scale number decreasing.  At this point it doesn't matter which road we take.  Eating 500 calories, eating 1500 calories, clean eating, balanced eating, convinence foods, cardio, strength training.  These choices are based on personal preference and will eventually make the scale move.  There is no one right way, but there are ways that make it easier.
When we decide on a destination the path we select is more important.  A person who wants to run a marathon shouldn't spend all their training time in the weight room.  A person who is trying to control their diabetes shouldn't eat a diet of Twinkies.  A person trying to look like a fitness model shouldn't eat 500 calories and spend hours on the elliptical.  Someone struggling to overcome binge eating shouldn't commit to a strict diet.
One of the most important questions we should ask ourselves when it comes to fat loss and fitness is where we want to go.  When you decide where you want to go it's easier to pick a path. 

It's official!

I was going to wait to make this blog until they updated the records online, but a certificate makes it official to me.

August 28th I competed in my second powerlifting meet.  I decided to do deadlift only since it is my strongest lift and I tied a national record at my first meet.  I gained a bunch of weight during my summer bulk, so I had to cut.  Despite dropping a bunch of water and gylcogen I still ended up half a pound over the 181 pound weight class.

Turned out that I was still very competitive for the 198 pound weight class.  I set the AWPC World deadlift only record and the AAPF American deadlift only record with 341.5 pounds.  Competing at these meets is always a great experience.  It's awesome to have the accomplishment of setting records, but the environment and people are even better than the records.


Do You Even Lift?

No, this post isn't to make fun of those with different goals than me.  This has nothing to do with the meme, making fun of Planet Fitness or talking bad about people who lift and don't look like they do.  I want to talk about moving weights versus lifting weights.

I have recently stumbled onto a workout partner.  His former lifting partner moved and he happens to lift at the same time as me every day.  This week he asked to join me doing my workouts.  I don't think he realized what he was in for.

The reason we lift weights is to work our muscles.  We contract certain muscles to move the weight in a direction then relax those while contracting others to move the weight in another direction.  

As I started lifting with this guy I realized my sets took 2-3x as long as his. He rushes through the movements to get to the number of reps that are planned and on the last set he does as much weigh as he can manage to move for whatever number of reps he can manage.  Nothing against him, he can move some serious weight on several lifts.

I hate giving workout advice when it isn't asked for, but since he asked to follow my workout I felt it was my place to give him a good workout.  I started dropping the weight for him and I told him to slow down.  He needed to feel the contraction, not rush through the exercise just to reach the end.  

Every set I had to remind him to focus on the contraction.  He whined a lot and complained that he can't finish the reps.  We lowered weight a bit more, talked about Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), used rest-pause sets and at the very end added a bit of cheating.

He came back sore the next day and asking for more.

Sometimes cheating/momentum/body English are important to moving heavy weights.  Don't forget to slow down, drop weight and really focus on the contraction.  You might be surprised that you can get a good workout in with lower weights. 



“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. 
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